457 Tasting Notes
Good news everyone, my insomnia broke sometime after 2am last night and I slept until 2 in the afternoon. I am still pretty pooped, but I no longer feel like a zombie. Though I did spend the majority of the day yesterday convinced it was Friday, and then I kept thinking today was Monday. All this sleep disturbance seems to have confused my perception of time, it is still 2010, right?
Now that silliness is out of my system, it is time to visit Shan Valley again, this time to taste their Kokang Green Tea. Grown in the Kokang Region of Myanmar, which is close to the popular tea growing region of Yunnan, China. This Green is the highest quality tea available to the public, that has me intrigued. The aroma is quite umami (or savory if you are unfamiliar with the term) with strong notes of smoked mushrooms and vegetable broth. There is also an underlying sweetness with notes of honey and yeast. The aroma is interesting, it very much reminded me of mushrooms cooked over a grill, which I greatly enjoyed.
Upon brewing this tea in my gaiwan (like I do) the grilled mushroom aroma is replaced with a slightly smoky, very vegetal, aroma. There are notes of green beans, asparagus, and butter in the wet leaves. The liquid did a complete turn around from the wet leaves, with strong notes of caramel, honey, marshmallows, and a delicate hint of papaya at the end.
The first steep is fairly light and delicate, with notes of spice, smoke, and straw. These notes are present throughout the entire sipping experience, but there are also notes of caramel at the midtaste and a bit of asparagus at the finish. I am very curious to try the second steep and see if the delicate notes become stronger.
The aroma of the second steel is a blend of sweet caramel and asparagus, not gonna lie, that sounds like a delicious idea for a food dish, especially if it tastes like it smells. The taste of this steep starts out sweet with notes of caramel and papaya, this fades to vegetal with noes of asparagus and green beans. The finish is like butter and is just as smooth. I liked this tea, it had interesting notes in both aroma and flavor.
Flavors: Caramel, Honey, Mushrooms, Smoke, Vegetal
Ok, this post might end up being more whimsical than usual. Why, you might ask, because over the course of the week I have gotten maybe fifteen hours sleep, total. The worst was the last two nights where I got maybe an hour of sleep, turns out my new sleep medicine did the exact opposite of make me sleep. No fear, I pick up new(ish, I had them before, they work wonders on pain and insomnia) ones tomorrow. I look forward to some nice long sleep.
But enough about sleep and medicine, that is boring, let us talk tea! Specifically Shan Valley’s Shan First Flush Green Tea. You are probably thinking ’didn’t you review this in the early spring?’ Well yes and no, this fancy tea from Myanmar is from Shan Valley’s 2014 Collection, so nice new tea. The aroma of these fairly large leaves is an interesting blend of vegetal and sweet. There are notes of lettuce, asparagus, spinach, honey, and fresh cherry. The vegetal is much stronger than the sweet, which is more of a finishing aroma.
I decided to go the gaiwan route with this tea, because I love my gaiwan. Once the leaves have been steeped and the tea poured off, I notice a slight hint of citrus among a very intensely vegetal aroma. There are notes of roasted veggies, lettuce, asparagus, artichoke, and spinach. I am really diggin’ how green this tea smells. The liquid’s aroma is totally different! There are notes of honey, citrus, sweet sticky rice, and cherry. I have a salad and dessert with these aromas.
The first steep is quite subtle and vegetal. It starts out like citrus and fresh vegetation, this transitions into the real vegetal treat. With notes of green beans, lettuce, spinach, and asparagus, I feel as though I had my dose of vegetables for the day. The aftertaste is a bit like sticky rice and toasted vegetables.
The second steep’s aroma is like the previous, deliciously sweet with notes of honey and sticky rice, but this time it has a bit of the vegetal at the finish. This steep is fun! There are distinct notes of lotus leaves, honey, sticky rice, citrus, lettuce, and spinach. It starts out sweet and then builds into the rice taste in the middle and finished with a leafy and citrus note. Last year’s first flush was ok, I enjoyed it. This year’s hit the spot for me, I loved how richly vegetal the flavors were and how contrasting the aromas were.
Flavors: Green Beans, Honey, Lettuce, Rice, Spinach
Dabbling in watercolors is a messy, messy activity. Currently I am covered in various shades of green paint and a few splotches of black, yes, I am watercoloring a Creeper. The first one I did had the most lovely wash and excellent Creeper face, but when I added a bit of calligraphy I realized the character for Creeper (as in creeping vine) looked like a face and I cannot un-see! I am trying again without the calligraphy.
Today’s tea is from Nina’s Paris, (specifically their USA branch) Nina’s Japon, a blend of Black Tea, Sencha, Genmai Cha, Caramel, and Vanilla. I have a trilogy of teas from Nina’s Paris to review, thanks to a nice promotion on Steepster, and I will say this…my French accent is terrible! It is this reason (ok, there are others as well) that I do a blog and not so much the vlog. The aroma of this tea is nothing short of mouthwatering, but it did hit my ‘OMG I love these’ scale pretty hard, with strong notes of vanilla, caramel, and nutty rice. There are also notes of hay, malt, and a tiny touch of grass at the finish. I took a minute sniffing the tea thinking to myself, ‘this tea reminds me of something, something sweet and tasty that I have not had in a while,’ and it hit me, this tea smells like Creme Brulee!
After I finally manage to pull my nose out of the tea leaves and steep the tea (it was really hard) it was time to sniff the wet leaves. The aroma is still very sweet with strong notes of vanilla, toasted rice, caramel, and a tiny touch of molasses. It has gone from reminding me of Creme Brulee to Rice Crispy Treats, you know, maybe I am really hungry for sweets. The aroma of the liquid without the steeped leaves is also very sweet, with strong notes of caramel and rice, again the image of Rice Crispy Treats float into my head, but with a much richer tone.
Sipping time, I am excited, if this tea tastes as good as it smells, I have found a new favorite. I admit when I saw the ingredients I had a very strong suspicion that I would love it, but picking a sample that didn’t look like something I would like seems a little odd. Unless it is a blend that is really weird and I am doing it for an adventure, that is a whole different story…but I am getting distracted, and that is unfair to the tea. Ok, this tea is delicious, all my cravings for sweet things have been satisfied (for now) with this perfect dessert tea. The taste is a sweet blend of caramel and toasted rice with a strong vanilla taste. The vanilla taste is pretty neat because it tastes like vanilla extract smells, it is sweet and very vanilla heavy, but with just a hint of alcohol as well. After the initial sweetness there is a slight malt taste and a tiny bit of smoke at the finish that lingers into the aftertaste. I am so glad that this tea was exactly as good as it smells, I burned through my sample at lightning speed and really need to get more.
Today we have Della Terra Teas’ Organic Makaibari Darjeeling, a black tea hailing from the Makaibari Estate in West Bengal, Darjeeling, India. This specific Darjeeling is a FTGFOP Autumn Flush, or Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (or Far Too Good For Oridinay People, because tea drinkers are full of wit) that ridiculously long winded (or short acronym) term refers to the grading system set up back in the day, with some debate by Sir Thomas Lipton. The aroma is sweet and muscatel, with a bit of a sharp leafy aroma, similar to that of grape leaves and oak wood. It is mild and pleasant, an enjoyable sniff that is reminiscent of nature and plants and a slight sweet finish of raisins.
Once the tea has been brewed, the wet leaves are much lest muscatel and more brisk. The aroma of oak wood is more prevalent, and there is a touch of loam as well. Have no fear, I found all the muscatel sweetness, it is in the liquid. The liquid has a great aroma of fresh grapes and raisins with a drizzling of honey. There is a tiny undertone of brisk oak wood, but you almost have to stick your nose all the way into the teacup to notice it. (Note, I do not recommend this, from experience, it is a good way to get a singed nose and tea in one’s sinus cavities.)
Tasting time, I am excited, I have come to greatly love Darjeelings, especially after I learned that boiling the tea leaves will give you a cup of gross. That was a great lesson to learn about a year ago! I know, with every Darjeeling I review I have to mention the ‘do not boil’ thing, I do this because for years bad tea instructions had me believing that Darjeeling was bitter death and all those people who tasted sweetness and grapes were bonkers. The taste of this tea is deliciously mild and muscatel with notes of freshly mown hay and new vegetation. This fades to a rich, brisk, oak wood taste that really wakes up the mouth (and the me.) After this burst of wood it fades to a honey sweet raisin that that lingers as a delightful aftertaste.
Flavors: Hay, Honey, Loam, Muscatel, Oak wood, Raisins
I have been window shopping for a new gaiwan but have hid a real road block. There are just too many that I want, I narrowed my list down to seven that I would be quite content having. I have a feeling that it is going to be a long process trying to narrow it down further. On a fun side note, when searching for ‘green gaiwan’ bing was convinced I was trying to look up Gawain and the Green Knight.
Today’s tea is Kenilworth Garden OP from Harney & Sons, from one of the oldest tea estates in Ceylon…err…Sri Lanka. I am going to admit, whenever I see OP I have myself a little giggle, in tea terms OP means Orange Pekoe and is in reference to the grade of tea. In gamer terms OP means over powered, so it is hard to not assume that this tea is really an overpowered weapon in a PVP game. Enough nerdiness (for now) and onto aroma! The aroma of this tea is rich and sweet, with notes of caramel, malt, molasses, and a tiny hint of cocoa. This aroma has a presence, and that presence is richness. It also has a slightly brisk finish of oak wood which adds a touch of lightness to the smoldering richness.
Once the tea has been steeped and removed from its happy little bath, the aroma of the wet leaves is less sweet and more robust. There are notes of oak wood, molasses, and a touch of pepper at the finish. The liquid is creamy sweet with notes of brisk oak wood and dried leaves on a forest floor (specifically not wet loam.)
Tasting time, let us see if this OP tea is Over Powered! The taste is quite intense and brisk, yet very smooth, with no astringency at all. It starts out brisk and oaky with a touch of loam, this fades to molasses, and lastly loam and pepper at the finish. The mouthfeel is dry, in a lip-smacking good way. In a not terribly surprising turn of events I decided to add some cream and sugar. Doing so cause a minor mouth explosion of happiness, it is so rich with the cream and sugar! The briskness is still there but reduced a great bit, so it is mostly rich and malty. I feel an overpowering need for scones and tiny sandwiches now.
Flavors: Cocoa, Loam, Malt, Molasses, Oak wood
On a whim I decided to try something daring! Ben was using the Xbox and I wanted to play Minecraft, so I borrowed his much superior computer to play the demo. It was the most fun I have had in ages, I died so much because I was not used to the controls (also using a laptop mouse instead of a real mouse) but it was a thing of beauty. I might have happy cried a little. The good news is Ben said if I buy myself a new mouse and a PC copy of Minecraft I can borrow his computer while he is at work!
Today’s tea is the famous Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong from Teavivre. Hailing from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China, this Rock Oolong (or Yancha) has an interesting legend about it. During the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor’s mother took ill, luckily a tea she sipped cured her and in thanks the Emperor sent great red robes to clothe the original bushes that grew the tea, hint the name Big Red Robe. The aroma of this tea is a blend of sweetness and smoke. There are notes of baking bread, honey, tobacco, coal, and a finishing hint of cocoa. It is quite a fascinating aroma that is well balanced.
Into the gaiwan the curly leaves go! After a fairly short steep, the aroma of the wet leaves is as complex as the dry leaves with notes of charcoal, baking bread, honey, and touch of floral. I should note that the floral is like orchids near the end of their life, heady sweet with just the faintest touch of decay. It is not an unpleasant smell, it is just very distinct to flowers which are about to fall off the stem. The poured off liquid is a blend of sweet honey, charcoal, and a finish of tobacco.
The first steep starts out sharply sweet, like honey coated tobacco with a strong note of coal. There is a great blend of pine wood and smoke at the middle of the sip, the titular midtaste, after the initial sharpness fades I realized that the mouthfeel was quite smooth. The finish is sweet with an aftertaste of cherry and the faintest hint of smoke.
For the second steep, the first thing I notice about the aroma is that it is only barely smoky, like a distant fire and not a piece of charcoal, it is more floral and much sweeter, like honey and flower nectar. The taste starts out very sweet and smooth, with strong notes of raw honey and flowers, specifically orchids and a touch of honeysuckle. There is a finish of cherries and smoke, just like the first steep.
Th aroma of the third steep has taken a different route from its previous forms, this time it is faintly fruity sweet with a distinct mineral and spring water aroma. The taste also has a strong mineral presence, it tastes like drinking straight from a spring (having done this many times, I highly recommend it) very clean and very mineraly. This fades to a gentle floral taste and a honey sweetness that lingers.
Flavors: Honey, Mineral, Smoke, Tobacco, Yeasty
Ugh, today was one of those days where I got absolutely nothing accomplished. I had a list of things I wanted to do, but I think the utter lack of sleep last night sapped any desire to do anything today. Well, it is a lie, I have successfully mastered the fine art at staring at a website without actually reading it. We all have one of those days sometimes.
Today’s tea is Tazo Teas Rest Herbal Infusion, a blend of roses, valerian root, and citrusy herbs. I will admit, I have no idea how this tea bag got into my stash of tea, but I wanted an herbal tea to sip in the evening, so why not? I am very curious where this tea came from, maybe the tea fairy visited me, you know leave a tea-ball under your pillow and wake up with a soggy mess…and maybe new tea! The aroma is a soothing blend of lemony, herbaceous, a little bit of floral sweetness, and a finish of bitter herb (hello valerian, you still smell kinda awful.) The rose aroma is pretty faint, mostly the dominant notes are herbal and citrus.
Once the teabag has been steeped, however, the rose becomes more dominant. As does a bunch of different herbal notes, some of them not so pleasant and bit astringent smelling. There are also strong notes of citrus, honestly the tea smells like a medicinal cacophony with some rose perfume covering it up, it is not bad, but it does smell like medicine!
The taste of this is not offensive, which is always a good way to start out with a tea that has valerian in it. There is some bitter root taste, but it is pretty faint and only at the end, a bit of honey or sugar takes that bitterness right away. The taste of the tea is mild, with notes of citrus, rose, wildflowers, sage, and a general herb and grass feeling to it. I didn’t hate it, if this tea magically shows up in my stash again I would drink it before sleep, granted there are significantly better night time herbal teas out there, but this one is not bad.
This is one of those introductions to today’s tea that is a little lame, I had a mostly uneventful day today and sadly I have not really had any inspiring thoughts. I did some laundry, had some tea, walked to the drug store, watched some lectures, and did a bit of writing. Also Tao did something clever, she learned that meowing in front of the closed window and trying to pull open the window with her paw was a clear way to get me to open the window. That was my day!
Today’s tea is Assam Gold from The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, a lovely black tea from Assam, India, with a sprinkling of curly, fuzzy, golden tipped leaves. You all know me, you know that if my tea has fuzzy, golden leaves I am immediately happy, I am not too hard to please. The aroma is rich and malty with sweet notes of dried cherries. This fades to a blend of cocoa and tobacco with a touch of cedar at the finish.
After what seems like an eternity of steeping (one of the side-effects of doing a bunch of gongfu brewing, all those short steeps!) the aroma if the wet leaves is brisk and sweet, almost surprisingly sweet! There are strong notes of cherries and malt with a faint finish of molasses. The liquid is richly sweet with a tiny bit of tartness, like a more tart cherry. Accompanying this are notes of malt and molasses.
Well, this is certainly not a mild or unassuming tea! The initial taste is quite bold and bit brisk, with notes of cherries, cocoa, and a touch of oak which adds a bit of astringency. This fades to a rich malt that lingers as an aftertaste. Feeling whimsical I added a bit of cream and sugar, this takes away the briskness and that touch of astringency and leaves a rich and very malty cup. The notes of fruit and cocoa are not as strong, there is more of an earthiness as well. I found this tea quite good both creamed and sweetened and straight, it is a great breakfast tea.
Flavors: Absinthe, Cherry, Cocoa, Malt, Oak wood
No notes yet. Add one?
Today’s mail was awesome, I knew that my Meteorology book was supposed to arrive today (because yes I obsessively track packages whenever I have a tracking code), but I also got my Geology textbook today! Now if only I could find a Mycology textbook for less than $100 I would be happy, turns out those more obscure subjects have pricier textbooks. I also received a Calligraphy book to review thanks to Goodread’s First Read program, so I have a reason to break out my ink and nibs.
Today’s tea is Liu An Gua Pian from Teavivre, a green tea from Liu An, Anhui, China, specifically on Qiyun Mountain. The name Gua Pian translates to Melon Seed, for the way the leaves look once they have been steeped. I do want to take a moment to point out how beautifully verdant the leaves are, their color is a deeper green than a lot of famous Chinese green teas. When I was sniffing the dry leaves, I had one of those mouthwatering moments, there are certain smells that I just love in tea, and this one certainly has it. The aroma is quite vegetal and also quite nutty, with note of green beans, spinach, chestnut, sweet sesame seed paste (Halva for those who enjoy Middle Eastern desserts) and a very delicate finish of toast. It manages to be sweet and vegetal without the clashing, in fact sniffing this tea makes me a bit hungry.
Once the tea has been given a nice soaking in the gaiwan, the leaves become an even richer green, I would go as far as to say they look like fine Nephrite Jade. The aroma is rather complex, the wet leaves have notes of toasted sesame seeds, green beans, asparagus, lychee, and spicebush. Again these notes do not clash, but compliment each other. The liquid in my cup is a lovely shade of green, again reminding me of jade (why yes, I have been brushing up on my Mineralogy, why do you ask?) The aroma is delicate, with notes of honeysuckle, lychee, sesame seeds, and chestnut. It is more nutty and floral than vegetal, and is quite sweet.
The first steep, well on the first steep all I can think is ‘oh my that is sweet’ I even wrote that in my tasting notebook. There are notes of lychee and honeysuckle at the front, the mid taste is nicely vegetal with notes of asparagus and green bean. The Finish is a blend of apricots and sesame sesame seeds, it is very complex and light. If the rest of the steeps are this tasty I could become addicted to this tea.
And onto the second steep we go! The aroma is a blend of asparagus, sweet lychee, and a nice sesame finish. The taste is still light, but has more of a vegetal and herbaceous tone than sweet this time around. The taste starts out with a bit of asparagus and green beans, this fades to a hint of sage and cooked spinach. The aftertaste is sweet, like lychees and a hint of cherries.
The third steep’s aroma is fairly faint, there are notes of spinach and lychee and the faintest hint of sesame at the end, but mostly it is vegetal and discreet. The taste is not faint, however. It is a perfect blend of spinach, lychee, green beans, and sesame seeds. They all seem to dance in perfect tandem, like a very strange waltz (I say strange because usually spinach is a terrible dancer). The tea has a slightly dry finish, but it is still refreshing, especially with the lychee aftertaste that lingers.
For the fourth steep, well, before we get into aromas and taste, I have a confession. I had to nibble on a leaf, they looked so pretty, turns out they were really tasty! Sometimes you get lucky and used tea leaves are sweet and vegetal, sometimes they are really bitter. The aroma is sweet, with strong notes of sesame seeds and a touch of honey, no real vegetal or fruity notes this time. This is a nice finish to a delicious tea, the fourth steep is light, with delicate notes of sesame seeds, a touch of lychee, and touch of green bean. I really enjoyed this tea, though I really wish I would have gotten more than a sample, at least I know what will be in my next Teavivre order!For Blog and Photos (including Espeon saying hello :P ): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/06/teavivre-liu-gua-pian-green-tea-tea.html
Flavors: Asparagus, Green Beans, Honey, Lychee, Nutty, Spinach