459 Tasting Notes
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
Happy day after the first day of Summer everyone, even if that was an incredibly awkward greeting! I spent most of my solstice hiding from the heat and sun in the basement (like I do) and sipping tea (also like I do). I did come out for a brief date with Ben in the backyard, and by date I mean we turned on the sprinkler and played in it, along with having a hose vs sprinkler fight. He was armed with the hose and won, but considering I got soaked and cooled off I think it is more of a tie.
Today’s tea is Susan Branch Private Blend Tea, A Fine Romance, which is a blend of Earl Grey Tea, Lavender Buds, and Rose Petals. Even though those are two of my favorite flowers to have in tea, what really sold my British self (well, half self since I am only half a Brit) is the Corgi in a crown on the packaging. The aroma is quite like a summer bouquet of roses (specifically it reminds me of the English Rose perfume I was much enamored of as a kid) with relaxing notes of lavender, bright citrus notes, and a finish of slightly sweet malt.
Once the leaves and petals have had a nice hot bath, the wet leaves have a much more brisk aroma. It smells more like tea with flowers than flowers with a touch of tea. In the dry leaves the roses were strongest, but now they are well balanced with the other ingredients. Luckily the bergamot is not too strong, which is good because too strong makes me scared. The liquid without its leafy friends is quite rich with strong notes of malt and vanilla, and more subtle notes of flowers.
The description on the website says this tea is great with additives, but I decided to try it straight first. First sip in, I really do not think this tea needs sugar or cream, it is rich and sweet enough on its own. In my mouth there is a great dance of roses, lavender, malt, and mild bergamot, each one well balanced and accenting each other in harmony. The taste is pretty rich while also being mild, it seems like a bit of a contradiction, but the floral aspects make it rich, the black tea base is subtle. I like this tea, it would be a great tea for tea parties or an afternoon sip in the garden.
Flavors: Bergamot, Lavender, Malt, Rose, Vanilla
It is certainly summer time now, even if technically the solstice isn’t until tomorrow. We have not had a day below 85 degrees in a few weeks, and I have achieved full melt. I really dislike the heat, you would think growing up in the South would make me used to it, but each summer I seem to hate it just a little bit more. Good thing the basement tea lair stays mostly cool, for now anyway.
Today’s tea is Sencha of the Summer Sun from Obubu Tea Plantations by way of Yunomi.us. This particular Sencha from Kyoto grown on an uncovered west-facing slope and plucked after it has been bathed by the July sun. It is a strong Sencha, perfect for washing down oily BBQ on a summer day, at least that is what the website says and I am inclined to believe it. The aroma of the vibrantly green leaves is sweet, a blend of sweet hay, grass, and spinach. There is a touch of seaweed at the finish giving the tea a bit of that sea-side aroma that I so love in teas. It might be the name playing havoc with my sense, but the aroma really does remind me of summer.
Once the tea has a nice visit with some water in my Kyusu, the aroma of the wet leaves is sweet like fresh hay and just a little bit fruity. There is also a hint of kelp and vegetal, though it is not as strong. The aroma of the liquid almost seems ethereal, there are faint notes of sweet grass and kelp, but they seem ghostly and like a memory.
The first steep is sweet, it starts with a sweet grass taste that fades to fresh cherry. After this initial sweetness, the taste fades to a grassy bitterness and a touch of kale. The finish returns to a gentle sweetness that takes all the bitterness away, the hay sweetness lingers for quite a while.
On the second steeping, the aroma is much more grassy and strong, no more ethereal memories of tea, you can definitely tell you are sniffing a cup of Sencha this time. The taste is also more intense, quite green and grassy that fades to vegetal kale bitter green. Like the first steep after the bitter green taste you are greeted with a nice sweet finish that lingers.
The aroma of the third steep is much grassier and kelpy, it is more savory than sweet this time around. The taste is also quite grassy and fresh, this fades to kelp. Lastly the taste is quite sweet with a fruity aftertaste. This tea I found quite refreshing, I think it actually does go really well with heavy foods, though I did not test it with BBQ, but I am sure it works just fine. I can see people who are not a fan of bitter green tastes not enjoying this Sencha as much, but since I am a fan of it I found it quite enjoyable.
Flavors: Grass, Hay, Kale, Seaweed, Spinach, Sweet
I was introduced to the most awesome thing today, apparently there are websites where you can audit college level classes for free. I foresee lots of science classes in my future, because let’s be honest, if I was able to go back to college I would go for science. Of course trying to finally decide if I want to go the Meteorology or Mycology route would be the real hard part, for now I will just sponge up knowledge in barely contained glee.
This is one of those teas that was no surprise at all when I saw it was part of the 2013 Autumn collection. I mean really, what is more autumn than Mom’s Apple Pie by DAVIDsTEA? A blend created from Green Tea, Apple Pieces, Cinnamon, Artificial and Natural flavors, this tea is all about nostalgia. Except for me, my mom was more of a carrot cake or berry pie kinda lady, so I don’t have a huge attachment to apples. Unsurprisingly the aroma is very much apples, sweet and a little tart like a Granny Smith apple, there is also a moderate presence of cinnamon which thankfully does not overwhelm. I do not really pick up on the aroma of the base tea, but there is a tiny hint of freshly made crust.
The brewed leave’s aroma is very warm, blending cinnamon spice and cooked apples, and still a little hint of crust. The cinnamon and apple are well balanced and sweet, I still do not notice any green tea though. The liquid is much sweeter with less crust and more apples, the cinnamon is pretty mild, just a gentle warmth.
It’s Apple Flavored! Yes, that is an obscure Bleach reference for you. There is a touch of grassy green, a subtle sweetness, and mild cinnamon warmth. But let’s be honest, the main show stealer is the apple, it has a baked apple and a little bit of an artificial sour apple taste. I am really hit or miss with apple things, actually with apples in general. They are very much so one of those fruits that I love to smell but rarely like to eat, especially if the apple is at all tart. I think that this is a tea that apple lovers could really enjoy since it is more real apple than fake, so points for that. I doubt I would ever seek it out myself.
So I saw my new Rheumatologist today and I have some interesting news! Turns out I might not have Lupus, I might just have Hypothyroidism and Fibromyalgia (just like my mom, genetics!). He is not quite ready to rule out autoimmune disorders entirely since I show a lot of signs of Lupus, but my blood work came back negative and I have all the symptoms of Fibro (just an added bonus butterfly rash for fun?) and thyroid problems on the blood work. So new medicine to try for fatigue and pain management, and lots of monitoring my condition. I would be quite content with this diagnosis, the fear of Lupus trying to kill me was getting really old.
Today’s tea is another from the Red Leaf Tea 20 Teas Sampler, Milk Gao Shan Tea (number 5). I am slowly making my way through all the teas, ok actually I have long since tasted all the teas in this sampler and recorded my notes in my tea-notebook, so really I am slowly adding them to my blog. You can tell these tasting notes are a bit old since this was pre-gaiwan days, such nostalgia. From what I gathered from a quick skim of the internet, Gao Shan is translated to High Mountain, so this tea is essentially a Taiwanese High Mountain Milk Oolong. The aroma is very sweet, true to its name it smells very milky and creamy. In fact I would go as far as say this tea smells like vanilla ice cream with a touch of chestnut and hay. If you are unfamiliar with Milk Oolong’s distinct aroma, it can seem a little unreal. There is also, at the very finish of a particularly long sniff, a touch of pineapple.
After giving the tea a nice steeping and watching the leaves unfurl a bit, the aroma of them in their little steeping basket is less intensely sweet and creamy and much more like you would expect a green oolong to smell. There are notes of chestnut and fresh vegetation with an underlying aroma of sweet cream and honey. The liquid is a buttery mix of sweet cream and fresh vegetation. It is fairly mild and only slightly sweet.
First steeping time! The first thing I notice is that buttery smooth mouthfeel, I am such a sucker for oolongs that have that distinct mouthfeel. The taste starts out quite sweet and floral, like sweet cream and honeysuckles. This fades to vegetal, mixing notes of fresh vegetation and fresh spinach. After this my mouth is treated to a bit of chestnut and an aftertaste of cream.
The aroma of the second steep is really sweet and creamy, much more so than the aroma of the first steeping. The taste starts out a bit bitter, like kale, this very quickly fades to chestnut, sweet cream, and honeysuckles. The mouthfeel is also still pretty smooth and buttery, which I enjoy. As the tea cools, all bitterness fades and we are left with a mouth full of sweet, milky, goodness. This Milk Oolong is not bad, I have had better and I have had worse, this is a perfect example of adequate.
Flavors: Honeysuckle, Milk, Vanilla, Vegetal
Yesterday was awesome, I am still basking in the fun glow. Since this week will be Ben’s first week back at work, he wanted to do something fun with me, so we went to the zoo! Since I am photosensitive, this means we were there at its 8 am opening, we wandered around for five hours and I am so sore today, but it was totally worth it. I got some awesome photos, a tiny plushie Red Panda, and even got to pet an Ibis. It was truly an awesome day.
When I was visiting my mom in Pennsylvania last summer (and therefore had access to my favorite grocery store) I became mildly addicted to today’s tea. Wegman’s Organic Blueberry Green Tea is a blend of Green Tea, White Tea, Blueberries, Cornflower Petals, and Flavoring. The aroma of the leaves is delightfully fruity, it smells like sweet blueberries and fresh vegetation. There is a hint of lettuce and very delicate floral as well, for the finish we have a slight peppery kick.
The aroma of the brewed tea is quite sweet and very vegetal, it reminds me of a mild Bi Luo Chun with notes of artichoke and lychee. This blends really well with the blueberry aroma. The liquid has a very blueberry heavy aroma, which makes me happy, there are also notes of lychee and fresh vegetation with a gentle finish of lettuce.
It is no secret that of all the flavorings you can add to things, blueberries are my favorite, but it has to taste like sweet, fresh, wild Maine Blueberries from my childhood memories or I won’t like it. None of those tart blueberries for me, please. I admit, when I was drinking this over the summer I primarily had it sweetened and frequently chilled. I have since moved away from sweetening my teas and only rarely chill them, so lets see if I still love it as much. The taste is delicate and sweet, the blueberry taste is faint, it is more like having blueberries in the tea and not flavoring it. There are notes of artichoke, lettuce, and a tiny bit of acidic citrus at the finish. On a whim I added a bit of sugar and the faint blueberries pop into a rich blueberry flavor. I guess some things never change, my love for strong blueberries certainly doesn’t!
Flavors: Artichoke, Blueberry, Lettuce
I slept for a whopping twelve hours yesterday, wow! I was having some insomnia and ended up staying awake almost 24 hours, finally feeling sleepy I only expected to sleep for a short time. Big surprise for me when I woke up much later, very thirsty and quite a bit hungry. At least I feel mostly rested and a little bit less achy than I did previously, so clearly my body needed it.
Today’s tea from Teavivre is Guang Dong Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong Tea, a curly leafed oolong from Phoenix Mountain (or Feng Huang Shan) in Guangdong Province, China. I love curly leaf oolongs, mainly because steeping them gongfu cha style is very entertaining. In order to get the tastiest results, it is best to do really quick steeps, think around five seconds at the long end. These short steeps are very fun and change up the experience. I am getting ahead of myself, before I can think about steeping, I need to sniff the leaves! The aroma of the long, twisted leaves is a blend of sweet and sharp. There are notes of dried cherry and smoke with a finish of orchids and sweet potatoes.
After the very quick bath in the gaiwan, the leaves have an aroma similar to the dry leaves. It is smoky, more like coals than a roaring campfire. There is also the aroma of cherries, but it smells like fresh black cherries (I might have recently eaten those, just for reference) and it is nicely sweet. There is a finish of orchids, but it is just a passing wisp. The liquid has a faint coal and cherry with a hint of lychee, it is tantalizingly sweet.
The first steep is quite smooth, a very refreshing mouthfeel with really enjoyable effect that causes you to salivate. The taste is fairly light, a very sweet blend of cherries and lychees with a hint of pine resin. At the finish there is a little bit of coal, but mostly this tea is all sweetness.
Intense! The aroma of the second steep is so intensely sweet and fruity with notes of cherries and lychees. There is a nice finish of pine resin and orchids. It is one of those moments where I sniffed the tea and made funny noises because it smelled so good. This steep’s mouthfeel is dry in comparison to the first, but it still has the salivary effect that very quickly balances out the dryness. The taste is a pretty balanced blend of coal and fruity sweetness with hints of orchid and pine resin at the finish. The aftertaste is slightly bitter coal, which is an interesting contrast to earlier’s sweetness.
Teas I can get many steeps out of make me a happy sipper, so does the aroma of the third steep. It s intensely sweet and fruity, notes of honey and fruit nectar. It is very rich but also delicate, just like fresh fruit. Lke the previous steep the mouthfeel is dry and causes a salivary affect. The taste of this steep is a bit lighter, mostly sweet fruit with a nice finish of coal that gives the tea a slightly savory finish.
Oooh, we have a nice change for the fourth steep’s aroma, where the previous ones have been quite sweet, this one is primarily coal and a fresh vegetation, alpine aroma. The taste is quite sweet and very light, it starts out cherries and fades to lychee, and then a finish of peaches. My tea is turning into a combination of some of my favorite fruits! There is the tiniest hint of coal at the finish, and the mouthfeel is smooth until the end where it turns dry.
Flavors: Char, Cherry, Lychee, Peach, Smoke
My cat, Tao, is usually a bit on the aloof side. She tends to snuggle either when you are asleep (she curls up on your stomach or pressed against your back or chest) or when you are lounging. Very different from Espeon who is essentially a lap-cat. The only time Tao goes into hyper cuddle mode is when she detects something is wrong, if I am upset about something or sick, Tao becomes super snuggle happy. Well I went to bed this afternoon feeling pretty awful and woke up a few hours later with a very large, very fluffy, loudly purring, weight on my face. I might have been mildly asphyxiated, but it made me happy and I had to share my happy moment.
Today’s tea review is The Republic of Tea’s Get Lost, an herbal blend of Organic Rooibos, Orange Peel, Carob Pod, Gymnema Leaf, Cinnamon, Banaba Leaf, and Orange Flavor, supposedly selected to aid in weight loss. I do not need to lose weight, I weigh a whopping 94lbs and am constantly trying to gain it, but I will never turn down a tea to try. In theory (I really have no idea how factual this is) these herbs are supposed to help with sugar cravings and satisfy one’s sweet tooth, I can certainly see no fault in that, even when you are trying to gain weight, avoiding crazy sugar cravings is good since it can feed yeast and other unpleasant things in one’s guts. Enough health stuff, how does this little round teabag smell? Well, this is certainly a rooibos tea because that distinct sharp woodiness of rooibos is the predominant aroma. There are also notes of herbaceous leaves and a touch of chocolate. This teabag also smells dry and a little dusty, but I find most teabags do, so your mileage my vary.
The steeped tea has a very herbal and woody aroma with a potent chocolate sweetness and a finish of yeast. It reminds me of boxed chocolate cake sitting next to a big cup of rooibos tea. From the aroma alone I can see this being helpful for people with cravings of cake, time to see if it holds up on taste.
First up, I notice that oh so familiar woody and sweet rooibos with its signature dry mouth feel. It is not dry mouth like you get from something with too many tannins, not that puckering all moisture has been sucked out…but more of a gentle dry mouth, it almost has a dusty quality. Oddly drinking rooibos reminds me of breathing through my mouth on a typical hot, dry, windy, Kansas City day. There are also notes of chocolate, they are vaguely chocolate, much like one expects from carob. The aftertaste is herbaceous and slightly green tasting. This tea is pleasant, not outstanding but also not bad, it could be good for someone craving a sweet tea and looking for an ‘everyday’ kinda tea.
Flavors: Chocolate, Wood