334 Tasting Notes
Well I finally have the Tea Lair set up, and I am worn out from moving all my stuff from the room to the basement. Exhausting but totally worth it! In yesterday’s blog I hinted at (ok just blatently said) it was going to be a theme week, and that theme is Design a Tea! After not being wowed by the samples I purchased they were kind enough to send me some samples of their loose leaf to try, and this week will be the adventure of trying them! We are starting the week with a green, because it is a new week and I like my little word plays.
Chestnut and Honey Green by Design a Tea blends green tea with two of my favorite flavor notes to find in tea, honey and chestnut. The aroma is as expected quite sweet like honey and richly nutty like chestnuts. The aroma is pleasantly sweet and not overwhelmingly so, there is an underlying vegetal aroma and a delicate hint of floral.
After giving the leaves a nice soaking in hot water (so jealous, it is too cold right now!) and the aroma is quite nutty and sweet, but the vegetal aroma is more clear now, taking on an air of artichoke. There is also a very delicate hint of floral as well which blends well with the other notes. The liquid sans leaves is richly nutty and creamy honey with a hint of vegetal. Quite a fresh aroma.
Tasting time! Initial thoughts: yum! A well balanced blend of chestnut and honey with delicate notes of artichoke and green beans. The sweetness is fairly faint having more of the taste of honey without all the sweetness. The taste manages to be rich and creamy while maintaining the delicate aspects one expects with a green. The aftertaste is nutty with an extremely faint hint of apricot. I really enjoyed this tea, it is real proof that loose leaf tea is superior! I look forward to the other teas I am trying this week.
I did it, I finally found the time and help to clean out a spot for my desk in the basement and move it down! Step one of my Tea-Lair is complete, and while my sweetheart is busy at school tomorrow I will be moving all of my stuff down and setting up my little nest. I also got a new teacup, it was so expensive, a whopping 99 cents, but it is simple, white, and from Arsburg, Germany.
Today’s tea is a dessert tea full of candy-like sweetness. Caramel Tea by Culinary Teas is a Ceylon black tea blended with Natural flavors, Butterscotch chips, Sunflower petals, and Calendula petals. The aroma certainly matches the name with strong notes of burnt sugar and vanilla cream. There is also a malty undertone of black tea, so it does not just smell like candy.
Once brewed the leaves become very rich and malty with and intense sweetness. The aroma reminds me more of toffee and cream than caramel, but that is not at all a derogatory statement. The liquid has an intensely sweet aroma mixing caramel notes and creaminess for a tea that certainly smells more like a dessert than anything else.
The taste is pretty intense, honestly it reminds me more of a Caramel Mocchiato than tea, mixing strong notes of caramel, cream, and slightly bitter nuttiness. It is quite good, leaving a smooth feeling in the mouth and a very sweet aftertaste, of course I want to try this tea with a bit of cream. Adding cream mellows out the tea and brings out the caramel but making it more like caramelized sugar rather than candy. As the tea cools it has a slightly toasted marshmallow taste to it. This tea is a perfect example of sweet dessert tea, and makes a great substitute for an actual dessert at the end of the meal.
On a fun note, tomorrow will start a “Theme Week” the Pu-Erh week worked so well so I am going to try a different spin on it. Experiments are fun! For blogs and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/01/culinary-teas-caramel-tea-tea-review.html
Can we just all take a minute to acknowledge how much Khamul the Easterling sucks. You know the Nazgul that is sniffing for the Hobbits and completely misses them (maybe he had a cold that day) that is Khamul, the only Nazgul that Tolkien names. No, the Witch-King doesn’t count since that is his title. He failed to catch Hobbits, failed to attack Lorien (three separate times), was beaten up by Ents, slapped around by Thranduil, and lastly pummeled by Eagles. One wonders why the Witch-King keeps him around. Ok, ok, enough geeking out and on to tea.
Today’s tea is Vanilla Green Tea by Adagio Teas, blending Chinese Green Tea with Vanilla Flavorings for a sweet and creamy treat. And let me tell you, the aroma is certainly sweet and creamy! It smells very much so like a bowl of vanilla ice cream with slight vegetal tones. A hint of artichoke with my creamy ice cream, it is a little odd but not unpleasant.
Once the leaves have taken a nice bath and the ice cream melted (or it would if it was actually ice cream) the aroma becomes more green and vegetal with notes of spinach mixed with vanilla sweetness. There is a tiny, almost indistinguishable hint, of citrus as I pull the leaves away from my nose. The liquid is fairly mild, mostly having notes of nuttiness, creaminess, and sweetness with little else.
The taste is sweet, creamy, and mild. This is a flavored tea that does not overpower, more like tucking you into a warm bed with a cup of warm vanilla milk and a plate of cookies. With a side of vegetgal. This is still a green tea afterall, and the aftertaste is mildly vegetal, so mild I cannot really tell what vegetable it tastes like, just a general green, veggie broth, aftertaste. As the tea cools it becomes sweeter and the vanilla becomes richer, certainly a tea that does not need any help from sugar to get your sweet kick.
The weather is deceptive! I looked outside and saw the sun shining and a complete lack of wind…perfect weather for a stroll to the thrift store (hunt for a new teacup!) but the minute I stuck my head outside I yelped and slammed the door. COLD!! I was under the impression that it was going to be warmer, but it seems I was deceived. At least I didn’t have to go out, unlike Ben who came home and icicle after his bus was late. I need to think about something warm and exotic, like this tea.
Today’s tea is Jungle Monkey Chai by Tea Xotics, a spicetacular (it’s a word now) blend of Rooibos, Cocoa, Bananas, Coconut, Chai Spices, and Flavors. The aroma is intense, mixing chocolate, banana, and coconut for a sweet and creamy taste. Toss in the earthy aroma of rooibos as an afterthought and a pleasant undertone of spices and you have a crazy, mouthwatering blend. The aroma reminds me of an ice cream that I ate tons of as a teenager (it also had monkey in the name) but with the added bonus of chai spices.
The brewed leaves still have a very clear sweet creaminess reminiscent of ice cream, but the chai spices and rooibos earthiness become much more distinct. It does make the aroma seem a little muddy since there is so much going on, but it is still pretty mouthwatering. The liquid is very sweet and creamy, with notes of earthiness and strong spiciness. At the end there is a kick of rich chocolate.
After the aroma of this tea being nothing short of a decadent dessert, I have high hopes for the tasting. As is typical with chais, I have this with a copious amount of Half & Half, but I did not add my usual sugar since Rooibos is pretty sweet on its own. First impression: Sweet! Bananas! Chai! ICE CREAM TEA!! This tea tastes so much like the ice cream I used to eat that I am practically dancing around with happiness. The chai spice taste is distinct, but it does not overpower the tropical goodness of coconut and bananas. The mid to aftertaste is earthiness and chocolate, which is a nice finish for such a sweet tea. I do wish the chocolate had been stronger (but when don’t I?) but other than that, this is an awesome tea.
Guys, I think I have to replace my favorite teacup. Yes, the adorable small, clear glass one that I use all the time, because it has developed a white film around the rim and NOTHING I do will get rid of it. It is a mystery since none of the other glassware I use has this problem, I assume it was the dishwasher’s fault. Maybe sticking my 50 cent possibly from the 70s teacup in the dishwasher was not a good idea. Live and learn and off to the thrift store for a new one!
Today’s tea is Standard Gyokuro Tea from Yunomi.us and the Kurihara family, it is grown in the Fukuoko Prefecture in Southern Japan. Gyokuro (Jade Dew) is considered to be the finest of the Japanese Green teas and is grown in the shade, giving it a more delicate, balanced, and sweeter taste than teas like Sencha. This specific Gyokuro, also called Netsuyu Gyokuro, is shaded for a shorter period of time and so is not a premium Gyokuro. I figure this is a perfect place to start since this will be my first ever Gyokuro. The aroma is very green, like fresh grass and moisture, an odd description, but it reminded me of the way cut grass smells after a brief rain storm. There is also a touch of nuttiness and sweetness with an end note of sweet peas.
Once the leaves are steeped the aroma is still very green and sweet, but now there is a very faint kelp and sea air aroma as a delicate undertone. I can also detect delicate chestnut and fruity notes. Everything about the steeped leaves’s aroma is delicate and refreshing. The liquid a paradox, it is both delicate and rich mixing grass, kelp, and chestnuts while also being heady. I have never described a tea that was not floral as heady, but the way it knocked me off my figurative feet was certainly a heady response.
Even though the tasting notes from this tea are quite old (poor neglected notebook) I can still recall the bouncing around I did as I was waiting to taste this tea. Fun fact, Gyokuro has been on my ‘must try’ list since I was in high school (a decade ago, it doesn’t seem that long ago) and I could barely contain my excitement. The taste is a bit grassy and sweet like stone fruit, there is a touch of fresh kelp and a touch of spring dew. The mouthfeel is incredibly smooth and as it cools it becomes honey sweet. The flavors are incredibly subtle while being distinct.
Steeping a second time brings out more of the kelpy and grassy aroma and is not as sweet. The taste is milder, with notes of sweetness and a touch of kelp with a finish of fruit. The fruit taste reminds me a bit of Asian pear (my personal favorite pear) and has the same juicy mouthfeel.
Traditionally you can eat the steeped leaves with a bit of soy sauce like a tasty salad. Before I doused the leaves with sauce I nibbled them and the taste is quite good! Like a mix of seaweed and lettuce with a hint of kale bitterness. Adding soy sauce makes it even more like seaweed salad and leaves me craving sushi.
And so it ends, Winter holiday that is. Yes, my sweetheart is returning to his classes and I am left home alone all day. This of course means I can go back to listening to (at times really bad) loud music without my taste disrupting other people. I decided that today was 90s Grunge and 80s New Wave day in contrast to yesterday’s 60s-70s Classic Rock. I wonder what tomorrow’s music will be?
Today’s tea, Caramel Apple Oolong by 52Teas represents a staple of Autumnal festivals. Oddly I am not a huge fan of caramel apples, I had an accident involving an apple and a tub of caramel which ended with me having a strong dislike of caramel. I have since gotten over my aversion to most caramels, though I still cannot stomach the caramel dip for fruits. This tea is a blend of Fujian Oolong and Fuji Apples, which is a great combination of ingredients, especially in the naming department. The aroma of this tea, oddly, is nothing like caramel or apples, the aroma is strongly of melons. I hate melons, there are few foods that illicit a grimace from me like melons. It is sweet, cloyingly so. The aroma of the tea is pretty off-putting, but I am willing to try it out…sometimes aromas can be surprising.
The brewed leaves still have a bit of melon, but I am also noticing the sweet yet tart aroma of apples and the burnt sugar aroma of caramel. The liquid is rich and sweet with notes of apple and melons. Why are there melons?
I am going to start this by saying I like the Oolong base, it is rich and sweet with caramel notes (ok that actually could be from the caramel) and a bit of of a woodsy flair. However the flavorings added to the oolong fall flat for me. I think the apple flavor is sour and artificial (apple is one of those flavors I tend to be really hard on though, so it could be me just being picky) and there is that taste of melon that snuck in from somewhere. The finish is sweet and caramel-like, which is good, I am glad the aftertaste is not melon or sour apple. This is definitely one of those teas that I can tell is a good tea that I just didn’t like, so I will recommend it to people who like sour apples and inexplicable melons.
I set Ungoliant free today. Yes, Ungoliant the jumping spider that I found at the beginning of Winter in my bedroom, he had happily lived in a jar being fed various insects that I found. Sadly I run out of bugs and figured, since it was warm, time to let nature be nature and put the spider outside. I miss my little hoppy desk companion. Ben saw how sad I am over my friend going out into the wide world, told me that in the near future he will get me a LARGE desk companion spider. Yes dear tea friends, I will be getting a tarantula, a spider truly worthy of the name Ungoliant.
Organic Sencha Whole Leaf Teabag by Den’s Tea came onto my radar thanks to their extremely awesome Green Tea Sampler for Novices which is not only a great introduction Den’s Tea’s products, but also an introduction to Japanese Green Tea. The aroma of the tea bag is like a little bag of spring time, there are notes of sweet grass (not to be confused with Sweetgrass, the aromatic herb native to North America and North Eurasia) and the tiniest hint of fresh lemon zest. In simplest terms the aroma is deliciously green, the idea of what Sencha is supposed to smell like.
The aroma of the brewed tea bag is quite refreshing, clean and grassy like a spring field. There are mild sweet notes, like cane sugar, with a finish of fresh hay.
The taste is initially sweet with a delightfully grassy greenness. The taste is very fresh and clean, evocative of new growth and springtime. I swear that the half an hour I sat outside soaking up psuedo-spring sunlight has nothing to do with my fixation on this tea evoking spring time so clearly. To me the mark of a really good sencha is how strongly it evokes growing things, and this tea certainly does that. The tea has a slightly citrus aftertaste, like a hint of yuzu zest. As the tea cools it gets sweeter and the mouthfeel goes from being smooth to creamy.
I have had a really rough couple of days which has left me drained and frustrated. But don’t worry, I won’t be boring you with all the details, I will be writing about tea. It is what I do best. I do want to offer a brief apology for my lack of posts the last few days though.
Today I am reviewing Light Flavor Ti Guan Yin number 17 in the 20 tea sampler from Red Leaf Tea. The aroma is very mild, slightly vegetal, with very subtle notes of orchid along with a very delicate hint of roasted aroma at the end. It is a very typical Ti Guan Yin aroma but much more subtle.
Once brewed the aroma becomes much more intense, the orchid becomes sweet and heady and takes on a subtle hint of honeysuckle, it is quite intense. The liquid is sweet and floral like a wonderful mixture of honeysuckles and orchids.
The taste is initially chestnutty with a hint of vegetal that fades to orchids, until the aftertaste. The aftertaste is intensely sweet, like honeysuckle nectar, it leaves the mouth feeling clean and full of nectar sweetness. It was surprising since the initial taste is not very sweet or overwhelmingly floral. As the tea cools the orchid headiness becomes more intense. This tea was full of surprises, the initial aroma was nothing to jump up and down about but after it was brewed it intensified. The initial tasting was nothing spectacular but it faded to sweetness. I certainly enjoyed the surprises in this tea.
Maple and Plum with a base of Oolong tea. The aroma is kinda boozy, like mulled wine with aftertones of maple sweetness. There is a slight hint of plum that is so faint it took several sniffs before I noticed it hiding. Once brewed I can certainly tell it is an Oolong, it has a slightly nutty and toasted aroma that fades to maple sweetness and a touch of plum. There is still an underlying note of mulled wine as well.
The aroma of the liquid is warm, mild, and sweet. It is a very welcoming aroma. The first thing you notice when sipping the tea is the sweetness of maple with a hint of nuttiness. There is an aftertaste of plum that becomes more of a midtaste as the tea cools. Not bad, but not outstanding.
For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/01/design-tea-tea-review.html
Zabaglione and Amaretto with a base of Black tea, the aroma is very mild with notes of sugar, almonds, citrus, and a tiny hint of liqueur aroma as an after thought. Once brewed you can really smell the bright quality of the Ceylon black tea base, it takes center stage. There are also notes of pepper and vanilla cake with a slight hint of almond.
The aroma of the liquid is quite nutty and sweet with an undertone of brightness. The taste is not much of a taste, the Ceylon base is brisk and quite tasty with oaky and slightly citrus quality, but the flavors of the tea are only a ghost. Adding some cream and sugar brings out the nutty and liqueur flavor of the amaretto, but sadly I am not getting much of the creamy sweet Zabaglione taste. Overall I can say this one is just kinda ‘meh’.
For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/01/design-tea-tea-review.html