385 Tasting Notes
So laying in bed this morning with a serious junk food hangover (it was Ben’s birthday party yesterday, totally worth the junk binge) I had a thought. Or more like a series of thoughts. I love doing tea research, (ok I just love doing research) I love writing about tea and keeping extensive notes on the subject. Since I plan on researching and writing about tea for my own purposes, maybe my dear readers would also like to read my research. So here is the question, would you all be interested in periodic informative posts on tea? It would be random, no more than once a week, probably every other week to once a month.
Today’s tea was part of the 2013 Autumn Collection at DAVIDsTEA, and for once there still is some left on their online store. Sugar and Spice is a blend of Black Tea, Apples, Cinnamon cassia, Cloves, Carrots, Marigold Petals, Orange Peel, and Natural Vanilla Flavoring. I opened my little sample package and immediately was hit with an overwhelming pang of homesickness. The dry leaves smell just like the carrot cake my mom would make for my birthday when I was a wee little one. The aroma is rich and sweet, blending carrots, spices, and vanilla for an added extra frosting like treat.
Once I toss the leaves in some water to steep, the now soggy leaves smell even more like carrot cake and more like a malty black tea. Imagine that it is carrot cake sitting next to a cup of tea and you have the perfect mental image. The spices are more subdued when wet. The liquid is sweet and spicy, a perfect blend of cloves and cinnamon, with a hint of vanilla. There is of course a bit of carrot cake, but not as strong as the wet or dry leaves.
Tasting time, and I admit, I am holding this tea to some high standards after the nostalgic, mouthwatering party that was the dry leaves. The taste is spicy and earthy, like an unsweetened carrot cake. The spices are subtle, no kick in the face of cinnamon and mouth numbing cloves, always a plus with spiced teas. The initial earthy taste fades to a subtle sweetness, like apples and carrot juice, with lingering warmth from the spices. This tea made my heart feel good, and it tasted good, so overall I say that is a win.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves, Earth, Malt, Vanilla
Every get so distracted by crafting that you forget to update you blog? Well that happened to me last night, I was working on the Pokemon Challenge (at number 54, Psyduck!) and I was hit with inspiration to finally break out the mini melty beads. They make some awesome things, problem is they are really time consuming because placing the tiny beads takes a level of precision that I am very out of practice for. I kept having flash backs to jewelry making and bead weaving, and of course my arch-nemesis, the seed bead. The siren call of crafting is strong, so before I even though the beads, I am blogging first!
Today’s tea hails from the Uva District of Ceylon, Organic Ceylon Greenfield Estate Black Tea by Arbor Teas. Grown between 5-6,000 feet above sea level, this tea is both organic and fair trade certified. The aroma is exceptionally sweet and fruity, blending notes of fresh grapes, scuppernongs, and a hint of fresh figs. There is also a very mild note of roses and malt, giving this tea a delightfully complex aroma. This might be the best smelling Black Ceylon that I have had the pleasure of sniffing.
The brewed leaves retain their sweet fruity aroma, but they take on a brisk quality that is very typical of Ceylon Blacks. There is also a faint hint of citrus at the finish. The liquid is still quite fruity and sweet, less like grapes and more like lychee. The aroma is quite good.
The taste of this tea is very brisk and bright! The mouthfeel is bold, it is one of those teas that seems to fill up the mouth with a smooth flavor. The taste is earthy and nutty, with a boiled peanut quality (though not salty like the traditional Southern style boiled peanuts….oh man, now I really want some) that gives the tea a really rich taste. There is a malty finish that ties in well with the other qualities. The taste of this tea is not at all sweet, which certainly makes it a bold tea. Quite a tasty tea!
Remember a few days ago when I said I was working on a flash diffuser for my camera? Well today’s photos are the product of my trial and error! In case you didn’t know, my photography expertise is nature themed, put me inside and I am far from the best at it, especially when the lighting on the inside is awful. I wanted to improve the photos I take and my options were make a lightbox (which I really did not have the desk space for) or make a flash diffuser, and I chose the option that would not take up a ton of space. This means I can use my flash without having the really unpleasant ‘flash’ effect, it diffuses the light giving it more of a natural feel. Sadly I cannot re-photograph all my old teas, since some of them were one serving samples and I have since run out, but I will be able to get new and exciting photos as I can!
Today’s tea is a colorful herbal blend from Verdant Tea, Ginger Sage Winter Spa Blend, a blend of Sage, Goji Berries, Rose Petals, Ginger, Lemon Peel, Burdock Root, Elderberries, Rhodiola, and Tulsi. I originally picked up this blend because it has a few of my favorite ingredients in it (goji berries, roses and ginger) but I found myself intrigued by the other ingredients purported ability to assist in colds and sniffles. The aroma of this tea is a little strange, mixing roses, ginger, sage, mint, and a sharp mix of citrus and berry note. It is a blend of floral, fruity, and herbal, it is savory and sweet. When I say the aroma is odd, it is not unpleasant, just an unexpected combination.
Once I steep the herbal blend the aroma fills the room and takes on a very nostalgic quality, specifically it reminds me of the way my grandparent’s house smelled back when they lived in Augusta. The smell of roses and herbs, lemons and earthy roots, and a finish of spice and berries. I find myself sniffing the wet leaves and getting lost in my memories, and that makes me happy. The liquid on its own is mild and unassuming, blending sage and rose with a hint of citrus.
The first thing I notice on my initial sip is the warm, tingly, mouthfeel from the ginger. The taste is both sweet and mellow, blending floral rose, citrus tones from the lemon peel and berries, herbaceous sage and tulsi, and a hint of earthiness from the burdock. The aftertaste is primarily elderberries. As the tea cools it becomes more herbaceous and savory and less sweet. This tea did not make a difference one way or another for cold season, but it was a bit of a lifesaver when my stomach ulcer acts up, turns out it is the only herbal blend that not only doesn’t hurt but actually soothes. Thanks to its stomach soothing and pleasant taste, it has become a staple in my tea collection.
Happiness!! Today the new update for Minecraft came out and I was able to spend my morning having fun with all the new features. Later in the day I was told by Ben that my favorite board game ever (Summoner Wars) is planning on releasing a box set where factions are being blended together for new and exciting combinations of strategies to master. I was also able to get some new dark grey and black Perler beads, so the Pokemon Challenge continues, it was a good day to be a Geek.
Today’s tea is Blueberry Maple Tea originally by Metropolitan Tea Co. but sold by The Blueberry Store, a delightfully themed store! Made from a blend of Ceylon Black Tea and natural flavors, this tea combines the taste of blueberries with maple syrup, just like my favorite waffles. The aroma is very sweet! It is very true to its name, combining sweet blueberries and maple syrup, these tea bags are giving me a serious breakfast craving. Who am I kidding, I eat blueberry waffles no matter what time of day it is! There is a slightly malty black tea aroma as well, but mostly it is all blueberry and maple sweetness.
Once the bag has been steeped the liquid has much more of a malty aroma, making it more like a tea and less like food. Have no fear, there is still a strong blend of maple and blueberry sweetness that is completely mouthwatering.
The initial taste is faintly sweet and bright, blending strong blueberries with a hint of maple syrup. I decided to go for cream and sugar, because this tea just begs for cream and sugar. With the additive the maple flavor is much stronger, dwarfing the blueberry flavor, kinda like what happens when you dump syrup all over a blueberry waffle. This tea is not really nuanced or complex, but it is deliciously sweet, and perfect for when you want a sweet tea to guzzle down first thing in the morning.
Flavors: Berries, Malt
So in honor of my Pokemon Challenge, I have deiced that watching the TV show from the beginning is the best idea ever. I am always a slave to nostalgia! At 20 episodes in I can safely say I forgot how much of a jerk Pikachu was at first, and how Team Rocket fails at everything. Good times, good times.
Today’s tea, Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong by Yezi Tea might be more familiar to you with its alternative name, Lapsang Souchong, but it is a little different from the usual run of the mill Lapsang Souchong. Originally Lapsang Souchong was made from the large leaves farther down the stem, smoked over a pine fire, and traded on the Tea Horse Road to places like Russia and Tibet. Now what about the fine leaves and buds at the top of the stem? Those were kept for the high and mighty, and for years not let out of China, they went by the name Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong. Hailing from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, the aroma of these delicate leaves is like an aged oak cask that once stored scotch. There are also notes of cocoa and peanuts with a honey sweetness, of course there is a hint of pine fire. The smokiness is distant, the way the air smells when one of your neighbors is using their fire place on a chilly night, or a distant campfire.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go! After their steeping the wet leaves have a stronger smoky aroma with a surprising cinnamon note. There is also the aroma of cocoa, honey, and peanuts with a finish of pine wood. The aroma is quite rich. The liquid is richly sweet and faintly creamy with a gently pine smoke finish.
The first steeping is sweet, delicious honey sweetness with notes of cocoa and peanuts. Of course there is smoke, very gently pine smoke. Again the imagery of a distant campfire fills my mind as I sip it. The mouthfeel is quite smooth, definitely one of those teas that fills up the mouth while sipping.
The second steep’s aroma has much stronger pine and smoke aroma with a much sweeter finish. The taste is wonderfully sweet, starting off with strong honey and raisin notes and fading to more of a semisweet chocolate flavor. There is a rich peanut finish and a pine wood aftertaste. Overlaying the entire experience is a gentle smokiness. This steeping is even more rich than the first and is a wonderful experience.
The third steep’s aroma is almost all pine smoke and gentle sweetness. The taste is so rich, oh man it is incredibly rich! Sweet honey and raisin that fades to cocoa, with midtaste to finish of pine smoke. If you find that Lapsang Souchong is far too potent in its smokiness than this is the tea for you…if you find that you want your Fujian Black tea to have a little more smokiness with its usual sweetness than this is the tea for you. Actually if you like tea in general I would recommend this one!
Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Pine, Raisins
Why hello there snow, I had forgotten what you looked like, and here you are falling all over my blooming crocuses. I really don’t mind that it is snowing, because snow is my second favorite kind of weather (stormy beats it) and it is far too beautiful to be mad at it for taking away the warmth. Such is the way of this part of the world, the temperature and weather flip flop around and keep you guessing.
Today’s tea is #10 in the Red Leaf Tea sampler, Dan Cong Oolong from Guangdong Province in China. Dan Cong is one of the strip style oolongs, meaning that it is not curled into a ball like Tie Guan Yin and its style, also it is usually grown in higher elevations. The aroma of the leaves is quite strongly floral, mostly orchids with a hint of osmanthus, but it is also richly roasted which blends well with the floral notes. There is also a hint of tobacco, that to be honest I could live without. I don’t mind when that note is in earthy or roasted teas, but when tobacco mixes with floral it just gives me a bit of a headache, luckily the note is very mild so it doesn’t bother me too much.
After steeping, the wet leaves have lost all their floral notes, now we have rich earthy and loamy notes with a slight metallic quality, and sweetness. The tea has a very sweet finishing note, almost sickly sweet like decay, it is not at all offensive and really accents the loam quality. The liquid smells like a mix of honey and maple syrup with a hint of honeysuckle and yeasty bread. The liquid’s aroma is really good, I would go as far as to say mouthwatering.
The taste is mild and fairly sweet, like honeysuckle nectar, which fades to a mineral midtaste. The mineral midtaste is exactly like wet limestone (I have licked my fair share of rocks, don’t judge) and I love it. The aftertaste is a blend of loam, cedar, and smoke. As the tea cools it becomes sweeter and more floral. This is an interesting tea, the aroma of the dry leaves compared with the wet compared with the liquid is vastly different. At first I was not sure I was going to be a fan, but after the transition I ended up really enjoying it. My only regret is that when I wrote the tasting notes in my notebook (back in October!) I didn’t have my gaiwan yet, and I used all the leaves up so I won’t be able to try a second go with this tea unless I bought the whole sampler again (which is tempting).
Flavors: Flowers, Mineral
I have terrible news! The Pokemon Challenge is in danger! Ok, not really danger, I have just almost run out of dark grey and black meaning I will have to stop until I get more, and I have no idea when that will be and it frustrates me. Good thing I have other crafty things to keep me occupied until I can get more perlers. On a more positive note, this morning I had Dim Sum and spent the day hanging out with Ben, celebrating his Spring Break, yay!
Today’s tea is a tea themed around a dessert (or is it a snack) that just screams ‘time to go camping!’ S’mores by Della Terra Tea is a blend of Black Tea, Chocolate Bits, Chocolate Flavor, Mini Marshmallows, Marshmallow and Graham flavoring, and finely crushed graham crackers. Yeah, this tea has all the ingredients of a S’more without the needed campfire, which is good because I can’t have one in my house. The aroma is primarily marshmallow’s sugary sweetness that fades to chocolate and finally graham cracker. There is a faint hint of malt as an undertone that ties the other aromas together. The aroma is crazy sweet and smells just like a s’more. Delicious!
Once the tea is brewed and the delightful bits dissolve into the liquid the liquid loses a bit of its marshmallow intensity and is replaced with lots of chocolate. The aroma is richly chocolate, like dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate. The liquid is primarily creamy chocolate with hints of marshmallow and malt. The aroma is very rich and evocative of the dessert (snack) that it is named after.
Tasting this tea the first thing I notice is the lack of sweetness, which was surprising with all the marshmallows. It reminds me of dark chocolate with graham and marshmallow essence that fades into a mildly sweet aftertaste. I decided to go for all out decadence and add a bit of cream and sugar and boy was I glad I did, it transforms the tea into liquid s’more! The sugar highlights the chocolate and marshmallow and the cream adds the touch of silky creaminess you expect from popping a melted milk chocolate bar in your mouth. There is not an overwhelming amount of graham cracker or the base tea’s taste, but overall this tea is a good imitation of an especially sticky snack (dessert).
Flavors: Cocoa, Malt
I dyed my hair blue again today, I know, I know, I just dyed it a couple weeks ago, but I botched it a bit (I am awful at dying my own hair) and needed to fix it. Now it is bright cobalt at the roots that fades to a deep indigo at the tips. I am happy with it and hopefully won’t have to alter my hair for a while, except to trim my bangs of course. Now if I could find some way to tame my crazy cowlick!
Today’s tea is a tea for anyone who suffers for insomnia, Raizana Tea’s SleepyTea. A blend of passionflower, Valerian, Blueberry Leaves, Chamomile, Lavender Flowers, Rosemary, Spearmint, Lemongrass, Stevia, and Natural Orange Flower. A very colorful pile of flowers and herbs! The aroma is a great blend of plant matter, mixing herbaceous notes, floral notes, and straw notes. The lavender and lemongrass is quite strong, a strange blend of smells, but not an unpleasant one.
Once steeped the wet leaves are quite sweet, a bit fruity and a bit floral. There is also a strong citrus and herbaceous tone, I am assuming from the lemongrass (my arch nemesis, we meet again) there is a hint of chamomile straw notes that actually calm the lemongrass down, it is a neat effect, there is this kick of lemongrass and then it is soothed by chamomile. The liquid is mostly the straw like aroma of chamomile and the green yet lemony aroma of lemongrass, there is a very delicate finish of lavender.
The taste is really quite sweet and lemony, the taste reminds me of Lemonheads but without the really sour aspect of that candy. The lemony sweetness fades to a mellow floral blend of lavender and chamomile with a finish of herbaceous. There is not really a mint taste to the tea, but it does have a nice cooling quality as it goes down the throat. I am not going to say this tea knocked me out and put me to sleep, when my insomnia is acting up it takes powerful sleeping meds and even that is not consistent, but this tea was very relaxing and certainly took the edge off.
I woke up to awesome news, the Title Update 14 changelog has been released and it is going into cert testing, meaning we could have the update by the end of next week. This newest update has been months in the waiting and I have been stalking 4J Studios diligently, enjoying all the little snippets of info they posted on twitter. The Xbox 360 version is still pretty far behind the PC, but it is slowly catching up. In this update I think I am most excited about the carpet, Nether mobs wandering in through portals, and anvils.
Today’s tea is Jin Jun Mei by Yezi Tea, Jin Jun Mei, also known as Golden Eyebrows Tea , is a black (or red) tea from Fujian, China, and is fairly rare. Jin Jun Mei is one of those teas that make me immensely happy just from looking at the dry leaf. I am a sucker for the beautiful, fuzzy, golden leaves, they look like something from a fairy tale. The aroma of the dry leaves is sharply sweet and a bit fruity, specifically a bit muscatel, there are strong notes of cocoa, caramelized sugar, orchids, and oak wood. It is a rich and bright aroma that wafts from the leaves, and certainly quite sweet. I would say that the aroma is one of the more sweeter Chinese black teas that I have had the honor of sniffing.
And into the gaiwan it goes for a nice, short, steeping! The aroma of the wet (and no longer gold and fuzzy) leaves is not fruity and bright, but is all richness. The aroma evolved into an intense depth with strong notes of peanuts, cocoa, and a faint hint of oak wood. Even though the aroma is no longer fruity it does retain a bit of sweetness, but now it is more of a nutty sweetness. The poured off liquid is quite sweet, like cocoa and honey with a woody quality.
The first steeping is wonderfully sweet and rich, blending the taste of cocoa, honey, roasted peanuts, and a finish of oak wood. I feel I am not giving this tea the credit it deserves, it is one of those that when I sipped it I was lost in the delicious and incredible rich taste, if you would have asked me at the time I was sipping you probably would have just heard me contentedly sigh.
The second steeping, the aroma of the leaves and the liquid is much the same as the first but a bit stronger and richer. The same can be said for the taste, except it has an added smoothness from the mouthfeel, this steeping almost seems to coat the mouth in rich sweetness. The aftertaste on this steeping was a tiny bit metallic which seemed to knock me out of my tea fugue, not a bad thing. This is one of those teas that I could see myself becoming mildly addicted to, perfect for mornings and aftermeals, or just an afternoon pick-me-up. Or before bed, or with a book, or when crafting…really I could be content drinking this tea all day. It has this great quality of being both bold and flavorful while retaining a level of mellowness that does not overpower, it is a perfectly balanced tea.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Grapes, Honey, Nuts, Orchids
I sadly do not have anything really interesting or important to open today’s post with. My sleep schedule is all wonky, so I woke up late in the afternoon, I played Minecraft (working on a Creeper Argonath) and played some Soul Calibur V with Ben. My breakfast was cornbread stuffing and a Matcha latte, so yeah, nothing too exciting today.
Today’s tea is Lapsang Souchong from local tea and herb shop, Phoenix Herb Company. Lapsang Souchong is a fun tea, it originated as low quality tea that was sent to those outside of China since apparently smoking a tea over pine fire makes it a lot easier to transport (less apt to rotting on the Tea Horse Road). Nowadays we can get the fancy stuff that was originally reserved for tribute, but we still love our smoked teas. The aroma is extremely smoky, it is like sticking your face in a pine wood campfire or running away from a forest fire. There is no subtlety at all in the empyreumatic (smoky) aroma of this tea, but there is more to it than just smoke. Once you waft off the clouds of smoke you can pick up a faintly sweet malty quality and a hint of pine resin.
The brewed tea is not like sniffing a forest fire any longer, the smokiness is significantly more subtle and joined with malt and molasses sweetness. The aromas blend together quite nicely and the tinge of sweetness is tantalizing. The liquid has the aroma of campfire and also pine sap with a hint of rich malt.
Fun side note, when I first started drinking primarily loose leaf tea, Lapsang Souchong was one of the ones I drank the most. The taste of this particular Lapsang Souchong is quite pine heavy, both in pine smoke and pine sap. There is also a rich malt quality similar to an Assam, there is mildly astringent finish that gives the mellow and rich smokiness an extra zing at the end. I recommend this tea, so much so that whenever there is a family gathering and I do not feel like offering a tea menu, this is the tea I serve everyone. It is safe to say I end up brewing several pots and give lots of refills.
Flavors: Malt, Pine