666 Tasting Notes
So, I opened the little plastic bag expecting the usual blast in the face of peppermint, but there was none, cautiously I stuck my nose close to the bag and still there was pretty much nothing. Only a hint of mintiness and a tiny bit of herbaceous notes, like sage, it does not smell like any mint that I am familiar with. Brewing the mint brings out just a tiny bit more of the mint smells and more of this odd green herbaceous tone. It is like someone took a mint plant and removed all of the mint and just left the herb.
I am a bit apprehensive, I love mint, I drink it a lot for nausea, headaches, and clearing my sinuses, it is one of my favorite teas to drink in the summer and I love having different mints in herbal blends. This tea does not look or smell like peppermint, it does not taste like peppermint, in fact I would go as far as to say this might be the worst mint tea I have ever had. But I am also intrigued by it because it does not taste like mint, I honestly feel as though someone is trolling me! It tastes like a blend of very old mint, sage, pepper, and spinach. I did not like this tea, but I think it might be because it does not taste or smell like what I expect it to, if I was given this blind I might like it, if anything this tea is a lesson in never go into a tasting expecting something to taste or smell a certain way, it can color your opinion of things.
Next up on the tasting adventure is Earl of Bengal, a blend of Bergamot and Black Tea, I made this when resident Earl aficionado was home, so he got to help me taste, and by help I mean he split the cup with me. The aroma of the teabag is pretty much all citrus all the time, the sharp slightly lemony aroma of the Bergamot is so potent, I only detect the tiniest hint of malt. After steeping, the tea is a perfect split between Bergamot and malt, one does not overpower the other, and at the finish there is a tiny hint of cocoa.
The taste is distinctly malty with a mild Bergamot taste. There is a hint of tannins and it is quite brisk, the Bergamot, even though it is fairly mild is present throughout the entire sipping experience, it is lemony and goes well with the malty black tea. I did find myself wishing it was stronger in the Bergamot department, and of course Ben wanted lots of Bergamot, but his love of that citrus goes into insane levels, so maybe take his opinion with a grain of salt.
In this little teabag we have a blend of Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Black Tea, a simple blend that has one of my favorite ingredients in it, I absolutely love Tulsi! The aroma is a blend of the herbaceous bordering on savory with notes of pepper and basil and a nice sweet blend of malt and honey. Black tea and Tulsi mix really well in my mind, it has a balancing act. Brewing the tea brings out the briskness of the black tea and more of the peppery notes from the Tulsi, it smells quite good.
The taste is also quite good, it blends the peppery and herbaceous notes of the tulsi and gives it a savory tone, after the initial Tulsi burst it transitions into briskness from the Black tea. The finish is malty and a touch of honey, the aftertaste leaves the mouth a little tingly and tasting like basil.
Last stop on the oxidation train is the black tea, hopefully drinking these teas one right after the other will give me the caffeine boost that I need, if not I am going back to bed. So, the aroma of this tea is brisk with a blend of honey, woodiness, malt, and a touch of berries at the finish. It smells like an iconic black tea, at least to me it does. Brewing up the bag I get notes of malt and honey, it is both rich and sweet.
This tea is rich and brisk, just what I expect from a cup of a tea that smells so iconically like a black tea. There are notes of malt and woodiness with a distinct sweet blend of honey and berries at the finish. The briskness just starts to sneak over to the astringent side but stops before it gets mouth drying, which is a plus in my book. I could see this being a really good breakfast tea, and might be pretty tasty with cream and sugar.
Ah oolong, my possible favorite tea, it is hard to tell, it is certainly the tea I drink the most of. The aroma of the curly and rather dark leaves is pretty sweet, a blend of stewed cherries, honey, and distant orchids. There is also a hint of smoke and spice, though they are faint, only little whiffs. The brewed tea now is a powerhouse of raisins and cocoa with a hint of spicebush and smoke.
The taste is brisk for an oolong, reminding me more of a brisk black but instead of malt there are notes of raisins, sweet caramelized sugar, and a rich note of honey. This is definitely one of those times that it is an oolong that tastes like a mix between a green and a black, erring more on the black side. The aftertaste is slightly smoky, though it does not linger for very long.
Next up is the green, I decided to go in oxidation order, it just seemed appropriate. The aroma of the broken green leaves in the teabag is, well, rather green! It is like a blend of fresh spinach, buttered greens (specifically buttered cauliflower) and a little like fresh collards. Brewing the tea I found it surprisingly brisk, almost like a black tea with its briskness, there are also notes of honey and hay along with grass and a touch of spinach.
The taste of this one was similar to the aroma, brisk and green, and a little on the bitter side. Bitter like eating fresh kale, in fact the taste reminds me of kale at the beginning of the sip and then it transitions pretty intensely to mown grass and honey. Sadly this tea did not wow me over much, though I cannot be expected to like every tea I drink, just most of them.
Starting off with the tea with the least amount of processing and oxidation, good old fuzzy white tea. It is totally random if I will take a tea out of its bag if presented with a teabag, but I was feeling a bit lazy today and decided since teabags were made for convenience, I am going to use that ease of access. So, sniffing the teabag I get notes of wildflowers, fresh hay, a bit of lettuce, and a tiny bit of fruitiness at the finish. This is one of the more delicate white teas I have sniffed, giving it a steeping brings out more of the honey and wildflower notes, it reminds me of a summer field in full bloom.
The tea is surprisingly dark for a silver needle tea, it has the coloring of a shou mei, which excites me something fierce because that tea is fun. Ok, tasting the tea, it is similar to a shou mei, with rich honey and fruit notes with a bit of earthy loam. However there is also similarities to silver needle with delicate floral notes and vegetal (I almost always pick out this specific vegetal note as lettuce) and a touch of sage. I have no qualms saying that I chugged this cup really quickly, and not just because I had just woken up and desperately needed some caffeine.
You know, being a creature of the internet (now you know the real reason I panicked when my computer died, I am literally made of internet) means that I tend to follow the various silly trends. #TBT (or Throw Back Thursday for those not hashtag savvy) is pretty much what it says on the tin, usually you post a selfie/photo of yourself taken a long time ago, and I thought, I should apply that to my blog. Basically it is my plan to make Thursday the day that I visit one of the neglected teas languishing in my stack of tea notebooks. I had originally planned on this being a Friday thing, but it didn’t feel right, so clearly I just needed the right meme. Also, I leveled up, tonight is game night and I can turn into animals (as long as they don’t fly, swim, or are too powerful) now, go Wild Shape!
So, before I get into today’s #TBT I want to point out an awesome Kickstarter that is currently in the works, Frank, the original creator of 52Teas is handing over the reigns to mother-daughter team Anne and Amethyst, you might know Anne as the cofounder of SororiTea Sisters, a very prolific tea blog, so you know that she knows her teas! I have been very hit or miss with 52teas flavors (very much so the nature of the beast when you come up with some of those wacky blends, once a week) but I am super excited to see how things go. Good luck you two, and to Frank with Southern Boys Iced Tea! So on to today’s tea, it was part of the sampler I ordered during the Indiegogo campaign and I won’t lie, it was the one I was most excited for because it has my much loved marshmallow root! Yes, I am talking about none other than Marshmallow Treat Genmaicha, as a person who has made and then subsequently eaten entire batches of rice crispy treats, you can see why I was excited. The aroma is sweet and slightly nutty with toasted rice, and a distinct note of grass. It reminds me a bit of laying in the grass while sniffing a rice crispy treat, the green notes are odd but not at all off putting, just like eating dessert in nature.
Steeping the tea is quite a treat, the aroma is rather delightful and intense. Notes of richly roasted rice and sweet marshmallow drift up from the soggy leaves (Genmai Cha always looks so sad once it is soggy) there is also a hint of grass and a bit of a savory note from both the rice and the green tea. The liquid without its soggy friends is all rice crispy treat all the time, no green tea to be found, just warm gooey marshmallows and toasted rice.
It is an odd mingling of flavors, this tea. Starting out with slightly kelp and slightly nutty umami tones along with a hint of grass, then the roasted rice builds and then boom, marshmallow explosion! It is really quite sweet and very evocative of rice crispy treats, but with a green tea twist. Something about the umami tones and the sweetness from the marshmallow mixes really well, the umami keeps the marshmallow from being too sweet and the marshmallow keeps the tea from being too savory, it is a balancing act. The finish is one of marshmallow, it lingers for quite a while making for a happy me. So yeah, of all the 52teas blends I have tried, this one might be my favorite, its other competition being the other marshmallow root teas, can you tell I have a fixation on that root?
For blog and (kinda awful) photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/01/52teas-marshmallow-treat-genmaicha-tea.html
Today has been a glimpse of Spring in the middle of Winter, at least temperature wise, visually it is all brown and dingy, typical Kansas City Winter color pallete. Even though I am never a fan of the drab part of Winter (give me snow and evergreens, along with the green grass of central Pennsylvania and I am in seasonal bliss) it was too nice of a day for me to stay in, so off to Kauffman Gardens I went to practice some phone photography. My new phone is better than my original camera that I started photography with (a measly 3MP) at 5MP but it pales in comparison to the 12 MP camera I use for nature photography, and my dream one at 18MP, one day I will have that camera! Anyway, this little phone is not half bad, it lacks a macro lens, so I will have to make one from an old disk drive or something, lots of good tutorials for that, and of course playing with all the filters and such is fun. It is an interesting disconnect in my brain, other than cropping I rarely alter my photos taken with my camera, but with my phone I have quite a lot of fun editing them, funny ol’ world we live in.
Since it is Wednesday, that means it is time to take another journey into What-Cha’s epic catalog of tea in my attempt to try all of the teas. Today’s tea is Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Golden Tips Black Tea, another offering from Greenland Organic Farms in East Nepal in the shadow of Mt. Kancghenjunga. You all know me well enough by now to know how much of a sucker I am for golden teas, and this tea does not disappoint, curly leaves covered in delicate golden trichomes. The aroma rich, a touch on the sweet side, but more rich than sweet. The notes are primarily roasted peanuts, malt, and a touch of sweet potatoes and stewed fruit. At the end there is the most delicate note of rose and pepper, I run into pepper quite often, but the notes of rose were a pleasant surprise.
Once I give the tea a steeping in the bat gaiwan I notice the rose and pepper aroma are much stronger, which is awesome, after that initial spicy and flowery burst there are strong notes of malt and sweet potato with a rich finish of cocoa. Where the leaves were rich the liquid is sweet, notes of sweet potato and cocoa waft out of my cha hai, yes I did have my nose stuffed in this one, luckily I did not burn it, though I do frequently tend to, especially if a tea smells good!
Ok, first steep, it has a pretty strong start, it lacks the usual mildness that a first steep has. The start is quite malty, and here is the fun part, I am skipping over the midtaste because it is even maltier at the finish, like the back of my throat is kicked with malt. The midtaste has a hint of cocoa and pepper, and the aftertaste is rich and sweet, a touch creamy.
Second steeping time, as per usual I stick my nose in my cha hai and give the tea a nice hefty sniff. I often debate when is the best time to sniff the freshly steeped tea, pre pour when it is in the cha hai or once I have poured it into a tiny cup, so far the cha hai seems more fun. The aroma of this steep is a blend of sweet potatoes and cocoa at the front and finish of rose and pepper, still really digging the rose notes. The taste is just as rich as the first steep, and pretty smooth, I would even go so far as to say it is velvety. In fact, this tea has absolutely no dryness whatsoever. The finish has a hint of pepper and leaves a sweet potato aftertaste that lingers for a while.
Third time around, the aroma is not as potent as previously, primarily there are notes of sweet potatoes and a nice hint of malt at the finish. Tasting the tea, well, it is still super velvety and smooth, just like the previous two steeps, and still pretty rich, but it is mellowing out to a sweetness. The notes that dominate this steeping are sweet potatoes and malt with a real nice peppery finish. I should point out that the peppery notes are more the taste of pepper, not the spicy heat, it is always very fascinating to me when flavor notes act like that, or my favorite, when a flavor note is present but it lacks the aroma or texture of the food (or random piece of wood if you are a weirdo like me) that it is imitating. Tea, and the way we perceive it, never stops being a thing of wonder to me.