494 Tasting Notes
I really need to sit down and start work on my book. Yes, I have decided to write a tea book, I have been bandying the idea around for a while now and finally decided to do it after numerous people encouraged me to do it (thanks guys!) The only problem is setting down and deciding what I want it to be like. I was originally planning on having an all encompassing work of awesome, but Tony Gebely of World of Tea is already working on that (so excited for release!!) so now I am working on figuring out the tone, any thoughts potential readers? And research, currently my chart of teas from around the world is at 45 pages and so not close to being finished. You all know me and my obsession with research!
The first time I had this tea was back in 2012, that seems like forever ago, so I figured it was time to revisit it. At the time I was brewing tea primarily Western style, so I thought that brewing Adagio Teas’ Hunan Gold in my antique gaiwan would be rather fun. So, this is a Yellow Tea, and in typical me fashion I went hunting down more info, and did not have much in the way of luck. I can tell you this is a yellow tea from Hunan, and that really is it, to make up for it I shall thoroughly describe my experience with these twisting, downy leaves. First up, the aroma is like spring time, specifically it evokes my favorite flower (ok one of them, I really love flowers) peony! It also has the aroma of delicate orange blossoms, chestnuts, and just a hint of mown grass and honey. The notes are delicate, reminding me more of a breeze bringing in these aromas through an open window rather than sitting next to a spring bouquet.
Brewing the leaves, I was greeted with the aroma of flowers and a bit of muscatel and briskness, Adagio compares this tea to a Darjeeling and I can see similarities between it and a first flush (or a yellow Darjeeling) though it is more floral than muscatel. The liquid lacks the muscatel, but is a powerhouse of peony (never realized how much I wanted to say that until now) along with some delicate freshly mown hay and orange blossoms.
First steep is pleasantly golden in color, I admit I was expecting a lighter tea, but this color is really pretty so I am totally ok with it. There is a similarity to Darjeeling, a bit muscatel and like nasturtium, though the similarity is fairly mild. The real show stopper with this tea is peony, more teas need to taste like peony! I love that not quite heady spring aroma and taste that peony notes give to a tea, it makes me immensely happy. There are also notes of corn fluff (as I like to call corn silk) and bok choy.
Steeping again, the aroma is still a peony powerhouse, but it is happily joined by nasturtium and mown hay, that peppery nasturtium note is killing me. I really need to try and grow some this year, I am terrible at gardening. The taste is very similar to the first steep, with just a bit more nasturtium and bok choy. At the end there is a brisk note and a honey aftertaste.
Third steep, honestly it was totally indistinguishable from the second, I do not feel like I actually had a different cup, perhaps I accidentally fell into a very strange time loop! As the tea cools I do notice that the peony note is stronger and lingers into the aftertaste. Overall I really like this tea, like a lot, I think it might have to be one I keep around for peony emergencies.
Hooray! The horrid headache that I had yesterday seems to have mostly calmed down, I am worried it might be a side effect of my sleep meds, but I get awful headaches quite often, so probably not. My sleeping seems to be better, even if my sleep schedule seems to be all over the place, with luck that will even itself out soon. More important news, guess who is getting back into Dropzone Commander, yeah it is me, no real guess there. I had put it to the wayside for a while to focus on other things (and it seemed that no one was playing it at Tabletop) so when I got back from PA and found out it had become popular, well, time to get back to work on painting the Scourge! Brain-slugs for life! In all honestly I love the Scourge, but they are so creepy.
I heard that the best way to keep the Scourge from possessing you is tea (or a salt based shampoo) so that means it is time to break out some Golden Tips Tea! Today we are looking at Giddapahar Muscatel Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush, I go back and forth as to which flush of Darjeeling is my favorite, clearly I need to sample a lot more before I can make an assessment, I know it is greatly based on my moods. So, about this particular Darj (is it considered uncouth to shorten the name, hope not because I have been doing it for year, at least it doesn’t sound as bad as when I shorten the name of Puerh!) it comes from Giddapahar (whose name translates to Eagle Cliffs) Tea Estate, located in the beautiful (seriously, I was just daydreaming over photos) Kurseong Valley, this particular estate was established in 1881 and has some of the oldest China bush varietals. It is actually thought that the second flush rather than the first flush is the best produced by this estate, being extremely heavy in the muscatel notes. Tea, you had me at muscatel, it might be one of my favorite notes in tea because (depending on flush) it reminds me of either Scuppernongs or Muscadines, two of the best grapes ever and possibly the best food to come out of my homeland (it is the South in case you didn’t know…not that I ever shut-up about it) Anyway, the aroma of this tea, at first is loamy and roasted peanuts, and then like a small raisin themed explosion, the aroma blooms into muscadines and slightly spiced wine. At the finish there is a hint of honey and dry leaves. I admit I spent the majority of the time waiting for my kettle to heat up with my nose in the tea, I just go crazy for that muscatel aroma.
Once I give the tea its required steeping, the aroma is less muscatel, it is still there, but the wet leaves are overshadowed by autumn leaves and loam. The finish, again, is honey, this time joined with the distinct aroma of sultanas. The aroma of the liquid has a surprising note of malt and a strong presence, it is a heavy tea, like I am sinking into a teacup…that is a good sign! There are also notes of raisins and honey with a finish of loam and dry autumn leaves.
The tea starts out a bit dry then switches almost immediately to smooth, I always find it amusing when teas do that. The taste begins with malt and loam, it is a bit brisk, but as it switches to the smooth mouthfeel it also transitions to sweet muscatel and honey. I should say that the muscatel notes are more on the raisin side, and a little bit like muscadine jelly and a touch like a spicy red wine. I am sure people who are into wine can name it perfectly, but since I have only memories of tastes and not names I cannot give an exact comparison. I liked this tea, I was expected the taste to be like the aroma and have more of a muscatel explosion, but the more subtle notes are quite tasty too.
So, I went to the doctors yesterday, mostly a maintenance visit, but also in hopes that he could do something about my insomnia (previous treatment had stopped working) and to send to me an allergy specialist. Both things worked wonderfully, I have a referral and some fancy new medicine to make me go night-night. I have mixed feelings on the meds themselves, on the one hand I slept for 14 hours (wow!) but on the other the act of falling asleep was rather unpleasant, so we shall see how that goes. My reason for sharing this with you is because I only woke up an hour ago, and hopefully this blog won’t be too loopy sounding!
So, today we are looking at Jubilee! No, not the (kinda terrible) X-men character who is rarely useful (especially if you are getting your info from the 90s animated show) but TeaLC’s colorful herbal blend. One thing this tea has in common with that Jubilee is the colorful fireworks in the tea, or at the very least a colorful blend of (all organic) Green Rooibos, Rose Petals, Mango Pieces, Calendula, Orange Peel, Apple Pieces, and Natural Essence. I am a sucker for colorful herbal teas, something about blending vibrant flower and fruit bits just makes me happy, which is probably the reason I would do just that as a kid with flowers from my mom’s garden, sometimes I would get really lucky and end up with a tasty tea. The aroma of this blend is a mixture of flowers, fruit, and Green Rooibos, which smells and tastes very different from its red counterpart, it has a sweet honey and straw aroma, with just a tiny hint of grass. The rose aroma blends well with the mango and citrus, giving the tea a tropical feel.
Giving the tea a steeping in my tea apparatus, the aroma that drifts out with the steam is much rosier and fruitier, with mango taking center stage, after this initial burst of sweet honey and freshly mown straw. The liquid is sweet and very heavy in the citrus department, along side this strong orange note is rose and straw, it smells quite fun, like a summer garden party.
I was pleasantly surprised by how delicate this tea is, but that seems to be the case every time I drink a blend with Green Rooibos, I am so used to Rooibos being so strong that its delicate green side surprises me. The taste starts as a delicate blend of roses and straw with a touch of honey sweetness, this transitions to sweet oranges and a touch of mango. This touch of mango gradually builds into a heavy mango explosion as it finally ends the sip, as expected the mango lingers as the aftertaste for quite a while, no complaints here since mangoes are one of my favorite fruits. So yes, even though this tea shares its name with a very lame (though useful at summer parties) X-men character, it is memorable and enjoyable.
I have a conundrum, I am very hungry and need to get out of my chair to do some things, but there is a sleeping cat in my lap. When I try to move she makes this pitiful mew and starts whapping me with her tail, for such a tiny cat her tail is ridiculously strong…so here I sit with my leg and backside falling more asleep because I don’t want to wake my cat up. I am hoping that me typing (and therefore making the arm her head is on move) will wake her up and send her to find a more comfy spot, but consider she is drooling and super content, I think I am stuck for a while.
Today’s is Thursday, so that means it is time to plunge into the depths of my notebook piles to have a Throw Back Thursday review, specifically Yezi Tea’s Wen Shan Pouchong Oolong Tea. This #TBT reminds me of three things: 1. I need to drink more tea from Yezi, 2. I need to drink more Pouchong (or Boa Zhong, dialect depending) and 3. I need to dedicate a Yixing to Pouchong because having a Yixing teapot dedicated to each kind of Oolong is a fantastic idea. So, this Pouchong is from the Wen Shan district of Taiwan, which explains the name. The aroma of the curly green leaves is like a spring themed explosion in my nose, there are intense notes of orchid, honeysuckle and lilac accompanied by fresh vegetation, mown hay, and a hint of sweet chestnut at the finish. It is powerful and heady, like being in a humid conservatory where everything is floral and intense.
Into the gaiwan it goes, this was back when all I had was one gaiwan, before my crazed addiction to gaiwans really took off. Once giving it a steeping I can say that the entire room smells like flowers, my notebook is very clear that it was intense, and also the letters list off the page a little, I remember this tea having an affect on me, it was my first Pouchong! There are notes of orchid, honeysuckle, wildflower honey, and a hint of orange blossoms, it is so sweet and heady. The liquid is unsurprisingly very floral, the expected notes of honeysuckle and orchid are present, but there is still the hint of orange blossoms and chestnut, blending the wet and dry leave’s notes.
First steeping, the taste is sweet and floral, I would even go as far as to say this tea is sublime…even if saying that feels a little silly. The mouthfeel is smooth, not as creamy as some oolongs can be, but more like the smoothness of a green tea, the taste while being intensely floral is also delicate, that is probably my favorite things about Pouchongs, how they balance the heady and delicate so elegantly. There are notes of orchid and honey suckle, along with orange blossoms and fresh vegetation.
The aroma of the second steep is much headier, the orchid note is the most prominent followed by honeysuckle and lilac. It smells pretty, a very evocative tea that fills my mind with flowers. The taste takes its cues from the aroma and steps its floral game up, along with its sweetness, and its vegetation. Come to think on it all the flavors from the first steep are presents, just all of them are more intense.
Third time’s the charm! The aroma of this steep is no where near as intense as the previous, it is still very floral but it is in the same intensity level as the first steep. The notes are a blend of orchid and orange blossom, with just a touch of honey. The taste is quite mild and surprisingly buttery this time around, the initial buttery and slightly vegetal notes fade to honey sweetness and a lingering orchid taste. Gotta love teas that have a floral note that sticks around after you are done sipping it!
My stint into the realm of diurnal was brief it seems, insomnia rules me at the moment, time to go back on the sleeping meds, a prospect that fills me with annoyance but also makes me glad that I have something that helps me with it. Bah, enough complaining about health, while I was dozing in the afternoon it snowed! There is a nice coating of the sparkly white stuff on the ground, I have to go grocery shopping in a few and look forward to bundling up and playing in it briefly. No matter how bad I feel, snow always puts me in a better mood, it is just too beautiful to not!
Now, since there is snow and cold, I figured it was the perfect time to break out the really rare and hard to find terroir, Russia! Specifically What-Cha’s Russia Large Leaf Dagomys Tea Estate Black Tea, What-Cha has become my go to place for finding the more rare and unusual growing regions, and Russia was pretty high on the list. Among tea drinkers that go all ‘gotta catch em all’ on tea growing regions, Russia has a bit of infamy because we know that tea is grown there, but they are ridiculously stubborn about exporting it, and considering they are the most northern growing region in the world, I think I can see why! In my usual fashion I went hunting information on the Dagomys Tea Estate before writing this and…well, it took me some hunting around, but I got some lovely info from their website (oddly searching for the estate will only get you tons of trip advisor sites, one of those linked me to the website, so that was interesting.) I shall paraphrase for you: The estate was founded in 1939, though the first attempt to grow tea in Sochi was 1878, though it took several attempts to really get things going because winters can be very harsh. And speaking of climate, thanks to the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains, this counts as a subtropical region, looking at photos it is hard to believe that it is the most northern growing region, it looks so lush, just goes to show how fascinating air currents can be. I suggest giving the website a visit, the translation can be a bit bonkers at time, but it is a really fascinating read, I could go on and on about the plantation, but you are really here to see how the tea was. Let me start off by saying it smells really good! Honestly I was expecting something heavy and very brisk (Russian Caravan you have colored my thoughts on tea!) but it is super rich and fairly sweet. The spindly leaves are a blend of malt, raisins, plums, and molasses with a very tiny hint of smoke at the finish. Like someone made a dessert of raisins, molasses, and plums and cooked it over a wood stove, I swear it smells delicious, it is not just my excitement at trying a rare tea that is shining through!
I admit, I have never been more sad at not owning a Samovar than I am now, I love brewing tea in the manner traditional to the culture it was grown in (except Kenyan teas I guess since I tend to want to stuff them in my gaiwans) I have always wanted one, they are such pretty things. The aroma of the brewed teas is intense, it is so sweet and rich, I am drooling a little, there are notes of raisins, molasses, cooked plums, and a finish of both malt and a hint of syrup. It has like almost all my favorite notes that show up in black tea, I should also note that Ben came over and sniffed it and immediately asked me for a cup, great lover of black teas that he is. The liquid is a wee bit milder, but still just as sweet with notes of cooked plums and raisins, this time it is joined by some roasted peanuts and a touch of yams. The finish is a distinct molasses note that lingers in my nose for a bit, it smells pretty epic.
Moment of truth time, will all my waiting for a Russian tea pay off? Will Ben who is anxiously waiting for a cup like it? Well I have to wait for it to cool a bit so I don’t burn my taste buds off first. Now that the tea has cooled to a suitable temperature, I can say I am surprised! After such a rich and sweet tea I was expecting the taste to be much the same, but it is malty, brisk and heavy at first, exactly what I expect from a Russian tea. After the initial briskness it goes into a rich molasses and cooked plum explosion, really I feel like I just ate a spoonful of molasses. For all that this tea is brisk and rich, it is also very smooth, there is no bitterness or dryness at all, though at the very end there is a hint of smoke which was neat. Hilariously I thought it was rich and intense and Ben thought it was a bit mild but liked its taste, but he takes his teas at incredible strength that I at times find undrinkable, a real manly approach to tea. I am so happy I got to try this tea, and given the opportunity I would definitely drink it again, and buy it again, the rarity makes it super special and the taste makes it very enjoyable.
Today was date day! Ben and I tend to go out once a week on his day off, which also happens to be game day (not a coincidence) but he got two days off this week meaning we got to spread things out. Makes me happy because the sum of outings on Thursday (other than gaming) would be to my doctor, blech. So, we went to an Ethiopian buffet and walked around River Market, which I found out today is at the very end of the main bus line. Now that I know both a Chinese market and a farmer’s market is at the end, I foresee many adventures in my future, maybe yours truly will get over her silly phobia of taking the bus solo!
So, today we are going back to the beginning, by that I mean Adagio Teas! They were the first company I ordered from (really kickstarting my love of tea to full blown obsession…at the time I was apprehensive about buying online because I wanted to sniff the tea first, an apprehension that very quickly went away) and the first tea I reviewed on the blog, back before it was a tea blog and was just a me rambling blog. Even though I have since branched out massively, I still have a great love for Adagio, it is much like a homecoming. Today is all about Rooibos Tea, the legume from South Africa whose leaves make a delightfully red colored cup of tea! The aroma of the little red leaves is sweet and woody, exactly the way I expect Rooibos to smell! I do not drink it unblended nearly enough, which is tragic because I love the stuff. There are also notes of caramel, a touch of honey, the tiniest hint of pepper and much to my surprise and ending hint of pie crust, which is fun!
Giving the leaves a steeping (yay they didn’t fall out of my steeping basket, tiny Rooibos leaves tend to do that) the aroma that wafts out of the leaves is sweet and woody, like caramel and dried sticks with a little bit of straw. The liquid is very similar, notes of wood and caramel, but with the addition of honey and just a tiny touch metallic.
Onto the sipping! When I logged this tea in my notebook (a grand total of like three days ago) I was feeling a bit queasy, I found out when I was recovering from an ulcer that Rooibos is great for nausea, apparently it has anti-spasmodic properties, so that is probably why. Sure enough drinking the cup settled my stomach, as it has many times in the past, so yay for that! The taste is very typical Rooibos, it starts caramel woody sweet and has a dry finish, though I have found that brewing the tea at just under boiling will make it less dry and more sweet, so if you are someone who dislikes that dryness there is a little tip. I love the woody aspects of rooibos, the closest wood I could compare them too is dry reeds, and yes I know what that tastes like, I am a weirdo. Unlike most Rooibos, this one has a tiny hint of smokiness at the finish, making me wonder what a smoke roasted Rooibos is like. Ah, it was good to have a Rooibos again, must not let myself run out again in the future!
I am so sleepy! I have been awake since 8 o’clock last night, yep, my sleep schedule is doing that funky flip from nocturnal to diurnal that it does ever so often. Usually it happens to me the most during winter and summer, probably because I am less likely to leave my house, I am a giant weenie when it comes to temperature extremes. I am finding myself debating going to sleep after I get done with today’s tea or waiting until Ben gets home from work at midnight, though I seriously doubt I will make it that long without the help of tea!
And speaking of tea, how about we jump right into Buddha Teas’ Organic Crown Chakra Tea, a blend of Lavender, Rose, and Nutmeg while also being infused with the essence of amethyst. Ah amethyst, such a beautiful form of quartz, beloved by the ancient Greeks because they believed it would keep you from getting sloshed! I could go into detail about how these herbs were selected for assisting meditation and awakening the Crown Chakra, but I will admit that I am very much so not an expert on Chakras, having only dabbled in the past. I do know that the aroma of this tea is intense, I could smell the lavender from outside of the box it was shipped in, so that was a first! After I waft through what feels like a cloud of purple and give the teabag a sniff, I do notice a hint of rose and a delicate hint of warm nutmeg, the little bit of spice goes nicely with the headiness of the flowers. Man is that lavender some intense stuff, I currently have it sitting on my desk as an air freshener, and feel a little fear storing it with my other teas.
Brewing the tea seems to mellow the lavender out and makes the nutmeg and rose stand out more. The rose is reminiscent of a summer rose garden, heady but not overpowering, the nutmeg adds a slightly sweet warmth to the brew. I do wish I would have reacted a little quicker, because the moment I poured the water onto the teabag it turned the water vibrantly purple, this faded to the color I actually snapped with my camera, but still the purple was cool.
The taste is pretty intense, but I am drinking a tea made out of lavender and roses, it being anything other than a heady flower explosion would just be sad. I will say that this is not for the faint of heart, the rose is a heady perfume and the lavender borders on soapy, at the finish there is the warmth and subtle sweetness of nutmeg. There is a little bit of bitterness, in a floral way, if you have ever indulged in teas made from certain flowers you will know this bitterness, of course adding a little raw honey gets rid of that almost herbaceous bitterness immediately and turns the tea into a floral sweet treat with a spicy finish. So, I liked this tea, but I like really strong flowery teas, I could very easily see it being something that is very hit or miss with people.
Another tea I was a bit apprehensive about, I love lemongrass in food and I can kinda tolerate it in tea blends when I feel it belongs (no idea, but for a while it seemed that lemongrass was in everything, drove me crazy) but just straight lemongrass as a tea, never had it! Giving the bag a sniff I was pleased, I love the way it smells, I used to wear lemongrass oil as my signature ‘smell’ in high school. It blends crisp lemons with a touch of savory, it makes my mouth water the same way that savory citrus dishes (and salted lemons) do, it is the slightly green undertones that really make lemongrass work for me. Brewing the tea does not really change the aroma, it is still richly lemony and green.
Ok, here is the big moment, and…ok, I was not expecting that! It is sweet, lemongrass is actually sweet! I was expecting it to be herbaceous and savory, but nope, it is like mildly sweet warm lemonade, I almost always find lemonade too sweet, so this is pretty delicious. Expectations man, subverting them can be awesome or it can be gross, this time it was awesome! I like you lemongrass, I am sorry I shunned you in tea before, from now on, you and me are bros.
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.