459 Tasting Notes

90

Using someone’s else computer is just weird, Ben specifically got a larger keyboard and mouse to avoid his hands cramping. I have especially tiny hands and a much smaller keyboard and mouse because of that, meaning my hands are cramping and I keep typing wrong and clicking the wrong things. I will get used to it in a day or so, but it is still just really weird. Also, while typing this I am watching Ben play Dragon Age Inquisition, it is good to be back!

So, since last Wednesday and yesterday was taken up by holiday shenanigans, I decided to have a What-Cha Thursday this week, it does not flow as nicely though, so I shall stick with Wednesdays. Today I am looking at Malawi Zomba Pearls White Tea, first brought to my attention when What-Cha was having a sale at the end of October and fellow tea blogger and Steepster member said they should be called Zombie Pearls for Halloween, it has not been anything in my mind since then. These neat little rolled leaves (they look a little like cocoons!) hail from the Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi and definitely fit into the unique category of teas from that estate. The aroma of the little pearls is a zingy mix of cucumber, pepper, bok choy, lettuce, and a little bit of sweet hay at the finish. It borders on savory, but stays more in the refreshing and bright spectrum. It really smells like some delicious drink or even sandwich one would consume on a summer day when seeking something cool and refreshing.

Giving the little pearls a steeping causes them to unfurl a bit, not a huge unfurling yet. They have a refreshing aroma, like their dry counterparts, but it is a bit more savory this time around with notes of bok choy, cooked bell pepper,fresh cucumber, and pepper. At the finish there is a tiny bit of sweet hay, but mostly it is cooked veggies. The liquid is a savory blend of cucumbers, lettuce, and a bit of hay and spinach.

So, the first steep is light yet quite distinct, one of the first teas I have ever thought tasted crisp, like biting into a fresh cucumber and lettuce. It is quite unique! There are also notes of cooked bell peppers at the middle and a finish of fresh sugar cane juice and very slight citrus. I definitely love how refreshing this tea tastes, it even feels like eating a cooling cucumber.

The aroma of the second steep is identical in notes, but increased in intensity, it is really quite mouthwatering and refreshing. I especially find myself amused by the cucumber notes, I do not run into that very often and when I do, they are usually very light and not a primary note. So, have you ever grown cucumbers, the tiny ones, and eaten one fresh from the garden? It is cool and crisp and surprisingly sweet, I mean cucumbers are not the most savory veggies in existence, but these have a unique sweetness. The first sip of the second steep captures that taste nigh perfectly, it is sweet with a touch of savory. This transitions to bok choy and a tiny bit of lettuce, like the first steep the finish is sugar cane and still rather cooling.

For the last steep, the leaves have almost entirely unfurled and the liquid is a glorious golden, in fact, the aroma of the liquid has taken on a sunny feel. Not so much cooling cucumber, now it is warm sweet hay and cut grass, there is a hint of cucumber and lettuce, but it is now mostly sweet. The taste takes its cues from the aroma, delicately sweet and warm with notes of hay, sugar cane juice, and a finish of cucumber. I really enjoy how this steep starts warm and finishes with a cooling sensation. I have inevitably already finished my sample, but plan on getting this tea for light summer steeping, I expect it will help keep me cool during the long Kansas City summers.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/01/what-cha-malawi-zomba-pearls-white-tea.html

K S

I must try Zombie Pearls in a gaiwan. I loved this tea but didn’t get the cucumber.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

This tea is pretty fantastic in a gaiwan, when I get myself more I want to experiment with some grandpa style steeping and cold brewing. I feel like I also tried it western style but it left not impression on me, this was also a day I was in a busy tizzy so that could be why.

Let me know if you get cucumber if you brew it in a gaiwan :D

What-Cha

Love the review, their maybe a new ‘zombie’ tea about to go on sale shortly

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Hehe, don’t tempt me, I am supposed to spend my money on fixing my computer :P though that might be difficult!

What-Cha

You may find a sample of it shortly ;)

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85

So, I am going to do something new…I am upping my previous rating from 76 to 85, why? Because I am sitting here waiting for my sweetheart to arrive (last leg of his 16 hour road trip! Wooo!) and to keep myself from being too antsy, I needed tea.

Rummaging in my pile, I found the last of this sample and decided, eh, why not? I am probably not going to pay that much attention to it. Brewed it at 200 degrees, on a whim, and steeped it for 8 minutes…and holy moly that is tasty!

Plum notes are there, along with hay and a delicate chestnut and sweet corn finish. It still pales in comparison to Kenyan Silver Needle, but it much improved on a higher temp. If I wanted a really mild silver needle, like if I feel really sick or have a sensory hell migraine, this would be such a soothing tea.

I might actually have to get more of this now that I know its little secret…and now back to watching Minecraft tutorials…man, redstone is hard! I wish I would have taken the electrical elective in shop instead of robotics!

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 8 min or more

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100

So, before I get into the tea review, I want to take a minute to thank everyone who reads my ramblings! It has been an awesome year, and I greatly look forward to another year full of tea! I should warn you all that there is a slight chance that this will be my last post until the first of the year. Ben will be swooping in tomorrow night and having a brief visit before we take an epic (though not as pretty as the one mom and I had this fall) road trip back home. So I hope you all forgive me for wanting to spend the last few days in PA focused on packing up, re-acquainting myself with my long missed boyfriend, and having many tear-filled goodbyes with my mom. If I find time I might blog, if not, have an excellent rest of December!

Today is the last of the Christmas teas (actually no, I have a few stashed away in my notebook for a July Christmas or something along those lines) and I am not going to lie, I saved my favorite for last. M&K’s Tea Company’s Winterwolf (which is an awesome name, fun fact, when I was in my ‘Japanese obsession phase’ in my late teens, I went by Masshirona Okami, yeah I was a dork) is a blend of Wolfberries (also known as the beloved Goji Berries) roasted in honey, Green Rooibos, Vietnamese Cinnamon, and Natural Butterscotch flavor. The aroma of this tea is yum, I had a very hard time not eating the goji berries, seriously, I love those things so much! It is a blend of warm cinnamon, butterscotch, honey, sweet freshly mown hay, and of course goji berries. I love their sweet and slightly tart aroma oddly they remind of the sweet aspect of tomatoes, I know that sounds a little odd, but they have that quality to me.

So, with great self control, I did not eat the gojis and placed the tea into my steeping basket and let it soak. After a few moments I noticed something awesome…the aroma coming out of my cup is egg custard pie. That is, hands down, probably my favorite dessert ever. I seriously did a double take when I sniffed it, and then did a little happy dance in my chair because yum! There is of course goji berries as well, and now I am tempted to add them to egg custard next time I make it. The liquid is spices, goji berries, egg custard goodness, and a bit of sweet hay that almost gives it a crust-like aroma.

So, now that the tea has steeped, I am eating the goji berries. It is a good way to pass the time while waiting for the tea to cool, anytime teas have little nibble bits in them and I am not expecting a resteep I tend to eat the bits, but I also do that on the last steep of green teas too. So, the time of truth, the time of tasting…and HOLY BUTTERSCOTCH CUSTARD PIE, Batman!! Holy Mary Mother of Mudkips, seriously! I want to create smellovision and instant ‘taste things through the screen’ because oh my that is yummy. It tastes like warm egg custard pie, the good kind that has cinnamon dusted on the top and the sugar on the top layer has caramelized. There is definitely a hint of crust in there as well, and of course, the beloved goji berries add their sweet berry goodness to the tea. I really love the wolfberries because they do not have an overpowering flavor, they are sweet and very juicy with an almost floral taste, and they are wonderful at imparting this into the teas they are blended with. So yeah, this was definitely my favorite of the holiday teas, it might not scream ‘Christmas’ but it makes me feel immensely happy, and really, isn’t that what the holidays are about? Now, I need to use my Christmas money to buy a big ol’ thing of this tea, I do not need to run out of it!

For photos and blog: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/m-tea-company-winterwolf-tea-review.html

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90

Everyone, today is my mom’s birthday! According to the Celtic Tree Calender her birthday gets its own tree…which according to whichever of the many, many, many (sometimes very poorly researched) sources you choose to read, this means she is either ruled by mistletoe, elder, pine, or nothing. I jokingly call this the non-day, that clearly she is a changeling and I am half fairy, anything to make my constant playing of an elf in RPGs plausible. So happy birthday mom! I am glad I am getting to spend it with her this year!

Today’s tea is part of the quest for holiday teas, Armenos’s Christmas Song Tea Blend! This is a rather coloful blend of Rooibos, Apple Pieces, Pineapple Pieces, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Pink Peppercorn, and Hawthorn, two of my favorite ingredients (pink pepper and star anise) and one I confess to never having in tea before (hawthorn) so fun fact, the berries of hawthorns are called haws (I sound immensely Southern while trying to say that word) actually reading about it, hawthorn is used in Chinese tea blends sometimes, so maybe I have had it? Who knows, time for a tea adventure either way. This is a nice spicy tea, for me one of the most ‘Christmasy’ things is a spicy tea, because my mom would always break out the spices for both tea and her simmering potpourri, very much so a comfort thing for me. The aroma is very much so Christmas spices with cinnamon and anise and a very mild bit of pepper. There is also a touch of citrus and fruity and a nice sweet, woody finish (hello Rooibos) to the tea.

Oh I do love this smell! It steeping has set my little tea corner up as a nice spicy, warm, area. It feels like a warm cuddly blanket for the nose. The leaves once they have been steeped still bring about a nice spice to the area, the anise and pepper shine supreme and the cinnamon and apple bring up the rear, it is like a very mild and slightly unusual cider. Note to self, use star anise and pepper in my next mulling spice blend. So, the liquid without the spices, fruits, and such, is very much the holiday Rooibos, you can certainly pick up the caramel and woody notes I always associate with Rooibos, but mix that with a slightly citrus fruitiness (not exactly citrus, you know how pineapple and apple for that matter have a citrus tone to them at times, at least they do for me) and spices and you have a pretty neat smelling blend.

The name of this tea is Christmas Song, now I am trying to figure out which of my favorite songs I can visialize while sipping it…pretty much all of my favorites are tree and snow themed, so, if anyone has any spiced themed songs they want to share with me that would be awesome! If you have ever found yourself deeply in love with Christmas spiced teas and wanted one without caffeine and black tea to sip before bed, this could be a great choice, that is, assuming you like Rooibos. The taste starts out with cinnamon and star anise, this moved to a distinct creamy sweetness with apple and pineapple notes, not sure where the creaminess is coming from but I rather like it. The finish is a blend of woodiness and pepper, there is no dry mouth sensation from the Rooibos, I believe the fruit took care of that.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/armenos-christmas-song-tea-blend-tea.html

Ost

Happy Birthday to your mum! And happy almost Christmas to you!!

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Thank you! I shall send the birthday wishes too her, and happy almost Christmas to you as well!!

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91

I can feel the holidays closing in on me like a tinsel laden noose. With that in mind I spent the day being an utter lump yesterday since I knew that starting today it was back on full tilt until Christmas. Really, I wish the holidays were less stressful and busy, I would like to actually enjoy them, but nope. So starting next year I am inventing my own holiday in hopes that maybe it will be a little more relaxed. Happy very early Snowliday!

Today’s holiday themed tea in my attempt at nothing but Christmas teas until the 25th (wish me luck!) is Mintberry Pine from M&K’s Tea Company. A blend of Sloe berries roasted in honey and hibiscus, Malawian, Japanese, and Chinese Green Teas, Pine Needles and Bark, Spearmint, Peppermint Extract, Natural Blueberry Flavoring, and Natural Cranberry Flavoring, I admit the mention of pine in the ingredients is what really excited me since I get super hype whenever I see anything woodsy in flavor notes. The aroma is pretty great, a blend of pine trees, mellow mint, and vegetal greens make up the majority of the sniffing notes, but at the finish there is also a nice bit of tart berry and a touch of honey. I like that the mint does not overshadow everything and that you can definitely smell the pine, it is like a minty Christmas tree!

The nicely steeped leaves (and needles and berries) starts off with pine, moves right to mellow mintiness, and again, finishes with tart berries and honey. It is a funky aroma, blending winter with its cooling mint and pine along with spring and its vegetal green and berries, more last snowfall than solstice, but I am a nut when it comes to mental images I get when sniffing/tasting things. The aroma of the liquid switched the order around on the notes, starting off with tart and equally sweet berries, I have never had sloe berries so I am unable to really compare it to anything, it is like a blend of blueberries and juniper. Though apparently giving a quick look on the oh so useful Wikipedia, they share a ‘pick after first frost or will be tart, bitter, death’ with persimmons, so that is neat. The more you know…Anyway, next we get a nice cooling bit of slightly sweet mint and then the beloved pine aroma.

So, tasting time! The tea starts out with cooling mint, it is not super mint gum or toothpaste, it is mellow and has a distinct vegetation undertone which is probably the green tea, but mint can taste a lot like herbal vegetation when it is fresh. I used to spend a lot of time eating fresh mint and drinking mint tea as a kid, ah those were the days. I also used to chew on pine needles because I was a weird kid, I had this thing where I felt I didn’t really understand a thing until I thoroughly sniffed and tasted it, probably why I do not understand a lot of poisonous plants, but yeah, pine was always my favorite thing to gnaw on. Luckily the next flavor note to pop up is the aforementioned pine, it is resinous, slightly sweet, and well…piney! After that we move onto the berries, a nice tart and sweet blend of blueberries and something else, which I believe is sloe berries, again trying to describe it is hard because it is a unique new taste. It is a blend of slightly unripe plum, blueberries, tartness, and juniper, I like its unique taste and would like to get my hand on some to try on their own. The green tea base is present throughout the tea, it does not have any real distinctness and adds an underlying greenness to the whole sipping process, this is a great winter evening kinda tea, to sip while staring out the window hoping for snow.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/m-tea-company-mintberry-pine-tea-review.html

Nichole I love their teas!! Winterwolf is my favorite!
Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Oooh it is mine too :P I am hoping to have that one on the blog either on the Eve or Christmas, crazy schedule preventing of course ;)

I also hope to get myself more than just a sample! So good!

Nichole

Oh I snagged a big bag! Love this company!

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Hehe, lucky you! Money was a bit tight so I was only able to get a 5-for $5 sampler. I have done that several times and found many teas I plan on getting big bags of, so many good teas!

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84

So much groggy in my brain today! I had a really bad allergic reaction (just discovered I am allergic to aloe, this explains so very much about my life) so that means benadryl, which in turn means sleepy. If I did not have a mountain of things to do (ah the holidays) I would curl up in bed with my kindle and catch up on some reading. Currently I am reading a book about using Cognitive Behavioral Theory to help anxiety and depression in adults in the Autism Spectrum, a book about food in the Medieval times, and a book on food allergies. Fascinating stuff, if I finish them up before the end of the year I would have read 96 books this year, I was hoping to hit 100, but alas, I have been too busy!

So today’s tea is a wintry blend from 52Teas: Snowflake Gyokuro. Yeah, I did a double take too when I saw it was a blended Gyokuro, I am not sure this is a an act of genius or a horrible sin, I mean it is Gyokuro, that stuff is supposed to be sacred, right? Regardless, I knew I needed to try it for many reasons: it has marshmallow root (best stuff ever), it is winter themed, and it is a blended Gyokuro…I mean when will I get the chance to try that again? So, this is a blend of Gyokuro, Spearmint, Peppermint, Marshmallow Root, and Organic Natural Flavors, I really enjoyed 52Teas other minty, marshmallow green tea Graveyard Mist, so in theory I should like this…problem is, Gyokuro is not always a sweet tasting tea, in fact usually it is pretty umami, so this could be a real adventure. So from the aroma, all I am getting is mint and marshmallow, it is very sweet and the mint clears my sinuses, wintry indeed! I can certainly see snow being represented by the cleanness of mint and the gentle sweetness of marshmallow, but I wonder where the aroma of the Gyokuro is?

I was a bit stumped on how to brew this tea, after much debating I gasp just decided on a basket in a teacup, though I did not follow the directions on the package, I have had too many bad encounters with Japanese teas brewed too hot, so I opted for 155. So, I found the Gyokuro after steeping, it is there under the mint and marshmallow, there are notes of spinach, hay, and fresh sea air. Not going to lie, this combination is incredibly odd, not off putting at all, but just not something you expect to run into ever. The liquid is very similar, the mint is mellowed out a bit, the marshmallow is just as sweet, and the Gyokuro is still doing its thing, with the sea air taking on more of a kelp tone.

This tea is hard to describe, and it might win the award for one of the weirdest teas I have reviewed (that is only because I have not reviewed any of 52Teas bacon themed teas on the blog yet, I have the notes though!) Like with the aroma, the combination of things going on in my mouth is not off putting, it is just something I never thought I would mix together. First is mild mint with a cooling sensation that fills up my nose, you can definitely tell it is spearmint and peppermint, then there is the Gyokuro. It is savory, a blend of sea air, kelp, spinach, and mown grass. It is so bizarre, but it actually works really well together. I went for another steep and this time I only got hints of mint and marshmallow and much stronger Gyokuro. If there is any of my stash left come summer time, I might have to try this cold brewed.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/52teas-snowflake-gyokuro-tea-review.html

Fjellrev

You’re a trooper for taking Benadryl and trucking on with the holiday tasks! I can never take that stuff during the day and just try to deal with the allergy symptoms until evening.

Btw, I love the main picture on the top of your blog site!

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Usually if it is sniffly allergies I will push through until night time, but I had to go out and the world and my face looked like a chemical burn, it was bad. My poor mom was trying to help my mysterious rash by putting aloe juice on it and made it MUCH MUCH WORSE, she felt really guilty which was sad.

Thank you for the compliment, it was great fun playing in the little bit of snow with my tea :D

Fjellrev

Aww, I hope it’ll clear up and you’ll feel better soon! They ought to come out with an effective non-drowsy anti-histamine.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Thank you! It is better, and now that I figured out I am allergic to aloe (who knew?) I can avoid it and hopefully not have so many awful skin problems.

And I know, right? I am really not sure why there are none.

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79

In theory I would be apologizing for no tea blog yesterday, but I am not sorry, TU19 came out yesterday and I was in utter bliss. A bit of backstory, the last ‘real’ not bugfix update for the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft came out last time I was in Pennsylvania, either in July or August of 2013! I know 4J Studios has been busy making Minecraft for all the other consoles, and that is awesome, but I was seriously gloomy about the lack of update. So as expected, when I saw yesterday that the new update was out, all my plans flew out the window as I went around taming horses and giving mobs really random names.

It is now time for yesterday’s tea today! My current home town of Kansas City has a delightful shop which I visit on occasion, Phoenix Herb Company (who will be at the Midwest Tea Fest, hint hint :P ) and I am looking at one of my favorite teas: Dian Hong! Basically Dian Hong translates to Yunnan Red, so this is a fancy red (or black) tea from Yunnan, it is not as fuzzy and golden as some of my favorite red teas, but it makes up for lack of gold by having a powerful flavor and smell. Or at the very least the other Dian Hongs I have had are like that, so time to see how this one compares. The aroma is super sweet, there are notes of raisins, sweet potato, a bit of dark rum, cherries, and some floral in there as well. It has a headiness to it, but more of a fruity sweet headiness than floral, though the distant rose aroma is quite striking.

So, into the gaiwan the leaves go, after their first somewhat short steeping (30 seconds if you are curious) the aroma of the leaves is still sweet, but it takes on a heavy richness. There are notes of cocoa, raisins, dried cherries, molasses, and a nice malty punch at the finish. It is an aroma that wakes you up, which is good, especially after an all-nighter of Minecraft. The liquid is really malty and bright with a distinct cherry undertone and a finish of molasses.

The first steep starts out really brisk and bright, it almost reminds me of an Assam who decided to visit Yunnan and liked it so much they stayed. I could see this becoming a really good breakfast tea. After the initial brisk malt tones, it mellows out to molasses and raisins at the midtaste, this in turn goes to sweet cherries and a touch of smoke at the finish. The smoky finish is so minute that it took me a few sips before I was certain it was there and not just in my head.

For the second steep, the aroma is much maltier and even more brisk, it practically effervesces and wakes me up from sniffing it, definitely a good morning tea! Like the previous steep it starts out brisk, bright, and malty, but it lacks the sharpness of astringency that some really brisk teas can have. After the beginning’s zinginess it moves into heavy cherry and raisin sweetness which lingers into the aftertaste. I could see this being a really good wake up tea for someone who wants a milder black but finds most Chinese red teas too mild and more ‘Western style’ black teas too intense.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/phoenix-herb-company-dian-hong-tea.html

Lion

I had always wondered if Phoenix Herb sells tea, since they are walking distance from my home now. I will have to check them out. I popped in to buy culinary lavender once and was in a rush so I popped right back out that day and didn’t look around me.

Nicole

Phoenix used to sell mainly herbs and a lot of flavored teas. They have shifted over the last few years to some higher quality unflavored. I like going in the shop, though I haven’t been in some time.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Lion, I find this funny because we have had two separate conversations about them selling tea :P

I need to pop in again when I get back to KC, I need to get my hands on some ingredients for blends ;)

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99

So, you may or may not know that I dabble with Influentster, recently they had an ebay related campaign involving creating guides and collections. I finished the collection campaign a week ago and just finished the guides section, meaning I got $10 ebay gift card and have another one on the way. This babbling is inevitably leading up to the thing I bought, Dark Swords Elven Princess, a sculpt inspired by Larry Elmore’s (think most Dragonlance covers) art that I am much enamored with. If my plans go…as planned, then I will be doing a little green stuff alteration to make her more like one of my RPG characters.

Excitement about painting aside, I am not feeling too hot today so onto the tea! Specifically What-Cha’s Darjeeling 1st Flush 2014 Gopaldhara SFTGFOP1 Black Tea, an exceptionally high grade (special finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe…that means it is really good) first flush Darjeeling from Gopaldhara Tea Estate. For some reason my brain just cannot register the name of this estate, no many how many times I read it or type it, I will always want to pronounce it Goldaphara…really brain, do try to keep things from getting too jumbled. I think this is why my reviews will always be in text, no one will have to hear my letter jumbling. So, the aroma of this tea is so light and so sweet, it just kinda lays on my nose like a silken scarf. It is a blend of muscatel (specifically very fresh scuppernongs and muscadines) honey, wildflowers, and a tiny touch of pepper at the finish. It reminds me of nasturtiums and growing things and the more milder aspects of summer.

In order to let the leaves dance around and have fun while taking their bath, I decided to steep them in my alchemy equipment (as I have taken to calling my glass double boiler thingy) as they unfurl, the colors of the leaves is quite beautiful, a mixture of greens, browns, and golds. It reminds me of sunlight streaming through leaves. The aroma of the leaves is so fresh, like muscadines straight off the vine, sweet sun warmed honey right off the comb, wildflowers blooming, and peppery nasturtiums. It is such a soothing aroma, and a very happy one at that, at least for me, it reminds me of summers from my younger days. The liquid is delicate and sweet, like honey and nasturtiums with a touch of muscadines. Ah, this is heavenly!

Oh man, I love that nasturtium note! I do not run into that one very often in tea, it is awesome! If you have never had the pleasure of eating nasturtium flowers, they are peppery, a bit sweet, and have a very clean and green heat to them. Similar to a very mild horseradish and flowers. Now this tea is not all spicy flowers, in fact the first bit of taste is the clean nasturtium and then it vanishes, quickly replaces with juicy muscadines and honey. It is just like biting into a sun warmed muscadine picked off the vine, an experience I seriously advise everyone to do at least once! The finish is mild and sweet, a wildflower honey taste that lingers.

I did a second steep for this tea and it was very similar to the first, the notes of honey were stronger and the peppery notes were almost diminished, it reminded me a little of daikon without the root taste. I was in one of those great tea bliss moments and as my notes finish for this tea, my usually barely legible handwriting just becomes a sideways mess. This was (le gasp) my first ever first flush Darjeeling, and I can see why so many people are hooked on it! I need more, lots more, if the taste is that intoxicating!

For photos and blog (my tea frogs got a little crazy this time): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/what-cha-darjeeling-1st-flush-2014.html

Doug F

There’s nothing like a great first flush darjeeling. It’s nice to see such a thoughtful review of one.

Anlina

This sounds great. I think I have it and cant wait to try it.

Nasturtium flowers are delicious. So pretty in a salad too.

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80

The tree has achieved awesome status! Yes, it is that time of year where we drag a dead fir tree into the house, cover it in lights and ornaments, and happily stare at it while being pleased at our work. This year’s tree has no theme other than absolute chaos! Lots of colors and almost all the ornaments are origami creations I have made. I am hoping to make some more ornaments, but alas I have not felt inspired to fold much.

Since it is a day of coniferous joy, I decided that the perfect tea to review is one that has been languishing in my notebook since late summer just waiting for the perfect opportunity. Life in Teacup’s 2009 Guan Zi Zai Xiao Man Shu is a Shu (or Shou, Ripe) Pu Erh from Yunnan (of course) produced by the Guan Zi Zai factory. Other than where it is from, what type of Pu it is and what year it is from, that is all I know about this tea. Sometimes I feel like studying the world of Pu Erh is like studying the entire world of tea, it is amazingly complex and at times very hard to navigate. I believe I will be a novice for all eternity at times! So, why is this the tea that gets reviewed on a day when I have been dealing with a sticky fir tree? Because the aroma is so evocative of a coniferous forest that for a moment I can transport myself to the forest I used to romp in as a teenager. It was a mixed forest, but since this was the South, a large portion of the forest was pine, so I am very familiar with the at times almost intoxicating aroma of pine loam, wet pine wood, resin, needles, and sap. That is what the aroma of this tea evokes, it is like a hot, wet, rainy day in a pine forest where all those smells waft out of the earth and the trees around you.

After the tea’s rinsing and first short steep, the aroma of the soggy leaves is sweet and resinous, much like pine sap and a hint of molasses. There are also notes of wet wood and loam, and a tony hint of anise. The liquid also has that hint of anise, how fascinating! There are also the expected notes of wet pine wood, loam, and a touch of sweet sap.

The first steep is rather delicate and sweet, with a slightly sharp and tingly mouthfeel, almost like the sensation of eating pine sap (yes I have done it and I am a weirdo.) There are flavor notes of wet pine, rich molasses, a bit of loam, and a finish of anise. That anise is quite unexpected and fun!

Second steep time, the aroma takes on a creamy anise and loam tone, it is both sweet and earthy, mixing pine and wet earth. It has a heaviness to it, like I am sinking into the soil on a rainy day. The taste for this steep is as expected quite a bit more intense than last. It starts out a tiny bit bitter, much like wet wood can have a bitterness to it, not an off-putting bitterness. Around the middle of the sip the taste turns to sweetness and richness, like molasses and loam. At the finish there is a touch of the fermented mushroom soil taste that goes really well with the forest floor taste.

The aroma of the third steep is very sweet, a mix of sweet, resinous, pine loam and very sweet molasses bordering on raw sugar. This is a detoxing Pu! Something about this tea has a great heating affect causing me to feel warm and sweaty, gross I know, but I get really lucky and sometimes Pu Erhs just feel like they are cleaning out any gross things from my body, I feel better after drinking them. The taste is heavy, like deep loam and a touch of peat, this transfers to sweet molasses and a touch of anise again. The finish is pine sap and a touch of a cooling sensation at the finish. So, a perfectly piney tea for a tree decorating day.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/life-in-teacup-2009-guan-zi-zai-xiao.html

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70

This seems like a good afternoon tea to drink while helping my mom decorate the tree, a little extra boost of caffeine for holiday spirit! The smell is pretty intense, lots of strawberries and a tart fruity undertone. There is also a hint of cookies and malt, so that makes it a bit like pie. Speaking of cookies, I read somewhere that gluten is not water soluble, so in theory as long as I don’t eat them they shouldn’t hurt me? Not sure…but I am hoping just a little bit won’t cause any problems. It smells to good to not try!

I have learned that my new tiny little teapot is in fact a TARDIS because wow, it holds so much more than it looks like it should. Enough for my mom and me to each have a small cup (and not small like my tiny gongfu cups, like teacup size) so that is fun. Also this tea smells really good! I love rhubarb and strawberry pie, but for some dumb reason I am allergic to rhubarb, but I was informed by Stacy that there is not actual rhubarb in here, so I was super excited to try it. Yay for tea that smells and tastes like things I enjoy but can’t actually eat :P

The taste is alright, at first I was not really wowed, but as it cooled I found I enjoyed it more. There is definitely a taste of strawberries, rhubarb, crust, and a bit of spice, just something was lacking for me. Not really sure what, could be my mood…could be anything. Glad I got to try it though!

OMGsrsly

I couldn’t have it at all, but she did at one point have some gluten free Ruby Pie made up. It was SO GOOD. I’m not sure how different, but definitely something I wanted more of.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Soooo bad idea drinking this tea, I am having a hellish reaction to it meaning either the info about gluten being nonsoluble is BS or I have an allergy rather than an intolerance.

Time to see an allergy specialist instead of a GI doctor me thinks :(

OMGsrsly

Possibly unless you’re steeping in something that is a small enough filter to prevent the cookie dust from passing through, you’ll end up with gluten in the tea… :/ Hope you feel better soon.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

I think the worse thing is I really do know better but got excited. Thank you for the well wishes, luckily? it seems to mostly be ‘attacking’ my skin, so yay.

Butiki Teas

Oh no, so sorry to hear about your reaction. :(

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My Rating Guide, This is a personal rating and not necessarily a reflection of the tea’s quality
100-Must have on hand, it is one of my favorite teas
85-99-Really good teas, like exquisitely good
65-84-Not bad, they can be good but generic, or just teas that I found enjoyably ok.
40-64-Not a favorite, but not terrible. I would drink it if it was in front of me but I doubt I would seek it out on my own.
20-40-Not the best tea ever, either it was not to my liking or it was really bland. Chances are I would turn this one down unless I was really thirsty.
0-19-No, just no. Either there was something wrong with this tea or it was utterly undrinkable by me.

I am a nerdy, obsessive, crafty, tea blogging, gaming nut. Yeah, that about sums me up! Ok, you want something more informative….

I am a Geek, hardcore fan-girl Geek. It shapes my life. I spend a lot of time making things out of perler beads and I bet you can guess what inspires them. Other than the obsessive pixelizing of things I spend a large portion of my time doing origami (especially Lucky Stars and modular geometric designs) it is an equal obsession. I hoard dice, get obsessed with games, and will talk about whatever fandom, game, etc that I am obsessed over until I am blue in the face. I am not just a gamer girl type Geek, I also fit in the collecting knowledge and spending way too much time reading, category of Geek.

But there is more to me than just being a giant nerd. I love tea, always have and have just gotten more and more obsessed as I get older. I love trying new teas and then writing lengthy descriptions about them on my blog, I love reading and researching the history and culture of tea, I love collecting tea pots and fancy tea tools.

When the weather allows it, I love to go mushroom hunting. I don’t eat them, instead I use them for photography and spore prints. It is my dream to one day become a Mycologist studying slime molds.

I have Fibromyalgia, it sucks, but I feel people who are going to interact with me should know since I tend to vanish because of it. So fair warning!!

I also have cats, love the ocean and all aquatic life, love cheese, and collect hats.

My favorite tea is definitely Oolong, but I also love Japanese greens and…ok I just love tea actually :P I am not a huge fan of lemony teas or tart fruit teas. I also loathe hibiscus (usually)

This is my actual tea wishlist, you know that I actually update and keep track of…I tend to forget Steepster’s https://www.facebook.com/notes/amanda-wilson/tea-wishlishtshopping-list-perpetually-in-progress/10152336515414411 I use my steepster WL to keep track of teas I have had and really want more of :P

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