570 Tasting Notes
I have decided to join in the festivities and have a sale in my Storenvy shop. It seems like every business that I get emails from is having a Fourth of July sale, and I thought it was a good idea. For all that I have spent years selling my creations, I am still pretty bad at promoting and marketing, especially now that it is not my focus. So thank you all those awesome companies who gave me the idea!
Today we are having another visit to Shan Valley, this time we are going to the black teas, specifically Kyaukme Black Tea-CTC. This first flush black tea comes Kyaukme Northern Shan State in Myanmar. The CTC (Crush Tear Curl) refers to the type of processing, long story short, the tea passed through a series of rollers lined with sharp little teeth that crush, tear, and curl the tea into neat little uniform balls. This tea smells really good! There are strong notes of malt, molasses, peanuts, honey and a touch of cherries at the finish. It is so rich and intense, this is a tea I would describe as heavy and bold, not so much light and brisk, it is not a ‘wake you up’ aroma, but more of a ‘sensual lounge in a comfy chair’ aroma.
Into the basket and hot water the little balls of tea go! This tea can probably take boiling temp, but since the website stated that temperature is to your taste and my taste is a little lower than boiling, I went with 200 degree water. I do not think this is always the case, but I find with CTC teas that boiling water can bring out unpleasant levels of bitterness, just a personal preference thing. The aroma if the wet leaves has a bit of that ‘wake you up’ briskness now, there are strong notes of malt and dried cherries with a bit of honey at the finish. The liquid retains the richness of the dry leaves, with notes of sweet cherries, roasted peanuts, molasses, and a finish of woodiness.
The taste is an interesting blend of brisk and bold. At first there is an initial zing that wakes you up, and then you can melt into your comfy arm chair. Starting with a bit of oak wood and malt at the opening, this very quickly fades to roasted peanuts, a touch of honey, stewed cherries and a touch of stewed plums (a general stone fruit kinda taste) with a finish of cocoa that lingers. Usually with CTCs I take them with cream and sugar (in fact I found that if you brew Shan Valley’s Black Tea from their 2013 Collection really long and hot, it makes a great base for Ostfriesen tea!) this one, I think is quite perfect straight.
Flavors: Cherry, Malt, Molasses, Peanut
I was looking at the weather today (because I am obsessed with staring at radars and watching weather systems…such a nerd) when I noticed a little news article about Hurricane Arthur will be the first hurricane to hit (in theory) on July 4th. This article also mention Tropical Storm Alberto which swamped the South in 1994. Ah, I remember it well, the creek (that always flooded a little during heavy rains) turned into a massive deluge that washed away my toy dinosaurs. I was sad that my dinosaurs went extinct, but now it makes me giggle a bit. I wonder if anyone ever found them up stream?
Today’s tea is another one of Shan Valley’s 2014 Collection, Pyin Green Tea. This green tea comes from Pyin Long, Northern Shan, Myanmar and is a first flush. The leaves are large and fairly dark, reminding me of the color of Serpentine. The aroma is very rich, a savory blend of salty vegetable broth, sauteed mushrooms, and a buttery finish. There is pretty much no sweetness in this aroma, just rich savory goodness.
After the leaves get their nice bath in my (progressively more damaged) gaiwan, the intensely savory aroma of the wet leaves happily wafts towards my nose. There are strong notes of sauteed mushrooms, vegetable broth, kelp, and a slight hint of smokiness at the finish. The liquid, on the other hand, is intensely sweet, with strong notes of marshmallow, flower nectar, and a tiny hint of nutmeg. I have really been amused by how the Shan Valley greens smell so savory as the leaf and so sweet as the liquid.
The first steep is subtle and complex. It starts out with sweet notes of marshmallow, this transitions into bamboo leaves, which in turn becomes savory vegetal at the end. My favorite part (other than notes of bamboo and marshmallow, how fun was that?) was the aftertaste. It was an unexpected rich smoked salmon, this tea is reminding me of a reverse Gobstopper, starting with dessert and ending with dinner.
Like the first steep, the aroma of the second steep is richly sweet. Strong notes of honey, marshmallow, and caramel with just the faintest hint of vegetal at the finish.. The taste has a start of vegetal broth, butter, and a touch of a salty twinge. This fades to bamboo leaves again, that almost act as a palate refresher in the middle. For the finish we have a bit of sauteed mushrooms and smoked salmon.
The third steep’s aroma is no longer sweet, instead we have sauteed veggies, mushrooms and smoked salmon. It is like the aroma finally caught up with the taste. Speaking of taste, this one starts out buttery and a touch like salted veggies (it reminds me a bit of soup.) This fades to sauteed mushrooms and a smoky, meaty taste. Very umami and rich! The more I taste different teas, the more enamored I become of these green teas that taste savory, the taste is unusual and really enjoyable.
Flavors: Butter, Smoke, Umami, Vegetal
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Good news everyone, my insomnia broke sometime after 2am last night and I slept until 2 in the afternoon. I am still pretty pooped, but I no longer feel like a zombie. Though I did spend the majority of the day yesterday convinced it was Friday, and then I kept thinking today was Monday. All this sleep disturbance seems to have confused my perception of time, it is still 2010, right?
Now that silliness is out of my system, it is time to visit Shan Valley again, this time to taste their Kokang Green Tea. Grown in the Kokang Region of Myanmar, which is close to the popular tea growing region of Yunnan, China. This Green is the highest quality tea available to the public, that has me intrigued. The aroma is quite umami (or savory if you are unfamiliar with the term) with strong notes of smoked mushrooms and vegetable broth. There is also an underlying sweetness with notes of honey and yeast. The aroma is interesting, it very much reminded me of mushrooms cooked over a grill, which I greatly enjoyed.
Upon brewing this tea in my gaiwan (like I do) the grilled mushroom aroma is replaced with a slightly smoky, very vegetal, aroma. There are notes of green beans, asparagus, and butter in the wet leaves. The liquid did a complete turn around from the wet leaves, with strong notes of caramel, honey, marshmallows, and a delicate hint of papaya at the end.
The first steep is fairly light and delicate, with notes of spice, smoke, and straw. These notes are present throughout the entire sipping experience, but there are also notes of caramel at the midtaste and a bit of asparagus at the finish. I am very curious to try the second steep and see if the delicate notes become stronger.
The aroma of the second steel is a blend of sweet caramel and asparagus, not gonna lie, that sounds like a delicious idea for a food dish, especially if it tastes like it smells. The taste of this steep starts out sweet with notes of caramel and papaya, this fades to vegetal with noes of asparagus and green beans. The finish is like butter and is just as smooth. I liked this tea, it had interesting notes in both aroma and flavor.
Flavors: Caramel, Honey, Mushrooms, Smoke, Vegetal
Ok, this post might end up being more whimsical than usual. Why, you might ask, because over the course of the week I have gotten maybe fifteen hours sleep, total. The worst was the last two nights where I got maybe an hour of sleep, turns out my new sleep medicine did the exact opposite of make me sleep. No fear, I pick up new(ish, I had them before, they work wonders on pain and insomnia) ones tomorrow. I look forward to some nice long sleep.
But enough about sleep and medicine, that is boring, let us talk tea! Specifically Shan Valley’s Shan First Flush Green Tea. You are probably thinking ’didn’t you review this in the early spring?’ Well yes and no, this fancy tea from Myanmar is from Shan Valley’s 2014 Collection, so nice new tea. The aroma of these fairly large leaves is an interesting blend of vegetal and sweet. There are notes of lettuce, asparagus, spinach, honey, and fresh cherry. The vegetal is much stronger than the sweet, which is more of a finishing aroma.
I decided to go the gaiwan route with this tea, because I love my gaiwan. Once the leaves have been steeped and the tea poured off, I notice a slight hint of citrus among a very intensely vegetal aroma. There are notes of roasted veggies, lettuce, asparagus, artichoke, and spinach. I am really diggin’ how green this tea smells. The liquid’s aroma is totally different! There are notes of honey, citrus, sweet sticky rice, and cherry. I have a salad and dessert with these aromas.
The first steep is quite subtle and vegetal. It starts out like citrus and fresh vegetation, this transitions into the real vegetal treat. With notes of green beans, lettuce, spinach, and asparagus, I feel as though I had my dose of vegetables for the day. The aftertaste is a bit like sticky rice and toasted vegetables.
The second steep’s aroma is like the previous, deliciously sweet with notes of honey and sticky rice, but this time it has a bit of the vegetal at the finish. This steep is fun! There are distinct notes of lotus leaves, honey, sticky rice, citrus, lettuce, and spinach. It starts out sweet and then builds into the rice taste in the middle and finished with a leafy and citrus note. Last year’s first flush was ok, I enjoyed it. This year’s hit the spot for me, I loved how richly vegetal the flavors were and how contrasting the aromas were.
Flavors: Green Beans, Honey, Lettuce, Rice, Spinach
Dabbling in watercolors is a messy, messy activity. Currently I am covered in various shades of green paint and a few splotches of black, yes, I am watercoloring a Creeper. The first one I did had the most lovely wash and excellent Creeper face, but when I added a bit of calligraphy I realized the character for Creeper (as in creeping vine) looked like a face and I cannot un-see! I am trying again without the calligraphy.
Today’s tea is from Nina’s Paris, (specifically their USA branch) Nina’s Japon, a blend of Black Tea, Sencha, Genmai Cha, Caramel, and Vanilla. I have a trilogy of teas from Nina’s Paris to review, thanks to a nice promotion on Steepster, and I will say this…my French accent is terrible! It is this reason (ok, there are others as well) that I do a blog and not so much the vlog. The aroma of this tea is nothing short of mouthwatering, but it did hit my ‘OMG I love these’ scale pretty hard, with strong notes of vanilla, caramel, and nutty rice. There are also notes of hay, malt, and a tiny touch of grass at the finish. I took a minute sniffing the tea thinking to myself, ‘this tea reminds me of something, something sweet and tasty that I have not had in a while,’ and it hit me, this tea smells like Creme Brulee!
After I finally manage to pull my nose out of the tea leaves and steep the tea (it was really hard) it was time to sniff the wet leaves. The aroma is still very sweet with strong notes of vanilla, toasted rice, caramel, and a tiny touch of molasses. It has gone from reminding me of Creme Brulee to Rice Crispy Treats, you know, maybe I am really hungry for sweets. The aroma of the liquid without the steeped leaves is also very sweet, with strong notes of caramel and rice, again the image of Rice Crispy Treats float into my head, but with a much richer tone.
Sipping time, I am excited, if this tea tastes as good as it smells, I have found a new favorite. I admit when I saw the ingredients I had a very strong suspicion that I would love it, but picking a sample that didn’t look like something I would like seems a little odd. Unless it is a blend that is really weird and I am doing it for an adventure, that is a whole different story…but I am getting distracted, and that is unfair to the tea. Ok, this tea is delicious, all my cravings for sweet things have been satisfied (for now) with this perfect dessert tea. The taste is a sweet blend of caramel and toasted rice with a strong vanilla taste. The vanilla taste is pretty neat because it tastes like vanilla extract smells, it is sweet and very vanilla heavy, but with just a hint of alcohol as well. After the initial sweetness there is a slight malt taste and a tiny bit of smoke at the finish that lingers into the aftertaste. I am so glad that this tea was exactly as good as it smells, I burned through my sample at lightning speed and really need to get more.
Today we have Della Terra Teas’ Organic Makaibari Darjeeling, a black tea hailing from the Makaibari Estate in West Bengal, Darjeeling, India. This specific Darjeeling is a FTGFOP Autumn Flush, or Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (or Far Too Good For Oridinay People, because tea drinkers are full of wit) that ridiculously long winded (or short acronym) term refers to the grading system set up back in the day, with some debate by Sir Thomas Lipton. The aroma is sweet and muscatel, with a bit of a sharp leafy aroma, similar to that of grape leaves and oak wood. It is mild and pleasant, an enjoyable sniff that is reminiscent of nature and plants and a slight sweet finish of raisins.
Once the tea has been brewed, the wet leaves are much lest muscatel and more brisk. The aroma of oak wood is more prevalent, and there is a touch of loam as well. Have no fear, I found all the muscatel sweetness, it is in the liquid. The liquid has a great aroma of fresh grapes and raisins with a drizzling of honey. There is a tiny undertone of brisk oak wood, but you almost have to stick your nose all the way into the teacup to notice it. (Note, I do not recommend this, from experience, it is a good way to get a singed nose and tea in one’s sinus cavities.)
Tasting time, I am excited, I have come to greatly love Darjeelings, especially after I learned that boiling the tea leaves will give you a cup of gross. That was a great lesson to learn about a year ago! I know, with every Darjeeling I review I have to mention the ‘do not boil’ thing, I do this because for years bad tea instructions had me believing that Darjeeling was bitter death and all those people who tasted sweetness and grapes were bonkers. The taste of this tea is deliciously mild and muscatel with notes of freshly mown hay and new vegetation. This fades to a rich, brisk, oak wood taste that really wakes up the mouth (and the me.) After this burst of wood it fades to a honey sweet raisin that that lingers as a delightful aftertaste.
Flavors: Hay, Honey, Loam, Muscatel, Oak wood, Raisins
I have been window shopping for a new gaiwan but have hid a real road block. There are just too many that I want, I narrowed my list down to seven that I would be quite content having. I have a feeling that it is going to be a long process trying to narrow it down further. On a fun side note, when searching for ‘green gaiwan’ bing was convinced I was trying to look up Gawain and the Green Knight.
Today’s tea is Kenilworth Garden OP from Harney & Sons, from one of the oldest tea estates in Ceylon…err…Sri Lanka. I am going to admit, whenever I see OP I have myself a little giggle, in tea terms OP means Orange Pekoe and is in reference to the grade of tea. In gamer terms OP means over powered, so it is hard to not assume that this tea is really an overpowered weapon in a PVP game. Enough nerdiness (for now) and onto aroma! The aroma of this tea is rich and sweet, with notes of caramel, malt, molasses, and a tiny hint of cocoa. This aroma has a presence, and that presence is richness. It also has a slightly brisk finish of oak wood which adds a touch of lightness to the smoldering richness.
Once the tea has been steeped and removed from its happy little bath, the aroma of the wet leaves is less sweet and more robust. There are notes of oak wood, molasses, and a touch of pepper at the finish. The liquid is creamy sweet with notes of brisk oak wood and dried leaves on a forest floor (specifically not wet loam.)
Tasting time, let us see if this OP tea is Over Powered! The taste is quite intense and brisk, yet very smooth, with no astringency at all. It starts out brisk and oaky with a touch of loam, this fades to molasses, and lastly loam and pepper at the finish. The mouthfeel is dry, in a lip-smacking good way. In a not terribly surprising turn of events I decided to add some cream and sugar. Doing so cause a minor mouth explosion of happiness, it is so rich with the cream and sugar! The briskness is still there but reduced a great bit, so it is mostly rich and malty. I feel an overpowering need for scones and tiny sandwiches now.
Flavors: Cocoa, Loam, Malt, Molasses, Oak wood
On a whim I decided to try something daring! Ben was using the Xbox and I wanted to play Minecraft, so I borrowed his much superior computer to play the demo. It was the most fun I have had in ages, I died so much because I was not used to the controls (also using a laptop mouse instead of a real mouse) but it was a thing of beauty. I might have happy cried a little. The good news is Ben said if I buy myself a new mouse and a PC copy of Minecraft I can borrow his computer while he is at work!
Today’s tea is the famous Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong from Teavivre. Hailing from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China, this Rock Oolong (or Yancha) has an interesting legend about it. During the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor’s mother took ill, luckily a tea she sipped cured her and in thanks the Emperor sent great red robes to clothe the original bushes that grew the tea, hint the name Big Red Robe. The aroma of this tea is a blend of sweetness and smoke. There are notes of baking bread, honey, tobacco, coal, and a finishing hint of cocoa. It is quite a fascinating aroma that is well balanced.
Into the gaiwan the curly leaves go! After a fairly short steep, the aroma of the wet leaves is as complex as the dry leaves with notes of charcoal, baking bread, honey, and touch of floral. I should note that the floral is like orchids near the end of their life, heady sweet with just the faintest touch of decay. It is not an unpleasant smell, it is just very distinct to flowers which are about to fall off the stem. The poured off liquid is a blend of sweet honey, charcoal, and a finish of tobacco.
The first steep starts out sharply sweet, like honey coated tobacco with a strong note of coal. There is a great blend of pine wood and smoke at the middle of the sip, the titular midtaste, after the initial sharpness fades I realized that the mouthfeel was quite smooth. The finish is sweet with an aftertaste of cherry and the faintest hint of smoke.
For the second steep, the first thing I notice about the aroma is that it is only barely smoky, like a distant fire and not a piece of charcoal, it is more floral and much sweeter, like honey and flower nectar. The taste starts out very sweet and smooth, with strong notes of raw honey and flowers, specifically orchids and a touch of honeysuckle. There is a finish of cherries and smoke, just like the first steep.
Th aroma of the third steep has taken a different route from its previous forms, this time it is faintly fruity sweet with a distinct mineral and spring water aroma. The taste also has a strong mineral presence, it tastes like drinking straight from a spring (having done this many times, I highly recommend it) very clean and very mineraly. This fades to a gentle floral taste and a honey sweetness that lingers.
Flavors: Honey, Mineral, Smoke, Tobacco, Yeasty
Ugh, today was one of those days where I got absolutely nothing accomplished. I had a list of things I wanted to do, but I think the utter lack of sleep last night sapped any desire to do anything today. Well, it is a lie, I have successfully mastered the fine art at staring at a website without actually reading it. We all have one of those days sometimes.
Today’s tea is Tazo Teas Rest Herbal Infusion, a blend of roses, valerian root, and citrusy herbs. I will admit, I have no idea how this tea bag got into my stash of tea, but I wanted an herbal tea to sip in the evening, so why not? I am very curious where this tea came from, maybe the tea fairy visited me, you know leave a tea-ball under your pillow and wake up with a soggy mess…and maybe new tea! The aroma is a soothing blend of lemony, herbaceous, a little bit of floral sweetness, and a finish of bitter herb (hello valerian, you still smell kinda awful.) The rose aroma is pretty faint, mostly the dominant notes are herbal and citrus.
Once the teabag has been steeped, however, the rose becomes more dominant. As does a bunch of different herbal notes, some of them not so pleasant and bit astringent smelling. There are also strong notes of citrus, honestly the tea smells like a medicinal cacophony with some rose perfume covering it up, it is not bad, but it does smell like medicine!
The taste of this is not offensive, which is always a good way to start out with a tea that has valerian in it. There is some bitter root taste, but it is pretty faint and only at the end, a bit of honey or sugar takes that bitterness right away. The taste of the tea is mild, with notes of citrus, rose, wildflowers, sage, and a general herb and grass feeling to it. I didn’t hate it, if this tea magically shows up in my stash again I would drink it before sleep, granted there are significantly better night time herbal teas out there, but this one is not bad.