848 Tasting Notes
I decided to pay a visit to the thrift store today, to my surprise they were having a 50% off sale on EVERYTHING. I was looking for a new teacup because my cat broke yet another one (so glad they like breaking my cheap thrift store finds instead of my expensive stuff) and found a nice new teacup, a Somayaki cup and creamer (which I will use for a Cha Hai, because why not) and an awesome antique table thing that will be completely redone into a tea table. I got it partially because I wanted a tea table I can sit at that is low to the ground, and also because if all goes well Ben and I will be moving in with a tea loving friend this summer and I want to have the most epic tea room.
So, it is Wednesday (though all week I keep thinking it is the wrong day) meaning it is time for What-Cha! I honestly think I am never going to succeed in my goal of trying all of the teas in that shop, because more keep arriving! New fancy ones from Malawi and Australia are the most recent ones that are making me check and double check my budget to see if I can swing another order soon. Usually I try to order once a season, stocking up on my favorite teas to drink that time of year…and a few favorites that I can’t seem to live without! So anyway, enough squeeing over future tea orders, today we are taking a look at Taiwan Amber Oolong! Yes, it is a roasted Oolong, because I have an obsession, this one is from Wushe Garden in Nantou Taiwan, this particular Oolong is roasted over the Longan Fruit tree’s wood, meaning some of that fruity goodness gets imparted into the tea (much like it is with smoking meat over fruit wood) and since this is a Jin Xuan cultivar, expect extra sweetness! So, the aroma, well…it smells really good! I am getting notes of toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, pie crust…and is that marzipan? After sniffing a bit more, yep, that is definitely marzipan!
The curled up leaves are tossed into the roasty-toasty Oolong Yixing for their happy bath, after which I give the leaves a thorough sniffing. So, this tea smells like pie. Specifically it smells like freshly baked peach pie, but with a nutty crust and a caramel drizzle. The liquid is super sweet and toasty, with notes of caramel, toasted nuts, pie crust, and a heaping pile of charcoal roasted peaches!
OMG, HOW!!! This tea taste exactly like peach cobbler with an oat crust and caramelized sugar, that is just uncanny! I kinda had to do a double take because I was sitting at my computer..took a sip…looked down at my cup, took another sip, and was totally blown away. It is sweet and toasted, with the toasted notes of oats and grain, and the sweet notes of fruit. That was an impressive first steep.
Second steep time, and I hope it still smells like pie. Hah, nope, now it smells like peach cobbler! Not a huge difference, except cobbler the way I had it had a crumbly oat crust, giving it more of a grain smell. The taste is still sweet and fruity, like a cobbler, but it has a sharper roasted taste. Along with that strong peach taste, there is also a nice cherry note and spicebush at the finish which lingers for quite a while.
Third steeping, the aroma is pretty mellow, blending peaches and toasted grains for a sweet yet subtle aroma. The taste has also mellowed out a bit, there is still a sweet peach and toasted grain taste, but it is a lot more subtle. Sadly this tea lacked staying power, but it made up for it in a crazy good taste, so I am not too sad, it has become a new staple in my ‘must have around’ collection because sometimes I really want a roasted Oolong but do not have the time for multiple steepings, and I hate having it go to waste, so this is perfect for a quick couple of steepings session.
Last night was the first night of the Dropzone Commander Tournament, but alas I did not play my game because my opponent because he had to take care of his baby, so instead I served the players tea. I have decided that mixing my passions is just a logical choice, luckily everyone seemed to like the tea, problem is I need more cups, but that problem is fixing itself as we speak. On the news of DZC, I won the league’s painting contest, so it is safe to say I am very pleased with myself, totally going to take my little award and hang it on my wall.
Today’s tea is a preview for a tea that Whispering Pines Tea Co will be stocking a small amount of in the near future, High Mountain Xinyang Maojian Green Tea! The name combines region and description of the leaf, it comes from Xinyang County in Henan, China and the Maojian part refers to the fuzzy leaf tips, yay for trichomes! I am going to start out by saying there are green teas and there are luminous teas that capture the essence of life…yeah, it is going to be one of those posts, so strap yourselves in. When I opened the pouch and scooped out the needed leaves, I let out a ‘whoa’ hopefully not sounding like Keanu Reeves, but I probably did, these leaves are crazy vibrant! They have beautiful silver fuzz which makes them almost look like they are shimmery, like the surface of water. Oh man, the aroma of these leaves is so fresh, like really super fresh, like did they just come straight from the field fresh! It blends notes of sweetly nutty chestnut and fresh green spinach, and the best part…like tea flowers. It smells like blooming tea flowers (I totally got to sniff them when I was in Charleston) they are subtle and honey sweet, smelling ethereal, just like this tea.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go, and they seem to become even greener somehow, which is impressive. The aroma of the now steeped and soggy leaves is so fresh and so green, blending clean mountain air, fresh growth, chestnuts, fresh asparagus, fresh spinach, and a distant hint of flowers, less tea flowers and more something slightly spicy like tulips. The liquid is also very clean, hmm, seeing a theme here? Blend a sense of cleanness with fresh spinach and asparagus, sweet peas, and a touch of growing bamboo for a very green smelling tea.
I am glad I was sitting down when I first took a sip of the first steep, because it is a tea that would have knocked me off my feet. It is so delicate while having such crisp and distinct notes, starting with a velvety smooth mouthfeel and moving right into a clean green sweetness. It reminded me of my favorite notes taken from Anji Bai Cha and Dragonwell and put into a super light tea. There are notes of sweet peas, chestnuts, a touch of spinach and a light note of asparagus, unlike a lot of Maojians I have tried, this one is only light on the savory, adding touches of sweetness and floral.
So, right after I finished that paragraph I wandered off to Tabletop to play my first tournament league, in case you are curious, I won on objectives, but my opponent did kill most my Scourge…my kill to death ratio is intensely bad! Also, as a side note, I had this tea in my travel steeper, it performed beautifully, no surprise there. Anyway, the second steep needs attention now, and the aroma of the gently steaming liquid is beautiful, it is the embodiment of clean mountain air, misty and green, fresh with new life in spring. Yes that is a silly poetic description, but this tea is one that fills my mind with images rather than with aroma notes, all teas do that to me, but some more strongly than others. The mouthfeel is just as velvety smooth as the previous steep, the taste more intense, starting off with sweet peas and chestnuts, the midtaste is smoothly green spinach and artichoke, with a tiny hint of mineral, much like spring water. The finish had a lingering note of floral, distant floral brought on a breeze rather than sitting next to a vase of flowers, meaning it was hard to identify.
For the third steep, oh man, the aroma is still so delightful, though I am able to piece together more than just images and emotions this time, there are notes of crisp vegetation, chestnut sweetness, and a finish of peas and asparagus. The taste is still pretty fantastic, going strong, it has a wonderful peaceful Cha Qi, this could be a great tea to meditate over, or to accompany you while doing something thoughtful (like painting and wargaming?) there are notes of asparagus and sweet pea, chestnut and a touch of bok choy at the finish. It is safe to say many steeps were had! The best part of this tea was sharing it, Brendan of WPT was awesome and shared some of this beauty with me, so letting my friends at gaming night try it seemed the perfect thing to do. They all agree, this tea is a thing of beauty.
Oh goody! One of those stupid headaches that won’t go away has decided to crop up, I hate them because they make it so hard to think straight and see straight, plus I tend to get so dizzy. I have had them my whole life, they just crop up and stay for anywhere from a week to a few months, pretty sure they are just part of having Fibromyalgia, plus they run in the family, probably because we are so smart! Blah, tea helps though, I am not a ‘tea for health’ reasons kinda person, but tea works on these headaches better than any pain killer, so it is not just the caffeine (I lived off Excedrin as a teenager, my stomach still thanks me for that one) but possibly the play of caffeine and theanine? Or maybe it is the soothing taste, hot liquid acting as a vasodilator in my head, and the ritual of tea as a whole bringing me peace. Regardless of the reason, I am glad it brings my head a bit of a rest so I can do things, like write this blog!
Recently I recieved a surprise package from Yunomi with Nakamura-En’s #01 Gyokuro Mecha, The Discovery inside. I do not remember requesting any samples to review lately, so maybe this came from their awesome Tea4Two program, whatever the reason for its arrival, it was very welcome because I had just run out of Gyokuro the other day. This particular Gyokuro is actually Mecha (no, not that kind of Mecha, sadly it is not a giant piloted robot, I am sad too) a tea that is basically the broken off tips and buds of the tea, this gives it a more robust taste and makes it cheaper than normal Gyokuro and high end Sencha. This also means that it is a bit cheaper, meaning if you are wanting to experiment with brewing Gyokuro the crazy leaf heavy traditional way or just try Gyokuro in general, it is a good introductory tea. I have to say, this might be the sweetest Gyokuro I have had the pleasure of sniffing (also such tiny leaves! must be careful to not inhale them) it is a blend if honey, freshly broken green grass and hay, and a chestnut and sweet pea finish. As I snuffled around in the tea leaves a bit longer, warming them up even more by breathing on them, delicate floral notes and a touch of kelp waft up from the emerald leaves.
Really, I should brew this in my Kyusu or pseudo-Houhin, but I always end up brewing Gyokuro in my glass steeping apparatus, because it is so pretty! The aroma of the now thoroughly soggy leaves is very green, like super green! Notes of grass and spinach, kelp and peas, and a tiny hint of chestnuts. It smells verdant, I see flashes of vibrant green in my mind as I sniff it. The liquid is light and sweet, and of course green, though it is no where as intense as the wet leaves. There are notes of honey and chestnut along with a strong grassy presence.
Holy soupy thickness! Oh man, that mouthfeel is something else, it does not coat the mouth, it paints it, it smothers it, it feels sensual like chocolate melting in the mouth, but less milky…and chocolaty, but a similar texture. The taste is super green, with a blend of spinach and grass at the first, then it goes on a mouth journey to asparagus and sweet peas, and at the finish we have chestnut and kelp. It blends savory and sweetness pretty perfectly. Speaking of chocolate, if you ever get the chance to mix really dark chocolate with Gyokuro, do it, it is an awesome pairing!
In the traditional style I went for a second steeping, jacking up the temperature and shortening the steeping time. It is safe to say that is luminous Hulk green tea is now a powerhouse of flavor, it is super savory with notes of kelp and cooked spinach, with a strong kale midtaste, this bitter green note pretty quickly fades to kelp and a touch of chestnut at the finish. It is pretty intense, in a good way, but be warned, do not go to the second steep lightly, be prepared with a spirit of steel!
My brain is a bit frazzled, it was my friend’s birthday dinner and I ate way too much, I feel a bit food drunk! Similar to being tea drunk, though not as pleasant, my relationship with food is still pretty rocky, but I am starting to enjoy it again. It was so awesome to be able to food party with friends without my guts being a gate crasher, though I really do wish restaurants had better tea. Or tea at all!
I should start this review by saying this is the 2014 harvest, and my sample had a little note saying this year’s will be fresher, this is a sad truth about green and yellow teas, not a hugely long shelf life. Now don’t get me wrong, it is by no means stale, but it is not all it could be, kinda like me between breakfast and lunch! This Jun Shan Yin Zhen comes from Tanlong Premium Tea Collection, and is one of the more rare of the more well known Yellow Teas (and yes that was an odd sentence.) Yellow Teas are just not that well known in the West, and even if you are a seasoned tea drinker, there is a chance you might have not had one, and if you did it was probably Huo Shan Huang Ya, since it is a good deal harder to get Jun Shan Yin Zhen in this part of the world. The aroma of the very pretty little needles is sharp and vegetal, with notes of asparagus and artichoke, along with a crispy note of fresh bok choy. It has a bit of a buttery and peppery undertone, with just a tiny hint of nuttiness at the finish. The tea is mild, but the notes are distinct.
Brewing the leaves in my gaiwan really makes the green color of the little needles pop! My photo does not do it justice. The aroma is very sharp and vegetal, with returning notes of asparagus and artichoke, and bringing a new friend of fresh spinach. The finish had a hint of smoke and pepper, both of which are very mild. The liquid is much milder and smoother, more like green beans and artichoke with hints of spinach and asparagus, still retains a bit of that sharpness, but it has mellowed out.
The first steep is very delicate, not so much mild, but delicate, like a silk scarf floating through a breeze is delicate. The mouth feel is smooth like silk as well, so the comparison continues! The taste is vegetal, mostly a blend of green beans and artichokes, with a side note of bell peppers and a pinch of smoke. The finish is mild and sweet, like nectar of a tulip tree flower.
Onward to the second steep, the mellow and delicate aroma is a bit stronger this time, with the familiar notes of asparagus and green beans, with artichoke and spinach returning. The taste like the aroma, is mostly the same but stronger. The bell pepper note is much more predominate, and the smokiness at the end is not longer a pinch but is more of a distinct and lingering note, which I admit to liking (I do like my smoky notes though.) I like this tea, I have had a fresher Jun Shan Yin Zhen and can tell that yes, this is an older tea, and yes, I am willing to bet that when it was newer this tea was much more potent, making me very curious to get my hands on some of the 2015 harvest!
I am going to probably be covered in chiggers. I decided, I am tired of this stupid Midwest pointy grass and chiggers, and the inability to roll around in the grass, so I found a MASSIVE patch of clovers and just flopped down into it, soaking up the sunlight. The inevitable itchies are probably worth it, I will give a definite on that after they happen. Sometimes a nature lover like me has to to take one for the team in order to recharge my batteries after a long (ok actually it was a really warm) winter.
Since it is Thursday, that means it is time to blow the dust off my tea notebook pile and review one of the teas from my distant (like a year and a half ago) past. Reading the notes of these teas sends me back to the time I drank it, I might not be able to remember what day of the week it is half the time, but I can remember the way things taste and smell from years ago. I have a very strong yet very selective memory! So, today’s tea is Houjicha Gold from Den’s Tea, and boy do I feel sheepish for not visiting their site in a while, because they have some new and exciting teas! I feel a fondness for them since it was where I got my first Kyusu, and a Green Tea Starter kit, I was not at all new to Japanese teas, but I was new to Den’s Tea, and this seemed a good way to try their teas, Houjicha Gold was included. This is their roasted Bancha (as Houjicha tends to be) specifically from the Yabukita Cultivar grown in Shizuoka. The aroma of this tea is fairly mild, on the lightly toasted spectrum of Houjicha, blending a faint sweetness with autumn leaves and a touch of loam. Towards the finish there is a blend of nutty and toasted seaweed, giving it a savory, umami finish.
Into the kyusu the toasted leaves go, and man are my photos so bad! I am glad I finally figured out how to take indoor photos, one day though I am going to have a very well lit tea room! Preferably one with a sink…and very close to a bathroom! Ah, a girl can dream. So, after brewing, the leaves take on a stronger kelp and toasted note, even adding in a bit of smoke, no more sweetness this time, just toasted umami notes. The liquid, well, time for a little head-jerk of contrast, because it is super sweet, like toasted marshmallow and roasted nuts. Toss in a little campfire and you have a delicious smelling liquid.
The taste starts a touch smoky and very umami, with strong toasted kelp. This pretty quickly moves to sweet toasted marshmallow and nuttiness with a delightful lingering sweetness. The mouthfeel was a bit dry, not a sucking dryness, but not the coating feeling you get from its less toasted green cousin, it is a dryness I associate with toasted teas, distinct but not at all unpleasant. As the tea cools, the notes of smoke and roasted tea become stronger and linger much longer, leaving a smoky aftertaste. This is an excellent choice as a introductory Houjicha, it showcases the aspects you expect without any of the quirks of a more specialized Houjicha.
I need a new shelf. My tea area is becoming slightly cluttered with tea gear, and thanks to some ebay credit scoring me three new teapots, I am about to totally run out of room. So I need a new shelf, to go next to my Tea Confessional, which will just hold my Yixing teapots. This other shelf will hold all my gaiwans, cha hais, cups, and other gear. I figure this will give me more room on my tea tray to hold gemstones and miniatures, since I like having them right there with my tea. Of course I have to go to the wood stash in the basement and attempt to build this shelf, so I might end up needing a different solution.
Ah yes, time for another Drow Tea! It is official, from now on all purple teas are Dark Elf teas, really I would prefer to call them Shadow Elf teas, but Drows are more popular, so we will go with that. Presenting What-Cha’s Yunnan Graceful Purple ‘Zi Juan’ Purple Varietal Green Tea! This green tea is from the lovely and very tea prolific region of Yunnan, that part you can get from the name, but what does the Zi Juan part mean? It means Graceful Purple and is the name of the varietal, though I will say that the article I linked you all to is a very interesting (to say the least) translation, but I suggest reading it for more information about the purple varietal in China. So, this tea cracks me up, because on first examination, it smells like bacon! Ok, not really, but the blend of smokiness, leather, and sauteed mushrooms oddly reminds me of bacon, this tea is all about the savory, toss in some cooked spinach and a camphorous undertone and you have a green tea that has the essence of Yunnan. I am calling it that from now on because most teas from this region have it, though this tea leans more towards the savory side, which I like!
The leaves, once brewed, become super rich and smooth, with notes that are both evocative of a seaside and a forest floor, along with some deliciously sauteed spinach and mushrooms. I really dig the seaweed notes and that finish of loam and camphor, very savory and nose tingly. The liquid, on the other hand, is delicate, with notes of smoke, sauteed mushrooms, and a finish of cooked spinach.
The first steep is very well rounded and smooth, it is very much so a full mouth sensation tea, starting off smooth on the tongue and turning to cooling as it slides down the throat. The taste is savory, there is no sweet to be found, with notes of sauteed mushrooms, very gentle smoke, a touch of seaweed, and finish of spinach. There is no camphor taste, just the cooling sensation, which is always a treat to have.
Now onto the second steep (and fair warning, I am tea sloshed, I met up with a friend and we had all told about 15 steeps of teas, and I had several steeps of a black and a green before that!) The aroma is smoky and loamy, like a forest floor with savory mushrooms, and just a tiny hint of floral. That little floral note is fun, more like the memory of a flower rather than the flower. Holy moly camphor! That is one cooling camphorous tea, I can certainly taste it this time, it is not just a sensation. Couple that with a meaty sauteed mushroom and a very green cooked spinach and you have a yummy tea…that might actually be a spy. I am pretty sure this is a green tea that is trying to infiltrate the world of Sheng Puerhs by pretending to be one.
Third steeping, the aroma is a bit mellow, blending smoky notes and a tiny hint of hay, along with gentle notes of spinach. Still pleasant, though not as robust as previously. This steep has gone back to the well rounded mouth, no more camphor explosion, just a gentle cooling sensation at the finish. The taste is spinach and mushrooms, keeping it savory and just a tiny bit meaty, though there is a very delicate sweetness at the finish. This tea is fascinating, it is like a Sheng Puerh and a particularly savory Mao Jian got together and had a very purple love child, and I am ok with that. I really enjoy green teas that have strong savory notes, I am a bit of an umami fiend, plus purple teas are just so much fun to look at!
Last night was the final night of the Dropzone Commander League, meaning next Monday is the first day of the tournament. I have a respectable (yes, this is sarcasm) 3-3 record putting me square in the middle for tournament seating. I have no hope of winning, I just hope that I make it past the first round of single elimination. Also my DAO suppliment experiments seems to be going well, I have not gotten a stomach ache after eating any of the things, including stuff that has made me really sick in the past, it also seems like my ‘post-fermentation’ headaches are better, meaning no more fear of Shou migraines (that was a horrifying thing, though it only happened after a really nasty Shou, higher grade clean ones give me a slight headache at the worst, much like the headaches I get post cheese binge. Though it did make me unable to even smell Shou without getting a splitting headache for the better part of year!) So that is news from the me world, now on to tea!
Today’s tea comes from the mad scientists at M&K’s Tea Company, specifically their Kuromaicha! If you are wondering what that is, it is a blend of Toasted Black Rice, Kyobancha, and Hojicha, this is a toasted tea lover’s dream, or at least my dream, because I am always wanting to see people make blends with Hojicha and Kyobancha, they are just such awesome teas that never get used. You all know me, I get excited when I see unusual blends, and that is how I first discovered M&K’s Tea Company, it is a bit of their specialty. So, does it smell toasty? Yes, yes it does, it is like a campfire with notes of marshmallow, toasted bread, toasted corn, loam, and a slight umami note from the toasted rice. Yes, it is rather fascinating, the black rice is not as sweet as the rice you get in the usual genmaicha, it has a savory note more similar to Basmati rice.
I decided to use my neglected pseudo-houhin for this one, the poor thing does not get enough love. Brewing the leaves fills my little tea area with an intense toasty aroma, like someone is toasting rice over a campfire next to me, it makes me feel warm and relaxed. The aroma of the soggy leaf pile (that looks like a leaf pile, Kyobancha is such a ‘pile of mulch’ tea) is sweet, with notes of marshmallow and freshly toasted corn and bread. After that is a finish of toasted rice and loam, with a lingering toasty note. The liquid is sweet, smoky, and loamy, just like an autumn campfire!
Ok, clearly someone took the essence of autumn and distilled it down into a cup of tea! It is loamy, toasty, smoky, grainy, and sweet, all in one! It is not as sweet as Kyobancha on its own, but it does still have the toasted marshmallow and loamy notes, but now they are mixed with toasted bread and rice, and a nice finish of smoke. It reminds me of eating rice crackers (not the seaweed ones, but the more Gluten Free alternate to crackers, ones) while drinking a toasty cup of more savory Kyobancha. This tea pleases me on a taste level and a feeling level, since it reminds me so much of my favorite parts of autumn.
I am filled with tiny, squishy, hope and trepidation! Today a package I have been greatly anticipating arrived, said package had a bottle of pills, those pills might make it where I can eat again without pain. Those pills are Diamine Oxidase Enzyme, an enzyme that helps squash the histamines released while eating (be it foods high in histamines or just food in general) and if my theory is correct, a large portion of my food related grief is Histamine Intolerance. Pity that I could not get tested for it since my Allergy specialist (like a lot of doctors in the US) thinks it is not a thing that exists. I am not sure it exists, but all the other things doctors have suggested do not work, and I am tired of being in pain while I eat. So, this might just be ‘snake oil’ but, maybe I will have the results that a lot of people who have this stupid intolerance have, and maybe I can eat freely! Wish me luck!!
Ok, enough about me, how about you Old Tea Tree Golden Needle of Yunnan? How are you, you beautiful fuzzy tea? You all know my weakness to fuzzy golden teas, I will not say that they are my favorite teas (I cannot narrow it dow…ok it is probably Oolongs, but shhhh) but it is definitely my favorite tea to look at, if I am sad all I need to do is look at that golden fuzz and I am in a better mood. It is like a teddy bear for tea loving adults (who also might still sleep with a stuffed animal, but whatever, I’M AN ADULT!) I am getting off topic again! So, Tanlong Premium Tea Collection put out these beauties, and as the name says, they hail from the beautifully tea rich region of Yunnan, China, grown high in the mountains and plucked from tea trees that are at least 100 years old. The aroma of the delightful fuzzies is rich and sweet, blending notes of cherry, cocoa, a tiny hint of pine wood, a little pinch of yams, and a nice roasted peanut fish. The pine wood note gives the rich tea a hint of crispness, it makes what would be a heavy aroma profile livelier.
Into the bat gaiwan of auspiciousness the beautiful needles go, this part always fills me with joy and sadness, the fuzzy golden leaves are no longer as golden (or fuzzy) but that means I get tea, so I can live with it. The leaves have become very bright and sweet once brewed, blending notes of malt, dried cherries, honey, pine wood, and a tiny hint of smoked peanuts at the finish. The liquid is sweet to the point of being creamy, like cocoa butter and cherries, with a nice tingly note of pine sap.
The first steep starts with a very pleasantly creamy mouth feel, surprisingly little ‘tickle’ from the fuzzy trichomes. It starts with gentle notes of cocoa and peanuts, this transitions to malt and honey at the finish. The first steep is very mild, sometimes when the first steep is mild you can just tell that it is not really going to evolve into anything spectacular, the flavor notes are mild because they are flat. This is not the case with this tea, you can tell the flavors are really going to pop in later steeps.
Ooh the aroma of the second steep is snappy, it mixes cocoa and roasted peanuts with, oh my, it is like sniffing menthol but without the mint, it has a delightful cooling cleaning note at the finish, that is just fun! The taste is just a mouthful of deliciousness! It starts off with a cooling and creamy mouthfeel, and then a boom of malt and cocoa. It mixes sweetness and a cooling sensation so fantastically, it is like a party in my mouth. The finish is cherry and honey, and that honey taste lingers for quite a while.
This steep’s aroma is more like the first, it loses its cooling nose tingle and brings back the pine sap and gentle smoke note along side cocoa and cherries. The taste is also similar to the first, as in it is super creamy and sweet, but does not have the cooling effect. There is a strong malty bite and a hint of woodiness at the middle, the finish is a touch of smoke and honey. This tea was a sensory treat, one that will linger in my memory for quite a while.
Today we are going to do something a little fun, a little bit of tea science! Instead of doing my usual ‘ok this is a Western tea, so I will have it Western Style, or it is from China so I will go for Gongfu style brewing’ I am going to take a tea and brew it all the ways!! This idea formed when talking to the proprietor of Young Mountain Tea, who suggested I try the tea two ways, Western style and making a Sun Tea, and my brain gears got to turning and voila, this idea was formed!
Presenting Indi’s Gold, a whole leaf, high altitude, black tea from Nilgiri, grown by Indi Khanna a veteran tea grower. According to the description it is the strongest and most unique tea offered, so this sounds like my kind of tea! First off, the basics, how do the dry leaves smell? In a word(s) super rich! It blends roasted peanuts, yams, tobacco, cocoa, and slightly sweet cherries with a powerhouse punch of malt. This will be an excellent experiment me thinks, since it blends notes you would expect from something like a Dian Hong and an Assam.
First off I wanted to start with my gaiwan, brewing it up in there the aroma of the now very thoroughly soaked and steeped leaves is sharp and rich, with notes of cherry, cocoa, yams, and a touch of tobacco at the finish. The liquid has a blend of honey, sweet chocolate, and a surprisingly pleasant floral note, similar to a very distant gardenia.
The first steep is mild and intense all at once, with strong notes of yams, tobacco, cocoa, and cherry. It has a slightly tannic, drying quality, giving the tea a bite at the tip of the tongue, but it mellows out by the time it reaches the back of the throat. It is brisk and rich, and the flavor notes remind me a little of a Yancha, which is pretty fun. The second steep is much lighter, no briskness or tannic notes at all, just smooth cocoa, yams, and a finish of malty and cherry.
And now some leaves travel to my steeping apparatus for a western style brewing session! This time the aroma is super rich and malty, with a hint of cherry at the finish. The taste, wow, that is one killer smooth tea, no bitterness or tannic bite at all, just smooth rich malt with an addition of dried cherry, yams, and a finish of roasted peanuts and chocolate. Once it gets really cool, like bottom of the cup I have been sipping this for about an hour cool, it gets a bit of a metallic taste at the end, not that it bothered me at all, but still worth noting.
My next experiment took a bit more prep time than the others, good old cold steeping! I took my travel infuser and stuffed it with leaves and water and tossed it in the fridge for an overnight cold steeping. The taste was pretty mild, with notes of malt and roasted peanuts with a finish of chocolate. There was a bit of a metallic tinge to it, and it was super mild, so I was not a huge fan, but to be honest I am just not a big fan of chilled black teas anymore, I think I OD’d when I was in the South.
Lastly is the Sun Tea, I have not made Sun Tea in ages, I had to rummage around for a suitable jar and after giving it a massive scrubbing (I used to use it to store a different tea, back when I stored my tea in jars) tossed in some leaves and water and left it in the sunlight for a couple hours. I preferred this because it wasn’t super cold, just a little warmer than room temperature (my tolerance for cold things is really low) so I enjoyed drinking it a lot more than the cold steep. The taste, well, I am glad I was advised to give it a try, because it is super yummy! Rich notes of malt and roasted peanuts with a finish of honey, yam, and a lingering cherry note. There is a tiny, tiny hint of metallic, but it leans more towards mineral. I think my favorite methods were Sun Tea and Western Style, both seemed to really let this excellent tea shine, and I can see this one becoming a favorite!
I did it! I finally found the time to garden, and yes I have a ton of other things I need to do and should finish them, but I needed to go play in the dirt. The point of this little patch of dirt that I will put plants in (and hopefully not kill them, I am not the best at gardening) is totally therapeutic. I need nature and a reason to go outside, and this was the perfect solution. So, my patch is all cleared of weeds, grass, and leaves, just need to get the soil’s health up a bit and then introduce some plants to it. I feel good, even if I have dirt in my hair now.
So, I got my hands on some money for doing a little fancy secret research work, and the first thing I spent it on was a shopping spree at What-Cha, some old favorites for my stash and some new fun ones to try for What-Cha Wednesday, a thing I hope never ends, and not just because I adore getting boxes from England. Today’s tea is not from my most recent order, but it is one that has been promoted to ‘must always have on hand’ status, and yet it has taken me a while to write about it, because it is a mind boggler, I worry I won’t do it justice, and that tea is: Korea Dong Cheon Daejak 2013 Sparrow’s Tongue ‘Jakseol’ Green Tea. This is the fourth ( Deajak) and cheapest of the Korean green tea flushes, and also this is the first Korean tea I have tried (well except my addiction to Oksuscha, the roasted corn tea of happiness) and it seemed like a good way to introduce me to it. I admit, much to my shame, that the Korean tea culture is probably one of my weakest knowledge points, a lot of it due to having a heck of a time finding things easily, but it is something I am working on. Ok, enough stalling, onto the tea! The aroma is, omg it is so good, there are notes of toasted sesame, tahini, toasted corn, a touch of creaminess, a tiny bit of toasted nori, and lastly a bright green ‘tea’ note. See, here is where it gets hard, that last note, it smells like the very distilled essence of the idea of green tea!
Brewing the tea is really what caused me to start going into fits, I was first trying this tea while visiting my mom, and she will tell you if you ask, I did start to make all sorts of noises, and ran over with tea gear for her to sniff it! I brewed it in my gaiwan that I also use as a pseudo-houhin because it resembles the travel sets sold in Korean tea stores, improvising! The aroma of the soggy bright green leaves is FANTASTIC, it is a blend of sweet corn, roasted sesame seeds, and a strong underlying toasted nori. It mixes grain and seaweed in a very happy way. The liquid is delicate, a blend of sweet and seaweed, it reminds me of one of my favorite snacks!
Yes, that favorite snack would be those nori wrapped rice crackers, I am not sure what they are called, you can buy them in bulk at a lot of grocery stores or at International markets, they are wonderful. I have not had them in a while because of stupid food intolerances, so a tea that tastes like a favorite food, yes please! So, the taste is fascinating, a blend of sweetness like sweet corn and toasted rice with toasted nori. The finish has a bright greenness to it, reminiscent of the grassy green of Matcha. Me likes!
Second steep! So, it smells like cereal, like Kix or something sweet and corn like, very grainy with a touch of rice and a delicate whiff of seaweed. Which is hilarious because the taste starts off with a much stronger toasted nori note, it is much more savory this time around, blending seaweed with green grass and a strong finish of corn cereal and toasted rice that linger for an eternity.
The aroma of the third steep is subtle in comparison to the previous steeps, mixing grains and seaweed in a perfect balance of sweet and umami. The taste is also milder, but it does not go quietly into the night, there is a sharpness this time, like the sharpness of biting into fresh artichoke, it tingles the tip of my tongue. The primary taste notes are cereal and seaweed with a touch of kale, there is not much sweetness until the finish where it lingers with a rice syrup like quality. I have had this tea numerous times since then, it is not an everday tea, it is one that I need to devote a time to contemplate.