602 Tasting Notes
Oh man, waiting for a possibly life altering doctor’s appointment is tiring! In two days I go to a GI doctor to find out whether or not yes, that rather ill thought out dismissal of me having Celiac disease after an unplanned biopsy when I was 21 was correct of not. Actually this will be a lot of looking at medical history and bloodwork and scheduling a new biopsy. I have been pretty gluten light for years (out of fear!) but lately I noticed that gluten makes me feel like death, so to prepare I have been gorging on the stuff, I feel like a corpse, but it is for science!
But enough about me, how are you? Fine I hope, enjoying some nice sunny weather while sipping tea? This is a good time of year for lounging on a tropical beach while sipping teas, but if you are like me and live too far away from beaches, you can evoke the feel with Green Rooibos Key West by Adagio Teas! With a blend of Green Rooibos, Marigold Flowers, Natural Passionfruit Flavor, Orange Peel, Mango Pieces, Natural Mango Flavor, and Natural Apricot Flavor, it is certainly a tropical party. The aroma is a great blend of tropical fruit and apricot, citrus, a touch of floral, and a tiny hint of woodiness and bamboo. It certainly lives up to its name as of sniffing the dry leaves, which is always a good sign.
Whoa nelly, steeping the dry leaves has turned the Tea Lair into a tropical paradise, minus the coconuts that I usually associate with the tropical things, but that is ok. Sniffing the now soggy leaves inside their little basket reveals some tantalizing aromas of fruity sweetness, primarily mango and apricot, there is a hint of floral in the middle, and at the end there is a nice zing of citrus. The liquid without its basket of leafy bits has a sweet and mild fruity aroma, very tropical, a fusion of citrus, passionfruit, and mango.
Tasting time! The first sip starts off a little dry and mild then all of a sudden a tropical fruit stand explodes in my mouth like a Jamaican Kool-Aid Man busting through a beach bungalow. It is not overwhelmingly sweet, more like delicate nectar of mango, passionfruit, and orange…this fades to a gentle floral and fairly delicate apricot taste that lingers into the aftertaste. The rooibos is there, but it is more like a guidebook on a tropical tour than part of the actual scenery, useful as a base but not overwhelming.
I am a shame to my proud Southern upbringing as in I rarely make traditional iced tea anymore, when I want iced tea I just cold brew it in my fridge for a few hours using my handy travel mug. Actually I am a shame to my upbringing even more because I just do not drink much iced tea, but some days are too hot and I want something cool. This tea seemed like a perfect candidate to cold steep for an evening sip (on my perpetual quest to find more evening teas that I love) plus iced tropical teas are just where it is at, yo. Remember that dryness and bursting in of fruit flavor? Totally gone as a cold brew, instead it is a smooth fruity sweet transition to a cool relaxation, it starts out with mango, then to apricot, then orange, until finally I am left with the afteratste of passionfruit. Why the apricot and passionfruit get reversed in cold steep is beyond me. Usually when I cold steep teas I just mention it as being good and if it had any awesome qualities, this is one of the few times that I think it is better cold. The flavors are more subtle and relaxing, it is like the difference between a busy afternoon and sunset. And with that, I am going to go lounge in bed fanning myself while sipping my cold tea, because it is HOT!
Just a typical Sunday in my neck of the woods, I slept in, the weather is getting to be unpleasantly hot again, and everybody (but my working sweetheart) is home. It has been a mostly lazy day for me, just catching up on some reading and tea sipping.
Today’s tea is an old classic and much loved staple of my tea collection, Genmaicha! This specific rice filled bancha is from Good Life Tea, a company just recently brought to my attention. It is always nice to discover new places to find tea, especially if you are a hardcore addict like me. The aroma is exactly what you expect from a Genmaicha, if you have never had the pleasure of sniffing one, the notes are a blend of roasted rice, a touch of honey sweetness, a bit of freshly mown grass and hay, and just a touch of fresh vegetation. It is a delightful blend of green tea and popped rice, the aroma is one of those that has always been very homey to me.
After I give the tea a steeping (oh great tea gods do not smite me for not using my kyusu, I didn’t want to get out of my chair) in a tea basket, the aroma of the now wet leaves is even more toasted rice. In fact I am pretty sure I cannot even smell the green tea over all the delicious toasted rice aroma. The liquid without its leafy and rice friends has an aroma that is a blend of rice, a touch of grass, and a bit of butter. It is very mild and subtly sweet.
The taste of this Genmaicha is a nice blend of green and rice. There are tasty notes of hay, grass, and a touch of honey at the start, this fades to a nice burst of toasted rice and a touch of nuttiness. The finish is creamy and a touch sweet, with a nice lingering toasted rice taste. This is certainly a tasty Genmaicha, it evokes that feeling of being comfy at home while tasting good, I approve.
Flavors: Grass, Hay, Rice, Toasty
It is a nice tea made from roasted corn, the smell is like a mix of popcorn, sweetcorn, roasted coffee, and touch of burnt. It is another one of those smells that makes me feel like I am tucked under blankets on a cold day.
Oh dear, it seems I have been doing this wrong…one of those big ol’ bags is enough to brew a pot of tea and not a cup. I guess I like this stuff strong! The taste is exactly like the smell, roasted corn, sweet corn, a touch of toast, and a bit of earthy graininess to it. There is also a similarity to roasted coffee, just without any of the coffee elements, it is probably the only roasted tea I have seen any real similarity to coffee other than a few Hojicha here and there
This tea is an odd one, it starts out really sweet, like brown sugar oatmeal with dates and nuttiness, but it has a distinctly herbal bitterness at the finish that makes it a bit unpleasant. Also the nuts and bits floating around in the tea kept causing me issues, sadly I ended up dumping this one down the drain.
made from germinated brown rice, mugwort, wheat, black beans, barley, and job’s tears. Snipping the little package open and giving it a good sniff (while not getting powder up my nose, win!) you can certainly tell this is a rice and grain based drink. It smells like sticky rice, regular rice, and cereal with a little bit of sweetness, kinda reminds me of Cream of Rice.
After I mix it with warm water and give it a thorough stirring…and then let it cool enough so I don’t burn my tongue, it is time to taste this rice based tea. It is really quite tasty, if you are into drinking warm and slightly creamy tea that tastes like a mixture of nuts, green things, and sweet cream of rice. Conveniently I am, but as Ben was kind enough to tell me, this one might be a very acquired taste. Especially since you have to stir it constantly or it more or less forms cream of rice at the bottom of your cup.
I promised myself I would do more tea gear reviews, because let’s face it, behind every good tea is some awesome gear to make it. I mean you can just make tea in a mug using a microwave, I did that for years, but once you start getting into the ‘hard stuff’ you notice that you manage to amass a decent sized collection of tea paraphernalia. Since a lot of my goodies come from thrift stores and that makes it hard to review sometimes (no way to point others in the direction of getting said gear if they want it) so when I get tea gear I can review I am definitely going to do it.
This review starts with a tragedy of sorts. I previously had an Aladdin Tea Infuser Mug for my out and about tea times, it worked decently except for the leaking problem (not a toss in the purse and go kinda mug) and over time I found myself want one without leakage. Also one that had a filter so I didn’t have to stuff my teas in the basket. I think the Tea Infuser Mug heard my grumbling because about two months ago the blasted thing broke. So after months of comparison shopping for the cheapest thing that was exactly what I wanted, I stumbled across my new toy.
Meet the Double Wall Glass Thermos With Metal Infuser by Tealux. Actually the brand is Asiatica, but since they are only whole sale and I could not actually find the thermos on the website, we are just going to ignore the adorable teapot brand stamp on the bottom. I went with the middle size of 400ml (13.5oz) because I wanted more tea but not quite THAT much more tea, and I am glad I stuck with the middle size because this thing is quite hefty, any bigger and I would need stronger arms.
It does exactly what it says on the…err…tin, it keeps the tea nice and warm or nice and cool, depending. I have used it for both hot and cold steeping, I found that it started to either warm up or cool down respectively after about three hours. The only reason I know that is because I took a nap and woke up to room temperature tea, usually I have the tea chugged too quickly to notice. Since it is made with nice, sturdy, borosilicate glass it feels warm or cool to the touch, perfect for cooling me off on a hot day or cuddling close when I feel chilled. I may have taken that nap curled around a warm tea infuser earlier, not going to deny it.
The best part of this tea thermos is the not leaking all over me if I knock it over (or decide to nap with it) no more worrying about taking tea on the bus, or in my purse, or to a bookstore, it is awesome! The only time it has leaked in the time I have had it is when I didn’t screw the lid on tight enough. Let us talk about the lid, for those who hate plastic (not me, obviously) there is a little in the lid, but it is BPA free and does not give a plastic taste. I mean maybe, just maybe, if you have it upside down all the time and have it in constant contact with your tea it will? I have not tested that, but so far the contact it has had with my tea did not impart any taste at all.
Lastly is the little metal infuser. It is adorable, it has a cute little handle and convientent little prongs so it sits on the lip of the thermos and does not let leaves escape into your mouth. The holes are small enough that even the most determined rooibos would really have to work to escape, and really if it manages to go through that much trouble it deserves to be eaten. One word of advice, do not be afraid to push the basket into the correct position. My first use of my fancy new thermos (it was with some Long Jing for those curious) I did not push the basket correctly into place because I was afraid of breakage (yes, I am a weenie, it is a sad truth) and a few little dragon blades slipped through and on my final sip the basket fell out and onto my face. It was at this point that I noticed ‘oh, there is a lip for it to rest on, and hey there are little prongs too!’ I suppose having a sweet boyfriend who gave the thermos its first wash might not have been the best thing since I just plopped in leaves and water and went. Silly me for not properly studying my new tea gear!
For blog and photos (cats, oolong, creepers, oh my!) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/07/tealux-double-wall-glass-thermos-w.html
Eyebrow tea! This Chinese green tea is sometimes referred to as eyebrow tea because of its delicate curls, I have even seen this tea’s name translated to ‘silver fishhook eyebrow tea’ which sounds even more awesome. The aroma of these silvery curled leaves is fairly faint, but the notes I can detect with my sniffing are a touch of kelp, a hint of spinach, and a pinch of kale. The aroma is more vegetal and savory than sweet. After a nice little bath the aroma of the leaves is much stronger and still quite vegetal. The notes are kale, spinach, artichoke, and a hint of lemon at the finish.
The aroma of the first steep is pretty mild, a hint of citrus, vegetal, and a tiny bit of honey at the finish. The taste is quite mild as well, there is an interesting dryness to the mouthfeel, but there is not bitterness at all. In fact I would say it is quite smooth and refreshing with its notes of mild vegetal and hint of citrus.
Fir the second steep we get to really see what this green tea is about, and no surprise, it is about being green! The aroma is strongly vegetal, with strong notes of spinach and kale. The taste is buttery, like buttery cooked vegetables with a twist of citrus at the finish. There are also notes of spinach and asparagus, it is practically a vegetal party in my mouth. This is not the most complex green I have ever had, but it is certainly refreshing.
In the past I have had mixed experiences with Ginseng Oolong, usually I run into it as little green nuggets of oolong coated with a paste of ginseng dust. It is not bad but it has been far from my favorite way to sip oolong. I was so pleased when I saw this was just normal ol’ rolled oolong leaves. The aroma of the dry leaves is really sweet and a tiny bit toasted, it has notes of toasted bread, honey, orchids, and a touch of sesame. At the end of the sniff is a bit of an herbaceous zing, I can only assume it is from the ginseng. Once I give the leaves a good steeping in my gaiwan the aroma that wafts out is still really sweet, but also a lot more floral with notes of honeysuckle and orchid. There are also notes of honey, sesame seeds, and that same herbaceous greenness at the finish.
The aroma of the first steep is unsurprisingly quite sweet and a little creamy. The aroma is honestly like a milk oolong that has been roasted and given a nice sprinkling of ginseng. It smells delicious, I am not going to lie, my mouth is totally watering while waiting for the tea to cool enough to sip it. On first sip, well, I was right to have a watering mouth because this tea is delicious. It mixes the sweet honey, fresh floral, and gently toasted notes with a finish of ginseng. It is like nectar and herbs in one mouthful, ginseng is great, it has a gentle sweetness (like VERY mild licorice) a touch of hay, and an herbal taste. I really like it, as long as it is used in moderation.
The aroma of the second steep is much more floral, less creamy sweet, and more ‘nature’ with a touch of fresh vegetation and stems and a note of herbaceous. The taste takes its cues from t. The aroma, there is still honey sweetness, but it is very much so the honey sweetness of flower nectar. There are also the notes of roasted sesame seeds and fresh vegetation. The ginseng taste is a bit stronger this time as well, instead of being at the finish it shows up at the middle and lingers as an aftertaste. You can probably tell that I really liked this tea, but you all know me and my love of oolongs.
Last up is the black tea hailing from Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon if you are a bit old fashioned) the label on my tea package says this is bold and strong black tea, perfect for my breakfast tea. Fun fact about me, even though I can have many gongfu sessions during the day, my English roots show through with my first cup of a strong black tea, usually accompanied by loud music, today it was this tea and my Best of Queen collection. The aroma of the loose leaves is pretty rich with strong notes of malt and molasses, there are faint notes of roasted nuts and cherries, yum!
Pip pip, cheerio, and all that, the brewed tea smells quite delicious! With bold notes of malt, sweetness that is a mix of various dried fruits, molasses, and a nice brisk oak note at the finish, I was certainly woken up by the sniff! Upon the first sip I notice this tea has a nice dry mouthfeel and brisk taste, well if the sniffing did not wake me up, the tasting certainly did! This tea is robust, with strong notes of sweet molasses, malt, oak wood, cherries and a finish of pepper. Going full English and adding cream and sugar, the briskness is mostly replaced with boldness for a very smooth and strong cup of tea, an excellent wake up tea, but I expect nothing less from Kenilworth.
Flavors: Malt, Molasses, Oak wood
Plum Blossom White, it is a blend of Shou Mei White Tea, Jasmine Special Grade Green Tea, Safflowers, Sunflowers, Plum Flavor, and Jasmine Flowers. I have to admit, I have never seen plum and jasmine mixed, but I think the idea is stellar. The aroma of the dried (and rather fluffy) leaves is rich, a blend of heady jasmine, honey, and candy. Specifically it reminds me of these delicious plum gummies I used to get from my local Korean market back in high school. They were all the rage with my friends and me, they have a distinct fresh plum aroma along with a grape aroma, it blended the candy smell with fruit smell really well. After that little bit of nostalgia I also picked up on fresh vegetation and a touch of earthiness.
Steeping the tea brings out more of the honey and plum aroma, really it smells like fresh plums drizzled in honey. There is an undertone of heady jasmine and fresh vegetation, along with a touch of plum candy and earthiness. The taste starts out honey sweet which transitions to fresh vegetation and growing things. This fades to heady jasmine and lastly a nice pop of fresh juicy plum and plum candy, this lingers on as an aftertaste. On a whim I tried this tea iced and let me tell you, that was an excellent idea, it was sweet and fruity on its own, but with a little bit of added sugar, it was like drinking a fresh plum.
Flavors: Candy, Green, Jasmine, Plums