366 Tasting Notes
Keemun Tea is a fairly popular (ok it is probably the most famous of the Chinese Black, or Red Tea if you are fancy) tea from Jiangxi Province. Also known by the name Qimen, which is what I recognized it as for years before I realized Keemun and Qimen were the same things, ah dialects, so much fun! This Keemun has a delightful smoky aroma that is stronger in this batch than other Keemuns I have tried, and I really enjoy that. Along with the smokiness there is a rich sweet aroma and a touch of wine. Sadly I am not skilled enough to say what kind of wine the aroma evokes except red and sweet, I am sure someone with more wine skills than me can fill in the blanks.
Once the tea has been given a trip to the sauna it takes on an oaky aroma, like it has been aged in an oak cask somewhat smoky. The aroma is super rich and mouthwatering, I feel like I am being transported to a basement in Venice or the like. Nothing to do with China, I know, but that is where the aroma took me. It is lovely. The liquid once the leaves have wandered off is still very rich and smoky but also has a sweet note.
After I finish being transported to another part of the world I figure it is time to drink the tea, after-all this is the last tea I will be drinking for a few days, I might as well enjoy it! The taste is tangy, in a very delicious way, similar to oak resin or the aroma of oak galls. For someone who has spent way too much time in a forest this flavor will be very nostalgic and pleasant. There is still the smoky richness that the aroma promised and it mixes with an underlying sweetness that stays in the mouth long after you have swallowed. This is a perfect tea for an Autumn evening, I plan on saving the bit I have left for just such an occasion. The first really cool, smoky evening I will sit under the stars and sip this tea. I really enjoyed it, it is smoky enough to evoke the Autumn feel and just give you the idea, but it is no where near as smoky as Lapsang Souchong. A delicious tea before I have to take a break.
Yes, today is an Oolong day! Specifically Da Yu Ling Oolong by Yezi Tea. This tea is the highest grade of Taiwanese Oolongs (ooh fancy!) and grows 7,500 ft above sea level where they are frequently blanketed by fog. Apparently the fog and temperature gradient turns this tea into a veritable warrior of flavor, fighting the other Oolongs to gracefully bow to you and claim it is your champion. Why yes, I have been reading High Fantasy again, why do you ask?
The aroma of the dry leaves is so good I actually moaned, I have no shame, but I am glad I was home alone while enjoying this tea. Very sweet and yeasty, like freshly baking bread. There is also the intoxicating scent of honey and orchids with a small afterthought of allspice. Here is where it gets weird, the aroma reminds me of the smell of Amanita bisporigera aka Destroying Angel, the world’s most toxic mushroom, and that is awesome. How is that awesome, you are probably asking, because those mushrooms smell great! Sweet like baking bread and flowers, pretty odd for such a deadly thing. I really swear this is a compliment from an avid amateur Mycologist.
Time for steeping! Oh no, I did it again, I inhaled the aroma and moaned in joy, how embarrassing. The steeping leaves take on a wonderfully rich roasted chestnut aroma that blends tantalizingly with the aroma of honey drenched orchids. I am not exaggerating when I say the aroma of the steeping leaves is mouthwatering. The liquid once the leaves have been removed smells much milder, like a whisper of the original aroma from the steeping leaves.
Why is this tea so good? I took a sip and just spaced out staring at the backyard while the flavor transports me to a trance state. The taste is very mild and subtle but the flavors that are there are so good, it is like tasting tea in a dream where the flavors are very clear but muted at the same time because this is a dream. Those dream like flavors are heady orchids and sweet honey.
If you guessed that I was going to try a second steeping then you are completely correct! The liquid takes on even more of an intense roasted chestnut aroma and becomes even headier. I think I am getting dizzy. The flavor is still very mild and similar to the first steep but now the chestnut taste starts to stand out. I also notice a mineral aftertaste that I always appreciate in an Oolong.
The third and final steep brings out even more intensity in the aroma, all the other scents that were there before are still there but take on a richer tone. The taste becomes more mellow but with the floral notes take center stage as the chestnut ones fade out. The longer you sip the more intense the floral taste becomes. I could get lost in this tea.
Blog review and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2013/10/yezi-tea-da-yu-ling-oolong-tea-tea.html
Superfruit White Tea- Mangosteen with Mango by Good Earth Tea is made from a yummy combination of ingredients; White Tea, Rosehips, Natural Mango Flavor, Blackberry Leaves, Mangosteen Peel, Hibiscus, Chamomile, Star Anise, Mangosteen Extract and Grapeseed Extract. The aroma of this teabag is deliciously sweet and as expected, very fruity. The mangosteen smells syrupy and the mango gives a tropical and musky undertone indicative of mangoes. Sadly I do not pick up any aroma of the tea itself, or any of the other ingredients, just the heavy aroma of tropical fruit. Ok, really though, I am not complaining since these are two of my favorite fruits (as stated earlier).
Once I place the teabag into the water the room is instantly transformed into a tropical fruit basket. It is incredibly sweet smelling, almost too much so. I worry that drinking this tea will be like drinking the fruit syrup that canned fruits are kept in, tasty if you are craving it, but not good as a tea. I think this has to be the sweetest smelling tea I have ever had the honor of sniffing.
Enough steeping and time for the sweet tropical goodness. Or not. This tea is not at all sweet! I feel slightly betrayed after all that syrupy build up. The taste is a blend of tart and herbaceous, a mixture of chamomile and what I can assume is Bai Mu Dan since it tastes similar to its flavor profile. There is also a very mild woodsy taste which blends well with the chamomile and white tea flavors. The aftertaste is that of mangosteen which is better than none at all. It might seem like I am being unfairly disappointed, but that aroma was so intensely sweet and for the taste to have no sweetness at all really does feel like a letdown. The flavors in a vacuum without the aroma to compare it to are not bad, nothing too spectacular though.
The first tea, White Monkey from Hunan Province, is neither white or a monkey, but it is delightfully fuzzy (this fuzz is called Trichomes, for the botany minded types) and very lovely to look at. White Monkey is actually a fairly delicate green tea that was picked very early in the season and in a lot of ways acts like a white tea. Full of mystery and fuzz, just the way I like my tea! The aroma of these downy leaves is sweet, like hay and fresh vegetation, like walking through an overgrown field. There is also a rich undertone of muscatel that is wonderfully mixed with the initial sweetness. A very fresh aroma that is both mellow and invigorating. It always amuses me when a tea can do that.
Once the leaves are taking a nice swim in their warm bath the aroma takes on a floral tone, a nice comparison to the initial field aroma of the leaves (the field has bloomed! Spring to Summer) it fades to a mix of muscatel and bright citrus. A pleasant little zing at the end, a wake you up from your daydreaming about fields. The liquid away from the leaves has the aroma of fresh hay, very mild and pleasantly sweet.
I love drinking fuzzy teas because it always tickles just a little bit. The taste is what is important, not the adorable fuzz, this first brew I gave a short steep and it produced a delightfully mild tea. The primary taste is vegetal, like spinach, mixed with mown hay. The aftertaste is gently sweet with a tiny, tiny hint of flowers. As the tea cools it takes on a quince flavor with a bit of tartness.
The second steep I let sit a bit longer to see what other flavors I could glean, as per recommended from the website. The aroma is much more green and takes on a real body that honestly I thought of as crunchy. Odd I know, but that was the first thing that came to mind ‘this smells crunchy.’ The taste is much more intense! The quince taste that was noticed once the tea cools is much more prominent and is accompanied by a citrusy tartness. There is a strong vegetal aftertaste that wraps up the tea nicely. As to be expected the second steep is not as fuzzy. A nicely mild tea that is one that is good for anytime drinking.
Today I have dental work done, and everyone knows that having dental work means I need to drink lots of tea, right? Actually I do not think they are at all related, but I wanted a nice Japanese Green to relax me before my inevitably unenjoyable experience. Something refreshing and evocative of spring, something from a store that is far, far away in Pennsylvania. Something like:
Wegman’s Ureshino Tomo Ryokucha. Sadly they do not have an order online function (if they did I would never have to bother my friends to mail me my favorites when I drink them all) but through research and rumors I believe their distributor is Ito En so in a way this is a review of both a Wegman’s tea and Ito En’s. Ureshino (meaning it is from Ureshino, Saga Prefecture, Japan) Tomo Ryokucha (or Guricha, curly tea) is a pan-fired tea with absolutely lovely leaves. The aroma is is very refreshing, a blend of vegetal and sweet mixing notes of spinach with scuppernongs. After these initial notes fade you are left with a gentle citrus aroma that just kind of tickles the nose. This tea is certainly sweeter than most Japanese greens, which I find very intriguing.
When I introduce the leaves to their new watery friend I am greeted with the aroma of freshly roasted chestnuts, how surprising! After the initial chestnutty surprise I was able to detect the sweet smell of fresh hay or, if you are into that kind of thing, the smell of woodruff. The liquid itself smells much more vegetal mixing nicely with tones of chestnut and fresh grass.
Ah, I wish I had any skill at writing Haiku, because truly this tea deserves poetry (in its traditional native form of course) but I don’t so I must make do with flowery speech. Sometimes a tea is mild and it is boring, a real let down, sometimes a tea’s mildness is so wonderfully perfect that you wonder why you would ever want anything stronger. This tea fits into the perfectly mild category (or the Haiku comment would be just sad) with the main note being roasted chestnuts leaving a very sweet aftertaste. After the initial chestnut sweetness the taste of mown hay and a tiny taste of spinach. I wanted a tea that tasted like spring time and refreshed me, and this one certainly works.
Hey, big surprise! I am drinking an Oolong! Really though I do my best to have variety and not do all Oolong all the time, it is hard since I do have a lot of it. It would be sad if my blog became a one note tea horse, yes that is a bit of tea history humor for you. You have to forgive me since I am currently reading a book on tea history and culture so I am distracted by my Armchair Historian tendencies.
Jade Oolong (Four Seasons Spring) by Rishi Tea comes from the glorious land of Taiwan. I, however, did not travel to Taiwan to procure this tea, instead I found it on the wall of tea at Whole Foods who thankfully have a decent selection of teas when I need a fix. I do love getting packages in the mail, but being able to smell the fresh teas before buying is a wonderful experience. The aroma of this beautifully spring green Oolong is unsurprisingly quite green! Not very vegetal, more the aroma of fresh vegetation on a spring day mixed with new blooming flowers and a touch of freshly mown hay (or woodruff for the herbal types.) This might be the mildest Oolong I have yet sniffed!
Brewing the tea brings out a stronger aroma and lots of interesting notes. At first we notice the floral notes that are mild but very fresh, like lilacs, following that there is that delightful chestnut aroma that I love in Green Oolongs. As it steeps a little more the tea takes on an herbaceous tone mixing thyme with the floral notes and a hint of moss. The brewed liquid reminds me of lilac with a slight whisper of allspice.
The taste of this Oolong is exceptionally mild, an excellent palate cleansing tea. The tea has a vegetal taste, reminiscent of green beans and fresh grass. It finishes a tingly pine needle note and a mellow sweet aftertaste. This tea is very refreshing and cleansing, and pleasantly light if you are in the mood for that. Usually I prefer a stronger taste from my Oolong, but I will certainly keep this around for after a heavy meal to remove said heaviness.
While the agony of the leaf is happening (does that still count with a tisane?) the aroma just fills up the room and makes me incredibly hungry. The steeping leaves manage to smell even more rich, creamy, and limey than the leaves and it is very distracting. The liquid smells very sweet and has a rich earthiness from the Rooibos that plays off the lime really well.
I have Lemongrass apprehension, I really dislike Lemongrass but I have the motto of ‘will try everything’ and have been pleasantly surprised more times than not. Steeling my nerve and taking a sip…and unsurprisingly it tastes exactly like it smells! So much lime dancing with sweet creaminess and a rich earthy undertone. No lemongrass at all, some might say that is bad, but I do not notice it at all (or it might blend so perfectly that it just not stand out.) This tea is very sweet, adding any sweetener to this tea would make it saccharine, it is a true dessert tea. If you close your eyes while drinking it, you can almost taste the crust.
While window shopping for new tea to try, yes it is a hobby that I partake in most evenings because either I am completely obsessed or…actually or nothing, I am completely obsessed with tea. It is a lifestyle. Anyway, while window shopping I discovered the website for Yezi Tea and their delightful ‘try before you buy’ promotion sending you three samples of their teas for the very reasonable price of shipping. Of course I chose three different Oolongs because they are my favorite tea to drink (maybe). They were kind enough to send me an extra sample and that is what I am reviewing today.
First off, you need to visit the website for the Li Shan Oolong because it is wonderfully informative! Not only is there really detailed steeping instructions, it also delights in telling me that this particular Oolong is from the Li Shan Mountain Range in the Nantou County of Taiwan, harvested at 6,600-7,800 feet above sea level. Those who follow my blog know how much I love this kind of information, I am such a collector of information that it makes me giddy! But I bet you are here for the actual review of the tea, so allow me to introduce this Oolong’s aroma! Why, hello delightfully floral Oolong, you are very light and reminiscent of a spring day. The main floral aroma is honeysuckles, not so much the heady summery aroma of honeysuckles but the late spring early bloom where the flowers are just starting to open their petals. Hiding beneath the freshly blooming honeysuckles are notes of sweet honey and a touch of rose.
As the tea steeps it first takes on the aroma of hay and strawflowers but very quickly turns into heady orchids. It fills the room up with the aroma of orchids and that mild chestnutty aroma I find in Oolongs, and it is lovely and sweet. The brewed liquid smells like honey and very mild orchids, surprisingly mild considering how heady the brewing leaves are.
The first steep is mellow and sweet! The initial taste is that of honey followed by the slight mix of fresh vegetation and mown hay. It gives a slightly tingly mouthfeel that is very refreshing and enjoyable. There are aftertastes of flowers that do not linger.
In the second steep we lose some of the sweetness and it is replaced with an intense richness. The taste becomes much more heady and floral, intoxicating, with a touch of vegetal green taste that blends well with the intense floral taste. The aftertaste is that of chestnuts and hay.
In the third steeping we get something that I absolutely adore in Oolongs (other than all the other tastes that have graced me with their presence) a mix of copper and minerals. That may not sound very tasty, but it is, every time I drink and Oolong that has these flavors it reminds me of a mountain spring, it is very clean but the undertones of minerals and copper are delightful. I should note that the mineral and copper taste are just hints, the main taste in this steeping is an even more intense floral with rich nutty notes.
In the final steep the sweetness from the first returns, delightfully mild with a touch of honey. The floral taste also is much more mellow and a sweet chestnutty aftertaste is present. A wonderful last cup!
While I am reviewing this tea a fancy Black and White Pirate movie is playing in the background, even though it takes place in British ruled Caribbean there is a serious lack of tea and a serious amount of period incorrect parasols. One of the tragic problems with movies at times that I can at least halfway correct, with tea. Luckily the kind people at Lurve Tea sent me a fine bag of tea of their tea to sample.
The aroma of Lurve Tea’s Original is deliciously mellow with a slight touch of maltiness. There is a note of the brightness you can find in ceylon teas that really blends well with the malt notes. A very standard black blend aroma with more of a mellow tone. Very refreshing!
Once steeping the tea takes on a rich nuttiness that mixes well with the underlying maltiness and brightness. I have to admit this tea smells delightful and I cannot wait to drink it!
I decided to brew this British style, meaning a touch of sugar and a splash of cream. A very rich taste with no bitterness or astringency. This is a wonderful tea to wake up with, so I feel a bit bad for drinking it late in the evening instead of first thing in the morning. This tea is exquisitely smooth and excellently blended, the taste is malty and mildly sweet. Delicious!
Today we are reviewing the other tea that I received from Yunomi, Blue Oolong by Masami Higuchi of the Kaneban Higuchi Tea Factory. Awesome fact, this tea comes from the Shiga Prefecture, home of the beautiful Lake Biwa, and I love knowing this because visualizing where the tea I am drinking comes from just makes the experience even more enjoyable. The aroma of the Blue Oolong is delightfully earthy and mild, it reminds me of the piney, earthy, mineral, aroma of mushrooming in the forest. I swear that is an incredible compliment! There is also a tanginess to the aroma that vaguely reminds me of chrysanthemum flowers which blends very well with the initial aroma of earthiness and pine resin. The finishing notes are green like freshly unfurled oak leaves. A very intriguing aroma for an Oolong.
The steeping brings out some very fascinating notes of sweetness which really accentuates the earthiness. While enjoying the steam wafting into my nose from the steeping leaves I get this wonderful feeling of brightness flicker through my whole body, I cannot help but sigh in contentment. The liquid still retains the pine aroma but has more of the pine needle than pine resin and is pleasantly sweet, there is an interesting undertone of kelp which just made my mouth water.
Something new and exciting! This Oolong is tart and refreshing, very surprising and new to me, which I like. It mixes the tartness with a smooth, creaminess that vaguely reminds me of Greek Yogurt. The aftertaste brings in notes of sweetness and a hint of floral that fades into kelp. I love how complex this tea’s flavor is, it is certainly unlike any Oolong I have ever had (possibly any tea) and I had to suppress a giggle at how enjoyably new this flavor is.
The second steep takes away some of the tart astringency and replaces it with a smooth floral taste with hints of vegetal green. I am surprised how much the second steep mellows the tea out to tasting more like a ‘traditional’ green Oolong with orchid notes, but there is still the aftertaste of kelp which I adore. Thank you Yunomi for giving me the chance to try some of your teas! I cannot wait to get my tea obsessed hands on some more.