673 Tasting Notes
I haven’t been visible on Steepster much over the past few weeks which is odd since most of you know that I love tea, and care about the people in this unique meeting place.
Spring brings dramatic changes to the weather! Thunder and lightning, late snow and the first warm days worthy of stripping off my sweater.
For me, these weather fluctuations are physically painful. The weather triggers migraines and fibromyalgia pain. Sleep is disturbed, my bones ache and through brain fog I have the hardest time making a decent cup of tea.
Today I was lucky!
I woke with usual painful bones at 4AM then fell asleep on the couch at 10:00. The weather had dipped from 67 degrees to 19 degrees in 13 hours. When I rose again, I didn’t have faith that I could make a decent cup of tea but I tried anyway.
Ajiri is strong tea! I’m fond of it in the morning with milk.
For days, I had been over-steeping, under-leafing, screwing up every tea I touched. It had been discouraging. I had gone to my tea-bar a couple of times just to have someone else fix tea for me.
I carefully measured the tea (which I seldom do anymore) into a 20oz pot and steeped 2 minutes (longer than the 1 recommended). Failure wasn’t an option anymore. This needed to be done right!
When I poured the first cup, the flavor was perfect! Strong, brisk and bready. I added evaporated milk and some sweetening to balance the richness.
Of course I’ll get through this physical slump, I’ve had this happen before…but I thought I should say something. You might know someone who goes through this too and could use a little understanding or help fixing a cup of tea.
A couple of people had noticed that I had been absent from Steepster. Writing thoughtful reviews when I’m not well and my bones ache isn’t fair to the tea. This situation will end soon enough.
About this Ajiri tea though…for anyone who isn’t a fan of malty tea’s but has been searching for a strong tea that isn’t bitter and stands up well to milk…this would be a good choice.
I met Annalisa and all 5 boys at Horsetooth Park this afternoon, armed with crackers and hugs.
It was a warm, cloudy day, perfect for playing without the worry of sunburn.
The park has a water play area, a tunnel mountain, various playgrounds for different ages, hiking trails and a dog park with fenced in swimming lake for dogs.
To both 2 year old’s, I’m “Dama” and to everyone else I’m “Grandma”.
After playtime, I took 8 year old Micah for some time alone. It’s important for him to know how special he is to me. His life has been difficult. Being 8 and bipolar, makes you feel different in a way that isn’t always good. He loves coming to my house and being my special boy.
I drove the long way home, stopped by the lower lake and we took a walk talking about fishing and why there were holes in the rocks. Then we went off to Happy Lucky’s for tea.
I brought my new Chai Spice with me. Who brings tea to a tea shop, or Chai Spice? I do!
For some reason, Happy Lucky’s was empty when we arrived and stayed that way. Maybe it was the clouds in the sky…sending streaks of lightening further out on the Prairie that was keeping people away. Whatever the case, Eric…Sam…Micah and I had Happy Lucky’s Tea House to ourselves!
Eric made the Chai in a fancy pot using a malty black tea base, milk and honey for all of us to enjoy.
Micah and I sat at the tea-bar and I poured tea very high above the little teacups from the copper teapot with it’s long curved spout. The 3 ft. stream of tea hit the cups creating froth without spilling a drop! (I’ve done this before) Everyone enjoys seeing me pour Chai!
This Chai was subtle, not too spicy or peppery. I could tell this was a Verdant Chai. Some Chai’s are ‘in your face’. By that I mean, there’s ‘lots’ of clove or cardamom or pepper and sometimes I feel like I’ve had Chai mouthwash!
Verdant Chai’s are gentle. Not weak, but not raw and rough either.
I can’t wait to try the Chai blend with Laoshan Black Tea. I know magic will happen with this Chai blend and Laoshan Black, who knows why…but it will happen. It’s a mystery! Maybe a miracle.
There are recipes so subtle that you might be tempted to rush past without consideration. We have become that kind of society. Rushing on to the huge tastes, the bold flavors. Refinement and restraint is something that I’m learning to appreciate and this blend is more refined.
Micah, my tea-guy friends and I all enjoyed our late afternoon Chai, and I’m looking forward to many more cups and some experimentation.
As Micah began to get over-active, I took him to the bins of tea and we began to go through the samplers, experimenting with the scents of mint and cacao, then lemon and ginger…and on and on until he forgot where he was and became interested in the tea. He calmed down and enjoyed himself again.
My daughter came and picked him up at the shop. Teatime with grandma is a memory I’m creating with my grandchildren. http://flic.kr/p/e8ZT4i
Mrmopar sent me a few small Tuo cha’s around Christmas (nice of him) so this morning I rinsed one piece for 20 seconds in boiling water, poking it gently with my Puer knife. I used a small pot for brewing tea instead of a Gaiwan.
The steep time was 1 minute because I prefer a strong brew.
Surprisingly, the flavor wasn’t strong but bland. Uninteresting, bland Puer is something I rarely encounter.
Recently, I put together a bin of herbs, spices and berries for adding to tea when I feel like experimenting with flavor.
The list contains:
Elderberry, tulsi and various kinds of mint, goji berries, lavendar, cinnamon bark chips, dry ginger, burdock root, jasmine flowers,
chrysanthemum blossoms, cranberries, orange peel, cassia seeds and cocoa hulls. (Most items cost about $2 an ounce)
I had this blah tasting Puer and I knew that I could do something to improve the flavor with an ingredient from my bin of goodies.
I chose the packet of cocoa hulls and steeped a very small amount in the brew basket with the bland Puer tuo cha.
The addition worked! I created a tasty pot of very Cocoa PU! I added cream and sweetened the cocoa pu to make it even more delicious.
Can’t wait to see what else can be created from this bin of flavor boosters!
My daughter called…
“Mom, guess what? We just got a ‘Star Award’ for best Foster Parents and I don’t know what to say? How can I accept the award when I get mad and frustrated at my children and lose it sometimes?”
It didn’t surprise me that she and my son-in-law recieved the award, or that she would say that she didn’t deserve it. People who deserve awards usually don’t realize that what they do is special, or heroic. It’s in their character to go beyond normal.
That same day, she got another call and was informed that they had received ‘Foster Parents of the Year’ for our County.
Now she was complaining again! “How could this be?!”
Blubber, blubber, blubber!
Calmly I explained that life has to have balance. The many nights sitting up with the bi-polar 8 year old who can’t sleep and is bouncing off the walls. The baby on oxygen who was crying. Then I remembered the baby who was thrown out the window and had broken bones, and the many newborns they had nursed off drugs.
The rest is on www.teaandincense.com with a picture…
REVEW 600…time sips by when I’m drinking tea!
If you’ve lost your way and can’t remember where your journey began, drink very good tea and your memory will return.
Tea Tasting 1
I took the first half of my packet of Mr. He’s 1st Picking Laoshan Black to share with my tea shop friends on a quiet Friday afternoon, just a big snowstorm descended on Old Town.
The flurries were heavy outside while I sat at the tea-bar gloating. I had picked the best time and had the Happy Lucky’s all to myself with Joe, Andy, Eric and Preston to sip tea with me behind the bar.
Eric was Gaiwan Master that evening…pouring for all of us.
We were a loud chorus of tea slurpers, spraying the liquid up and around the inside of our mouths to insure a contact to every tastebud.
Andy (who is the main tea blender and manager of the shop) was the first to comment on how much the tea reminded him of sweet, malty Brewery grains (reminder that this is a Brewery town and within walking distance of the teahouse are many breweries such as New Belgium, Odell, Equinox, Fort Collins, FunkWerks, Pateros, Coopersmiths).
These young men became very animated, curious about the flavor of the tea and the malty, grainy quality that smelled like their other favorite beverage besides tea and a dessert pastry.
I was not paying close attention to what Preston was doing with the Gaiwan, so I missed his comment that he was going to steep the tea leaves longer.
He steeped them a full 2.5 minutes! Espresso strength!!
Wow! I had no idea until I took a sip and… my eyebrows stood on end!
The flavor was fantastic! Everyone liked it!
A condensed, huge, BITE of tea packed with fruit, grain, sweet malt and caramel that lingered on and on as though I had popped a truffle in my mouth and let it melt!
Eric commented that in all his years of drinking tea, going from Black Tea to Green, then Puerh, it’s ‘Hand Crafted Black Tea’ that’s bringing him back to his first love.
I went home, intending to write a review, and got a bad cold!
I’ve been absent for the past week or so…sick, sick sick! I don’t write reviews when I can’t taste tea.
Now that I’m well, I’ve had a chance to think about Mr. He’s Tea.
One thing that I love about regular Laoshan Black is drinking it Western Style and not Gongfu (not using a Gaiwan). So, I asked myself, what if this 1st picking was better Western Style also?
Tea Tasting 2
Using the rest of my packet of tea, I prepared a small pot for Western Style Brewing.
(Laoshan Black Leaves are long and wiry,the 1st picking are almost like rolled oolong, curled up tight and smell peppery-savory)
As much as I enjoyed the previous Gaiwan preparation with my friends, I have to say that the teapot brew tasted better.
Laoshan Black is more chocolate and grainy tasting than Mr. He’s 1st Picking, which was also smoother with caramel. This tea tasted similar to Golden Fleece.
In my 600 reviews here on Steepster I’ve learned from all the people here (including the many tea vendors who so lovingly teach about their tea’s).
I could probably give up tea easier than I could give up the people I’ve met here on Steepser, and that’s the truth!
Thank you Teajo Teas for this generous Sample!
With open arms I’m enjoying the first Spring arrival of high mountain rain.
Next to my desk as I was looking outside the window the very bottom of the Rocky Mountain’s settled their jagged bones and smoothed out to a gradually descending plain.
I am in love with the drama of Frontrange weather! The romantic in me wants to pair the right tea with what’s happening in the atmosphere.
Black Manas arrived in the mail right on time for my imaginings.
With black and billowing clouds rolling overhead, I prepared a pot of tea and a 3.5 minute steep (I am a dark brew lover).
Taking my tea-tray to the largest window, I sat watching the sky. Tea is part of what is outside after all, more than what is in my heated, electronic filled house.
When I poured, the tea was very dark. I expected a strong and malty flavor, but was pleasantly surprised with a light, sweet and brisk taste that wasn’t very malty. Huh?
“What’s this?”, I asked myself. Had I assumed from the reviews that this was going to be a malty tea like so many other’s? This wasn’t the case.
For me, the tea was barely malty and had a clean citrus essense with delicious rose and butter cookie flavor.
The tea was strong, full bodied… yet gentle and smooth.
Sweetened and with cream…Superb!
As much as I love very strong Kenyan Tea when I need my jolt of caffeine, I really like the floral background in this tea very much!
For strong black tea lovers like me who want smooth superior flavor, this has it all!
For a rainy day, nothing could beat a tea like this one!
All eyes have been on ROME for the past few weeks and especially today!
I’ve enjoyed seeing the place that I’ve been to and wish to return on TV. It’s my dream to take my granddaughters to Rome (and Greece if I could). Unless there’s a miracle this won’t happen, but I hope they get to go one day.
I wrote about my adventure on my blog www.teaandincense.com with a link to a song by il volo and a few pictures by me.
I like the message of the new Pope. Blessed are the Poor! Remember the Poor!
Even though I am not Catholic, and you may not be Catholic either, I love to hear all words of Mercy. I am reminded and inspired to be better than I am.
My tea today reminded me of the goodness of the smallest of things, in the little leaves that we enjoy as tea.
This tea in particular gave me head to toe warming, like a broom had swept out an interior chill.
Have you ever lifted your cup of tea, taken a sip and shivered with delight?
I am a dark chocolate junkie, a salted chocolate lover.
This tea provided effortless imaginations of salted butterscotch with my beloved dark chocolate.
In my delighted fanciful imaginations, I wanted a buttery, flaky cheese croissant paired with the richness of my tea. I craved the flavors blending together.
Tea for memories, for memorable days…and then again…reminding me that such small things are gloriously important and wondrous…even when they don’t look like much. A small leaf, a dry and plain thing.
What person looks so plain and poor, observed as debris yet has such glorious importance when kindness and attention is given.
It makes me shiver.
Il Volo (Young singers from Rome) http://youtu.be/vFyaa5AB2sA
(My blog link was down but is working again.)
Thank you mrmopar for this pu-erh sample!
Yikes! What a hardened packet of pu-erh nibs! I had to SOAK the little devils for a bit to soften them enough to break apart, all the while letting no color from the nibs leech into the water.
As I said, “Hard!”
Once they were pliable, color began to swirl rapidly in my glass pot and timing began.
A minute later, I pulled my basket and took a sip of the dark coffee brown liquor.
The flavor was savory mushrooms, sweet and salty. When I moved my head back from the cup, I smelled vanilla tobacco as the scent of the mushrooms mixed with vanilla wafer.
Late in the tasting, the feel of spice tingled my tongue the way cinnamon feels.
I wasn’t expecting this much complexity out of the work I put in breaking up the nibs. They were pretty ugly and the liquor was uninteresting to look at.
People can be like tea. Not much to look at and uninteresting on the surface. Some are very hard and take time to get to know! If time is taken, and if we can look past that initial hardness they can be the most interesting, unique and memorable people of our lives.
Like always, tea is an awesome teacher.
I was cleaning the linen closet and smelled smoke. Following my super nose like a hound-dog, I went outside and there was a huge plume of smoke up where the big fires were last Summer that lasted a month.
It’s only MARCH!
Some people have been evacuated, but we’re hoping for the first rains to arrive tomorrow (without lightening).
The smell of smoke…ugh!
I needed to go out and meet my family for dinner, so I picked Ajiri to give me the jolt I needed to face the smoke and get moving.
This is that one tea you want when you have to study late at night or when you have to drive a long distance. It will keep you running.
I’m not affected by caffeine for very long. The deep straightforward black tea flavor is what really appeals to me.
Thank you Janet for this sample of your new tea creation!
Everybody knows that I’m a Puerh Nerd and proud of it!
A Puerh Nerd is a Tea Nerd that smells like dirt! (That’s a joke!)
It was another Georgeous Morning on the Frontrange today! Birds singing and traffic reports to beware of SUN GLARE (which I think is amusing since my home in California wasn’t as close to the sun as living in the Rocky Mountains!).
Cinnamon Swirl Bread sounded like a festive and fresh beginning to my day.
Right when I was setting up my teapot, I almost missed the first ingredient ‘2008 loose Puerh’, thinking the tea had a black tea base. (Good thing I read the label more carefully!)
Janet ‘only’ uses organic, fair-trade ingredients, listing them on the package. The label explained timing, how to do multiple steeps and suggested 5 (or more) making this a great tea value.
Could the flavor really deliver though? I’ve tried so many blended Puerh’s that get it wrong!
A lot of thought went into the ingredients. I was confident that the puerh, cocoa nibs and cinnamon would do well through multiple steeping, but the black tea was also hearty and didn’t become weak through 40 ounces of testing.
Janet created a delicious cinnamon bakery bread tea, no doubt about it!
The cinnamon isn’t sour or overdone! The tea doesn’t taste like chai or cinnamon tea, it’s what it says…bread! KUDO’s!
(I added some more sweetener and milk to make my tea even richer but you wouldn’t have to…)
Would order this tea? Absolutely! It’s one that I’d play around with even, adding a little ginger now and then, or orange. It’s what I do.
The body is smooth, rich and substantial because of the puerh.
Ah that word came up didn’t it, Puerh! What about that?
If you’re a puerh lover and want a punch of puerh flavor, forget it. You can’t really taste the puerh. It’s lending body and richness to this blend. It’s one of those wheat-bread puerh’s.
Anyone fearful of puerh, who might have pulled back from trying this blend anticipating an earthy or fishy taste is safe!
You can’t taste the Puerh, but you get all the health benefits!
This tea is a winner from sTEApShoppe!
I’ve tried to be open about my tea journey. I am still a beginner, and one tea that has intimidated me is Sheng Pu’er.
I look at a package of Sheng and feel like I’ve been called into the Principals office! (Some people feel this way about ALL Pu’er!)
Because I’m such a chicken, I took a sample of this to share with Joe on Tuesday because nobody would be at the tea shop in the morning. He loves Sheng! (And he would do all the serving)
Steep 1 and 2 were 10-15 seconds long.
The leaves smelled musty like damp concrete.
Steep one tasted thick and salty like whipped butter. I felt a cooling sensation in my mouth but Joe didn’t. (We hurried on)
The second steep was “black-teaish’ (not proper English but I’m quoting) and sweet vanilla-nut. We felt nut oil instead of butter that was a blend of brazil nut and cashew, adding sweetness and some creamy body.
Joe over-steeped the third round at 20 seconds…yuck! This one smelled very sweet like paste, and was super astringent…blech!
Steeps 4-5 were Savory…like dark meat chicken and potato skin. The sweetness and fattiness were gone.
(This was still tasty tea, but the 3rd long pour stripped some of the flavor out.)
We stopped at this point, one of my better experiences with Sheng Puer!
So many prior Shengs have been young, smoky (and somewhat harsh!).
Master Han’s Sheng had body with complex flavor, creamy texture and black-tea quality. I liked it!
The only way to get over being afraid of tea, is to drink it.