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Recent Tasting Notes
Well, last time I rambled I talked about my frustration with Ark, it seems that the internet’s really angry reaction to the canceling of the Halloween event made it very clear to the devs that this was a bad idea. So they delayed it, later this week I will get to play the event because I can’t quit this game, so I will play it. Of course, the delay of the event means that my plans for Halloween have been canceled so I have no idea what I am doing to celebrate today. Perhaps painting shall keep me occupied on this most spooky of days.
Today I am looking at an orb of goodness from Teavivre, their Yunnan Rose Dragon Ball, a tea after my own heart! Combining a Simao Dianhong with rose petals in a tightly rolled ball individually wrapped making it a really cute gift. Good for either western style brewing or gongfucha, it is a versatile tea, and since it is just tea and roses and no flavoring or oils you get pure rose taste and smell. It is no secret by now that I love roses in my hongcha, but often I find it has been blended with flavorings or oils and I prefer just straight up rose petals in my black tea. Unwrapping the ball and giving it a good sniffing, the aroma is quite pleasant. There are the obvious notes of rose, reminding me of rose water, gently sweet without being perfumey, along with cocoa, malt, and a touch of peanuts. The rose is not at all overwhelming and it is balanced with the notes of the Dianhong, which is good, frequently rose teas have overwhelming rose.
Such an elegant tea deserves an elegant gaiwan, so I used the audacious gold lady for this tea, it also works well since it is a larger gaiwan meaning more room for the ball to expand. The aroma after the first steep has notes of malt, cocoa, yams, peanuts, and gentle roses. The liquid is sweet, with notes of roses and honey giving it a nectar quality, along with cocoa and roasted peanuts. I find myself looking forward to drinking it!
This might be the most perfectly balanced rose Dianhong I have ever tried. The rose is gentle and light, never once overpowering the notes of the Dianhong, but also always being present so there is no mistaking it is a rose tea. That persistent rose note makes it suitable for someone like me who absolutely loves food and drink with a rose theme, but also making it suitable for someone who is only slightly a fan (like Ben, just an example.) Of course, it helps that the base Dianhong is enjoyable, smooth notes of malt and cocoa blend with yams and peanuts with a lingering honey finish. It is a classic Dianhong with all the familiar notes.
As is frequent with these teas that are tightly curled up into balls, the first steep is light, but the second steep is more intense, part of the reason a lot of people either have a longer than normal first steep or rinse the tea. Since I think rinsing would be a waste, in this case, I just go for a slightly longer steeping time. The second steep is still pretty intense compared to the first, stronger notes of all the ones present in the first steep, especially the rose and chocolate with lingering brown sugar and honey. I feel like this would be the perfect tea to drink on some romantic occasion, it just has that feel!
This tea goes for a LOT of steeps, I kept pulling flavor from this ball for a good twelve steeps, and at that point, I switched to just drinking straight from the gaiwan and refilling it as needed for several more refills. It was not a short-lived tea, definitely an all-day session, which was fine by me! There was not a ton of evolution between steeps, just light bit omnipresent roses and classic Dianhong notes til the very end. This tea evokes romance, summer gardens, and just general happiness, I greatly enjoyed my massively long session with it!
4g, 100ml gaiwan, 185F
Dry leaf – yam, malt, fruity
5/10/10/15/20/?/?/? I lost track of steep time. Happily it never suffered from my lack of attention. Tasted of malt, chocolate and yam. Very smooth. The flavors were very distinct and crisp and clean. 86
Flavors: Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Fruity, Malt, Smooth, Yams
A lovely sheng pu-erh for yesterday, when the weather certainly couldn’t be enjoyed. That means it’s time for a three steeper! Ten year old sheng seems to be my favorite. (Or maybe most of the sheng from Teavivre is what I prefer…) The fragrance of the dry cake is slightly smoky/barbeque and there are hints of that in the flavor. But mostly, following my golden rule of raw pu-erh steeps: 30-35 seconds per steep, the flavor is very sweet for a sheng! So sweet it’s almost like a sweetener was added. The sweetest sheng! It is like the nectar of some kind of fruit. Unraveled, the leaves are huge in this cake. Even the third steep is smooth, when I was really testing the leaves only ten minutes after boiling. This is a great sheng pu-erh… one of the favorites that I’ve tried, though always difficult for me to describe.
Steep #1 // half sample for a full mug// rinse // 20 minutes after boiling // 35 second steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 35 second steep
Steep #3 // 10 minutes after boiling // 40 second steep
This tea is perfection! I ordered this as my free sample, and I am addicted. It’s so lush. It’s like a well balanced white wine with it’s level of flavors. Peachy, buttery, and like the other two reviewers said, oats and hay are lightly present. Just a lovely cuppa tea! I want more….right meow!
I drank this hot, but after I have rebrewed it (which was just as tasty), I am thinking a cold brew (third brew) will be swell. I am wondering if there’s a tea like this out there with this same flavor. Just don’t want to have this be a special occasion tea! Teavivre, you did well with this one!
Flavors: Butter, Peach, Straw
Sample from tea swap
I’m particular when drinking black tea; however I tend to be very open to trying anything once, twice, thrice, or more, until I am able to come to the conclusion on whether liking or disliking a tea. This tea, on the other hand, is astounding. I mentioned to the wife that there are teas that could allow one to totally give up on bread—and here is one of those teas! I’ve recently discovered that, while drinking teas such as this, you kind of give yourself the notion that “This is bread, therefore, I do not need bread otherwise—” which may compel one to forfeit bread altogether, and solely drink bread-like teas.
The color of the dry leaf is nicely dark; the aroma has cocoa notes with a touch of yeast. The wet leaf, as it progresses, changes into a fine hue of scarlet; while the color of the liquor remains that color of scarlet throughout the session.
The body of the liquor is thick, coating the mouth/throat with a layer of solidity, almost—(dare I say it) like bread? I’ve yet to meet a tea where I’ve become “full” similar, but nothing like, drinking too much beer in a sitting or two, thus becoming full (that is until you’ve gone to relieve yourself).
Overall, this was a nice tea to have early in the morning. Fortunately, I’ve had it before I can no longer have a sense of smell due to the oncoming cold stuffing my sinuses with the unwanted “junk” it brings with it.
Side Note: Floral notes (roses?) after the 6th steep. I was unable to detect it, but the wife mentioned it.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa, Yeast
Watching this tea bloom was a feast for the eyes. Using boiling water, the bulb slowly bounces around the vessel for a bit before gracefully sinking to the bottom to allow the beautiful flower structure to fully unfurl. It’s pretty tall so you want to use a large enough glass or teapot.
The flowers here are supposed to be amaranth and jasmine. I couldn’t taste the jasmine at all, but the amaranth dominated. The flavor of this tea is sweet, nectary, and honey like. There’s no bitterness to speak of even at boiling, a problem I’ve had with other blooming teas. But I didn’t really care for the resin like taste of the amaranth.
Flavors: Flowers, Honey, Nectar
Prepared in a ceramic gaiwan. I followed the steeping times from the website: 15 seconds, 25, 35, 50, 80, 130, 210 (I tacked on a 10-minute last steeping to completely tire off the leaf).
I’m jumping on the bandwagon on having been taken by surprised by this hongcha. All of my expectations were flung out the window when I first evaluated the aroma, and then the taste of the liquor.
To begin, the aroma doesn’t undergo metamorphosis when the leaf is hit with heat and water. Overall it smells incredibly savory, like tomato sauce with dried oregano, rosemary, and basil. I’ve had wet leaf of black Bi Luo Chun smell like tomato and herbs, but this one has a much more complex aroma, and it was easy for me to pick out multiple specific notes.
The liquor – which is the color of deep gold – is clear, clean, and medium-bodied. For roughly the beginning two-thirds of the session, this hongcha resembles Oriental Beauty. Again, WHAT. I thought I would taste malt, sweet potatoes, and spice. But it has that fruity flavor that I associate only with Oriental Beauty. Very sweet and flavorful, practically like juice. Which fruit(s) I exactly can’t pick out since I haven’t had that many OBs. Later, the last few infusions taste more honey-like.
The session lasted only a morning but it was enjoyable. Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Ancient Wild Tree Black Tea matched the mood created by today’s weather: gray sky, continuous rain, bright autumnal foliage, warm air.
I love Tai Ping Huo Kui. I feel in love with it a few years ago. It’s such a beautiful tea, with it’s long graceful seaweed look, and the flavors are buttery, sweet, creamy, and greeeeeen.
This is a wondeful green tea for people who prefer to avoid bitterness & dryness, because it doesn’t fall into those categories.
Thank you to Angel & Teavivire for the generous samples, which I shared with friends. My apologies for taking so long to get around to writing a review.
And now everyone has gone, Rita has returned to Peru and Ben’s parents have returned to their other home in Madison. This means I have the house to myself, well for a little bit, at the beginning of November Ben’s awesome cousin and his fiance will probably be turning into housemates, which is fun. Luckily they are both really cool people, so sharing the house with them will be fine with me (not that I leave the bedroom very often, but still) plus more people to share tea with!
Today’s tea is not a tea, well it is in the whole ‘it is a thing you steep then drink’ sense, but it is not made from Camellia so technically it is not a tea, semantics! Teavivre’s Black Tartary Buckwheat Tea Whole Embryo is a fantastic little grain that can do double duty as a drink and a breakfast. Fagopyrum tataricum is a species of buckwheat, meaning it is not a gluten having grass, it is also considered to be bitterer than common buckwheat, though I have never found it so. I adore this stuff, of the various grains I have steeped Tartary Buckwheat is probably my favorite. The aroma of the kernels is delicious, it smells like peanuts, toasted wheat, honey, and…well…buckwheat! The aroma reminds me a bit of peanut butter Captain Crunch, but unlike that cereal I can enjoy it without it cutting my mouth (seriously Captain Crunch, you kill my mouth.)
Into a pretty glass teapot the kernels go, usually I have problems with this teapot’s astronomically slow pour, but since it is really hard to oversteep this stuff I was not sad about using it. After they have steeped and the kernels have softened and expanded, the aroma is very tasty, if you are a fan of cereal. Which I am. There are notes of toasted grains, honey, cereal, and definitely peanut butter. The liquid without its seedy goodness is very sweet, strong notes of peanuts and toasted wheat with a caramel and honey finish. I adore how sweet this stuff is, and how it smells like peanuts.
This time of year just calls for this kind of drink, autumn and toasted grain goes together like peanut butter and bread. Which conveniently is what this steeped kernels kinda tastes like! With a thick and smooth mouthfeel and a soothing feel, this is the best thing to drink at 4AM when your region of the world is experiencing its first freeze. The taste is wonderfully sweet, like a honey and peanut butter sandwich on a nice toasted grain heavy bread. Unlike a lot of herbal teas I found I could get more than one steep, though the later steeps require a very long steep time so the liquid is rather cool by that point. Still super tasty though when chilled! One of the best features of course is the cleanup of the buckwheat, just grab a spoon and eat a tasty midnight snack.
I usually find floral teas appealing, but considering this was my first rose tea to be had, I couldn’t drink all of it—too many rose notes for me, I suppose. However, my wife couldn’t help but linger nearby as I gave this tea a go. In fact, she wanted to try it—and try she had—which to my surprise, she loved it. So…here’s her note on it….
“A tea that reminds me of my grandmother, for roses were her favorite flower, from which she was named after. When I drink a cup of this tea, I am reminded of the gift of knowing my grandmother as I grew up distant from most of my outside family; however, grandma had reminded me of the simple joys in life—”Wake up and smell the roses," She’d say. So, as I drink this tea, I am reminded of my grandmother Rose, who always seemed to smile at the gift of another day." -The Missus
[Note: Rating by the wife]
Prepared 3.7g in a ceramic gaiwan. I gave the leaf a flash rinse to get it going. Steeping times: 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 30, 45; 2 minutes, 4, 9, 20.
A hongcha with great aromas? Check! When I smell the leaf in the packet – wow! – was it super chocolate-like. Letting the leaf sit in the pre-heated gaiwan brought out gingerbread and tomato sauce notes as well as chocolate. The wet leaf smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little bit of fudge.
The liquor is orange-colored, clear, clean-tasting, and medium-bodied. The first cup is light with malt with some sweet potato. From the second cup and onward (till the last), the malt has disappeared, and the sweet potato note is stronger. I also taste cinnamon and chocolate. They don’t pop out as much, but they are present. There is a consistent caramel aftertaste. The texture is smooth. As the description on the website says, this hongcha tastes – and feels, I’d say – “sweet and mellow.”
I especially this recommend this to hongcha lovers. Get a look at that leaf!
Ah, autumn! I am loving the weather, it is cool and crisp, the leaves are turning, and there are pumpkins everywhere. Also skulls. This Halloween skulls are super in, and I am fighting the urge to buy up every piece of interesting skull decor for my tea desk and future wedding, but it is hard! The hunt is, of course, still on for the perfect ‘spooky’ piece of teaware from the thrift stores, no luck yet!
Today’s tea will always make me think of the Tang Dynasty, mostly because of the movie Curse of the Golden Flower (or Curse of the Golden Corset as I call it) because they really had an obsession with Chrysanthemums. The movie, while beautiful, is certainly not one of my favorites…but the Tang Dynasty will always be my favorite period of Chinese history, rivaled by the Three Kingdoms Period of course. This really has nothing to do with anything, save a love of an aesthetic, so without further ado, Teavivre’s Huizhou Emperor Chrysanthemum Tea! A beautiful single blossom individually packaged, it made me feel like royalty with the presentation, it also meant that the risk of the flower being crushed into oblivion was minimal which is always nice. The aroma of the flower is very lovely and pure, as though I have a fresh chrysanthemum sitting next to me. Trying to describe the aroma is a challenge, because it smells like chrysanthemums, describing tea is easy since it almost always has notes of other things, but for some reason this particular flower has always challenged me. I will try, assuming the reader has never sniffed one, to find a comparison. There are notes of daisy, wild flowers, pollen, lettuce, white pepper, straw, and gentle almost creamy sweetness. It smells like autumn and nostalgia, a very happy smell for me.
Now I could have gongfu’d this flower, I have thrown many a chrysanthemum into a gaiwan and steeped as such, but since this one is so special I thought I would go for a clear cup and just let it float around while I sipped it. Again, talk about feeling like royalty, there is something very princess like about drinking a cup of flower. The aroma is much like the dry flower but stronger and sweeter, it lacks some of the more potent sharp notes that some yellow chrysanthemums (especially Tai Ju, which are mostly buds) have.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, chrysanthemum has quite the reputation for being a cooling herb, it is also one of the few medicinal herbs I drink not just for taste but for its usefulness, especially this time of year. I am not sure which of the chemical compounds in this flower it is (because of course the internet has conflicting info and I no longer have my books on TCM) but one of them does wonders for sore throats and as an expectorant, making it a must have around during allergy season. It also settles my stomach so I drink it after big meals or before bed, granted I am not one to recommend medical stuff since my body is super weird (and they do not help Ben’s allergies at all) but it is an interesting bit of trivia. Plus it helped me pass the time waiting for the flower to steep!
The taste and mouthfeel is fantastic! Like a chrysanthemum flower should be, the texture of the liquid is thick and slippery, coating my mouth in a nice cooling sensation, like the world’s mildest Biotene mouth spray. Honestly the texture reminds me of that as well, but with no mint to be found…which is completely fine with me! Some chrysanthemum flowers are very sweet, others are very pungent and medicinal, this one is way on the sweet spectrum. None of the sharp more medicinal qualities are really present, just the wonderfully sweet nectar of fresh golden chrysanthemum. With notes of honey, pollen, wildflowers, daisies, straw, and a lingering aftertaste of sugar.
One fantastic thing about this single flower that really struck me was how many refillings of the cup I could get before it finally faded out, it has some great resteep value going on. I got four very flavorful cups and at least three more very mild but pleasant ones. At first, when looking at the price, I thought it a bit too steep for my blood, but after seeing how much life I could get out of it I realized it was not bad at all. Plus, taste aside, part of the price does come from the spectacular presentation, it looks spectacular while steeping. I found it so lovely that when I had sucked every bit of flavor from the blossom I stuck it in a different cup of tea just to extend the visual enjoyment.
Another lovely green from Teavivre! Wow, these green teas are always amazing. The leaves are very long, wiry with a half and half mix of green and white color! It’s very interesting — I haven’t seen a green tea like this. The flavor is fantastic. The first steep couldn’t be better. Another perfect green tea for me. The flavor is bright, fruity, sweet with hints of corn, while also being very nutty (my favorite green type). It’s tough to explain this one, as it is a very complex green. The subtlest hint of bite or astringency also makes it perfect. The resulting brew color is a cloudy light green. It’s the most delicious green tea. So thirst quenching. I can’t say enough about it. I really hope I remember to steep this one exactly the same next time.
Steep #1 // half a sample pouch for a full mug// 32 minutes after boiling // 2 1/2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 30 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Harvest: April 2016
Today’s work cold brew. I’d been meaning to try this one cold for a while (since last summer, I think?) but I always seem to forget. This year, though, I remembered just in time. I’m not typically a fan of jasmine tea, but I do like peach, and this one strikes just the right balance for me. It’s not too floral or perfumey, and the peach isn’t overly artificial or chemical tasting. Instead, there’s a delicate balance of both. The peach is juicy and natural tasting, and the sweetness is augmented by the light heady floral of the jasmine. It’s a good pairing! The green tea base is smooth, with no bitterness or astringency at all. It must have had at least 7 hours in the fridge, so I wasn’t sure what to expect on that front (I don’t cold brew green teas very often, so I’m less certain about steep times and such like), but I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. Another excellent Teavivre offering!
I wanted something fairly straightforward this morning, and this fit the bill perfectly. It’s still one of my favourite plain black teas – deliciously malty, with strong chocolate and cocoa notes. It’s very easy to drink, very smooth, and works well both with and without milk. I have a feeling this – or one of Teavivre’s Dian Hongs — will be a permanent fixture in my cupboard. They’re just too good to do without.
Why don’t I drink more green tea?
I always love it when I drink it, and I used to drink green tea every day, but I don’t love it the way I love Black/Red Tea. I guess that’s the reason.
Plus I can’t drink green tea on an empty stomach…there’s always that…
But anyway, this is a lovely one, more delicate in appearance than Dragonwell, with a clean vegetal taste, a buttery aroma, and a thickness that builds on the tongue, sip by sip.
Much gratitude to Angel and Teavivre for the sample.
Speaking of Teavivre, I finally got my sipdown extravaganza down to below 200 teas in my cupboard (190, actually), so now I’m allowed to order from one company per month, with wild abandon. This month it was Teavivre, as their black teas have been missing from my cupboard for quite some time, and I’m getting low on black teas anyway!
sipdown – 189
Oh my goodness. I was not expecting to like this one as much as I do. I was craving a straight black tea this morning and instead of reaching for my usual Nepal Black, I reached for a sample in the sipdowns pile. There was SO MUCH LEAF in this little sample package. Definitely 2-3 cups worth. It has a metallic taste, kinda like licking a penny, but I don’t dislike it. It’s all good.
Thanks again to Angel & Teavivre for this sample.
This is such a beautiful and delicate looking tea, with a flavor that is vegetal, mineral, even floral, and a little nutty as well. I shared steepings of it this afternoon with 2 of my college harp students who came over to work on a duet, and we all enjoy several rounds.