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Recent Tasting Notes
The pile of WIP on my painting desk is slowly shrinking. See my big plans for Christmas gifts this year are buy a miniature I think the receiver will like and paint it for them. It goes with my usual tradition of making gifts for people, and I wanted an early start. My goal is to get the gifts for family finished first and then do a bit of an open season, open it up to like 15 or so of my online friends and tell them to claim a spot and they get a mini. Thank you Reaper Minis Bones line for being affordable! Also yay for not having a job other than tea rambling, so I can devote a ton of time to painting things for people I care about.
Today’s tea is one of the strangest looking ones I have had the pleasure of brewing, and I admit I got it entirely because it was quirky looking. What-Cha’s Ceylon Idulgashinna Hand-Twisted ‘Blue Nettle’ Oolong Tea as you can tell from the title of said tea, it is an Oolong from the Idulgashinna Tea Estate in Sri Lanka, specifically in the Uva region. This fun little tea bundle is hand twisted by workers, though I admit I have no idea what it has to do with nettle since it really looks nothing like the plant…maybe it is a reference to the jellyfish? Regardless it is quite pretty, the leaves tightly curled and showing a great variety of colors. The aroma is fairly light, a blend of apricots and persimmons with a slightly sour note like unripe plum, it blends sweet fruity and sour fruity very well.
I thought about gongfu brewing this little cluster of surprisingly long leaves, but decided it would be best suited in my tea brewing apparatus, I want to see it unfurl! And you know, even after a couple steeps, it stayed tight together, which I found amusing. The aroma of the leaf pile is sweet, like cooked apricots and persimmons with a definite honey note. The liquid smells like apricots and apple blossoms, very light but sweet.
First steep, it is smooth and pleasant, fairly light, but it has one very distinct note. It tastes like summer squash, specifically summer squash drizzled in honey. It is pretty mild, with an apricot finish, but it is also refreshing in its mildness. So, on we go to another steep.
Second steep, the aroma is picking up some malty and squash tones along with the persimmon and apricot. I like how the tea is kinda orange and the things it smells like (malt aside) are all orange. This is truly the tea to usher in Autumn, hey blenders, maybe use this in a pumpkin themed tea…because it no longer tastes like just summer squash, it tastes like pumpkin! It is still a bit light, defintely a tea that both has a presence and can be slurped without paying attention, at one point during the second steep I reached to pour myself more and realized my steeper was empty…and was confused as to where the tea went. Clearly I slurped it up and didn’t even notice. I also tossed a couple bundles into my tea infuser (sorry no picture, was really distracted with medical crap that day) and this tea handled the long steep very well, bringing the malt and pumpkin sweetness, it was a great accompaniment to a stressful day…and I have a suspicion I am going to get more of this tea to keep around for travel steeping fun.
Two very interesting bits of gaming related news today! The first one, the newest Minecraft snapshot introduced Skeletons on skeleton horses, how cool is that? First they tame spiders and now skellie horses, truly those bony archers are the true masters of Minecraft, Ben and I have been theorizing this for years. The other bit of news is a bit personal, in Terraria, after many nights summoning Pumpkin Moons and killing soooooooo many Pumpkin Kings, I finally got the Raven Staff and the Spider pet. So yes, I am a dark-elf summoner with an army of ravens and an adorable spider…who occasionally rides a UFO, or unicorn when I am feeling fancy.
Tis time for my daily-ish tea rambling, looking at What-Cha’s Malawi Zomba Steamed Green Tea, a tea whose name will forever make me think of zombies, same with the Zomba Pearls, I am sorry, that is just the way my brain works, same with seeing blooming teas as baby Cthulhu. This tea hails from the Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi, a place that has made several of my favorite teas, but really the artisan teas that come out of Africa I have found to be mind blowing, at first I wondered if it was just the uniqueness factor, but the more drink them I realize that nope, I just really like them. So, how about these leaves? The aroma is surprisingly nutty, like cashews, with a strong green presence, notes of greenbeans, cucumber, a tiny touch of seaweed, and a touch of sweet honey and a zingy note of citrus. Hilariously at the finish is a very distinct note of zucchini, I say hilarious because it comes out of nowhere, like you are sitting sniffing your tea and a zucchini falls from the sky into your leaves, it is quite distinct indeed.
So for brewing I did a somewhat pseudo gongfu session, brewing in my gaiwan but for a longer time more similar to western style. Basically I wanted to play with my gaiwan, like I do. The aroma is no longer a finish of zucchini, the zucchini decided it liked me and wanted to stay at the forefront of things, it is joined by hay, sweetgrass, cut grass, and a bit of flowers and citrus. It oddly reminds me exactly of my Grandparent’s garden during summer. The liquid however, is nutty, blending cashews and chestnuts, with lemon leaves and grass.
The tea is really light with an almost buttery mouthfeel, it has a bunch of things going on for such a light tea too. Starting with a gentle sweetness of nuttiness and honey, it pretty immediately moves to gentle sea air, and then to a pile of vegetal notes, bell pepper, zucchini, and a slightly peppery spinach finish. What a fun first steep!
Second steep, the aroma is a blend of sweet nuttiness and green, it is a tea that smells very much so like ‘tea’ like the distilled essence of what fresh off the bush tea leaves smell like. This time the mouthfeel is more brisk, less buttery, starting with sea air and moving on to zucchini and chestnuts with a very snappy green pepper finish.
I love Rou Gui and the reviews I’ve read for What-Cha’s have all be positive so I thought it was about time I bought some to try for myself. Usually, I like to do Gong Fu sessions with Rou Gui and I’m sure I’ll try this that way eventually, but when I showed this to my mom what she said was that it smelled like it’d be good cold; and since she so rarely weighs in on how I prepare the teas I share with her I decided to honor her suggestion and make my inaugural tasting a cold brew.
I have to say, this was definitely an interesting blend to me. One of the things I most like about drinking Rou Gui Gong Fu is the progression of flavours and drinking a cold brew with an extended six or seven hour steep time really makes that progression of flavour blur together. So, I tasted qualities I think I normally would have in the first few steeps of a Gong Fu session as well as ones I probably only would have noticed in the last few infusions.
The most obvious taste was, of course, the sweet flavour of cinnamon. I find ‘cinnamon’ has such a varied flavour; it can be spicy like you’d find in Chai or very drying (have you ever done the cinnamon challenge?) or it can have this lovely pastry/baking sweetness. Of all the ways cinnamon can express itself, I definitely get the latter example here.
Other dominant flavours are honey, wood, leather, and floral notes. Maybe just a hint of cream as well. It’s a weird contrast between bold flavour notes and delicate ones too; the overall affect is a medium bodied, smooth tea with a very rich, thick mouthfeel and clean taste with a pleasant, lingering finish. One of the nice things about cold brewing this is that I got to skip the more ashy/char notes and biting astringency that usually accompany the first few infusions of a Rou Gui; but I still got leathery, wood notes! No additives are necessary. In fact, they’d probably detract from the taste more than anything else.
If there’s one thing I’d have liked to see which I didn’t it’s more of a fruity note – but maybe that’ll come out more when I inevitably Gong Fu this.
I might be going to the zoo tomorrow, how fun! It is a big might, see my local zoo sends out these coupons that allows two people free entry one day on a few randomly selected months, and September is one of those months. I am a bit stir crazy, but it seems every time I go out my ‘condition’ gets worse, exacerbated by my already annoying social anxiety, so now I am phobic of leaving the house. Fingers crossed, I want to go to the zoo, it is one of my great joys. Now if only the somewhat tiny ‘chainstore’ version of the local aquarium would give out free passes, oh I would spend all day with the fishes!!
So, tea time! Today I am talking about What-Cha’s Vietnam Wild ‘Mountain Mist’ Silver Needle White Tea, a White Tea from the Assamica varietal, plucked from possibly up to 800 year old trees grown in the Yen Bai Province of Vietnam and harvested by the H’mong Ethnic People. This fancy tea was sourced by Geoff Hopkins of Hatvala, a company whose mission is to spread the word of Vietnamese teas, something you guys probably know I am a fan of. The aroma of the gently fuzzy needles (they have a slight curl to them) is a fascinating blend of sweetness in the form of peaches and green melon, green in the form of cucumber and a touch of celery, and a hint of smoke. The name Mountain Mist is fitting, the aroma is light and airy, crisp and clean, with a wispy hint of distant hearth fires, it is evocative of the environment it was grown.
Into my steeping vessels the leaves went, it took a while for the water to permeate the fuzzy trichome sheath turning the leaves plump and green. The aroma of the wet leaves is an even blend of cucumbers, green melons, watermelon rind, and smoke. It leans more towards cooling vegetal than sweet. The liquid smells sweet and refreshing, blending melon rind, honeydew, and cucumber.
The first steep is intensely cooling! That is very refreshing, starting in the belly and spreading out to my fingers, remind me to keep this stashed away for next time I have a fever! It is very light and clean, reminds me very much of rain water in the mountains. The taste starts with gentle smoke and then moves to melon and peaches with a finish of cucumbers and distant flowers. It is almost effervescent in its lightness.
I went for a second steep, the aroma has a stronger smoke note and a crisp barely ripe peach note as well. It is still potently cooling, though not quite as much so as the first steep, the taste has a slightly astringent edge to it this time, while still being light and airy. Sweet peach, smoke, and melons mix together, with a slightly gentle smoke aftertaste. This was quite the unique tea!
I read not too long ago that drinking too much Yerba Mate can give you mouth cancer because of the roasting process that uses smoke to dry the leaves. I like Yerba every now and again, so I’m choosing to ignore that. But, if that sort of exposure to the roasting process does indeed cause cancer, it makes me wonder about this tea. This tea is like drinking a campfire. I’m not that much of a hypochondriac, but I fear if I made a habit out of this tea, I’d be riddled with cancer in short order. All kidding aside (ok, I’m not kidding that much really), I am having a hard time finding anything other than smoke and char in this tea. I do love a heavy roast TGY, but I’m not sure about this one. I will adjust my brewing parameters and revisit it though. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time user error was the cause of me not getting the best out of a tea.
Ok guys, tomorrow is the big day, I go to see a Neurologist, something I should have done a long time ago. With luck they can do something about my seizures and headaches tomorrow, if not, well, life carries on and I shall adapt, as I always have. I just realized that made me sound quite deep and introspective, oops! Bah, enough of that, last night while playing Terraria I killed Plantera three times, I am quite pleased with myself. Tonight I am taking a break from Terraria to work on something else, maybe, the siren’s call of gaming might overwhelm me.
Before my last What-Cha order, I noticed that Alistair had added a bunch of Yunnan teas, especially those oh so tempting fuzzy golden ones, so I got a bunch of samples to try. Also China Yunnan Simao Golden Needle Black Tea, I took a gamble and bought a full sized pouch, something I very rarely ever do, I learned earl on in my tea loving life that samples are the best way to go (except with Puerh, that is a very rocky road there!) because sometimes you buy a larger pile of tea and end up stuck with something you don’t like. I would have been very shocked to be disappointed by this tea, I have had Simao black/red teas before, and it was sublime, Simao has a certain something that makes for a happy me. The aroma of the fuzzy golden needles is rich and sweet, ah, so distinctly ‘Yunnan’ to me, notes of molasses, yams, roasted peanuts, caramelized sugar, cocoa and a fun finishing note of plum. I love how these different Yunnan red teas have similarities and yet each one has its own unique flair, this one makes itself standout using stronger roasted peanuts and plum.
You know, there is a reason that the fuzzy teas from Yunnan are my go to morning tea…and occasionally afternoon tea, they are just so yummy! I only ever had one I didn’t like and that was because there was something wrong with it, but that is a different story. This is story of some needles that have been thoroughly steeped! The aroma of the soggy needles is intensely rich, like whoa I need to sit down that is rich, strong notes of yams and malt blend with cocoa and caramel. It is very sweet, mouthwateringly so. The liquid is rich with notes of cocoa, roasted peanuts, honey and malt, I am filled with anticipatory glee.
Ok, now that I am mostly done drooling, it is time to enjoy the fruits of my steeping. The opening steep is smooth and sweet, and a touch gentle. This is not a first steep that is a bold intro, this is a gentle beginning to a story, like the difference between Mass Effect 1 & 2’s opening. It starts out very sweet, like honey and a touch of caramelized sugar, this moves to toasted peanuts and molasses, and finishes off with lingering yams.
The aroma of the second steep is a blend of malt and caramel, a touch of distant smoke joins in as well. It is still a very smooth tea, but it is less gentle this time around, I would go as far as to say this tea is now full bodied. It starts with sweet honey and toasted peanuts, then it moves to rich malt and molasses. Like before the finish is lingering yams with just a hint of smoke.
Third steep! The aroma is less sweet, more like yams and squash with a touch of smoke and peanuts. The taste is surprisingly (or not so, really) not as sweet, full on robust and rich, strong notes of yam and roasted peanuts, with acorn squash and a touch of molasses. The finish is malty and honey sweet, that sweetness lingers for a while. This is what I want as a wake up tea, it starts gentle and finishes with an oomph, by the time the robust mouth explosion starts I am fully awake and ready to enjoy the intense tastes rather than the light nuances of wakefullness. And now, to decide if I am going to work on my research project…or play Terraria.
When I placed my last What-Cha order, Alistair thoughtfully hand picked out this as an extra sample for me to try. It’s definitely a very interesting looking oolong, visually it reminds me of another very lightly oxidized oolong from Camellia Sinensis I tried not all that long ago; the same kind of pale silver/green tea leaves with a fine fuzz and down on them. They both remind me strongly of moonlight! But I don’t have expectations this will taste all that similar given this is from Nepal, and the other tea I’m reminded of aesthetically was from Darjeeling.
I found the cold brew I made was so interesting, with a very diverse range of flavours! The immediate and obvious ones to me were floral notes, sweet hay/grass notes, and a fruity flavour that reminded me a little of white grapes/white wine! It had that very slight sourness/acidity that wine has, but softened and contrasted by those other dominant flavours. Once I scratched the surface with the more obvious flavour notes I also noticed notes of citrus, almost a grapefruit-like flavour but also a touch lemony which probably contributed to that little bit of sourness and acidity I initially attributed to the winey/grapey notes.
Also interesting and different, I tasted a note that reminded me strikingly of the green ‘peel’ part of a cucumber? Just in that it was vegetal, crisp, refreshing and juicy in that cucumber sort of way – but with that very slight bitterness that comes with cucumber peel over cucumber ‘pulp’. In this case that bitterness is just present enough that it becomes a very pleasant quality. The overall feel of the tea is this fruity, fresh ‘Spring time’ kind of drink that reminds me of April showers, and helping me Grandma in her flower garden when I was a little kid. The presence of both sweeter fruit notes and more green/vegetal ones creates a very refreshing flavor.
So overall, this actually did end up tasting a little similar to that Camellia Sinensis Darjeeling! Not exactly the same, sure, but comparable anyway. I wonder why that’s so; possibly the terroir shared between both growing regions? Or possibly the way the leaf itself was processed. Either way I find that kind of fascinating and it’s something I’d be interested in learning more about.
I look forward to a hot cup, to see how the flavours change.
an amazing tea!
when i smell the leaves dry, they smell like grass and veggies.
when i smell the leaves wet, they smell floral and like veggies.
when i look at the brewed tea, it looks light and yellow.
when i smell the brewed tea, i smell apricot, sweet and floral.
when i taste the brewed tea, i taste apricot, sweetness, floral and veggies.
i rate this tea a 100 because i like the taste/aroma
many thanks to amanda’soggyenderman’wilson for this lovely tea!
Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Grass, Sweet, Vegetables, Vegetal
I have played a lot of video games in my life, and I have been driven to fits of rage by many of them. Something that my dear fiance and I share is a tendency to get really ragey at our games, we just show them differently, where he is likely to just yell at a game, I take a page from the RageQuit book and get really imaginative with my vitriol. I bring this up because few games have made me rage as much as Terraria. Seriously, I hate the boss fights, I can have myself kitted up and buffed to the extreme and it never fails, I die at least half a dozen times before I get the ‘trick’ to killing a specific boss. Of course then I proceed to farm it mercilessly, giggling at my godlike power the whole time. Oh man, or that one time when you are mining and accidentally hit the TNT button instead of the pickaxe button and blow yourself up. It. Is. MADDENING! But I also love it because I can be a dark elf with a hoard of spider summons with a pet dinosaur who rides a unicorn while wearing feathery wings, gypsy robes, and a Spartan helmet. Skills.
Today’s tea from What-Cha is a funky little number, Thailand Sticky Rice ‘Khao Hom’ Oolong Tea, hailing from Thailand, this tea takes Jin Xuan and scents it with Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye, an herb from China whose leaves smell uncannily like sweet sticky rice. Used quite a bit with Puerh, (if you have ever seen sticky rice Puerh, this is the herb used) and I will be honest, mixed with Shou Pu, I find it utterly repugnant, usually because it is mixed with the really low grade fishy garbage and those are two things I do not want mixed. Ever. So I was really curious to try it in something else, specifically the glory that is Oolong. The aroma of this tea is something else, I advise not sticking your nose into these leaves, sniff from a distance because wow is it strong. Super sweet sticky rice notes with sweet cream, rice pudding, coconut milk, and an underlying almond nuttiness. So much sweetness, it is a little overwhelming.
So the first time I tried this tea I made the mistake of brewing it when I had a headache, one whiff of those brewed leaves and I needed to lie down, something about sticky rice scented teas make me feel really ill and dizzy if I have a headache (which is often) so I waited for a day when I had no headache to try the rest of the sample. It was a good idea because whoa, it is super strong, very sweet notes of rice pudding, caramel, flowers, green beans, grass, spinach…it is a bit of a cacophony, though oddly it blends well together. The liquid is more subtle thankfully, though not by much. That sticky rice scent is strong and sweet, notes of coconut milk, almonds, and rice pudding mix with a creamy underlying floral note.
I thought for a second, this could be one of those sensory overload things that happens to me with certain smells, so I got Ben to sniff it and he thought it smelled mild and sweet, where I thought it was like being face planted in pudding. The longer I sniffed it, the more I started developing a headache…oh dear. So, enough being nervous, I tasted it, it is smooth and sweet, and surprisingly cooling for an oolong. There are strong notes of cream, rice pudding, orchids, and warm milk. This moves on to caramelized sugar and a nutty aftertaste. There is however something ‘wrong’ about the rice taste, not wrong as in toxic or something like that…wrong as it tastes like rice but doesn’t. Like how stevia leaves are sweet but don’t taste like sugar, so when used as a substitute you can tell, it is uncanny and hard to process for some reason.
Second steep, the aroma at this point has permeated my tea area, which I am not entirely happy with. The taste is milder on the rice front, more of the underlying orchid and creamy notes of the Jin Xuan showing their color. The finish has a nutty rice note that lingers for some time. I called it quits after this steep sadly, the taste was quite pleasant, but the smell of the leaves was way too intense and killing my head, not to mention I spilled some on my tea table and just can’t get the smell out, whenever I get a whiff of it I am slammed with vertigo, it is safe to say that my sensory weirdness could not handle this herb. Clearly if I try to drink this tea again, I should do it with a nose plug, or maybe store the leaves in another room. It is a pity I had such a negative reaction to the aroma, the taste was really quite fascinating.
For blog and photos (and a link to a page entirely in Chinese about the fancy herb): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/08/what-cha-thailand-sticky-rice-khao-hom.html
Flavors: Coconut, Flowers, Orchid, Rice, Rice Pudding, Sweet
A sample from Roswell Strange. I’ve never tried a Silver Oolong before, so she’s certainly pushing my tea boundaries with the samples she included! That’s the joy of swaps, though. I love getting to try new things, and especially things I’d never have thought of! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it approximately 2 minutes in water cooled to around 170 degrees. The resulting liquor is a very pale green, almost colourless.
The leaf is an intriguing prospect. It’s a little twisted and downy-looking dry, and the buds are a fairly variagated grey-white-green. Wet, they’re a much lighter, brighter green in colour, with a flash of orange at the stem, and the odd touch of brown on the leaves themselves. It’s actually possible to unfurl the leaves to see their full extent. They’re on the small side, but it’s intriguing to observe how they’re twisted up to form the dry version of themselves. The wet leaf smells absolutely amazing – very “green”, almost in a seaweedy sort of way, with a touch of pine and a strong mineral undertone (like wet stone).
To taste, this is an entirely different prospect. The first thing I noticed was the spiciness, which tingles on the tongue. It’s not quite cinnamon, but that’s the closest I can get in terms of description. It’s a felt spiciness – a sensation – more than a taste, if that makes sense. Warming, rather than hot. I’m also picking up strong notes of hay, a touch of floral (which puts me in mind of pears, as I associate those with a floral flavour), and a whole lot of maltiness. That’s odd to me, in such a pale tea that’s mostly reminiscent of green in many respects. I can taste pithy, mildly bitter orange zest at the very end of the sip, and a touch of white grapefruit. It’s interesting to end on such a tangy, fruity note after the sweetness of the mid-sip. It’s a vibrant contrast, and one I actually like a lot more than I could ever have anticipated. If I saw it written down, I might think “ugh”, but in practice it’s strangely poetic. I can feel a warming spiciness at the back of my throat long after I’ve taken my last sip. It’s a truly intriguing cup.
I’m really impressed with this one, and I’ll certainly be having a good look at What-Cha on the strength of this sample. It’s good to know that there are still teas out there than can surprise and delight, even after having tried so many over the last few years. This is the best journey I’ve ever been on. Thanks again to Roswell Strange for sharing this with me.
There are a lot of things I could say to start off today’s blog post, but they can wait for a later day, today’s intro is something special. It is my two year Tea Blog Anniversary! It seems pretty crazy that I have been rambling about tea on my blog for this long, and that all of you are still hanging out with me on my corner of the internet. I have met some wonderful people and of course tried some awesome teas, found many favorites, and turned into a real teaware hoarder. Thank you all for reading my rambling, it means the world to me.
Since, unless my mind deceives me, it is Wednesday, meaning the day I review a tea from What-Cha, in my probably very silly attempt to review all the teas. Looking at India Bihar Doke ‘Black Fusion’ Hand-Made Black Tea, hailing from the much talked about Doke Tea Gardens in Bihar, India, run by the Lochan family, pioneers of the tea world! Trying teas from the Doke Tea Gardens has been pretty high on my to-do list for a while, because they are much loved by fellow bloggers and tea sippers, plus I really like their mission of treating the people and the land like they are precious, bravo! Eyeballing the leaves, they are really dark and quite pretty, I am a sucker for curly dark leaves, oh who am I kidding, I am a sucker for leaves! The aroma is delectable, malty and spicy, like curry without the heat and turmeric without the earthiness, a touch of floral notes, and a very sweet finish. That finish is one of stewed raisins and plums with molasses, it is like a malty compote!
Into my steeping vessel the curly leaves go, to make their transformation to plump and not as dark leaves. The aroma of the soggy leaves is malty and molasses sweet, with a definite spice which is hard to pin down, it is like saffron, turmeric, and curry…but not, it is more like you are smelling a blend of them from a distance. It is maddeningly hard to pin down in my olfactory memory, I wish I could create a scent photo album for referencing in just such occasions. The liquid has a note that I have not smelled in what seems like forever, sumac! There are also notes of molasses, malt, spice, and a touch of raisins and peanuts.
The tea is really quite vibrant, like a sky at sunset, the kind that won’t scare away sailors, but where you know there are wildfires somewhere. The initial sip starts brisk and strong, this tea has a presence that makes you sit up and pay attention, maybe I got it wrong and this is a story sunrise color! The taste starts with notes of malt and raisins, this transitions to sassafras, that maddeningly hard to place down spice (ok, you know what, it is Spice, there, a nice Melange heavy tea for the Navigators) and a touch of sumac adding a lemony note at the very tail end of the midtaste. Then it moves to creamy stewed plums and molasses, which moves into the aftertaste and lingers. I really like how this tea has a brisk boldness to it while also having depth, a lot of times teas that wake you up are focusing more on having oomph than subtle nuances. As someone who does not really drink a lot of breakfast teas and tends to go for the subtle teas to gently shake me into wakefulness, I could see myself really craving this tea on those mornings I want the extra mouth punch while also being treated to a dance of tastes in my mouth. I can see why so many of my fellow bloggers go gaga for Doke if they are half as good as this one!
Flavors: Malt, Molasses, Plums, Raisins, Spices
I dare you to open the bag and inhale this then walk away. Ain’t no way. Dry this smells like a bouquet of peonies. So sweet and pretty. The leaf is equally beautiful with red and brown steaks along with silvery white tips. Once brewed the steep leaf scent is peaches, no grapes, no its orange. Love. The brew is liquid sunshine so bright and golden. The taste is muscat grape and hints of malt. Then it turns into mountain streams that fade into light orange blossoms. I was not in the mood for tea today until I opened this one. Gentle and amazingly complex. A definite winner.
Oh hey, I think my sleep schedule flipped back to being diurnal-ish. Yay? It has its pros and cons, same as all sleep schedules. At least since I got up dark and early this morning I got to watch some more of the Perseid Meteor Shower, watching a few fireballs shooting across the sky brings me great joy. I am somewhat sad that things did not work out where I could not go out to the country to watch the sky, but I got to see some of the show, which is wonderful.
It is time to look at a powerful tea from What-Cha, their Indonesia Dark Roast Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. This tea had my attention from the name (a charcoal roasted Tie Guan Yin, that is one of my favorite things) and the description calling it powerful, what can I say, I have a type! That type is empyreumatic, also Tie Guan Yin, I am predictable with my love of oolongs. So, the aroma of the tightly balled leaves will knock you off your feet if you are not prepared, strong notes of tobacco, rich molasses, baked plums, loam, and heavy charcoal waft off of them. It is both very rich and very sweet, without the char notes overwhelming.
Into ye ol’ roasted Oolong pot the tea goes, and hello strong notes of coal and smoke, reminds me a bit of incense because it has a resinous quality with a distant floral note as well. Under this smoky and coal is tobacco, molasses, and roasted plums, it is pretty intense. The liquid is smoky and char, like burnt grains, buckwheat and oats, molasses and honey. It smells like granola that is being roasted over a fire, though without the headache. (For some odd reason whenever Ben’s mom roasted the granola for her…well…granola, the smell gives me a migraine and I spend the day in misery. I try to be out of the house on those days, sad because the smell is great.)
Whoa! That first steep is sweet! Surprisingly so, with a strong honey and molasses start with juicy plums in the middle. Over this sweetness is an overhanging cloud of smoke and char, like eating roasted plums next to a campfire. The finish is grainy, notes of buckwheat and oats mix with a finish of molasses, this is some serious granola tea.
The aroma of the second steep manages to kick it up a bit in intensity, strong notes of char and grains, buckwheat and oats, mixing sweetness and granola with a strong punch of burnt. Yes my mouth is watering, don’t judge me. The taste is much less sweet, bringing out the intense char and grain notes I am more familiar with when given a roasted TGY. Notes of walnut shells, oats, buckwheat, actual wheat, and a hint of molasses blend with an explosion of char and gentle smoke.
Third steeping time, the aroma is very similar, not so much sweet, strong notes of grain and char with a very pleasant finish of molasses, the only sweetness in the aroma. Looks like the tobacco and plums rejoined the party, starting off with delicate sweet roasted plums and walnut shells, this moves on to tobacco (kinda fruity pipe tobacco, actually) and roasted grains. The finish is sweet molasses and char with a surprise floral aftertaste. I had quite a few more steeps with this tea, it has a fantastic oomph to it and lasts for a while. I am, however, kicking myself for forgetting to order more, I am betraying my love of the Taiwanese roasted TGY, but I think Indonesia might take the coveted favorite spot.
Flavors: Char, Grain, Honey, Molasses, Oats, Plums, Smoke, Tobacco
This is an interesting tea. I tried it three times before putting up a review. I’ve never had a TGY quite this dark before, so it was definitely an experience! The first time I brewed it gongfu, followed the brewing instructions (194 degree water, 45 second infusions), but the flavor was lacking for me. Increased the time and still, not much. Second time I did western style in my cast iron teapot, and boosted the temp to 200 for 3 minutes. I thought that because the leaves weren’t unfurling much, that the temp was too low. That didn’t improve the flavor much either. So this morning, I tried again, western style, boiling water, 5 minutes. Tasted after five and added another 2-3 minutes, and perfect.
So I learned a few things: You apparently cannot oversteep this tea, and the leaves are not going to open up or unfurl like a traditional oolong because they are roasted all to heaven and back. Also, it’s delicious.
Flavor is lovely, no astringency, lightly smoky – surprising actually, I thought it would be more so b/c the leaves are charred black. Sweet flavors of roasted plum and dried figs. The charcoal finish is there but again, not overbearing. I’m not sure what the piece of bitter melon adds to the flavor party, but I did that because the tasting notes recommend it. I also ordered 100 grams for a chance at getting a whole bitter melon, which Alistair generously sent.
In sum, this is a lovely tea for anyone who loves a dark roasted TGY.
EDIT: Decided to see if the leaves had anything left, so I steeped it again for 10 minutes and had a nice second cuppa.
I am food drunk again! It is a thing that happens to me, I eat a big meal and then get loopy, tired, and very much so like I am tipsy. Not really sure why, but I have a full belly, and that is awesome! Just came home from a friend’s birthday, though I have a fierce craving for cake now since the one was not gluten free (obviously, having a GF cake when only one person there has a problem is dumb) and foresee a cake in my future. The real question is what kind, maybe another Matcha chocolate swirl?
Today’s tea from What-Cha is China Anhui Huangshan ‘Yellow Sun’ Yellow Tea, a Yellow Tea that us turning out to be a giant pain to research! See, you look up Huangshan and you get primarily Huangshan Mao Feng, maybe so references to the place, you look up Huangshan Yellow Tea and you get Huoshan Huang Ya, I mean yeah, they are both from Anhui, but still, they are not the same tea! Frustratingly I cannot really find out anything about this mysterious yellow tea, yet, but I intend to devote more time to it at a later day. The aroma of the curly leaves is incredibly nutty, it reminds me of almond paste and sesame candies, combining sweet and nutty. There are also delicate notes of wet hay, sourdough yeast, distant flowers, and a touch of tart cherry at the finish. It is an oddly complex tea that is strange yet very tasty smelling.
Ooh, going to use my super tall gaiwan, I never get to use it because…well…for some reason I tend to forget about it (the shame) which I hope to not do in the future once I unpack all my gear. The aroma of the soggy leaves has taken on a bit of a woody tinge, alongside notes of sesame seeds, and a surprising spiced floral note and fresh tobacco leaves. I am trying to search through my memories, are the blossoms on a tobacco plant spicy, or is it the dianthus my mom had planted nearby? The liquid is fascinating! Notes of sweet nuttiness and gentle spicy mix with cooked broccoli and cauliflower with a finish of chestnut and hay.
So, first sipping time, and…it is really mild. An odd combination of notes that instead of clashing work really well. Starting with delicate notes of flowers and sweet sesame and almonds. This moves to a blend of sweet, wet, hay and greenbeans, and then a finish of wildflower honey and slightly smoked cherries. The mouthfeel was smooth with a touch of cooling similar to a Sheng Puerh.
The second steep brings in notes of primarily sweet nuttiness, blending sesame seeds and chestnuts with a surprising finish of orchids and wildflowers. Again, this tea is really odd yet tasty! It starts out more green this time with notes of broccoli and greenbeans, then it pretty immediately moves to flowers and hay. It has a perfumed like quality where you are definitely tasting more with your nose than tongue. The finish is hay and honey with a lingering fruity note. Again cooling, more so this time.
I am beginning to thing this tea is the result of some tea themed lovin’ between a Sheng Puerh and an Anhui green. The aroma takes on a strong note of hay, along with sesame and a hint of greenbeans. The taste this time starts off nutty again, sweet sesame and almond, this moves to greenbeans and broccoli, and a finish of sweet honey and flowers. There is a lingering coolness that stays around for a while, very soothing. This was an odd yet amazing tea, I love the blend of different notes that you do not necessarily run into together very often.
Flavors: Almond, Cherry, Green Beans, Hay, Nutty, Smoke
But a temporary one! I had a very small cart built on What-Cha, so after finishing this one off and having my initial feeling of this being drop dead amazing validated I felt justified in placing that order and getting more of it.
Baring in mind I’ve only had this tea twice (not counting resteeps), I still think it’s one of the most unique scented/flavoured oolongs I’ve ever had – and it’s so incredibly soft, and comforting. I had a few infusions last night; I was nursing a horribly migraine and each sip seemed to very briefly alleviate that by making me feel totally relaxed. It was an instant tension reliever, the strained/stressed muscles around my temples just… Let go.
In addition to this wonderful, accurate sticky rice/rice pudding flavour I also got notes of green beans and some floral notes as well; both do a great job as background notes providing a subtle contrast of flavours but obviously neither of those notes are the focus or ‘main attraction’.
When you go to the sideshow everyone likes to look at the bearded woman and tattooed man but the real show stopper is the four legged man or living mermaid, am I right? Well, probably not – that’s not the best metaphor. But you get the point!
I was sure I’d seen other reviews for this tea, but since I’m the only reviewer currently I guess that’s not the case. I’ve been wanting to try a sticky rice scented tea for a while now; and when I made my most recent What-Cha order I noticed this one offered on their site so I ordered a sample size to satisfy that deep curiosity. What I didn’t expect was just how accurate or obvious the flavour of the sticky rice would be.
Even from the moment I cracked open the sample packet, the smell of fresh sticky rice was filling up my kitchen and getting me excited with how potent and dead on it was. In fact, my first few sips were so overwhelmingly close to real life sticky rice it was hard to taste or notice anything else. I ended up doing three very strong Western Style infusions before the flavour of the sticky rice started to deteriorate. 2 1/2 tsp. of leaf for a 16 oz. mug, with 85C water steeped for two minutes initially with an extra 30 seconds tacked on with each infusion after the first.
The mouthfeel of the liquor was very soft and creamy and it managed to find a way to creep into every crevice of my mouth. Even though I only needed small sips to get a good sense of the strong flavour with each infusion I found myself taking big hearty swigs just because I loved the feel and taste of the tea so much. But it wasn’t just the mouthfeel that was creamy; in addition to the super accurate flavour of good sticky rice this tastes rich and creamy with a lovely buttery quality as well! Some of the greener vegetal notes from the oolong base cut through as well, particular in the finish which provided some subtle contrast of flavour. One of my favourites about this tea, as well, is that it had a delicate taste but not a subtle flavour; and ever though it’s not particularly complex or nuanced it’s scary accurate and really tasty if sticky rice is your thing.
I actually can’t believe I haven’t heard more people talking about sticky rice scented teas; I feel like I just gained access to some sort of exclusive club! I like jasmine scented oolongs as much as the next tea drinker, but this is ten times as good as that – it’s only been a few hours since I finished that last infusion and I’m already salivating at the thought of another. My 10g sample will be gone before I know it, and I definitely intended to buy more of this once that happens.
More people should try this!
I had a thrift store adventure today! Feeling the predictable ‘I need to go to the thrift store’ tingly feeling in my brain, weirdest super power ever (though sadly not as useful as my finding lost things super power) so Ben was nice and took me to the store. My usual store did not have anything of interest, sadly, so we went to the other store up the road that never has anything, and lo and behold, there were things! I found a Guan Yin statue, something I have always wanted (but never bought new because it is me and I like getting old stuff at stores) so I was so happy, I did a loud squee. When I was checking out the cashier dropped the statue, knocking the head off, eek! Thinking my beloved statue was ruined, I examined it and saw the head could very easily be glued back on, so I bought it and was given a discount, awesome! I am debating painting it to look like some of the paintings, or all gold to look like a temple statue, one thing is for certain, Guan Yin needs a bath!
So, tis time for tea! What-Cha’s Vietnam ‘Wild Boar’ Black Tea, a tea I bought because boars are kinda awesome. The tea is named by the local hill tribe that picks the wild growing leaves after the boars that roam wild in the hills. The aroma of the dark leaves is odd, I kinda teared up a bit because the aroma reminds me of something from my memories, something very far into them but I could not place it, it was maddening and caused an intense feeling of homesickness. Memories aside (since you cannot really smell those) there are notes of cocoa and malt, with a delicate note of peanuts, and surprisingly wildflowers and a touch of roses, it has a gentle sweetness, but it is mostly from the floral notes, the cocoa is like dark chocolate rather than the sweet stuff.
Into the green gaiwan the leaves go for their nice little bath! The aroma of the wet leaves is rather rich! Notes of malt and oak wood with a touch of peanuts and loam. Distant notes of flowers at the finish with a tiny touch of turnip greens. The liquid is a gentle blend of cocoa and sweet honey with malt and again a touch of flowers.
Whoa! That first steep is robust! It starts off a bit brisk while remaining smooth, a good first thing in the morning tea, will wake you up without kicking your stomach in the process. The taste starts off malty and blooms into an almost coconut milk sweetness and creaminess, toss in some cocoa and honey and well, yum!
The second steep’s aroma is rather diminished from the first steep, only mild notes of flowers and malt remain. The taste is also kinda diminished, but still tasty, notes of malt and creamy sweetness with a touch of cocoa are what stand out, with a tiny mineral and floral taste at the finish. This is a great first steep, with the later ones had more staying power, but eh, sometimes just one steep is not a bad thing. Still trying to find out what memory that smell is evoking, the brain is strange sometimes!
Made with a splash a milk, this tasted very delicious!
The mouthfeel was creamy and incredibly thick; I almost felt like it could have been whipped up into cream for early Sunday morning pancake toppings. It tasted really indulgent with confectionery type notes such as chocolate, caramel, and mocha. It was also, obviously, very roasty which only complimented the pacifying feeling of drinking a cup of hot milky tea.
Perfect before bed or to ease into your day with.
Recently I placed a What-Cha order for myself, and one of the things I was looking for was a Houjicha to stock up since it’s one of my favourite kinds of green tea and while I currently have a Genmaicha stocked that I really like there’s a hole in my cupboard where a good Houjicha should be. This one comes from Australia, and personally I’ve never tried an Australian grown tea before though I was aware that they were produced. Australia is one of those regions that isn’t typically thought of as a tea growing region among people who aren’t more learned tea drinkers the same way people don’t realize tea is grown in places like Kenya or Hawaii and I’m very excited to get my first taste of an Australian tea, especially considering how affordable this blend was. It was an easy thing to gamble on.
I do think this was worth the gamble. While it’s not as straightforwardly roasty as I tend to prefer from a good Houjicha there are some very, very nice subtle nuanced flavour notes that more than makes up the different. For starters, there’s an interesting nutty notes that seems to make itself known in each part of the sip in a different way. With that first initial taste it’s light lightly toasted nuts, and then in the body it weaves in and out between the other flavours. In the aftertaste, you’re tasting the shadow of the nut flavour which once was.
There’s also some really nice sweeter notes like caramel and cocoa which gently stretch out across the surface of your tongue, creating this really nice, smooth body flavour. The finish is lightly smokey, and leaves you wanting to go back in for another sip so you can experience the flavour dynamics all over again. Overall it’s a very warming and welcoming cuppa.
I definitely think I’ll clear my purchase of this easily, and will probably go back for more after that. More than that, this only gets me even more excited to try more of what Australia has to offer!
What an interesting tea this is. I have to say I’m never disappointed with the products I select from What-Cha! Even when they aren’t teas I would select for another purchase they are always such high quality and always worth a try.
This is one of those teas which I wouldn’t consider for a large purchase, but that I’m very glad I had a chance to try. It has a very unique flavor. Smooth and mellow, a bit fruity and a little bit of liquor. No astringency at all. A bit light for my personal taste but I did enjoy my cup.
Flavors: Alcohol, Brandy, Fruity