155 Tasting Notes
I’ve been looking forward to making cornmeal pancakes with fruit (started out thinking about ripe Texas peaches) and cottage cheese all week. One of my favorite breakfasts. I decided to use a different cornmeal pancake recipe this morning. And who better to go to for a good recipe than Mark Bittman? Apparently, in the case of cornmeal pancakes – almost anyone. I have no pancakes. I have a bowl of fried-ish polenta-ish cripsy globs with some AMAZING cherry compote I made from frozen organic cherries, some lemon zest, freshly ground cardamom and little maple syrup. I knew better than to attempt pancakes with no leavening. I started in my extremely well seasoned cast iron skillet that is basically non-stick because it’s been cooked in for well over 50 years as it belonged to my grandmother. I used a little oil to ensure success. My poor skillet has crunchy chunks of polenta-ish stuff clinging to it like I would be to George Clooney’s leg if he showed up. I decided to try in the non-stick skillet which I almost never use. I have chunks of crunchy polenta-ish stuff which was scooped into a bowl along with the yummy cherry stuff and some cottage cheese.
In need of comfort and reassurance and inspired by TheTeaFairy, I turned to this tea. Chocolaty, chocolaty goodness. It goes really well with my cherries (also inspired by TTF this morning), and I am getting less hostile toward Mark Bittman by the minute. A big chocolate bomb that is smooth and delicious with zero bitterness or astringency even when steeped around 5 minutes is something that makes my semi-broken heart happier.
Spring 2014 version
Dear Mr. He:
Thank you so much for picking this tea. Like the dearly beloved “regular” LB, this smells and tastes like like roasty chocloate malto meal. It is a sweet, malty cocoay cup of comfort and I’m very glad that I get to have some.
Having said that, I believe I love my regular LB just a little bit more. There is a little more depth and body to the later pickings I think. I really and truly appreciate having both and the opportunity to compare the nuances and subtleties. I love that Verdant finds and supports the tea farmers to bring us these sips of lusciousness.
This is a perfect cup of tea to have pretty much any time and I’m really enjoying it (much too early) on this Sunday morning.
Flavors: Chocolate, Grain, Malt
Texas has been in a drought for quite a while now. It has been dry and sad. A few years ago, Texas caught on fire. I wish really hard for rain all the time.
This afternoon on my way home from work, I stopped at my local herb shop for some additional dried elderberries because of Northern Sweet Tea (ask Brenden). The shop is in a small stone house in a neighborhood and is a magical little place. In addition to herbs, they have tea and teaware. I got my elderberries and a darling little tea mug with infuser in a delicious green.
Just as I walked out of the shop it began to rain slowly at first but with great fat drops that increased in speed and decreased in size. I stood on the sidewalk and let the rain pour down on me for about 10 minutes. I’ve missed it so much.
As soon as I got home, I washed my new mug and brewed 2 teaspoons of this dainty looking little tea in 12 ounces of 180 degree water for 1.5 minutes. Now, I’m not a huge fan of green tea. It has to be right. I was not surprised to find that this tea is very, very right.
TeaFairy called it a lullaby and I agree. It would send you off to sweet dream land. But I can also imagine this iced on a brutally hot August day in Texas when it’s 109 and I’m in need of sweet cool salvation. The combination of sweet clean green tea with wildcrafted pine needles and a delicate jasmine is perfectly balanced. None of the ingredients overpower the others. Too often jasmine tea takes up your whole mouth-space with JASMINE – not this, it’s sweet and tastes like pure floral rain after a long dry spell. ADORE!
Brenden sent this tea as a sample a while back. I’ve been ignoring it in favor of all the other delicious tea I have. The other night I read a note on it by TheTeaFairy. It reminded me I needed to try it. Another new WPTC addiction.
And here’s the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N1DdwrsdTo (heh :)
Flavors: Jasmine, Pine
This was my 3 am middle of the night tea and I’m having it again at 6 with a little break for morning Special Dark (mmmmm) ritual. I was going to switch it up it, but it’s hard to mess with perfection so…
This is from my stash of the “old” vanilla, and while I do love the “new” vanilla just bit a more, I have to say that in the unlikely event you can let your stash of GO lounge around for a while, it just gets better and better – even more vanilla fudge flavor. Just so smooth and lovely.
It is no secret that I’m an enthusiastic fangirl for Whispering Pines teas. I was very gratified (and in excellent company with the lovely TheTeaFairy) to be one of the first tasters of the new WPTC blend Elderwood. When Brenden sent a list of the ingredients along with the sample, I was already salivating before I even tasted it. A blend of Imperial Grade Dian Hong, Ailaoshan Black and hand-cut Tahaitian Vanilla Beans sounded to me like my very much beloved Golden Orchid turned up to 11.
Only it’s not the big bold vanilla-fudge bomb I was expecting. This tea is a lady. An elegant lady dripping with class and good taste. This is a whole different experience from Golden Orchid – more subtle and nuanced. The word that comes to mind for me is pretty – though lovely is a far better word. Have you ever seen Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday? She’s so bright and beautiful and adorable, a pixie who is also a princess.
The dry leaf is gorgeous with sparks of gold. This is like nectar – not just merely sweet, but complex and nuanced with an earthy bass note. There is a hint of malt and bit of chocolate, with a luscious creamy vanilla winding it’s way through it and a fruity undertone. There is a bit of a floral lingering taste toward the end from the vanilla and absolutely zero astringency. This lady is smooth and sublimely elegant. If Cate Blanchett showed up at my house wearing her Oscar gown, this is the tea I would serve her.
Elderwood has lots to give. I took it though 4 steeps and the put the leaves in a cold steep overnight and woke up to a silky little honey taste. I really loved the third steep (though the first was my favorite), by that time it was really down to basiscs – earthy cocoa and a little jammy fruit. I had extremely high expectations for this and it did not disappoint – it’s enchanting.
I want to thank Brenden for letting me do this preview!
The song for this? Well this lady is a classic, so Beethoven I think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lkcvrxj0eLY
You know those wee little packets of enough black Chinese tea to make a big cup that only have Chinese writing on them so you have NO idea what they are? I’m having one of those now. I really wish I knew what it was. It’s nice and chocolaty with lots of body. I got a shitload of these little bags one day and I’m glad I did as they will be good for my travel bag and the tea stick.
I still have some sheng leaves left from yesterday that I will likely be getting back to today. Right now, I’m being MzMicrobe. Terri has inspired my microbiologist side. I’m working on: Root Kimchi (recipe by Terri), milk kefir and water kefir using my new kefir grains. After lunch I’ll be making some blackberry cobbler with the blackberries from my garden with a batter using almond flour and a recipe thoughtfully provided by Terri. In between I’m trying to organize my tea.
So. I am in a hotel, traveling for business. I had a really nice tea set up all packed in a zippered bag that has: a wee little stainless electric kettle, a tea stick (http://www.crateandbarrel.com/gamila-tea-infuser-stick/s132094?a=1552&device=c&network=g&matchtype=&gclid=CLGWqtfchb8CFSJo7AodYxEAlA ), and sevral kinds of awesome tea. I was willing to live with the little glasses they have in the room to brew in. I’m guessing the little tea things bag looks really cute sitting on my kitchen table where I left it.
The hotel lobby has a coffee set up and has some boxes of tea beside it. No hot water at 4:30 am, but there is a teeny coffeemaker in my room. So I am drinking two bags of this infused into one cup of whatever temperature of water comes out of the in-room coffeemaker.
And you know what? It’s not that bad. Except for the clove explosion which is a bit much and kind of overwhelms everything else, but I think I stepped it a little too long.
It reminds me of what my parents used to make for us when we went camping as kids. It was called Spiced Tea. It included: Nestea Instant Tea, Tang, cloves, cinnamon. It was all mixed together in a tupperware container and we would spoon the mix into cups and fill with hot water from the camp stove. We LOVED that stuff. And this reminds me of that, so I’m enjoying this.
Flavors: Clove, Orange
Weekday mornings around my house are fairly frantic. Even though I wake up really early (translation: I don’t sleep much), I wait until pretty much the last possible second to get dressed, feed critters, etc. I also need a low-stress, low-key way to start my day. I have lots and lots (and lots) of teaware. I’ve been trying figure out the easiest weekday morning tea system. Pretty sure I’ve found it.
This mug holds a perfect-for-me 16 ounces. It comes with a nice large stainless steel infuser basket and a lid that doubles as a basket trivet. I measure the tea into the basket, pour in water of the correct temperature, set my steep timer (aka – my iphone) and when it’s done, I remove the basket, shake it into the cup to let it drain, set the basket on the lid where it waits patiently for a re-steep and I have easy morning tea.
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BOOM BOOM! I’m gonna shoot you right down. Right off your feet. Take you home with me. PUT YOU IN MY HOUSE! Haw Haw Haw. Sorry. I can’t stop John Lee Hooker-ing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSnQ0bdHW0s) over this tea. Boy howdee this is good. There are many teas out there that I like a lot. But I have a pantheon of tea. Mandala’s Special Dark, my necessary shu pu-er, Verdant’s Golden Fleece – the best golden tip black, Whispering Pines Golden Orchid, my favorite black blend, and now – this. It is a genuine pleasure just to stick your nose in the bag and inhale (a quality it shares with Golden Fleece). Deep, rich luscious chocolate. Dark, creamy chocolate.
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