921 Tasting Notes
Part of my goal for 2017 is actually making my way through my Sheng sample stash, so I finally got into this tea. I was not a huge fan, nothing bad, just very much so not my thing. I like my shengs sweet, thick, vegetal, fruity, or floral…any bitterness I want it to be more like eating kale or zest, not the bitterness of hops which is what this one gave me.
I must be spoiled since shengs I have had lately have been loosely compressed, this one took six steeps (not counting the rinse and the like five minutes I let it steam out in the gaiwan) before it fell apart into chopped up, occasionally blackened leaves. It starts out vegetal, like cabbage water and brussels sprout with a bit of sweetness at the back of the throat. After the leaves fluffed up the bitterness really kicks in, very hoppy and beer like (and there are few things in life I hate more than the taste of hops) meaning I could only tolerate this tea for a couple more steeps before I moved on to something else.
Recently, for Christmas, I got a new book called The Great Extinctions, a dense little book on one of my favorite sub-subjects of prehistoric studies: Extinction Events! Conveniently for me (not so much for the vast amount of life ended by them) there have been several so I have my pick of ones to decide are a favorite, though let’s be honest, if I don’t choose the Permian-Triassic Extinction I am missing out. This event was so epic they called it the Great Dying, 96% of Marine Life and 70% of Terrestrial Life…that is an honestly hard to fathom amount of death. One thing that was really driven home to me a few years ago when I started studying mass extinctions in depth is that they take a lot of time to happen, the Great Dying took roughly 10 million years, most the documentaries, books, and brief mentions in other media make it seem so quick (looking at you Fantasia) and granted it is when looked at in a geological time scale, but it is certainly not as quick an event as most pop culture makes it out to be.
As much as the Permian-Triassic (and its amazing Siberian Traps) might be my favorite, the most well known has to be the one that killed the dinosaurs, the event caused by an impact (mostly, there is of course the theory that the dinosaurs were on the way out and the event sped things along, and of course the impact probably triggered climate change and the Deccan Trap eruption, turns out extinctions are not really caused by one massive thing but snowball out of control. That is what it is both correct and not entirely correct to say the dinosaurs were ended by an impact) With that bit of topical rambling aside (I honestly have put this off because I had a heck of a time abridging this topic…I could write MANY blog posts on just the K-Pg event) it is time to look at a real asteroid of a tea, Extinction Event from Tea-Historic! The big ol’ rock is made from a rolled Yunnan Dragon Ball (yay for Dianhong!) and the little splinter rocks are made from White Jasmine Pearls, making this a Jasmine black and white blend, something I have been wanting someone to make for so long! See I love jasmine in moderation, straight up jasmine scented teas tend to be a little too much for me, and I always thought blending with a hongcha could be perfection. So the aroma of the collection of tea space rocks (which come pre-measured, so useful!) is fascinating, the typical notes of malt, cocoa, yams, and molasses blend with a heady note of freshly blooming jasmine and buttery sweet undertones of baking bread. It is honestly the perfect amount of jasmine, heady without being headache-inducing (a problem I have with stronger jasmine, even the flower can be a bit much) nectar sweet and floral without being perfumey.
After a steeping in my gaiwan, the balls have unfurled a bit and the aroma that wafts out of the gaiwan is intoxicating. Honey jasmine nectar dances with cocoa, sweet potatoes, molasses, and brown sugar. Like sitting next to an open window at night eating chocolate dusted sweet potato pie while the jasmine flowers open in the moonlight…super evocative aroma! The liquid is a wonderful mild yet heady jasmine blossom and honey with yams, cocoa, and malt with a brown sugar finish.
The first steep is pretty awesome, the jasmine starts very mild allowing the Dianhong to show its stuff at first. Starting with honey and brown sugar covered yams (ok it is just liquid candied yams) it starts very sweet and thick in the mouth. Around the midtaste a malty cocoa note shows up and the jasmine starts to bloom, growing in strength and lingering long in the aftertaste. The finish is like chocolate covered jasmines, something I didn’t know I wanted until I had it.
The second steep is a perfect blend of jasmine and Dianhong, both having unfurled a good bit at this point, so their flavors and aromas really shine. Neither over powers the other at this point, and both start strong. The mouthfeel is smooth and light, a bit velvety in texture while not being very thick. It starts with yam and brown sugar with honey and jasmine nectar, then the flavor builds to stronger jasmine and malt with a strong chocolate and jasmine finish. The aftertaste is a long-lingering mellow jasmine that is sweet and nectar like, with just a hint of chocolate.
The third steep onwards show a slight decline in the jasmine, the hongcha goes strong for several steeps longer. Granted the jasmine is still there until the very end, just progressively fainter each steeping, like the flower closing up for the night, and I enjoyed its ghostly fade, towards the end I found myself wondering if it was a ghost and I was imagining it, though the lingering aftertaste of jasmine made me realize that no, it was still there. It is probably quite obvious that I really enjoyed this tea, so far it is probably my favorite of the teas offered by Tea-Historic and one I definitely recommend trying if you want something unique and are a fan of jasmine!
Time for my daily update on my dear friend the Flu, it seems our friendship is dwindling slowly. Last night my fever broke and has not come back (yay!) and I am starting to feel more like a person and not a ghost. I hope this means I am able to enjoy the snow we are supposed to get tonight and maybe, just maybe, use my sweet 40% discount at Michael’s to get a clay roller. Yes, dear tea friends, I am getting back into making things with polymer clay, I used to be quite obsessed with it. When I decided to get back into sculpting I wanted to mostly use it as a way to make monsters but decided to go back to my real love, which is making things using techniques like Mokume Gane and Mica Shift, something I really need a clay roller (aka a pasta machine) for. I plan on making a lot of Chahe to display tea on the blog!
Today it is time to look at another tea from the region of Thailand! Tea Side’s Red Tea Jin Xuan, basically instead of taking the leaves to make a Jin Xuan Oolong it was processed as a Red Tea, as is well known I have a mild addiction (read: not at all mild and very obsessed) with red teas made from Oolong material. It can make some of the tastiest and most unique tea, retaining some of its Oolong sweetness with its own character. The aroma of the curly leaves is quite intriguing, notes of cranberry and persimmon giving it a fruity sweet character while also having a bit of woody briskness. There are also notes of sandalwood, distant magnolia blossoms, and a touch of freshly baked chocolate bread. I really liked the tart notes of cranberry, not something I run into very often, so I spent quite a while sniffing the dry leaves.
I decided to brew this tea in my little green shiboridashi, and after steeping the leaves the aroma is strong, definitely not a subtle tea this one! Notes of malt and persimmon blend with cooked cranberry bread and woody sandalwood, the cranberry notes are definitely mingling with bready notes really reminding me of freshly baked cranberry bread. It is sweet without being too sweet, and woody without being too brisk, my nose is happy by the reveal. The liquid is bready and sweet, like chocolate cranberry bread with a side of freshly sliced persimmons and honey. It is very sweet and rich, mouthwatering in its sweetness!
Ok, this is a unique tea, truly! It starts with notes of persimmon and cranberries, very rich and sweet with just a hint of tartness (think more cranberry jelly than straight up cranberries) and it blends really well with the distinct sweetness of persimmons. The midtaste is a combination of coconut water, papaya, and honey that fades into a very light yeasty chocolate bread. It has a very strong start but a fairly light and faint aftertaste and finish, with a smooth mouthfeel that has a touch of dryness at the finish.
On to the next steep! Surprisingly light in both taste and aroma, it is not lighter than the first steep but roughly the same. Like the previous steep it starts with persimmons and cranberries, however the cranberry is joined with a yeasty bready quality being more like a cranberry bread, the faint tartness from the first steep has gone and is replaced with all sweetness all the time. The midtaste to finish is also similar, coconut water and papaya with a gentle wildflower honey and chocolate bread. The aftertaste is fairly faint persimmon that lingers a bit longer than the first steep, and the mouthfeel is all smooth all the time. Almost velvety in its smoothness.
And on to the third steep, sadly, the tea is already fading I was able to get this steep and one more before it gave up the ghost. Its fading was one of sweetness, like a delicious bready pudding made from persimmon and honey bread. I decided to give this tea a try bowl/grandpa style and it was quite a treat, very sweet and long lasting, going for several refills of the bowl. My only complaint about this unique tea is how it didn’t have a ton of longevity, I still recommend giving it a try though because the flavor notes present are worth it not lasting too terribly long.
Day four of the stupid flu, it shows no signs of going away, and the last couple of days have passed in a bit of a fugue. I had to break out the big guns of Day and Nyquil and I am not pleased about it since now I have flu medicine derp on top of flu derp. The derp is real and certainly not how I wanted to start off the new year or my return to blogging after a vacation. But, as they say, the show must go on…all I can hope is that the show makes sense when I read it again later!
Today I am looking at The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co’s Black Tower Tea, a fun blooming style tea usually made from Yunnan Hong Cha (ones I have had in the past were, this one specifically does not say, but it looks and tastes like a Dianhong) and it will be very hard to not call this tea Barad Dur, since you know, Black Tower. I also see this tea named Black Pagoda (which reminds me of the movie Dragon Tiger Gate) and Black Pyramid (which reminds me of Thundercats) seriously the various names for this tea remind me of so many bits of pop-culture that it is ridiculous. The aroma of the little towers is classic Dianhong with notes of yams, malt, toffee, roasted peanuts, and molasses. It is sweet and rich with just a touch of nuttiness to tie the sweet notes together.
I decided to brew one tower in my carved serpentinite 90ml gaiwan, the aroma of the slowly unfurling tower (it now looks like a sea monster) is quite sweet with strong notes of molasses, malt, sweet potatoes, a touch of dried cherries, and toffee. I love the toffee note, a lot of times I run into molasses and brown sugar, but not often in a way more reminiscent of straight up candy. The aroma of the first steep is a little creamy, like toffee and yams, reminding me a bit of a sweet potato pie and a sprinkling of dried cherries. It is quite a sweet aroma with a mild richness.
So, if you want a hongcha that focuses more on other notes usually present and not the strong chocolate burst many Dianhongs are famous for, this is a good pick. There is a hint of cocoa, but mostly the first steep is all about yam, malt, dried cherries, and toffee. The malt is fairly mild, mostly the tasting notes focus on the sweet starchy yams rather than the richness of the other notes. The mouthfeel is smooth and light, not too thick but also quite present. For the aftertaste you get a lingering note of candied yams, not too long lasting, but distinct.
The second steep brings a much more sea creature like a tower, it has fully unfurled at this point. The aroma is sweeter, somehow, definitely strong toffee and candied yams with a lingering hint of dried cherries. As expected the taste is more intense, sweeter notes of toffee and toasted peanut really reminding me of peanut brittle with a touch of dried cherry and strong lingering yams. The aftertaste is a lingering yam note that lasts longer than the previous steep.
The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth steep all really sing the same siren song of Dianhong goodness, strong yams and toffee, gentle malt, ghostly cocoa, mellow cherries, and a slight hint of black pepper and woodiness. I was glad that this tea lasts a while, I found the notes being sweet and almost dessert-like made these entertaining towers a great afternoon or evening tea over a breakfast tea (though you all know me, I drink whatever whenever) so yes, I have drank this tea both in the morning and right before bed.
Happy New Year all my tea peoples! I hope yours is off to a good start, filled with excellent tea of course! Mostly mine has been…really hit or miss actually, events in my life are great, but I decided it was a grand idea to catch the flu. I rang in the new year by grumbling at the neighbors for setting off fireworks, because apparently, I am a grumpy old lady now. One thing that is awesome that will make my life so much easier is I have a new computer! Ben got me a swanky new laptop as a wedding present, made a big show on how it was going to be mostly his and I could use it while he was at work, but still had to use the barely functioning one when he was home…well he was a giant tease, set the thing up entirely for me and presented it to me. This, of course, made me immensely happy…not only do I have a working (like really working and not just functioning) computer, this means we no longer have to share it, so my blog schedule won’t be so determined by his work schedule. Yay!
I agonized long and hard over how to bring the blog back from my little vacation, and decided a tea that has recently brought me some nice flu relief deserved a spotlight, so here is my look at Golden Tea Leaf’s Ginseng Oolong. It is a blend of American Ginseng and a floral High Mountain Oolong, not the usual green nuggets of gross you see offered as Ginseng Oolong, this is blending chopped up root bits with tea. Conveniently stuffed into a very large sachet (meaning the leaves can expand) as you can see from the picture you really need the pouch or will get a mouth full of ginseng bits but since the pouch is large and full of quality leaves, I don’t mind it. The aroma is quite fun, if you are into notes of earthy roots, licorice, sage, and an underlying floral, nutty, sweetness…which I am. I could see this being a very polarizing tea, just like with licorice root, you either love it or hate it, and if my long-standing love of licorice root is a clue, I am a sucker for earthy sweet roots.
I decided that yes, I am going to gongfu a bag, because why not? The aroma after the first steep is really fascinating, blending buttery floral notes of the familiar Oolong with peppery, nutty, earthy, licorice notes of the ginseng. Not something you expect every day, but very pleasant. The liquid is nutty and sweet, blending notes of spring flowers and a bit of green crisp lettuce with underlying licorice and burdock notes. I like that is has such earthy herbaceous notes without smelling at all like, well, dirt.
The taste of the first steep is really fun, but before I get to taste let me mention that mouthfeel! Like licorice it is thick, almost to the point of being slippery, this is probably due to the saponins present in the ginseng, let me say that when you have a horrid sore throat that mouthfeel is immensely soothing. The taste of the ginseng starts subtle then blooms into an intense herbaceous experience, similar to…you guessed it…licorice root, pepper, burdock root, and a bit of sage. The taste is very sweet, towards the end distant notes of lilac and honeysuckle pop up and dance with the rooty goodness of the ginseng. The aftertaste is very sweet and licorice-like, lingering for a long time.
This steep allows the Oolong to really shine, since the leaves have opened more it can compete with the strong ginseng. It starts, middles, and finishes with lilac, honeysuckles, lilies, and a lettuce and sage green note. Of course there is the ginseng, giving a sweet rooty note of licorice and earthy burdock with just a hint of pepper. The mouthfeel is still super thick and slippery and really does a grand job of coating the mouth.
If it is not obvious, I kinda fell in love with this blend. I love the way the ginseng tastes with the Oolong, and knowing that it is quality material and not the honestly quite gross green nuggets I have had previously makes it infinitely better. Ginseng is used for its supposed health benefits, and while it was very soothing on my sore throat, it didn’t really lessen my flu any, but since I rarely drink teas (even herbal ones) for things other than taste this does not bother me. I did really enjoy the taste, and it lasting many steeps (I got five really solid steeps) made it a good companion for my sick self. If you don’t want to toss a pouch in a gaiwan it does taste really good brewed in a mug, the ginseng is very strong that first steep though so if you are wanting a lighter ginseng then go the gongfu route. I have one more pouch of this tea left and I will probably drink it before bed tonight, then I will need to get more because, sickness or no, this tea is right in my level of taste likes! Again, Happy New Year everyone!!
This is the last post of the year! I realize that a combination of the ‘just married’ giddiness, general holiday craziness (Ben’s side of the family is very big into LOTS of events for holidays) and the sad crushing realization that I am coming down with some sort of sniffling/coughing/everything tastes and smells weird bug means my focus is just not in my writing. I really do try to limit the amount of my derp you all have to put up with! Also I promise this has nothing to do with the Minecraft update that dropped today (that I have been waiting anxiously for) though I probably will play it (a lot) during my little vacation. I shall return after the new year, either blogging Monday-Friday or Wednesday-Saturday to match Ben’s schedule…still trying to decide that one. Happy (insert your holiday of choice) everyone!!
Ok, enough announcement stuff, tea! You know what I haven’t done in a while? Had a What-Cha Wednesday, so let’s look at Thailand ‘Red Tiger’ Oolong. This particular tea is a Jin Xuan varietal made in what appears to be a Hong Shui style, meaning it is heavily oxidized but only lightly roasted. Oh man, I knew from the first sniff that I made a serious mistake not getting this, as it was included as a sample in my recent order. I waffled between it and the Royal Pearl, I should have just gotten both! The aroma is very similar to a Gui Fei, very fruity and nutty, like a stone fruit compote with a touch of tropical fruit. Notes of cherries, papaya, apricot, and peaches, it is very sweet and the underlying note of walnuts is very welcomed. This is truly an immensely sweet and fruity tea when dry, and is about to become stronger.
I decided, since the aroma is so similar to a bug-bitten Oolong that brewing it in my smaller bug-bitten Oolong pot would not be a terrible mistake, though it does remind me I need to get a Hong Shui style Oolong pot soon. The aroma of the now soggy leaves is pretty impressively sweet, strong notes of plums, apricots, papayas, peaches, cherries, and an undertone of plumeria and walnuts. The aroma of the first steep is like someone took those fruits, stewed them in brown sugar and orange blossoms, and sprinkled a bit of walnuts on the top…and this is a dessert I really need to make now. It is very sweet, bordering on decadent
The first steep is surprisingly thick, it coats all the mouth and is dense, very buttery and smooth. You know me, I love my Oolongs thick and juicy! Like the aroma, the taste is immensely sweet and fruity, starting with brown sugar stewed plums and peaches, moving to papaya and cherries, and finishing the fruity cocktail with a bit of apricot. There are also notes of flowers amid all the fruit, gardenia and orange blossom being the main notes with a touch of plumeria in the aftertaste. And that aftertaste, oh how the apricot and plumeria nectar lingers.
Ugh, this tea is so good!! Sadly (if you consider this a sad, I do not) there is not really any variation between the steeps note wise, the variation comes from intensity of the notes. Considering it tasted so good in the first place I am ok with that. I am also really glad I took the tasting note for this tea before my taste/smell went all wonky. I really want to get more and try this tea grandpa style, I love drinking darker unroasted oolongs in that way, especially when I feel ick or I am gaming and just want to chug something tasty. I got seven solid steeps out of this tea, it was awesome.
Ben is the meanest thing ever, seriously! As a wedding present to ourselves, we traded in a bunch of Magic Cards for store credit at Card Kingdom (including my super expensive Grim Flayer) and used to to finish off a couple of our decks. I also used it to get some much needed purple sleeves and a really cool Liliana deck box for my zombies, but the big jerk told me to not open the box until he gets home. So it is sitting there, staring at me, calling me to open it…I must be strong, but it is hard!! I am excited for the cards, but mostly I want to sleeve my decks!
It is a chilly day, meaning I need a tea that cuts through the cold, like Origins Tea: Tie Guan Yin – A Li Shan a roasted Taiwanese Oolong from one of my favorite mountains. The aroma of the leaves is nutty, a little savory tea, similar to a full grain walnut bread that has been nicely toasted, but this bread is clearly made for sandwiches rather than as a dessert bread. Yes, I take my bread very seriously. Towards the end is a bit of almond and brown sugar, only a hint of sweetness, mostly this tea is about toasted nuts.
After steeping I think I can safely say this is the nuttiest TGY I have ever sniffed, I get notes of almond, walnut, macadamia nuts, and even a touch of pecans, all thoroughly toasted in a fire giving it an edge of char. Under the char and nuts is a gentle note or orchid adding a touch of sweetness. The liquid, however, is surprisingly sweet, with notes of orchid and honeysuckle, almonds and walnuts, all of which have been tossed on a fire! The char note is very present but not unpleasant.
The first steep is thick and smooth, very much so a mouth coating Oolong, which I notice a lot of roasted Oolongs feel more sharp (not really the right word since sharp would be painful, it is more the difference between biting into okra and biting into lettuce.) It is very sweet, with notes of almonds and macadamia nuts drizzled with honey. Towards the middle it picks up notes of baked walnut bread and a bit of orchids, with a finish and subsequent aftertaste of orchids.
On to the next steep, the char has increased, definitely that more sharp mouthfeel I associate with roasted Oolongs. The taste is nuts that have been lit on fire, with a strong toasted bread undertone. Not much sweetness to be found in this steep, but there is a lingering aftertaste of orchid, ghostly but floral.
I was able to get several steeps out of this tea, I found it kinda puttered out a little soon, fading into mostly char after steep eight. I really liked how nutty it was, and how nutty it stayed until the end, especially with the notes of almond and macadamia nut, something I don’t run into as often as I would like. This is a great daily drinker I think, solid notes and pleasant taste, though it does not last as long as I would like for a more ‘special occasion’ TGY.
Did you know that Ceratopsians (the family of dinosaurs that Triceratops belongs to) might not have had those elaborate head fringes for defense like originally thought? I am currently reading an ARC of a book called Weird Dinosaurs, and finished the section on Ceratopsians where it talks about how the bony head fringe might have been used for mating displays. The theory for this is two-fold, a lot of damage marking on the heads of these dinosaurs match damage you would find on the skulls of deer and goats (and matches the horns on others of the same species) and more importantly the larger horns and weird triangular growths on the more bombastic species (like the fringe on Centrosaurus) didn’t develop until they started going through puberty.
This segues nicely to today’s tea, Tricera-Tips (Assam) from Tea-Historic, a blend of Nahorhabi Estate Assam and Cacao Husks from the Dominican Republic. If you think from the combination of an Assam and Cacao husks that it will be liquid brownies, well, you are right. The aroma blends malt, chocolate, molasses, and sweetness, and it smells just like brownie batter. Not really much else to say, too busy sniffing the brownie batter tea leaves!
After a nice steep in my steeping apparatus, the leaves still smell like brownies, even more so. With the chocolate and molasses comes malt and a starchy baked goods note that really fools my mind into thinking this is food and not tea. I am serious, pretty sure you could shove this under my nose with a blindfold and I would be convinced you were teasing me with incoming brownies. The smell of the liquid is much the same, with a little bit of an extra sweetness and a little less molasses. It reminds me of the constant brownie war Ben and I have, since he wants his brownies sweeter and I want mine loaded with molasses.
So the moment of truth, does it smell as brownie heavy as it smells…yeah it does, astoundingly so! I have had plenty of Assams and enjoy drinking cacao shells, and they are each delicious on their own, but something about the combination of the two really works. Cacao shells on their own taste like chocolate but with a woody and at times sour note, and Assam can be too brisk and malty, but when combined these aspects are balanced out so what you get is liquid brownies. What I really liked about this tea is it is sweet but not as sweet as brownies can be, meaning I could quaff a lot of it without feeling ill (unlike what happens when I fill my gorge pouch on brownies) and of course I had to share with Ben, who loved it and requests more.
I am having such a hard time focusing today, still stuck in giddy, giggly ‘just married’ mode, but since Ben had to go back to work, it is only fair that I do the same. It is great though, well except that my giddiness has taken my already limited attention span and made it even smaller, it is a small price to pay! I will say one thing, my luck with cracking Magic packs kinda sucks. As a belated birthday present to myself I used a bit of the money received to buy six packs of Eldritch Moon (my current favorite set) from Amazon at a really good price. Now I don’t think they were repacked, but man, the draws were awful, I only got one card I really have any use for (Cryptbreaker) and nothing but junk rares. For the most part though, my luck for pulling pricey rares is pretty awful, having only twice pulled ones worth more than $5, one was Grim Flayer which I traded for a lot of store credit at Card Kingdom which in turn paid for all the singles I needed for both my Zombie deck and my Control deck. Maybe I will use my new pile to make a deck in some other color than Black…maybe Black White or Black Blue! Can you tell I like playing Black?
Since I have no attention span, I am going to focus on a relaxing tea that doesn’t require many steepings to describe, a nice herbal blend! Lullaby Tea by The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffe Co, a blend of Apple Pieces, Linden Flowers, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Rose petals, Sweet Blackberry Leaves, Orange Blossoms, and Mallow Blossoms. Three things caught my eye when I saw this blend, there is no mint, chamomile, or hibiscus…all things that I am frankly quite sick of in herbal blends, and of course things that I am only moderately tolerant of taste-wise. I love herbal blends, not for any health reasons, but because herbs, flowers, and random plants are a great way to expand the taste palate and often taste really fascinating. When I was a kid I would rummage around in the garden selecting edible plants to blend into odd concoctions to drink, just because I wanted to explore more random tastes, since smell and taste are my favorite ways to interact with the world. The aroma is very much so a flower garden, notes of roses, lavender, orange blossom, pollen, hay, and a blend of herbaceous lemony goodness as the base, being an undertone to all the other notes. The herbaceous note gives a slightly savory quality which keeps the flowers from being too strong and cloying, it is well balanced, which is hard with such strong flowers as rose and lavender.
Into a steeping basket the blend goes, the aroma of the steeped herbs is flowery with notes of lavender and roses, but also peppery, citrusy, and herbaceous adding a green and savory quality. It is not at all too flowery, which is nice, the lavender is mild and not soapy, which is good. I love lavender but it can get too strong at times. The liquid is sweet and green, notes of lavender, roses, and orange blossoms with pollen, honey, and a peppery herbaceous finish. It is like flower nectar and leaves, like an entire plant!
The taste is lovely, exactly what I want from an herbal blend! Notes of gentle flowers, primarily roses and lavender with a hint of orange blossoms, sweet honey and pollen, a general wildflower taste, and a touch of ghostly mallow blossoms. After this initial burst of flowers is a midtaste of green blackberry leaves and a peppery and lemony herbal note that is unmistakably the linden flowers and lemon balm I am tasting. The lavender comes back in the finish and lingers into the aftertaste, and it, of course, sticks around quite a while since lavender is like that. The mouthfeel was surprisingly thick and almost viscous, which I found soothing since it is one of my favorite ways for a hot drink to feel. This could very easily become a favorite herbal blend, combining some of my favorite flowers and plants!
Brrr, it is cold! A brisk 22°F and it has been that way for the past couple days, meaning the dusting of snow is still on the ground. It also means that I have spent most my time bundled under my heated blanket and keeping Espeon and Tao from fighting over my lap, seriously. They both have completely comfy warm beds, but insist on being in my lap, regardless if I want them there, Espeon is particularly notorious for going through feats of acrobatics to get into my lap. These acrobatics usually involve climbing up the back of my chair, over my head, and down my shoulder. I’ve given up trying to stop this and just resign myself to my fate.
Today’s tea is from Origins Tea, their Hong Yun, a fascinating tea from Yu Chi Township in Taiwan. A cross between two different teas, Qimen and the Kyang strain from India, which is an Assamica. You might run into this tea listed by the name TTES #21, its cultivar name from the Taiwan Tea Experiment Station, not as catchy as the name Hong Yun. From the first sniff you can tell there is something a bit different about this hongcha, it is very aromatic, and while that is not unusual, the intense notes of yuzu, orange blossoms, honeysuckle, and chocolate is. It is almost Dancong like in its floral and fruity quality, but you can tell from the chocolate and gentle malty note that this is definitely a hongcha. I spent far too long sniffing it, fascinated by the citrus notes and their play with the other notes.
Into my little yixing pot the tea goes, yes I do have a yixing pot only for Taiwanese hongcha, because dedication. The aroma of the leaves is intensely aromatic, I feel like I can smell it from the other side of my desk rather than just when I have my nose in the teapot. Notes of orange blossoms, yuzu, grapefruit, chocolate, sassafrass, and a touch of menthol. There is a lot going on, and it has similar notes to my much beloved Red Jade, which I found enjoyable. The liquid is strong, but a ghost compared to the wet leaves, with notes of cocoa, orange blossoms, malt, and a bit of grapefruit peel.
Ok, so I had two sessions with this tea, and the first was a fail. I brewed it like I normally do Taiwanese Hongcha, using 195°F water and a steeping time of 30-60-90-etc but this tea was having none of it. The first steep was immensely tannic and brisk (to say the least) so I decided to try again but using flash steeping, which worked like a charm. It still has a tannic and brisk quality, but it is not unpleasant, being similar to a strong Assam in mouthfeel. The taste is very rich, strong notes of chocolate and yams with a building orange blossom and grapefruit that comes to strength at the finish with the orange blossom lasting into the aftertaste.
Next steep time, and like the previous it was brisk and tannic, bordering on dry but puckering, I admit it is not my favorite mouthfeel, one of the reasons I don’t drink a lot of Assam and Ceylon style teas, I like the smooth and buttery stuff. The taste takes its cues from the first steep, strong notes
of chocolate and yams with a steadily increasing citrus note that tastes distinctly like grapefruit. There is an added richness this steep, with malt and a touch of an undertone of menthol and sassafrass. The finish is orange blossom and lasts long after the cup has been emptied.
I was able to get six solid steeps from this tea and three lesser ones, the lesser ones had lost all tannic and briskness and were smooth, though lacking in flavor. This was a fascinating tea, I enjoyed it though I am not sure I can call it a favorite, mostly because of that mouthfeel not being a favorite…perhaps lovers of strong black teas would prefer this one over more delicate, smoother hongchas that I crave. One thing I will say in this tea’s favor that makes me tempted to add more to my stash, that grapefruit note was awesome, I do not run into enough teas that have a natural citrus note, I love its bright quality and wish I could run into it more often.