921 Tasting Notes
Well I did it, I finally saw The Force Awakens, took me long enough. I might lose all of my nerd cred, but I am not much of a Star Wars fan, it has always been a franchise I enjoyed but could not really get into, so that is why it took me so long. That and I hate theaters, crowds, going out in public, and of course being in a car for very long…so other factors. I did enjoy it though, it was predictable and nostalgia laden, but these things made it enjoyable, plus laughing at Kylo Ren’s emo self was immensely entertaining. Reminded me of my goth phase in high school, when I wore a mask and had a lightsaber.
Today’s tea is from Yunomi, a company who I have not visited on this blog in a while, so I thought it was time to change that. Looking at their Ocharaka: Hojicha Baked Apple Flavored Roasted Green Tea, a different take on one of my favorite teas, Houjicha! I am not a big fan of flavored teas anymore, I still drink them on occasion but usually I got for pure leaf or a blend, but once in a while I am craving a taste and don’t have access to it, usually that craving is food related and imitated in tea, so I reach for it to satisfy a craving. This time I was craving apple pie, so it seemed a perfect time to try this tea I had in my stash. Blending Houjicha, Ginger, Apple and Flavorings, this tea smells like tart apples and ginger with a strong caramel undertone. It kinda reminds me of the apple pie caramel lollipops they gave with the apple pie blizzards at Dairy Queen where I worked, hated the blizzards but man did I love those lollipops! There is also a toasted note that vaguely reminds me of crust, but mostly this tea’s aroma is all ginger and apple.
Into my little kyusu the leaves go for steeping, this pot is the perfect sized for a single me sized cup, I like small cups and I cannot lie! The aroma is a lot less tart and more baked sweet apples, toasted crust, and ginger. It does not exactly remind me of pie, but does remind me of cobbler which works for me! The liquid is very sweet with just a hint of tart apples and pie crust. Ok this tea officially smells like pie now.
Mmmm pie, in fact it tastes like slightly burnt pie, where the crust is burnt and the sugar has caramelized a bit. It is quite sweet and smooth with strong toast and ginger notes with light apples, luckily the apple tastes like apple and not apple candy, which I was a bit worried about from the aroma of the dried leaves. I found the apple notes to be strongest in the aftertaste or when the tea had cooled a bit. It is not an exact pie match, but it was close enough to ease my craving!
Man, the last day has been a whirlwind of emotions! Last night my computer had an accident and I thought, well crap, there goes the blog since I lacked the funds to get a new one for at least a month, let’s just say I did not go to bed happy…or woke up happy. But lo and behold Ben fixed it (at least temporarily) so hooray for that! To celebrate (and get my agoraphobic self outside of the house…going to try for at least once a week) we did my favorite thing, visited a thrift store. I got a really cute little cup, oh yea, and A FRENCH HORN!!!!!!! For those who don’t know, this is a really big deal, I go into a full explanation of why here, but after many years I own a French Horn, its a double so it is what I played, needs a mouthpiece and some oiling, but wow. I am practically exploding!
Ok, I can focus long enough to blog (and then go back to playing Ark because it is all I do, it is all I know) and today I am looking at 3 Leaf Tea’s Golden Eyebrow (Jin Jun Mei) and for those who have been reading my rambling for a while, you know how excited I get over my favorite Wuyi Red Tea (sorry Lapsang, I love you too, but that is Ben’s favorite) with its oh so delicate fuzzy leaves. The aroma is delicious. blending sweet notes of cocoa and sweet potatoes with malt and peanuts. Jin Jun Mei has a resinous woody quality that reminds me of pine sap, and the finish is starchy and sweet.
Into my dear little Petr Novak pot the leaves go for their bath, the gold is no longer fuzzy, but it is worth altering their appearance. The aroma of the soggy leaves is really sweet, nice notes of brown sugar and sweet potatoes with malt and peanuts. The finish is sappy and pine like adding a bit of woodiness to the sweetness. The liquid is a sweet blend of dates, malt, brown sugar and sweet potato with a roasted peanut finish. These aroma notes please me.
First steeping is made of yum, it starts soft in both texture and taste, with notes of malt and molasses and I swear a touch of maple syrup. Towards the end it picks up notes of sweet potatoes and dates with a touch of roasted peanuts. The mouthfeel at the end almost has a sticky quality, reminding me of sap, not sure why but this tea always comes off as very resinous to me.
For the second steep the aroma is rich and malty with a strong resinous and roasted peanut undertone. This is carried over into the taste as well, it starts rich and sweet and stays that way til the end, luckily this is a rich tea without a hint of bitterness, no astringency either which is probably why I prefer Chinese reds to the more robust Ceylons and such. The finish is a blend of molasses and malt, with a lingering honey aftertaste.
Third steep, though it was not my last, this tea had a few more steeps in it. Sadly I find that Red teas are kinda in the middle with longevity, I have never really had one that lasts more than seven (and not just tasted so watered down and boring) where as most Puerhs, Whites, and Oolongs can go much longer and most greens putter out at about three-four. This steep carries on from the second, going strong with rich and malty notes, not really changing but being very tasty and soothing. The fourth steep is the real change, it looses some of its rich maltiness and is replaced with wonderful honey sweetness that lingers.
Book time! I have been voraciously reading, it is the time of year where I go deep into the books and tend not to come out again until spring. Today’s book is The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard and by one of my favorite publishers, DK. See, DK has a tendency to publish really pretty books, their book on Gemstones is still a classic favorite, but this is about tea and not rocks. From the moment I cracked open the book I was impressed with the visuals, it is beautiful!
But looks alone do not make a book (unless it was a photo book, of course) so how is the substance? First off I will say, I think I found THE perfect book for people new to tea and with a voracious appetite for knowledge. This covers so many of the basics, but instead of stopping there it delves deep into various cultures, history, and regions. I was pleased to see coverage on Korean tea and their tea culture, along with Vietnam and Kenya, and not just the typical China, Japan, India, and Sri Lanka.
There is a large section on recipes, but it is not the more trendy cooking with teas but different drinks using tea. Frankly most of them look so delicious, I plan on breaking a few of them out for events when I have to serve tea to a bunch of people. So many delicious looking recipes, plus a method for making popping spheres meaning an upgrade to bubble teas.
Along with lots of juicy information about tea and recipes, there is a section on herbal teas/tisanes. I had mixed feelings on this, on the one hand it was very valuable information (the wheel of healing was my favorite) and herbal teas are definitely a big part of the tea world, but on the other hand this is space that could have been filled with more info about tea!
At times I wish this book would have delved deeper into various topics, mostly because I really enjoy Linda’s writing style (I have been following her blog for a while, good reading there!) and would have loved to have seen more of it combined with DK’s signature bombastic visuals. I find myself daydreaming about a book of this style devoted entirely to Yunnan’s tea culture or Vietnamese tea. Again, I really cannot stress how I think everyone interested in tea should buy this book, even though a lot of the information presented was a refresher for me, I loved reading it because it is so well written and enjoyable.
Another day, another day of me frolicking with dinosaurs in pixel land! Today was better than yesterday, I was able to redo my ‘Mobile Oppression Yacht" which is a boat with crazy ’Species X’ plants that are essentially turrets so I wreck the dinos getting lots of meat, and I tamed a little derpy Dimorphodon to ride on my shoulder. Yesterday would have been the most epic, except for my massive ‘hitting the wrong button and ruining everything fail’ that I am STILL salty over. I was well into taming a Spinosaur, a very resource intensive process, hit the wrong button and wasted all that time and resources by ruining the tame. There was some serious raging after that!! I also spent a good chunk of today trying to hunt down and tame an Argentavis with no luck, but soon I will be the queen of the skies…and swamp if I get another go at a Spino! Life in Ark is full of hardship and joy.
Today we are looking at a tea that reminds me of prehistoric fuzzy pine cones or maybe little catkins, yes it is the beloved Wild Pu’erh Buds (Ya Bao) this one comes from 3 Leaf Tea. This tea is made from the very young buds of trees from Yunnan in very early spring, way before they have the chance to open into tea leaves. I have seen a bit of debate among vendors and drinkers alike over whether or not this tea (like Moonlight and Yunnan Silver Needle) is a white tea or a puerh, and I like to think that this is just magic stuff that overlaps and joins both types of tea into something epic. I can see a valid case for either side of the debate so I have never been able to make a clear decision. The aroma of the little buds is very crisp and light, this is one of those teas that smells very pure (not saying that others smell unclean, but it is like comparing the clean smell of the air after snowfall and the smell after a spring rain) There is not a lot going on with the aroma, crisp cedar, gentle apricots, and a touch of lettuce. The comparison to a snowy day’s aroma is not entirely false, this type of tea has such a winter deep in a forest quality to me, even with the sweet notes of apricot.
Gaiwan time, for no reason other than feeling like using this set I went with my Ru Yao, though I can say with the perfectly clear liquid, my camera had a fun time trying to focus thanks to all the crackles! The aroma of the wet leaves is fairly faint and quite sweet, blending fresh apricot and clover honey with lettuce and cedar. I do love that cedar note, it has a slight sap like quality to it as well. The liquid is sweet and juicy, like a honey drizzled fresh apricot, eaten on a cold day in a cedar forest.
The first steep is as light as the aroma, it is one of the really endearing qualities of Ya Bao, it is a subtle tea. It is smooth in the mouth and starts a bit crisp with notes of cedar wood and lettuce. This moves to wonderful light sweetness like fresh apricot and very light honey. The end of the sipping is crisp and refreshing cooked celery with a little bit of a cedar sap aftertaste.
Second steep and the aroma has gained a bit of a wildflower note, perhaps this tea that is so synonymous with winter is now fading into spring? Nah, it was a false thaw. The taste has the same wonderful crisp cedar notes and sweet fruitiness, but it starts to pick up a cucumber and squash blossom quality at the finish. The aftertaste lingers and at the very end it fades into apricot which is pleasant.
For the third steep nothing really has changed in aroma or taste. I find that Ya Bao does really change in taste notes, but only in intensity. This steep is more mellow, more similar to the first, and the next steep after as well. One of my favorite ways to steep Ya Bao is to grandpa/bowl steep the tea after the first two steepings, I will just transfer the little buds into a bowl or sip them from my gaiwan, it never gets bitter and only ever gets sweeter.
You know what I need, a new Paleontology themed book, my pocket guide to dinosaurs (in case of time travel emergency) is super out-dated. This of course makes me think of the ways that Ark veers away from current accepted theories, like the way the Beezlebufo is ridable. And has become my favorite mode of transportation. Granted the Beezlebufo was a monstrously big prehistoric froggy, though it sadly was not quite as big as in the game, sadly. I wish it were that big…and still alive…and ridable, because I would definitely use the giant frog as a my way of going everywhere. Not that I really ever leave the house, but still!
Today is the last of my sample pile from Xin Mu Cha, their Taiwan Premium Aged Ginger and Brown Sugar Tea, alas not in their store yet. This is a medicinal tea that is made from aged ginger and brown sugar, though apparently this is drink is commonly made with Chinese brown sugar which tastes different from western stuff. Theoretically this tea is used medicinally to treat PMS symptoms and since it is ginger, belly woes. I consume a lot of ginger to help with my chronic vertigo induced nausea, so I am always pleased to try it in a new way. The aroma of the granular powder is a powerful punch of ginger and sweetness, it very strongly reminds me of the gummy ginger candies I get at the local Chinese market (I call them my car sick treat since I always have since I always keep them in the car) though apparently my brand of choice is actually from Indonesia. It is super sweet and very warming, but I absolutely adore ginger.
Blending the powder with water and giving it a stir gives me a rich amber color liquid and fills the room with sweet ginger aroma. Man, this stuff was awesome, a really potent ginger mixed with a wonderful warm and rich sweetness. It tastes exactly like the ginger candies I love, but if you are not familiar it is somewhat like gingerbeer but not cold and certainly not fizzy. I was sent three packets of this and I tore through it super quickly, it was really easy to make (hot water and stir, done) which made for an excellent late night sweet treat for pre-sleep laziness. The only thing I can say is avoid like the plague if you dislike strong ginger, but if you like it definitely get some, it is super sweet and rich and I loved it. I WANT MORE!!!
Now that I have a Carno in Ark, I find myself contemplating my next dinosaur goals. On the one hand Rexes are a classic favorite (I slept with a humongous plastic T-Rex as a kid) and have a ton of health and stamina, but on the other they are made of fail in water. Spinos are like the all rounders, great on land and water but a little weaker, but they are everywhere around our base and slightly easier to tame. In a game as resource management intensive as Ark, having a slightly lower drain on resources is a win. Now, if you are wondering why a Carnotaurus is not enough of a hunting beast, I tried taking down a Paraceratherium with him (his name is Pimento if you were curious) and we both almost died, where a Spino or Rex can take down pretty much everything by a Gigantasuarus or one of the big horrifying sea monsters and some of the soon to be added in dinos. If you are wondering why I just don’t get a Gigantasaurus, they are stupid rare and hard to get…so maybe one day.
Contrary to popular (and by popular I just mean all the signs at the Charleston Tea Estate) there are several tea farms around the United States, and Hawaii is very well known for its rich volcanic soil creating some epic tea. Problem is this tea is rather niche and fairly hard to get, since a lot of it gets sold to tourists and it is not cheap, but luckily I have tea friends that get access to some cool stuff and they like to share. Smash cut to Second Alarm Farm, a tea farm who grows both tea and coffee in Pahoa, Hawaii, from what I gather they are currently distributing their teas to local shops, but they are in the works with Tealet so we might see them soon. The leaves are massive and fluffy, they look like they were picked and dried off the tea plant yesterday, I am so amused by fluffy leaves. The aroma of these leaves are the most ‘tea’ I have ever sniffed, it is like taking a leaf from my tea plant and letting it dry and then sniffing it. It is pure leafy green and slightly sharp vegetation, it smells like spring time and a tea farm. Not incredibly nuanced, but if you want to sniff a tea that clearly smells like a fresh from the plant leaf, this is as close as you can get without visiting a farm or owning a tea plant.
I decided to brew this one in my gaiwan, because why not? The aroma of the now soggy leaves is very green and very fresh, still strongly resembles freshly plucked and dried tea leaves, but with an underlying honey sweetness and a touch of very distant pine needles. The liquid is fresh and crisp, with notes of lettuce and bell pepper and an underlying sweet buttery note.
The first steeping is light in both taste and mouthfeel, it reminds me of licking rain water off a large plant leaf. The taste is a blend of sweet and vegetal, very light acacia honey mixed with sharp fresh bell peppers, fresh cabbage, and crisp broken vegetation. It is immensely refreshing and very organic tasting, I feel as though I am tasting the tea at a very pure state.
Second steeping brings a slightly stronger aroma, still primarily lettuce and bell pepper, but also a hint of cabbage and broken leaves. The taste again reminds me of rainwater and growing things, with an addition of bell peppers and cabbage, the finish is light and sweet with a lingering mineral aftertaste.
For the final steep, the lightness of this tea dominates, the aroma is mostly notes of distant bell pepper and a touch of broken leaves. The taste is rain water and gentle crushed leaves, it tastes like summer storms and I find that very refreshing, even if the taste is a bit lacking.
Yep, I am still marathoning Ark: Survival Evolved, my obsessive tendencies and a game that is so much fun is just a wonderful combination, but I do occasionally do other things. Like just last I finally talked Ben into watching Beetlejuice, see he is not a huge Tim Burton fan having not grown up with him and lacking the nostalgia and also coming into his oeuvre once it has (at least in my opinion) gone really stale, so he was not really interested in it. This movie was a favorite of mine as a kid, so I was glad I was able to convince him, and it turns out he liked it. Certainly made me nostalgic for days when his style was more unique and not so saturated in itself!
But I am not a movie reviewer, my specialty is why you are all here, usually nerdy intro paragraph aside. Today is an herbal tea from Xin Mu Cha, not yet on their website, it is Premium Fried Black Bean Tea, yes this is another one of those roasted grain teas that are very popular in Asia, and with good reason they taste amazing. Giving this a bit of a look up since it was new to me, I found out it is usually made from Kuromame or black soy beans and is touted as a weight loss aide, but considering I would prefer to gain weight perhaps I will just look at this for its taste like I usually do with teas. These arrived in a teabag but I preferred to brew them in a steeping basket, so out of their little bag they came for a good sniffing. The aroma is super roasted, strong notes of soy beans, burnt beans, and a tiny bit like coffee beans. It is a blend of savory and sweet and even though it smells a little bit like pinto beans left on the stove and burnt a bit, the aroma is mouthwatering, but I really like eating beans.
Into my cup of hot water the basket goes, since this tea is popular in Japan among other places I decided to use my bamboo steeping basket and Somayaki cup, because I can be thematic once in a while! The steeped beans smell, well, like beans, with a toasted coffee and burnt undertone and a subtle sweetness. The liquid is much the same, it is beans all the way down with this brew.
This is an odd thing, but odd in a very pleasant way! The roasting of the beans brings out a sweetness that reminds me a bit of adzuki beans, but with a powerful roasted undertone. It goes from this initial sweet to a richer nuttier roast, again reminding me a bit of coffee’s smell but not its taste. The aftertaste on this brew is very rich, nutty and sweet with a hint of pinto beans that lingers for a while. I really enjoyed this stuff and foresee myself either buying more or roasting my own, there is something just so incredibly comforting about roasted grains on a cold night before sleep/
You know, Ark: Survival Evolved is definitely the kinda game that is geared towards people with no lives, especially when you look at the taming mechanic. Currently I am taming a Carnotaurus, after more or less giving up on ever finding one I just took my raptor (named Diego from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, because he can turn into a raptor) out hunting and lo and behold, Carno time! So after shooting it full of tranq arrows and loading it with meat and narcotics I sit and wait and make sure nothing tries to eat it or me…for two and a half hours. True there are quicker tames, like using kibble, but I lacked the proper amount of Anklyo eggs, so I play the long game. This game makes me feel like I am accomplishing something with my life and this pleases me.
Today we are looking at one of Adagio Tea’s custom blends, designed by yours truly, because my love of Minecraft is endless and I wanted teas to match my obsession. This one is the Charged Creeper, basically you take a Creeper and strike it with lightning and what you get is a glowing blue super charged explosion. It is a blend of Gunpowder Green (for the explosion of course) Houjicha (because they are said to feel crunchy like autumn leaves) Green Chai (for the spicy extra explosion) and to evoke the blue glow some Blueberries and Cornflowers. The aroma of this blend is very sweet and toasty, the Houjicha mixed with chai spices gives a real warmth and toasted marshmallow quality, while the sweet notes of blueberries linger underneath. At the very end there is a touch of orange and very gentle smoke.
The aroma of the brewed leaves and berries is still pretty toasty and sweet, again reminding me of marshmallows with a touch of smoke and a slight vegetal undertone. Really strong Houjicha notes, the addition of blueberry vaguely reminds me of pie. The liquid once freed from the leafy embrace is pretty similar, strong notes of toasted marshmallow and blueberries.
Tasting this tea, it is pretty roasty toasty and a bit smoky! It starts with marshmallow sweetness and toasted grain and then moves on to smoke and gentle vegetal notes, it is a pretty mellow tea. Around the midpoint notes of gentle spice and oranges show up and at the finish is a nice juicy burst of blueberry. I think the most fun I had with this tea was the color, it is so purple and dark, not quite the color I envisioned for a Charged Creeper, and the green notes from the other teas really don’t show through much, but the mix of toast and blueberries is quite tasty.
I had the wonkiest dream last night, it combined my current obsessions of Magic The Gathering and Ark: Survival Evolved with crazy apocalypse stuff most likely caused by my brushing up on the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event. It is always weird when the brain comes up with a crazy mish-mash of whatever you were thinking about before sleep and tries to make it into a story, most the time in the dream it makes perfect sense, but of course when you wake up it is so illogical and weird. And if anyone is curious about my Ark shenanigans for today, I’m planning on finding and taming a Carno, sure I could wait for an epic Rex or Spino, but the derpy arms and horns of the Carno kinda win so I need one to go hunting with my Pile ’o Dilos.
So, since it is Wednesday it is time to look at a tea from What-Cha, their India Bihar Doke Hand-Made ‘Rolling Thunder’ Oolong Tea is the lucky pick from my notes today. From the Doke Tea Garden in Bihar, the Lochan family once again is pushing the boundaries of tea in India, putting Bihar on the map as a tea region. The gentle curling leaves have a very sweet aroma, blending strong notes of plums, raisins and fresh grapes with a accompaniment of malt and dried tomato. The dried tomato note was a bit odd in concert with the other notes, but it is not an unpleasant oddness.
Into my steeping apparatus the leaves went for their nice little steeping session, I decided to go western style for this tea, because why not? I admit I primarily focus on gongfu so it is nice to switch things up a bit, keep me versatile. The aroma of the soggy steeped leaves is very fruity, blending tart slightly underripe plums, prunes, grapes, and raisins, the tartness is pretty fun, giving it a briskness. The liquid is very mild and sweet, blending grapes and prunes with a drizzling of honey, it has a richness to it that is not at all overpowering.
There is something about drinking tea from elegant or beautiful tea gear that makes it all the more wonderful, now I admit that my more recent collection of cups not all being pure white does skew the coloring of the tea a bit, but the beauty makes it worth it for me, and hopefully my dear readers don’t mind too much. The coloring matches the golden color of my cup perfectly, it looks like liquid sunlight. The mouthfeel is nice and smooth, pretty juicy with a bit of thickness, like warm fruit juice without the sticky. Tasting the tea, it is very sweet, mixing honey and plums with a gentle allspice note and a touch of raisins. Towards the end it gets a little dry and more heavily into the grape notes, reminding me a bit of spiced wine.
I did steep a second time, but a lot of the potency was lost, there is still mellow plum and grapes, but towards the end a note of dried tomato appears which was a bit surprising. The first steep really was quite enjoyable, the second steep was not at all bad, just diminished.
I am still very much so enjoying Ark: Survival Evolved, if anyone was curious. Currently I am taming an Ankylosaurus because they are quite utile little spike balls, and then I will be gathering chiton to make a saddle for my Pterandon. Ah, this game, it has re-awakened my never really asleep love of dinosaurs, and for that I am grateful! As a kid it was my dream to be a Paleontologist, it might have been my first aspiration before other history and science obsessions took over, I never stopped wanting to be one though. In fact a year or so ago I got an intro to Paleontology certification from the University of Alberta via Coursera, because it is never to late in life to at least dabble in past dreams!
Today is another offering from Xin Mu Cha, their Winter Essence – Taiwan Premium High Mountain Oolong, an Oolong from Fu Shou Shan, a mountain in the Lishan Range, and made from the Qing-Xing Cultivar. Opening the pouch for this tea is quite the treat, a real powerhouse aroma that instantly greeted my nose. Blending floral and sweet nutty notes, I detected honeysuckle, chestnuts, sesame seeds, sugar cane, and a sweet baked cake note that ended with wonderful sweetness. The only real floral note I got was honeysuckle, and I am totally ok with that because fun fact, it is one of my favorite flowers to sniff.
Gaiwan time, and wow, the leaves are much richer this time around, not only are there notes of honeysuckles, but it is joined with orchid and hyacinth. It smells much like nectar with a sweet sugar cane undertone and a hint of chestnuts. The liquid is buttery sweet nectar, it smells thick and rich with heady tones of honeysuckle, hyacinth, lilac and orchid. The name of this tea is Winter Essence, but it smells like the height of spring time.
The first steep kinda stole my heart, not through taste or aroma, but through the amazing mouthfeel. Smooth and supple, like liquid silk, it coats the mouth but is gentle with it. I honestly was so wrapped up in the mouthfeel I almost forgot to pay attention to how the tea tastes! I did, however finally pay attention, I was greeted with notes of sweet peas and sugar cane, apple pears and butter head lettuce, and the finish, well, it is a lingering mouthful of honeysuckle nectar.
Second steeping, and the aroma is very floral, strong notes of hyacinth and lilac blend with honeysuckles and a touch of spicy lilies. Along side this sweet floral nectar is a green blend of lettuce and fresh spinach, tying the green into the flowers. Again, the mouthfeel of this tea is the real show stealer, thick and supple, it really has quite the presence. The taste is very light, similar to the first steep but with a slightly greener and buttery tone to it.
Third steeping’s aroma is still floral, with the same flowers as before, but at the end it kinda explodes into orchid, it was one of those ‘did I just stick my nose in a flower’ moments, catching myself before I dipped my nose in the tea thankfully. That mouthfeel keeps blowing me away, it is so thick and silky, supple and bordering on oily, it is dense and I found myself wanting to take big gulps of it rather than sipping. The taste is still light and sweet, with a pretty even balance of green lettuce and sweet floral. I kept this tea going for nine steeps, the taste never really gets strong, but that mouthfeel was so intense I find myself relieved that it was not overwhelming, I might have fainted away into a tea fugue!