921 Tasting Notes
You know what is just a glorious thing, heated blankets. I was able to get a good deal for a new one thanks to Black Friday sales and it was ready to be picked up from JC Penney today, which Ben and I did. It is wonderfully fuzzy and of course wonderfully warm, much better than my usual heating pad usage since it is bigger and not as scalding. I get angry at the heating pad since even on the lowest setting it can be intense, but the heated blanket is like taking a nice hot…dry…bath, perfect for me! It also means I can go longer without opening the dreaded heating vent!!
Today, you might notice, is a Sunday and not one of the days I usually blog, but I was in the mood to write and have many teas piling up that need their story told, so why not? So I decided to delve into my new favorite company, Tea-Historic, a tea company…you guessed it…themed around dinosaurs! It is quite literally the perfect company for me to geek out over, and not just because thanks to this company existing I now have an ammonoid filled fossil tray and jade cup. They were a birthday present for myself, but along with these awesome pieces came some teas to review!
Presenting Mesozoic Malt, a GFOP Assam from Chota Tingrai Estate, being both sustainable and organic. Before I get into the tea, let us have a brief side rant into Paleontology…for once it is actually topical! The name Mesozoic is one of geology’s laziest names ever, one of two Geological Eras, smack between the Paleozoic (ancient life) and Cenozoic (new life) with Mesozoic’s name being ‘middle life’ which definitely sounds cooler in Greek. It is marked by extinctions, starting after the Great Dying and ending with the K-Pg event, called the ‘Age of Reptiles’ which is cooler than middle life, but not really correct since it was really dominated by dinosaurs. Or proto-birds if you feel creative. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Paleozoic, it has many of my favorite animals and of course my favorite extinction event, but my real passion has always been the Mesozoic! So, this tea, sniffing it I can say this is one of the sweetest Assams I have sniffed! This made me happy, you probably notice I don’t drink a ton of Assam, usually I find the brisk and woody notes too strong and the sweetness absent, so having an Assam that has the familiar brisk and woody notes, but also an immensely strong malt and a drizzling of brown sugar made for a happy nose.
I tossed the leaves into my steeping apparatus for the steeping time, I had to set a timer on my phone because I gongfu so much that I will wander off if I brew western style! The aroma is still very sweet, notes of strong malt and molasses with a touch of sweet honey and distant woodiness. There is also a touch of starchy molasses cookies, which adds to the sweetness. The liquid is surprisingly nutty and malty, with an undertone of brown sugar and molasses which again, reminds me of molasses cookies…yum!
The moment of truth, does the sweetness linger…yeah, yeah it does. The description on the website says this is a very sweet Assam and it is not an exaggeration, notes of brown sugar and molasses mix with rich malt and an underyling nuttiness that lingers on in the aftertaste. As I said earlier, usually I am not a huge Assam fan because of its overwhelming briskness (the same can be said of a lot of Ceylon and African black teas) but this one has gentle briskness and a wonderful mellow quality that had me downing this cup super quick! Also it goes for two strong steeps, which is fantastic. The website says this makes an excellent iced tea and I am tempted to get a bunch to send to my iced tea loving grandmother in the South to enjoy.
Soon, on the Xbone, Ark will be getting some new creatures, including a favorite of mine, the Megalosaurus! In Ark they are adorable nocturnal death machines that you find sleeping curled up like a cat into a little ball during the day, and that is cool and all, but missing one of the best things about Megalosaurus, and that is how it shaped Paleontology! If you are not familiar with the history of Paleontology, Victorian Paleontologist had a really…unique…way of thinking that dinosaurs worked. Megalosaurus was one of the first non-avian dinosaurs named and became an early poster child for bringing awareness to the general public, problem was the was it was presented was so unbelievably wrong that it was hilarious. Originally thought to be a quadrupedal hunch-backed amphibian who were only carnivorous to old and ill animals. Obviously, we have advanced our understanding of dinosaurs, each year some new advancement seems to completely change the way we think they looked or behaved, but in part we have the incredibly derpy early depiction of Megalosaurus to thank for a lot of advancement.
You all know me, I could go on about dinosaurs all day (I have done this a few times to people foolish enough to get me started talking about them) but this is a tea blog and not a dinosaur blog, so it is on to today’s tea! Teavivre’s Yunnan Chrysanthemum Dragon Ball Tea, a hand-rolled ball of Dianhong with an addition of a yellow chrysanthemum flower, combining two of my tea loves into one. I have had several blends of Shou and chrysanthemum and it has never really worked for me, I often thought that blending with a Hongcha would be amazing, so when I saw Teavivre had just that, I knew I needed to try it. Sniffing the tightly rolled ball I was greeted with the sweet pollen, aster, and peppery aroma of chrysanthemum flowers along with malt, chocolate, yams, and honey. Oddly the blend of chrysanthemum and Dianhong give a slightly savory finish, though not necessarily like a specific savory food, just a savory quality, which is pretty neat.
Steeping time! My large engagement gaiwan got some love with this tea since it is a big ball that needs to expand. The aroma after the first steep is very strong, notes of chocolate and white pepper, malt and yams, and of course, chrysanthemum flowers. It, like the dry ball, is surprisingly savory, almost herbaceous. Similar to a white pepper and, well, the herb savory blended together, it is a surprising thing to smell with the more familiar Dianhong but it really works. The liquid lacks the savory quality, instead, it is sweet honey, peppery chrysanthemums, cocoa, and a rich malt, more what I expected this tea to smell like so no surprises there!
Oooh this tea is fun! First off, that mouthfeel, combining the usual thick and smooth texture of the Dianhong with the thick and cooling texture of the chrysanthemum makes for quite the thick treat, almost like a high mountain Oolong with how thick it is. The taste is pretty unique too, mixing familiar notes of malt, cocoa, and molasses with undertones of yam sweetness with the peppery and pollen note of the chrysanthemum blend together into something unlike anything I have had before. It was so unique that it took my brain a moment to really process it, but it is not a surprise that I ended up really enjoying it. Especially with the pollen and honey aftertaste that lingers.
I went for another steep of course, the aroma has a stronger cocoa note with a slightly stronger chrysanthemum note as well, which is not surprising since the ball has unfurled a great bit more. The taste is very similar to the first steep, just more! Stronger cocoa and yam, sweeter honey and molasses, and blooming chrysanthemum coat my mouth with soothing cooling tea.
This tea has longevity, getting many steeps out of with strong chrysanthemum until the fifth steep, at that point the chrysanthemum has mostly faded and what you are left with is a rich chocolate and yam heavy Dianhong. Since I frequently turn to chrysanthemum when I am unwell, I brewed up one of these balls when Ben recently had that nasty sickness, he found it very soothing and the two of us happily spent the day drinking this tea.
Friends, it is time for a change, specifically a hair change. Yesterday was root day (aka the day I hide it from the world that I am naturally a blonde) and I realized I needed to touch up my blue tips. Sadly I also realized I was out of blue dye, so I thought…why not change things up a bit? I went to the store to get bleach and some purple and later today I will have purple tips instead of blue. Maybe. Last time I went purple it was not the best choice, but I think since it will be the tips rather than my whole head it will look pretty cool.
Today I am taking a break from my usual gongfoolery to try an Earl Grey variant from CuriosiTea, Lady Earl White Tea. A Blend of Bai Mu Dan, Bergamot Oil. Rose Petals and Lavender. I like my Earls with lavender, I love roses, and am quite fond of Bai Mu Dan so I thought this would be a take on an Earl I like…since usually, I am not a fan of straight up Earl Greys. The aroma of the leaves is quite potent, not really getting much of the white tea, roses, or lavender, just a small explosion of bergamot…this made Ben happy because he loves his bergamot super strong. After this initial citrus burst, undertones of roses pop up, though they are faint next to the powerhouse that is the bergamot.
Into the steeping apparatus the leaves and petals go for their soak, the aroma of bergamot pretty quickly escapes the steeper and wafts around my desk like an orange wave, it is very refreshing. There are notes of roses and wet have in the wet leaves, along with bergamot of course, though the promised lavender has not popped up quite yet. The liquid is a double blend of roses and bergamot with a slight underlying sweetness of honey from the white tea.
Well, if tasting this tea were a battle (I have been reading about European history in the 10-1200s and there are a lot of battles, it is on my mind) I would say hands down the bergamot wins. It is very decisive, I did not really taste anything else until the aftertaste of gentle roses and very distant lavender. Sadly I do not really taste the white tea base, it is totally overshadowed by the bergamot, which is a little sad since I think these flavors together could work well if it were toned down just a bit, Ben, who is well known for being Der Erlkonig felt the same way, really liked the strength of the bergamot but wish the base was stronger or the bergamot were weaker so that the base stood out more. I did give this to my housemate who I am corrupting into the ways of fine loose leaf tea and who was craving an Earl and she liked it, so I am perfectly willing to say this would be a fine introductory tea and that Ben and I are just too picky after all these years!
Ben and I play a fun game, while he is at work either he or I will pick some random subject and I will send him a long winded ramble on the subject. Usually, it is science or history related since that is my specialty, but sometimes it is something totally random. Today it was all about Shocked Quartz, a very fascinating form of quartz where the rock is deformed from impact, usually from space rocks meeting the ground in a dramatic fashion, but also from nuclear blasts too. Just looking at the rock, it looks like any other quartz, but if you toss it under a microscope you see the difference, Planar Deformation Features, aka stripes (really easy definition, I am pretty sure I am making scientists cringe) which kinda look like the patterns in some of my teacups’ glaze.
Geeking out of rocks aside, it is time for tea! Today I am looking at Tillerman Tea’s Dong Ding Spring 2016, an unroasted Oolong grown from the Qing Xin cultivar, yes dear friends, this is an unroasted Dong Ding, something I rarely drink. Not sure why, but my brain draws a blank and always thinks Dong Ding is roasted, like it just magically comes from the tea bush perfectly roasted…which is a bit silly. I rarely have the stuff, so it is a pleasant escape from the norm, especially since the other teas I have had from Tillerman Tea I have really enjoyed. The first thing I noticed is that those are some big leaves, the second thing I noticed is wow, that is sweet! Strong notes of chestnut, sesame seeds, sweet oat cakes (ever had British flapjacks, because if so that is what this tea starts off smelling like) with an accompaniment of sugarcane, spicebush blossoms, and tulip tree flowers. Gently floral and nutty sweetness makes for a happy nose.Into my ever hungry for tea Xishi Yixing teapot the leaves go to steep and start their unfurling. Notes of sweet yeasty bread, freshly cooked oats, sesame halva, spicebush, lily blossoms, and a hint of very sweet tulip tree blossoms. The aroma of the wet leaves is almost intoxicating with its sweetness! The liquid has a starchy, yeasty sweetness of freshly baked farm bread drizzled with honey, sitting next to it on this imaginary table is a dish of sesame halva (a wonderful dessert made from sesame and honey) and a blooming bouquet of spicy Asiatic lilies. I feel as though the aroma is very transportive in its nature.
Whoa! That first steep is thick and buttery! I think I need a minute, too distracted by texture to focus on anything else. Ok, I have had my moment to be in thick tea bliss, the taste is quite simple while intense, now this sounds odd but bear with me. The notes present are halva, spicebush, lily flowers, and buttery yeasty bread. These notes are so distinct and strong that even if there are other lesser notes they are powerfully overshadowed by the intense primary notes. For the aftertaste the lily and gentle spicebush note lingers around for quite a while, and I feel like the mouthfeel sticks around for quite a while too!
The golden liquid is so thick that I think calling is both luscious and viscous is totally reasonable, it is so buttery and dense! The taste sends away some of the nuttier tones and brings in more floral, keeping the spicebush and lilies and adding distant orchid and tulip tree blossoms. There is a slight yeasty quality to the finish that dances with the lilies at the aftertaste. It is almost hard to pay attention to the taste because the mouthfeel is so outstanding.
This tea just goes and goes…and goes. Towards the end of steeping the leaves have expanded so much that I can’t fit my lid on my teapot, they want to escape! The viscous mouthfeel also sticks around forever, when the taste has faded by steep 14 (I told you it sticks around) the mouthfeel is still buttery. I was very pleased with this tea, this little adventure out of my usual roasted Dong Ding safety net and into a greener pasture, the taste and longevity were great, but that mouthfeel was something else!
My Fibromyalgia is kicking my backside lately, that complaining earlier in the week of being sick alongside the rest of the people in the house, well I have a secret. I don’t get viruses oddly enough, instead in the desperate attempt for my immune system to surprisingly do its job I get a flair up instead, pros and cons, having a week of severe joint and muscle pain over a week of a messed up sense of smell and taste is better for the blog, plus I feel blind when my nose is not working, meaning clearly I am a star-nosed mole. Also, you all guessed it, I might be in pain but I am in a great mood today, tomorrow being my birthday helps, but really I have yet another secret, this one will have to wait to be revealed but I am super excited about it.
Today I am looking at Origins Tea Shui Xian, a Taiwanese Oolong. You might be saying ‘now hold on Amanda, that is a Wuyi Oolong, from China, what are you on about with Taiwanese?’ Well, a while ago Wuyi Oolongs were brought over to Taiwan, usually you see Taiwanese Tie Guan Yin, but it was not the only tea brought over. It is really fascinating seeing how terroir affects taste, and how different processing affects taste, because as you noticed this is not a long strip style Oolong, it is all rolled up in typical Taiwanese fashion. though not as tightly rolled as some. I will warn my Yancha loving friends, don’t go into this one expecting a high char, super roasted, kick in the face like you would from a Wuyi Shui Xian, this is its delicate and subtle cousin. Sniffing the leaves brings the first hint this is a whole different animal, notes of orchid, gentle toasted yeasty bread, plums, caramelized sugar, toasted hazelnuts, and a gentle blend of earthy and wet coals. I say wet coals specifically because the char is mellow and blended with the earthy back tone it truly smells like coals of a wood fire the day after a rain, it reminds me of happy camping adventures.
I decided to (literally) dust off my roasted Oolong yixing, yes the good old lidless barrel pot! One day I will actually find a lid for it instead of just putting the cup on top while steeping, though probably not. The aroma of the unrfurled leaves is pleasantly nutty, notes of toasted hazelnuts and roasted chestnut blend with dried cherries and honey drizzled toast made from a sweet yeasty farm bread. The liquid is full of surprises, notes of toasted nuts, gentle char, fruity pipe tobacco, and honeyed toast blend with a delicate distant orchid note. It is funny, but my brain always registers flowers and char as someone throwing a bouquet into a bonfire and I just want to know why someone would do that!
First steep, and you know, I am just going to lay this on the line, if I ever have the opportunity to go on a hay ride I want this tea to come with me, it is just so autumn! Notes of roasted chestnuts, dried cherries, honey drizzled toast and kettlecorn blend with tobacco and distant char, it reminds me of the distinct taste that the air gets during autumn and I adore it. The mouthfeel is smooth with a buttery upturn at the finish, the aftertaste is a lingering honey sweetness that sticks around for a decent time.
On to the next steep, the leaves have almost fully unfurled and the aroma has taken on a slightly sweeter and stronger char note, like a raw honey drizzled burnt stick, trust me it smells better than it sounds. The taste notes from the firststeep are still present, they are a bit stronger but maintain their sweetness. Sometimes I find roasted teas lose their sweetness in later steeps while ramping up the char and other notes, but not this tea. The roast is mellow being reminiscent of toasted nuts, caramelized sugar, and kettlecorn. If you want a roasted tea that stays on the mellow side this is a good one.
I went for many steeps of this tea, it was a fantastic companion for painting, which is how I drank it. It is no secret by now that I love Oolongs that last a long time, are roasted, and make good painting companions, aka are mellow and sweet with distinct notes and nuances without being too overwhelming and distracting me from painting. It needs to be flavorful enough to keep my mind active (my brain likes multiple things going on while I am focusing, fun fact I cannot write a blog without music or Youtube playing in the background) and the notes of sweet kettlecorn, toasted chestnuts and hazelnuts, and distant flowers do just the trick.
I have a Chaos problem, specifically a Khorne problem. A while ago Ben bought me the Age of Sigmar boxed set, with a starter army of Khorne and Stormcast Eternals, and I know exactly how I want to paint the Eternals (or Sigmarines as I call them) but I am still not sure what to do the with forces of Chaos. I thought about going really weird and making them look like Husks from Mass Effect, but I am not sure it will look right, but that might be because I can’t think of Khorne in any color but red and gore. I also have this dislike of painting things to look like the house colors and box art so I need to come up with something else.
Today I am looking at a tea from a brand new company, freshly opened today, Origins Tea, specializing in Taiwanese goodness. I love Taiwanese tea, this is no secret, nor is it a secret how I am obsessed with Hongcha (aka black tea) from Taiwan, and my favorite is Red Jade. That tea of many names (Ruby #18, Sun Moon Lake Black, Hong Yu…) and many interpretations of peculiar flavor notes. I have said it the many times I have looked at this type of tea, it is by far the most uniquely varied while still being easily identifiable as ‘Red Jade’ tea I have run into, with some having notes of menthol, or tomatoes, or cinnamon, or cloves, or sassafras…it just keeps going. So let us see how this one differs from others I have tried! Sticking my nose into the long and lovely leaves, seriously these are some big leaves, there are notes of stewed plums, dried cherries, sassafras, tomato, a brisk woodiness, and cocoa. There are also notes of plumeria and orange blossom, making this the only floral Red Jade I have experienced, the aroma actually reminds me a little of an Oriental Beauty, but black and with definite notes of Red Jade, it is peculiar and smells delicious!
Into my gaiwan the tea goes, I decided to use my serpentinite gaiwan because fancy teas deserve a solid stone gaiwan! The leaves, now soaked and steeped, have a malty, tomato, sassafrass front notes with a slightly brisk woody note, dried cherries, cocoa, and a touch of plumeria at the finish. The aroma of wet leaves is surprisingly sweet, not cloying, but fruity and nectar like. The liquid is very rich! Notes of cocoa, sassafras, strong honey drizzled plums and cherries, and a lingering flowery note of plumeria. It is so sweet and smells very good, my mouth was watering while sniffing it!
So, when I took a sip of this tea, I was talking with Ben about…something…don’t remember what, but it is safe to say that the conversation was immediately ended by my wild flailing and inarticulate squealing. This tea from the first sip blew my mind, it is so sweet and so intense! Starting with notes of apricots and sassafras, plumeria and chocolate. Then it moves to persimmons, menthol, and cloves with a finish of cherries and menthol that lasts long into the aftertaste. One thing I find very enjoyable about this tea is the cooling sensation in the finish, it is not as intense as some young Shengs can be (like drinking icy hot) it is a soothing coolness, like having just sipped a cup of water, and I do love my cooling teas.
Somehow the second steep manages to be even more intense in both aroma and taste! The fruity notes in the aroma have increased, along with the sassafras, it takes on a real dessert quality that I find very appealing. Oh man, that taste, it is almost beyond words good! Taking the familiar sassafras, clove, sweet potato, teaberry, tomato, and cherry notes of a Red Jade and blending them with orange blossom, plums, plumeria, persimmon, and apricot jam which reminds me of an OB or Gui Fei Oolong. It is the sweetest Red Jade I have ever experienced, and the aftertaste of teaberry and apricot lingers forever, it was such an intense experience. I was nice and shared some with Ben and he could only handle a small cup since in his words ‘this is a treat that needs savoring, it is too intense to drink more than a little’ which is the first time I have ever heard him do this. More for me, though!
The packaging said I could get seven steeps out of this tea, and you can bet that I did, seven solid steeps and two that were faded but I didn’t care because I wanted every bit of this tea’s amazing flavor I could get. I don’t say this lightly, but of all the Red Jades I have had (read: a lot) this one is my new favorite. I adored how it had easy to identify as Red Jade notes but also had this wonderfully intense floral and fruity sweetness that made it incredibly unique. I cannot sing this tea’s praises enough, it was love at first sip!
With luck, as of tonight, my Christmas shopping will be done. This will be the first time I have completed Christmas shopping early and didn’t make gifts, it feels incredibly refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I love making gifts, but every year I get myself worked up, then I burn out, and then I can’t go back to that craft for a while. After almost burning myself out of painting Ben put his foot down and said that this year we are going the route of commerce. Granted, I think part of the reason is because as soon as the Kickstarter is fulfilled he will have a giant five-headed dragon as big as one of my cats he will want me to paint for him…so priorities!
Today I am looking at Tillerman Tea’s Muzha TieGuanYin Spring 2016, I adore this style of tea, in a way it is the tea that pushed me from drinking junky bags as ‘just a warm drink’ to appreciating tea as an art. I was a teenager when I first discovered it and went through a bit of an adventure from that point to now, but whenever I am given to opportunity to drink a Muzha TGY it is a fantastic nostalgia. It is, also, a perfect tea for the encroaching chillness of autumn! The aroma of the dry leaves is wonderfully roasted, strong notes of walnuts, woodiness, char, pipe tobacco, acorns, and baking bread. Honestly, the blend of walnuts and sweet baking bread reminds me of a slice of freshly toasted walnut bread, with a hint of black walnut along with regular walnuts.
The aroma of a steeped Muzha TGY reminds me of sitting in a personal library, complete with comfy leather chair, the old smell of slightly fruity pipe tobacco (or grilled peaches), an old wooden desk…and a slice of walnut bread. The nutty and roasted gentle char notes blend well with the sweet fruity notes, it is a strong roast but not smoky at all, so if you like a strong roast but not smoke this is a good choice. The liquid smells much like a delightful walnut cookie with a hint of brown sugar and grilled peaches, the char is not as strong in the liquid, but the notes present are thick and heavy, reminding me of sinking into a comfy chair after a long day.
The first steep starts smooth and round in the mouth, coating the inside of my mouth but finishing with a sharpness that keeps the senses alert. It starts sweet, with notes of walnut bread, freshly toasted bread, brown sugar, and a touch of distant peach. There is a hint of char that reminds me of charred oak wood and a touch of maple syrup, the aftertaste is a lingering sweetness reminiscent of toasted walnuts. I find roasted teas to be very comforting as well as delicious, and this tea is a perfect combination of both aspects.
The first steep was strong in both aroma and taste, but the next steep increases in strength and richness, which makes sense as the leaves unfurl but at times surprises me with the intensity. The mouthfeel is very smooth, no finishing sharpness this time, just smooth and thick, with a touch of dryness along with the aftertaste. For this steep the char makes itself known, like burnt oak wood and grilled peaches alongside walnut shells, like a campfire the next day, no lingering smoke but a healthy and tasty amount of char. This steep is not as sweet as the first one, instead showcasing the nuttiness and char with just a hint of sweetness, and that walnut note is fantastic, I adore walnuts, even the subtle bitter quality you get in black walnuts, I think their taste is complex and I adore when it shows up as a note in tea. The aftertaste is sweet, in fact I would say it is the sweetest part of this tea, with a brown sugar note that lingers with a hint of black walnut.
I found that this tea did not fully open and release the oomph of its taste until the fourth steep, steep three was more intense than the second, and the fourth the same, but after that it stayed stable for several steeps before it began the transition to fading. This is a fantastic example of a Muzha TGY, definitely the best I have had in a long time, it reminded me why I fell in love with it and by extension high quality tea all those years ago.
If you do not follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you probably don’t know that I have gotten back into painting, finally. I am not entirely sure why I had that massive several month long break from painting, and why it took redoing my bedroom into a tea room that reignited the painting itch, but I am glad that it did. It is not that I lacked for inspiration or desire to paint, just everytime I tried to paint it didn’t work, and I can only blame a lack of paint or good brushes so much. Either way, I am glad to be back at it, finally finishing my Dreadfleet ships, just have Count Noctilus’s Bloody Reaver left to go!
Today I am looking at Ginger Plum Oolong by CuriosiTea, a blend of Sechung Oolong and Ginger Pieces. I love Oolong and I love ginger, so I thought this would be a fun tea to Gongfu. I assumed by reading the ingredients that the plum note comes from the tea itself, since it seemed to be a bit roasted and roasted Oolongs can have a wonderfully fruity note. Sadly the moment I opened the pouch I knew I was mistaken, even though it is not listed in the ingredients, this tea is definitely flavored and not by anything natural. Now, this is not me being an elitist snob who only likes the ‘pure teas’ true I do prefer them, but a well done flavored with natural flavoring tea can be excellent. I cannot do artificial flavoring, and I can tell it is artificial a mile away, because artificial flavoring (along with perfumes, scented candles, air fresheners…things of that nature) are possibly the worst headache trigger for me in existence. Since it does not list any flavoring on the website or packaging, I opened the bag and stuck my face in…which was a horrible mistake!!! I was punched in the face with a bubblegum fist, yes bubblegum, I am not sure how or why, but there are no notes of Oolong or Ginger, just bubblegum. I hate bubblegum.
So, even though I now have a splitting headache I realize I have a job to do, who knows, maybe once this tea has been steeped it will taste and smell totally different? Like that one Puerh I had that smelled like a barn floor but tasted like honey, sometimes things don’t match as cleanly as expected. So into my gaiwan the leaves go, slowly my tea area is filled with the cloying sweet smell of bubblegum and a tiny hint of ginger, still no Oolong though. The liquid has a peculiar note of burnt bubblegum, so I think I finally found a bit of Oolong, though the only note I am getting is char which is not promising. Sadly my headache is increasing, I am very much so not pleased about this headache situation, if this tea had been properly labeled I would have never picked it!
Here is the moment of truth, sipping and at first it is a nice mild ginger, I let my guard down a bit and NOPE. The midtaste is an explosion of bubblegum that did the double punch of making me gag and making my head hurt so bad that my vision goes blurry. The aftertaste is lingering bubblegum and it just won’t quit. I tried a second steep to see if the flavoring had been washed off, but really all I get is watered down char and bubblegum. I then had to take some Advil and recuperate in a dark room until the headache eased up, which I should point out took over a day. I know not everyone is as sensitive to artificial flavoring as I am, but I do wish it would have been properly labeled, but to be fair the distributor that CuriosiTea uses also doesn’t list flavoring so I am not sure who to be cross with. Just remember tea companies, list ALL the ingredients!!
Thank the sound fidelity gods for noise canceling headphones! My mom got me a set of fancy Turtle Beach gaming headset for an early birthday present after my usual Xbox headset died, turns out I need an adapter to use them for gaming (oops) but at the moment they make excellent headphones! I am using them to blast Abney Park into my ears to block out the incredibly heinous sound of lawn mowing and leaf blowing outside my window. I swear when I do get around to owning a house there will be no grass, just moss, gravel paths, and garden patches. I truly hate grass.
Today’s tea is seasonally appropriate as the cooler weather (slowly) approaches, Moose Crown 2004 Meng Ku Private Stock Ripe Puer by Bitterleaf Teas! This Shou comes from the same year I escaped High School, so you know it will be good, made from Meng Ku big leaf material and pressed in Meng Hai Facilities. It also has the distinction of being the most expensive Shou on the BLT website at a whopping $0.48 a gram with the total 250g brick being $119.50. Most the hardcore Pu heads won’t balk at that price and will buy a tong to hoard…but I am not a Pu Head, partially because I am a bit on the poor side and that price makes me die inside a bit because I really liked this one! It was love at first sniff, with notes of sweet dates, sweet rice, peat, distant camphor, wet loam, and a touch of wet leather. It is very sweet and earthy without a hint of dirt, it is one of the cleanest smelling Shous I have sniffed with only a hint of leather, which I like. A lot of Shous I have run into have stronger either dry or wet leather and I prefer my leather well used, wet, and light if it is going to be present at all.
My beloved Djinn pot (as I call this peculiar shaped yixing) had the honor of steeping this one up for me, the aroma after a rinse and first steep is flooring, there is just so much going on! Notes of camphor, dates, peat, loam, pine sap, wet pine wood, rice water (as in the exact smell of the starchy rinse water from making sushi rice) molasses, and brown sugar. Oomph, it is like being inundated with sweetness while nesting in a hollowed out log on a summer day in a mountain forest. The liquid of the first steep is surprisingly intense with sweet and starchy notes of rice and molasses, dates and baking cocoa, an earthy finish of peat, loam, pine wood, and molasses. I correctly suspected that this was going to be a crazy session that would stick in my memory for quite a while.
This tea starts dark, even for a first steep Shou, and then by steep two it is an inky void. it is like drinking a thick pile of hot night sky, it is intense! Ok, I am going to be honest, what the color really reminds me of is Nuln Oil that has dried out a bit so is super thick, Nuln Oil is a Shade/Wash type paint I use for painting miniatures and it is one of my favorite things, I call it liquid talent. Enough about color and thickness though, the taste, oh my stars and garters that taste. It is like molasses and dark chocolate, dates and pine wood, and a touch of mineral at the first steep. The second and third steep bring in an intense pine loam taking over for the mineral, with a building camphor that manages to make the tea both warming and cooling at the same time. It was so nice to drink a shou and not get the sweats and hot flashes, because I am weird.
Somehow, by steep four, it manages to be even thicker, I almost feel like I am drinking warm honey with that thickness. The sweetness in both aroma and taste increase as well, stronger date and molasses notes with a creeping rice starchiness that reminds me a bit of mochi. Towards the end of each sip a building dark chocolate (like the really dark stuff) and pine loam creep in with a finish of camphor and lingering wet leather note that only really shows up in the aftertaste. I love how this tea really doesn’t mess with my internal temperature too much.
I didn’t really notice much of a taste change until steep ten, where the earthy notes start to fade and is mostly sweetness and now a touch of malt and woodiness. It lasted a total of fifteen steeps, finishing with distant molasses sweetness and rice starch with a date aftertaste that lingered long after I had finished. Not only did this tea taste good it felt good, it was gently warming similar to a Yancha more than a heat power station that some Shous can be, meaning I could drink this one when it was warm out and not wait til the cold weather. I also find that Shous are either very relaxing putting me into a nice stupor or incredibly energizing, usually the hotter the Qi the more energized I feel. Since this was not overly warming it was more like taking a hot bath before sleep or snuggling under a fuzzy blanket…yeah this is definitely the fuzzy blanket of tea. If it wasn’t for that massive price tag I would buy a tong and make this beast my daily before bed drinker!
If you are like me and a real lover of schedules, you are probably noticing that it is Thursday and there is a blog and that there was no blog on Wednesday like there was supposed to be. Blame Ben. This week and next he has Wednesday off, and since we only have the one computer (and he is the one with the job) I was nice and let him have full access to it all day. The single computer ordeal is soon to be over as a friend is hooking me up with a killer nice tower and surround sound speaker system, so no more polite computer sharing.
Today I am looking at quite the fascinating tea, Golden Tea Leaf’s Honey Red Jade Tea, a bug bitten red tea that has been tightly rolled similar in appearance to an Oolong. It is no secret that I am a bit obsessed with Taiwanese teas that have been nibbled on by leafhoppers, be it a Hongcha or an Oolong, their natural sweetness and complexity have skyrocketed them into being a comfort tea and not just one I seek out because of its deliciousness. The aroma of the leaves is…well…it is hard to put into words that are sensical and not just ‘holy yum sweet om nom nom’ so it took me a few sniffs to calm down enough to articulate. There are notes of caramel coated hazelnuts and cashews, stewed pears and plums, honey-drizzled pumpkins, and a rich heady distant note of plumeria blossoms. It is very sweet and rich, one of those teas I feel like I am sinking into while sniffing it.
I decided to brew this tea n my yixing devoted to Taiwanese Hongcha, which sees a lot of bug-bitten teas! The aroma of the brewed leaves is very rich and sweet, with notes of caramel, figs, cooked plums and pears, plumeria blossoms, and a finish of cooked pumpkin and brown sugar. The liquid is sweet and nutty, notes of honey and cashews blend with cooked pears and plums with a finish of caramelized figs and distant tropical flowers. It smells intense and mouthwatering, the perfect amount of sweetness and richness to push this tea over into a dessert tea.
If you like a tea that manages to be very sweet, very fruity, and floral while maintaining a rich quality, then boy do I ever have the tea for you! So before I get into the outstanding taste, I need to mention the pleasant mouthfeel. It is smooth and thick, not the point of an Oolong thickness, but it coats the mouth and is velvety in its texture. Ok, now for that decadent taste, it starts with a dessert-like combination of stewed pears, plums, and pumpkin with a sprinkling of cashews and brown sugar. Next, the flowers start, orchid and plumeria with a hint of honeysuckle and lilies, it is heady without being perfumed like an Oolong. The aftertaste is cashews and lilies and they linger for quite a while.
The second steep is impressively intense, it takes the same notes (with a gentle extra woodiness in the middle) but ramps it up! The sweetness is sweeter, the flowers more like nectar rather than just blossoms, and the fruit notes take on an almost pie like quality. No longer just a dessert of stewed fruit, the pie is on! The sweet nutty aftertaste continues, but instead of lily the aftertaste is, of all things, persimmon, which was a fantastic surprise.
So the first two steeps I drank while they were hot, the third steep I decided to play around with by letting it cool to room temperature, since according to the website this tea is even better when cooled. I find that hard to believe since it is already pretty fantastic! Drinking this tea cool is truly where it really shines, notes of orange blossom and malt show up, along with caramelized pears and heady plumeria. It is beautifully rich and smooth, I could become addicted to this tea! One thing I found really useful is it seemed impossible to over-steep this tea, I could toss leaves into a bowl and bowl-steep this tea for hours and it never gets bitter, meaning it is perfect for tossing in my travel tumbler. Toss this tea on the list of teas I need more of!