921 Tasting Notes
So here it is folks, the much talked about Shou that kept being skipped over, poor thing! I think timing will work where this post can go up in the morning and the other at night. Tempted to do that anyway but I think too much of my rambling might make you all sick of me, and that would be sad! Here is UniversOtea’s 2003 Yibang Big Tree Langhe Tea Company, a Shou or Ripe Puerh from Yibang Mountain, and produced by the Langhe Tea Company, one of the factories of Menghai. I do not know much about this tea, it was sent to me along with several other samples of Shou from the Langhe Tea Co, as a way to get a feel for their storage and tastes, so I picked this one totally at random from the samples. So, time to get crackin!
The aroma of the richly dark and nicely compressed leaves, well it smells like it looks. A blend of peat and loam, wet wood, and leather. It always amuses me how Shou looks like it was cut from a peat bog, and sometimes if you get lucky it has that slightly sharp edge to the loamy notes, much like a peat bog. There is also a slight mustiness, like an old wooden steamer trunk, but not quite musty like an old basement, which is for the best. The finishing notes are a touch of molasses sweetness and a bit of clean soil.
Into the much neglected as of late elephant pot the shou goes! Whoa, the aroma went heavy into the molasses department after steeping! The wet leaves also have notes of pine needle loam, oak wood loam…it just smells like a forest floor with a variety of different tree types, blending sweetness and sharpness of the different forms of wet wood and leaf loam. The liquid has the aroma of wet wood primarily, with a bit of soil, and a confounding note of dry beans. Not at all unpleasant, just, well, it was a new and unexpected note.
The taste of the first steep is surprisingly light, even by first steep standards, with a light taste and mouthfeel. It starts with a delicate sweet molasses and pine loam note that is quickly overshadowed by wet wood and oak loam. The finish is a bit of a cedar trunk, a touch of mustiness, but not unpleasantly so. I actually find that aroma and taste very nostalgic, I spent a lot of time as a kid playing in my old steamer trunk.
Onward to the second steeping, the aroma is quite sweet and woody, no dry beans this time, but definitely soil and molasses, with a finish of wet wood. The taste has more body this steep, as expected, in both texture and actual taste. Starting off with sweet pine wood loam and sap and moving on to a general mixed wood forest floor. The finish is sweet molasses and a lingering woodiness.
The third steep and so forth, up until steep six, when I called it a night (I was starting to slosh, it is why I need a smaller shou pot, no offense elephant!) really didn’t change much, it got a bit richer and woodier towards the middle and then sweeter towards the end. I look forward to seeing more from this factory, I like its mellow quality.
So today’s blog is going to be something different, it will not just be me writing this time! Time for an introduction:
First, allow me to simultaneously introduce myself and disabuse you of any notion of my credibility: I am a tea barbarian. As you may have pieced together from Amanda’s fleeting references to me on this blog, my taste runs to strong Blacks in boiling water. I may not be so debased as to use cream or sugar (save with Indian-style teas), but my palate certainly lacks the subtleTEA (I made this pun just to further reduce your estimation of my character) you are accustomed to seeing in this blog.
Why, then, am I contributing my thoughts now? Upon seeing Amanda getting this assortment of exciting candies, I came to two simultaneous resolutions: if they were terrible, I should not allow the woman I love to suffer alone… and if they were good, I needed an excuse to muscle in on some of that candy.
As you will see, both resolutions were soundly fulfilled!
Matcha Caramels-Red Leaf Tea
These were just a little too sweet for my liking, the caramel is very sugary and the white chocolate very sweet, the Matcha taste is pretty mild, I think if it were stronger I would really like these because it would make the sweet not as intense. 2 out of 5
To the best of my knowledge, there is no direct Macha-less equivalent of these fancy little candies. But why would you need one? I’m a sucker for caramels in general, but the hard-ish coating and Matcha flavor take these to a whole new level. I gorged myself on these, clearing a bag in an hour – twice. Five out of five.
Matcha Crunch Bars
Why, how, WHY!?! Seriously, what went wrong? It starts out sweet, like really low quality nasty white chocolate and grassiness from the Matcha and then it gets really weird. Like soap and wax paper blended into a disgusting dance, but you know I have had worse, but that aftertaste just WILL NOT GO AWAY! It lingers forever, like eating Matcha flavored soap laced with sugar. -4 out of 5 (also giving these to a friend as a way of introducing them to Matcha candy aka getting rid of them is a good way to never have them eat anything you give them that is green again, oops)
Crunch bars may be my favorite chocolate bar, so I was most excited for these out of all the options. This was a terrible, terrible mistake. To their credit, unlike Aero, they did not hold back on Matcha flavor – even the crispy sections hold the taste strongly. On first taste, if you like traditional Matcha more than I do, you might think this is a really well done snack. Take my advice: start with small bites. Or, better yet, no bites at all. The flavor you get from these bars will not fade with time, so much as it will actually rot on your tongue, turning more bitter, and harder to ignore, by the second. After eating just one of them, I found myself unable to make it stop or enjoy other flavors for over an hour of constantly chugging water to clean it away. Buy this solely as a practical joke on a tea lover you particularly despise. Death out of five.
Matcha Kit Kat Bars
So ever wondered what white chocolate and a Matcha latte with a side of wafer cookies tasted like? It tastes like a Matcha Kit Kat! I really liked these, they might have been my favorite of the candies I tried, they tasted bright and green with just amount of sweetness to be enjoyable. I feel bad, I only gave Ben one at the end of the tasting because I just tore through the bag, definitely a 5 out of 5 for me!
Sure, I like Kit Kats, but after the Crunch bars, I’ll be honest: I was ready to give up on the whole exercise. Amanda’s prompting and these Kit Kats lured me back. They probably have the most even split on this list between candy sweetness and Matcha flavor (the caramels are sweeter, and all the others are much less so), for a really well-rounded and iconic experience. Four out of five.
Aero Matcha Bars
Oh man, I have not had a legit Aero bar in ages, so nostalgia! I love the texture, and that is really it. The chocolate coating is waxy and lame, just generic chocolate bar, the Matcha center tastes like vaguely Matcha themed chalk, it was not bad, but it was super boring. 3 out of 5
I’ve never had the non-Matcha version of this chocolate – apparently, it’s an English thing. It has a fairly standard exterior, but is all full of little waferey balls which crunch and fizz in your mouth. The good and bad news here is: those balls don’t hold much flavor. The outer chocolate was mild enough that I found Matcha Aeros to be a lot like just air – I don’t know whether this differs from what I’d think of normal Aeros. Two out of five.
Lotte Matcha Caramel
I grabbed these little chewy things on a whim because I love chewy candies and they were super cheap (unlike the others, except the RLT caramels, I still feel somewhat cheated) I loved LOVED the texture and really that was it. Ever have those waxy nickle nips, after the liquid gets slurped out you get the wax bottles and if you were like me you chewed on them for hours trying to extract every bit of sugar out. Same texture, different taste, like the person who developed these has heard of Matcha but never experienced it. It is super odd, a bit grassy, and also spicy with a definite pepper finish. I am still trying to decide if I liked them or not. 3 out of 5
I’ve never heard of these before, so I was curious about them. From the size and texture, I expected something like a Matcha Starburst, but the actual effect is less sweet than that – and also, less Matcha. Sure, you can taste the tea somewhat (moreso than in, say, the Aero), but mostly, it just tasted odd. Like toothpaste and pepper? Or perhaps like Anise and grass? It was in no way unpleasant, but I’m not sure I can think of much to recommend it. Two out of five.
What I learned from this experience? Matcha candies are overpriced and I should just stick to making them myself. Currently in my fridge is a pound of Matcha chocolates I made and nibble on whenever I get the craving! I do want to experiment with more random things with Matcha in them I find at the store!
Photos and all that good stuff: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/06/matcha-candy-adventure-with-guest.html
I am having a painting dilemma, I have a pile of miniatures on my desk, I have plenty of paint and decent brushes, I have the mood to paint…what I do not have is the ability or inspiration. It is strange, I pick up a model, even on I have started, and I just can’t think of anything creative to do with it, and when I do paint it just looks kinda cruddy. Clearly what I need is to just play Minecraft, and hopefully Ben will have the Xbox put back together this evening, yay! Sadly I had to give up on playing it on my computer, it is just too crappy, but one day I might have access to a decent computer and can play! Even though it is behind the PC and has a limited map, I still enjoy it on the 360.
Today it is time for some Yancha! So do the happy Yancha dance! Da Hong Pao from Cha Ceremony is the tea for today, good ol’ Big Red Robe, possibly the most well known of the Wuyi Rock Oolongs, named because the Emperor really liked this stuff and dressed the original bushes in fancy red robes. Or the tea saved his mom and as a thank you he en-robe-ified the bushes, or maybe it was his wife. Regardless of which legend you choose, this tea is legendary, the original bushes still grow on the mountains, but the tea that we mere mortals drink are cuttings grown on the mountain gardens. The aroma of this Da Hong Pao is pretty robust, blending sweet and woody notes in a potent combination. First off is a strong note of fruity tobacco, cherry and cherry wood with molasses and strong char bring up the middle. Towards there end is the aroma of chocolate and char, giving it an almost burnt chocolate aroma, like if you are making smores and some melted chocolate falls on the fire.
Into the Yancha pot the twisty leaves go! The aroma of the now soaked leaves has a strong char presence, lots of different levels of char, from burnt wood to a touch of smoke, burnt chocolate and grilled fruit, and a finish of pipe tobacco. The liquid is rather sweet, with notes of brown sugar, cocoa, tobacco, and a slight fruity finish. A contrast with the intensity of the leaves, the liquid is more mellow.
The first steeping is intense! Holy crap that is one intense Da Hong Pao, I can see how it cured some ancient royal if the original was anything like this. It starts with tobacco with a slightly fruity edge to it and a nice note of charred wood, this moves to woodiness and cocoa, with a fantastic finish of sassafras. This might be the most intense first steep of a DHP ever.
Onward to the second steep! The aroma of this one’s liquid is a blend of intense char and cocoa, with a nice woody undertone and finish of cherry. This steep’s taste, I notice, is not as sweet as the first, which is funny since the first was not overwhelmingly sweet to begin with. It is intensely woody and filled with the notes of both burnt wood and char, as the initial char fades there is tobacco and cocoa (think dark chocolate over the sweet stuff) and a nice wet slate finish. The aftertaste is where the only sweetness is, molasses lingers for a while.
Time now for the final steep, the aroma is a bit sweet, with a gentle stewed stone fruit note blended with tobacco and char. The taste of this steep can be very easily summed up as the first steep again but much diminished. The char taste has faded in intensity, but the slight molasses sweetness is more prominent, again with a finish of sassafras. Really like that sassafras note, it makes it unique!
Today’s introductory paragraph shall be played by the ‘Hello my baby, hello my darlin’ hello my ragtime gallll’ Frog (or is it a Toad) from classic cartoons of yore. Basically as soon as you start paying attention to it, poof it is still, relaxed, and croaking contentedly. Basically I lack anything interesting to say and do not feel like complaining about my meds. So here, frog dance time!
It is time for my weekly coverage of a new tea from What-Cha, specifically Darjeeling Autumn Flush 2014 Gopaldhara Red Thunder Gold Black Tea, in honor of the steaming bowl of Jaipur Karhi I have sitting next to me, the most superior of canned curries, for those lazy days. This is a unique Darjeeling, not only is it plucked late in the year (hello Autumn Flush) it is grown at a high elevation, meaning it gets frosted over which causes the tea to wilt, starting the oxidation process while the leaves are still attached to the tea plant. This tea is only produced in limited quantities, this particular batch is more tippy than most, giving it more of that fuzzy gold that I adore. The aroma of these thunderous leaves (also apropos since we are under a perpetual flood and thunderstorm warning as of late) is soooo intense, would have knocked me off my feet I was not already sitting down. Very strong notes of roasted peanuts and acorn squash, then the intensity mellows out and notes of raisins, spicebush, black walnut shells, and lastly a delicate hint of sandalwood at the finish. This is a super aromatic tea, so be prepared!
Into ye old steeping apparatus the leaves go, and by steeping apparatus I mean lidless yixing teapot I use for later flush Darjeeling tea. Because why not? The aroma of the dark leaves is so sweet, strong notes of raisins and roasted peanuts with a distinctly floral and woody sandalwood finish. The liquid is heady without being floral (apparently that is a thing, or at least I perceive it so) strong sweet notes of yams, raisins, roasted peanuts and a finish of acorn squash. Yum.
Oh MAN this tea is freaking delicious! It is intensely rich and heavy, with a creamy mouth feel and a tiny hint of drying at the finish. The taste starts out as a not too sweet blend of loam, roasted peanuts, and squash, this transitions to a more sweet taste profile of squash blossoms (not something I run into often) raisins, and lily flowers. The finish is a malty blend of raisins and sandalwood, giving it a lingering aromatic aftertaste. Me thinks I am going to need this tea as a staple in my tea stash!
Oh good heavens today has not gone as planned at all! I was going to bake and pack since it was supposed to be cool (y’all know by now I hate the heat) but it turns out that was not in the cards today. Unsurprisingly fiddling with my medication dosage throws my body for a loop, so I feel really quite awful. With luck I will feel better in a few days after my equilibrium returns, and that the fatigue will be fixed by lowering the dosage a bit. If not then I have to up the dosage, and if that doesn’t work then who knows. This is by far not the first time my dosage has been fiddled with, and certainly not atypical of a reaction, but UGHHHHH it is about as pleasant as being pecked in the backside by a mockingbird and flipping face first off a chair into a rose bush (thus establishing the hatred I bear towards those birds till this day.) But it is supposed to stay cool til Saturday, so even if I am just spending that time letting my body adjust, I won’t be roasting.
Today I am taking a look at another offering from The Tea Shelf, continuing my journey through Nilgiri with Billimalai Nilgiri Oolong, so far I have been really enjoying learning about this region, specifically this estate. Before I get into the tea, I need to point something out that I have forgotten to in the past, The Tea Shelf’s packaging is pretty great, the tea samples came in a jute bag (totally using as a dice bag) and the pouches have awesome little icons saying which mood, time of day, and character the tea has, you can find these on the website too, but I think having it on the packaging is awesome. The aroma of the curly leaves is quite floral and sweet, blending delicate orange blossoms and osmanthus, with fresh muscatel notes and a pleasant underlying aroma of nectarines and nuttiness. It is a light and almost ephemeral aroma, spring like in its flowery and fruity notes.
The aroma of the brewed leaves is delightfully floral and delicate, notes of orange blossom and grapes, like a blend of a Darjeeling and Taiwanese Oolong, it is fascinating in its delicate complexity. There are also notes of nuttiness and citrus, pleasantly sweet! The liquid poured away from its leafy friends, it is a combination of tangerine, orange, nectarine, and orange blossom, it is very citrusy, and combine it with notes of honey and delicate nuttiness and you have a delicious smelling tea, but I am such a weakness for citrus notes.
This is a very delicate brew, the earlier description of ephemeral fits because not only it is delicate, it is also sweet, light, and mellow. Starting off with notes of orange blossoms and apricots, the taste then moves to grapes and honey very quickly. Underneath these floral and fruity notes is a gentle touch of fresh vegetation and a hint of pepper. I keep being pleasantly surprised by these ‘unusual’ teas from India, veering away from the typical black teas, I hope to be continuously surprised.
Today was…eventful, if you follow my instagram you probably saw that I had one doozy of a night. Luckily it passed and turned into a very long day, long in the sense of I AM REALLY TIRED!! Only a few hours sleep between me and yesterday, I have become rather loopy. Good-ish news, I went to the doctor today, he thinks my awful fatigue might be related to my meds, so we are fiddling around with some dosage to see if that helps. If not, well, he said he is stumped and we will have to do a ton of testing, personally I hope it is just the meds. The fun part of that was on the way to and after the appointment, there were loads of storms! I got some neat pictures with the phone and had to walk the long distance to the car in a torrential downpour, ever the gentleman Ben offered to bring the car around, but the walk in the rain was refreshing. Soggy Enderman to the rescue!
Ok, before anyone gets into a tizzy, yes, I know today’s teas are not technically Matcha, but calling it powdered herbs and or tea Monday sounds lame, so Monday is powdered consumables day, maybe that means I can finally find an excuse to review some hot chocolate. Recently there was a Kickstarter for new company, Chi Whole Leaf, it was successfully funded, and now I get to try their goodies. They have a pretty nifty concept, take plants and grind them up, like Matcha, you are consuming the whole plant, which makes the tasting experience a little different. First up is the vibrantly pink Floral Herb, a blend of Hibiscus, Jasmine, and Rose, two of my favorite things, and one I usually hate. Upon sniffing, the powder is mild and floral, it reminds me a little of the powdered incense I bought long ago. The rose is the dominant aroma, followed by heady jasmine, and a very delicate hibiscus.
I decided to brew this one up cold, though not with ice because I don’t want it that cold. The taste was surprisingly great, the hibiscus notes were mild and not death tart, instead they were sour almost like lemon juice. The main flavor is delicate rose and subtly sweet jasmine, both blend well with the sour hibiscus. I swear if all my hibiscus teas tasted like this I would never say I hated them again. I really liked this one, I could see myself drinking it a lot as it gets hotter, having it before bed for a light soothing sipping.
The next one I tried was the Chamomile! A blend of Chamomile, Passionflower, Lemongrass, St John’s Wort, and a hint of mint. Clearly this was a tea that just begged for evening drinking, and so I did just that. The aroma is a clean blend of lemongrass sweetness and chamomile’s straw and wildflower tones, with just a nice crispness of mint at the finish
At first I tried it hot and was not a huge fan, I found it was just a tiny bit bitter, though the chamomile’s natural sweetness did help with that. However cold this tea was pretty fantastic, very cooling and refreshing from the mint, the lemongrass and chamomile giving it a sweet, lemony, and straw like quality. As it says on the website, the powder does not really disperse as well as the others do, but other than getting my chasen dirty, I noticed no problems with it. So far I like what I am seeing from Chi Whole Leaf!
Any of my tea peeps out there fans of Futurama? Remember that one episode where Zoidberg goes all mating frenzy and tries to woo fellow Decapodian, Edna using some serious Cyrano de Bergerac skills. Well, there is one scene where he asks her how her day was and she goes into detail ‘well first I got up and had a piece of toast, and then I brushed my teeth…’ and it just goes on!! Well, that is kinda how my day was, pretty run of the mill, though with pizza instead of toast.
As you all probably know, I was at the Midwest Tea Fest last week (more on that tomorrow) and I picked up a tea I had a great desire to try, Single Origin Tea’s Orange Blossom Oolong. This tea is a blend of highly oxidized Taiwanese Oolong, Orange Blossoms, and a pinch of Orange Essential Oil, this tea was sourced from a tea shop in Edinburgh, Scotland, specifically Anteaques Tea Shop, which is pretty cool. I wanted to try this tea because I have a weakness for oranges and orange blossoms mixed with my teas, I just love it, especially since I cannot actually eat oranges, I get my cravings satisfied with these teas. The aroma is a Florida explosion! A blend of fresh oranges and orange blossoms evokes the groves of citrus country along with sunlight and warmth, it is very comforting. There is a tiny hint of loam and cocoa underneath the well balanced blend of oranges and blossoms, adding a bit of depth to the aroma.
Into the gaiwan the leaves and petals go for a nice happy steeping, and of course my whole tea area now smells like orange blossoms and oranges, it is rather heady and very enjoyable. Sniffing the now wet leaves reveals there is more to this tea than just citrus and flowers though, there are also notes of toasted sesame, chestnut, cocoa, and a woody finish. The liquid is so citrusy! So much orange, even a bit of tangerine, it is like a citrus party in my nose, and now with woody undertones, and of course delicate heady orange blossoms.
Yum! Yum! Yum!! This tea is really quite yummy, with a start of sweet oranges and a finish of sweet orange. The midtaste is a blend of sesame seeds and walnut shells, with a delicate heady blend of orange blossoms and a touch of hyacinth. The mouthfeel is pleasantly smooth, no dryness at all, and the aftertaste starts with gentle oranges and just lingers for an eternity. The sweetness does not ever reach levels of cloying, which is a huge plus.
The second steeping has a pleasant orange aroma, though it is a bit diminished this time around. This allows the aroma of walnut shells and cocoa to shine more though, along with the delicate orange blossoms. Tasting the tea, it starts off smooth and sweet, with notes of cocoa and woodiness, and just a hint of orange blossoms. The midtaste has a rich maltiness and sweet orange that starts off delicate and builds into a juicy intensity at the finish. If you let this tea cool it becomes very sweet and rich, me thinks I might have to cold steep this at some point.
For the third steep, the aroma is a mellow blend of oranges and orange blossoms, with an accompaniment of cocoa and a tiny hint of nuttiness. The taste has mellowed out a good bit this time around, it seems that the shining light of this steeping is the orange blossom, heady and sweet with a joining note of cocoa. The finish is that of honey and it lingers. I loved this tea, but I love oranges and orange blossoms, so no surprise there!
This tea has one of those problems that a lot of teabags has, a slightly dusty aroma of paper and well, tea dust. Aside from that, is smells quite peachy and sweet with a tiny bit of woodiness. Looking at their website it does not seem they make this one anymore, I don’t even remember how I got a bag of this :P Maybe I should start dating my notes…but my photos have dates soooo…anyway.
Once the bag is steeped, the aroma of sweet peach and ginger mix with some malt and citrus, it was pretty real smelling peach too which was nice. The taste was a blend of ginger, lemon, peach, and generic black tea. It is not bad, kinda bland, but not bad, I would not run screaming if it were offered again!
I am sorting through my tea notesbooks and writing up a few notes for teas that just probably won’t see the blog, mainly because you can’t buy them anymore or they just don’t exist. Sadly a lot of 52teas fit the bill. The aroma of this one was toasty and sweet, like toast dipped in chocolate liqueur, with an earthy undertone.
Brewing the leaves brings out the most peculiar aroma of boiled peanuts, I love boiled peanuts but not sure how I feel about them in tea. Especially combined with the toasted chocolate and malt. Luckily the liquid sans the leaves is only a little boiled peanuts, more chocolate and malt with some intense roast.
Umm, I am not a fan of this one. It is very sweet and malty, just like a chocolate malt shake, so points for being accurate. However there is also an earthy toasted intensity. The aftertaste is like chocolate liqueur, it lingers for a while. Not sure what really didn’t work for me, mate is a weird tasting thing on its own, and I think it is maybe best without flavoring. Or maybe I am not a fan of malted milkshakes, I have very fond memories of making them when I worked at Dairy Queen, but I never drank them. This was part of that indiegogo thing that 52teas did forever ago :P