Thursday, October 23, 2014

What-Cha: Darjeeling Autumn Flush 2013 Jungpana Black Tea, A Tea Review

I have a confession that some of my friends back in Kansas City are going to hate me for, I really don't like their BBQ, sorry guys! I grew up in the South on delicious Southern style BBQ, and then I left and have not had any for almost fifteen years. Until today. I had BBQ so good that I actually cried, no lie, I sat at the table eating my food while crying. I tolerated other types of BBQ because I craved it, but really, in my book nothing compares to it. So that is my confession, I hope I don't make too many enemies!

Travel has taken a toll on my perception of time, so What-Cha Wednesday is on a Thursday this week, and the particular tea has an autumnal flair, Darjeeling Autumn Flush 2013 Jungpana Black Tea, which is perfect for this time if year. There is something about Darjeeling teas and autumn that go perfectly together, doubly so if it is an autumn flush. The aroma of the dry leaves is sweet and muscatel, it reminds me a little of white wine and scuppernongs, with a rich undertone of sweet potatoes and roasted peanuts. I think spending time in the South is having an effect on my nose, those are such Southern foods! Regardless of my nose's current influence, the smells is quite good and of course sweet.

Brewing the leaves seems to make the aroma even richer, very sweet and immensely rich, it has a real depth to it with notes of muscatel, molasses, sweet potatoes, and a tiny hint of distant flowers. The liquid is still sweet and rich, but it has a lightness where the leaves had depth. There are notes of sweet potatoes and scuppernongs with a finish of chocolate and flowers.

This is a Darjeeling to sip while lounging somewhere you can peacefully contemplate something, be it the tea you are sipping or your surroundings, or just the glories of cheese. It has that feeling when you sip it, the tea is a perfect companion for getting lost in thought because its journey through flavor notes is gentle. It starts with a rich molasses and sweet potato, after this the flavor turns light and sweet with a distinct note of golden raises and honey. The end has a cooling effect and a hint of loam with honey sweetness. Surprisingly I gave the rest of my sample to a friend who wanted more experience with Darjeeling, even though I wanted it all for myself I knew it was the perfect Darjeeling to use as either an introductory tea or one to get more experience with. My reasoning for this is it has the distinct notes associated with an Autumn Flush Darjeeling while having a reasonable price and very clear flavor notes. It is also good for experienced sippers because yum.

*if you want to see all my photos from my South Carolina adventures, I have a nice little album dedicated to it*

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Persimmon Tree Tea Company: Mandarin Cream Oolong, A Tea Review

Oh man, so much busy! Yesterday I was exhausted after finishing the road trip, doing some post trip shopping (it seems this is a tradition now) and eating. I took a nap and ended up sleeping a whopping 14 hours. Then today I went to Hilton Head for more shopping (thrift stores are awesome, found some awesome tea things I am going to have to show off soon) and then to Hunting Island for some ocean fun. The ocean did my soul good, especially since earlier in the day a nice lady asked me if my blue hair meant I was a mermaid. Tomorrow we plan to visit Charleston and the tea plantation, so much excitement for that!

Today's tea is something soothing and relaxing from The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, Mandarin Cream Oolong! This tea is a blend of Organic Oolong, Organic Lemon Myrtle, Marigold Petals and Natural Flavors creating a tea that is a mix of creaminess and lemons. I am a huge fan of Lemon Myrtle because it gives that essence of lemon without being a kick in the face of citrus. The aroma is nothing short of neat, I say neat as in cool, know, what people say when something smells unusual but good, at least I assume people still say hip, I am a bit out of the loop. It blends sweet cream, honeysuckles, orchids, and a hint of lemon at the finish for a really unique smelling blend, I admit I find myself very intrigued by these leaves.

Tossing the leaves in my steeping basket for a nice little bath in my teacup, I find myself greeted with a blend of floral aromas, primarily orchid and honeysuckle, and creamy lemons. It vaguely reminds me of a very floral creamy lemony cheesecake. The liquid is much the same without its leafy companions, it is very sweet and creamy with mellow lemons and lots of floral notes.

It is totally unexpected that this tea hits the spot, it is floral and sweet with just the right amount of lemon. It starts out lemony and floral with notes of orchids and honeysuckle to give it sweetness. This sweetness builds to a creamy midtaste and finishes with a blend of cream and lemon, again reminding me of lemony cheesecake. Like I said when sniffing the leaves, it is unusual, but in a very neat way, I found myself truly enjoying this tea and wanting more when I finished the cup!
My mom had a little too much fun making me model today

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tea At Sea: Mountain Organic Indonesian Black, A Tea Review

Yours truly is currently sitting in a hotel room in North Carolina, near Lake Norman. Apparently there is an exceptionally large lake nearby, but I cannot see if from my hotel. What I can see is a my travel gaiwan making tea for my mom and myself as we watch TV and relax before finish the road trip to South Carolina. It is pretty exciting to be writing from a hotel, I am not sure why but I feel super fancy with my travel gaiwan far away from home.

Today's tea brings a bit of closure to a series, quite a while ago I looked at Tea At Sea's other teas from Indonesia, and today I am reviewing Mountain Organic Indonesian Black. I find it really interesting to experience the green, oolong, and now the black, it was like a journey! The aroma of this tea is sweet and malty, there are notes of berries and raisins with a hint of roasted peanuts at the finish. I shan't deny it, the dry leaves smell quite yummy, but I do love my sweet black teas.

Brewing the tightly balled leaves brings a malty, rich, aroma from my gaiwan. Investigating the now wet leaves even further with my nose reveals sweet berry notes and a touch of metallic, there is also a tiny note of yam at the finish. The liquid from the first steep is malty and sweet with tasty notes of molasses and yam, with a tiny finish of raisins.

After that especially enjoyable sniffing, it is time for tasting! The first sip is very sweet and quite smooth, it starts out malty and builds to fruity notes of plum and berries. This transitions into a richer, heavier finish of yams and oak wood, the finish is malty and it has a lingering sweetness.

I decided to go for another steep (because it is me, of course I go for another steep) and the aroma has managed to become sweeter, notes of honey and berries with a touch of plum and yam. The second steep is quite similar to the first but brings out more sweetness and berry notes, it is honey sweet with a rich malty finish. This is a great tea for when you are in the mood for a super sweet black tea that is both rich and mellow.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Tea Corner at Oxford Hall, A Tea Place Review

You know what is just awesome about traveling, getting to try local tea shops! Nestled in quaint New Cumberland, PA (near to Harrisburg for those who are not familiar with PA's plethora of small towns) is a little slice of the UK. When I lived in the area I would visit for snacks and to occasionally pick up some tea, but mostly I was there for the nostalgia. My father's family was from Northern England, and my mother's family is very proud of their British heritage, so I was raised with proper British food, tea, and sensibilities.

The Tea Corner at Oxford Hall  was the perfect destination for my mother and myself on the rainy day we decided to visit, sadly we goofed and visited close to closing and missed out on some of the yummy foods, but we were told that they never deny anyone tea. That is a mindset I share, and considering the quality of the weather that day, it was incredibly welcome. While we were waiting for tea (it took us a few to settle on which one we wanted) we perused the rather sizable selection of tea in large canisters. Usually it is a red flag when you go into a tea shop and see all the teas in clear glass, but since their tea shelves were in the corner away from light and in those fancy sealed canisters, I was not at all surprised when the teas looked and smelled super fresh.

We finally selected a tea (it was a sweet oolong with caramel, forgive me I have forgotten the name) we decided to select a few to take home for later sipping. I selected a beautiful Golden Monkey and a Green Chai (it has rose petals and almonds!) and my dear mum selected some Lapsang Souchong and Nutcracker Sweet. We took a whopping five minutes to select teas and the proprietor let us know that we should probably get to our tea which has been steeping the whole time. My insistence to pick an oolong paid off since those can take a long steeping pretty well, I know how we are when it comes to shopping.

The setup is lovely, it is not a lace-tablecloth, doilies everywhere, and a need for a full corset and bustle type of sit-down tea, this tea corner very much so captures the feel of walking into tea shop in England and sitting down for a cuppa. I love that, sadly I am not too huge into the full on Victorian Tea, I want the cozy feeling of having tea that my family instilled in me. The tea was wonderful, even with its long steep the taste was great, on a whim my mother and I added a little milk and sugar (love the little chilled milk pitcher) and it was like drinking an oolong themed Creme Brulee.

Yours truly is very excited to go back, I certainly want to try their food (they offer gluten free options, so yay for me!) and they have real Butterbeer! I am definitely thinking I am going to go for a Butterbeer on my birthday, or perhaps I will go for their Afternoon Tea. The price on their Afternoon Tea is very reasonable, you get a nice pile of food and tea, though since I am unable to eat scones I am not sure it is the best idea. I feel I would sit there and just sadly stare at the scones. If you are in the area (or passing through) I definitely suggest a visit, it is well worth it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Musing: A Week In Pictures

What a crazy, non-stop, week it has been for me...and it seems it is just a prequel since on Monday I am leaving for South Carolina for a week with my awesome grandparents! Other than the obvious soaking up some Southern hospitality (and gorging on food) I plan on scoping out some local tea places (including a tea plantation) to visit, add a little tea traveling to the blog! Well, me being me, I have snapped a few pictures of this week's insanity, so come along on a little adventure!

Twilight Imperium is not a game, it is an experience...we all loved it and plan on playing it more, luckily the guys get to play it in November, while I have to wait until January! It was a great sending off, especially since I brought brownies.

I was a little lax with my photography on the train, the first leg from Kansas City to Chicago I spent sleeping, then from Chicago to Pittsburgh it was night and I also spent it sleeping. Trains just always put me to sleep. The first time we stopped at a tiny train stop in Pennsylvania, I had to snap a photo of the fog covered mountains.

Just a short distance from Harrisburg, my first view of my much loved Susquehanna River (yes, it is mine) with its constant tendency to be high up. My mom and I have a great inside joke that involves saying 'the river is up' and I take great pride in getting to say it before she did. 

My mom is so awesome, she set me up a desk involving this great tray for all my tea gear (and some of hers I am borrowing) and all my crafty stuff. I tend to take over an area when I visit, so she thought ahead and set up one for me. 

On the way home from one of our outings we saw a beautiful rainbow at sunset. It has been pretty rainy here the whole time, I have had very little need for my sunglasses, which I have enjoyed.

A new little teapot friend! It is so tiny and artisan made, the signature is from April of 1988, making it a little younger than me. It will be a good gongfu teapot when I do not want to use one of my yixings. 

I have never, in all my years of mushroom hunting, seen a patch of Amanita Muscaria v. Formosa this big and this well formed!! My mom was turning into the driveway of my dear friend's (ok really, she is my adopted sister at this point) house and yelled at her to stop the car so I could leap out and examine it. I brought the big cap home for spore printing. 

Luckily, Sheena (the aforementioned friend with the mushroomy driveway) has a pair of adorable dude cats, meaning I will be able to get a kitty fix while I am away from my girls. This lovely gent is Gandalf the Grey. 

While lifting up a mushroom covered stump to examine the underside I found a Redback Salamander, I honestly cannot tell you all the last time I saw a salamander. Not wanting to crush it by accident I nudged it under the leaves. 

Lastly there is this amazing fungus! I have seen a fair share of beautiful purple mushrooms, but this one stumps me utterly. I brought the entire stump back to my mom's in hope that I can ID this thing. I believe it may be Phanerochaete crassa, but I am very far from sure. I do love a mystery! And so that is my week, I will be back to tea tomorrow with a visit to a local tea shop. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Life in Teacup: Wuyi Jin Jun Mei, A Tea Review

Hello everyone, how are all of you today? I am doing well, quite sleepy after a day of shopping with my mom. We visited some of my favorite thrift stores and found some adorable tea things and then had a giant pile of sushi and dango. For now I am relaxing before we have a friend visit for hot wings and gaming! I will have to put some thought into which tea goes well with hot wings other than Southern Style Sweet Iced Tea, perhaps a chai will do the trick.

Today's tea is Life in Teacup's Wuyi Jin Jun Mei, a delicately curly tea from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China. Its name, beautiful golden eyebrows, is a perfect description because the leaves are covered in a golden fuzzy down, though I am not sure about the eyebrows, to me they look like little tails off of some adorable creature. The aroma of these fun little leaves is very sweet and rich, there are starting notes of cocoa, yams, and roasted peanuts which transition to a delicate note of flower nectar and sweet raw honey. I have to be careful when sniffing Jin Jun Mei because I could spend all day with my nose in the leaves inhaling their rich aroma.

As expected, when you place the leaves in a gaiwan and give it a good steeping, the aroma of the wet leaves becomes even more intense. The cocoa notes become more like actual chocolate with honey and molasses and a tiny touch of distant flowers. The liquid is a blend of chocolate, molasses, and honey with a finishing hint of roses. That little touch of roses at the finish adds a hint of the exotic.

The first steep is so sweet! It is like a rich dessert with notes of chocolate, caramel, cocoa butter, and creaminess. It lingers with those notes for a moment before moving to stewed plums and molasses at the finish with a slight aftertaste of roasted peanuts. Since it is the first steep it starts a bit mild, I anticipate some serious richness in the later steeps.

It is no surprise that I was practically bouncing while waiting for the second steep, Jin Jun Mei hits all the right notes for me, blending the delicate and sweet perfectly. The aroma of this steep is very sweet, with notes of chocolate, caramelized sugar, and a nice bit of raw honey at the finish. Tasting the tea is a real pleasure, like the first steep it is super sweet, but it has increased in richness. It is creamy and sweet with a very smooth mouthfeel with notes of creamy chocolate and honey, this transitions to stewed plums and a pinch of flower nectar. The aftertaste is roasted peanuts again, but there is also a bit of cocoa.

For the third steep, the aroma has a more subtle sweetness, like stewed plums and cocoa with a hint of honey for the finish again. The taste is still rich and quite sweet, with more of a molasses taste more so than chocolate and sugar. The chocolate note is still there, but instead of being sweet like biting into a bar of chocolate, it is rich like cocoa, and not as sweet. As I am enjoying the more reserved sweetness, out of no where, the aftertaste explodes with raw honey sweetness and flower nectar that lingers for quite a while. That was a fun finish! Jin Jun Mei never disappointing...and I certainly hope it stays that way!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fashionista Tea: Organic Green Pomegranate, A Tea Review

Hello blog! I have missed you! After two solid days of travel and pretty much non-stop action since my last bit of blogging, I can safely say it is nice to sit down and just relax with some tea and writing. The first thing I did upon arriving in Pennsylvania, after dropping my luggage and proclaiming "I am too old for this nonsense" and giving my mom a giant squish, is go shopping at the local thrift store where all clothes are 85 cents. I came up with the wonderful idea of not bringing any clothes and just buying myself a new wardrobe.

This is in theme with today's tea from Fashionista Tea, Organic Green Pomegranate! This fashion themed tea is a blend of Organic Green Tea, Organic Raspberries, and Essence of Pomegranate, and I can say that the dress that is on this tea's page is super pretty and feminine, I want to wear it. The aroma of the dry leaves (and fruity bits) is quite delicious, it has that tart sweet smell of fresh raspberries and pomegranates with a slight hint of rose hips and a gentle finishing note of slightly grassy green. It has a very fresh scent, reminding me of late spring.

Into my steeping basket the tea goes for a nice little soaking. The aroma of the now quite wet leaves is fruity fresh and sweet, just like freshly picked raspberries and pomegranates, nicely juicy and just a hint of tart. The liquid without its leafy friends is sweet and creamy, like raspberries and cream but with a hint of leafy green aroma. It is very mellow and pleasantly sweet.

Oooh, the taste is so mellow, which is quite nice with a tart fruit tea, sometimes you run into ones that are super tart and overwhelming, not so with tea. It starts out sweet, much like biting into raspberries or pomegranate arils, then fades into gentle tartness with a gentle green finish. Out of curious I added a bit of sugar and chilled the tea, this takes away the tartness and brings out the fruity notes even more. I could see myself really craving a tea like this in the late spring to early summer.