Sunday, March 29, 2015

Nannuoshan: Tie Guan Yin 1993, A Tea Review

I am a giant slacker, I should have written about this tea yesterday like I planned, but by the time I got home at 9 o'clock last night, I was so pooped that I just flopped on the bed and refused to move. Well, that and Ben has been a total computer hog with his play-testing work (and researching a new game he is interested in as well) but that is ok. Yesterday was a blast, I went out for lunch with Ben and his parents and then we went to Costco where I got several things, but most excitingly I got the most massive jar of Kalamata olives, it was epic! I cannot wait to cut loose on them, it will be like eating squishy, purple, sour, potato chips. Other than lunch and shopping I got to catch up with an old friend while painting at Tabletop, so life is good as usual.

Today is the last of the teas from Nannuoshan, my adventure comes to an end with an aged tea, a Tie Guan Yin from 1993, that was a long time ago! It was an awful year for me, if I can remember my timeline correctly (and I know my mom, who always reads my blogs, will correct me if I am wrong) 1993 was the year I almost died from pneumonia, oops. I am hoping that a Tie Guan Yin, THE Oolong that taught me that tea could be art and not just a drink, will change my opinion about this year. Unlike other aged Oolongs I have had, this one has only been baked the once, back in 1993, so it is not one of those teas that is relying on its roasted taste, rather it is relying on the tea itself to shine through. The dark leaves are quite lovely, like a mix between curly and balled, they almost look tumbled, the aroma is quite fascinating, and certainly not like any TGY I have ever sniffed. Blending notes of dried peaches, fruit wood, distant flowers, spices, and a rich woody wine cask aroma that adds a level of headiness to the leaves. At the very finish there is a sharp, nectar sweet, note of lychee that lingers a bit.

Into the pot it goes! The now soggy leaves blend notes of dried peaches and apricots, woodiness, and the distinct smell of a wine cask. It is woody and sweet, and I really like that wine note, I wish I knew more about wine so I could say exactly which one it reminds me of, I can say it is a slightly spicy red one. The brandy colored liquid (a very lovely color, reminds me of a sunrise) is woody and fruity, with distinct notes of peaches and spice.

The first steep is a think of beauty, do not go into this tea expecting it to be like any other teas, it is unlike anything else. For all that the aroma is super sweet, the tea itself is only subtly sweet, and most the sweetness is in the aftertaste. The tea itself is woody and a bit sour, like biting into an unripe fruit, this causes a great salivary effect. The midtaste is a bit spicy, like mulled wine, and delightfully woody, reminding me of a freshly broken apple wood branch.

The aroma of the second steep is rich, with a blend of freshly broken apple wood, dried peaches, spicebush, and a tiny bit of distant flowers at the finish. The taste is much like the first, but more so! The sweetness is throughout the entire sipping experience this time, the sweetness of dried peaches and the sourness of freshly broken green wood. It has a lingering aftertaste of spice and fruitiness, and a tiny hint of orchids once it cools.

For the third steep, the aroma is very peachy and sweet, in fact it is primarily peachy, with a hint of spice and a touch of woody resin, like myrrh. The mouth is much drier for this steep, and the taste is woodier, reminding me of red wine and a touch of resinous wood. This transitions to dried peaches and a slight sourness like unripe peaches. This tea is beautiful, I would love to buy a large pile of it to age, each year I would taste it to see how it changes, I have liked every aged Oolong I have tried, I crave more!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Nannuoshan: Qing Ming Bi Luo Chun, A Tea Review

Update on the cold/allergy/flu/oops I made Apollo angry again front, I seem to be recovering nicely, still pretty sniffly and feverish, but other than that I am mostly fine. This makes me happy, working on my Oppressor also makes me happy, especially since I got the 'eyes' to look like creepy deep sea creature eyes. I wanted to make it look like it has those translucent blue-white eyes, so many coats of varnish tinted with white and blue, and I think I have captured it. Also I came to the hilarious realization that when a Harbinger is carrying an Oppressor it cannot sit on a flight stand because the Oppressor is that big.

Continuing on with Nannuoshan week, today's tea is Qing Ming Bi Luo Chun, that delightful fuzzy and curly green tea from Jiangsu, China. This particular Bi Luo Chun is a Qing Ming tea, meaning it was plucked between April 3-5th, making it almost a year old, happy almost birthday, tea! The name Bi Luo Chun means Green Spring Snail, though that was not always this tea's name, originally it was called Xia Sha Ren Xiang, which means Scary Fragrance. The reason for this name is kinda hilarious, years ago a tea harvester ran out of room in her basket, so she stuffed the extra leaves in her cleavage, the now warmed leaves let out an astounding fragrance which startled her. I feel like that is a great 'well what were you expecting?' moments, later on it was renamed by the Kangxi Emperor renamed it after naming it a tribute tea. I have a tiny bit of trepidation with this tea, see, Bi Luo Chun is best when it is fresh, and it is one of those teas that loses its potency really quickly, with this tea being almost a year old, it might not taste as intense as it would have several months ago. The aroma of the tiny curly leaves (so tiny and cute!) is fairly faint, a delicate note of lychee and gentle greenness of broken leaves. There is really not much there in the aroma department, it has a dry, papery note, but that is fairly faint as well.

Tossing the leaves in my gaiwan and giving the tea a steeping, the now very soggy leaves are still very faint, with delicate notes of lychee and spinach, with a tiny whiff of nuttiness at the finish. Bi Luo Chun is a delicate tea, but not usually this delicate. The liquid is mostly artichoke and a bit of distant sweetness.

First steep is subtle but quite delicious! The tea is cloudy and has a ticklish texture because it is just loaded with trichomes, Bi Luo Chun is super fuzzy, and tends to molt its fuzz off at any chance it gets, I am sure if I used a fine mesh screen I could get perfectly clear water, and would have a nice fuzz ball in my screen, but I don't mind the fuzz and hate fussing with filters. The taste starts out sweet and nutty, with notes of chestnut and lychee, this moves on to a brisk vegetal midtaste. Sadly the tea fizzles out and does not leave a lingering finish.

The aroma of the second steep has a much stronger presence, with notes of lychee, chestnut, and a distant floral note that adds a level of depth. The taste of this steep has a stronger presence as well, which is not very surprising, the first steep is always a prelude (unless you rinse your teas, which I don't except for Puerh) showing you what is to come. It starts out with a sweet, fruity start with a blend of lychee and a touch of sweetgrass. This then transitions to a sharp green taste, blending artichoke and fresh broccoli (that is one I don't get very often) with a bit of spinach. The finish is delicately sweet lychees that linger for just a little bit.

Steep number three! The aroma is sweet, a blend of hay, chestnut, and just a hint of lychee and spinach. It is fairly faint this time around, but the notes are distinct. This steep is mostly sweetness, with honey and lychee, and not really much else. It tastes like distant fruit nectar, it tastes like a finished tea. I certainly enjoyed the tastes in this tea, though I wish I could time travel and taste this when it was fresh, I bet it would have been a fantastic Bi Luo Chun!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nannuoshan: Ban Tian Yao, A Tea Review

Today was the first playtest of SeaFall! It had a slightly rocky start with some printing problems, but once that was settled things went smoothly, and I achieved the goal I had for this game, which was exciting. But what we are really here for is the Oppressor!!! Yes, my connection at AdeptiCon was able to bring me one back, meaning I have one before anyone else, and yes I plan on painting it and bringing it to my game on Monday, extra fun because I play another Scourge player. I must be the Alpha Scourege! Ok, enough nerding out, time for tea!

Thursday seems like a good day for Yancha, specifically Nannuoshan's Ban Tian Yao, they have several Wuyi Rock Teas, but as tempting as it was to pick an old favorite, I wanted to try something new. Expand my appreciation of one of my favorite forms of Oolongs, and of course give my Yancha teapot some love. Ban Tian Yao's name translates, roughly, to 'waist halfway to the sky' because this tea is grown way up on the side of the cliffs, practically halfway to the sky, very poetic. The aroma of the nice curly leaves is very rich, strong notes of tobacco, mineral, and cocoa with moderate aroma notes of honey and char, with a gentle finish of woodiness. This Yancha certainly has the 'rock' aspect of the Rock Oolong title, being one of the most mineral heavy of the ones I have tried, there is very little sweetness, it is robust and strong, and I like that. The mineral notes were actually the first thing that drew me to Yancha, and what brought me around to absolutely loving them.

So, into the Yancha pot for my customary hot-short steeping, Nannuoshan recommends a 60s first steep, but personally I go for flash steeping with Yancha, brewing them with a longer steep certainly still tastes good, but this is my personal preference. The aroma of the soggy leaves is less char and tobacco and more rich, sweet, cocoa with notes of baking bread, molasses, limestone, and a faint floral note at the end that is a mix of spicebush and hyacinth. The liquid is quite sweet smelling with a blend of cocoa and slightly citrus notes, with an accompanying strong note of char and mineral.

First steep is intense! Oh man, those mineral notes are exquisite, it is like drinking tea made from from mineral water while being steeped in a limestone teapot, I can taste the mountainside in this one. There are also notes of char, which moves on to a rich tobacco and molasses at the middle. The finish is cocoa and of course mineral which lingers for quite a while.

The aroma of the next steep is very strongly mineral with an accompanying note of char and woodiness with a sharp cocoa finish. This steep in general has a sharpness to it, the strength of the mineral and char notes are still just as strong, but the molasses and cocoa sweetness from the first steep are almost entirely replaced with tobacco and woody notes, with a tiny bit of loam at the finish.

The third steep is like a blend between the first and second, the aroma starts out sweet and a bit spicy, but moves quickly to mineral and char, with a bit of cocoa at the finish. The taste takes its notes from the aroma, blending the strength of the first steep with the sweet and slightly mellow tones of the first, the strong mineral notes are still very much so present, but they are mellowed out some by cocoa and a bit of yeasty bread. The finish has tobacco and woodiness, with a spicebush aftertaste. I like this Yancha (no surprise) it has some serious Cha Qi to it, and a very robust taste, I do not think this would be an everyday kinda tea like Shui Xian, but on a day you need to spend completely absorbed by a tea, this could very well be the Yancha for you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nannuoshan: Anji Bai Cha, A Tea Review

Predictably I am still sick, though I am feeling a little less terrible than I did when I wrote my last blog post, so I consider that a huge win! Currently I am watching Achievement Hunter's Minecraft Let's Play of a Legends of the Hidden Temple map, it is nostalgic good time, and excellent mindless fun. I always wanted to go on one of those silly Nickelodeon shows, Legends of the Hidden Temple being my favorite, because who didn't love the idea of raiding a Mayan temple?

Continuing the adventure with Nannuoshan today with Anji Bai Cha! I will admit, of all the teas I requested, this was the one I was most excited to try. Anji Bai Cha, whose name means White Tea from Anji, is not a white tea, it is a delicate green tea, though it does have a mystery about it (like the white or green Xue Ya mystery from Monday) is this an old tea that has been made for years, an old tea that was lost and rediscovered, or a tea that has only been made for about 20 years? The answer is, yes. Ok, that is not helpful, but as so often is the case, the internet cannot give a straight answer. Is this the delicate tea from Anji written about by Lu Yu or is this something new and delightful in its own right. In the long run it does not matter, what only matters is how enjoyable it is, though the history is something fun to ponder while waiting for the kettle to heat up.  Though to be honest I spend kettle heating time ogling the leaves, Anji Bai Cha is such a pretty tea, in all of its stages, and it smells really good too! The aroma of the slender leaves is mild, with notes of green beans, chestnuts, distant flowers, and a tiny bit of a sharp asparagus finish. You can tell that this tea is super delicate, just from the aroma alone, because even though the notes are very clear and crisp, they are delicate, not a tea that slams you full on in the face with greenness. 

The now soggy and much bigger leaves have a very pleasant aroma, with distinct notes of sweet chestnut and distant flower nectar with delightful notes of artichoke and asparagus. I am in a happy place, it has been far too long since I had Anji Bai Cha, and it is just as pleasant as I remember it so far. The delicate liquid is a blend of green and sweetness with notes of green beans, chestnuts, and a bit of bamboo and sweet pea. My nose is happy because this tea smells like spring. 

The first steep is like nectar, delicious green nectar, like something celestial maidens drink while lounging around clear pools in bamboo forests. I love this tea so much, it starts out sweet like flower nectar, then pretty swiftly transitions to greenbeans, peas, asparagus, and a finish of artichoke. The mouthfeel is very smooth leaning towards thick, this is a delicate tea that has a definite presence. 

For the second dance with this tea the aroma is nutty and sweet, but certainly stronger than the first steep, with a blend of artichoke, sweet peas, chestnuts, greenbeans, and a finish of crushed leaves and vegetation. I think my favorite thing about Anji Bai Cha is how incredibly clean it tastes, there is very little sweetness this steep, it is mostly green and fresh, with vegetal notes of peas, green beans, artichoke, and bamboo leaves. The finish does have some sweetness, like flower nectar, with accompanying

For a bit of fun, instead of a third steep, I decided to brew some in my travel steeper, mostly because I had to go to gaming and someone was being impatient, it is not my fault that the tea was really good and distracted me! Anji Bai Cha was my epiphany tea for experimenting more with teas in my travel steeper, before I had an infuser that was made for making tea and tucking the leaves out of the way, now I have one where the leaves are always in the water, so you have to plan accordingly. As expected, letting this tea sit in my travel steeper and infuse the water with its green goodness was a wonderful plan, deliciously sweet and green with delicate floral notes and distinct vegetal notes. If you have not had the opportunity to try Anji Bai Cha, I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you are a lover of delicate Chinese green teas. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Nannuoshan: Dian Yin Zhen, A Tea Review

My dear friends and readers, I have a terrible confession, I am rather ill and a little bit worried. At first I had a sniffle and sore throat and I just assumed allergies (which apparently I don't have, still weirded out by that) but nope, this is something much more annoying. Not sure if it is a terrible cold or what, but it has decided to move to my lungs (like they always do) and I am coughing and wheezing up a storm. So I am unhappily living on lots of cold meds, expectorants, antihistamines, and my inhaler...long story short, I am super loopy and so glad that I take really long winded notes in my tea notebooks! It was actually me becoming ill when I first started my tea blogger that I came up with the idea of logging all my notes in a notebook ahead of time, certainly one of my better decisions. 

Day two of our Nannuoshan adventure takes us to Yunnan, home of Puerh and a ton of other fascinating teas. One such tea is Dian Yin Zhen, a silver needle white tea whose name translates to Yunnan silver needle, very direct this time. It is important to distinguish that this silver needle is from Yunnan, because it is way different from its Fujian twin. See, Yunnan teas are definitely distinct, they have one of the more defined 'terroir' markers of tea with an at times really intense camphor to menthol note in taste and aroma, and if you are really lucky a distant smokiness. And sniffing the leaves did not disappoint, I found notes of hay, lettuce, melon, and a distinct note of sharp camphor and a hint of smoke. The aroma reminds me of a Sheng Puerh with a fruitier, sweeter tone to it, such is the beauty of tea from Yunnan!

Brewing the leaves is an adventure, the aroma really had me confused, if I had closed my eyes and sniffed I would have at first thought it was a Sheng. Upon closer nose examination I can detect notes of melon and crisp cucumber, along with that is the signature hay and strong camphor and faint smokiness. It is a pretty potent smelling pile of wet leaves. The liquid is fruity sweet with notes of melon and peaches with a bit of hay, and of course, crisp camphor. 

First steeping, and let me say, if you are a fan of young Sheng you would love this tea. It is crisp with an accompanying fuzzy tingling from trichomes and gentle smoothness. It starts with a rich camphor and smokiness, this moves to hay and a bit of spinach, and a finish of lettuce and cucumber. This tea has a nice hui gan that really lasts and cools the throat. 

Second time around this tea's aroma takes on a slightly bready, yeasty, almost sourdough tone along with sweet straw and a bit of smoke and camphor at the finish. Tasting the tea, the camphor and smoke notes have definitely mellowed out a good bit, they are still present, but this time they are only at the finish. The beginning of the sip is sweet and fruity, with notes of peaches and hay, this moves to a yeasty bread sweetness along with a hint of sourness that transitions nicely to the camphorous finish. I have really mixed feelings on Dian Yin Zhen, it is a fascinating tea with intense flavors, but I am not sure if I like it, and this is definitely not the first Dian Yin Zhen I have had where I spend the entire sipping session not sure if I like it or not, and I certainly foresee many more sessions like this. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Nannuoshan: Xue Ya, A Tea Review

Today is the day I fight Ben in the league, against his old UCM army we were evenly matched, but now that he has switched to the Shaltari, I am afraid. I cannot win against that faction, even when I have a perfect army for crushing them, my dice betray me. I know the Shaltari are pretty, but come on dice, stop being dazzled!

It is time for a theme week! I am really on a kick with these lately, they are just too much fun. A couple months ago company Nannuoshan offered samples up for review on steepster, of course I pounced on the offer like a cat with a pile of treats, the samples were sent out in a staggered pattern and yours truly was very close to the bottom, but my samples arrived and all that anticipation gets to be paid off in a Nannuoshan week! Today I am looking at Xue Ya, also called Yangxian Xue Ya and Snow Bud, which is a very delicate white tea. Though, depending on who you ask, this tea could also be considered a green tea, of course researching further seems to present a very even split between calling it a white and green, and my own examination shows that it looks like the world's most fuzzy green. Me thinks I will spend a long time researching this one, in fact the reason I selected this sample is because when I was working on that 30+ page list of teas from all over the world (really need to get back to that and other tea research) this one caused me a bit of trouble. So, how do these delicate little buds smell, well, pretty good actually! The leaves are a blend of crispness, sweetness, and floral notes, with a strong peony presence accompanied by honey, cucumbers, and a bit of melon. The notes are very distinct while retaining a level of subtlety.

Nannuoshan recommends brewing this tea at 195°F (90°C) now if this really is a white, then that is awesome, I am a huge fan of using hot (same temperature I use for a lot of red teas) water rather than cooler, this is why I think a lot of people say white tea has no flavor, because if you crank that temperature it becomes a thing of beauty. If this tea is a green I should be afraid, because that might end poorly for me! The incredibly beautiful wet leaves (so vibrant!) have a complex aroma, with notes of peony, melon, lettuce, sage, and an unexpected nuttiness reminiscent of Long Jing, that sweet toasted sesame aroma with a savory edge to it. The liquid really has a fun surprise to it, it is sweet and light, almost fluffy. The sweet note reminds me a bit of meringue, blended with peony and chestnuts, with just a whiff of savory green spinach at the finish.

The first steep is light in both taste and color, so it is certainly starting like a white tea, with a smooth mouth ending on tingly from the trichomes. The taste starts out with a blend of honey, lettuce, and cucumber. This moves on to a subtle melon and a hint of chestnuts. The finish is sweet peony nectar with a slightly nutty aftertaste.

Onward to steep two! The aroma this time is much greener, with chestnut, sesame seeds, and artichoke with a finish of peony. The taste is also much greener, is the white tea in fact a very strong green that can hold its own against a higher temperature? The tea has a more crisp mouthfeel this time, with starting notes of artichoke and toasted sesame seeds. This moves to a slightly meaty, umami taste of sauteed green beans and a hint of cooked mushrooms. The tea finishes with gentle sweetness of melon and lettuce with a lingering note of peony that stays around for quite a while.

Third steep, and the aroma is still on the green side, in fact I would say all traces of the more typical white tea notes have vanished and I am left with artichoke, green beans, sesame seeds, and a nice finish of meatiness. The taste has also bid a fond farewell to the white tea aspects of this tea, it is all green now, baby! It is a tasty green at that, blending savory notes with rich greenness. Starting with notes of sauteed vegetables and mushrooms then moving on to a crisp artichoke and fresh kale, imparting just a hint of that vegetal bitterness you get from kale. The finish is sesame seeds and a delicate sweet honey note that stays as an aftertaste. Xue Ya is still a mysterious tea, but I can safely say it was a very tasty mystery!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

3 Leaf Tea: Blueberry Matcha, A Tea Review

You know, I am a bad geek, maybe. I have a fancy kindle fire just loaded with books, but I have not read much lately. Each night when I settle into bed, my kindle is there waiting for me, but instead of reading I play games. I have been lately addicted to Plague Inc (though that game has been frustrating me immensely) Mini Warriors (it is tempting to throw all the moneys at this game, it is so much fun) and Townsmen (even if I find the description of women spend all day at the market and men do all the work rather tasteless) I dabble with a few others, but those are the big time sinks.

So today is the last of my Matcha weekend binge, and I finish off with Blueberry Matcha from 3 Leaf Tea, and fun fact, I used to be hardcore addicted to blueberry green tea, I went from consuming a lot of it to it being a fun nostalgic treat. Mainly I gave it up because my favorite one is nigh impossible to get, ugh! Like the Orange Matcha I had the other day, the aroma of the green pile of powder is only faintly the flavor, like having a pile of Matcha sitting next to a pile of blueberry waffles and fresh blueberries. The Matcha is both sweet and grassy, very green, which I think compliments the Blueberry aroma. Adding water and whisking it really brings out the blueberry notes, it has a tiny bit of tartness to the aroma, much like blueberries have at times, but it also has that super sweet blueberry jam note that I love.

And again, like the Orange Matcha, the Blueberry Matcha is really quite tasty as a traditional whisked up bowl of tea. The blueberry taste is fairly light, like eating a mouthful of blueberries and then drinking Matcha. It is green, grassy, with fresh hay and growing things. The finish is where most the blueberry taste it, and it lingers into the aftertaste.

Yay, there is milk, meaning I am making a latte! I have a wicked sore throat (thank you allergies, or whatever, maybe just breathing in the raining tree pollen is irritating my throat) so a bit of creamy cold sweetness sounds perfect. Well, it is delicious, as expected, like a Matcha latte but with a scoop of fresh blueberries and blueberry jam, which is great by me. See, I love blueberries, but I really hate tart blueberries, give me those super sweet juicy ones any day. Adding sugar and making it into a latte gives it a bit of that blueberry candy taste, but I am ok with that (turns out it is one of my favorite candy flavors) and it works well with the greenness of the Matcha. I really liked the blueberry, but I am pretty sure the orange stole my heart.