Saturday, May 2, 2015

Curious Tea Boxes: Sencha Fukujyu, A Tea Review

This tea rambling is going to start out with an adventure, specifically the adventure the box from Curious Tea went on! A while ago on Steepster, Curious Tea offered a box for review purposes, and I offered my writing and sipping services. The first box vanished into the aether, and as soon as the proprietor and I realized this tragedy, another box was sent, this time it came from its home and London and ended up in customs in Chicago, and here is where the fun begins! According to my app that tracks packages, it went from Chicago to Japan, and then to Korea, and then to New Jersey, and finally it showed up at my door. I was so happy when it did! The tea portions are massive (a whopping 50g of each) with clear instructions and lovely packaging, all things I am very pleased about in a tea subscription box. I do want to say that the customer service was awesome, my box decided to go on an adventure, but Curious Tea was quite supportive and awesome, even sending me a new one, how cool is that? So yeah, combine that with some epic teas and you have yourself a quality subscription service! I want to be a permanent subscriber...just need more money!

So, now that the adventure of the traveling tea has come to a close, it is on to one of the teas in the box: Sencha Fukujyu, hmm, maybe that is why the box went to Japan, it wanted to return to its roots! A bit about Sencha Fukijyu, it has one of the best names ever, it translates to Green Spider Legs, which makes me happy because I adore spiders! Why it is called that, I have no idea, it might not actually be a translation, information on this tea seems to be a bit sparse, but I do have some tasty facts. This tea comes from Shizouka Prefecture and is one of the later harvests, but it has some similarities to Gyokuro since it gets covered in the last part of its growing. The aroma of this Sencha is quite delightfully toasty, with notes of sesame and toasted nori and a distinct note of pine needles. Along with those notes are faint notes of spinach, a touch of broken grass, and a very unique note of mint, but without the menthol aspect, really it smells like broken mint leaves with all the cooling, sharp, menthol notes. It is very peculiar and quite fun!

Into my new and annoyingly chipped Kyusu the leaves go, ah beautiful Kyusu, you would be so perfect if not for that chip you took in the mail due to terrible packaging. Sigh. Anyway, the aroma of the now very soggy leaves (that do not resemble spider legs at all, but do look a lot like chopped up grass) is still very wonderfully toasty, I am such a sucker for toasty teas, add a bit of honey and sesame seeds with a pinch of fresh green pine needs and what you get is a very pleasant pile of leaves. The liquid is mild and sweet with notes of sweet toasted sesame seeds, pine needles, and a pleasant finish of bamboo shoots.

This Sencha is full of surprises! It starts mild and very sweet with notes of honey and sesame, much like those delicious sesame honey candies I rave on about. This immediately moves on toasted nori and those pine needles again. The finish is a blend of sunwarmed hay with an afteraste of grass. I say this Sencha is surprising, I have had toasty tasting Sencha before, but never one with pine needle notes before, it gives it a very clean taste which I am very fond of.

So much so that I went in for another steeping! The aroma of this steep is much nuttier, with a tiny bit of cashews with notes of toasted sesame seeds and a bit of crushed grass. The taste is also a bit grassier this time around, still strong notes of toasted nori and sesame seeds, but now there is the taste of crushed vegetation and broken blades of grass, it has taken on a very green taste. Overall, this would be a great everyday Sencha, and conveniently I have enough to have some everyday...for at least a few days anyway!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Teavivre: Bi Luo Chun Green Tea (Pi Lo Chun) Spring 2015, A Tea Review

Happy May Day! Or Beltaine if that is your Holiday of choice, regardless, 'tis the first of May and the weather is wonderful. Though I celebrated a day early and did not go out frolicking in the morning dew like I should have today. I did my nature-ing yesterday, over-did it a bit, so today I just lounged in my comfy clothes tasting teas and reading fellow tea-blogger's posts. Alas, I have only scratched the surface, having lagged behind on my reading.

Today is the final day of my little Teavivre Spring 2015 Green Tea feature, and I am wrapping it up with the delightfully fuzzy and curly Bi Luo Chun (Pi Lo Chun) Green Tea. This Green Snail Spring was harvested on April 8th, 2015 on Dong Ting Mountain in Jiangsu Province. The plantation this tea is grown on is peppered with fruit trees, in theory imparting the tea with a fruity aroma and taste, and maybe the fruit tastes more like tea? The aroma of the curly leaves is indeed a bit fruity, with notes of lychee, but there are also notes of water chestnuts, sesame seeds, tomato leaves, and a finish of gentle lettuce notes. Subtle sweetness with hints of vegetal and nuttiness, a mild aroma overall.

Brewing the tiny leaves, really they are quite delicate and fluffy, I am afraid a strong breeze will carry them away! The aroma of the soggy (and less fluffy) leaves is a blend of tomatoes, lima beans, okra, and with an undertone of sesame seeds and lychee. The liquid is very faint, not a ton of aroma notes wafting up with the steam, just gentle notes of lychee and honey, and a tiny touch of sesame.

First steeping! My favorite part of drinking fuzzy teas is of course the trichomes, I love those ticklish fuzzies on my tongue, such a delightfully fun feeling. Some people insist on always straining out the fuzz, but I never will. The taste is super mild, but with very strong notes, specifically notes of lychee and sesame at the first, moving on to okra and snap peas, and a gentle finish of sesame seeds at the finish that lingers on for a bit.

For the second steep the aroma is still pretty mild, with notes of snap peas and lychees with a gentle not of sesame again. The taste starts off with sweet peas and lychees and then pretty quickly switches to the savory with notes of tomato and green beans. Lastly the tea finishes off with a lingering note of okra and snap peas. I steeped for a third time, but it was much diminished, which was tragic, just finishing notes of okra and snap peas. Bi Luo Chun is a very mild tea, one that is perfect for drinking on a warm day, which is a thing with all of the spring greens I covered this week, they are iconic for this time of year not just because it is when they are harvested but because they match the season so well!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Teavivre: Xin Yang Mao Jian Green Tea Spring 2015, A Tea Review

Today did not go nearly as expected, the car work (that is costing a small fortune, so there goes any fun money for who knows how long) that was supposed to be finished this morning won't be done until tomorrow. Since my plans did not come to fruition I decided to go visit the Kauffman Gardens, they were beautiful, but oh man I am so tired now!

The journey through Green Tea week continues with Teavivre's Xin Yang Mao Jian Green Tea, one of my favorite green teas, see, I said I would say that a lot this week. These slightly fuzzy green needles were harvested April 13, 2015 in the beautiful Xinyang County in Henan Province. The leaves remind me of tiny pine needles, and apparently this tea is frequently drunk in China during the summer for its robust and refreshing qualities. The aroma is delightfully savory, mixing notes of sundried tomato. tomato leaves, spinach, and a bit of sauteed mushrooms. At the finish there was a tiny hint of cut grass and a surprising note of dulse.

Into the gaiwan the little needles go for their steeping, and the aroma stays quite savory, with notes of savory sauteed spinach, lima beans, vegetable broth, and a little like sauteed mushrooms. The liquid has notes of edamame, mushrooms, and a slight sweet pea note at the finish. The aroma is very mild, but the trichomes floating along the surface of the water amuses me and makes up for the lack of aroma.

The first steep keeps up the savory notes, blending sauteed mushrooms, some mild bok choy, a bit of edamame nuttiness, and a tiny bit of potatoes and dulse at the finish. The mouthfeel is smooth and the taste is mild at the first, but delightfully savory.

Second steep smells so much like sauteed veggies and vegetable broth, with a hint of toasted sesame at the finish giving it a touch of sweetness. The taste is still savory! There are notes of stir fried vegetable with a bit of sesame seeds there are stronger notes of zucchini and bok choy, and lesser notes of asparagus and bell pepper. At the finish there is a bit of potato and dulse, an interesting finish giving it a bit of a starchy finish, and lingering savoriness.

The third steep changes things up a bit by being more sweet than savory, with notes of sweet pea, sesame seeds, and a gentle grass like aftertaste. The taste is also more sweet than savory this time around, with notes of sweet pea and toasted sesame, it does fade to savory with notes of sauteed mushrooms and dulse at the finish. This tea had some notes I do not run into very often, which I found greatly amusing, and I certainly agree that it is refreshing, especially now that the days are getting warmer!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teavivre: Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea Spring 2015, A Tea Review

Guys, I finally think I need to break down and buy a scale. See, I have a project coming up that will require very exact tea measurements, and I do not think my vintage kitchen scale will cut it. I am a very 'free flow' in my tea preparation with eyeballing tea amounts and water amounts, count time out in my head (unless it is more than a minute) the only thing I am strict to is water temperature. So, this is going to be different for me, though not unpleasant, though it will interrupt the flow of my tea ritual, but not in a huge way. Maybe my vintage scale will work, clearly I will need to calibrate it and find out!

Today on the Green Tea Week from Teavivre, we take a look at one of my favorite spring greens (I am going to keep saying that everyday I think) Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea! Good old Yellow Mountain Fur Peak, as it translates of course referencing where it is grown and the appearance of the leaves, this particular harvesting was...harvested...on April 6th, putting it the day after Qing Ming. The aroma of these very pretty leaves is very fresh, very fresh and green indeed, and nutty. So, it starts out with a blend of chestnuts, water chestnuts, and edamame. After that the aroma fades to sweet peas, fresh spinach, and a tiny bit of smoke, like just a very very tiny whiff of smoke.

I decided to bowl steep this tea, it is one of those green teas that take to bowl steeping really well, it like never gets bitter! The aroma of the leaves floating around happily in the water is a nutty blend of sweet peas, edamame, and chestnuts. Subtle with a gentle edge of sweetness. The taste is pretty fantastic, it starts with a nectar sweetness of distant spring flowers (do I detect a hint of tulip?) and moves right along into green with notes of sweet pea, edamame, lima bean, and lettuce. Finishing up with a smooth chestnut and sesame and a lingering honey aftertaste. My bowl was refilled a few times before the flavor faded away to delicate sweetness and no more, not the most lasting of teas, but certainly very delicious.

Teavivre: Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea Spring 2015, A Tea Review

I just finished an epic baking frenzy! I made a Matcha and Chocolate Marble Bundt Cake which is delicious, a chocolate cake mixed with orange blossom water and masala chai spice drizzled with a glaze of saffron, raw honey, and orange blossom water. That one is my invention, turned out really yummy, this is my first time going entirely experimental with baking using gluten free flour, so I am glad it was not a disaster. My potato flour and garlic biscuits, however, they are kinda gross...more proof that I should stick to baking sweets, since my savories almost never turn out! So I am worn out and of course have more cleaning, but I am so waiting to just toss everything that is left into the dishwasher, I am a lazy baker.

And so the journey through China's spring greens continue, with Teavivre's Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea! They sell several grades of Long Jing, from their super fancy She Qian at the highest and most expensive (also earliest harvested if I am correct) to this one, the second least expensive of the Dragon Wells. Harvested on April 15, 2015, this tea is delightfully fresh, putting it between Qing Ming and Gu Yu (which was on April 20th this year, according to my handy calender, seriously it is the best app ever because it has all the Taoist holidays, Solar Terms, and things of that nature) two of the big spring harvest periods. The aroma of the little green swords (oh hey, a lucky ball of fuzz! You get those during the processing, I call them good luck because who doesn't like balls of trichomes?) is sweet, green, and nutty, just the way a good Dragon Well is supposed to smell! There are notes of sharp artichoke, fresh vegetation, sweet peony, toasted sesame seeds, a bit of green beans, and a hint of orchids. This one is surprisingly floral, but it is more like the nectar of the flower rather than a heady scent, it balances well with the green notes.

Into my green tea Yixing teapot it goes! I started having this teapot for all robust, vegetal Chinese greens, but really I use it most for my much loved Long Jing. Brewing the leaves results in a soggy tea that is not longer floral, but is all vegetal. There are notes of artichoke, bell pepper, chestnut, a bit of bamboo leaves, and a tiny bit of chestnut at the finish. The liquid is sweet with notes of artichoke, wildflower honey, spicebush, and a hint of peony. It smells mellow but not delicate.

The first steeping lets me know it is a good, clean, Dragon Well, it does now bowl me over, but it certainly is tasty! It has a rich, full body with a smooth mouthfeel, the taste starts off with bell pepper and green bean, this moves to a tiny bit of artichoke and bamboo leaves, the finish is sweet chestnuts and peony nectar.

The second steeping's aroma is crispy, yes that is how to describe a smell! There are notes of nutty chestnut and crisp broken bamboo leaves and bell pepper. The taste is rich, delightfully rich and green, with notes of bell pepper, green beans, with a nice slightly bitter cooked kale and a nice smooth chestnut midtaste. The finish, like the previous one, is a nice peony nectar which lingers.

Third steep, woo! The aroma is less vegetal this time around, it is sweet and nutty with a delicate peony flower and bamboo leaf finish. The taste is quite sweet this time around, like chestnuts and those delightful honey and sesame candies (not Halva, like I frequently rave about, but candies that are just honey and sesame...rather addictive) there is a light bamboo leaf and bamboo shoot taste with a gentle finish of green beans and peony nectar. This tea is one of those Dragon Wells that make for an excellent everyday tea without breaking the bank, which is always pleasant because Dragon Well can get really expensive!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Teavivre: Lu Shan Yun Wu Green Tea (2015) A Tea Review

Today is tournament day! I am fighting PHR and honestly I have no idea if I can win, see PHR are really good at killing things...and the Scourge (in particular me) is really good at dying. I hold the record for the lowest kill to death ratio, meaning I am really good at dying, which is funny because it doesn't mean I am bad at winning. Depending on the scenario, I might be very well suited to win, because my big advantage over the PHR is speed, they are super slow and I am the queen of speed!

It is spring, meaning it is time to revel in the spring harvested green teas! This week will be all about greens, specifically a set of five green teas from Teavivre! Today's green tea of choice is Lu Shan Yun Wu Green Tea, a curly and very green leafed tea from Jiangxi Province in China. This particular tea was plucked April 10, 2015, which, if I remember my calender correctly, means it was harvested between Qing Ming and Gu Yu, making it awesomely fresh. The aroma of the tea (which is also known as Clouds and Mist Tea) is a blend of nutty and vegetal, it has a bit of spinach, some toasted sesame, a distinct yet mild roasted peanut note, a sharp note of artichoke, and a finish of raw asparagus. It smells super green, and very fresh, like a pile of vegetables right out of a garden...and like someone is roasting nuts in the kitchen.

Into my tall plum blossom gaiwan the leaves go, to have their dance with the water. After steeping the aroma becomes really intense, pretty much all the nutty notes have vanished, replaced with a mountain of vegetal notes. It starts with a very strong cooked asparagus, a nice note of cooked spinach, a bit of broccoli, and a finish of bell pepper. It kinda smells like food and honestly makes me more than a little hungry for stir fried vegetables. The liquid is fairly mild on the first steep, with notes of sauteed vegetables (primarily bell pepper and asparagus) and finish of gentle nuttiness.

First steeping, and wow, this tea is not mild, it packs quite the vegetal punch! It starts out sweet and nutty, like roasted peanuts and a hint of honey. Then boom, sharp asparagus, slightly bitter yet leafy kale, crisp bok choy and bell peppers, and a surprisingly sweet finish, kind of like the sweetness of carrots without the taste of carrots.

The aroma of the second steeping is sweet and vegetal, there are notes honey and peanuts, followed by asparagus, spinach, and a bit of bell pepper. The taste, well, remember last steep how the aroma made me hungry for stir fried vegetables, well the taste kinda satiated that craving. It is a blend of stir fried (in sesame oil if we are being really fancy) bell peppers, asparagus, bok choy, and a touch of broccoli. If this sounds delicious to you, then let me tell you, it is. I am a sucker for really vegetal green teas (yes, yes, I am sucker for teas in general, but shush) and this one takes the cake. The aftertaste is a touch of pepper and then a bit later a bloom of honey.

Third steeping time! The aroma is more sweet than vegetal this time around, with notes of honey and toasted sesame overpowering the more gentle notes of bell pepper. Ok, so here is where it gets weird, this steep has one of the best tasting notes ever, it tastes like capers but without the pickle aspect, it is really quite awesome and unique. Mix this in with gentle black pepper, bell pepper, and a touch of bok choy and you have a green end to a very green tea.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tea Leaf Co: Rock Star, A Tea Review

Ah, Sunday, my least favorite day of the week. No mail, half the restaurants are closed, and everywhere closes early. I know I am just being a spoiled brat, but I have been looking forward to having some sushi for quite a while, things just keep panning out that I could not have that delicious food that I so desired...until today! Ben left to fetch me a favorite treat but came back sad, alas, it is Sunday (we both keep thinking it is a day different than it actually is, I blame his new work schedule) meaning the restaurant was closed. I feel much like a sad, molting, parrot.

Today we are taking a look at Tea Leaf Co's Rock Star, a white tea blend of blueberries and Bai Mu Dan, I do not drink as many blended teas as I used to (for shame) but I still get excited when I find a new blueberry blend, since it is frequently my favorite. To be listed among blueberry blends that I like, it has to taste like sweet fresh blueberries, not nasty tart unripe blues, honestly this is one of the few things I do not mind if it tastes extra sweet like blueberry muffins or blueberry candy, I really like my berries to be sweet. Looking at the ingredients, it turns out the berries in question are actually dried Elderberries, and the blueberries come from blueberry essence, which is interesting. The aroma is rather strongly in the blueberry camp, strong sweet blueberry with a tart undertone, and a finish of fresh vegetation and crisp lettuce. Bai Mu Dan always smells a bit like lettuce to me, making it seem crisp and fresh.

The now thoroughly soggy brewed up leaves take on a richer aroma, with notes of lettuce, a touch of pepper, loam, and of course a blend of sweet blueberries and tart elderberries. These last two notes seem pretty even with each other, the sweet does not overpower the tart and vice versa. The liquid is honey sweet, with notes of, well, honey, and of course blueberries and a touch of fresh green.

The taste is rather soothing and light, not a strong tea, the primary note that reigns supreme is honey and gentle vegetation. There is a tiny bit of pepper and loam, and a finish of sweet blueberries that linger well after the sipping has finished. The blueberry is pretty mild, but happily it is a sweet blueberry taste, which is good since I am not a fan of the tart. So, this was an enjoyable tea, it did not wow me, but I did enjoy it, I think also it could make a really tasty ice tea, if you are into that kinda thing.