Monday, January 23, 2017

Gopaldhara Tea Estate: Queens Delicacy 2016, A Tea Review

I feel so fancy now, like a member of academia, and it makes me so happy. Yesterday when I went by the thriftstore I found a massive roll-top desk from the 30s for $24. Of course buying it was the easy part, convincing Ben and my housemates that getting it in my tea room was a good idea, because this is a solid oak like 250lb chunk of furniture. It was an ordeal, because it is double the size of my previous desk and now the room is a mess, but totally worth it because wow is this desk fancy! Of course now the fun part of getting my tea room into some semblance of order again. 

Today I am looking at a First Flush Darjeeling from one of my favorite tea estates; Gopaldhara Tea Estate! Their Queens Delicacy was harvested in March of 2016 in typical First Flush style, making it only mildly oxidized when compared to later flushes. The aroma of the leaves is surprisingly green, there are the classic notes of golden grapes, honey, and nasturtiums that I associate with First Flush, but with a strong lettuce and celery note that reminds me more of a crisp green. There are also light notes of pollen and a touch of juicy lychee sweetness, this tea has a fascinating balance of sweet and green that I do not run into very often in First Flush Darjeelings. 

I decided to dust off my poor neglected First Flush Yixing for this tea, even though it has a less than typical aroma. After steeping the leaves, the aroma is still quite green, now with notes of cooked celery and lettuce with a hint of bok choy and cabbage, but with an undertone of lychee, apples, and golden grapes with a hint of peppery nasturtium flowers. The liquid is light and sweet, with notes of lettuce and grapes, and undertones of honey and celery. Again the theme is mixing crisp savory notes and sweet ones.

 Usually, I have a hard time properly categorizing First Flush Darjeelings, I see them put into the black tea category, but I never really feel like that fits, and this one is probably the most unlike a black tea I have run into. It starts with a subtle sweetness of fresh grapes, and that is pretty much all the sweetness I got from this tea, the rest is savory and green. Notes of cooked celery and sage blend with peppery nasturtium and lettuce, towards the end notes of broken hay and bell peppers pop up as well. The mouthfeel is smooth and a tiny bit crisp at the finish, much like biting into lettuce, it is both juicy and refreshing. This tea was definitely a break from the norm and I like how it was not a typical Darjeeling. 

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Origins Tea: Red Jade GABA, A Tea Review

So Ben and I were looking at Necrons today (no reason) and he called the Doom Scythe a croissant...and now I can't unsee it. Of course now I want to get an entire Necron army (which I did anyway, love me some Necrons) and instead of my original theme of making them Egyptian, make them ridiculous French. The ships would be actual croissants, the goss weapons would be baguettes, they would wear berets and silly striped would be absolutely silly. Pity that Games Workshop armies cost a fortune and creating ridiculous paint schemes is not a real possibility, so they will only live in my head.

Ok, time to pull my nose out of Minecraft (modded has become my life lately) and review today's tea, Red Jade GABA by Origins Tea, a Red Jade that has been processed as a GABA Oolong, in essence combining two of my favorite Taiwanese style teas. When I first saw the tea on the website, before trying it, I thought it was a hongcha processed as a GABA which I thought would be unique, but no, 'tis and Oolong! The aroma of the leaves is intensely nutty, like a mixed bowl of nuts with almonds, chestnuts, pecans, and walnuts...conveniently sitting next to a bowl of baked apples and pumpkin pie. Now I kinda want to try a combination apple and pumpkin pie, that could be really good. With a nut crust!

Steeping time! The aroma is nutty and sweet, notes of pumpkin pie and baked sweet potatoes. It is very starchy in the aroma, with undertones of fruit. The liquid is buttery sweet and quite starchy, baked sweet potatoes and pumpkin (losing a bit of the pie notes and smelling more like a freshly cut open pumpkin) with an accompaniment of sunflower seeds and chestnuts.

This tea is...unique. Starting off with a thick, almost oily mouthfeel that thoroughly coats every part of the mouth. The taste is a peculiar blend of caramelized peanuts, baked sweet potato and pumpkin...which then moves into a tingly woody taste that is almost more a sensation than taste. I had a heck of a time putting it into words, but it tastes like horehound and teaberry, but combined which is not something I thought I would experience.

The next steep still tastes of caramelized peanuts and sweet potatoes with a strong pumpkin note, but with an extra boost of caramel. It is very thick and sweet, not unlike actual caramel. The pumpkin taste, I should note, is not cooked pumpkin pie, it is straight up pumpkin, which of course puts me in mind of autumn and gutting pumpkins. There is still the peculiar blend of teaberry and horehound at the finish that lingers with a tingly mouhfeel, sweeping away the thickness.

I got a lot of steeps out of this tea, it lasts for quite a while, and I stuck with it to the end. I was conflicted the entire session because I was never really sure if I liked it. The sweetness was wonderful, the tasting notes fascinating, but I am not sure they worked in my brain. I will give the tea credit for being one of the more interesting teas I have consumed in a while, which is part of the reason I continued with it until it was finished. I recommend trying it based entirely on its peculiar taste.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Teaful: Taste Of Taiwan Chapter 1, A Tea Box Review

So, it is that time of day where I sit down to blog, and I admit I have been staring derp-filled at my screen for longer than I am comfortable with trying to think of a way to start out today's blog. Some interesting little bit about my day...and my day has been kinda dull. I have played Minecraft, there was a glitch that made me use a back-up save, I have been grinding resources. I had a really good cheese bread for breakfast, and I discovered a cup I found at the thrift store recently looks really good with a gaiwan. My day hasn't been boring, but it has certainly been uninspiring!
So let me inspire with tea! Today I am looking at a set of four teas from Teaful, their Taste of Taiwan Chapter 1 box, filled with Biluo Chun Green, Jade Oolong, Alishan Oolong, and High Mountain Black. The box is beautifully packaged, sealed bags inside elegant boxes inside an elegant package, sadly I was sick when it arrived and forgot to take a decent picture, and of course by the time I realized that I had already made a mess of the box.

The first tea I looked at was the Biluo Chun, a Taiwanese take on a classic Chinese green tea, and I am going to let you all in on a secret, I like the Taiwanese version more. The large curly green leaves smell so fresh and gree, with strong notes of chestnuts, sweet peas, zucchini, okra, and soy beans, but with a gentle underlying floral sweetness. The leaves smell of spring time, it is hard to believe that it is the heart of winter when sniffing them.

I was able to go many steeps with this tea, it started fading at steep five, which I find is unusual for a green, usually, I am lucky if I can get a full three out of a Biluo Chun from China. The mouthfeel for this tea is very viscous and thick, coating my mouth with green goodness. Starting with flavor notes of buttery cooked zucchini and peas, crisp snap peas and lettuce, and finishing off with sweet hyacinth blossoms. Later steeps are greener with a much longer lingering floral note that seems to stick around forever.

The next tea on my little journey is the Jade Oolong and wow, this one might be my favorite from the set, mostly because the aroma and taste is strongly of daffodils. I don't think I have ever run into an oolong that has that note before, tons of other spring flowers, sure, but this one is new and intoxicating!

Sure there are other notes going on, but they are hard to focus on because DAFFODIL!! It is very floral, notes of honeysuckle and hyacinth give the already nectar-like tea a more heady quality, making me feel like a hummingbird while drinking it. It is perfectly balanced between green and floral, with the daffodil notes lasting long into the aftertaste. I fell so hard for this tea and very much so intend on getting more!

Next up is the Alishan Oolong, and of course, it is no secret that Alishan is one of my favorite tea mountains, though it is a constant internal debate as to which one is a favorite at what time. The aroma of this tea is very sweet and heady, honeysuckles and lilac blend with sugar cane and a touch of chestnut, it smells like a classic Alishan...and hilariously in my notebook I drew a little heart while describing it because I am a dork.

I think one of the reasons Alishan steals my heart is its thick and buttery mouthfeel, it is supple and lovely, filling my mouth with smooth floral goodness. The taste is very sweet, like honeysuckle nectar and sugar cane juice with undertones of chestnuts and lilac. Middle steeps bring in a bit of cooked spinach and crushed vegetation, but for the most part this is a sweet Oolong. It lasts for many steeps, I got a total of ten before it faded to nothingness.

So the other big contender for favorite from the box is the High Mountain Black, because it is a Taiwanese Hongcha and you all know I am massively addicted to them. The aroma of this tea is something else, there is a lot going on, with notes of sassafras, papaya, lychee, honey, and cocoa dancing out of the leaves into my nose. It is no lie that I spent a LOT of time sniffing this tea.

So if you have ever wanted a hongcha that tastes like a blend of chocolate, dried papayas, honey, rice milk, orange blossoms, oregano flowers, and sassafrass...then do I have the tea for you! There were so many notes, no taste staying for long, it is a frenetic dance in my mouth as it transitions from note to note. Poor Ben said there was so much going on that it was a little too much for his 'tea barbarian brain' (his wording, not mine) but for me it was perfection. The right amount of richness mixed with intense sweetness that sticks around for quite a while! I loved all the teas in this box, two of them absolutely HAVE to end up as permanent staples in my stash and the other two, well, I wouldn't be sad if I had them on hand at all times.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Quantitea: Genmaicha, A Tea Review

Well, I did it again, I switched to yet another modpack to play on. I kept getting irritated with ways other ones I was trying were setup, with either glaring omissions or if there was questing I found the way they were set up to be kinda awful. So after a bit of trial and error, I have found one that I am not aggravated with, the Awakening modpack. I can tell this is a good one because day two I found a charged creeper outside my door...I have no shame in admitting I immediately switched to creative and shoved it in a glass box to keep as a pet (I named it lightning bug) and I know this modpack has just random charged creepers, but in all my years of playing I have never seen a single charged creeper, so this totally made my day.

Do you have a tea that is like comfort food? Drinking it is the same as eating a plate of fried chicken and biscuits or a hearty soup? For all my talk of Oolongs and Hongchas being my go-to comfort tea, really the comfort tea for me is Genmaicha, mostly because years ago when I was recovering from surgery I pretty much lived on Genmaicha, my tetsubin was always full, so for a while when I was sick it is what I would drink. I have been out of it for a while weirdly enough, so when Quantitea's Genmaicha arrived I was super thrilled! The day I tasted it I woke up with a wicked sore throat (the first sign of that stupid flu I just recently got over) and thought it was a perfect day to open my package. The aroma of the dry tea is pretty fantastic, strong starchy toasted rice that is a blend of sweetness and savory, the usual sweetness of rice turned ever so savory when toasted. Of course there is the tea itself which gives notes of sea lettuce, kelp, celery, and a bit of nutty sesame seeds. Every time I sniff Genmaicha it makes me crave mochi, this time was no different.

The best part of Japanese green tea, of course, is using my Shiboridashi, which I did, my poor kyusu feels neglected I am sure. After steeping the aroma of the leaves and rice is super strong, lots of rice and sea air with an underlying nori and soybean note. It honestly reminds me a bit of a bowl of rice with a generous topping of furikake and I love it. The liquid is a blend of savory kelp and spinach with a sweet toasted rice and mochi note at the finish. Again it kinda reminds me of food, this time my favorite snack arare.

Really I think this is why Genmaicha is such a comfort tea, it tastes like food, and most the time when I feel ick the last thing I want to do is eat. It starts off with strong toasted rice notes, being both sweet and savory, like mochi but a bit nuttier. Then the green tea shows its strength, strong umami kelp and spinach with a touch of cut grass and broken vegetation. No bitterness at all, and a finish of sugarcane and sweet rice that lingers into the aftertaste. I went for a second steep, it was pretty much the same and quite solid, I find that Genmaicha (a good one, not a cheap grocery store one) can get you two solid steeps and at least one mild one before it is time to eat the leaves with a splash of ponzu.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teapet Salon: Meowtopia, A Tea for Cats Review

Settling down into my chair after running errands, I feel a little paw patting on my arm. Looking down I see Espeon ever so politely asking (as least I assume that is what she is doing) if she can get into my lap, I move my arm and she hops in and settles down, happily purring. This is no different from any time I leave the room or house, or get out of my chair. Her favorite spot is in my lap.
This, of course, segues nicely into today's 'tea' possibly one of the hardest ones I have reviewed, Teapet Salon's Meowtopia, a tea blended specifically for cats. It blends catnip (obviously) with lemongrass, burdock root, echinacea, valerian, and a flavor blend for a cat safe and approved you can finally sit and have tea with your cat. Not that Espeon doesn't try to share my tea as it is, I catch her trying to fish tea leaves out of the trash and licking my tea tray all the time, so this tea made me excited, maybe with her own tea she would stop trying to steal mine! 

First off their packaging is super cool, the teabags' wrapper is excellent, and the fact they included a sticker and card, along with product information made my day since it really got to show off their creative art. It is the right kinda weird for me, especially the birthday card, the cat wrestling the carp is just fun, I almost want to frame it and put it next to my desk! But time to get to the point, this tea smells awful, like fishy bacon and apples with a hint of nip...I was grossed out, but Tao and Espeon started hovering around looking very interested in the teabag. Vigorous sniffing ensued.
Here is where it gets weird, I assumed that after steeping they would immediately pounce on the bowl, but no! Tao (who, granted is very finicky but is a hardcore nip addict) sniffed it and then tried to bury it (like she does with anything, she tries to mock bury my food if I leave it unattended if she is around) and Espeon who will eat garbage (no joke, had to take her the ER a few years ago because she swallowed a two foot silk cord...ughhh) sniffed it and walked away. So I tried leaving the bowl next to their water fountain (yes they have a fountain, they are super spoiled) with no luck, mixed it with their food and no luck. I was stumped!

Then the answer hit me with a wet foot the next morning. Espeon pulled the bag out of the garbage and played with it, batting it around and then, of course, leaving it in my path. She is so considerate. So I took one of the other bags out of its wrapper and just gave it to them to play with, Espeon batted it around and bunny-kicked it...Tao happily chewed on it and then fell asleep on top of it. It was the perfect toy for them, I am a little sad they were not interested in consuming it and having a tea party with me, but Espeon is often in my lap while I tea, and Tao is usually in her desk side basket close by, so it is not like I don't constantly have tea with my cats.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company. Also Espeon would like me to stop typing and pet her.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Second Alarm Farm: Avigael's Green Tea, A Tea Review

Yes, a rare weekend post! My way of making up for missing Thursday and keeping my five days a week solid. So yesterday I was playing Twilight Forest and today I am back to my real mod true love, Thaumcraft! I am playing on a pack that is mostly geared towards the more magical mods rather than the tech ones, and the people who developed Thaumcraft really impress me. Not only is it pretty, intense, and really is super well researched. If you have any enjoyment of esoteric, alchemy, and general medieval, renaissance, and Victorian magical-pseudoscience then you will love the level of 'historical accuracy' used in this mod, I am having way too much fun with it.

You know, in a way tea is alchemy, you take leaves...add a bit of heat...and voila, liquid gold! At least it is liquid gold from an aesthetic 'treasure' sense, which is close enough for me. Today I am looking at Second Alarm Farm's Avigael's Green Tea, a Hawaiian green tea named for the farm owner's daughter. This farm is really quite neat, fairly small, filled with volcanic soil, essentially in a rainforest and fertilized with composted rainforest bits...making for a tea that really soaks up its terroir. The aroma of the dark leaves is fairly light, with notes of sesame seeds, sea air, dulse, bracken fern, cucumber, growing green things, and a subtle sweetness. It very much so reminds me of a rainforest by the sea, I imagine this is what a Hawaiian forest after a rainstorm would smell like!

I decided to brew this tea gongfu style, like I do, and the aroma of the surprisingly colorful wet leaves is very green and oceanic, with notes of dulse, sea air, and sea lettuce blend with cucumber and zucchini with a touch of rained on vegetation. The liquid is light and sweet with notes of cucumber and honey with a gentle note of distant sea air, this tea has me missing the ocean for sure.

The first steep is both nutty and floral, a bit surprising! I was expecting the strong sea air notes to be present, but they are very light, almost ghostly. This tea also tastes exactly like tea, don't laugh, I am not being lazy with my description, it tastes like unprocessed tea plant, but without the bitterness of a 'raw' leaf, it is very green and refreshing just like you would expect a leaf to be...or maybe that is just me and I am a weirdo. There are undertones of sesame seeds and orchids with a touch of honeysuckle, these notes are light at first but hang around in the aftertaste.

I didn't find there was a ton of change with the second steep, and sadly there was not a ton of longevity, but a lot of greens I find are like that. So I also decided to brew it bowl style and found that it was lovely. Very sweet, never getting bitter, with a smooth mouthfeel. Towards the end of the bowl I found it had a buttery taste like cooked zucchini with a lingering chestnut taste. I liked this tea, not quite as much as the Orchid Isle Oolong, but I found its refreshing quality quite enjoyable!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Origns Tea: Gui Fei, A Tea Review

Well, if the weather is correct it is going to be an icy apocalypse soon. High winds and lots of ice incoming means we might lose power...which will make for a very cranky me! Mostly because we have an electric stove and no access to tea, though really I am worried about Ben who is going to be out working in that crap. I have to admit, his work does have me not liking extreme weather as much as I used to, I want to move somewhere temperate but know I would go crazy without my storms. Fingers crossed that the prediction is extreme and we just get snow or something fun instead of ice craziness....and that we don't lose power!

So, what is the kind of tea you drink when you are about to raid the Lich King's Tower in the Twilight Forest? Clearly, you need something sweet and strong, while also being long-lasting, so I decided to reach for Origins Tea's Gui Fei. You all know my obsession with this (and all) bug-bitten Oolong by this point, so this isn't really a surprise. Opening up the package, the first thing I notice is how nutty this Gui Fei is, strong notes of pecan and almond with cooked plums, cooked peaches a touch of lychee, and a hint of tulip and orchid blossoms. It has a very heady undertone, one that I can definitely tell will become stronger once steeped.

I was right! This is a very floral Gui Fei, strong notes of tulip, orchid, and hyacinth mix with plums and peaches with a strong pecan finish. Sadly this is not one of those Gui Feis that smells of orange blossoms for its floral notes, but tulips are quite nice so I am not too distraught. The liquid is also very heady, strong notes of orchid and tulip with a hint of hyacinth, alongside flowers is a strong plum and mild peach with a hint of honey.

The tasting starts out thick and sweet, almost syrupy in both its texture in taste, with a strong floral presence that just does not quit. This might be the headiest Gui Fei I have tasted, which such a distinct note of tulip and an accompaniment of hyacinth, There are also notes of pecans, prunes, and cooked peaches, adding sweetness and a touch of earthiness from the prunes. The aftertaste of orchid and peaches last for quite a while.

The second steep adds something a little odd, I notice this sometimes with bug-bitten or post-frost Oolongs, though previously I had only noticed this on Jin Xuan, so maybe this Gui Fei is from the Jin Xuan varietal. It has an aroma and taste of dead orchids, that moment when the flower is immensely heady but also having lived its life and either fallen off the plant or just about to. It is not gross, as much as saying it smells like a dead thing would be, but it is weird...especially since most people I talk to who have the same tea don't notice it at all...just proving that people's tastes can be super weird sometimes. This note gets stronger as the steeps progress too, though the note of prunes and peaches also strengthen.

The leaves have really unfurled quite a bit by the third steep, also I have defeated the Lich King for anyone curious, pity he is a character in a game, he would probably like this tea, because liches love tea, as do necromancers. By this steep all that is left is fruity sweetness and flowery intensity, sadly the nuttiness from earlier has vanished, but what is left is quite intense. I sat with this tea for several more steeps (ok I am still sitting with it, seven steeps in, still going strong) and I have mixed feelings towards it. It is a good tea, quite tasty, but not usually what I like in a gui fei (oh surprise, I am picky about one of my favorite kinds of tea) so it didn't really satiate the craving I had.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.