Friday, April 14, 2017

Yunomi: Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden: Whisky Barrel Wood Smoked Black Tea, A Tea Review

Finally, it is my turn to play Mass Effect: Andromeda! Ben has not finished with the game, but he has gotten far enough in it that me starting will not interrupt watching the story for the first time together. Not that he even cares about that anymore since he is kinda meh on the plot, and true it is not the most original thing ever but I have been enjoying it. Ok, mostly I have been enjoying the beautiful scenery and sexy aliens and dealing with the sad fact that I think the Angarans have replaced the Turians as my favorite alien race. Certainly, Jaal has replaced Garrus as my favorite 'space boyfriend' and I never thought I would say that! I want to steal Peebee's title though, so from now on I am not only a Necromancer I am also a Rogue Academic.

I have mentioned in the past that my favorite Japanese teas are not the expected ones, true I love Matcha and all the types of green, but what really gets me excited are the darker teas, I just find them so fascinating! It takes the usual notes you expect from Japanese teas and changes them into something different, blending familiar and alien all in one experience. Which brought me to Yunomi's Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden: Whisky Barrel Wood Smoked Black Tea, a black tea which has been smoked using wood from whiskey barrels, and frankly that just sounded too awesome to not try. Of course, I had to try it for the first time when Ben was home because he is obsessed with smoky teas, not that his absence stopped me sniffing it! Holy crap, there are smoky teas and then there is this one. It smells like wood smoke, a bit meaty (I swear it smells like bacon and now I want bacon, ahhhhhh!!!) but with a sweet honey whiskey undertone. It is intense, Lapsang Souchong smells like standing near a fire, this tea smells like the Fire Nation just invaded!

Brewing the tea calms down the fire surprisingly well, I expected sniffing the wet leaves to be like sticking my face in a volcano. Usually, wet leaves are stronger than the dry ones, and if a note is missing it usually is in the liquid, though not always. The aroma is smoky, but mild, with strong notes of oak wood, malt, whiskey, and a sweet molasses and honey undertone. I was expecting the liquid to explode with smoke, but nope, it was also mild with wood, malt, and honey with a tiny hint of whiskey at the finish. Since I was lame and totally forgot to take pictures of the wet leaves I will just move right on into the taste. So I was surprised, this tea is wonderfully sweet, like a honey whiskey blended with a nice malty tea that you are drinking while sitting next to a big oak fire. The smoke is definitely present but not as strong as I was expecting from the dry leaves. A second steep brings out a gentle fruity note like distant grilled plums that goes really well with the other notes. I made Ben a mug of the tea western style and he ended up stealing my more gongfu (errr, technically I think this is more in the style of Senchado since it is Japanese) style cup. When brewed western style it is not as sweet or smooth, being quite brisk and way too smoky, all the other notes were drowned out, so if you do try this tea (and I seriously recommend you do, it is pretty awesome) go for a houhin over a mug and use shorter steeps.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Teas Unique: Three Korean Oxidized Teas, A Tea Review

Guys, I am so freaking happy right now, Ben and my lives seem to be going really well lately! Our car problems were fixed under warranty instead of costing a fortune, we got a new mattress finally (a queen sized foam, it is so decadent, I have so much room!!!) and the old bed has become a sort of divan in the tea room, and we are seriously going to visit Ikea next week. This is kinda a bit deal, I have always wanted to go but could not justify buying furniture new, it is not just money, I am big on thrifting and recycling, usually, I can find furniture I want at thrift stores for a fraction of the price I would pay new. That means I can spend my money on more important things like tea and gaming stuff!! Months ago I started hunting shelves for my teaware, I have had no luck and it, so Ben is taking me to Ikea and I am so excited!

Today I am taking a look at three different teas from Teas Unique, a company specializing in Korean Tea. For people new to my rambles, let me tell you this, I am OBSESSED with Korean tea (though oddly I still own very little Korean teaware and that needs to change ASAP) especially the oxidized stuff. Problem is, it is a bit of a pain to get my hands on, I can count vendors of quality Korean tea on one hand, this of course also means it is not as cheap as some of the other favorites of mine and they typically run out of stock quickly. Finding a new source of Korean tea at a decent price makes me very excited, so without further ado, the first one I am looking at is Korean Jeju Island Second Flush 2016 Organic Single Estate Whole Leaf Black Tea With Mandarin Oranges...woo, what a mouthful! I love mandarin oranges, they are probably one of my favorite kinds of citrus to eat and sniff, the idea of mixing it with a Hwang Cha sounded very appealing to me. The aroma of the leaves is surprisingly mild in the orange department, I was expecting a strong citrus burst (most citrus themed teas are very strong) but this was light and sweet, very much so like dried bits of orange. Alongside the orange, there are notes of cocoa, malt, peonies, and a bit of woodiness. It smells really quite delightful, and after steeping continues to smell delightful! The orange is still light, but it has intensified a bit, as have the other notes present with an addition of a slight nuttiness.

The first thing I have to say about this tea is how much I loved how the different notes worked so perfectly in concert, the orange never overpowered the tea and vice versa, I was very impressed by how balanced it tasted. You get the sweet and a touch sour note of the mandarin oranges with mild notes of cocoa and peony blossoms and a finish of malt and woodiness. This is not a strong tea, which I really liked, it was a mellow tea that required all of my focus to pick out all the nuances and intricate layers of taste with each sip. The aftertaste is a very long lasting juicy mandarin orange, very much so like the aftertaste of eating a mandarin orange, and much like munching on oranges I found this tea to be very invigorating to my senses, evoking a warm sunny day.

Next I am taking a look at Korean Mt. Jiri Joongjak (Third Pluck) Hwang Cha (Lightly Oxidized) 2016 Organic Single Estate Tea. This one is nutty! I was very entertained by the strong notes of chestnuts and hazelnuts blending with an almond crusted loaf of bread, malt, and squash blossoms. One of my favorite things with Hwang Cha is they always seem to have a flowery note, this one having notes of squash flowers was unique and blended really well with the nutty and starchy notes. Once the tea has a steeping I found the starchy notes to be stronger, as well as the squash blossoms, now accompanied by actual squash. It was not as sweet either, being more on the rich spectrum than sweet, however, the liquid was quite sweet with a strong edge of honey.

Oh wow, this one is so smooth, I feel a bit like I am melting into my chair it is so smooth! Not a thick tea, the texture is light and airy, but with a wonderfully silky smoothness that borders on slippery, I found myself almost forgetting to focus on the taste I was so enchanted by the mouthfeel. I did eventually get myself to focus on the taste, which was good because the taste is pretty delicious, as expected. The flavor is starchy and rich, with notes of chestnut and squash alongside dark honey and cocoa. The finish is a distant note of sweet potatoes and squash blossoms that linger for quite a while, especially in later steeps. The Hwang Chas I have had in the past usually are quite sweet, this one is probably the least sweet of all the ones I have had, though it is not savory, just the absence of intense sweetness allowing the focus to be on the starchy and nutty notes. I found the flavor notes to be very fascinating and was quite glad that it has decent longevity at five steeps, which is good for a Hwang Cha.

Onward to the Korean Boseong Hwang Cha (Lightly Oxidized) 2016 Organic Single Estate Whole Leaf Tea, a Sejak or second pluck Hwang Cha, making its harvest a bit earlier than the Mt Jiri Hwang Cha. This one is very aromatic, even when comparing it with the other two tea looked at in this post, strong sweet notes of brown sugar caramelized yams, honey drizzled hazelnuts, distant freshly blooming peony blossoms, and a long finish of pumpkin bread. Once steeped the aroma is sweet pumpkin bread, baked yams, brown sugar, and smells like an autumnal dessert!

This tea is thick, where the other one was silky and light, this one is thick and dense, every part of my mouth is coated with this tea and it is great. The taste is very strong and sweet, strong notes of roasted yams covered in brown sugar and a hint of cocoa and woodiness. Throughout the entire taste is an almost effervescent taste of peony flowers, definitely a note I am almost entirely tasting in my nose more so than my mouth. Later steeps manage to be even sweeter, bringing in notes of honey and hazelnuts, by the time the tea has finished on steep six all that is left is a ghost of brown sugar sweetness that I am pretty sure lingered on my tongue for the better part of an hour. I know I will be restocking at least one of these in my stash, but trying to decide which one it will be is going to be a real challenge!

A side note on this style tea, there is a lot of debate as to what exactly it is. Hwang Cha means yellow tea, I see places list it as a red/black, an oolong, or a yellow and the grumbling I have had to deal with every time I drink this tea and put it into a category that someone disagrees with is so tedious! So, let me clear up how I personally look at it...I brew most my reds, oolongs, and yellows at the same temperature 195° and only change time I steep it, having experimented with different times I found it responded best to the way I brew a lot of my reds, with a steep time of 30-30-60-60-90 and so forth. It behaves like a red, tastes most similar to a red (though I can see similarities to both yellow and oolong) and so that is how my brain has decided to categorize it. Of course feel free to stick it into whatever category you want, I personally don't care and don't care to argue it further, I just want to drink my tea in peace!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tea and Mana, A Magic The Gathering Tea Fusion, Part One

This is part one of a little series I am doing, combining two of my loves: tea and Magic The Gathering. I mean it makes sense, I drink tea while I am gaming, so why not pair tea with the various Mana colors? In this first part, I am going to pair the basic lands to tea, later parts will focus on the Guilds, the Clans (Wedges), and the Shards, but first I need to look at where it all begins. I have a few rules: no blends, flavored teas, or herbal teas, only pure teas. Also teas 'color' will not necessarily match the Mana color, that just makes it too easy!

White Mana- Represented by sprawling plains and symbolized by a sunburst, white is the color of order, structure, morality, law, and the community. White is full of angels and cats, knights and spirits, you play White if you want lifegain and flying, they are great for those kinds of decks. White is all about community, putting the concerns of the group before the individuality, they want peace and unity above all else. This sounds all well and good, but sadly there is a dark side to all light, and in its extremes, it can be xenophobic and rigid. It is tragic that I am starting with the color that I understand the least, but that is the way the color pie is setup, so that is the order I am going it. What is the tea that represents order and morality...Tie Guan Yin Oolong. It has a double reason here, first off the name, which is the easy part. Named after the Goddess of Mercy herself, Guan Yin, what a perfect fit for the color of peace through structure. Going based on taste this tea (I am specifically calling to mind the green version of this Oolong) evokes relaxation, peace, and calm. It is a tea I find myself wanting on chaotic days where I really just want a calm storm in a port, and I think that evokes White perfectly. Of course a good runner up is a very hay note heavy Silver Needle since it calls to mind the epic plains from which this Mana is drawn from.

Blue Mana- The land used to cast Blue is an island, the symbol is a water droplet...yes, this is the water themed color. Even though this is the color of fishes and Merfolk, there is so much more to this color than water. To sum it up 'Blue seeks perfection through knowledge' this is the color of invention, a near maniacal obsession with learning, blue wants to control and change the universe by using the knowledge it much as it is water themed, going with the flow is not something blue really does. This philosophy is reflected in play, a blue deck is heavy with counter-spells, control, and illusions, you are lucky when playing against a blue deck if you can actually get your spells to cast and not just flounder your resources. Like all things, there is a negative, blue can tend to see emotions as dangerous and will become cold, giving into logic over all else. Picking a tea for Blue meant I needed something that requires both a lot of focus and precision for a spectacular result, so bring in the Dancong Oolongs. I am cheating a bit by using all of them, but since they are the masters of illusion and mimicry I think it fits, plus if you get lost in thought while brewing a Dancong rather than paying attention to it you end up with a truly foul cup of tea. Dancongs are so finicky, each one seems to demand its own subtle differences, no plug and go like a lot of other Oolongs, and let me tell you...if you are playing against a blue deck and you are not paying will get destroyed. A good runner up is Tai Ping Hou Kui, a tea that requires an enormous amount of detail and artistry to create.

Black Mana- Swamps! Skulls! Necromancy! Yeah, this is my color of choice, the one I know the most about lore and gameplaywise,  so I will try to be brief. The defining characteristics of black is ambition and self-interest, they always look out for number one rather than the community. They are not idealists, they see the bad in the world and instead of trying to change its focus on survival and rising to the top. They are amoral, if someone close to them needs saving it is not done 'because it is right' but because the person is important to them, Black is also pretty rampantly hedonistic, which fits nicely in their theme of self-interest. Black frequently gets a reputation of villainy and true, these characteristics can be used for evil, but can't everything when it is in its extreme? Gameplay, Black brings the zombie hoards and makes fell bargains with demons, with traits like lifelink (for the nonplayers, this means damage dealt gives you the same amount of life, I adore lifelink) sacrifice, and creature destruction, Black decks will happily destroy their life total and creatures if it means they will win in the end. Long ago I once called a wet stored 90s era Sheng Puerh as the ultimate necromancer tea since it tastes and smells like a fetid swamp...and I stick by that. No tea in my experience has ever matched swamp as thoroughly as old Sheng, plus in the Puerh world age and rarity is power, you can drink that last cake of some ancient rare tea and know with a certain glee that you deprived someone of the pleasure...or you can use it as a bargaining chip to get tea that actually tastes good. As a runner up (because I want a Black Mana tea I will actually drink) Laoshan Black, because it tastes like a decadent brownie and I am a hedonist.

Red Mana- Represented by Mountains and a fireball, this is the color of fiery passion! Probably the most on the nose of color representation out of the lot. Red desires freedom, lives by emotional extremes (and just extremes in general), and constantly craves new experiences! They are chaotic, living in the moment and not really thinking ahead, this is probably their greatest strength and weakness, you know, like lighting your house on fire to keep warm, great at the time...bad in the long run. Red brings Goblins and Dragons to the table, with effects like haste and first-strike, they want to attack first and attack hard. Where Blue controls the game, Red just pummels you with Lightning Bolts and Stone Rain, leaving you with no resources and an overwhelming desire to throttle your opponent. I tease, but Red is fun, I respect their blind passion and extremes. The tea I am picking for them is completely obvious, Lapsang Souchong, the fire roasted kind. It is not just because this color is obsessed with fire that I picked this (though it does help) but also this is an extreme tea, brisk and smoky with a potent caffeine punch. Many game nights have been kept going longer with extreme endings with the help of Lapsang Souchong. The runner up for this color is young Sheng Puerh, because that tea even at its most delicate (think Yiwu) is extreme.

Green Mana-With deep forests and the symbol of the tree, this is the color of nature and growth. Ben once made the argument that Green Mana is the most Taoist of the colors, since it really enjoys going with the flow, letting nature take its course, and I think he has a really good point. Green relies on instinct, it does not wish to impose its thoughts and beliefs on others, it just wants to go wander in the forest and enjoy the birds. Unless threatened, then Green will dump a pile of angry bears on you, then promptly going to back wandering. Since it is a product of nature, it is not a fan of machines and artifice, and is also acutely aware of the harshness of nature...survival of the fittest and the cycle of predation. Sadly their hatred of the artificial can cause nasty discrimination and narrowing of options. They are not flaky tree-huggers, but rational elves and giant spiders, with a large helping of snakes and saprolings. In play, Green likes growth, big stompy monsters, venom, and creature tokens, it is not at all uncommon when playing against Green to just be overwhelmed by a giant pack of wolves or bears. I thought for Green you are going to want a tea that is super minimally processed, especially with their dislike of technology, so I picked Bai Mu Dan. The wild looking fluffy leaves taste great when steeped grandpa style, something I could imagine a Llanowar Elf doing while looking disdainfully at a gaiwan as being too artificial. As an alternative there is Matcha, true there is more processing and tools involved, but you are consuming the entire plant, and that is as close to tea as you can get!

For anyone curious, I align as a pretty even split between Black and Blue, with a tiny bit of green, primarily I play Mono Black with dabbling in Black Green and prefer to build not entirely functional Vorthos decks (though my Zombie Tribal deck is pretty deadly most the time!)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Adagio Teas: Masters Collection Part 2, A Tea Review

Thank you so much to KCPL, they rescued me from the dread of not having electricity. I slept in today, not feeling too well, and did my usual walk to my chair and fill/plug in the Zojirushi. While waiting for its 'pleasing chime' to sound and signal me to have tea I heard a loud hum and a pop...and the power went out. I looked outside (having recognized the sound of a transformer blowing, thanks to growing up in hurricane country) and sure enough, all along the street the power was out, so I reported and outage and waited. It is crazy windy today, gusts of 45mph, so I was not too surprised, but very annoyed because I am very reliant on electricity. Both my kettles, my stove, my wifi and computer, the Xbox, and of course lighting (it is a dark and rainy day) means I could not do anything. Even my usual standby of 'just go sit outside and read until the lights come back' didn't work because my book would have been blown away! I could not paint because I could not see, I was feeling the cold and unfamiliar grip of boredom sneaking in...but luckily the power company was quick, turned it back on in a little over an sanity was saved! I once told Ben that I expected the world to end before I get bored, I am usually very good at entertaining myself, but it is hard to do when the lighting is bad!

Ok, enough about my ever increasing First World Problems (I am turning into Jay-Z at this rate, not quite to 99 First World Problems yet) and on to the tea at hand. Looking at the other half of the teas I received in my little create my own Masters Collection set from Adagio Teas, looking at Formosa Pouchong, Fujian Silver Needle, and Fujian Ti Kuan Yin.

First one on the blogging docket is the Formosa Pouchong, and I will not keep it a secret, I am super picky with my Baozhongs, I find they can be either the most fantastically complex tea...or just unbelievable boring. I previously looked at their other Pouchong and was sadly not too impressed, so was curious if the Masters Collection could sway my opinion. The aroma in the tin is pretty sad, a touch of sage (like all the other tins, which still kinda baffles me) and a distant hint of lilacs. It smells exactly like lilacs that have already finished their bloom and are dried on the bush...a sad smell because I love my lilac bush when it is in bloom! Even adding the leaves to a warm gaiwan cannot coax out more smell, that is pretty much all she wrote. After steeping the aroma gets a little stronger, lilacs in bloom with a bit of hyacinth, no sage though. The tea itself smells a bit of hyacinth and that is pretty much it.

Sadly, I have to confess that this one also did not wow me. I got one solid steep out of it, and even that one was very mild, not an overwhelming complex burst of springtime I come to expect from high-end Baozhongs. There are delicate notes of hyacinth and lilac with a slight touch of melon rind and sage. The notes that are present are pleasant, but the combination of having no longevity and being very weak had me craving more. I tried pushing the leaves harder than I am comfortable with a Baozhong, using extra leaf, longer steep times, and even boiling water, but could not get them to magically give back.

Next, I am looking at the Fujian Silver Needle, I have high hopes after the Yunnan White was pleasant. The leaves are on the small size, bit of broken bits too, but it is very obviously a Fujian silver needle, all silver and fuzzy. The aroma is a blend of sage, wildflowers, melons, and a bit of dust...aka...I inhaled some trichomes. Always an occupational hazard with silver needles, I find their aroma at times is not super strong so you need to really get your nose in the leaves...and then end up with plant fuzzies up your nose. After steeping the aroma is stronger, notes of sweet honey and wildflowers with melons and a bit of fresh hay, it is pleasant. The liquid is sweet and gentle, wildflowers and honey with a touch of melon.

It lasts for several steeps, and they are very enjoyable. Solid notes of wildflowers, honey, hay, and melon blend with a touch of cucumber and lettuce at the finish. Later steeps bring more focus to the green aspects of the tea, giving it a very refreshing quality. The mouthfeel is smooth and the sensation cooling, I found myself wanting this on a warm day rather than a cold one. It is not terribly nuanced, and fits very well into my daily drinker style requirements for taste (aka a tea I can drink when I am painting or gaming, tastes good but not one I have to pay a lot of attention to) though it is not daily drinker in price, for about the same price I can get 7oz of my favorite Silver Needle and that one is not a daily drinker. I will say that if you brew this one western style you get a much more potent cup, though the trade off is you only get a single cup from it, where gongfu you get four.

Lastly, my old friend, the Fujian Ti Kuan Yin, although usually, I prefer my TKY's roasted, I do on occasion (aka usually in spring and summer) get a wicked craving for the green version, it is seasonal. The aroma is a blend of orchids, gentle chestnuts, and a touch of a paper quality and sage. If you sniff it in a warmed teapot the orchids become quite strong and much sweeter, which is enjoyable. Brewing the tea brings stronger notes of orchids and chestnuts with a wonderful note of yeasty sweet bread. The liquid is light and flowery with a sage green undertone.

This tea, was by far, the best of the bunch (and I mean out of all six) by being flavorful and long-lasting...really that is all I want out of a tea. It stuck around for eight steeps, though the last two were really faint, but sweet. The mouthfeel was smooth, as was the taste, blending notes of orchid and honeysuckles, with gentle chestnuts and buttery bread, and a finish of crisp broken vegetation. It has a lingering aftertaste of orchids that stick around for a nice long while. It is s solid daily drinker, though it does have the same price problem that the Silver Needle has...for roughly the same price I can get almost 17 oz of a comparable in quality TKY, ouch.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Old Ways Tea Company: Black and White, A Wuyi Tea Review

Instead of starting my blog with a little quip on how my day has been, I am jumping straight into the tea at hand, because I have no desire to talk about my life at the moment. I am suffering an abundance of first world problems and it is silly, so instead...TEA! Recently new to me company, Old Ways Tea Company sent me a message about looking at their tea, and this blog is looking at two of those teas. They specialize in teas from Wuyi, and while I do have some of their Yancha to look at, I wanted to start off with a side by side look at two polar opposites, a black tea and a white tea!

First off, their Wild Style Black Tea, and can I first point out how I love that they say that the trees the tea comes from are not wild, but grown spaced apart and grown in a more 'wild' manner. None of that 'look we found an ancient tea plantation in the wild and decided to harvest it' like I see some places claiming. The aroma of the large curly leaves is really appealing, strong notes of lychee and pomelo, with undertones of starchy brownies, and a finish of sweet honey and malt. It is wonderfully aromatic, the citrus tones blended really well with the sweet notes, and of course I am always a fan of anything that tastes of chocolate. As expected, brewing it is immensely aromatic, notes of lychee and orange blossom blend with malt and cocoa, it has a slight undertone of resin, like an unlit incense, it is amazing. tea is something else! I think the reason I love tea so much is because if you get a good one, it can be sweeter than candy or fruit and incredibly nuanced. This tea is a grand example of nuanced, with strong notes of orange blossom and brown sugar, lychees, and a fantastic finish of cocoa. The later steeps become surprisingly richer, with the floral notes dying down and replaced with a rich resinous myrrh note. The finish brings in a distant touch of roses and a slight creaminess. Throughout the session, the mouthfeel was smooth with a brightness similar to its vibrant color, really vibrant is a great way to describe this tea, it tastes cheerful and left me feeling quite happy once I was finished. And of course, it passes my test of longevity and lasts a long eight steeps.

Few things get me quite as excited as a rare or unexpected tea, give me a tea produced by a region that is well known for something else and I get all excited. Which brings us to Organic Wuyi White Tea, a Da Hong Pao processed as a white tea, in the Baimudan style, it is very awesome. I could tell from first look that these were different, with leaves that look more like a Moonlight with leaves that are black and silver with bits of green. They are very pretty leaves! They smell fascinating, with familiar notes of melon and cucumber with gentle smoke, wet bamboo, and undertones of a hay barn. Once brewed, the leaves have no more smoke, but much stronger wet hay and barn, with cucumber and melon, the liquid, however, is pure undiluted wildflower honey and it is intense.

The first thing I noticed was the immensely thick mouthfeel, it is a bit unreal, like melted honey water or thick consomme, not that it tastes like consomme because that would be a little odd. It starts out like cucumber and winter melon with a strong hay note. Around the midtaste the taste pretty much explodes into wildflower honey. It is really kinda confounding how strong the thick honey is. Another fascinating thing about this tea is how later steeps bring out a woody note of sweet resin, but specifically amber resin, but it appears more the nose than in the mouth, I always find that fascinating. It lasts for many steeps, and even when the taste has faded the thickness sticks around. One thing that was odd, I made it western style for Ben before work, expecting it to be super strong sweetness, and the sweetness was there but the taste of barn was as well, and while I liked it, Ben was not a fan...granted he didn't spend a lot of time in farm country like I did, so the familiarity is not as nostalgic for him. I definitely recommend giving this one a try, especially if you like unique teas.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tea In The City: Cranberry Leaf, A Tea Review

I have had to make a tough decision, the eternal question 'do I use my monthly budget to buy tea or spend it on something else' was asked and as sad as it makes me, I had to realized I currently have more than enough tea. I decided, I really want to paint and it could be at least a month before the Reaper Kickstarter awards arrive, so I am going to get myself some miniatures. Specifically some undead (obviously) some Egyptian things (in honor of Amonkhet) and more importantly, a miniature I am going to try (with great difficulty, since this is going to take some serious modifying) to turn into Jace Beleren to sit next to my Liliana Vess mini on the tea desk. If I can get my plans for the Jace mini to work, it will be the most ambitious modification I have undertaken, involving floating spell effects and a LOT of OSL.

Since tomorrow is Ben's birthday, I am not sure I will have time to write, so I am writing today, specifically about Tea In The City's Cranberry Leaf, another immensely herbal tea from this UK store. Hailing from the country of Georgia, this herbal tea uses the top leaves and buds of the cranberry plant and then processes them like a black tea, which is truly fascinating. Another thing that makes this tea really fascinating is the farmer not only hand-picks everything, he uses wooden tools and machines, the tea never touches metal! The appearance of the tea looks very similar to the curly leaves of Laoshan Black, but that is where the similarities end, the aroma is something completely different. Notes of sweet and sour blend together, citrus and cranberries blend with wildflower honey, a touch of green vegetation (a bit like lettuce) and a finish of starch. The aroma reminds me a bit of one of my favorite treats: cranberry orange scones!

I decided to gongfu the leaves, because why not? The aroma of the leaves is lemony and cranberry, with a red wine and stewed fruit undertone. It has a touch of cooked cabbage and a bit of malt, it reminds me of a decadent romance between a purple dianhong and a Taiwanese Assam, it smells really tasty. The liquid is sour and sweet, like a cranberry candy with a side of malt and freshly baked fruity bread.

This truly is one of the most interesting things I have put in my mouth in a while. Like cranberry sauce, it is both sour and sweet, you can definitely taste the cranberries along with a strong citrus note that wavers between lemons and oranges. The finish has a slightly leafy and herbaceous note that is like cooked fresh thyme. Since it is on the sour side, it makes my salivary glands very happy, I adore sour fact I have been considered a bit odd for my overwhelming love of eating lemons.

It goes the distance, I got a surprising (for an herbal) eight steeps from the leaves before they called it quits. There was not a ton of variation between steeps, the main difference being level of sweet to sour ratio, with the middle steeps being like dried cranberries and the finishing steeps being like light sweet cranberries. I really enjoyed it, it is truly unlike any herbal tea I have had, I really like that it tastes so much like cranberries and reminds me how I used to eat dried cranberries constantly and need to go back to doing that.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Adagio Teas: Masters Collection Part 1, A Tea Review

Guess who is lost in Mass Effect: Andromeda world? Yes, it is me, Ben's days off have been totally consumed with ME:A, and I have been enjoying it. Don't get me wrong, the game has some serious issues, but overall I am really enjoying it and wish Ben would hurry up with his playthrough so I can have mine! In other geeky news, Amonkhet spoilers and story has started, and I am so happy, the story was enjoyable but my big 'on pins and needles' about concern was that the mummies will be creature type mummy and not creature type zombie, meaning I can't use my tribal shenanigans with them, but they are type zombie! I will probably just make a dedicated mummy deck since my current zombie deck is fine the way it is, but I like that I can mix and match my undead. If anyone is curious, the undead favorite hierarchy for me is: mummy, skeleton, spirit, lich, and zombie...and that is just because zombies are wet and smelly, mummies are just better zombies.

Recently Adagio Teas contacted me about reviewing their tea and sent me a gift card, I was going to get one of the Masters Collection gift sets, but each of them had a tea I was not really interested in trying, so I made my own! This is the first half of the six teas I selected, Yunnan  Pu Erh White, Hsinchu Oriental Beauty, and Anhui Keemun Tea, all types of tea I am very fond of!

The first one I looked at was the Anhui Keemun, I love Keemun, it is one of my favorites (ok, why do I keep saying this, I love hongcha and need to stop pretending I have favorites) hongchas. I tried their Keemun Concerto before and was not impressed by it, it was not bad just completely unmemorable, so I was curious if their Masters Collection one was better. The aroma of the Anhui Keemun is sweet, notes of berries and brown sugar with an undertone of sage. Yes, sage, this is a note I have noticed with all the Masters Collection teas, even the Yunnan Gold Curls I got months ago, it smells like they have been contaminated but I have no idea how since they are in sealed tins, mysterious mysteries. Brewing the tea takes away any of those peculiar sage notes and just presents berries, brown sugar, and a hint of cocoa.

I can see why this one is in the Masters Collection, as it is a pretty solid tea. Sweet with long notes of lychees, berries, and brown sugar in the first steep. The second steep brings in a touch of malt and earthiness akin to wet leather. The third steep is mostly berries (specifically dried blueberries) and lychees, but it is Three steeps is pretty much all you get, so it does not really pass my longevity test. I made Ben a mug of it western style and it was quite strong, the mentioned smokiness is present when brewed in that manner, though it is very light, more the memory of a fire several days old. It is a decent daily drinker, and considering the sizes they offer are a 10 cup sample tin or 5oz, it would have to be a daily drinker because that is not a small amount of tea.

Next up is the Hsinchu Oriental Beauty, the Masters Collection version of the Formosa Bai Hao, which I looked at previously. I absolutely LOVE Oriental Beauty, it has its own Yixing (not that that is much to brag about since I have more clay pots than sense) and I might be a little harsh on OB's that don't meet my lofty standards. This one smells of dried apples and sage (seriously where is that sage coming from?) that is pretty much it. The aroma does not leave me feeling hopeful. After brewing the aroma is still mostly just dried apples with a bit of a dried autumn leaf note.

I made a pot of this to share with Ben, since he is also pretty obsessed with OB, he tasted it and asked 'are you sure this is an OB? Because it tastes nothing like one' and he was right. It tasted like apples and a bit of sweet distant floral notes, and sage. I only got two steeps out of this tea before it went from slightly apple flavored to vague leaf water, it was a serious disappointment that left me craving OB more than ever. So sadly this one was not for me.

Last for this section was the Yunnan Pu Erh White, and no, I really don't care about the argument of whether or not Yunnan silver needles are white tea or puerh, I treat it as a silver needle, I know some people can get very passionate about that debate and I am definitely not one of them. The aroma of the fuzzy and nicely sized needles is one of lettuce, peony blossoms, and sage. The sage this time doesn't bother me since white tea frequently smells herbacous to me, so everything seems normal. After steeping the tea gets a bit of a sweet corn and melon note along with the ones present in the dry leaves.

I will admit, this was my favorite of the three. It has a wonderfully clean and smooth mouthfeel, a sweet taste, and it lasts five steeps. The notes present are pleasantly floral, peony and wildflowers blend with lettuce and sage, and it only gets sweeter in the later steeps. I decided to play around with this tea a bit and do the slightly crazy steeping at almost boiling for a whopping 15 minutes and what I got was a sweetcorn, peony, and lettuce tea with a thick mouthfeel. Have I mentioned I like doing crazy things with white teas because they can totally handle it?

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.