Friday, July 29, 2016

Gramercy Tea: Black Pearl Tea, A Tea Review (Arrrrrrr Matey)

Today I decided to have a change of name, specifically username. If you see me floating around social media, no longer am I SoggyEnderman, now I am TeaNecromancer. Still super dorky, but now with a more tea themed flair, as it should be. This review is going to be as a pirate, the internet requested and how could I deny that! Ben, ever the story-teller, helped me with the pirate speak!

Avast, ye lubbers!  Let me tell you a tale of a lost tea of the high seas - the fabled Black Pearl of Gramercy Tea!  But be it a treasure fit for Hong Beard, or a mere watery grave?  I set sail to find out.

Me map was incomplete, so I know not what port the tea hails from - my keen sea-dog's nose caught a hint of Yunnan on the breeze off the Black Pearl, which suited me well enough.  I've a great fondness for those shores.  But don't hold me to that, mates - the Black Pearl's scent is light as a mermaid's sigh, and as varied as the haul of a fat merchant freighter.  Cocoa, molasses, malt, peanuts... the tea played coy with the smell of such plunder, but what I could catch was robust and pleasant.

It was a long and bloody battle to claim those pearls of tea, and get them loaded into me pot for the long voyage down me throat, and into Davvy Jones' Locker.  I'll spare the squeamish of ye lubbers the details - but I will say that as that tea steeped, the air grew sweet, as the molasses, peanuts, and malt from before were joined by honey and sweet potatoes.  As for the tea itself, it was a thing of toffee, peanuts and caramel  - with a molasses and cocoa finish, which almost distracted me from the terrifying sight of a veritable kraken rearing up in me own tea gear!  Clearly, there was a fearsome curse upon these pearls, and if I'd be lucky to finish the session alive.

But no captain could show fear in front of their crew, and I led the charge into the first steep.  Though it was light as a breeze with a smooth mouthfeel, it held tastes as rich as any galleon, from the start of molasses and honey-coated peanuts, through a cocoa middle, to a finish of yams with honey aftertaste.

The crew, though, were afeared of the tea kraken, and I knew they plotted mutiny against me - they were in it thick as thieves, though still less think than the second steep, richer than the first, with a cocoa and molasses aroma, tasting first of molasses and malt, then cocoa and peanuts, before finishing with the very taste of the pine wood deck me own first mate smashed my face down into, as he pressed the Black Spot into my hand.  I chuckled for a moment, savorin' the irony of our predicament, along with a light honey-yam aftertaste, before I shot the scallawag dead through the heart.

I'll not lie to ye, mates - few of me crew lived to taste the third steep.  In a way, that's just fine - devouring their bodies kept the beast busy as I sailed away, and after all the taste was all but a twin what had come before - though a twin who spent a little more time in the malt, if you follow me.  On the other hand, it was a bit of a shame to kill so many old salt dogs, when we could have shared the treasure among us all - it holds several good steeps in it, and is a fine bowl steep for a day caught in the doldrums.

Now isn't that a tale worth the tellin'?

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Gramercy Tea: Bamboo Bud, A Tea Review

I have PC envy again!! The newest update for Ark came out on PC today and wow, I cannot wait til the Xbox has it, finally we get Allosaurus! Along with the new mod Primitive+ which I am so playing with my mom, because we are nerds, and some other awesome things like the Center getting an update. As much as I am sad about waiting a few weeks for our end of the update, I love what they posted in the update release notes! They admitted that rushing the update for the Xbox caused a LOT of problems (oh the bugs...) and they were going to do a better job of making sure this update is not a giant pile of bugs. Yay! I am glad they realized there was a serious problem and are fixing it, go Wildcard!

Continuing on the Gramercy Tea week with another green tea, Bamboo Bud, also known as Zhu Ye Qing, a Sichuan tea with very striking leaves, looking like their namesake. Seriously, it is hard to not just sit and ogle the leaves, so vibrantly green and looking like they just came from the tea plant. The aroma of the adorable needles is a combination of green and sweet, with notes of bamboo leaves, bok choy, edamame, and a sweet nutty sesame seed and honey finish, reminding me of my favorite sesame seed candies.

I decided for this tea to break out my very rarely used tall gaiwan set, bought several years ago specifically for these long needled teas. A classic way to enjoy this tea is brewing in a tall glass, but I wanted to use the neglected gaiwan. The aroma of the brewed leaves is a bit peppery with notes of lettuce, cabbage, and peas, with a finish of edamame and chervil. The aroma of the first steep is lightly sweet with notes of snap peas and sesame with a touch of chestnuts.

Ah, the first steep is quite crisp! Nice notes of sesame seeds and sweet peas start it out, then it moves to more green notes of cabbage and broccoli with a bit of a peppery arugula note at the finish. The mouthfeel is pleasantly light while being crisp, much like biting into lettuce, but warm.

Onward to the next steep, the aroma is continuing in the sweet and nutty with gentle green quality, very reminiscent of springtime. This steep really showcases the green aspect of the green tea, starting with notes of sweet peas and bamboo leaves. It then moves to an herbaceous quality of parsley and a touch of chervil. The finish is a gentle note of fresh lettuce and cabbage with a sweet aftertaste like spring rain.

For the final steep, the aroma and taste is pretty light, gentle spring rain and bamboo leaves with a slight sesame sweetness. The taste starts very light, bamboo leaves and lettuce with sweet peas, and this carries on to the finish. Not a very long lasting tea, but still quite tasty and the crispness is very refreshing.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gramercy Tea: White Tea, A Tea Review

I am super nervous, tomorrow Ben has an interview for a job he really wants (no spoilers unless he gets it, then I will reveal the mystery) and I think I am more nervous about it than he is! He will probably come home from the interview to find me pacing around, and this is not the first time it has happened! Each time he has had an interview I have been more nervous than him, it is like I get it all and he gets to be chill for the interview, which is a balance I am ok with!

So, to distract myself I am doing my usual writing about tea and drinking it, continuing my week of Gramercy Tea. Looking at their White Tea, specifically a Baihao Yinzhen or Silver Needle. Usually I am used to silver needles being all needles and no leaves, but it is a little more needle heavy than a Baimudan, so this is a bit of an in-between of the two. The aroma of the fluffy leaves is mellow, blending notes of pollen, hay, cucumber, melon, lettuce, and paper. Classic white tea notes, leaning more on the crisp side than sweet side.

I got into a bit of a fight with this tea, it did not want to behave for me! One of my favorite ways to enjoy tea is bowl steeping (or grandpa style, many names for the same concept) so I tossed the leaves into a bowl, topped with hot water and expected to have myself a nice session relaxing with a bowl. Nope, not happening. The first few sips are good, mellow and a bit sweet pollen and hay with a crisp cucumber and melon quality, though later in the sipping it got bitter and pretty unpalatable, so I gave up on that idea and went to gongfu.

First time I tried steeping it at my classic white tea temperature, 195° F, I find a lot of white teas can handle the heat as long as the initial few steeps are short. Anyway it is a lot of white that can handle the heat, not all though, once in a white I run into one that balks at heat and turns bitter and super dry. Sadly this one not a white tea that liked the heat...not that I can blame it, I also don't like the heat. So I tried with a lower temperature, 175° F and ended up with an incredibly mellow and bland session.

Ok, I thought to myself, I have enough of the sample left for one more session, how can I make this tea work for me? I reached a happy medium, steeping at 185°F with a 30-60-90 time, rather than flash steep at super hot or long steep at lower. I finally got this tea to show me what it had to offer, sweet honey notes and crisp cucumber with a lingering sage and melon. There is not a whole lot going on (I might be spoiled on Kenyan Silver Needle and the Aged Whites I have been drinking lately) but it is a decent tea, other than the finicky brewing. Honestly I have not had the much difficulty with brewing a tea in a while! Even though this tea is pretty mellow and not hugely nuanced, I would say it is a good introductory white, and a good one to drink while you are gaming and not necessarily paying attention to the tea.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Gramercy Tea: Mengding Ganlu Green Tea, a Tea Review

I...am a monster. I have my three desks set up as a sort of cubicle, giving me access to my computer, Xboxone, tea desk, and painting station all at once (since I am always doing a million things at once.) Well I was sitting at the computer and rolled my chair straight back to get some tea...and heard a noise. I was unaware that Espeon was sleeping on the floor behind my chair, so I just smooshed my chair right into her. She is fine...glaring at me...but fine, and I feel like a jerk, sorry Espeon.

Feeling guilt for inconveniencing the cat aside, it is time to move to day two of the Gramercy Tea week with Mengding Ganlu Green Tea, a delicate, fluffy, green from Sichuan and a fairly recent discovery for me(recent as in the first time I had this type of tea was only about a year ago.) I've developed a real love for teas from Sichuan, and this tea has become a favorite. The aroma of this tea is vegetal, blending sauteed bok choy, artichokes, bamboo leaves, cut grass, and a touch of fresh broccoli. Alongside the veggie notes is a nutty starch quality blending cooked rice, sesame seeds, and the most distinct aroma of water chestnuts I have ever run into short of smelling a water chestnut!

Brewing the fuzzy leaves bring out even stronger vegetal notes, really ramps up the savory quality with notes of Lima beans, sesame seeds, water chestnut, bok choy, and edamame...it kinda smells like stir fry and the umami quality is making me hungry. The liquid is a bit of a contrast, with sweeter notes of snap peas, Lima beans, water chestnut and fresh bok choy rather than cooked.

The name Ganlu translates to sweet dew, and you know, it is a pretty apt name, the sweet and green taste is reminiscent of morning dew on plants. The first steep is thick in the mouth, with a slight tickle from all those fuzzy trichomes, It starts with a mildly savory quality of Lima beans and cooked Brussels sprouts. It them moves to notes of edamame and artichoke, with a sweet finish of snap peas and water chestnut. The aftertaste is also snap peas and lingers for a short time with a sweet vegetal quality.

Onward to the next steep, the leaves are really unfurling at this point! The aroma is quite green with notes of lima beans, snap peas, and asparagus with a tiny water chestnut finish. Second steep is super vegetal, strong notes of asparagus, Brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, artichoke, and edamame. It is very savory and has a subtle sweet finish of snap peas that linger, though not overly long.

The third steep is starting to show its age, the aroma is mostly sweet snap peas and water chestnut with a dew like quality. The previous steep was all about the savory vegetal quality, this steep brings the gentle sweetness, notes of water chestnut, fresh spring water, and snap peas dance around in my mouth, with a slight sugar cane sweetness at the finish. There is only a light aftertaste, like the fleeting morning dew disappearing with the afternoon's sun.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Gramercy Tea: Yellow Chrysanthemum Tea, A Tea Review

Oh Accuweather, you did not prepare me for how lovely today would be! I thought the cool weather was supposed to meander in later in the week, but nope, started today! Mostly overcast and cool enough to have the windows open, though had I known I would have gotten out of bed earlier and headed to the zoo! Since this week is supposed to be mostly nice, one of these days is going to be a zoo day, and I am very excited for it.

Today is the start of a theme week, one of many upcoming theme weeks me thinks! This first one will be five days of Gramercy Tea, starting with their Yellow Chrysanthemum. I was desperate for some chrysanthemum too, perfect timing. I had recently ordered some off Amazon, the white variety, though when they arrived they were brownish gray and horridly stale. These arriving were a bit of a life saver, because I love chrysanthemum and get very cranky when I am out. Opening the bag was amazing, seriously fresh smelling chrysanthemums here! Notes of pollen, honey, straw, and flowers...obviously chrysanthemums...but also straw flowers, aster (same family techincally) and a bit of starchy sweetness. These are some of the sweetest smelling chrysanthemums I have sniffed, they look like little bits of sunlight, so overall a pleasant first impression.

You know what is fun, gongfu brewing flowers! I decided to use my serpentinite gaiwan to really show off the flower's striking color. The aroma of the brewed flowers is super fresh, it smells like a bouquet of freshly picked mums, blending pollen, honey, dandelions, straw flowers, aster, and a touch of peppery goodness at the finish. The aroma of the first steep is wonderfully sweet, with notes of honey and pollen, dandelions, and a gentle sharp peppery note at the finish.

Ah, there is that wonderful cooling action I associate with Chrysanthemum. It is thick in the mouth, almost syrupy, and feels cool in the throat and stomach. It has become a go-to drink when my throat is scratchy, especially if it is from being so hot. The taste is sweet, with notes of fresh dandelion flowers, pollen, and a lingering wildflower honey. As the flowery brew cools a bit, the classic (at least to me) crisp peppery note shows up, but is pretty quickly drowned out by honey.

There is no real change from steep to steep, it pains me to say that it is not as nuanced as a tea, but not everything needs to tell an epic story throughout a session, sometimes change is not needed since it reached perfection from the start, and I feel a lot of flowers are like that, and that is fine by me. Lack of change aside, this pile of flowers just keeps going and going, til the end I just transferred my flowers to a bowl and grandpa steeped it, and finally at the end I just ate a few of the flowers because I am a rebel. Having had all the different colors of chrysanthemum used for tea, yellow is my favorite and this session just reaffirmed it.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Yunomi: Onocha: Yamaguchi Shincha Green Tea, A Tea Review

Oh yay! According to the Accuweather the heat is supposed to be easing up, no more mid to high 90s, low 90s and high 80s with some storms starting tomorrow. Still hotter than I would like, but it is so much more tolerable! I just hope my peeps on the east coast get a break soon, my poor mom is melting. I hope it is cool enough to go back to the zoo soon, I have a $5 coupon for taking a survey and I want a new trinket for my tea desk, specifically a new tea pet.

Today I am looking at Yunomi's Onocha: Yamaguchi Shincha Green Tea, a 2015 Shincha from the Yamaguchi Prefecture. I goofed a bit, when I was ordering some samples of Shincha I accidentally got some of last years, so I was expecting it to be faded...but a good way to break in my new glorious Shiboridashi. Well, the aroma surprised me, the leaves smelled immensely fresh and crisp! Notes of edamame, fresh cut hat, sesame seeds, and fresh sea air. It balances sweetness from the nutty notes and savory really quite deliciously, I spent the entire time my kettle was heating up with my nose in the leaves.

Into my new shibo the leaves go, and yes that beauty will get its own blog post soon, The aroma of the steeped leaves green! Very green, strong notes of kelp, edamame, spinach, and freshly cut grass waft up with a crisp hay and a light broccoli note as well. If this tea smells so intense being a year old, I can only imagine the intensity of it fresh. The liquid is subtle, gentle notes of hay and cut grass blend with equally delicate notes of edamame and sea air. It smells crisp and refreshing, like a breeze off the coast on a hot day.

The first steep is wonderfully light while being full of flavor. It starts with a note of sweet snap peas and edamame, then moves to freshly cut grass and sweetgrass, with a touch of hay. The finish brings the umami with gentle kelp and sea air, with a subtle starchy rice aftertaste. This tea hit the spot on a hot day, it was so refreshing.

Ah, the second steep is a beautiful shade of rich golden green, with a sharp grassy, savory spinach, and subtly sweet snap pea note. It starts brisk and grassy, with an accompanying note of hay and spinach. It then gets a slight astringent quality in the middle reminiscent of Brussels sprouts and alfalfa sprouts, this fades pretty quickly to edamame and sesame seed with a kelp finish. It has the right amount of bite and the right amount of sweet making for a very balanced cup.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Grand Tea: Raw Pu-erh Cake Simao 1999, A Tea Review

So, it is probably not a secret, what with my occasional rambling on Instagram and my constant painting of various undead things...I want to be a necromancer. When I was a kid I brought the class hamster back to life, so clearly I have the talent for it, and just think of all the use you can get out of well trained (and clean) zombies? They can carry things, do the cleaning you don't want to do, there are so many uses, plus it is like recycling and who doesn't want to help the environment? Of course what kind of tea would a necromancer want to drink?

The obvious answer is Puerh, specifically one that has some age on it, doubly so for a traditional Hong Kong stored one.  So that brings me nicely to today's tea, Grand Tea's Raw Pu-erh Cake-Simao 1999. The reason I say this is the tea that necromancers drink is two-fold, first this kind of tea has some sweet microbial action going on thanks to being in a wetter climate, a lot of 'wet' stored pu can have a bit of fuzzy mold (I didn't see any on my sample) and it certainly speeds up the fermentation. Blame Magic The Gathering and my penchant for loving the Golgari (hello green black mushroom zombies) but that is where my head goes. The other reason is the smell, the aroma of this tea is like deep earth, wet cave, a bit of swamp, wet books, wet decomposing wood, leaf mould, and mushrooms. It smells like the kind of place a necromancer would hang out, I love the smell, though I admit my brain did this whole 'wait, you are going to consume this' moment, which was a bit funny.

Gaiwan time, I am using my baby Sheng gaiwan since I am always leery of a new Sheng Pu hurting my guts, though supposedly the older and wetter the easier it is, so maybe the tiny gaiwan was unnecessary. After a rinse and first steep, the leaves have opened a bit. The aroma us potent stuff! Strong notes of beets, leather, wet earth, old wet wood...and a bit of swamp and medicinal roots. Specifically a bit like Valerian root or one of those nasty TCM blends I drink when I have a nasty cold, it is pleasantly pungent. The liquid is sweetly medicinal, pungent roots mixed with a touch of the herb sweet annie, there are also old books, wet cypress, and a bit of wet leaves.

The first steep is surprisingly sweet, like wet wood, sweet annie, wet leather, wet leaves, and swamp. The real standout thing from the first steep is its incredibly thick mouth and long lingering aftertaste. For the real party you need to go to the next couple of steeps where it ramps up in intensity. Strong bitter medicinal roots, beets, and wet wood with a sweetness that shows up at the finish and lingers for a bit.

Steeps in the middle are something else, I feel like I am going spelunking! It tastes like cave, and roots, and fermented soy beans. It starts to have a tiny bit of a savory quality and a thick almost oily mouthfeel. I feel as though every inch of my mouth has become a cave and this is some sort of transcendent communication with bio-luminescent fungi. It tastes old and wet, it is pretty fun!

The final steeps (and that is many steeps later) it takes a while for the medicinal bitterness to fade back to sweetness, and even the sweetness reminds me a bit of medicinal herbs and the sweetness of wet leather. There is a savory quality of mushrooms and fermented soy beans, along with wet leaves and old books. I can see this being an acquired taste, it is very earthy and wet, conveniently I love the taste of caves and deep soil, wet wood and swamp...I spent a large chunk of my younger days playing in a swamp and playing in the dirt, so this tea evokes a lot of nostalgia for me.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.