Saturday, August 29, 2015

M&K's Tea Company: Smoked Pine & Sage, A Tea Review

It is Saturday night and that means it is time to PARTY! I of course am going to party the best way I know how, getting drunk on tea, playing Terraria, and eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Yeah, I know how to live the high life. I have never been much of a party person, so really this is a great evening, I might even work on some painting too. If you can't tell, I am already a little tea drunk, but that tea's tale will be told next week!

Today we are looking at M&K's Tea Company's Smoked Pine and Sage, an herbal blend of hand roasted and harvested Pine Needles and California White Sage, which honestly sounded so awesome that I had to try it. I love smoky teas and roasted things, and a tea described as tasting like a bonfire sounded awesome. The aroma of the needles, sticks, and leaves is very smoky and burnt, it has a resinous tone and a sage-rub note. It reminds me of sage smudges I would do before I decided burning things with asthma was a bad idea, the smell is very nostalgic and pleasant, and mixed with the resinous burnt pine aroma, it certainly smells like a bonfire...specifically one at a New Age meeting. Ah, nostalgia.

Into my steeping vessel the herbs went, and the aroma totally fills my tea corner, it is like an autumn bonfire with a mystical edge to it. So the wet leaves smell like a bonfire, a very heavy sage filled bonfire, resinous and a bit meaty...it really does remind me of a meat rub. The liquid has a savory edge, not quite meaty, but savory, with resinous pine notes and smoke.

Tasting time! The amber-gold liquid is like fire in its aroma, and the tasty is certainly a campfire as well! It is warm and gently sweet, while also being savory and slightly meaty with notes of strong sage and resinous pine. I am not sure how I feel about it, I don't dislike it, but I certainly did not like it as much as I was expecting I would, what with my love of smoky teas. I sat a while with this tea trying to figure out what was not working for me, and I think it is that slightly meaty note, it reminds me too much of a meat roast rather than a tea. Conveniently I have a mom who also loves smoky things, so she got sent the rest of my pouch, I anxiously await her opinion on it!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tao Tea Leaf: Jun Shan Yin Zhen Yellow Tea-Top Grade, A Tea Review

Unexpected thunder!! Here I am, relaxing at my tea/blogging/painting corner, basking in the glow of just redoing the area and installing my much better desk...and then a flash and BOOM! I had to go take a look at the radar and there is a nice little storm right on top of me, with a nice squall system heading this way as well. Yesterday was stormy and this evening is shaping up to be the same, which fills me with great happiness. See, I love autumn, but it signals the death of storm season (well, unless a tropical storm gets really lost) as the seasons change the weather will be turbulent, but after that probably no more storms til next spring. This year's storm season has been epic, one that will live in my memory for years, a lot of firsts and just outstanding storms. Well done (insert storm deity of choice) an excellent year.

Today's tea comes from Canadian company, Tao Tea Leaf, it is Jun Shan Yin Zhen Yellow Tea-Top Grade. This is the fancy stuff, frequently appearing on the shifting list of China's Top Ten Famous Teas, it hails from Hunan's Junshan Island in the middle of Dongting Lake, a very scenic lake with some interesting river goddess and hidden underwater castle legends. Why is it that almost every culture has magical underwater castles with mysterious hidden entrances that only open once a year? As someone who makes it a hobby of studying mythology and folklore, I promise you, this one shows up a lot! Ok, about the tea, need to prevent myself from going on a mythology synchronicity rant, the aroma of the adorable fuzzy leaves is soupy! Seriously getting some strong vegetal broth from them, with notes of celery, sauteed bok choy, a touch of smoke, a touch of very distant flowers. It starts savory (seriously I want vegetable broth and a big slab of crusty bread to dip in it now) and then finishes with a gentle sweet snap pea note.

So, steeping time! I did this tea a few ways, but first off the typical gaiwan approach with 175 degrees water for 30 seconds, my usual approach to green and yellow teas. The aroma of the now thoroughly moistened leaves is savory, notes of bok choy, asparagus, celery and a general vegetal broth waft with the steam from the leaves. The liquid is a fairly light pile of vegetal notes, lettuce, bok choy, snap peas, asparagus and a touch of green beans. It balances savory and sweet green notes fairly well.

First steeping starts smooth and a touch tingly from the fuzzy trichomes on the leaves, the taste is fairly mild. Starting with a blend of floral notes and lettuce, then fresh and savory vegetal broth and asparagus, and a finish of snap peas sweetness and a tiny bit of turnip greens. This is a very green tea, and pleasantly fresh.
Apologies for lack of decent liquid photos showing color, my camera keeps corrupting images, I took several and this was the only one 'available' more signs of my camera's death throws 
Second steeping brings out a stronger aroma, very vegetal and green with a slight sweetness and a bit of smoke. The taste is very similar to the first steep but stronger, it is never bitter in its greenness, just delightfully savory and sweet in its greenness. If you are a fan of vegetal teas then this will be a delight. The third steep was pretty identical, I felt like this tea was hiding something from me, so I decided to experiment.
Ok, time to start over, I brewed it at 195 degrees for 30 seconds, living dangerously! Though some delicate greens and yellows can handle it, problem is knowing which ones can take the heat is trail and error, sometimes you get a mouthful of bitter death, other times you get a real treat. So, how did it go? Well tea friends, I am a jerk, Ben came home from work right as I finished pouring from my gaiwan, so I tested it on him, as he goes for a sip I tell him how I brewed it...he paused and said something along the lines of 'that sounds like a terrible idea' but being the trooper he tried it anyway and handed me the cup while saying it was surprisingly sweet. So I then drank it and wow, he was not trolling me! It is still vegetal, but mostly a mouth full of sweet snap peas and a bit of edamame, it is like vegetal nectar, a phrase I never thought I would say. I went through several steeps at this temperature and was rewarded with unchanging sweet snap peas.

Last thing I did on a whim, I brewed it in my travel steeper, it was green and sweet, though sadly went toward the vegetal bitterness towards the end, so I would say stick to the gaiwan for this one...at least that is what I will do. Because this is not a cheap tea, $1 a gram, definitely a tea you want to sick to the brewing method that works for you when you find that sweet spot.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What-Cha: Thailand Sticky Rice 'Khao Hom' Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

I have played a lot of video games in my life, and I have been driven to fits of rage by many of them. Something that my dear fiance and I share is a tendency to get really ragey at our games, we just show them differently, where he is likely to just yell at a game, I take a page from the RageQuit book and get really imaginative with my vitriol. I bring this up because few games have made me rage as much as Terraria. Seriously, I hate the boss fights, I can have myself kitted up and buffed to the extreme and it never fails, I die at least half a dozen times before I get the 'trick' to killing a specific boss. Of course then I proceed to farm it mercilessly, giggling at my godlike power the whole time. Oh man, or that one time when you are mining and accidentally hit the TNT button instead of the pickaxe button and blow yourself up. It. Is. MADDENING! But I also love it because I can be a dark elf with a hoard of spider summons with a pet dinosaur who rides a unicorn while wearing feathery wings, gypsy robes, and a Spartan helmet. Skills.
Today's tea from What-Cha is a funky little number, Thailand Sticky Rice 'Khao Hom' Oolong Tea, hailing from Thailand, this tea takes Jin Xuan and scents it with Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye, an herb from China whose leaves smell uncannily like sweet sticky rice. Used quite a bit with Puerh, (if you have ever seen sticky rice Puerh, this is the herb used) and I will be honest, mixed with Shou Pu, I find it utterly repugnant, usually because it is mixed with the really low grade fishy garbage and those are two things I do not want mixed. Ever. So I was really curious to try it in something else, specifically the glory that is Oolong. The aroma of this tea is something else, I advise not sticking your nose into these leaves, sniff from a distance because wow is it strong. Super sweet sticky rice notes with sweet cream, rice pudding, coconut milk, and an underlying almond nuttiness. So much sweetness, it is a little overwhelming. 
So the first time I tried this tea I made the mistake of brewing it when I had a headache, one whiff of those brewed leaves and I needed to lie down, something about sticky rice scented teas make me feel really ill and dizzy if I have a headache (which is often) so I waited for a day when I had no headache to try the rest of the sample. It was a good idea because whoa, it is super strong, very sweet notes of rice pudding, caramel, flowers, green beans, grass, spinach...it is a bit of a cacophony, though oddly it blends well together. The liquid is more subtle thankfully, though not by much. That sticky rice scent is strong and sweet, notes of coconut milk, almonds, and rice pudding mix with a creamy underlying floral note. 

I thought for a second, this could be one of those sensory overload things that happens to me with certain smells, so I got Ben to sniff it and he thought it smelled mild and sweet, where I thought it was like being face planted in pudding. The longer I sniffed it, the more I started developing a headache...oh dear. So, enough being nervous, I tasted it, it is smooth and sweet, and surprisingly cooling for an oolong. There are strong notes of cream, rice pudding, orchids, and warm milk. This moves on to caramelized sugar and a nutty aftertaste. There is however something 'wrong' about the rice taste, not wrong as in toxic or something like that...wrong as it tastes like rice but doesn't. Like how stevia leaves are sweet but don't taste like sugar, so when used as a substitute you can tell, it is uncanny and hard to process for some reason.

Second steep, the aroma at this point has permeated my tea area, which I am not entirely happy with. The taste is milder on the rice front, more of the underlying orchid and creamy notes of the Jin Xuan showing their color. The finish has a nutty rice note that lingers for some time. I called it quits after this steep sadly, the taste was quite pleasant, but the smell of the leaves was way too intense and killing my head, not to mention I spilled some on my tea table and just can't get the smell out, whenever I get a whiff of it I am slammed with vertigo, it is safe to say that my sensory weirdness could not handle this herb. Clearly if I try to drink this tea again, I should do it with a nose plug, or maybe store the leaves in another room. It is a pity I had such a negative reaction to the aroma, the taste was really quite fascinating.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tea Leaf Co: Angel of Mine, A Tea Review

Ugin the Spirit Dragon, aka my Betta, is a total weirdo. I have had a LOT of Bettas in my life, like seriously I have had over 20 in my life (I at once ran a sort of Betta rescue where I bought the saddest Betta at a pet store and attempted to nurse it back to health, but realized giving the stores money for ill treated fish was not in anyone's best interest, at least I had happy fish at the time) and I know their various quirks and such. This one thinks its a catfish. Ugin will knock the food from the top of the water (Bettas are top feeders, meaning floating food) watch it as it sinks, and then flips vertical to eat them off the bottom of the tank, rummaging around in the substrate like the world's most colorful catfish. Also, you get geek points if you know who Ugin is, as a hint, my Otoclinus catfish who shares his tank is name Sarkhan Vol.

Today's blog is all about a tea that is kinda a last hurrah for summer, or at least for me it is. Tea Leaf Co's Angel of Mine is a blend of White Tea and Roses, with natural essence. Now the reason I say this is a summer tea, roses for me just symbolize summer, that heady aroma reminds me of gardens and walks with my mom to the store. Totally specific memory, but on the way to the store there was a house that was really just roses that have taken over the house, they gave their last big bloom this time of year. The aroma of the tea is, unexpectedly, roses! Not nasty rose perfume, but the aroma of blooming roses, under this heady aroma is a tiny touch of crisp lettuce and melons.

Into my tea steeper thingy the leaves and petals go, making my little tea corner smell like blooming roses. The wet leaves definitely smell like roses, but also a nice crisp white tea, with notes of melon, sage, lettuce, and a bit of crushed vegetation. The liquid is a mellow blend of roses and white tea, one does not overpower the other, which is good.

Ah, this is such a nice, mellow, tea! Great for sipping when you want to relax with a pile of craft projects in front of you. Or a mountain of books. I love tea with roses, it might be one of my favorite additions to tea, so I like it when you can taste the roses without being overpowered by them, and this tea does that. The tea has roses throughout the entire sipping experience, but there is also a cooling note of melon and lettuce, with a note of sage at the finish. The finish is honey sweet with a lingering note of rose. This tea hit the spot, especially now that the evenings are getting cooler.

Monday, August 24, 2015

3 Leaf Tea: Ceremonial Grade Matcha, A Matcha Monday Tea Review

My new phone arrived, yay! Of course the yay is also prefaced with an annoyed groan because I have to learn how to use this one, get all the settings to where I like them, get all the apps, and contacts, and all that fun stuff situated. Electronics can be so complicated in their enjoyment!


Today is Monday, meaning a Matcha day! Today we are looking at 3 Leaf Tea's Ceremonial Grade Matcha, a vibrantly green little number from Uji, Kyoto. The color on this Matcha really is quite fantastic, the photos don't do it justice, it is luminous in its greenness, which is a good sign. The aroma of the Matcha pre-whisking is very sweet and creamy, notes of hay and sweetgrass mix with sweet cream and a distant fruitiness. Somewhere between berries in bananas, very light but it adds an interesting depth.

After a sifting and whisking I am greeted with some excellent froth and morimo-algae green liquid. Also, as a side note, when did morimo algae balls get so expensive? They used to be fairly cheap little aquarium friends. Anyway, the aroma of the now frothy Matcha is very sweet and creamy with a slightly green kelp note, very pleasant on my nose. Ok, moment of truth, I have had so many bad Matcha lately that I kinda live in fear now...and yeah, I had nothing to fear, this is some good stuff! It starts sweet, stays sweet, and end sweet, not a hint of bitterness to be found. The underlying notes are intense green, like kelp, zucchini, lettuce and freshly cut grass. On top of that is creamy squash and sweet cream, this Matcha has a lot going on, and I like that, this Matcha was a breath of fresh green air, a pleasant return to tasty form!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Whispering Pines Tea Company: Imperial Gold Bud Dian Hong, A Tea Review

I am multi-tasking to the max right now! As you may or may not know by this point, my move has been delayed for several months...so I unpacked my painting stuff and I am diving in to the miniatures! While painting I am also playing Terraria and blogging, and of course guzzling tea like a boss. I am really excited because one of the pieces I am working on is the Wyrd Miniatures Malifaux Dawn Serpent...it is basically a Chinese dragon, and I will use it some in my Ten Thunders army, but mostly it will live on my tea desk. Finally the tea desk will have a dragon!

Today I am looking at Whispering Pines Tea Company's Imperial Gold Bud Dian Hong, ah yeah, all about the fuzzy Yunnan tea today! A while back my mom ordered some and sent me a bit to try, my mom and I have this tendency to send each other piles of tea, I currently am filling a box up for her now, tea friends and family really are the best since we all seem to have this tendency to share our hoard. Good heavens, these leaves are luscious, thick and fuzzy, loaded with fuzzy golden trichomes, like happy caterpillars. Now that I have probably weirded all of you out comparing these fuzzy things to caterpillars, please know I accept donations! All kidding aside, these really are quite pretty. The aroma is peppery and sweet, strong notes of candied yams and sweet roasted peanuts. The finish has a touch of malt and a delicate note of rose as well, those yam notes though are killer, great a tea that makes me hungry!

On a Terraria note, I just killed the stupid Brain of Cthulhu eight times in attempts to get the trophy, ugh, what a pain. Steeping time brings out strong notes of malt and roasted peanuts, candied yams, a touch of vanilla beans, a dash of pepper, and that tiny hint of rose at the finish. The liquid is delightfully sweet, malt and sweet yams, vanilla beans, and a finish of pepper.

First steep starts mild and creamy, surprisingly there are no fuzzies floating around in the cup, they all sank to the bottom so the usual gentle tickle I get with fuzzy teas is not present. The taste starts with gentle malt and sweet yams, a touch of molasses. This moves on to roasted peanuts and a gentle finish of pepper.

The aroma of the second is peppery and malty with a strong yammy presence, I honestly love this yam note. I think it might be thing thing that makes me love Dian Hong so much. The texture is much thicker, a tiny bit of fuzziness in this steep. It is very heavy and rich, like a decadent treat, notes of malt and cocoa start off strong, that moves to candied yams and molasses, and the finish is a delicate mix of pepper and malt with a cooling finish.

Third steeping time, the aroma is pretty intense, strong notes of yam and roasted peanuts with a tiny bit of pepper. It is a much sweeter aroma this time around. The taste is also much sweeter, like molasses and syrup thickness mixed with sweet yams and rich malt. The midtaste has a strong yam and cocoa note and the finish is cooling with pepper. The pepper note fascinates me, the taste of pepper without the warmth of it is a quirky thing!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Influenster VoxBox: Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs, a Product Review

Sometimes I get sent random things to review from Influenster, and usually they kinda make sense, since they send you a little survey to see if you are interested. I don't remember filling out a survey or anything, just woke up to an email one day saying I got a Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs VoxBox on the way. I was filled with both apprehension and curiosity!

Apprehension because for one thing, I am horribly allergic to aloe, and most beauty products have that evil, spiky, succulent's ooze in it...and since like 100 people in the world are allergic to the supposedly hypoallergenic stuff, no one checks to see if you are allergic. Hmph. Also when I was a teenager my aunt was convinced I was too pale (I am much like glue in my whiteness) and decided the best was to rectify this was a fake tan. I turned lividly orange and splotchy, it was safe to say that I was mocked mercilessly the next day at school, so I have a long standing hatred towards fake tans.

But on examining this stuff, I was happy to see, no aloe! It has salvia (aka sage) as the random plant of choice. Also I was glad to see that the coloring was light and it can be removed easily with soap and water in case of a fake tan emergency. Ok I admit, I have always wanted to be beautifully tanned, like I wandered off of a Mediterranean beach, complete with a pile of fresh seafood and olives, go all daughter of Poseidon, but I am from English and Scottish people mostly, we don't tan, we turned a lovely shade of lobster, not to mention skin cancer is rampant in my family, so tanning is a no go for me.

I manned up and gave it a try! The prickly leg stubble and razor rash aside (yeah, you try getting a decent shave when the only razors you can use are the cheap no lubricating strip single blade nightmares) the 'tan' is not bad! If I smooth it out over my whole legs (and the rest of me, really) it could pass as a tan and not makeup. No orange disaster, it looks the way my skin looks several days after the lobster shade from the sunburn fades, but without the risk of cancer and the weird dryness and rash my skin gets from being in the sun. As a product, it is one that I think does its job excellently. I am not sure I am a fan of the whole tanning culture (I am a lost time traveling noble who still thinks that the only people that tan are serfs) because of the amount of cancer it causes, and the horrid leathery effect it has on aging skin, but the desire to have the look with no health consequences is something I am all for!

Thank you Influenster for sending me this totally random thing!