Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Persimmon Tree Tea Company: Wellness Blend, A Tea Review

There was dirt today, and leaves, and lots of bugs. Just a heads up. Yeah, I got to play in the dirt today like a little kid, it was wonderful! Today might be the last warm day before snow comes and covers all of my mother's potted plants, making all the late autumn cleaning a really mushy, gross, and cold mess. So while waiting for mom to require my assistance, I took my camera and lifted various rocks and stumps looking for bugs. I found several spiders, tons of centipedes (and centipede eggs) more pillbugs than I could count, and a terrestrial flatworm of some type. Sadly mom would not let me keep the Yellow Sac Spider in a jar since 'enough spiders find their way inside' which is completely true. No desk friend for me this time...yet.

So, to spare some of my more bug-phobic readers anymore heebie-jeebies, it is time for tea! Today's tea is The Persimmon Tree Tea Company's Wellness Blend, an herbal blend of Organic Green Rooibos, Organic Fennel, Organic Linden Flower, Organic Orange Peel, Organic Raspberries, Organic Licorice Root, Organic Neem, Organic Cinnamon, Elderberries, Echinacea, and Chili Pepper, designed as a pick me cup. It also has the added benefit of calming the nerves and getting rid of headaches, and you know, when you have chronic headaches a nice herbal sip before bedtime is always welcome. The aroma, well, with all these herbs in it is expectantly herbaceous, reminding me of a plethora of dried herbs hanging from an herb show. Of course there are floral notes, a touch of peppery warmth, and a tiny bit of celery. It reminds me a little of my mom's kitchen during winter, her drying kitchen herbs, a pot of simmering spice potpourri, and always flowers.

The now steeped pile of plants and spices is quite soggy, and still very much so smells like herbs, but this time with a very sweet note of fruit and a slightly tart note of berries. This fades to warm spice, pepper, and woody finish. The liquid, oddly enough, smells like pie. It smells like pie crust, berry fillings, and an herbal finish.

Sadly? I do not have a headache, and I am actually quite calm, so I am unable to relay on how the tea affects that, so it will just be about how it tastes. It starts sweet and herbal, a blend of fruit and spices. Again, pie comes to mind, not entirely sure why, but each sip I take reminds me of eating a slightly spicy berry pie with herbs baked into the crust. Not that I have ever actually eaten that, but it sounds really tasty. I like this tea, it is pretty mild as herbal teas go, no kicking in the face with the taste of plant bits and flowers, so that is a good if you want something gentle while being spicy and sweet.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Teavivire: Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Hooray! Celebration! Happy Dance! Ok, not so much of the happy dance, it might cause my headache to come back. Yes, I am celebrating the headache I have had...for weeks...taking a break for a bit. I can still feel it poking around, it will be back in a few hours, but a break is always a reason to celebrate. It is a thing that I have dealt with all my life, stupid week to month long splitting headaches that at times make thinking rather hard, I was so worried I was not going to be able to write this evening. So, I am glad, my pain is eased and I can do the thing I look forward to most each day...rambling about tea!

First I have to admit that I made a derp. Remember my epic road trip with my mom where we had tea in a hotel room, right about a month ago? Well, that night Teavivre contacted me to do an Oolong series on my blog, perhaps answering them after hours on the road was not the best idea...since I readily agreed...to review one of the teas I have already reviewed. So what does one do when they need to review a tea they have already reviewed (and recently so it is not even reviewing a new harvest) the review it with a different brewing style! Previously I reviewed Teavivre's Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea Fujian the Chinese Gong Fu Method using my Gaiwan, and I will be honest, it has been over a year I think since I brewed an Oolong Western Style, as soon as I got my Gaiwans and Yixing teapots, I never went back. So, let's have a little fun and break out the bone china teacup, shall we? The aroma of the leaves is pretty much the same as last time, a blend of sweetness, char, and richness. It starts with cocoa, tobacco, woodiness, and sweet molasses, this fades into baking bread, honey, char, and a finish of distant flowers.

Since the leaves are so big and I did not want to crush them, I tossed them into my funky thrift store find, yeah, it is part of a glass double boiler, but works really well as a small teapot, cha hai, and steeping vessel, I like using non-tea intended things as tea things. The aroma of the brewed leaves is pretty intense after that long (ok 2 minutes is not that long) of a steep, there are notes of charcoal, molasses, tobacco, wet autumn leaves, cocoa, and honey. It is thick and heavy, reminding me of a wet autumn day where the smoke hangs low in the valley. The liquid, wow, that is also pretty intense, blending the tobacco and char with the molasses and cocoa, with a tiny finish of honey.

So, this tea might have been what killed my headache, kinda like smelling salts on a fainting Victorian lady, it could not survive the potency that is Western Brewed Da Hong Pao. The taste starts off rich and stays rich till the end, with a beginning of molasses, cocoa, and spicebush. This transitions to sharp charcoal and tobacco, and oak wood with the tobacco taste lingering, giving the finish a bit of a bitter bite. Not an unpleasant bitterness, mind you, well if you are a fan of bitter things (yes, I eat kale and like my chocolate super duper dark, I love the bitter side of things) you will find this very pleasant. It is not a dry, tannic, mouth-puckering bitterness, the mouth feel is actually quite smooth.

Round two, I doubled my time and even with the longer steep noticed the aroma is milder. Not so much sweetness and richness, more woodsy with a touch of cocoa and wet leaf pile. The taste is super mild, like the aroma it is very woodsy. All the bitterness, tobacco notes, and cocoa notes are gone from this steep, I am left with oak wood, peanuts, and a touch of sweet baking bread. So the first steep was intense, I really enjoyed it, the second steep left me bored, I still prefer the journey of Gong Fu for Oolong teas, but might go Western with a Yancha next time my headache starts to rear its stupid...um...head.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Mysterious Elephant Yixing Pot Of Joy

How has everyone's Sunday been? Mine has been pretty decent, got a new set of sound blocking super-bass ear buds, so the process of slowly deafening myself with loud music is going along nicely. Also spent a little money on a new nose piercing kit, this will be the third time I have pierced my nose, the first time when I was a dumb teenager using a safety pin (so dumb! why did I do so many piercings like that, ugh) second in my mid-twenties, and now as soon as the kit arrives a third time in my late twenties. I am going hoop instead of stud this time around in hopes that it won't get stuck in my hair. Now that I am thinking about it, I need a new eyebrow ring too, I have been wearing the same one for like three years, what a fashion faux pas!
Fresh out of its wrapping, pre-bath
But enough about my various piercing fun, it is time for some funky tea gear chatting! So, this teapot is a source of joy, frustration, and mystery to me, bought as a combo gift (by combo I mean Sheena gave me a gift certificate and my mom paid the rest, knowing how I have been eyeballing this teapot since I arrived in PA) for my most recent birthday from the shop One Good Woman, a combo tea and coffee shop located in the town of Camp Hill. Let's start with the mystery part of this teapot, I know nothing about it other than it looks freaking cool. It came with a label of Oolong Teapot and a $40, and that is all the info the shop could give me, they didn't even have the original box for it anymore, and with the label being super faded I would not be surprised if it had been sitting on the shelves for a while (waiting for me, obviously.) I am not even sure this counts as a Yixing, it could be a clay pot very artistically done. Or it could be a Duan Ni, which is Zhu Ni (the red clay like my teapot devoted to Yancha is made from) mixed with other stones and minerals giving it a really massive color range.
Yep, there is a teapot in there

The clay used to make my teapot is really earthy, for lack of a better term, giving a similar apperance to what the interwebs calls Sesame (Zima) Duan Ni (in comparison with the much rarer Ben Shan Lu Ni type of Duan Ni) making it rougher in texture, duller in color, with black and red particles in it...and using it to brew Pu Erh in will cause the color to take on a rust tone. Guess what tea I seasoned this teapot for, yep, Shou Pu Erh all the way. I noticed the color intensity after a many hour soak, I was expecting the change to be more gradual, but this is perfectly fine by me.
Wow, you are so much darker!

Now, about that frustration part. This teapot was designed with form over function in mind I think, and being a complete derp I did not think about that before I fell in love with it. As soon as I got it home I tested its pour, I needed to make sure my plan of going for a Pu Erh was a good call, and if I was going to go Sheng or Shou. So I filled it up, poured...and promptly made a mess, turns out since the spout opening is higher than the top of the teapot, when I have it completely vertical to pour, it also goes out the lid. Hmmm, said I, and with a little experimenting realized I need to either not fill it entirely, or pour at an angle making for a slightly slower pour. That took Sheng out for me, which is fine, I was hoping to go Shou anyway. Also there is the way to hold the teapot, definitely a two hander (unless you have massive huge hands, or just not super tiny) because the set up of the ears/handles is certainly not normal. That part is not so much frustrating just a bit tricky at first to figure out.
Nicely signed 
The joy, by this point, should be pretty obvious. I wish I knew more about the teapot, but I am so far from an expert on the incredibly massive world of Yixing. This teapot just reminds me that I have not even really scratched the surface with regards to knowledge, history, and experience, it is amazing! After finding the best method for using this pot and playing with it, I can safely say the elephant in the room is very welcome.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Musings: Crafty Day!

So once again it is Saturday, my day to kick back and ramble about whatever. I HAVE WRITER'S BLOCK!!! I don't get it often, but when I do it is always a royal pain. Instead of writing I want to be folding my paper or working on my drawing.
This drawing, oh man, so much work to do...so much shading and detail
 I have been so into my crafty stuff this week that my brain has turned to mush. It could also be because I am pooped after going to the grocery store with my mom today. It was packed and I got a bit overloaded, do you guys ever get that when shopping in a super busy place? Usually I just block all the noise out by wearing my headphones and cranking the music (and sometimes dancing/singing because I am like that) but I realized my new Kindle Fire doesn't fit in my pocket. My mom gave me one of her old mp3 players, so in the future that problem will be fixed. Now I need to make the perfect 4GB playlist!
So this has been my last two days :P
So, in case you are curious, I have been really into making Paolo Bascetta Stars, they really look best with duo paper. I am also making a bunch of Mette Unit wreathes as possible tree ornaments, a good use for some paper that I had too few of for my standard 30 unit origami. And of course I am always making Sonobe Icosahedra, Skeletal Dodecahedra, and PHiZZ spiky balls. I adore how the PHiZZ units and the units for the Skeletal Dodecahedron are essentially the same thing with a few extra folds...boom, it goes from dodecahedron to icosahedron. Folds are fun, and now I am going to get back to them while sipping on some tea.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Persimmon Tree Tea Company: French Vanilla Bean, A Tea Review

I think I have some sort of origami themed sickness, I get out my paper to work on some pieces and next thing I know hours have passed, my teacup is empty, and I am sitting in a pile of origami. Do any of my crafty friends do this? Go into a sort of half-remembered trance and then realize 'oh, I just did a bunch of stuff' usually because your body lets you know you need to do something else (like eat.) It is both rewarding and a little strange. Clearly I am just the Cheval for the Loa of origami, and I am actually totally ok with that.

So after that slightly strange intro (clearly I need more tea, or possibly food) we are onto today's tea: The Persimmon Tree Tea Company's French Vanilla Bean. This sweet sounding tea is a blend of Organic Black Teas, Vanilla Bean, Coconut, and Almonds...those are some of my favorite things in a tea, I wonder if blended together they will be as good? Ok I already know since this tea was logged in my notebook, mwahaha I have tea spoilers! Wow, I am in an odd mood! So, how does this tea smell? Good, like really good, like a vanilla bean and almond infused biscotti dipped in chocolate with a touch of coconut sitting next to a steaming cup of rich, malty, black tea. Sniffing this tea makes me feel under-dressed and lacking elegance, clearly I should be wearing something pretty while sipping this out of fine bone china in some swanky Paris cafe.

Brewing this rich tea does not make it any better, I still feel like I am in the wrong place to be drinking this tea. At least I have a fancy teacup and nifty artisan made teapot to have my tea in. The aroma is super rich, it is sweet and heady from the vanilla, much like sniffing vanilla beans and not vanilla ice cream so it has that richness without creamy heaviness. There is also a cocoa and almond note, not really picking up the coconut though. That is because it is hiding in the aroma of the liquid! It is just a touch, but you can smell the sweet and creamy note of the coconut along with the deliciously sweet vanilla and almonds. There is also a brisk hint of black tea giving the tea a bit of a bite at the finish.

Ok, tasting time, I have my fancy bone china teacup with a matching saucer (really, the saucer is a huge deal for me) and I am ready to take my first sip. It starts out mellow and smooth while retaining the richness of the aroma, it is rich while not weighing you down, kinda like how you feel weighed down by a rich fudge but not by a rich slice of angel food cake. This blooms into a decadent blend of vanilla, almonds, malt, and cocoa, oh man is that ever rich! The coconut adds a level of creaminess to the tea in both mouthfeel and taste, luckily the amount is small so the creaminess does not slide to oily like some coconut heavy teas can do. There is a slight briskness to the tea which keeps the tea from sinking into a too intense heaviness, it wakes up the mouth after the decadence has lulled it into a stupor. The cocoa notes linger in an aftertaste for a while. I was tempted to add a splash of cream to this tea, but decided that would make it too heavy, my mom did try her cup with cream and while it was good it confirmed my suspicion (though she really liked it that way.) We ended up making an afternoon of it with many cups, this is a good afternoon tea.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Plum Deluxe: Reading Nook Blend: A Tea Review

I am pretty sure I am in a relationship with a monster...or a trickster god, you might hear people talk about the 2010 Snowpocalypse and how rough it was, that was nothing compared to what I went through. Gleepocalypse. Ben thought it would be the best thing ever to seed and like all my Pandora stations (that I have had for years) with the Glee versions of songs. Pretty soon no matter what station I was on I would be bombarded with Glee! It took so much work to get my perfectly groomed stations back to normal, and I still panic that he messed something up when a Glee song pops up, of course he laughs maniacally. So, that was today's fun story. Still don't know why people complain about the Snowpocalypse though, that was a blast!

So, for today we are having a tea specially formulated by Plum Deluxe for people who like to sip tea while doing artsy stuff, writing, or reading...which is pretty much all I do. Reading Nook is a blend of rosebuds, lavender, chamomile, passionflowers, and cream black tea, I admit I have never seen chamomile in a black tea, what a novel idea! Ok yes, I made a terrible pun, I am sorry!! The aroma is quite interesting, very floral with a mellow blend of lavender and rosy along with the familiar straw aroma of chamomile flowers. It is like sniffing a dried flower bouquet with the hint of sweet cream and malty black tea.

The brewed leaves are sweet and creamy with very strong floral notes, it is a soothing blend of lavender and chamomile with a rich heady note of rose. Under all the creamy sweetness and floral notes is a rich malt undertone that goes really well with the flowers. The liquid is much more tea and less flowers, with a nice strong malt and molasses note and a slight oak wood briskness. There are flowers of course, the blend of rose, chamomile, and lavender adds a really mellow note to the black tea. Me likes!

The idea for this blend is a little genius, I mean when you are reading or doing artsy stuff, you want to be alert and awake, but you don't want to be jittering out of your desk chair (at least I don't want to!) so adding flowers mellows the black tea out, wakes up the brain and relaxes the body. The power of taste and smell on the brain is awesome! So about that taste, it is really interesting, as expected with an unusual blend. It starts with a blend of malty briskness and straw-like chamomile flowers, this moves to creamy sweetness, rose, and lavender. The finish is sweet roses that linger for a while, and honestly inspire me to romance, but roses do that to me. I like this tea, it is a really good match for reading or intellectual pursuits (what, art is intellectual) because it adds the needed caffeine, has an interesting taste and aroma, but does not overwhelm. You can sip it and do your thing, no need to worry about a powerhouse tea that takes all your focus away from said project.
Cute bag! Plus my current crafty projects :D

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What-Cha: Fujian Qi Lan Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Oh man, I am pooped! My birthday has been great fun, in typical mom and me fashion, we went out on a thrifting day! Of course we cranked Thrift Shop (it is our theme, retroactively, for most of our lives) and hit all the shops in the area. Surprisingly (or not because I am almost broke) we did not bring home too many things. I did meet an awesome lady at one of the thrift stores, a fellow tea fan, so I had a nice bonding experience, which is always fun! Oh yeah, and my mom and Sheena combined to get me a new teapot, but more on that this weekend!

What does one review on their special day, clearly one of their favorite types of tea (yes it is an oolong) but which of the multitudes do I reach for? Yancha, definitely Yancha. Specifically What-Cha's Fujian Qi Lan Wuyi Rock Oolong, from what I can gather it is a fairly light rock oolong leaning towards the more floral side than the roasted side. That is fine by me, though I prefer the kick in your face char and tobacco notes, I do really appreciate the milder ones as well. Oh who am I kidding, have I ever met an oolong, even a really garbage one at a Chinese restaurant, that I haven't enjoyed? So, on to the Qi Lan, the aroma of the dried leaves is certainly a Yancha, I notice the tobacco and char notes that are so familiar, but they are much milder and joined by dried cherry and flowers, specifically hyacinths. Many rock oolongs are sweet, this one takes it too a whole new level, much like combining a Dan Cong and a Yancha for ultimate yummy smells.

Guess what, no surprise this tea is going into my Yancha teapot because anytime I can use my Yixing I am happy. Now don't get me wrong, Yancha is fantastic in a gaiwan, but there is something really special about Yixing teapots, a special kind of magic. The aroma of the wet leaves is a blend of chestnuts, flowers, black walnuts, roasted chestnuts, and a touch of pipe tobacco. The aroma is very complex and sweet, the floral notes are really quite light, not the headiness of orchids, more like walking in a spring garden. The liquid's aroma is sweet and creamy with notes of cocoa, chestnuts, hazelnuts, spicebush, violets, and pansies. Odd to mention pansies, but as someone who has harvested and made pansy tea MANY times (I was an odd child) I know that smell all too well.

The first thing I will say about this steep is it feels good, fancy tea folk might call this Cha Qi, it tingles and makes me feel both relaxed and focused, it is a beautiful feeling, much like my body is blending with the tea. It coats the mouth and is very smooth, the tastes starts out with walnuts and a hint of char, like a very distant and now dead fire. This transitions to sweetness, like figs and dates, two of my favorite things to eat, so extra yummy points there. It ends with a blend of toasted nuts and spring flowers.

For the second steeping, the aroma is warm and spicy, a blend of dates, cocoa, and hazelnuts with a distinct lily finish. The taste is a touch milder, there are less notes of figs more notes of nuts, definitely picking up the hazelnuts and walnuts. In the middle there is a small date themed explosion that has the same coating sensation, but instead of the entire mouth it is more of the back of the throat. The finish is lilies, this taste lingers with a nectar like sweetness for quite a while, or at the very least long enough for me to do another steep and let it get to sipping temperature.

The aroma of the third steep shares the same spicy and floral notes as the second with an added char and tobacco finish, It is a little bit like someone tossed a flower on dying coals and instead of burning the flowers released its scent to be mixed with the smell of coals. The taste has mellowed out a good bit, mostly it is a sweet blend of hazelnuts and dates with a hint of tobacco. For the finish I am left with lingering lilies and honey. This Yancha is delicious and unique, is it my new favorite? Not sure, I am not sure anything will replace my love of Shui Xian which I consume in rather insane quantities, but this will certainly be an immensely enjoyable treat. Now I shall finish my birthday by catching up on my reading!