Thursday, May 24, 2018

Vacation Mode! Be Back May 30th

I am taking a mini vacation, both from the blog and from civilization....well kinda. Rita (Ben's sister) rented a cabin for the family to stay in for the weekend, it is in a nice park way out in the middle of nowhere near Lake Michigan, which sounds like standard fancy camping, right? Well here is where it gets fun, this weekend is her local SCA's retreat and we are all going to that.

SCA, or Society for Creative Anachronism, is a living history group dedicated to the celebration and preservation of pre-17th century Europe. Granted each local group has its own rules with regards to century cutoff and cultures (which is good since I am not going to be medieval Europe because I do not own any clothes of that nature, I am going to be dressed in the style of medieval India) It has similarities with LARPing and me being a history buff I have always been fascinated with it, plus Ben's family has a long history of being involved with the group.

And for anyone curious, yes I am bringing tea! There is electricity in the cabin we are staying in so I have been agonizing over what tea to bring. I plan on having a lot of grandpa style teas and maybe bring some suitable to be brewed over a campfire.

So, see you all when I get back with my normal scheduled blog next Wednesday! On a finishing note, Ben and I found this ancient 'A' in the lake after a storm....it was weird...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Trishnna Tea: Fireball Green Tea, A Tea Review

So, while browsing around on Instagram the other day I saw an ad for the new Fahrenheit 451 movie and I admit I am curious because I have a great deal of love for Dystopian works. Some of my favorite movies are 60s and 70s Dystopias, many of my favorite books are set in futuristic Dystopias. Sadly the reviews coming in so far for this adaptation are not too kind, saying it is favoring flashy visuals and missing the whole point of the work and that saddens me. Still not sure I am going to watch it because it takes me forever to get around to watching stuff, but I am glad to see more people getting exposed to one of my favorite books!

Today I am taking a break from my normal hot tea to break out the cold steeping, I decided to look at Trishhna Tea's Fireball Green Tea cold steeped instead of with hot water. It is a blend of Organic Green Tea (From India, it says single origin but I am not sure from where exactly) Almonds, Cinnamon, Cardamon, Saffron, and Rose Petals, some of my all time favorite ingredients to have in a tea blend. The aroma of the tea is as expected, similar to a masala chai, with strong notes of cinnamon and cardamon, there are also strong sweet notes of roses and almonds with undertones of the slightly earthy and floral saffron. I do not get much aroma of the tea itself since it is blended with a substantial amount of spices and roses, as they are very potent notes.

After letting the tea cold steep in my fridge all day, it is time finally to dig in, sadly I picked the coolest day so far this week to do it (oops) but it is still a pleasant day to have some cold tea. The aroma of the tea is rather rosy with strong notes of spices, the cardamon being stronger than the cinnamon. The taste is sweet and fairly light, with the strongest notes being cardamon and rose, followed by cinnamon, saffron, and almond. The finish is a pleasant green crispness that gives the warm spices a very refreshing accompaniment. Overall I was rather fond of this tea iced, I tried it a few times hot and liked it, but found my favorite way to drink it was cold, it really brought the rose taste to the forefront and with my long standing love of roses, it is not a surprise that it was my favorite way to consume the tea.

Tea sent for review

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Teas & Trees: Erodas and Sideritis, Looking at Cretan Herbal Teas

Each culture of the world has its own native herbs that it turns into some sort of tea like drink, it is actually one of my passions, finding out all the various plants that people around the world drink, be it for medicinal reasons or just because it tastes good, it is a good way to try something new and learn about a culture's medical and culinary tradition. Today I am finishing out the teas sent to me by Teas & Trees, from the home of the Minoan Civilization, and possibly with a history as old, Erodas and Sideritis!

Sideritis

Also known as Mountain Tea, Malotira, Shepard's Tea, or Ironwort, it was known as a bit of a panacea back in the time of the Ancient Greeks (the name sideritis is a reference to its ability to heal wounds made of Iron) and I am no professional herbalist so I won't make the same claim, I will say it is immensely soothing to drink during allergy season! The aroma of the wonderfully fuzzy (and certainly not small) leaves, stems, and flower stalks is sweet, like fresh hay and flower pollen, with undertones of camphor, sage, and dill. It is a very herbaceous....well...herb, but it is on the sweet side over green or savory. This tea takes well to gongfuing and western style, the taste is light and sweet, with notes of sage and dill, honey and pollen, with a slightly citrus and menthol finish. The texture is really fun, light while also being thick and with an immense amount of fuzzies! If you are going the gongfu route it can get a bunch of steeps!

Erodas

You probably know this one as Dittany of Crete, it is probably the plant's more common name, this plant also has quite the history of medicinal properties, even being mentioned in the Aeneid where Venus uses it to heal Aeneas (I would have just left him injured, he is kinda a jerk) I of course can't help but wonder if it was used by Venus because its association with love or became a plant associated with love because of that scene in the Aeneid. The aroma of this tea (also immensely fuzzy, with very pretty leaves) is a blend of sage, celery, parsley, thyme, and menthol, not a lot of sweetness here, this one is all herbaceous and green. Steeping this tea was a blast, it is so fuzzy, and all the trichomes happily floating on top of the water was very pretty, also the few leaves that escaped my gaiwan and floated in my fish cup reminded me of lily pads. Wow, this tea is fuzzy! The mouthfeel is ticklish and very cooling, I feel as though I just had a burst of mint's cooling goodness in my mouth. The taste is very green and herbaceous, notes of sage, celery, parsley, thyme, with a touch of bitterness at the finish that is not at all unpleasant, very much so the bitterness of herbs, I found it pleasantly refreshing. This cooling and fuzzy tea is perfect on allergy day (as is sideritis) and feel very soothing when your throat is ragged from coughing!

Both teas sent for review

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Chai Chun: Goomtee Royal Classic First Flush 2018, A Tea Review

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there! My mom and grandmother are too blastedly far away, and my cats have once again forgotten me on this holiday, so my mother's day is a bit sad. I will probably be drowning my sorrows at Costco later today, I have a fierce need for crackers and printer ink, and to graze on samples like one does. Anyway, that is all I have to say so onto tea, the real reason you all are here.

Looking at Chai Chun's Royal Classic First Flush 2018 White Tea from Goomtee Tea Estate. I thought at first that this was a particularly green first flush black (and let us be honest, first flush Darjeeling black teas are only kinda black teas) but no, it is a fluffy very green in color white tea! It is a very pretty tea, with all different shades of mottled green and a touch of white trichome fuzz on some of the sizable leaves, it makes for a good showing. The aroma of the leaves is potent, very fresh and very aromatic, with surprisingly green notes of sage, cucumber, lettuce, celery, fresh hay, and radish sprouts, this tea smells much more savory than sweet.

That pretty abruptly changes once the leaves have had a dance in the water, once I poured off the tea and removed the lid to smell the leaves I was flattened by a stampede of sweetness. Honey and sweet green grapes mix with intense floral (hyacinth specifically) notes with undertones of celery and sage. It smells pretty mouthwatering! The aroma of the tea itself was pretty light compared to the leaves, but it is still sweet and refreshing.

I have been nursing this tea all day, it goes the distance with resteeps, as of steep four it still is giving out a strong and very pleasant flavor. The first two steeps are immensely sweet and thick, like warm honey and flower nectar mixed with white grape juice and wildflower pollen. There are undertones of celery and lettuce with a hint of sugar cane juice at the finish that becomes stronger at the aftertaste and lingers for a while. Then the third steep comes out of nowhere and threw me for loop, instead of the expected intense nectar sweetness I got...green chilies. Specifically it reminds me of one of my favorite breakfast foods, these frozen Khaman Dhokla cakes covered in green chilies and with a really delicious cilantro chutney sandwiched between them. I have no idea why the tea suddenly tastes like breakfast but I have no complaints, it is deliciously refreshing and crisp, the finish is a bit of sweetness and green bell peppers with lettuce and linger on the subtle sugar cane sweetness. The fourth steep is a bit like the first two and the third, combining sweet and vegetal, but man...that third steep was an adventure! I keep being really impressed by Chai Chun's offerings and need to go on a shopping spree before too long.

Tea sent for review.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Yunomi: Koukaen Tea Factory: Nishio Tencha, Comparing Two Tencha!

I have to admit, today's blog post has me way too excited, not only do I get to do a side by side of two different Tencha, they are from the same year (vintage 2016), same factory (Koukaen Tea Factory), same region(Nishio)...what makes them different is their cultivar. Reviewing Tencha is something I have wanted to do on the blog for a while, so I am glad it is starting with such an interesting comparison. We have one that is a Yabukita and one that is Samidori, Yabukita is most often made into Sencha (not being the best suited for Matcha, the inevitable end goal of most Tencha) and Samidori is most commonly made into Matcha and Gyokuro, so there is a pretty big difference between them.

Yabukita

First up, the Yabukita, the aroma of this tea is not what I expected! It is floral, like cherry and apple blossoms! There are also notes of freshly broken leaves, fresh grass, and undertones of soybeans, I would not say this tea smells savory, more light, fresh, and green like a spring day complete with blooming fruit trees. Brewing it up gives it a touch more sweetness, much like fresh hay, but mostly after steeping the aroma stays the same. Tasting this tea, well, it tastes like nectar! Again notes of fruit tree blossoms (definitely apple and cherry) giving it that combination of pollen, very light floral sweetness and a touch of nuttiness I most often associate with fruit blossoms. Along side these notes are gentle hay and corn silk adding to the overall sweetness. The finish is a light soybean and wildflower honey note that sticks around quite a while. Overall this tea was light and very pleasant, perfect for the warm spring weather!

Samidori
This was a bit more of what I was expecting from a Tencha (I have had Tencha before, just for reasons could not blog about it, it was tough!) The aroma is nutty and sweet, like chestnuts and sesame seeds with strong undertones of cut hay, sweetgrass, and a finish of crisp fresh soybeans. Brewing it up gives it a more sharp fresh vegetation and savory toasted seaweed undertone, which goes well with the nuttiness. The taste is wonderfully sweet with a pleasant thickness in the mouthfeel, notes of fresh sprouts, soybeans, sweetgrass, watercress, water chestnut, and sweet chestnut blend together for a refreshing and combination of savory and sweet taste that is honestly pretty amazing. The aftertaste is vegetal, much like lettuce and with a refreshing cooling finish that lingers for a short time. I really enjoyed this tea and I am glad the sample sent has enough for a few sessions!

I greatly enjoy Tencha, it might be my favorite Japanese green tea, it combines the best aspects of Matcha, Sencha, and Gyokuro I think. Plus it is versatile, you can brew it like a Sencha (like I did for the reviews) and get a light, sweet and very refreshing drink...or you can brew it like Gyokuro and get an umami bomb. Cold steep it, grandpa steep it, flash steep it with high heat...it can take it and give you something delicious!

Teas sent for review

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Teas & Trees: Mornin' Mix, A Tea Review

So, recently I had a poll on a couple of my social media places to see if my readers liked the new style of structured reviews versus my old rambles...and it was pretty clear, y'all liked the nonsense...so that is what you are going to get! I am actually pretty glad about this, on the one hand the longer rambles take more work, but on the other they are more fun! Being stuck in a review form box was a little tedious so back to the familiar rambling, my mile-a-minute brain is happier with a more free flowing form.

Today's tea is an herbal tea from Crete, by way of Teas & Trees, their Mornin' Mix is a blend of Marjoram, Mountain Tea (aka Sideritis) and Diktamus (aka Dittany of Crete...yes the splinching herb) and boy is it ever wonderfully fuzzy! I don't know what it is, but these herbs from Crete are just loaded with trichomes, the only one that isn't a wooly plant ball is marjoram, and it still is fairly fuzzy. Like the blend I reviewed last week, this tea smells of food! Combining a more savory herbaceous aroma of marjoram with the equally herbaceous but more green notes of Diktamus and Sideritis (fun fact, I will be looking at both individually soon in a side by side post) I can see why this is a tea for morning, because that smell is super invigorating and refreshing.

I love fuzzy teas, I find they add an interesting texture when drinking it and seeing all the little hairs floating around the cup is fun, however steeping them can be a pain since they (unsurprisingly float) and I had to use a spoon to shove them under the water...kinda. So I let this tea steep for quite a while, a good five minutes I would say (I have steeped this tea and the Sideritis and Dikatmus longer and they can definitely take it, so if you are like me and easily distracted and leave this tea steeping for like half an hour, it is still quite drinkable!) The aroma of the steeped leaves is wonderful if you have allergies (curses, tree pollen!) combining notes of kitchen herbs (think thyme, sage, and oregano...not surprising when you see these herbs have the same phenols as those!) and a nice camphorous undertone.

This tea is freaking delicious! I have lately re-awakened my love of herbal teas, thanks in part to a mild hernia that has blissfully mostly eased up to a tolerable level, not being able to guzzle teas at my normal rate meant I needed herbal teas. The herbals from Tea & Trees have become some of my favorites lately, I have been fortunate to have had most of these herbs from other places before but the ones offered by Teas & Trees taste so fresh and clean, reminiscent of my own foraged herbs. Anyway, the taste, it is savory and crisp with blends of sage, thyme, oregano, and a bit of sweet hay and camphor at the finish. If you are like me and have the attention span of no and might get overly excited about a much awaited package arriving (yes it was the stationary one I was gushing about on Instagram) and let your tea go cold, never fear because it is super yummy cold too! I might actually like it better cold and I am tempted it make a pitcher of it iced to have in my fridge for breakfasts. The subtle sweetness that is present when it is hot becomes much less subtle, and the combination of herbaceous notes with wildflower honey and sweetgrass is wonderful! Stay tuned, next time I cover some of their teas (either next Wednesday or the one after) it will be doing a side by side of Sideritis and Diktamus, showing how two herbs from the same island can be very similar and vastly different!

Teas sent for review

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Chai Chun Tea: A Pair of Glenburn Oolongs, A Tea Review

Today I get to have fun with spring harvests and Oolongs from Darjeeling, and that is perfect because it perfect spring weather! We had a massive storm last night, are supposed to have more today, and I got to comfortably sit with my feet in the lake (still a bit too brisk for actual swimming though) so I wanted a tea to reflect the season, I also get the distinct pleasure of pitting an autumn and spring harvested Oolong against each other and that is awesome. Both of these teas made their way to me from Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling, one of my favorite tea estates, via Chai Chun and getting them was an adventure! They went to my old address and were not forwarded as they should have been so I had to jump through some hoops to actually get the tea, and now that I have it I can say it was worth the hoop jumping.

Moonshine First Flush 2018

Woo, my first 2018 tea of the year! This fluffy leafed Oolong is beautiful, with silvery buds, green and mottled brown leaves, and you know what, it also smells beautiful. Notes of hyacinth and honeysuckles mix with fresh juicy grapes, and cucumber giving it a great refreshing green finish. The taste is light and sweet, notes of wildflower honey, apple peel, green grapes, broken hay, cucumber, and honeysuckles make for a very juicy and refreshing cup. The mouthfeel is also light, feeling though it is dancing around my mouth rather than being heavy with its sweetness. This is very much so a tea I want to drink while hiking, or late in the afternoon when I need a pick-me-up in the form of a light tea rather than a heavier black tea.

Glenburn Autumn Flush

This very much so looks like the autumnal version of the Moonshine tea, darker in color (both the leaves and the amber rather than golden liquid) and heavier in profile. They are similar and yet contrast wildly, and that is one of the things I love about doing these side by sides. The aroma of this tea is densely sweet, with strong notes of apricots and dark grapes, reminding me a bit of jam. Combine that with the undertones of nutty baked goods and I swear this tea smells of scones with jam and now I am hungry for that. Steeping up the tea, the mouthfeel is still light (say compared to a black or a really dense Taiwanese Oolong) but compared to the spring Oolong it is much heavier with an almost sticky feeling to it. The taste is sweet and nutty, blending dried apricots and rich muscadines with undertones of a slightly brisk woodiness akin to oak wood. It too is refreshing, but the way biting into a warm meal is rather than standing out in a cool breeze on a hot day like the spring Oolong is. These two are not quite night and day, but they certainly are spring and autumn!

Teas sent for review