Thursday, January 29, 2015

52Teas: Marshmallow Treat Genmaicha, A Tea Review

You know, being a creature of the internet (now you know the real reason I panicked when my computer died, I am literally made of internet) means that I tend to follow the various silly trends. #TBT (or Throw Back Thursday for those not hashtag savvy) is pretty much what it says on the tin, usually you post a selfie/photo of yourself taken a long time ago, and I thought, I should apply that to my blog. Basically it is my plan to make Thursday the day that I visit one of the neglected teas languishing in my stack of tea notebooks. I had originally planned on this being a Friday thing, but it didn't feel right, so clearly I just needed the right meme. Also, I leveled up, tonight is game night and I can turn into animals (as long as they don't fly, swim, or are too powerful) now, go Wild Shape! 
In grand TBT tradition, the photos are kinda awful

So, before I get into today's #TBT I want to point out an awesome Kickstarter that is currently in the works, Frank, the original creator of 52Teas is handing over the reigns to mother-daughter team Anne and Amethyst, you might know Anne as the cofounder of SororiTea Sisters, a very prolific tea blog, so you know that she knows her teas! I have been very hit or miss with 52teas flavors (very much so the nature of the beast when you come up with some of those wacky blends, once a week) but I am super excited to see how things go. Good luck you two, and to Frank with Southern Boys Iced Tea! So on to today's tea, it was part of the sampler I ordered during the Indiegogo campaign and I won't lie, it was the one I was most excited for because it has my much loved marshmallow root! Yes, I am talking about none other than Marshmallow Treat Genmaicha, as a person who has made and then subsequently eaten entire batches of rice crispy treats, you can see why I was excited. The aroma is sweet and slightly nutty with toasted rice, and a distinct note of grass. It reminds me a bit of laying in the grass while sniffing a rice crispy treat, the green notes are odd but not at all off putting, just like eating dessert in nature. 
The death of my photographer street cred

Steeping the tea is quite a treat, the aroma is rather delightful and intense. Notes of richly roasted rice and sweet marshmallow drift up from the soggy leaves (Genmai Cha always looks so sad once it is soggy) there is also a hint of grass and a bit of a savory note from both the rice and the green tea. The liquid without its soggy friends is all rice crispy treat all the time, no green tea to be found, just warm gooey marshmallows and toasted rice. 
To be fair, my skills lay in nature photography, indoor was a learning experience

It is an odd mingling of flavors, this tea. Starting out with slightly kelp and slightly nutty umami tones along with a hint of grass, then the roasted rice builds and then boom, marshmallow explosion! It is really quite sweet and very evocative of rice crispy treats, but with a green tea twist. Something about the umami tones and the sweetness from the marshmallow mixes really well, the umami keeps the marshmallow from being too sweet and the marshmallow keeps the tea from being too savory, it is a balancing act.  The finish is one of marshmallow, it lingers for quite a while making for a happy me. So yeah, of all the 52teas blends I have tried, this one might be my favorite, its other competition being the other marshmallow root teas, can you tell I have a fixation on that root?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What-Cha: Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Golden Tips Black Tea, A Tea Review

Today has been a glimpse of Spring in the middle of Winter, at least temperature wise, visually it is all brown and dingy, typical Kansas City Winter color pallete. Even though I am never a fan of the drab part of Winter (give me snow and evergreens, along with the green grass of central Pennsylvania and I am in seasonal bliss) it was too nice of a day for me to stay in, so off to Kauffman Gardens I went to practice some phone photography. My new phone is better than my original camera that I started photography with (a measly 3MP) at 5MP but it pales in comparison to the 12 MP camera I use for nature photography, and my dream one at 18MP, one day I will have that camera! Anyway, this little phone is not half bad, it lacks a macro lens, so I will have to make one from an old disk drive or something, lots of good tutorials for that, and of course playing with all the filters and such is fun. It is an interesting disconnect in my brain, other than cropping I rarely alter my photos taken with my camera, but with my phone I have quite a lot of fun editing them, funny ol' world we live in.

Since it is Wednesday, that means it is time to take another journey into What-Cha's epic catalog of tea in my attempt to try all of the teas. Today's tea is Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Golden Tips Black Tea, another offering from Greenland Organic Farms in East Nepal in the shadow of Mt. Kancghenjunga. You all know me well enough by now to know how much of a sucker I am for golden teas, and this tea does not disappoint, curly leaves covered in delicate golden trichomes. The aroma rich, a touch on the sweet side, but more rich than sweet. The notes are primarily roasted peanuts, malt, and a touch of sweet potatoes and stewed fruit. At the end there is the most delicate note of rose and pepper, I run into pepper quite often, but the notes of rose were a pleasant surprise.

Once I give the tea a steeping in the bat gaiwan I notice the rose and pepper aroma are much stronger, which is awesome, after that initial spicy and flowery burst there are strong notes of malt and sweet potato with a rich finish of cocoa. Where the leaves were rich the liquid is sweet, notes of sweet potato and cocoa waft out of my cha hai, yes I did have my nose stuffed in this one, luckily I did not burn it, though I do frequently tend to, especially if a tea smells good!

Ok, first steep, it has a pretty strong start, it lacks the usual mildness that a first steep has. The start is quite malty, and here is the fun part, I am skipping over the midtaste because it is even maltier at the finish, like the back of my throat is kicked with malt. The midtaste has a hint of cocoa and pepper, and the aftertaste is rich and sweet, a touch creamy.

Second steeping time, as per usual I stick my nose in my cha hai and give the tea a nice hefty sniff. I often debate when is the best time to sniff the freshly steeped tea, pre pour when it is in the cha hai or once I have poured it into a tiny cup, so far the cha hai seems more fun. The aroma of this steep is a blend of sweet potatoes and cocoa at the front and finish of rose and pepper, still really digging the rose notes. The taste is just as rich as the first steep, and pretty smooth, I would even go so far as to say it is velvety. In fact, this tea has absolutely no dryness whatsoever. The finish has a hint of pepper and leaves a sweet potato aftertaste that lingers for a while.

Third time around, the aroma is not as potent as previously, primarily there are notes of sweet potatoes and a nice hint of malt at the finish. Tasting the tea, well, it is still super velvety and smooth, just like the previous two steeps, and still pretty rich, but it is mellowing out to a sweetness. The notes that dominate this steeping are sweet potatoes and malt with a real nice peppery finish. I should point out that the peppery notes are more the taste of pepper, not the spicy heat, it is always very fascinating to me when flavor notes act like that, or my favorite, when a flavor note is present but it lacks the aroma or texture of the food (or random piece of wood if you are a weirdo like me) that it is imitating. Tea, and the way we perceive it, never stops being a thing of wonder to me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tea Leaf Co: Golden Sun Kiss, A Tea Review

I'm back, baby! Yeah, yeah, I had to start out with a Futurama quote, I mean how could I not? I am typing from my new computer and Bender is a walking computer, so it fits. It is good to have my own computer again, even if technically I am renting it until I have it paid back, well kinda, I am telling Ben it is our computer meaning he can use it whenever he wants, and once I have it paid back it will be mine, all mine, MWAHAHAHA. Yours truly is weird when it comes being in debt, and Ben makes sure to tell me I am being ridiculous quite often.  The computer is pretty great, I have determined that I can definitely play Minecraft on it (thank the tech gods!) and the keyboard is the perfect size for my tiny hands. However this computer has possible the worst speakers and mouse I have ever used, the speakers I have an immediate fix for, but I lack an external mouse. I plan on somehow scrounging up some money and buying a Logitech Trackball mouse again, it was the one I used for years with my old desktop and I adored it.

Enough of the computer talk though, this is not a tech blog (well it is kind of a geek blog) it is a tea blog, and it is always time for tea! Today's tea goes out to all my snowed in people on the East Coast (I am so jealous of your snow) Tea Leaf Co's (Tea LC) Golden Sun Kiss, Organic Citrus Oolong. This is a blend of Oolong (specifically from Wuyi) Citrus Peel and Slices, and Natural Essence. The essence made me rather excited, because it means that most likely the tea will smell like intense citrus instead of the bathroom spray favored by my grandparents once upon a time (best bathroom air freshener ever, but do not want my consumables tasting like it) now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with artificial flavors and such, I love candy as much as the next person, there are just certain flavors that I do not like, and orange is one of those. So, giving the leaves a sniff and whoa, hello Orange Julius! In case you live in part of the world where those don't exist (I am so sorry) it is a mix of ice cream and orange juice for a super creamy cup of yum...you can also say it smells like orange sherbet. It very much so mixes creamy notes and orange, under these notes are delicate honeysuckle and a tiny touch of earthiness. Me likes the way this smells, but I am a sucker for Orange Julius (Julii is the correct plural I believe.)

I decided to go Western style for this one, though it was tempting to brew it Gongfu style because it is an Oolong and I find myself always drawn to breaking out the gaiwans. The leaves look quite lovely in my little steeping apparatus (if I start calling it the Alchemy steeper, will you know what I mean, I use it so often that hopefully so.) The leaves have that same delightful Orange Julius aroma along with pepper, sweet cream, distant blooming honeysuckles and a touch of orchids, and lastly a tiny bit of grapefruit. The liquid, well, I burned the tip of my nose because I stuck it in the tea, such a graceful creature am I! The aroma is very sweet, a blend of cream, a touch of citrus, and a distinct aroma of orange blossoms, it is delightfully floral and citrus, reminding me of my orange blossom water that I occasional bathe with. The very definition of decadent.

So funny story, as is usual I tasted this tea and wrote notes about it before I wrote the blog, at the time of tasting (it was yesterday, as those who instagram stalk me know) Ben was home, relaxing a bit before work, when I take my first sip and make such a racket that he insisted on having some, at first I refused to share and then relented. I was reluctant because about I would say 80% of Oolongs Ben does not care for, but he took a sip and said 'That actually tastes really good' and handed my cup back to me. So always nice to find a tea that one of the most picky tea sippers I know actually likes. As for how it actually tastes, well, it tastes like an Orange Julius mixed with delightfully floral tea, it is primarily fresh oranges and vanilla cream, this creaminess lasts into the midtaste, and the the finish is flowers. Specifically it is a blend of orange blossoms and honeysuckle, the honeysuckle lingers into the aftertaste for quite a while. In case you are a person who wants a little tea romance for Valentines Day, Tea LC is having a neat little Teagram promo, always a fan of themed promotions.

Monday, January 26, 2015

One More Day!

The day after a twelve hour game of Twilight Imperium always feels a little odd. Yesterday I spent the entire day getting curb stomped which was disheartening, but I did learn that the Naalu suck and playing that strategy intense of a game on three hours sleep also sucks. Today I feel pretty pooped, but also very excited because my computer arrives tomorrow, meaning today I will relax, tomorrow will be the start of a very busy week. I leave you with a picture of tea to come.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Nepali Tea Traders: Himalayan Masala Spiced Black Tea Blend, A Tea Review

Alright guys, let's see how awesome my phone actually is, because yours truly does not feel like dealing with crowds today. The library is always crowded on weekends, and those crowds are all angling for the computer.


Today's tea comes from Nepali Tea Traders and their #steepedin campaign that sent out many free samples, so it is fitting that I am using my phone to review it, pictures and all! Himalayan Masala Spiced Black Tea Blend is an Autumn Flush blended with spices and I am pretty sure Holy Basil, it certainly smells like it. And of course speaking of smell, the aroma of the tea (which came to me in a pyramid bag, but the material inside looked like quality tea, so I opened it up) is quite yummy, mixing the fairly song holy basil with fennel, sweet spices, pepper and warmed raisins. It has a very warming quality along with being somewhat refreshing, probably the fennel doing that.


Well, my room smells like spices now, always fun! The aroma of the wet leaves is warm and spicy, a blend of sweet fennel, honey, raisins, pepper, and a gentle finish off holy basil. The tea itself, well the liquid part anyway, has a brisk quality to it, along with warm spices and a distinct fennel finish. 

I decided to forgo my usual cream and sugar, I just felt like these spices needed to be appreciated without the milk fat and extra sweetness, plus, I was not in the mood for cream, weird I know. So, tasting, it starts out with a decent level of sweetness from the fennel and spices along with a mild and enjoyable briskness. This transitions into a nicely mild spice blend, the cinnamon and cardamom give a warmth too the whole sipping experience. At the finish there is holy basil and its herbaceous taste lingers for quite a while finishing the tea with a cooling quality, exactly what I would expect from a tea from Nepal!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Trader Leaf: Sri Lanka Spice Chai, A Tea Review

Well, last night's campaign went well, we killed lots of undead things, none of my fireblasts backfired and lit me or the party on fire, and I talked to a cow for important plot details. Being a Druid is fun, now if only I could hurry and level up so that I can start turning into random wild animals, then things will really get real. And for anyone anxiously awaiting news on the computer kerfuffle, 4-7 business days until it arrives, the wait might drive me crazy, but that means it is only a short time before I can resume some semblance of normality and get caught up on all my internet stuff. Also, one last little blip of me related info, there are two new buttons on my blog, one linking to my Instagram and a donation button, I figured it would be a less obtrusive way to possibly generate a little income, and it keeps with my promise of not running ads.


So, now tis time for some Chai! Actually it is always time for chai, since chai just means tea in Hindi (and several other language) so yeah, when you are ordering Chai Tea at a restaurant, technically you are just ordering tea tea. Fun linguistics aside, today we are looking at Trader Leaf's Sri Lanka Spice Chai, a blend of Black Tea, Coriander, Cumin, Curry, Sweet Fennel, Cinnamon, Cardamon, and Lemongrass leaves, quite the unusual blend! I am a fan of Chai blends that go out of the norm, and teas that incorporate spices that are usually just used for food. The aroma of this tea is intense, it is a blend of curry and cumin, coriander and cardamon, and a very rich malty black tea base. It blends the aroma of food and tea really well and manages to make me both hungry and thirsty.

After giving the leaves a steeping, the other spices start to really show their stuff, the cinnamon and cardamon being the strongest and giving an edge of sweetness to a mostly savory spiced tea. Underneath the previous spices is a blend of rich malt, curry, and cumin. The liquid is quite rich, blending sweet and spicy in a really quite perfect little dance. It smells much like a malty Masala Chai sitting right next to a steaming bowl of curry, or my usual dream lunch.

Taken the traditional way with milk and sugar (ok, I use half&half, but I like mine super rich) and let me start out by saying, that is one super rich tea, cream aside! I barely noticed the creamy richness over that strong malt and killer spices. It starts out with intense curry and cumin, then transitions to coriander and fennel, and after that hello cardamon and cinnamon! The finish is sweet with a cumin aftertaste that lingers. This is the perfect chai for a hot day, it warms you up and makes you feel all tingly and relaxed, plus I love the blending of curry spices and more typical Masala spices, this might be one of my favorite spice blends for a chai.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Golden Tips Tea: Halmari Gold Assam Black Tea Second Flush (Clonal), A Tea Review

Guess what, it is game night! Also it is computer ordering time, yes my oh so wonderfully tech savvy boyfriend has found the perfect computer for me and is ordering it. I do not know much about it other than the screen is big, it is not Vista (I am free of the curse!) and I will probably be able to play Minecraft on it. So for all the terrible angst I have been going through with not having a computer, it looks like it will be having a happy ending. Also, guys, wish me luck that I do not manage to either blow myself up or damage my fellow party members in tonight's D&D game!

Today we are taking a look at Golden Tips Tea's Halmari Gold Assam Black Tea Second Flush (Clonal) a fuzzy golden tea from Assam, how neat! I have seen very fuzzy golden teas from places other than China, but the glorious fuzzy golds have become iconic to me, I always get excited seeing them from somewhere else. From the Halmari Tea Estate, these leaves come from the P126 Clonal bushes and are picked under very special circumstances, and of course, they are the highest grade of leaves with the GTGFOP grading. The aroma of these lovely fuzzies is pretty rich, a blend of maltiness that you expect from a high grade Assam, along with potent notes of cocoa, roasted peanuts, cooked cherries, and a subtle woodiness at the finish.

Into my fancy little steeping double boiler tea alchemy thingy the leaves go! After a nice steeping (thank you oh great and fancy timer app, though I am pretty sure programming it to sound like a Creeper hiss is going to bite me one day) the aroma of the leaves is again, very rich. There are notes of the expected malt, along with pepper, roasted peanuts, and a distinct oak wood undertone. The liquid is pretty much identical, it is very rich and malty, both the aroma of the leaves and the liquid is very rich and not at all sweet.

This tea wakes you up if you are asleep, I was expecting a rich and mild tea, again spoiled by Chinese fuzzy teas, what I got was an intense Assam. I have not had a straight Assam in a while, it used to be my go to black tea to drink, especially in the mornings, I loved the way its bold flavors wake you up and make you alert. The taste is very malty and accompanied by roasted peanuts and oak wood. There is a bit of an astringency to it, but it avoids being bitter, just super brisk. At the finish there is a bit of sweetness that lingers, like distant stewed cherries. Thank you Halmari Gold, I had forgotten my love of Assam's intensity.