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!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teavivre: Nonpareil Anxi Yun Xiang TieGuanYin Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

It is my birthday tomorrow, so as expected the subject of cake came up with my mom. Since this is the first year in a very long time that I am gluten free, this is a bit of a conundrum, do I want to try a gluten free version of a favorite cake or try something new? We were going to make a really amazing cheesecake (one of my favorite recipes) but the goat cheese in this part of the world for some reason costs an arm, leg, and a goat. After spending an hour wandering around the store trying to come up with a solution we finally gave up and chose some fudge. Life is complicated sometimes (kinda like my birth, sorry mom!)

Today's tea has nothing to do with cake or fudge, except that I think it tastes really good with either of those. Teavivre's Nonpareil Anxi Yun Xiang TieGuanYin Oolong Tea, a Fujian oolong which is made in the traditional manner of roasting (rather than the more vibrantly green ones that have become popular as of late) which requires a lot of extra work. The Yun Xiang (roasted) kind of Tie Guan Yin was the first oolong I fell in love with back when I was in high school working at a tea/coffee shop almost fifteen years ago. Memories! The aroma is richly roasted, as expected, with notes of char, roasted chestnuts, walnuts, pecans...this is a nutty tea! Finish that off with a distant orchid aroma and you have a very intense aroma, I do suggest sitting down if sniffing this tea.

Into my roasted oolong dedicated Yixing teapot the rolled leaves go for their bath. After their first steeping, the leaves let out a powerful blend of char and toasted nuts. The fire roasted chestnut aroma coming out of the leaves really makes me wish I had access to a fire place and free chestnuts (ah, those were the days.) The liquid has the same roasted nuts and char aroma but with caramelized sugar and a touch of flowers giving the tea a layer of sweetness.

That is a smooth start, smooth and rich, it begins with chestnuts and caramelized sugar, this transitions to black walnut, and lastly it finished with a touch of smoke and char. The mouth feel is almost velvety and thick, it is definitely a whole mouth tea.

Onto steep two! The aroma is very similar to the first, except someone upped the nut-ometer (this is a thing now, and it is a good thing) I mean holy moly that is a lot of roasted nuts, there are chestnuts, pecans, walnuts, and a nice finish of orchids. The taste does not disappoint, it starts out sweet, like caramelized sugar and flower nectar and builds into roasted nuts. The roasted nuts linger until it fades into char which stays as an aftertaste for a bit.

The third steep, well, I got lost in memories a bit. It is sweeter in both aroma and taste, there is still a strong roasted nut presence, but the sweetness and flower nectar have a much stronger presence. This tea is a much higher caliber than the first one I tried, or even the Yun Xiang Tie Guan Yin that was my everyday tea for many years, but it has the familiarity that always puts me in a nostalgic state. That moment when I first made the Tie Guan Yin and took my first sip, it was like something exploded in my brain, it was a moment of pure bliss that I will never forget, my tea awakening.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Depravitea: Keep Calm And Chai On, A Tea Review

I swear I have had the attention span of a marmot today (I actually have no idea how their attention span is) it has been all over the place. Not really sure why I assume that marmots have really scattered attention spans, but it just works for me. It all started with mom's landlord unexpectedly deciding to work on the water, with no warning, so on and off all day we had no water. My day was thrown off the moment I was unable to get a shower this morning, I am just glad I filled my kettle up before the water popped off.

Today's tea comes from a company whose whole persona (do tea companies have personas?) really fits with a certain side of my personality most of my readers don't see. The very sarcastic, raunchy, foul mouthed...I would even go so far as to say, depraved side! Depravitea's Keep Calm And Chai On is probably their most tame tea, description wise, so perhaps it is the best to start with as an introduction to this company's oeuvre. This particular chai is a blend of black teas, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, anise seeds (all organic) and natural spice flavor. Opening the little pouch and whoa, that is a kick in the face of sweet cinnamon, after that initial spice punch there is a mellow blend of cardamon and anise. I love the anise, it is one of my favorite things to have in tea, mmm licorice, so bravo for that. The base tea is rich and a bit malty, this is a surprisingly sweet chai, which I like.

Brewing the tea turns the tea area into a crazy spice emporium, seriously so much cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, with just a pinch or anise. It smells like my favorite aisle in the Indian market I haunt on occasion (ok, I only haunt it when visiting my mom.) There are also sweet molasses and malty notes that are hiding under the spice explosion, after the proverbial dust clears, you get a good sniff of the base tea.  The liquid is creamy and sweet, and this is pre-milk and sugar, lots of spices and molasses with a touch of malt, surprisingly balanced spices.

For all the super spices in the wet leaves, this chai is politely mellow. I admit I was expecting a powerful punch of cinnamon and cloves, but instead I get a balanced warmth of the 'spicy' spices and an only slightly milder caress of cardamon. I always feel like cardamon is like a caress, like a headrub when you have a splitting headache, I really like cardamon. The anise is also present, it sneaks in at the finish, along with the molasses and malty blend of the base black tea. The aftertaste leaves my mouth feeling tingly from the spices, along with a sweetness that lingers. One really funny thing about this chai was my mom's reaction, I gave her a sip (as I have been doing with the teas I have been tasting while I have been visiting) and she took a sip...and then refused to give me my cup back! I enjoyed the chai, but she went bonkers for it, so naturally I let her have the rest of my cup.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Rambling About Tea Pets

You all might have noticed that little frogs show up a lot with my tea reviews, these super cute little clay amphibians are Tea Pets. Tea pets are awesome, traditionally made from Yixing clay, these little (or big, depending) things are made to keep the tea drinker company. Like any friend who has tea with you, you give it a little bath of tea to 'raise' it, much like seasoning a beloved teapot. You know what, maybe just give your friends a cup, bathing them in tea could be a quick way to end said friendship.

Of course traditions are always changing, you can now get tea pets that change color when pouring hot water on them or little boys that pee. Apparently those are considered cute, but if I wanted a squirting tea pet, mine would be a spitting frog or something along those lines. I have always found the pee pee boy a little creepy.

If you are like me, you toss tradition out the window and decide that anything can be a tea pet, as long as it keeps you company while drinking your tea. I have my miniatures join me for tea quite often, the Dropzone Commander Prowlers like to ride on the frogs, and the Eldritch Demon (who is legally distinct from Cthulhu, we swear) has a great love for Shou Puerh.

But if you do want tradition, luckily there is a humongous army of tea pets out there to keep you company. You can delve into symbolism and have a Pi Xiu for protection and wealth, a koi for success in your endeavors, or you zodiac sign for extra luck.

Of course you can always go the frog route like me, good old Jin Chan, the three legged money frog. I saw the three legged frog holding a coin in plenty of Chinese restaurants and shops, but it wasn't until my late teenage years when I became obsessed with Feng Shui that I learned what it actually was. There are several legends around about Jin Chan, but my favorite is the one where Jin Chan was a demon vanquished by Lui Hai, to make amends for his ill deeds he pledged to help people. Of course he helps people by finding wealth for them, I certainly wouldn't say no to wealth, but mostly I keep my frogs (and my actual statue of Jin Chan) around because frogs make me immensely happy.

Just because I have a family of frogs does not mean my quest for tea pets is over! One day I hope to have an octopus, which is probably one of my favorite animals (rivaled only by snails, crows, and crabs) and one of Zhuge Liang, one of my favorite people from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Ok, he is just probably one of my historical figures and it is not fair to have Guan Yu represented and not Zhuge Liang.

So long story short, tea pets are awesome. Having a little friend to have tea with you is a treat, after a while you start to notice that they have their own personalities and names. So now you know who Roger, Wilco, Morse, Mayday, and SOS are! I am so glad that Crimson Lotus Tea had them, because they are perfect for my rather smallish tea area.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Bit of Geeky Rambling: Saturday's Musing

I realize my Saturdays have drifted off course a bit since I came out to Pennsylvania (and my side trip to South Carolina) because as much as I love my people in this side of the country, they are not gamers. Ok, that is not true, Dusty is a gamer, but he is a video gamer more than a board gamer or RPGer. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I mean I spend huge chunks of time playing Minecraft! I am just used to geeking out over new games from game nights and awesome crafting projects, and both of those have gone to the wayside a bit.
Dusty got a sticker and gave it to me to add to my collection :P
Which is nonsense! Time to talk about gaming! Halo: The Master Chief Collection just came out and oh man, is that a disaster. Dusty is a long time Halo player, my mom and I are long time Halo watchers. Oddly neither of us play it, but we love watching Dusty kill dudes (be killed by dudes) and of course all tea-bagging, insults, and general insanity that is Halo. The three of us gathered on the couch ready for some nostalgic Halo action...and boy is the music and background on the matchmaking screen pretty. Really, I think of the time we spent watching Halo, 85% of it has been waiting for a match, this is one of the biggest launch screw-ups I have seen in a while. Really lovely music though, an endless loop of Gregorian chanting.
Support the Show!
But we don't just sit around watching Dusty play FPSs, we also watch random videos, sometimes Rooster Teeth, sometimes Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, and also the awesome series Doraleous & Associates. I was familiar with the creator's other series Mob Squad and Battlefield Friends (both of which I love, especially Mob Squad) so finding out about a series dedicated to the Fantasy Genre made me rather excited. Yeah, I loved it, the characters are awesome, the stories are fantastic, and the jokes had me spewing tea out my nose multiple times. Also, Neebs, he might be my favorite thing in the show (and ever) and I am so tempted to make my next RPG character inspired by him. Sad thing is I am pretty sure the other players and the DM would kill me (and in the game.) I mean how can you not love an elf with a mullet?
Witches Brew Smoothie and Origami
So yeah, that has been my nerdy side lately. I plan on working on some origami soon, I am a bit worried because my hands have been giving me problems lately, but I am hoping the pain is from being out of practice and not my carpal tunnel syndrome acting up. Wish me luck! Also painting will happen soon too, I got my hands on some sweet vintage miniatures and my mom gave me access to her paints, just waiting on my brushes to arrive.
That is some Klockenbooty