Saturday, November 30, 2013

Verdant Tea: Earl of Anxi, A Tea Review

I have a sad confession, I have been staring at my computer screen for about five minutes with writer's block. I am not blocked with writing about tea, I just cannot think of a good introduction to today's blog. So just imagine I said something amazingly witty or incredibly geeky and I shall carry on with today's tea!
One of the prettiest teas ever! Look at the size of the Jasmine!
Earl of Anxi by Verdant Tea is a blend made from Autumn Harvest Tieguanyin, Organic Orange Peel, Organic Jasmine, Wildcrafted Frankincense Resin, Organic Goji Berry, and Organic Saffron. When I read the list of ingredients my mind did this little freak-out and fizzled a bit...that is a crazy decadent tea that blends some of my favorite things! Tieguanyin (or Tie Kuan Yin) is probably my favorite Oolong, Frankincense is one of my favorite aromas, and saffron is one of my favorite flavors, consider my mind blown. The aroma is very sweet, mixing notes of honey, cherries, oranges, and the tangy sweet aroma of Goji berries. There are also notes of orchid and jasmine with a hint of frankincense as I pull it away. The blending of aromas is awe inspiring, I want to ingest it and wear it as a luxurious perfume. I feel myself being transported to an exotic garden on the Silk Road.
I ate one of the steeped Goji Berries
I have become a bit bouncy with excitement as I steep this tea. The steeped tea leaves are richly heady mixing the jasmine and orchid aromas from the Oolong. There are notes of chestnut, saffron, and the resinous aroma of frankincense. Lastly is a hint of orange that sneaks in at the end. The liquid's aroma is intense, mostly notes of chestnut, saffron, frankincense, and orchid.
Beautifully pale!
This tea is deliciously sweet, mixing honey sweetness and fruity sweetness. Orange notes are present and it blends wonderfully with the Tieguanyin, complimenting the orchid flavors of the oolong. There are midtastes of jasmine and goji berries, and it finishes with the resinous and slightly earthy taste of frankincense. Throughout the entire sipping experience is a gentle undertone of saffron which gives the tea a very exotic tone. As the tea cools it becomes a bit more chestnutty. With this steep all of the flavors blend together perfectly, no one flavor dominates, it is very much like an elegant dance of flavors in my mouth.

I was lucky to get a second steep out of this tea, but I was so enthralled with the tea I forgot to take a picture of it, tragic. The aroma is more orchid and chestnut, more 'oolong' and less other ingredients. The aroma does not lie, tasting this tea I notice that the Tieguanyin takes center stage. The taste is very mild with gentle notes of oranges and goji berries with just a tiny hint of jasmine. There is a slight mineral aftertaste that adds a delicious finish to the experience. As the tea cools it takes on a lemony quality. I have a hard time calling this tea an Earl or an Oolong, it transcends both and is simply an experience. This tea is exquisite, I could not drink it all the time because even though it is delicate, the flavors are so intense that I feel I would be overwhelmed and sent into a state of transcended reality. I have a special relationship with oolongs. I actually do not recommend drinking this tea with food or anything that would distract you from the experience of drinking it, and I certainly don't say that very often.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Den's Tea: Shudei Kyusu, A Tea Gear Review

Hello all, it is time for another Tea Gear Review! *excited cheering from the audience* yes yes, I know these are exciting because we tea drinkers tend to ogle and hoard gear as much as we do tea. Possibly even much so since the tea gear is what brings us our delicious cups of liquid happiness. Today we are looking at the Shudei Kyusu from Den's Tea, yes the one that I babble about periodically. 
No, I am not removing this sticker, it looks cool.


Backstory time! I first ran into the concept of the Kyusu (or Kyuusu) when I was in high school and going through that 'obsessed with Japan and Anime' phase (not that I have left that phase, it just has been nerfed a bit) and studying Chado and their tea culture. I was able to find a Tetsubin pretty easily but I never saw a Kyusu outside of books and online. Of course the prices online were intensely high and I am in the mindset of  'when I buy a new piece of equipment, don't spend too much money on it because chances are you will break it.' I wanted a practice piece, and while browsing I found this beauty and its lovely price. 
At one point I would have been able to read this

This Kyusu is made from Shudei, or red clay which has a higher level of iron oxide (and reminds me of the clay I would play with growing up in Georgia) which gives it a lovely color. There is a mostly convenient built in metal sieve for filtering out the leaves that try to escape. I say mostly convenient because being built in means it can be a real pain to clean. 
A moderate pain to clean

I have used it quite a few times since I bought it back in late September and each time has been a treat. The size is optimal for two cups, but since I am the only one in the house that likes Japanese Green tea I usually only fill it up halfway. I like having the option of more servings should the opportunity arise. My favorite aspect of the kyusu is holding it, the handle is the perfect size for my grip and it just feels good pouring the tea. 
It looks like soup!

I have noticed that it is not retaining any tea aromas or flavors (unlike Yixing) but judging by the sheen I am pretty sure this teapot has been given a glaze making it safe to use with multiple teas. Not that I am going to use it for anything other than my various Japanese greens. I am very happy with my Kyusu (it needs a name...I like naming my teapots, suggestions?) and I actually feel I do not need a fancy expensive one for my collection. 

Want more information on Shudei (Zhuni) clay? This link is very helpful and fascinating. What about more information on the history, style and use of Kyusu? I like sharing knowledge.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

52Teas: Butterbeer, A Tea Review

Happy Day of Eating Too Much everyone! I have spent my day being crafty (need to make sure my Melted Geek Shop is stocked for the holidays) and drinking teas while rocking out to 80s New Wave. In honor of my geeky inspiration I decided to review a tea that is inspired by a fandom that has been near and dear to my heart for years. I discovered Harry Potter when I was fifteen and the series helped keep magic alive in my heart when I was going through a really rough time in my life, so of course I wanted to try the Butterbeer tea!

Before I go much farther I should say, I have a very distinct idea of what Butterbeer is supposed to taste like in my head, I will try my best to be fair if it doesn't taste the way I expect it to and review it as a tea and not as a fandom geek out. As a giant nerd this will be hard...I mean, don't even get me started on a rant about a fandom I am a part of, it never ends well! Butterbeer by 52Teas is made from Black Tea, Licorice Root,  Chicory Root, and natural flavors. The aroma is very strongly rootbeer. Pretty much the only thing I am picking up is the aroma of rootbeer, and maybe a hint of creaminess. I have a problem here, I absolutely loathe rootbeer, probably more than I loathe lemongrass which is saying something. So lets try steeping the tea, sometimes I get surprised.

Once steeping the aroma becomes creamier, definitely more like a rootbeer float rather than just soda. There are notes of earthiness from the chicory and also notes of malt and a touch sweet. It smells like a very bright tea. The liquid has notes of oak along with the strong notes of rootbeer and sweet cream. As I pull the cup away from my nose I notice a bit of a bitter root aroma.

Tasting time! I can certainly taste rootbeer, ugh. The tea is creamy and there is a touch of bitterness from the chicory but it is a little too much like rootbeer. Oddly the more I sip on the tea the more it is growing on me, I find that really amusing actually. The tea is naturally sweet, but only mildly, so I think I am going to add a  bit of cream and sugar (my favorite way to drink flavored blacks). Ok, that is really tasty, it still has a bit of the rootbeer taste, but now I can taste a bit of malt, some earthiness, and a touch of oak. I don't hate it, it is not a new favorite tea but it is not as bad as I was expecting it to be with that strong of a rootbeer aroma. However, I do not think it tastes anything like I expect Butterbeer to taste like, so my quest continues.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yogi Tea: Breathe Deep, A Tea Review

As you might recall, yesterday I took a walk in the frigid air to the store (for milk and hair dye, life's necessities) and I believe I picked up a new friend when I was out. Yes, there is a squatter in my lungs, a friendly little cold or some sort of irritant, meaning this is a perfect opportunity to test an herbal tea while taking a break from my spriting. The Perler inspiration bug has bitten very hard.
Can I just say I love the Paisley decor on the bags?

Today we are looking at Breathe Deep by Yogi Teas is a blend of herbs to support respiratory health and includes Licorice Root, Eucalyptus, Basil Leaf, Ginger Root, Cardamon Seed, Cinnamon Bark, Thyme Leaf, Elecampane Root, Peppermint Leaf, Mullien Leaf, and Natural and Organic Flavors. Opening the wrapper you get a nice slam in the face of eucalyptus, hello cooling fumes for my lungs! Mixing that aroma with mint and licorice it makes for a sweet blend with a very strong cooling effect for my sinuses and lungs, it is very refreshing. If you are not a fan of the aroma of eucalyptus and mint, walk away now because it is crazy strong!
Ignore the photobombing toast

Steeping the tea has turned my bedroom into a lung soothing sauna, or a jar of Vapor Rub. The aroma is mostly mint and eucalyptus but there is also an undertone of green, herbal aroma with a hint of savory herbs. It is certainly a good aroma for breathing in when you are unwell.
Slightly cloudy tea

Holy Mary Mother of Mudkips that is intensely sweet. I was not expecting that level of sweetness, it is the strange sweetness of licorice root that gives it an almost artificial taste, if you have ever chewed on licorice root you will immediately recognize that flavor. For once I actually wish a tea was less sweet, I really must be unwell...or it really is just that sweet. The mouthfeel is refreshing and cooling with a delightful tingling as it goes down. There is a medicinal aftertaste that is not very pleasant. I can certainly breathe easier, so it does its job, but the taste is not exactly pleasant. I am not sure if I actually need to drink this tea in the future, I think that breathing in the steam from the tea did most the easing of my lungs.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Yunomi.us & Obubu Tea: Kyobancha, A Tea Review

I owe all of you an apology, as you noticed I did not blog yesterday, I completely forgot! The whole day I had this nagging 'I know I am forgetting to do something' and it wasn't until I woke up this morning that I realized what it was. Feel free to blame the excessive amounts of Minecraft I have been playing this week. While out walking to the store today I thought to myself, I need to blog about a tea that captures the idea of Winter because it is really cold today.

Kyobancha by Yunomi.us and Obubu Tea Farm captures the idea of Winter in a different way than most teas. From Kyoto (that is where the Kyo part of the name comes from) this Bancha is plucked in March, having spent the entire Winter curing on the bush and then roasted. A rare tea, even hard to find in Japan, I knew I had to try it because the idea of this tea's Winter journey makes me think that a little bit of the season is captured in the leaf. I am nothing if not whimsical in my way of looking at nature. The aroma is that of old leaves, like it is late Autumn and you are walking through a forest where all the leaves have fallen and there is that distinct aroma of old leaves and crispness. There is a roasted aroma but it is faint compared to other roasted teas and there is also a mild loamy aroma that ties it in with the forest imagery. I really enjoy where the aroma of this tea transports my mind.

Once the leaves are steeped the aroma of loam becomes stronger, as does the roasted aroma. I can also pick up notes of umami as I move the leaves away from my nose. It is savory and rich with also an earthy note and a very delicate hint of smoke. The liquid has a strong roasted aroma, but also notes of buttery sweetness.

Time for tasting! The first thing I notice is the buttery and very smooth mouthfeel, it just slides down my throat and I have be careful to not chug it! The flavor is sweet and rich with notes of earthiness and loam with a hint of wood. It reminds me a bit of brandy but without the alcohol, hard to imagine alcohol without the alcohol, I know. There is of course a roasted taste as well, it is mild, I could see someone who is not a huge fan of roasted teas enjoying this one. The flavors in this tea, while being distinct are also very subtle, it is a soothing tea for when you don't want to be overwhelmed by flavor and just want to enjoy the delicate. As the tea cools it becomes sweeter and smoother. This tea is wonderful for cold days or right before bed (especially since it has almost no caffeine) and is very soothing to the stomach after a rich meal.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Yuen Kut Lam: Kam Wo Char, A Tea Review

I have the house entirely to myself for the week, everyone is off in Madison celebrating the holidays and I am here at home. I decided to stay home because travel is not good for me and it has been a long time since I had some real 'me' freedom. So far I have spent my time playing Minecraft and drinking tea, so nothing too different than usual. Today's tea review is going to be different (kinda) than the usual, today I am reviewing a Traditional Chinese Medicinal (to be abbreviated TCM from here on) tea, oh dear.
The little boxes and big boxes are awesome!
Kam Wo Char comes in one of the coolest looking packages I have ever seen, I admit that and the extremely cheap price at my local beloved Asian market were the reasons I tossed it in my basket. Hailing from Hong Kong, it is one of those 'staples' that a lot of houses have, it is like the TCM version of theraflu, although the box just says 'to soothe dry throat membranes and as a mouth refresher.' Also it says in very clear letters NO POISON, I found that hilarious because if you have ever had TCM teas you can safely say they taste like poison. There are a humongous amount of herbs in this tea, I have heard of quite a few of them, but there are some that I have never heard of and do not translate into Western herbalism.
That is a fantastic pile of mulch

The aroma is very much so that of an herb shop, there is a little bit of everything. The aromas that stand out the most are straw, sweet Annie, mint, and pickles. Yes, this tea smells vaguely of pickles...and I am completely ok with that. Compared to other TCM this tea smells like heaven, at least compared to the ones I drink regularly. The aroma clears the sinuses and is refreshing and a little nostalgic.
shiny film

The instructions for this tea say to steep for fifteen minutes, that is pretty impressively long! The aroma of the steeping leaves is a balance of the different herbaceous aromas, no ones herb stands out and there is an underlying sweetness that was not there previously. The liquid sans the pile of leaves (that now resemble the remnants of leaves in a gutter after a storm) has a much richer aroma with notes of mint and earthiness. I also detect a hint of root herbs. I noticed there was a slight oily film on the surface of the tea, it was shimmery and pretty, but I am easily entertained.
I am scared...

And now it is time to taste. The liquid is so dark that it seems almost black, well no more stalling. If you can imagine me sipping the tea and then immediately convulse and start making strange noises, then you are entirely correct. The initial taste is incredibly bitter, the bitterness of medicinal herbs and roots. After the initial kick of bitterness the taste becomes very smooth and just herbal. The more I drink the more I start noticing other flavors; mint, dill, straw, it seems to evolves with each sip. I start noticing herbs that I cannot even begin to describe their taste because I have nothing to compare it to, the evolution of this tea makes it very fascinating. If you can get past the initial kick in the face bitterness it is a great medicinal tea, and it certainly helped my sniffles and sore throat, not to mention my headache! This tea is certainly going to be a cold season staple.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

RiverTea, Marquis de Gris, A Tea Review

I received a package in the mail today from Germany, which is a first! I was very excited to open it because it contained tea that I won in a contest being held on Steepster by RiverTea. In order to keep people excited for the upcoming launch of their online shop they asked readers 'what would you do if only 100 grams of your favorite tea existed in the world, what would you do to get it?' and my answer involving crayfish put me among the winners. As per usual when I get a box in the mail containing tea, I had to try some of it immediately!

pretty tea is pretty
 Today I am reviewing Marquis de Gris by RiverTea. (they are still pre-launch, but if you sign up for notification you can get a nice discount and samples) This tea is a blend of Mango, Bergamot, and Black tea with Rose, Sunflower, and Cornflower Blossoms. This tea is exceptionally pretty and colorful, I love teas that stimulate multiple senses. Well, on to the olfactory analysis, in a word this tea is heavenly. The aroma is one of the best blends of, well a blended tea, that I have run into, no one aroma overpowers the other. You can certainly detect the sharpness of the bergamot, the sweet tropical aroma of the mango, the delicate floral aroma from the various blossoms, and a rich maltiness from the tea.
Sad, faded petals

Once steeping the aroma fills up my room, even though the petals become sad and faded. The aroma becomes more intensely citrus and the oaky, malty aroma of the black tea is really noticeable. It is a very brisk aroma and wakes me up (which is good because I have a serious case of the groggies). The liquid has a more sweetly floral aroma that blends well with the aroma of mangoes. The bergamot and black tea aromas are not as intense as with the steeped leaves.

The taste is wonderful, a perfect blend of mild sweetness, floral, and tartness. There is a hint mild astringency giving the tea a brisk quality that is not at all intrusive. A while ago I tasted a Lady Grey and thought it was, well, kinda awful, this tea gives me what I want in a 'milder' bergamot Early Grey style tea. I do not necessarily want there to be less bergamot but I want it accented with other things so it does not overpower. In this tea I can taste the citrus, the roses, the rich mango, and the base tea and they are harmonious, it does a wonderful job of being subtle while also being intense enough to keep my interest. I decided to add a splash of cream and sugar (my usual way of drinking Black teas, especially blends and first thing in the morning) and it was an excellent idea! The cream added that edge of richness and made the mango more pronounced and the sugar, well I just like my first tea of the day to be sweet. I have been looking for a new morning tea and I think I have found it, as you all know I do not often say 'new favorite tea' but today I got lucky.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hamilton Beach Programmable Kettle, A Tea Gear Review

Way back, so far in the past (it was August) when I decided to mostly write about tea, I said I was also going to write about tea gear. Other than my post introducing my tea gear I have not done so, well time to change!

I needed an electric kettle, badly. It was not just the proper control of water temperature that I needed. Although not having to rely on the Chinese Boiling Technique was a huge plus. True I could have just bought a thermometer, but why stop there? The real reason is I am very introverted, I am not exaggerating when I say I am a recluse, and I live with other people. The kitchen is very much so a social area and of course that is where I needed to be to review teas. Now don't get me wrong, I like occasionally interacting with people, what I do not like is having to interact, especially when I am focusing on something else. I needed a way to be in the seclusion of my room while still having tea, for my emotional well being and all that. Not to mention the times when my Lupus flairs up and getting out of bed is a struggle, I want tea close at hand! My dear mother, knowing of my laments, got me a kettle for my birthday (very early I should say.)
The unboxing!


Hamilton Beach Programmable Kettle is great, I am just going to get that out of the way first. It holds 1.7 liters, is programmable and not just the usual settings for various types of tea, and has an automatic setting. Yes, you can program it to have your hot water ready when you wake up. It also keeps water at the temperature requested for an hour, which is very useful, especially when doing multiple steeps of a tea. I am much more willing to test multiple steeps now since I do not have to heat new water each time. As with all things there are pros and cons:
In its happy little home

Pros:

  • Programmable, I like that it is not just the set temperatures. There are some teas that need to be a bit cooler (or hotter) than the 'standard' temperatures. 
  • Can switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius. I have gotten better at converting the two back in forth in my head, but there being a setting for that is just awesome.
  • Great handle, no really. It is not hard to carry a full kettle of boiling water because the handle seems to be the perfect size for my hand. Bravo! 
  • Price, it might have been a gift, but it was by far the least expensive of the various kettles I was ogling. I admit the $100 one with the elegant long spout and brushed chrome finish was beautiful but it probably functions just as well. 
  • Even when it is not heating water, as long as it is plugged in it shows the temperature of the water in the kettle. 
  • That glorious preset time, I have not used it yet since I usually just get up whenever, but next time I have a set time to wake up you can bet I am setting that thing the night before. It is an amazing trick to help people that are shambling corpses when they first wake up. 
  • The spout doesn't drip, yay! Also the push button lid means you REALLY have to be trying hard if you manage to burn yourself. 
Cons:

  • Short cord, unless you are really close to a plug you are going to need an extension cord. I believe the cord is about a foot long, so yeah not much to work with.
  • The sound, oh lordy this thing sounds like a roaring waterfall when it is heating the water up. I don't mind (except when I am watching something and can no longer hear it) because that sound means tea. I have a real Pavlov's Bell going on with it. Sadly I am usually nocturnal, the sleeping Ben is not. I have accidentally woken him up once or twice with it (oops) and I have terrified the cats a few times (also oops) 


I have been using it multiple times everyday since it arrived in the post. I have used it to make all types of tea, from my super sensitive Sencha to the robust Blacks, it is an awesome little bit of gear and I recommend it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Den's Tea: Genmaicha Extra Green Pyramid Teabag, A Tea Review

Today I am conducting an experiment, my shiny (and way too delicate for comfort) porcelain Gaiwan arrived from China and I am using it. I have never used a Gaiwan and I foresee many a burned fingers and probably added chips to the delicate china. Yes, I already chipped it, I am that clumsy. My foot got wrapped around my headphone cord and when I walked away the cord swept under the pristine Gaiwan and topped it into a much harder bowl. So while I am waiting for my tea to steep I am going to review a tea from Japan.
I love their mascot.

When I ordered my Kyusu from Den's Tea I also ordered their New to Den's Tea Sampler so I could try a few of their teas. The first one I tried was a delightful Pyramid Teabag filled with Genmaicha Extra Green. This tea mixes Genmaicha and Matcha for a very green concoction, I like green teas that are vibrantly green, looking at them makes me immensely happy. Opening the wrapper I can certainly smell the Matcha, it is the most dominant aroma, vegetal green and sweet. I am not sure why but the aroma of Genmaicha always makes me a hungry (maybe because it has food in it?) and this is no exception. The rice aroma is roasted and nutty without being overpowering, the different aromas are balanced and not fighting for dominance.

Steeping the bag fills the area with the aroma of fresh grass and toasted rice. The strongest notes are that of the grassy green Matcha, followed by a gentle sweetness and mild umami. The toasted rice gives the tea a bit of a cereal like aroma (hmm, maybe I am just hungry) but it is muted by the Matcha.
Lovely color!

The first thing I noticed about the taste is umami, a slight touch of kelp and delicious grassy green. A good beginning to a very pretty tea. The mouth feel is smooth and creamy, it certainly feels good to drink. The next note that I notice is the roasted rice nuttiness, it is not very strong and comes in as a mid to aftertaste. As the tea cools it takes on a slight sweetness and a resemblance to mown hay more than fresh grass. This is a great bagged tea and I look forward to seeing how it compares to the loose version of this tea.

So how goes the Gaiwan experiment? So far so good, I have only moderately burned my fingers (the porcelain is crazy thin!) and I wish that it was a little less wide for my tiny hand to grip. I still need more practice before I feel comfortable with it, but I am glad to finally have one to use.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Della Terra: Birthday Cupcake, A Tea Review

Since it is my birthday, ok not anymore since I took a nap and it has passed midnight...don't judge me, I had too much cake and needed to sleep it off. It was a delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl cake made for me by Ben, it was so good I had to have a slice when I woke up from the nap. I might be addicted to to this cake.
I am not addicted to eating this cake, a bit hard :P

Some cakes come in forms other than cake, like cupcakes! Actually no, those still count as cake, how about icecream and tea? Those are cakes that transcend the reality of cake but yet still maintain the idea of cake. Maybe I am still groggy from my nap.

Birthday Cupcake is a tea by Della Terra made from a blend of Black Tea, Coconut, Cornflowers, Cake Flavor, Chocolate bits, Chocolate flavor, and Sprinkles! This tea is very colorful and pretty, and of course smells delicious. The aroma is very creamy and sweet, a bit of coconut and a bit like vanilla. There is also the aroma of chocolate and vanilla, both similar to a liqueur or like sniffing a bottle of extract. The aroma is very much so a German Chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting, it smells like dessert!
Sadly the petals lose their pretty colors
Steeping the tea makes the room smell crazy sweet and creamy! The aroma has more coconut and the chocolate becomes much richer. The leaves have more of a general baked dessert rather than a specific dessert aroma. The liquid however should have a floating candle plopped in it to make a wish on because Holy Cake Batman! The aroma is so clearly German Chocolate cupcake with frosting that it is surprising that it is fact not a cupcake. Very rich, blending coconut and chocolate with the creamy vanilla aroma.

This tea was torture while it was steeping, I wanted to drink it because (well, when I was officially tasting it) I was having a serious cake craving. The taste is sweet, creamy, and chocolaty! The coconut flavor really shines through mid mouth giving the chocolaty taste an added buttery smoothness. It has a slight liqueur taste reminding me a bit of my chocolate rum balls, even though it tastes like liqueur it does not make it have a 'fake' taste and makes the taste richer. This tea is quite decadent with its aftertaste of buttercream, as it cools the creamy taste intensifies. Adding a touch of cream and sugar makes for a tea that is intensely rich, very much so a dessert tea! The sprinkles give the liquid a tiny bit of a pink tone, sadly though if this tea gets cold it gets a waxy film from the same sprinkles, so make sure to drink this tea hot.
Ssssslurp

Presenting my new 'mascot' a friend to help me with tea reviews on occasion. He is a Magic Creeper from the Wacky Creeper mod. He flies and attacks with potions so naturally he would love to drink tea as well. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Single Origin Tea: Yunnan Imperial Black, A Tea Review

My birthday weekend has passed and it was pretty mediocre event wise but I got some excellent presents. A nice shiny new pound of dice from Ben and a nice shiny monetary gift from my dear grandparents (which I used to order a Minecraft hoodie I have been lusting after for quite a while.) A bit of good news has occurred, I feel inspired again and not only designed some neat perler bead creations, I made a Minecraft Cat 3-D statue too! Go me!
Those are some beautiful leaves!
 Enough about being inspired to do crafty things, it is time for tea! Today's tea is another awesome selection from Single Origin Tea, Yunnan Imperial Black. As you can most likely tell from the name, this tea comes from the famed tea growing region of Yunnan, China, a region known for amazing Pu Erhs and even more amazing Black teas (no offense Pu Erhs.) The aroma of this tea is muscatel and sweetly oaky with a tiny hint of cedar and earthiness. It reminds me of oak wine casks with a tiny drop of chocolate and a strongly woody after thought.

Time for a nice steeping! The aroma is much earthier and oakier with the muscatel notes being milder. It is very smooth and sweet and has a touch of loam, like the forest floor after rain. The aroma of the liquid is honey sweet and slightly like sweet grapes, mildly earthy and woodsy as a last whiff. The aroma is still very smooth and sweet, it makes my nose tingle.

The taste is sublime, this is one of the smoothest Black teas I have ever had, bravo! Sweet and earthy with a wonderfully gently mouthfeel. There is a tiny amount of an astringent feeling in the back of the throat after you swallow giving the tea an almost citrus like taste. The aftertaste is oaky and reminds me of the oak cask again. As the tea cools it becomes more woodsy and astringent, the taste also becomes sweeter like honey with a mild chocolate aftertaste. It leaves a pleasant mouth tingling sensation when you drink it cool. This tea is very delicious and is wonderful after a heavy meal or first thing in the morning, adding sugar or cream does not accentuate the flavors at all and really takes away from this tea, so I do not recommend it, enjoy this beauty in its natural form.
I call it Cheese

Friday, November 15, 2013

Adagio Teas: Chocolate Chai, A Tea Review

It begins! My birthday weekend, ok it isn't until Tuesday but since Ben has school that day and everyone will be out of town next weekend, we are celebrating this weekend. No idea what all we are doing except going to the British Faire held by the Daughters of the British Empire local chapter. I plan on talking to them about joining, my dad was English and on my mom's side I can trace my genealogy back to English and Scottish royalty, I am a perfect candidate! A good way to start off the celebratory weekend is with a good chocolaty tea!

Chocolate Chai by Adagio Teas is a Chai blend featuring Chocolate flavored Ceylon tea, Cardamon, Ginger, Cloves and Cinnamon. The aroma is very chocolaty and reminds me a little of Xoclatl (Aztec drinking chocolate) with its blend of spices and chocolate. There are rich malty undertones and sweetness. This aroma is quite delicious, especially if you are craving some chocolate.

Once the tea is steeped the aroma becomes even spicier with the ginger and cinnamon being prominent with a touch of peppery spice. The chocolate is not as strong after steeping the blend, but there is still the malty aroma. The liquid without all the leafy goodness has a very sweet aroma with strong notes of chocolate and spices. No one spice stands out as dominant.

The taste perfectly hit the spot, creamy, spicy, chocolaty goodness! The blend of chocolate and spice makes for a balanced cup, I do wish that I could have a little bit more cardamon, but that spice is strong so I can see how getting it to be balanced would be a pain. The taste still reminds me of Xoclatl but with a bright tea taste instead of just the chocolate spice. Brewed with milk (whole milk in my case) and a bit of sugar this makes for an excellent chai with a chocolate twist.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Confessions of a Tea Blogger! Tag!

I was going to complain about how the opera was completely and utterly ruined last night and how I am drowning my sorrows in fried Perogies and copious amounts of heavily creamed tea, but I was tagged! Other than the occasional taggings on deviantart, it has been a while since this happened, how exciting! The tagger was none other than Nicole from Tea For Me Please, whose blog is just awesome. So time to don my Toast hand warmers (got those as an awesome early birthday present from my dear Sheena, my hands are so warm) and confess as a Tea Blogger!

1) First, let's start with how you were introduced & fell in love with the wonderful beverage of tea. 

Hehe, I just wrote a blog about this the other day, but in case you missed it, abridged version: My mom's family is Southern so I drank a TON of Sweet Iced Tea. My dad's family is from England so I also had my morning ritual of making us each a cup of hot black tea (2 sugars, a dash of cream). I have been drinking tea in one form or another as long as I can remember, in fact I think I can safely say my blood type is tea! 

2) What was the very first tea blend that you ever tried? 

Oooh, time to think back, I had lots of different herbal tea blends as a kid but my first blended tea (as in made from Camellia sinensis) was either Earl Grey by Twinings (my mom made it for our tea parties) or Constant Comment by Bigelow (which we drank a lot of at Christmas) which are still very much so nostalgic favorites.


9) Any tea time rituals you have that you'd like to share?


I keep hoping that I will have an area where I can leave my fancy Gong fu setup out and about so I can go to it whenever I want to, but as of now it is mainly my morning of black tea while I attempt to wake up. I do miss the afternoon tea and snacks with my mom. 

3) When did you start your tea blog & what was your hope for creating it? 


My first tea blog entry was back in April of this year, I wanted to review the Minecraft Creeper Tea signature blend I made on Adagio Teas, for fun and because it is Minecraft themed (I have an obsession) and I thought...this is really enjoyable! I was looking for a new way to express myself...my love of  informative writing and constant drinking of tea just blended perfectly. My main hope (other than the selfish desire to be expressive) was to help people learn more about tea and find teas they might enjoy and give it a try. 


4) List one thing most rewarding about your blog & one thing most discouraging. 

The most rewarding thing is definitely hearing from readers who read an entry, try the tea in question, and then end up loving it, that is just so awesome. The most discouraging (other than the obvious more teas than I will ever have the money to try) is when I get sick and something messes up my sense of taste/smell for a few days. True I have plenty of teas logged so I cans till post reviews, but that means I cannot try new teas for a few days, I tend to pout a lot on those days.

5) What type of tea are you most likely to be caught sipping on?

Oooh, that really depends on my mood, but most the time the thing I will go for is an Oolong, the more sweet and floral the better. Except first thing in the morning, I almost always go for a strong black that takes a nice splash of cream and sugar, old habits die hard. 


6) Favourite tea latte to indulge in? 

Do London Fog Steamers count as a latte? I worked in a coffee/tea shop, I should know that but they didn't sell them where I worked! If not definitely Matcha lattes, I could possibly live off of those things given the chance!


7) Favourite treat to pair with your tea?

Everything? Tea is more or less the only thing I drink so it goes with everything I eat. I do enjoy nibbling on crackers with my tea though since I prefer salty snacks. 

8) If there was one place in the World that you could explore the tea culture at, where would it be & why?

Oh man, only one? After a minor explosion of indecision...what? Most the major tea culture centers are places that are very high on my 'too visit, obsessed with their culture and food' list. Probably China because I could also explore the Taoist temples and visit a TCM practitioner. Multitasking! 


10) Time of day you enjoy drinking tea the most: Morning, Noon, Night or Anytime?

When am I not drinking tea? I like my strong teas in the early hours because if I drink them later I won't sleep (though I think I might be building up a mild caffeine resistance), and lots of other teas the rest of the day. Usually I finish my day with an Oolong or Sobacha

11) What's one thing you wish for tea in the future?

My one wish for tea in the future? I hope that one day all the farmers and tea plantations become organic and fair trade. People deserve to be treated fairly and pesticides are nasty for the environment (mushrooms don't like them) it might cost the big companies more money but it would be so worth it. 

-- Who do you tag?

 I TAG:

The Snooty Tea Blog
TeaNation
Stripped-Teas


*Side Note: When you create your own tag post, please start by letting your readers know who you were initially tagged by. Feel free to use the photo above as well.
**If you end up participating in this TAG, tweet Lu Ann your post so everyone can get to know you more too. You can tweet either accounts: @theteacupoflife OR @teaaholic !

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Teasenz: Ginseng Vitality Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

I should warn you all in advance that tomorrow there might not be a new review since I will be...drumroll...at the Opera! Yes, it is what I have been waiting (not entirely patiently) for since it was announced at the end of last season, The Magic Flute! It might be my favorite opera, I waffle back and forth between The Magic Flute and Turandot. In other news I am almost finished with the advent calenders, so those will probably be going in the mail on Friday, woo! Today though is about tea that gives an extra zing of energy.



Ginseng Vitality Oolong Tea by Teasenz is a blend of the root Ginseng and a floral Oolong resembling Tie Guan Yin. Hailing from Taiwan and sometimes referred to as King's Tea, it is thought to give the drinker a nice boost of energy and to help digestion, awesome. I found the aroma to be very green, like bamboo leaves and herbaceous like dill weed. There is also earthiness and the aroma of baked bread with a slight undertone of sweetness. The ginseng is an odd smelling herb, it gives a slight muskiness to the already herbaceous aroma.
first steep, still pretty tightly balled. 

Giving the leaves a steeping I notice that the ginseng did not all fall off the leaves, you all know what that means; multiple steeps! The aroma of the leaves still has the delicate green scent of bamboo leaves but now it also mixes in the aroma of lychees and very mild earthiness. The liquid is sweet like baking bread and fresh pears, there is also a slight hint of dill as I pull the cup away from my nose.

The taste is strange yet good, it is the strangeness of trying something completely new. I have had ginseng before but only in candy or in supplements, this is my first time tasting it in a tea. At first the taste is slightly floral like cherry blossoms followed by the vegetal taste of asparagus. There is a hint of fruity tartness, like a mix of tart cherries and lychees. As the tea cools it takes on the typical chestnut flavor I associate with Oolongs.
Slightly darker liquid than the first steep

The second steep has the leaves unfolded and the ginseng more spread out in the teacup. The aroma is much sweeter and more like honey with that tiny hint of dill from earlier. The taste is sweet but with an herbaceous bitterness as an aftertaste, like a root herb, it is not unpleasant just astringent. In fact I would go as far as to say it is barely there at all. As the tea cools it gets more of a lychee taste. It is an odd tea, but it is an oddness I like, mixing the tastes of an oolong with the tastes of ginseng makes for a powerfully tasty combination.
Just a bit of pretty!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Raizana Teas: DigestTea, A Tea Review

I am stumped, I cannot think of a clever opening to today's review so I guess I will just fill you all in on how life is for me. I folded all 200 Advent Calender envelopes in more or less one sitting, I couldn't sleep so I stayed up all night watching Doctor Who and folding, it was very nostalgic. It is getting dramatically colder so there is a cat in my lap, the other cat is extremely happy and playful since she likes the cold. Also my stomach is being a real jerk so I decided to try out another of Raizana Teas herbal blends.

Pretty pile of herbs!
This tea is geared towards soothing the savage belly beast with its easy to remember name, DigestTea. Made from Cilantro, Dill Weed, Passionflower, Spearmint, Chamomile, Lemongrass, Stevia, and Natural Papaya flavors. The aroma is sweet and minty with notes of chamomile herbaceous tones. There is also a bit of papaya sweetness that lingers at the end. The aroma is very clean and it smells refreshing, sinus cleansing! As I pull the bag away completely I notice there is a tiny, tiny hint of dill, which I really liked.

As the tea steeps I start to notice the lemongrass aroma wafting out of my leaves, it is a bit strong and made me sneeze! Oddly I did not find the lemongrass off-putting like a usually do, I guess because it mixes really well with the mint, dill, and chamomile aromas. The liquid, sans steeping basket, has a very savory aroma. To me it smells like a really good soup or pickle spices, lemony and dill with a hint of mint and cilantro. I almost want to make a marinade using some of these together because it smells delicious.

The taste, however, is not savory at all, it is sweet like papaya. The taste also reminds me a little of lemon poppy-seed cake. The savory herbs are not really present in the taste, it is mild and sweet. This tea is really perfect for days when your stomach is being a real jerk and most things make you feel kinda ill. Withing a few minutes of drinking this tea my stomach was soothed and I felt much better. The aftertaste of the tea is sweet with a hint of tingling mint, as it cools the mint also becomes stronger and sweeter.
Sleeping Esepeon in my lap.