Sunday, August 31, 2014

Healthy Teas: Green-Black-Herbal-Fruit, A Tea Book Review

Oh man, I feel really off today, not sure if I am catchy Ben's stupid cold/flu thing or if I am about to have a Fibromyalgia flair. Either option is unpleasant, but they will pass with time. If it is a fibro flare, I cannot say I will be surprised, I have been so busy with redoing the bedroom, and baking, and other things that I have worn myself out! I do not think I have just spent a day lounging or relaxing in a while, and I still am not finished with the things I need to accomplish. Soon, I am going to have to take a break!

Today's book is Healthy Teas: Green-Black-Herbal-Fruit by Tammy Safi is a book about the various health benefits of tea. Before you either groan in annoyance or become rapt with excitement, it is not really that fixated on the various miraculous healing properties of tea, most of the health things come from various herbal teas. It has a very tolerable level of health references, like saying that caffeine in tea can help with migraines (but can also be addictive and cause heart problems) that some teas have an alkaline affect on the body making it soothing for people who have ulcers, and that it is a good source of some vitamins and minerals. I am very much so in favor of what can be called 'basic' levels of health claims with regards to tea, but I get offended at the various claims out that that make tea come off as a panacea. It gives my favorite drink bad press and makes the legitimately healthy aspects of tea not taken seriously because of all the sensationalist claims, at least that is how I have felt with regards to it...but I digress...

This book touches briefly on the history of tea (and uses fermentation instead of oxidation...that will never stop annoying me I think) and has a brief introduction to various teas separated by country. I did notice two things that made me a bit sad, first off all oolongs come from Taiwan. No, this statement has completely neglected all the beautiful Wuyi oolongs, that is practically criminal, but my obsession with oolongs make me very biased. The other thing that caught my eye was the brewing instructions, a lot of them said use boiling water for green teas. Oh man, anyone who follows those directions is going to end up with some intensely bitter green teas, this I know from experience.

The rest of the book is devoted to recipes for various herbal teas, some of which look quite tasty. Luckily the recipes do not include any really rare or hard to find ingredients, pretty much all of then can be found at a local herb shop. This was a cute little book with some nifty recipes, I say if you want a book that is an introduction to tea and focuses on herbal tea, this is a good pick.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Musings: Crafts, Geekery, and Randomness

Is it really Saturday already? Crazy, this week seemed to fly by. I spent it baking, taking care of a sick Ben, and dabbling in crafty stuff. Even though it flew by it seemed fairly uneventful and I have been fairly distracted.

I think my greatest accomplishment was dabbling with paint and paint techniques for my Scourge units. Luckily the starter set which I bought came with a spare Invader APC so I have been using it for practice, it looks awful. I decided to see what different paints looked like together and how different level of watering down looked, so basically it is tacky and pretty crooked. Of course I was painting with a junk brush and while waiting for my nightly muscle relaxers to kick in, so slowly I was losing motor control and my detail work becomes blurry. Painting 10mm scale while slowly being knocked out is really fun, but also really hard.

My other two big projects this week, well, one of them I can't talk about because it involves a friend's birthday present which she won't be getting until next week. The other one, however, I can babble on about! I have been having a great time redesigning the labels for my Adagio Teas Minecraft Mobs Custom Blends and then I will be designing teas for the mobs that are currently missing from my collection. I am hoping the blends will become more popular so they can be made into a fandom sampler. A girl can dream!

On another tea themed note, I went to the thrift store and found some very cute tea themed items for my collection! A classic somewhat rustic looking tea tin (stamped with TEA, for convenience) that is actually just a ruse, it is lined with stainless steel and is quite modern. The big find was an intriguing new tiny teapot, it is some unglazed clay with plum blossoms on one side and calligraphy on the reverse. I am going to season it like it is a yixing, though what it actually is is the question.
Also Espen on  my chair

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Persimmon Tree Tea Company: Peach Apple Crisp, A Tea Review

Have you ever wondered where exactly Hobbits come from? Well, my dear sweetheart (and fellow geek) Ben came up with the best theory ever; Hobbits are spawn of Ungoliant! His theory is this, the various spider spawns and Ungoliant herself are known for their perpetual hunger, in face Ungoliant managed to consume herself she was that hungry. One of the main things we know about Hobbits is that they really REALLY like eating, a grand total of seven (probably large) meals a day is not normal. Clearly their ravenous hunger means they are the long lost descendants of the great spider herself.

One of the biggest problems with being Gluten free is lack of certain favorite desserts from my childhood, my mom used to make the most delicious apple or peach crisps for me. Peach Apple Crisp by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company is a blend of Biodynamic Black Loose-Leaf Tea, Organic Nilgiri Loose-Leaf Tea, Organic Assam Loose-Leaf Tea, Organic Orange Peel, Fair Trade Organic Rooibos, Roses, Organic Hibiscus, Safflower, and Natural Flavors, a sizable list of ingredients! The aroma smells pretty varied, there are notes of roses, delicate peaches and apples, a touch of citrus, a bit of woody rooibis, a tiny bit of tart hibiscus, and lastly a sweet malty and caramel finish. It does not really smell like a crisp, but it does smell sweet and fruity, so I enjoy sniffing it.

The brewed leaves are delightfully sweet, there are notes of apples and peaches (real fruit, not candy or fake fruit, always a big plus!) there is also a rich caramel and malt aroma with a tiny bit of rose at the finish. The liquid without it's leaves is richly malty with accompanying notes of caramel, wood, and fresh peaches and apples. The fruit smells more like cooked fruit than fresh fruit, giving it a bit of a crisp feel.

Tasting the tea, it starts off with a blend of malt, caramel, and woody notes, this gives it a bit of an oatmeal themed crisp crust. This transitions to fairly mild apple and peach with a hint of citrus and an aftertaste of roses. If I close my eyes and imagine I can almost taste the crisp, but with about half as much sugar (which can really easily be fixed with a bit of sweetener) this is one of those teas that is really good at capturing the idea of a crisp without tasting exactly like one. I like it, the tea is a good dessert tea without being overly sweet so it could be a substitute for a dessert or a companion to a sweet dish.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

SerendipiTea: Fu Man Chu, A Tea Review

There has been a role reversal in the house today, instead of Ben having to take care of my sickly self, I got to take care of him today. Poor sickly thing either picked up a super nasty cold or the flu, chances are I am going to get it what with the fever and sore throat I have had all day, but it has not hit me as hard as it has him. I feel really bad since he has one of those amazing immune systems and never gets sick, he just does not know how to deal with it. I have been giving him loads of tea which seems to be helping.

Today's tea is Fu Man Chu, by Serendipitea, a blend of Organic Jasmine Petals, Organic Pouchong, and Organic Pu-erh. I need to start this review by saying that I have always wanted a Fu Man Chu mustache, I mean it is just so cool! Yeah I am one of those nerdy chicks with mustache envy, I think because it just looks fun to twirl while contemplating, I could twirl it while contemplating this tea! The aroma of this tea is quite unique, a blend of heady jasmine and earthy pu-erh. It is like a blend of blooming flowers and a garden after rain, it has that mineral and wet earth aroma. This tea smells like laying on one's back in a summer garden, a very interesting concept.

Once the tea has been brewed the wet leaves get a bit of that market smell that I associate with some pu-erh, it is a bit metallic, earthy, and has a tiny bit of a wet river mud aroma at the finish. There is also a pretty potent jasmine aroma followed by a honeysuckle sweetness. The liquid is a heady blend of jasmine and orchid with an underlying earthiness and honey sweetness. It is pretty intense!

The taste if this tea is certainly interesting! It starts off sweet and heady, with a strong taste of orchid, honeysuckle, and jasmine. This transitions to earthy pu-erh with a touch of metallic and a slightly bitter finish. Sadly, even though I am always a fan of the unusual, I did not find this particular blend worked for me. It was too contrasting of tastes for me. I do recommend giving it a try though, it is so unusual that it is a tea that needs to be experienced at least once!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What-Cha: Kenyan Silver Needle White Tea, A Tea Review

As some of you might know, I make tea themed advent calenders each year for Christmas, it started as gifts to friends and has exploded into me selling them. I had to do pre-orders early since I will be in Pennsylvania for the holiday (really three months that also include holidays) and as of now, four days before pre-orders close, I am making ten calenders. I am so excited for all the folding of origami envelopes and awesome tea I am going to be introducing people to. I am like some sort holiday elf spreading tea joy to people, which is really fun. 
Today's tea is Kenyan Silver Needle White Tea by What-Cha, as you can tell by the name, this tea comes from the Mount Kenya region of Kenya, Africa. Usually when you see Silver Needle (Baihao Yinzhen) it comes from Fujian, China, but this fuzzy tea brings a unique twist since it is from a whole new terroir. The aroma of this particular silver needle is nothing short of mouthwatering, which is why I advise pouring the tea you wish to sniff out of the bag, don't want to ruin tea by drooling. It is incredibly sweet with notes of peaches and sweet corn, this transitions to floral notes that very much so brings to mind blooming peony flowers. This tea is very fragrant and so very sweet!

I decided to go pseudo-gongfu for my first brewing of the leaves. I discovered (thanks to the power of books and experimentation) that if you brew a silver needle at 185 degrees for 15 minutes, it is fantastic. So I used my gaiwan and tiny cups (mainly for aesthetic reasons, I really like my auspicious gaiwan) and just used less leaf than I would for a usual gongfu session. The brewed leaves have a very strong aroma, even more floral with notes of peony being dominant with a touch of honeysuckle and hyacinth. There are also notes of sweet corn giving the tea leaves an extra sweetness and richness. The poured off liquid is very creamy and sweet with notes of sweet corn and honey.   

After a slightly long wait (the only real problem with a 15 minute steep) the mouth feel is very smooth with just a hint of fuzz from the leaves. The taste, well it is fantastic, it manages to be delicate and very rich, it fills up the mouth while not overpowering. The tea starts out very sweet with notes of hay and sweet corn, this transitions to sweet sesame seed, like Halva. After the sweetness there is a strong peony blossom that that lingers into a nectar like aftertaste. The finish is surprisingly fuzzy, adding a delightful tickle to the back of the tongue. 

I will admit, I have become mildly addicted to this tea, it Grandpa Styles wonderfully and I have found myself sipping on it for hours. As the tea loses its steam it becomes more floral and slightly vegetal with a lettuce tinge at the end. This tea has become one of my go-to teas to use in my travel steeper, especially on my Thursday game nights where everyone comments on the pretty leaves floating in water. For those wondering how it compares to Silver Needles from Fujian, I would say it is definitely sweeter and has a wonderful sweet corn note that the Chinese variety lacks, the Fujian Silver Needle is much milder and tastes more of fresh vegetation and sweet flowers. I still love the Chinese Silver Needle, but Kenyan Needle has stolen my heart. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Eco-Cha Artisan Teas: Dong Ding Oolong Tea (Spring 2014) A Tea Review

Baking Frenzy! Yeah, I finally amassed enough ingredients to bake some healthy gluten free snacks and yummies. I wanted to have a stock of food in the freezer that I could just warm things up as I need them. I still have a bunch more cooking to do, but today's batch mostly turned out delicious. As someone who notoriously botches food, this was a pleasant experience. Only the cheesy millet cakes turned out meh, not sure if it is fault of me or it just not being something I like.
 Speaking of things I like, today's tea! Eco-Cha Artisan Tea surprised me with a few of their spring and summer harvest teas and I am starting off with the first one I cracked into: Dong Ding Oolong Tea (Spring 2014)  I thoroughly enjoyed last year's Dong Ding, and am excited to see how this one compares and to see how my palate has evolved. The aroma of this roasted oolong is yum! Really that is what the first word in my tasting journal says about the tea's aroma, it says a lot more, but I always consider that a good beginning. It is a blend of roasted notes and floral notes, retaining the original honeysuckle and orchid notes of the pre-roasted tea. The roasted notes start out with sweet caramelized sugar, cashew butter, roasted sesame, and a hint of acorn squash. It is quite sweet and the mild hint of smoke at the finish adds a level of complexity and is a really great finish.

Unsurprisingly, this tea went into my gaiwan, and after a brief steeping the aroma of the tea filled my tea area. Tao, my fat fluffball of a cat actually woke up and had to come give it a sniff. Taking a cue from my cat and sniffing the wet leaves, I notice that it is a touch smokier now and also not as sweet. There is a strong cooked acorn squash (possibly grilled with that touch of smoke) along with toasted sesame and pine nuts. The liquid is where most the sweetness went, there are notes of honey, roasted sesame and cashew butter. At the end there is a distant whiff of honeysuckle nectar. 

Before I get into the taste of the first steep, let me tell you a little about my relationship with roasted Dong Ding Oolongs. I always have to have some on hand, even if it is a low quality (though I of course prefer the good stuff) it is the tea I drink when I feel bad, it is the tea I drink when I am homesick, I reach for this tea on cold winter mornings and chilly autumn evenings, I sip it during summer when I am longing for autumn, this is my feel good tea...but enough of that! The taste of the first steep is sweet with a smooth mouthfeel, there are notes of roasted corn, acorn squash, and cashew butter. The initial sweet almost grain like quality at the beginning transitions to roasted nuts and a finish of spicebush* that lingers. 

I should warn you all, I steeped this tea a lot, so strap in as we move onto steep two. The aroma of the liquid is a blend of sweet spicebush and cashew butter with a hint of smoke at the finish. The taste is smokier and sharper, it has a slight dryness at the finish that has a lip smacking quality. It starts out with smoke and then moves to roasted nuts, acorn squash and cashew butter, the spicebush is there at the finish again. This steep was a bit richer than the first steep.

Time for a third steeping, and the aroma of the liquid this time around is quite sweet, more so than the previous steeps. There are notes of spicebush, burnt sugar, and cashew butter, there is also just a tiny hint of smoke at the finish, but it is very faint. The taste starts out smoky, though not as strong as the previous steep, there is hint of tobacco and a finish of burnt sugar and roasted sesame. The mouthfeel starts out smooth and finishes with a slight dryness.

For the fourth steep the aroma is gentle, with subtle notes of burnt sugar and spicebush, there is a whiff of smoke at the finish. This steep is by far the mildest, it is gentle, like drifting off to sleep, the taste of smoke at the finish is faint, it fades to burnt sugar and cashew butter sweetness that lingers into the aftertaste. Recently on Twitter I was asked which roasted Dong Ding is my favorite, I listed Eco-Cha's as part of my top three based on last year's harvest, tasting this year's I might have to change it to my favorite. 

*A brief note on spicebush, since I have had a few people wondering what that is. I am reffering to the plant Calycanthus occidentalis which has extremely fragrant red flowers whose fragrance (at least to me) is a mixture of allspice, exotic flowers, musk, and a rich heaviness like spiced red wine. In one of the houses I lived in back in Georgia, there was a hedgerow of spicebushes between my yard and a forest, when they would bloom the aroma was intense! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Good Life Tea: C of Tranquility, A Tea Review

Ben and I are in the middle of a very silly research project, Stellar Coronae! It started when we were discussing decals to use on the side of his UCM tanks and wanted an eclipse with a blue corona, I said I was not sure that blue stars have blue coronae because I could not remember if it was caused by elements, heat, or something else. It has been a long time since I brushed up on astronomy, so I am enjoying my little bit of science research.

Since it fits into the subject at hand, today's tea is C of Tranquility by Good Life Tea, an herbal blend with citrus, tartness, and superfruits. For those not into Astronomy, the Sea of Tranqulity (or Mare Tranquillitatis) is one of the dark spots on the moon which early Astronomers mistook for water. I have a little bit of fear with this tea, you all probably know by this time that I am not a fan of Hibiscus or tart teas, but you also know that I am willing to try anything and everything, because you never know, sometimes I like things I thought I would not. The aroma is very berry filled, like dried cherries, elderberries, and blueberries. It has a sweet and tart quality with a nice citrus burst at the finish. The tartness is more of a fruity tartness rather than a hibiscus tartness, my fear is lessened.

The brewed leaves (and fruity bits) have a very sweet and fruity aroma, it is like a collection of berries with a side of citrus and a tiny hint of tart. The liquid is very berry filled sweet with a bit of that fruity tartness you get from dried berries (especially ones like cherries and cranberries) there is also a nice bit of citrus at the finish.

Ok, time to taste! It is vibrantly red and  usually vibrantly red teas are filled with hibiscus tartness. I love the color of hibiscus, it is so pretty and vibrant, I could ogle it all day. The taste starts out with a punch of slightly metallic tartness (hibiscus always tastes a little metallic to me) which of course makes my salivary glands more or less explode. The tartness is very quick, it fades almost immediately to sweet berries and slightly sour lemony notes, the finish is sweet with berry notes that linger. I don't hate it, I actually finished the cup, though it did give me a bit of heartburn (another reason I don't like hibiscus and rose hips, they are a little too acidic) so I do not think I would seek it out because of that. Taste wise I could see myself drinking it on occasion, especially when I am in the mood for berries.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Book of Green Tea: A Tea Book Review

Today's nugget of tea knowledge is The Book of Green Tea by Christine Dattner and it is, problematic. Probably not the best way to start out a review, but I just can't think of any other way to introduce this book. It claims to be the book of green tea (it is right there in the title after all) but it spends an equal amount of time talking about other teas, and the time it spends on its intended subject matter is...problematic.

I know, I know...I keep using that word, let me explain why. First off, this book needed editing, at first I thought it needed editing by someone more versed in tea, but the more I read the more I realized that it needed editing by someone who was looking for consistencies. Oh man, so many inconsistencies, some exciting examples are Gyokuro being translated as precious rose in one place and precious dew in another...or my favorite calling Huang Shan Mu Dang (or Huang Shan Lu Mu Dan as I know it, translation error?) Huang Shan Mao Feng earlier in the book. Maybe it was because I had a splitting headache when I was reading this book and my tolerance was low, but the mistakes made me audibly groan.

There were also a lot of things that were just incorrect, but this is one of those things that I am not sure if it is due to a lack of easy to obtain information at the time. On the one hand I feel like in 2003 (when this book was written) that there were enough books and information on the internet that you could have gotten correct information on Gong Fu Cha and basic tea facts. However I will give it the benefit of the doubt, at least until I finish my time machine and can go back to 2003 to check for myself. So take that with a grain of salt.

This book is not all bad though, it is actually quite pretty and has some decent info. For instance I love the amount of detail it goes into for Moroccan tea, there are several pages devoted to Moroccan tea culture and history with some very nice photos. The various brewing instructions for the various teas is spot on, especially pleased to see Darjeeling shown at a lower temperature than other black teas. There are also some delicious looking tea themed recipes, a couple of them I might actually try.

So long story short, do I recommend this book? Well, no. It is not bad, there is certainly some moments where I actually contemplated adding this book to my collection, but all of this info is available in other books, other more correct and edited books. I say buy it if you think tea books are like Pokemon and you have to catch them all, if not, then I say search elsewhere.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday Musings: Crafts, Geekery, and Randomness

Ah Saturday, my day to reflect on the week and ramble about the things that interest me other than tea, and what a week it has been! Definitely a week of highs and lows, luckily the lows resolved themselves without much doom and gloom. This week's highs included awesome gaming and hanging out with friends, I celebrated my One Year Tea Blog-iversary, and Espeon is not going to have to have surgery!
How are you even comfortable?
Ok that was also the big low...silly cat goes and eats a massive ribbon (the inner tie to my silk robe no less) and after a visit to the pet ER (goodbye $120 I didn't really have) and the inducing of vomit failing, the doctor said there is a 50/50 chance she will pass it or have to have a very costly and invasive surgery. I can say that yesterday might have been one of the most stressful days of my life, luckily about an hour ago the ribbon made its way through Espeon and she is bouncing around happily like nothing happened. Of course completely oblivious to the fact that she almost gave me a heart-attack many times over.
Hello, we are Chaos, here to visit your town!
So as promised in yesterday's post, it is time to talk about gaming! On Thursday I played four new games and one old favorite. The three new ones were Bohnanza, a game that is about beans and planting, classic 90s game with cheesy art devoted to cut throat trading and resource management, I am pretty lukewarm on it...I enjoyed playing a new game and certainly enjoyed the fierce competition, but I doubt I would seek it out again on my own. Next up was Werewolf and The Resistance, two Mafia-esque games that require the players be good at reading other people and bluffing. I am pretty good at reading people, but terrible at bluffing, I tend to use my usual plan when bluffing is involved, I blend into the background and hope people forget I am there. These style games are more ones I like to watch other people play rather than play myself because being shy and terrible at bluffing makes me not very good at these games. The last new game I play was called Shadow Hunter, it had some secretive Mafia-esque elements which pretty much everyone forgot and it turned into a game of just trolling each other, which is surprisingly fun!

The old familiar game I played is probably one of my favorite Ameri-trash games on the market, Chaos in the Oldworld! Typical Fantasy Flight aesthetic with lots of pieces, detailed miniatures, a huge board, cut-throat competition, and a ton of detailed game-play. Tie in the fact that this game is set in Warhammer Fantasy's universe and you have a recipe for fun...if you are into being a god of Chaos who's sole purpose in life is corrupting the world and remaking it in your image instead of letting one of the other gods have it. Sadly I do not get to play this game often because it is a dense game with a lot of set-up, it is pretty violent and grim dark, it takes about two hours to play, and it is absolutely a four player game. True you can play with three, Ben and I played it together with our third 'person' being a completely randomized AI, but it made the game a bit unbalanced.
Spore print!
I tend to always go for Nurgle when playing, good old Father Nurgle is the god of pestilence, disease, and rot. He wins by corrupting as many regions as possible, spreading plague everywhere, as an armchair Mycologist I like to imagine that he is spreading like Mycellia and all his corruption tokens are the fruiting stages of mushrooms. Speaking of mushes, I found what I believe to be a Pluteus petastus in the yard. Sadly since I live in a suburban wasteland I do not get many options to go mushrooming and I fear I am atrophying in my skills. To try and combat this I bought myself a present, much loved by me Mushrooms of North America by Roger Phillips. I used to own this book but in a fit of depression I sold it...this was after I was told I was no longer going to be a Naturalist at Unistar (or mushroom heaven) and I just could not bear to look at my mushroom books. So I am very happy to have my book back, especially since it was only $5 at Half Price Books.

Lastly in today's rambling is a bit of craftiness. I have gotten back into folding origami after my break due to strained tendons in my wrists and then redoing my tea/craft area (which still needs a cool name) I started off with a skeletal dodecahedron, one of my favorite designs, and I am currently working on a striped sonobe stellated icosahedron. Funny thing is, I pocketed some paper to fold while at Tabletop, in case there was a lull in the gaming and I got bored. Well Chaos in the Old World can have some pretty big gaps between turns, especially if someone spends a long time thinking of their next move (I am looking at you Ben, who totally has to get timed sometimes) so I started folding between turns. By the end of the game I had a little sonobe stellated icosahedron and tossed it to one of my friends. My various friends were amazed that I would just give something like that away, I told them that I make so much origami that I more or less have to or I end up running out of room for it all! Then one of my other friends came up with a genius idea, I should fold things during a game and then at the end give whoever won the thing I folded...absolute brilliance, so this is totally going to be my thing now.
From my mom's calender last year
One last little blurb before I finish rambling. If anyone has an interest in buying one of my annual Tea Advent Calenders, you have until September 1st to pre-order. I know crazy early but since I am going to be in Pennsylvania mid-October through the end of December, I have to make them before I go. For all the details please check here, all I need is a Paypal email address to send an invoice to, and you can contact me through the little box on the side of the blog, or through facebook, twitter, tumblr, or cat memo (ok maybe not that one)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teavivre: Fengqing Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2014, A Tea Review

Last night was just awesome, it was Thursday meaning Board Game Night at Tabletop, and it was certainly one of the better nights I have had there. I played so many good games (will be discussing some of those tomorrow on my weekly Geeky rambling post) and then after gaming just hung around with friends talking until almost 3AM. I feel wretched today and my sleep schedule is all messed up, but it is totally worth it.

 Today's tea is Fengqing Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2014 from Teavivre, a Sheng Pu-erh from Alihou Village in Fenging, Yunnan. The leaves were harvested in April-May of 2014 from Large Leaf trees that were 300-600 years old, making this the youngest Pu-Erh I have had the pleasure of meeting. I still have a lot to learn about Sheng Pu-erh, having only had a few examples so far. The aroma of the dry leaf is quite potent and a little pungent, but in a good way. The aroma is at first very sweet, like fresh hay and apricots, this transitions to more of a wet hay mushroom aroma with a strong honey note. There is also a very faint saltiness to it which is quite interesting. 

Once I give the leaves a rinsing and then a brief steeping their aroma is still sweet and just a little bit fruity, but it is mostly wet hay, a bit of barnyard, and a sharp almost sour quality that does not really have a familiar aroma note, it is more of a sensation in my nose. I should state that it is not an unpleasant sensation, but it is an unfamiliar one. The liquid is very sweet, a mix of apricots, freshly mown hay, and honey. I was surprised at sweet it smelled.

The taste of the first steep is both sharp and sweet, it causes a very strong salivary response and an intense cooling sensation which is very refreshing. The flavor notes are freshly mown hay, apricot, and a finish of vegetation and a tiny bit of bitterness. There is a sweet honey aftertaste that lingers for a while.

Onto steep two! The aroma is sweet apricot and freshly mown hay, this still might be the sweetest smelling Sheng Pu-Erh that I have ever sniffed, I find that really kinda awesome. The taste this time around is a lot more mellow, no sharpness, no bitterness, no cooling salivary response, just smooth sweetness. The flavors are wet hay, fresh vegetation, and apricots. At the finish there is a tiny bit of camphor, which is something I do not get to say very often.

The aroma for the third steep is honey sweet, apricots, and fresh hay. There is a little touch of wet hay and barnyard this time, but it is very faint. The taste is very sweet and rich, the cooling sensation has returned along with tastes of fresh hay, honey, and apricot. I think this tea still has quite a few steeps in it, but sadly after the second steep I started noticing stomach spasms and knew after steep three that I had to call it quits. This has NOTHING to do with the tea, sometimes my stomach decides to freak out, and I have noticed that it has a mixed track record with Sheng, so don't let my belly stop you! I really thought this tea was enjoyable, especially with how sweet it is. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Persimmon Tree Tea Company: Rooibos Vanilla Chai, A Tea Review

So I tried something new and exciting today, I made popped amaranth! It is pretty tasty, similar to popcorn but with an earthier taste, I certainly think I like it better than popcorn...plus no annoying kernels being stuck in my teeth! This is part of my experimenting trying to find easy to make, relatively cheap, naturally gluten free (not a substitute like gluten free waffles or crackers) snacks. My next experiment will be toasted millet, though I do find myself wondering what these toasted and popped grains would be like in Genmaicha.

So, have you ever found yourself craving Chai right before bed but knew there was no way you would sleep if you drank one? The Persimmon Tree Tea Company's Rooibos Vanilla Chai might just be a solution for midnight Chai cravings. Made from Organic Rooibos, Vanilla Flavoring, Ginger Pieces, Cinnamon Pieces, Cardamon, Cloves, and Orange Pieces. The aroma is very sweet and spice, as expected from a Chai! There are notes of vanilla, woody rooibos, caramel, and mostly well balanced spices. I say mostly because the ginger is a bit stronger than the other spices.

After giving the tea a good steeping, the aroma is very spicy, heavy notes of clove and ginger. It reminds me of the holidays, very warm and comforting aroma. There are also fairly gentle notes of vanilla and sweet, woody, rooibos. The liquid is mellow, a nice sweet blend of rooibos, spices, vanilla, and a tiny hint of orange.

I find myself frequently craving night time Chai in the colder months, the warming spices and richness of the tea is very soothing when the weather is cold and you are snuggling under blankets with a cup of tea. It is many months away from winter, but I can certainly imagine it when sipping this tea! Since this is a Chai I made it with my usual cream and sugar, but only a hint of sugar since a pre-additive sip let me know that this tea is already quite sweet. The spices are nicely balanced, as with the aroma there is a little more ginger and clove than the other spices, which blends really well with the woodiness of the rooibos. Of course the cream brings out the vanilla giving the tea an extra richness.At the finish there is a bit of orange, which adds an extra layer of warmth to tea. I really like that this is a caffeine free Chai, I am a great lover of Chai both traditional and fun new takes on the tea.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What-Cha: Huoshan Huang Ya Yellow Tea, A Tea Review

How about we have one of those 'here is something you probably didn't know about me' intros to today's blog? I sleep walk, sometimes I think I have more adventures at night than I do during the day! It was really bad when I was a kid, I wandered around everywhere, it got to the point where my parent's had to build a special crib/cage thing around my bed to keep me from wandering around or falling out of bed. I also talk in my sleep and have been known to have whole conversations in my sleep with no remembrance of them when I wake up. My most recent adventure was last night, I woke up in my bathtub, no water or anything, I was just sitting in the tub leaning against a wall. So now you know some other random little factoid about me!

I think that today's tea from What-Cha, Huoshan Huang Ya Yellow Tea, might be the first yellow tea to make an appearance on the blog! I have a few yellow teas in my collection, but they do not have review priority since I bought them myself, company supplied samples always take priority (it is just polite!) Before I get into the usual aroma description, we need a brief description of what yellow tea and by extension Huoshan Huang Ya is. Traditionally only produced in China, yellow tea has a lot in common with its close relative green tea, but it has an extra step in its production called 'sealing yellow' basically this means that the damp leaves were allowed to sit and 'yellow' during a slower drying period. Both the leaves and the liquor have a yellowish color to them and in theory this process makes them milder and less grassy tasting than green tea. Now this particular tea, Huoshan Huang Ya, comes from the mountains of Anhui, China, it was once an imperial tribute tea during the Tang Dynasty and was written about in Lu Yu's work on tea. Sadly the methods of this tea were thought lost, but were rediscovered in the 1970s by some distinguished tea masters, the version of this tea we have now is not quite as yellow as it was back in the Tang Dynasty and is sometimes mistaken for a green tea.

Phew, that was a lot of info, and I even abridged it! I certainly recommend looking up yellow tea, there are a lot of really neat articles written on this type of tea. The aroma of the dry leaves is quite sweet, there are notes of lightly roasted sweet corn, gently roasted sesame seeds, bamboo leaves, and a tiny hint of tomato leaves. At the finish of the sniff there is a hint of smoke. It is odd, every yellow tea I have had has had that tiny hint of smoke at the finish, I find that really neat.

Once the tea has been steeped, the wet leaves take on an extra layer of richness. The toasted sesame and roasted sweet corn are stronger, they are accompanied by the aroma of fresh growing things and bamboo leaves. It does have a similarity with green tea, but it is also quite different. The liquid is a mix of sweet corn and bamboo with a tiny hint of smokiness at the finish.
For the first steep, oh wow, that is a sublime tea (I always feel like Morinth from Mass Effect 2 when I use the word sublime now) it starts with a sweet corn and a touch of roasted sesame, there is a mild sweetness and a touch of bamboo. There is a nice tingly mouthfeel at the back of the throat and a peppery aftertaste.
The aroma for round two is very similar to the first steeping, there is a bit more of the bamboo leaves and the roasted corn and sesame aroma has a sweeter note to it. The taste again starts out with sweet corn and sesame seeds, but less roasted and more creamy sweet. This transitions to fresh bamboo leaves and a touch of pepper. There is a hint of smoke at the aftertaste, also the mouthfeel is smooth and not tingly this time.

The third steep's aroma is faint, there are creamy sweet notes of sweet corn still and a hint of bamboo leaves, but mostly that is all that is left. The taste has become quite delicate as well, it starts with sweet corn and a touch of roasted sesame. There is also a hint of bamboo, broken stems, and a hint of kale giving the tea a little bit of a bitter green taste. Oddly this steep had a cooling effect, as I sipped it I felt cool and very relaxed, I also noticed this tea has a decent kick of caffeine making me feel very mentally alert, luckily not at all caffeine buzzed. By steep three I was just on the edge of being tea drunk, it is a wonderful feeling to go along with a really delicious tea!