Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years, Travel, And Breakage

Well, I am back home, safe in Kansas City, all my stuff unloaded from the car...of course I had the realization that I have a problem and really do have too much stuff. Since it will be the New Year tomorrow, this is a perfect time to redo the bedroom again. Of course my cats were immensely happy to see me!
We went the route that was most scenic
Sadly things never go off without a hitch, the night before I left Pennsylvania, my computer decided it wanted to take that moment to die. Luckily it is not a horrible death like my last computer, so a mad dash to find a cheap replacement does not look in the cards. I hope. I have a Toshiba Satellite and it has a problem where the plug (on the computer end, not the plug into the wall end) just stops working. So I need to get a new part and then install it. Luckily Ben is nice enough to share his computer, so starting tomorrow the reviews shall return, but not having nigh constant access to the computer I am familiar with is annoying!
My computer's sticker collection is ridiculous

So, wishing all of you a happy New Year and see you all on the other side :D

Thursday, December 25, 2014

M&K's Tea Company: Winterwolf, A Tea Review

So, before I get into the tea review, I want to take a minute to thank everyone who reads my ramblings! It has been an awesome year, and I greatly look forward to another year full of tea! I should warn you all that there is a slight chance that this will be my last post until the first of the year. Ben will be swooping in tomorrow night and having a brief visit before we take an epic (though not as pretty as the one mom and I had this fall) road trip back home. So I hope you all forgive me for wanting to spend the last few days in PA focused on packing up, re-acquainting myself with my long missed boyfriend, and having many tear-filled goodbyes with my mom. If I find time I might blog, if not, have an excellent rest of December!

Today is the last of the Christmas teas (actually no, I have a few stashed away in my notebook for a July Christmas or something along those lines) and I am not going to lie, I saved my favorite for last. M&K's Tea Company's Winterwolf (which is an awesome name, fun fact, when I was in my 'Japanese obsession phase' in my late teens, I went by Masshirona Okami, yeah I was a dork) is a blend of Wolfberries (also known as the beloved Goji Berries) roasted in honey, Green Rooibos, Vietnamese Cinnamon, and Natural Butterscotch flavor. The aroma of this tea is yum, I had a very hard time not eating the goji berries, seriously, I love those things so much! It is a blend of warm cinnamon, butterscotch, honey, sweet freshly mown hay, and of course goji berries. I love their sweet and slightly tart aroma oddly they remind of the sweet aspect of tomatoes, I know that sounds a little odd, but they have that quality to me.

So, with great self control, I did not eat the gojis and placed the tea into my steeping basket and let it soak. After a few moments I noticed something awesome...the aroma coming out of my cup is egg custard pie. That is, hands down, probably my favorite dessert ever. I seriously did a double take when I sniffed it, and then did a little happy dance in my chair because yum! There is of course goji berries as well, and now I am tempted to add them to egg custard next time I make it. The liquid is spices, goji berries, egg custard goodness, and a bit of sweet hay that almost gives it a crust-like aroma.

So, now that the tea has steeped, I am eating the goji berries. It is a good way to pass the time while waiting for the tea to cool, anytime teas have little nibble bits in them and I am not expecting a resteep I tend to eat the bits, but I also do that on the last steep of green teas too. So, the time of truth, the time of tasting...and HOLY BUTTERSCOTCH CUSTARD PIE, Batman!! Holy Mary Mother of Mudkips, seriously! I want to create smellovision and instant 'taste things through the screen' because oh my that is yummy. It tastes like warm egg custard pie, the good kind that has cinnamon dusted on the top and the sugar on the top layer has caramelized. There is definitely a hint of crust in there as well, and of course, the beloved goji berries add their sweet berry goodness to the tea. I really love the wolfberries because they do not have an overpowering flavor, they are sweet and very juicy with an almost floral taste, and they are wonderful at imparting this into the teas they are blended with. So yeah, this was definitely my favorite of the holiday teas, it might not scream 'Christmas' but it makes me feel immensely happy, and really, isn't that what the holidays are about? Now, I need to use my Christmas money to buy a big ol' thing of this tea, I do not need to run out of it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Armenos: Christmas Song Tea Blend, A Tea Review

Everyone, today is my mom's birthday! According to the Celtic Tree Calender her birthday gets its own tree...which according to whichever of the many, many, many (sometimes very poorly researched) sources you choose to read, this means she is either ruled by mistletoe, elder, pine, or nothing. I jokingly call this the non-day, that clearly she is a changeling and I am half fairy, anything to make my constant playing of an elf in RPGs plausible. So happy birthday mom! I am glad I am getting to spend it with her this year!

Today's tea is part of the quest for holiday teas, Armenos's Christmas Song Tea Blend! This is a rather coloful blend of Rooibos, Apple Pieces, Pineapple Pieces, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Pink Peppercorn, and Hawthorn, two of my favorite ingredients (pink pepper and star anise) and one I confess to never having in tea before (hawthorn) so fun fact, the berries of hawthorns are called haws (I sound immensely Southern while trying to say that word) actually reading about it, hawthorn is used in Chinese tea blends sometimes, so maybe I have had it? Who knows, time for a tea adventure either way. This is a nice spicy tea, for me one of the most 'Christmasy' things is a spicy tea, because my mom would always break out the spices for both tea and her simmering potpourri, very much so a comfort thing for me. The aroma is very much so Christmas spices with cinnamon and anise and a very mild bit of pepper. There is also a touch of citrus and fruity and a nice sweet, woody finish (hello Rooibos) to the tea.

Oh I do love this smell! It steeping has set my little tea corner up as a nice spicy, warm, area. It feels like a warm cuddly blanket for the nose. The leaves once they have been steeped still bring about a nice spice to the area, the anise and pepper shine supreme and the cinnamon and apple bring up the rear, it is like a very mild and slightly unusual cider. Note to self, use star anise and pepper in my next mulling spice blend. So, the liquid without the spices, fruits, and such, is very much the holiday Rooibos, you can certainly pick up the caramel and woody notes I always associate with Rooibos, but mix that with a slightly citrus fruitiness (not exactly citrus, you know how pineapple and apple for that matter have a citrus tone to them at times, at least they do for me) and spices and you have a pretty neat smelling blend.

The name of this tea is Christmas Song, now I am trying to figure out which of my favorite songs I can visialize while sipping it...pretty much all of my favorites are tree and snow themed, so, if anyone has any spiced themed songs they want to share with me that would be awesome! If you have ever found yourself deeply in love with Christmas spiced teas and wanted one without caffeine and black tea to sip before bed, this could be a great choice, that is, assuming you like Rooibos. The taste starts out with cinnamon and star anise, this moved to a distinct creamy sweetness with apple and pineapple notes, not sure where the creaminess is coming from but I rather like it. The finish is a blend of woodiness and pepper, there is no dry mouth sensation from the Rooibos, I believe the fruit took care of that.

Monday, December 22, 2014

M&K's Tea Company: Mintberry Pine, A Tea Review

I can feel the holidays closing in on me like a tinsel laden noose. With that in mind I spent the day being an utter lump yesterday since I knew that starting today it was back on full tilt until Christmas. Really, I wish the holidays were less stressful and busy, I would like to actually enjoy them, but nope. So starting next year I am inventing my own holiday in hopes that maybe it will be a little more relaxed. Happy very early Snowliday!

Today's holiday themed tea in my attempt at nothing but Christmas teas until the 25th (wish me luck!) is Mintberry Pine from M&K's Tea Company. A blend of Sloe berries roasted in honey and hibiscus, Malawian, Japanese, and Chinese Green Teas, Pine Needles and Bark, Spearmint, Peppermint Extract, Natural Blueberry Flavoring, and Natural Cranberry Flavoring, I admit the mention of pine in the ingredients is what really excited me since I get super hype whenever I see anything woodsy in flavor notes. The aroma is pretty great, a blend of pine trees, mellow mint, and vegetal greens make up the majority of the sniffing notes, but at the finish there is also a nice bit of tart berry and a touch of honey. I like that the mint does not overshadow everything and that you can definitely smell the pine, it is like a minty Christmas tree!

The nicely steeped leaves (and needles and berries) starts off with pine, moves right to mellow mintiness, and again, finishes with tart berries and honey. It is a funky aroma, blending winter with its cooling mint and pine along with spring and its vegetal green and berries, more last snowfall than solstice, but I am a nut when it comes to mental images I get when sniffing/tasting things. The aroma of the liquid switched the order around on the notes, starting off with tart and equally sweet berries, I have never had sloe berries so I am unable to really compare it to anything, it is like a blend of blueberries and juniper. Though apparently giving a quick look on the oh so useful Wikipedia, they share a 'pick after first frost or will be tart, bitter, death' with persimmons, so that is neat. The more you know...Anyway, next we get a nice cooling bit of slightly sweet mint and then the beloved pine aroma.

So, tasting time! The tea starts out with cooling mint, it is not super mint gum or toothpaste, it is mellow and has a distinct vegetation undertone which is probably the green tea, but mint can taste a lot like herbal vegetation when it is fresh. I used to spend a lot of time eating fresh mint and drinking mint tea as a kid, ah those were the days. I also used to chew on pine needles because I was a weird kid, I had this thing where I felt I didn't really understand a thing until I thoroughly sniffed and tasted it, probably why I do not understand a lot of poisonous plants, but yeah, pine was always my favorite thing to gnaw on. Luckily the next flavor note to pop up is the aforementioned pine, it is resinous, slightly sweet, and well...piney! After that we move onto the berries, a nice tart and sweet blend of blueberries and something else, which I believe is sloe berries, again trying to describe it is hard because it is a unique new taste. It is a blend of slightly unripe plum, blueberries, tartness, and juniper, I like its unique taste and would like to get my hand on some to try on their own. The green tea base is present throughout the tea, it does not have any real distinctness and adds an underlying greenness to the whole sipping process, this is a great winter evening kinda tea, to sip while staring out the window hoping for snow.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

52Teas: Snowflake Gyokuro, A Tea Review

So much groggy in my brain today! I had a really bad allergic reaction (just discovered I am allergic to aloe, this explains so very much about my life) so that means benadryl, which in turn means sleepy. If I did not have a mountain of things to do (ah the holidays) I would curl up in bed with my kindle and catch up on some reading. Currently I am reading a book about using Cognitive Behavioral Theory to help anxiety and depression in adults in the Autism Spectrum, a book about food in the Medieval times, and a book on food allergies. Fascinating stuff, if I finish them up before the end of the year I would have read 96 books this year, I was hoping to hit 100, but alas, I have been too busy!


So today's tea is a wintry blend from 52Teas: Snowflake Gyokuro. Yeah, I did a double take too when I saw it was a blended Gyokuro, I am not sure this is a an act of genius or a horrible sin, I mean it is Gyokuro, that stuff is supposed to be sacred, right? Regardless, I knew I needed to try it for many reasons: it has marshmallow root (best stuff ever), it is winter themed, and it is a blended Gyokuro...I mean when will I get the chance to try that again? So, this is a blend of Gyokuro, Spearmint, Peppermint, Marshmallow Root, and Organic Natural Flavors, I really enjoyed 52Teas other minty, marshmallow green tea Graveyard Mist, so in theory I should like this...problem is, Gyokuro is not always a sweet tasting tea, in fact usually it is pretty umami, so this could be a real adventure. So from the aroma, all I am getting is mint and marshmallow, it is very sweet and the mint clears my sinuses, wintry indeed! I can certainly see snow being represented by the cleanness of mint and the gentle sweetness of marshmallow, but I wonder where the aroma of the Gyokuro is?

I was a bit stumped on how to brew this tea, after much debating I *gasp* just decided on a basket in a teacup, though I did not follow the directions on the package, I have had too many bad encounters with Japanese teas brewed too hot, so I opted for 155. So, I found the Gyokuro after steeping, it is there under the mint and marshmallow, there are notes of spinach, hay, and fresh sea air. Not going to lie, this combination is incredibly odd, not off putting at all, but just not something you expect to run into ever. The liquid is very similar, the mint is mellowed out a bit, the marshmallow is just as sweet, and the Gyokuro is still doing its thing, with the sea air taking on more of a kelp tone.

This tea is hard to describe, and it might win the award for one of the weirdest teas I have reviewed (that is only because I have not reviewed any of 52Teas bacon themed teas on the blog yet, I have the notes though!) Like with the aroma, the combination of things going on in my mouth is not off putting, it is just something I never thought I would mix together. First is mild mint with a cooling sensation that fills up my nose, you can definitely tell it is spearmint and peppermint, then there is the Gyokuro. It is savory, a blend of sea air, kelp, spinach, and mown grass. It is so bizarre, but it actually works really well together. I went for another steep and this time I only got hints of mint and marshmallow and much stronger Gyokuro. If there is any of my stash left come summer time, I might have to try this cold brewed.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Phoenix Herb Company: Dian Hong, A Tea Review

In theory I would be apologizing for no tea blog yesterday, but I am not sorry, TU19 came out yesterday and I was in utter bliss. A bit of backstory, the last 'real' not bugfix update for the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft came out last time I was in Pennsylvania, either in July or August of 2013! I know 4J Studios has been busy making Minecraft for all the other consoles, and that is awesome, but I was seriously gloomy about the lack of update. So as expected, when I saw yesterday that the new update was out, all my plans flew out the window as I went around taming horses and giving mobs really random names.

It is now time for yesterday's tea today! My current home town of Kansas City has a delightful shop which I visit on occasion, Phoenix Herb Company (who will be at the Midwest Tea Fest, hint hint :P ) and I am looking at one of my favorite teas: Dian Hong! Basically Dian Hong translates to Yunnan Red, so this is a fancy red (or black) tea from Yunnan, it is not as fuzzy and golden as some of my favorite red teas, but it makes up for lack of gold by having a powerful flavor and smell. Or at the very least the other Dian Hongs I have had are like that, so time to see how this one compares. The aroma is super sweet, there are notes of raisins, sweet potato, a bit of dark rum, cherries, and some floral in there as well. It has a headiness to it, but more of a fruity sweet headiness than floral, though the distant rose aroma is quite striking.

So, into the gaiwan the leaves go, after their first somewhat short steeping (30 seconds if you are curious) the aroma of the leaves is still sweet, but it takes on a heavy richness. There are notes of cocoa, raisins, dried cherries, molasses, and a nice malty punch at the finish. It is an aroma that wakes you up, which is good, especially after an all-nighter of Minecraft. The liquid is really malty and bright with a distinct cherry undertone and a finish of molasses.

The first steep starts out really brisk and bright, it almost reminds me of an Assam who decided to visit Yunnan and liked it so much they stayed. I could see this becoming a really good breakfast tea. After the initial brisk malt tones, it mellows out to molasses and raisins at the midtaste, this in turn goes to sweet cherries and a touch of smoke at the finish. The smoky finish is so minute that it took me a few sips before I was certain it was there and not just in my head.

For the second steep, the aroma is much maltier and even more brisk, it practically effervesces and wakes me up from sniffing it, definitely a good morning tea! Like the previous steep it starts out brisk, bright, and malty, but it lacks the sharpness of astringency that some really brisk teas can have. After the beginning's zinginess it moves into heavy cherry and raisin sweetness which lingers into the aftertaste. I could see this being a really good wake up tea for someone who wants a milder black but finds most Chinese red teas too mild and more 'Western style' black teas too intense.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What-Cha: Darjeeling 1st Flush 2014 Gopaldhara SFTGFOP1 Black Tea, A Tea Review

So, you may or may not know that I dabble with Influentster, recently they had an ebay related campaign involving creating guides and collections. I finished the collection campaign a week ago and just finished the guides section, meaning I got $10 ebay gift card and have another one on the way. This babbling is inevitably leading up to the thing I bought, Dark Swords Elven Princess, a sculpt inspired by Larry Elmore's (think most Dragonlance covers) art that I am much enamored with. If my plans go...as planned, then I will be doing a little green stuff alteration to make her more like one of my RPG characters.

Excitement about painting aside, I am not feeling too hot today so onto the tea! Specifically What-Cha's Darjeeling 1st Flush 2014 Gopaldhara SFTGFOP1 Black Tea, an exceptionally high grade (special finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe...that means it is really good) first flush Darjeeling from Gopaldhara Tea Estate. For some reason my brain just cannot register the name of this estate, no many how many times I read it or type it, I will always want to pronounce it Goldaphara...really brain, do try to keep things from getting too jumbled. I think this is why my reviews will always be in text, no one will have to hear my letter jumbling. So, the aroma of this tea is so light and so sweet, it just kinda lays on my nose like a silken scarf. It is a blend of muscatel (specifically very fresh scuppernongs and muscadines) honey, wildflowers, and a tiny touch of pepper at the finish. It reminds me of nasturtiums and growing things and the more milder aspects of summer.

In order to let the leaves dance around and have fun while taking their bath, I decided to steep them in my alchemy equipment (as I have taken to calling my glass double boiler thingy) as they unfurl, the colors of the leaves is quite beautiful, a mixture of greens, browns, and golds. It reminds me of sunlight streaming through leaves. The aroma of the leaves is so fresh, like muscadines straight off the vine, sweet sun warmed honey right off the comb, wildflowers blooming, and peppery nasturtiums. It is such a soothing aroma, and a very happy one at that, at least for me, it reminds me of summers from my younger days. The liquid is delicate and sweet, like honey and nasturtiums with a touch of muscadines. Ah, this is heavenly!

Oh man, I love that nasturtium note! I do not run into that one very often in tea, it is awesome! If you have never had the pleasure of eating nasturtium flowers, they are peppery, a bit sweet, and have a very clean and green heat to them. Similar to a very mild horseradish and flowers. Now this tea is not all spicy flowers, in fact the first bit of taste is the clean nasturtium and then it vanishes, quickly replaces with juicy muscadines and honey. It is just like biting into a sun warmed muscadine picked off the vine, an experience I seriously advise everyone to do at least once! The finish is mild and sweet, a wildflower honey taste that lingers.

I did a second steep for this tea and it was very similar to the first, the notes of honey were stronger and the peppery notes were almost diminished, it reminded me a little of daikon without the root taste. I was in one of those great tea bliss moments and as my notes finish for this tea, my usually barely legible handwriting just becomes a sideways mess. This was (le gasp) my first ever first flush Darjeeling, and I can see why so many people are hooked on it! I need more, lots more, if the taste is that intoxicating!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Life In Teacup: 2009 Guan Zi Zai Xiao Man Shu, A Tea Review

The tree has achieved awesome status! Yes, it is that time of year where we drag a dead fir tree into the house, cover it in lights and ornaments, and happily stare at it while being pleased at our work. This year's tree has no theme other than absolute chaos! Lots of colors and almost all the ornaments are origami creations I have made. I am hoping to make some more ornaments, but alas I have not felt inspired to fold much.

Since it is a day of coniferous joy, I decided that the perfect tea to review is one that has been languishing in my notebook since late summer just waiting for the perfect opportunity. Life in Teacup's 2009 Guan Zi Zai Xiao Man Shu is a Shu (or Shou, Ripe) Pu Erh from Yunnan (of course) produced by the Guan Zi Zai factory. Other than where it is from, what type of Pu it is and what year it is from, that is all I know about this tea. Sometimes I feel like studying the world of Pu Erh is like studying the entire world of tea, it is amazingly complex and at times very hard to navigate. I believe I will be a novice for all eternity at times! So, why is this the tea that gets reviewed on a day when I have been dealing with a sticky fir tree? Because the aroma is so evocative of a coniferous forest that for a moment I can transport myself to the forest I used to romp in as a teenager. It was a mixed forest, but since this was the South, a large portion of the forest was pine, so I am very familiar with the at times almost intoxicating aroma of pine loam, wet pine wood, resin, needles, and sap. That is what the aroma of this tea evokes, it is like a hot, wet, rainy day in a pine forest where all those smells waft out of the earth and the trees around you.

After the tea's rinsing and first short steep, the aroma of the soggy leaves is sweet and resinous, much like pine sap and a hint of molasses. There are also notes of wet wood and loam, and a tony hint of anise. The liquid also has that hint of anise, how fascinating! There are also the expected notes of wet pine wood, loam, and a touch of sweet sap.

The first steep is rather delicate and sweet, with a slightly sharp and tingly mouthfeel, almost like the sensation of eating pine sap (yes I have done it and I am a weirdo.) There are flavor notes of wet pine, rich molasses, a bit of loam, and a finish of anise. That anise is quite unexpected and fun!

Second steep time, the aroma takes on a creamy anise and loam tone, it is both sweet and earthy, mixing pine and wet earth. It has a heaviness to it, like I am sinking into the soil on a rainy day. The taste for this steep is as expected quite a bit more intense than last. It starts out a tiny bit bitter, much like wet wood can have a bitterness to it, not an off-putting bitterness. Around the middle of the sip the taste turns to sweetness and richness, like molasses and loam. At the finish there is a touch of the fermented mushroom soil taste that goes really well with the forest floor taste.

The aroma of the third steep is very sweet, a mix of sweet, resinous, pine loam and very sweet molasses bordering on raw sugar. This is a detoxing Pu! Something about this tea has a great heating affect causing me to feel warm and sweaty, gross I know, but I get really lucky and sometimes Pu Erhs just feel like they are cleaning out any gross things from my body, I feel better after drinking them. The taste is heavy, like deep loam and a touch of peat, this transfers to sweet molasses and a touch of anise again. The finish is pine sap and a touch of a cooling sensation at the finish. So, a perfectly piney tea for a tree decorating day.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Trader Leaf: Chocolate Coconut Bon Bon, A Tea Review

There is a tree outside! Ok, that was a little vague, there is a five foot balsam fir sitting on the porch waiting to be brought inside for decorating. There is also a stash of gluten free flour and accouterments for baking, exciting! I might be a real Grinch when it comes to Christmas (so much so that I am cancelling it after this year in favor of a new holiday of my own invention) but that does not stop my enjoyment of baking and coniferous trees. I really need to get a tiny needly tree to live on my desk, or at the very least a candle that smells EXACTLY like a fir tree...also I need to pick up some blue and purple lights for my bedroom, the little lights make me immensely happy. Also, guys, I really need a dainty snow themed teacup or teapot for my collection, it is of extreme importance.

So today we are having another visit with Trader Leaf, specifically we are taking a little looksie at Chocolate Coconut Bon Bon a blend of  black tea, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, broken cocoa bits, coconut flakes, and flavoring, some of my favorite ingredients...I do just adore chocolate and coconut. The aroma, oddly enough, is really loaded with almonds! Maybe that is what the flavoring is, because it is super nutty. There are also strong notes of chocolate and slightly toasted coconut. It reminds me a little of a bon bon, but it has been so long since I had one, which is tragic with my great love of chocolate. Really though, the aroma reminds me of cookies with a malt and molasses finish, so it might be a slightly different dessert, but it is sweet regardless.

The brewed tea is super duper sweet! No surprise with it being a dessert tea, but wow, that aroma is so sweet. It is a blend of rich sweet chocolate, molasses, coconut, and almond cookies. The liquid is nigh inseparable from the brewed leaves, the only real difference is the aroma gains sugary sweetness from the melted chocolate.

Of course the tea has a delightful oily film which makes for an excellent mouthfeel, but it is annoying to clean off the teacup! I know some people get really grossed out by the texture of melted chocolate and coconut in tea, but I find it soothing, it reminds me of my childhood tradition of getting a spoonful of goose-grease when I had a sore throat. My grandmother would give it too many and for some reason I always got a sore throat when visiting! Ok, greasiness aside, the taste is surprisingly not that sweet, which is fine by me. Oh don't get me wrong, it is sweet, but not the sweet of biting into a bon bon, it is the sweetness of coconut and a small amount of chocolate. The coconut is very pronounced, there are also notes of cocoa butter and of course chocolate, especially into the aftertaste where it mixes a bit with malt and molasses. This tea was enjoyable, but it did lack potency, I wish either the black tea would have been stronger or possibly the chocolate, but I am never opposed to more chocolate. If you have an interest in trying this tea yourself, Trader Leaf very awesomely has a pair of coupons for my readers: for free shipping use code 'amanda' and for $10 off all orders over $40 use code 'butterflies' so yay for discounts!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Teavivre: Superfine Taiwan Ali Shan Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Hey all, still not feeling 100% yet, something about the transition from moderately warm and cold to full on constant cold winter always throws my body for a loop. Luckily taking a chill and getting some much needed sleep last night definitely seemed to help, along with a little thrift store therapy. I found some adorable new tea gear for an amazing price, I will have to have another tea gear show off soon! I am hoping after the 'Christmas rush' slows down I can get back to reviewing tea gear and tea books, but for now it is all tea all the time. I hope you all do not mind too terribly much.

So for today we are finishing up the Oolong tasting event from Teavivre with Superfine Taiwan Ali Shan Oolong Tea! This Gao Shan is from the 1,000 meter zone of Ali Shan, this particular tea is a Jin Xuan varietal (one of my personal favorites, in case you were curious) and apparently irrigated with fresh spring water. I want to be irrigated with fresh spring water, that stuff is delicious and so clean tasting, but I am not a plant so I must live vicariously through tea. The aroma of this tea is really quite sweet, like sesame candies with honey (ever had those things, they are delicious!) along with a touch of honeysuckle nectar and sweet cream, the cream notes border on buttery. Ok, so this just might be a Southern thing, but it reminds me a little of that super creamy honey butter for biscuits, yes I have been guilty of just eating the butter and forgoing the biscuit.

The aroma of the brewed leaves is unsurprisingly very sweet, they smell like a blend of honeysuckles and fresh growing things in summer. There are also notes of yeasty baking bread and a touch of chestnuts. The blend of bread and chestnut makes me want to bake, I absolutely love chestnuts, but they are obnoxiously expensive and I was spoiled as a kid since I lived near a chestnut tree. The liquid is no where near as intense as the wet leaves, it is mild and sweet with baking bread notes and a touch of slightly creamy honeysuckle.

The first steep is light in taste but powerful in mouth feel. It is so smooth that I will go out of a limb and say it is silky, it does not fill the mouth, it caresses. The taste is sweet, blending yeasty bread and honeysuckles with a distinct green quality, not vegetal, just green. I find myself wondering if the taste is really that mild or if the sensation of the tea is so intense that I am distracted by it, a very real possibility.

Whoa, the aroma of the second steep really steps up its game, where the previous steep was pretty mild, this one is sweet and yeasty with flower notes and a touch of sweet cream. Surprisingly, the taste is not really sweet, it blends notes of spinach, growing green things, and bread. Specifically either a really mild sourdough or country farm bread. At the finish there is a hint of sweet flowers and chestnuts. I love how bread like this tea tastes, I do not run into a more savory green oolong very often, so it is a bit fun!

The third steep is similar to the second with its delightfully sweet and floral aroma, specifically it is the aroma of honeysuckles, one of my favorite summer flowers. The taste surprises again, it starts off similar to the second, not as green and primarily yeasty. Then it blooms into honeysuckles and honey which lingers to the finish where it is joined with chestnuts at the aftertaste. This is not my favorite ever Oolong, but it is quite enjoyable.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Influentster & Celestial Seasonings: Candy Cane Lane, A Tea Review

Today is such a yuck day, yuck, yuck, yuck! I went shopping for noms this morning after not getting much sleep (it has been one of those weeks) and progressively felt ickier as the day went on. Not wanting to abandon the blog without a post today, I decided to have a little bit of easy fun.
I love their art, as a kid I collected the boxes for storage because they were so cool
So I was included in Influenster's #FrostyVoxBox, a box of really cool products to try out and review (you guys have probably seen me feature past boxes if you have been reading a while) usually I do all of it in one big review, but since one of the things included with it was tea, well, I had to do it separately. Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane Green Tea Decaffeinated, a holiday tea straight out of my memories. This is a blend of peppermint, decaffeinated green tea, orange peel, natural vanilla and mint flavors with other natural flavors, cinnamon, milk thistle, blackberry leaves, roasted carob, roasted chicory, and vanilla bean, and since it is a tea bag, it is the exact level of easy I am in the mood for on this most blah of days. So I know when I was younger I would drink a lot if Celestial Seasonings teas, but I cannot remember if I ever drank this one, fun adventure time, maybe! The aroma of the tea is minty and vanill-y (Minty Vanilli, the holiday themed Milli Vanilli comeback was also lip-synced) a little sweet, and a little papery from the bag. One of the tragedies of teabags is they can smell and taste like the bag, but you do at times make sacrifices for being lazy.

One thing I will give the packaging credit for, it does not say to use boiling water, in fact it says using cooler water with green tea will result in a smoother, more delicate flavor. Yay! Certain other bagged tea companies say boil everything, and people wonder why some people think green tea is bitter gross death. The aroma of the tea is minty and mellow, with vanilla and a roasted undertone along with a tiny hint of sugar cookies. The mint is the primary aroma, but it is not a kick in the face of mint.

The taste is not bad, it is minty and sweet with a hint of vanilla and honey and a slight bit of a roasted taste at the end. The green tea base is really generic, I am not sure how to describe it other than 'generic bagged green tea I have been drinking since I was a kid' taste. It is a really mild tea, the mint is cooling, but other than that there is nothing really powerful about it, I do not want to say it tastes watered down, but it does certainly lack oomph. Since this is a decaf tea, I can see this being a tea I could drink before bed or when I feel icky...the tastes are mellow, the mint cools my guts and clears my nose, and the warmth just feels good. In fact I am going to take the rest of this cup and go lay in bed while playing some Minecraft.

As per Influenster's rules:  I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trader Leaf: Winter Pine, A Tea Review

Well, the lip piercing idea was a mistake, I remembered why I took my piercing out all those years ago pretty quickly. Turns out, the older I get, the less tolerant I am of things that irritate me, this usually applies to clothing texture, but it also goes for jewelry, so no lip ring for me. I will have to find some alternative, maybe just take up wearing blue lipstick again? So, piercing problems aside, expect something exciting after Christmas...if things go as planned I am finally going to get a decent little smartphone and start using Instagram. Just think of all the tea selfies and random nonsense you will get to see! Plus all the work in progress craft projects too, it will be exciting, I hope. Another piece of good news, my spider arrived today! It is super cuddly and does an excellent job at balancing on my head.

Today's tea has a seasonal feel to it, part of my quest to get some Christmas and winter themed teas onto the blog during the month of December. This might be somewhat subjective because this time of year is full of memories of smells and tastes. Winter Pine by Trader Leaf is a blend of green tea, orange slices, planed almonds, flavoring, pink peppercorns, and safflower. I can safely say I let out a little squee when I opened the bag, the aroma of the tea smells just like almond crescent cookies, probably my favorite ever holiday cookie. My mom made a version of them for years, then when I was a teenager I found a recipe in a New Age book for moon cookies and had to make them...after eating one I realized they were the same cookie, just in crescents! It is a blend of almonds, oranges, and a touch of pepper, the aroma is very sweet and quite a lot like dessert. My mouth is watering, especially since I have not found a gluten free version of this cookie I am happy with yet, I need them!

Brewing the leaves brings out more of the almond sweetness, like marzipan and shortbread, with sweet orange zest and a touch of pepper. It is exactly like the cookies of my youth, except more orange, which I like! The orange notes mix really well with almond and pepper. The liquid is essentially the same, sweet with notes of orange and almond, in fact I would say the almond dominates here as well.

Yum!! It tastes like cookies! Ah, each sip is like a walk down memory lane. Seriously, the taste is like liquid cookies with a bit of orange jam on the side, so much sweet almond! Like almond cookies and marzipan, my mom who I had to share the cup with, agreed that the taste is very much like almond cookies. It is not as sweet, but a little addition of sugar changes that, but I actually like it not as sweet. This is certainly a mellow tea, the green base does not make itself known too strongly, there is a distant hint of fresh vegetation at the finish along with pepper, so if you are afraid of green tea this might be a good one for you to try! Also, if you are interested in getting this tea for the holidays, Trader Leaf was awesome enough to provide me with a pair of coupons, use code amanda for free shipping or butterflies for $10 off all orders over $40.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What-Cha: Darjeeling 2nd Flush 2014 Jungpana AV2 Yellow Tea, A Tea Review

I have returned to being myself! Ok, I know that sounds weird, but several years ago I took my lip piercing and nose piercing out, for some reason, I honestly don't remember why. I have missed it terribly and said a big YOLO and re-pierced them, nose a while ago and lip today. Something about having blue hair and piercings just makes me happy, but I have always loved that style, blame growing up in the 80s and 90s and wanting to be a glam rock princess from day one. Now the real debate, do I want any more piercings, there are several I want and can't get (scar tissue on my belly, so no belly ring) and several that I think I would look really derpy with (like my septum and dimple piercings) but I think an extra eyebrow ring could look really cool. Also need to redo my ears for like the fifth time.

It is Wednesday, meaning it is time for the What-Cha Wednesday traditional review, what can I say, I love tradition, plus What-Cha keeps introducing me to fascinating teas and terroirs. Today's tea Darjeeling 2nd Flush 2014 Jungpana AV2 Yellow Tea definitely fits into the fascinating category, it is from Jungpana Estate in Darjeeling, and is a 2nd Flush, but it is a little different. This is no black, oolong, or green Darjeeling, this is a yellow! It is hard enough to get a yellow tea from China, but having one from India, well, that is just like finding a treasure. Sadly my searching to find out more tasty info on this unusual tea was not the most fruitful, I did find out that it won an award for its 2013 harvest, so congrats to you tea. This tea's aroma is pleasantly transportive, not that I can really figure out where it takes my mind, but I can say it is somewhere deep in my memories and very comforting, it makes me wistful. Emotional impact aside, the notes are peppery, distant blooming flowers, sweet muscadines, and a tiny touch of sweet, warm hay. It smells light and pretty, yes, it is a pretty smelling tea, mellow and delicate while being distinct.

The brewed leaves are surprisingly complex, presenting notes that I honestly was not expecting. There are notes of sweet hay, pepper...ok those are not surprising since they were present in the dry leaves. Orange blossoms is a pleasant surprise, since it just smelled like generic distant flowers before...but whoa, sea air and wet slate, that unexpected by quite fascinating. These last notes are at the finish and very faint, they add some interesting depth to the delicate tea, and oddly enough the smell of the wet leaves reminds me of the way Charleston smells, which is pretty awesome. The liquid without its leafy friends is delicate and sweet, like orange blossoms, orange blossom honey, and a touch of freshly mown hay.

Well, my mind is blown now. Seriously, there are too many things with this tea, just wow. Ok, to put it out in the simplest terms, it starts with fresh vegetation, lettuce, and pepper, this pretty immediately transitions to sweetness. There is a blend of orange blossoms, honey, and fresh hay. The finish is grapefruit, and then the most amazing thing happens. A few, I don't really think it is seconds, at the most two seconds pass after you swallow the tea a floral explosion happened in my mouth. So, a little side story, at the Kauffman Gardens in Kansas City, there is an observatory filled with orchids and various citrus plants (along with ferns and palms, but they are not relevant to this story) when I was there in spring all the orchids and citrus trees were in flower, it was amazing. That is what is happening in my mouth, with an added nectar sweetness, it is mind blowing.
My hair is perpetually crazy now

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Armenos: Kayinari Style Tea Blend, A Tea Review

Why can't I have backup dancers? Maybe I watch too much Indian Cinema, and just expect that when I break out into spontaneous song and dance that a color coordinated group of backup dancers will just appear and then immediately disappear once I am done. Is that really too much to ask out of life? It certainly would make my life a lot more interesting when I go shopping and decide to sing along with the store's radio. Play music at your own peril!

Today's tea is pretty neat, it holds the distinct honor of being the first package I have received from the country of Greece, from Armenos, a family owned herb shop that has been around since 1875, so cool! What can I say, Greece is REALLY high in my list of places to visit, I have been studying its history and mythology since I was four-ish. Fun little 'me fact' I used to strongly consider majoring in classical mythology, especially after many times infuriating my high school mythology teacher for trying to teach her things, I was a jerkish kid, but her lack of knowledge made me sad! Anyway, tea! Kayinari Style Tea Blend is a colorful blend of rooibos, black tea, sunflower petals, vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon, and it smells just like orange jam! Seriously I had to wonder if someone opened a jar of jam near my head, add a touch of spice and woodiness and you get a delightfully warm smelling tea. One of the joys of spices and oranges, they smell like warmth and sunlight, so on a chilly winter (almost) day this is a perfect smell.

Brewing the tea and I find myself really wanting something to spread that jam like aroma on, seriously, I need some crumpets or something because yum. It actually is reminding me more of marmalade now, with a tiny bit more of a sour citrus along with the sweet citrus. There is a tiny bit of spice as well. The liquid is rich and malty along with orange jam and a bit of caramel sweet rooibos. These notes work really well together and reminds me of the tea my mom would make for us at Christmas.

The taste of this tea is gentle in all aspects, the spice is present and warming, but not overwhelming. The orange taste is mild, like a splash of sweet orange jam dropped into tea (remind me to try that, I am curious if the texture would be weird.) Again, I say orange jam, but really it reminds me of marmalade, blending sour and sweet really well. The black tea base is mellow and bright, the woody qualities of the rooibos adds a bit of depth to it. It very much so reminds me of orange spice tea I would drink as a kid at Christmas, except better, the tastes are very clear and not at all muddied, which I like!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Teavivre: Anxi Monkey King (Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Something really awesome happened to me, thanks to some awesome connections I got my hands on a ton of paint, a glorious selection of brushes, and some basing/sculpting supplies. This pretty much tops off my miniature painting supplies wishlist, I mean yeah there are a few things I need with washes, varnishes, and some technicals, but mostly I am set. This means that any money I get I can use for buying the actual minis instead of the painting supplies, so exciting! I expect that a large portion of Christmas monetary gifts will be used to buy things to paint. Currently I am working on a rather sexy and scantily clad lady standing in some fancy looking rock formations with a friendly lizard.

So, today we are having a tea from Teavivire, Anxi Monkey King (Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin Oolong. This Tie Guan Yin is of the Zheng Cao type of processing, meaning it is only lightly oxidized, making this a vibrant green oolong from Anxi! The name Monkey King, Ma Liu Mie, or Monkey Picked, all refer to the legend that ancient farmers could not pick the tea growing wild on the cliffside, so they improvised by tying ropes around their waists and climbed the cliffs, just like a monkey. Charming, though this myth has led to some pretty wild tales about the tea being picked by actual monkeys or that the farmers would scare the monkeys into knocking branches off the tea tree by throwing things at them. The beauty of legends, trying to sort the truth from the fiction! The aroma of the dry and very green leaves is one of those 'just right' combination of notes, it is floral but not too heady, has notes of fresh vegetation without smelling too green, and notes of chestnut without being too nutty. The Goldilocks of smells. It reminds me of morning dew on an orchid, along with the summer aroma of growing things and a touch of sweet nectar at the finish, very lush smelling.

Once the leaves have been given their first steeping, the headiness of a typical green Tie Guan Yin comes out! The aroma is a very floral blend of orchid, hyacinth, and a touch of honeysuckle with an accompaniment of fresh vegetation and chestnuts. I think I even detect a hint of distant lilacs, very much so a summer evocative blend of notes. The liquid, it is hard to describe, the aroma reminds me of flower water and nectar, like some little (very hard working) elf gathered all the raindrops left on flowers after a rain storm. It is floral, green, and just a tiny hint mineral. Just like summer rain off a flower, not that I am a hard working elf who has done that or anything.

The notes in my notebook for this tea are a little giggle worthy, especially when I use the phrase 'powerhouse of orchid' yep, that sums it up nicely. I find this kind of Tie Guan Yin very relaxing, something about its mixing of strong floral notes, wet and crushed vegetation, and just that hint of buttery chestnut always put me in mind of the feeling after a summer storm. I feel focused and relaxed, very alive and ever so slightly sleepy. The buttery mouthfeel and honey sweet finish mix well with the earlier flavor notes.

The aroma of the second steep, no surprise, is very floral. A blend of orchids, hyacinths, and a touch of chestnut sweetness at the end, ah the headiness of oolongs. The taste is a delightful blend of floral sweetness, I definitely know I am picking up lilac along with the orchid powerhouse this time! A touch of green things, including a tiny hint of fresh spinach, and a tiny bit of chestnut and honey at the finish. It is not as buttery smooth this time, there is a hint of dryness at the very back of the mouth which causes a distinct honey aftertaste.

I should note, I am not the only one sipping this tea at the moment. Yes yes, I do have the notes in my notebook, but decided I also wanted to drink it while writing this. I got my mom a little yixing teapot as an early Christmas/birthday gift (her first) and she wanted it seasoned for green oolongs, so we are having a nice time with this tea and her pot. The third steep is much the same in aroma as the second, a bit more hyacinth than orchid, more sweet than vegetation. The taste takes a similar tone from the aroma, the taste is still quite floral but it is no longer a powerhouse but a mild floral headiness. It reminds me of flowers in the evening, closing their petals up, you can still smell them but it is not as intense. Everything about this steep reminds me of the evening, it is winding down, soothing and relaxing. There is a hint of mineral along with the green fresh vegetation and spinach notes that make up the finish. A very soothing end, and now I return to painting!