Saturday, October 31, 2015

Teabook: Monthly Tea Subscription Service, A Tea Review

Happy All Hallow's Eve! I totally derped and forgot to get a spooky tea for this year's blog, clearly I will have to make up for it next year, but I do promise that today's tea review does have something to do with Halloween. But first, introductions are in order, presenting Teabook! A fairly new to the scene monthly tea subscription that quite literally stole my heart (ok only figuratively stole it, but who uses literally correctly these days?) See, they take fancy teas sourced from China, place them in bags (not tea bags, more like portion control) and then you put those in the tea infuser that comes with your first month's subscription. Yes, this is the tea subscription that is essentially all about on the go grandpa style steeping, probably one of my favorite ways to enjoy tea!

Taken at my painting desk to illustrate the tea on the go aspect

First off we have the infuser, it is a double walled glass tumbler with the standard filter at the top to keep you from munching on the leaves, the holes are not terribly small, so definitely stick to larger leaves if you are using this steeper. The steeper keeps the tea warm for quite a while...which is why Ben was lucky enough to take it with him today for work, see, Halloween themed! He texted me his enjoyment of having hot tea at work. My favorite thing about this steeper is the strap, as someone notoriously clumsy, a way to prevent droppage is awesome. 

It is not a real surprise that the first tea I tried was the Wild Black Tea/ Dian Hong, a fuzzy Yunnan golden tea that happens to be a favorite of mine. The aroma was delightful, a blend of cocoa and yams with a hint of malt, and the taste was much the same. Sweet and mild, not getting bitter at all and surviving another topping off of the steeper. 

Next up I gave the Dragon Well/Long Jing a go, conveniently one of my favorite green teas, always nice when that happens! The aroma is green and nutty, gentle sweetness and vegetal notes, with strong sesame seed finishing notes. The taste, well, yum! Delightful vegetal notes of green beans and broccoli with a finish of sesame seeds and honey, the tea was smooth and did not become bitter, only stronger and nuttier. 
Lastly was a mysterious Oolong from the founder's special collection, Honey Sweet Green/ Ming Xiang....wait...I don't think this is an Oolong! It smells like one, like a beautiful floral Dan Cong, but it is from Hunan, and the name calls it a green. I AM SO CONFUSED!  Researching got me nothing, I could have just asked, but as I was thirsty at the time I thought, mystery fun time! I still don't know what it is, but I want more of it...a lot more. It was honey sweet, crisp and gently green, and with a floral presence that had me lost in a garden full of gardenias and plumeria, I was in a happy pace and was sad when I could not squeeze anymore from the tea. I keep the package around and keep sniffing it in mourning, wishing for more of that yumminess. *Thanks to the magic of the internet, I have been informed that it is a Green, the most decadently floral green ever, thanks guys!!*

Overall, I love this subscription, it is $24.99 which is a bit pricey for 18 packets of tea, but if you drink from the same leaves multiple refillings of the steeper it is not quite so expensive seeming. Especially when you compare it to the cost of getting a thing of tea at a coffee shop or something like that. I love the idea of having tea with you wherever you go, I never leave the house without a steeper full of leaves, so like I said, this is a subscription service after my own heart.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Quarter To Tea: Spumoni Green Tea, A Tea Review

Happy Friday Tea People! We had our first freeze last night, and you know, I was going to talk about how the weather is turning cool and that makes me happy...but I can't, more important things!! Dropfleet Commander's Kickstarter just went live and ughhhhhhh, the Scourge ships are so pretty. In an eerie Mass Effect Reaper and creepy brain-slug kinda way...which you all know at this point is totally my thing. I love my Scourge, problem is I barely get the time (and money) to play Dropzone Commander and Malifaux, so the last thing I need is another game...but I really want those ships! When this goes to stores I am so going to get a few Scourge ships, paint them all Bio-Mech, and love them forever, because I am such a nerd.

Ok, deep breaths, no more spazzing out over gaming, time to relax with tea. So, tea, today's tea is from A Quarter To Tea, an awesome Etsy shop that decided to offer some Steepster peeps samples for review, and you know me, I want to try all the teas! I was sent three, and then of course waffled over which to try first...and the one based on one of my favorite ice creams ever won. Presenting Spumoni Green Tea, a blend of  Chinese green tea, Organic Sencha, raw pistachios, organic cacao nibs, montamorey cherries, flakes of coconut, yeah they use pistachios! It is a well known fact that my favorite ice creams all contain pistachio, it is a tie between plain ol' pistachio, Spumoni, and Kulfi...but ice cream and I don't get along too well, hurts my being able to have that flavor is just such an awesome thing. Now, before I forget, A Quarter To Tea was awesome and is offering my readers a 10% off any purchase over $5 before December 15th, just use the code GEEKERY10 for discount goodness. The aroma of the tea is yummy, a triple threat of pistachio nuttiness, cherry sweetness (with a hint of tart) and cocoa richness, yep it smells like Spumoni! Mix in some coconut for creaminess and a slightly toasty note at the finish and you have a tasty smelling tea.

Into my handy steeping apparatus the leaves and fun little bits go for steeping! The aroma wafting out from the steeper is very nutty, coconut and pistachio notes are drifting my way and it is making my mouth water...I have a weakness for nuttiness, seriously I have an industrial sized container of cashews at my desk, I am like a squirrel. There are also notes of cocoa and cherries with a gentle sweetness to the leaves. The liquid is nutty and sweet, leaning more towards nutty than cocoa or cherry.

Moment of truth, will the tea live up to the ice cream hype? In truth, yes! It is like drinking a warm glass of Spumoni, of course there is a moment of disconnect as your brain is trying to understand the taste, temperature, and is really fun. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, a little oily from the coconut, but luckily the coconut is light enough that it is not super oily, just a lightness coating the mouth. The taste starts out with coconut and pistachio, nutty and gently sweet, it then moves on to a blend of cocoa and cherry, both rich and sweet. There is a nutty aftertaste that lingers for a bit, overall this tea is mild, not a kick in the face, gentle sweetness and flavors that blend really well.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What-Cha: India Darjeeling 2nd Flush Gopaldhara 'Wonder Muscatel Gold' Black Tea, A Tea Review

I wish I had an Xbone, yes, my steadfast devotion to the 360 is reaching its end, because Minecraft of course. See, I have been playing on the same seed for a couple years (pre-tea blogging days I wrote about this seed, good old Ramble) I started out as a survival world, dying a LOT as I learned how to play, and then I wanted to go all out with building and switched to creative. The only problem is it is small, and old, so when the biome updates come out I don't get them and it screws up the biomes already there, example is my plains biome turned into a much for my epic castle moat. You can transfer your seed to the Xbone making it huge and getting new biomes, and I want that! I want to expand, I have so many ideas and I don't want my world to be too cramped. So yeah, I am going to eventually break down and upgrade....I wonder how much a used one is costing these days?

I believe the day of the week is Wednesday, I admit it is hard to keep track when you are nocturnal! For my weekly What-Cha installment, I am revisiting a favorite tea estate with the India Darjeeling 2nd Flush Gopaldhara 'Wonder Muscatel Gold' Black Tea, and since it is autumn, a warm second flush feels perfect on the first night of the year that I broke down and turned on the heat. The leaves are quite pretty, a mix of dark autumnal colors and a few tips with curling gold fuzz, my love of trichomes is never ending. The aroma of said leaves is rather true to its name, it is like I am sniffing a pile of raisins, blend in notes of gentle pepper, very distant flowers, and a sweet finish of malt and cocoa. This is a fantastically sweet Darjeeling, which makes for a happy nose.

Into ye ol' steeping apparatus the tea goes. Lately I have been asked where this thing came from and what it is...junk store find and it is part of a double boiler, it is the PERFECT size for leaves to expand and to make a cup of tea, plus I can see the tea which is epic. The aroma of the steeped leaves is very sweet, honey and raisins with a robust malt and rich cocoa note, at the very tail end there is a note of oak wood, giving it a slightly tannic touch. The liquid is quite sweet with a gentle spiciness, like nutmeg and a touch of pepper, with raisins and a nice warm cocoa and malt finish.

Tasting time! It starts smooth and malty, warm and sweet, the mouthfeel is smooth with a tiny hint of tannic dryness at the finish. The majority of the taste is muscatel, strong notes of raisins and honey, with cocoa and nutmeg. It is surprisingly mellow while also being full of flavor, not so much a breakfast tea but more of an afternoon relaxation cup, one of those curling up with a book on a rainy day kinda teas. It is sweet enough where it really does not need anything to increase the sweet, and the muscatel notes linger for a while. Gopaldhara Estate, you do not disappoint!

This tea was purchased by me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

MeiMei Fine Teas: Zhu Ye Qing (Bamboo Tip Green) A Tea Review

I have been just awful at consistency with blogging the last week or so, and I apologize for that! Don't worry, I am not losing the love of tea or blogging at all, quite the contrary, I still love it and promise I am not going anywhere. It has mostly been a combination of things: seasonal change makes me restless and distracted, Ben works too much so his days off I spend focusing on hanging out and errand running, lowering my meds so the normal accompanying headaches (boo yet yay for getting off my meds for a bit) and the inevitable multi-hour long Minecraft binges. Also staring at my fishtank for long amounts of time, I can just get lost watching them.

Hailing from Sichuan, MeiMei Fine Teas' Zhu Ye Qing (Bamboo Tip Green) a very beautiful Green Tea. This tea specifically is from Meng Ding Mountain, a region well known for its tea production, this beautiful green tea is a rare thing, it has been on my to-try list for a while and it is a giant pain to get a hold of! Have I mentioned this tea is really pretty? Seriously though, a while ago I was researching teas and ran across this one and was sold from the first moment I saw the leaves that look like they came fresh from the bush, I fell in love...I could only imagine what such evocative of bamboo (name drop) forests and spring growth would taste like, and now I get to find out! The aroma is sharp and green, strong notes of bell pepper, bamboo leaves, celery, and parsley with an under note sweet and nutty combo of sesame seeds, dried peas, and gentle honey. This is a very vegetal tea, though it is tempered some with a gentle nutty finish.

After brewing, I honestly has a moment of thinking someone has played a trick on me because the wet leaves smell EXACTLY like cooked asparagus, complete with a bit of butter! It gave me a bit of a giggle, and after the giggling subsided, the notes that showed up next are cooked spinach, peas, and a touch of sharp bell peppers. The liquid is asparagus again, with notes of savory spinach and a touch of buttery sesame and a tiny hint of distant wildflowers, giving the tea a bit of a pollen note. Like the aroma of fresh daisies.

First steeping, must contain excitement or I will end up wearing my dainty gongfu cup of tea instead of drinking it. Hands up if you have spilled at least one of these little cups on yourself (or your friends, family, or pets.) The mouthfeel starts out smooth and well rounded, exciting for a first steep, usually they can be a bit weak, but this one just coats the mouth with its smoothness. The taste starts very vegetal, savory notes of asparagus and and spinach but then leaning towards the sweeter with a note of peas. The taste finished with bell pepper and a tiny bit of sesame, truly this is a green tea.

Second steep time! The aroma is so green, strong notes of asparagus, bell pepper, peas, and a touch of bamboo shoots at the finish. Again the mouthfeel is quite well rounded and smooth, though this time the taste is not all savory vegetal notes, this time it starts with a buttery sweet sesame note. After that it goes to peas and then asparagus and spinach. The finish is bamboo shoots, and it lingers for just a bit.

Third steep brings aroma notes of asparagus, bell pepper, bamboo shoots and leaves, and a tiny touch of nuttiness at the finish. The mouthfeel is not quite as round this time around, a bit lighter but still just as smooth. The taste is starting out with sesame seeds and peas, moving to bamboo leaves and bell peppers, with an incredibly sweet honey note at the finish that lingers for quite a while. This tea was well worth the wait, definitely one that is a combination of eye-candy and delicious!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sanne Tea: 2015 Summer Oriental Beauty, A Tea Review

If you missed my post earlier today, I am doing a fun direct comparison between Sanne Tea's 2014 and 2015 Oriental Beauty Oolong harvests. I do not often get to do a side by side look of two harvests where the only thing that separates them is a few hours of my sipping time, with mostly the same tea gear (same steeping vessel, different cups) and the previous harvest very fresh in my mind. I had to jump on the opportunity to do this, and instead of making one MASSIVE blog, I divided it into two, also so you can look at each tea in a vacuum. Wee!

So without further ado, time for 2015 Summer Oriental Beauty, a bug bitten Oolong from Taiwan, sporting fluffy leaves with silvery hairs and a veritable rainbow of tea leaf colors. The aroma of these light leaves starts with autumn leaf loam (not wet forest loam, a nice fluffy pile of leaves) subtle spices, sweet raisins, wildflower honey, and cooked apples and pears. The sweet fruity notes and warm spices put me in mind of an autumnal fruit bake, while being surprisingly delicate.

Brewing the leaves brings out the sweetness, I mean it was already sweet, but now it really resembles the honey sweetness and fresh fruit. Juicy pears, crisp apples, and ripe grapes. There is a tiny hint of spice and loam at the finish. The liquid is quite fruity, blending honey, apples, and pears baked with spicy for a gentle and juicy sweetness. Again, it is reminding me of an autumnal fruit bake...maybe a pie but no crust?

The first steep starts out very light, the mouthfeel is smooth and a touch delicate. Tasting notes start with gently spiced wildflower honey and quickly moving into dried apples and white grapes. There is a touch of pear at the finish but mostly this steep is light and all about the grapes and apples. For the aftertaste, oddly enough, is very gentle loam, adding a touch of earthiness to the light tea.

To the second steep, the aroma is light and sweet, notes of apples, pears, honey, and grapes with a nice spice note. Up until now the spice was hard to nail down, fleeting, but it is definitely a nutmeg note, warm and a touch earthy. The mouthfeel is still pretty light and smooth, a bit of thickness compared to the first steep, but overall it is still light compared to other Oolongs. The taste starts out with honey sweetness and baked apples, this moves to grapes and cooked pears, and the finish is loam and spice. The loamy finish and lingering spice has the earthiness to keep this light tea from floating away.

Before you ask, yes, yes I am quite tea drunk. The aroma of this steep still has the sweet notes of honey and apples, with a touch of grape, but the real powerful note is loam, it is earthy and with a slight spice that lingers in the nose. Mmm nutmeg. The taste is light and smooth while also heavy, the notes of cooked apples and pears (drizzled with honey, of course) very quickly get overtaken with loam and nutmeg, it is a heavy finish, one that cuts down the sweetness just a touch. Seeing the subtle differences between years was epic...I need to do this more often!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Sanne Tea: 2014 Summer Oriental Beauty, A Tea Review

So today's blog is going to be something a little fun and special, it is going to be a double post. By that I mean that the first post (this one) will be a direct comparison to the second post, and my reason for doing this is all about harvest. Sanne Tea sent me a sample of their 2015 Oriental Beauty Oolong and their 2014 harvest, so I thought why not do a side by side comparison? It is not often I get to try different harvests made by the same farmer while being able to use the same tea gear and only have a few hours between steeping sessions. Time to let the bug bitten party begin! 

Starting with the 2014 Summer Oriental Beauty and the leaves are quite fluffy and silvery, I am always afraid of smushing Oriental Beauty, though luckily I have not yet done so. The aroma of the dry leaves is surprisingly fruity, Oriental Beauty tends to be fruity, but I have in the past found it to be mostly grapes, this version has grapes, dried apples, dried pears and honey. There is also a hint of loam at the finish, amusingly this complex tea is very mild. I always find it fascinating how a tea can be complex and yet have a faint aroma, it is like nose treasure hunting to pick out what all is there.

Brewing this tea (and the 2015 harvest) in my funky new gongfu teapot with lovely red peonies, a suitable amount of pretty for a delicate tea. The aroma of the now steeped leaves is a blend of rich, musky grapes and apples with loam and honey. The liquid is sweet honey, apples, and raisins, it is light and delicate.

The first steep is very light, in color, taste, and mouthfeel. Starting with a delicate smooth and light mouthfeel, Sanne Tea describes Oriental Beauty's name, it is inspired by the leaves spreading out like a lady's skirt while dancing...but to me it is the mouthfeel that dances. The taste is primarily honey sweetness, like wildflower honey with an addition of light grapes and apples. The aftertaste is a very delicate pear note.

The aroma for the second steep does not change much in notes, but it does get stronger in intensity, especially in the apple department. This steep is very sweet, reminding me of apple wine, blending sweet apple and white grapes with copious honey. The apple notes give it a lightness that I have not before encountered with Oriental Beauty, a tea which is light, but also rich. The finish is strong honey and pear, both of which linger for a short while.

The third steeping's aroma has honey and apples, with a note of pear, and a strong finish of raisins, there is also a very light hint of loam at the finish. The mouthfeel is still quite light, but it is also quite smooth, the taste is not as potent as last steep, it is as delicate as the first, though it is very sweet like the second. It is like both the steeps were mixed! The notes of pear and apple mix with sweet honey, at the finish there is a lingering but very light spice. This tea scores serious points in my book for having pear and apple notes, now time to move on to 2015!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dachi Tea: No 9 Emerald Alpine Oolong, A Tea Review

Oh technology how I love you! Until an update gets rolled out that makes you useless. I was one of the lucky ones who the new Instagram update does not really work for, each time I try to upload a photo it crashes, which is better than how it was pre-reinstall where I could not even open it. My normal morning ritual of checking notifications and posting my first tea of the day was ruined and I have been in a foul mood ever since, which in turn is a little amusing. Why is it amusing? Well, it puts things into perspective, how reliance on a set schedule or pattern is great, but to keep in mind that things happen and to not let a hiccup in a pattern ruin your entire day. Thanks for the roll out a patch so I can use IG correctly!

Continuing on with the glory that is Oolong Week with Dachi Tea's No 9 Emerald Alpine Oolong, whose name just sounds evocative of mountain frolicking and pine trees, but that might just be me. This lightly roasted Oolong is from Alishan, one of my favorite mountains in Taiwan for tea, I find that a lot of times a tea I become enamored with hails from that region. Amusingly enough the cultivar tab on the website talks about how the leaves were harvested later in the season, but does not list the actual cultivar, so fun mystery there. The aroma of the balled up leaves is very sweet, and hilariously remind me of cake batter! That cake batter sweet creaminess turns pretty quickly into floral notes of magnolia, hyacinth, orchid, and honeysuckle. It is quite the bouquet, but manages to not be heady, just very sweet and floral.

Into the gaiwan the leaves go, and I am glad I brewed them there because I might have missed how stem-y this tea was, and that would be sad.The aroma of the wet leaves is sweet and yeasty, creamy, and again it reminds me of cake batter...with a nice bouquet of flowers. The liquid is vegetal and buttery, with notes of crushed sugar cane and a finishing burst of magnolias and lilacs, adding a nectar quality to the sweetness.

The first steeping is mellow, it starts with a creamy and gentle mouthfeel, which gets smoother it seems the more I sip it. The taste starts with a gentle buttery note and pretty quickly moves to sweetness, like sugarcane and honey butter. Then it blooms into flowery notes, primarily lilac, but also a note of magnolia and lily at the finish. For the aftertaste there is a lingering flower nectar sweetness.

Onto the second steeping! The aroma is intensely floral, wow, so much floral! Strong lilac and magnolia notes, and even a touch of orchid and gardenia. I feel like I can play floral bingo with this tea. The mouthfeel is smooth and thick, buttery, definitely a mouth-coater! The taste starts out slightly buttery and yeasty, again I am thinking of cake batter, though a not so sweet batter, so maybe more like pancake batter. I am a connoisseur of batters. This moves to flowery mouth-splosion, strong notes of gardenia, magnolia, lilac, hyacinth, and honeysuckle go off like little floral fireworks on tongue, this might be the most diverse with types of flowers Oolong I have had. The aftertaste is honeysuckle nectar, fresh out of the flower!

Third steeping time, and the aroma is still intensely floral, so much! Mostly just lilac and magnolia, with a sweet cake-like finish. Buttery and smooth in the mouth like the previous steeps, that shows no sign of stopping, though the start of this steep has a crushed vegetation greenness that immediately goes into floral explosion. Strong notes of magnolia and lilac as the main note, honeysuckle at the end of the flowery burst. The finish is buttery and sweet, and it lingers, I sat a while with this tea, lost track of exactly how many steeps I had!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What-Cha: China Fujian Anxi 2008 Heavy Roasted Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea in Bitter Melon, A Tea Review

Ben bought me a small present that is on its way, a triple pack of flash diffusers for my camera, woo! I know, you are thinking (like I did about a year ago actually, before the flash on my old camera proved itself weak and sad) 'why not just make one yourself like you did last time?' Well, mainly it is laziness (totally copping to it) the other is the triple pack comes in colors and I am curious, yellow light, blue light, and white light flash diffusers, how will they compare to the handmade one I have stuffed in my desk? Plus, these are made of plastic that clips on, meaning it is less likely to break in my purse or get turned into an impromptu cat toy (so many handmade diffusers were lost that way) and conveniently they were cheaper than a loaf of my fancy gluten free bread, though less nourishing I imagine.

Oolong week continues! If you were like me and plastered to the blogs, Instagrams, and Twitters of those lucky Tea Bloggers at the World Tea Expo this year, you might have heard the collective excitement over aged Oolong in a certain fruit, granted theirs came from a different year and vendor, but when I saw that What-Cha had China Fujian Anxi 2008 Heavy Roasted Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea in Bitter Melon I knew I had to give it a go. That was a couple of months ago, my sample languished in the sample box, waiting for the right time to be tasted...and it was the persistence of this tea popping up everywhere that finally made me break down and try it. It kept showing up on tea groups I am in, on IG, the Lazy Literatus himself covered it...I gave into the siren's call and tried my best to keep my expectations and excitement at bay, nothing ruins a tea quite like it not living up to the self create hype from researching it. First off, what the heck is a bitter melon? Ok I do know what these are, but in the joy of sharing knowledge, allow me to explain what they are. Momodorica charantia, or as I am more familiar with them as, Ku Gua, see I know them from Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is a cooling herb and I drank a particularly nasty brew of cooling herbs with this fruit (and root) in it, specifically to help cool down my lungs and skin. Though fun side fact, cooked melon slices in a soup were given to children to help combat malaria, yay for medicinal stuff! Of course it is also a food, though you have to use it in moderation because it can land you on the toilet for a not so fun adventure.

Now that I have the gourd out of the way, time for the tea! I admit I spent a bit of time just admiring the leaves, very tightly curled and seriously stuffed into that gourd slice, kinda glad I only got the sample this time because I imagine it is a pain to get the tea out of a whole melon! The aroma is all sorts of funky fun, sour pickled plums, loam, old wet coals, dry wood, smoke, and a medicinal pungency. It takes the familiar smoky earthiness of an aged roasted Tie Guan Yin and gives it a serious sourness from the melon, I can say that sniffing this tea is a real wake up to the nose.

Into the gaiwan it goes! I was going to use my roasted Yixing pot, but decided to go gaiwan for mysterious me reasons. The aroma of the ever so slightly unfurled leaves hilariously to me smells like sweet and sour plum sauce, as a kid I kinda had an addiction to that stuff and would get a jar of it and binge on wontons dipped in it while simultaneously binging on Super Mario or Zelda. Under the plum sauce is prunes adding sweetness, loam, and is really weird but not unpleasant at all. The liquid is sweet, roasted plums, stewed prunes, and smoldering coals. Not too potent, mellow and sweet.

The tea starts out pretty mild, very smooth and...wait...I take it back, it is not mild at all! It really does start mild like prunes and plums, and then build in intensity. Adding notes of loam and coals with a strong honey drenched prune note that lingers well into the aftertaste. I don't really notice the bitter melon yet, more the mellow sweetness of a roasted, aged TGY.

The second steep's aroma brings the sweet roasted plums and sour pickled plums (mmm umeboshi) with strong notes of roast and loam. The taste is a great deal more intense this time, starting with strong plums and prunes with a nice burst of loam. At the middle there is a slightly sour, pungent medicinal taste that signals the arrival of the bitter melon's contribution to the tea. Towards the end it goes to honey sweet and it lingers for so very long.

I went on for quite a few more steeps, the taste didn't really change much after the second steep, until around steep seven, then it was just loam and mineral. Even though it does not change much, and it is not too terribly nuanced, it really shines in the Qi department. I found myself getting a bit tea stoned off this brew, I was relaxed, giggly and floaty...and next thing I knew I had spent hours playing Minecraft, oblivious to the passage of time. I have enough of my sample left for one more session, and I am saving that beasty for a day when I need to get lost in a powerful Qi.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Eco-Cha: Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong (Fall 2015), a Tea Review

I am so in love with my new fishtank! When I was at the store picking it up I also collected a few more shrimp (I have six now!) and I impulse bought a Kuhli Loach. Usually I try very hard to not impulse buy fish, but there was only the one and it was lonely. Loaches are quite communal little (long) fish, so I hope to get him a companion at some point, I love Loaches, they are such fun to watch. Of course mine is missing, because they are also notorious hiders, so who knows what rock it has stuffed itself under.

Today, continuing with my themed Oolong week, is Eco-Cha's Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong, specifically the Fall 2015 harvest, so nice and fresh! I really enjoy Shan Lin Xi, it is an Oolong that I just find to taste so clean, like mountain air during the winter, so I am excited to see how this harvest compares to others I have had. If you have not, I highly recommend checking out the website for this tea, it is a wealth of information about the grower and this batch's harvest. The leaves are quite pretty, tightly balled and vibrant green, and the aroma is both intense and makes sense, I promise. It starts out with a gentle chestnut note, then moves to creamy sweetness, then on to clean alpine air (it is a bit pine-y, just a touch) with a finish of lily of the valley, sugarcane, and a delicate note of oatmeal.

The first steep unfurls quite beautifully, showing off the richly green leaves. The aroma has left the realm of gentle and just moved straight to intense, I first notice the alpine fresh air with gentle green notes and just cleanliness, it smells refreshing. This moves on to honey, rolled oats, and a touch of gentle flowers. The liquid is quite sweet, notes of oatmeal and lily blossoms, sugarcane, honey, and that fresh mountain air. At the tail end of the sniffing is a note of snap peas adding a bit of green.

Now it is time for sipping the pale golden liquid. The texture is smooth, not quite buttery, but certainly no dryness at all. The tasting starts out sweet, a gentle sugarcane sweetness, this moves pretty immediately to snap peas and alpine air, honeysuckles, lilies, and a touch of butteriness. The finish is a nice lingering honey and smoothness.

Time for the second steep, the leaves are more unfurled and the liquid a little darker, the aroma is sweet and sugary, with notes of snap peas and oats. The texture of the mouthfeel is creamy and very smooth, I would go all out and say it is buttery this steep. The taste is a perfect balance between sweet and green, notes of sugar cane and lilies, alpine air and snap peas, and a finish of oats. The aftertaste kinda sneaks up on you with a gentle floral sweet burst, just like nectar.

Moving right along to the third steep, the leaves are so fluffy I can barely close my gaiwan! The aroma is sweet again, the oat and sugarcane notes are stronger, the snap peas and alpine notes are more laid back, and it has a buttery undertone which is quite rich. The taste is sweet, creamy and sweet with a lean more towards flowers and green notes. Growing things, alpine air, snap peas, and a touch of crushed vegetation, the green then moves on to honeysuckle, lilies, and a touch of lilacs. The finish of flowers give the tea a nectar sweetness that lingers for a while. I went on for quite a few more steeps, these leaves just give and give, one of the reasons I love Eco-Cha's Oolongs so much, staying power!

Monday, October 19, 2015

White2Tea: Clover Patch - Wuyi Oolong, A Tea Review

Everyone should be very excited for my Betta, Jace Beleren...and his Otoclinus companion Sarkhan Vol, and all the invisible shrimp attendants, because they are getting an upgrade! I received my birthday present from Ben's grandparents early and I am using part of it to get my fishies a better house, like a large part of it...they are getting a new house, new plants (I give up on live plants, they get soft silky ones) new filtration system...they are going to live like kings! I like to spoil my pets, get that tiny bit of maternal instinct I have satisfied with happy pets.

I think I shall make this Oolong week, and we are going to start with something a little unusual. White2Tea's Clover Patch - Wuyi Oolong, yep it is Yancha time, time to break out the enjoyment of roasted teas, thoughts of campfires and coals...and wait a minute, this tea doesn't smell like any Yancha I have ever had. Insert maniacal giggling as I realize it is time for an adventure. See, this is a Wuyi Oolong alright, but instead of the old fashion roasting, this is a modern take on it, and maybe I shouldn't have brewed this in my Yancha teapot, oh well, YOLO. The aroma is best described as a flowery explosion, you open the bag and just go 'whoa' but not in a Keanu Reeves manner, more in a 'I just did an epic game winning move' way. Notes of honey, lychees, extremely faint pine smoke (like I mean REALLY distant) and the most epic flower aroma ever. Kudzu blossoms! Serious it is like a blend of grapes and pollen, it is heady and super sweet.

Brewing these colorful leaves (shades of late summer and autumn, so pretty!) the aroma of the soggy leaves is intense. I lifted the lid off my pot and it is a perfume blast, kudzu blossoms and honey with delicate notes of mineral and a delicate greenness like crushed leaves. It is so intensely heady, I feel like I could use it as a fainting remedy. The liquid is gentle in comparison to the wet leaves, it is super sweet with notes of lychees, honey, and kudzu flowers, like some sort of exotic fairy wine, if I drink this am I going to get drawn into dancing until I fall exhausted in a different time period? Ah, folklore.
Ok wow, just wow! The texture is buttery smooth, almost slippery and surprisingly cooling for an oolong. The taste, well, that is where the party is...if your party is a massive bouquet of kudzu flowers and lychees drenched in honey. The kudzu lingers, changing into an aftertaste of pollen heavy honey. I think I have turned into a butterfly! 

I think I sound like a crackpot because this tea makes me feel like I am transcending reality, that one-two punch of narcotic headiness and nostalgia is making me light in a way that tea drunk only wishes it could make me feel. So yeah, the aroma is not really changed from the first steep, still kudzu and fairy wine sweetness. The mouthfeel is slippery smooth and creamy, it has a thickness to it this time, the taste is so intense, honestly I am not sure I have had a tea with a taste this intense, and that is due largely in part to how aromatic this tea is. It starts kudzu flowers and pollen, then it moves to the heady aroma of jimsonweed, and then onto mineral and a touch of baking bread. The arftertaste of flowers lingers for so long.

By this point in the tasting I have entered into a trance, yep, this stuff is definitely fairy wine, I clearly wandered into a fairy ring on a full moon and got sucked into a mound and I am partying with the sidhe. The only reason I have not gone mad is because I am a changeling or something, all I know is there are flowers and honey, and that I am sinking into them. I got lost in the flowers, eventually this tea does call it quits, but it takes a while...holds up longer than most Yanchas, but the most uncanny part is the aftertaste. It creeps up on you between sips and steeps, starting out as a mild flowery taste but growing into a lingering sweetness, it has you in its grips and refuses to let you free. Seriously, keep this stuff away from mushroom circles, old oaks, willow trees, and maybe avoid drinking it on full moons!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company: Taiwanese Dragonwell, A Tea Review

Yeah, I might have stayed up til 8 AM playing Minecraft, what of it? I have created the ultimate awesome, blending my computer area, my painting area, and my tea area was at first quite epic...but with the inclusion of my Xbox 360 and a nice monitor and speakers, I have the ability to tea, paint, game, and watch videos at the same time. As one of my Instagram friends said, I never have to leave! I just need a tiny fridge, a small gas burner, and a bathroom and I really would never have to leave my bedroom.

Taking a break from my hard work of Minecraft and painting, teaing and bring you today's tea! We are looking at another tea from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company, their Taiwanese Dragonwell. Now before you start going all 'Amanda that is totally not really a Dragonwell' shush, they admit that, but they also admit that the traditional growing region of that beloved flat green tea is a bit problematic, and you know, I love tradition, but as a blue-haired pseudo-mad scientist, I love experimenting and pushing the comfort barriers. This tea is a fine example of that, taking tradition and tweaking it to something new. Using the Qingxin varietal grown at a low elevation, this tea is processed to be like a Dragonwell, so time to see how it compares! Looking at the leaves, it looks like the lovechild between an Oolong and a Dragonwell, the leaves are flat and long...and also kinda huge and very richly green, going into this blind I admit I would have no idea what this tea is. The aroma of the sizable leaves is green and nutty! It smells like my much loved honey sesame candies (it is just honey, toasted sesame, and sugar...and highly addictive) with fresh turnip greens, bell peppers, and a touch of lima beans. I admit, there is a strong similarity to Dragonwell, like a sweeter version of it.

I decided to use my engagement gaiwan for these leaves, since the leaf size is a bit massive, plus it is pretty and needs to get more use! The aroma of the now soggy and very verdant leaves is more vegetal than the dry leaves, it blends green beans, turnips, turnip greens, bell peppers and a buttery finish. Mmm, buttery turnips, this tea is making me hungry. The liquid smells quite buttery and green, notes of bell pepper and green beans, lima beans and a touch of honey at the finish.

The lovechild between a Dragonwell and Oolong is such a fitting description. This is the most buttery smooth Green Tea I have ever had, seriously, it is intense! It starts out very sweet, sesame and honey explodes over my tongue, radiating from honey at the tip to sesame toastiness at the midtaste. This goes on a magical journey to lima beans at the finish.

Second steeping time! The aroma is, well, it is a but surprising, notes of salty butter and a touch of seaweed and spinach with a sesame finish, well that was fascinating! The taste starts intensely sweet again, so much sweet honey and sesame seeds, again it is a magical journey of buttery smoothness and sweet. Then the finish is lima beans and a bit of a lingering buttery aftertaste.

Third steeping, the aroma is a blend of butter, spinach, green beans, and a finish of honey sweetness. The mysterious and kinda awesome seaweed note from the previous steep is a ghostly memory. The taste and texture is still so very buttery, and so smooth, I find myself feeling a bit melty and relaxed, it is a nice feeling. The taste starts sweet and honey like and moves to sesame seeds and buttery lima beans and just the lightest note of green beans at the finish. So, how does it compare? You get the seal of approval from me, it is an unusual Dragonwell, but it has its own distinct personality, one that is delicious!