Monday, November 30, 2015

BlendBee: Save The Bees, A Tea Review

Tomorrow is the day that my camera goes into the mail on its journey to be fixed. I really should have put it in the mail sooner, but I have to go to the library to print out forms and between you and me, I had no desire to go outside during all that freezing rain. There is a great amount of nervousness here, not so much over them not fixing it since there is the option to replace it if necessary, but mainly over how long it will take. Granted not having a flash is not the best option, though the double use of my phone's flashlight and my painting light has made for an interesting effect. Another piece of camera news, I got a different flash diffuser since my other one was complicated. It worked wonderfully, but the listing was full of it when it said it would fit my camera, so to use it I have to hold it steady, which made taking photos interesting. The new one I am getting fits over the flash like a sock, so more mobility incoming.

Today we are looking at a tea that is near and dear to my heart, Blendbee's Save the Bees, a blend that donates 20% of its sales to saving the bees! See, I love bees, some of my fondest memories involve my grandparents taking me to Ashcombe's (A HUGE nursery in PA) where I would watch the honeybees in the hive window and then stock up on honey. I will admit to having a lot of loathing towards Yellow Jackets, but I have been in more fights with those nasty wasps than I would like to remember, they are the only bug I am actually afraid of, but bees and even a lot of other wasps, we cool. This tea is thematically appropriate for bees as well, since it is a LOT of flowers, specifically it is a blend of Hibiscus Flowers, Rosehips, Rosebuds, Marigold Flowers, Chamomile Flowers, Jasmine Flowers, Lavender Flowers, Orange Peel, Stevia Leaves, Sweet Orange Extract, and Honey Extract. This is a flower lover's dream, and it just so happens that my favorite kind of herbal blends are heavily floral, so I am excited. The aroma is very sweet and floral, strong notes of jasmine, roses, and lavender dance with sweet oranges and honey. It smells vaguely of dessert, the blend of creamy oranges and honey with the flowers remind me of some really fancy flower ice-cream I have indulged in.

I decided to be a bit old fashioned with my brewing this time, standard big ol' mug and a steeping basket. True, this way I won't be able to see the full glory of the steeping hibiscus, but my steeping apparatus is really only sized for a teacup rather than a mug. The aroma of the wet flowery pile is sweet and tart, blending oranges and lavender, honey and hibiscus, jasmine and roses, it is heady while also being light. The pink liquid is a perfect balance of oranges and flowers, it is sweet and heady, with the lavender being the dominant flower and chamomile, jasmine, and rose following behind.

So, as you probably know, I used to be a staunch hater of hibiscus, but in my old age it seems I am growing fond-ish of it. However it has to be light, it has to be in a sweet blend, and it cannot be just straight...I like a little bit of tart with the sweet, it is an interesting balance. Conveniently for me, this is the perfect amount of hibiscus, just enough to add that tiny bit of tart at the start of the sip, but it is quickly overwhelmed by the other flowers and oranges. Strong notes of oranges and lavender, followed by roses and jasmine, at the finish is a delicate straw and apple note of chamomile and a stevia sweetness that lingers. I love stevia leaves, not a fan of stevia based sweeteners, but the leaves themselves are delicious, I am tempted to grow some come spring time. And speaking of warmer weather, I will have to try this tea cold-brewed and sip it while visiting Kauffman Gardens, see if the bees like it as much as I do.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hyson Tea: Green Tea TeaBag Collection, A Tea Review

Remember how I recently reviewed Hyson Tea's Celestial Dimbula? I mentioned in that review that they also sent me a small mountain of teabags, well after much hemming and hawing I am finally getting around to reviewing several of them, specifically their green teas. Before I get into the review I am going to lay it out on the line, I am the wrong person to be writing about these teas, because I really don't like teabags. Now don't get me wrong, I am not the person who is going to say teabags are horrible things that have no place in the tea world...if you enjoy drinking them then wonderful! Tea is meant to be enjoyed, and back in the day I used to be fond of the convenience these pre-measured sacks of dust brought me. Now adays though, they are not for me for several reasons: usually they are made with dust and fanning which I do not like the taste of, they quite often have artificial flavoring which I think tastes really fake (this is not a hard rule, but it is a frequent one), they are overpriced for the quality of tea, they taste like paper, they lack ceremony. But, lack of ceremony aside, these other things can be bypassed with a high quality sack of tea, so why not dive in and see if these meet my very high standards.

The first one I decided to look at was the Soursop Green, Soursop is one of my favorite fruits ever, whenever the local grocery store decides to stock them I pretty much buy them all and gorge on them. The aroma of the bag is a blend of pineapple candy, strawberry candy, dusty paper, and a touch of perfume, it is very artificial smelling. The taste of this tea is vaguely of Soursop, though it is strongly artificial. For some reason I found that the blend of strawberry and pineapple candy and the papery note from the bag makes the tea taste like soap, which in turn made my mouth burn rather horribly and caused my asthma to flair up something fierce. It is safe to say I did not finish this cup.

Next I tried the Strawberry Green, strawberry is one of the few artificial flavors I don't mind, since strawberry candies are some of my favorite. The aroma of the bag is nothing but strawberry candies, no paper or tea, just strong strawberry, reminds me a bit of gummies. The taste is pretty intensely sweet, strong strong strawberry candy, like I am drinking liquid candy. It tastes vaguely soapy and again makes my mouth burn, to prove it is not something wrong with my teaware I washed it and drank water out of the same cup, and nope it tastes just like water.

I waited several days before trying the next one, Lemon Green, just in case the problem was me coming down with a cold or something, you can never be sure with this kind of thing. I really like lemon and green tea, so I had high hopes with this one. The aroma of the bag is just lemon and a bit of dust, it is a bit on the mild side. The taste is like lemon soap and paper, mildly sweet and a touch green. So far this one has been the most tolerable.

Onward to the one I looking forward to the least, Jasmine Green, see most (if not all) Jasmine teabags use jasmine oil instead of scenting it the 'proper' way, and I loathe jasmine teas that are flavored and not scented. It smells and tastes exactly like soap rather than flowers. This tea was not an exception like I had hoped, it smells just like the wonderful Bee & Flower brand Jasmine soap, love it as a soap but not as a digestible thing. The taste is a blend of apples (not expecting that) and soap, it is so strong and so overpowering that I could not get past a few sips.

Lastly in this little set was the standard Green Tea and alas, I was hoping for a crisp and clean green tea aroma, but really all I smell are all the different flavors from the other teas. A problem with storing flavored teabags in little paper envelopes, the smell bleeds something fierce and contaminates each other. The taste, well, I can finally taste the base green tea, and it is not terrible, very generic vegetation and of course paper and dust, there is an underlying fruit cocktail from the other flavors leeching onto it. I know, looking at the reviews on the various tea's links that I am in the minority and the reviews are universally positive, so like I said earlier, I was not the right audience for this. I hate being this negative, but what can I do? I have a LOT more teabags to look at, so expect another group review in the future...with any luck I will actually like some of them!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tea Side: Hong Shui Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

It is STILL freezing rain outside, everything is coated in a beautiful yet crunchy layer of sparkling ice. I am honestly quite surprised and happy we have not lost power, I would be greatly put out and would be in a panic over my fish tank getting too cold. Pretty sure that is every owner of tropical fish tank's greatest fear, the power goes out and the temperature starts to drop. Luckily I have only had to deal with this disaster once, and the death toll was very small, I know people who have lost entire massive aquariums to this very thing, so sad! Of course there is always the problem of no tea since the stove is electric...I wonder if everyone would be cross with me if I made a fire-pit in the backyard so I could still have tea?

Today is a special tea, part of a pile of samples I got from Tea Side, a company specializing in teas from Thailand. Flashback to almost two years ago, I tried my first heavily oxidized without heavily roasted Oolong and I was in love, I found that steeping it bowl style was amazing, and when I ran out I was immensely saddened. So imagine my giggle of happiness when I saw Hong Shui Oolong Tea amidst the samples sent to me! First off, what is Hong Shui? Translating it, it means red water, referring to the dark red color of the brewed tea, not necessarily a reference to the specific kind of tea or varietal. What makes this tea special is the way it is produced, very nuanced amounts of roasting and oxidizing to create a work of art. The aroma of these dark leaves is something else, this is one of those Oolongs that I advise sitting down to sniff, because the sweetness will knock you off your feet. At least it did that for me! Strong notes of sweet fruit blending cooked plums, cherries, and peaches with an underlying creaminess and a tiny hint of leaf loam. The combination of notes reminds me of the harvest, all the excess fruit in autumn baked into a compote.

I had to brew this one bowl style (or grandpa style, so many terms so little time) true, this tea is wonderful gongfu style, but I just absolutely love it steeped for hours in a bowl. The aroma coming out of the bowl is intoxicating, it is so sweet and creamy. Strong notes of stewed plums and peaches, cherries, dates, and a creamy finish that borders on coconut milk. It smells decadent.

The taste starts out immensely sweet which goes wonderfully with the creamy thick mouthfeel, honestly if you are a fan of fruity dessert teas then I say grab some of this because it is intensely sweet. One of the really fun things about this Oolong is bowl steeping can take hot temperature and it never gets bitter, usually I have the temperature a bit lower when I am bowl steeping, but this one can take my usual Oolong temperature of 195°. The taste reminds me of an ice-cream covered fruit cobbler, complete with crust. Sweet notes of peaches, plums, cherries, and dates dance with creamy notes in my mouth, and the aftertaste, oh how it lingers.

Continuing on with many refills of the bowl, the taste stays strong for quite a while. As the fruity notes start to fade towards the end they are replaced with mineral notes and a gentle woody quality. One thing that never fades is the intensely creamy finish and subsequent aftertaste. Even when most of the other notes have faded, the finishing creaminess that borders on coconut milk lingers. This tea is a treat, and one that I wish to never run out of.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Wooree Tea: Imperial Blend Hadong Green Tea, A Tea Review

Ice Ice Baby! Yeah, we are covered in a nice coating of ice, freezing rain has been coating the world since late yesterday, and it looks so beautiful. My only problem with this wintry beauty is poor Ben is out delivering pizzas in it, which of course has me worried. Luckily between deliveries he is texting me and letting me know all is well, which is immensely considerate of him! On the one hand I love the weather when it is like this, on the other, I do not like my perpetual fear of cars to have any justification for being a logical phobia, illogical fear of cars is best I think.

My random phobias (phobi?) aside, it is time for tea, and I have a special one today: Wooree Tea's Imperial Blend Hadong Green Tea. Why is this particular tea special you might be asking, because it is Korean, and I have a bit of an addiction to Korean tea, an addiction and a perpetual lack of it in my stash. See Korean tea is not impossible to get a hold of, but it is certainly a pain and not at all cheap, especially for the amount I drink when I have it in my collection. Some expensive teas I can drink in moderation, others I just find myself gorging on and then running out super quickly...and I have never met a tea from Korea that I did not do that with! This particular green tea comes from Hadong, Wooree Tea says this is the best and oldest growing region in South Korea, and checking in one of my books on Korean Tea (specifically The Book of Korean Tea) it seems this area is famous for wild growing tea trees in the mountains, which sounds quite beautiful. The aroma of the curly leaves is delightful! Notes of sesame seeds, rice crackers (I believe they are called Arare, and I will inhale them given the chance) peanuts, toasted nori, and an underlying sweetness of sesame butter and a touch of corn silk. This tea is delightfully nutty, and the green notes come from a seaweed quality, which I am sure you all know by now I find delicious.

Into my shiboridashi (it totally counts) the tea goes! The aroma of the plump olive green leaves is so nutty and umami, notes of sesame and peanuts mix with rice crackers, kelp, toasted nori, edamame, and a finish of miso. These leaves smell like food! The liquid blends green and sweet with a touch of savory quite well, with notes of gentle sesame seeds and kelp, sweet freshly cut hay, fresh grass, and a finish of edamame and roasted peanuts.

The thing I really like most about Korean green teas is their crisp, brightness, it is just such a refreshing mouthfeel. Tasting the tea, it starts out savory, with fresh grass and kelp, this moves to toasted nori, rice crackers, peanuts, and a touch of sesame seed sweetness. The finish is a blend of miso and edamame, with a mineral quality at the very tail end that lingers as the aftertaste.

For this steeping, the aroma is nuttier, lots of sesame seeds and roasted peanuts, with rice crackers and just a gentle touch of kelp at the finish. The mouthfeel is crisp and bright, it almost borders on brisk, but it does have a smoothness to it so I would not go as far as to call it brisk. This steep brings out more of the green from the green tea, it starts with notes of spinach and fresh seaweed (like that oh so yummy seaweed salad) and fades to fresh grass and a finish of sweet sesame seeds and rice crackers. The sweetness at the finish lingers for a bit.

Onward to the third steep, fresh notes of kelp and edamame mix with sesame seeds and roasted peanuts. The finish is a savory and sweet blend of rice crackers and a touch of miso. Like the previous steeps, this tea has a crisp and refreshing mouthfeel, I appreciate how it is so crisp but not drying, it is like biting into a juicy veggie. And speaking of veggies, I was greeted by a note of fresh bell pepper along with spinach and edamame at the front. The finish is a blend of rice crackers and sesame, with a sweet, gentle honey finish. This tea has staying power, I got several more steeps out of it before it finished with a mineral green quality.
This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What-Cha: India Bihar Doke Hand-Made 'Diamond' Green Tea, A Tea Review

Good news! My warranty is covering having my camera fixed...or failing that replaced! Not a disaster after all. Though I am not sure how long it will take to get it backed, meaning I might have to use my phone camera to review new teas, or I will just rely on the rather large perpetual backlog I have...well...logged. I am breathing such a huge sigh of relief that my camera is not totally doomed, and glad I broke it when it was still under warranty!
It has been a while since I looked at a tea from India, so I thought I would rectify that with India Bihar Doke Hand-Made 'Diamond' Green Tea from What-Cha! This unique tea comes from the Doke Tea Garden run by the Lochan family, but what makes this garden so special is it grown in Bihar, an area that until now was not a tea growing region. The tea itself is hand-crafted, giving it a wonderful artisan feel, and also it means really big pretty leaves! The dry leaves are fairly dark, and they smell pretty epic. Strong notes of mango and citrus blend with gentle nuttiness and a slight undertone of leather, for a green tea it has an earthy heaviness which I find unique. One thing I found quite entertaining about the aroma is it was not just mango fruit, there was the definite green sharpness of mango skin, quite fascinating! 

In my steeping apparatus, the leaves are not longer dark, turning vibrantly green while steeping. The aroma of the soggy leaves is intensely sweet, strong notes of mango and papaya for a tropical smelling pile of leaves, the addition of warm honey at the finish pushes the aroma to almost decadent. The liquid is very sweet, like mango nectar and a touch of papaya with honey and a tiny touch of vegetation at the finish, to remind me that this is a green tea and not a fruit.

Tasting this tea is quite the treat, it manages to be very smooth and delicate while also being intensely sweet. It starts with mango and freshly cut hay, the mango notes linger and mix with papaya and honey at the midtaste. For the finish there is a mingling of gentle tobacco and a slight nuttiness with a lingering mango sweetness that stays around for a while. This was a unique treat, just the right amount of sweetness, and the tobacco notes at the end give it depth and keep it from being too light.

This tea was purchased by me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Joy's Teaspoon: Wellness, A Tea Review

It is a sad day today, my nice shiny new camera took a bit of a tumble and now I have a serious problem. See, my room is rather dark, so I use flash and a diffuser for my photos, and now my flash is not working. Something broke in the fall and it will not register that the flash is a thing that exists, and there is an unnerving rattle. I am still within the warranty time, so tomorrow I will be finding out if it covers it...if not, well, I am not entirely sure what I am going to do. Adjusting the ISO and such does not get it to the level of crispness I like, so far the only thing that works at all is holding my phone's flashlight above the camera, but that is not an optimal solution. Fingers crossed about the warranty!

Tis the season where I have to scare off the sniffles, whenever someone around me so much as sneezes, I pretty much jump to the other side of the room like a terrified cartoon cat, and I am only exaggerating a little bit. So seeing the ingredients in Wellness by Joy's Teaspoon, I had to have some of it: apple pieces, carrot flakes, blackberry leaves, eucalyptus leaves, beetroot pieces, hibiscus flowers, lemongrass, flavoring, freeze-dried tangerine pieces, orange slices. I adore blends with eucalyptus, it makes my lungs happy, and it is so refreshing. And I know, usually I shy away from hibiscus teas, but lately I find I don't mind it as long as it is a very light know, making the tea pink instead of livid crimson. The aroma of the tea is immensely citrus, strong notes of grapefruit, lemon, oranges, and tangerine. It is tangy and bright, with undertones of eucalyptus and a touch of sweet fruitiness from the apples. It smells like summer!

Into my steeping apparatus the tea goes, it is such a colorful blend, and immensely aromatic...and the aroma of citrus and eucalyptus is filling my entire tea area. I think that this could be a great steam treatment next time my asthma gets fussy. The aroma of the herbal and fruit bits once liberated from the liquid is pleasantly citrus, lots of orange and grapefruit with underlying honey sweet and a touch of apples. The liquid has a tartness to it, the hibiscus has shown itself at last, though it is only a touch, and it goes really well with the tangy, almost sour grapefruit, the sweet oranges, and the underlying crispness of the eucalyptus.

In full disclosure of things and stuff, I drank this sweetened with a Chambre de Sucre Diamond Sugar Stick, because I have learned that I only really like hibiscus teas if they are sweetened or chilled, though I did sip it before I sweetened it and you know, the hibiscus does not overwhelm at all, it adds just a hint of tart and slightly metallic (hibiscus always registers as metallic for me, not sure why) notes, so the sugar was not really necessary since the tea is already delicately fruity sweet. But you know, sometimes it is the difference between eating an apple and wanting baked apples, that extra sweetness is just soothing, so I still went with the sugar. The primary note in this tea is the citrus fruit salad, a triple threat of grapefruit, lemon, and tangerine, this blends wonderfully with the crisp cooling eucalyptus. I can see why this tea is named Wellness, I just felt refreshed and clean after drinking it, it is a cheerful blend, that come summertime I think I shall try cold brewed.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lost Pines Yaupon Tea: Dark Roast Yaupon Tea, A Tea Review

Instead of my usual 'here is what I have been up to today' intro, I am going to dive straight into the tea, with a bit of history and botany! I am finally looking at some Yaupon, but before I do I want to talk about what it actually is. Ilex vomitoria, a member of the Holly family that also has Yerba Mate and Guayusa, however this version is fancy because it is the only native source of caffeine in the states. Grown in the South, this beautiful shrub shows up quite frequently growing wild and as ornamentation, in fact living in Georgia we used to grow the stuff. Sadly I was a youngin' and was unaware of its use as a tea, though I can certainly say the smell of it is immensely familiar. Now before I go much farther, let's take a look at that name, vomitoria...usually when a plant has something along that line in its name it means you will become best friends with your toilet (looking at you Russula emetica) but in this case, it was a misunderstanding. Used as one of the ingredients in Asi (or Black Drink) a ritual drink by the men of several Native American tribes that causes a lot of vomiting, it was assumed that the Yaupon was the cause of this, but clearly that is not the case. 

Since I have two different Yaupons to review, I will save the history lesson (which is all sorts of awesome) for the next one, but now that you know what the plant is, that means it is time to taste the Lost Pines Yaupon Tea Dark Roast Yaupon Tea! The aroma of the finely chopped up leaves is something else, it blends cooked spinach, hemp, toast, holly leaves, olive leaves, boxwood leaves, bark, green is a complex pile of notes! It blends green leafy almost herbaceous tones with sweet roasted ones. I know this smell, recognized it immediately, but it was odd to smell it roasted, odd and comforting.

Brewing time! The aroma of the wet leaves (which float on the top of my brewing apparatus, which amuses me) is a blend of toasted sweetness and herbaceous green. Notes of cooked spinach and hemp blend with artichoke and holly leaves. It has a sharp quality, green and slightly resinous. The liquid sans leaves is a blend of toasted grains, dry fluffy loam, wet hay, and a touch of spinach...and lots of hemp. Fresh hemp twine with that distinct sharpness and earthiness.

I found the taste of this brew incredibly hard to describe, it has an acrid bitterness that is not necessarily unpleasant (like eating an unripe persimmon, THAT is unpleasant) it is very sharp without being mouth drying...after thinking and sipping, I realized I was actually tasting caffeine, I know this because when I was in school I just took caffeine supplements, and that taste lingered in my memory. After that initial acrid sharpness (that also reminds me of chewing on European holly leaves, I was a weird kid that needed to taste everything, this is also why I became obsessed with plant based toxicology) it fades to sweetness, blending herbaceous green notes, honey, cooked spinach, and distinct toasted barley. Yaupon is one of the more strange tasting herbal brews I have sipped, I can see how this was a ceremonial drink at one has an unusual taste blended with a kick to the face of caffeine, I imagine drinking a ton of this in a ceremonial environment being quite the fascinating experience.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Eco-Cha: Jin Xuan Oolong Tea (Spring 2015) A Tea Review

I have returned from my little hiatus! My birthday was all sorts of awesome, good company, good food, mind-boggling awesome presents, and of course good tea. I still feel a little overwhelmed, basking in the afterglow of a wonderful couple of days, but it is time to return to a semblance of normalcy. On non-birthday news, it is frigid! A very chilly day, meaning it is time to break out the toast hand warmers, delightfully plushie kawaii toasts with heating elements in them, they were a Christmas gift from my sister from another mother, and I always get excited for the cold because it means I can wear incredibly cute toasts on my hands.

Today I am going to do something a little different, I have reviewed a lot of Eco-Cha's teas, but I always present them Gongfu style, but that is not the only way I drink it. In fact, bowl style (or Grandpa steeping, both names technically work) is fast becoming my favorite way to drink Jin Xuan, and so with that, why not take a look at the Spring 2015 Jin Xuan brewed up bowl style, time to show off how versatile these leaves can be. Also it shows off how huge they can get when really soaked and given lots of room to move around. Before I can drench the leaves in water, I need to give them a good sniffing, and what a joy that is because these leaves are very pleasantly aromatic. Notes if sweet custard, freshly baked pastry (kinda reminds me of a croissant because it is also very buttery) and a delicate touch of toasted sesame seeds. There is also a delicate undertone of fresh growth and woodiness with a distant hint of wildflowers.

Now that I have finally pulled my nose out of the leaves, it is time to steep! For Jin Xuan grandpa style I tend to use 190° water, it can take hotter but it tends to be more savory than sweet that way, and tends to finish quicker. The aroma that comes out of my bowl as I want the leaves dance around is quite yummy, buttery and sweet with rich notes of pastry and sesame seeds, and of course the familiar Jin Xuan custard and spicy lily notes that I adore so much. My first draining of the bowl starts light and sweet, with a creamy mouth. The taste is a blend of buttery pasty and sweet custard, similar to sesame seed custard with a gentle floral and green finish.

The more the leaves unfurl the stronger the tea gets, several bowls later a really unique thing I have only experienced with grandpa style Jin Xuan happens, it gets salty. Not salty as in, someone trolled me and poured salt on my tea, salty in the way that I just licked a rock and it has that mineral salt taste. It is earthy and blends wonderfully with the now quite strong green notes and buttery thickness. This is very distinct, I have had plenty of oolongs give me a mineral slate note, but only bowl style Jin Xuan gives me that saltiness and I absolutely love it, even if the first time I encountered it really surprised me. I got many refills of the tea, it is a tea that is perfect for those days where I want the oolong but either I am lounging in bed, out and about using my travel steeper, or busy painting/writing and don't want to split my focus between what I am doing and gongfu cha. This is a tea you can spend the whole day with, easily.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Yunomi: Takeo Tea Farm: Limited Organic Shincha (Isecha), #3 "Ume" A Tea Review

I got the best news from my phone today, clearly the weather gods have heard my cries, because guess what is happening on Friday? Yes, snow! It will only be an inch and technically it is a day after my birthday, but whatever, until I move far to the north (or in the mountains) this might be as close as I get to a blizzard on my birthday! If all goes well it will be late at night so I can get my gallivanting done early in the day and then just enjoy the snowy night.

Today's tea is a bit of an opposite to the weather, here we are on the cusp of winter, and I am talking about one of the iconic spring teas! Yunomi's Takeo Tea Farm: Limited Organic Shincha (Isecha), #3 "Ume" it is a Shincha, or the earliest harvest, is probably some of the most coveted Sencha, it is immensely fresh and a bit of a pain to get stateside, I am usually lucky to get a sample of it a year, and this is my 2015 Shincha. I got my sample right at the same time that Yunomi switched website, and my only complaint about the new site is the lack of interesting information, it used to be each of the teas would have a lot of details about them, now only some do...and this particular one is sparse on details. The aroma of the leaves is, well, it is also a bit sparse, very faint notes of kelp and spinach with a touch of fresh lettuce, but really this is a faint, faint, Shincha.

Into my tiny kyusu the leaves go for a nice steeping, one day I will have the shiboridashi I ordered, but slow shipping is slow. I love these tiny leaves, but they are a pain to clean out of the screen, so I look forward to a shiboridashi. The aroma of the leaves is still really mild, notes of spinach and kelp with a gentle grassiness at the finish. The liquid has almost no aroma at all, I was beginning to worry my nose had failed me, but after sniffing some familiar things I was sad to admit that this tea just smells like faint grass water.

I admit to some apprehension, see taste is mostly smell, the olfactory system is so intertwined with the sense of taste (the gustatory system) that usually if it is lacking, the food is lacking. One of the reasons I loathe having a stuffy nose, I tend to panic if I can't smell or taste properly, not sure if that is an offshoot of my sensory disorder or a normal reaction, clearly I need to take a poll! Ok, enough waffling, this tea did not live up to my past experiences with Shincha...and I find myself wondering if I accidentally ordered the 2014 harvest, but since I remember getting the 2015 and my package did not have the harvest date on it I can't be sure. The taste is like buttery spinach water and a gentle nutty finish, and that is it. I tried for a second steep just to see if a higher temperature would help, but nope, this tea was just not on its game. This is the first time I have been disappointed by a tea from Yunomi, but I didn't want the rest of my sample to go to waste, I gave it to a friend who absolutely loved it...proving once again, that taste is subjective and there is a tea for everyone out there somewhere.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Eco-Cha: Dong Ding Oolong Tea (Fall 2015) A Tea Review

You know what is the best part of cooler weather? It isn't the sweaters and fuzzy blankets, it isn't the pristine snow and blustery rainy days, and it is not the warm mugs of tea used for heating my, the best part is definitely how clingy Espeon is. Unlike Tao, she has short hair and is perpetually cold...just like me! So we spend as much time snuggling and using each other as warming devices, she keeps my lap warm during the day and snuggles up with me at night. When it is warm she turns into an aloof long cat, but when it is cold, she is tiny and cuddly...and gets very upset with me when I have to get up. Clearly I need one of those cat slings so I can walk around without disturbing her.

Today it is time to look at Eco-Cha's Dong Ding Oolong Tea (Fall 2015), aka, possibly my favorite Oolong ever. I have looked at several harvests of this tea, and plan on looking at many more in the future, because I have an addiction to Dong Ding Oolong. Partially because it is my go-to feel good tea, it is very much so like the consumable, liquid, version of that soft snugly kitty in your lap, it is the perfect combination of comforting and delicious. The first thing I notice when I pop open that exciting seal (other than the woosh of air, so much fun) is the aroma, wafting from the leaves. It is a delicious blend of toasted sesame and grains, honey, and a delightful nuttiness. It is both sweet and harvest like, evocative of autumn and yummy, especially if you are a huge fan of honey sesame candies like I am.

Into the gaiwan the leaves go for their happy soaking, it is always fun watching the leaves unfurl and the tiny bubbles popping out of the leaves as they do. The aroma of the soggy leaves is sweet and toasty, notes of cashews, toasted wheat and barley, gentle notes of squash, a touch of roasted sesame seeds at the finish. The liquid is sweet buttery heavy grain toast, sesame seeds, honey, and delicious gentle smoky pine resin. Grains meet winter forest with a side of fireplace, see this tea really is pure undiluted comfort!

The first steep is gentle and smooth, and delightfully warming. It starts with creamy and sweet buttery notes, and moves quite quickly to toast, it is like warm honey butter on toast. There is a gentle spice note like nutmeg, and a lingering sesame seed note. The sweetness stays in the aftertaste for quite some time.

Second steeping time, the aroma of this steep is strong with roasted grains and honey, cashew and a touch of squash and pine resin. The taste has the buttery, honeyed toast notes of the previous steep, but it cranks things up adding notes of toasted grains, with a gentle pine resin and char note. On the way out of the sip, aka the finish, the note of maple roasted acorn squash blends with a touch of walnuts for maximum yum.

Third steeping and woo, that aroma is getting intense, strong notes of roasted grains and nuts, with gentle notes of smoke and pine resin...with a definite finish of squash...mmm squash. The taste is nutty and roasted, strong grain notes (especially wheat and barley) with lingering notes of gently burnt toast and sweet honey. At the finish there is acorn squash and a pine smoke finish, and a sweetness that sticks around. Many steeps were had, and they were filled with roasty goodness.
This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Quarter To Tea: Mexican Hot Chocolate, A Tea Review

Being off of my medicine is an interesting experience, and really having me re-evaluate things about my life. Like how in the name of all things holy did I tolerate the terrible-ness that is the mattress? I know Fibromyalgia (coupled with Aspergers) makes things more extreme (it is so 90s) especially pain, but wow, that mattress is so uncomfortable. Even though yeah, I am in a lot of pain and I am having to take it easier than I did previously, I am glad to be off the stuff. Since being freed from my medicinal servitude I have only had one splitting headache, instead of the many splitting headaches a day, and the best thing is I have a lot more mental clarity. I consider this a win...though I really need a new mattress.

Today's tea is from A Quarter To Tea, specifically their Mexican Hot Chocolate blend, because I am a hardcore chocoholic, though alas, I am slowly outgrowing my ability to just gorge on huge piles of chocolate...slowly...I can still eat a whole bag in one sitting, just not two bags, tis the price of growing old. To help ease the transition I seek out chocolaty teas, this one being a blend of Organic Quinlan Oolong Tea, Ceylon Black Tea, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Freeze-dried Marshmallows, Dried Red Chile Flakes, Natural Flavorings. I admit, I have had several spicy chocolate teas, but this is the only one that uses Star Anise, and I have a serious Star Anise addiction, so yummy! The aroma of the dry tea is super sweet, definitely can smell the sugary joy of the marshmallows and chocolate. There is also a good bit of spice, a blend of cinnamon and anise and this distinct chili pepper bite that grows into a nice nose burner. My sinuses are pleased by the tingly warmth.

Into my steeping apparatus the leaves and such go for the steeping, I watch as the marshmallows dissolve away into nothingness. The aroma of the wet leaves is sweet and spicy, notes of chocolate and marshmallows, with cinnamon and peppery warmth, it is a very warm smelling tea. The liquid is sweet and creamy, with notes of malt and a decent punch of cinnamon and pepper, a lingering finish of chocolate wafts from my cup.

Tasting time! I got a couple of good sips of this tea before I gave it to Ben to have a taste...and promptly lost the rest of my cup...he really liked this tea. The first thing I noticed was it has a nice bite to it, the perfect amount of heat...just enough to warm the cold cockles of my mouth but not enough to make me run screaming for a glass of milk. There is also a nice burst of chocolate, sweet spices and marshmallows, and a finish of malt. I liked (what I tasted) of this tea, but mostly loved how Ben just wandered off with it, he is an immensely picky tea drinker, so I am happy when he finds teas he likes. I will have to get more, so he can have the majority of it...and so I can have a whole cup! Oh! Of course, A Quarter To Tea offered my readers a discount! 10% off any purchase over $5 before December 15th, just use the code GEEKERY10

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

BlendBee: Minty Black, A Tea Review

I have a confession, I am addicted to those plastic drawer oraganizer...things...I blame my side addiction to organization as the cause for this. It is a dream of mine, one day to have a room separate from my tea/art room that is just a room where every wall is nothing but those stacked up drawers. Perfectly labeled and everything is sorted and probably color coded. It makes me all warm and tingly thinking about it. I bring this up because yesterday on the side of the road Ben found one someone was getting rid of and he brought it home for me, meaning my tea collection is even more organized, this makes for a happy me!

Today we are looking at a fun blended tea from BlendBee, a fun company that has ready made blends and the ability to make your own blends...something I need to try because these are always so fun! Specifically the blend I am checking out is Minty Black, a blend of Chinese Black Tea, Carob Beans, Peppermint, Licorice Root, and Natural Flavoring. I admit I was drawn to this tea because of my fond memories of summer time minty black tea slurping, though as an adult I find I am more drawn to the hot version rather than the iced version, it makes my belly happy. The aroma is pretty intense, this is not a tea to stick your nose into and inhale deeply...unless you have a stuffy nose and want to just clear those sinuses, because wow, mint! So much cooling fresh mint, I feel like I fell face first into a mint plant..and yes I know exactly what that is like. Underneath the pile of mint is some mild malty notes, chocolate, and a touch of sweet licorice root at the finish.

The aroma of the now quite soggy leaves and other bits is a double blend of mint and cocoa, with sweet undertones of licorice and a touch of malty richness. There is so much mint, lots and lots of mint, though it is not as strong as the mint-splosion that is the dry leaf. The liquid is sweet and minty, cooling with notes of chocolate and mint, with sweet undertones, it smells like a Andes mint...and fun fact, every Christmas I would get a whole bag of those in my stocking as a kid...and they almost always were gone by the end of the day and I would not want them again until next Christmas!

Ooh! The tea is brisk! It combines a brisk black base tea with strong cooling mint, talk about a refreshing tea. After the initial mintiness, it moves to cocoa notes and then a nice burst of licorice sweetness that lingers for quite a while. This tea reminds me of drinking black tea while shoving Andes mints in my face, like imagine the sensation of having the chocolate melt in the tea in your mouth, and that is what this tea reminds me of. It is very refreshing while also being soothing, just the way I like my minty teas.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Chambre De Sucre: An Extravaganza of Sugar! A Tea Accouterment Review

I am currently involved in a heated debate with Ben, a debate over whether or not sugar is an accouterment to tea! Clearly, from the title of this review, I think it is, he thinks that cups and spoons count but not sugar. This is what we do for fun, we debate semantics and word usage...and I like to get imaginative with how correct my word usage is...and this is why I got away with using the word 'lavaswine' in the game of Scrabble I played with friends last night. I lost, but in a way I won because the idea of pigs made of magma is horrifying!

So, it is shopping season, the season which you realize you have more people to shop for than had previously realized (my heart goes out to parents who get their kid's teachers gifts, you guys are great) and you have to figure out the perfect little gifts for all the people on your list. I have a sweet idea for you...sugar! Fancy artisan sugars that make your little sugar jar on the counter feel inadequate, because Chambre De Sucre knows their sugars, and I respect that. They awesomely sent me and a few other tea bloggers some sugars to experience, it was quite sweet...and not just in a 90s slang way, it was literally sweet!

When it comes to adding a sweetener to my tea, I almost always go with plain old pure sugar, why, because if I am adding sweetener to tea I don't want to taste anything but the tea and the sweet, to me sugar tastes clean...this may or may not just be weird Amanda logic. The first of the sugars I tried were the too cute for their own good Cup Huggers, in the form of Angel Wings, Neko, and an Elephant. They do exactly what the name says, they hang onto the cups looking cute, and then you either flip them into the tea where they dissolve super quickly, or you pour hot water over them to make them dissolve into the tea that requires a steady hand or you will end up with a soggy desk.

Next I looked at the 4-Piece Sucre CarrĂ© Gift a beautiful set of sugars with sculpted flowers on top. These reminded me of one of my happiest childhood memories, when I was four I was visiting my grandparents for Easter, I came down with some really horrid sickness (like I do) and that year I was gifted a Sugar Egg, basically an Easter egg with a scene inside of it, the entire thing sculpted from sugar, and it was a thing of magical beauty. These flowers were very happy inside my teacup...and on a whim I ate one, and it was delicious, better than most candy I gorge myself on!

On to the incredibly cute Yellow Mini Hearts, they are hearts, they are sugar, and I totally let out a squee when I opened the box because good heavens, they are so cute! I found myself tossing a few into cups, holding one in my teeth and letting them dissolve like I am some sort of fancy Persian princess. I did of course just eat some of them, I really like sugar, especially when it tastes so pure and sweet.

Lastly were my favorite, the Diamond Sugar Stirrer, it is a classic beautiful sugar, and it sparkles so prettily. I love how when you pour hot water over the stirrer (or put it in the hot tea) it crackles like gentle musical bells, and this pleases me immensely. I greatly enjoyed playing with these fancy sugars, they give the pure sweetness, very clean and they are beautiful! I think these would be a great stocking stuffer or just really pretty little gift for people, or a gift for me...give me all the sugars!!
This sugary goodness was sent for review purposes by the company.