Monday, August 31, 2015

Tea From Vietnam: Gui Fei Oolong, A Tea Review

I find myself torn on how to begin today's tea rambling. Do I go with neutral things like how much I enjoy my new painting table, or do I go bad news with how I have not really gotten the chance to use it because of these stupid seizures. Do I say happy news on how whatever was causing that really awful itchy rash has gone away (thanks, allergies) or do I say that my throat hurts constantly (thanks allergies) It is a problem living with chronic illness/pain, how much do you hide behind an internet or social persona, or how much do you let it all hang out. And why, for that matter. Are you looking for understanding or compassion, complaining because there is really nothing else you can do sometimes and you just need to vent, are you fixated with your health problems because it controls your life, are you bringing awareness to health problems? Are you hiding it for fear of trash talk, hiding it because if you don't talk about it maybe it really isn't that bad, avoiding it because you are tired of being a chronic complainer, hiding how bad it is because you are tired of being sickly and just want to be perceived as normal even if it is by a small group? The internal politics of what to reveal and why is staggering in its complexity. What I will say is that I am thankful for my readers, whether you are here simply as tea lover or here as friends sharing a digital cup with me, thank you all. It sounds silly, but tea and my blog is one of the greatest joys in my life, so being able to share it and keep at it means the world to me. 

Ok, ok, I am done being sappy and introspective, I want to write about tea, specifically one of my favorite teas, Gui Fei Oolong. Also known as Concubine Oolong, this tea is what happens when leafhoppers become great friends with the tea leaves, by friends I mean they go om nom nom, and the leaves go into defense mode and release an enzyme and start to oxidize, this makes the tea incredibly sweet, just like its non-rolled cousin Oriental Beauty and Honey Black Tea. This happy accident originated in Taiwan, though this specific Gui Fei comes from Tea From Vietnam, a new company focusing on introducing the Western world to the rather diverse world of Vietnamese tea. It is a passion of mine, exploring different lesser known to us barbaric westerners tea growing regions, I consider it research for the book I am perpetually working on! Anyway, this tea, as I was saying earlier Gui Fei is my favorite Oolong, hands down, when I opened the pouch and poured out the tea I was going to steep into my abalone for photographing, I was practically giddy. Photo taken, that means sniffing time, and I let out a very loud yay! It has been over a year since I had any Gui Fei, correction, any GOOD Gui Fei, and the aroma of these silvery leaves is so good. Notes of intense spicebush, orange blossom, sugar cane, honey, almonds, and a tiny bit of roasted sesame at the finish. Really, this tea smells heavenly, I want to invent scratch and sniff for computers so you all can sniff this too, now maybe it wouldn't smell as good to everyone else, it has been well known that these smells are some of my favorites, each note seems to resonate with some nostalgic happy time, so the emotions are wrapped up with sensory delight.

I decided that such a beautiful tea, it is named after Yang Guifei, one of China's legendary beauties after all, deserved my audacious princess of a gaiwan. The two seemed to be made for each other, the leaves matching the gaiwan beautifully. The now somewhat steeped leaves take on a very fruity tone, lots of citrus notes of  apples, pomelo, intensely floral with notes of orchid, grapefruit blossom, crepe myrtle, and a finish of sugary sweet almonds and cane sugar. It is heady and sweet. The liquid is nutty and sweet, with notes of almond and chestnut, pomelo and apples, plums and a touch of cooked cherries.


First steep...guys, I need a moment. The texture is smooth and thick, impressively so for the first steep. The taste starts out fruity and intensely sweet, it is very much like honey drizzled apples, pomelo and plums. This moves on to citrus blossom, a blend of orange and grapefruit, with a touch of orchid. The finish is spicebush, almonds, and gentle roasted sesame. The taste of citrus blossoms seem to linger for a while.

Second steeping time, I fear I might be getting tea drunk already, one of the problems of the golden gaiwan, it is a whopping 150ml, big compared to my 90-100ml ones! Also the headiness of this tea might be adding to the tea drunkenness, much like sitting next to a pile of blooming Angel Trumpets (a rather toxic flower, the Angel Trumpet, or Moonflower, is part of the Datura family, beautiful flowers but don't eat!) In fact the floral notes remind me of the sharp, heady, and slightly citrus notes of the Angel Trumpet flower, mix with honey, orange blossom, and a touch of almonds. Oh so much thick sweetness, it is a creamy flowery explosion of happiness in my mouth. Tea Bliss achieved. Notes of orange blossom, sweet cream, almonds, spicebush, pomelo, and a wonderful finish of orchids and toasted sesame.

The third steeping, the leaves have really unfurled and you can see little nibble holes, which I find endearing. The aroma really highlights the citrus notes this time, strong grapefruit and orange blossom with gentle pomelo and a tiny hint of lemon. The taste is nutty almond, sweet honey (oh so sweet) and wonderful spicebush. I sat with this tea all night, it kept me company for eight steeps, ending with gentle minerals and distant citrus flowers and a finish of honey. It was a grand companion for a night of gaming. I will treasure the rest of my sample and then promptly buy more, here on my blog, I solemnly swear, I am never running out of Gui Fei again!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

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

It is Saturday night and that means it is time to PARTY! I of course am going to party the best way I know how, getting drunk on tea, playing Terraria, and eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Yeah, I know how to live the high life. I have never been much of a party person, so really this is a great evening, I might even work on some painting too. If you can't tell, I am already a little tea drunk, but that tea's tale will be told next week!

Today we are looking at M&K's Tea Company's Smoked Pine and Sage, an herbal blend of hand roasted and harvested Pine Needles and California White Sage, which honestly sounded so awesome that I had to try it. I love smoky teas and roasted things, and a tea described as tasting like a bonfire sounded awesome. The aroma of the needles, sticks, and leaves is very smoky and burnt, it has a resinous tone and a sage-rub note. It reminds me of sage smudges I would do before I decided burning things with asthma was a bad idea, the smell is very nostalgic and pleasant, and mixed with the resinous burnt pine aroma, it certainly smells like a bonfire...specifically one at a New Age meeting. Ah, nostalgia.

Into my steeping vessel the herbs went, and the aroma totally fills my tea corner, it is like an autumn bonfire with a mystical edge to it. So the wet leaves smell like a bonfire, a very heavy sage filled bonfire, resinous and a bit meaty...it really does remind me of a meat rub. The liquid has a savory edge, not quite meaty, but savory, with resinous pine notes and smoke.

Tasting time! The amber-gold liquid is like fire in its aroma, and the tasty is certainly a campfire as well! It is warm and gently sweet, while also being savory and slightly meaty with notes of strong sage and resinous pine. I am not sure how I feel about it, I don't dislike it, but I certainly did not like it as much as I was expecting I would, what with my love of smoky teas. I sat a while with this tea trying to figure out what was not working for me, and I think it is that slightly meaty note, it reminds me too much of a meat roast rather than a tea. Conveniently I have a mom who also loves smoky things, so she got sent the rest of my pouch, I anxiously await her opinion on it!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tao Tea Leaf: Jun Shan Yin Zhen Yellow Tea-Top Grade, A Tea Review

Unexpected thunder!! Here I am, relaxing at my tea/blogging/painting corner, basking in the glow of just redoing the area and installing my much better desk...and then a flash and BOOM! I had to go take a look at the radar and there is a nice little storm right on top of me, with a nice squall system heading this way as well. Yesterday was stormy and this evening is shaping up to be the same, which fills me with great happiness. See, I love autumn, but it signals the death of storm season (well, unless a tropical storm gets really lost) as the seasons change the weather will be turbulent, but after that probably no more storms til next spring. This year's storm season has been epic, one that will live in my memory for years, a lot of firsts and just outstanding storms. Well done (insert storm deity of choice) an excellent year.

Today's tea comes from Canadian company, Tao Tea Leaf, it is Jun Shan Yin Zhen Yellow Tea-Top Grade. This is the fancy stuff, frequently appearing on the shifting list of China's Top Ten Famous Teas, it hails from Hunan's Junshan Island in the middle of Dongting Lake, a very scenic lake with some interesting river goddess and hidden underwater castle legends. Why is it that almost every culture has magical underwater castles with mysterious hidden entrances that only open once a year? As someone who makes it a hobby of studying mythology and folklore, I promise you, this one shows up a lot! Ok, about the tea, need to prevent myself from going on a mythology synchronicity rant, the aroma of the adorable fuzzy leaves is soupy! Seriously getting some strong vegetal broth from them, with notes of celery, sauteed bok choy, a touch of smoke, a touch of very distant flowers. It starts savory (seriously I want vegetable broth and a big slab of crusty bread to dip in it now) and then finishes with a gentle sweet snap pea note.

So, steeping time! I did this tea a few ways, but first off the typical gaiwan approach with 175 degrees water for 30 seconds, my usual approach to green and yellow teas. The aroma of the now thoroughly moistened leaves is savory, notes of bok choy, asparagus, celery and a general vegetal broth waft with the steam from the leaves. The liquid is a fairly light pile of vegetal notes, lettuce, bok choy, snap peas, asparagus and a touch of green beans. It balances savory and sweet green notes fairly well.

First steeping starts smooth and a touch tingly from the fuzzy trichomes on the leaves, the taste is fairly mild. Starting with a blend of floral notes and lettuce, then fresh and savory vegetal broth and asparagus, and a finish of snap peas sweetness and a tiny bit of turnip greens. This is a very green tea, and pleasantly fresh.
Apologies for lack of decent liquid photos showing color, my camera keeps corrupting images, I took several and this was the only one 'available' more signs of my camera's death throws 
Second steeping brings out a stronger aroma, very vegetal and green with a slight sweetness and a bit of smoke. The taste is very similar to the first steep but stronger, it is never bitter in its greenness, just delightfully savory and sweet in its greenness. If you are a fan of vegetal teas then this will be a delight. The third steep was pretty identical, I felt like this tea was hiding something from me, so I decided to experiment.
Ok, time to start over, I brewed it at 195 degrees for 30 seconds, living dangerously! Though some delicate greens and yellows can handle it, problem is knowing which ones can take the heat is trail and error, sometimes you get a mouthful of bitter death, other times you get a real treat. So, how did it go? Well tea friends, I am a jerk, Ben came home from work right as I finished pouring from my gaiwan, so I tested it on him, as he goes for a sip I tell him how I brewed it...he paused and said something along the lines of 'that sounds like a terrible idea' but being the trooper he tried it anyway and handed me the cup while saying it was surprisingly sweet. So I then drank it and wow, he was not trolling me! It is still vegetal, but mostly a mouth full of sweet snap peas and a bit of edamame, it is like vegetal nectar, a phrase I never thought I would say. I went through several steeps at this temperature and was rewarded with unchanging sweet snap peas.

Last thing I did on a whim, I brewed it in my travel steeper, it was green and sweet, though sadly went toward the vegetal bitterness towards the end, so I would say stick to the gaiwan for this one...at least that is what I will do. Because this is not a cheap tea, $1 a gram, definitely a tea you want to sick to the brewing method that works for you when you find that sweet spot.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What-Cha: Thailand Sticky Rice 'Khao Hom' Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

I have played a lot of video games in my life, and I have been driven to fits of rage by many of them. Something that my dear fiance and I share is a tendency to get really ragey at our games, we just show them differently, where he is likely to just yell at a game, I take a page from the RageQuit book and get really imaginative with my vitriol. I bring this up because few games have made me rage as much as Terraria. Seriously, I hate the boss fights, I can have myself kitted up and buffed to the extreme and it never fails, I die at least half a dozen times before I get the 'trick' to killing a specific boss. Of course then I proceed to farm it mercilessly, giggling at my godlike power the whole time. Oh man, or that one time when you are mining and accidentally hit the TNT button instead of the pickaxe button and blow yourself up. It. Is. MADDENING! But I also love it because I can be a dark elf with a hoard of spider summons with a pet dinosaur who rides a unicorn while wearing feathery wings, gypsy robes, and a Spartan helmet. Skills.
Today's tea from What-Cha is a funky little number, Thailand Sticky Rice 'Khao Hom' Oolong Tea, hailing from Thailand, this tea takes Jin Xuan and scents it with Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye, an herb from China whose leaves smell uncannily like sweet sticky rice. Used quite a bit with Puerh, (if you have ever seen sticky rice Puerh, this is the herb used) and I will be honest, mixed with Shou Pu, I find it utterly repugnant, usually because it is mixed with the really low grade fishy garbage and those are two things I do not want mixed. Ever. So I was really curious to try it in something else, specifically the glory that is Oolong. The aroma of this tea is something else, I advise not sticking your nose into these leaves, sniff from a distance because wow is it strong. Super sweet sticky rice notes with sweet cream, rice pudding, coconut milk, and an underlying almond nuttiness. So much sweetness, it is a little overwhelming. 
So the first time I tried this tea I made the mistake of brewing it when I had a headache, one whiff of those brewed leaves and I needed to lie down, something about sticky rice scented teas make me feel really ill and dizzy if I have a headache (which is often) so I waited for a day when I had no headache to try the rest of the sample. It was a good idea because whoa, it is super strong, very sweet notes of rice pudding, caramel, flowers, green beans, grass, spinach...it is a bit of a cacophony, though oddly it blends well together. The liquid is more subtle thankfully, though not by much. That sticky rice scent is strong and sweet, notes of coconut milk, almonds, and rice pudding mix with a creamy underlying floral note. 

I thought for a second, this could be one of those sensory overload things that happens to me with certain smells, so I got Ben to sniff it and he thought it smelled mild and sweet, where I thought it was like being face planted in pudding. The longer I sniffed it, the more I started developing a headache...oh dear. So, enough being nervous, I tasted it, it is smooth and sweet, and surprisingly cooling for an oolong. There are strong notes of cream, rice pudding, orchids, and warm milk. This moves on to caramelized sugar and a nutty aftertaste. There is however something 'wrong' about the rice taste, not wrong as in toxic or something like that...wrong as it tastes like rice but doesn't. Like how stevia leaves are sweet but don't taste like sugar, so when used as a substitute you can tell, it is uncanny and hard to process for some reason.

Second steep, the aroma at this point has permeated my tea area, which I am not entirely happy with. The taste is milder on the rice front, more of the underlying orchid and creamy notes of the Jin Xuan showing their color. The finish has a nutty rice note that lingers for some time. I called it quits after this steep sadly, the taste was quite pleasant, but the smell of the leaves was way too intense and killing my head, not to mention I spilled some on my tea table and just can't get the smell out, whenever I get a whiff of it I am slammed with vertigo, it is safe to say that my sensory weirdness could not handle this herb. Clearly if I try to drink this tea again, I should do it with a nose plug, or maybe store the leaves in another room. It is a pity I had such a negative reaction to the aroma, the taste was really quite fascinating.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tea Leaf Co: Angel of Mine, A Tea Review

Ugin the Spirit Dragon, aka my Betta, is a total weirdo. I have had a LOT of Bettas in my life, like seriously I have had over 20 in my life (I at once ran a sort of Betta rescue where I bought the saddest Betta at a pet store and attempted to nurse it back to health, but realized giving the stores money for ill treated fish was not in anyone's best interest, at least I had happy fish at the time) and I know their various quirks and such. This one thinks its a catfish. Ugin will knock the food from the top of the water (Bettas are top feeders, meaning floating food) watch it as it sinks, and then flips vertical to eat them off the bottom of the tank, rummaging around in the substrate like the world's most colorful catfish. Also, you get geek points if you know who Ugin is, as a hint, my Otoclinus catfish who shares his tank is name Sarkhan Vol.

Today's blog is all about a tea that is kinda a last hurrah for summer, or at least for me it is. Tea Leaf Co's Angel of Mine is a blend of White Tea and Roses, with natural essence. Now the reason I say this is a summer tea, roses for me just symbolize summer, that heady aroma reminds me of gardens and walks with my mom to the store. Totally specific memory, but on the way to the store there was a house that was really just roses that have taken over the house, they gave their last big bloom this time of year. The aroma of the tea is, unexpectedly, roses! Not nasty rose perfume, but the aroma of blooming roses, under this heady aroma is a tiny touch of crisp lettuce and melons.

Into my tea steeper thingy the leaves and petals go, making my little tea corner smell like blooming roses. The wet leaves definitely smell like roses, but also a nice crisp white tea, with notes of melon, sage, lettuce, and a bit of crushed vegetation. The liquid is a mellow blend of roses and white tea, one does not overpower the other, which is good.

Ah, this is such a nice, mellow, tea! Great for sipping when you want to relax with a pile of craft projects in front of you. Or a mountain of books. I love tea with roses, it might be one of my favorite additions to tea, so I like it when you can taste the roses without being overpowered by them, and this tea does that. The tea has roses throughout the entire sipping experience, but there is also a cooling note of melon and lettuce, with a note of sage at the finish. The finish is honey sweet with a lingering note of rose. This tea hit the spot, especially now that the evenings are getting cooler.

Monday, August 24, 2015

3 Leaf Tea: Ceremonial Grade Matcha, A Matcha Monday Tea Review

My new phone arrived, yay! Of course the yay is also prefaced with an annoyed groan because I have to learn how to use this one, get all the settings to where I like them, get all the apps, and contacts, and all that fun stuff situated. Electronics can be so complicated in their enjoyment!


Today is Monday, meaning a Matcha day! Today we are looking at 3 Leaf Tea's Ceremonial Grade Matcha, a vibrantly green little number from Uji, Kyoto. The color on this Matcha really is quite fantastic, the photos don't do it justice, it is luminous in its greenness, which is a good sign. The aroma of the Matcha pre-whisking is very sweet and creamy, notes of hay and sweetgrass mix with sweet cream and a distant fruitiness. Somewhere between berries in bananas, very light but it adds an interesting depth.

After a sifting and whisking I am greeted with some excellent froth and morimo-algae green liquid. Also, as a side note, when did morimo algae balls get so expensive? They used to be fairly cheap little aquarium friends. Anyway, the aroma of the now frothy Matcha is very sweet and creamy with a slightly green kelp note, very pleasant on my nose. Ok, moment of truth, I have had so many bad Matcha lately that I kinda live in fear now...and yeah, I had nothing to fear, this is some good stuff! It starts sweet, stays sweet, and end sweet, not a hint of bitterness to be found. The underlying notes are intense green, like kelp, zucchini, lettuce and freshly cut grass. On top of that is creamy squash and sweet cream, this Matcha has a lot going on, and I like that, this Matcha was a breath of fresh green air, a pleasant return to tasty form!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Whispering Pines Tea Company: Imperial Gold Bud Dian Hong, A Tea Review

I am multi-tasking to the max right now! As you may or may not know by this point, my move has been delayed for several months...so I unpacked my painting stuff and I am diving in to the miniatures! While painting I am also playing Terraria and blogging, and of course guzzling tea like a boss. I am really excited because one of the pieces I am working on is the Wyrd Miniatures Malifaux Dawn Serpent...it is basically a Chinese dragon, and I will use it some in my Ten Thunders army, but mostly it will live on my tea desk. Finally the tea desk will have a dragon!

Today I am looking at Whispering Pines Tea Company's Imperial Gold Bud Dian Hong, ah yeah, all about the fuzzy Yunnan tea today! A while back my mom ordered some and sent me a bit to try, my mom and I have this tendency to send each other piles of tea, I currently am filling a box up for her now, tea friends and family really are the best since we all seem to have this tendency to share our hoard. Good heavens, these leaves are luscious, thick and fuzzy, loaded with fuzzy golden trichomes, like happy caterpillars. Now that I have probably weirded all of you out comparing these fuzzy things to caterpillars, please know I accept donations! All kidding aside, these really are quite pretty. The aroma is peppery and sweet, strong notes of candied yams and sweet roasted peanuts. The finish has a touch of malt and a delicate note of rose as well, those yam notes though are killer, great a tea that makes me hungry!

On a Terraria note, I just killed the stupid Brain of Cthulhu eight times in attempts to get the trophy, ugh, what a pain. Steeping time brings out strong notes of malt and roasted peanuts, candied yams, a touch of vanilla beans, a dash of pepper, and that tiny hint of rose at the finish. The liquid is delightfully sweet, malt and sweet yams, vanilla beans, and a finish of pepper.

First steep starts mild and creamy, surprisingly there are no fuzzies floating around in the cup, they all sank to the bottom so the usual gentle tickle I get with fuzzy teas is not present. The taste starts with gentle malt and sweet yams, a touch of molasses. This moves on to roasted peanuts and a gentle finish of pepper.

The aroma of the second is peppery and malty with a strong yammy presence, I honestly love this yam note. I think it might be thing thing that makes me love Dian Hong so much. The texture is much thicker, a tiny bit of fuzziness in this steep. It is very heavy and rich, like a decadent treat, notes of malt and cocoa start off strong, that moves to candied yams and molasses, and the finish is a delicate mix of pepper and malt with a cooling finish.

Third steeping time, the aroma is pretty intense, strong notes of yam and roasted peanuts with a tiny bit of pepper. It is a much sweeter aroma this time around. The taste is also much sweeter, like molasses and syrup thickness mixed with sweet yams and rich malt. The midtaste has a strong yam and cocoa note and the finish is cooling with pepper. The pepper note fascinates me, the taste of pepper without the warmth of it is a quirky thing!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Influenster VoxBox: Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs, a Product Review

Sometimes I get sent random things to review from Influenster, and usually they kinda make sense, since they send you a little survey to see if you are interested. I don't remember filling out a survey or anything, just woke up to an email one day saying I got a Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs VoxBox on the way. I was filled with both apprehension and curiosity!

Apprehension because for one thing, I am horribly allergic to aloe, and most beauty products have that evil, spiky, succulent's ooze in it...and since like 100 people in the world are allergic to the supposedly hypoallergenic stuff, no one checks to see if you are allergic. Hmph. Also when I was a teenager my aunt was convinced I was too pale (I am much like glue in my whiteness) and decided the best was to rectify this was a fake tan. I turned lividly orange and splotchy, it was safe to say that I was mocked mercilessly the next day at school, so I have a long standing hatred towards fake tans.

But on examining this stuff, I was happy to see, no aloe! It has salvia (aka sage) as the random plant of choice. Also I was glad to see that the coloring was light and it can be removed easily with soap and water in case of a fake tan emergency. Ok I admit, I have always wanted to be beautifully tanned, like I wandered off of a Mediterranean beach, complete with a pile of fresh seafood and olives, go all daughter of Poseidon, but I am from English and Scottish people mostly, we don't tan, we turned a lovely shade of lobster, not to mention skin cancer is rampant in my family, so tanning is a no go for me.

I manned up and gave it a try! The prickly leg stubble and razor rash aside (yeah, you try getting a decent shave when the only razors you can use are the cheap no lubricating strip single blade nightmares) the 'tan' is not bad! If I smooth it out over my whole legs (and the rest of me, really) it could pass as a tan and not makeup. No orange disaster, it looks the way my skin looks several days after the lobster shade from the sunburn fades, but without the risk of cancer and the weird dryness and rash my skin gets from being in the sun. As a product, it is one that I think does its job excellently. I am not sure I am a fan of the whole tanning culture (I am a lost time traveling noble who still thinks that the only people that tan are serfs) because of the amount of cancer it causes, and the horrid leathery effect it has on aging skin, but the desire to have the look with no health consequences is something I am all for!

Thank you Influenster for sending me this totally random thing!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Liquid Proust Teas: Blueberry Sandstorm Genmaicha, A Tea Review

So, yesterday I went to my Rheumatologist to lament my problems to him, basically to tell him how the original plan of lowering my medicine caused me to have legit seizures. Side story, my whole life I have had these weird, as I call them, seizure things, and none of my doctors have taken them seriously. I dread them (they are not terribly frequent, once or twice a month at the most) and have felt more than a little crazy because they are not the dramatic 'normal' tonic-clonic seizure that is more commonly known, so I have been scratching my head and doing a bunch of research. Ever since I lowered the dosage (it was a tiny lowering too, I cut one of the pills I take three times a day in half) and had the closest to a tonic-clonic seizure since I had a bad reaction to a different medicine five years ago, I have had a seizure once to twice a week. What does my medication have to do with this? Gabapentin, my Fibromyalgia medicine, is also an anti-epileptic medicine. It took no time at all for my doctor to put the pieces together and say 'you probably have epilepsy' and set me up with a neurologist. It is so refreshing to have a doctor that doesn't suck, and if a problem arises works to fix it rather than just write it off...too bad my allergy doctor was not like that (insert a pile of sneezes to punctuate my point.)

Much as I do not like starting off my blog as a medical drama, I feel it is only fair to let my tea friends know what is up with me, the last couple weeks I have missed blog posts because (if you follow me on twitter you would have seen) I felt awful, well, this what was going on with me. Wish me luck that my referral goes through swiftly, but enough of that, I want to write about tea now! Specifically I want to write about Liquid Proust Tea's Blueberry Sandstorm Genmaicha, a blend of Genmaicha, Sencha, Freeze Dried Blueberry Powder (never heard of it, but I want it in droves) Cinnamon pieces, Apple, Rooibos, and Blueberry Flavoring. This tea intrigued me immensely, see I am a sucker for quirky takes on Genmaicha, and I am practically the founding member of Blueberry Addicts Anonymous (maybe? it is anonymous after all!) So this tea is definitely something I want to try, and the starting test is with the nose, and yeah, it smells good. It is like blueberry rice crispy cereal with a touch of spice, maybe more like blueberry granola rather than cereal? Since usually those blueberry flavored cereals smell like candy, and this just smells like spicy dried blueberries and toasty rice. Not getting much in the way of a green aroma, except as a tiny touch of broken leaves.

Into my steeping basket the tea went, for a nice steep in a dainty teacup. True true, I should have steeped this in a kyusu, but most my gear was packed up when I was tasting this tea. Sad face. The aroma of the wet leaves is definitely blueberry cereal and spice, super sweet and a bit grainy from the rice. Never really thought of making spiced blueberries, but it works in the nose. The liquid is blueberry popped rice, really intense blueberries, someone stuffed blueberries up my nose and I couldn't be happier, truly I have an unhealthy addiction to them.

The taste is a strong explosion of blueberries, at first that was all I was getting, but after the initial blue bomb on the tongue I start to get warm cinnamon and roasty notes of popped rice. The blueberry is awesomely sweet, not one of those tart blueberry teas (really I hate those, they just feel insulting, much like biting into a tart blueberry) and tastes more like cooked blueberries/ dried blueberries in a cereal than candy. The spice is mellow, not overwhelming, just gentle warmth that accents the rice really well. When the tea cools a bit there is more of a green note, like broken leaves and grass, accenting the blueberries. This was a fun tea, the blueberry addict in me approves!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tealish: Golden Monkey Superfine, A Tea Review

Well, that was unexpected! I called my doctor because I was running out of meds sooner than expected, since the dosage got upped and that was not taken into account with refills, and they want to see me today. Time to talk to them about the weird seizure like things (possibly actual seizures) I have had my whole life that are progressively getting worse, and time to get a referral to a neurologist. As usual my doctor phobia is kicking in, so to make it better I am getting a new fish for my desk. Actually they have nothing to do with each other, Ben got me a small fish tank recently and I set it up and planned on getting a desk friend today anyway, a happy coincidence!

Today's tea is a fuzzy golden tea, yay! Tealish's Golden Monkey Superfine,a black tea from China, a fuzzy golden black tea to be exact. This fuzzy gold is not my usual Yunnan fare, this one is from Fujian, land of some of my favorite oolongs. The name for this tea, I thought, was an obvious reference to the Golden Snub Nosed Monkey, but they are from a different part of China...the name is actually a reference to the curling leaves looking like a monkey's paw, and the golden fuzz of the leaf. No actual golden monkeys involved, tragic. Sniffing time! The aroma of the slightly curled golden tipped leaves is really quite sweet. Notes of dried cherries (the sweet ones, not the dried tart ones) cocoa, a tiny note of peanuts, and a mild note of yam. The aroma is somewhat mild, but even in its mildness I am impressed with its sweetness.

I used my tall gaiwan for this one, and with all fuzzy golden teas, I mourn their transition from fuzz to soggy leaves, but then instantly remember I am about to have tea and pretty much forget the fuzz. The aroma of the wet leaves is still really sweet, but instead of just cherry, it is all out stone fruit (specifically fruit leather) alongside notes of oak wood and actual leather. The liquid is stewed cherries and plums, sweet cream, and a nice finish of malt.

The first steep starts with  a surprisingly rich and thick mouthfeel, it has a fullness to it and a tiny bit resinous. The taste starts off fairly mild and sweet, like honey, and then moves to a richness with slightly creamy notes and molasses. The finish carries over the molasses along with some fruit leather and a touch of dates. Sadly there is not much of a lingering aftertaste, it just kinda stops.

Onward to the second steep, the aroma is super intense molasses and malt, with a hint of stewed fruit and sweetness. The taste is very rich and fruity sweet, plums and cherries that have been stewed in molasses and honey, a delicious start. It then moves on to malt and creamy undertones with a finish of, well, not much, it just kinda stops again. Sadly there was not much after this steep, the third steep just kinda stops after an initial fruity burst. A tasty but underwhelming tea.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What-Cha: India Bihar Doke 'Black Fusion' Hand-Made Black Tea, A Tea Review

There are a lot of things I could say to start off today's blog post, but they can wait for a later day, today's intro is something special. It is my two year Tea Blog Anniversary! It seems pretty crazy that I have been rambling about tea on my blog for this long, and that all of you are still hanging out with me on my corner of the internet. I have met some wonderful people and of course tried some awesome teas, found many favorites, and turned into a real teaware hoarder. Thank you all for reading my rambling, it means the world to me.

Since, unless my mind deceives me, it is Wednesday, meaning the day I review a tea from What-Cha, in my probably very silly attempt to review all the teas. Looking at India Bihar Doke 'Black Fusion' Hand-Made Black Tea, hailing from the much talked about Doke Tea Gardens in Bihar, India, run by the Lochan family, pioneers of the tea world! Trying teas from the Doke Tea Gardens has been pretty high on my to-do list for a while, because they are much loved by fellow bloggers and tea sippers, plus I really like their mission of treating the people and the land like they are precious, bravo! Eyeballing the leaves, they are really dark and quite pretty, I am a sucker for curly dark leaves, oh who am I kidding, I am a sucker for leaves! The aroma is delectable, malty and spicy, like curry without the heat and turmeric without the earthiness, a touch of floral notes, and a very sweet finish. That finish is one of stewed raisins and plums with molasses, it is like a malty compote!

Into my steeping vessel the curly leaves go, to make their transformation to plump and not as dark leaves. The aroma of the soggy leaves is malty and molasses sweet, with a definite spice which is hard to pin down, it is like saffron, turmeric, and curry...but not, it is more like you are smelling a blend of them from a distance. It is maddeningly hard to pin down in my olfactory memory, I wish I could create a scent photo album for referencing in just such occasions. The liquid has a note that I have not smelled in what seems like forever, sumac! There are also notes of molasses, malt, spice, and a touch of raisins and peanuts.

The tea is really quite vibrant, like a sky at sunset, the kind that won't scare away sailors, but where you know there are wildfires somewhere. The initial sip starts brisk and strong, this tea has a presence that makes you sit up and pay attention, maybe I got it wrong and this is a story sunrise color! The taste starts with notes of malt and raisins, this transitions to sassafras, that maddeningly hard to place down spice (ok, you know what, it is Spice, there, a nice Melange heavy tea for the Navigators) and a touch of sumac adding a lemony note at the very tail end of the midtaste. Then it moves to creamy stewed plums and molasses, which moves into the aftertaste and lingers. I really like how this tea has a brisk boldness to it while also having depth, a lot of times teas that wake you up are focusing more on having oomph than subtle nuances. As someone who does not really drink a lot of breakfast teas and tends to go for the subtle teas to gently shake me into wakefulness, I could see myself really craving this tea on those mornings I want the extra mouth punch while also being treated to a dance of tastes in my mouth. I can see why so many of my fellow bloggers go gaga for Doke if they are half as good as this one!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Red Leaf Tea: Sweet Matcha, A Matcha Monday Tea Review

Guys, tea friends, fellow geeks and gamers...I am getting a new phone. So funny story, Ben, for all that he is a tech lover, hates smart phones, he has a garbage flip phone that he paid like $10 for, it is so retro. His new job has required a lot of driving around and he keeps using me as a GPS, so I came up with a genius idea: buy me a new and better phone, and he can have my functional but kinda lame phone. So yay! It has a 8 megapixel camera (ooh so much better than my 5) and more memory. Yeah, it is still a low end phone, but I can take slightly better photos and with more memory I can go back to playing games while still keeping the apps I like around. Exciting!

Ever wondered how I first tried Matcha? Back when I was a teenager, I went through an obsessed with Japan phase (hilariously did not start with anime, though it led to it, it started with sushi and other food) and in my exploration of the culture (ok I never really outgrew that phase, it just calmed...a bit) and food, I stumbled across Matcha Mochi ice cream, that green sweetness was truly a love at first bite. Exploration led me to the beautiful Chado and Matcha in its 'pure' form. I had a treasured canister of Matcha and Chasen and had no real idea what I was doing, but I enjoyed myself immensely. Of course even though I love and drink Matcha in the ceremonial way, I still love that sweet ice-cream filling inside a Mochi, and of course the oh so famous Matcha latte. Which brings me to Red Leaf Tea's Sweet Matcha! This is one of those Matcha that is sweetened, it is very much so a toss powder into a cup, add milk, insert hand mixer and viola! Latte! According to the website it is organic and that it is good for Lattes and Frappes, and that is all the info we get, so it is an adventure! The color and the aroma is pale and faint, notes of sugar and grass, fresh vegetation, and hay waft off the very fluffy powder.

So, that is what I did, after photographing and sniffing the powder I tossed it into my hand-mixer's mixing cup with some whole milk and mixed it up with great vigor. With such a mild aroma I was a bit dubious, but it is actually pretty rich and very sweet. Refreshing grassy notes, broken fresh hay, and bright green sweetness, it tastes like Matcha ice cream that has melted into my cup. I admit I have a bit of an addiction to this stuff, I tend to make it strong, to really bring out the grassy greenness. Of course that does make it extra sweet, which I wish I could dial down a bit. I serve lattes made from the Sweet Matcha to my friends when they are in the mood for a sugary treat rather than a bowl of Matcha. I enjoy this stuff immensely, I just really wish it was not so sweet, but to counter that I just toss in some culinary grade Matcha to keep it as rich while cutting down on the sugary sweetness a bit.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Liquid Proust Teas: Mate Nectar, A Tea Review

I think I am living in the wrong part of the country...ok, stop rolling your eyes, I kinda like it here now, I just also think I am addicted to rain. It has been an especially wet spring and summer, one of the reasons we are having such a hard time moving, EVERY house we have looked at has a horrid mold problem, and if I can't breathe in the house, well, it is a problem. Although it would be good for cultivating rare and exciting basement fungi! Anyway, what I am getting at is it has not rained in like three days and that makes me sad! I keep stalking accuweather for signs of rain and get so excited when there is a chance of storms and rain. Yeah, I need to move somewhere with steady rains!

So, it is time once again to return to Liquid Proust Teas, this time for Mate Nectar. Honestly this tea had me at the word nectar, I am part hummingbird, I swear! This is a blend of Brazilian Mate (one of the Ilex plants that is naturally caffinated and native to the Americas, the others include Guayusa and Yaupon), Green Rooibos, Rock Candy, Apple, Marshmallow Root, Beet Root, Strawberry, Carrot Flakes, Flower Petals, and Flavoring. Quite the list of yummies! I was told by the creator himself that this tea is good cold steeped, and well, tis the season! The aroma of the pile of yummies before I toss them in my steeper is super sweet! Lots of berries and sugary goodness, a touch of grassy hay and vegetation (hello Mate!) and a finish of apples and carrots. The name nectar really is fitting, it smells like pixie food. Kinda looks like pixie food too!

After an overnight steeping, the travel steeper that I used now looks like a sunset, the beet root at the bottom turned it a lovely red that gradients up to orange. Giving it a shake mixes it all up, but it is quite pretty. The aroma is super fruity and sweet, cane sugar, marshmallows, fresh sweet apples, and strawberries waft out of the steeper. A hint of honey and fresh hay bring up the tail end of the aroma, so much sweetness though, which I am totally ok with.

I have a confession, usually I am not much of a Mate person, I don't dislike it but I rarely go out of my way to seek it out. This brew might make me a believer...in fact maybe I just don't like Mate warm, tastes like lawn clippings (and not the clean clippings like you get from a freshly mown lawn, this is the stuff from the next day that you get a mouthful of when you trip on wet grass and fall into the grass clipping pile) not a taste you want warm. The crisp hay and clover flower notes from the Mate when cold are pretty fantastic. Toss in sugar cane sweetness, lots of sweet apple and strawberries, and oh yes delightful marshmallow at the finish with a slight almond nuttiness as the aftertaste. This truly is nectar like, sweet and cold on a hot day, well, I am in a happy place. In theory I should try this hot, but I don't wanna! Bravo my tea blending friend, I think I found a new favorite hot day drink.

Friday, August 14, 2015

M&K's Tea Company: Honey-roasted Licorice Root, A Tea Review

If I were a responsible adult, I would put on pants (well, pants with pockets, more leggings need pockets, but then they would just be pants and not leggings?) and walk to Aldi's for some groceries. Turns out I am not responsible, or at the very least, I do not feel well enough to go for a walk, in the ebb and flow of my allergies, today is definitely a tidal bore, and it is a little frustrating. At least I got the new teapot all cleaned up (operation teapot rescue was a success) and managed to get in some good gaming, Terraria summoner playthrough is hard work!

Today's tea is an herbal one from M&K's Tea Company, their Honey-Roasted Licorice Root, it is exactly what it says on the tin, licorice root roasted in honey. Ok look, usually I am not one to talk about the medicinal quality of plants, too many nit-wits out their take random bloggers at face value and do not do research on their own and get sick. I take teaching herbalism the same way I take teaching edible mushrooms while on a naturalist hike, no just no. But licorice root is awesome, at least it has been for me, taking Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice did more for my stomach ulcer than the crazy medicine I was taking at the time did, and drinking licorice tea is one of the few things that actually soothes my sore throat. It is an exceptionally useful root that conveniently is quite tasty (though oh man it can ruin some blends when used wrong) so I actually enjoy consuming it. Back in January when Ben had a nasty cold, I gave him some of the Honey-Roasted Licorice tea and was told it was quite helpful, but he drank the last of mine and I plum forgot to get more...until I saw they were having a sale and I was having chronic sore throat...and well, my package arrived today so why not talk about this tea? Anyway, smell! It smells really good! Very rich sweet honey and an earthy-rooty-woody blend that is licorice, and a delicate roasted spice finish. If you hate licorice then you will probably be able to tolerate this tea, it smells more like burdock root than licorice, but there is that distinct licorice aroma, just faint.

However, when you steep it, the licorice really comes out, sweet honey roasted licorice, it smells exactly like that. Roasted licorice root and sweet honey dance out of the wet root bits, with a touch of earthiness as well. The liquid is surprisingly complex, notes of creaminess, honey, gentle toasted notes, roots, and a touch of spice drift out of my cup, it is very sweet, though also very mellow. It is an intriguing thing.

The taste starts out subtly sweet at the front, gentle honey and caramelized sugar, and then boom! Licorice slams into the midtaste and coats the throat with its intense sweetness and rooty goodness. It is not the usual licorice though, the honey roasting, for lack of a better way of putting it, reigns it in, it gives it a more subtle nuance, I can taste the earthy root elements, the woody notes, the resinous sweet sap notes...it is not just the super sweet intense licorice you usually get in a licorice tea. The mouthfeel is honey thick and slippery, and the sweet aftertaste lingers for quite a while. And for the first time in almost a month, I don't have a sore throat! Also, as a side note, I find chewing on the spent roots to be very enjoyable, and unlike most herbal brews I got a couple steeps from the roots.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What-Cha: Indonesia Dark Roast Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Oh hey, I think my sleep schedule flipped back to being diurnal-ish. Yay? It has its pros and cons, same as all sleep schedules. At least since I got up dark and early this morning I got to watch some more of the Perseid Meteor Shower, watching a few fireballs shooting across the sky brings me great joy. I am somewhat sad that things did not work out where I could not go out to the country to watch the sky, but I got to see some of the show, which is wonderful.

It is time to look at a powerful tea from What-Cha, their Indonesia Dark Roast Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. This tea had my attention from the name (a charcoal roasted Tie Guan Yin, that is one of my favorite things) and the description calling it powerful, what can I say, I have a type! That type is empyreumatic, also Tie Guan Yin, I am predictable with my love of oolongs. So, the aroma of the tightly balled leaves will knock you off your feet if you are not prepared, strong notes of tobacco, rich molasses, baked plums, loam, and heavy charcoal waft off of them. It is both very rich and very sweet, without the char notes overwhelming.

Into ye ol' roasted Oolong pot the tea goes, and hello strong notes of coal and smoke, reminds me a bit of incense because it has a resinous quality with a distant floral note as well. Under this smoky and coal is tobacco, molasses, and roasted plums, it is pretty intense. The liquid is smoky and char, like burnt grains, buckwheat and oats, molasses and honey. It smells like granola that is being roasted over a fire, though without the headache.  (For some odd reason whenever Ben's mom roasted the granola for her...well...granola, the smell gives me a migraine and I spend the day in misery. I try to be out of the house on those days, sad because the smell is great.)

Whoa! That first steep is sweet! Surprisingly so, with a strong honey and molasses start with juicy plums in the middle. Over this sweetness is an overhanging cloud of smoke and char, like eating roasted plums next to a campfire. The finish is grainy, notes of buckwheat and oats mix with a finish of molasses, this is some serious granola tea.

The aroma of the second steep manages to kick it up a bit in intensity, strong notes of char and grains, buckwheat and oats, mixing sweetness and granola with a strong punch of burnt. Yes my mouth is watering, don't judge me. The taste is much less sweet, bringing out the intense char and grain notes I am more familiar with when given a roasted TGY. Notes of walnut shells, oats, buckwheat, actual wheat, and a hint of molasses blend with an explosion of char and gentle smoke.

Third steeping time, the aroma is very similar, not so much sweet, strong notes of grain and char with a very pleasant finish of molasses, the only sweetness in the aroma. Looks like the tobacco and plums rejoined the party, starting off with delicate sweet roasted plums and walnut shells, this moves on to tobacco (kinda fruity pipe tobacco, actually) and roasted grains. The finish is sweet molasses and char with a surprise floral aftertaste. I had quite a few more steeps with this tea, it has a fantastic oomph to it and lasts for a while. I am, however, kicking myself for forgetting to order more, I am betraying my love of the Taiwanese roasted TGY, but I think Indonesia might take the coveted favorite spot.