Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What-Cha: Thailand 'Red Tiger' Oolong, A Tea Review

This is the last post of the year! I realize that a combination of the 'just married' giddiness, general holiday craziness (Ben's side of the family is very big into LOTS of events for holidays) and the sad crushing realization that I am coming down with some sort of sniffling/coughing/everything tastes and smells weird bug means my focus is just not in my writing. I really do try to limit the amount of my derp you all have to put up with! Also I promise this has nothing to do with the Minecraft update that dropped today (that I have been waiting anxiously for) though I probably will play it (a lot) during my little vacation. I shall return after the new year, either blogging Monday-Friday or Wednesday-Saturday to match Ben's schedule...still trying to decide that one. Happy (insert your holiday of choice) everyone!!

Ok, enough announcement stuff, tea! You know what I haven't done in a while? Had a What-Cha Wednesday, so let's look at Thailand 'Red Tiger' Oolong. This particular tea is a Jin Xuan varietal made in what appears to be a Hong Shui style, meaning it is heavily oxidized but only lightly roasted. Oh man, I knew from the first sniff that I made a serious mistake not getting this, as it was included as a sample in my recent order. I waffled between it and the Royal Pearl, I should have just gotten both! The aroma is very similar to a Gui Fei, very fruity and nutty, like a stone fruit compote with a touch of tropical fruit. Notes of cherries, papaya, apricot, and peaches, it is very sweet and the underlying note of walnuts is very welcomed. This is truly an immensely sweet and fruity tea when dry, and is about to become stronger.

I decided, since the aroma is so similar to a bug-bitten Oolong that brewing it in my smaller bug-bitten Oolong pot would not be a terrible mistake, though it does remind me I need to get a Hong Shui style Oolong pot soon. The aroma of the now soggy leaves is pretty impressively sweet, strong notes of plums, apricots, papayas, peaches, cherries, and an undertone of plumeria and walnuts. The aroma of the first steep is like someone took those fruits, stewed them in brown sugar and orange blossoms, and sprinkled a bit of walnuts on the top...and this is a dessert I really need to make now. It is very sweet, bordering on decadent

The first steep is surprisingly thick, it coats all the mouth and is dense, very buttery and smooth. You know me, I love my Oolongs thick and juicy! Like the aroma, the taste is immensely sweet and fruity, starting with brown sugar stewed plums and peaches, moving to papaya and cherries, and finishing the fruity cocktail with a bit of apricot. There are also notes of flowers amid all the fruit, gardenia and orange blossom being the main notes with a touch of plumeria in the aftertaste. And that aftertaste, oh how the apricot and plumeria nectar lingers.

Ugh, this tea is so good!! Sadly (if you consider this a sad, I do not) there is not really any variation between the steeps note wise, the variation comes from intensity of the notes. Considering it tasted so good in the first place I am ok with that. I am also really glad I took the tasting note for this tea before my taste/smell went all wonky. I really want to get more and try this tea grandpa style, I love drinking darker unroasted oolongs in that way, especially when I feel ick or I am gaming and just want to chug something tasty. I went seven steeps with this tea, and it was awesome.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Best Of 2016, A Year In Review

Ok, let us get it out of the way, 2016 has been a rough one, well it has been for the world, for me personally it has been pretty decent. I got married, have my own tearoom, found many thrift store treasures, and played a lot of Magic. Of course, I had a LOT of teas this year too, filled up another 100 page journal with tasting notes and have another one half finished. Seriously, I drink a lot of tea, so I decided to pick the best I had...this year, not all of them have made their way onto the blog yet, but a lot have. This list was immensely hard to make, some of the categories could have MANY favorites, so nobody feel slighted by omission!

The White Teas
Fujian White- Rainbow Peony from Shang Tea

Yunnan White- Moonlight Sonata from Whispering Pines Tea

Other Region White-Kenya 'Rhino' Premium White from What-Cha (I had this one before and have not had the chance to review this year's harvest yet since I just got it. Still love it, so maybe this doesn't count!)

The Green Teas
Chinese Green-Tai Ping Hou Kui Green from MeiMei Fine Teas

Japanese Green- Shincha from Ocha & Co

Matcha- Daily Matcha from Mizuba Tea Co

Other Region Green-Dragon Boat Green from Eco-Cha

Yellow-Jun Shan Yin Zhen from Nannuoshan

The Oolongs
Green Oolong-DaYuLing High Mountain Oolong from Floating Leaves Tea

Roasted Oolong- Amber Forest from Totem Tea

GABA- Osmanthus GABA Oolong from Eco-cha

Bug-Bitten Oolong- Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) from Tillerman Tea

Aged-Aged Baozhong from Floating Leaves Tea

Dancong-Blackbird from Bitterleaf Tea

Wuyi-Hot and Heavy from White2Tea

The Blacks/Red (aka the section that took me the longest)
Yunnan Red- 2016 A&P from White2Tea

Chinese Red Jinhao Golden Tip from Teavivre

Taiwanese Red Red Jade from Origins Tea

Bug-Bitten Red Honey Black from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company

Indian Black Red Thunder 2016 from Gopaldhara Tea Estate

Other Region Black Zealong Black from Zealong Tea

Blended Black A Dark Kitchen Sink from Liquid Proust Tea

Purple Black Wild Tree Purple Black of Dehong from Yunnan Sourcing

The Dark Stuff
2016 Sheng 2016 Mengsong Balls fromWhite2Tea Tea Club

Sheng 2015 Early Spring Harvest Elegant Tranquility from Denong Tea

+10 Year Old Sheng 2001 High Mountain Wild Tree Purple Tea Cake of Lincang from Yunnan Sourcing

Shou  Moosecrown from Bitterleaf Tea

Heicha Furyu:Batabatacha from Yunomi

Other Stuff
Purple Tea Wild Tree Purple Moonlight from Yunnan Sourcing

Herbal Lullaby Tea from Kent and Sussex Tea & Coffee Co

Scented Tea Tangerine Peel White Tea from Teavivre

Flower Tea Huizhou Emporer Chrysanthemum Flowers by Teavivre

Honorable Mentions (Really any of these teas could have taken their respective slot and it was a literal coin toss between some of them)
ShangLinXi Black from Eco-Cha Tea Club
Rummy Pu from Liquid Proust Tea
Dragon Blood from Bitterleaf Tea
Honey Red Jade from Golden Tea Leaf
Lao (Aged) Chin Shin Oolong from Tea-Side
Keemun Imperial Gongfu Black from MeiMei Fine Teas
Winter Essence from Xin Mu Cha
2014 Shixiang Fuding White Tea from Green Tea Guru
Hot Brandy from White2Tea
Classic Laoshan Black Tea from Yunnan Sourcing
Extinction Event from Tea-Historic

Friday, December 16, 2016

Origns Tea: Tie Guan Yin - A Li Shan, A Tea Review

Ben is the meanest thing ever, seriously! As a wedding present to ourselves, we traded in a bunch of Magic Cards for store credit at Card Kingdom (including my super expensive Grim Flayer) and used to to finish off a couple of our decks. I also used it to get some much needed purple sleeves and a really cool Liliana deck box for my zombies, but the big jerk told me to not open the box until he gets home. So it is sitting there, staring at me, calling me to open it...I must be strong, but it is hard!! I am excited for the cards, but mostly I want to sleeve my decks!

It is a chilly day, meaning I need a tea that cuts through the cold, like Origins Tea: Tie Guan Yin - A Li Shan a roasted Taiwanese Oolong from one of my favorite mountains. The aroma of the leaves is nutty, a little savory tea, similar to a full grain walnut bread that has been nicely toasted, but this bread is clearly made for sandwiches rather than as a dessert bread. Yes, I take my bread very seriously. Towards the end is a bit of almond and brown sugar, only a hint of sweetness, mostly this tea is about toasted nuts.

After steeping I think I can safely say this is the nuttiest TGY I have ever sniffed, I get notes of almond, walnut, macadamia nuts, and even a touch of pecans, all thoroughly toasted in a fire giving it an edge of char. Under the char and nuts is a gentle note or orchid adding a touch of sweetness. The liquid, however, is surprisingly sweet, with notes of orchid and honeysuckle, almonds and walnuts, all of which have been tossed on a fire! The char note is very present but not unpleasant.

The first steep is thick and smooth, very much so a mouth coating Oolong, which I notice a lot of roasted Oolongs feel more sharp (not really the right word since sharp would be painful, it is more the difference between biting into okra and biting into lettuce.) It is very sweet, with notes of almonds and macadamia nuts drizzled with honey. Towards the middle it picks up notes of baked walnut bread and a bit of orchids, with a finish and subsequent aftertaste of orchids.

On to the next steep, the char has increased, definitely that more sharp mouthfeel I associate with roasted Oolongs. The taste is nuts that have been lit on fire, with a strong toasted bread undertone. Not much sweetness to be found in this steep, but there is a lingering aftertaste of orchid, ghostly but floral.

I was able to get several steeps out of this tea, I found it kinda puttered out a little soon, fading into mostly char after steep eight. I really liked how nutty it was, and how nutty it stayed until the end, especially with the notes of almond and macadamia nut, something I don't run into as often as I would like. This is a great daily drinker I think, solid notes and pleasant taste, though it does not last as long as I would like for a more 'special occasion' TGY.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tea-Historic: Tricera-Tips (Assam), A Tea Review

Did you know that Ceratopsians (the family of dinosaurs that Triceratops belongs to) might not have had those elaborate head fringes for defense like originally thought? I am currently reading an ARC of a book called Weird Dinosaurs, and finished the section on Ceratopsians where it talks about how the bony head fringe might have been used for mating displays. The theory for this is two-fold, a lot of damage marking on the heads of these dinosaurs match damage you would find on the skulls of deer and goats (and matches the horns on others of the same species) and more importantly the larger horns and weird triangular growths on the more bombastic species (like the fringe on Centrosaurus) didn't develop until they started going through puberty.

This segues nicely to today's tea, Tricera-Tips (Assam) from Tea-Historic, a blend of  Nahorhabi Estate Assam and Cacao Husks from the Dominican Republic. If you think from the combination of an Assam and Cacao husks that it will be liquid brownies, well, you are right. The aroma blends malt, chocolate, molasses, and sweetness, and it smells just like brownie batter. Not really much else to say, too busy sniffing the brownie batter tea leaves!

After a nice steep in my steeping apparatus, the leaves still smell like brownies, even more so. With the chocolate and molasses comes malt and a starchy baked goods note that really fools my mind into thinking this is food and not tea. I am serious, pretty sure you could shove this under my nose with a blindfold and I would be convinced you were teasing me with incoming brownies. The smell of the liquid is much the same, with a little bit of an extra sweetness and a little less molasses. It reminds me of the constant brownie war Ben and I have, since he wants his brownies sweeter and I want mine loaded with molasses.

So the moment of truth, does it smell as brownie heavy as it smells...yeah it does, astoundingly so! I have had plenty of Assams and enjoy drinking cacao shells, and they are each delicious on their own, but something about the combination of the two really works. Cacao shells on their own taste like chocolate but with a woody and at times sour note, and Assam can be too brisk and malty, but when combined these aspects are balanced out so what you get is liquid brownies. What I really liked about this tea is it is sweet but not as sweet as brownies can be, meaning I could quaff a lot of it without feeling ill (unlike what happens when I fill my gorge pouch on brownies) and of course I had to share with Ben, who loved it and requests more.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co: Lullaby Tea, A Tea Review

I am having such a hard time focusing today, still stuck in giddy, giggly 'just married' mode, but since Ben had to go back to work, it is only fair that I do the same. It is great though, well except that my giddiness has taken my already limited attention span and made it even smaller, it is a small price to pay! I will say one thing, my luck with cracking Magic packs kinda sucks. As a belated birthday present to myself I used a bit of the money received to buy six packs of Eldritch Moon (my current favorite set) from Amazon at a really good price. Now I don't think they were repacked, but man, the draws were awful, I only got one card I really have any use for (Cryptbreaker) and nothing but junk rares. For the most part though, my luck for pulling pricey rares is pretty awful, having only twice pulled ones worth more than $5, one was Grim Flayer which I traded for a lot of store credit at Card Kingdom which in turn paid for all the singles I needed for both my Zombie deck and my Control deck. Maybe I will use my new pile to make a deck in some other color than Black...maybe Black White or Black Blue! Can you tell I like playing Black?

Since I have no attention span, I am going to focus on a relaxing tea that doesn't require many steepings to describe, a nice herbal blend! Lullaby Tea by The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffe Co, a blend of Apple Pieces, Linden Flowers, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Rose petals, Sweet Blackberry Leaves, Orange Blossoms, and Mallow Blossoms. Three things caught my eye when I saw this blend, there is no mint, chamomile, or hibiscus...all things that I am frankly quite sick of in herbal blends, and of course things that I am only moderately tolerant of taste-wise. I love herbal blends, not for any health reasons, but because herbs, flowers, and random plants are a great way to expand the taste palate and often taste really fascinating. When I was a kid I would rummage around in the garden selecting edible plants to blend into odd concoctions to drink, just because I wanted to explore more random tastes, since smell and taste are my favorite ways to interact with the world. The aroma is very much so a flower garden, notes of roses, lavender, orange blossom, pollen, hay, and a blend of herbaceous lemony goodness as the base, being an undertone to all the other notes. The herbaceous note gives a slightly savory quality which keeps the flowers from being too strong and cloying, it is well balanced, which is hard with such strong flowers as rose and lavender.

Into a steeping basket the blend goes, the aroma of the steeped herbs is flowery with notes of lavender and roses, but also peppery, citrusy, and herbaceous adding a green and savory quality. It is not at all too flowery, which is nice, the lavender is mild and not soapy, which is good. I love lavender but it can get too strong at times. The liquid is sweet and green, notes of lavender, roses, and orange blossoms with pollen, honey, and a peppery herbaceous finish. It is like flower nectar and leaves, like an entire plant!

The taste is lovely, exactly what I want from an herbal blend! Notes of gentle flowers, primarily roses and lavender with a hint of orange blossoms, sweet honey and pollen, a general wildflower taste, and a touch of ghostly mallow blossoms. After this initial burst of flowers is a midtaste of green blackberry leaves and a peppery and lemony herbal note that is unmistakably the linden flowers and lemon balm I am tasting. The lavender comes back in the finish and lingers into the aftertaste, and it, of course, sticks around quite a while since lavender is like that. The mouthfeel was surprisingly thick and almost viscous, which I found soothing since it is one of my favorite ways for a hot drink to feel. This could very easily become a favorite herbal blend, combining some of my favorite flowers and plants!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tea, Romance, and Marriage!

Oh, I am going to be in a state of giddy joy for a while, practically bursting at the seams with it, because Ben and I eloped! It was all very secretive and the fact that I managed to not spoil the surprise should be lauded since I am the worst person ever at keeping things a surprise.

Speaking of surprises, it is not one at all when I say that tea is a big part of our relationship, from the very beginning it has been there. The first tea I made for him was some Genmaicha, when he and a mutual friend were stranded at my house during the Snowpocalypse of 09. It was great, I had never met Ben, but our mutual friend said he was awesome and when she visited brought him along, none of us expected the 'love at first sight' that occurred. We then ended up getting so much snow their return trip was delayed by several days and that was fine by all of us, but of course I had to keep my guests warm by serving up lots of tea. After Ben returned home and then immediately settled his affairs and moved across the country to be with me, I bought him some Earl Grey after he professed his love for it. Even before I became a tea-obsessed blogger it was always there in the background.

But I am a tea obsessed blogger so it is now in the foreground. Most days I gongfu at least one session for the both of us, and when we were planning a wedding we going to have tea as favors and as the liquid concession, our toast would have been tea. Since we decided to elope we still had to have tea, using a pair of beautiful artisan made cups we found at the thrift store on one of our many treasure hunts. They are quite unique, both in shades of blue, purple, and creams, but instead of being my usual pottery obsession, they are pottery cups sitting on wood turned pedestals making them goblets. We toasted to our new union with one of our favorite teas, Gui Fei Oolong from Vietnam, and I am pretty sure that the wedding goblet is going to be Ben's new favorite cup since he has used it with each tea since yesterday.

It matches his melodramatic flair. Which is part of the reason I have invited him to guest blog with me! His passion for tea matches mine, just in a different form and is expressed differently. He would rather use it as fuel for a story where I am all about describing my sensory input, it is a fun difference.

Normal blogging will probably resume tomorrow, if not then Wednesday when he goes back to work, but I had to celebrate what is possibly the happiest day of my existence on my blog, especially since it is so wrapped up in tea! With luck I can edit this post tomorrow with a much cooler picture of the two of us celebrating with tea, but it is dark out tonight and daylight is scarce!