Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Teavivre: Yunnan Gongfu Fragrant Black Tea, A Tea Review

Console exclusive games infuriate me to no end, seriously. I have an Xbox, both the One and the 360, mostly because the only people I ever play with have those systems have them and I have gotten used to the Xbox, I like it and will continue to play them, but I really wish I lived in a world where the console war and exclusive games didn't exist. I love Ark, but I am so sad that it is no available to PS4 players...but they get to have access to two games I want but can't have because of being on the Xbox. Street Fighter V and more importantly No Man's Sky, I want that game so badly, it looks amazing but I can't play it. I AM CRYING BITTER TEARS ON MY CONTROLLER!! It really would be simpler if I had a gaming PC, but that will be something for the future, maybe. Ok, end nerd rant, tea time!

Continuing on with Teavivre week, today I am looking at Yunnan Gongfu Fragrant Black Tea, a hong cha from Fengqing, Yunnan, one of my favorite regions for making the glorious red teas that I'm hopelessly addicted to. Dianhongs are my drug, no lies. The name of this tea is no exaggeration, it is immensely fragrant, you open the bag and whoosh, face full of aroma! There are notes of intensely sweet cocoa and yams with brown sugar, malt, and a finish of gentle woody notes. It is very sweet and rich without being too much of either. I might have giggled with glee sniffing this tea while awaiting my kettle's heating.

Into my teapot the oh so fragrant leaves go for their first steep, upon steeping it is time once again for sniffing. The notes coming off the wet leaves is intense! Notes of malt, cocoa, yams, peanut, pumpkin, mineral, molasses, and a very tiny hint of rose. It is really complex, pretty much every note I associate with Dianghong is present, which is impressive. The liquid is a touch lighter, sweet notes of brown sugar and pumpkin with a delicate pastry and chocolate note, it is quite sweet.

The first steep surprised me, for such a strong fragrance the taste is really light. Starting with gentle mineral notes and almost effervescent sweetness that dances across my palate. It is reminiscent of both cane sugar and brown sugar with a delicate cocoa woodiness. The finish is sweet and lingering with a light honey quality.

Second steep is where it is at! The aroma stays strong with notes of cocoa and brown sugar with a definite pumpkin and yam quality. Well, the taste takes a hint and brings in the yams and toasted peanuts, but imagine that with notes of pastry and cocoa and a finish of brown sugar and mineral. It almost reminds me of peanut brittle now that I think about it, but with sweet potatoes and cocoa, delicious!

For the third steep the aroma stays strong, but starts to pick up woody and a slight camphor note, at the finish there is a hint of pepper and a stronger mineral note as well, making it less sweet but more complex. This steep surprised me a bit, where the mouthfeel earlier was smooth and a bit thick, this one is thick and slippery with a salivary affect giving it an extra thickness. The taste is woodier, the intense sweetness is replaced with a woody richness reminiscent of cacao shells and a touch of very distant camphor. The finish and aftertaste is where all the sweetness of this steep is, ending with brown sugar and delicate yams. This tea went for several more steeps before giving up the ghost, finishing out with a very pleasant mineral quality.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Teavivre: Tangerine Peel White Tea, A Tea Review

An Ark update is headed my way that has me full of excitement! Not because of the horribly hard caves or wooly rhinos, not because of breeding phase 2 or the Eurypterid, no my friends, it is for the Dunkleosteus! One of my favorite deep sea monstrosities from the Devonian age, this giant fish had no teeth, instead it had interlocking bony plates and an armored head, but more importantly it had a crazy fast bite speed, making its mouth deadly. Since the only real fossil record is of its bony face, we don't have a clear idea of what its body looked like, it could have been a longish fish or if you are like me and come up with wild theories, it could have been an eel! Like I said, wild theory that is wildly unlikely, but very fun, I love the Dunkleosteus and I am glad it is getting some Ark love, can't wait to tame one!

Time to put down the dinosaur geeking and move on to my other major geek out source, tea! Today I am looking at Teavivre's Tangerine Peel White Tea, a Shoumei White Tea from 2010 shoved into a tangerine peel and then dried in the sun, at least I think these are dried in the sun since that is how Shou shoved in a tangerine is created. It is said that the tangerine peel is good for cough and chest complaints, and white tea is known to have cooling Qi, so I was thinking this would be a great tea to drink during allergy season, plus I love tangerines, so blending the flavor with white tea seems most excellent. The aroma of the leaves and peel is intensely sweet, the comparison the website makes to orange candies is not far off, though conveniently it smells like tangerine and not artificial flavor like so many candies have. Actually candies is not entirely fair, it is more like candied orange peel with a strong honey note. There are underlying notes of hay and melon, but mostly the dry leaves really showcase the citrus.

I tossed the fluffy leaves and peel bits into a teapot and gave them a steeping, the aroma of the leaves is still heavy on the tangerine and intense honey sweetness, but now there are also notes of lettuce and a touch of celery. The liquid is a blend of lettuce, freshly broken hay, tangerine, and sticky sweet honey. It smells warm and sweet and I cannot wait to drink it.

The first steep is very mild, I was expecting a giant tangerine explosion in my face, but the tangerine is more in the aroma and aftertaste. The main notes in this steep are gentle melon sweetness, lettuce crispness, and a sun-warmed hay finish. It has a smooth mouthfeel and a gentle cooling feel in my chest and stomach, refreshing on a warm day!

The aroma of the second steep manages to be even more tangerine, mixing fresh juicy tangerine and candied orange peel with honey and a touch of lettuce and melon. Wow, this steep brings the citrus! It has notes of honey drenched tangerine, slightly sour orange (hello salivary glands) and a definite candied peel note that lasts forever. This tea is not all citrus goodness though, there are also strong notes of lettuce and hay with a slight melon note at the midtaste. It is delightfully sweet and smooth and has a bit of a thickness to its mouthfeel.

For the third steep, the aroma does not change really, pretty sure you could stick the second and third steep under my nose and I would not know the difference. Tasting is pretty similar too, it lacks any sour notes and is all candied orange peel and tangerine sweetness, with strong honey notes and delicate melon. It manages to be both warming and cooling, though the warming comes mostly from the sunny notes present in the citrus, it always registers as summery and warm in my mind. The sensation of cooling is pleasant, not as intense as some shengs can get, but certainly feels soothing on my insides. This tea went for several more steeps, eventually the orange notes faded and I was left with lots of sweet white tea, I really enjoyed it and plan on saving the rest of my sample for a cold steep experiment come summer time!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Teavivre: Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Ancient Wild Tree Black Tea, A Tea Review

Happy Monday tea world! This past weekend was very enjoyable and I believe sets up a trend, a trend that will hold until late July, my weekends will be taken up watching fighting games. Yes, the season for watching FGC tournaments on the weekends is underway and I am so full of hype. I am very fond of fighting games, even if I am absolutely horrid at them, long ago in my youth I was an unstoppable force at Mortal Kombat, but my tendons and arthritis hate me meaning no more fighting games or beat'em ups for me, so to get my fix I watch champions play it at a professional level. I don't really do standard sports, but I sooo get into fighting games!

It has been a while since I had a Teavivre week on the blog, so this week will be all Teavivre, starting out with Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Ancient Wild Tree Black Tea. This is a hong cha from my favorite region for red teas, Yunnan! This specific Dianhong comes from Fengqing, the garden is high and the mountain and these large leafed trees are quite old, it is said in the description that it picks up notes of both Dianhong and Sheng Puerh, and I have loved reds that have that quality. The leaves are large and wiry, and very dark, and this means it is time to give it a healthy sniffing. The aroma of the leaves is very malty and rich, strong notes of chocolate and slightly woody with notes of molasses, honey, and leather. It starts with a heavy richness and ends with a sharpness and a touch of distant roses.

Conveniently my gaiwan is wide so can handle the longest of the leaves, no breaking needed. The aroma of the soggy leaves has notes of malt and sharp woodiness, chocolate and leather with gentle black pepper and a ghostly intoxicating rose. It is like the idea of roses rather than sniffing an actual rose. The liquid is very sweet, oh it is quite intense, notes of honey and chocolate with roses and malt and a rich underlying molasses. Woody undertones and leather are also there, but adding a nice heaviness to the sweetness.

The first steep is light and gentle, the mouthfeel and taste have a summer breeze quality, being light and refreshing with a gentle touch of cooling. The tasting starts with molasses and cocoa notes, this moves to a slightly dry tobacco, woody and leather note, The finish is woody with a sweet nectar rose like quality. The rose is like the aroma, it is light and sweet but more the idea than an exact taste of rose, it is ghostly.

Moving right along to the second steep, because I do love my Dianhongs! The aroma is surprisingly floral, strong notes of roses and even a touch of wildflowers. It is like sniffing a chocolate covered rose, and it is heady and sweet. This steep's mouthfeel starts smooth and a bit thick with a middle of dry and a finish of smooth slickness. Tasting the tea starts with woody notes and molasses sweetness, then it moves to tobacco and chocolate, but really the finish is the kicker. Notes of roses and honey with milk chocolate dance down my throat and the rose lingers for so long. This might be the most intense aftertaste I have run into with a Dianhong and I love it!

It is no secret that I love teas with a heavy rose note, especially ones that come about it naturally and not by scenting or blending, I am not sure why but of all the various oddball notes that show up in tea rose is the one that seems most magical. The taste of this steep does not change much, the main difference being stronger woody notes and a slightly earthier middle, but wow, the aftertaste on this steep is persistent. I timed it between steeps, how long the rosy aftertaste lingered, it was a full 12 minutes, which was impressive! I was able to get several more steeps out of this tea before it called it quits, while not being the most chocolaty or rich of all the various Dianhongs I chug, it certainly is the most unadulterated rosy which I loved.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Influenster: Houlihan's VoxBox, A Product Review

Recently I recieved a VoxBox from favorite product review site Influenster, the website that in theory got me into reviewing things other than books and opened the doors to tea reviewing several years ago. I have gotten some real awesome things from them and some things that just did not work, but this is the first time that a VoxBox sent me on an adventure! This box of goodies was hinted having something to do with spiralizing (wishful thinking thought maybe it was a spiralizer) and Houlihans, a restaurant that got its start here in Kansas City, though sadly I had not heard of them. What can I say, I live under a rock when it comes to chain restaurants usually. 

Inside the box was a bunch of coasters, a Houlihan's shirt that is pleasantly soft. Big win there, I love when shirts are super soft. But the big show was a voucher for two free entrees off the spiralizer menu at the restaurant, so Ben and I took an adventure to the local Overland Park branch.

Ben is not a fan of sweet potatoes, zucchini, or squash, so he got himself a salad and I gorged on the entrees. I decided on the Thai 'Noodle' Salad and the Sweet Potato, Corn, & Bacon Mexicali Flatbread, both options I got were gluten free, also props to the restaurant for labeling the GF items and which ones had GF options. I do not have celiac, I have a mild wheat allergy (hello rashes and gut hate) so I do not have to be religious with avoiding it, but tend to mostly do so, proper labeling is such a plus in my book! First off, the Mexicali Flatbread had some spicy oomph, big ol' jalepenos draped across the flatbread, it was tasty but I ended up foisting this one off on Ben...who really liked it, sweet potatoes and all. This left the Thai Noodle Salad with its big zucchini noodles to keep me company, and it hit the spot perfectly. It was delicious! Usually Thai food in this part of the world is super sweet, cloyingly so, and loses out on the other flavor notes so endemic to that cuisine, not this time! Sour lime, sweet peanuts, spicy chilis, salty was delicious and I ate every bit of it!

Overall I really liked the food, I will probably go back at some point for more of that Thai noodle yum. Usually when I go out to restaurants I go for more exotic meals, spending a lot of time at the Indian buffets, El Salvadoran restaurants, and Ethiopian restaurants, not that I have a problem at all with more American fare, I just tend to spend my limited going out to eat budget on food I am less skilled in cooking (though I do make some killer curries and injera) But I am so glad I got to experience the spiralized food, because now I want a spiralizer!

*I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.*

Thursday, March 24, 2016 Azure Ruyao Pancake Teapot 145ml, A Teaware Review

Weather in the Midwest is weird, this should be the subtitle of my blog, 'tea, geekery, and weather in the Midwest is weird.' Yesterday was awesome, really epic thunderstorm and warm weather, had my windows open all day, and then when night fell I went to sleep with my windows open because it was still fairly warm. My sleep was awful, I kept feeling more and more cold, but my half asleep brain registered it as not enough blankets rather than anything else. At 8 AM I woke up for some reason and realized that no, the reason I was cold was because the temperature had dropped to freezing and it was snowing. I promptly closed the windows and dove back to the blanket pile and slept til the early afternoon. Sadly the damage was done, I felt kinda garbage when I woke up, turns out sleeping in frigid air is not healthy, note to self check the prospected temperature before bed!

Long time passing since I last looked at one of the pieces of teaware in my far to large for its own good collection, so today I am looking at's Azure Ruyao Pancake Teapot a delightfully teal colored 145ml teapot with a large webwork of crackles just waiting for a good staining. First off the pros of this pot, it is pretty!! I love the coloring, so very much, it matches my hair which pleases me. The shape also pleases me, the squashed appearance is like someone took a Xishi pot and stepped on it, and there is something immensely entertaining about teapots that look squashed.

It is thick-walled so it holds the heat well and the built in strainer keeps out the leaves. Well mostly, the holes are a bit on the large side so it lets out the smaller leaves and particles, so either you need a strainer or need to just eat the leaves like I tend to. Free fiber! With it being rounded and wide of mouth it means it is a lot easier to clean out than some of my other pots, wide mouth pots are sooooo easy to clean, they are a boon to all teaware hoarders.

My only complaints with this pot is the size and the lid. Ok size, it is a perfectly excellent size for my large leaf oolongs and fluffy white, though I never use it for reds and shou, meaning it is barely showing the staining. This is really not a complaint on the side of the teapot, more on me for not chugging the darker teas as often as I should with this pot, though the slow staining that is developing is lovely and I cannot wait to really see the dark wide channels splitting this pot like a river delta. The legit complaint is it is a bit of a dribbler, but only when the pot is totally full. So at first pour it dribbles and then by the time it is half empty no dribbling, this is not a problem really if pouring on a tea tray or over a large cha hai (I tend to just tip mine in and balance the lid knob on the spot) but I tend to make a bit of a mess with this pot once in a awhile. Other than the dribbling this pot is excellent, I am quite pleased with it.
This teapot was sent for review purposes by the company.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Quantitea: 12 Loose Leaf Tea Starter Set, A Tea Review

Contrary to popular (?) belief, this blog is not just an outlet for my endless rambling, it has a purpose! It started all those years ago as a way to introduce people to good tea, to let the readers experience it through my words and if they found my words interesting they could give it a try. Maybe they would learn a little about tea in the process, maybe they would realize there is more to tea just just the bagged garbage at the grocery store. Tea brings me such joy and I wanted to share my joy!

So it is no surprise that I am totally on board with Quantitea's 12 Loose Leaf Tea Starter Set as a way to introduce people to tea. This set is awesome, beautifully packaged and full of some really epic teas, but first let's look at its delivery. The method of brewing the tea is with a big ol' glass mug and a really swanky infuser, this infuser fits in the mug and takes up a lot of space meaning expanding leaves get to really grow! No cramped oolongs, which is always a sad sight to behold. The infuser then sits on a little lid, meaning no mess, meaning this is a great set-up for people who don't have a tea table or are at work and it is easier to get extra steeps out of it since you don't accidentally put your basket into something gross (like the one time someone in the house disliked the smell of my genmaicha and stuck it in a smelly bag...thanks guys) ruining your tea. I also like this because sometimes I don't feel like doing gongfu, like when I am busy at a game or feel icky and just want a massive mug of tea, but still want it to be good quality tea!

No matter how good the presentation is, if the tea is not up to par then what is the point of using it as a tool to introduce people to finer brew? Conveniently the tea is excellent, at least what I have tried so far. There are twelve teas and since each of them can be steeped multiple times I tend to only sit with one a day. They will eventually all find their way onto the blog with their own special feature, but as an overall look at them I was very impressed. Especially the Hong Jing Luo (surprise surprise, a Yunnan hong cha was a favorite) and the Junshan Yinzhen, though really I have not been disappointed by any of them yet.

I think this set could be an excellent gift for someone who is expressing an interest in tea or for someone who is more into tea and wants to explore the range of difference in regions and processing. There is the option to get the flight without the cup if you want to try the teas and prefer to use a gaiwan or gongfu pot of some sort, they come pre-measured so ease of access for those who always use a scale.  So stay tuned as I take a look at the teas themselves in the future, thinking I might do a comparison of the two teas for each processing types, because frankly that sounds like a lot of fun.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tea Side: Dong Ding (Tung Ting) Oolong Tea #AA, A Tea Review

Ah spring, I love you so, the windows are open and the trees are blooming, the air is full of pollen. And I can't breathe. This allergy season is off to a wonderful asthma filled start, yay. The real annoying thing is my inhaler has always made me super jittery and just unbelievably derpy, so much derp in my brain. I no longer have a brain I have a head full of pollen! But, so far my sense of smell and taste has not been screwed so I still have lots of tea to enjoy while sniffing the flowers. Joy!

Today I am looking at a tea from Thailand tea company Tea Side, their Dong Ding (Tung Ting) Oolong Tea #AA. This tea comes from the high mountain region of Chang Rai Province and is the Chin Shin varietal (TTES #17) which was imported from Taiwan which in turn was originally imported from China. So this tea is said to be for those who are fan of heavy roasts, and we all know that I am all about those roasty teas! Sniffing time and the aroma of the leaves is definitely roasted with notes of barley, toasted walnuts, bamboo, honey, and an underlying and very distant honeysuckles. It has a strong char note that is very woody reminding me of bamboo coal, though it is also very sweet, and I like the blending of sweet and roast.

The brewed leaves have notes of char and barley, a little bit of burnt barley along with gently toasted. There is also a touch of narcissus and honeysuckle and a hint of sweetness that is fairly faint. The liquid of the first steep is gentle, sweet notes of honey and barley with walnut shells and a touch of baking bread and mineral, it is pleasantly sweet and toasty.

The first steep is light in both mouthfeel and taste, it has a slight smoothness and mineral slipperiness that has the promise of future thickness. The taste starts off with a gentle mineral and light sweet barley note with underlying freshly toasted bread. Then the taste retains its bread notes and adds a bit of honey giving me a real great toast taste. The finish has a distinct distant squash blossom note that lingers.

Onward to the next steep, the aroma is sweet and char with burnt barley and a slight hint of smokiness with the char notes. This steep manages to be both drier and smoother, with a surprising cooling finish. The taste is sweet, smokey, and fairly rich. Strong notes of barley, toast, and char with undertones of bamboo and smoke. This steep has no sweetness, it is all about the char and grainy notes which have a little bit of a pleasant nutty bitterness to it.

This steep is both light in taste and aroma, with the same barley and toast notes of the previous steeps, but also with an undertone of plums. It starts with mineral and juicy plum with an undertone of honey smothered toast made from very grain heavy bread. The finish is walnut shells and a touch of mineral with a lingering sweetness. My only complaint with this tea is it lacked staying power, it was really potent and then pitters out pretty early, and didn't really last past steep five.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Grand Tea: Chrysanthemum Tea, A Tea Review

Raising a baby T-Rex is hard! Seriously, the wiki was not kidding when they said it was best tackled with a tribe, and considering my tribe is either out of town for an indeterminate amount of time, busy with a new game, or possibly just not playing it is just me....queen of the swamps. I'm mostly ok with this, except for the insanity of raising a baby rex! Five hours of incubating an egg, which is mostly spent gathering ALL THE MEAT, then nine hours of hand feeding...the first couple of hours you can't really do much since it can't hold much, but the last stretch is easy. Then three days of maturity (unlike real rexes that had like fifteen years!) which means every thirteen hours filling up the food bin. It is a good thing I really like the games that require hours of grinding because wow does this game go grinding to the max!

So what does one do when they are raising a T-Rex and being stricken with either allergies or a cold? Drink flowery tea in the evening of course! Today I am looking at Grand Tea's Chrysanthemum Tea, specifically the Tai Ju variety, which are small and yellow and are only partially opened. I first developed a love of Chrysanthemum at the same time I started studying Chinese Medicine, I was drawn to its cooling properties to help with inflammation and more importantly its ability to help with breathing problems. Allergy season is rough on my asthma, and if I am not super careful I develop asthmatic bronchitis really easily, and just between you and me I get sick of the meds. The aroma of the little flowers is definitely chrysanthemum...yeah not is a blend of pollen, pepper, straw, honey, and straw flowers. It has a sharpness, this is not a heady flower, bordering on spicy without heat.

Since this is a classic brew it needs a classic setup, so vintage teapot and cup it is! The spicy pepper notes are quite potent, with an addition of pollen and straw, with floral undertones of wildflowers and a touch of lettuce. The liquid is sweet and peppery, sharp notes of straw and wildflowers blend with honey and cane sugar. It is mellow and very pleasant to sniff if you are a fan of chrysanthemum!

So does it work medicinally? Well yes and no, I would not say it beats out my guaifenesin and certainly is no substitute for my inhaler, but it does help. I put it in the same category as sitting in a bathroom I have filled with steam or drinking a ton of caffeine, helpful but only part of the puzzle of fighting with my lungs. Now that I have that little blurb out of the way, tasting! It's yummy, but I really like chrysanthemum, it has wildflower and pollen notes with honey and a crisp sharp peppery quality that really livens up my mouth. When I am wanting something extra sweet I toss in some osmanthus flowers as well to really go for the flower overload! Whether or not it has any medicinal properties, I will keep drinking it because it tastes good.

I received this tea as a prize in a photo contest.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Shang Tea: Autumn Red, A Tea Review

Here I am sitting on my Quetzal waiting for a new Anklyo to tame, she is a level 72 (not as high as I would like but the level 96 I was going to tame was accidentally killed by a fellow tribe, oops) I have three of the beasties, but they are all pretty low level, so she will be part of my current project of making everything super efficient. Taming is a very good time to have lots of tea and to write/paint, especially if I get lucky and I am taming a creature with slow dropping torpor, I can keep an eye on things while also doing other things.

Today I am looking at Shang Tea, a local tea shop that I do not spend enough time at, I am hoping to go back and visit before the Midwest Tea Fest in May (everyone should go) but I am saving my money to spend there. If I am able to go stock up I will definitely be getting their Autumn Red, the tea I am covering today! Unlike the other red teas from Shang that I have tried, this one is super fancy, harvested in autumn of 2011, so not only is it a harvest from a time not usually used, it is also aged a bit. This tea first showed up in the Special Reserve Club, so I was very stingy with my stash, but recently I found out it is in the shop as well, so yours truly binged on the last of it and now needs more! The aroma of the small curly leaves is something else, notes of sweet potatoes and roasted peanuts blend with molasses, sweet stewed tomatoes, bamboo, molasses, autumn leaves, and a finish of dried fruit. It blends sweet and savory, rich and light all in one aroma profile, I admit it took me a while trying to put to words what all was going on in this tea...the stewed sweet tomatoes being the hardest to pin down.

Into my celadon gaiwan the leaves go, red tea in celadon is a guilty pleasure of mine, the colors are so pretty! The aroma of the leaves is still malty and sweet, though not nearly as much so, it takes on more richness. Notes of starchy yams and bamboo blend with molasses and just a touch of peanuts and honey. The liquid is intense sweetness, stewed plums and dried peaches mix with malt and yams with a definite molasses and earthy roasted peanuts and autumn leaves. I am a little amazed at the sweetness and fruitiness, it smells so good!

The first steep has a light earthy almost mineral start to it, mixing with a smooth almost slippery mouthfeel it reminds me strongly of rain water. There is a lot more to this tea than just rainwater, there are strong notes of yams and peanuts with a hint of cooked plums and a touch of molasses. The finish is honey sweet with a lingering aftertaste of honey and starch.

For the second steep the aroma somehow manages to be richer, still just as sweet but with an addition of cocoa like richness that blends well with the fruit and yams. The taste does not really deviate much in notes from the first steep, in changes in intensity and mouthfeel though! No more the slippery rainwater feel, it is all smooth and with a slight thickness. Another quite enjoyable thing about this tea is the aftertaste, strong yams and honey that lasts for quite a while.

The aroma of the third steep is strong in the malt and yam, but light on the fruit and peanut notes, though it certainly stays strong on sweetness and richness. This steep is still quite smooth, but not quite as thick, the taste is stronger in earthy peanut and autumn leaf notes with a strong malt in the middle and finish of sweet fruit. This tea was quite the treat, really quite delicious with an excellent personality (teas totally have those, I swear) that captured the essence of autumn!

This tea was purchased by me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What-Cha: Taiwan Jade Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Surprisingly I do not have much news on the Ark front today, just dabbling in breeding and deep sea diving, so far I have only succeeded at the breeding. Well I succeeded at diving, I just failed at staying alive. Also someone pranked me, I had to run an errand so I logged out on my roof after checking my fliers for eggs and when I logged back in I was in the sky, only thing I can guess is someone carried my unconscious body to the top of the green obelisk and left it there, and when I logged in I fell off. Excellent view on the way down! One of the many reasons any time I log out I empty my inventory, that and glitching through the floor on occasion.

Today since it is Wednesday it is time to bring back a classic with What-Cha, their Taiwan Jade Oolong, though I advise jumping on it if you are interested because it is almost all gone! This is a classic example of a green oolong from Taiwan, good old Cui Yu, a tea that I frequently waffle back and forth on if I like it better bowl/grandpa style or gongfu, but I was in the mood to use my Xishi so that is the treatment this sample got. The aroma of the vibrantly green leaves is a blend of lilies, hyacinth, honeysuckles, chestnuts, sweet corn, and sesame seeds. It blends nutty/grainy with floral headiness in a pretty even balance, not too heady and not too nutty, but definitely sweet.

The aroma of the now gently unfurled leaves is intensely floral, like wow, it is a bouquet up in my teapot! Notes of lilies, hyacinth, honeysuckle, and a very heady orchid note blend with a gentle sweetness of chestnut and honey. It is very nectar like. The aroma of the first steep's liquid is a creamy bouquet, gently notes of chestnut blend with honeysuckle and orchids with a side of lilacs and hint of lilies. A very spring time tea!

First steep and the first thing I notice is the immensely creamy mouthfeel, this will probably always be my favorite thing about green oolongs. I love the flowers and sweetness, but the thick bordering on oily and super smooth mouthfeel really gets me. It starts with a buttery sweetness of chestnuts and moves it lilacs, spicy lilies and honeysuckles. The finish is a gentle blend of hyacinth and honeysuckles with lingers.

The second steep brings the green to the green oolong, blending the strong floral notes with crushed vegetation and a touch of snap peas. It is a bit of a flowery explosion in my mouth, you know that scene in Yellow Submarine when Jeremy Hilary Boob turns His Blueness into a rose bush? Well it is kinda like that in my mouth but with spring time flowers. The finish has a distinct spicebush warmth and buttery sweetness that lingers for quite a while.

I had so many steeps of this tea. it just went and went, but I shall finish my tale here at steep three. The aroma is still a small explosion of spring flowers and spring growth, it is very vernal and sweet and immensely heady. The taste of this steep brings in more of the spring green growth to the flowery blend, but still the strongest notes belong to the flowers. Hyacinth, lilac, spicebush, lilies and honeysuckles dance like some sort of petal laden ballet in my mouth. Flowery teas make me immensely happy, especially when they remind me of spring bursting forth outside my window...but you know, without the allergies!

This tea was purchased by me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Yunnan Sourcing: Wu Liang Hong Mao Feng Yunnan Black Tea Spring 2015, A Tea Review

Well my dear friends, I finally did it! I solo tamed a Quetzal, in theory the hardest of the creatures (other than the Giga, but that is a whole different magnitude of silly) in Ark to tame solo. It is one of the reasons why I just traded for my first Quetzal because it was nightmarish. Having a Quetzal makes taming another Quetzal incredibly easy, you just build a 3x3 platform on the saddle, make a set of walls every other section and carry around ceilings, then you fly your Quetzal under the wild one essentially trapping it, jump onto the platform and add the ceilings, then load that thing up with tranq darts! An unmounted Quetzal will just hover meaning your current tame won't fall to the ground making it a sitting duck for every predator in the area. Since its torpor drops fairly fast (11 minutes compared to the Rex I tamed yesterday's hour and a half) you need to be mindful of it rather than watching the surroundings, so being up in the air makes it a piece of cake. Assuming you don't get knocked off the Quetzal and lose all your gear like I did the first time I tried this trick!

Recently I had a teamergency, aka I ran out of Yunnan hong cha, this caused a panic and an immediate order from Yunnan Sourcing was placed. In the past I used their main site, but this time (what with it being an emergecy) I went with their US site for the lightning fast shipping, one of the teas I got was Wu Liang Hong Mao Feng Yunnan Black Tea Spring 2015, which is what I am looking at today. So, what is the deal with this tea other than it is fuzzy, golden, from Yunnan, and probably an instant favorite? Well, it is grown high in the Wu Liang Mountains of Simao, it is given a special processing making it unique from other Dian Hongs that Yunnan Sourcing offers, and since I consider myself a bit of a hong cha aficionado, let us find out! First off is the ever important vigorous leaf sniffing with hopes that I do not end up inhaling any. The aroma is, well, the aroma can best be described as oomph, a nice noseful of decadent yum. Notes of malt and chocolate blend with sweet potatoes, roasted peanuts, plums, and a distinct note of sweet dried tomatoes that is at one point odd and another insanely delicious. It takes a note I usually associate with savory and twists it to sweet, man this tea smells really good.

I decided to brew this fuzzy lovely in my red rice pattern set, because it is a red tea so thematically appropriate! The aroma of the now soggy leaves is very malty and sweet, notes of molasses, strong chocolate (not cocoa, straight up chocolate!) and pepper blend for a really yummy smelling tea. The aroma of the liquid borders on milky, like chocolate milk with molasses and kinda reminds me of the cake batter for the Triple Chocolate After Battle Cake I make for Ben, it is decadent and all kinds of sweet. There are a touch of woody and peppery notes and a slight hint of distant fruity as well.

Ok clearly someone is trolling me with this tea, it is too sweet to be real. Seriously smooth with sweet notes of molasses and brown sugar at the start, this moves to rich chocolate (not quite milk but not quite really dark) and black pepper. This then moves to a strong raw honey and a delightful juicy plummy finish that lingers well into the aftertaste.

I wasted no time at all delving into the second steep, the aroma of the liquid is wonderfully sweet, but with an extra heavy malty note making it seem richer somehow...did not know that was possible. The taste, well, I am glad I cannot actually melt from yummy tastes because I would need a new chair after drinking this tea. It starts rich, it middles rich, it ends rich, the mouthfeel is thick which makes it seem even richer. The major note in this tea that lasts through the entire sipping experience is chocolate, sweet and rich, along side that is a strong note of brown sugar at the front and a finish of yams and black pepper. Now when I say pepper I do not mean it has its heat, just the taste, making it quite excellent. The aftertaste has that same plummy note as the first steep, but with added honey.

So. Much.Chocolate! Seriously! The aroma is like smelling chocolate cake batter with strong molasses, this steep also has a bit of yams, it is not as rich as the previous steep but it sweeter which is impressive. The taste is much like the previous steep, but not as rich, it is still strong in the chocolate and malt department but with strong notes of yams and peanuts. This tea is a wonderful red, it has become one of my favorites, especially in the evening. Usually for my morning reds I prefer ones that have a little more potency and less sweetness, but for once I am more awake and have a better head for subtleties in richness this is perfect. I regret only getting 50 grams!

This tea was purchased by me.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Broken Arrow Tea Company: Blend No 1, A Tea Review

An epic thing happened in the world of Ark today, I tamed a Rex! Ok, I have tamed several Rexes, but they have all been low level, that changed today. See now that I have things in the tribe (poor lonely me, all my friends are away or too busy with other games) really established my goal is to switch to high level dinos to maximize efficiency, because if I am playing a game this grindy I want to be efficient! So smash cut to Carno Island, one of the most dangerous spots on the map, where I am happily standing over an unconscious level 108 Rex, when she woke up she was level 150, meaning she will max level at 209, so much epic! I named her after Queen song Death on Two Legs, because all my Rexes are glam music references. 

Today I am taking a look at a tea I got in the mail just today! From Broken Arrow Tea Company, their Blend No 1, a blend of Chamomile, Rose Petals, Peppermint, Lemongrass, and Orange Peel, and I found myself in the mood for a nice relaxing herbal blend, springtime brings that out in me! The aroma is super potent in the mint, very crisp and with underlying sweetness that only mint can offer. After this initial minty blast I get notes of orange and lemon, and subtle pollen and wildflower notes of chamomile at the finish. 

The aroma of the flowery blend is strong in the lemongrass and chamomile, giving it a pollen and apple note with undertones of rose and subtle mint note. I was surprised (and a little relieved) that the mint calmed down, now don't get me wrong, I do like my strong minty teas, but usually I like to be able to smell the other ingredients as well. The liquid is minty and citrusy sweet, with notes of lemongrass and orange blending sweetly with rose and chamomile. It is not super strong, pleasantly delicate. 

Tasting time! I redid my teadesk and in the process found my glass mug which had been missing for months...yeah I have way too much teaware. First thing I notice is it is pleasantly mild, the mint is cooling and crisp (and very good for my poor allergy suffering respiratory tract) and the chamomile is mellow with a great pollen note. The middle is sweet lemongrass and orange with a finish of very gentle rose. There is nothing about this blend that sticks out as super potent or really unusual (unlike some of the herbal blends I get my hands on) it is pleasant and it perfectly hits the spot for me this evening. I do wish the rose was a bit stronger, but that is pretty much a given with me and all blends that have rose!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Grey's Tea: Jin Shan Shi Yu China Green Tea, A Tea Review

I did it! I successfully bred a Pteranodon! Breeding in Ark, especially the carnivores, is stupidly hard. You first have to make sure the egg is incubated properly (because Ark creatures are very much so still with the Victorian idea of maternal dinosaurs rather than more recent thoughts) and then as soon as it hatches/is born you have to feed it by hand until it reaches juvenile stage (10% of its maturity) which can take hours! Really the first hour is the toughest because they are very fragile, they can only handle a small amount of food weight and have no health, so a few minutes missed feeding means dead dinosaur. As they mature they can hold more food so it means you can do other things, like making sure you have at least two food troughs filled with meat, babies are tough! Since I was successful I am doing it again, thinking of starting a high level Pteranodon trade to make up for the price I paid for the Quetzal!

Today I am taking a look at Grey's Tea Jin Shan Shi Yu China Green Tea, a green from one of my favorite tea producing regions of China, Anhui! Truly the green teas that come from Anhui are among my favorites, so I was pleased when I had the chance to try one I had not tried yet. The name translates to Golden Mountain Timely Rain, named for where it is grown and the time of year it is picked, at the spring rains. The aroma of the adorable curly leaves is crisp and green, with notes of broccoli, bell peppers, asparagus, and sesame seeds. It is however, very faint, I definitely had to work to pick these notes up, only really noticing them after I placed them in a warm gaiwan.

Brewing the tea did not give much in the way of aroma, savory notes of asparagus and bell pepper with a hint of mineral, it is very faint. The same can be said of the liquid, super delicate and not very much there, just faint vegetal notes and a bit of a buttery one.

I could not get this tea to really work for me, I tried it first in my gaiwan with the usual parameters I use for greens, 175 degrees with a 30-60-90 second steeping and nothing really ever came of it. It was like drinking vaguely salty buttery asparagus water. The mouthfeel was excellent though, so that at least was a plus. Not wanting to give up I tried a session with 190 degree water at 10-15-30 and still nothing.

Thinking to myself that maybe this is one of those greens that is best steeping bowl style I tried that next and while the taste was a bit stronger it was still immensely weak. I think I know why too, see some Chinese green teas can stay viable for quite a while, I have a Dragonwell from last year's harvest that still tastes like it did when I first got it, however many of them don't last quite so long, the biggest example that I have run into of that is definitely Bi Luo Chun, which seems to become a fluffy pile of nothing after about six months. In fact I was drinking some of last year's Tian Mu Qing Ding this morning and while it is still tasty, the flavor is starting to fade and I am not sure it will last much longer. I believe since this is mostly from last year's harvest it has given up the ghost, you can taste hints of what was there once and I believe it would have been delicious. Clearly I must seek this tea out come the spring harvest and see if my predictions are correct.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.