Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tea Ave: Rose Oolong, A Tea Review

Today was awesome! Ben and I went to the zoo and I had a blast taking pictures of all the creatures and spending far too much time in the bird enclosures. Seriously my favorite aspect of the KC Zoo (other than their conservation work) is the Australian and African bird enclosure, it is a giant bird cage where many birds just go about their business mostly ignoring people. Except the ibises in the Australia exhibit and the splendid starlings in Africa, conveniently they are two of my favorites. I just love the zoo and I am so glad I was able to go!

Since it is starting to feel like summer I wanted to cover a tea that is practically just summer incarnate, Tea Ave's Rose Oolong. This tea is an Alishan Jin Xuan that has been scented with rose, and with a few rose petals tossed in, and let me say, I love roses in tea...the idea of blended roses with an already creamy sweet base sounds wonderful. The aroma smells exactly like I had hoped, it smells like Rose Milk (or Falooda, though not quite as starchy) Rose Milk was one of my favorite summer drinks for years. In fact it is one of my favorite aspects of both Indian and Persian desserts, the use of rose is wonderfully decadent. The aroma of rose is certainly strong and sweet, but it brings in milky sweet notes from the Jin Xuan, giving it a dessert quality and it smells delicious.

Steeping the tea was pretty awesome, the tea area was filled with blooming roses and it was heady, which I liked! Full on rose garden in bloom coming out of my gaiwan. After steeping the leaves had a blend of rose and milky sweet custard with a slight nutty undertone and hint of crushed vegetation. The liquid smelled like rose custard, super sweet and creamy with intense rose and even a pinch of sugar cane, it is pretty intense!

I was proud of myself, I shared some of this tea with Ben instead of quaffing it all myself, it took great self control. First thing you notice is the rose, it is at the foretaste and the mid, and of course the after, it is all rose all the time. The rest of the taste dances from creamy sweet custard to a bit of nuttiness to a slight crushed vegetation at the finish. It is fairly light at the first steep, but lightness cannot stop the rose.

Conveniently, the rose is still strong for the second steep, but it does not get stronger, it stays the same level of rose bush. The sweet creamy taste however, that does get stronger, really taking on a custard quality with undertone of sesame seeds. I almost want to munch on pistachios while drinking this tea to really bring out the Persian ice cream quality. The aftertaste is rose and it lingers for a while.

Onward to the next steep, this one has a slightly stronger rose in both taste and aroma, and a slightly diminished creamy sweetness. For this steep the notes of crushed vegetation and lily are stronger alongside the intense rose, there is no doubt this is a Jin Xuan, and it blends wonderfully with the rose, in fact other than the occasional blending with red teas, this might be the best rose combination I have found. I also tried it cold steeped, it was enjoyable, but I preferred it warm, which is odd considering how much the taste reminds me of ice cream!

This tea was a gift from a friend.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gongfoolery: Green Tea, Clay vs Porcelain

One of the most common myths in the tea world is that you never brew green tea in clay, it will burn it, ruin the taste, or just make things unpleasant. However I have also seen others say you never really know a green tea until you have brewed it in clay...also, look at Japan for just a moment, their tea is rather sensitive to heat but the most loved brewing vessels are unglazed clay teapots. Being me I saw the rules of  not brewing in a clay pot as a challenge, I wanted to see how it was different and why some tea cultures were perfectly ok with it while others were not.

So for today's test I am pitting pots against each other, using a vintage rice pattern porcelain teapot and a Taiwanese clay pot. Hilariously this is also a blind test, I brewed the tea and poured them into Chahais, Ben then poured the tea into cups and I have no idea which is which...he will then tell me after I try to guess. (He also tried it to see if the Tea Barbarian could taste a difference, turns out yeah he could) As for the rest of the tools I am using, for cups I am using the red and blue lined hat cups from Teaware.house, the Chaihais are both porcelain and have come from various places. The tea in question is Teavivre's Premium Dragonwell, fresh from this year, a tea which I have had each harvest of for the past four years.

Steep one, I used 175 degree water and steeped them for thirty seconds each, after Ben did his pour I took a sniff, the aroma of the tea itself was pretty light, cup A being slightly nuttier and sweet, where cup B was more vegetal. Tasting them, cup A was sweeter, almost oily in its mouthfeel, and rich with the taste of nuts and sweet snap peas. Cup B was a touch bitter, strongly vegetal with a more slippery mouthfeel, at the finish was a great sweetness though. If you are playing the guessing game, cup A is the porcelain and cup B the clay, so far it seems the myth holds up.

So this blind sipping really confused me, I have no problem admitting the tea scientist was befuddled. The aroma of both teas was really light, I could barely discern a difference between them from smell, and taste was the same, I actually asked Ben if he was trolling me, but there at the aftertaste of cup B I noticed the difference and said never mind. Cup B had a tinge of bitterness at the end of the sip and then boom sweetness that was intense, where Cup A was a bit watery and flat at its aftertaste. Cup A was the porcelain and Cup B was the clay....though amusingly they are not in the same order on my tea tray, I just seem to go after the porcelain first without knowing!

This one I nailed immediately, because one of them was more bitter, meaning it was the clay pot, with the porcelain being sweet but starting to fade. Both versions are delicious, the bitterness is never off putting, it is the bitterness of vegetal, which I enjoy. The mouthfeel and lingering sweet aftertaste of the clay beats the overall sweetness of the porcelain, but with the bitter edge I can see one being favored over the other.

Here is my little theory, the reason that people say not to brew in clay is because of heat, and there is truth to that, it will just retain heat better than porcelain, however brewing green tea in a clay pot using the same parameters as the porcelain is where things go wrong. I have found that to get the best results with green tea in a clay pot (or gaiwan) is to use shorter steeps and depending on the tea cooler water. Not quite flash steeping, but certainly at least half the time I would in porcelain. Plus there are some greens that I think perform so much better in clay than in any other material, Bi Luo Chun and most Vietnamese greens in particular...where Dragonwell I almost always prefer grandpa/bowl steeped! Green tea is probably the tea I see brewed in the most different ways, and with the most heated debate about which is correct! One of these weeks I am going to have to do a long winded test of the different methods for green brewing, but not next week, next week I am testing different waters!

And for anyone who was curious, I have decided the Tea Carno's name is Huigan, the Gongfoolery mascot, because every series needs a mascot.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Meet My Tea Gear: Thriftstore Edition

Welp, my appointment yesterday was...nothing really, the doctor was at a total loss at what to do with me so he ordered testing, yay. I get to have an ultrasound on my heart and wear a monitor for 21 days, which will be interesting, well that is assuming my insurance thinks that it is a medical necessity to get these tests done. I am trying to not let it get me down, but I am a bit frustrated that I have to wait at least a month before I can get any relief at all. Sigh. But on a positive note, I believe my kettle drama is finally settled, I am hilariously sticking with Hamilton Beach since it seems to be the only kettle that has the exact features I want and I am getting a hot pot for longer sessions, it is not a Zojirushi, but I am ok with that since I wanted a stainless steel pot rather than a teflon one. Speaking of teaware, today I am going to do a 'Meet My Tea Gear' post since it has been way too long since I did that, this time I am focusing on things I have found while thrifting!

First up, this cup, it is clearly artisan made and has become a favorite of mine. The combination of earthy and blue tone colors and the gentle spiral inside the cup for some reason reminds me summer. It has a great heft to it as well, which is great for tea in the morning when I am groggy and want something less delicate to sip from.

So I found a gaiwan at a thriftstore, something I honestly never expected to happen after the one I found in Charleston, and that was not even a normal thriftstore. This lovely blue gaiwan is not the typical cobalt and white, instead it ghostly pale blue with surprisingly not Asian looking flowers. It kinda looks a bit retro. I have no idea what company made this (their logo is a panda) and it blissfully has no seam lines on the printing, giving it a hand-painted look.

The next piece has a bit of battle damage, it has seen some stuff and lived to tell the tale. It is so worn and well loved that the piece stumps me, it could be fairly new and beat up...or it could be fairly old. The almost unreadable and super tiny maker's mark does not help with research, and sadly looking for various iterations of clay kyusu with cranes and Mt Fuji has led me nowhere. Is this a Tokoname pot?  No idea, what it is though is gorgeous and one of my favorite tiny clay pots, though I would give so much to know its history!

I have an uncanny knack for finding clay pots at my local thriftstore, I say clay because I cannot say with 100% certainty that they are Yixing and not just purple clay from some other part of China (or Japan), I do know that they are unglazed and show up with a strange regularity. One expects to find one, maybe, I have brought home six. Granted I have left a few at the store because they were just abysmal quality or had a massive crack. This one is the only of my clay pots to feature the color blue, which I love! It is a bit on the big size, so I primarily use it when Ben and I are in the mood to split a pot of Moonlight, which is what this pot was seasoned for. It is odd, I find in my tea habits I prefer teapots that are more simplistic in design, but I do love pulling out the ornate pieces when I am sharing tea.

This is the Coelacanth cup, technically the fish on it is an arowana (which might win the award for the grumpiest looking freshwater fish) but to me it really looks like my favorite prehistoric fish that still exists. This little beauty comes from Japan and still had the original yen price tag on it when I found it, which was pretty neat. I find this cup works best for teas with a strong mineral note since it is a cup that adds a mineral quality, sadly this means it is not useful for trying a tea for the first time, but it still gets a decent amount of use.

You know what is gorgeous? Kutani ware! I have spent many hours trolling around on ebay looking at Kutani pieces, they are usually ornate and full of classic Japanese art and symbolic motifs, and if you are lucky has a poem written on or in the case of this cup, in it. Sadly I have been really slack and have not translated this poem, though one day I am sure I will get around to it. The art of the elderly couple looking at a crane reminds me of the story Tsuru no Ongaeshi.

Another really neat piece of Japanese porcelain, vintage Lithophane, a technique where the shape of the porcelain makes it look like a picture when it is held up to light. During the 30s-60s these were made primarily for export and can take on a variety of designs. This set (with has a matching pitcher and came with another cup and saucer set that my mom now owns) was made by Kutani (I really do love them, I also have a sake set that I use for Gongfucha and had a beautiful cup that my cats destroyed, I snatch up Kutani whenever I can) The real hilarious part about this cup was the night before I found them I was chatting with my mom about how I wanted a piece!

This teapot I have never actually used, I bought it entirely for the nostalgia factor. When I was a wee thing living in Atlanta and my grandparents living in Augusta, I spent many weeks at their house, it was a second home to me and I loved it there. In my room was this very teapot, well, not this specific one, but one identical to it. My mom now has that teapot and I have this one, to remind me of many happy childhood memories. Also I never use it because it would be a nightmare to clean the tea leaves out!

The last piece I am going to ramble about might be one of my favorites...ever...and it is certainly the oldest confirmed piece. I say confirmed because I have a suspicion that the tiny blue gaiwan I found in Charleston might be older but I am not positive. This is a Tongzhi era cup, putting it in the range of 1862-74, and as an avid history buff, this makes me squee with joy. It is cracked (like so many of my pieces are) and old, and there is something incredibly enjoyable about drinking tea from a cup that old, I find myself wondering on the stories it could tell. That is the reason I constantly hunt antique and vintage teaware, I could care less for its value financially, but to me the stories of the pieces are worth a fortune.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Turvani: Earl Grey, Tea Review (With a Twist)

Woo! The update for Ark came out and it fixed the Center problem! I signed on expecting to have to start all over again, but they were able to retrieve the save data for local hosting, so that was a pleasant surprise. Now I am not an expert on electronics, but I really do find it odd that single play and local hosting of small servers (the limit for non-dedicated servers is 4 players) save data is not stored on the individual's Xbox and is instead saved in the cloud and at the company's server. I certainly understand the restrictions with the big servers, but I feel like a lot of this could have been avoided if the save data was on the user's machine (like my Minecraft data is, it is both on my Xbox and in the cloud) but I am no programmer. 

Ok guys, confession time, one that will shame me and probably get me disowned by my English relatives...I don't really like Earl Grey. I haven't for a while, I was ok with it when I was younger, but considering black tea and citrus in my mind don't mix, it is not a surprise...but I do love London Fog. That is, for people not in the know, a tea latte mixing Earl Grey, steamed milk, vanilla, and sweetness of some sort, if you don't have a steamer you can cheat using a whisk and a stove which is how I do it. London Fog or Masala Chai is my go to drink if a restaurant boasts a tea menu and only offers bags but has lattes, it can be tough to be me sometimes. So when I opened the bag of this Earl, it was an immediate smash of bergamot, like super intense...like an citrus radar Ben, the lover of Earls, was hovering around seeking a cup as soon as I opened the bag (how does he always know?) So I made him one and set about getting lost in a fog bank. Man, this bergamot is intense!

Brewing the tea portion of my latte filled the room up with bright citrus sweetness and a nice malty base. I could smell the bergamot from across the room, and it was very refreshing and bright, like a small orange sun burning on my tea desk. Adding the milk (which I failed at frothing this time, boo, good flavor though, yay for not scalding!) and the vanilla mellows out the bergamot but it is still strong, it smells good, but the aroma of bergamot is probably my favorite part.

The real key to a perfect fog is to brew the tea super strong, like stronger than I would ever brew it if I was just going to drink it straight, because the sugar, milk, and vanilla tends to be potent on their own and you don't want to lose the taste of the tea. The fog is gooooood, the bergamot is very strong, which shines through perfectly, I barely needed to add any sugar because this tea is naturally sweet and the briskness is mellowed out by the milk. There is a reason that this is one of two teas I ever drink as something other than just straight. But you are probably wondering what the local Earl obsessed (or Erlkoenig) thinks of it, so here is the Tea Barbarian with his thoughts:

I love Earls Grey.  I especially like ones with enough Bergamot to make people cough.  So, to me, this tea poses a question: can you have too much of a good thing?  It has a strong citrus taste.  Very strong.  On the plus side, this means that it doesn't run into the issue which afflicts a few Earls, where the oil or leaves turn bitter during steeping – it certainly tastes like tea and zest.  On the other hand, it doesn't really find a balance between those tastes – the zest is crowding out the tea leaves, which therefore end up being distracting instead of enriching.  It's a little bit like just brewing black tea in orange juice and calling it a day.  Alexsia tells me it makes a good London Fog, and I believe it – a little dilution could be just what the doctor ordered to get this overpowering flavor where it belongs.  But what the barbarian ordered was something strong yet soothing to wake up with all on its own, and I didn't find that here – it's just a little too much Earl, and not enough Grey (or, um, black) to pull it off.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Libre Tea: MatchaGo Travel Shaker, A Tea Gear Review

Last week was kinda awful, so I am so glad it is a new week, even if I used Monday for one of my well known 'sleep resets' thanks to wonderful seemingly endless thunderstorms. Other than my Cardiologist appointment this Wednesday I am hoping this week will be stress free, tea full, and gaming crazed. In case you were not in the know (lucky you!) the new map on Ark, the Center, well the update broke a LOT of stuff and the world of one of my favorite video games has been a mess, the hotfix is supposed to come out any time now, and boy am I glad. Even if it means all the work I did on The Center got wiped and I have to start again, NOOOO my spawned in and cheatcoded Gigas and epic big base!! Though really it was nothing compared to the anger of a glitch throwing me out of the map and destroying my good gear and kibble on the regular server where I have to actually work to get stuff rather than just spawn it in, feel bad for my tribemate (aka my mom) who had to hear the epic raging I did at that!

Recently on the gram of insta I posted a picture of my cheap cold steeper, a conversation between a teafriend and myself led to me recommending Libre's Tea Steeper as my favorite cold steeper, but that I was in mourning because mine broke. Yes, it was tragic, I was washing it and magically dropped in on the open glass part, shattering the inside. Well the people at Libre came to my rescue and sent me a new one (which I will be featuring soon) along with what I am looking at today, a MatchaGo Travel Shaker!

This clever little tool is for people who want a Matcha on the go and do not have access to a Chabako and hot water while out, or who want a cold Matcha latte on the go and have no desire to pay the astronomical price at Starbucks. So here is how it works, you spoon Matcha onto the filter built into the lid, this sifts the Matcha removing the clumps (the bane of any Matcha drinker's experience) seriously I love this feature! I have, when going out and wanting Matcha, just tossed powder into bottle and gave it a shake, and unless you are drinking a specific 'Matcha on the go' blend (usually it is Matcha blended with either a starch or fiber to act as an anti-clumper) there are going to be clumps unless you pre-sift it, and most likely if you are tossing said Matcha into a bottle you don't necessarily have time to sift it. After you sift the Matcha through the filter, you add whatever liquid you are going to use and then put the lid on, and boom shake that thing like crazy to mix and froth your Matcha.

I tried this with hot water to make a traditional Matcha and sat outside for a sip, it has become a new favorite way to drink Matcha, something about being in the outdoors with a tea that is vibrantly green just works for me, and even though I prefer to whisk it up all ceremonially, if I am just going to a walk around the yard for a bit of exercise, this works perfectly. In fact I almost forgot to take a picture until it was almost empty, oops. A word of warning that I learned from my experimenting with my previous Libre steeper and applies to this as well, don't fill it too high and wait for the water to cool if it is super hot before adding the lid...failure to do this will end up with a massive mess. If you are just using it as a cup and not worrying about tossing it in your purse or taking it on the go, filling it up is not as big of an issue, however the steam thing is important because it can cause the lid to rocket off pretty dramatically. Luckily it says as much in a how-to that comes with the steepers, so it is not a surprise.

The other way I tried this steeper was mixing Matcha with ginger ale, and that was pretty cool! I have, on the way from Yunomi, a bag of Matcha drink mix that has ginger, because ginger helps my belly and the blend of those flavors are awesome, but I got impatient and decided to improvise. It was tasty, but sadly the Matcha I used (the Mizuba Daily Matcha) is already naturally sweet...and ginger ale is super sweet, so it was a little much. In the future I might used chilled Matcha and fresh ginger, or hot Matcha, that is one of the brilliant things about this steeper, there are a ton of options for inventive Matcha uses for outdoor drinking. I am probably going to be using this a lot for visits to the zoo!

This teagear was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Oolong Inc: Taiwan Osmanthus Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

So, probably no gongfoolery this week, it has been a bit of a rough one and I am not clear headed enough to give it my full attention, but there is still the weekend so mayyybe. That is one of the really big differences between my usual tea reviews and the gongfoolery series, from a writing perspective. With tea reviews I have it all written down (in sloppy barely decipherable by anyone but me shorthand) and the blog is just that polished up with photographs and research when needed. With gongfoolery though, that is being written as I do it, usually the blog takes hours and a lot of focus, which is something I have just had none of this week. Good news though, the tea I needed for my next batch of testing finally arrived, yay!

Today I am looking at the last of the samples I got from Oolong Inc, Taiwan Osmanthus Oolong Tea, now it is probably well known by now that I love osmanthus flowers in all its forms, and having it blended with bright green Oolong was one of my favorite ways of drinking this flower. However this tea is different as it uses roasted Oolong instead of the floral green, which is pretty fascinating. Sniffing the leaves, and you know, it smells like osmanthus jelly on toast, like uncannily like it! Toasted grains and sweet nectar blend decently, though there is a bit of a smoky note making me think of burnt toast.

Into the gaiwan for steeping, and the smoky aroma ramps up after steeping. The osmanthus is still there, but it is not as strong, neither is the aroma of toast. There is sweetness that is an odd but not unpleasant combination with the smoke. The liquid however is not quite so smoky, it is gentle smoke with creamy osmanthus and roasted grains, the jelly on toast aroma is back.

Well that is neat! It is a bit dry in the mouth, with a strong roasted grain and smoke start. This is mellowed by the gentle blossoming of floral osmanthus notes that add an intense sweet nectar quality. Blending the nectar and roast at the finish makes the tea taste like grilled plums, which is a fascinating way to finish the tea. I sadly noticed this tea did not have a ton of longevity, and the taste did not really change at all throughout the several steeps I got. I liked the taste though I wish there was more of it and it lasted longer.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Eco-Cha Tea Club: Award Winning Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Curse you Ark! The blasted game got an update with a new map that is possibly the best thing EVER!! Official DLC which was originally a fan created mod, map The Center is glorious...there are storms, active volcanoes, a Jules Verne inspired underground world lit by lava...I am in love, my mom and I are playing on our own private server and it makes me so happy. Except for all the Gigas, for some reason I never see them on the normal map, seriously I have seen a single wild Giga my entire time playing, even on single player where there are a ton of spawns. but on The Center they are everywhere, I've even been eaten by a couple, which is novel.

Today I am looking at Eco-Cha's May Tea Club's tea, Award Winning Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, and this is no ordinary Alishan, instead of the usual vibrant green, this one is lightly roasted and slightly oxidized more than normal. Eco-Cha wrote an excellent little article on the tea and it is awesome that the tea competitions are encouraging more roasting over bright green, because it is no secret that I am all about the roast. The aroma of the leaves is amazing, seriously delicious stuff! Notes of gentle floral (lily and honeysuckle) blend with herbaceous sage notes, and the notorious toasted sesame of gently roasted Oolong. The sesame note is strong, nutty and sweet, like sesame candy. I adore the spectrum of roast Oolongs can have, such variation!

Brewing it up in my peony pot (to match the peony cup that was part of the club this month...I do love me my peonies) the aroma of roast becomes much more pronounced, nutty notes of sesame and sunflower seeds (that is a new one) along with toasted oats and barley with underlying honeysuckles and flowers. The aroma of the liquid is wonderfully sweet, honeysuckles and lilies with sesame and gentle sage and sage flowers. A really nice balance of herbaceous, sweet, floral, and roast.

Oh my goodness that is sweet! I am a little distracted from the mouthfeel and other notes by the astounding sweetness.The way the roasting did its work is awesome, Alishan is usually quite sweet, floral nectar notes of honeysuckle and lilies with notes of sweet snap peas, but when it is roasted the sweetness magnifies, still maintaining the gentle floral notes and ramping it up to honey drenched sesame seeds and honeysuckles. At the end is a gentle sage note and a faint barley note.

The aroma for the second steep is most toastier, stronger notes of roasted oats and barley with a straight up tahini rather than seame candy note. The first thing I notice with this steep is the thick almost syrup like texture of the tea. It is not as sweet this steep, this one features the roasted barley and oat notes at the front, then it rolls into sage and thyme, along with gentle snap pea notes. At the aftertaste there is a gentle honeysuckle note that lingers along with the viscosity of the tea...so thick!

Third steep, last for the blog but not for me, this tea lasts for quite a while...in fact the other night I started  my session at night and kept at it til sunrise. The aroma of this steep is very similar to the previous steep, with just a touch more sweetness. Ah, this tea has such a soothing cha qi, warming and mellow and making me feel inspired, one of the reasons I love good Oolongs! This steep is delicious, a perfect balance of herbaceous and sweet, floral and roast, with a smooth mouthfeel and taste that lingers. I can certainly see why this tea won awards, it is wonderful! Another excellent choice for the club.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

White2Tea May Teaclub: Six Fujian Red Teas, Part 2

Carrying on from yesterday looking at White2Tea's May Teaclub full of Fujian Black Tea goodness! Ah, hong cha, I never tire of drinking you...be it from Fujian, Yunnan, Sichuan...or of course Taiwan, you have stolen my heart. Sappy tea love aside, let us return to the adventure in the leaves!

Black Buddha- Made from the Jinguanyin cultivar, it is listed as being similar to an oolong/black tea hybrid, which is fun. The aroma of this one struck me as a little odd, since so far it is the only one with any smoky notes, I was expecting that from the Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong. The smoke notes are so faint that they seem ghostly, like an incredibly distant and dying campfire, or slightly charred skin of a grilled yam. It has a mineral quality too, like wet slate, and a subtle sweetness like brown sugar.

The first thing that struck me about this tea was the difference between the aroma of the leaves and the tea, the smoky and mineral notes are gone and now there are just brown sugar, honey, yams, and a tiny bit of floral. Tasting the tea it is smooth and sweet, with a tiny bit of a woody not quite sour but certainly salivary inducing finish that is gone by the second steep. I notice this same quality with a lot of rock oolongs as well, very good at producing saliva.

Wild Tree Black-This one is made from a wild varietal native to Wuyi, and of the teas from this set I have looked at so far it sports the largest leaves. Big ol curly things that certainly look like something from Wuyi! The aroma is GOOD, I spent the entire time my kettle was zombie-ing its way to life sniffing the leaves, and I picked up notes of honey and cocoa, yams and toasted oats, and a distant floral note reminiscent of magnolias of all things. I think this is the first red tea I have had that has that note, which is awesome.

Awww, the floral notes vanished upon steeping, but that is ok, because the taste is still really good. I am not sure it is some sort of psychosomatic thing, but wild trees always seem to taste...well...wild, more like nature and less like food. True there are the notes of yams and cocoa, but there are note of pine wood, mineral, mountain air, and in later steeps the gardenia notes gently return. It is like walking in the mountains and drinking water from a spring...if somehow that water was already tea. This was a wonderful session that lasted many steeps, drinking it made me feel like I was in another place, even if the effect was all in my brain, it was nice regardless.

Black Meizhan-Made from the Meizhan varietal, which sent me a few wild goose chases while researching, but it is frequently made into oolongs. This tea smells really good too! Notes of distant flowers and lychee blended with almonds and cocoa. It is a very sweet and creamy smelling pile of leaves, a contrast with the previous tea's more nature like aroma, this smells more like dessert.

Wow, this tea! It is immensely sweet, kinda took me by surprise! Like a mouth full of juicy lychees and marzipan with honeysuckles and cocoa. The most fun part of this tea is the almost explosive salivary effect, it was almost like biting into a tangy orange but without any of the taste, it made me drool a bit. This was a bit diminished as the later steeps went on, which I am a little glad for, that was immensely intense, but it was also fun. The tanginess is replaced with gentle woodiness, but there is still a good bit of sweetness of lychees and almonds many steeps in.

I really enjoyed all of these, but I think if I had to pick favorites it would be Little Red and Wild Tree Black, both were very different but their notes were ones I adored.

Monday, May 16, 2016

White2Tea May Teaclub: Six Fujian Red Teas, Part 1

For the month of May, White2Tea's Teaclub sent out the coolest thing, a 'buffet' of six red teas from Fujian! I love Fujian reds, almost as much as I love my Yunnan reds and Taiwanese reds (ok I probably love all three equally if we are going to be completely honest, I am a Hong Cha fiend!) So I thought I would give a brief look at each of the teas sent in this fantastic sampler.

Little Red- First I have to say that I am rather miffed that W2T doesn't sell this one, because man is it good! I could see it becoming a daily drinker for me for sure, but alas, no dice. These pretty little leaves are made from the Cai Cha varietal, which is pretty popular in Wuyi, used to make Jin Jun Mei, Lapsang Souchong, and Tan Yang Gongfu, so it gets around. The aroma of the dry tea is nom...om nom nom. Strong notes of chocolate, and you know, the info sheet wasn't lying when it said cumin, and that is pretty awesome. There is also a creamy undertone and a slightly tangy dried fruit note as well.

Brewing it up, the aroma of the tea is immensely rich, heavy notes of chocolate and molasses with notes of saffron and malt. The aroma and taste remind me of a cake I make on occasion using chocolate, saffron, cumin, and lots of molasses...this cake is stupidly rich, especially when you count the saffron vanilla glaze. Seriously the similarity between this tea and my cake concoction are uncanny, I never need to go on the hunt for cheap saffron again if I just keep drinking this tea. You can get many steeps out of these tea, it has decent longevity.

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 1- Ah, good old 'Lapsang Souchong' as it is more commonly known in this part of the world, though this is a far distant from the usually coarse and smoky tea that gets brewed in a big ol' pot on a cold day, this is refined and not at all smoky. This is also super fresh, it and the next tea were both processed a few weeks ago. The aroma of the leaves is yammy and yummy, notes of sweet potatoes and peanuts blend with a piney resinous note, like this tea was stored in a pine barrel.

Tasting the tea, it has a slight tannic quality at the start, not bitterness, just more dry than super smooth, it goes well with the malt, yam, and pine wood quality, giving this tea more briskness than the previous one. In the later steeps it gets sweeter, the pine notes become more like sap and the starchy yam notes definitely turn into straight up brown sugar sweet potatoes. This tea has some serious longevity, I was able to sit with it through many many steeps.

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 2- This tea is much as the last one, freshly processed and of the same varietal and type, but this one is a higher quality. You can see the difference right off, there are little golden fuzzy leaves in the mix and prettier leaves in general. The aroma is like someone took a yam and grilled it, not really a char or smoke smell, but a definite cooked yam on a grill, it is very distinct and sweet while being rich and slightly earthy. There is also a pretty distinct molasses note as well at the finish.

Well hello there yams and molasses, and super thick and smooth mouthfeel, you are a very welcome in my mouth. This is a very sweet and rich tea, starchy with a bit of a briskness at the finish. Unlike the Spring 1 the briskness is not accompanied by tannic dryness, it is all thick and smooth. Later steeps pick up a really nice dark chocolate note which compliments the molasses note greatly.

And so ends part one, tomorrow I will cover the other three in this selection, and will probably be very tea drunk!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Liquid Proust Teas: Rummy Pu, A Tea Review

Well, I made the hard decision to reset my Nether on Ramble, this was a very hard decision but one I am glad I made! See when I switched my world from the Xbox 360 to the Xbone, all my existing Nether portals got messed up and no longer lined up, so most my Nether builds were kind of moot, and as I am sure you can guess this frustrated me. My only real complaint about doing this (other than rebuilding things, but that is no big problem, most my Nether builds were kinda old and needed redoing, except the Nether hub) with one of the recent updates you can't get water in the Nether anymore. It used to be you could use melted iceblocks to bring water to the Nether, meaning my Nether villa had a bathroom and fountains, now not so much. I understand doing it in survival, but I wish in creative I could still get water in the Nether...so many building potentials! Especially for map makers, some of the old maps came up with really clever ways of using water in the Nether, and I will miss that.

Today I am looking at Liquid Proust's Rummy Pu, a fancy Golden Needle Shou aged in a rum barrel and debuted at the Midwest Tea Festival, where I procured it. Before I get into huge depth on tasting, I want to give a little me backstory, I LOVE rum. In fact I love the taste of most alcohol, thanks to a quirk in my metabolism it took a lot to get me drunk and I never stayed drunk for long, in fact I was only a tiny bit hungover once and never made myself sick off of the stuff, well that was when I was younger. When I was 21 my gallbladder failed and pretty much ever since then my guts have been made of fail in one way or another, and anytime I try to drink I would curl up in a tiny ball of agony, so no more booze for me! I never really liked being tipsy, but man did I love the taste, especially of rum, so having things that taste like rum make me happy. One of the reasons I eat a lot of rum balls come Christmas...and speaking of rum balls this tea smells uncannily like them. It has a bit of a loamy earthy Shou quality, but really the showing point is a rich rum, chocolate, graham crackers, and a tiny distant spice. In short, it smells really amazing!

Gaiwan time for the golden needles, and for the first time in I can't even remember how long, I drank the rinse. Usually I never drink the rinse on a Shou, but this one smelled so tantalizing that I had to. The leaves smell sweet, like rum and molasses, with chocolate and earthy wet loam. The rum is super strong and very sweet, and it still reminds me of rum balls. The aroma of the tea is equally rummy and sweet, with strong notes of chocolate and graham crackers, wet wood and forest floor. It smells like what I imagine a wet rum barrel would smell like on a hot day.

The first several steeps are super rummy and sweet, and yes they taste like rum balls! Smooth and sweet with a gentle distant spice (allspice reminiscent) with rich chocolate notes and sweet graham crackers. There is an earthiness to the tea as well, like clean wet soil after rain in a deep forest, lush and loamy. I was expecting this tea to lull me into sleep, as many thick Shous tend to do, but nope this one had me lost in nostalgia and wide awake. Oops.

The middle steeps took on a surprising creaminess and fruity tone, now this tea no longer tastes like rum balls but tastes like rum raisin ice cream. The sweet rum and raisin mixed with rich vanilla and cream is pretty decadent, thickly sweet and with a solid mouthfeel, I don't even care that I was up til five in the morning drinking this stuff. Though hilariously the taste at the beginning reminding me Christmas rum balls, now the taste reminds me of rich bowls of ice cream on a summer day...clearly this tea has range.

Not wanting the tea to ever end, I took to grandpa-ish style steeping the final steeps, going for at times 20 minute long steeps as I drank around the leaves. As one imagines the liquid gets a bit chilled at this point, and usually I LOATHE cold Shou, but it was delightfully sweet and creamy, the rum notes still strong. By this point there are none of the familiar earthy notes of Shou (which is what I dislike about cold Shou, those notes are wonderful warm but a big nope when cold) just creamy vanilla and chocolate, rum, and a gentle spice that lingers. I got nine steeps out of this tea before it quit, and enjoyed every one of them...even Ben who is not a fan of any alcohol (he won't even eat my famous rum balls) and who only moderately likes Shou loved this stuff, he fussed at me for only getting one bag and he wants to turn some into a Masala Chai! I really do regret only getting one bag, this tea is wonderful and I will mourn it when it is gone.

This tea was purchased by me.