Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Teabox: Upper Namring Exotic Spring Black, A Tea Review

I was looking at the statistics of my blog and realized that once again I was oblivious to a milestone! I totally derped over a week ago when I missed my three year blog anniversary, and four days ago I derped and missed my 900th post. That is a lot, and considering I have notebooks filled with notes that have not made it onto the blog yet (or ever in the case of some teas and companies going away) I really do drink a lot of tea and have a lot to say about it, in perspective you can say that yes I am obsessed. Also, speaking of the blog, starting tomorrow posts will be going up every other day, I am excited to see how this new schedule will affect things!

You know one of my favorite things about reviewing Darjeeling teas? Knowing the name of the estate they come from so I can google the region and ogle pretty pictures, really this region of India is so gorgeous. Today's tea is one of those, Teabox's Upper Namring Exotic Spring Black Tea, this estate is both old and big, so big it is split into upper and lower, and then split into three gardens, with Upper Namring being the highest. The leaves are quite pretty, marbled greens, silvery fuzz, and golden tones, they look like sunlight through summer leaves. The aroma is delicate, notes of coriander and delicate distant flowers mix with fresh green grapes and a bit of raw rice blend with a subtle honey sweetness.

I decided to be a weirdo and brew this tea pseudo gongfu style and use my clay pot dedicated to first flush Darjeeling since the poor thing was gathering dust. After steeping, wow, the leaves really woke up! Very sweet scuppernong and honey aroma blend with a bit of arugula and nasturtium flowers giving it a peppery zing. The liquid has sweet scuppernongs and delicate distant nasturtiums with a bit of lettuce and coriander, blending green and sweet fairly well.

The first steep starts sweet, but has a slight briskness to it that keeps the sweetness from becoming too cloying and thick. The first note that popped up was sweet white grapes, they have a bit of tanginess making them more like table grapes than my beloved scuppernongs. Next is a blend of coriander, lemon blossom, and a crisp lettuce note. For the finish it is herbaceous coriander and a touch of sweet starchiness and distant flowers that linger into the aftertaste.

The second steep is much lighter in both aroma and taste, the aroma being mostly distant lettuce and sweet grapes. The taste is so sweet, no briskness to be found, just dense honey thick grape juice with a hint of lettuce at the finish. This is definitely the type of Darjeeling I would recommend to someone who likes their tea sweet, or is new to the fine world of first flush, it needs a little bit of a gentle hand with temperature, but will result in a wonderfully sweet steeping session.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Green Tea Guru: 2016 Qing Zhen Premium Green Tea, A Tea Review

Usually I tend to make my little introductory paragraphs to the day's rambling about me (I am not called the Black Mana Princess just because the MTG deck I play, my personality runs heavy into the black as well) but since yesterday's blog post the news has been filled with a lot of stuff. Of course there is the tragic news of comedic legend Gene Wilder's passing, whose life I honored by watching Young Frankenstein before bed...that movie has been my favorite since I was tiny. The science world was not quiet either, with Astronomers finding an inexplicable signal (hello alien overlords, I hope they are Turians) and it being declared we are in a new Epoch, goodbye Holocene hello Anthropocene. In typical geological time we have been theorized to be in this Epoch since the 50s, and it is both incredibly fascinating and more than a little terrifying, we humans are a powerful force. It is safe to say the subject of the Antrhopocene will be debated over many cups of tea with Ben in the future.

Today I am looking at a green tea from Green Tea Guru, it was only inevitable with their name that I look at at least one of their green tea offerings! 2016 Qing Zhen Premium Green Tea is a Yunnan green made from the Assamica leaves, harvested in Simao this past spring. From the first sniff of these long leaves I could tell this was not a tea for those who like their greens really sweet, this is a savory brothy leaf. It is slightly meaty and smoky, along with notes of grilled zucchini, asparagus, and eggplant with a slight peanut finish.

This tea smells like food! Looks like delicate wet pine needles but smells like sauteed mushrooms and tofu, asparagus, grilled eggplant and zucchini, and a light finish of chestnuts and peanuts. I feel like I could use it as a soup base! The liquid has a slight chestnut sweetness to it, but mostly it is savory like the wet leaves, with notes of asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, and specifically enoki mushrooms. The aroma is fairly light, with a touch of mineral as well.

Well, that took me a bit by surprise! I was expecting the first steep to be very savory, but it is pretty much devoid of savory qualities. Honey drizzled sesame seeds dance with sweet snap peas and a tiny crisp quality of raw bell pepper. It is not hugely nuanced for the first steep but it is really surprisingly sweet, as it cools a bit it gets a bit of a savory enoki quality at the finish and a touch of water chestnuts in the aftertaste.

The second steep is more what I was expecting from this tea, hello vegetable broth! Blending a gentle start of sesame seeds and snap pea with a robust asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, eggplants, and broccoli in the middle. The finish is a gentle blend of vegetal notes that really do remind me of soup, with a long savory almost meaty quality that lingers in the mouth for a while. I believe this tea totally counts as my daily need for veggies right?

And with this steep the fade begins, it is a problem with most green teas, they never have much longevity mimicking spring's fleeting nature I suppose. For steep three both the sweet and savory blend perfectly, starting with the same sweetness as the first steep, snap peas and honey sesame seeds which quickly give away to milder savory note of broccoli and eggplant with a finish of zucchini and a touch of bell pepper. This is a tasty tea, especially if you are a fan of teas that flip flop around sweet and savory, I know I do, it is like an adventure!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Yunnan Sourcing: Wild Tree Purple Moonlight White Tea from Jinggu * Spring 2016, A Tea Review

It is Monday morning, my weekend was boring and nothing exciting has happened yet so this introduction is short and lame...on to tea!

Once in a while I run into a tea that really makes me go 'ooooh' when reading the description, Yunnan Sourcing's Wild Tree Purple Moonlight White Tea from Jinggu * Spring 2016 was definitely such a tea. It is no secret that I adore purple teas, and not just because it gives me the excuse to shout ANTHOCYANIN at the top of my lungs whenever I drink it. The extra anthocyanin seems to add a unique quality to the purple teas I have enjoyed, especially some of the purple hong chas, so mixing my love of purple with my almost maniacal love of Moonlight, yeah, I needed this so badly. First off, these leaves are so fluffy and so pretty, practically a rainbow of colors, they are magical. The aroma is pretty heavenly, notes of melon, lettuce, hay, cucumbers, muscadine grapes, plums, sage, and an underlying earthy note that is really hard to pin down. It is sweet and rich while also being light and airy, I am intrigued by its complexity.

Gaiwan time! Decided to use my bat gaiwan set, for nostalgia, plus the dark colors of the leaves compliment the blue quite well. The aroma of the leaves is wow, notes of melon and lettuce dance with cucumber, muscadines, apricots, plums, and a distant note of pepper. It is sweet and pretty intense! The aroma of the liquid is also pretty intense and very sweet, notes of plum and cherry dance with lettuce and cucumber and the distinct note of dandelion pollen. I feel like I am sinking while sniffing it, the aroma has a weight, like purple tendrils pulling me down into sleep.

Well, this tea is magical, that is all I have to say, review done....ok not really. Though this tea is pretty magical, I am amazed how it manages to be both immensely light and refreshing while also being dark and heavy. It is honey drenched lettuce, cucumber crowded plums, buttery muscadines, and a finish of myrrh and distant spice. This is a peculiar tea of notes that I would not usually combine working well together.

The aroma of the second steep is a wonderful combination of muscadines, lettuce, zucchini and myrrh with an underlying honey quality. So this steep is heavy and not as sweet as the first, but with a lingering spice and fruit note that sticks around forever. The start is a bit crisp with notes of honey and grapes with a slight cumber quality. Then the richness of this steep really settles in, buttery lettuce and bok choy with a thick stewed plum quality, though without the usual sweetness associated with the fruit. It is fascinating to have it taste like plum without the sweet, it is unique and I am still loving it.

For the third steep the aroma is still pretty sweet and also crisp, blending grapes and zucchini with lettuce and honey. It still has a gentle resinous myrrh note and also a slight woodiness, specifically sweet fruit wood. This steep is like a combination of the first and second, being immensely sweet and fruity while also being buttery and very rich. The cooked plum note is joined by apricots and it is very nectar sweet, combining with a middle of crisp lettuce and cucumbers, and melon and gentle spiced finish that lingers. Ah, this tea, pity it is already sold out because I want lots more!

This tea was purchased by me.

Friday, August 26, 2016

MeiMei Fine Teas: Keemun Imperial Gongfu Black Tea, A Tea Review

So, someone who has messed with the Xbone recently did a dumb. Turns out my screen is fine, it was just plugged into the wrong port! I am not sure if it was Ben or myself that did such a daft thing, but it was certainly me that unplugged and replugged it into the same port a couple times while trying to troubleshoot it, it wasn't until I was plugging in my USB charger that I realized the mistake. All that sad flailing earlier in the week was for naught, though I certainly wouldn't complain about getting a nicer and larger screen!

Today I am looking at Keemun Imperial Gongfu Black Tea from MeiMei Fine Teas, and before I get into the tea I have a bit of a story. About a week before the tea arrived I was talking with Ben about tweaking the recipe on Ravnican Caravan, the blend I developed for his birthday. I told him I was thinking of removing the Shui Xian and adding Keemun instead, since adding a bit of fruity sweet would add more balance to the tea, and there was already enough char/smoke from the Lapsang. He agreed this was a good idea, but was concerned by the apparently very hilarious expression I had on my face. Asking what was wrong, with shock, I told him 'I haven't had a Keemun in over two years!' It was like I had forgotten that tea existed, which is tragic since I used to LOVE it, this was something that needed rectifying, and MeiMei Fine Teas came to my rescue! The aroma of the delicate leaves is wonderful, very sweet with notes of raspberries, plums, cherries, and apricot mix with delicate distant floral, and the distinct malt/yam blend that lets me know this is a hong cha. I had no problem getting lost sniffing this tea, oh Keemun I have missed you!!

Into the green shibo the leaves go for a steeping and wow, that aroma is something else! Very fruity sweet notes of raspberries, plums, and cherries with underlying notes of squash flowers, wildflowers, and rich yams and peanuts. There is a lot going on in the wet leaves and it took several sniffs to process all the layers. The liquid smells sweet, though not quite as strongly as the wet leaves, instead it is more rich with its notes of yams, peanuts, squash, squash blossoms, and a finish of dark cherries. It also has a tiny hint of an aroma similar to red wine, specifically cherries cooked in red wine, which adds to the richness.

So the first steep starts out a bit brisk...wait...no it doesn't. It switches to smooth so quickly that I thought I imagined it, but no, it is there. The taste starts with fruity sweetness, blending cherries and lighter apricot with a touch of plums. Then it moves to a floral and earthy (only slightly) blend of acorn squash, squash blossoms, and poplar tree flowers. The finish is a smooth blend of plums and malt with a lingering gentle yamminess that gives a slight starchy quality to the end.

That tiny bit of briskness that popped up in the first steep has totally vanished, replaced by a smooth mouthfeel and a distinct brightness, it feels like light in my mouth, no heaviness but not airy, just light and bright and putting me in a pleasantly cheerful mood. Honestly it is impossible to be in a bad mood while drinking this beauty, with sweet notes of red wine stewed plums and cherries, squash blossoms and poplar flowers, and a yammy peanut finish, it is both well balanced and tasty.

This steep is still quite fruity and sweet, strong notes of those cherries and plums stewed in red wine, with an added slice of apricot. However in the middle the flowery notes are all but gone, a bit of polar remains, but mostly there is rich malt and intensely starchy yams with a gentle peanut finish. I am so sorry Keemun, I will never forget you again. Luckily for me this tea had longevity, so I got more steeps out of it, though that has not stopped me from almost finishing my sample already!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

White2Tea: 2016 A&P, A Tea Review

The weather has been so awesome the last couple days, I have been loving it! Previously this week it has been cool, mostly sunny, but cool...perfect windows open days. Yesterday the fun started, first with a bit of drizzles then intermittent storms, and then wow, last night was a storm party! Granted it was when I was trying to sleep, and I am pretty sure a tree up the road was lightninged into oblivion meaning very loud booms, but I don't care. I will lose sleep anytime to storms! In fact it just finished another storm about half an hour ago, with more promised during the rest of the week, this makes me giddy!!

Today I am taking a look at White2Tea's 2016 A&P, a Dianhong they included with the July teaclub (along with some killer sweet balls) which is conveniently also for sale in their shop for when I inevitably run out and need more. It is how I am with the deliriously tasty reds, they are addictive and I always need another fix, ALWAYS. Honestly I am tempted to get another cake to just put away for aging, since it was made from Lincang Puerh materials and sun-dried leaving it a bit raw meaning it should improve with a few years age on it.

Except for a few exceptions I love most my reds with a little age on them, usually I find any harsh notes will mellow out after a year or two...assuming they last that long around me. So after admiring this lovely dark cake in its pristine form I hacked a bit off for closer examination, with my nose.

Well hello there you chocolaty cake of goodness, it smells like the batter for the rich triple chocolate molasses cake I make when I am desperately craving chocolate, very sweet and thickly chocolate. There are also undertones of cooked plum, sandalwood, myrrh, and malt. Fun fact, when I first opened this bad boy up it smelled lightly of cocoa, a few weeks later the cocoa increased, and now in the middle of August when I am writing this it smells like a blasted cake! I think in a year it will gain sentience as the embodiment of chocolate, it is the only explanation.

So after a first steep the aroma is nothing short of oomph, it is a little bit malty and a touch nutty, but the strongest notes by far are sweet cocoa and woody sandalwood. The combination of this tea's notes are mouthwatering, sandalwood is a great love of mine, like on a primal level...is this tea trying to seduce me? The liquid once free from its leafy restraints blend notes of creamy milk chocolate, peanuts, sandalwood, molasses, and caramelized brown sugar...it is like all the parts of a really tasty candy but separate, and with sandalwood. Yum.

So I make a show saying that I am not a social person which is why most my teaing is done in the privacy of my tea lair, but really I think it is because the noises that good tea elicit out of me are just not sociable, and I don't like holding back! I have this same problem with food. This tea had that effect on me for sure, from the first sip I was dancing in my chair and making all sorts of happy noises. Starting with a thick mouth (this is a theme that will stick around) it is sweet, like the most perfect ripe cherry and plum exploding in my mouth with a fantastic chocolate shrapnel to the face. Then for the finish it is like someone gave me just the caramelized sugar top of a creme brulee, the aftertaste of brown sugar lingers for a while.

The aroma of the second steep ramps up, stronger cocoa, more intense molasses, juicy plum and brown sugar dance with sandalwood for one outstanding thing to sniff. It is still thick as all get out, like almost fruit nectar thick but blissfully without the sticky, super creamy and dense. It starts with overly ripe bordering on cooked plums with malt and molasses, building slowly until the midtaste is chocolate. Starting with milk chocolate and moving to dark, never getting to bittersweet. The finish is a blend of pine sap, myrrh, and sandalwood, cutting down the sweet ever so slightly but adding a richness that is almost blinding.

Surprisingly my mind is not mush by this point, it feels like it is almost at the point, sensory overload for sure! This steep does not change much from the second, it pretty much stays at status quo until steep five where it starts fading away into chocolate, plums and molasses until nothing is left several steeps later. This tea has longevity, aging potential, and it almost turned me into a gibbering mess (I needed time to process before I could get this written, it was like a chocolate tea Eldrazi...the MTG card no one knew they wanted) so yeah, if you have the money I say give this one a get. I plan on attempting to leave my cake alone for at least a few months to see how it changes.

This tea was purchased by me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bitterleaf Teas: Giant White 2015 Jing Gu Moonlight White Tea, A Tea Review

Ugh! Technical difficulties!! I was feeling a bit off today and decided I wanted to spend my day playing some Ark, but it seems my electronics have other plans. I turn on my Xbone and my screen didn't turn on, so I fiddle with the cables and connections and nope, the screen (which is old and has been on its last legs for a while) finally has died. This is so sad, the new Ark update is supposed to come out on the first but I doubt I will have a new screen by then, what a bummer.

But, of course, where there is sadness there is always tea to brush away whatever has put me in a foul mood. Today's tea is from Bitterleaf Teas, their Giant White 2015 Jing Gu Moonlight White Tea, ah Moonlight, one of my favorite types of tea. I have given it the nickname Drow tea, since it is dark leaves with beautiful silver trichomes, much like a Drow...because I am such a dork, but I don't care, Drow are awesome and so is this tea. After I get done oohing and aahing over the beautiful fluffy leaves I give them a good sniff, and the first thing I notice is the iconic aroma of tomato leaves. I am not sure why Moonlight almost always smells like tomato leaves to me, along with rich honey, freshly cut hay, woodruff, sage, and a bit of distant grapes. It is mellow and sweet, a bit more herbaceous than usual, which I really enjoy.

Into my dedicated to Moonlight teapot the leaves go for a steep. Well hello complex wet leaves! Notes of sugar cane, marshmallow, peaches, lettuce, and dried tomato dance out of the pot with the steam. The leaves smell crisp and sweet, managing to be refreshing while also retaining a dessert like sweetness. The liquid is very light, like a just ripe peach (not cut, just sitting there, taunting you with its sweetness, but it is too pretty to eat yet...this has happened to me too many times) wildflowers, honey, and a touch of butterhead lettuce adding a touch of crispness at the finish.

This tea starts pretty light, with gentle notes of hay and delicate lettuce at the start and a powerful burst of perfectly ripe peach at the middle. The finish is delicate sugar cane and distant note of hazelnuts. It is very sweet and wonderfully light, a good start that had me craving more.

Steep two's aroma has the wildflowers and honey along with gentle lettuce and peaches, but now it also has a meringue sweetness that really has me wondering what a peach meringue pie would taste like. It starts with a thick sweetness, like warm honey drizzled apricots and peaches with a side of juicy sugarcane. In the middle of the steep it gets a distinct woodruff and sage quality that blends amazingly with the fruity quality and makes the transition into lettuce and celery pretty seamless. The aftertaste is a long lingering sweet and light sugar cane, delicious stuff.

Now what sets this Moonlight apart from many others I have tried? Well it is sweet, it still has that crisp lettuce quality of a fresh Moonlight, oh yeah...it lasts forever! I am not sure I have run into one that lasts as many steeps, and usually this style of tea can get quite a few steeps in before it fades away. As the steeps carry on the notes of peach and apricot increase and the crisp lettuce notes start to take a backseat until they eventually fade, though the herbaceous notes stick around for a bit longer. As the tea starts to fade all that is left is wonderful honey and distant wildflowers.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Adagio Teas: Formosa Bai Hao, A Tea Review

Well, I think I have my fill of No Man's Sky let's plays, after many days of watching them. I will probably feel different if I ever get to play it, but from what I can tell it seems like a bit of a let down. I was under the impression it was going to be focused mainly on exploration, that grinding for resources was secondary and that there was not going to be a plot...well, either I was wrong or the advertisement was misleading. Having seen a player reach the conclusion of the 'plot' well, I am glad I was never invested in the story because wow, it is anticlimactic!! In a way I am glad I do not have the right system to play it.

Today I am looking at another tea from Adagio Teas, their Formosa Bai Hao. You may know this tea by its other more famous name, Oriental Beauty, though there is a bit of a movement to change that name to one of many other names, since OB is deemed by many to be culturally insensitive. I will probably always call it OB, not a shortening, but like Bob without the 'b' mainly because it makes me think of Magic character Ob Nixillis, because that name is hilarious. This tea, other than a very slight name similarity has nothing in common with Ob Nixillis, because he is a jerk and this is a tea, teas can't be jerks. Well, that got rambling quick, let is go straight into the aroma before I get side-tracked again! The aroma of the leaves is very light, I really had to shove my nose in them to get much, though the notes that were present were quite pleasant. Autumn leaves blend with distant grapes and light honey. It smells autumnal and mildly sweet.

Only one thing to do since sniffing isn't giving me much, time to brew it up! Once steeped the leaves liven up a bit, notes of apples and grapes blend with squash and autumn leaves, I swear OB is always autumnal to me, like the best parts of autumn distilled into tea. The aroma of the liquid is a fruity blend of crisp apples, juicy pears, a bit of honey, and a touch of grapes. It is very sweet and nectar like.

The first steep is really quite light, in both taste and texture, it is almost airy in its lightness. It blends notes of light and slightly crisp apples with sweet pears and very gentle grapes at the start. Around the middle the fruit takes on a baked quality being reminiscent of fruit pie with a slight crust quality. The aftertaste is sweet like warmed wildflower honey, though it does not linger over long.

For the second steep the aroma is a fruity blend of apples, pears, and a touch of distant citrus, it is light and sweet, again reminding me of fruit nectar. The taste is much like the first steep, but with a bit more oomph. Notes of apples and pears dance with grapes and gentle wildflower honey and autumn leaves. It has a slightly citrus note that pops up towards the finish and lingers for a short while in the aftertaste. Sadly there really wasn't much to steep three, it was greatly faded by that point. This tea did not really wow me, there was nothing wrong with it, just nothing jumped out and grabbed me as being spectacular.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Green Tea Guru: 2014 ‘Shixiang’ Fuding White Tea Cake, A Tea Review

I always feel so refreshed after a visit to the zoo, and yesterday was no exception! Ben and I chanced going on the weekend, usually we go during the week to avoid the much loathed crowds, but going at open means we missed most of the crowds. The real highlight of this visit was an ibis, at the Australian Bird Enclosure (it is a giant free-range bird cage where you can interact with a bunch of birds, I LOVE it, plus it is sentimental since that is where Ben proposed last year) there was a fairly young ibis that was the friendliest. It followed us around examining our clothes, pockets, shoes, my hair with its enormous beak. Sometimes birds are pretty rough with their beaks, but this ibis was gentle, just tickling as it for lack of a better word groomed us. It was the best thing ever!

Today I am taking a look at Green Tea Guru's 2014 ‘Shixiang’ Fuding White Tea Cake, a compressed Bai Mu Dan with a little bit of age on it, and that little bit of age makes quite the difference. White tea has this habit of becoming immensely sweet as it ages, which is pretty amazing when you consider how sweet it already is. From the aroma of the compressed leaves (which are really quite pretty) it is a great blend of notes from an aged white and a fresh white, strong notes of honey and sun warmed hay blend with sweet grapes, crisp melons, gourds, wildflower pollen. and a finish of book pages. It is one of my favorite notes present in Bai Mu Dan, it smells like a novel, not an ancient leatherbound book, but one of those paperback novels found at a used book store and lovingly carried around in a coat pocket to read in dull moments. Yes it triggers very specific memories.

I decided to use my aged white clay pot for brewing this tea, still one of my favorite clay pot thrift store finds! I didn't brew the whole chunk from the photo, but you could think that I did when you see how fluffy the wet leaves are now that they are not compressed. The aroma is very sweet, pollen loaded raw honey with juicy fresh green grapes blend with mild cucumber and melon with a finish of fresh hay. The liquid's aroma is wonderfully sweet with strong notes of raw honey and melon with a gentle accompaniment of slightly woody gourds and wildflowers.

Woo, that first steep is a doozy! Thick mouthfeel that coats all of my mouth with honey sweetness! The color of the liquid is golden, but it also tastes golden, with sun warmed scuppernongs, honey, hay, and just warm sunlight. That last one is more of a sensation combining the color and taste, but you know, it works. At the finish there is a lingering gentle melon that stays into the aftertaste for a while, it sticks around in the mouth a long time after the tea is done.

The aroma of the second steep is super sweet, the previous steep's woody gourd note has vanished to only have wildflowers, pollen, grapes, and wonderful raw honey. Well, it is not a surprise that this steep is thick and sweet, but it managing to be sweeter is impressive! It is very much like someone took melon and grapes and poured melted honey all over it, super decadent and delicious. The finish is a gentle hay and grape note that lingers for a while.

For the third steep the aroma stays pretty much the same, somehow the honey is stronger and the wildflowers fresher, but the notes stay the same. Not the same with the taste, oh there is still the strong raw honey and grapes, but there is a distant note of oregano that adds a depth and crispness. This tea has longevity, lasting many more steeps, and amusingly it seems to reverse in age with steeps where later steeps pick up crisp notes of lettuce and cucumber coolness. I really enjoyed this tea and was a bit sad when I saw the full cake is sold out on the website!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tea Box Express: August Box, a Subscription Review

You know what is immensely satisfying? Building a deck in Magic and having it work, specifically having it work really well. I have a long and a bit weird history with this game, but only just now am playing it, my decks so far have been pre-constructed commander decks or ones Ben (whose head is more in game theory than mine) and the ones I have modified to make them my own have been mono black, but I love green black (Golgari pride and all that) so I made my first green black deck and thought Ben's red deck was going to end me, I was sitting at 1 life and he was at 18, but I ramped into a bunch of creatures and won the game. The run-back was real, the zombies, spiders, and saprolings were overwhelming. 

The people at Tea Box Express were awesome enough to send me another box, and this one was quite the doozy! I was surprised by its weight when I picked it up off my porch, with good reason, it has a lot of stuff!

For all that I am a tea person, the first thing I tried was the cookie from WOW Baking, a Snickerdoodle! One of my favorite type of cookies (in competition with shortbread, gingersnaps, almond crescents, and Russian teacakes) plus it is gluten free! I have mentioned before that I am not gluten free, but I am gluten limited, I hesitate to say gluten intolerant since that might not exist and my allergy tests are contradictory...I do know that if I eat too much it affects me the same way as when I eat too much dairy, but it is only wheat and not necessarily gluten, I think. IT IS CONFUSING, but it does mean I get to practice my gluten free baking and only use gluten indulgences for special occasions (and Hot Pockets) and cookies are one of the things I really struggle with. This cookie was a welcome treat because holy moly was it moist!! Nicely sweet and thick with a mellow cinnamon, I could have gone for stronger cinnamon but I like my snickerdoodles with a bit of oomph. Since it was light on cinnamon it meant I could share with Ben who usually hates cinnamon, so I consider that a win!

The next thing I took a look at from the box was adorable green tea mints from Sencha Naturals, a Pink Dragonfruit and Cardamon Cinnamon. They are both made Matcha and the Pink Dragonfruit also has Sencha, and to keep the theme cohesive they are shaped like adorable leaves. I was at first a little apprehensive, since I really am not a fan of strong mint, a little is ok, but a lot is a no. So much so that if I chew gum I use cinnamon, my toothpaste is ginger, I use ginger candies instead of mint...there is a theme here. Luckily the mint is pretty mild, the Cinnamon Cardamon is pretty intense, great if you are a fan of Big Red or Red Hots, it is sweetened with coconut sugar and it tastes sweet and not at all like coconut, which I really like. The Pink Dragonfruit doesn't really taste like dragonfruit, but they are fruity and quite tasty, I have been nibbling on them a bit...makes my mouth burn a bit from eating so many but I don't mind too much. One little caveat I will give, don't eat these if you plan on tasting anything properly for a few hours, they will alter the taste of everything, which is fine if you are out and don't have tea, but if you try to taste tea after eating these it is not going to happen. Also I learned if you eat too many of them you might get a stomach ache, so don't do what I do and eat half the package in one sitting, no matter how tasty they are, moderation is a good thing...sometimes.

The teas in this box were very well rounded, a spherical theme! The first of the orbs I looked at were Lychee Blooming Tea by Chai Dairies, a new to me company! They are not kidding about the lychee, usually I find blooming teas are mostly enjoyably visually, they don't have a lot in the taste and aroma department, you brew them to enjoy the show or to give to your visiting family that wants tea because they are polite and don't really want tea...it is very specific. Still I indulge in them occasionally because they are very pretty! These balls have a surprisingly strong aroma, like an actual freshly peeled lychee is hiding underneath the leaves.

I was unaware that this was one of the flowers that blooms up as well as out, so I used the wrong teapot. Sadly the website does not list the ingredients so I have to guess, I recognize the lily blossom and jasmine, and I am assuming there is lychee flavoring of some sort since it is very intense in the aroma. Also very intense in the taste! It tastes like lychee nectar, the same way a can of lychees taste after you take out all the lychees and just chug the juice. Wow, this showcase is really making me seem like a bit of a pig, ah well, the truth is out. This is definitely the blooming tea to break out when wanting to impress guests, with a beautiful bloom and a distinct and strong flavor, it would be perfect to woo even the most diehard tea-hater. Unless they also dislike lychees, if that is the case just tell them to enjoy the show.

The last treat in this box of goodies is another round tea, Misty Peak's balls of Puerh, Shengy goodness, they say that the trilogy of orbs are autumn harvest, so I am assuming it is their 2015 autumn, but I am not sure since it does not say on the website. The packaging of this little set is really quite gorgeous, if I was wanting to get someone new into Puerh this is good starting set, I have in the past found their tea to be very approachable, being light on the bitterness that a lot of young sheng can have.

I waffled for a while on the best way to brew this one, usually I would just gongfu it and report back on the steeps, but that would make this blog super long, plus if I am right and this is the 2015 autumn I already reviewed it, so I looked at the website and saw 'Boiling hot or freezing cold water and everything in-between will make for a great cup of tea!' I am going to cold steep a ball of Puerh, I am such a rebel!! Before I stuck it in the fridge for the night I made sure to sniff it, the notes coming off were sweet, apricots and wildflowers mixing with gentle hay and a touch of grapes. This was a good idea, since it was a big ball I was able to do a combination cold steep and grandpa steep, adding water and sticking it back in the fridge between 'steeps' for a few hours. No matter how long the ball steeps it is never bitter, it starts very light blending delicate apricot and hay with a very faint spinach and mineral quality, very refreshing stuff. Later pours bring on stronger hay and spinach notes with a deeper apricot note and a touch of grapes. One downside to cold steeping this tea is it looses a lot of the exciting mouthfeel adventures that Sheng can take you on, mostly it is light and smooth. It was a great experience for a hot day, I am not sure I recommend steeping other shengs in this method (since I have never done it) but this one is approachable and mellow enough that it really worked.

If you want to give Tea Box Express a try use coupon code TEAHAPPY for 20% off the first box. This box was sent for review purposes by the company.