Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Resurrection!

You know, my name isn't the Tea Necromancer just because I like tea and spend my time painting undead things, I am a Necromancer, I bring things back to life. So far my record is a hamster in elementary school, many drowned bathtub spiders, one squirrel, and now this blog. When I closed the blog I suspected there was a chance I would be back, but wanted to make it seem final in case I didn't, I know there is nothing more sad then a beloved blog taking a needed hiatus and never returning. I figured there was a very real chance I would miss it and just needed a very long vacation to sort tings out in my brain, and good news, I have! So here is how the blog is going to work this time: twice a week updates on Sunday and Wednesday with a mix of reviews and other tea themed rambling.

Reviews: These are going to be different than they were in the past, I am going to be following a more methodical approach to reviewing, using a form where I will fill in notes. Back when I first started taking detailed tasting notes (before there even was a blog) this is how I did it and it was pretty fun. This way if you just want to know how the tea smells, you can zip to that header, or just to taste, or just to where it came from. Of course since this will be once a week (probably on Sunday) that means I need to be pickier with what I choose to review, my goal is to review teas I find interesting. That means they can taste amazing or awful, as long as it stands out from the crowd. And I promise I won't just write about Oolongs and Hongchas...though probably no Puerh other than the occasional shou.

Other stuff: Rambles? Hmm, this needs a name other than 'other' but for now that works. This is going to be where I talk about teaware, how it affects tea, weird experiments, tea pairings, and comparison posts. This where I will be talking about how one season's tea compares to another, or doing a tasting flight. In a way it will still be a review, but more rambling and also probably shorter snippets about each tea. I absolutely love doing flights and comparison posts, so I am going to try to squeeze as many of those in as possible. There might also be posts where I talk about what tea I enjoy to drink most while painting or baking and the more personal effects of tea. Maybe I should just call Wednesday the free-for-all day!

And so, that is that! I still need to get a new camera, the money I saved up for that went to Honeymoon fun (oh god so much cheese) so my photos will be a mix of phone (it is a Samsung Galaxy S4, so not too bad) and my Fujifilm S8630 with the sad scratch on the lens and possibly fried interior after eclipse photography, totally worth it by the way. If all goes as planned the blog will officially wake from the dead a few weeks after the new year. It would be the first week of January but yours truly too a dive and fell on the computer which in turn feel on the floor and trashed the hard drive, repairs will be done by then and that is when I'll return!

Friday, August 4, 2017

The End, The Final Post

Well, all, the time has come to hang up my blogger hat, this is the last update this blog will have. I have given this a lot of thought and realized it was time to move on to other things! Before I get into the meat of the blog, thank you...all of you...all the readers, fellow bloggers, tea companies, tea growers, all the ones that found my words useful and relevant, you guys are the reason I continued with this blog for as long as I did, the reason I went from posting quick tasting notes on Facebook to long-winded rambles. I will never have the right words to accurately express my appreciation and the glowing warm fuzzies I get in my heart.

There are myriad reasons why, so I will give a quick rundown. 1. I have burned out and no longer feel I have anything worth saying about these teas, which doesn't do anyone justice, and I really do not want my burn out of writing to leach into the tea itself, I adore tea and will do anything to avoid jeopardizing my love of it!2. It is a job that doesn't pay anything, and I no longer find this job fun, it went from being a hobby and passion to a job. I know from experience this is toxic as hell one's hobbies should never only be a job. 3. Yes, my health is part of it, I am tired of beating myself up for missing blog days due to being too unwell. I started this blog in part to make myself feel constructive while also being disabled, and that really helped at first, now I no longer need it for the confidence boost and the stress of missing posts got old. 4. I just want to drink tea, I am tired of having to stop my sessions to take notes and mess with taking pictures, it is so easy with Instagram to take (mediocre) photos and throw them on there while waiting for the cup to cool, the process of taking notes mid tasting and photos were just getting in the way of my enjoyment,I am tired of having to think about it, I just want to get lost in tea.Those are the main reasons I am ending the blog, I feel as though a weight has been lifted from me!

Don't worry, if you are reading this and thinking NOOOO I want to ogle your epic teaware collection more!! Well, I will still be just as active on Instagram (@TeaNecromancer) showing off various tea sessions. If things go the way I think they will I will be getting a better camera, so hopefully, my mediocre phone cameras will be quite good! I have been told I judge my phone camera harshly, but I think they are mediocre...granted I hate my current phone so that doesn't help.

The void that the blog is leaving in my life is going to be filled with painting, between painting miniatures and altering Magic cards, I realize painting is just what I want to do with my time. Speaking of which, I won't be making a job out of it or anything, but if any of you want miniatures to live on your tea desk or altered cards to pimp out your decks just let me know, I paint for tea, more cards, supplies, cash, fossils...interesting tokens of commerce and treasures! I don't want to get rich off of it, but I am vain enough to admit knowing my creations are out in the world is awesome.

And if you are a tea company who wants me to feature you on Instagram for the photo exposure rather than a lengthy review, please check my blog disclosure tab for any relevant information.

That will be different than the blog. I am not using it as a way to feel productive, or to try to make a job out of it, or to do anything other than bring myself joy...I have just gotten to that level of peace with my life and the trials and tribulations being a disabled, autistic, recluse brings, and that is truly the core of tea, finding peace with oneself. And now I am signing off with a wish that everyone finds a tea that brings them immense joy, be it through taste or some other means, whatever your reason I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chai Chun: Arya Tea Estate Showcase, A Tea Review

I am slowly making progress on my Mortis Throne and have hit a road block! The magical Necromancy effects are all glowing purple (like I do) and the only magical glowy stuff I have left are the lanterns and corpse torches, and I am beginning to wonder if I should paint them something other than purple to break up the solid wall of purple. Luckily I am not in any kind of rush so I can take my time, but I really am torn!

Today I am looking at a few teas from Chai Chun, featuring Arya Tea Estate in Darjeeling, one of my favorite estates to get my Darjeeling second flush fix. In the past, I have only had the Ruby, a really tasty second flush, so I am excited to explore other teas from that garden. Starting with Arya Pearl, a white tea that looks like a green, but certainly tastes like a magnificent white. The aroma is very sweet, notes of juicy grapes and peppery wildflowers, notes of tulsi and a touch of distant lilies. It smells complex while also being light.

Whoa, the taste caught me off guard, there are notes of orange blossom, clover, honey, malt, vanilla pastries, peony flowers, wildflowers, and a finish of crisp tulsi. It is incredibly complex while also being very light and refreshing. The notes of flowers didn't surprise me, since they are ones I usually associate with white teas, but the vanilla and malt were the surprising aspects, not something I run into with a white tea that is so green! It lasts for several steeps and was a delicious session.

Next on to the green tea! Arya Emerald, and this is a savory one! The aroma is very light, notes of grilled bell pepper, crisp cucumbers, zucchini and a touch of lettuce. I really had to work to pick up an aroma, which made me a little apprehensive for a mellow taste, so I decided to use hotter than normal water than I usually do for a green.

I am glad I did, this tea can take the heat, no bitterness or astringency to be found, instead, I was rewarded with sea air, wet slate, cucumbers, grilled vegetables (primarily zucchini and bell peppers) with a long lingering taste of cooked broccoli and a slightly sweet finish. I got two really solid steeps out of this tea, both of them light and refreshing but still flavorful.

And now we journey into the black teas! Arya Moonshine, it is not on their website, and I cannot really find any information on it online so alas I cannot tell you if this is a second flush or an autumn flush (I am not an expert in Darjeeling so can't tell from taste) I will say that it smells really good, strong notes of raisins and honey blend with undertones of pistachio nuts and malty molasses bread.

It was not just me that enjoyed this tea, Ben was a huge fan and has mostly obliterated my sample of it! It tastes like very yeasty molasses bread, malt, raisins, roasted pistachio nuts, and a strong finish of peach, which was very sweet and pleasant. It is well known that I am a sucker for teas that are naturally sweet, and this one tasting very sweet and very rich...well it is no surprise it is almost gone!

Lastly is Arya Diamond, this one is a second flush, and smells like a big bowl of juicy purple muscadine grapes and malt. Honestly, this tea smells so muscatel that it inspired me to go to the store and buy grapes, and sadly they were not muscadines but close enough. I truly love teas that are very muscatel, even though I don't drink a ton of Indian teas anymore, there is a reason I still wander back to Darjeelings.

The taste is pleasantly light for a black tea, a gentle briskness and thick mouthfeel blend with immensely juicy muscadine grapes, warm honey, orange blossoms, and malt. Where the Moonshine made a really good morning tea, this one's lightness made it very appealing to drink later in the day. I feel like drinking this needs to be accompanied by pastries and lounging, it just feels relaxing, which I really enjoy. Arya Estate continues to be a favorite, especially after seeing a greater spectrum of their teas!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Story of My Tea: Hello! Iced Tea Pure Camellia Collection, A Tea Review

I am doing it guys, I am finally building a serious commander deck! Previously my commanders have been the really good pre-cons with some tweaked, or just utterly unplayable joke themed decks, but finally, I am making a good one, having felt inspired to greatness by none other than the Scarab God! This fine fellow is a Dimir zombie engine and oh my am I ever excited to start playing it. Of course, I have to wait for it to get here, got a dinged copy on the way, and then I have to build the (hopefully not too expensive) deck! Maybe I will finally smear Ben's Atraxa deck across the proverbial pavement.

Today I am taking a break from my usual hot steeping for some cold steeped goodness with Story of My Tea's Hello! Iced Tea Pure Camellia Collection. Each pouch is premeasured to make a quart of tea with instructions printed on the bags. I have some issue with this, granted this is just my pickiness, everyone who I have seen that sells pre-measured iced tea pouches use larger amounts...and I usually don't want that much. I am probably a disgrace to my Southern heritage, but I rarely drink iced tea anymore, and when I do usually I like to just cold steep up a cup. So I wish the premeasured pouches were single serve and you could just add multiple pouches if you want a bigger serving. I am just picky like that though so your mileage may vary.

First tea in this collection I looked at was Iccha Kariban, a Japanese green tea from Kagoshima that was developed to taste more floral than usual. The aroma is quite savory, nutty with a sesame seed and orchid undertone. The taste is very crisp and a nice balance between savory and sweet, combining seaweed and ocean air with delicate orchid and sesame seeds and rice at the finish. Drinking this one makes me wish I could be at the beach, but savory Japanese green teas do that to me!

And speaking of green teas, time for a Chinese green, Mao Jian! I am a fan of this tea hot and have never had it cold steeped, so this will be fun! This one is so refreshing! Very nutty, like hazelnuts, with freshly chopped up celery, orchid flowers, and lingering notes of lettuce and bell pepper. I don't drink a ton of green teas anymore, but this one reminded me of why I love it when I do.

Next up is White Peony, and oh how I love Bai Mu Dan, no matter how it is steeped I like it! Strong notes of cucumber and freshly cut hay blend with wildflowers, honey, and melons. It is very sweet and very smooth with a refreshing mouthfeel and long sweetness in the mouth. This one was definitely my favorite of the collection and I happily drank every drop and wanted more!

Onward to the Iron Goddess Of Mercy, the Oolong of the bunch, a classic roasted Tie Guan Yin from Fujian (this is not a Muzha TGY) and another tea I have not tried cold steeped before. It smells and tastes quite toasty! Sweet freshly baked nut bread with drizzles of honey and a baked plum finish. One thing about this tea, usually I drink it hot because the warm coal taste is really great when it is hot, when it is cold it gets a bit of a cold coal taste that while it isn't bad is a little bit odd at the finish. Usually the oolongs I cold steep are green or hong shui style, but roasted is pretty good too!

Lasty, the classic iced tea choice, South India Black, the thing that most us think of when we drink iced tea is an iced black tea, so not including one would just be weird. I don't drink a ton of Indian teas anymore, preferring other regions, but the familiarity of the sweet and malty tea with gentle stone fruit undertones was like a cup full of childhood memories. The briskness and crisp nature of this tea made it refreshing on a hot day.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tea and Mana, A Magic The Gathering Tea Fusion, Part Five: Shards!

And thus this little saga of Magic The Gathering and Tea pairings comes to an end, with the Shards! Sadly the old way of describing the three color combination of a primary color and its two allies using the Primeval Dragons from Invasion is no longer (and to be honest, never was) popular. Though I am still pushing for it and the use of the Plana Chaos Dragons for the Wedges, because why not? For this pairing, I got fancy and used altered versions of the Obelisks for each of the shards, though sadly although I really like some of these color combinations, the flavor for each of the shards is not a favorite, this happens when you are deep into the Vorthos. Also these will be Shards era, not dealing with the Conflux's chaos.

Green-White-Blue: Bant

Ah, Bant, beautiful and peaceful, with knights and angels ruling its rolling hills and idyllic blue skies. Huge spire having castles reach towards the heavens, the sun seems to always be in the sky, and community is the highest order in this rigid yet very corruption free caste system. I don't like Bant, to me, it is incredibly beautiful but immensely boring, a place I would like to visit but would feel way too paranoid about the inevitable incoming punishment of breaking their rigid rules. For this shard's tea I went with Snow Flower Biluochun, a Yunnan White Tea that is immensely picky with how it's brewed, but if you follow the rules you get a truly beautiful and graceful tea, the kind of thing you can imagine an armored angel sipping while surveying the land from atop a very tall castle tower.

White-Blue-Black: Esper

Oh man, Esper is fun but super weird!! They looked at the natural world around them and thought 'you know what would be better? Covering everything in spirally metal and mana!' and thus they did. They want to infuse every living creature on the plane with etherium, a powerful aether infused metal with amazing properties, of course, this includes themselves, and their robotic style bodies are bizarre, definitely one of my favorite takes on metal infused bodies (sorry Mirrodin) Everything on Esper is controlled and organized, the Planeswalker's Guide describes it as "a spectacle of sophisticated beauty" and it is not wrong, but for those who need chaos of red and the natural majesty of green, you are going to be very disappointed. So what do you use for a tea representing a place where everything is manufactured, well I decided to be cheeky, scented Milk Oolong. You take a beautiful Jin Xuan and alter it using was either that or some space age powdered tea, and well I actually like Esper so Milk Oolong it is!

Blue-Black-Red: Grixis

My shard! This is my color alignment so you would think this would be my favorite shard, but it is not, I hates it. It is so boring! Fields of rotting flesh and a hellscape of madness, clouds of foul stench, perpetual darkness, cursed fleshbags, and scheming liches...yes it is a goth metal album made flesh. I just think there is so much more you can do with the principals of Blue-Black-Red and the incredibly limited and one note take on it makes my soul hurt. Granted this is my problem with Alara in general, it is like each shard is built off a single keyword from each color and smashed into a fairly boring box. Though there is cool art, so I forgive it that at least. For this tea I went with a classic Ceylon black, because to me it tastes like blood and death, has caffeine out the wazoo so lots of power, and I am sure someone out there likes it.

Black-Red-Green: Jund

Oh hey, one of my commanders, Meren, is from Jund...she is a Necromancer with an undead dragon...and that is fun. Jund is kinda like a Conan themed barely surviving in the wilderness (usually scantily clothed, it is hot on Jund) while dragons, volcanoes, and goblins all try constantly to kill you. Not necessarily the best setting for a Magic plane (not that there is anything wrong with it) but I really want to play a survival game here, Ark, Jund Edition, would be freaking awesome. Jund makes for a great aesthetic but not necessarily the best story, if you catch my drift. For Jund I did a silly (again) I went for Dragonwell, because Jund's most defining aspect is its crazy dragons that want to eat you. I imagine the native Jundians tossing leaves in a bowl and drinking it grandpa style around a fire while a dragon swoops down and eats them all...then drinks the remaining tea.

Red-Green-White: Naya

Naya and Jund have a lot in common, a very adventure heavy and tribal in nature world with very large beasts that want to eat you, this time though instead of rugged volcanoes we get thick jungles and gargantuan Kaiju type monsters. Naya fascinates me, another world where I want to play a survival type game or go on an adventure on, but I am a sucker for cat people, overgrown jungle ruins, and giant stompy monsters. For Naya I decided Matcha, specifically drank Koicha, most likely with part of your nomadic tribe as part of some post-hunt ceremony to celebrate and strengthen community bonds. Tastes like bitter defeat, sweet victory, and vivid jungles all at once!!

Part one
Part two
Part three
Part four

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tillerman Tea: 2017 Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) Oolong, A Tea Review

What the heck is DHT Express shipping? Not DHL, which I am familiar with, and their website bills themselves as Chinese FedEx (with the worst font) but it is a totally new shipping company to me. I ordered some cheap 'nail art' micro paintbrushes from Amazon, because I perpetually need new brushes, miniatures are not kind on brushes and I need detail brushes for card alters...I live such a hard life...but they are being shipped via DHT. The brushes have been handed over to US customs or so the website says, but other than that it is full of mystery.

It has been a while since I reviewed a solo tea, I kinda forget how to do it, but Tillerman Tea's 2017 Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) I think deserves a crack at it. If readers remember, last year's Bai Hao got the lofty title of being my favorite OB, I still need to get off my lazy backside and order more of it because I have a perpetual craving! Am I expecting this one to be as good? Maybe, will I be disappointed if it isn't, no. Each year is different, depending on what seems like countless factors, so it is always fascinating to see how they differ. The aroma is very sweet, notes of fresh apples, ripe pears, honey drizzled grapes, with undertones of autumn leaves and chestnuts. It smells like everything I want out of an OB! Once steeped it smells very autumnal, like gently spiced baked pears and apples, autumn leaves, roasted nuts, and a gentle woodiness.

The taste of this tea is delicious, it blends slightly tangy very juicy ripe white grapes, peaches drizzled in honey, dry autumn leaves, baked apples and pears, and a distant spicy lily flower at the finish. It is sweet and nuanced at the beginning and gets sweeter as it goes. Later steeps bring in orange blossoms and delicate squash and chestnuts, giving it a level of richness akin to late summer and early autumn. Drinking this tea made me immensely happy, it is wonderfully different from last year but not less than last year. It would be like comparing morning and evening, this one being morning since it has a much brighter and vibrant feel, compared to last years heaviness. I will have to save a bit of my stash of this year and get more of last year and taste them side by side, that would be a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Golden Tea Leaf: Iris Dancong Oolong and Traditional Dung Ting Oolong, A Tea Review

You know what is equal parts rewarding and gross? Taxidermy! I love it, and think I really should get more into it because I love skeletons! Taxidermy with the fur and all is cool, but not as much my thing, I am all about dem bones. It started very young for me, one of my favorite toys was Mr. Bones, a Halloween decor skeleton that my three-year-old-self was obsessed with, he got carried away in Hurricane Hugo and it broke my tiny heart. I bring this up because I just pulled the squirrel skull I found in the yard and have been cleaning out of its bleaching soak and now it is drying in the sun, first skull I've cleaned in years and it has re-awoken that dream of having a collection of skulls. What can I say? I have always been obsessed with the macabre and tried to squash that love for years, I am so much happier now that I don't!

Ok, enough of that, time for something entirely not macabre, tea! A pair of yummy teas from Golden Tea Leaf, starting off with Iris Dancong Oolong and wow does it smell delicious! Blending intensely nectar sweet floral notes of iris, orchid, peony, and a touch of orange blossom with equally sweet candied cashews and sesame seeds. It smells magical and intoxicating, like some sort of dessert out of a fairytale! Brewing it makes it headier, with added notes of one of my favorite flowers ever, the glorious night blooming moonflower (the one in the datura family, seriously, go sniff one of these) with a touch of freshly baked buttery poundcake.

The tea itself smells so sweet, like flowery nectar and creamy nutty dessert, it is intense and decadent. That taste doesn't disappoint! Immensely thick mouthfeel and an aftertaste that lasts for an eternity, these fantastic qualities are joined by strong notes of peony flowers, magnolia, honeysuckle, orange blossom, orchid, iris, and a bit of lilies with a strong finish of clover honey drizzled sesame seeds. The aftertaste is a strong orchid and peony taste that truly does stick around for quite a while. This is such a deliciously decadent Dancong, with some serious resteeping stamina, so I can keep satisfying that sweet craving! I think I am going to have to buy this in bulk because it might be my new favorite!

On to the next tea! Traditional Dung Ting, The aroma of this moderately roasted Oolong is delicious! It smells like honey dipped roasted peanuts and toasted chestnuts, it is the perfect level of roast where it maintains that intense sweetness but gets that wonderfully nuttiness and toasted bread notes that drive me wild. I really like this level of roast for the warmer times of year, heavy roasted Oolongs just scream autumn and winter to me, so I tend to only drink them then, but this level is great for all year!

Last night, when I was painting, I was hit with a powerful craving for a roasty toasty session, so I dug into this tea and it was a perfect accompaniment to my immensely frustrating painting project (blasted Mortis Engine/Coven Throne kitbash, so spindly) it kept me chill while the desire to scream bloody murder at my miniature increased! The taste is wonderfully soothing, buttery sweet marzipan and toasted sesame with a side of toasted chestnuts, it is a very nutty sweet Oolong. Later steeps bring out a gentle floral note of honeysuckle and distant wisteria, giving it a late summer feel. I kinda want to get a camp stove and drink this out in a forest at just the beginning of autumn, it has that feel to it, the kind of tea you want to drink once the air starts to get a slight chill in the evening. As always, Golden Tea Leaf impresses me with their tea!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chai Chun: Darjeeling Oolongs, A Tea Review

I was up all night painting undead horses, and you know, I am ok with that! Slowly progressing through my Malignant box, the Hexwraiths honestly seems like the easiest thing in that box to paint, especially compared with my ridiculously fragile Mortis Engine/Coven Throne kitbash. Truly though, I love painting skeletons, you can just do so much with bones, make them all weathered and old, covered in crusty rot, you can even have a red skeleton if you feel so inclined!

Recently Chai Chun sent me a mountain of teas from India, dividing them up on how I wanted to review them on the blog has been a challenge, so I decided to start out with all the Oolongs! Sadly not all of these are on their website, but I am sure if you message them you can get your hands on any that tickle your fancy. Starting out with Glenburn Oolong, the aroma of this Oolong is sweet and muscatel, blending honey and grapes with a touch of sweet peach juice and malt. It smells similar to an Oriental Beauty (not surprising since a lot of people compare Oriental Beauty to Darjeeling) with a slightly heavier oxidation, making it also similar to a second flush.

To be a real pain, I decided to Gongfu all of these, because I really like Darjeeling teas when they are brewed that way (granted Western style is also good, but I have so many gaiwans...) The taste is really refreshing! Crisp and sweet apples and barely ripe apricots blend with orange blossoms and white grapes, and a touch of honey at the finish. The mouthfeel is smooth while being crisp, light and quite bright, with a gently lingering aftertaste. I really like the orange blossom notes on this one, but I am a sucker for all things orange blossom.

Next on the adventure is Poobong Oolong, the aroma is quite sweet, with notes of orange blossom (am I detecting a tasty theme?) thick juicy apricots, cashews, and pears. It has a slightly more roasted nutty aroma which gives it an extra sweet heaviness.

Ok, so this one is my favorite, just going to say that now, I ended up messaging my mom when I was drinking it raving about how good it tasted! The taste combines notes of dried mango, cooked pears, cashew butter, and scuppernong grapes into a thick and very sweet dessert of a tea. Luckily for me this tea has decent longevity, I was able to get seven solid steeps out of it, really it surprised me how sweet it was, it tastes just like dried fruit and if you handed me this tea I would suspect it was steeped with dried fruit...but since I brewed it I know it is just the leaves.

Onward to Balasun Ecstasy First Flush Oolong, an Oolong that is completely different from the other Oolongs in this bunch! I have seen debates that a first flush black tea is really more correctly categorized as an Oolong, and I can see some reasoning behind that, especially when comparing it to an actual first flush Oolong. The aroma is crisp and green, with lettuce and celery notes combining with apricot skin, white grapes, and a delicate plumeria blossom finish.

This is definitely a refreshing Oolong! Strong notes of hay and lettuce, honey and white grapes, and a nice nectar sweetness of plumeria at the finish. It is so crisp and fresh, it caught me by surprise a bit, especially since it is more on the savory side rather than immensely sweet. Drink this Oolong if you need to be woken up in the mouth and need refreshing!

Lastly is Giddapahar Oolong, Giddapahar Estate is a long time favorite of mine, so trying the Oolong was a treat! This is a fun one, the aroma being a touch herbaceous and hemp like, with strong notes of toasted chestnuts and cooked apricots with a potent raisin finish. It is very aromatic and intense!

This one also surprised me, being strongly oxidized and roasted, with strong notes of grilled apricots and mineral, golden raisins, hemp, and malt. It was like the lovechild of a yancha and an autumn flushed Darjeeling, not something I really thought I would experience,  but I liked it! The long lingering aftertaste of honey and raisins was probably my favorite aspect, but the robustness of the overall taste was quite good.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Tea Runners Tea Club: July Tea Box, A Tea Review

Bah, my luck is rubbish, RUBBISH! My Hour of Devastation bundle arrived today and blah, I didn't pull anything good, true I did get a bunch of the cheap commons and a cheap rare I wanted, but nothing that was worth more than a dollar so the expensive cards I have a hard time justifying buying for myself will have to wait. Out of ten packs, I was expecting to get something! Worst bundle ever!

Today I am looking at the July Tea Box from Tea Runners a somewhat new company that bills itself as the 'World's Finest Tea Club' which is quite the claim, so let us see how it stacks up to the competition. For $25 a month you get four pouches of loose leaf tea with enough to make 30-50 cups of tea, the tea seems to be a range combining both flavored and pure teas. Looking at the teas they have offered in the past and this month, this club seems good for those in the beginner to mid-range levels of tea obsession. For someone (like me) who prefers pure teas you drink gongfu cha, or has very specific types of tea they want, this club might not be the best fit. It is harder to make a club for us picky tea snobs, so far I have only found the one that I wanted to stick with long term. I will say that I really liked the packaging, the box looks like a briefcase and it is slim enough to fit in my mailbox was awesome. The actual tea pouches are full of useful information, including caffeine content, steeping (western only) original providers, and origin of tea, plus they are resealable and are thick enough to keep smells in and not contaminating other teas.

The first tea I pulled out of the box to try was the Mystic Mint, an organic blend from Rishi Tea made from peppermint, cardamom, licorice, essential basil and clove leaf oil. Long time readers probably know by now my love/hate with mint, I like mint in moderation, it needs to not overwhelm and usually, I prefer it to be very mild. Most the time in blends I don't get this and it makes me cranky, feeling like I sniffed and drank a glacier. The aroma of this blend is in fact very minty, my sinuses are clear now for sure, there are also notes of mild cardamon and cloves with a bit of herbaceous basil and sweet licorice, mostly though you get mint.

I discovered the best way to deal with mint blends being too strong is to cold steep it, so in the morning I popped this in my fridge and then drank it before bed. The taste is cooling and minty, but it is not overpowering, yay! Strong notes of cardamon and sweet licorice blend with tingly clove for a really soothing drink that manages to be cooling but not unpleasantly so, thanks in part to the warming sensation of the clove. I am glad that I liked this blend, it had been on my list to try from Rishi for a while since it looked like it would be good to sip when I have a belly ache, so add this to the short list of minty teas I like.

Next up is the Dragon Claw Oolong, an Oolong from Nepal (wooo, love my teas from Nepal!) from Tea Runners, there are two teas in the set where they do not list the source, but I have a theory this is from Nepali Tea Traders, and I hope I am right because when my pouch is empty I am going to want more. This is my one problem with tea clubs, if I find a favorite a lot of times that is it, no more for me. The aroma of this tea is pretty amazing, grapes and toasted hazelnuts with an undertone of malt are the dominant notes, it does not smell like any Oolong I have sniffed, making it truly unique.

As expected, I gongfu'd this tea, and holy moly does it go the distance! I got fifteen steeps out of this tea and I was completely ok with that, usually, Nepali teas go for about half that long, so I was not prepared, but it was awesome. The taste is intense, strong sweet nutty notes with apricots and grapes, an undertone of malt, and a bright crisp mouthfeel. It reminded me of a roasted Oolong crossed with a Nepali black tea and wow is it delicious.

On to next tea, one I was not really looking forward to trying, American Tea Room's Organic Bliss, a blend of green and white tea with dragonfruit, lemongrass, kiwi, raspberries, natural flavors, and sugar. Nothing about this blend seems appealing to me, except maybe the dragonfruit. I don't like flavored teas, at all, they taste and smell like candy (even if it is natural flavoring) and I just do not want that in my tea. Flavored teas notoriously give me headaches, and if I am particularly unlucky act as migraine triggers (much like perfumes, cleaning agents, and anything with a potent smell.) and it seems the older I get the less tolerant I am of it. But if you like tea that smells like strawberry lollipops and sweet fruity jam, you will probably like this tea.

In fairness I did try this tea instead of running in terror, I cold steeped it because I find it makes it easier for me to tolerate if it is cold. Granted I should point this out for posterity, I do tolerate chocolate, vanilla, and nutty flavored things more, I am not a fan of fruit flavored things, even candy, so the flavoring on this tea could be fantastic, I just absolutely loathe fruit flavored things. So, it is not really a surprise that this tea is not for me, it tastes of fruit candy, borders between sweet and sour, and has a light and refreshing base tea flavor. I will be foisting the rest of this pouch off on my housemate who loves this style tea and will probably drink it all very quickly.

The last tea might have been my favorite, it is in strong competition with the Oolong, Black Gold Biluochun (or as one of my IG followers misread it, Black God Erebus, MTG reference for the win) I love golden Biluochun, I pretty much burn through my stash of this tea whenever I have it, it is one of my favorite Dianhongs for sure. The aroma is sweet and malty with strong notes of molasses and roasted peanuts, there is just a hint of yam in this one as well, but mostly this goes into the molasses and peanut category.

This tea is quite tasty, everything I expect from a fuzzy golden Biluochun, a thick mouthfeel, sweet lingering aftertaste, notes of molasses, peanuts, malt, and a bit of cocoa, overall it is quite good! You can tell I thought it was quite good because my pouch is almost empty, because this stuff never sticks around! It lasts for quite a while too, getting ten solid steeps and a couple really light ones, so I do not feel too sad that it is running out.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, July 14, 2017

JK Tea: Jin Jun Mei and Mi Lan Xiang Dancong, A Tea Review

Yesterday, while taking a break from taking care of Ben, I went for a walk around the yard to find any interesting basing bits for the miniature I was painting. While out hunting for bits, I found a skull!! It is a really perfect squirrel skull, including the lower jaw and all the teeth (though one fell out and will have to be glued in) and the best part is it is mostly clean. I have it in a box with holes on the porch and letting buggies pick the rest of the bits off and in a couple weeks, I should have a nice shiny new skull for my desk!

Today I am looking at a pair of teas from JK Teas, two of my favorite kinds of teas so looking at them is a treat for me. Starting right off with the hong cha, their Jin Jun Mei, the Fujian golden eyebrows of happiness. The aroma of the delicate leaves is super yammy, this is such a sweet potato pie tea. complete with sweet marshmallows and starchy crust. I love how much this smells like sweet potato pie, though it is making me hungry.

As I suspected from the aroma, the taste is very sweet and full of starchy sweet potato goodness. There is, of course, more to this tea than just sweet potato pie, there is a touch of cocoa and malt, with a rich honey sweet finish. A smooth mouthfeel and lingering aftertaste, this became a bit of a morning favorite for me, especially since the taste is not super strong, it is light and distinct, and lately I have been waking up with a splitting headache so a tea on the more subtle nuanced side has been what I have been in the mood for. If you like your hong cha to be a sweet potato adventure and not be super robust then definitely get this one!

Next up is Imperial Mi Lan Xiang Phoenix Dancong, the most iconic of the various Dancongs is Mi Lan Xiang or Honey Orchid Scent. The aroma is very heady, a tiny bit of roast with a lot of flowers and fruit. Strong notes of orchid and plumeria with apples and grapes, it smells crisp and very sweet, I decided to just sit and sniff the tea leaves for a long time before steeping them.

The taste is juicy! This is one of the reasons I really enjoy this style of tea, at the beginning, there is a tiny bit of a roast taste, but that fades very quickly to thick sweet pear, apple, and grape juice with intense heady orchid and plumeria nectar. I feel like a butterfly or hummingbird when drinking this tea, it is elegant and soothing. I really enjoyed it (spoilers, I am actually drinking it another session while writing this, I felt inspired) and think it is an excellent example of Mi Lan Xiang.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.