Monday, January 30, 2017

Story of My Tea: Tea Club, A Review

You know what is really annoying? Having a Minecraft world you have been working on go corrupted, and since it is modded I for some reason cannot figure out how to load a backup save, and here I finally figured out how to automate everything, and sort my 21K bones from my mob grinder. Only one thing to do, startov....wait a minute. OMG I fixed it! Oh, that is a giant sigh of relief, that was a huge amount of work almost lost.

Today I am looking at the Story of My Tea monthly tea box, they are putting in the last few days of their Kickstarter and sent me a preview box, but before I get into the individual teas themselves, let me first say that I think it is very cool that they are wanting to include teas that are not in the ordinary. I have looked at a lot of tea clubs, and the majority of them have the same old blends or 'common' teas, so after a while they all kinda look the same, with tea clubs being so prevalent now you need a gimmick to stand out in the crowd, especially if you want a larger audience.

So the first tea from the box I looked at was the Ya Bao, a white (maybe, some debate as to it being technically a puerh) tea (also maybe, there is debate that it is Camellia taliensis instead of sinensis but that is opening up a really big can of worms, for my purposes it is a white tea.) I love Ya Bao, to me it is the very epitome of winter, the combination of cedar and pine notes, cooling qi, and overall sweet crispness, it reminds me of walks in a snowy pine forest. Plus the buds kinda look like frosted pinecones, which is what I have for years affectionately called them.

I was able to go many steeps with this one, which is good, because my biggest complaint with most Ya Bao is a lack of longevity. This is a classic Ya Bao, stong cooling sensation mixed with cedar wood and sage with undertones of peach that get stronger with later steeps. It is light in flavor and crisp in mouthfeel, exactly what I want in this style tea. If you are not a fan of gongfu-ing this tea is pretty fantastic bowl style, never getting bitter only sweeter with the longer time in the water.

The next tea out of the box is a Japanese green, Iccha Kariban, since the tea box is in its beta state it does not have the epic long write up accessed by scanning the QR code on the package like the Ya Bao, but I know from a bit of digging around that this green comes from Kagoshima. The aroma of this tea is savory and nutty, with undertones of flowers. It is a blend of chestnut, sesame, cotton flowers, dandelion flowers and greens, and a touch of seaweed.

The packaging recommends different styles of brewing, so I decided to ice brew it, because cold tea in winter seemed like a good idea at the time (it totally was.) Using my fancy skull ice cube, I let the ice slowly melt and steep the tea, resulting in a very strong 'shot' of tea. It is an intense experience, strong savory seaweed and buttery spinach with a sweet aftertaste of chestnuts and gentle faint flowery note. If you brew this tea hot it is the exact opposite, sweet gentle fruity and flowery notes with a gentle celery leaf and lettuce crispness.

Margaret's Soother, an herbal blend of peppermint, clove, and licorice is the next pull from my box of teas. I am probably hardest on herbal blends more so than any other of the various things I steep, I like them to be made from weird random plant bits or be primarily flowers. I am not a huge fan of mint, but I love clove and licorice, though I did let out a sad sigh when I saw (and smelled) that mint was the dominant ingredient.

Brewing up a cup, I think the reason I am not a fan of mint is its sensation, I have always found it so intense that it is painful...I mean, I love mint ice cream or Andes mint chocolates, but mostly because they have the mint taste and not its icy-fiery gut explosion that feels like I swallowed Vapor Rub, it definitely triggers the over-stimulation response in me. The mint is definitely strong, with a gentle warmth from the cloves and naturaly sweetness and thick mouthfeel from the licorice. Overall I like the idea of this blend, but if I were to drink it again I would probably quadruple the amount of licorice and only have a hint of the mint.

Next is Dark Rose, a Hunan heicha compressed into a heart and blended with roses...I do love me some rose themed teas! Years ago I reviewed this same tea, I believe at the time it was my first not Puerh Heicha and I steeped it western style...I was kinda meh on it at the time. Giving it a sniff it smells like I remember, a rose garden in summer right after the rain, not the strong earthiness of a shou but more the earthy notes you get from some black teas, with rose being the dominant note.

I decided to gongfu it this time, and that was a good call, it was a lot more nuanced and tasty this way, so I recommend that method even if you kinda lose the effect of wathcing the heart change shape while steeping. I think this could be a good intro to the world of fermented teas, it has the warming, earthy quality of a shou (though again, not nearly as earthy) but also the rich chocolate and molasses sweetness of a hongcha, and of course the added flowery sweetness of rose is always enjoyable. I was able to get six solid steeps from this tea before the rose faded away.

Lastly is the Shou Puerh Tuo Cha, I respect a tea club for adding both a heicha and a shou, but I will be honest, I was afraid....I have never had  little tuo cha that tasted good, for a couple years I avoided shou because the strong wo dui I encountered in an early experiment with a cheap shou tuo left me with the worst migraine...turns out it was just poorly made shou that gives me a migraine, not the good stuff, for while I am infinitely thankful. The aroma of the tuo is promising, nice earthy notes without any rank fishiness you can get in a tuo, yay!

I went several steeps with this tea, it is pretty good! Nice rich earthy wet loam and wet wood with undertones of molasses and dark chocolate. It starts light and builds to a richness that sticks around for several steeps. Had I started out all those years ago with a shou like this instead of the garbage tuo I got my hands on I would have been a lot happier! This is a great intro to shou, maybe not the best ever for the hardcore cake hoarders, but as an introduction or just an everyday kinda tea it is a good choice! I am curious to see what teas this club offers in the future!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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