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.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tillerman Tea: A Trio of Taiwanese Teas, A Tea Review

Those who follow my antics on Instagram have seen my slowly growing collection of Age of Sigmar Grand Alliance Undead, with the big piece being my converted Mortis Engine/Coven Throne that I have named the Mortis Throne. I love this model, it is beautiful, but painting it is nightmarish! Makes the Ma'al Drakar the Dragon Tyrant look tame, mostly because it is fairly spindly and the points of contact between pieces is not as big or interlocking as I prefer. I am certain I am going to have the whole thing fall apart before I am done painting it, or if I breathe on it too strongly! In hindsight, I should have done a bit of pinning, though not sure how that would have worked with the floating spirits at the top.

Recently Tillerman Tea sent me three of their new teas, which I found exciting since I really have enjoyed their other teas, so without further ado, let us get into it! Starting with Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Spring 2017, it is well known how much I adore SLX, it is possibly one of my favorite mountains to get tea from. The aroma of this one is pretty amazing, combining honeysuckle, plumeria, gardenia...and an unmistakable aroma of lemon cheesecake that took me by surprise! It smells so good, like eating dessert next to a bouquet of flowers, it is heady and very sweet!

I have had a couple sessions with this tea since the sample arrived and I still feel like I cannot give it a proper description, it is one of those teas that is more an experience than a set of tasting notes. It is a subtle tea, never overwhelming with its tastes, they are balanced and delicate while being distinct. Notes of crisp vegetation, blooming summer flowers, sugar cane, and a creamy sweet sesame nuttiness. One thing that really struck me was the unique mouthfeel, like a lot of Gaoshan Oolongs it is smooth and very thick, but it also has a crispness that left my mouth very refreshed. I really enjoyed this tea, it was wonderfully sublime and definitely required my full attention.

Next up is Wen Shan Bao Zhong Spring 2017, I had the Winter 2016 and was quite enamored with it, this one is exciting because it has a slight roast to it, usually, Bao Zhongs are the greenest Oolongs you can get, so any amount of roasting sets it apart. The aroma is a blend of sage, orchid, hyacinth, lilies, and a wonderful mellow note of buttery sesame seeds. I love that tiny bit of a buttery nutty note from the roast, it adds a layer of depth I am not used to in a Boa Zhong.

I drank this one last night, expecting a normal vibrantly green BZ (having not looked at the website before drinking) and I ended up staying up til 5 am painting and chugging this tea. The combination of the oh so familiar notes of hyacinth and lily with a hint of herbaceous sage and thyme (love when BZs are more than just a flower pile) with a thick buttery sesame seed and toast finish that stole my heart. This one might be my favorite BZ, mostly because it is very obviously a BZ but has differences that make it really exciting, plus killer longevity, this tea did not want to quit!

Lastly Organic Chingjin 'Red' Oolong Autumn 2016, one of my favorite ever style teas, Hong Shui! Hong Shui (aka Red Water) is an Oolong that has been usually lightly roasted (I have had some with a higher roast) but has a higher oxidation than the greener Oolongs. I like to think of Hong Shui as being the true midpoint between Oolongs and Black teas, especially if they are only lightly roasted, they are truly delicious. The aroma of this tea is soooo good, notes of almond, oatmeal, plum pie (ok with the plum pie and oatmeal I am going to say this is officially cobbler) and an immensely sweet honey finish.

All of you should at this point be glad that you are not around when I am tasting these teas, because sometimes I get loud with my happy taste noises. This tea has one of my favorite ever tasting notes, orange blossoms! Strong notes of orange blossom dance with plum cobbler, almonds, and thick warm honey. Combine that with a very smooth and thick mouthfeel and you have a tea that borders on being a dessert. The rest of my sample is probably going to be annihilated quite quickly and I will need to get more, especially since steeping this tea grandpa style while painting is one of my favorite ways to consume it. I can't really pick a favorite out of these three, they were each unique and very delicious examples of their genre and were immensely enjoyable experiences.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tea and Mana, A Magic The Gathering Tea Fusion, Part Four: Clans or Wedges

It is time, once again, to combine Magic the Gathering and Tea in my very silly series pairing tea with mana colors. This time I am looking at the Wedges or as they are more commonly known as cycles from Apocalypse....ok no, no one uses those terms anymore, now we use the various names of the clans from the Khans of Tarkir. I admit it took me a while to write this one because I have very mixed feelings on Tarkir, Khans of Tarkir is one of my favorite settings in Magic, but then Ugin ruined everything and covered everything in dragons, thus making the plane terrible. This is the first time where my saying 'dragons make everything better' failed me, and that saddens me. I love Ugin (as long as his mouth is closed, so condescending!) and the dragon lords, but wish their existence had not ruined one of my favorite planes! That is why this pairing is not going to focus on the dragons (and not because I forgot to put Atarka into my cart during my last Card Kingdom order!) and focus on the clans.

White-Black-Green Abzan Houses

Endurance! That is the Dragon Aspect of this clan, and it is fitting for the people who live in the desert. Family and reliance on the community is very important to them, seriously, it is the main thing about their society, and they take the bonds of blood and chosen family very serious. One thing about their culture that really stood out to me is their Kin Tree, since they live in the desert trees are a big deal, each family has their own tree and the first-born child is responsible for its safety, when a member of the family dies they are buried under the tree, pretty awesome symbolism. Of course, this is Magic so there is more to it than symbolism! These honored ancestors' spirits can be called upon during battle and the tree's resin can be a powerful artifact. Since they are rather efficient at war, they end up with a bunch of spirits of the slain, they can use these malevolent spirits as a weapon which is seriously awesome. Their culture was loosely inspired by the Ottoman Turks. This was a complicated one, I wanted a tea that reflects their attention to family and legacy, so I picked a green tea, but sadly picking green does lose the desert association, but I stand by my decision of Gu Zhu Zi Sun, a Chinese green tea that was described by Lu Yu as being one of his favorites. Now that is a tea with some serious history! If you want to channel the Abzan but don't have this kinda hard to get tea, you can always go for Gunpowder Green (and hey, desert association!) but since I don't really like it I didn't have any on hand.

Blue-Red-White Jeskai Way

This clan's Dragon Aspect is Cunning, and fun fact, this would be Ben's color set. These are the warrior monks, the mystics, the martial arts masters...ok this one is a bit of an obvious Wuxia pastiche. They spend their lives devoted to training and meditation, working towards their enlightenment and purity of self. I will be honest, I find this clan really boring, they don't really do anything new or exciting, relying too heavily on the Wuxia tropes they draw on, being very heavily inspired by Shaolin Monks and you can really tell. Don't get me wrong, I love Wuxia, a lot, I was just hoping they would add something new to the genre other than magical creatures. I decided to use Nepal Silver Needle for this clan, I feel that the core idea of perfecting self and purity is beautifully reflected in this tea, it is one of the few teas that I would drink if I meditated and certainly puts me into a very relaxed yet focused state.

Black-Green-Blue Sultai Brood

My favorite clan's Aspect is ruthlessness, though really I would re-label it as decadence. Their leader, Tasigur, is pictured slouching on his throne, covered in bling, eating fruit out of a zombie which has been turned into a fruit bowl. Fruit bowl zombies are a thing that needs to happen! They have this whole thing with zombies, using them for labor (like pulling their treasure cruises), filling up their fetid jungle swamps, and of course using them to deliver food...yes friends, they are the token evil group...because it is impossible to have a primarily black aligned group or person without them being evil, and yes I am exactly as bitter as I sound...hmph. Anyway, my problems with storytelling aside, this clan is kinda terrible, awesome aesthetics aside, they a cruel hedonistic bunch that thrives on constant infighting, it is no surprise that Tasigur betrayed the other clans to the dragonlords, and then no surprise when Tasigur was turned into a dragon necklace. Their real-world analog is the Khmer Empire, and you can tell from the art they really went all in with the inspiration.  Since this clan is all about decadence and hedonism (and fruit) I decided to pick Gui Fei for them, this immensely fruity sweet, usually rather expensive, tea is perfect, it is the tea I go to when I am feeling particularly hedonistic and think that Tasigur would love drinking it out of a skull cup (as would I, and I need a skull cup)

Red-White-Black Mardu Horde

The Mardu's aspect is speed, but really everything about the Mardu is overshadowed by Sarkhan Vol, its most famous member who decided that dragons were the best thing ever, killed his own men during a battle, became a planeswalker, ended up a pawn of Bolas, and after one conversation with Ugin realized that the dragon he so desired to worship was inside him all along. It is like a 90s cartoon message but terrible. The Mongol Mardu Horde...ok no, that is who their analog is, are horse-riding warriors who live for the thrill of battle and conquest! They live by the edicts of Ilagra: To Conquer is to Eat, To Rule is to Bleed, and Victory or Death and wow does that ever sum them up, I find them, much like their real-world counterparts, to be very fascinating, if not a bit harsh. Their tea needed to be a strong hei cha, since they are inspired by Mongolia, I wanted to use a tea that could make Suutei Tsai, or salted milk tea which is the drink in Mongolia, granted I cannot get a straight answer if the tea used is black as in hong cha or black as in hei cha, but since it is usually a brick I took the liberties of using my hei cha.

Green-Blue-Red Temur Frontier

The Temur bring the aspect of savagery, and they might be my favorite, in very close competition with the Sultai. They fascinate me, being nomadic shamans living in a cruel arctic, they have to be savage or they die. They are able to speak to frozen (literally) memories, living simultaneously in the past as well as the now. Like the Abzan, they are very family oriented and it shapes a large portion of the way their culture works, the leader of the clan is considered a member of all families and is called the First Mother/Father, so that gives you a brief idea of how important family structure is. Their real-world inspiration is the shamanic cultures in Siberia. For their tea I wanted to focus on their connection with the past, so I picked an aged white. One, because it is aged, and two because white tea usually has a cooling Qi which fits their domain.

So those are the Clans/Wedges, next I will be looking at the shards and probably closing out this series! Though I am sorely tempted to do a post on pairing regions of Dominaria to tea, but that seems ridiculous.

Part one
Part two
Part three