Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Golden Tea Leaf: Pine Oolong, A Tea Review

Ben is talking to Rita on the phone, she is still off in South America doing PeaceCorp stuff, so days she has free to talk are always awesome. Their conversation about African culture (especially pre-16th century) got me on a side tangent researching Ancient African written languages. This, in turn, led me to the city of Meroe of Kush in what is modern day Sudan. I had forgotten they existed, having learned of them back as a kid when I was obsessed with Egypt (add that to the list of dream careers I had, Egyptologist) They were a fascinating civilization, definitely Egypt's biggest fan, at least for a while, eventually they decided to have their own written language and distinct culture. The link above is a really good intro primer on the rise and fall of Meroe, and if you have an interest I say give it a read, because learning history is the best.

Today I am looking at Golden Tea Leaf's Pine Oolong, which you can find on their website and on Amazon. A nice green mountain Oolong grown in Nantou, surrounded by pine trees, which is why it is named Pine Oolong, now you might have noticed that this tea is in a sachet. I am a known teabag loather, but if the tea is quality and stuffed in a sack where the leaves can expand, I am good. Sometimes I like the convenience of either cold brewing or gongfuing a tea and just tossing the sack when I am done. Apropos of nothing, a random thunderstorm just formed overhead and we might get hail, fun! Anyway, the aroma of the leaves is lovely, the aroma reminds me of marzipan and halva, blending sweet almonds and sweet sesame with a fruity undertone and a finish of honeysuckles. You know me and my love of sweet and nutty oolongs, I am mildly addicted to them, especially this time of year.

I decided to brew this tea two ways, the first was tossing it in my teapot and brewing it gongfu style. The aroma of the wet leaves is so sweet and nutty, definite marzipan with undertones of crushed vegetation and sugar cane. The liquid is sweet too, very strong marzipan and honeysuckles with underlying crushed vegetation and sugar cane.

I was able to get many steeps out of this little bag of leaves, and they were good, sweet, steeps with a smooth mouthfeel and long lasting aftertaste. The taste is sweet marzipan, strong notes of almonds and honey drizzled sesame seeds blend with sugar cane, caramelized sugar, and a finish of gentle honeysuckle. Later steeps get a bit of a green quality, but it is very light, so those who like green oolongs but don't want a mouth full of vegetal or crushed vegetation this is a good choice.

Since it has been warm here, I decided to also cold steep a sachet and this was a good idea. I think I just discovered the tea I am going to be cold steeping the most come summertime. I find that cold steeping Oolong can get you a weaker cup than if you steep it normally, but the subtle flavors present are both very refreshing and sweet, and since this tea was already pretty sweet it is no surprise that it continues to be so. When cold steeped I found the floral notes to be more prominent, blending honeysuckle and lilac with undertones of sesame seeds and a touch of almonds. I think that I preferred the cold steep to hot, but it could have been I was really in the mood for something cold.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Tea In The City: Georgian Black Tea, A Tea Review

You may all proceed to laugh at me, I have started yet another modpack, this one is all magic theme (again) but also has realistic terrain generation and streams, giving it a surprisingly realistic feel. In a perfect world this modpack won't lag to death and I can actually get some long term play out of it. It is really all I want, a modpack where I can play on survival for a bit, experience the different mods, then flip to creative and build all the epic castles. The draw of chisel blocks and lots of unique decorations keep drawing me back to modded rather than just going back to playing on xbox.

Today seems to be a Tea In The City day, I got my package of Rosebay Willowherb from them in the mail, decided to make my first tea their Ruby Black, and so decided that I would review one of their teas to keep the theme. Georgian Black Tea, from the city of Ozurgeti, near the Black Sea, I cannot recommend reading the website for this tea enough, it touches on the history of tea in this region and the history of Georgia in general, and learning history is always recommended. I have been fascinated by the country since I was a kid (living in the other Georgia) where I was assigned it as a country to do a report on, and of course, me being me, I ended up doing a ton of research and having to abridge my research when I turned it in. I don't remember if tea was mentioned in my report or research, but I was 8 and not really tuned into that yet. The aroma of this tea is wonderful, it is a very aromatic tea, from the first instance of opening its pouch I was greeted with notes of plums, papaya, coconut milk, and a woody quality. It is very sweet and fruity while having a creamy aspect as well as a bit of freshly baked sugar cookies, in short, it smells delicious.

I agonized on how to brew this tea, having brewed past teas I had from Georgia western style, I really wanted to try this one in the gaiwan. The aroma of the wet leaves is very sweet and woody, notes of stewed plums and coconut milk with cocoa shells and a touch of ripe persimmons, very fruity with just a hint of tannin. The liquid is very sweet, notes of plums and persimmons with a touch of cocoa and woodiness, the slightly tannic note of oak wood balances out the sweetness keeping it from being a straight dessert tea.

Oh, this tea is delicious! It starts strong with a smooth mouthfeel and no dryness at all, I was half expecting it to have a touch of briskness with the woody aroma, but nope, all smooth all the time. The taste is wonderful, strong notes of chocolate and sugar cookies with papaya, plums, and persimmons with a surprisingly peaches drizzled in honey finish. This is one of the fruitiest black teas I have come across, with a long lingering aftertaste of cocoa and honey. One complaint about this tea is it lacks in longevity, even when I tried brewing the rest of my sample Western style you only get a solid single steep. Brewing gongfu I got a few more steeps, but they were very weak in taste, however, they were immensely sweet, so I kept refilling the gaiwan until that was totally gone getting me a couple more steeps. I think, if I was in a situation where I only had time in the morning for a single steep of a fantastic tea, this would be my choice, I love teas that are naturally very sweet and this tea is that!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Origins Tea: Four Seasons Oolong, A Tea Review

It is quite cold today, after a period of warmth waking up (having left the windows open, of course) to a shocking blast of chilly air and snow flurries was a surprise. Thankfully my heated blanket is dry, so the cold is not a bother.

Today I am looking at Origins Tea's Four Season Oolong, a tea that I love but tend to ignore in favor of other Oolongs. Sadly this is because when I was first exploring Taiwanese Oolongs (trying to find the one that started the obsession as a teenager) I found a bag of it at a local Asian mall and it was nasty. Something about that experience seemed to knock that tea from my brain until it is right in front of me, then most the time I drink it and I am very happy I did. The aroma of this one is pleasantly sweet, notes of sweet bread, yeast, hyacinth, snap peas, and a delicate fruity apricot quality round out a delightful sniff. Though when I was sniffing it a leaf, damp from my breathing all over it, stuck to the tip of my nose and it made me laugh.

The wet and slow to unfurl (but very colorful as they do) leaves is green and starchy, snap peas with yeast, rice and a touch of hyacinth. It has a crispness to it that I find very refreshing in my nose, similar to what I describe as an 'alpine aroma' in some Shan Lin Xi Oolongs, being green, a touch cedar needles, and that wonderful smell of high mountain air on a chilly day. The liquid is crisp and green, notes of alpine air, hyacinth, snap peas, and broken vegetation (like the smell of falling in a flower bed and crushing the leaves...oops)

Tasting the tea gives a mellow beginning, in taste and mouthfeel. It is very smooth and not mouth coating, but I do find the smoothness very refreshing, like this is an Oolong I would want after a heavy meal. The taste is sweet, gentle hyacinth and snap peas blend with a finish of yeasty bread. The aftertaste is a gentle crushed vegetation.

Steep two brings in the thickness, and it also brings in a stronger flavor profile. Strong notes of crushed vegetation and hyacinth with a slight tulip taste as well. Towards the end the taste picks up a spicy lily taste along with a yeasty fresh bread note. It has a lingering aftertaste of sweetness and lilies.  This Oolong definitely falls in the delicate spectrum, even with an increase in strength it is still quite light.

Later steeps become sweeter while also taking on a greener tone, it is fascinating that it can be such a green Oolong while also being sweet, like sugar cane and flower nectar with a tiny hint of apricot. This is a very mellow Oolong, conveniently for me while I was drinking the tea it was exactly what I was in the mood for.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Yunomi: Furyu Batabatacha, Rare Bancha Tea, A Tea Review

Today feels more like what I expect the end of February to feel like, cloudy and chilly with a feeling of impending drizzle that never quite delivers. Yesterday it was in the 70s, so I decided to hand-wash my heated blanket...I *embarrassingly* admit to needing to wash it a while ago, but not wanting to because I use it for pain management and was waiting for warmth, like yesterday. Of course, it is still not dry, and since it is a heated blanket I can't toss it in the dryer, so I am full of joint aches and cold. Granted I could close the windows, but I value fresh air more than warmth, plus it is only in the 50s so it is not that cold, I am just sensitive to temperatures...and enjoying the fresh air before the deathly heat of summer comes too soon.

Today's tea is a really fun one, Yunomi's Furyu: Batabatacha, Rare Bancha Tea, one of several Japanese dark teas offered by Yunomi, and a must try on my quest to try all the dark teas of Japan. This fermented tea (which looks a lot like a mulch pile) is harvested in Autumn and is a tea very important to the culture of Asahimachi Birudan of Toyama Prefecture. I could go into long winded detail on the history, fermentation, and production of this tea, but My Japanese Green Tea has already done that, so go give it a read, it is my favorite blog for all things Japanese tea! The aroma of the adorable mulch pile is filled with notes I love, wet leather, decaying pine needles, old wet wood, autumn air, forest floor, and a wet cedar trunk. It smells like what I imagine a forest cabin in the dense boreal forest of Canada would smell like, but maybe I have an overactive imagination. I feel like this is the kind of tea I want to sniff when playing D&D and my character is adventuring in the woods, it is an evocative thing!

So brewing this tea is...special. No short Gongfu or even long-ish western steeping for this one, nooo. You boil the leaves for a whopping ten minutes, I actually had to set a timer. Definitely make sure you add enough water (Yunomi recommends 2.5g to 500ml) because there will be evaporation, but you are going for a dense tea. The aroma of the wet leaves is rich, strong loam and wet cedar wood with a distinct milky quality. Not all fermented teas do this, but I absolutely LOVE when I run into one that smells kinda milky, specifically like a cup of warm whole milk but heated in a wooden cup. The liquid also has a milky quality, with warm wood, cedar, and a bit of distant sweetness.

So, after you boil this tea for what seems like forever, you need to whisk it using a fluffy long handled twin whisk, not very similar to a Chasen, more like the bamboo wok brush I used to use. Yunomi does sell them, but at the time of brewing my sample I did not have one, so I improvised with my Chasen, sadly the whisking did not get the vibrant white and very fluffy foam that the appropriate whisk does, alas. The taste is fantastic and weird, it starts with a bitter medicinal quality, a bit herbaceous and camphor with a slightly dry mouthfeel. Then it moves it sweet pine resin and a killer awesome thick milky aftertaste that lingers for a while. I have mentioned it before and will say it again, fermented teas do weird things to my body, and this one was no exception! When I started the cup...err bowl...I noticed a relaxing warmth flooding out from my belly into my limbs, and then by the time I had the bow empty I had the chills and sweats...I don't sweat, part of my body being weird, but it can be in the hundreds and I don't sweat (yes, this has caused me to suffer heat exhaustion more times than I would like to admit) the only time I do is when I am sick and my fever breaks or on weird occasions after drinking fermented tea. I have no idea if this is at all normal, but I don't find it unpleasant, in fact I felt rather invigorated and after I drank my bowl of tea I ended up with a ton of energy and reorganized my room...again. Next time I order from Yunomi I forsee myself getting more of this tea and a fancy whisk so I can really go authentic!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What-Cha: Taiwan 'Jin Xuan' Jasmine Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Sooo, spoilers and previews for Amonkhet have started, and I am far more excited than I have any right to be. Yes, I am excited for the mummies, Bolas, Egypt, and all that good stuff...but the thing that made me literally squeal like a happy parakeet...Liliana, The Manipulator of Death, gets her own Planeswalker deck! Gideon is the other Planeswalker deck, of course, I was hoping for a Liliana and Jace one, so Ben and I can be a pair of dorks, but I am so happy about the Liliana deck. Man, Amonkhet is going to eat up all my recreational budget for a while I think!! The hype is real, the computer background has already been changed, now I just have to wait very impatiently.

Today, on this beautiful spring day, I am looking at Taiwan 'Jin Xuan' Jasmine Oolong Tea from What-Cha. Now, long time readers might remember I have a very mixed relationship with jasmine, I love the flowers, I like teas that have been delicately scented, absolutely loathe flavored jasmine teas, and only moderately tolerate overly heady jasmine pearls. The sweet heady smell of jasmine reminds me of my childhood and the creeping Confederate Jasmine vines that would bloom outside my window, but as much as I love that flower in all its blooming intensity, in my tea I want it to be mellow. Usually, I find the pearls are way too strong, but scenting an Oolong could very well be the perfect balance of jasmine and tea flavors. The aroma of the leaves is wonderful, the jasmine is the dominant note, but it is the sweet note of the flowers just opening, not the headiness of a fully opened flower. Along with jasmine, there are notes of sugarcane, lilies, and a bit of a sweet cream and chestnut quality at the finish.

Gaiwan times for the leaves, used my flowery celadon one, because it seems fitting for a flowery tea. The aroma of the steeped leaves is very floral, but again it is not overwhelming, blooming flowers vs perfume. Notes of jasmine and lilies blend with rice milk, sweet cream, chestnut, and snap peas, it is very sweet and the tiny crisp note of peas at the finish makes the sweet not cloying. The aroma of the liquid is sweet, creamy notes blend with lilies, hyacinths, and of course jasmine.

The start is wonderfully delicate, starting with a full and smooth mouhfeel, the taste is gentle with subtle sweet cream and butter, crisp lettuce, and a sweet jasmine and lily note that for lack of a better word blooms into a wonderful intensity at the end of the sip. The sweet aftertaste of jasmine lingers for quite a while, I really like how the jasmine taste is more in the nose than on the tongue, very much the sensation of drinking tea next to a blooming jasmine than drinking the jasmine plant itself. It is a very important distinction to me.

This tea goes forever, never really altering its notes, only the intensity of the flowers, going from budding to bloom to finally closing at the end. I got a solid twelve steeps from this tea, and another four at the end where the jasmine had finally faded away. This tea was, in my opinion, the perfect amount of jasmine, I never felt as though I was being bludgeoned in the face with a flower or choking on heady perfume like I do with some, I very much so enjoyed being able to taste the Jin Xuan under the jasmine as well.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company. (I think, I legitimately cannot remember if this was part of my last order or sent along as a sample!)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nepal Tea: Silver Yeti, A Tea Review

The origami bug has bitten, and my fingers are getting back into practice folding. Every time I take a break from some craft that requires the use of my hands, it is a strange sensation to refamiliarize yourself with a once well-known set of movements. Tiny little protests in the fingers and wrists eventually give way to smooth movements and slowness gives way to speed. Of course it is also relevant in video games, nothing is as funny as the habit of expecting a key or button to do something, but you have switched to a different game so instead of crouching you hit the cliff you are standing on and of course fall off. Habits are hilarious.

Today I am looking at Nepal Tea's Silver Yeti, a Silver Needle tea from Nepal, one of my favorite regions for silver needle (and I love collection various silver needles from all over the world) it, along with Kenyan, Yunnan, and Fujian silver needles are the ones that cause me to go all grumpy when  my stash runs out. The aroma of the delicate little needles is a crisp blend of celery, lettuce, wildflowers, straw, peony flowers, and a touch of cedar which is very faint. I have often said (to anyone who is drinking this tea with me at the same time) that the aroma of Nepalese silver needles reminds me of a blend between a Fujian and a Yunnan, combining the best of both.

The aroma of the needles steeped in my clay teapot has a wonderful aroma of sweet straw, peony blossoms, wildflowers, and a gentle finish of cedar and honey. The liquid is wonderfully sweet, and pleasantly light, with notes of blossoming peony and honey with a finish of sweetgrass.

For those curious as to how I brew my silver needles, I use 195° (I swear I use other temperatures, though that being the default setting on my Zojirushi and also being the temperature I use the most is super convenient) and steep for a whopping 10 minutes...not sure it really counts as Gongfucha when I am steeping it that long, but oh well. White tea and occasional herbals are the only teas I give this treatment to, preferring shorter steeps (like 30 seconds maximum) for a first steep, I just find that Silver Needles (of excellent quality) can take a real beating. Of course,  the return from this kind of brewing results in an immensely sweet, wonderfully thick, and usually quite cooling powerful cup of tea. Starting with a strong honey and sweetgrass note, then moving to wildflowers and hay, and finishing with crisp celery and cedar. Leaving a wonderfully cooling Qi that blooms from my stomach into my lungs and arms, I love it...but teas with a notoriously cold Qi are my favorites.

The one sad thing about this brewing style is I tend to not get a lot of steeps out of it, true I can take it down to a more standard short steep and get a load of steeps, but the intense couple of steeps I get usually make it worth it. The second steep is mellow sweet honey and sweetgrass with a gentle peony finish. I really enjoyed this tea, and if you want to try it give their Kickstarter a back and choose it as a reward.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tillerman Tea: Wenshan Bao Zhong Winter 2016, A Tea Review

You know, if someone magically had the power to shoehorn me into eating one type of cuisine for the rest of my life, and that cuisine was Middle Eastern, I would be perfectly happy. That whole region has some of the best food...and this is from the person who eats a ton of other cuisines and considers myself a traveler of the world's food. Once a month I treat myself to a feast of this cuisine, luckily Kansas City has a lot of restaurants in this style, from a spectacular Persian restaurant, an award winning Greek, and a wonderful hole-in-the-wall Shawarma place right down the road (and a bunch more I have not tried yet) which has an amazing Shawarma over seasoned rice dish I am fond of. Of course, this has sparked a bit of debate, since Ben loves the Greek restaurant's Tzatziki and I am more partial to the local Shawarma place's, the big difference is they use more dill and a bit of mint which I think compliments the meat.

Today I am taking a look at an Oolong, that to me, is the epitome of spring time, in celebration of all the crocuses in the yard, a Wenshan Bao Zhong, this one from Tillerman Tea, their Winter 216. The aroma of the emerald twisty leaves is very sweet, notes of hyacinth, honeysuckles, and orchids, with undertones of buttery toast, lettuce, celery, and a surprising (but very welcomed) note of almond at the finish. I love the floral aspects of Bao Zhong, but my favorite is definitely when it has a touch of crisp green along with the flowers, it adds a bit of depth and makes the aroma more like a garden rather than just a pile of blossoms. That almond note though, that is fantastic and I really like it, nutty notes make me happy, but doubly so when mixed with spring flowers.

Into my yixing the leaves go and wow, the flowers are intense! Strong notes of honeysuckle and orchid blend with lilacs and hyacinth with a tiny touch of lily flowers. Underneath all those flowers is a bit of buttery cooked lettuce and cooked celery, adding a touch of green. The aroma of the liquid is sweet, notes of lilac and hyacinth with a touch of lettuce and a bit of fresh green sage to add an herbaceous note I love.

Ooh it starts quite smooth, no gentle build up, it starts strong with a buttery mouthfeel and full spring flower taste. Notes of hyacinth and lilies is how the first steep begins, then it moves to sage and celery with a touch of orchids. The finish is a wonderfully sweet honeysuckle and slightly herbaceous sage with a lingering aftertaste of butter and hyacinth.

On to the next steep, as I fight a battle with staying inside the house and not frolicking out in the first spring drizzle. This might be the lily-est Bao Zhong I have had, usually I find they go really heavy in the hyacinth and lilac note and only hints (if at all) but this one tastes and smells like a bouquet of my much loved Asiatic spicy lilies. Also, I note hints if peony flowers with strong buttery lettuce notes at the finish. The aftertaste is a clean celery and hyacinth note and it lasts a while, with several minutes later the spicy lily taste returns. I love the lilies so much. I was able to get several more flowery sweet and crisp green steeps out of this tea!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Origins Tea: Rose Oolong, A Tea Review

It seems as though it is already spring time, all week the weather has been warm and sunny, and my yard is full of crocuses! Granted the early spring brings sadness, because with warm weather comes aloof cats. Neither of my cats want to snuggle with me any longer, they want to stretch out in the window or whatever patch of sun they can find, and I don't blame them, I keep debating going outside with my tea...but then remember my favorite place is in my tea room and decide to just enjoy the open windows. Granted Midwest weather is always a strange thing, so we might get another weird May blizzard again.

Today I am looking at a tea that seems more at home during summer than spring, Rose Oolong from Origins Tea, a green Oolong blended and scented with roses. It is no secret by now that I am a huge fan of roses in my tea, and just roses in general, they bring back many happy childhood memories. The aroma blends gently nutty sweet notes of the Oolong with heady roses, making it smell very similar to rose marzipan, which is a dessert that needs to happen (maybe a weekend baking project for me!) It is very sweet while also being floral, luckily for those who only kinda like rose, it is not super strong, being like rose water in a dessert than a face full of a bouquet.

I decided to brew this tea in my serpentinite gaiwan, really to let those pink petals pop against the dark green stone. The aroma of the wet leaves does increase the rose, smelling like a rose garden in bloom with undertones of sesame, hyacinth, honeysuckle, and almond. It is both sweet and heady with a touch of green. The liquid is sweet and smooth, roses and honeysuckles mix with crushed vegetation and a touch of almonds and sesame seeds.

The first several steeps are all light in both mouthfeel and taste, it takes this tea a while to really show its stuff. This is good for those who don't want a ton of rose, as the first few steeps are fairly light in the rose taste, just adding a bit of sweetness and distant rose in the aftertaste. The majority of the first few steeps showcase the gentle sweet nuttiness and honeysuckle taste with undertones of crushed vegetation and a bit of lettuce.

Now around steep four the roses really decide to show up, taking up both the front and the end of each sip, with the midtaste being almonds, honeysuckles, and a touch of crushed vegetation. If you let the cup go cold the taste becomes sweeter, with a stronger lingering rose taste. I will definitely have to try cold steeping this tea when summer does come around, but with it being it the high seventies, why wait? I thought this tea was a great example of a rose tea that doesn't overshadow the underlying tea, which can be a serious problem sometimes.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quantitea: Gyokuro From Uji-Tawara, A Tea Review

Hey, guess what, Minecraft drama! I had just finished building one of my new bases in my new world and crash, and then crash again...and again. Looked at the info and from what I could glean from searching it is an error with my graphic card. Now, I hate to admit how incredibly tech stupid I am, but I have no idea how to fix that...so I am trying uninstalling and reinstalling the modpack (thus losing my builds...again...) and starting over, failing that I am done. I will go back to the Xbone with its boring blocks and just build like I always do while lusting after modded blocks like I have been doing for years. Poor pitiful me.

There are some teas I can drink all the time, and some I need to be in the right mood to truly appreciate, Puerh and Green Teas being the main culprits here. It is not really surprising with Puerh, since that is how I have always been with it, but with the greens it is a bit amusing, especially with Japanese greens. For years my favorite teas were the various Japanese greens, Genmaicha was my go-to feel good tea, various types of Sencha were my daily drinkers, and of course bowls of Matcha with wagashi were my special treats, within the past two years my tastes have changed and now I only drink them occasionally. Now don't get me wrong, I still love Japanese greens and get very excited for them when I am in the mood, like the tea I am writing about today, Quantitea's Gyokuro From Uji-Tawara. The tea is described as a gateway introduction to Gyokuro, and I am going to say this now...for a gateway Gyokuro, this is one of the best ones I have had! The aroma of the vibrant leaves is very savory, strong notes of fresh kelp, cooked spinach, soybeans, cut grass, cooked kale, bok choy, and lettuce. It is an explosion of green in my nose, all happily savory and evocative of sauteed fresh greens.

The aroma of the brewed leaves is so savory, makes my mouth water! Notes of kelp, toasted nori, sesame seeds, cooked spinach, bok choy, sauteed soybeans. It smells like stir fried veggies and I admit that anytime I sniff Gyokuro I find myself immensely hungry. The liquid is very savory, bordering on buttery with notes of kelp, nori, soybeans, bok choy and cooked spinach.

It starts with a fantastically thick and buttery soup like mouthfeel, my mouth is coated with a savory explosion. Notes of bok choy, toasted nori, kelp, spinach, soybeans,  and lettuce give this tea a strong umami quality. Now in typical Gyokuro fashion, this tea has a very sweet surprise, the midtaste does a very rapid transition from savory to a burst of sesame, sugarcane, and crisp snap peas, making for an immensely sweet finish. The aftertaste is a blend of sugarcane and very fresh cut grass, both of which last for quite a while. I really liked this tea, I was craving a Gyokuro when I tasted it and it delivered the desired Gyrokuro tastes and much more.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tea In The City: Rosebay Willowherb, A Tea Review

Happy day after Valentine's Day everyone, I spent the day of and day before hanging with Ben, like one does with their sweetheart. On the moments between mutual geeking, I was working on modifying a modpack, since I kept running into the problem of a really awesome modpack not having what I wanted. So I learned (and feel free to laugh at me) that duh, you can totally add or remove mods from a modpack (as long as it is for personal use of course) now the fun part is making sure you then don't break the pack. Which I did, several times, and I have a new found respect for modpack creators for sure!! I have simple needs, I just want Biomes o Plenty, Mo Creatures, all the Thaumcraft mods, Botania, Blood Magic, Metallurgy, Chisel, Rockhounding, ExtraUtilities, EnderIO, ChocolateQuest, Tinker's Construct, and JourneyMap...see, not that complicated at all.

Today's tea has become something really special to me, mostly because of what it is, Rosebay Willowherb from Tea In The City. This is a plant of many names and a rich history, known as Rosebay Willowherb in Great Britain, Chamerion augustifolium to the Botany crowd, Koporye Tea, Ivan Chai and Russian Tea in Russia (and other parts of Europe) and to me, it is known as Fireweed. This truly gorgeous flower prefers boreal forests (one of the reasons it is closely linked to Russia and Canada, they like the cold) and has been used by the indigenous people of that region for food and medicinal purposes since time immemorial. Not only is it a flower that likes the cold, a plant with many uses, and gorgeous, it can be processed and oxidized/fermented (some places list as ferment, I am honestly not sure if this is a translation error and it is just oxidized, or if it is mildly fermented as well) like tea. All of these aspects make it special, but what really made this tea steal my heart is familiarity, years ago I had the pleasure to work as a Naturalist in the boreal forest of northern Minnesota, where I saw this flower in its native habitat, so it brought back some very happy memories. The aroma of this beautiful pile of leaves and flowers is amazing, herbaceous leafy notes of parsley blend with elderflowers, ripe mulberries, raisins, dill flowers (very very light) and a heady sweet red wine note. It is very complex, just the right amount of sweetness to herbaceous ratio to keep the nose very enticed.

The first time I steeped this tea I brewed it in my glass teapot, but decided for the review I wanted to try drinking it gongfu style, good news is it is wonderful both ways, you really can't go wrong however you steep it. The brewed leaves and flowers are fascinating, strong notes of mulberry, elderberry and elderflowers, red wine (a bit of elderberry wine too) wildflowers, bee balm, parsley, and a bit of pollen. It is evocative of walks in the forest when these flowers are in bloom, I find myself instantly transported into my memories. The liquid is sweet and musky, like red wine and mulberry with a definite fermented fruit quality, along with elderflowers, oak leaves, and a touch of green reeds.

When I tried this tea western style I was at first a little stumped, not often do I run into a tea or herb where I cannot identify its taste, everything tastes at least a little like something else, and for someone obsessed with tasting everything...running into something that tastes so unfamiliar was astounding! There was a touch of mulberry, elderflower, honey, and red wine...but something distinctly unique and specific to this flower. Brewing it gongfu brings out stronger notes of mulberry and elderflower, with slightly citrus notes of bee balm, a bit of grapes, and a touch of sweetness that almost seems malty. I do not say this lightly but this tea is magical, I can see why it was for years a hugely popular tea substitute in Russia and Europe.

I keep speaking of this tea's Russian heritage, though this specific tea came from Latvia (though I do have some Russian tea from Tea In The City I will be covering soon!) which prompted research into the country, since I have to (with great shame as a historian) admit I didn't really know much about it, you know how much I love having a reason to research something! The second steep is even sweeter, like a combination of mulberries and honey stewed together with underlying wildflower and malty notes. Towards the end a touch of slightly herbaceous slightly green notes of reeds (specifically cattail shoots) shows up, but it is quickly washed away by the sweet mulberry aftertaste. Conveniently drinking it western style will get you at least two solid steeps, gongfucha at least five, not bad at all for a flower!

I usually don't mention the medicinal benefits of teas, be they Camellia sinensis or some various herbal tea, because usually, I find the lauded benefits never work for me, so I don't bother, plus I always drink for taste and any benefits that might show up are just an added benefit. I am mentioning it this time because it is said that the tea is mildly sedative, and for once a tea listed as a sedative actually worked, I drank it before bed twice and slept wonderfully...notable since at the time I was dealing with a nasty bout of insomnia...and when I drank it once in the afternoon I felt so relaxed. Overall this tea just made me feel good, I found drinking it made me happy, the taste and appearance alone was enough to put me in a good mood. I have already consumed all of my sample and just ordered more.

One final note on this tea, from a botany standpoint that I find just amazing, this plant is an amazing asset to habitat restoration. Due to its resilience (thanks to its love of cold climates) it is surprisingly hardy, meaning that after oil spills and forest fires this flower comes in and helps resuscitate the land for more fragile native species. I have always found myself drawn to flowers and plants (ok and especially mushrooms) that can come in after disasters and repair the damage, returning things to a previous state of balance.
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This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Origins Tea: Taiwan Assam Black Tea, A Tea Review

It is a beautiful day today, bright and sunny with a pleasant breeze and perfect mid-60s temperature! I have my windows open and have a serious case of restlessness since it feels as though spring is on the way. I am, of course, expressing my restlessness by exploring in Minecraft, finding perfect locations to build various bases after reading that one of the big lag causes is having all your various different mods built on top of each other. So far I have only had one crash on this modpack, which I consider a big win. There are a few other modpacks I want to at least check out, but I feel this is the one I am sticking with.

I can bet you are all surprised that I am looking at yet another Taiwanese hong cha, since it seems lately a lot of my tea drinking has been Taiwanese tea, and I am not showing favoritism...it is just, Taiwanese tea was my first love and I still have so much passion for it! Origins Tea's Taiwan Assam Black Tea is the lucky leaf pile for today's post, a hong cha made from the Assamica varietal, which means big curly leaves! The aroma of this tea is a fun one, blending savory and sweet with notes of dried tomatoes, carob, raisins, saffron, stewed plums, and sourdough bread. I found myself really intrigued with how it is both very sweet and fruity while also bringing the umami.

Time to add more layers of seasoning to my Taiwanese hong cha teapot (well, except for Red Jade, that has its own pot.) The aroma of the steeped leaves is a fascinating thing, strong notes of cumin and cocoa, brisk woodinesss, sweet prunes and cherries, and a finish of slightly earthiness and raisins. Again it mixes savory and sweet. The liquid, however, is immensely sweet, very strong notes of fruity chocolate, along with strong notes of almonds and brown sugar.

Oh my, this tea tastes identical to a fruit nut Cadbury bar, one of my favorite chocolates (mind you I haven't had one in years and it has probably been replaced by Toblerone) but wow, that chocolate, almond, raisin combo is taking me down a nostalgia path. Towards the end a note of cumin adding a bit of earthiness to the sweetness, balancing it out a bit. It has a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel as well.

Well, this tea continues to fascinated me! Instead of being a milk chocolate, it develops a carob and super dark chocolate giving it a touch of that cocoa bitterness which dances with intense raisin sweetness. The sweetness fades pretty quickly leaving a starchy sourdough and cumin note and a finish of distant brown sugar. Here is where it gets peculiar, it tastes like brown sugar but without the sweetness, which is a strange thing to experience!

This tea has some decent longevity, two more steeps of bittersweet chocolate and fruit, followed by four more of sweet milk chocolate Cadbury nut and fruit bar goodness, lastly the final two steeps are delicate brown sugar sweetness. I already drank all my sample, which makes me sad becuase I am craving chocolate and want more. Maybe Ben will bring me a Toblerone if I ask nicely...until then I will strongly contemplate buying a stash of this tea, not that I really need tea...ok I always need tea!!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Immodestea: Tea Of The Month Club, A Tea Review

An update, for anyone who cares about my silly modded Minecraft woes, I seem to have found a pack that works for me. Loads of magic themed mods (yay, Thaumcraft!) a tea themed mod, lots of building goodness, no tech at all (pretty sure it is the tech mods that kept causing the problems, pity since Ender IO has the best inventory management ever) and Biomes o Plenty so I have fun exploring to do. No crashes yet, so I consider this a win, fingers crossed I finally found a non-skyblock modpack I can play for a while.

Today I am looking at a new Tea Club from Immodestea, the month they sent me is all about one of my favorite teas, Dian Hong! Yes, all Yunnan fuzzy tea, all the time, in the box (which, might I add, arrived in brown paper, I am a sucker for packages that arrive wrapped like a vintage parcel) you get four different teas (three pre-packed servings of each, for a total of twelve sessions) a card filled with relevant tea lore and information, and a card with steeping information, feed your brain while drinking your tea. I tasted the teas in the order they show up on the card (ID'ed by colored stickers on their bags) so let's get tea'ing! I used the same Jian Shui gaiwan for all the teas, along with the same steeping paraments of 195° F 15-30-60 and so forth, basically how I always brew my Dian Hongs.

First up is the May 2016 Feng Qing, a machine picked late season Dian Hong, I call these daily drinkers, they are workhorses of teas with classic Dian Hong flavor profiles and a decent amount of longevity, this style tea is the one I like to toss in a travel infuser or have a session going when I am having a really long painting session. The aroma of the leaves are sweet and malty, strong notes of cocoa, cherry wood, yams, peanuts, and a touch of molasses. When I think of a classic DH aroma, these notes come to mind, and when I steep the leaves the aroma of the wet leaves has notes of yam, malt, cherry wood, cocoa, and a stronger peanut finish.

This tea goes for many steeps, starting with a sweet yam and pumpkin with a sprinkling of peanuts (mmm dessert) taste and building to malt and molasses in later steeps. There are also notes of dried cherry, cocoa at the finish, and gentle notes of woodiness that add a bit of briskness to an otherwise very smooth tea. Even though I prefer this tea in a gaiwan, you really can do just about anything to it, Ben had a mug (by a mug I mean four resteepings) of it, and I took one of the packets and drank it bowl style. It never gets bitter, it is super versatile, and it goes forever, in my opinion, a perfect daily drinker.

The next tea is April 2016 Feng Qing, same location but a month earlier, so I can do a real side by side comparison between this one and the previous. The aroma of this tea is subtly different from the May, stronger peanuts and instead of molasses there is caramel, it is also less yammy and sweeter with a slight earthier undertone that I usually associate with Dian Hongs that are nuttier. Once brewed the leaves take on a resinous quality, blending notes of myrrh with the peanuts and malt, the undertones of caramelized sugar and cocoa add a sweetness that lingers in the nose.

The tea starts thick in the mouth, and it stays thick throughout the entire session, which is not as long as the workhorse of the May tea, getting five steeps instead of the nine. Even though the session was quick by comparisson, it peaked really early, instead of using the first steep as a lighter version of what is to come in later steeps, it started very strong with notes of peanuts, cocoa, myrrh, yams, caramel, and a gentle cumin note at the finish. These notes stay with the tea until the end, just gradually fading until nothing. It is very balanced and has a fantastic mouthfeel, so I forgive its short stamina.

Onward to a different region of Yunnan, March 2016 Lin Cang, and before I get into the aroma of the leaves, let me point out how pretty they are! Loaded with golden fuzzy trichomes, this tea is a very visually appealing tea, especially if you find these golden leaves as appealing as I do. The aroma of this tea is very sweet and smooth, strong notes of chocolate and molasses with undertones of brown sugar, walnuts, distant flowers and a finish of delicate black pepper. Steeping the tea really brings out the chocolate notes, it is robust and very sweet, good for those who like their Dian Hongs as a dessert tea.

So I am going to get the only complaint I have with this tea out of the way first, it lacks longevity, I am not going condemn this tea because it only lasts four steeps, but if the tea tastes good I am fine with it lasting all day. And of course, it does taste good. This is one of those teas that tastes like a velvety molasses heavy brownie, very sweet and very rich. The smooth and velvety mouthfeel just adds a level of depth to the tasting experience, along with gentle notes of malt and toasted peanuts at the finish. Ah, I really did like this tea, I was sad when the session was over and it left me craving more, which is the mark of a good tea!

The final tea, March 2016 Lin Cang, and no I am not repeating myself, this one is from the same region and month but is hand picked and very uniform, according to the little info card it gives way to 'a flavor most refined.' This one is the exact opposite of the other Lin Cang, where that was rich and sweet, this one is resinous and a bit herbaceous with only an undertone of sweetness. Notes of myrrh, cumin, dried tomato, and malt blend with raisins and honey at the finish. I kinda love those teas that smell of resin, especially myrrh, it is one of my favorite smells. Once the leaves are steeped they become sweeter, the notes of honey and molasses over taking the dried tomato and cumin, though the myrrh is still quite present, as is a little bit of cocoa.

Like the previous tea this one is not as long lasting, sticking around for five steeps, I need to rummage through my various tea notes to see if maybe Lin Cang Dian Hongs don't last all that long, I know some regions last longer than others, but (and forgive me) I don't feel like filtering through my massive pile of tea notebooks at the moment. The flavors it does bring with its short life are pretty fantastic though, very strong notes of nuts (going in a hazelnut instead of peanut direction) and dark chocolate, the good stuff. The end of the sip brings in resinous pine and myrrh with a lingering aftertaste of honey Towards the end of the session the dark chocolate is sweeter and honey takes a more predominant place, it ends very sweetly and has an aftertaste that sticks around like a pleasant memory.
Tea stains are all me, also the brush decided it needed attention

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.