Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tea, Kidney Stones, Year End, and Holidays

It has been...a week....for me. I have been struck low by my kidneys deciding to take up rock collecting and then immediately disposing of that collection. Thanks kidneys! The pain has eased up but I am steering clear of tea for a short while (loud angry crying ensues) and going on the all herbal and water diet, at least until my kidneys are in the clear.
Inside footage of what my urinary tract has been lately

Conveniently this is happening right at the holidays, so I have a legit excuse for not blogging again until after New Years! Granted kidney rocks are a valid excuse, but I am full of annoyance and the snark is thick.

Happy Holidays everyone, drink extra tea in honor of me and my stupid kidneys, see you all in January!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Tea From Taiwan: Da Yu Ling and Hua Gang, An Oolong Review

Ben and I had the best game of Commander the other night (technically I had two really good games, but the second one was him drawing nothing but lands so that was not really as fun) which was great because I was starting to develop a complex. Brewing Commander decks is one of my favorite past-times, and one I consider myself somewhat skilled at it, but of course I have a favorite deck. My baby, the Scarab God, a Dimir zombie tribal deck, it is not tier one but it is quite a good deck...except when it isn't. For several months I could not win a game, I was never hitting my card draw, ramp, win conditions...and statistically I should, I have enough ramp and card draw and have more than one win condition, but it seemed I just had the worst luck. It was starting to make me doubt my deck, but it seems my run of bad luck is over! Clearly that means I need to go back to working on card alters and finish that project. Though I do realize I need to tweak a few things, I do not have enough disruption and since I am in blue and play 1vs1 the most, it is needed.

Enough of MTG rambling, I could go on about that all day, so I should stop before I get out of hand. Today I am looking at a pair of Taiwanese Oolongs from way up in the mountains, by way of Tea From Taiwan. You can either get both of them separately or try them in this duo sampler, so let us take a trip high into the mountains to looks at two delightful teas. 


Sweet lord it has been an eternity since I had a DYL, what was once one of my favorite teas of all time has now become a real pain to get since they have greatly limited the amount of tea growing space in that region, replacing it with nature zones...the naturalist in me is happy, but the tea lover in me is miffed. This tea is immensely aromatic, very crisp and sweet with green vegetation notes, citrus flowers, papaya, and a lingering finish of daffodil flowers. Brewing up the leaves brings in stronger buttery notes of cooked bok choy and a touch of honeysuckles to go along with the daffodils. I might have spent way too much time sniffing the leaves before actually getting to drinking the tea. The first thing that really struck me was the immensely THICK mouthfeel, it was viscous and soup-like, and left an aftertaste that lingered for an eternity. The taste was phenomenal, notes of crisp green vegetation, irises and daffodils, sweet cream, and the lingering aftertaste of juicy pears. The tea lasts forever too, definitely a tea I sat with all day, I long lost count of how many steeps I got with it and was still sad to see it end. 


Hailing from the Hua Gang region of Li Shan (yet another favorite mountain...but honestly at this point I think I have said that about all of them...I just get really overwhelmed in a good way by Taiwanese Oolongs) The aroma of these leaves have a lot in common with the DYL, crisp and green with underlying floral notes and a delicate fruitiness, however those notes are different, this one brings in raw spinach leaves, hyacinth flowers, and a touch of apples. Brewing the leaves makes them undergo an aroma transformation, the floral notes turn into spicebush and lilies with their intense sweet and spicy qualities, and also a finish of starch similar to Hawaiian sweetbread (something I have to never be left alone with or I devour it like a maniac.) There is something magical about gaoshan oolongs, mostly that they are the thickest teas, I always expect them to look thicker than they are since their mouthfeels are like warm, gelatinous, soup and I love it. This tea is fairly balanced in its taste, no note overpowers another, it starts with a mellow green vegetation and slight herbaceous (the herb savory to be exact) note that fades into sweet lingering lilies and starchy sweet bread, both of these notes lasting long into the aftertaste. This was another tea that I sat with all day getting steep after steep of, and was sad when its lily taste faded like a closing blossom. 

Teas sent for review

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Fong Mong Tea: Four Taiwanese Spring Oolongs, A Tea Review

I am having such a hard time getting back to reality after my trip last week. Not really sure why, as it was not a long trip, and as I have been back for two days I really should be back to normal. I think I shall blame the lack of tea, see I was a complete fool, thinking that I know places in KC to get decent tea and I had very little room in my luggage, so clearly I will be able to manage for all days except the trip out with my full travel steeper. This was a mistake, I spent the entire weekend drinking really nasty tea bags, even at the dedicated cafe I went to I ended up with overly hot water brewed green tea, bah! I am never making that mistake again, I will find room for tea in my luggage! The best tea I had all weekend was at the Nelson Atkins Art Museum (my favorite place) they had bags, but at least they were those fluffy full leaf style bags, the English Breakfast was decent.

Tea cravings while hours away from your treasured stash aside, today I am looking at four teas from Fong Mong Tea, specifically four green Oolongs from the spring harvest of 2018, two of which are Gaoshan and two are lower elevation. So, onward to the teas!

Spring 2018 Tsui Yu Taiwan Floral Jade Oolong

Ah Tsui Yu, one of my favorite of the green oolongs, one that I love to drink when I want that distinct oolong thickness, but also want something more green than sweet, it is the epitome of refreshing. The aroma of these lovely jade green leaves is a pleasant combination of sweet and green, with notes of apricots, honeysuckle, tulips flowers, fresh vegetation, and raw spinach leaves. Brewing it up brings in notes of pine needles and a much more green quality, like summer when the air just smells like growing things. The taste is exactly what I want in a Tsui Yu, it is smooth and mellow with notes of spicy sweet flowers, fresh green vegetation, and a lingering fruit aftertaste. Later steeps bring in more of a stronger green note, much like buttery cooked bok choy and lettuce, but still retain that sweet apricot aftertaste.

Spring 2018 Sijichun Taiwan Four Seasons Spring Oolong

Good old reliable SiJiChun, forever spring, no matter what harvest you get you know it is going to be delicious. I really like it as a daily drinker style oolong, also for bowl steeping, I mean I will be honest you can do anything to this style tea and it will still taste good. The aroma of these leaves is a bit green, a bit nutty, and a bit floral. There are notes of lemon flowers, sesame seeds, sage, and thyme, it is well rounded and smells quite crisp. Once steeped the herbal notes take the center stage with a strong note of lemon leaves at the finish. So, this is where it gets fun, this tea tastes like lemon cheesecake, with undertones of lemon leaves and sage, it is as delicious as it is unusual! Later steeps I swear I can taste pie crust definitely bringing the cheesecake taste full circle!

Spring 2018 Gaoshanchi Taiwan Fushoushan High Mt. Oolong

Ah, I love Fushoushan goodness, but it is one of those teas that I rarely have, so I am always glad when some makes its way across my tea desk. The first thing that really struck me was how dark green the leaves are, they are a beautiful deep forest green and they are immensely aromatic. Strong notes of hyacinth, honeysuckles, petunia, and an undertone of fresh lettuce great me as I stuff my nose into the dark leaves. Steeping somehow manages to make the leaves smell even more of flower nectar, it is so intense it feels as though I am in a conservatory. The taste is, not too surprisingly, very sweet, like someone somehow made marshmallows out of unconventional flower waters, like petunia and hyacinth along with undertones of honeysuckles and mangoes. I love when tea tastes of mango, as it is my favorite fruit. This tea lasts for sooooo long, it was definitely a tea I could sit with all day and drink until late in the night.

Spring 2018 Organic Taiwan Gaoshan Jin Zhu Oolong

Jin Zhu, now this one is new to me, it is not everyday that I run into a new Oolong, so I was excited! The aroma of the bright green leaves is very sweet and floral, strong notes of apricot (almost like apricot preserves) mangoes, lily blossoms, and honeysuckles, definitely one of those sweet intensely aromatic teas that I love so much. Brewing it makes it smell creamy and even more like mangoes, putting me in mind of my much beloved mango burfi desserts that I will inhale if left alone with for any amount of time. The taste is...well...kinda hard to put into words, it is definitely very delicious with a very thick mouthfeel. I will say it tastes intensely of mangoes, and then my brain just kinda fizzled out, overwhelmed by the wave of sweetness and thick mouthfeel that washed over my tongue. I definitely want more of this tea!!

Teas sent for review

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Nannuoshan: Pomelo Tea, a Scented Black Tea Review

Today's blog is going to be a bit of a short one, I have been unwell lately and I am still not really functioning but after missing last week I didn't want to also miss this week. I have been keeping myself occupied in my convalescence catching up on video games, mostly Minecraft and Ark's new DLC. Minecraft is great as always, and of course Ark is a glitchy disaster that fills me with equal part wonder and joy...and rage because fix your game, Wildcard! Maybe since Extinction was their final DLC they will finally focus on fixing all the bugs in the game, but I doubt it. 

So today's tea is Nannuoshan's Pomelo Tea, a Jin Mudan cultivar black tea that has been scented with pomelo flowers. I love scented teas, it makes me wonder why anyone would ever want flavored when they can just have scented! The tea is so aromatic, strong notes of pomelo blossoms and honey with undertones of cocoa, hazelnuts, and citrus zest. Brewing up the tea, the aroma intensifies, especially the pomelo blossom notes, it smells almost like perfume or sitting next to a fully blooming citrus tree, it is intoxicating. The liquid is not quite as intoxicating as the wet leaves, but it is still quite aromatic, with notes of pomelo and chocolate with nutty undertones.

If you like black teas that are immensely sweet and richly aromatic, then this is a good pick. You taste this tea with your mouth but even more so with your nose, each exhale after a sip fills the mouth and nose with the intense taste of pomelo blossoms, honey, and lingering hazelnuts. As with all scented teas, the tea itself tends to last longer than the scenting, though the scenting does last for many sweet and floral steeps, I can get a solid seven pomelo blossom laden steeps before all I am left with is cocoa, malt, and hazelnut notes from the tea. I reserve my stash of this tea for special occasions, it is such a unique tea that it requires full attention.

Tea was a gift

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Eco-Cha: A Roasted Taiwanese Oolong Tea Review

In my part of the world, it is starting to get chilly! We had a nice inch of snow the other day and today a balmy high temperature of 27F and a low of 13F, and the last of the leaves are starting to fall away from the trees. Yes my friends, we have settled nicely into my favorite time of year which means time for roasty toasty Oolongs! I decided to look at a pair of teas from Eco-Cha today, a Dong Ding Oolong with medium oxidation and medium-heavy roast and a Tieguanyin which is a blend of half TGY and half Jin Xuan made in TGY style, which is pretty cool.

Dong Ding

I have reviewed so many Eco-Cha Dong Dings on my blog, and each harvest is a unique and delicious thing, it is always fun to see how they differ year to year. The aroma of these sizable rolled leaves is rich and immensely aromatic, strong notes of roasted walnuts and chestnuts, hickory wood, toasted grains, and a lingering molasses and dark honey sweetness that haunts my nose like a sugary ghost. The brewed leaves bring in a tanginess along with a surprising floral note reminiscent of honey locust flowers. Oooh, this might be one of the best harvests in a while! It is so sweet and thick, with notes of toasted coconut, walnut candies, sesame butter, and a lingering toasted wheat grain taste. I expected the later steeps to bring in that tangy roast taste, but no, it is sweet thickness all the way down with hints of strong roasted walnut shells. I am not sure my sample is going to make it to the end of the month!

Tieguanyin

Well hello you nutty tea! It is a dark oolong (in both oxidation and roast giving it a very dark color) and it smells dark, with notes of black walnuts, molasses cookies, brown sugar, roasted wheat, and a slight hint of cooked plums. Once steeped the notes remain but bring in a very surprising note of melon which made me do a nose double take.  This tea has a real oomph to it, it has the expected sweetness (with the Jin Xuan and all) like brown sugar baked plums, but it also has a really strong heavy grain toasted bread. You know, one of those breads that boasts having like 20 grains (do 7 different kinds of wheat really count as different grains?) but having been toasted and then given a nice slather of butter. The tea is mostly thick and smooth, but the roasting gives it a little bit of a mouth puckering tangy quality that livens things up, as roasted oolongs can seriously relax me into a fugue state and I need something to keep me lively. Later steeps bring in a touch of a fruity tobacco and even stronger roast somehow giving more oomph to an already strong tea. Both of these teas are great and show how varied roasty teas can be!

Teas sent for review




Tuesday, November 6, 2018

AprTea Mall: Black and White, a Tea Review

I will be so glad when my geranium can go back outside, and yes that is many months away (I am thinking late April if I am lucky) Don't get me wrong, I love my geranium, I got it as a cast-off earlier this year, a sad half dead leggy mess of a plant that I nursed back to health. I have never done that before, I used to be the well known plant murderer. Now the geranium is huge, happy, and healthy, full of its big red bloom balls...that fall off leaving petals everywhere. Especially when I rotate the plant or water it, it becomes a rain of petals, and since I have carpet I can't just sweep them up (vacuuming would just leave a red smear) so I have to pick them all up by hand. Long story short, carpet is the absolute worst and when I am able to own a place there will be no carpet, tile or concrete for all the rooms!

Ok so none of you care about my hatred of carpet, you want tea! Today I am looking at two teas from AprTea Mall, a Keemun Mao Feng Special Grade Black Tea and a 2012 Bai Mu Dan White Tea, two of my favorite styles of tea, though hilariously drank before and after my move so the tea desk looks completely different. That is always funny when that happens I think.

Chinese Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Special Grade

These are such pretty leaves, I love Keemun when it is super curly, and these are definitely curly and very dark with little hints of gold trichomes. The aroma of the leaves is delicious, super sweet and fruity, with strong notes of dark cherry and plum with a chocolate undertone making it smell like a chocolate fruit tart. Once you steep the leaves their aroma picks up notes of pumpkin and malt which goes well with the fruity chocolate sweetness. The color of the brewed tea is fantastically light which contrasts the intense richness of the taste, strong notes of cherries, plums, and pumpkin bombard my mouth, and I am totally ok with this. The later steeps bring in notes of dark chocolate and stronger notes of cherries that last long into the aftertaste, I think this might be the most cherry heavy tea I have had and that wins it major points in my book. It lasts for many steeps (a solid seven and three very sweet and light ones) which is pretty good for a Keemun.

2012 High Mountain Fuding White Peony (Bai Mu Dan)

Hey, an aged white tea, always a favorite! I have a few white teas that I have deliberately forgotten so that I can have more aged goodness, don't get me wrong, fresh white tea is AMAZING, but there is just something wonderful about it getting a bit of age on it. The leaves are very fluffy and fuzzy, but have turned to a dark sage green and a bit of a browning to it. The aroma is a combination of white grapes, hay, and a touch of an earthiness and wet oat straw that reminds me a bit of a mid-aged Sheng pu. Hilariously the wet leaves smell like wet dog, also oat straw, grapes, and honey, but that wet dog note made me laugh a lot. The taste has no notes of dog, it is sweet and well rounded, with notes of ripe persimmons, grapes, and honey with a touch of straw, cucumber, and celery (haha, this BMD still has a bit of its cooling youth in it) though later steeps lose that youth and go all the way to aged with intense rich honey drenched persimmons. It lasts for quite a while, one of those teas I just sat with all day, I was entertained by the cooling start and warming finish, which makes me think that this tea will be even tastier in a few years.

Tea sent for review

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The New Tea Lair!

Well, I am mostly unpacked, in record time if I am to be completely honest. More importantly, at least more relevant to this post, my tea stuff is all set-up and happily back to normal. No offense to the tea set-up at the condo, the view of the lake was lovely but it was always temporary so it never felt right, the view from my tea-desk might just be a vibrantly purple backdrop now, but it is my backdrop!

First off, let me introduce you to where all the fun stuff happens! My tea desk is part of a three part desk cubby that is currently incomplete. I am busily hunting thrift stores for a painting desk to complete the trilogy (and so I can finish unpacking and then get back to painting!) Currently there is the aforementioned tea-desk which suffered a grievous injury when moving, but my quick repair skills (and the best glue in existence) fixed it, though it is a tad shorter now since I had to remove the wheels. I am facing the cold hard facts that I am going to need to replace that desk sometime in the near future because its particle board self is starting to succumb to the grip of entropy, but I going to use this desk until it falls apart. I love it, the backdrop was painted by me after my old fish tank left water stains on it, the top has USB LED lights affixed for even top lighting and the cubbies make good homes for my tea tasting notebook, camera, lightbox, and writing utensils. Next to the tea-desk is my writing desk where I do my journaling and blogging (or will when my WiFi router gets here tomorrow and I don't have to be jacked into my modem on the other side of the room) and of course next to my desk is where my beloved Zojirushi water boiler lives.

On the fish tray (given to me by my mom as a wedding present) is a rather varied collection of characters, the largest and most obvious being my resin Shiva Nataraja. He used to live on my Mandir, but Ben got me a HUGE brass one so this one needed a place to live. There is also a Beholder, a Black Lotus candle holder which acts as a holder for a floaty Lich, my Jace and Liliana miniatures, a Bathalian, a very small Durga, a large collection of miniature tea frogs, a white cobra, and a sea monster. All the miniatures were painted by me, having them live on the tea desk gives me an excuse to keep accumulating them! I am not sure if Lord Shiva is going to stay on the tray, he is very large and does't fit properly and I worry he will take a tumble, I really want a statue the same size as my tiny Durga so that everyone on the desk is roughly the same size(meaning I will probably give the large resin Shiva to my mom.) Plus the nature of my tea tray is always changing, for a while I was matching miniatures to whatever Plane Magic The Gathering was currently on, and right now I wanted D&D monsters, so it will never stay the same miniatures for long.

Of course what is tea without teaware? Leaves and puddles, that is what. My Teaware hoard (horde also works here) lives on my box shelves on the opposite wall, I wanted them closer but baseboard heaters make shelf placements perilous. Luckily for me the opposite wall was heater-less so I can have them flush against the wall. I decided to make my shelves themed, back in KC I just had stuff all willy-nilly, but this time each box has a theme, like my ruyao pieces, or my pieces made from carved stone. Spread among the teaware are old teapets, oddball knickknacks, and a few antiques I have collected from thriftstores. It currently looks like there is no room for new teaware, but there is if I move things around, granted I made it look super full so as to encourage me to only collect pieces that I absolutely have to have and not just pieces that are pretty. Of course the next day I went to the Dig n Save and brought home three new cups, but they are quite spectacular.

All my tea lives on top of the shelves, this is not the most ideal, mostly because a few of the tall ones I can't reach as I am fairly short. I either need a step-stool or to get a few more of these plastic drawer towers that are shorter. Mostly I really like having the tea over the teaware, I can select the tea then select the appropriate piece of teaware to go with it.

Lastly I leave you all with my favorite teapets, Espeon and Tao, who seem quite happy with the way I have things setup! I will be back to reviews next week!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Internet Woes, Moving, and Life

Ahhh, moving, that most onerous of tasks. The time in my life where I suddenly hate all my stuff, question my sanity (do I really need all this art supplies, all these clothes, all these cups? Yes...yes I do) and feel a rolling sense of exhaustion. This isn't like my move back in April where I just had to worry about packing and then minimal unpacking while I was staying at the temporary condo, this is the big thing, and I am understandably pooped.
Ancient photo, dredged from Facebook, it felt too weird to have no pictures 

I was going to do my normal blog tomorrow but received an email that my internet hook-up was delayed by a day so yeah, no real blog this week. I am sitting on the floor of my temporary condo taking a break while I finish last-minute stuff (you know, a deep clean of everything, paint touch up if needed, sponging internet before I go back to my house which is unplugged from the world except for my phone...I am so spoiled) and I technically could write a proper blog post...it would have no pictures and it would be me doing tasting notes entirely from memory without my notebook for references, but that would be lame. So next week I will return, maybe my return blog will be me showing off my new tea set-up? Anyone interested in that?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What-Cha Tea: A Global Tea Adventure! A Tea Review

It has been an interesting week since last I wrote. Ben and I found a place to move so no more temporary housing (I am going to miss my lake view, but I am so excited to get back to having a sense of normalcy in my house) it is a bit outside of the city, but I am ok with that.  I truly hope this place I am moving to is perfect and Ben and I stay there until we are ready to buy a small house because I really do not want to move again, 17 times in 33 years is more than enough! Though I am not looking forward to repacking the teaware I unpacked. Today is a What-Cha day! I recently restocked some favorites and had a few samples sent along with my order, and in typical What-Cha style they are from all over the place. One thing I love about What-Cha is their selection of 'off the beaten path' teas. On the little adventure I am going on today, I am looking at a tea from Nepal, one from Georgia, and one from Malawi, so let us dig in!

Nepal Jun Chiyabari 'Winter Special' Oolong Tea

I love tea from Nepal, it always has a wonderfully clean and crisp quality, like it brought the mountains they were grown on with them. This Oolong is a winter flush, and I think that with the intense sweetness of this tea it might be a frost tea, but I am not sure. The aroma is intense, strong notes of walnut and hazelnuts combine with stewed peach and cherry giving the tea a wonderful sweet nutty cobbler aroma. It smelled so good and it made my mouth water, I happily spent way too long just snuffling this tea. I am just going to be honest, I am kinda furious at Alistair for sending me a sample of this because now I want more, this could definitely become a favorite tea staple and I already have too many of those!! The mouthfeel is light and airy, with a refreshing quality, which surprises me because the taste is dense. Like biting into a compote made from cherries, peaches, apricots, and almonds. There are also undertones of flowers, orange blossom and tulips which turn into a very long lasting aftertaste. I loved this tea, I want more of it and need to get some as soon as I can!!

Georgia Davit's 'Phoenix' Black Tea

Ah tea from Georgia, one of my favorite tea producing regions up there with Russia, they are also teas that are kind of a pain in m neck to get a hold of. This tea (and other teas from Georgia) are quite unique, it is unmistakably a black tea, but not like any others I have had. The aroma of the leaves is starchy and malty, with notes of roasted oats, beets, and chocolate with a delicate finish of cumin. Brewed the leaves smell of milk chocolate, oats, and cumin giving it a combination of pastry and earthy aroma that just works so well. The taste the paradox of being both brisk and smooth, tasting of sweet cream and chocolate oat cookies with a nutty long lasting aftertaste, at least that was the first steep. The second steep took me on an adventure to quince and plum with a long lasting dark honey aftertaste, the sweetness was intense, I was really surprised by the length and intensity of the aftertaste. I really like this tea, a definite fantastic example of the quality of Georgian tea!

Malawi 2018 Leafy Ripe Dark Tea

I have had the Malawi Dark Tea before, years ago on another harvest, at the time I really liked it, so I was excited to try the 2018 version. The aroma is very dark, earthy notes of wet leaves, beet roots, and that fantastic forest floor after a summer rain smell that makes my heart happy with dark teas. After a rinse the leaves take on a really fun strong lactic note, like sweet cream and chocolate with a strong pine sap finish. The cloudy liquid tastes so much like dark chocolate it is a little mind boggling, not one of those 80% cocoa bars, more like 60% leaving a bit of that sweet milk creaminess with the bitterness of cocoa. I am not sure why, but I love when certain dark teas have a milky undertone, I also get those notes in Lao Cha Tuo Shou, my other favorite type of dark. This is the perfect dark tea for people who want to content with longer steeps and not have it turn into a bitter bomb, want a dark tea that is not so earthy, or like them sweet. Also you get the novelty of drinking a dark tea from Malawi, something that a lot of tea drinkers don't get the chance to do.

Tea sent as samples with an order


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

New China Road: Dehua Kiln Loop Handle Teaset With Round Tea Tray, A Teaware Review

Last night I had one of the most whimsical things happen to me. Ben and I had gone to the Co-Op, he wheeling me in my chair (I make for a good backup shopping cart like this) and on the way back two older dudes who were sitting in their van stopped us and started serenading us with some classic soul music, and an impromptu dance number. I had not encountered something so delightfully surreal and random since I lived in Atlanta (where impromptu song and dance numbers are just more of an occurrence there, and one of the things I miss about it) and it made me so happy, they finished their routine by giving Ben and I great big hugs and we went on our way. A block later we ran into a tiny baby snake (not sure if it was a king or garter since it was super dark) that we had to usher off the sidewalk, which also made me very happy. I want more surreal and honestly pretty magical occurrences like that in my life, it reminds me that there is a reason to leave my house!

Today I am taking a look at a teaset, I love teaware reviews and it is always a pleasure to do them! New China Road sent me a really awesome set to look at that comprises of a tea tray, teapot and set of four cups, all in porcelain so unlike my fancy clay stuff I can use it for whatever. Lately I had been thinking I wanted a set with a small tray to use either for going out or when I want to serve tea to more than just myself but don't want to drag my massive tray to wherever the tea will be happening.

 First up, the tray, it arrived a bit broken and (as is their policy) they offered to send me a new one and I declined, because with a bit of epoxy it is good as new, so if you see a bit of a ding in it that is why. How it got damaged is beyond me because the packaging was pristine (I bought a cup from them month ago, the sparkly one I use quite often, anyway their packaging is really impressive) and everything else was fine. Regardless of its damage, I love this tea tray, it has a fairly deep well allowing for a decent amount of sloshing or pouring off of the wash, plus it is easier to pour out when it is full unlike the shallow plastic tray of my main tea tray. I like the solid weight of the tray, it doesn't feel at all flimsy or cheap, and the bamboo looks so good against that pure while porcelain. 

The teapot has some pros and cons, but I suppose all teapots do, as I have rarely run into ones that I would say are absolutely perfect. First off I love the top handle, my favorite style of handle is the side handle, but when you are taking photos with your right hand and pouring with your left you are quick to realize that side handle pots are not really ambidextrous, top handle though, you can pour with both hands and switch angles at ease. I love the shape of the pot, the round body and wide mouth with the point spout makes for an aesthetically pleasing piece. The cons though, well this makes or breaks it for a lot of people, it has a slow pour and dribbles out the lid when pouring, and if you have it at too far of an angle it will dribble up the handle and onto your hand if you are holding it forward. The slow pour is not too much of a problem for me, I will mostly be using it for guests or when I want a pot of something big (as it is 240ml) so I will be using teas that can take a lazy pour or can take grandpa style steeping. The dribbling I am not a fan of, but so many pots do it that I honestly consider the ones that manage to not dribble the exception, one of the benefits of always using a tea tray! 

The cups are lovely, lovely to look at and use. They are wide and flat and hold 45ml, and more importantly, the matte style glaze of the porcelain gives it a silky smooth texture that feels great to hold and when touching the lips. Cup texture is something that I think a lot of places don't take into consideration, I have a few cups that are gorgeous but I tend to not want to use them because they feel super weird. I have nothing bad at all to say about the cups! Now, the big question, do I think this set is worth the price tag? Absolutely, it is currently on sale for $41 with free shipping, and for a nice white porcelain set with a really spectacular tea tray, finding a better deal will be hard. 

Teaware sent for review

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fong Mong Tea: A Tale of Gaoshan Oolongs, A Tea Review

Oh man, my geek is showing hard this month. As many of you are aware (and many more are about to become aware) it is Inktober, a month devoted to taking a new prompt each day and doing an ink drawing of it, it is a time to practice skills and show off (seriously, the actual artists out there blow my mind) I am just a doodler who wants to get better so for me it is all about practice. But, I can never just follow along with the game at hand, I have to make it my own, so all the prompts will be interpreted into some sort of Dungeons and Dragons theme, so far I have a Myconid and a Flumph, because monsters are my jam. Also my jam: Gaoshan Oolongs, so today I am looking at four different ones from Fong Mong Tea.

Spring 2018 Taiwan Alishan Jinxuan Oolong Tea

One of my favorite cultivars on one of my favorite mountains, yes please! I do so adore real 'milk oolong' with its sweet vanilla and cream notes that combine with lilies and honeysuckles. This particular one is very sweet and creamy, with an added bonus of freshly cooked rice, it is very aromatic. Once steeped the tea takes on stronger notes of lilies and honeysuckles with a distinct and very sweet note of spongecake (and this is going to be a trend with Fong Mong's Oolongs, they frequently taste or smell like a dessert of some type!) Blissfully that spongecake and sweet cream note transfers into the taste for an immensely thick and sweet tea, the finish brings in a delicate spicebush note that combines with an aftertaste of starchy rice. It manages to be both very sweet and thick while also being refreshing and light, I drank this sample on a rather hot day and was so thankful for its refreshing quality. Plus it had the distinction of being one of my favorite Jin Xuan Oolongs in a while!

Spring 2018 Gaoshan Qingxiang Taiwan Lishan High Mt. Oolong

Drinking this one had me thinking, why do I not constantly have a stash of Lishan Oolong on hand? Back when I first got into Taiwanese green Oolongs, Lishan was my favorite, and still is, even if I tend to bury my face in Alishan or Shan Lin Xi more often. The aroma of these leaves is very sweet and floral, with strong notes of  hyacinth, wildflowers, honeysuckle, and daffodils, the real kicker though is the building aroma of fresh juicy pears. This wonderful pear note definitely sticks around in the taste, making for an intensely juicy sweet tea, combined with the floral notes and an aftertaste of sweet pie crust I would swear I was eating a pear pie. One thing that really struck me with this tea is the incredibly long lasting mouthfeel, I could feel its thickness and that sweet pear aftertaste for what felt like hours after I finished this tea.

Spring 2018 Shanlinxi Taiwan Sun-Link-Sea High Mt. Oolong Tea

I am not going to waste time describing my love of SLX, it is well known, I am going to dive straight into the immensely heady aroma of this tea. It does have the (at least to me)iconic aroma of fresh alpine air and pine trees, but also a full bouquet of spring flowers, it brings the honeysuckle, hyacinth, lilies, daffodils, and tulips. It smells so much like a pile of flowers that it is a bit mind boggling. Tasting this tea brings the flower nectar, I feel like a hummingbird drinking this stuff, it is very thick and sweet with a lingering aftertaste of tulip tree flower nectar. Later steeps bring in more of the alpine notes and green, and also finish out with a great taste of Thai basil which is not something I really associate with sweet floral teas but I am totally ok with that note being there.

Winter 2017 Zhu Lu Taiwan Alishan High Mt. Oolong
Hello Alishan! Probably the Oolong I have reviewed the most on the blog, I drink a lot of it and always enjoy getting to try more offerings. The aroma of this Alishan is very sweet, like sweet Hawaiian bread with an undertone of thyme and basil, the finish is a combination of sweet cream and honeysuckles. When steeped there arises a note of dandelion flowers, which compliments both the sweet and green aspects of this tea nicely. So this tea was fun and a bit unusual, usually Alishan starts sweet, goes to green, and then goes back to sweet as it is finishing of, this one started green and herbaceous and transitioned into flowery sweetness. I really enjoyed how refreshing and green this one started off as, with notes of thyme and basil and a finish of fresh vegetation, the transition into sweet spring flowers and yeasty bread was awesome, like dessert after a meal!

Teas sent for review

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

AprTea Mall: A Pair of Yunnan Dianhong Teas, Time for the Fuzzy Gold!

Someone put a perfectly usable plastic drawer tower in the dumpster yesterday. The building I am staying at's trash and recycling dumpsters are near the mail depository and people tend to put things they are getting rid of next to said dumpsters, sometimes you can find some neat things there. However someone just tossed the tower because one of the removable wheels had a crack in it, so I pulled it out of the dumpster, because who just throws away something perfectly usable? Anyway, I have cleaned it, fixed the wheel, and now I have more storage because I constantly need more storage.
Today I am looking at two of my favorite styles of Yunnan Dianhong teas, both from AprTea, a golden needle and a golden spiral! 


First up, the Golden Needles, these are some really big thick needles too, I used my 100ml teapot and they stuck up out of the top until I poured hot water, my photo does not do their size or thick fuzzy trichomes justice. The aroma of the long fuzzy needles is very malty, with strong notes of honey, molasses, and roasted peanuts, it smells delightful, especially if you are a fan of richly malty dianhongs. As expected from the aroma (though hat can be deceiving at times) it tastes delightful, a rich malty and sweet tea with loads of molasses, roasted peanuts, caramel, and undertones of a woody sweetness. The taste reminds me a bit of peanut brittle at first, but as the steeps progress it becomes more of a malty rich molasses heavy cookie taste. It goes for quite a few steeps, a nice solid six steeps with a few very sweet but very light steeps at the end. 

Spiral time! I do adore these spiral golden teas, AprTea calls them Bending Gold Buds, but they have many names: Golden Bi Luo Chun, Golden Spirals, or my personal name for them, Fuzzy Golden Happiness. This style tea is one of my all time favorites, I sink into severe ennui when I run out of it. The aroma of these tightly curled buds of gold is a sweet blend of chocolate, malt, molasses, and a touch of nuttiness, the aroma reminds me of brownie batter with an addition of peanuts. The taste is classic golden spirals, strong notes of yams and molasses with undertones of peanuts, black pepper, and a long lasting finish of malt. It goes for many steeps, definitely a tea you can just drink all day, which is a definite win for me! 

Both teas sent for review

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Eco-Cha: July 2018 #32 - Eco-Farmed Jin Xuan GABA Tea, A Tea Review

I just want to take a moment and thank everyone who contributed to my Ko-Fi account, either by supporting financially or just sharing it, you guys gave me such squishy happy feels! I created the account after much waffling about either running ads (something I am rather against since I find them really distracting) or creating a Patreon, then I found Ko-Fi and (other than it being more coffee than tea themed, but shhh) it fit my needs perfectly. I was able to set a goal (I needed a new wheelchair since mine was falling apart under me) and you guys smashed it, my new wheels will be here tomorrow and I can't wait to use them! My blog was never about making money, it was about the exploration of tea and introducing people to new delicious experiences or treasured piece of teaware. Ok look, for all that I think I am good with words, I have always been bad at expressing my gratitude, I have never felt words adequately convey the nearly heart bursting over-whelming feeling I get when I am reminded at how wonderful people can be. So thank you, for reading this blog, for being awesome people.

Ok, enough of me being sappy, I need to talk about a tea that is far too delicious to exist. Eco-Cha recently sent me some goodies to take a look at (problem with only blogging once a week, it takes forever to get around to teas...I think I need to change that) including July 2018 #32 - Eco-Farmed Jin Xuan GABA Tea. I have had some mixed results with GABA, either I really like it or I find it too woody and tangy...also it makes my head hurt, not literally but the tea itself confuses me. When I first encountered it I only saw it represented as an Oolong, now I see arguments that it is its own category of tea (Here is a really good article on it) and I have been seeing GABA black teas, personally I slot it into my mind much like Purple Teas, they are the type of tea they are representing but also something different and should be judged accordingly. Take this tea for instance, it is a Jin Xuan that has been oxidized similar to a Hong Shui but since it is oxidized in nitrogen it will taste different than one that is just oxidized in normal air. Before I get into the aroma I want to take a moment to appreciate the leaves, I find tea leaves that have this "handmade", rugged, "organic" look to it, they look wild. I am not sure why these teas appeal to me so much, but I find their rustic look to be incredibly beautiful. So aroma, this tea is immensely fruity: think an explosion of lightly cooked stonefruit (especially peach) with undertones of malt and a surprise finish of honeydew melon. Pros-It smells unbelievably good, Cons- I am now craving melons.

So I brewed this tea up in a beautiful clay fish teapot (also from Eco-Cha) which I recommend getting before they sell out, they are magical teapots with a wonderfully fast pour. I use this pot for red oolongs and occasionally roasts, so this tea was a good fit for the pot. The aroma of the leaves and brewed tea is pretty intoxicating. I was making Ben some Lapsang Souchong while also making this one, and he started hovering around my tea desk asking why it smelled like cobbler. And he wasn't wrong, it smells so much like peach cobbler with undertones of stewed plums and apricots, and a lingering brown sugar and honey finish. Jin Xuan, man, no matter what you do to it you end up with something sweet.
Tasting this tea was a delight. When I first got the box (back in the first week of August) I immediately tore into this tea, I have almost consumed all of it too. It is one of those teas that not only tastes amazing, it feels great either from the GABA or just because it is one of those teas that evoke a feeling of relaxed comfort while lounging in a fuzzy robe on a cool rainy day, preferably with a lap full of cat and a good book to read. It is always hard to tell with teas like this, is it the taste making my brain dump happy chemicals or is it the tea's composition that is making my brain happy, or of course is it a combination of both?

It lasts for many steeps, each time I have had this tea it became an all day event, starting out with intense peach cobbler and sweet cream, with undertones of Asian pears and dark honey. Several steeps in it starts to bring in a phenomenal juicy ripe persimmon note, fitting since the color darkens to a wonderful persimmon color. In the middle of this tea's life (say around steep 6-8) the tea loses its sweetness a bit and gets a slight woody and cooked pumpkin taste with a starchy lingering finish. After this it goes back to sweet pear nectar with a lingering aftertaste of spiced stewed plums. I think this tea could become an iconically autumnal tea...now, if anyone needs me I am going to go back to drinking this tea and enjoying my immensely mellow chill while watching an online course lecture on the Beatles....because let us be honest, I am a bit ridiculous some times.

Tea sent for review

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Story Of My Tea: Blind Tea Tasting Adventure

Story of My Tea has one of the coolest things, a blind tea tasting! This is something I have wanted to do for a while, spurred on by my love of trying to figure out what things are and those years of making mystery tea themed Advent Calendars for friends...problem is I almost always know what it is I am drinking, there is no mystery or surprises for me. They are currently running a Kickstarter and a really intense tea and teaware themed giveaway, and I get to test out one of their kits, so onto the mystery! When ordering my kit I said I wanted no blends, herbal teas, and non herbals (no puerh) and that I prefer gongfu brewing but I am willing to play around with other styles (because let us be honest I totally am) and when listing favorites I picked: Red Jade, Balhyocha, Tusli, Gui Fei, and Kenyan Silver Needle. I will be revealing what the teas are at the end of the blog, I did not look at the cards revealing what the teas are until I took the picture, so I went into this blind.

6014

Looks like an herbal, from the leaves it appears to be a blend of tulsi, cardamon, red peppercorns, orange peel, and rooibos (maybe hawthorn or dried apple bits too). It smells like a shiv to the face of spicy citrus, reminds me of the simmering potpourri and pomander balls my mom would make and have around at Christmas so this tea smells immensely holiday-ish to me. When I said it smelled of Christmas it ended up sending Ben and I into a debate on what exactly that holiday is supposed to smell like since his family was not big on orange spice themed potpourri and pomanders. Maybe this is a Southern thing...or a British thing...my upbringing was weirdly multicultural (no really, I was better at eating with chopsticks as a kid than I was with a fork) Since this was an herbal I brewed it western style, the taste is very warming with orange being the dominant taste, undercurrents of spice and a touch of an herbaceous finish. Orange pretty much drowns everything out, it tastes like what I imagine one of those potpourris tasting like, but much sweeter.

6008

Ok, looks like another herbal, a blend of cinnamon (I don't see any, but I really smell it) apple bits, rosehips, lemongrass, hibiscus and maybe verbena...there is something leafy and herbal and I cannot tell from smelling it because all I smell is cinnamon candy. Seriously this tea smells just like a Red Hot candy....I am nervous because it also has rosehips and hibiscus, and I really hate those ingredients. Not a huge fan of cinnamon candy or apples either. Ok, tasting...it kinda tastes like apple pie with a metric ton of cinnamon, a very tart apple pie, it is very sweet and very tart...it is a weird thing and I am thinking someone who is a fan of tart pies might like it a lot more than I do.

6002

Oh hey another herbal....and...oh god why!!!! It is, what appears to be, a blend of mint, hibiscus, lavender, and chamomile. WHY!!!!!! I like lavender and mint, I like chamomile and lavender, but why in the name of all things holy would anyone mix hibiscus and mint...this has to be a blend that was someone created deliberately to troll me. As I steeped this and the tea turned a deep ruby red I could just feel myself cringing in fear. I know I am being harsh, it is just...lavender is one of my all time favorite flowers to have in tea and hibiscus is my least favorite thing to drink...ever. But, it is part of the experiment, so I tried it...and I did not like it. Mint, hibiscus, and lavender do not belong together, the chamomile was fine and I have nothing to say about it being there. It is immensely tart/sour and minty, with a cloying sweet floral finish that sent my brain into whiplash.

6009

Tea!! Actual tea! Ok, more my specialty too since it appears to be a black tea, from first look it is either an Indian or Ceylon, sniffing it...definitely Indian. A nice blend of malt and underlying muscatel. From just sniffing it I am going to guess 2nd flush Darjeeling (one of my favorites, woo!) Brewing up a nice orange color and I am greeted with a strong muscatel note...definitely a 2nd flush Darjeeling. The taste is rich and sweet, a bit malty and with the taste of cooked pumpkin and of course that signature muscatel taste of stewed raisins. I liked this one, classic 2nd flush!

And here is the reveal!

6014 Tulsi Orange Ginger
6008 Winter Winds
6002 I'm A Gypsy 
6009 Organic Darjeeling Sungma 

This was a fun experience, sadly the herbals and I did not get along at all...I was hoping when I put in herbals it would be more straight herbals (like comparing different mints, or trying to see if what I am drinking is blackberry leaf or raspberry leaf) rather than flavored fruity blends (and if it was blends it would be something more akin to one or two ingredients and not flavored at all) but putting herbals in was clearly a mistake on my part since I am so picky with them. The real question is, is this the kind of product for me...a seasoned tea reviewer that primarily drinks gongfu? And the answer is probably...as long as you fill the questionnaire out accordingly and not give too many variables like I did. I hope to try this again sometime, I would love to see a blind tasting adventure of just different Taiwanese Oolongs, or Chinese Black teas, I think something really focused like that would be amazing. If this seems like something you would like, go check out their Kickstarter, and definitely enter their giveaway!

Sent for review

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Macha Tea Company: Smokers Delight, A Tea Review

I do have one thing good to say about all the perpetual rain lately, it has put me in the mood for Autumn. Oh who am I kidding, I was ready for fall as soon as it became summer, today being the first hot sunny day in...well...weeks actually, has me longing for the cloudy cool days of last week. Granted I could do without the flooding, it has become a daily ritual to check the news and see how far above the record flood level we are each day (7.5 inches above the 100 year flood elevation, so yeah, there is a lot of water) and to see how much rain we are expected to get (2 more inches through tomorrow) fun times! At least this is the last hot day (83F, oh man I am so northern now a-days) predicted for the week so I can get back into the warming roasty teas.

And speaking of roasty teas, today I am looking at a tea from my local tea haunt, Macha Tea Company Smokers Delight, which is not available on their website, but you might be able to get some if you send them a message, they are pretty active on Instagram and quite friendly (as a tea shop should be!) So this tea is a blend of medium roast Tie Guan Yin from Anxi and a dark roast Tie Guan Yin from Sumatra, I love roasted Tie Guan Yin no matter where it is from or how roasted! The aroma of the dark leaves is very toasty, with notes of toasted walnut shells, almonds, pecans (sensing a nutty theme here) caramel, and a finish of bamboo char and toasted grains. It is on the sweet side of roasted Oolongs (as TGYs tend to be) with strong nutty notes that put me in mind of trail mix.

Steeping this goodness up I get notes of intense roasted nutty goodness, especially heavy on the walnuts and pecans, with undertones of gentle floral nectar and char, with a definite sweet quality. It is very aromatic, with a strong autumnal quality, I can practically smell the changing leaves and foggy mornings in these leaves.

This tea is never overpowering, it starts mellow and sweet with roasted nut and gentle wildflower honey notes and finishes off with a delicate orchid aftertaste. As the steeps progress it gets richer pecan taste with a very pleasant thick buttery mouthfeel that is fairly reminiscent of actual nut butter on a very heavy grain piece of perfectly toasted toast. I think since this tea is a blend of heavy and medium roast levels you get a really mellow and heavy taste with a pretty intense sweetness and none of the occasional bitter black walnut and tannic oak wood you get with a full on heavy roast's later steeps, it is just sweetness until the tea gives up the ghost about nine steeps in. It had a very early fall feel too it, one I would want when the air is getting a little chill but has not gotten full on cold (when I want the really heavy roasts and shou pu's) and I have a feeling as the weather continues its slow meander into my favorite times of the year.

Tea gifted to me.