Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Teavivre: A Flight of Keemun, Picking a New Favorite

Guys, I drink a lot of Keemun, it is one of my favorite teas and when I start to run low I get antsy. A while back I got a big bag of Fragrant Snail Keemun from Teavivre, partially on a whim and partially because I liked the name, and it has been my favorite ever since....but is that fair? I have not tried Teavivre's other Keemuns, so I decided to have an adventure with almost all of them, and of course I had to blog about this adventure. For brewing I used my usual 195 F, a small 50ml clay shiboridashi, hat style cups, and 30-60-60-90 seconds for steeping. Let the games begin!

Keemun Grade 1
This is the bargain Keemun, quality but not super high quality, a daily drinker if you will, perfect for both gongfu and western style. The aroma is nutty and sweet, with notes of coconut, brown sugar, almonds, and a bit of molasses. The taste is brisk but sweet, combining malt, molasses, and peanuts with a slight aftertaste of wood and almonds. On a whim I brewed up a mug of this (and grade 2) for Ben on his days off and stole a sip, it is really solid brewed that style as well, a touch more brisk and stronger molasses. This is a really tasty daily drinker!

Keemun Grade 2
Perfect for making Milk Tea...hmmm, maybe gongfuing this one will be a mistake...but why not? This one is all about being approachable and multi-use, and I can respect that in a tea, even if I prefer super fancy stuff. The aroma is super strong, possibly the strongest of the Keemuns I have tried from this batch, notes of sweet cocoa, caramel, and peanuts reminded me a bit of candy. The taste is a bit brisk, not as much as I was expecting it to be, with strong notes of caramelized peanuts and a bit of a woodsy cocoa shell finish. Of the two mugs of western style I gave Ben, this was his favorite...and I am tempted to make this into milk tea, but as gongfu this is also pretty tasty.

Premium Keemun Hao Ya
I might have spent far too much time sniffing this one, we are definitely getting into the higher tier grade stuff now and it tells with the level of nuances in the aroma. It is woodsy, very sweet like butterscotch and caramelized plums, and a finish of toasted hazelnuts. It smells delicious! The taste is subtle but very good, notes of sweet caramelized hazelnuts, gentle distant flowers, thick chocolate, and mellow plums dance in my mouth. This tea goes the distance too, lasting a whopping seven steeps. This tea was a delight!

Keemun Aromatic Snail
Hello beloved snail! You are delightfully curly leaved hongcha goodness! The aroma of the tea is complex, with notes of cocoa pods, toasted cumin, sandalwood, myrrh, dried cherries, molasses, and raw honey. There is a lot going on here, and all the notes blend together wonderfully and smell so tantalizing, especially that cumin note, I love cumin in sweet things as well as in savory. The taste, well, there is a reason this one has been my favorite that I have not really strayed from, with strong notes of pistachios, cumin, molasses, myrrh, cocoa, cherries, and a rich dark honey and woody finish that lasts forever. Plus the mouthfeel is super smooth, this tea does happy things to my brain.

Keemun Imperial
The leaves on this tea are so pretty, curly and with hints of golden fuzz, truly these are beautiful leaves that deserve ogling. The aroma of this Keemun is super nutty and starchy! Notes of hazelnuts and peanuts blend with sweet potatoes and brown sugar, sniffing this tea made me rather hungry. The taste borders on creaminess with its smoothness, thick notes of sweet potato and brown sugar mix with hazelnut and peanuts, the finish is a long lasting honey sweetness that sticks around for a while. The taste and aroma of this Keemun is amazing, though it reminds me more of a Bailin Gongfu than a Keemun, but that is not a bad thing.

Superfine Keemun Mao Feng
The description of this Keemun says it combines bold flavor with intense aromatics, sounding like a perfect combination of all the ones I have already tried, this excited me! The aroma is a combination of sweet starchy pumpkin bread, caramelized plums, and a hint of cumin seeds, it is very sweet and subtly earthy...I like! The taste is pretty fantastic, it is quite bold, strong notes of pumpkin pie and plums, chocolate and cumin, and a touch of pine and sandalwood. It lasts for many steeps too, sticking around for six really solid steeps and a few more very light ones.

So, which will I be getting to replace my stash once it runs out? On the one hand, they are all good and quite enjoyable...I could save money by getting the solid Grade 1 or go for the most steepings with the Hao Ya...stick with the old familiar Snail or go with something new. Ok I will be honest, I am truly torn, the Snail and Superfine Mao Feng really were my favorites and they luckily cost roughly the same (though you can only get the Superfine in 3.5oz rather than 1.75oz) so knowing me, I will probably just get both! Do you have a favorite or for that matter, which would you pick?

All tea but the Snail were sent by Teavivre for review, the Snail was bought by me.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Tillerman Tea: Dong Ding Roasted Winter 2017, A Tea Review

Name: Dong Ding Roasted Winter 2017

Company: Tillerman Tea

Type of Tea: Roasted (40%) Dong Ding Oolong, Qing Xin cultivar

Description of Dry Leaf: Tightly rolled and dark brown, you can definitely tell this is a heavily roasted tea, some of the leaves look quite large and have a few stem bits still attached.

Aroma of Leaf: Nutty! Like roasted chestnuts and peanuts with a bit of honey sesame candy, very strong roast with a lot of underlying sweetness. No char notes, just roast and strong nutty notes. It is the kind of Oolong I want to spend all day sniffing, assuming that day is late autumn or winter and I am wrapped up under a blanket.

Aroma of Tea: Sweet and nutty, like toasted sesame and chestnuts, or roasted peanuts and honey on a piece of toasted heavy grain bread. Very warm and filling smelling, these heavily roasted Oolongs always make me feel like I am about to sit down to a very hearty meal.

Preparation Style: I am a bit under the weather, not as sick as I thought I was going to be after Ben woke up half dead with what seemed like the flu. Luckily for me I have just been my usual Fibro self and a bit sniffly with more of a headache, I can work with that! However when I am feeling a bit blech, my favorite method for brewing (since I usually don't like sitting at my desk, I really need a new chair, my current one is trying to kill my back) is good old reliable grandpa or bowl style. Toss some leaves in a bowl or mug, add water, drink around the leaves, refill until leaves stop having a taste. It is an immensely convenient way to brew tea and it gives you an interesting perspective on how a tea changes over time.

Taste: This is a really REALLY good tea for bowl steeping, holy mackerel! It is so sweet, like toffee and roasted chestnuts, honey drizzled toast, a touch of autumn leaves, and a hint of very distant lily flowers. It has a pleasant buttery thickness, that is really soothing when your throat is scratchy, and it has a warming chaqi, drinking it is like wearing a fuzzy robe on a snowy morning. Later after the leaves have really unfurled and it starts to get really strong, the tea tastes like grilled fruit and lychees as well as all the toasted nutty goodness.

Oddball Notes: You might have noticed that I did not use one of my big bowls for steeping this, well bad news everyone, my teaware might seem a bit same-y for a bit as I am getting ready to move soon and packed up the non-essential teaware. So right now all I have out is the stuff I use the most and a few all-rounder pieces, like the mug I am using today. It is neat, got it for a quarter in Madison at the Dig-n-Save thrift store. I got it because I forgot to bring a decent cup with me when I traveled there and it has become one of my favorite cups. Everyone keep their fingers crossed that Ben gets his work transfer in time so I don't have to move across town for a few months and THEN to Madison!

How I Acquired The Tea: Sent for review

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tillerman Tea: A Tale of Two Gaoshan

I knew the instant I opened the box and saw these two teas that I had to do a comparison post, they just begged for it! Same year, season, producer, cultivar and roast, the only things that separate them are level of oxidation, elevation, and location. How cool is that? Also the teas get credit for being from two of my favorite mountains and harvest times, so let us dig in!

Starting with the Shan Lin Xi (simply because it was what I grabbed first) and from the first sniff I was happy. The vibrant green leaves are very creamy sweet with an alpine clarity that screams SLX to me, like a pine covered mountain and whipped honey with undertones of honeysuckle and pineapple cake. After steeping the puffed out leaves just drip with flower nectar, lilies, honeysuckle, and hyacinth with a strong dollop of honey to bring in that extra sweetness. One thing I love about Gaoshan Oolongs, they are thick, one sip and your entire mouth is coated with buttery sweetness. Early steeps are light and sweet, like pineapple cake and lily flowers, later steeps bring in stronger floral notes and underlying vegetal notes that are super refreshing with the already pretty sweet tea. On a completely random note I grabbed some of my Sartori Merlot BellaVitano cheese and wow, that is a combo! I struggle to explain it other than good and kinda mind boggly, one of my new favorite tea and cheese pairings. This is a truly fantastic example of winter SLX!

On to the Lishan, this tea, this tea is amazing...I was completely in love the first moment I sniffed it, why? Because it smells like mangoes!! I love mangoes, they are one of my favorite fruits, I adore it and eat it whenever I can. Specifically there is a creamy quality, so it reminds me of mango burfi with undertones of honeysuckles and gardenia. Steeping the tea filled my tea desk with the heady sweet smell of mangoes, seriously why does this smell so much like a juicy fresh mango and sweet cream. The taste is immensely thick and juicy, like sweet creamy mango burfi and flower nectar with a hint of very distant spice. I love this tea, finally a drink that helps when I am craving burfi and lack the ability to get more or to make more (mangoes are expensive when you live far away from them, and all the canned mango is sweetened) later steeps bring in more classic lily blossom and vegetal notes I associate with gaoshan, but man, those mango notes! Can I pick a favorite between these two? No, not really. Shan Lin Xi is probably one of my favorite tea mountains ever and I also really love this Lishan, I think both deserve a spot in my tea stash!

Both teas sent for review

Monday, January 22, 2018

MeiMei Fine Teas: Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong Tea Pomelo Flower Fragrance (You Hua Xiang), A Tea Review

Name: Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong Tea Pomelo Flower Fragrance (You Hua Xiang)

Company: MeiMei Fine Teas

Type of Tea: Dancong Oolong, from Phoenix Mountain in Guangdong, China

Description of Dry Leaf: Wiry and long leaves, dark with a bit of a reddish edge to some of them. Once steeped they get a bit of green to them.

Aroma of Leaf: Oh that is delightful! It smells like ripe and very juicy fruit (specifically grapes, plums, and cherries) with a strong floral note of citrus flowers and plumeria. Dancongs always have a knack of bringing to mind half buried memories and distant recollections of gardens and incense.

Aroma of Tea: Sweet, sweet nectar! Oh man, sniffing this tea is dangerous, I am one false move away from getting my nose full of tea. It smells of blooming citrus trees, honeysuckle, gardenia, and of course various stone fruit that have been stewed to perfection.

Preparation Style: Is anyone surprised I gongfu'd this tea up? Used an antique super thin porcelain cup and my vintage 90ml shui ping yixing that has an identity crisis and has been used for a bunch of teas, finally settled on Dancongs! Used my standard 195 F (seriously I think I use that for everything except greens, even then sometimes) with a heavy leaf to water ratio and lightning fast steeps.

Taste: So, MeiMei Fine Teas sent me a few Dancongs to review back when I was just doing tasting notes on Instagram, but this one was by far my favorite. I am obsessed with any teas that even hint at tasting like citrus flowers (I keep a large bottle of orange blossom water around that I add to so many desserts) and this tea certainly does. I would say it is a very warm taste, like someone made guava and orange blossom almond cookies and handed them to me fresh out of the oven, it is one of those teas that when I drink I just kinda melt into my chair. Later steeps bring notes of plumeria meaning that I am once again reminded of gardens and incense (ok fine, specifically my old house in Georgia) plumeria flowers are one of the main ingredients in the ever popular Nag Champa blend along with sandalwood and sometimes you can see why it makes me think of incense. This has possibly become one of my favorite Dancongs edging out Da Wu Ye and Yashi Xiang.

Oddball Notes: That teapot deserves a mention, it has been used for very young Sheng, bright green floral oolongs, oriental beauty, and in one occasion a floral dianhong. I am glad it finally settled on a tea it seems content with, especially since I had been grumbling around trying to find the perfect pot for Dancongs for a while now. Also I just learned, do not pair this tea with Chocolate Brioche, something there doesn't work and it ends up tasting like avocados.

How I Acquired The Tea: Sent for review

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Case For Distilled Water Brewed Tea

Time to be controversial, I feel like this happens a lot with me and tea, so not surprising, I tend to have opinions that clash with accepted norms and guess what, I like it like that. Today's big controversy is all about that water, specifically distilled water! A while ago I did a gongfoolery post comparing various bottled waters, expounding on their virtues and failings, and boy have things changed since then, specifically my opinion on distilled water. In that post I said that Smart Water (the vapor distilled one) was nasty and to avoid distilled waters...well I am admitting it...I was wrong. Specifically avoid distilled waters that have minerals and electrolytes added to it because it will warp the taste.

Back in the spring of 2017 I started noticing that my usual filtration system just was not cutting it, either quality control for the filters had started going down the crapper or my ability to detect every minute amount of minerals and such in the water was getting more intense. I was not really liking the way it affected my tea, so I decided to give distilled water a try, along with the store filtered water just to see if I had a preference. Oh boy did I ever!! And so here are the pros and cons of that discovery.
The lighting in the corner of the tearoom is absolutely awful

I have a Zojurushi, mineral deposits are bad for these machines, since switching to distilled water I have not had to clean the mineral crust from my house's hard water off of it and that is so nice. Same with when I switch to using my normal kettle (like when I was on vacation, yes I traveled with my electric kettle) no more dealing with the stupid mineral deposits. My teaware is also happy about this, especially my clear glass pieces.

The tea tastes amazing! I do not see where other tea bloggers and tasters say that tea made with distilled water tastes flat and dull, to me it very much does not. With distilled water I know exactly what I am tasting, bitter notes, mineral notes, sweet notes...they are all provided by the tea and not minerals and additives in water. The mouthfeel is clean (unless the tea is not) the notes are just as intense if not more so since there is no distraction of the water. Granted, I have been told by people that my sense of taste is freakishly intense, so maybe the water being anything other than super pure is just something that bothers me. In my experimenting I gave Ben a side by side test of waters (this man drinks tap water just fine where tap water legit makes me gag because of the chlorine and hardness) and he said the tea made with distilled tasted a bit sweeter than the tea made with filtered water, where the filtered water had an underlying bitterness. Well meaning tea friends have tried to convince me I am wrong and that I should just use spring water, but distilled water is the way for me from now on.

It isn't perfect though, like all things there are flaws to be found. The most obvious one is cost, distilled water ain't free, yo. It costs about $.75-1 per gallon at the grocery store and I go through about three-four gallons a week, not a huge cost but it does add up. Plus the is the horror of all that plastic waste, even with recycling I do not like how wasteful it is at all. A home distiller is really not cheap, running you anywhere from $90-several hundreds, plus reviews of them are pretty mixed which is why I have not bit the bullet on that one yet. I do hope to get a home distiller after I move in a few months, but first I need to figure out which one is best. Or, an even better option, where ever I move to having a 'fill your own' station for distilled water like they do with filtered water at most stores.

One possible negative to some that I consider a positive is, I no longer get tea drunk. Chaqi still exists and I can feel the tingly happiness of teas, but I no longer get tanked off tea. Maybe this is what people were warning me about with tea being diminished? To me though this is a plus, it means I can drink more tea, it also means my post tea-drunk headaches and IBS have gone away which is nice. I should point out I am not entirely sure this is just the distilled water though, right when I switched something changed in my body and my metabolism slowed down a good bit (finally, I gained weight after a lifetime of being underweight, at times dangerously so) and my IBS mostly went away. It could all be related to the water, but that seems unlikely, most likely it is a result of me getting older...granted when I go out to tea I do have issues with getting tea drunk and a lot of times that results in stomach woes and a splitting headache, but I cannot rule out that it could be psychosomatic.

Really that is a problem with all of this, tea tasting, water types, reactions to tea and much of it is there and how much of it is because I want it to be there? It is something I struggle with, always trying to make sure that my perceptions are what is there and not some subconscious thing causing the illusion of perception.

Well...that got philosophical...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Tealyra: Assam "Black Beauty" #8, A Tea Review

Name: Assam "Black Beauty" #8

Company: Tealyra

Type of Tea: Taiwanese Black tea/ Hongcha

Description of Dry Leaf: Long wiry leaves, dark in color. Once steeped they take on other tones like dark reds and a bit of green here and there.

Aroma of Leaf: Oh man is that ever sweet and potent! Full of beloved notes of sassafras and teaberry with undertones of chocolate, hazelnuts, apricots, and guava. It has a bit of a resinous quality too, reminiscent of amber, as finisher, which I am rather fond of. Once it is steeped things get unusual, it picks up floral notes of plumeria and orchid along with the woody sassafras and cocoa and the much more delicate now guava.

Aroma of Tea: Sassafras and cocoa, malt and plumeria, with a finish of dried apricots and a bit of a muscatel raisin note. Very sweet smelling with a woodsy undertone.

Preparation Style: Gongfu'd it up using my Taiwanese black tea only yixing teapot, used 195 degree water and 30-30-60-60-90s and so forth timing.

Taste:  It is well known my obsession with Taiwanese black teas, especially the ones with that strong sassafras note (I am addicted to Ruby #18 after all) and this one does not disappoint. It is very similar Ruby 18, its main difference is its smoothness and sweetness. Usually Ruby #18 has a bit of an astringency to it (one of the reasons I am less cavalier with my brewing and actually pay really close attention when I am steeping it gongfu style) where this one you can do pretty much anything to and it never gets an astringent edge. It is also immensely sweet and fruity, with strong notes of apricot shortbread and golden raisins with just a hint of papaya and guava. It lasts for several steeps and also steeps really well bowl style, which I always appreciate when I am doing something away from the tea desk. I really like how mellow it is in profile while still having a distinct character.

Oddball Notes: This tea is cultivar TTES #8, an assamica transplant from Jaipur that, like my beloved #18 has a lot of names. Black Beauty, Ruby 8 (that isn't at all confusing) Yu Chi, Taiwanese Assam...And like the #18, this tea is grown around Sun Moon Lake and has a very similar taste profile. Hilariously Tealyra's #18 doesn't really taste like the classic Ruby #18 I love, where this one really does. I ended up getting all of Tealyra's Taiwanese black teas and this one was definitely my favorite.

How I Acquired The Tea: I bought it for myself for my birthday

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Teas Unique: Jeju Island Teas, a Tasting Adventure

Today's tea adventure takes us to the far away (for me at least) land of Korea's Jeju Island thanks to Teas Unique (use this link to get a 25% discount.) Jeju Island is a beautiful volcanic island, these teas specifically were grown on the slopes of Mt Halla, a 100 thousand year old shield volcano, the climate and very fertile soil makes for perfect tea growing conditions. Do yourself a favor and go google Mt Halla and Jeju Island (I can wait) it is worth it because wow is that island ever gorgeous! If I ever get the chance to visit Korea that is definitely where I want to go.

The first of the teas I am looking at is, of course, the Jejus Island First Flush Black Tea, because my obsessive love with black teas of any kind is well known, but my obsession with Korean oxidized teas is (I would like to assume) legendary. Like the other oxidized teas I have had from Teas Unique, this one is superb, the aroma in the bag is light and sweet similar to honeyed roasted nuts, but toss some water on it and what you get is a symphony! Incredibly sweet and rich while also being light, sounds paradoxical but it isn't, it lacks a malty or molasses heaviness and is instead all orange blossom honey, sugar cookies, orchids, and a touch of chocolate bread. As you can imagine, tasting this tea is a treat, it maintains its lightness in both texture and overall flavor profile, it is a tea that while drinking gives a feeling of being uplifted rather than a heavy sinking feeling. The taste is immensely sweet, like licorice without the licorice taste, it lingers long in the mouth, which I like! You all know I am a sucker for naturally sweet teas! There are notes of honey, chocolate bread, guava, lychee, and bit of almond. It lasts several steeps and eventually faded into a gently sweet and mineral tea, it is a definite win in my book!

Next up is 2017 Jeju Island First Flush Green Tea with Mandarin Orange, as it is well known I am usually not a fan of tea with flavors but I am a sucker for teas that have been blended with real ingredients and not fake stuff. I really enjoyed the version of this with black tea, so was excited to try the green. The aroma is wonderfully sweet mandarin with a nutty undertone and a slight sea water note. Steeping it and wow, the mandarins! So intense! There is something truly wonderful about the aroma of dried mandarin peels, I recently have learned to love them since I got a dehydrator and it was one of the first things I dried, it takes a sweet mandarin aroma and gives it an extra warmth and cooked quality, I am really fond of it. As you probably notice from the picture, there are a lot of mandarin bits in this, and that is reflected in the taste wonderfully. The base green tea is light with a touch of nuttiness and sea air umami that is mixed with a bright sweet honey drenched mandarin explosion that really wakes up the senses. I feel like I should use this to treat season depression because suddenly I am transported to the coast on a summer day. It lasts for quite a few steeps, and I am glad because this nectar sweetness I could just drink and drink.

Finishing off this little Jeju Island journey with 2017 Jeju Island First Flush Green Tea, a vibrantly green tea with a wonderfully sweet and savory aroma. I have in the several times I have looked at Korean green tea, compared it to arare (those delightful Japanese rice crackers with soy sauce and seaweed) and the comparison sticks, but there is also an additional sweet nuttiness that is reminiscent of mochi. I love the way this tea smells, I do not drink a lot of green teas much anymore, but Korean greens are the exception! The taste is delightfully refreshing, blending savory seaweed and soy with sweet and nutty rice and a distant touch of grass. Like I said, super refreshing, brings to mind late spring and favorite snacks!

And speaking of snacks (ooh you thought I was done) along with the teas was sent along two bars of my own personal weakness...chocolate. Matchacolate Organic Earl Grey and Matchacolate Black Chai Tea. I very surprisingly didn't eat it all in one sitting like I did with the last one of these I tried, I am learning self control! Both are made with Italian white chocolate and blended with powdered tea of their respective flavor, and that is it, no gross artificial flavors or garbage like that, which I for one greatly appreciate! Trying to pick a favorite is hard, the flavors are both subtle and blend really well with the chocolate (something a lot of tea infused chocolate bombs, either all you taste is the tea or all you taste is the chocolate...I want to taste both!) The dominant note in the Earl Grey is definitely the bergamot, it is like a super fancy chocolate orange but somehow better, Ben the lover of Earls Grey was a huge fan of this and pretty much ate half my bar. The chai really brings the cardamon which I loved! I am a monstrous fan of cardamon in sweets and really enjoyed it, it truly felt like I was eating a spicy chai tea and white chocolate! Clearly I need to try the other flavors now...

Products sent for review by Teas Unique.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Teas Unique: 2015 Janghueng Joongjak Aged Cheong Tae Jeon Coin Tea, A Tea Review

Name 2015 Jangheung Joongjak (Third Pluck) 100% Wild Grown Aged Cheong Tae Jeon Coin Tea

Company Teas Unique Use this link to get a 25% discount on your order
Type of Tea: Coin Tea, also called Cheong Tae Jeon, Ddeokcha, Ddokcha, Tteokcha, Rice Cake Tea. Its shape lends it to different names. Mostly from what I can tell it is a fermented green tea similar to both a Korean green tea and a Sheng Puerh. It ages and from what I can tell, quite well, since that was the original point of these neat little coins. This is a tea with history behind it, much like other teas made for aging, it was a solution to storage by people a long time ago.

Description of Dry Leaf: The coin is a delightful mottled brown and green with very tightly compressed leaves, I would need a jackhammer to separate them!

Aroma of Leaf: To really make this tea shine, it needs a good roasting, usually using a pan but I decided it was the perfect time to break out the mini tea roaster I have! Within a few minutes my tea desk was filled with a peculiar aroma of ginseng, chocolate, orchids, and nuts. It was certainly odd but not in an unpleasant way, but certainly not notes I ever expected to encounter all at once.

Aroma of Tea: Very medicinal, the steam of the tea is loaded with toasted notes and ginseng and licorice. It is very aromatic and not entirely like tea. It also vaguely reminds me of the humid and earthy aroma of a conservatory hothouse, complete with subtle orchids.

Preparation Style: This tea required an adventure to make! First the roasting, then boiling a liter of water, then boil it for 7-10 minutes (I did 9) for the first steep. Later steeps get 600ml water and long boil.

Taste: So, this wasn't exactly what I was expecting, granted I wasn't entirely sure what I was expecting! The first steep was fairly light (the coin was mostly in one piece still, even after a vigorous boiling) with notes of sea water, ginseng, chocolate, and a finish of orchids. It is very sweet and medicinal with just a hint of umami in the front of the taste. The next steep brought on stronger medicinal sweetness with a thicker mouthfeel and a very long lingering orchid finish. I admit I did not go for a third refill because I was sloshing and this tea had me feeling all floaty and I did not wish to drift off into lala land.

Oddball Notes: Since this was such a large amount of tea to session ratio I decided to rope Ben into this with the promise of rare tea and weirdness, two things that pique his interest. This was not something I expected him to like since he usually loathes fermented, roasted, and green teas, but it was something he liked! He liked the chocolate and medicinal notes but could live without the umami and orchid...he is so picky. As for myself, I liked it! It is not something I want everyday, but is something that would be fun to pull out on a day when I am not sitting at the tea desk but busy in the kitchen and want a large amount of tea that is more forgiving than most! Plus this tea has been on my to try list for years, and I am very glad to have tried it!

How I Acquired The Tea: Sent for review by Teas Unique

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My Teapot is Cooler Than Yours

I promised myself, no more teaware, I do not need any more, in fact I have way more than I need and I am going to absolutely hate life when I have to move in a few months. Of course this has not stopped me from procuring more since I made that incredibly silly promise to myself (that no one believed) including the most ridiculous tea set, the pot of which I am looking at today. I am not kidding when I say it is cooler than yours, it is certainly cooler than all my other teapots.

Presenting the tea set I spent far too much money on while on my honeymoon in Madison! It was picked up at a gemstone store (so not a specialized teapot dealer, just FYI) hiding in the back of the 'expensive stuff' cabinet that I had no business looking into. I came for fossils and left with one...and a tea set carved from Chrysanthemum Stone. I am still embarrassed by what I paid for it, I am an avid bargain hunter (my thriftstore adventures are somewhat famous) and I am very frugal, but figured my honeymoon was a perfect time to break out my comfort zone and spend *sigh* $150 on a teapot. Was it worth it? Hells to the Yeah!! Not only do I have an awesome memento of my honeymoon (unlike all the cheese which has been eaten) I have something truly unique and amazing.

Before I get into how well it does or does not perform, I should explain what Chrysanthemum stone is, and also complain...loudly...about how annoying it is to do scientific vs metaphysical research about rocks! I do not care what its 'healing properties' are, I want to know what my teapot is! Grumbling intensifies!! After a large amount of mostly fruitless research, Chrysanthemum stone mostly comes from the Hunan region of China, the radiating crystal structure that makes up the flower is Celestine (or replaced with dolomite, quartz, or calcite, but those tend to look different) The matrix is probably Permian era bog goop hardened into slate, schist or whatever. Apparently the matrix isn't important (grumbling continues) but it acts like a schist (soapstone comes to mind) and that is probably what it is. Bad news though, apparently the largest area that produces Chrysanthemum stone was turned into a dam and the other area is getting mined for the tasty Strontium found in Celestine, so this stuff is creeping up in price.

The teapot is like a nega-TARDIS, it is way smaller on the inside than first glance would leave one to believe, for a rough estimate my other teapot about this size holds about 250ml, where as this one holds roughly 100ml, meaning the walls are THICK! This means that you absolutely have to pre-warm it, I loathe doing that (as I mentioned way back in the original Gongfoolery) I hate wasting precious water, doubly so now that I have switched to buying my fancy distilled water. But, if I don't preheat this pot I am going to get really rubbish tea, the walls of the pot are just that thick, though it does double as a really fancy long lasting hand-warmer once it has warmed up. That and the fact that the handle is a really awkward shape (being carved to look like a branch) are my only complaints from this teapot, it truly is a magnificent treasure that I find myself touching constantly because it has the best smooth texture.

You are probably wondering, how does its unique material affect the tea? Well good news, I tested that! Did a brief session side by side testing porcelain (hello mini gaiwan!) using Yunnan Sourcing's Premium AA Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, a tea I know very well  (I did a comparison blurb between their two ZSXZ here, for anyone curious about this tea) Yeah, there is a massive taste difference! The stone teapot gives the tea a slippery texture and rich mineral taste, reminding me of tea brewed with fresh spring water, you can taste the rocks and it is pretty great. Clearly I do not want this for all teas (or I would not have switched to distilled water and would be using spring water) but when I want to reminisce about being in a different place other than my tea desk while drinking tea it works wonders. Other than the taste of minerals and the slippery mouthfeel there is no difference to the actual flavors of the tea.

And so, that is why this unique artisan carved block of Chinese stone that is covered in auspicious Chrysanthemums, reminds me of my honeymoon, tastes like spring water, and feels like silk is cooler than your teapot. Think you have a cooler one? By all means show me, I love ogling teapots!! (just please don't link me to where to buy them, I do not need encouraging!)