Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What-Cha Tea Wednesday, An Adventure in Black Tea

I decided to revive an old tradition of the blog, What-Cha Tea Wednesday, I picked out three black teas I am rather fond of from my stash as a way to take a walk down memory lane. Of course, it is just my luck that all three of these teas are not in stock, oops. That is not going to stop me though! This nostalgia driven post is a great way celebrating my last Wednesday in my current house before I start my new life in a new state. Though I am a little sad since restocking these teas when they are gone is going to be impossible.

Korea Dong Cheon Sejak Dancha Black Tea

I actually bought this one by mistake, I tossed it into my cart instead of the Balhyocha and I am glad I did, because it is unique! First off, brewing this tea is a trick, the package says 176F for 30-45 seconds and I found going with very light leaves, 195F and flash steep works fine, but if you oversteep it the taste is weird, not bad but certainly odd. The aroma of the leaves is kinda like burnt beans, specifically it reminds me of the herbal tea Kuromamecha (black soybean tea) and a bit of cocoa nibs and spinach of all things. The taste is nothing like the smell, like at all, the taste is woody and the mouthfeel slippery, there is a hint of cocoa but mostly it is molasses, brown sugar, and roasted walnuts. Later steeps have a bit of a burnt sugar taste and a lingering finish of maple syrup, like I said, this is an odd tea. It does not really fit the same spot as balhyocha, but it is a fun black tea truly unlike any other I have had.

Nepal Golden Ring Black Tea

My love for fuzzy golden teas from Nepal is well known, so I shall skip right into the description rather than poetic waxing about how much I love them. The aroma of the leaves is great, classic Nepal gold with notes of muscadine grapes, malt, honey, peony flowers, and woody cocoa pods, the steeped tea smells much the same with a much stronger malt and molasses and a bit of a camphorous note as well. The taste is very crisp and clean, it is one of my favorite things about Nepalese teas, they always taste like pure mountain air....and malt, peony blossoms, chocolate, molasses, and honey. It is very sweet and crisp, and honestly pretty refreshing, this tea is one of my favorites to drink in the morning.

Guangdong Dan Cong Black Tea

To me, there is something magical about taking teas that are normally processed one way and making it into something else, it is a fun game to see how recognizable the tea still is. Like take this Dancong, will it still taste like fruit and flowers like you would expect from an oolong but with more of a hongcha flair? It is definitely fruity, the aroma of the leaves smell of roasted figs and plums, and these notes carry on into the taste and it is sooo good. This is the black tea for people who want their black tea mild and very sweet, a tea that I swear I can do just about anything to and it never goes bitter. Sadly if you were hoping for a floral quality like you get in a Dancong then it doesn't really happen, but man is it ever fruity, especially with those strong notes of figs! There are not enough teas that taste of figs, and this pleases me.

All these were bought by me!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Yunnan Sourcing: Wu Yi Shan "Bai Ji Guan" Rock Oolong Tea Spring 2016

Name: Wu Yi Shan "Bai Ji Guan" Rock Oolong Tea Spring 2016

Company: Yunnan Sourcing

Type of Tea: Wuyi Yancha (rock tea) Oolong, also called Cockscomb Oolong

Description of Dry Leaf: Pale for a yancha, long wiry leaves with mottled deep green and yellow coloring amid light brown.

Aroma of Leaf: Sweet and fruity, notes of lychee and jujubes, peaches and Asian pear, with undertones of orchid and honeysuckle with a touch of a mineral note. Honestly you could easily mistake this tea for a Dancong just based on aroma.

Aroma of Tea: fruity and floral, notes of orchid, pears, lychee, and oddly enough butterscotch mix with undertones of minerals and the smell of the air after a summer rain storm.

Preparation Style: My absolute favorite way to drink this tea is bowl style/grandpa style. Just tossing a few leaves into a cup and refilling it with water, I am not a huge fan of doing this with other Yancha (the roast is a bit too much for me that way) but with this light (and usually rather expensive) tea it works great.

Taste: Before I get into the taste, let me mention that mouthfeel, it manages to be smooth and buttery while also having a juicy crispness like biting into a fresh pear, and I really like that. The taste is wonderful, like baked pears, fresh lychees, and spring water, it is light and wonderfully nectar like. As the leaves plump up more, floral notes appear, along with a slight earthiness. It lasts a long while steeping it the way I do, and it never seems to go bitter or gross like some teas can when bowl steeping.

Oddball Notes: I am writing this and drinking it between cleaning my poor neglected French Horn. I bought it a couple years ago at a thrift store for a steal (especially for a double) but the horn was locked up and need of some love that I am only now getting around to giving it. I admit I have some PTSD with playing music, and getting over it is slow going, but I am very excited to play again. This has nothing to do with the tea, but it is a funny bit of trivia.

How I Acquired The Tea: I bought it

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Haagen Dasz: Green Tea Ice Cream, A Snack Review

I am frequently rather jealous of Japan, tea is more of a cultural thing there so you get all sorts of snacks and random things (like toilet paper) infused with the stuff. It is much easier to go to the store and get green tea chocolate or snacks there, in the states you have to either go to a specialty store or order it...or so I thought. I was at my local generic grocery store (in KC that one is HyVee, or Hive as I pronounce it) trolling the ice cream section looking to fulfill a craving and saw it, the gloriousness, the tea flavored ice cream!

Apparently Haagen Dasz puts out Green Tea Ice Cream, not sure if this is new and jumping on the increasingly trendy Matcha bandwagon or if it has been out for a while, but it is my first time seeing it. I did not hesitate, I grabbed a container and tossed it in the cart, much to Ben(who got raspberry sorbet if anyone is curious)'s amusement. The ice cream is super minimalist with its ingredients, just cream, skim milk, egg yolk, cane sugar, and green tea, giving it that home-made feeling that I like from Haagen Dasz. No artificial colors or flavors, so any tea I am tasting is just tea and not, well, crap. I am a little more lenient with artificial flavors in junk food, but artificial coloring is a no go...much like the store this came from, I will break out in Hives if I eat much of it!

Since it is almost spring and the crocuses are out (and this is going to be my last spring seeing these particular crocuses) I decided to sit outside for a moment and eat some ice cream with my special ice cream spoon...yes I have a special spoon for ice cream, deal with it haters. The texture is really nice, very smooth and creamy, the color is a nice shade of olive green letting me know this is (as one expects) made with culinary grade and not dyed neon green. There is not a ton of a smell coming off this, just a bit of cream and a grassy green tea note.

I realize at this point that the ground is wet and 50F is maybe a bit too chilly for ice cream picnics, so after snapping a few pictures wander back inside for the actual tasting. The taste is great, sweet but not too sweet, creamy but not too rich, and matcha's green, nutty, grassy, and sweet notes all blend together well. It is pretty much identical to the ice cream filling part of the Matcha ice cream mochi I get at my local sushi place. The Matcha is not super strong, so if you wanted a green tea ice cream that tastes like a sweetened bowl of Koicha or a strong Matcha affogato then yeah, this is not the ice cream for you, but if you want your Matcha ice cream to taste more mellow then definitely get this one! I am so glad I took a chance and grabbed it, it is nice to know there is an ice cream I really like at a generic grocery store (my favorite all time ice cream is Kulfi and you just can't get that anywhere other than an Indian grocer) yay for Haagen Dasz!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Totealy: Zhushan Spring Classic, A Tea Review

Name: Zhushan Spring Classic

Company: Totealy

Type of Tea: Lightly roasted Si Ji Chung Oolong

Description of Dry Leaf: Dark and very tightly rolled, the leaves seem fairly small

Aroma of Leaf: Very sweet and very toasty, you can still tell this is a light roast but it is skirting the edge of what I consider light, and edging more into medium. It has a gentle spicebush blossom, toasted bread, chestnuts, honey, and a touch of orchids at the finish. I really like how it blends spice, floral, and toasted notes for a balanced aroma. Once steeped the leaves pick up a fantastic aroma of caramelized hazelnuts along with the other notes.

Aroma of Tea: The tea itself smells very nutty and gently spicy, like hazelnuts and chestnuts with undertones of spicebush and snickerdoodle cookies. Underneath these notes are gentle lily and orchid flowers.

Preparation Style: Gongfu style, used 195F water and steeping time of 30,60,90s (and so forth) using my Korean shiboridashi since it is currently the only gaiwan not packed up at the moment.

Taste: Really buttery and sweet! Like gently roasted chestnuts and sweet spicebush flowers and butter cookies. The roast is pretty mellow, allowing for gentle floral notes of orchid and lilies to shine through between the nutty notes. I sometimes think that these light to medium roast oolongs might be my favorite, since I tend to want green oolongs in the spring and summer and heavy roast in the fall and winter, these however I feel happy drinking anytime, since they blend the best of both worlds.

Oddball Notes: I have also on occasion enjoyed this tea grandpa style, it is pretty versatile with its steeping, taking longer or hotter steeps as well as cooler or shorter. If you get this tea, experiment with steeping, it is well worth it!

How I Acquired The Tea: Won it in a contest

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ippin: A Pair of Japanese Herbal Teas

Japan is very well known for its green teas, you get it when you go out for sushi, #matcha is trending everywhere, and for a lot of people it is the first thing that comes to mind when you ask them about Japanese tea. But there is more to it than that, they have some amazing black, fermented, and oolong teas...and of course they have herbals! And just like all cultures, they have some that are very distinct to Japan, two of which I am looking at today. Both come from Ippin, an online Japanese Mall, their prices look a little scary at first, but the products are in bulk and ship lightning fast, so if you know what you want then they are a great place to shop and you get really good deals. It is kind of like a tea themed Costco!

Yomogi (Japanese Mugwort) Tea from Miyazaki via Japanese Tea Shop Yamaneen

Artemisia princeps or Japanese Mugwort, man, where to begin? The Artemisia family is pretty vast, cooks will recognize Tarragon, boozy types recognize the incredibly bitter Wormwood (thanks bitters and absinthe) and I am overly fond of Sweet Annie as my mom would put it everywhere at Christmas to make the house smell amazing. All members of the family are very aromatic, and luckily not all of them are as bitter as Wormwood, which is good because yowza. Japanese Mugwort, or Yomogi as I am now calling it, is also used in cooking, like making the Kusa Mochi green, or the green part of Hanami Dango, or just fried up as tempura, which is delicious. The aroma of the really quite pretty and fluffy leaves is surprising, it almost smells like candy and sugar, underneath the sweetness are notes of dill, mint, anise, and a green hay quality. The aroma reminds me a lot of Sweet Annie, so if you have sniffed that there is a point of comparison for you. The taste and mouthfeel are a bit crisp and rather refreshing, tasting notes of anise, mint, dill, sweet grass, hay, and a bittersweet finish that lingers. It is a soothing and refreshing herbal, one that I like drinking in the afternoon since its crisp taste wakes up the mouth and senses.

Mulberry Leaf Tea Made in Kumamoto via Kawamotoya

Yes!!! Kuwacha!! One of my favorite herbal teas that evokes so many happy memories, mostly because there was a mulberry tree in my yard in one of the houses I lived in as a kid and the smell of the leaves and fruit was amazing, a sure sign of summer. I sometimes see this listed as green tea for people who can't actually have green tea, and it is not hard to see why as it is vibrant in its greenness, though the taste is not entirely similar. I get cranky because this stuff is hard to find in the states, and usually places that carry it cost a fortune, this is the first place I have found that has it at a price that seems reasonable, and that pleases me because it just might be my favorite herbal tea...ever. Yes, beating out chrystanthemum, fireweed, osmanthus, oksuscha...all of them, it is amazing. The aroma is green and starchy, like fresh grass and hay blended with mochi, it smells like summer. It is almost hard to describe its aroma and taste because it is one of those that evokes an experience and memory rather than a set of notes, though I will try! The taste is sweet, subtle green grassy and tree leaves blend with starchy mochi and a hint of green beans and lettuce. It tastes and feels very warm, not warming like a shou or roasted oolong, but warm like sun warmed leaves falling on your face while you are perched on a mulberry branch on a lazy Georgia day. It does not fill me with a warming qi, but left me feeling immensely comforted after drinking it. I adore this herbal tea and I am so happy to have it in my life again and to be able to talk about it!

Teas sent for review

Sunday, March 11, 2018

TeaBento: Jiri Horse, A Tea Review

NameJiri Horse

Company: TeaBento

Type of Tea: Balhyocha!! A Korean tea that has been oxidized, I see a lot of (honestly pretty tedious) debate as to whether this tea is a black tea or an oolong, I am fully on the black tea side, granted the argument makes sense because Balhyocha is all of the oxidized spectrum, going from Hwangcha which is about half oxidized to Hongcha which is fully oxidized. Both taste more like black teas to me rather than Oolong, so that is where I stand.

Description of Dry Leaf: Wiry and dark, medium sized length and very slender with no fuzz to be found, just darkness all the way.

Aroma of Leaf: Malty and sweet, like cocoa and molasses with a touch of myrrh and a wonderful very sweet freshly baked sugar cookie finish. Steeped up, the aroma is immensely molasses and brown sugar heavy, with a touch of stewed plums and cocoa, reminds me of the most decadent dessert and I want to eat it.

Aroma of Tea: Sweet and fruit, stonefruit with a touch of cocoa, and of course heavy molasses and a bit of toasted sesame at the finish. It is very aromatic and sweet, but not at all cloying.

Preparation Style: Tossed it in my Korean Dahguan a teapot that is similar to a shiboridashi, at 195F for my usual 30-60-90s steeps

Taste: Oh it is like nectar! I am not just saying this because it is the first black tea I have had in over a week (curse you stomach!) or because I have a crippling addiction to Balhyocha, no, I call it nectar because it is! Sweet roasted plums (with a touch and I mean really only a touch of grilled fruit skin) and roasted cocoa beans blend with toasted cumin, molasses, myrrh, and a long lingering taste of brown sugar and peony flowers. Really this tea is more like dessert than tea, later steeps are less sweet and more...not really savory, but rich, it is delicious and mildly addictive. My only complaint with this tea (and really all Balhyocha) is that it doesn't last very long, four steeps is all you are likely to get, five if you want a really mild final steep. I always want them to last longer since their tastes are so delicious.

Oddball Notes: This tea pairs really well with a favorite snack, Bhel Puri, a spiced puffed rice mix from Gujarat, it plays off the underlying spice notes of the tea and really goes well with its sweetness as a counterbalance to the heat of the snack. Doubly so when you fancy it up with chopped peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro!

How I Acquired The Tea: Sent for review

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Whispering Pines Tea: Moonlight Sonata, Two Years Later

My white tea compartment of my tea sorting station (I say station, really it is just four stacking drawer sorters stacked on each other) is full of forbidden treasures that I am not allowed to binge drink. They are forbidden because they are aging, aged white tea being one of my favorite things, but this has the sad side effect of me stuffing things in that drawer and then forgetting about them. One of those teas is Whispering Pines Tea's Moonlight Sonata, a tea I reviewed a little over two years ago. I promised I would put some aside and then come back to it later and surprisingly I did!

From the moment I unwrap I can see the ravages of time, the cake is darker and somewhat crumbly compared to what it was. When I first popped one of these cakes the tea needed my pu-knife to break bits off, this time I could just pull it off, which was good since my knife is currently packed up and I did not want to go rooting around for it. The aroma is still very familiar, notes of dill and apricot, sugarcane, and hay. It is a little diminished but still super recognizable as Moonlight Sonata.

Steeped the leaves are stronger, very juicy apricot and strong dill with undertones of aster, straw, and sugarcane. The snow chrysanthemums seem to have gotten stronger over time and I find that amusing. The liquid smells of faint dill flowers and a very juicy, fresh nectarine. The resemblance to nectarine is a little uncanny!

Age has been interesting to this tea, looking back at my first review, the first steep was immensely intense and very dark in color, this one is lighter in color and taste. It is cooling and gently sweet with notes of nectarine and sugarcane with a bit of hay and a tiny touch of dill. The mouthfeel is smooth and slippery with a touch of dry at the finish. I admit I have no experience with how Moonlight White is supposed to age, I have only had it fresh and it never really lasts long, so maybe this is normal?

Later steeps are stronger and darker orange, however things are starting to get interesting. Instead of tasting like a floral and somewhat grassy Moonlight White, it is starting to taste like a gentle malty and chocolate Dianhong. Also it was not just the first steep, the qi has gone from very warming to frigid, which I admit is a little weird with its vibrant warm color. Towards the end of each sip, strong notes of nectarine and honey appear and leaves a long lasting aftertaste with a bit of a brisk mouthfeel finish.

I am not sure how I feel about this tea having aged, part of me is curious to see if I let it age even more if it becomes even more Dianhong like, and the other part of me wants to drink it all now to retain the bit of Moonlight goodness. Also I am slightly worried about the Snow Chrysanthemum, I know from experience that they don't last more than a couple years, so there is that to keep in mind too. Maybe I will keep a little aside and revisit this tea again in a couple years!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Ippin: Genmai-cha Tea w/ Black Soybean & Matcha, A Tea Review

Name Genmai-cha Tea w/ Black Soybean & Matcha via Kawamotoya

Company: Ippin

Type of Tea: Genmaicha made with Black Soybeans and Matcha

Description of Dry Leaf: Vibrantly green colored from the Matcha, with a lot of toasted rice, very heavy on the rice over the tea leaves

Aroma of Leaf: Nutty! You can really smell the rice and beans in this one, there are undertones of bright grassy green and sweet hay, it does a good job blending the green and the toasty rice notes. The beans add an extra note of starchy sweet and earthiness with just a hint of umami.

Aroma of Tea: It smells so green! Nice grassy umami notes blend with sweet fresh hay and lots of starchy and toasty grain notes, you don't really smell the beans but you can definitely smell the rice!

Preparation Style: Since it is a genmaicha and it seems like it is made with Bancha rather than Sencha, I flash steeped it at 195F using my Korean shiboridashi

Taste: Creamy! Oh this has a great creamy mouthfeel and taste from that Matcha, it is very green with a hint of umami at the front and the rest is just sweet creamy rice cakes and sweet freshly cut hay. The beans add a touch of earthy sweetness as well, as you would expect from toasted black soybeans. I found I really liked this tea once it had chilled a bit, it manages to get even sweeter like that and allows the bean taste to be a bit stronger. I think this is going to be a tea I drink a lot when it gets warmer, it just tastes like the kind of thing you want to make big batch of and then toss into a travel tea container and then go on a stroll with.

Oddball Notes: Sadly it only really goes for one steep, the Matcha gets all washed off in the first steep and the second is a pale comparison, granted if you love the taste of toasted rice you can get a second steep, but it is mostly just rice and a little tea at that point. This is probably my biggest complaint about Matcha covered Genmaicha, they never last long and if you want a second cup you need more leaves.

How I Acquired The Tea: sent for review