Sunday, April 29, 2018

Teas & Trees: Achoo Blend, An Herbal Tea Review

Name: Achoo Blend

Company: Teas & Trees

Type of Tea: An herbal tea from Crete, blended from Marjoram, Sage, and Wild Mint.

Description of Dry Leaf: Fuzzy! The herbs used in this blend are delightfully fuzzy (hello sage) with big pieces of more standard looking 'leafy' leaves, a few stems, and buds from the herbs. It is a beautiful blend, looking wild and natural rather than the more uniformed tiny chopped up bits you find in some herbal blends. I am such a fan of herbal teas with large leaves and flower buds. The color of this blend is also really satisfying, pale sage green with smatterings of darker green,

Aroma of Leaf: It smells like food! I let Ben smell it when I first opened the package and he thought it would make an excellent pasta sauce (with tomatoes obviously) and I can't help but agree. The sage and marjoram give a strong savory herbaceous note while the mint gives a clean and very crisp finish. I can see why these are blended as a cold remedy, the smell alone made my sinuses very happy.

Aroma of Tea: Wonderfully savory and herbaceous but also subtly sweet, like someone added a bit of tilia honey to my cup (no one did, I was watching) but it smells of it. The sage and marjoram continue to be the dominating note, with mint bringing up the rear, subtly and not at all overbearing, which is something that is hard to do anytime you have a member of the mint family in your blend.

Preparation Style: Western style, used one of my steeping baskets precariously balanced in my overly ornate teacup for 5 minutes at 195F, a second steep was had as well and I steeped it for 8 minutes, probably could have gone for another but I admit I passed out.

Taste: So, this tea is delicious, I have a weakness for herbal teas that taste very herbaceous and yet also very sweet, and this tea does both. The notes of sage and marjoram are, again, the main attraction, with a wonderfully crisp finish of sweet wild mint. I love wild mint, it is one of my favorite members of the mint family to have as a tea because it is not as much of a face kick as other mints. It is a very soothing and refreshing cup and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Oddball Notes: I honestly should have waited until allergy season was in full swing before drinking this one, what little sniffles and chest congestion I had (and I always have a little, it is how my body rolls) was pretty much immediately eased up, I can't wait to see what this stuff does once the tree pollen really gets going. The packaging says it can be drank in the morning to wake you up, and while I am pretty dependent on caffeine, I think the refreshing taste would certainly liven up the sense. I also think I will be taking some of this with me either hot or cold steeped when I go hiking!

How I Acquired The Tea: Sent for review

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Yunnan Sourcing: Purple Prose, an Adventure with Purple Tea!

Purple is one of my favorite colors, and purple teas are one of my favorite categories of tea. Well, category of tea is not entirely correct, since you can make purple tea into anything (I tend to drink it mostly as a black) it is a genetic mutation where the plant produces more anthocyanin (the same thing that makes blueberries and eggplants their dark blue and purple color) and growers like to use this natural mutation to their advantage. Tea growing regions all over the world have purple teas, Africa and Japan being well known, but my absolute favorites come from Yunnan, a few of which I am looking at today.

Yunnan "Purple Beauty" Green Tea from Lancang Spring 2016

Clever people will notice the link I used goes to 2017, my stash is from 2016 but if you still want to try it there is the more recent harvest. The aroma of these very dark leaves (seriously, you cannot tell this is a green by looks alone) is tangy, with notes of berries and a touch of smokiness and hay with a slight floral undertone. The tea is visibly purple once steeped, not like super vibrant, but a nice lilac which is a hilarious color for tea to be. The taste is fascinating, I admit it is not my favorite ever tea, but I like pulling it out when I am in the mood for something quirky. First off, that mouthfeel, it is super thick and also sour allowing for a fun salivary reaction! There are notes of berries, hay, smoke, citrus, toasted soybeans, and a crazy blend of savory and floral at the finish that is a bit mind boggling. Usually you expect floral teas to be very sweet or possibly green, not this one, no this is like a full blast of umami with flowers. If you want a tea that is weird and not really like anything else then this is a good pick.

Purple Wild Buds Black Tea from Dehong Spring 2016

So, sadly there is not a listing for this anywhere on YS, so that makes me sad, hopefully there will be more this coming spring because this tea is fun! It looks like dried Chinese Magnolia petals and honestly kinda smells like them too, it is intensely aromatic, very strong notes of flowers, peaches, camphor, honey, and plums all waft out of the buds and I could happily spend hours sniffing this tea. Once steeped, the color of the tea doesn't look like a black tea, having a pale gold colored liquid, heck it doesn't taste like a black tea either! If you handed me this tea blind and told me to name it after tasting, I would probably say it is a heavy oxidized Oolong, because that is what it is closest to. This is such a unique black tea, such strong notes of Chinese Magnolia, peaches, plums, and camphor gives you an immensely sweet and juicy tea with a cooling finish and a very long lasting floral incense like aftertaste. It is one of my favorite teas and I only pull it out on special occasions because it is a tea that demands full attention.

Light Roast Wild Tree Purple Varietal Black Tea of Dehong Spring 2016

Ha! I can actually use the link for the tea I am writing about this time! Also thank you everyone for tolerating my same teaware, moving is hard and this is the only gaiwan I have not packed up. And woo, this tea is aromatic, purple blacks tend to be massive bursts of smells when you open the package, I am honestly always expecting to have my hair comically blown back by the aroma wave. This tea smells of muscadines, dried cherries, camphor, chocolate, and lemon peel. There is a lot going on in the aroma of this tea. Wow is this tea sweet, like sugarcane and muscadine grapes, slightly sour cherries and lemon with chocolate and honey. It has an immensely juicy mouthfeel that switches to a very warming qi, and long lingering relaxing feeling. This is a tea I like to drink in the evening because it tends to make me want to take a nap.

Yunnan Purple Beauty Black Tea of Simao Spring 2014

I love black tea with a little age on it, it seems any unwanted sharp or overly woody notes tend to fade over a few years and leaves you with a mellow and rich tea. The same can be said with this purple black too! Of the purple blacks I looked at, this is the most recognizably black tea, with notes of malt, dried cherries, toasted cumin, and molasses. The tangy fruity notes are really the only thing that makes this smell other than a bog standard Simao black. The mouthfeel is rather different than the others, instead of being juicy, this is more on the dry side, reminding me a bit of the mouthfeel of a wine. You can definitely feel and taste the tannins on this one, it is rich and honestly the mouthfeel isn't the only wine like quality, the taste reminds me of a merlot (I am not a wine person, just FYI) with notes of dark grapes, distant spice, molasses, cherries, and a finish of malty cocoa. Purple teas are great, they take familiar tastes that you find in the category they are made in and add a new level to them, like if you want your black teas to be fruitier just get a purple!

These teas were purchased by me.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

TeaKruthi: Cinnamon Chai, A Tea Review

NameCinnamon Chai

Company: TeaKruthi

Type of Tea: Ceylon Black tea from the Ruhuna region and Ceylon cinnamon

Description of Dry Leaf: Curly medium length leaves with surprisingly large chunks of cinnamon scattered through

Aroma of Leaf: Spicy! The cinnamon is strong, but since it is real cinnamon the aroma is quite sweet. The tea itself is malty and robust with notes of molasses and fruit.

Aroma of Tea: Malty and fruity, like dried apples and juicy plums with molasses and a nice warm, strong note of cinnamon.

Preparation Style: I have gongfu'd this tea before, but for the review I did it western style, steeping for 3 minutes using 195F and a tea basket.

Taste: Quite pleasant, especially on a day when I cannot seem to feel warm, cinnamon is very warming, and combined with a brisk black tea you get a tea that just heats you up from the inside out. The taste is a blend of malty and molasses heavy tea with notes of dried apple and a nice strong and very sweet cinnamon note. If you feel adventurous you can easily make this more into what people think of as a 'chai' with milk and sugar, but it tastes just fine as is. I have on occasion used this tea for blending, using it as the tea part of my Thandai Chai blend, which was fun. It is pretty versatile, taking well to multiple steeps and either gongfu or western style brewing. I actually prefer it gongfu since I can get more out of it and the tannins are milder that way, though western is just fine.

Oddball Notes: I know, I know, "don't you strongly dislike Ceylon and cinnamon?" well kinda, I am not a fan of lower grade Ceylon tea (the higher end stuff I am a fan of) and I absolutely love true cinnamon and I am not a fan of cassia or cinnamon flavoring. There is a big difference there, if you ever get the chance do a side by side comparison of real cinnamon and cassia, you will never go back...granted real cinnamon costs a good bit more, but totally worth it. Also excuse the mediocre photos, this was written before my move when all but like two pieces of my teaware were packed up and my lighting rig as well!

How I Acquired The Tea: I bought it

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Outside Tea, Window Views, and the Perils of Weather

I had the best idea for a blog post for today, I admit that I am not blogging as streamlined as I would like since I am all between housing at the moment and don't have the perfect tea area set up yet for crazy experiments, so I wanted to write about an awesome experience I had the other day. One of the truly amazing perks of where I am staying is the proximity to water, I swear I would sell one of my kidneys to not have to leave, but alas lakeside property will never be within my disabled grasp, but that doesn't mean I am not loving all of it now. The other day we had a break in winter storms for a few days in the high 50s (apparently the average snow days in April in Madison is 2, we have had more than that this year and I HAVE BEEN LOVING IT!!!!) so I took my sketchbook and a big glass of tea to sit on the dock and sketch. This experience was so great I thought I would replicate it for today's post...just needed to get some pictures (and do more sketching)

So I woke up and looked at the weather and...35F as the high. Not too bad, as long as it is not really windy and I have my earmuffs I am quite comfy being out in that temperature. I love the cold as long as my ears are warm, but I have to wear ear coverings if it is too windy during the summer or I get ear aches...silly sensitive little auricles. I then notice the 'winter weather alert' and then also notice that it is for today, and we are predicted to get up to 7 inches of snow. Well then...I don't think trying to sketch in the snow is a good idea, but I can still have tea out on my porch!

And now we come to the meat of the issue, outside tea is awesome...mostly. Tea in front of a window is also awesome...mostly. I find myself when outside having tea that I am more prone to pay attention to the world around me than the tea and then tend to lose some of the nuances of said tea, like why would I pay attention to the liquid in my cup when the liquid outside my window makes such tantalizing patterns to distract my mind...and hey, now there are coots...and wow look at the way the clouds reflect in my tea cup...and oh cool look at the how the wind changes the patterns of the waves. You see the problem! Either I have chugged my tea and not paid attention or it has gone cold because I was not paying attention, these things are fine when I am just having tea but not so good if I am trying to get tasting notes.

As I type this I am happily watching the snow, I cannot see the other side of the lake due to the fog and snow and it is otherworldly. When I have settled I find myself wondering if I will go back to my lighting controlled enclosed tea desk (which cats don't like running across) or set my tea tray up in front of the window, I suppose the greater question is this...what is more important, paying attention or enjoying the view?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Trishnna Tea: Turmeric Black Tea, a Tea Review

Name: Turmeric Black Tea

Company: Trishnna Tea

Type of Tea: A black blended tea made of Organic Assam Black Tea Leaves, turmeric powder, turmeric root, apple pieces, hibiscus petals, rose hip peels, flavor, kiwi pieces, and strawberry pieces. It looks like there are carrot bits and raisins in the blend as well, though the ingredients don't list them so I am not sure if it is just the dried kiwi or strawberry and apple dyed by the turmeric. It does that after-all.

Description of Dry Leaf: It is so colorful! The bits of fruit and turmeric root mixed in with the dark tea leaves is a striking contrast. This tea is very autumnal in its color scheme.

Aroma of Leaf: The tea smells very strongly of turmeric, giving it a very earthy quality, alongside that are notes of tangy and tart fruit (much like berries with a citrus undertone) with a finish of pepper and woodiness. There is a lot going on but it is not cacophonous, the notes play off each other quite well.

Aroma of Tea: It is quite tangy and earthy, I admit I was a little worried when I first sniffed it that it would be too tart. I am rather picky with my tartness levels in tea, a little is fine and can be quite enjoyable in moderation. Luckily there are other notes in play so I am intrigued enough to continue.

Preparation Style: Western style, porcelain teapot and antique teacup with 195F water for the duration of Tainted Love. I don't believe in timers, frequently when I steep teas western style I use music. Today was clearly an 80s day.

Taste: Hey, it is snowing! Perfect time to go outside for a tea tasting! It is both earthy and surprisingly sweet, you can really taste the turmeric, giving the overall feel of the tea a distinct warmth (and no, not just because I am sitting in the snow in the middle of April, good lord I love the north so much) and spiciness. It pretty quickly moves to malty black tea with a distinct strawberry tartness with a sweet and peppery finish. If you let it get cold it gets a coppery taste which is probably from the hibiscus, as I usually find it tastes metallic.

Oddball Notes: I had an escape! Tao decided to wander onto the porch to have a snow adventure. Last time she went into the snow she put a paw in it and immediately ran back inside, this time she was much more adventurous, taking a snowy stroll. Maybe later I will harness her up and take her on a walk out in nature, she is fluffy and beefy enough to handle the cold, unlike very shorthair and wiry Espeon.

How I Acquired The Tea: Sent for review

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Nannuoshan: Comparing Chocolaty Chinese Black Teas

I love Hong Cha, the delightful sweet and soothing leaf known to many just as Chinese black tea, it is a deeply varied category that I am very happy to explore. Today I decided to compare a pair of teas that have a strong chocolate profile, showing how they are similar and yet quite different!

Da Fo Hong Cha

This tea is fun, it is the same as dragonwell green, but as a black tea, and you all know my love of tea that is made into something it usually isn't. The aroma is malty and chocolaty with side notes of molasses and a woody finish. The steeped tea is very sweet, like honey, molasses, and a large amount of melted milk chocolate, it is pretty mouthwatering! Tasting the tea is a treat, it is very creamy, again the idea of milk chocolate comes to mind, along with a hint of stewed pear and a finish of distant flowers. This tea is getting a bit of age on it, and I love the way black teas mellow out with age, when I first tried this tea a while ago it had a stronger woody taste and no floral aftertaste, seeing how it changes is a delicious adventure. One thing I really like about this tea is you can do anything to it, I am not sure why but it seems this is the tea I go to when I am frazzled and end up forgetting it, but even oversteeped it is sweet and good.

Zhenghe Gongfu

Ah, Fujian black teas, these are my weaknesses, the teas that I find very comforting and only drink when I need a mood boost, unlike some other Chinese black teas that I just drink whenever! This one is very aromatic, strong notes of cocoa pods, molasses, and ok honestly this tea smells like fresh brownies, complete with a thick cake like aroma. There is a family recipe that Ben's family makes for birthdays, a very rich and sweet chocolate cake, as recipes go it has been tweaked over the years to not be as rich and to be more like a cake rather than something godlike. Well I got my hands on the recipe and....ummm...altered it to be more rich, and if you were to take that rich chocolate, malty, molasses heavy cake and make it into a tea you would end up with this. It is so rich and sweet, and conveniently is another tea you can do just about anything to and end up with a delicious cup. I am fond of tossing this one in a thermos, just leaves and water and drinking it as it goes from light and sweet to full on serving of molasses chocolate cake.

These teas were a gift

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Trishnna Tea: Moroccan Mango Mint, A Tea Review

Name: Moroccan Mango Mint

Company: Trishnna Tea

Type of Tea: Green Tea Blend, made with: Organic Green Tea Leaves, Mint leaves, mallow leaves, vervain, candied pineapple pieces, candied mango pieces, jiaogulan (glucose), lemon pieces, flavor, filipendula (meadowsweet) herb, passion flower herb, candied papaya pieces, lime-tree petals, cardamom, strawberry pieces, rose petals, ginseng root, vanilla pieces, and apricot pieces.

Description of Dry Leaf: Mostly green, the leaves are decently sized and spread through with bits of flowers, herbs, and fruit. The dark green of the tea looks especially appealing next to the bright green of the mint leaves.

Aroma of Leaf: Hey, mint! The mint is happily accompanied by sweet tropical fruit, delicate almond (hello meadowsweet) grassy green, roses, cardamon, and a delicate herbaceous and citrus finish. Even though the mint note is quite prominent it is by no means overwhelming.

Aroma of Tea: Sweet and minty, with notes of grassy and vegetal green undertones with strong tropical and citrus fruit. Alongside these notes are delicate floral and mellow mint, this pleases me since I like mint but I prefer it in moderation.

Preparation Style: I had to rummage through all my packed up teaware to get a nice cup and porcelain teapot out, I prepared it western style with 175F for 3 minutes. I really wanted to try this tea iced but Madison is having an extended winter and the promise of snow and current 25F weather had me more in a warm tea mood.

Taste: I really want to try this iced, as soon as it is warm I am going to cold steep it for sure! The flavor is mellow, nice sweet mango and papaya with lots of undertones of floral and spices. The finish is a cool mint and long lasting sweet fruity taste that sticks around for quite a while. Conveniently with this blend you can taste the tea, sometimes blends really mask the base tea, but this one has nice crisp and vegetal notes that add a slight touch of umami and take away from what could be too intense of a sweet taste. It absolutely does not need sweetening, at all, it is already perfectly sweet and luckily for me any of the flavor tastes completely natural and like I am drinking a nice cup of green tea and mint with fruit and flowers.

Oddball Notes: I am often fairly hard on blended teas, but ones that use oddball ingredients and go for fun flavors always catch my eye, and the idea of bringing a more fruity flavor combination to a classic Moroccan Mint just really worked for me, often I find Moroccan Mint to be wayyyy too minty and uses honestly pretty subpar greens. I had a lot of fun with this one and I really want to try it iced.

How I Acquired The Tea: Sent for review

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Yunomi: Matcha and Hojicha Cappuccino From Uji Moritoku, A Tea Review

First review from my new (temporary) tea desk setup, hilariously I had these sent to my new place ahead of me thinking it would be a few weeks before they arrived and they ended up getting there before me! These are pretty perfect for when you are moving, not a lot of setup (like my chasen and chawan, both are still buried in boxes) and are already mixed with sweetener and milk so good for on the go and quick mixing when very busy. So, here are two different instant Cappuccino style drinks from Uji Moritoku via Yunomi!

Instant Matcha Cappuccino

How pleasantly bright green! I was expecting a more dull 'culinary grade' shade of green since it is a sweetened and milky latte style drink, but no! The aroma is very much so Matcha, that grassy green with undertones of seaweed and of course sweet cream. Adding 200ml of 175F water I was very entertained by the fact that is had a froth, even with my barely needing to stir it with my mini kitchen whisk, there was distinct foam! The taste is pretty intense, very sweet with a strong creamy taste, of course it tastes like Matcha with notes of grass, sesame seeds, and a slight umami seaweed finish. The dregs are a bit bitter since they are mostly condensed Matcha so drink it fast and don't let it settle! I liked this instant Matcha, I really wish it was less sweet (it bordered on cloying for me) and that it had a slightly less powdered milk aftertaste, had the aftertaste been of Matcha and the sweetness reduced by half it would be perfection for me!

Instant Hojicha Cappuccino

Of the two, this one excited me the most, I have had so many sweet milky Matcha drinks that having a Hojicha one was novel, and it is well known how much I love my Hojicha! From the moment I opened the package I could smell the roast, strong roasted green tea aroma blends with sweet cream for a unique caramelized combination. The taste is very sweet, I would have preferred it less sweet, the taste of the instant milk and cream was very strong on this one as well, tasting strongly of creamy powder. The roasted tea taste is pleasantly strong, again the caramel notes come to mind, as do toasted sesame and autumn leaves and just a hint of grassiness. I enjoyed this one but really wish it was less sweet.

Are these high art? No. Are they better than anything I can get at a coffee shop? Yes, with the added benefit of not having to leave my house if I am super busy. For a drink that is marketed towards speed and ease of access, it is super tasty and gave me a much needed burst of energy. I will take this any day over crap you get at coffee shops (cough cough Starbucks Matcha latte!)

Tea provided for review.