Friday, June 29, 2018

Tea Bento: Cloud Leopard (DongFeng MeiRen Oriental Beauty) A Tea Review

Hey, guess what? If you guessed that it is hot and I have turned into a humanoid blob undulating across the floor instead of bothering to walk anywhere...well you are oddly specific in your guess. One thing about Kansas City heat I liked was the fairly low humidity, if it was say 95F it was uncomfortable but not melt into goo levels, but when you live next to a lake the humidity is real high, much like living in the south. So I am sitting wrapped in a wet towel with a fan blowing on me because I refuse to turn on the AC, I moved north to avoid having to turn the blasted thing on after all. (Ok that was not the only reason, but escaping heat was a BIG one!)

But, you are not here (presumably) to listen to me rant (once again) about how much I hate temperatures over 90F, you are here for tea...probably steeped at a temperature around 90C (because I steep everything at 195F) Today I am looking at Cloud Leopard by Tea Bento, they sent me this one back in February, at the time I could not find it in their store and I admit was too distracted by packing to properly follow up (fail) but today I was rooting around for a tea to drink and found my pouch, and lo and behold! It is on the website, so I can give it the review it deserves! Cloud Leopard is an Oriental Beauty (or DongFen MeiRen) from Taiwan, one of my favorite types of Oolongs. Lately I have been powering through greens since my stomach has been stupid, but today I desperately needed something heavier, and this was a perfect pick. The aroma is sweet and light, somewhat unassuming at first sniff, but adding it to a warmed teapot and POOF massive burst of juicy apples, apricots, orchids, honey, distant spicebush, and a finish of pears. It is very fruity, which I like!

Brewing the leaves the aroma is somehow sweeter, taking on more of a stewed fruit rather than fresh fruit, but man is this ever a fruity oolong! The first couple steeps are light and sweet, like a light wildflower honey over apples and pears. The aftertaste is one of distant flowers and an ever so subtle note of spiciness that lingers like an autumnal dream.

Later steeps increase in sweetness, bringing in notes of peaches and apricots along with the apples and pears, it is like a fruit harvest in my mouth and I am perfectly ok with that. It is very well rounded in the mouthfeel with a full and slippery feeling, it is not immensely thick, more light and floaty which matches with the fruity sweetness. It hit the spot in so many ways, especially this morning where I needed something rich in flavor and sweetness, plus it has decent longevity which is always a plus for me.
Tea Sent for Review

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Teasenz: Wild Orange Pu'er Tea - 2009 Ripe Tangerine Puerh Cha, A Tea Review

So, observant types might notice that it is in fact Tuesday rather than Sunday when I usually blog, mostly it is because Sunday I was under the weather, also I have decided that my blog needs a new schedule! From now on blogs will be Tuesday and Friday, and not be a definite 'review and random' pattern, it will just be what I feel like writing about at that time. And today I feel like delving into the world of Puerh thanks to Teasenz, looking at Wild Orange Pu'er Tea - 2009 Ripe Tangerine Puerh Cha.

There is something a bit magical about tea stuffed in a thing and dried, be it oranges, bamboo, lotus flowers...and I am sure there are other things out there I have not run into...I am not entirely sure why I find them so endearing, but I do. I find these Chenpi Shous come in two varieties, really small ones you can brew the whole thing, or larger ones you need to break up if you want to gaiwan it up, this is the larger variety so I broke off a decent amount of peel to go with the tea. The aroma is wonderful, just the right amount of wet pine needle earthiness blended with sharp citric orange peel and a finish of yeasty sourdough at the finish.

After a rinse and steep I find the leaves and peel smell a bit malty and cocoa like, along with the orange and earthy notes giving it a bit of a chocolate orange aroma. The liquid is the same, earthy, malty, sweet and cocoa with a strong orange aroma. I love these things, they smell so good, especially on a rainy day (which is was the day I drank this...it is also storming right now and has me tempted to get into the other half of the orange, but I must wait for now)

The first couple of steeps really bring the earthy quality, so if you are not a fan of loam, wet pine needles, wet leaves, and autumnal air with undertones of orange peel you might want to go for a double or triple rinse. I am a huge fan of those tastes and love it with the orange, which takes a sweet shou and makes it sweeter, it adds a richness to the tea which I really like. Hilariously Ben hates the first couple of steeps, but later ones wanted in on.

Because, later steeps bring out the strong orange and cocoa notes followed by malt and molasses. What really fascinates me about this style tea is the way it feels incredibly balanced with the chaqi, the shou is very warm (and part of the reason I can't drink a ton of it, I have too much heat, I get my heat from black teas mostly, but lately I have had to steer towards 'cool' teas) as is the chenpi (the peel) but it manages to not feel like I am drinking an inferno, somehow it makes me feel a bit cooled off, which believe me, I like! Especially when I am feeling all congested in my lungs, because this stuff acts a bit like an expectorant (at least for me) so it is a godsend during allergy season.

Being a puerh, it has the expected ridiculous longevity that one expects, I ended up drinking it all day going for massive long steeps and drinking it fairly cold because I just let the leaves sit in the water for like half an hour, and it never gets bitter. If you feel particularly adventurous, you can do the boiling thing with the spent leaves to squeeze every bit of orange goodness out of it. Also, since everyone is different, this style tea takes well to tweaking, I like my orange shous to be heavy on the orange side so I add more peel, but you can just add shou to get a slight scenting of orange, it is one of the big benefits over the single use mini oranges.

Tea sent for review

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Trishnna Tea: A Pair of Cold Steeped Teas, A Tea Review

I have a serious problem, I hoard scarves...Before I moved to Madison I had a decent collection of about 20 scarves, but the local thrift store (especially the bin store where you pay by the pound) is a haven for scarf collectors...I now have a ridiculous 72 scarves. My only problem with this is storage, how do you accurately store that many scarves while letting you see what you have? My current method (which needs work, I had a plan that I will be implementing later) is to go to dollar tree, get a bunch of shower curtain rings, and hang them off hangers. Eventually I want to get a bunch of those removable sticky hooks and have a wall that is nothing but scarves.

I decided today to look at a pair of cold steeped teas, both from Trishnna Tea. Starting off with Ginger Tulsi Green Tea, a blend of ginger and tulsi (two of my favorite herbs) and an organic Indian green tea, making for a very refreshing and crisp blend (especially cold steeped on a hot day!) The aroma of the leaves is a strong mix of ginger and tulsi, making it warm and spicy along with sweet and herbaceous. I was not a huge fan of this tea hot, the ginger and tulsi is not as strong as I would like if I brew it with green tea temperatures, and at hotter the green tea is bitter, however cold steeping it is perfection! The taste is pleasantly warm and sweet from the ginger, refreshing and crisp from the green tea, and of course the tulsi maintains a wonderful herbaceous quality all through the sipping experience. It was a little cup of sunlight on a rainy day!

I find in the evening I like to have something cold and herbal, once the temperature stays above 60F consistency a cold drink after a warm day is bliss. So the Chamomile Mint Tea was a good choice for cold steeping. The aroma is the sweet blend of spearmint (a very mild yet also very present mint) chamomile's honey and straw notes, and a touch of citrus. Drinking this one hot I really enjoyed, but as with the other tea I really enjoyed it the most cold, the sweet notes from the chamomile and crisp notes of mint makes for a very refreshing evening drink. Oddly I kept wishing this one had lavender, not sure why, but my brain wanted it to be mixed with lavender. Either cold or hot, this tea was a win in my book.

Teas sent for review

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Golden Tips Tea: Spring Signature Darjeeling Black Tea - First Flush 2018, A Tea Review

Ughhh it is hot today!! Hot and very muggy, I still don't like the heat at all so I am full on being a lump mode today, only shaking off my fugue to blog and check the weather in the vague hopes that it storms. It is the only thing about warm weather I like, and we had a glorious storm the other night, though it was not good for practicing my lightning photography, it was a sky rave with hail and crazy torrential rain. I have not had to water my plants the last couple days thanks to all that rain!

Since it is gross hot today, I decided I wanted something sweet and crisp, Golden Tips Tea Spring Signature Darjeeling Black Tea - First Flush 2018 delivers. The sizable and fluffy leaves are mottled brown and green with a bit of fuzzy tips here and there, they smell really good! Very strong aroma, with notes of nasturtiums, white grapes, celery leaves, and a green herbaceous finish that lingers in the nose. Steeping the leaves brings out notes of honey and wildflowers with the already present notes of the dry leaves.

Oh man, this really is the perfect tea for a hot day, the taste is very crisp and juicy, really it is like biting into a fresh white grape, but with a side of nasturtiums, chervil, celery, and lettuce. It tastes like a summer salad, but with a sweeter edge. Later steeps bring in more pronounced floral notes, with wildflowers and honeysuckles, and a finish of lingering sweet apricot.

It goes for several steeps too, for the third steep I paired it with some really delightful juicy (and very sticky) fresh mango and it was a wonderful flavor combination. On a whim I took the fourth steep and chilled it (again, I am roasted) and it tastes really refreshing chilled, those greener notes of nasturtium and chervil take the forefront when it is cold. This seems to be one of those teas that soothes no matter what you do with it!

Tea sent for review

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ChaiChun Tea, Sunshine and Moondrop, A Tale of Two Darjeelings!

Currently where I am staying there is a beautiful view of Lake Monona from the balcony, on most days having the windows open to bring in lake sounds and smells would bring me happiness, today not so much.  There is a toxic algae bloom ongoing due to all the rain we have gotten recently, record high heat, and of course the ever present fertilizer based pollutants crashing into the lake. I feel a strong kinship with this lake (which is honestly more than a little weird) and seeing it sick has not been the best for my mood of late. Especially with another burst of record setting heat on the way this weekend. I want to go swimming and to enjoy the lake, and I am not a good enough necromancer to turn it into a giant shambling monster, so instead I just have to watch the dead fish float to the surface and smell the stench.

North Tukvar Sunshine First Flush 2018

Sorry, that was grim, but it is my view right now and pervading my thoughts. Luckily I can drown my sorrows in delicious tea so let us get to it! ChaiChun sent me first flush teas (yay!) and I am looking at two of those today, starting with North Tukvar Sunshine. First off, this estate is making waves with its sustainability, using its own compost and gravity irrigation, AWESOME! The leaves are fairly small and a bit chopped up with a vibrant color, I pretty immediately ignore the appearance when the smell hits me like a wave! Strong and very aromatic, this tea smells of white grapes and honey (classic with a Darjeeling) and toasted nuts with a woodsy and slightly fruit tree floral smells. It is a pleasantly nuanced smelling tea! After steeping the tea retains most its notes and gains a fun grapefruit note that was surprising and very refreshing, which is good since my brain is mush at the moment of drinking this. The taste is crisp and light with an intensely sweet start reminiscent of cotton candy, honey, fresh very juicy grapes (omg you guys, this tea tastes of cotton candy grapes) and a slight bittergreen finish that reminds me of microgreens and a bit of radishes. This tea has some staying power as well, I was worried with the smallish leaves that it would putter out quickly but nope, it gives for many steeps.

Puttabong Moondrop First Flush 2018

I want to say I picked the moon and sun themed teas to compare on purpose, but that credit goes to ChaiChun for sending them, perfect though! The aroma of this very fluffy leafed tea is also pretty potent, I can tell these are super fresh teas because I swear the aroma just explodes out of the bag when I open them. Strong notes of sage and fresh grapes with undertones of orange blossom and green peppers. The first thing that struck me when drinking this tea was the smooth mouthfeel, it is so velvety and soft, it was very pleasant! Tasting the tea, I was presented with notes of grape and apricot skin, herbaceous notes of savory, sage, and oregano, and a lingering aftertaste of orange blossoms and fruit trees. It too goes for many steeps, and becomes crisp and greener as the tea fades out.

Once again, ChaiChun sent me super yummy tea!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Teasenz: 2012 Fuding Gong Mei White Tea Cake - Aged White Tea, A Tea Review

Very recently (as in yesterday) I got a new nose ring in the mail. It is very pretty, made of 10kt gold and synthetic purple opals, it is very flashy and was surprisingly cheap. However it has caused a hilarious problem, I am not used to seeing something purple out of the corner of my eye on my nose, so I keep thinking it is fluff or something and end up trying to swat away my nose ring. I am slowly getting used to it, but for now my brain is convinced there is a purple fluff on my nose.

Today I am looking at an aged white tea from Teasenz, their 2012 Fuding Gong Mei White Tea Cake, a cake that, when I opened the box it arrived in, Ben insisted that I share when I get into it. Ben loves aged white teas as much as I do, so when I lifted the cake out of my 'to try' box he was descended on my tea desk like a vulture onto carrion.

And I can't say I blame him, there is something truly magical about unwrapping a cake for the first time, the pristine wrapper all delicately tucked around the cake, and then the reveal! Beautiful big leaves with mottled brown and reds, with hints of greens, fuzzy whites, and a few stems here and there. I love white tea cakes, they have a wild look to them, like something I imagine a woodsy wizard drinking in a forest cabin somewhere. I also really appreciate that they are easy to break apart, I can just peel off chunks with minimal effort, which is good since my tea knife is in storage and I am not entirely sure as to where!

The aroma of the leaves is very sweet, notes of apricot, quince, grapes, and fresh hay. There is a slight earthy and malty undertone as well that adds a richness to the light (in notes not intensity) aroma. Once steeped the aroma of the tea is nectar, it smells so much like a pile of fresh apricots and nectarines, it is so good and really reminding me how I am craving good stonefruits! There are undertones of fresh hay and a touch of sweetgrass as well.

Oh aged white tea, you really are a treasure! I swear no matter how fowl a mood I am in or how bad I feel, it always puts me in a good mood, something about drinking it is like consuming pure sunlight or the very essence of a perfect late summer day. The early steeps are light in taste but with a thick and very coating mouthfeel that cools my insides. Notes of sweet quince, apples, nectarines, and apricots blend with a finish of subtle hay that lingers.

Later steeps, they become nectar thick and nectar sweet, massive strong notes of apricot and quince (man I love that quince note) specifically it starts taking on a quince jam and stewed nectarine quality. Again the finish is a lingering hay that sticks around for quite a while. One thing that I really love about this style of tea is that you can do anything to it, Ben has his western style steeping each cup like 15 minutes, I liked mine in my clay teapot with heavy leaves eventually bringing the steep times to match his.

You can boil it, cold steep it, bowl steep it...it really is the most versatile tea I have ever met. Well done Teasenz, you have presented me with a wonderful tea, and I am going to have a very hard time not drinking it all and letting some age!! With luck (and moderate self control) I can come back to this tea in a few years and tell you all how it tastes with even more age on it!
Tea cat is always watching me


Tea sent for review

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tillerman Tea: Muzha Tieguanyin Spring 2018, A Tea Review

Guys, I am so sad!! Ok, so I have this plush vulture I got from the zoo...it is my favorite plush that I sleep with every night, and of course it is starting to look more than a little knackered. I bought a replacement on Amazon that is very similar to my favorite but in theory bigger! Well it arrived today, and it is bigger, however it is also rigid and with a hard insert...'super soft and squishy' my eye! I always hate having to return things, but this one has to go back. At least I can just go back to the zoo and get another of the same vulture.

Today I am looking at Tillerman Tea's Muzha Tieguanyin Spring 2018, I am always excited when I get to look at their teas, and it is well known my love of Muzha TGY! The website describes it as a classic, meaning medium oxidation and charcoal roast, which sounds perfect on a slightly chilly and rainy day. The aroma of the tightly curled up leaves is, in fact, quite classic! Notes of roasted chestnuts, caramelized walnuts, and the faintest hint of distant orchids, it smells very sweet and the floral note adds a wonderful level of depth that a lot of Muzha lacks.

I steeped this tea in my duanni gaiwan, embarrassingly I forgot to take pictures of the unfurled leaves, I was having too much fun playing around with droplet photography. The aroma of the steeped leaves is so sweet, the floral notes are still around but with an added char and almost malty molasses finish. Again it smells very sweet, which I like!

Tasting the tea (after I had taken many photos) is a lovely experience, it is both crisp and a bit dry at the start, and finished with a lingering buttery mouthfeel. The taste goes on a rollercoaster of delicate orchid to roasted walnut shells, toasted grain to whipped honey butter, finishing with an aftertaste of caramel and honeysuckle. I was able to get many steeps of golden colored goodness out of this tea and ended up sitting with it most of the day, it kept me feeling warm during the rain! This one is one of the more varied tasting Muzhas I have run into, usually they taste primarily of sweet grains and caramel, this one had a lot more nuance and depth. If this is what this year's Taiwanese teas are going to be like, color me excited!

Tea sent for review

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Teasenz: Dian Hong Tea - Black Needle Tea, A Tea Review

Today's blog is a bit hilarious to me, it mixes the old and the new...at least with my camera! Yes, I finally got a new camera, a beautiful Nikon P520 that is my new baby, feel bad for the people who follow me on facebook because the stream of photos has been constant. I am beside myself with glee at this camera, especially after capturing a bolt of lightning last night! So, the first few photos of this blog are with my old camera, and the last one was from today, since I wanted this tea for breakfast and need to get the settings right for my much loved drip photos!

I am looking at Teasenz's Dian Hong Tea - Black Needle Tea, it has been too long since I got lost in a Dian Hong, I had missed the beautiful gently fuzzy golden leaves of Yunnan black tea. Seriously, I love the myriad rainbow of Dian hong types, each one is different and wonderful. The aroma on this one is wonderfully malty and sweet, this is one of those Dian hongs that smell heavy of molasses, brown sugar, and a touch of distant cocoa powder. Sniffing it calls to mind cookie dough of molasses cookies and I am perfectly ok having my nose in these leaves!

Brewing the leaves increases the maltiness and sweetness, definitely getting brown sugar and a starchy cookie finish, it smells sweet and enticing! The liquid is so sweet smelling, I found myself almost getting it up my nose I was taking such big sniffs of it, even after I chugged the cup I was snuffling like a truffle pig in the cup. The sweet and sticky molasses and brown sugar aroma just linger around forever, like the ghost of sweets past!

And now, my favorite part (ok second favorite, ogling the golden fuzzies on leaves might actually be my favorite) of tea, drinking! First off, I made the mistake of letting Ben taste this tea...and then he kept trying to steal my cup!! I ended up having to make him his own mug of it to keep him out of mine! It is both a good sign and a bad one, because it means my precious sample will diminish quicker than I would like.
My camera needs a splash guard! 

The mouthfeel is great, nice and thick, which when paired nicely with the sweet taste, giving it almost syrup texture. Considering the tea tastes of molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, chocolate, peanuts, and malt...syrup is a good way to describe it! Later steeps bring out stronger malt and chocolate tastes, it has a truly iconic molasses heavy Dianhong taste which I adored. It gets many steeps, one day I pushed this one all day and get fourteen steeps, so it goes the distance. This Dianhong gets my seal of approval...now if I can only keep Ben out of my stash!!

Tea sent for review.