Tuesday, September 25, 2018

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

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


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

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

Both teas sent for review

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Tea sent for review

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Story Of My Tea: Blind Tea Tasting Adventure

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

6014

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

6008

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

6002

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

6009

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

And here is the reveal!

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

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

Sent for review

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Macha Tea Company: Smokers Delight, A Tea Review

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

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

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

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

Tea gifted to me.