Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tea, Kidney Stones, Year End, and Holidays

It has been...a week....for me. I have been struck low by my kidneys deciding to take up rock collecting and then immediately disposing of that collection. Thanks kidneys! The pain has eased up but I am steering clear of tea for a short while (loud angry crying ensues) and going on the all herbal and water diet, at least until my kidneys are in the clear.
Inside footage of what my urinary tract has been lately

Conveniently this is happening right at the holidays, so I have a legit excuse for not blogging again until after New Years! Granted kidney rocks are a valid excuse, but I am full of annoyance and the snark is thick.

Happy Holidays everyone, drink extra tea in honor of me and my stupid kidneys, see you all in January!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Tea From Taiwan: Da Yu Ling and Hua Gang, An Oolong Review

Ben and I had the best game of Commander the other night (technically I had two really good games, but the second one was him drawing nothing but lands so that was not really as fun) which was great because I was starting to develop a complex. Brewing Commander decks is one of my favorite past-times, and one I consider myself somewhat skilled at it, but of course I have a favorite deck. My baby, the Scarab God, a Dimir zombie tribal deck, it is not tier one but it is quite a good deck...except when it isn't. For several months I could not win a game, I was never hitting my card draw, ramp, win conditions...and statistically I should, I have enough ramp and card draw and have more than one win condition, but it seemed I just had the worst luck. It was starting to make me doubt my deck, but it seems my run of bad luck is over! Clearly that means I need to go back to working on card alters and finish that project. Though I do realize I need to tweak a few things, I do not have enough disruption and since I am in blue and play 1vs1 the most, it is needed.

Enough of MTG rambling, I could go on about that all day, so I should stop before I get out of hand. Today I am looking at a pair of Taiwanese Oolongs from way up in the mountains, by way of Tea From Taiwan. You can either get both of them separately or try them in this duo sampler, so let us take a trip high into the mountains to looks at two delightful teas. 

Sweet lord it has been an eternity since I had a DYL, what was once one of my favorite teas of all time has now become a real pain to get since they have greatly limited the amount of tea growing space in that region, replacing it with nature zones...the naturalist in me is happy, but the tea lover in me is miffed. This tea is immensely aromatic, very crisp and sweet with green vegetation notes, citrus flowers, papaya, and a lingering finish of daffodil flowers. Brewing up the leaves brings in stronger buttery notes of cooked bok choy and a touch of honeysuckles to go along with the daffodils. I might have spent way too much time sniffing the leaves before actually getting to drinking the tea. The first thing that really struck me was the immensely THICK mouthfeel, it was viscous and soup-like, and left an aftertaste that lingered for an eternity. The taste was phenomenal, notes of crisp green vegetation, irises and daffodils, sweet cream, and the lingering aftertaste of juicy pears. The tea lasts forever too, definitely a tea I sat with all day, I long lost count of how many steeps I got with it and was still sad to see it end. 

Hailing from the Hua Gang region of Li Shan (yet another favorite mountain...but honestly at this point I think I have said that about all of them...I just get really overwhelmed in a good way by Taiwanese Oolongs) The aroma of these leaves have a lot in common with the DYL, crisp and green with underlying floral notes and a delicate fruitiness, however those notes are different, this one brings in raw spinach leaves, hyacinth flowers, and a touch of apples. Brewing the leaves makes them undergo an aroma transformation, the floral notes turn into spicebush and lilies with their intense sweet and spicy qualities, and also a finish of starch similar to Hawaiian sweetbread (something I have to never be left alone with or I devour it like a maniac.) There is something magical about gaoshan oolongs, mostly that they are the thickest teas, I always expect them to look thicker than they are since their mouthfeels are like warm, gelatinous, soup and I love it. This tea is fairly balanced in its taste, no note overpowers another, it starts with a mellow green vegetation and slight herbaceous (the herb savory to be exact) note that fades into sweet lingering lilies and starchy sweet bread, both of these notes lasting long into the aftertaste. This was another tea that I sat with all day getting steep after steep of, and was sad when its lily taste faded like a closing blossom. 

Teas sent for review

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Fong Mong Tea: Four Taiwanese Spring Oolongs, A Tea Review

I am having such a hard time getting back to reality after my trip last week. Not really sure why, as it was not a long trip, and as I have been back for two days I really should be back to normal. I think I shall blame the lack of tea, see I was a complete fool, thinking that I know places in KC to get decent tea and I had very little room in my luggage, so clearly I will be able to manage for all days except the trip out with my full travel steeper. This was a mistake, I spent the entire weekend drinking really nasty tea bags, even at the dedicated cafe I went to I ended up with overly hot water brewed green tea, bah! I am never making that mistake again, I will find room for tea in my luggage! The best tea I had all weekend was at the Nelson Atkins Art Museum (my favorite place) they had bags, but at least they were those fluffy full leaf style bags, the English Breakfast was decent.

Tea cravings while hours away from your treasured stash aside, today I am looking at four teas from Fong Mong Tea, specifically four green Oolongs from the spring harvest of 2018, two of which are Gaoshan and two are lower elevation. So, onward to the teas!

Spring 2018 Tsui Yu Taiwan Floral Jade Oolong

Ah Tsui Yu, one of my favorite of the green oolongs, one that I love to drink when I want that distinct oolong thickness, but also want something more green than sweet, it is the epitome of refreshing. The aroma of these lovely jade green leaves is a pleasant combination of sweet and green, with notes of apricots, honeysuckle, tulips flowers, fresh vegetation, and raw spinach leaves. Brewing it up brings in notes of pine needles and a much more green quality, like summer when the air just smells like growing things. The taste is exactly what I want in a Tsui Yu, it is smooth and mellow with notes of spicy sweet flowers, fresh green vegetation, and a lingering fruit aftertaste. Later steeps bring in more of a stronger green note, much like buttery cooked bok choy and lettuce, but still retain that sweet apricot aftertaste.

Spring 2018 Sijichun Taiwan Four Seasons Spring Oolong

Good old reliable SiJiChun, forever spring, no matter what harvest you get you know it is going to be delicious. I really like it as a daily drinker style oolong, also for bowl steeping, I mean I will be honest you can do anything to this style tea and it will still taste good. The aroma of these leaves is a bit green, a bit nutty, and a bit floral. There are notes of lemon flowers, sesame seeds, sage, and thyme, it is well rounded and smells quite crisp. Once steeped the herbal notes take the center stage with a strong note of lemon leaves at the finish. So, this is where it gets fun, this tea tastes like lemon cheesecake, with undertones of lemon leaves and sage, it is as delicious as it is unusual! Later steeps I swear I can taste pie crust definitely bringing the cheesecake taste full circle!

Spring 2018 Gaoshanchi Taiwan Fushoushan High Mt. Oolong

Ah, I love Fushoushan goodness, but it is one of those teas that I rarely have, so I am always glad when some makes its way across my tea desk. The first thing that really struck me was how dark green the leaves are, they are a beautiful deep forest green and they are immensely aromatic. Strong notes of hyacinth, honeysuckles, petunia, and an undertone of fresh lettuce great me as I stuff my nose into the dark leaves. Steeping somehow manages to make the leaves smell even more of flower nectar, it is so intense it feels as though I am in a conservatory. The taste is, not too surprisingly, very sweet, like someone somehow made marshmallows out of unconventional flower waters, like petunia and hyacinth along with undertones of honeysuckles and mangoes. I love when tea tastes of mango, as it is my favorite fruit. This tea lasts for sooooo long, it was definitely a tea I could sit with all day and drink until late in the night.

Spring 2018 Organic Taiwan Gaoshan Jin Zhu Oolong

Jin Zhu, now this one is new to me, it is not everyday that I run into a new Oolong, so I was excited! The aroma of the bright green leaves is very sweet and floral, strong notes of apricot (almost like apricot preserves) mangoes, lily blossoms, and honeysuckles, definitely one of those sweet intensely aromatic teas that I love so much. Brewing it makes it smell creamy and even more like mangoes, putting me in mind of my much beloved mango burfi desserts that I will inhale if left alone with for any amount of time. The taste is...well...kinda hard to put into words, it is definitely very delicious with a very thick mouthfeel. I will say it tastes intensely of mangoes, and then my brain just kinda fizzled out, overwhelmed by the wave of sweetness and thick mouthfeel that washed over my tongue. I definitely want more of this tea!!

Teas sent for review