Saturday, April 6, 2019

So Long and Thanks For All the Tea

This whole surgery experience was eye-opening in a lot of ways that I did not expect. First off, I owe all of you an apology, turns out I lied when I said I was going to continue blogging after my recovery, I think the blog is well and truly dead and I am oddly ok with that. 

While I was waiting for surgery and the lead-up to it, I decided to tackle a writing project, a personal one documenting an RPG campaign I have been involved in for years. I expected it to be a slow, laborious, miserable experience that ended me exhausted and headachey and inevitably frustrated with the end result, much like writing my blog has been for the last couple of years. I thought that, since this started when the Gabapentin (for lack of a better way of putting it) fried my brain, that my brain had changed and this was the new norm, writing and having the ability to focus on it was not something I had anymore and I just had to work with it. Turns out no, I just had no inspiration left to write tea blogs, that was wildly driven home when in the space of a month I churned out an almost 54,000 word 100 page and counting mini-novel. (and then decided to turn it into an actual RPG journal prop, complete with lots of sketches, because of course I did)

The other thing I realized is that my relationship with social media has changed, a lot. I took a bit of a hiatus from posting things all the time and it has been wonderful. Not that the lovely people I interact with there are the problem, I like my occasional foray into socializing on the internet. No, my problem is it became a chore, the constant posting of tea and worrying about making sure I accurately represent it was exhausting, it made it hard to actually enjoy drinking it. I spent most of the lead up to the surgery and after just drinking tea and I forgot how wonderful it is to do that. So that means don't expect a ton of tea photos anymore, I will still do them occasionally (and post my crazy art projects because that is fun) but it will be for tea that is really special, or to show off beautiful teaware that happens to strike me on a particular day. I am going back to just drinking tea for me. 

It has been grand, I am sure I will  miss it on occasion, but now that I realize that for years I have been pushing myself to do things that just don't bring me joy anymore and it isn't a lingering problem from a medication that wanted me dead, I am going to celebrate that by setting myself free of that weight. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Surgery, Hiatus, and The Blog's Future

Before you panic, don't worry, the blog is not leaving...permanently. Ok, now that I got that out of the way onward to the actual news. Those who follow on social media know that I was recently diagnosed with Endometriosis (yay, finally I know what is wrong with my uterus trying to kill me and finally have a specialist that doesn't brush my pain off as 'just part of Fibromyalgia') and I have to have surgery to explore my abdominal cavity and remove what they can. In a perfect world, this removal and taking Progesterone will keep it at a manageable level (unlike now where I spend way too much time curled up crying on the floor) but my doctor and I are realists and know that this might not work and I might have to get my uterus removed. The reason being is having Fibromyalgia and also being one of those rare people (seriously I am like part of 3%) who have violently contradictory reactions to medication. The example I like to point out is birth control in my teens and 20s making my cramps and periods worse and also causing my gallbladder to die (it had to be removed because it was going necrotic, scary stuff) and of course the one that long time readers might remember, the Gabapentin (an antiseizure medicine) for my Fibromyalgia making me have seizures and seriously fried my brain, I still (years later) have a more pronounced stutter, concentration issues, and my chronic headaches were worsened, though it is steadily but slowly getting better. I also have a history of weird reactions to surgery, so this is....exciting...to say the least. Luckily the specialist I am working with is awesome and is very knowledgeable about Endometriosis and (much to my surprise and happiness) how Fibromyalgia affects recovery and pain. She wants to start with the least invasive and least medication option and go from there.

But enough of that, my surgery will be in 4-6 weeks and will take me roughly that long to recover (yay Fibro doubling the recovery time) and the blog will be going on hiatus until after I am recovered. Now true, I could blog until surgery time, but to be honest my blog has kinda been...mediocre...for the last couple months, and trying to have the mental fortitude to blog and have it be readable and enjoyable and not a mess has been a real trial. I am really good at hyperfocusing on something to distract me from pain (video games and painting are a good example) but when it comes to writing and taking my jumbled mess of thoughts and funneling them into a cohesive whole, it is not something I have mastered. I can let my brain go all stream of consciousness when I am painting, if I do that when I am blogging, well, you kinda get a post like this!

For those lovely companies that sent me tea, it will be reviewed when I return after surgery. I know that this medical catastrophe might kill my blog's reputation as anything reliable and might cause any tea samples to dry up. If that does happen then it will make it harder to blog, as it does run on tea samples because I am unable to afford to buy tea to keep the blog consistent. The tone will shift and wander away from reviews and into other tea themed reflections. But! We shall see, I will be returning shortly after the spring harvest, so it might be perfect timing.

Lastly, as always, I am beyond thankful for my readers and the tea community in general. You guys are awesome. I will still be around some on Instagram (it is the best place to keep up with me) posting my paintings and tea sessions, though I am not sure how much gongfu'ing there will be. If you want to support the blog and help me get tea for future reviews, art supplies (and let's be honest help pay for the stupid medical expenses) my Ko-Fi link can be found at the bottom of all my blog posts. Thanks everyone and see you on the other side of the laproscope!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Golden Tea Leaf: Shan Lin Xi EU Organic, A Tea Review

Well, I have been ultrasounded, and now I have to spend a very few tense days waiting until my appointment on Wednesday. I am so terrified they won't find anything and I will be back to wildly speculating what could possibly be causing my pain, it happens like that with Fibromyalgia sometimes. Also, my heat broke and what a rotten time for it to happens! Mostly I am staying warm enough thanks to heated blankets and sweater (and of course the cats have their own warming pads in their beds) but man, are my hands ever cold. I was planning on painting today, but instead I think I might spend the day reading and holding hot mugs of tea to thaw my hands out!

Today I am taking a look at Golden Tea Leaf's Shan Lin Xi EU Organic, a truly unusual SLX that might be a new favorite. Man, when was the last time I looked at a single tea and not a set? Too long! The aroma of the leaves is wonderful, very sweet and buttery with notes of the classic crisp alpine green, the note that really makes it stand out from other SLX is the floral note, like sweet blooming spring flowers and just a hint of bell pepper at the finish. It is unusual but very much so in a good way, it definitely smells like a SLX but with something new and exciting.

Into the teapot it goes for a steeping adventure, the aroma of the leaves as they unfurl has a hint of sassafras (well that is surprising) crisp alpine green, and a heady floral finish. The leaves are very aromatic and just increase in the amount of variety that wafts out of the leaves with each steep. The brew is an aromatic goldmine, sweet notes of flowers and crisp yet buttery green dance together with the steam drifting to my nose and it doesn't smell like the winter I am experiencing, it smells like early spring where all the flowers start to open.

So, SLX usually has a bit of a floral note, but it is not the green oolong I associate with the intense floral notes, usually I associate with more green and buttery tones. This one, however, has those classic buttery and alpine notes that are so familiar, but brings in an excitingly sweet combination of hyacinth, orchid, and peony flowers. I will say that is it is surprisingly un-heady, the notes are more nectar and light rather than thick and intoxication (like how a dancong is super heady, this is more floral like, say, a white tea, if you catch my distinction) later steeps bring in a stronger buttery thick green quality, eventually after many steeps the tea fades into nectar floral sweetness and a long lingering thick mouthfeel. I definitely recommend trying this one if you are a fan of SLX (or you know, just green oolongs in general) mostly because it goes in a unique delicious direction!

Tea sent for review

Friday, January 18, 2019

Hatvala: A Pair of Bug Bitten Oolongs from Vietnam, a Tea Review

Hey, guess who went to the doctor today, yep it is me. It is really only part one since I need to see a specialist about my uterus problems and get an ultrasound next week (people who follow me on twitter got to see that whole rant, but long story short the evil sack is trying to kill me, thus keeping with the family curse) but progress is good. I have been distracting myself from the pain with long time sickness distraction, video games, mostly Subnautica, my new favorite survival crafting game. It has totally supplanted Ark, mostly because it works, but the whole alien ocean theme is beautiful and deeply unsettling. Sadly I have gotten no painting done lately due to pain making me shaky and shaking is not good when you are painting miniatures. I really hope I can get back to my normal level of non-functioning soon because this new level of hell is just lame.

Today I am looking at two teas from Hatvala, a company specializing in Vietnamese teas, one of my favorite (somewhat obscure) tea regions. The two teas are bug-bitten, a classic Oriental Beauty and a partially bug-bitten Gui Fei, so both teas are going to be wonderfully sweet! This is one of my favorite styles of Oolong and so I am very glad to be indulging in the good stuff.

Golden Turtle Oolong

This is the Gui Fei Oolong, made from the Jin Xuan cultivar, so it is going to be intensely sweet. The aroma of the tightly balled leaves is like nectar, wonderful fruity nectar with notes of pear, peach, honey, tulips, and a finish of lightly toasted almonds. Brewing the tea fills my tea area with a heavy and very heady aroma that creeps around like a sugary cloud and it is lovely. Notes of orchids blend with tulips and the nutty undertones become stronger, and of course there is a wonderful stewed fruit aroma as well. The taste is intense, so very intense! Very thick mouthfeel with a nectar quality (you will see that word a lot in this review) strong notes of peach and pear stewed together in honey with a strong tulip blossom and orchid finish. Later steeps bring in a nutty walnut and almond note that reminds me of a fruit crumble now, this tea could be a good dessert after a heavy meal, but honestly drinking it makes me want to take a nap since it is so rich and heavy. I love it.

Oriental Beauty Oolong

Ah, OB, a long time favorite of not just me, it is a very popular tea, and for good reason! It is such a wonderful tea, the leaves have a wonderful aroma of fresh crisp apples, cherries, and a hint of raisins and stewed peaches, it is very sweet and aromatic, a great tea to happily sniff for a long time. Once steeped the aroma has a touch of a tannic quality along with buttery sweet fruit and honey. The taste, oh the taste, it is wonderfully smooth and sweet, with notes of persimmon, apple, grapes, and honey all stewed together for a delightful fruit compote that is both very sweet and also very refreshing. Where the Gui Fei is heavy and makes me want to nap after drinking it, the OB is light and energizing. A fascinating contrast between two beautiful teas.

Tea sent for review

Friday, January 11, 2019

Tillerman Tea: A Trio of High Mountain Winter Oolongs, A Tea Review

So, today I was working on a project that involves paper mache-ish, no flour just strips of paper soaked in glue water. It is basically going to be an armature for a statue I am making, I have no experience what-so-ever working with paper mache and it is a learning experience. One thing I learned is that apparently the watery glue mixture makes my hands burn and itch and I have no idea why. I am beginning to think that maybe I should have gotten a lot of air-dry clay and a ton of water-proof varnish instead of this nonsense. Ah well, wish me luck that the end result is worth it!

Today I am looking at three teas from blog favorite, Tillerman Tea, three winter 2018 Oolongs from three of my favorite mountains done up in the style of green oolongs. A Lishan, Shan Lin Xi, and an Alishan, all three well known guests on my blog...because I love them...and I could honestly drink them all day (and since it is harder for me to drink black and oxidized oolongs, I do.) In fact, that is one thing that all three of these teas have in common, they last forever. You start with one in the morning and by late evening they are finally fading. I decided to brew all of these using my celadon gaiwan and celadon cups

Alishan High Mountain Oolong Winter 2018

Let us start with the Alishan, the Oolong that might have made the most appearances on the blog (seriously, I love this stuff.) The aroma of the pretty leaves is buttery, with notes of chestnuts and bokchoy, along with intense notes of gardenia, peaches, and a lingering note of honeysuckle. It smells quite sweet, which I like. Brewing it up the aroma manages to take on even fruitier notes, with notes of lemons and peaches giving it a bit of a fruit tart quality. First off, it is love at first sip, I am of course immediately greeted by an intensely thick mouthfeel, the taste is wonderfully buttery and fruity, tasting like a peach and lemon cheesecake with building floral tones that evoke a spring bloom. The finish is a crisp lettuce note and a long lingering aftertaste of honeysuckles. I really enjoyed this one, it reminded me of late spring and tasty desserts. Also, surprisingly, Ben (who is not really a huge green oolong fan) really liked it.

Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Winter 2018

Oh SLX, you alpine tasting beauty that reminds me of long hikes in a mountain forest. The aroma of the dry leaves is that classic crisp and green alpine forest note that I have sung the praises of many times, but there are also notes of sweet corn, candied almonds, and a sugarcane. This is a surprisingly sweet smelling SLX, and once you steep it the leaves maintain their sweetness with gentle notes of hyacinth flowers  making it, somehow, even more aromatic. Tasting the tea, it is, unsurprisingly very thick in the mouth, but also very sweet. It has a wonderful crisp lettuce and pine forest taste at the start but it pretty quickly blooms into lilac and sweet corn with a lingering aftertaste of chestnuts. Later steeps bring in a stronger buttery green taste overriding the sweet notes for a powerfully intense green oolong.

Lishan High Mountain Oolong Winter 2018

Hello, Lishan, my stealth favorite tea of all time that I never have enough of and tend to drink all my stash immediately. Seriously, Lishan does something to my brain, my notes are all crooked and I swear it makes my pain levels diminish because it tastes so good. I could live off of it if I could afford it more often. The aroma is sweet, mixing yeasty sweet Hawaiian bread, caramel cookies, tulip blossoms, and melted butter. Brewing it increases the sweetness, with lilacs and violet flowers joining the mix. It is pleasantly sweet, not candy sweet, but the sweetness of falling into a hot bath that is also conveniently a room full of flowers. Like I said, this tea does something to my brain. Notes of almond shortbread cookies, violets, lilacs, and a thick buttery green notes that adds a level of balance. Later steeps bring out a level of starch and malt. My sample bag only has a few crumbs left in it and I am in mourning because I want more.

Teas sent for review

Friday, January 4, 2019

Chai Chun: A Pair of Darjeeling Second Flush Black Teas, A Tea Review

So, I have decided to learn Old English (Anglo Saxon, Ænglisc, etc) why? Honestly, because I am weird and like studying old obsolete things. I am mildly obsessed with Medieval England (I can trace my lineage back to William the Conqueror and Charlemagne, assuming people back in the day were actually legitimate children, granted most people are descended from some nobility since those guys had so many kids, and if they were a girl or later born son they just married them off to lesser nobility, so it is really easy to be descended from like the 3rd daughter of the 2nd son of the 5th son of a king) and I am just awful at learning French, so Old English it is. My first step was of course learning how to say tea...which I pretty instantly remembered didn't enter England until the sixteenth century, a bit late for OE, so I need a Kenning! Basic definition: taking two words and smushing them together into a new word, like hron-rād in Beowulf, which translates to whale road aka the sea. My tea kenning will be (thank you Prince Zuko) Leaf Water, blǣd-wæter I think should be right. Granted I am very much a novice, so I might have gotten something wrong, but for now here is the Old English word for tea!

Today I am looking at a pair of Second Flush Darjeeling teas from Chai Chun, my favorite source for Darjeeling goodness. I always go back and forth between first and second flush, and which is my favorite, they are both so different and so similar that picking a favorite is nigh impossible, so I won't, I love both flushes! The two specific teas I am looking at are Arya Ruby and Margaret's Hope Clonal Wonder, I have made it no secret that I love tea from the Arya Estate, and Margaret's Hope is a well known estate that I have not had the pleasure of experiencing, so without further ado, let us delve into the tea!

Arya Ruby Second Flush

Oh Arya Estate, I could sing your praise all day, you make some of my favorite Darjeeling tea of all time, but instead I must focus on a single tea. Continuing in their theme of naming a tea after a gemstone, their second flush is called Ruby, which is a great name for a black tea. The aroma of this tea is malty and muscatel, smelling of very sweet dark raisins and honey, with a slight undertone of sage which adds an interesting depth to the familiar muscatel malty goodness of a second flush. Brewing it up brings out some tantalizing nutty notes reminiscent of chestnuts that pair wonderfully with the incredibly strong raisin notes, they smell as though they have been stewed together in a rich red wine with a metric ton of sugar. The taste is a perfect example of a second flush, starting with a very smooth almost slippery mouthfeel with a wonderfully rich taste. Notes of stewed raisins and chestnuts, a strong malty quality, and a lingering aftertaste of fresh sage. It is a great tea for an afternoon pick-me-up!

Margaret's Hope Clonal Wonder Second Flush

It is always fun to try a new estate's offering, and by new I mean new to me, Margaret's Hope is rather old. The aroma of these leaves is surprisingly nutty! Strong notes of almonds blend with raisins bringing in that classic muscatel note, it is an immensely sweet smelling tea and I was very excited to steep it up! Once I have steeped the leaves, the aroma wafting out of my cup is still very muscatel, very nutty, and hello sweet yeasty freshly baked bread! This is such a sweet smelling tea. The taste is unsurprisingly very sweet and smooth, with crisp grape notes, apricot jam, almonds, and a lingering aftertaste of freshly baked very yeasty sweetbread. This tea is practically begging to be sipped at a tea party with a small mountain of cucumber sandwiches, something I need to make happen.

Tea sent for review