Friday, March 25, 2022

"Covid tongue" and tea experience


First published by TChing here.

I wrote about the experience of having covid, me and my whole family, in a recent blog post, with this writing focused more on how it affected tea experience.  I mentioned "covid tongue," or taste impact occurring in that, but I can go further with how it transitioned across the 10+ days of experience, which that didn't cover.

For the first couple of days I was ill enough that I didn't notice a difference in sense of taste beyond what a flu causes, experience in general seeming hazy and off.  At around the third day, when the initial loss of energy was just starting to ease up, and sore throat was at the worst, an odd experience of a metallic taste occurred, even without any tasting experience occurring at the time, without even drinking plain water.

Then over most of the next week the main "covid tongue" theme occurred, a relatively complete loss of sense of taste.  It included tongue based flavor (even sense of sweetness was diminished), and also aromatic compounds dropping out, which is common with colds and flus.  The degree was interesting; I couldn't tell the difference between the tea I drank in the morning and hot water.  Then after a few days it was interesting how that sensation would partially return in the evening; I could get a clear but limited sense of the taste of what I was drinking.

At the 11th day from the start of symptoms my tea still barely tasted like anything in the morning.  For the first time I chose a tea based on trying to drink something higher in quality that may have a better health impact (kind of a random guess, that part), going back to drinking above average sheng pu'er, even though I knew that I'd not be able to taste it.  For the last two days more significant flavor input is coming through.

at the hospital with two covid patients, the day before I came down with it

Across the week I kept drinking teas that would've seemed suitable for that range of experience.  Shu is nice for experiencing during illness, it seems to me, so rich and earthy that a little might come across, or at least the style somehow seems to match.  Early on I drank a musty, over-fermented aged sheng version to get rid of it, to take advantage of not tasting it, and I cleared through some gaba versions.  Later I was drinking more intense, only moderately aged sheng versions, in the hope that part of the taste might blast through in a positive way.  That actually worked; drinking a 2015 Dayi Jia Ji tuocha version would've normally been such an intense experience that it would require using short infusion times and light infusion strength to moderate it, but with this limitation I could brew it a bit strong and then get a sense of that heavy mineral and rich woody, smoky, or toffee input (not exactly any of those, but towards those ranges).

People in tea groups tend to comment that they couldn't imagine losing the sense of experience of tea that they value so much, but for me it's normal to take different kinds of breaks, or to vary what I experience to keep it fresh.  During vacations I'll switch to grandpa style brewing or an imprecise Western approach, and drink more basic teas during that time.  I've even taken breaks from tea, just not recently, since I changed to moderate input volume to get to a similar end point, to avoid long term exposure issues.  

It's too bad about losing that normal tea experience, but I was much more concerned about being healthy again, about other aspects coming up from this running even longer.  I tried out going for a light run before I was really recovered, in case bumping metabolism rate somehow helped, and it did seem to have a positive impact on recovery, but I ended up napping a couple of times later that day to restore my energy level. 

Of course I drank lots of tisanes over that first 10 days.  Maybe that helped and maybe it didn't; hard to say.  The hot liquid at least had a temporary soothing effect.  A Chinese-Malaysian friend recommended drinking coconut water, which I only tried after recovery was well underway, since I had not been out shopping at all for two weeks, the longest gap since the pandemic started.  It's a great time to have a lot of chrysanthemum tea on hand, to use as a filler or basis for other tisanes.  In the past I've enjoyed masala chai as a good match for illness experience, which can work with tea and tisanes mixed as a base, but I ate a good bit of heavily spiced oatmeal with fruit instead this time.

Of course I'm wondering how long this could last, when my sense of taste will fully return.  Unlike most people who do as much with the theme of tea as I do I'm not that concerned; I could take a month break.  It's not tied to any business theme, and the reviewing gets to be a bit much anyway.  You don't fully appreciate what you've got until you lose it, so it will help me in that sense, tied to not taking tea experience for granted.

With breakfast the last day of editing this I tried nearly the last of a Farmerleaf sheng cake I have around, and I think most of that experience came across, two weeks after the first day I experienced symptoms.  I may not be at full sensitivity this coming weekend, several days away, but I'll probably try out reviewing again anyway.  Food is back to being enjoyable too; that's nice.

It would be good if I could include advice to people who get covid, about how to clear it fast, or to minimize these kinds of symptoms.  Try everything, I guess; lots of rest and fluids, take vitamins, drink tisanes, eat oranges and drink coconut water, if it's around.  My son had covid first and I made a huge pot of chicken soup for him and the family, and it was really nice for me to have that myself two days later.  A nasal rinse seemed to help a little; it's familiar to us to use saline and a syringe for that, to offset illness effects and clear nasal passages after swimming to avoid infections.

A friend going through her third round of covid mentioned getting some sun.  That would add vitamin D input, which is supposed to help, but I suspect that just resting doesn't ramp up metabolic activity enough to really get you past it, and getting sun might help restore a more normal metabolism.  For the first few days complete down-time probably is best, but it really seemed to help to get my body up and moving after a more normal energy level returned.  She recommended not getting drained of energy reserve, which goes without saying, but given how covid saps your strength balancing that part can be unique.

the subject is serious, but since we all had it I tried to keep my kids from being too fearful

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Great Mississippi Tea Company Mississippi Mint blend


On with the theme of trying random samples around, the last of a few from Mississippi.  It's this:

Mississippi Mint ($11.00, I think per an ounce, but it's out of stock so hard to check)

This tea uses a green tea base and is flavored with premium spearmint oil and blended with Kaffir lime and sage. 

1 rounded tsp per 8 oz. of 185F water. Steep for 3 minutes. 

That's not far from the process I used, maybe just a bit warmer, with a little higher proportion, and timing not far off that, so brewed on the strong side.


Really nice.  It's unusual adjusting back to flavored teas but I've been mixing tisanes and tea enough that it's not so odd.  Even versions in a similar range; someone gave me some lemongrass and pandan leaf tisane that I had been using to mix with sheng pu'er for grandpa style brewing.  The mint makes this different but it's along a similar line.

It tastes like the ingredients, which makes flavor breakdown reviewing easy:  Mississippi Queen (a green tea), Spearmint, Kaffir Lime Powder, and Sage.  It all integrates really well.  At first I didn't love the sound of a mint tea version, probably why I tried this so much later than the others, but the other warmer and aromatic range really ties it all together.  I suppose this may have been slightly brighter and fresher nearly a year ago but it seems to have held up well.  Maybe that warmth that I've said is positive relates to settling in while stored in a hot environment, with humidity not really factoring in for it being sealed, and never opened in the half year since I've had it.  

As I see it it's really a myth that green tea is ruined by more than half a year's storage time.  It transitions, in ways that most people wouldn't necessarily see as positive, but as long as storage isolates it from air contact it's fine, just slightly different.  Losing that fresh edge is quite negative if that's what one values most in a green tea, of course.  A type like Longjing would be best drank sooner, and styles closer to sheng form, twisted, Vietnamese Thai Nguyen (fish hook style), or maybe even Taiping Houkui might be fine a year later, not really diminished.

The mint level and range is perfect in this; that is what would make or break this tea. This doesn't have a spice-like bite; it blends together well.

It's like a better version of a tea I tried starting out, Tazo Zen.  I'll compare the ingredients:

Green tea, lemon verbena, spearmint leaves, lemongrass, natural flavors

Not too far off.  I can probably appreciate tea quality in a different way than I did back when I would've drank that, on a lot of levels, related to identifying positive flavors differently, considering feel aspects, being familiar with astringency in different forms in tea.  Ground up material in a tea bag would brew much faster but wouldn't be as good.

One limitation of drinking just tisanes, which I still do, a lot more over the last two years than in the decade prior to that, is that the body / feel can seem limited, and complexity doesn't reach the same flavor aspects range.  This base tea version compensates for all that, adding plenty of depth, in a range that integrates with the rest.  Of course mint plays a significant role, just balanced and subdued for not blasting through as a dominant central aspect.  Lime integrates with the rest, and sage you can't notice, beyond what it must contribute for warmth, complexity, and depth.

So that's about it, a nice blend.  It's refined enough that it stands well above any sort of grocery store flavored tea, and it's probably a little better than what most online blend specialists sell.  That Tazo Zen probably wouldn't fare well in direct tasting comparison with this, but drinking both sweetened might even up the gap a bit.  It's still a tea and herb blend though, just a type and range that surely doesn't come up so often.  That's one of the impressive parts of this tea company's theme, to me, that they make products that are novel.  I can't imagine that the average American who would drink this could really fully appreciate the balance and quality level, but a general sense that it's good should still come across.

I rebrewed it; it's interesting seeing how flavor balance shifts in a tea version like this.  For flavored teas a lot of what you experience just rinses out the first round, but this is more of a blend instead.  It's not all that different.  The mint kick hits slightly differently, but it's hard to place exactly how.  Maybe it's a little cooler, or at least it carries across as aftertaste more.  General aftertaste is probably stronger, adding depth to the experience, instead of it thinning.  Astringency doesn't pick up, even though I brewed it for a longer round.  It's quite nice still, just as good.  

Even a third round didn't lose much; I tend to go with a much higher proportion and keep brewing time moderate in order to brew two very positive rounds and one that can seem a little stretched at times.

she keeps growing up

as close as he gets to posing

an unconventional look is coming along nicely

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Moychay Krasnodar (Russian) shu and Chawang shop Jinggu shu pu'er

the Chawang Shop Jinggu brick version

This is a novel form of review, trying two shu pu'er versions that I expect both will need some more time to settle, related to not being very old.  I thought that earlier covid taste sensation impact would still be a problem at this point but it's been clearing up fast over the last 4 or 5 days, and that's pretty much behind me now.

Here's what they are:

Krasnodar shu puer, 2021 (from Moychay, a Russian vendor)

An experimental tea made in Khosta region from local tea cultivars (harvest 2019) using the Menghai Shu Puer «wodui» technology.

In appearance: medium sized curved flagella of dark brown leaves and buds, a small amount of thin cuttings and sticky lumps of «chatou». The aroma is intense, with notes of baked chestnut, toasted bread and spice. The infusion is transparent, with a chestnut-yellow shade.

Since this is listed as unavailable (out of stock, or perhaps to be returned to stock again later) there is no pricing listed, which I suppose is as well given the current events context, which I'll add more about after the other tea's details.  It's interesting seeing the tasting comments; as usual some people really liked it and others didn't at all.  The style is a bit unconventional, and I think the tea needs time to rest to really be at its best.  It doesn't say when it was fermented (wet piled), which is really most relevant with regards to when it will be rested from that process, not the harvest date.

2021 Chawangpu Jinggu Lao Shu Zhuan 400g

Material for this brick come from two villages in Jinggu and collected from 2018-2020. Larger leaves from spring and autumn harvest, also called huang pian, are pure old tree material. Fermented in Menghai during winter 2020 by well experienced master and the result is very good! 

Dark and clean tea soup with some dry fruit notes. Sweet and smooth.

15USD per 400g brick is special offer !

Manufacturer : Cha Wang Shop

Production date: Harvest 2018- 2020, pressed 11/2021

Harvest Area : Jinggu area, Puer

That pricing is unusual, per a separate post notice a special offer related to the tea not being fully rested yet, and as a kind of bonus to regular customers, not selling at that value related to a conventional business practice.  This tea is probably better than some of the shu cakes Yunnan Sourcing sells for $60 (at a guess; I've tried versions of their Impression sheng cakes, and at least one other in-house version, which were all nice, but not their shu).  I'm basing that guess related to placing a lot of shu versions, and to me this is well above average, rated against my preference.  That does include that it really seems to need a bit more rest, maybe even another year of it.  There's one standard style of heavy, peat-intensive, fully fermented shu, that can transition to lighter flavors and creaminess with some age, and this isn't exactly that, which I see as positive, since I like that, but I like positive variation from that more.  

Lots of shu made now seems to be maxed out for fermentation level, but this might be backed off a bit from that.  It's possible this has good potential for a 10+ year old version as a result but to me that would only make sense to check out related to buying a few of these cakes tied to value, not so much in terms of seeking out absolute best results.  It's decent shu, at a minimum, but to me aging shu doesn't usually tend to make enough difference to warrant a decade worth of storage oversight and wait.  The first year or two can really straighten out newly made character, letting it settle, but to me the whole point of shu is that it's easy to drink and really doesn't need time to reach an optimum.

There's not much to add about this one tea being Russian, related to that war, currently the main news item.  Obviously my full sympathy goes to Ukraine, and the sympathy I have for Russians suffering economic impact is a bit tempered by the comparison to that far more severe case, and the cause, that their own government initiated an unjust war, and what I see as murder of a neighboring country's civilians and ongoing war crimes.  All the same citizens of Russia didn't cause this, any more than citizens of the US caused a relatively unjust war against Iraq (the second one; them taking over a neighboring country that first time wasn't ok, just as it's not for Russia to do that now).  Some Russians might believe state propaganda and see it as a just war but everyone I hear from online expresses the opposite.

Russia, the US, and China really need to move past all this, and do their best to work towards the common good of their own citizens and that of other countries.  Of course that's not the kind of world we live in.  What Russian leaders are in the process of doing goes a couple steps further than the horrors that are the norm, and the most severe economic sanctions in history are a natural outcome from that.

I'm a fan of all three of those countries' cultures, and others.  Visiting Russia four years ago was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, as visiting China three times was.  It's a shame that appreciation can't extend to the leadership of any of the the three.

a friendly Russian offering guidance in the Moscow subway; how I remember the people there

friendly Russian tea shop staff; there were no exceptions from that theme

Moychay will take the same hit the rest of Russia does.  This post isn't intended as implying that Westerners should be ordering tea from Russia at this time; how that works out per a standard perspective is obvious enough, and it would make sense to get back to that only after this war gets resolved.  Supporting a foreign Moychay branch wouldn't necessarily offset the end goal of these sanctions, since there must be few Russian companies not operating at a loss just now, outside their oil and gas industry, so tax revenue trickling back to the Russian economy wouldn't be much of a factor, related to companies operating at a loss.  

These posts are never actually intended as direct marketing, I'm just passing on what I think about teas.  If I say that I think a tea has a really unusual character, is of unusual quality level, or represents an exceptional value, then I guess that could be implied, but even then it's just sharing perspective, not a sales pitch.  It goes without saying that personal preference, quality judgment, and impressions about value would tend to always vary.  The judgments here about shu needing a rest period to offset fermentation related aspects probably wouldn't be all that universally accepted either; it's just one person's opinion, based on trying moderate amounts of shu (only dozens of versions versus hundreds).


Moychay left; coloring is washed out related to light level for that image

both teas were normal shu color, brown

Moychay version left, Chawang right, in all images

Moychay Krasnodar shu:  nice!  I think this will clean up a bit with more time to settle, but it's nice like this.  A warm, dark bread tone dominates it, complete with dark rye and fennel seed tones.  Fermentation related funkiness isn't on the level I would've expected for this being less than a year old [if it is; fermentation timeline is implied in that 2021 date], but that does vary.  

A nice cocoa range supports that grain scope.  It has enough sweetness and complexity that it seems likely that fruit will fill in more once this settles a bit.  That mix sounds nice, dark grain, earthy seed range spice, cocoa depth, with good sweetness, and it is.  There's a little off-malt fermentation related flavor, which could be interpreted as in mineral range, not so far off cement block scent, but I'd expect that to only be an early round theme in this.

Chawang shop Jinngu:  the first aspect that hits you is an odd flavor input, not exactly like that cement block taste in the other but related, more towards wet slate, with a bit of mortar cement mixed in.  Again I think age will mostly drop that out, but for being stronger and more dominant than in the other tea it might take longer.  This version is from late last year, apparently packed at the end of November, so it is a bit early to be tasting this.  In looking at the description it was fermented in the winter of 2020 (which can mean two different things, that it's two years old or else more like one), and only re-steamed and pressed over the last 5 months.  But then it's not as if the "settling" step occurs on a fixed timeline.

Beyond that moderate level of funky range there is interesting scope.  It seems a little lighter, maybe less fermented than the other, with a lighter fruit and spice range potentially showing through.  It should be easier to describe next round.  Sourness stands out more in the first version when finishing this round of both together; this tea isn't sour, but there is an odd flavor aspect present.  Fermentation tastes should fade for both over the next year, or maybe even six months, given how the hot and humid Bangkok climate tends to speed up any transitions teas might go through, positive or negative.

Moychay Krasnodar shu, second infusion:  the sourness that stood out more in direct comparison seems stronger this round.  I suppose it works better for me because that flavor range, mostly around dark bread, naturally pairs with some sourness in the dark bread form, so it's easier to accept for sort of being expected, or even easy to overlook.  The cocoa tone is already starting to give way to a heavily roasted coffee input; this will probably finish an early transition cycle and be different next round.

Chawang Jinggu:  this is brewed stronger; that's apparent from just the appearance.  I didn't get the proportion (weight) to match, which is easy to get wrong when pairing compressed and loose teas, estimating amount by eye.  It's not that far off, and how fast these brew at different phases probably came into play as well.  The fast rinse for the Moychay tea was strong; it would make sense to be careful to only use a very fast rinse for that tea to avoid stripping out too much flavor.  I actually drank part of that rinse to check it, versus just tasting it, not that afraid of toxins as by-products from the fermentation process, even though they are present.

This is cool for being so distinctive.  That cement range mineral is moving towards struck match already, a lighter mineral tone, with plenty of warmth, richness, and depth filling in behind that.  It's better than my description implies; the complexity is good, and overall balance is nice.  It really probably does need a half a year to a year to keep settling, not really showing its full potential yet, as is probably true of the other version too.  This particular tea might be even better in two or three years.  Fermentation effect just varies, and even for this seeming to be a little on the light side, or maybe more accurately backed off a little from being completely fermented, the funkiness from it is significant.  It tastes much cleaner side by side with the other, tasted one after the other, for that sourness missing in this version, but that one flavor tone range is pronounced (cement moving towards struck match).

Moychay Krasnodar shu, third infusion:  someone's take on dark breads really would determine whether they love or hate this.  I'm on board; I really like it, about as much as I love shu in general.

Chawang Jinggu:  this is cleaning up a little, which is nicer.  It's hard to say that it's a fruitiness that comes across, but it's along that line, mild spice and dried fruit.  The warm aspect range is a bit neutral in this presentation, not clearly any one thing or another.  Mild root spice seems the closest match, which tends to be a neutral range, in some forms.  I can give both a slightly longer infusion time next round and see how that changes things, since the early transition away from odd flavors seems somewhat complete.

It's a little odd reviewing what isn't present, versus what is, but there's a lot of range of fermentation related flavor that could have occurred but didn't.  People describe shu as fishy, and I tend to not notice it in that form as much as many do.  Heavy peat flavor is more common, and some can taste like petroleum or tar.  Musty range flavors don't come up as often as one might expect, but of course they can.

Moychay Russian shu fourth infusion:  I brewed this round for around 20 seconds, versus around 10 for earlier rounds, although these would be fine brewed inky strong doubling that longer time too, to 40 seconds.  Fennel seed jumps to a much higher level input balance again, and this seems better this way.  Sourness has faded quite a bit but those other stronger flavors are probably also overpowering it.   This seems fairly clean at this point, not really off in any way.

Chawang Jinggu:  interesting how this changes, brewed stronger.  Warm and pleasant tones ramp up, and that cement range odd character has largely faded, but an aromatic floral range ramping up connects with a soapy effect now.  It's not enough to really throw off the experience, but different.  Those non-distinct woody or spice range warm tones are nice.  It's a little closer to cedar this round, versus spice.  

I don't know if it's apparent from the description but this seems like it would be a good tea to drink with food, with pleasant complexity and depth, and a neutral enough flavor range that it could adjoin and pair with lots of other range.  This would be good with toast and jam.  The other tea is a bit more distinctive, probably pairing with a more narrow range for that, but still probably decent with some foods related to reminding me a lot of dark bread.

Permit me a short tangent:  the last great dark bread I experienced I bought visiting Russia, some years ago, which I bought in Murmansk. It seemed like it was just a typical version to them, nothing presented as special, but it was fantastic with some cheese I bought there, truly memorable.  Ordinary pumpernickel is great in the US, not that I've had it in a long time.  There are specialty bakeries here, and I could be seeking out much better bread than I tend to experience, but I eat more Thai food than Western, and tend to buy better lighter bread in Japanese bakeries here, where they're really not into dark bread.

Fifth infusion:  not changed enough to write more notes.  Both versions are the best they've been though, very nice at this round, and probably not yet finished, although the Moychay version is dropping out faster.   Both are good, I think.  Both clearly reject the "shu is shu" theme of all versions tasting similar, one critique I've made about the tea type in the past.  The general type varies less than sheng, or even oolongs, I think, but these are both positive and distinctive in novel ways.  And I think both will be even more exceptional in one more year; it would be a shame to drink through too much of them before they're really ready, even though both are fine to drink now.


Both were pleasant, interesting, and novel.  The Chawang Shop version kept improving over rounds, and held up to a higher number of rounds at higher intensity, with a lot of the most positive range of the Moychay tea extracting earlier.  I think the Chawang Shop version included a bit thicker feel, which I really didn't focus on due to combined tasting often limiting the range of aspects considered.  It will probably settle into being a more conventional, balanced shu version, with this Russian version staying a bit unusual, which could be good or bad depending on match to preference, and how it changes over the next year of rest.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Tippy Doke Fusion and second flush Giddapahar teas

This tasting theme related to getting to samples from last year that looked interesting, including a different "tippy" version of the flagship Fusion product from Doke, from Bihar, not one of the main tea producing regions.  Reviewing another Darjeeling with it is about using that as a benchmark, and just commenting here on more teas they sent.  Giddapahar rings a bell, I must have reviewed at least one or two from them before, but it's not that familiar.  Per usual I'll add more listing details and links during editing.

One atypical part of this review post is that I wrote these notes three weeks ago, dropping out of doing most writing due to spending nearly two weeks on a covid experience.  These tasting notes tend to be fairly complete anyway.

DOKE BLACK FUSION TIPPY:- FIRST FLUSH 2021 (now listed at $11.24 / 50 grams)

The best Indian black tea that has a combination of sweet and malty roast notes with caramel flavour aftertaste is a heart winner for most of the tea drinkers! Having a brewing time of 3 minutes, this tea fills the air with its aroma of caramel and a spicy texture that is beyond words to explain! Coming from Bihar, Doke Black Fusion is processed using Assamica tea leaves that compels the tea lovers to explore this tea.

I didn't see a listing for the Giddapahar tea through their outlet (Tea Swan), or a clear match through Google search.  That version was more for comparison purposes anyway, and it was interesting experiencing the contrast in styles.  I didn't take it to be indicative of a normal, standard style Darjeeling second flush, but that was fine, trying something pleasant and more unique instead.  Of course I mis-matched flushes, since the Doke was a spring tea, but it turned out to not matter related to style range since they had fully oxidized that tea version, unlike conventional first flush Darjeeling style.


interesting that the second flush Giddapahar, left, is less oxidized

Tippy Black Fusion:  interesting.  One part resembles a standard black tea, maybe towards Ceylon for being softer and including more mineral depth than Assam typically does, and from there distinctive dried fruit range enters in.  It's a little towards Chinese date, jujube, but it's not that.  Cocoa / cacao comes across as well; that part would be familiar to Chinese black tea drinkers.  The feel is nice, with a little dryness and fullness but nothing like harsh astringency edge.  People accustomed to drinking better loose tea wouldn't consider adding milk to this, although it probably would be ok, it's just not something that I would check.  This is quite pleasant, and it will probably develop a little more depth over the next two infusions, before levelling off.

Giddapahar AV2 Summer Delight Second Flush:  that's really quite nice too, but very different.  It's includes just a little more dryness but really the effect is just different, more than it's stronger.  A strong range of warm tones stand out in this, and it includes fruit as well, and a catchy spice-like aspect, which I'm not really clear enough on to describe yet.  The muscatel level is moderate; it's not a version that's all about blasting that, but it does include that distinctive grape / citrus / wine-like range.   The catchy part may be how the different aspects balance.  I wouldn't be surprised if a bit of dryness and light range mineral softened and deepened next round, so I'll do a more complete flavor breakdown then.

Doke Tippy Fusion on the left in all photos

Doke Tippy Fusion second infusion:  lots of transition; an inky sort of flavor range really ramped up.  It's hard to describe, not like the straight ink mineral range that can couple with lots of other integrated flavors in Wuyi Yancha oolongs.  This is towards sourness, just not sour in a typical sense.  It seems to couple with fruit range, like elderberry, as a variation of how a juice can come across.  

I like it, but personal preference would determine response to this.  Fruity, mineral based, heavy flavor range black teas seem really nice to me, but this is in a unique range.  We've bought a ligonberry jam from IKEA before; what I'm describing as sourness and fruit isn't that close to that, since these flavors are heavier, but it works in comparison to describe what I mean by fruit-like and sour.  That reminds me, there's a Laos berry tisane I've been meaning to review, gooseberry, maybe that was?

Giddapahar:  so different that it's cool experiencing one of these and then the other.  I had expected more astringency edge from this, given how broken the leaf is, and now it's showing up.  It's not exactly that green wood range that seems to stand out and be distinctive related to only Darjeeling, but it's close to that, a variation.  Warm tones broaden feel and flavor well beyond that, making it seem complex (which it is).  The part I'm interpreting as catchy might just be the way a pronounced root spice aspect links with less distinctive fruit, with the two complementing each other.  The aftertaste is just that astringency edge, not so far off the experience of bitterness, or this might be a feel aspect that seems to link to actual bitterness.  

It works, but the astringency and towards-bitter edge isn't in an ideal balance.  The water I'm using is probably around 90 C, maybe just over (but I tend to not check those things), and backing that off to 80 or 85 might be more optimum for this.  Not that I would; I brew tea using pretty much the same water temperature, and even brewing parameters, and how it works out is what I'm interested in experiencing.  If this was more broken I would brew it Western style, probably then easing up on temperature just a little, but it's ok for this approach, with astringency moderated by brewing time.

In giving it one last taste that spice range includes towards-root flavor but also fennel seed, as a more dominant aspect, which is interesting.

Doke, third infusion:  I brewed these quite quickly, at or under 10 seconds, because intensity is a bit much at this proportion, for both, but they're probably still not even close to light.  The lighter intensity lets the fruit show through better; it's nicer.  That still does remind me most of elderberry.  It's hard to say what that tastes like, in comparison with other berries; a bit like blackberry, but heavier on mineral, richer in flavor, less fruity somehow, even inky in taste range.  If you ever get a chance to try a good version of fresh elderberry pie with vanilla ice cream your life will be improved by that.

Overall balance is good, the moderate astringency, pleasant and integrated flavors, good sweetness.  There aren't really any flaws to work around.  The only limitation is that this style and character might not suit everyone, which is true of essentially every tea type.  I see some types as more universal in appeal but that interpretation might not be shared by others.  These including what I'm describing as towards sourness and bitterness work well in relation to the rest of the range, but they might serve as examples of range that wouldn't work well for everyone.  Backing off infusion strength makes the part seeming like sourness drop out in this, with plenty of fruit flavor and warm tone intensity remaining, so it's down to a matter of brewing it appropriately.  I don't think this would be as good made Western style, unless someone could be careful about dialing in final infusion timing and intensity.

Giddapahar:  brewed lighter the part I've been struggling to capture really stands forward.  This tastes like teaberry!  It's a minty sort of wild berry found where I'm from, in Pennsylvania, that people tend not to eat.  I've heard before that you can collect and brew the leaves, and that they can even be oxidized.  That sounds amazing, but I've never tried it.  As with the other tea intensity really supports lighter brewing; this is plenty strong enough, and much better balanced.  Sweetness stands out more, with astringency and the seemingly connected wood tone flavor dialing back.  

It can come across as an insult in tea circles to say that a tea would be good with food, but I could see how this would pair well with a lot of range.  That edge works better moderated by infusion strength, like this round is prepared, but that effect could also be countered by eating this with a raisin cinnamon roll.  There's even a hint of cinnamon in this, showing up better for the wood tone dropping with infusion strength.

Doke, fourth infusion:  more of the same, and quite pleasant.  

Giddapahar:  the same really; maybe transitioning just a little.  Both these teas will keep making positive, complex, balanced infusions for a number of additional rounds, and character will shift a bit more, but the notes are sufficient.


For quitting taking notes that early both teas might have improved slightly over the next few rounds, especially the Doke version.  It picked up a nice brandy-like character, warming and adding depth, with sweetness towards toffee or heavy caramel.  Intensity stayed good for lots more rounds, with parts that someone might have interpreted as negative (for both) largely dropping out, the astringency edge and such.

It was interesting how different this seemed to me in relation to the other second flush Doke Fusion version I had tried and reviewed (here).  There was enough continuity that I could relate to them being branded under the same name but they weren't even close to identical, with this version much better, adding more depth, complexity, and positive nature across a broad number of rounds.

This Giddapahar was interesting for not matching Darjeeling second flush standard character I expected, but being positive in a different way.  As some sort of standard type comparison baseline it wasn't suitable at all, but as a novel, good quality, and pleasant tea version it exceeded my expectations.  I'll skip trying to compare either of these to some other standard range, and the impossible task of matching a general extracted quality level from one range of tea to another.  These were good, pleasant and interesting; that's enough.

not much for home life or outings to share lately, so them sleeping will do

still time for messing around in between all the rest and recovery

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Experiencing Omicron, and "covid tongue"


My family got covid, myself, my wife, and two kids, just not my wife's mother or two aunts that are visiting.

My son first came down with it coming up on two weeks ago, on Friday, Feb. 25, with a test confirming that the next day.  Then my wife and daughter on Monday (on Eye's birthday, too bad about that), and I showed symptoms that Tuesday night, with testing on Wednesday not returned until Thursday, by which time I was good and sick.  

Basic Omicron symptoms seem to be dry cough, headache, fatigue, sore throat (with mine fairly intense), possible early high temperature (moderate though, and I didn't get that), limited body aches, and some sneezing.  And "covid tongue."

My sense of taste had shifted a lot over the day I first wrote some of this, Sunday the 6th, even though I was really recovering (all relative, kind of a long process).  The day before that I had tasted metal when I wasn't eating or drinking anything, and the next day my tea tasted just like water to me, with even tongue based sensation seeming to drop out.  I could detect sweetness, but not very well, not getting as clear an impression of the level.  I tried some of my kids' Trix cereal and it seemed sweet, but it could've been Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles and I couldn't tell the difference.  Later Sunday my sense of taste seemed normal again, and I could taste later rounds of that same tea just fine.  Then yesterday morning and this morning again nothing from the tea I tried; I couldn't have been sure it was tea just from the taste.

It's all good though; we're all going to be fine, and my sense of taste will return whenever it does.  It coming and going seems strange, and that strange metallic taste "noise" experience was really something.

The kids had an easy time with it, but a harder first day, experiencing mild fever for the first 24 hours.  Then within 48 hours of showing symptoms both were clear.  I'm at day 8 of having symptoms and I'm past the worst, I hope, and feel better, but not normal.  We all took anti-viral meds, and I'm also on anti-biotics for a secondary bacterial infection that came on fast.  That can happen to me with colds and flus too, seemingly an immune system weakness that I should get sorted out.  I had the Pfizer booster a month ago, and two AstraZeneka shots last year, as my wife did, with both of us getting the second within 6 months prior to now.

Thailand's Omicron wave ran late, so that the country has been caught in what hopefully is the peak of it for only a couple of weeks now (but may not be the peak yet):

March 7 capture

It helps place that to review deaths stats as well:

Of course those numbers are under-counted, as all covid stats are, regardless of what pandemic deniers like to claim about hospitals making up cases.  I know people here who "rode out" covid without ever getting an official test result or medical support.

To Americans it might seem strange that this peak relates to approaching 60 people dying per day, which will surely keep increasing.  The US numbers just dropped below 2000 deaths per day, where it had been for over a month (I think; I don't keep track):

Thailand has just over 70 million residents, so between a fourth and a fifth of the US population.  We could be undercounting more here, but it's really just a different kind of pandemic experience.  I've been working from home for almost two years now, and when I go out to run for the last year I wear a mask.  I don't think that really helps, although wearing masks in malls and such might.  The point is that people overreact, which kind of works.

At this point I think a lot of the citizens of every country are going to experience covid infection first hand.  Being most of the way through that process myself I can't imagine how it would've been different without vaccination.  I'm fairly healthy, eating well, not overweight, with minimal health issues (except a tendency to get secondary throat infections), and I run multiple times a week, but then I am 53.

As I write this last edit the story of our experience is that it lingers.  I've been sick for over a week, and my wife for 10 days now, although she did seem to turn a corner yesterday and stop coughing.  We're better, but it just won't end.  Getting a booster apparently isn't a guarantee that you're going to have an easy time of it, although compared to people dying or nearly dying that's what this still is.  

I must admit, I thought that some people claiming they were going into their second week with symptoms might've been milking the experience for extra down-time, but it's real enough.  It's hard to imagine what a bad reaction to a more severe strain would be like.  You would die, I guess, but I mean short of that, still in that other normal range of being moderately sick and it running long.  I hope I don't go on to experience what long / long haul covid is like.

Update:  I finally tasted some tea in the morning!  I picked a 2015 Dayi Jia Ji sheng pu'er tuocha, so there would be a lot of intense flavor to come through, and I noticed part of it.  It even worked, enjoying the stripped-down version of heavy mineral, somewhat warm tones, typically slightly harsh towards wood and smoke range (just not really smoke).  I've been worried that the throat issues never really eased up but I might clear this in the next few days, or at least see it taper off enough that I'm not freaked out about recurring infections or "long covid."

we had celebrated Eye's birthday early, which really worked out.  I'm doing a 70s movie villain look these days, which I'm not completely pulling off.