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Category: Taste Test


Taste Test: Jackfruit

I have been meaning to give this stuff a try for a long time. I’ve had a few pieces of freeze-dried jackfruit before that were quite tasty, so the fresh stuff had to be good too, right?

RIGHT! In fact it may be my new favorite fruit. :)

Jackfruit 1

But before I go into what makes jackfruit so awesome, let me tell you a bit about what is not awesome…getting the fruit out of the husk. Jackfruit grows in prickly green pods that can grow to be enormous, like as big as a 5 year-old child enormous. Luckily, my farmer’s market sells jackfruit pre-cut into manageable sizes, so I was able to pick up this half piece that was about the size of a football.

Jackfruit half

You can see that the actual fruit is the darker yellow lobes encasing the seeds, the rest is a kind of fiberous pith that is edible but less delicious, and there’s a giant inedible core much like that of a pineapple.

Jackfruit closeup

I figured it’d be no big deal to pluck the lobes of fruit out of the husk since they’re somewhat dry and firm. Nope. I spent almost an entire hour hacking this thing to pieces to get at all that goodness. It was a massacre, and half way through it I was sure that no matter how good this fruit was it couldn’t be worth the pain of wrestling it out of a sticky, prickly football for an hour.

Jackfruit massacre

And my hands were covered in some sticky sap-like stuff that would not come off.

All for about this much fruit…

Harvested jackfruit

But oh did it turn out to be worth it!

This is a bizarre fruit to describe. The flesh is somewhat starchy and fiberous, but flexible. It feels dry to the touch and has only a faint sweet smell and practically no flavor as you place it in your mouth. Biting down feels like chomping into a slice of orange peel, and a similar fine spray of zesty oil hits your palate but without a trace of the bitterness of citrus zest.

Jackfruit 2

The flavor explodes as you bite through and it tastes juicy although no juice comes out. It reminded me a bit of pineapple, but without that prickly enzymey tartness that pineapple has. Some say it’s similar to an under ripe banana and I can kind of see that, but really it’s a flavor unlike any other.

Every time a took a bite I was so surprised that such a candied sweetness could come from such a hard and juiceless piece of fruit. It really is new and exciting with every bite.

Have you ever tried jackfruit?


Menghai pu-erh #7542-902 tasting notes

Please don’t be put off by the title of this post!

Tea, like wine, is one of those subjects that can seem really complicated because there’s just so much to know about it if you want to take the time to learn. Also like wine, tea is a subject that some drinkers (but certainly not all) can tend to get snobbish about and use as a means to try to impress and/or belittle others. I’m not into that.

So, I wanna tell you a couple things about tea, but I’m not gonna beat you over the head with it. I realize that just as I don’t give a single crap about wine, tea may just not be your thing either.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “tea person” though, just as I will never be a “wine person,” it can be fun to hear about something totally new and different sometimes. That’s what I hope to do with my tea posts, show you a little bit of something that brings me joy in hopes that you’ll find it interesting too.

Menghai 7542-902 bing

So here’s what you need to know before we get started on the tasting.

You may have heard of the concept of “terroir” as it relates to wine. Basically, terroir refers to all of the environmental influences on the grape that help to shape it’s unique flavor. Tea is exactly the same. Where it comes from, how much sun it got that year, the exact temperatures, the flowers blooming in the area, the mineral content of the soil, and so on and so on, develop the leaf into something thoroughly unique that can’t be exactly reproduced ever again.

The vast majority of Chinese tea comes from the Yunnan province, and mostly from 6 mountains in the Xishuangbanna prefecture (kind of like a county.) One of the major tea factories in this region is the Menghai Tea Factory, where our pu-erh bing is from. You can see in the picture below that all of that is clearly printed on the wrapper so you know where your tea comes from.

Menghai 7542-902 wrapper

The next thing you want to know is what those numbers on the wrapper represent. the one on top, 7542, is the recipe number. The first two digits, 75, are the year the recipe was first developed, so this recipe was introduced in 1975. The next digit, 4, is the grade of the leaves used, so these are not top quality leaves as they are fourth-grade, but still pretty good. The last number, 2, is the number assigned to Menghai Tea Factory, so all of their recipes will end in a 2.

The middle number is the quantity of the product, this one is 357 grams.

And 902 tells you when this particular bing was made, 9 stands for 2009 and 02 means that it’s the second release of it.

Only slightly confusing, right? :)

Now onto how to brew it…

Pouring the first infusion

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this because we’re currently not doing it exactly right anyway. We just don’t have all the right drinking cups and sharing pitchers and tea tables to show you all the ceremony of it. We also don’t have a way of knowing if our hot water is at the right temperature and that really makes a difference. Some day we’ll get a programmable hot water boiler for that.

Basically you just fill the pot with leaf, warm up the cups with plain hot water, and then “rinse” the leaf. There’s always some sediment and tiny pieces of broken leaf to wash out, and rinsing helps to remove some of the initial bitterness in the tea. You pretty much just fill the pot with hot water and immediately pour it out once or twice.

Then you can begin your infusions. We did seven where we gradually increased the length of time that the tea brewed. Can you spot the subtle color differences as we went along?

First infusionSecond infusionThird infusionFourth infusionFifth infusionSixth infusionSeventh infusion

The really cool thing here is that the tea tastes and smells very different after each infusion. So without further ado, here are my tasting notes…

  1. Infused 25 seconds. Subtle peppermint and cinnamon aromas. Tastes of blond straw and still bitter and green tasting.
  2. Infused 25 seconds. I can smell only the clay of the pot, very minerally. Bitterness is mellowing out, tastes like a thin green tea.
  3. Infused 30 seconds. Starting to smell some honey, not just sweetness but the kind of tingling enzyme-laden honey scent. Tastes lightly grassy but with some very faint sugar flavor in the background.
  4. Infused 40 seconds. Smelling darker and more damp and woody, still honey enzyme aromas. Starting to taste dried mushroom and bark.
  5. Infused 50 seconds. All of a sudden aromas of sweet pear juice come forward. The tea has very little flavor though, just mellow.
  6. Infused 60 seconds. Fruity pear smell intensifies, almost lychee-like. Tastes of pear juice with a hint of pine.
  7. Infused 75 seconds. Smells now of pear and mushroom. Tastes like a high quality olive oil!

Infusion #6 was definitely my favorite! A very surprising flavor to come from a tea that smells like wood and mushrooms when dry.

And here’s what the leaf looks like after all that…

Used pu-erh leaves

It feels oily and fragile, and smells so interesting! It’s kind of like a combination of all the smells throughout the tasting.

Lucas liked to sniff at it too…

Sniffing spent leaves

Sorry bud, not food, at least not anything you would wanna eat.

So that’s it. I don’t really need to know anything about tea to know that I enjoy it, but having a few extra bits of knowledge is helping me to be able to choose teas that I’m likely to enjoy and to prepare them well.

It is so relaxing to spend an hour or so brewing and sipping and pondering the smells and flavors of tea with Jeff on a rainy day, or any day really. The whole process really serves to calm me down and to appreciate the beauty of the things around me.

What is your favorite tea? (And don’t think you have to drink Chinese pu-erhs to have an opinion about tea, I love me some Yogi brand Green tea with goji berry!)


Taste Test: Quark

8am is one of my favorite parts of the day. Jeff gets up and gets ready at 7:30 then wakes me up so we can have breakfast together, and as warm and comforting as that bed is, I really do want to get up for our morning ritual.

He’ll fill up the teapot and put it on the hot eye, we’ll both arrange our tea necessities, he’ll start mixing up his instant oats while I pet the cats who are starving for love after a night alone. I’ll make a remark about how fricken freezin it is in our apartment and then we’ll take our things to the desk and check our email and favorite sites and blogs and whatnot.

I don’t always make breakfast right away while Jeff is making his, and I didn’t today because I knew that I didn’t want oats again but I didn’t know what I did want.

Maybe I could do something with this?…

Picked up this container of quark at the market yesterday, not really knowing what to expect. I just thought it’d be an interesting departure from yogurt.

I plopped some on top of a chopped apple with cinnamon, granola, and honey.

It had the consistency of greek yogurt with the smell of sour cream and the taste of cream cheese. The flavor was really strong in this big dollop so I mixed it all in to distribute it better.

I ended up pouring a bit of maple syrup on top as well to try and cut through the rich cheese flavor. I thought I didn’t like it at first bite, but as my palate got used to it I really started to enjoy it. The whole mixture tasted like a deconstructed apple cream cheese danish.

All in all, I really like it. I don’t think I would eat it straight like yogurt but it was really good mixed in with other flavors.

Ever had quark?

Something else you can think of that I should try?