I have needed this so long. I finally got my Verdant order in (One of two, anyway, my monthly-tea-club box is due in two days, if tracking is to be believed) and it feels like Christmas.

Mostly the package is full of samples, but I sprung for a full ounce of both this and the chocolate phoenix chai, despite not having tried either of them.

So while excitedly ruffling through the box of little foil packets, this one jumped out as the one I just had to try first. I needed something cooling and calming, and this seemed the best candidate. I agonized a little about how to brew it at first; this tea is interesting in that it does not fall into the category of “cheap flavored black” that would prompt me to western-brew it, but I’ve never gaiwan-brewed blends involving herbs and spices before, and I imagine they infuse at much different rates than the tea leaves. Eventually I settled on western-brew, for now: four grams to twelve ounces of water. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to try gaiwan-brewing it at least once though, to satisfy my own curiosity.

I finally opened the pouch. The aroma of the dry mix alone is amazing. The first words that come to mind are “real” and “clean” I know it sounds odd, but this is my first step into Alchemy blends and it’s already abundantly clear that this is a rung or seven or two-hundred above the standard of flavored teas sprayed with artificial flavors; these ingredients are so fresh and fragrant. I can smell the mint, but it’s not overpowering, the cinnamon and fennel (I love fennel), too, are playing their role but not stealing the show. Despite the herbal stuff very present in this tea, it doesn’t have that “herbal” pungency (I’m not sure if that makes sense to anyone else, heh). All the ingredients— and there’s quite a handful of them, are dancing in a balanced harmony. I can’t imagine what a challenge this must have been to create.

The visual appearance of the tea is enchanting, both dry and while brewing. While dry, I am reminded of a curious forest full of twisted branches and dotted with alluring flowers. While steeping, the chamomile flowers and marigold petals float to the top, spiral-dancing at the slightest motion, while the tea-leaves unfold at the bottom to envelop the spices. The mint leaves seem a bit non-committal, uncertainly bobbing between the surface and the bottom. If you have a clear brewing vessel, I would really recommend watching the show.

I ended up getting three 12oz steepings out of four grams (and perhaps I could have coaxed more out, but there is just only so much liquid I can fit in my stomach). The first was where most of the chocolate flavor was; and although I suppose I should have slowly sipped and savored it, I found myself rudely gulping it down; I think somewhere on Verdant’s site, this tea is compared to mint-chocolate ice cream— that is spot on. I bet this will be pretty amazing iced, too. The second steeping was probably overall the strongest, highlighting more of the mint and spices. On the third steeping, the herbal notes are a background to the Big Red Robe and the Laoshan black; a wonderful finale as the blend returns to its roots.

Maybe I am a little overenthusiastic about this brew, but it’s been such an overwhelming past several days, and this is truly a little piece of heaven in all the chaos. Just going through the process of preparing tea does wonders to shed the stresses of the day, but combined with a tea like this, it’s honestly magical.

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I like tea. And fish.

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