896 Tasting Notes
Having now tasted the Kusmi Rose Green tea, in both the loose-leaf format and prepared from a sachet, I wanted to return to Harney & Sons Jane’s Garden and verify my memory of it having been much more about bancha than about rose.
True. Jane’s Garden is decorated with rose petals but only very lightly scented and flavored with rose. To me, this is more of a bancha experience, but as I am a big fan of bancha, that is not a bad thing at all.
Compared to the Kusmi Rose Tea, Jane’s Garden differs in two major ways. One is that Kusmi uses Chinese green congou (according to a customer service representative), while Harney & Sons uses Chinese bancha (also according to a customer service representative). The other is that Kusmi must be adding some extra rose essence along with the petals, because both the dried tea and the brewed liquor are strongly redolent of rose. In contrast, Jane’s Garden smells in both the dried and the brewed form like bancha, with only a faint waft of rose. The taste is also primarily bancha.
Perhaps the explanation is simply that bancha has a much stronger and distinctive flavor than does the China green used in Kusmi’s rose tea. Either way, this is no complaint, because I’m always ready for a pot of bancha. If it’s decorated with roses—all the better!
My first POD (pot of the day) ended up being a GOD (glass of the day), because I’ve been showing my Shaker-style bedroom set and matching desk, in light birch wood with beautiful striations, to prospective buyers. So I could not in good conscience neglect to offer a glass of tea to the woman who arrived propitiously at the precise moment when the lovely green liquor was ready to pour.
We both agreed that the tea was very good. It was this Teavana Gyokuro Imperial. I had underleafed a bit because at first I thought that this was going to be a sipdown, but then I realized that I could probably squeeze one more small pot out of what was left, so I returned a teaspoon to the envelope.
Even though the leafage was light, and the liquor paler green than usual, the taste was still a delight. In fact, the flavor was stronger than that of some of the lighter China greens I’ve tried of late, including yesterday’s Tealux Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun. Nice to know how versatile gyokuro really is!
One more small pot or glass of this lovely stuff remains. It looks as though I may have to return to Teavana after all…
second infusion: since i had somewhat underleafed the pot, I only filled it half-way for my second round. The liquor was darker green (albeit still light), and the flavor was more assertive.
third infusion: again, I filled the pot only half-way for a third round. I’ve been using a tetsubin with the capacity of about two Bodum double-walled glasses. The third infusion was again rather light—similar to the first infusion, where I filled the pot to capacity with water.
Naturally after having convinced myself that Mighty Leaf Chamomile Citrus was very similar to the Tazo Calm sachet, I had to make sure.
To my surprise, I found that the Tazo is much more about chamomile—or at least this sachet was! The liquor was initially the lovely bright yellow characteristic of chamomile. Then it grew darker until the hibiscus had basically covered the color of the chamomile. However, to my pleasant surprise, the overall taste experience was more about chamomile than about either lemongrass or spearmint, both of which sometimes seem too strong in this blend. Nor was the hibiscus overwhelming.
In the end, I concluded that the Tazo Calm sachet is better than the Mighty Leaf. This was not exactly a steep-off, because I did not compare them side-by-side but in succession. Still, I feel that there was a significant enough difference to be able to say that I prefer the Tazo. I hasten to add, however, that I have noticed that the contents of the Tazo Calm sachets seem to vary from batch to batch. Occasionally the lemongrass and hibiscus are too strong.
Perhaps the reason why I preferred this blend over the Mighty Leaf Chamomile Citrus was simply because I had taken a rose and chamomile-scented bath. Roses are a part of the Tazo blend, but not the Mighty Leaf.
This was my first experience with Mighty Leaf. I have been curious about them for a while and today found that the boxes of sachets are less expensive at the grocery store than they are online, so I decided to try out the variety set. First up: Chamomile Citrus.
Both the dried mixture in the sachet and the infusion reminded me a lot of Tazo Calm. Among other things, the lemongrass is marked and the color of the final liquor ends up a salmony peach color—I presume because of the hibiscus.
The flavor, too, smacked unmistakeably of the combined chamomile, citrus, lemongrass, hibiscus and mint. I rather like this combination, so I was pretty happy with the brew. One difference between the two is that there are big chunks of dried orange rind in the Mighty Leaf, which are not present in the Tazo.
I’m not sure that I understand why the sachets are stitched with white cotton thread. I admit that it is a novel touch, but does it have an effect on the sachet itself? Well, I don’t know anything about this company, so maybe they were the first to market sachets as a way of brewing whole-leaf tea more easily? For some reason their website reminded me a bit of Tea Forté in that they both seem to cater to a particular clientele of devotees… My issue with Tea Forté is that everything seems to be way overpackaged. But that’s another story…
Don’t ask me why it took me so long to brew up my first cup of Harney & Sons Holiday Tea, which I received in a beautiful gift package. It might be because upon initially removing the lid of the Historic Royal Palace tin, I was reminded immediately of Constant Comment. That’s not an insult, mind you, as I have imbibed my share of that grocery store classic over the years—it’s one of the few heavy blacks which I am able to down au naturel and to which I would never add cream—but I figured that Holiday Tea would not chart any new territory for me, given my abundant experience with Constant Comment.
Wrong. This tea is completely different from Constant Comment, above all, because of the almond, which is very prominent. I had no idea that almond was included among the ingredients, but the first flavor which popped into my mind after taking a sip was neither orange rind or cloves (as in CC), but almond.
This is a good spicy and original variation on the Constant Comment theme. The black tea used is pleasing to me, and I would not add cream to this one either. It’s very good as is. Fortunately, the cloves were not overdosed, as I am hypersensitive to that spice.
Strangely, my second envelope of Eco-Cha Red Jade contains about twice as much tea as the first one did. So there must be some quality control issues in the preparation of the Steepster Select envelopes. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that this tea is much better today, in all likelihood because of the greater leafage. I also reduced the volume of water, so together these measures definitely improved the brew.
The liquor is coppery amber, and the smell of the dried leaves is, oddly enough, somewhat barbeque-esque. I decided to drink this glass without cream (I never add sugar or honey to tea—except chai) because I wanted to give Red Jade a fair chance to reveal its complex flavors. What did I find?
Red Jade has a decidedly Assam demeanor, but it is not at all malty. I suppose that this could be compared to an Assam-Darjeeling blend, but there is no denying the Assam-like density of the brew. While enjoyable to drink, I have to say that I do not detect any of the acclaimed tasting notes: cinnamon, clove, or mint.
I brewed according to the prescribed parameters, so I do believe that I’ve given this tea fair trial. I’ll prepare a second infusion later today, though I am skeptical, as I never, ever reinfuse black teas…
second infusion: so it’s true! This tea is better in the second infusion. Perhaps this is a case where an initial quick hot rinsing would help? I suggest this because by the end of the second infusion the leaves had only just completely unfurled. They are huge! The brew is much better now.
third infusion: all good things must come to an end. I tossed this round. Red Jade definitely peaked for me in the second infusion.
Conclusion: I am very glad that I tried these follow-ups because from my first pot and the first infusion of the second pot, I would have thought that this was just another Assam-esque tea, when it’s really not. The full leaf size is quite impressive. They must have been very tightly wrapped!
I believe that this is my very first experience of Bi Luo Chun, this being Dong Ting from Tealux. The leaves have a distinctive appearance: light and fluffy but curled and covered with white fuzz. Because the tea is so voluminous, I used two heaping teaspoons for this pot—the equivalent of three.
The liquor is pale gold veering peach, and the taste is subtle and faint. According to the Tealux description, the flavor is akin to a flaky pastry. That might be a fair assessment, but it is not at all buttery, so I am not sure. I guess that I associate butter with pastry.
Anyway, this is not a hard-hitting, vegetal green tea but a mild one closer to white tea. I need to imbibe another pot or so before I’ll feel qualified to attach a number to my tasting note. I’ll be brewing a second infusion of these leaves later today, once my caffeine deadline has elapsed.
Harney & Sons Yellow and Blue offers a better balance of chamomile and lavender than does the Traditional Medicinals blend of the same two flowers, which I found to be much more about lavender than chamomile. I’ll have to do a steep-off one of these nights.
Yellow and Blue adds an aura of mystery with lavender lurking in the shadows cast by the sunlike chamomile.
I am somewhat obsessed with violets (and refer to myself as a violet-ho at fragrance community websites), so naturally I could not resist trying Kusmi Violet.
The dried tea smells very violet. The liquor is a dark reddish brown—of course, I brewed it strong. The taste of the brew, however, is mostly black tea. I struggled to “taste” the violet, though I do believe that I caught some wafts off the the surface of the tea. Fortunately, the black tea used is pretty good, so I did enjoy this pot and will be drinking the rest of my tin. Perhaps I should sit and sniff the dried tea while I imbibe!