1082 Tasting Notes
I’ve been trying to figure out why Clipper teas, with organic and fair trade credentials, cost about half as much as Pukka, also from the UK and also boasting organic ingredients. Clearly Pukka employs a team of graphic designers and artists for their packaging, and they also spend a lot more on marketing text. But are the teas (also in filter bags, not sachets) really any better?
One big difference between the two brands is that Pukka gives a detailed breakdown of the contents of its blends, while Clipper is pretty vague. When I contacted the company for more information on the identity of the green tea—called simply Green Tea—I was told that they buy from Indian and China. Like I said: pretty vague.
Today’s Clipper selection is the white tea, also generically named White Tea. It’s perfectly potable, if a bit generic, but come to think of it, don’t I say that about every unflavored white tea? Okay, I do have some haute blanche varieties on the horizon, so perhaps I’ll undergo a conversion. We shall see…
In this afternoon’s steep-off chez sherapop, I tried something new. I brewed one bag of Clipper White Tea using boiling water—as most grocery store tea shoppers would do—and a second bag using 76C water.
The liquor of the tea prepared in hot water was a bit darker—more of a brownish than a golden amber—but the big surprise was that the more carefully controlled brew actually tasted more bitter than the one prepared using boiling water! This result would appear to corroborate my long-standing suspicion that the companies which produce filter bags for the mass market test their blends as they would be prepared by Joe or Jill Q Consumer—that is, using boiling water!
Perhaps drinking perfume is not such a bad idea after all! This Dragon Pearl Jasmine from Harney & Sons smells exactly like a jasmine soliflore perfume! Very natural, very floral, very fragrant.
I was immediately struck by the generosity of whoever filled my sachet, which featured fourteen, count ’em 14, fairly large—and very lovely—jasmine pearls! That seems like a lot of tea, so I brewed the sachet in a medium-sized tetsubin (about 17-18 ounces) rather than just a glass. The resultant liquor was light. Very pale greenish yellow veering peach, to be a bit more precise.
The taste is quite nice. I had thought that I was intolerant to jasmine teas, but I must have imbibed some inferior grades in the past. This one tastes and smells swell! I’ll be reinfusing the sachet later today for yet more flower power!
second infusion: still strongly scented and tasty. The spent sachet may have yet another round of good tea left in it!
I’d thought that I must have oversteeped my big pot of Norbu Xi Hu Long Jing, as the liquor was darker than usual and more yellow—almost gold—as well. Gazing out the window, I lost track of time while watching the Salvation Army guys load my donations onto the truck. I cringed as they threw bags containing English-style tea pots into the back. I certainly hope that none of them were crushed!
So today was a turning point. I am now officially into the tetsubin scene and out of the porcelain English-style scene. I was hemming and hawing about whether I could give them away, but then I did, and fortunately the big truck arrived before I could suffer donor’s remorse and remove the teapots from my front porch. I have given a huge volume of possessions away over the course of the past couple of months because I lost about two-thirds of my space when I moved, and I desperately need air space to be able to breath!
I used English teapots for a decent chunk of my life—supplemented by glass Bodum filter presses (intended for coffee). Of late, I’ve been using only the tetsubin because they not only keep the brewed tea drinkable longer (without reheating), but are also ideal for instantly cooling boiling water to green tea infusion temperature! In fact, they are so good at temperature reduction that I have taken the variable temperature kettle off my wish list!
Now back to today’s first POD (pot of the day). It turned out that I did not oversteep the Norbu Long Jing, as it was delicious. I drank two glasses right after my first meal of the day, a hunk of walnut bread (which I picked up at a farmer’s market yesterday) toasted and smeared with butter. Yum!
second infusion (after dinner): also very smooth and flavorful!
I decided to close the Starbucks circle tonight by imbibing Tazo Rest as my bedtime brew. I’m still a bit disturbed by the imminent demise of this company (Tazo). I recall how happy I was to discover them some years back, as I recognized that they produced much more vibrant and tasty brews than Stash (which was my go-to company for filter bags for a while) and Celestial Seasonings (which was a standby superseded by my discovery of Stash).
Rest deserves to live on in some incarnation or another, though it will doubtless be renamed and marketed under the Teavana name. Roses and lemon balm in a sweet blend reminiscent of perfume? I say: Yes!
My second serving of iced Tazo Refresh for 2014 this afternoon. I almost drank it hot because it was raining out, but then, in defiance of the weather gods, I stubbornly stuck to the iced tea plan.
It occurred to me while imbibing this refreshing brew that Starbucks really is achieving its goal of total global beverage hegemony. I began the day with filter dripped Starbucks coffee. Then I drank Teavana (now owned by Starbucks) Jade Dragon Mao Feng. Then I had a tall Americano with long shots at one of the stores. Then I had a refill of Tazo (also now owned by Starbucks) Refresh!
This Starbucks odyssey was in no way intended by me, but it illustrates how I’ve been sucked into the vortex!
First POD (pot of the day) was Teavana Jade Dragon Mao Feng. A quite decent China green. The liquor is very pale greenish yellow with tiny white filaments floating about. The flavor is somewhat vegetal. I still need to do a steep off between this Mao Feng and Tazo Green Tips, which is apparently also Mao Feng…
I saw Sarahbeth’s Tea at a grocery store and decided to try the Earl Grey because the other flavors did not sound very palatable to me, but I was curious about the brand.
This Ceylon Earl Grey brews up amber and tastes pretty smooth—no scratchiness or bad aftertaste as in many grocery store Earl Greys… The base tea is just as important here as the bergamot. In fact, the scent is rather light. This is not bad for a quick batch on a cooler day—provided that one enjoys Ceylon tea.
The tin contains 40 bags, but each bag contains only 1.5 not 2 grams, so some people would do better with 2 bags for one glass. I’ll try that next time. I drank mine with light cream, and the brew looked more cloudy than creamy. With half and half this would be too dilute for me.
This BA10 South African Rooibos from Upton Tea Imports is their entry-level rooibos. I’m no connoisseur of this herb, and truth be told, I rarely drink it. However, I found the remnants of a large envelope dating from years ago and thought that I’d brew it up to determine whether or not rooibos goes stale.
Guess not! This tastes as fresh as new rooibos to me! Bright red liquor—just as I remembered it—with a very light flavor of vanilla (not added, but a tasting note).
Today’s lunchtime pot was Nourishtea’s Mao Jian: The Emerald Path. Once again I was pleased with this organic single-source China green—a happy discovery at the grocery store a few weeks back.
Once again I noticed that I enjoyed the second glass more than the first, though I had of course removed the infuser basket, which strongly suggests that the flavor is affected by the temperature at which the brew is imbibed. I used slightly hotter water today, but I think that in the future I’ll go back to a lower temperature, since this tea seems best brewed à la japonaise…