896 Tasting Notes
The first time I brewed up a filter bag of Clipper Organic Green tea, I was reminded immediately of Tazo Chun Mee. I sent an email to Clipper inquiring whether their blend was also Chun Mee. They wrote back indicating that their tea is sourced from South India and Hunan Province in China. No details about the identity of the teas blended, so it probably depends on what’s available, price, etc. But the blend is certified organic and free trade.
In today’s steep-off chez sherapop Clipper Organic Green is going sniff-to-sniff, sip-to-sip with Tazo Chun Mee.
First observation: the dried teas smell very similar. In fact, in a blind sniff, I probably could not tell them apart—say if I were offered two Tazo versus one of each or two Clipper.
Second observation: the brewed liquor looks identical as well: dark gold veering brown. I was very careful not to oversteep, and I used cooler water, so these teas have been brewed to maximize whatever potential may be held within the bags.
Third observation: they taste almost identical as well! In fact, I’m having a very difficult time telling them apart. They could actually be the same tea! Well, the Clipper is a tiny bit grassier… and a bit less smooth…
My after-lunch green today was the final pot of Tealux Fukamushi Sencha Kakegawa. The liquor was the characteristic viridescent green, and a bit richer and and darker than usual because I accidentally oversteeped. I looked at the clock thinking that I had set the timer and only one minute remained to wait. Then I went back to eating and noticed that one minute was taking a long time to elapse. Whoops—it was 1pm!
The brew was still good, albeit slightly bitter, and I have been happy with this sencha, though it is somewhat temperamental. I’ll probably be adding another envelope of this single-origin deep-steamed sencha to my shopping cart the next time I place an order chez Tealux. This is easily the most visually stunning sencha I’ve ever tried. Of course it also tastes good!
second infusion: for years I had no idea that green tea was multiply infusable. When I went to Japan I learned the truth, that one serving of leaves can last several pots! It’s hard to fathom the volume of good tea I have tossed out with only once-infused leaves! Well, what’s done is done, and at least I have now corrected the errors of my former ways. This second infusion of Fukamushi Sencha Kakegawa was totally delicious and just as viridescently beautiful as the first. The slight astringency of this tea is starting to grow on me…
third infusion: still going strong. Dare I try a fourth pot???
I do prefer this Mint Chocolate Rooibos from DavidsTea over the Teavana variation on the same theme. The big difference is that here rooibos is a major component. Rather than being way down in the ingredient list after a bunch of food, rooibos is the number one ingredient.
Mint Chocolate Rooibos does taste like rooibos, but it also tastes like both peppermint and chocolate. It’s okay, for what it is, but I won’t seek it out in a full-size version. This was the end of the first of a couple of sample packs which I ordered at the sale right after the holiday season.
I’ve been noticing that there are lots of overlaps between DavidsTea and Teavana. However, the former seems more concerned with the tea experience, and the latter seems very big on visuals—hence the huge chunks in all of their blends. The chunks are filled with stuff which would never get infused, since it is trapped inside, so I grind my Teavana blends before infusion.
Still, I have to admit that I don’t really like the concept of foodish infusions very much. It just doesn’t cohere very well with my personal approach to tea. I like food, and I like tea, but for me they are separate categories.
I’m on a mission to de-cupboard the remains of the Teavana Holiday blends before I move. Tonight’s sip-down is White Chocolate Peppermint.
I am not as negatively disposed toward this foody drink as I was the first time I tried it, but I definitely would not seek it out again. Examining the dried blend before brewing, I saw hardly any rooibos, and lots of white chocolate chips and chocolate chips and cocoa nibs. So basically this is a foody beverage more than a rooibos blend. I thought about adding some extra rooibos to give the liquor more body, but then I decided to drink it as it is intended. Well, I did not quite do that, since I used about four times the prescribed dose for my pot—finishing the second half of the 2 ounce envelope. Using that much of these foody blends is the only way I’ve found of avoiding the dreaded “Vitamin Water” or dilute Koolaid effect.
My conclusion: not for me. The peppermint flavor is fine, but I don’t need to sip my way through an oil slick for that experience. Peppermint leaves suit me very well unadorned. Sometimes less is more. The blenders at Teavana obviously disagree.
To satisfy my caramel cravings (unslaked by Kusmi St. Petersburg, despite the caramel scent of the dried tea), I felt the need to brew up a beautiful glass of Tazo Golden Monkey, my favorite caramel tea—with nothing added to produce the gorgeous caramel texture and taste of this Yunnan-origin marvel. As usual I drank this delicious brew with light cream.
Yum, yum, yum!Have I made my position clear?
St. Petersburg and Paris have a lot in common—the teas, not the cities! I was expecting more of a caramel presence in Kusmi St. Petersburg, given the strongly caramel-redolent dried leaves, but the brewed tea ended up tasting very close to my memory of Harney & Sons Paris. The liquor was lighter than that of Anastasia, more of an orange than a reddish amber. I’m going to have to compare this blend side-by-side with both Paris and Tower of London, which also bears similarities.
I took a sip of the unadulterated tea and was not that enamored of the flavor. With light cream, however, this tastes very good. Either because I spilled a bit too much cream in, or else because the teas used are light, my final glass ended up looking like a latte. I know that I used enough dried leaves, as I added an extra half teaspoon more than I used in my Anastasia preparation.
Flavors: Berries, Vanilla
I had no idea that Russians were/are obsessed with Earl Grey. I say this because all of the tins in my Russian collection from Kusmi contain black tea scented with bergamot! My first foray into the set is Anastasia, which smells just like a fine Earl Grey in the dried form.
The liquor is a dark red amber, and the flavor is more floral than citrus to me. Perhaps it is the power of suggestion, but I do believe that I am tasting and smelling a bit of orange blossom in this blend. I like Anastasia: a nice combination of citrus and floral aromas and flavors. I drank this, my very first glass, with light cream.
I forgot to taste the tea before adding cream, so I’ll have to wait until next time to attach a number to Anastasia. The black tea base does seem better than the average Earl Grey—both China black and Ceylon are included—but I need to taste it au naturel to be sure.
Thé vert à la rose is my very first experience ever with Kusmi tea. And it is an auspicious beginning! The sachet is smaller than some (Harney & Sons, Tazo, et al.), but the dried tea includes both larger and smaller pieces of green leaves—very dark and some gnarled and knotted—along with dried rose petals. The rose scent is unmistakeable, but so is the dark vegetable aroma of the base tea.
The liquor brews up to a nice golden color—veering toward brown—and the taste is the sum of its parts: a China green vegetable-flavored tea garnished with the light taste of rose. I do taste the rose here, which I did not so much in Harney & Sons Jane’s Garden. Another big difference is the base tea. Harney & Sons features bancha, which this definitely is not. It might be Mao Feng, but I’m waiting to find out from Kusmi customer service whether that is right.
In the meantime, I can affirm that this was a sachet well sent (along with a recent purchase of the Russian teas set), as it has provided me with firm grounds for ordering a larger supply of this tea. As a matter of fact, I already have a small tin (1 ounce) on the way, as it is included in the green tea sampler tin set. After drinking this tea a few more times I’ll be able to decide whether a big tin purchase is in order for a future order. So far, so good with Kusmi!
Somehow I neglected to review this tea from Teavana before, busy as I have been sipping my way through their foody holiday selections. Jade Dragon Mao Feng is a good green tea, so my second from Teavana (the other being gyokuro).
The dried leaves are wiry and crisp and quite dark and very fragrant. The brewed liquor was extremely pale after two minutes of infusion, so I decided to continue the steep for another couple of minutes. After that the liquor had a bit more color (more yellow than green), and the flavor was smooth and satisfying. I like it.
second infusion: I used hotter water and infused a bit longer for this batch. The result was good: a yellow liquor veering slightly green, and a smooth thirst-quenching flavor. I don’t believe that there is enough oomph left in the leaves to try a third infusion, so it’s probably time to move on…