1094 Tasting Notes
With our weather in Boston hovering in the forties for weeks now with only brief glimpses of sunshine, JavaVana Maté turns out to be an ideal comfort beverage. I made a small pot just now and added light cream to create a sort of unsweetened cocoa caramel beverage. Yum.
I may regret this decision around midnight or so (I went to bed last night at 3:30am!). Or maybe not. Perhaps it is time to face the fact: I am at heart a nocturnal being…
second infusion: I was pleasantly surprised by my recent second infusion of Tazo Golden Monkey, so I decided to reinfuse this black tea-maté-cocoa blend, and am happy to report that, albeit lighter, the flavor is still in tact. Hopefully the caffeine was extracted during the first infusion. On verra…
I love raspberry, and I love Earl Grey. Do they combine to form a harmonious marriage? My experience with Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Raspberry Earl suggests that this match was not meant to be; this union was ill-conceived.
My first observation was that the dried tea in the filter bag smelled very strongly of raspberry, as in: artificially flavored. However, the ingredients are all natural and even organic, so it must be that they really piled on the raspberry pieces, because it’s strong enough to serve as an Air Wick in a public restroom. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration.
I remained hopeful about the brew since I often find that dried teas smell much stronger than the final flavor and scent of the prepared liquor. In this case it is true that the raspberry is a bit lighter, but it is still strong and I’m afraid that I do not like the base—identified as certified organic Nilgiri black tea—very much. In fact, when I took a sip of the reddish amber tea without cream, I realized that I could not possibly drink it unadulterated.
The cream-sloshed tea was not much better, I regret to report, and I came close to tossing it. Only my dire need of late-afternoon caffeine motivated me to slug it down. Sorry, but I’m now 0/2 for Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. I’ll continue to work my way through the two stackable sampler tins…
Gunpowder has never numbered among my “must quaff” green teas, perhaps because so many of them are super cheap and taste inferior to more expensive fare. Nonetheless, I’m always open to a change in view, and Numi included some Gunpowder Green in my sampler boxes, so naturally I’m curious, especially given my very positive experience with many of the other teas.
Verdict: this reminds me of Chun Mee! Not the dried tea, which does include the little gnarled balls for which gunpowder is named (they are smaller in size than most loose-leaf gunpowder, but still have the same shape), yet the brewed tea is golden brown and tastes very baked and Chun Mee-ish! I won’t be buying a full supply of this one, but I intend to do a couple of steep-offs with named Chun Mees…
In my experience, genmaichas vary a lot in quality, apparently because some producers avail themselves of the opportunity to use very low-grade green tea as the base, knowing as they do that the popped rice will dominate anyway. Adding to the unpredictable quality of genmaicha purchased without first testing (or even after, since batches may vary greatly as well), is the age of the popped rice.
Many kinds of tea have an excellent shelf life—as evidenced by the fact that the “use by” date is generally three years out from production. I’ve consumed plenty of tea way beyond its expiration date, much of which has been perfectly potable. Perhaps the age would matter more with the highest tier teas, but for mass-market produced teas, even the freshest batch may not be that great to begin with, so what’s a few years? The same thing happens with spices at the grocery store, by the way. Those bottles have been sitting there for ages and may literally be years old when you first open one! The best place to buy spices is from somewhere like Penzey’s, in my opinion, but that’s another story.
Genmaicha is more finicky because the popped rice can go stale, and once it does, the tea is ruined. This Numi Toasted Rice tea (in effect, genmaicha, though they recently appear to have removed that part of the name from the label—perhaps gringos found it too scary?—is very fresh and tasty, and the underlying base tea is not murky and brown but beautiful greenish yellow, the surest sign that they did not lie when they claimed “organic sencha” as the number one ingredient.
The popped rice flavor is also fresh, so together the fresh and high-quality sencha and the fresh and toasty rice add up to a fine genmaicha—surprisingly so, given that it’s found in a filter bag! I received bags of this tea in some boxes of the Numi sampler (which by the way I highly recommend since it features 18 different teas—that’s why I bought four boxes…). I’ll probably purchase a full box of this genmaicha in the future.
Seriously delicious sencha here: Thé Santé Nagashima. Thank goodness for these obscure Canadian tea purveyors! I have discovered a wide range of very tasty offerings from my new-found friends up north, which I suppose makes sense, since it is probably even colder in Montreal right now than it is in Boston—though it’s almost May!
I brewed this medium-sized tetsubin (two Bodum glasses’ worth) using cooler water and a short steep time. The resultant liquor was beautiful greenish golden and tasted even better than I had recalled. I drank this tea right after a lunch of eggs over easy with baby spinach and arugula sautéed in EVOO and piled atop freshly toasted English muffins. Perfect!
Another winner from Numi, which seems to make my favorite filter bags these days—plus they are organic and fair trade and all natural—Chamomile Lemon is only subtly flavored with lemon myrtle, so this comes pretty close to a fine chamomile soliflore infusion.
I really enjoyed this cup and will have to compare it in a steep-off with Harney & Sons Egyptian Chamomile to determine which I prefer.
I ordered two of the stackable tins of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea as I have been curious about this brand but was not sure that I wanted to buy a full tin of any of the flavors without trying them out first. Tonight I brewed up one of the four filter bags of Italian Chamomile.
My first observation was that the scent of the dried tea is overwhelmingly dominated by fennel seed. I have had a few different teas which feature fennel, mostly “digestive aid” teas such as the Good Earth Tea for Digestion. Fennel apparently settles stomachs. I cannot say that the flavor of fennel seed is all that appealing to me in tea blends. It’s a very different flavor from licorice root (confusingly identified in the company text as the same). There is also licorice root in this blend, but the fennel really steals the show.
The brew tasted better than the dried tea smelled because the fennel was less loud once infused. Still, I would not really consider this to be a chamomile blend so much as a functional fennel blend for digestion. It’s okay, but I won’t be buying a full supply. I’ll drink the other three filter bags, but unless I undergo some sort of conversion, that will be all for me of this particular Zhena’s Gypsy Tea creation.
This Moroccan Mint from Numi is said to contain one ingredient: organic nana mint from Morocco. It does not taste at all like the Mighty Leaf Organic Mint Mélange, which struck me as straight-up spearmint. I drank the glasses side-by-side and found very little overlap between the two. Interestingly enough, Numi describes the flavor of nana mint as similar to spearmint. What I found, in contrast, was a much more complex flavor, with an almost bread-like quality to it.
I really enjoyed the flavor and complexity of the Numi and will certainly be drinking more of this tisane, as it strikes me as unique among the many mint tea contenders.
I am confused by the company description of this Organic Mint Mélange. For one thing, it’s not a mélange, at least as far as I can tell from the scent and the taste. This is straight-up spearmint—just like the fresh spearmint which grew wild in our yard when I was a child.
The second confusion is the identification of the mint as peppermint. This is not peppermint! As someone who has imbibed my fair share of peppermint tea (most recently, from Harney & Sons, but also earlier from Stash), and who has used lots of Japanese peppermint oil both for cooking and for tea, I must insist that this is not that. Even the picture on the box is of spearmint!
I do think that this offering from Mighty Leaf stands out from the crowd—but that’s just because most mint tea does feature peppermint, not spearmint!