1378 Tasting Notes
Today’s refill chez Starbucks was once again a venti unsweetened Iced Passion. It has the perfect zesty twang to serve as an ideal post-sweet drink beverage. The color of the liquor, both deep and bright ruby red, is also beautiful to behold. My favorite post-coffee refill remains Refresh, and after a Green Tea Frappuccino, I generally opt for iced Zen. However, I wanted to order Passion this afternoon to cover-up memory traces of my recent unfortunate experience involving a barista’s refusal to fulfill my request for a refill of this tea.
Happily, corporate Starbucks took my complaint of a couple of days ago very seriously. True, I sent my complaint to the head honcho, Howard Schultz himself, but I was impressed with the prompt response from his Regional Vice President, who contacted me personally to apologize for the incident and assured me that all Boston-area stores have been put on alert about the refill program. Wow!
In addition, the Regional Vice President also sent me an e-gift to thank me for sharing my experience with them. I am sure that they realize that for every obnoxious person like me who puts pen to paper to Howard Schultz, there are another hundred customers who had a similar experience but just let it slide. So the good news for all Boston metropolitan Starbucks frequenters is that we can expect not to encounter any more baristas who treat us as though we are trying to rob the store when we step forward to claim the refills offered to us by their company as a perk for being rewards card program members.
This tea, of course, is always good news, and I shall continue to drink it over the hot months to come!
The Starbucks Frappuccinos are generally too sweet for my liking, so I always tweak the recipe when I place the order. (Yes, I am one of THOSE customers…). Today’s recipe went like this:
Venti green tea Frappuccino, soymilk, light ice, no syrup.
It was good. I accepted the whipped cream on top, which is not—as some might smirk—really a contradiction since I select soymilk not because I am totally lactose intolerant, but because milk makes me drowsy. Ever since my sister informed me that the whipped cream is prepared fresh to order, I have rarely been able to decline!
All in all, today’s recipe was pretty good. To be honest, I do not consider this green tea Frappuccino to be so much a glass of tea as a frozen green confection. I often request extra matcha, but the first time I did that, I was unaware that they use a sweetened matcha powder, not straight-up matcha. This meant that I completely cancelled out my reduction of syrup by amping up the matcha. Now I know that each scoop of matcha contains 25 calories = pretty much sugar calories… Needless to say, doubling the matcha in one of these beverages is going to significantly increase the calories and sweetness as well!
Since I ordered my green shake so late in the day, I did not request any extra matcha whatsoever. Hoping to get some sleep tonight!
Today’s lunchtime pot is Norbu Xi Hu Long Jing from the 2013 spring harvest. I brewed this somewhat stronger—not longer, but with more leaves—and am finding the slightly darker (but still pale) yellow liquor quite succulent. Looking forward to the second infusion of these still quite fragrant leaves!
second infusion: I drank this after dinner this evening. Mighty fine indeed! Brighter yellow, still with a palpable Long Jingy taste.
The spices in Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Coconut Chai taste pretty good, but the underlying black tea base is weak, to put it mildly. The base is indicated by the company text (in this tea’s Steepster profile) as “ceylon”, though on the can it is identified as “Indian black tea”. Hmmm… isn’t Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka (formerly known, in the colonial days, as “Ceylon”)? Did India acquire Sri Lanka while I was busy moving?
The liquor is a light peachy gold—looking more like a brewed Chun Mee than a black tea—and the flavor is, stated simply, tea deficient. Of course, I prefer my spicy chais to be prepared with a robust black base, so Zhena’s Gypsy Tea chai and I were never meant to be. In loose leaf chais which are too weak on the tea front, I sometimes throw in a dose of CTC Assam for good measure.
Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Coconut Chai comes in a filter bag, so I’ll probably use the remaining three servings in my sampler tin to infuse directly into almond coconut milk and see how that tastes. Perhaps it will at least draw out the coconut more forcefully. Here it is masked by the traditional chai spices.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves
I picked up a can of Chai Diaries Wisdom Pu-erh Chai out of curiosity—though I confess that the brand sounded a bit gimmicky to me—and brewed up my first sachet of this blend today. The liquor is dark red, and I was seriously considering the possibility of adding almond-coconut milk but decided instead to adulterate using the usual suspect (light cream) so that I would not be distracted by that change in evaluating the quality of the tea.
It’s good. A pleasant pu-erh blend (as in: not fishy at all, and more about the flavorings than the earthy base tea). Again, I am finding that complex pu-erh blends overlap with Assam blends to some extent. Certainly the tea itself is strong, which is to my liking, but it is less malty than Assam. I like this blend, finding that it compares favorably with the Numi Pu-erh blends. The flavorings are not of the standard “chai”—there is no cardamom or clove or cinnamon or black pepper. Instead, we have almonds, star anise, licorice, ginger root, and then some fruit flavors (mango and berry)—all seamlessly blended. The text on the cylinder explains that “chai” just means “tea”, but no insight is offered into what these specific flavors might have to do with wisdom…
The company boasts the use of only natural flavorings, which is always a good thing. My cylinder contains twenty (now nineteen) pyramid sachets containing a nice looking larger leaf blend. I’d like to try their chocolate chai, given this positive experience, and also their loose leaf version of one or more of their teas. And perhaps I shall!
While preparing today’s first POD (pot of the day), Teavivre Bi Luo Chun, I noticed that the coiled leaves are quite multifarious in color and parts of them shimmer, as though they were woven of silk.
I brewed a large pot today, using a full sample portion (not sure how many grams…). The resultant liquor was pale yellow, as before, but the flavor seemed richer and sweeter than I recalled this tea having been. I imbibed today’s three glasses right after my first MOD (meal of the day): toasted raisin bread with butter. A good combination!
This is a subtle tea, that’s right, full of subtlety! ;-) I am becoming accustomed to and even growing fond of this very gentile green tea, which until recently I had never even heard of. If green teas were people, then Bi Luo Chun would have to be the one who graduated from white gloves and party manners. Bi Luo Chun knows how to set a proper table, with the forks and knives and spoons all in the right place. Bi Luo Chun never fails to write polite thank you notes.
Or perhaps we could compare teas to genres of music. Bu Luo Chun is strictly classical—no heavy metal or rap or rock ballades here…
I enjoyed an excellent serving of iced Tazo Passion courtesy of Starbucks. Unfortunately, I had first to wrangle with the minion (a barista) of a mastermind (Howard Schultz). Unbelievably enough, I was denied yet again my free refill (on a Frappuccino) by an employee ignorant of her very own company’s policy. She was very insistent that ONLY if I started with an iced coffee could I have a refill, and then it would have to be coffee, not tea. Since I am the refill maven (as documented here at Steepster), who has consumed dozens of free cups over the course of the past year, I asked her whether the policy had changed. She said “no,” it had always been the same policy since she started working there and that she had worked there longer than any of her colleagues. Her smug certainty prompted me upon my departure to call Sbucks customer service to find out what was going on. In fact, I was right and the barista was wrong, so I turned around and went back into the store and handed my cellphone to her so that she could be disabused of her false beliefs about the refill program. It’s really too bad that such a generous refill policy is severely marred by the poor training of baristas. This must be the tenth time that I have had to argue about the company’s very own policy (explicitly detailed on their website)! It really compromises the overall experience to be treated as a lowlife criminal shoplifter by poorly trained/ignorant baristas.
End of rant.
The Passion was quite tasty—not sure, though, whether it was really worth that ordeal! I did enjoy the tangy red infusion while walking a couple of miles to run some errands in the very nice walking weather we had today—in the 60s (not 40s, thank goodness!).
Today’s post-lunch POD (pot of the day) was Nourishtea’s Mao Jian (The Emerald Path). I’m happy with this China green. The liquor is pale greenish yellow and the flavor slightly vegetal—but closer to Mao Feng than sencha. Definitely a good mealtime tea!
I noticed today that my large tetsubin cools the water by almost 10 degrees C! Good to know…
second infusion: once again I found that the leaves nearly double in volume upon reinfusion. The flavor is still good, and the color more gold now than green.