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Recent Tasting Notes
This refers to the loose leaf version of the tea. Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey is my favorite Earl. By adding blue flowers, vanilla or cream extract, other Earls attempt to lure me away. So far, though, none has been successful.
The bergamot used by Stash is an essential oil, while many of the other Earl Grey teas are scented with an extract of bergamot. I am familiar with bergamot essential oils and bergamot extracts in their pure liquid forms and I can say that there is a distinct difference between them. Distillation of the oil removes the vegetal components of the citrus bergamia orange fruit which are present in the extract. Both oil and extract have an overwhelmingly citrus nature, of course. Besides that, high floral notes predominate in the oil while in the extract, the balance tips toward more earthy influences reminiscent of rosemary. Why do some teas use the extract rather than the essential oil? Perhaps they prefer the effects of the extract or perhaps because it is much less costly than the oil.
The black tea base is a substantial whole leaf which brews up malty and rich. Be sure to use enough tea. You’ll want a couple of rounded teaspoons to make a big mug. If your bag has been battered and the tea badly broken up like mine is, then it will be denser and so measure out less. Or just weigh it … I used 5 grams of tea per 12 ounces. I drank mine neat today and it went down very smoothly, but it holds up well on those occasions when I add milk and sweetening, too.
First of all, let me say that I really like Jasmine teas. Phoenix Dragon Pearls is supposed to be the top grade of Jasmine tea around, and it truly is a great tea! :)) I like to prepare this gongfu style, and so should you to fully appreciate this tea. I like to add the pearls in a glass teapot so I can watch the pearls unfurl and smell the intoxicating aroma. A gaiwan would also work well, but I do not recommend a Yixing teapot for any jasmine tea. A glass Gaiwan would also work well obviously.
I used my glass tea press which is a little big for Gongfu tea prep as far as having to guesstimate the amount of water for my cup (8-9 oz), but perfect for the full expansion of the tea leaves (glass press is about 18-20 oz). I think it works out to one or two tea leaves rolled into a pearl, so when they unfurl the leaves are huge-long and slender.
When I smell the pearls the aroma fills the room and my senses…….really takes me away! SSSoooo aromatic!! I can picture mysellf running …….or walking through a field of jasmine flowers on a sunny day. I run with purpose of course, NOT flailing my arms about, or skipping or spinning in circles! :))
Guesstimating again, I put approx 15-20 pearls in my warmed press, and the aroma seemed to intensify. At a one minute steep, the pearls partially opened, and the aroma of the wet pearls was A M A Z I N G ! ! The jasmine filled my senses and the room. The cup was a light yellow, but the aroma and flavor was not shy. I always let my tea cool a bit-IMHO, you get a better appreciation for the teas’ qualities with a slightly cooled cup. More fantastic Jasmine aroma, and the flavor is so naturally sweet, floral, very flavorful and…….SUBLIME!
Same parameters for the second cup provide the most aromatics in the wet leaves and cup, with the cup a slightly darker hued yellow. The Jasmine is so sweet, floral and smooth on my palate, warming and coating my throat. AAHHHH. The tea has good staying power too.
Third cup steeped at 195 D for 1.5 minutes, with the wet leaf aroma still strong. In the cup, the Jasmine fades somewhat and the gentle white tea emerges. On my palate the tea and Jasmine seem to be closely balanced here, as the floral qualities recede. That’s a good thing, because with Gongfu each cup is different, and I appreciate it for what it is…….NOT for what it isn’t. :)) Still sweet, warm and soothing.
My fourth and last cup steeped with boiling water for 3.5 minutes, gave me wet leaves that STILL smelled of Jasmine and had now fully opened. The cup was weaker in aromatics and flavor, but still the leaves gave me all they had and four quality cups of tea! Good tea flavor and Jasmine soothed me again, with their sweetness and warmth. I could’ve probably gotten a weak fifth cup, but I really had four truly satisfying cups!
Even people who don’t prefer Jasmine teas because they are too floral for their taste, could learn to appreciate this. The nice thing about the pearls is that you probably could limit the floral aspects of the tea by using less pearls, lesser steep times and temps. :)) Another nice thing is that this tea is naturally and slowly scented over several days, and does not come across as cloying to me at all. Give this tea a try! :)) A perfect tea experience, but I’m leaving a little elbow room should a better Jasmine tea please my palate.
Cupped: Sunday, February 5, 2012.
Reviewed: Monday, February 6, 2012.