74 Tasting Notes
Finally, something I can write a good review on – (I know, right?)
So, my girlfriend chose this one out when we were at the mall together. She HATES malls, but we were forced into with the pressure of mother’s day shopping, and she proved that she’s 100 times better than me at gift shopping, even for MY mother and sister. While we were there, I decided to take her up to Lupicia, because she’s slowly been coming around to tea.
She chose this one out herself, and I have to admit, I’ve never tried it – I usually kept company with more pure teas. She wanted an iced tea, and the guy (who has been working there FOREVER) suggested that one. So, I bought her a small iced tea brewer, and we cold-brewed this at my place.
It’s got a real pleasant smell, and the flavor’s good too – subtle, maybe a little watery, but it’s definitely more enjoyable than drinking plain cold H2O. What else can I say? It smells like green apple – as someone mentioned earlier, not so much REAL apple as artificial “green apple” flavor – and it tastes like you’d probably expect.
The only thing I could say against it, though not form experience, is that when my girlfriend tried making it hot, she said it wasn’t good at all – even after she chilled it. Whether she misbrewed it, or it’s just not a good tea to drink hot, I don’t know, but it’s something to look out for.
While this tea is really nothing special, it’s another one of those things she’s picked up as our lives begin to overlap – sharing interests, friends, family, certain other things I really shouldn’t mention on this site…
Anyway, it’s nice to be with her during her first steps into the great adventure that is Tea – an adventure I need to get back into.
The IDEA behind Adagio’s interpretation of this tea isn’t completely irrational.
Masala Chai is, afterall, generally made with very low quality tea, but then again – that’s the point. You don’t need to add sugar, spice and everything nice to GOOD tea. Masala Chai plays off its own unsophistication by making all the add-ins part of its personality. The tea is really just a base for the other ingredients to play out on your taste buds. It’s harsh and bitter enough that it gives even tea purists an excuse to throw in some milk (or, in my case, soymilk) and sugar (again, in my case, vegan sugar) so mellow it out, making it more of a fun treat than just a tea.
In that sense, making the tea with anything other than CTC Assam, promising a bold, straight forward flavor, is nothing but a novel experiment. Maybe I would be giving this tea a higher rating if I hadn’t had the following experience with it:
I wanted to make some Masala Chai for my girlfriend and her mom. They’ve both done a great deal of cooking for me over the months, and as I can’t make much more than a sandwich (and even then, not a good one) I wanted to repay the effort with something I CAN cook. My sister and I used to make MC in the kitchen almost every night, with a pan, a simple syrup, the tea, and some milk.
So I tried doing the same thing at my girlfriend’s place, with high expectations from all.
The first thing I noticed, as I neared what should have been the end of the process, was that the tea’s flavor was completely nonexistent amongst the soymilk and spices – what I didn’t know, was that the tea I was brewing was MUCH weaker than what should be used in a Masala Chai. So I brewed it longer, and eventually added more tea. I spent probably half an hour in the kitchen, trying my hardest to salvage something about of the mess. The end result, which I begrudgingly and with a great amount of chagrin served, was only drinkable because of the vast amounts of sugar I had to pour in. The ginger was absolutely overpowering, and the only flavor this “higher quality” product contributed was the unpleasantness of an over-stewed tea.
There’s definitely room in the world of tea to experiment, but when you undermine the driving concept behind a certain tea, maybe you should second-guess yourself. Maybe it’s my fault for not paying attention to the specifics of what I was buying, but when it goes to something like Masala Chai, the only variance I should be seeing is in the ratio of spices, not the tea itself.
Teavana disappoints again!
So I went to Teavana for the first time in a long while to buy a gift for my girlfriend’s mother. I got her an infusing mug, some flavored oolong, and some dragonwell, and for my girlfriend, I picked up some Jasmine Pearls – two ounces of each.
The first reminder that I should never shop at Teavana was when the chick behind the counter suggested that if I pick up one more tea, I’d be at half a pound – and at that point, if I DOUBLED my order, I could get 10% off my purchase. She was trying to turn my 6 ounces of thoughtfulness into a 16oz monster, made up by a majority of impulsive, poor self-control. Of course I declined this. And the reusable tins. And the $5 drink to go.
On a brighter note, my girlfriend’s mom fell in love with the cup at first sight, and enjoyed the teas. But this review isn’t about those teas (which, mind you, I didn’t try.)
This is about the jasmine pearls.
I don’t go to Teavana with delusions of grandeur and wide-eyed amazement that I did some years ago when I started my explorations into tea, but I do carry with me an expectation of at least substantial mediocrity. When you keep your expectations low, you tend to avoid disappointment – but as this prestigious establishment has been so gracious to remind me, there’s always an exception to the rule.
The first thing I noticed when my girlfriend and I poured some water into our mug was that the tea was without a question NOT processed according to tradition. The pearls SHOULD be crafted from the bud and tender, top two leaves, rolled into a tight ball that unfurls into a graceful, slender figure that dances with its brethren in your cup once awakened by warm water. It was supposed to be a very special treat for my loved one.
What I got was a cup crowded with large, clumsy leaves that impatiently expanded. So much for aesthetics.
I would love to comment on the taste as well, but there wasn’t one. What we ended up with, essentially, was a cup of warm, greenish water, made inconvenient to drink by some useless leaves swirling around in it.
Sure, it smelled nice, because it was infused with Jasmine. But you can spray a floral aerosol in the bathroom after you take a dump, and that bathroom will smell like Jasmine too.
By no accident, that is the metaphor I’ll leave this review on – this tea was a piece of crap covered up by a flowery fragrance.
So, it’s me ’n my Yerba against another day of sore throatiness.
Made an infusion this morning. It was… good. What else?
But then I decided to try something….
Hot chocolate mix.
So, second-infusion yerba mate (thus, a little weaker) with about half a packet of cocoa powder:
I’ve definitely had worse ideas!
Much worse ideas, in fact.
It’s not half bad.
The flavor is a bit weak, but the chocolate overrides the mate flavor.
Worth a try, you guys.
Maybe I’ll talk to some friends into holistic medicine about what else I could mix in with mate to make a good cold-fighting brew.
Made a few teas for work. Not hot, not iced – Room Temp tea. I guess a tiny bit on the colder side, because they were in my trunk for my commute, and it was cold in there. Got pretty shaken up on that ride… almost died on a slippery, winding road. (Raining on Highway 17, for you Californians.)
So, I mixed this stuff with Corn and Barley tea. A Korean mix!
Got it to the office, and everyone loved it. Yippieee.
Yeah, it was pretty good.
Special remedy for a slight cold?
A pot of Yerba Mate.
Learned how effective YM was when I was really into Matevana from Teavana…
but hey, the plain stuff is just as effective.
In any case, yeah, I got a sore throat, and I’m a little phlegmy. But when I got my mate, I’m just phlegmy.
Sorry about never actually following through on my previous posts about the iced teas…
Here’s the story:
They all turned out awesome.
I’ll post about them in a sec.
Oh, and I was the only one that brought anything to the potluck.
Jug #2: Black Teas
So, I had this Lapsang in an old Peet’s tin… I guessing it’s from Puripan?
In any case, that stuff’s pretty good iced…
and in a moment of cRaZiNeSs, I decided to mix it with some other French tea – one of those flowery ones, what with sunflower and cornflower petals, flavored with strawberry and rhubarb, and a mix of Chinese and Sri Lankan teas – called Jardin Bleu, by Dammann Freres.
The result? Not bad! Well, I haven’t tried it officially cold, but from my taste-testing, it’s not as much of an atrocity as it could have been. We’ll see in the morning, perhaps.
Using a very large teapot for this, so two potfuls should about do a gallon. I might have to top it off with something special, but we’ll see.
Kind of considering putting sugar in this one… but mostly not.
Now for jug #3, I’m thinking herbal…
I wanted to do rooibos, but I’m pretty sure I’m out.
Was thinking, then, either Yerba Mate (which I have in excess), or Corn and Barley to make a refreshing Korean-style mix….
Refreshment, or energy?
Maybe energy… But I know one of my directors is on a no-caffeine fix… do you think this would be okay for him? I don’t know…
What’s this on my dashboard?
…Could it really be?
JMKauftheil… that guy hasn’t posted in ages! I almost forgot about him…
Oh, who am I kidding? A day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t tenderly missed the way his refined knowledge and appreciation of tea infuses so exquisitely with his masterful finesse of words, that it can’t be explained in any way but convenient metaphor.
Is he really back, to discuss teas in a way that causes my eyes to experience senses beyond sight? Words flowing so elegantly, it’s as if I’m seeing music, caressing the pupil like a lover’s touch…
Is it so? Is it really so?
Keep your clothes on ladies and gentlemen, it is so. Well, the gentlemen should keep their clothes on, at least.
Yep. I’m back. For the night at least.
I’m staying up late making a hefty load of iced teas tonight, and I figured I might as well spend it with an old friend – Tee Loggins McGee.
Where have I been, you ask? Oh, you’re asking all right…
It’s been a few months, right? Five or so…
Well, we can skip over a few identity crises, a few self-discoveries, a few mistakes, a few redemptions, a few steps backward, and a few steps forward, and just live in the moment:
I got a weekend job as a canvasser (the people that go door to door, raising funds for organizations (non-profit, political, etc), and I’m working with a group called Environment California. Long hours, hard work, and the rollercoaster of losing then regaining my faith in humanity – all at minimum wage. I love it.
Tomorrow, as I happened to remember after returning from school around 9:30, we planned to have a potluck at work. I promised to bring some iced tea. For about ten people. And I need to transport it over a windy highway – Highway 17, for those of you familiar – in the rain, no less.
I REALLY hope they didn’t change the plans without me.
I bought three 1-gallon jugs of water from 7-eleven, and I intend to fill them by the end of the night. I have three of my vessels in action, and my entire stock of tea to play with.
Let’s see how this all turns out, eh?
Jug #1: Green tea
So, I started with the remainder of the Chestnut green tea I’ve had from Lupicia, just sitting around.
Two infusions of that, in my Lupicia iced-tea maker, and I filled up about half a gallon. I turned to making some Jasmine in my tetsubin… but that’s a notably smaller quantity. So far, I’ve made two infusions of that, which is about equal to one of the ice-tea maker thing. I think I’ve about exhausted the Jasmine, so if anyone one is actively reading this, what do you think of maybe a little Gunpowder? Hm?
I’ll rate it all when I got the jug full.
Gonna be up all night, folks, so expect a few updates.