I’m not going to make a recommendation on this one, as it’s my own blend and that would be cheating. I merely want to set out a bit more detail in the creation process than Adagio’s fields have room for. My whole Chrono Trigger fandom came about in early 2014 when I tried Amy Zen’s Firefly fandom and found nearly all blends to be overpowering and almost undifferentiable chocolate-chai variants. I wanted to try a set of my own, based on characters I knew and loved, and embracing the range of leaves and subtler accents available to create blends which were truly differentiated without heavy flavorants.
I fought with Ayla, and Ayla won. sigh To be fair, this only means my first pass was pretty much right on the mark. I had a notion for a strong black with fruit and sweet notes. English breakfast was the strongest traditional black base to come to mind. Coconut was near the top of my flavor notions as something sweet, fruity, and creamy to tie the package together, but it wasn’t available straight and the best substitute the staff could recommend was coconut pouchong. After smelling it loose, I had no objections. Chocolate was also on my short-list for flavor profile, so it went in. That just left the fruit selection. Hibiscus is not a fruit, despite what Adagio seems to think, so I didn’t want to go anywhere near their fruit herbals. What was in my mind was something nearer the berry spectrum than the citrus spectrum, so I tried strawberries as a first approximation. The staff brewed a trial cup. I smelled it and knew immediately I’d gotten it dead wrong. The coconut was overpowering. The rest of the flavors just vanished. I left the cup on the counter and immediately went for a new formulation with cherries. But I re-sampled the first cup after it had cooled a bit, because it was there. And it was spot on. The coconut had stepped back, the fruit and chocolate were present and balanced, and as a black tea, it was all-around decent. The cherry formulation timer went off, and I tried it. Sour. As. All. Get-out. I couldn’t even finish the cup, so I went back to the last of the strawberry. Which was now distortedly tart itself, with the strawberry powder that had slipped through the strainer mesh and kept brewing in the dregs. #fml. It took 3 more visits, experimenting with strawberry black tea to avoid the dregs problem (brewed up exceedingly bitter in the duration it took the other flavors to come out), dialing back the coconut to avoid the fumes (meaning it was completely gone after cooling), fiddling with other ratios (more amazing vanishing elements), and finally landed right back at my first formulation and the acceptance that the coconut falls off with time and the strawberry rises and that’s okay because the middle is perfect. So. Don’t mess with Ayla. Trust me. Just accept that this blend has a very particular time-dynamic and will go off in odd and wild directions if you don’t treat it right. And really, how much more appropriate could I get if I tried?