16 Tasting Notes
Long time, no tea-logging. Same old busy song.
I’ve been on a chocolate-raspberry flavor-kick for awhile. Thus, in pursuit of said kick, I threw a chocolate-raspberry blend together, one in which my craving could hopefully be satisfied without excessive caloric interference. And because chocolate should really not go with raspberries — cocoa-milk and tart berries, whaaa?! — and yet they do go together, and in fact they go together so well, I named this blend according to two other things that should not go well together, and yet when you let your crazy English-Literature-meets-Film-Studies mind wander over them, they do — these two things being, of course, Star Wars and Hamlet.
(See label and description for more information on this seemingly inane mash-up, yo: https://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=23221 Why be a broken record, eh whot?)
All long-winded introductions aside, Something Rotten in Darthmark wound up giving me exactly what I wanted: sweet raspberries, dark chocolate, and a nonsensical, pop-culturey chuckle each time it emerges from the cupboard. With a pinch of my usual milk and sweetener, it becomes a chocolate-raspberry truffle in liquid form, one that surely would have kept Ophelia from her seemingly purposeless madness and prevented the Vader family from shouting negative exclamations for no ultimate purpose.
Take it away, closing tea-haiku:
Join the dark sweet cup,
choc’lit raspberries! (Don’t let
your uncle have some.)
All work and no extracurricular tea activities makes me a dull, dry, liquids-depleted girl. Insert sad, weepy, pitiful emoticon of choice here.
Tonight, however, miracle of tea miracles, I found time to brew Adagio’s Spiced Apple Chai. Yes, I keep drinking Adagio. Yes, it continues to be the most affordable pathway to my tea addiction. Yes, I monitor my pocket-money well. And yes, this tea tastes exactly like one would expect it to taste: light apple cider, mulled with chai spices. One can only imagine the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup situation which probably brought on the advent of its creation:
“Hey, you got apple cider in my chai!”
“Well, you got chai in my apple cider!”
In short, this tea is autumnal and late evening-appropriate, and it tastes good. So there. And I do b’lieve, gov’nah, that I used to write haikus about tea around these here parts, a.k.a. teakus. Let’s see if I’ve still got it:
Climb aboard the chai
tea train! Next stop: cider house.
G’night, tea princes.
Yes, I just made a teaku in which The Cider House Rules met The Darjeeling Limited. And yes, Michael Caine and Wes Anderson would certainly tell me to keep my day job.
“You can’t drink this in July,” shouted the fluttering cupids in my imagination. “Hot tea is out of season!”
“Silence, you cupids,” I shouted back. “Chocolate-covered strawberries have no season! And put some clothes on! This isn’t Rococo town, where anything goes as long as it’s associated with slightly-naughty shepherding and pastels!”
Temperamental conversations with imaginary cherubs aside, Adagio’s Valentines tea is, hands down, one of the most called-upon teas inside my cupboard. Even now, at the height of summer, Valentines calls to me in the cool of night: drink me (it seems to siren-sing), for I involve the merest of calories and the maximum of soft confectionery flavors.
Delicately strawberry-flavored, lightly chocolatey, and with the scent and underlying “taste halo” of rose, this is an appropriately-classified dessert tea that can actually quiet my cravings for far more fattening fare. One could say it’s a little too light in flavor, but I kind of like that. It seems smoother, somehow; I’d call this one a more cost-effective version of Teavana’s Azteca Fire. Add sugar-free sweetener and a little skim milk, and you are in calorie-watching dessert tea business. Well, I am. I don’t know about those cupids, though, who are always more rotund than any babies should be. Four words, cupids: early-onset childhood diabetes.
(I fear I’m running the risk of looking like a hopeless Adagio-phile, what with all the thusly-branded reviews I’ve posted so far. Then again, again, I do own a lot of their teas, not only because I was easily bitten by the personal tea-blending bug, but also because this brand tends to be affordable and easily-procurable. Color me poor, indolent, and introspective, I guess.)
Tea satisfaction + gentle snark = two tea-haikus for this one:
strawberry Moses! And it’s
Be mine, valentine,
and drink some dessert with me.
Pass the cherub spray.
Forgive me, tea father. It has been three months since my last tea-logging.
I’ve never been a chamomile fan. Medicinal, acidic, jarring, and the bane of Peter Rabbit’s existence: these are not positive recommendations. In my childhood, before having my very first cup of chamomile tea, I clearly remember thinking, “Gee whillikers, chamomile must be swell! It’s the tea that Beatrix Potter built! Golly!” Clearly, I had the brain of Leave it to Beaver. (That explains a lot, particularly since I was an 80s child.) Imagine my youthful dismay, then, when I found that instead of the warm, honeyed confection I’d assumed chamomile tea to be, chamomile went down like a cupful of battery acid left out in a meadow. In the rain. With a cake. After this negative experience, of course, I thought I’d never have that recipe again.
Imagine my shock and awe, then, when I stumbled upon Adagio’s Cha Cha blend of chamomile, peppermint, and lemon grass. It came as a free sample, and so it was with trepidation that I tried it out tonight — but ah, the wily tiki tea gods had a lovely surprise in store! Light, mellow, minty, chartreuse in color, and with just the right touch of herbaceousness … this is what chamomile should have been all those many gee-Wally years ago. The peppermint and lemon grass are in great balance here, virtually obliterating any overt bitterness of the chamomile. I put a little sweetener in it, too, as is my addictive wont, which seems to make the flavors “brighter.”
Now, let’s see if this dusty ol’ tealog can still hack it at the ol’ tea-haiku game:
What luck! This chamo
blend makes sweet, delicate fare!
NO RABBITS ALLOWED!
After sitting patiently in its little sample bag for several weeks, Adagio’s Genmai Cha is finally up at bat. This one has roasted rice and popped corn kernels visibly hanging out amongst the tea leaves — loitering, one might say — and smells fascinatingly nutty fresh out of the bag.
Steeping for two minutes yields an earthy green liquid with a full-bodied roasted rice flavor. There’s an unusual maltiness in the background of this tea, and I like what it says to me. It says to me: “No no, I am not zee beer, and you do not drink zee beer, but voila, have some maltiness anyway, and you will like eet, ah yes.” Apparently, my Japanese tea has a terrible French accent. (Lupin III?)
I can see why Genmai Cha is not for the faint of heart — or rather, not for the faint of green. It is not a flavor for everyone, nor for every day. It’s too strong for that, methinks, and it seems to lack the mellow-inducing property of most greens. It is different, but I like that. Perhaps I am too positive in the land of tea, but to be perfectly honest, I rarely encounter a tea which I do not like.
P.S. According to Adagio’s company story for Genmai Cha, “Japanese peasants found it difficult to afford much tea, and would mix it with roasted rice, which was abundant and cheap. Thus, they were able to squeeze more cups from the same amount of leaves. A recipe born of poverty, Genmai Cha has acquired an uptown chic and is now a favorite of urban dwellers in Japan and the West.” Oddly enough, the muddy swills endured by European medieval peasantry have yet to lure modern consumers in this way.
Snap, crackle, poppin’:
like lip gloss, but in tea. Who
let the malt hops out?
“What’s that you drink, oh
peasant fair?” asked the market
exec. “I smell cash!”
“The seas were angry that day, my friends. The tiny ship was tossed, to and fro, until it came to rest upon an uncharted desert isle. And on that desert isle, we drank this tea. Because the rum. Was. Gone.”
I’ve been meaning to purchase my dear Plunder and Grog for a long time, and I’m thrilled that I finally did. This tea very much reminds me of my still-current favorite, Zeppelinmobile, except it adds cocoa and spice, and insodoing takes the Zeppelinmobile flavor profile to the third power. (In fact, I could have called it, “Zeppelinmobile Puts Out to Sea with Air Pirates.”)
Yes, yes, I created this blend too, which offers up a veritable buffet of personal-taste rhetoric, but it also fits into its piratical name like a glove. (Pirate gloves: for the buccaneer who wants ter’ keep the blisters off his lootin’ paws!) For the swash-curious, my thinking process for blendin’ the gloves off of Plunder and Grog went as follows:
1) What do pirates need to eat? Citrus, if they want to stave off scurvy. Cue the blood orange tea, which is tart-yet-mellow here, and smells divine.
2) What curses do pirates undergo? Aztec ones, since Aztec ghosts are kind of incensed about, oh, you know, their descendants being enslaved by the Spanish for a few measly centuries. Cue the chocolate chip tea, which serves up a splash of cocoa in the background of this blend.
3) Where do pirates travel? To exotic places that have exotic spices, exotically. Cue the chocolate chai tea, which lends another deliciously-smelling, spice road-meets-cocoa kick to this tea.
Drink up, me hearties, and on ter’ the haikus:
Cocoa-orange a day
will keep the doctor away
if apples don’t work.
This tea’s a treasure!
Now I’m off to braid things in
my hair. Pass the koal.
And here’s one to grow on, since I haven’t been able to tealog it up on a regular basis, and because, well, I can’t seem to shake the pirate theme today:
Puffy shirts and grog,
jumping from high places, then
Long week, no tea scribbling. Time to imbibe and catch up.
There are three reasons for me to shout hooray for this Zelda-inspired tea blend: one, I created it and yet it still makes me laugh, two, it’s based on my own Pop-Culture Childhood Memories (patent pending), and three, it tastes pretty darn good: a full-bodied ceylon with strong notes of apricot, strawberry, and a hint of zesty orange … exactly the flavors which certain video game heroes might pluck off of their video game trees … or rather, the flavors on which good fruit smoothies are based, a description which, while accurate, does not have an appropriately cheesy ring to it.
As a fruit-infused ceylon, this blend benefits from the shorter end of the steeping timer, i.e. about 3 minutes in total. (What are you doing with your ceylon teas these days, Adagio, that makes them so overwhelmingly strong without careful monitoring?) To enhance the fruity flavors here, I recommend a dose or two of sweetener. One can never truly escape one’s own hummingbird-nectared past, it seems, no matter how many black teas one tries!
This would be smashing as an iced tea, so I’m still waiting for summer. I’m also still waiting for the herbal strawberry tea to be back in stock at Adagio so I can use it in this blend instead of the flavored ceylon variety. I crave real strawberries for this one, so excuuuuuuuse me, berry preferences.
And now it’s time for the tea-haiku portion of our little tea show:
No tri in your force?
Have you killed your own fairy?
Restart with fruit tea!
“I’ve fought demons,” whined
Link, “so where is my kissy?”
Slap! “Well excuuuuuuuse me!”
Back to ye olde tealog today. Too much work makes tea scribbling go boom.
This tea requires a little background. Mamaki is a native Hawaiian flowering plant, and long ago, in a galaxy that we still call home, fresh mamaki leaves were combined with hot stones and spring water by ancient Hawaiians “to produce an herbal tea that was an effective treatment for general debility. Today, packages of dried mamaki leaves are commercially produced.” (Thanks, Wikipedia! We should always believe your publicly-editable information without question!) Of course, centuries later, hot stones and spring water would again be combined to produce spa treatments that cost about a bazillion dollars per year, and the ghosts of ancient Hawaiians would lament their lack of royalties.
Ah well. With my sarcasm I digress.
I discovered this organic mamaki tea last summer at Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, an organic coffee plantation located in the mist-soaked hills of the Big Island. I actually saw the plants from which this organic tea grew with my own two eyes, in fact, making this perhaps my most sentimentally unusual tea.
As for the taste, mamaki lies somewhere between an earthy-nutty green and a touch of delicate-sweet white, which makes sense for an herbal tea of this nature. (The company describes this tea as a “white tea without caffeine,” but it is in fact an herbal tea. Represent accurately, yo.) Without any ancient Hawaiian ghosts to guide me in preparation, I can only guess at steep time and water temperature. This is a full-leaf tea, too: there are literally entire leaves, albeit dried, filling the tin, which makes measurement a little more interesting. I went with green steeping recommendations today, since using hotter water in the past made this tea a little too flavorless for my taste. This time it fared better.
But, ah, does it cure debility? Alas, I have no scientific data on that claim, but I do feel empowered enough to compose my requisite tea-haiku(s):
Before there were drugs
from the doctor, some drank tea.
Grass skirt optional.
Poor mamaki leaves,
fallen from paradise to
a cynic’s teacup!
I am of two minds about Adagio’s Dragonwell. At first, this tea kept pulling me back to the green side. So distinctive, so nutty, so mellow, and with a singularly flat leaf shape that must have romanced many a wooden-hulled tea-trader in centuries gone by, Dragonwell was the first tea that made me want to extrapolate tasting notes like a wagonized wino — the sort of ever-so-slightly unusual tea, I felt, that implied literary tributes, glamorous odes, maybe even a saucy limerick or two. When I wanted something different, Dragonwell was the tea for which I reached into my disturbingly organized tea cupboard.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered how much Steepsterites hate Adagio’s rendition of Dragonwell! The vitriol, the vitriol: it is enclouding all the drinking water! But I kid, I kid. I am the first to acknowledge my current green tea rank, which is, summarily, “Novice Green Tea Admirer: Ready and Willing to Advance,” so it is now my mission to try another brand’s offering. I shall not give up on you, Dragonwell! I shall solve your bestially-leafed mystery!
P.S. It is disturbing to think that perhaps the flavor I associate with Dragonwell is not really Dragonwell at all, rather like the old philosophical chestnut: “What if what I see as the color orange is not the color you see as the color orange? How would we ever know?” Lucky for me and the dragons, a tea mystery is far more experimentally-based than a philosophical one.
I’ve never been more ready to put together my usual tea-haikus, which are two in number for this well of debated dragons:
nutty dragon at the well:
are you déclassé?
Is this Dragonwell
I see before me? Come, let
me clutch another.
(Sorry about that last one, Mr. Shakespeare. Sort of.)
Playing catch-up with my adventures in tea-scribbling today. Steepster, my dear, my dove, my duckie, why can’t you let us post-date entries?
Blackberry Sage was an experimental purchase for me. After thoroughly enjoying this very same tea at a restaurant — in iced tea form, which is important to note — I was determined to have it for myself. Home-steeping resulted in two observations: one, this tea is surely better iced, as icing tends to make flavors more subtle and sweet, and two, the blackberry flavor of this tea is a little too artificial for my taste. In a flavor nutshell, Blackberry Sage is more akin to drinking blackberry fruit juice than, say, drinking a black tea with an infusion of blackberries — and thus, as a hot tea, it’s not quite a favorite. The hint of herbal flavor here is a nice touch, though. I often wish I could use such notes in my own blends. (Alas, alack, a tea business I do not have.)
That being said, this can be a very nice choice when prepping one’s morning commuter mug. A workerbee can mug it up with this tea, add more (cold) water later in the day, and then enjoy a refreshing berry-flavored water. Thank you, muses of strange beverage ingenuity!
And now, my near-compulsory tea haiku:
Warm blackberry juice?
Summer can’t come soon enough.
Word to iced mother.