Before I start this review, allow me to state that I am exceptionally picky when it comes to mint teas. I either like them or I don’t. There is usually little, if any middle ground. Oddly, this one fell into that precious little space in the middle for me. I didn’t really care for it, but at the same time, I have had worse. I will explain why I felt this way in a moment, but before I do that, I would like to backtrack a bit.
My on-again, off-again relationship with Maghrebi mint teas started with a spur-of-the-moment trip with a now ex-girlfriend to Bloomington, IN while still an undergraduate. In between visiting local shops and the beautiful campus of IU-Bloomington, we stopped at a small Mediterranean restaurant. It was a cool early spring afternoon and we agreed to split a pot of Moroccan mint tea to help us warm up as quickly as possible. It was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the waiter was unwilling to divulge any information about the tea. All he offered was that it was the owner’s favorite blend and that the owner was very secretive about it. I still have no clue what the tea was. I have tried several Moroccan mint blends in the years since, but have yet to find anything remotely resembling that tea.
I had high hopes when I received a sample sachet of this tea with a recent Steven Smith order. I normally like the teas offered by Steven Smith and figured that there was a good chance I would enjoy this one. Maybe it would even be similar to that beloved mint tea from long ago. Sadly, it wasn’t. First, this is not exactly a traditional Moroccan blend. Rather than using a base of Chinese or Ceylonese gunpowder green tea blended with fresh spearmint leaves, this is a blend of Zhejiang Mao Feng (the same tea Steven Smith Teamaker offers as No. 8 Mao Feng Shui), Australian Lemon Myrtle, and American spearmint. They may have been taking liberties with the traditional Moroccan formula, but whatever, I was still game.
I followed the merchant’s suggested brewing method for this tea. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose leaf material (I’m assuming that is about how much they put in those sachets) in 8 ounces of 190 F water for 3 minutes. I did not attempt any additional infusions. I just didn’t feel like it.
After infusion, the delicate yellow-green liquor produced mild aromas of spearmint, lemon myrtle, grass, hay, and flowers. In the mouth, I noticed a somewhat turbulent blend of lemon, grass, hay, vegetable, spearmint, and floral, nectar-like notes. The finish was slightly muddy, with a lingering blend of spearmint, grass, hay, and lemon myrtle.
Okay, so I didn’t hate this tea, but I didn’t really like it either. The best Moroccan mint teas I have had have hewed fairly closely to the traditional Moroccan formula. I can give Steven Smith Teamaker a few extra points for attempting something unique, but this really did not work for me. First, I think their No. 8 Mao Feng Shui is a more or less great Mao Feng. In my opinion, it is one of their best and most consistent green teas. Blending it with both lemon myrtle and spearmint obscured some of the more intriguing vegetal and floral aromas and flavors that I enjoyed so much. Second, one of the reasons that Maghrebi mint teas work so well is that the savory, vegetal gunpowder green base creates a really unique contrast with the sweetness of the spearmint. Here, the teamakers started with a green tea that I found to be slightly floral, sweet, and smooth and blended it with both spearmint and lemon myrtle. This added additional layers of sweetness and vegetal, herbal character on top of an already somewhat sweet and mildly vegetal base. So, rather than having two distinct components that ended up melding and working together, you ended up with three components with one or more similarities that fought one another for dominance and then merged together all at once. In my opinion, it just came off as sloppy and muddled with too many loose ends, and that is not what I typically look for in a blend of any kind.