Brandon's Notepad

April 8, 2013

Tea 2013

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The teas I tasted in A.D. 2013 and what I thought about them. Prices are per pound.

It has become ritual now for me to switch from coffee to tea for the winter months. I am much more enthusiastic about drinking a hot beverage when it is cold out, and holiday shopping puts me in the right places to buy.

Green Tea Taste Test

Since I developed a taste for green tea over the last few years, I decided to sample several this year to see if there was any significant difference between them. While they all tasted similar in general, they were definitely not homogenous.

Sterling Gun Powder Green Tea. [Central Market; $22.99] The leaves are tightly rolled into little pellets, almost black in color. The brew is slighty darker than the others with a red hue, and it tasted somewhat similar to black tea.

TROT Sky Between the Branches. [Central Market; $42.99] These slender shriveled leaves produce a yellow/green brew that ended with that sour green tea aftertaste on the sides of the tongue.

TROT Ti Kuan Yin Tea. [Central Market; $59.99] I didn’t read the label close enough when I bought this one, but this is actually an oolong tea. I decided to toss it into the mix anyway. The pellets are larger than the gun powder green and are not as tightly rolled. The leaves are broader than the TROT Sky tea above and included stems, which probably contributed to its woody taste. The color was also yellow/green.

#6758 Green Tea. [Sprouts; $11.04] I found this tea in the bulk spice section at the Sprouts Farmers Market. Can’t beat the price, but the leaves are crushed, so they didn’t work well in my French press, and there was nothing special about the taste. Meh.

Sterling Jasmine Pearls. [Central Market; $78.99] I’m a little disappointed in this tea as a tablespoon of it doesn’t produce a very strong brew. The website explains that the leaves are infused with jasmine flowers. When the large pellets (~1/4″ diameter) unravel in the water, there seems to be as many (if not more) stems than leaves. The color is as pale as the taste.

Planet Tea Dragonwell. [Central Market; $15.99] Dragonwell is still probably my favorite variety of green tea. The leaves are flat, not crushed, and often I don’t bother with any sort of filter. They sink to the bottom of the cup by the time the tea is cool enough to taste (I don’t like it too hot) and stay out of my way. Those who like to eat the leaves probably do this too, I’m guessing. This tea tasted just like any other Dragonwell I’ve ever tasted.

Chai Taste Test

Whereas the green teas tasted almost the same overall, the chai teas were very different. Yes, they were all spicy, but certain ingredients, including the type of tea used, made all the difference. I compared five chais side-by-side. I did not prepare them in the traditional way (with milk and honey or sugar), but instead used only a plastic spoonful of each and maybe about 6 ounces of not-quite boiling water (sounds really scientific, right?). I also let the brews cool so that I could taste them without searing my taste buds.

TROT Republic Chai [Central Market; $39.99] The scent of this tea was not strong, similar to regular black tea, and it was obvious that it contained black pepper. This was not the most memorable of the lot.

TROT Cardamon Cinnamon Herbal [Central Market; $39.99] Ahhh, smells like Christmas! This one was much milder than I expected. I didn’t taste the chicory at first but could eventually pick it out.

TROT Republic Chai Red [Central Market; $32.99] I actually couldn’t drink this tea during the taste test. Due to the Rooibos it smelled to me just like Campho Phenique. I have no idea how it tastes undoctored, but I eventually was able to sip at it sweetened and creamed. Even then I didn’t care for it much.

#6755 Chai Tea [Sprouts; $23.84] This chai had a very weak scent and it tasted a lot like the Cuida Te Spicy Pu Erh I tried in 2010. Of course, with no list of ingredients available online, it was impossible to confirm any of the spices I thought I might be tasting.

Sterling Yerba Chai [Central Market; $42.99] This tea also used Rooibos as a basis. I just couldn’t do it without sugar and milk.

Other Teas

I’m not restricting myself to greens, by the way. Here are the other teas I’ve tried this year.

Touareg (Moroccan Mint) Organic Green Tea. [World Market; ~$66.67] I didn’t compare this tea with the other greens due to the strong mint flavor. It’s apples to oranges. I don’t think I care much for the mint, honestly, at least not all the time.

Rishi Organic Orange Blossom. [Central Market; $44.99] This tea reminds me of the Cuida Te Lemon Nori Oolong I tested in 2010. According to my notes, that tea was very weak, and this one was no different. Then I read the instructions: use 1 heaping tablespoon for 8oz of water. That and some sweetener made all the difference.

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