Monday, April 23, 2018

Favorite Teas of the Moment

Zoysia mug from Anthropologie.

It's been a few months now since I stocked up on a set of new items to facilitate my tea-drinking habit at work, in large part so I'd stop using disposable cups at the office. Unsurprisingly, I've put my new purchases to good and frequent use. Since that time, my tastes in tea have shifted a bit from when I started (and I'd expect them to shift back and forth over time, from old favorites to new ones, and back again) and so my tea collection has multiplied. I thought I'd share some of the varieties I'm enjoying right now, because I think they're so delightful.

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A few months ago, when I first bought my new mugs and infusers, I was having a bit of a flavored green tea phase. I'd just bought some Palais des Thes The du Hammam (a strongly scented blend with fruit, rose petals, and what I think smells like vanilla, though the flavor is milder than the fragrance suggests) and also some Harney & Sons Chinese Flower (not as much scent, has a lot of citrus flavor). For less flavored, or unflavored teas, I was mostly drinking Chinese green teas, including loose leaf mao feng green and jasmine pearls from my local Fairway.

After a while though, I started wanting a slight change of pace. The flavored teas are nice, but not as suitable as a once a day (or more often) staple. I was also finding that, at the moment, the Chinese green teas felt a bit too mellow to me (including a sample of dragonwell, lovely but so mild, that I added to my order when I got that raspberry black tea from Adagio Teas), so I was interested in adding some more assertive green teas to my rotation. 

In my somewhat limited experience, of mostly just the last few months, many Japanese green teas tend to be more assertive. I'd gotten some Japanese sencha (similar from Barney's) earlier that felt like a revelation, it was so different from other green teas I was used to, with a lot of character and some notes I'd describe as vegetal or grassy (in a pleasant way). So I stuck to Japanese green teas for my next order, and ended up with two that I adore, and could drink all day, both from Harney & Sons this time.

Harney & Sons genmaicha is delicious. I've had a few other genmaichas in my time, mostly in tea bags, or even loose leaf from a supermarket, and I'd never been terribly fond of it before. With the less fancy versions, all the same elements are there, the taste of the the roasted rice and so on, but the flavors don't come together as well. It was something I liked okay, but would rarely reach for if I had other options. Getting this fancier loose leaf stuff was really something else, though. All the same elements, but it tastes so much better and there's less bitterness. I'd be perfectly happy to drink this all day long (which at my usual rate of tea consumption means four cups a day, brewed from two different servings of the loose leaf, sometimes more if we're busy and working through dinner). I do find that the contrast between the intensity of flavor I get from the first versus the second brew is more pronounced than with any of the other (many) teas I'm currently drinking. This one holds up noticeably less well to a second brewing. 

Harney & Sons roasted buckwheat matcha may have been partially responsible for my recent matcha latte phase, though, in actuality, I find the flavor profiles very different. While my matcha cappuccino from Cha Cha has that matcha bitterness, which I enjoy, there's really no bitterness at all to this roasted buckwheat matcha.  The buckwheat has a bit of natural, nutty flavor, almost a sweetness to it, which seems to balance the matcha well. I can also credit Archana's description of plain roasted buckwheat tea with opening my mind to this option. I got both the Harney & Sons roasted buckwheat matcha and the genmaicha with matcha, and while I love the plain genmaicha, the matcha combination with it just doesn't work as well for me. Maybe because the genmaicha doesn't have the same natural sweetness, it doesn't make as good a combination with the matcha? Also note that neither of these matcha-blended teas taste that much like what I'd expect pure matcha to taste like. Though I wouldn't necessarily know, because I've only had matcha lattes otherwise.

Anyone have more favorite teas to recommend? Should I open my mind to other varieties beyond green teas? For all that I own a slightly shocking number of different teas (my collection has multiplied considerably since I took this photo), I tend to stick to my comfort zones, mostly green tea and oolong, with the occasional sample of white tea. I think the raspberry black tea is the only black tea I've ever really liked. 

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