All By Myself (with Tea)!

Like most Asians, I've grown up on tea. I didn't have my first coffee until I was in my mid twenties, and even now, I'd much rather have a nice cup of tea when I'm seeking a warm beverage. My grandmother was a tea junkie, so we always had to make sure there was a pot of hot water and a cup of tea leaves set up on the counter every day before we left for school. I'm pretty sure if we didn't she would have gone the whole day without drinking anything (or put a curse on us. Who knows? Grandmas are magical!) 

To be perfectly honest, having grown up with a tin of Oolong tea always in the cabinet, I thought I knew what every tea tasted like. Teavana is my Jimmy jam, and I spend quite a lot of time there smelling and sampling. I must be an expert, right? Wrong! I was not prepared for what this week's experiment meant for my taste buds.

So just a little bit of back story here. Every tea that I sampled this week was a loose leaf tea that I was able to find in my local Asian market. (You can also find loose leaf teas on Amazon if you don't have any Asian markets in your area.) I don't own a tea kettle (shocking I know), so I boiled water in a regular old pot and steeped the leaves in my French Press. My tasting notes are my own. The research is listed below.

Note to all you readers out there. Never, ever pour boiling water over your tea leaves. The water should be hot and steamy, not bubbling. You'll damage the leaves and the tea will be more astringent than it should be.

Pouchong Tea
Pouchong Tea is a light Oolong tea that is characterized by it's twisted leaves and floral notes. It's lightly oxidized and never roasted. 

Tasting Notes
It's very fragrant. The smell is almost sweet, like there is some fruit in there that I can't quite put my finger on, cantaloupe I think. You definitely want to let this steep for about 3-5 minutes to get a nice golden color. It's by far my favorite of all the teas I tried. It wasn't too harsh or astringent and it had a creamy mouth feel. I could see this being used as a base for fruit or spice teas.

Formosa Oolong Tea

Formosa Oolong is the most commonly used Oolong tea in the world and the only one that I'm aware of that is categorized and priced by grades. The leaves range anywhere from lightly rolled to well rolled. It's known for being highly aromatic and very low astringency.

Tasting Notes

It's got a very earthy, roasted aroma. It does not take very long to brew. It's got a very strong aroma and flavor like English Breakfast Tea or coffee. There is a lot of floral notes but after a few sips I felt like I was sucking on walnuts or chestnuts. It's something I would drink if I was at a meal with a lot of different flavors.

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh is a very unique tea in that it's not defined by color. It can be green or brown. It's name refers to the special processing method that actually extends it's shelf-life. It's literally the wine of teas because it actually improves with age. Some of these teas can be drunk even after 50 years! Which is crazy when you consider that most teas start to turn after a few weeks. (I tried to brew some coconut pineapple blend from Teavana that I found in the back of my kitchen cabinets last week, and let's just say, it did not age well.)

Tasting Notes

This stuff brews up very fast. I barely poured the water over the leaves and it started getting very dark in the press. This is definitely a tea for a tea infuser. Even though I let it steep a little too long, I loved the flavor. It was earthy, but it had a little sweetness to it that I wasn't expecting. I think it would be great with some ginger and fruit. No sweetener needed.

Jasmine Tea
Just as the name implies, Jasmine tea is made by cultivating Jasmine flowers and drying them next to piles of either green or Oolong tea that are curing. The tea leaves absorb the aroma of the Jasmine and voila! You have a heady tea that is soothing like Chamomile.

Tasting Notes

I'm used to drinking Jasmine tea whenever we go to a sit down Chinese restaurant, but honestly, I'm always so busy stuffing food in my face that I never really noticed the taste. It brews quickly and has a nice floral aroma. It takes sweet initially, but then it becomes very astringent. I now know why this is used as a palate cleanser. I don't think I'd ever drink this again without a meal.

Rose Tea
Rose tea is an herbal tea that is often made by either steeping fresh or dried buds cultivated before the rose has a chance to bloom or using the pods cultivated after the rose bloom has fallen off (also known as rosehips). These teas can be enjoyed on their own or blended with tea leaves, herbs, fruits, etc.

Tasting Notes

I'm going to preface this by saing that I'm not the biggest fan of roses, so the Rose tea  that I bought was a blend of black tea and rosehips. It still had an extremely floral aroma to it. You could smell roses throughout the kitchen and dining room. It tasted sweet for about two seconds, then my mouth puckered, and I had to down a liter of water before it felt moist again. They say that Rose tea has a lot of medicinal properties and I believe it because it was like drinking medicine in my opinion.

Sencha Green Tea
Sencha is considered ordinary tea in Japan. You're supposed to drink it everyday. It does not mean the tea is cheap or bad. It's just the most popular tea in Japan. It's processed in a lot of different ways like pan-fired, basket-fired, natural, or curled. It's flavor can change according to how it's prepared, so each cup of tea is essentially different.

Tasting Notes

So they weren't kidding about water temperature affecting the flavor. The first cup I made with freshly boiled water that had barely stopped bubbling before I poured it in the press. It was super strong and very astringent. I couldn't finish my cup it was so bitter. My green tea addict daughter had waited to make her cup of tea until the pot had cooled a little, so the water temperature was much lower. There was definitely a difference in flavor. It was pretty smooth and came off a bit sweet at the end. You do have to be careful when brewing this teas as brewing it too long makes it taste like grass no matter what the water temperature is. Also, this stuff just runs right through you.

Rubin, Ron, and Stuart Avery. Gold. Tea chings: the tea and herb companion appreciating the varietals and virtues of fine tea and herbs. New York: Newmarket Press, 2002. Print.


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