Friday, June 21, 2013

elderberry tea, culinary teas

Elderberry Tea is a flavored black tea from Culinary Teas, which is a great place to head if you're on a budget, but don't find normal samples quite large enough. Their one ounce packages are in the $1 to $4 range and an ounce goes further than you'd think!
A sour grape-y blueberry thing.

My first introduction to elderberries was, probably like many, in an insult hurled by the French gatekeepers to King Arthur and the knights in Monty Python an the Holy Grail.

"Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!"

Now, lest you think elderberries smell bad, I'll correct this. They smell like most berries. Which is to say sour with just a hint of something sweeter. The something sweeter here is a bit like a cross between a sour grape and a blueberry. (Which coincidentally is the taste, as well). 

This tree is also part of the honeysuckle family and liquors and sodas are made from the sweet elderflowers. The reference being made in Monty Python is actually to the father being a drunk!

Coincidentally, the strongest wand in the Harry Potter universe, the Elder Wand, is made from wood from the same type of tree.

Now, back to the tea. 

The very first thing I noticed is that there are no elderberries in the tea. Instead it is a combination of  "Luxury black tea, Sweetened cranberries, Safflower petals, Blackberry + lime leaves, Natural flavors."  This struck me as a little peculiar, but in the interest in giving it a fair shot I tucked this knowldege away for a little bit.
Vibrant; just like the smell!

The dry leaf here is so pretty! Bright red flowers, wisps of green lime leaf and cranberries dot the dark, twisty Ceylon leaves. The smell is very tart, almost a lemony citrus, but it goes deeper than that. There's a sweetness to it, like blackberry and a richness imparted from the base. It captures the essence of elderberry very well, even if there aren't any present.

My elderberries bring all
the cows to the yard!
The tea brews up coppery on a normal 3 min 30 second steep with boiling water, and not as dark as you might expect from a black tea. The coloration of a 16 hour cold steep was lighter yet. 

The taste of both was tart, but not so much so that lips were puckered. It captures the sett and sour of an elderberry very well. And has a depth to it that I was expecting, where the sour touches you first and then gives way to a sweet and rich berry flavor. There a very slight floral quality to it that also lends itself well here.

The florals of the cold steeped cup were just shy of undrinkable. It's been a while since I've found a loose leaf brew that was so soapy. You can sugar it out to a degree, but it also ruins some of the brighter citrus-like accents. I was a little disappointed by this as I initially felt like it would be a refreshing cold concoction.

Overall, it's a good tea, though. The base is smooth and the flavor is really special in the standard steep. The lack of elderberries didn't seem to change the elderberriness of the cup. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

genmaimatcha, american tea room

This tea combo of Genmaicha and Matcha is a little of both and not quite either. It doesn't really fulfill the craving for matcha, and it doesn't really fulfill the craving for a standalone genmaicha. It's it own delightful little niche.

Would you like a side of rice krispies with your tea?
After reading a tip on Steepster, I've started brewing this tea with extra leaf (about 2 tsp for 8 oz) and sticking with a steep time of about 50-60 seconds at 170F.  It keeps the flavor strong but prevents the sencha or matcha from getting bitter. 

The sencha here is grassy and vegetal, but smooth. And the matcha adds depth and a touch of sweetness. And there's more of than I've seen in similar blends. This is a very green genmaicha (and genmaimatcha)! There is also, of course, abundance of puffed rice which gives this tea a nice toasted brothiness.

I also really like the dusky jade color this tea turns. (Of course I forgot to snap of photo). It truly is a green green tea, which makes is almost as delightful to look at as it is to drink!