Thursday, April 19, 2007

Caramelized Pear from Art of Tea (Rooibos)

Scent in tin: Horrible – sickly sweet too-strong pear mixed with tobacco.
Brewed in: unbleached filter bag
Steeped: 5 min@ 212 (x2), 6-7 min@212 (x2)
Cup: café mug at work

Seriously – do *not* smell this tisane before brewing! If you absolutely have to smell it (I know you do), be prepared to get fresh air quickly afterwards. It doesn’t smell like a caramelized pear at all, but rather a nasty mix of pipe tobacco (which I normally adore, one of the reasons I love rooibos), burnt brown sugar and strong, overripe acidic fruit. Like I said, if you smell it once, you won’t really be inclined to smell it again (though I know you will…I do every time, hoping it will get better). This is not a smell you want wafting through the house…or office for that matter. Someone came into the office while I was preparing to brew a cup, and said it smelled like musty old gym socks. Not good.

That being said, hold your breath, measure out a spoonful, make sure you get at least one of the abundant pear pieces, and boil up some water. Once the brewing process starts, the nastiness is replaced by a warm nutty scent, lightly accentuated by the subtle pear sweetness. Don’t rush the time – a longer steeping seems to bring out more of the pear taste, and the liquor is juicier and richer for the wait. If you feel so inclined as to put the pear pieces directly in the cup to float as you drink it, it makes a nice little presentation, and seems to continue adding sweetness throughout.

Once you taste it, you’ll forgive this tisane for the initial assault to your nose. I’ve brewed it four times now, and each time was different based on the proportion of pear pieces to rooibos, so you can adjust the mix to your personal taste without much difficulty. The base appeal lies in the nutty, caramel-like sensation of the rooibos blending with the pear flavor. It’s subtly sweet (like a pear), and has a thicker feel in the mouth, leaving an after taste similar to that of caramelized sugar.

It’s a nice flavored rooibos (look for it in the “Seasonal Teas” section…AOT doesn’t have a section specifically for tisanes), and not expensive at all at 4 oz for $9.00 (I’m not sure why they don’t offer it in 2oz. quantities like most other things…they sent 2-2oz. bags for my 1/4lb order). If you can get past the initial scent, I think it’s a lovely brew, especially for a cooler fall or winter evening. Today it’s raining, and the Caramelized Pear is warm and inviting. I’d definitely recommend trying a cup for yourself.

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