Monday, April 9, 2007

Hojicha de la crème from Art of Tea

Scent in package: Absolutely heavenly – sweet vanilla and sugar.
Brewed in: Tea for one pot here at work.
Steeping: 5 min@ 212 degrees, 5 min@ 180 degrees
Cup: tea for one café mug

When I got my first shipment from Art of Tea last week, I had a hard time deciding which tea to try first. Part of the problem is in the packaging – I always expect that there will be a brief description of the tea & brewing guidelines on the package, but increasingly, that’s not the case (a few companies do stick to that, and I appreciate it greatly). So I had to go back to the web site and read descriptions again before deciding which tea to try. I also had to unseal all the packages – I choose what to drink largely by the scent of the tea. I was looking for a morning “wake me up” tea, and though a bit apprehensive about this one, I decided to try it. I really should have looked up the meaning of the word “Hojicha” first. It is not defined on the AOT site (that I could find), and being unfamiliar with the term, I had no idea that it is, in fact, a type of low-grade green tea roasted over charcoal in an attempt to give it a more “nutty” than vegetal flavor. Honestly, I thought it was merely a “hip” name of some sort. Yes, I will most certainly be more careful in the future.

There were no steeping instructions on the package or the web site (it is listed as a “custom fusion” tea, and not mentioned on the “green tea” page), so left to my own ignorant devices, I looked at the leaves and twigs mixed with shavings of sweet vanilla candy (I tried one - pretty good), and decided to brew it like a black tea and see what happened (the leaves look more “oolong-ish”, something I’ve since learned is a typical characteristic of Hojicha tea). Needless to say, the result was less than impressive, and not just due to the taste.

The first cup brewed looked like a light tea mixed with non-dairy creamer (the kind that never really mixes in right), and an oily slick on the top of the cup. Rather disgusting, really, and I was highly disappointed as the tea smelled so good in the package. I took a sip though, and felt my nose wrinkle as the taste of over-cooked green tea (think burnt vegetables) mixed with artificial too-sweet vanilla ran over my tongue. I realized then that it was a green tea, and that I had ruined it by brewing it too hot. Not one to like wasting tea, I tried to make myself drink it, but tossed out half the cup, vowing to try again with a proper water temperature. Not a good way to start the day – I promptly brewed myself a cup of strong Yunnan tea to wake up with and “cleanse the palate”.

So for my second cup, I was careful to brew it at lower temperature suitable for green tea, after I had had sufficient caffiene to wake up with. I still wasn’t impressed with the look of the tea – I’m very fond of clarity and crispness in tea, and this just reminds me of a bad powdered mix like Nestle iced tea in a jar. It did taste better the second time around…amazing what proper temperature can do for a tea. But it’s still a very vegetal tea, even with the roasted marshmallow undertones, and I didn’t really get the nutty flavor I was hoping for. And my poor cup is still slicked with oil from the candy shavings, even after a few good rinses and some very strong black tea infusions – I think it’s destined for the dishwasher tonight, to get the last of the oil out. Kind of a pain when brewing at work, where the only sink is in the rest room so proper washing of dishes is difficult.

So the tea isn’t bad – if you like green tea, and marshmallows, you’ll probably like this tea if you don’t look at it while you’re drinking it (it’s wonderful to look at before brewing – would make great potpourri!). But for me, not a huge fan of the grassier green teas, and definitely not a fan of oily flavorings & muddy looking cups, I think I’ll have to pass this one on to someone else.

1 comment:

  1. I bought some at a local co-op. Tasted like what I would imagine wet compost tastes like. I wasn't impressed. :-)


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