August Teas of the Month

Every once in a while I like to try something new, so I signed up for a Tea of the Month club. Since I was at Worldcon, I got my August selection, which contained four packets of different teas, on the 14th, and have tried them all out at least twice, except for the Lavender Earl Gray, which I gave to my sister. (Bergamot, ugh.)

I usually make black tea (along with the occasional pu’erh, or gen mai cha, or an herbal blend with mint and chamomile), so the Classic Laoshan Black was the first one I tried. They describe it as “very smooth and viscous” with “a distinct dark chocolate bite”, phrases which are descriptive and convey useful meaning while not literally describing anything real. I found the chocolate notes unpleasant, but was surprised the second time I made it, when the flavor seemed less obtrusive; perhaps my palate got used to it? A decent tea, but I liked it more when the distinctive elements were less prominent, so not something I would come back to after the packet was exhausted.

The Nirvana blend (“sencha-style green tea, peony petal, berries, and figs”) sounds like the sort of fruity herbal tea that I’ll occasionally drink as a change of pace, but which has never been a favorite. And indeed that was my first impression, although oddly enough not my second. The first cup I made was very fruity, to the point where the green tea was completely overwhelmed. Basically, okay. The other cups were less fruity, and I could taste the green tea, but the whole was less than the sum of the parts: a boldly fruity herbal tea, or an unflavored green tea, would have been preferable to a a combination in which both flavors were present but neither dominated. I’m not sure what made the difference, if my palate adjusted so the fruity flavors were less conspicuous, or if I simply used a bigger spoonful the first time I made it, or if the flavorings were unevenly distributed in the tea and I got a more concentrated dose of the fruity elements the first time. Regardless, if I were to buy another tea like it, I would get an herbal tea only, with no actual tea at all in it.

The surprise of the month was the Imperial Green Biluochun. When I first started drinking tea, I found black tea too harsh and drank exclusively green tea. After a while, I progressed to an occasional oolong, and then mostly oolong, and then I tried black tea again and found varieties I liked, until eventually I was drinking almost all black tea and hardly ever tried a green tea. This is a reminder of what good green tea is like, delicate, but with a complex and pleasant flavor. (It’s also a reminder that it is really, really easy to forget to take the tea bag out, and that when green tea oversteeps it becomes undrinkable.)

On the whole, the shipment did what I hoped it would do, which is to knock me out of my rut and get me to try different flavors. September’s shipment has a ginger lime rooibos tea, which sounds intriguing despite my usual dislike of spices in herbal tea, plus a black tea, a green tea, and a matcha/maté blend. And then starting in October, I’ll have the option of receiving only unflavored teas, which could be an improvement. I think I’ll probably only stick with it for three or six months, but for now it’s a nice change of pace.

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