14 May 2007

Dr. Andrew Weil & Ito En: Canned Gyokuro

I'm a big fan of Ito En's bottled teas and a big fan of things endorsed by Dr. Weil, so this can only be good. Plus, I firmly believe that products are better when they have a picture of a laughing bearded man on them.

Gyokuro, meaning "jade dew," for its pale green color, is a traditional type of Japanese green tea that's carefully shaded as it grows. The lack of sunlight makes the tea plants produce more chlorophyll, which means the resultant infusion is naturally sweet. It's very distinctive, and usually pointed out as one of the finest grades of green available from Japan. Buying it in loose leaf is usually fairly expensive, and this teeny-tiny 8oz can was $1.79, the same price as Ito En's 16.9oz bottles. You apparently pay quite a markup for the Bearded Elderly Man Seal of Approval.

I've never had cold gyokuro before, but it turns out this is fairly good - although it goes against your instincts, since I wanted to drink it very slowly to savor the gyokuro flavor, yet it was cold, I was thirsty and it was quite a temptation to just guzzle the entire baby-can in ten seconds or so.

The canned gyokuro is surprisingly tasty. Gyokuro can taste wretched if it's not brewed properly, which combined with how expensive it is means I'm usually too poor and too lazy to make it. This is definitely a nice brew, with a light and delicate, sweet vegetal flavor. You initially taste a very light sencha, which then deepens quickly into the natural sweetness that gyokuro is prized for. Once you've swallowed, the aftertaste is nice and grassy, and the that lightens and leaves a lingering sweetness on your tongue. I'm a little surprised that essentially the entire fun gyokuro experience is available in this can, and I didn't even have to get out my loose-leaf brewing pot (or get out of my chair, for that matter).

So, I'm torn. On one hand, this is the only pre-brewed gyokuro that I know of, and it's actually pretty good if you can avoid drinking the whole can on the first sip. On the other hand, Ito En is charging me $1.79 for a little over a cup measure full of it. Apparently proceeds from the Bearded Man Seal of Approval cans go to the Weil Foundation's holistic medicine research, so at least I can convince myself that I'm drinking tea for a good cause when I inevitably buy a cart full of these tomorrow.

Dr. Andrew Weil & Ito En: Gyokuro


Notes: EXPENSIVE. No more expensive that most bottled drinks, but sort of disturbing to pay $1.79 for a can that looks like one of those little silly tomato juice cans you get at brunch. If you're really thirsty, or looking to be refreshed, this is not your bottled drink - try one of Ito En's 16.9 oz bottles of regular Pure Green or Jasmine Green. If you're looking for an enjoyable tea experience, or want to try gyokuro without the song and dance it requires to prepare, I recommend it.

13 May 2007

Adagio Sour Apple Tisane

Yes. I just got a big box of Adagio samples, so we're doing a second Adagio in a row.

I was wary of this one. I tried Adagio's Apple Cantata, their only other apple tisane, a few months ago and the entire experience was about as pleasant as jamming cinnamon sticks up my nostrils and then sticking my head into a giant barrel of rotten apples. Undaunted, I decided to have a go at Sour Apple, which is both better-reviewed and just plain prettier, too.

The tea itself is comprised of actual little chunks of dried apple, which is what the white things are in the picture. It smells absolutely fantastic. There's also (!!) whole dried cranberries in there, and hibiscus flowers. The entire thing looks and smells so awesome that I briefly considered eating it outright, like trail mix. In the end, luckily, I reminded myself that I have a tea blog and not a trail mix blog, and contented myself with eating a few of the apple pieces (which, by the way, were delicious).

Brewing: whoa. During the seven minute steep, the hibiscus flowers immediately turned the infusion a bright, clear red color that reminded me of Tazo Passion but smelled about 100% better. It's literally the color of cranberry juice.

On drinking: This has an outright fabulous flavor. It's very brisk, and just astringent enough to give you a little pucker. It lives up to the name Sour Apple, but it's actually very sweet all on its own without adding any sugar. I rarely add sugar to my infusions, but this is going to be an amazing tisane for people who usually like to add sugar to their tea - you really don't even need any here, the fruit gives it all the sweetness you could want.

Overall, the experience of Sour Apple is about as amazing as walking through an apple orchard on a beautiful October day and suddenly winning a large amount of money. It put me in a great mood and I'm really excited to drink it on chilly mornings when fall comes.

Adagio Sour Apple


Notes: Excellent tisane. Perfect for those just beginning to experiment with caffeine-free infusions. If you try this one I recommend putting more in than you think you're going to need, because although it has a fabulous flavor, a fruit tisane is never going to have the punch that tea leaves do. Additionally, it has a fairly decent second brewing, so you get more bang for your buck.

Adagio Apricot Green

I chose Apricot Green for the inaugural review because I was extremely enthusiastic about trying it, since I'm a huge fan of both green teas and apricots and a merging of the two is entirely likely to result in my dancing around my apartment humming a little tune. Adagio's flavored blends can be hit or miss (the rum and banana blends were poorly conceived at best, where values of "poorly conceived" equal "vomitous") but I'm excited about this one, and it's their highest-rated green.

As you can see in the photograph, the loose leaf itself is very beautiful: long broad leaves with a nice deep green color and little slivers of dried apricot. Smelling it is extremely interesting, though - the nose is almost entirely apricot, which is a little odd. If I had my eyes closed I wouldn't be sure there was any actual green tea in the tin, and that Adagio had mistakenly sent me a tin of apricots. Damn - now I'm all hungry.

Green tea means a 3-minute brewing time, but even after the full 3 minutes and completely expanded leaves, the infusion is very light and almost looks like a white tea. It also smells very strongly of apricot, and it's a bright, clear, good-quality liquor.

Sipping it, the apricot taste is a lot less overpowering than it seemed in the tin or even in the pot. It's an extremely light taste: both the green tea and apricot flavors are delicate, and the balance is almost perfect, but the lightness of the infusion is a little disappointing - after the awesome nose, I was expecting the liquor to "pop" with apricot. Next time I might try steeping this one for an extra minute or two to see what happens. GREEN TEA FLAVOR, I CANNOT FIND YOU.

I poured the rest of the Apricot Green over some ice. This is where the summery flavor really shines. It's one of the best greens I've tasted so far for icing, and with the hot weather upon us, I'll be picking up a bigger tin of this to keep a pot of it on hand in the fridge.

Adagio Apricot Green


Notes: Smells stronger than it tastes. Would be an excellent tea for beginners, experienced drinkers who like a lighter blend, or those who find plain greens unexciting. It's good hot, but it's great iced.

06 May 2007


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