Wednesday, April 8, 2009

REVIEW: Green Hill Tea, Jasmine Pearls

My Facebook friend George sent me a few teas to sample, and his company's Jasmine Pearl Scented Green Tea is what I'll review today.

Green Hill Tea
Jasmine Pearl

Upon opening the foil package, we were confronted by a very strong floral, almost perfume smell. I don't typically drink flavored or scented teas (particularly the chocolate-raspberry-souffle type flavors one often sees today), but I also know that scenting green teas with jasmine is a tradition with a long pedigree, so let's give it a try.

I do not know the background of the tea itself-- what tea farm it comes from, which time of the year it was harvested, that kind of thing. The Web site gives me the following:


It is made by rolling the tender shoots of the green tea leaves and buds into pearl shape and is scented with fresh jasmine petals. When steeped, these leaves unfold as if the flowers open up. The strong fragrant aroma from Jasmine Pearl tea is fresh and persistent. The taste is delicious and mellow. The hue of this tea is a light peach color. It goes well with savory foods, or it may be enjoyed alone as a soothing digestive.

Brew hint: Place one tea spoon into a cup; brew with 175-195 F water for 3-7 minute.

4 cups water, 4 heaping teaspoons of tea pearls. Brought water to boil, let cool to 84C. Steeped in great-grandma's heated Japanese teapot. 2 minutes steeping time.

Before brewing, they were jade-green balls about 1/8 of an inch across, perhaps. As I understand it, rolling or otherwise manipulating teas into these complex, compressed shapes helps maintain the tea quality longer. That is, if there is less surface area available to react to the oxygen in the air surrounding the leaves, then the tea will stay fresher longer. Plus, they're more enjoyable to look at!

After steeping, the leaves did not keep their rolled appearance, obviously, but they were rather like long needles-- they stayed tightly furled, though no longer curled. The leaves after steeping were much less fragrant with the jasmine scent than they were before. Perhaps all that scent was transferred to the water?

The liquor's appearance is pale gold, without even a hint of green. The scent does remind me of the jasmine, but faintly-- an echo of the earlier scent, which seemed so strong when I removed the pearls from the packaging. I'm glad about that, because if the tea was that strong, I don't think it would have been pleasant.

The flavor is surprisingly restrained, for a jasmine-scented thing. I don't really taste the green tea, though I sense it in the rather dry mouthfeel. The tastes on my tongue have an odd "spiking" effect, whereby the flavor of jasmine suddenly pops up its head, then retreats, then pops up again later. I think it has something to do with my breathing pattern, and how the scent in the back of my throat is picked up by my nose as I inhale. That shows me that this tea is mainly being flavored by its scent.

It reminds me of that old story of the poor boy who told his upstairs neighbor (a parsimonious old rich gentleman) how glad he was that the rich old man would cook delicious-smelling food, because it made the poor boy's bowl of rice taste better. The old man was enraged by this and took the poor boy to court to make him pay for having his rice bowl scented by the rich man's food. The judge wisely made the poor boy take out all the money he had, and then shake it, causing the coins to jingle together. The rich old man's eyes lit up with satisfaction at the sound. "There," said the judge, "that sound will be your payment in full."

Anyway, this first cup of tea is all about the scent of jasmine, which gives flavor to the cup by way of the nose.

As always, I feel that I need a second cup of the same steeping, so that I can truly taste what the cup is all about. (This is what I do with my Darjeelings. How will this work with the greens? Let's find out.)

Second cup is noticeably darker in color, a richer orangey-gold color. The flavor now has a spicy note to it that hits near the tip of my tongue. This note was absent in the first cup. That jasmine note is the first thing that hits me, but it recedes a bit upon drinking more (I think my mind is surprised by the flavor, but then slowly comes to ignore it to focus on other impressions.) The green tea flavor now makes its entrance, where before it was overwhelmed by the jasmine scent. There's a lemony flavor somewhere in there. There are more complexities appearing in the aftertaste, like cherry, and wood, and perhaps a hint of green grass. There is that slight bite at the back of my throat to accompany the dry mouthfeel.

As always: Thank you, George, for the very enjoyable pot of tea.

( Cross-posted on the Facebook group, "A Cup of Tea Solves Everything")