Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Review: Lupicia Strawberry Vanilla (Ichigo BANIRA)

Another of my Japan discoveries. This was, I think, the second tea I bought from Lupicia, although I honestly can't remember. Which is a little sad, since I only bought five different kinds while I was there. In some order I don't remember. Anyways, I drank my first 50g bag, and bought another before I left Japan. And I don't know why.

This tea... this tea confuses me so much. Pre-brewing, it smells exactly like strawberry Pocky. Brewed, it smells like strawberry Pocky with a hint of green tea. It even has a distinct strawberry Pocky aftertaste (kind of chalky). But it does not taste like strawberry Pocky.

I don't know what it tastes like, really. It's not strawberry, it's not vanilla, it's not even green tea. It's a bit sweet. It would make a good dessert tea. That's all I can give you.

As for quality, I have yet to be disappointed by Lupicia on that front. Aesthetically pleasing and user friendly. Reasonably flavorful, but that may not be beneficial in this case.

Overall: three stars. Unusual is not always an endorsement, but it is, at least, interesting.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Review: Peet's Gunpowder

Before I begin, I should note that I'm not going into this review objectively. If I had started this blog two years ago1 I could be giving you my first impressions on more brands, but since I didn't, it's only fair to let you know:

I don't like Peet's tea.

This is a difficult thing to admit. I'm a third (fourth?) generation Berkeley resident; speaking ill of Peet's is like rooting for Stanford over Cal or voting Republican. That kind of shit gets you uninvited from Christmas.2 But there it is, and I can't take it back. Peet's tea: kind of flavorless and a little overpriced.

I also really love Gunpowder. Not just the taste or the smell or the magical health benefits. No, I love Gunpowder tea because it's adorable. F'real. It is a thing which looks like a different thing. Man, I love things that look like other things.

So, after being previously disappointed by Peet's Gunpowder Tea, I was a little hesitant to have it again. But I'm at my parents' house for a couple days, and I figured maybe I'd give it another try. For the blog's sake.

This tea isn't as bad as I remembered. It's a bit weak, and the line between brewing it long enough to get enough flavor and overbrewing is thin, but it's not an insurmountable obstacle. It's heavy on the gunpowder, light on the tea, which I love, although it's worth noting that if you do overbrew it the smokiness leaves an incredibly unpleasant aftertaste.

Still, when made right I have no real complaints. I wouldn't buy it myself, but I may drink it at my folks' house in the future.

Overall: two and a half stars. No bonus points for exceeding expectations.

1I've been drinking tea for more than two years, mind you, but before that all my tea was purchased in Canada so I only had opinions on Canadian brands. Opinion: the tea shop at Niagara on the Lake is totally rad

2Or Saturnalia

Lipton: not evil!

Lipton to partner with the Kenya Tea Development Agency to improve local tea production standards.
Jack Newnham, Seniour[sic] manger, Emerging Market Group (EMG), the group managing BLCF funds said that the funds are aimed at projects that develop new or existing business linkages, there by improving business opportunities and incomes of small holder farming communities.

"The funds will finance practical programmes for education, training and piloting of Sustainable Agriculture practices within the small holder tea segment in Kenya," said Newnham.

The project will see farmers adopt a code of practice that delivers ethically, socially, and environmentally produced tea to KTDA customers.
Okay, I pretty much never drink Lipton (they give it to us free at my office, which is why I bring in my own tea), but how fabulous is this? As much as I like buying fair trade organic tea from locally owned small businesses, it's the giant multinational companies who can really make a difference when they decide to support sustainable practices.

What do you think, Celine Dion?

Two thumbs up for Lipton and its parent company Unilever!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Review: Lupicia Grapefruit Green

It seems only right to start out on a high note, so I'm reviewing one of my favorite teas - which fortunately I had three cups of today, so it's plenty fresh in my mind.

I first discovered Lupicia right after I moved to Japan. The first one I came across was north of Tokyo in an area I was pretty much never going to come back to, so in a blind panic I bought as much as I could afford (which was only about 100 grams, since I hadn't been paid yet). Grapefruit Green was not one of the ones I bought at that time.

Flash forward six weeks. I'm not quite starting to run low on tea, but I'm getting close enough to keep my eyes open whenever I go out. One afternoon I'm heading to work after stopping by a bakery, when I realize: wait, is that... it is! Lupicia! I'd been working across the street from one twice a week for over a month.

Well, I bought Grapefruit Green on that trip and have been hooked ever since. This is not a tea I'd recommend to everyone - the grapefruit flavor is quite strong, which is one of its selling points for me, but obviously people who aren't fans of grapefruit aren't going to like it.

For being such a flavorful tea, GG is also very light. It makes an energizing morning or afternoon tea and a refreshing summertime tea. However, the flavor makes it harder to pair with food. Baked goods are excellent, but I don't think I'd try it with a full meal.

Overall: four and a half stars (out of five). Fabulous, fabulous tea.

Now that I'm back from Japan, incidentally, I can still get my Lupicia fix at their two stores in San Francisco. Very convenient! No doubt they were thinking specifically of me when they opened them.

(I realize that Republic of Tea also makes a grapefruit green tea, but I haven't tasted it and so can't comment on how they compare)

Begin at the beginning

This blog is about tea.

See, I drink a lot of tea. Somewhere between two and eight cups a day. Since the health benefits of this are dubious at best (sorry, antioxidents, I think caffeine cancels you out), I have decided that the best way to make my tea consumption worthwhile is to chronicle it, in hopes that perhaps others will benefit from my experiences.

Content to include, hopefully: tea reviews, tea recipes, tea recipe reviews, tea shop reviews, and the occasional bit of tea photography. Maybe some tea-related poetry or prose, but only from people with talent, not from me1.

1 Although I do write a mean haiku