Monday, March 5, 2012

An Average day in a Teavana Store

        Everyday is a good day for tea...but not everyone can agree! While everyone seemingly busying themselves throughout the day, walking frantically from shop to shop, window shopping,  and downing ounces of coffee, this lonely little place called Teavana is a desert amongst a sea of shoppers in the Galleria!  There are no long lines for Youthberry or Bin Hao Yinzhen  White Tea, or patrons yammering away in their phones while waiting 5 minutes for their Chai,  or even chairs, tables and comfy sofas ocupied by patrons with laptops looking into their facebook while sipping on Mate. Its justs the sounds of quiet, the muted murmers of crowds going by, the anguish of another day gone by without tea!  The day goes as usually, a trickle of customers comes and comes out with not a tea in tow, while other shops seemingly that have bought over to a "starbucks style" that gets the most customers of cookie cutter coffees and drinks, with cookie cutter stores that look alike staffed with cookie cutter employees!
      Not much is different with Teavana, every so often a new batch of employees mostly in their twenties fills in for the last batch that just got their hours slashed or laid off! A bunch of young, impressionable, " Yes Sirs"
willing to subsist on a meager salary, spend hours staring into oblivion, all the while slacking off and chastising the occasional "potentials" who walks off with tea samples!( A reason for smaller tea samples). Hours pass, days and years, not a soul has yet bought some tea other than a few customers always coming in buying the cheapest and most usual teas, never bothering to taste "Darj" or to sip on fine Oolongs, they always seem to buy teas that are usually black and can be easily blended, sweetened, or fruity teas drowning in German Rock Sugar! If I did not know any better, we could have sold them Lipton and they'll just deal with it than Teavana teas!
     The same goes with a prospective customer amazed by the varieties of tea than just Lipton, of course the ever helpful and knowledgeable staff tires to snake oil customers with the prospects of health, medicine and even virility of all things just to up-sell at a point 5 ounces for 50 something dollars! As if tea  can be a crutch than an enjoyable drink! There was this one instance a customer tasting a White Tea  who found it to be pleasing, an employee came over knowing an opportunity lectured the customer about White being grown in
Kenya of all Places and that it can go well together with Darjeeling! The sell did not work after all for the employee, but the customer was actually interested in a future purchase to which she walked out and took a sample before disappearing into the crowds never to return. Its with most customers after all,  that a shop like Teavana is something to look in, take a sample, smell the teas, talk about teas but not really invest a "fortune"  for some colorful, smelly, and tasty beverage! After all, what is Lipton, Starbucks, and CoffeeBean there for anyway? Certainly not a tea for twenty dollars per two ounce, that needs 5 minutes of waiting whereas in a second a cup of joe is instantly handed over to carry on some other business while drowning in an ocean of coffee!
      Tea to anyone used to being pumped up with milky, sugary coffee and "Liptea" is certainly not going to buy something that tastes awfully weird like earth or grass, with very little kick, and just down right expensive! Just explain why a would be customer who finds Oolongs to be weak and awfully to earthy, or Darjeelings to be light and to flowery, or green teas too vegetal  or hay-ish that would rather buy in bulk amounts of  sweetened Tisanes ?! Its simply not sugary, and/or milky, and otherwise exotic to their palates! The day grinds to a close in the end with almost nothing bought by customers, margins in quota in another all time low, and yet murmurs of another layoff! Just another day with out tea!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Cup of Silver Needles

          Heavens own gift to our lonely little world, a gift bestowed worthy of the gods themselves! Silver Needles! Its a white tea and unlike other teas has a truely unique characteristics and as much divinity in them than the  usual run of the mill teas that everybody nowadays seems to enjoy. A testament to the Chinese  mastery of tea and expert cultivation, it has created a light but crisp tea, with very little caffeine and composed of straightened buds and young shoots hence the "needle' in Silver Needle. The tea itself has few bells and whistles which to any who has not yet acquired a taste for the leaf will soon question: why its not black, sugary, or perfumed  and adorned with cornflowers and kitchen sink? Its purity plain and simple which is processed in batches with few buds and young shoots, dried and steamed with nothing added. The tea has then captured the essence of youth in the aroma, feel, and taste of the tea for whom desires a light, delicate and flavorful tea.
        This particular type of white tea known in Chinese as   Bin Hao Yinzhen or white down hair silver needle for its minute white hairs that gives its silvery like in contrast being a light green color. Its leaves being fuller and fleshier than other teas in comparison , hence younger and lighter in taste when brewed, and an aroma of grass, hay, and fruits brings much appeal to an awaiting drinker. Brewing this tea shows much of the famed quality of Silver Needles, the tea itself is entirely composed of young downy leafy shoots that has not yet opened and will not even unfurl during steeping. Its like no matter how much a drinker tortures the leaves out of flavor, its integrity and shape still  holds true that shows the youthfulness of the leaves meticulously picked for the drinker's pleasure!
             The first steep brings in aromas of hay, grass, and some fruity notes that is a cross between Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea without much vegetal notes and a splash of fruitiness that adds a pleasant and crisp nature. The second of many steeps brought in a slightly tannic profiles, with muted notes of fruit and hay which becomes more predominant after the firsts steep but not all that bad. After all the results after  minutes worth of waiting, brewing in 175 degree water, at the cost of 18.00$ for 2 ounces and over centuries of mastery brings in a pale yellow almost clear liquor like a heaven in a mug!  Its ambrosia after all that got me to fall in love with this tea and even importantly admire the masterworks of the Chinese mastery of tea that leaves an everlasting impression to all drinkers, both connoisseurs and first time drinkers alike! The tea has allot of potential to be blended, mixed in with like flavors that matches its delicateness as lng it does not go over the top and block out its primary flavors. Its just one of things I find abominable is when a blend tastes more like an additive than the tea itself, which is a waste of money blending a tea like Silver Needles.
Beautiful isn't it! Youth, the crispness of  youth, the lively and delicate nature of young shoots that makes this tea ever so magical and special! These shoots have not even unfurled yet, even in repeated steeps I have to actually open up the shoots into a beautiful bud with tiny leaves. The leaves themselves are quite resilient and does not even fall apart when handled  or applied with little pressure,owing to true quality of the tea  that  is an important indicator to gauge a quality of leaves.  What more is needed...or expected out of Silver Needles?!

    Versatility: 70; not much can go wrong with experimenting with Silver Needles, it can take in many flavors as well get overtaken! The tea after all , is quite light and delicate and has few variations in actually drinking it  be it hot, cold, or slightly sweetened and flavored. Drinking it hot gives off most of the flavors and when it cools to room temperature almost of all of the essence of the tea is in the liquor while having it cold can be mute if not very watery as lower temperatures masks most of the flavors out till it rises to room temperature. Now, Silver Needles can be blended with flavors, but its best with blending with fruits and having it slightly sweet or not at all as it can mask if not wreck the true flavors of the tea which  is not only costly and wasteful for a tea to be drunk solely for itself but a questionable behavior indeed!        
      Tastes: 88; its a tea that can get really close to a heaven itself which is another factor in investing two ounces of this stuff from Teavana! Really grassy, hay-ish, and fruity on the first brew and much lighter and mute on the multiple steeps nut carries more hay-ish and tannic profile. A must for the connoisseur or anyone seeking a delicate light tea, but certainly easily beloved by all.

     Palate: Smooth as the snow, soft like a feathery down pillow, and lovingly sweet like a cornucopia! But can be tannic and the end but in the most slight cases with a non-existent astringency in every including the 2nd and mulitple brews afterwords.

     Drinker Friendliness: 6.5; its not a tea for those looking to get a fix, something sugary and filled with useless flavors all the while being cheap and utilitarian. But anyone who loves drinking a slightly flavored water, loves grassy, hay, and fruity notes, and enjoys tea all around then I say its a drink anyone could get used to and love!

                                                                 Final Word
      Ambrosia and heaven in a mug! Silver Needles is the very embodiment of youth, the crispness of life and youth, and the fragile crop that is tea! Its an warm, soft, smooth, and easily favorable tea to all palates , with as much potential to take in flavors but at the same time lose flavors due to over blending and butchering it with uber boiling water. Treat it fairly, have the right cup, sip some of the most decadent and masterful works of tea and just admire the ambrosia of Silver Needles!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Having a Green Morning!

                                                              Yama Moto Yama

                        Ocha-Zanmai Fukamushi Sencha

        Its another morning and another great tea to start the day off ! Normally, I would have a cuppa  or two whether it would be Assam or English Breakfast, but this particular morning has no need for rush or momentum as its my day off! The best way to wake up after slaving away on a 13 hour grind is to gradually wake up while in a relaxed state of mind than something to perk me up and pay later in the day. A certain fact when bursts of energy wasted in the morning with nothing to do won't help later in the day, but a slow fade that only gets worsened if one were to perk up again. A heaping teaspoon of  Fukamushi sencha from Yamamotoyama would not hurt a bit!
         Brewing this tea is a piece of cake and literally simple! No need to constantly check the temperature or worry about what kind of water, the tea itself is highly versatile and can brew for extended periods (albeit very bitter!) and can stand up to a raging boil or the standard hot water from a water cooler ( 160-175 degrees). The leaves are of BOP quality (Broken Orange Pekoe) with some dust and fannings, and has an aroma of freshly mown grass with a  hint woodiness thats reminiscent of Chinese green teas . It also has a lovely dark emerald green color of fresh  plucked leaves that leaves the impression of liveliness and youth to a drinker expecting a brisk and light liquor.

        The first brew for 45 seconds  yields a brisk but bitter tea with notes of grass, vegetables, and a lingering woody flavor behind it all that is quite warm and friendly to have sip. The drawbacks however is the amount of astringency and bitterness on the first draw of the liquid and astringency afterwords, but the aromas of grass, vegetables makes it a pleasant tea but quite contradicts the flavors due to the bitterness and astringency. A second brew for 60 seconds or longer, with multiple infusions  afterwords as  much mute of a flavor with as much tannic qualities. There were some dust in the bottom of the cup in the first of multiple infusions that maybe be responsible for the bitterness and astringency but has not gotten in my way in enjoying this tea!
The leaves after the brew showcases much of the finer qualities of broken orange pekoe, composed of larger leaves that account for the longer needle like strands found in the bag. There are finer pieces of leaves that suggest it is also a mixture of CTC tea leaves with different shades of green, but mixed in with fresh emerald leaves. This may account for the general strength and somewhat aged feel of the tea, and having a bit of dust and fannings contribute to a bitter tasting and astringent tea, but for everyday enjoyment and precise quality control can help ensure future batches well received!

        Versatility: 71; goes well when iced which seems to mellow out the rigid bitterness and astringency, and hot for some hearty tea! When it comes to blending however that limits this tea from going any further, its bitterness and astringency may conflict with lighter or any other teas that has a balanced bitterness and astringency.
        Tastes: 73; quite an ordinary and have to say...a bit below standards for a Japanese green. Japanese greens are bitter and astringent but never too bold and importantly conflicting when it comes to the flavor it wants representing.  It has however a bold vegetal and grassy tastes with a not of wood that goes well to whoever seeks in the pureness of Japanese greens available in the common market.

        Palate:  A medium bodied tea packing with bold flavors of grass and vegetables with hints of wood. Brisk and slightly bitter and astringent on the first brew and incredibly astringent and bitter on multiple brews, becomes tannic in later brews.

       Drinker Friendliness: 72; a well around good tea to have with friends but be careful to those whose tastes have not yet acquired for vegetables and grassiness in their teas. I have to say, this tea may get tiresome when drunk on a day to day basis because of its high astringency and bitterness uncharacteristic of Japanese greens. A warm and hearty tea but with some rough edges.
                                                                 Final Word
       Not much to say but a good tea all around and quite aggressive for a green tea. It has the usual vegetal and grassy characteristics of Japanese greens  but the over astringency and bitterness just conflicts with the flavors in the tea. Quite a tea to be used in some circumstances, and friendly enough to be drunk but something to remember later on....lets just say there are many fishes in the ocean!