Harmony Tea from Mellow Monk. . . . . .

Genmai cha is a special type of green tea with toasted rice.  Some of the rice kernels have popped in the toasting process, looking like little puffed, white popcorn pieces.  I’ve sometimes seen genmai chai billed as the “movie night” tea for its inclusion of these popcorn-like rice pieces. No matter what you name it, genmai cha is a unique and delicious tea experience.

It was a long time in my tea journey before I put genmai cha tea into my usual rotation.  Beyond the puffed rice in the dry leaf, the next most striking impression about the tea is that it is savory.  If you aren’t expecting a savory experience, the brew can be a little unsettling at first.  If you know this tea won’t be fruity or floral going into it, you’ll be much better off.  Tasting Harmony Tea genmai cha from Mellow Monk was no exception.

Brewed, the Harmony Blend smells like warm bread or sticky rice.  With these meal-like flavors, the warm tea might seem almost more like broth than tea.  Over my years of drinking genmai cha, I find this warm brew and its toasty, starchy flavors to be supremely comforting, like sitting in the kitchen when the oven is on and bread is baking.

Despite all this toastiness, it is good not to forget that genmai cha is a green tea, so brew it with slightly cooler water to avoid burning the green tea leaves.  Though the toasted rice is the prominent scent and taste of the tea, there is a role for the green tea to play in the flavor profile.

Green tea on its own can sometimes have savory incarnations, but it is usually a vegetable-inspired savoriness, like buttery bok choy or dark and nutty kale.  The green tea in Mellow Monk’s Harmony Blend is much sweeter, and not too vegetal.  It reminds me of a smooth green tea matcha, green and grassy but still sweet like nutty wheat bread.

It is a rainy, gray day today, and a warming cup of toasty Harmony Tea was just what I needed to turn my mood around.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Green
Where to Buy: Mellow Monk
Description:

Harmoney Tea™ is a genmaicha — green tea mixed with roasted brown rice. The rice imparts a nutty, toasty flavor that makes genmaicha one of the most popular types of green tea in America. Unlike some tea growers, this artisan roasts his own rice, which he buys from local farmers. (During roasting, some of the rice grains pop like popcorn. This popped rice is also included in the mixture to enhance the flavor.)

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Assam Gold Black Tea from The Persimmon Tree

AssamgoldTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: The Persimmon Tree

Tea Description:

This smooth, malty infusion is the perfect alternative to coffee. Assam Gold can be steeped multiple times while retaining its flavor. Golden in color, this import from Northern India is a thick, comfortable black tea brew that warms and energizes after a tough, bitter, cold day.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I think of “Gold” in relation to “Assam”, I’m usually thinking of “Golden Lion” varieties where the leaves really are golden-brown in colour, frequently accompanied by what I think of as “lots of golden dust”, a little like the grey/white dust that white tea sometimes exudes. This Assam clearly isn’t one of those – the leaves here are mostly a black/brown colour, with the odd golden-tipped leaf. They’re mostly fairly small – around 1/4cm in length, although some are as long as 1cm. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water. I added a splash of milk.

To taste, this one is deliciously malty. It’s sweet and almost thick-tasting, in the way of molasses. It’s also deliciously smooth and creamy, with a very mild bready note at the end of the sip. It’s slightly tannic, although not nearly as much as Assam can be. It’s a cup I’d happily drink on a morning, as it’s strong and full-bodied enough to be a good “wake-up!” tea, yet still fairly gentle.

I enjoyed this cup – it’s a classic Assam. I didn’t find it especially unique, but sometimes that’s not what’s required. It’s a good, solid example of my favourite tea variety, and would make a great introduction for the uninitiated. Lovely stuff.

Organic Black Tea from Arum Tea

ArumBlackTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Arum Tea

Tea Description:

A sweet and malty flavor that jolts the taste buds, with a caramel undertone and a floral finish.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I don’t think I’ve come across a black tea quite like this before. For starters, it’s appearance reminds me more of an oolong. The leaves are black/brown in colour, but they’ve been rolled into oolong-like pellets, complete with leaf stem! The scent also puts me in mind of a dark roasted oolong – it’s rich and kind of earthy, with a metallic tang. I guess these characteristics could describe a black tea too, but I personally associate them a lot more with darker oolongs, as I do the leaf preparation. Still – we shall see! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water. The liquor is a medium golden-brown, so I made no additions.

It might look like an oolong, but it certainly doesn’t taste like one! It’s actually a mildly malty, delicately sweet tasting tea, with strong stone-fruit notes. I’m picking up apricot mostly, followed by a mild plum flavour towards the end of the sip. It’s incredibly juicy-tasting, almost as if it were infused with fruit juice rather than just being tea. It’s not, of course, and that’s what’s so incredible about it. I’ve not come across many like it previously, with the exception of Butiki’s Mi Xian Black. If you liked that one, this is definitely one to try. As it cools, I’m also picking up some bready, almost yeasty, notes. The fruitiness fades a little at this point, so it’s not as unusual as it sounds.

I really enjoyed this cup. It’s sufficiently different from other black teas to provide some much-needed variety, and the fruit notes are a particular highlight. It’s a fairly light tea, both in terms of liquor colour and body, but it’s certainly not short on the flavour front. The leaf barely unfurled on my first steep, so I imagine this one will also yield significant resteep value. Recommended!

Hot, Buttered Banana Bread from 52Teas

BananaBread2Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: 52Teas

Tea Description:

The original blend was a black tea base with freeze-dried bananas, walnuts and natural flavors.  Because walnuts are a tree nut and there are some people out there who are allergic, we’ve decided to take the walnuts out of the equation.  The actual nut didn’t add anything to the flavor, it just made the tea look pretty.  We’re all for pretty teas but not at the expense of an allergic reaction.  Because the flavorings we use contain no actual nuts, we were able to keep the delicious nutty flavor of banana bread without the allergens of the tree nuts.  You get the best of both worlds with our tea!  

And because we’re an all-new team heading up 52Teas now and the tea bases are all new too!  For more information about that, click here.

So we started with our all-new, go-to all-organic black tea base, added all-natural, organic flavors and tossed in some freeze dried bananas.  And since we took out the walnuts, we decided to add a few marigold petals, just to pretty it up.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about the Tea of the Week Program from 52Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

I have to say that I wasn’t the biggest fan of this tea in its original form. I didn’t like the tea base and didn’t think that it was all that much like banana bread. I remember it tasting a bit fake and overwhelmingly like nuts and a bitter black tea. I’m hoping that this reblend will give me the delicious cup I want!

Once I open the pouch I notice the immediate difference of there being much more banana than in the past. I felt like with the old blend that I had to hunt around for the banana slices. There are multiple pieces in this pouch so it looks like I won’t have any trouble getting some banana into my cup.

Sipping… hmm.. it seems like this is a little bit on the weak side for me. I find that if I take larger sips that the banana bread comes out. There is a soft banana note, a hint of nuts and something that reminds me of a crumbly bread. While the tea base is a bit more tame, there is still a bit of astringency that reminds me of walnut skins. I’m disappointed to not taste that buttery element of the buttered banana bread, but it doesn’t ruin the cup for me.

I do enjoy this tea even though it’s not my favorite from the new 52Teas. I think I might experiment with future cups to see if I can get a stronger banana bread flavor.

Golden Snail Yunnan Black by Whispering Pines Tea Co.

goldensnailTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Whispering Pines Tea Co.

Tea Description:

This Yunnan black tea was harvested in early spring (2014) and carries a robust and delicious flavor profile! The first thing you taste is a thick honey flavor giving way to creamy cocoa with a touch of malt. A heavy molasses-like sweetness lingers on your tongue while juicy morel plays with a hint of gardenia in the aftertaste. This tea is delicious hot as well as iced and holds up very well to three or more infusions!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Black tea will always be my absolute favourite, and as I discover more Chinese black teas, they rise higher in my estimation. I bought this one from Whispering Pines in an effort to try more teas from Yunnan, which (of all black teas) seem to possess the majority of characteristics I really enjoy. High praise indeed! This one impresses from the moment the bag is opened. The scent drifting up is pure chocolate – so much so that I almost had to check I’d actually picked up a bag of tea. The dry leaf itself is beautiful – little golden black curls that really do look like miniature snail shells. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown. Since this is to be my first cup of the day, I added a splash of milk.

The initial flavour is a beautiful, creamy milk chocolate. It’s pretty hard to believe that this isn’t a cup of cocoa, but I definitely made it with tea leaves! I’m reassured when a sweet maltiness emerges in the mid-sip, along with the wonderfully comforting flavour of baked break. Tea it is, and a wonderfully sweet, smooth, chocolatey thing at that! The maltiness deepens towards the end of the sip, becoming an almost treacle-like molasses flavour. It’s rich and flavourful; a real treat for the tastebuds.

Chocolate and baked bread are my two favourite flavours in black tea, except perhaps for sweet potato and honey. To find a tea that features these so clearly is a real delight! This is a great example of a Yunnan black tea, and would make a good starting point for anyone looking to explore this particular variety. Whsipering Pines did well with this one – I’m left in no doubt as to the quality of their offerings, and it’s certainly a tea I’d be happy to repurchase in future. Well worth a try.