Leaf Type: Herbal
Where to Buy: Lupicia USA
Aromatic six-rowed barley produced in Japan flavored with fresh watermelon. Limited flavor just for summer.
Learn more about this tea here.
Tis the season of iced tea and delicious summer fruit! Nothing says ‘summer’ to me quite like mugicha (which is roasted barley tea, traditionally sipped on iced as cold as my heart.) and fresh, sweet, and messy watermelon. Lupicia’s Watermelon Barley tea sounded almost too good to be true on their website, I just had to bite. I’m hoping that the hype I have built up in my brain lives up to this fantasy blend.
The combination of roasted and toasted barley with fresh and juicy watermelon sounds like it could be either really great, or really awful. The only way is to drink this tea and find out!
Upon opening the bag, the sachets inside are large and offer a tiny hint of what I am about to brew. The main scent on first whiff was the roasted grain smell, rich and full. Cloyingly sweet in the background is the fruity watermelon. I didn’t let myself investigate further, I was dying to sink my teeth into the brew. I attempted the cold brew in 2 cups of cold water for 4 hours, simply out of laziness. This resulted in the toasty flavor of the barley becoming a little too overpowering for the watermelon to handle. I could only taste a whisper, it might as well have been regular old mugicha.
The next day I wanted to make it right. I knew it was just a user error on my end, and I needed this tea to taste differently than it had when I brewed it cold. So, I used one pyramid type bag in 16oz. of freshly boiled water. Steeped for 5 minutes then chilled in the refrigerator. When I brought it out the next morning and huffed the liquid, I was met with a satisfyingly sweet smell. The watermelon! Drinking it throughout the day was greatly refreshing. The watermelon was so very melon-y, juicy, thirst quenching. It leans on the side of becoming candy-like in flavor, but stays true to the actual fruit. The barley is still the forefront, but not obnoxiously so. The brew as a whole tastes like grilled watermelon, in a good way. (which is a great thing to try for your next barbeque, by the way!) Probably my new favorite go to easy iced tea for the summer!
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Tao Tea Leaf
Rou Gui is treasured for its cinnamon flavour as well as its impressive stamina. This tea also has the unique ability to keep its distinct flavours after multiple steepings upwards of 7 times. Rou Gui comes from the historic WuYi mountains in the Chinas Fujian Province. This area is also famous for producing other famous teas like Lapsang Souchong and the famous Da Hong Pao. Rou Gui has a medium and very smooth body with hints of floral orchid with a lovely honey-like finish.
Learn more about this tea here.
I’ve only tried a few different Rou Gui oolongs before, most of them from Nannuoshan, but so far I haven’t found one I dislike – the wide range of flavours experienced with the different infusions very much appeal to me so this Rou Gui oolong from Tao Tea Leaf is just going to further my exploration of the class. To stay consistent with the other Rui Gui I’ve tried I had a Gong Fu session with this one using my gaiwan.
The leaves for this are very dark, almost charcoal or black, and decently large. The smell of the dry leaf is very roasty with some fruity sweetness layered underneath. It’s perhaps a touch peachy? I did a ten second wash with this one; as the water hit the leaves my kitchen was instantly filled with a very robust, borderline earthy and roasty smell.
Infusion One: 10 Seconds – This is surprisingly sweet right off the bat despite quite strong toasted barley notes. It’s a little nutty and definitely has some stonefruit notes as well; like dried peach drizzled with honey. There’s maybe some cinnamon too, but not much. These notes comprise the start of the sip and the body. The finish tastes of corn chips and flax to me with a very intense presence of raisins in the finish. I’m usually quite anti-raisin but I actually like the way it tastes here. The taste of the raisin lingers in your mouth for a very long time after swallowing; minutes. For the most part it’s very smooth though it did leave my front two teeth feeling very dry. Leaves are barely opened up at all and smell quite roasty with cinnamon notes and something maybe vaguely like coffee grounds?
Infusion Two: 15 Seconds – Still tastes strongly of roasted barley but it a bit more nutty and has woody notes at the start as well as much more defined cinnamon notes. The body is comprised mostly of rich peach and raisin notes. The honey notes have also gotten stronger, and are tightly tying in with the raisin. Some floral notes have begun creeping in as well. I’m almost reminded of a roasted trail mix with dried fruit/raisins mixed in. This subtle transition of flavours is keeping true to what I’ve observed with other Rou Gui. The leaves smell subtly fruitier.
Infusion Three: 30 Seconds – Ooh! This was not a good pour; I spilled tea everywhere. The flavour is really starting to turn. I’m observing a dramatic decrease in roasted flavour. Definitely strong peach/raisin notes; the strongest so far. The peach is less so a dried peach flavour now, and closer to something fresh. Significantly more floral with more defined floral notes like orchid. Almost seems buttery. Leaves are almost completely opened up and smell sweet like honey and quite floral. There’s absolutely no dry feeling on my teeth from this infusion.
Infusion Four: 40 Seconds – There’s essentially no barley, nut or roasted flavour left. The liquor tastes quite floral with strong raisin and honey notes. The peach has faded quite a lot which is actually kind of disappointing; now that the focus is more on the taste of the raisin I’m losing interest. Also, it’s definitely very buttery. This is the lightest and most watery infusion yet. I’m sure I could probably get a decent fifth infusion but for my own personal tastes the leaves may very well be spent. They are, however, fully opened and smell sweet like honey and flowers.
This is definitely similar to the other Rou Gui/Cassia Teas I’ve tried but unique in its own right too – I definitely experience some more unique notes with the first steep like corn chips and flax, and I don’t remember really tasting raisin with the others I’ve tried. It’s definitely something I’d serve to other people and I would totally drink it again myself.