Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tea Dust Experiment And A Lesson Learned

Tea Bag Dust
Recently I grabbed a Foojoy China Classic Oolong teabag for my morning cup. While in the drawer I also grabbed my bottle of dried chocolate mint. I steeped the tea with 5 leaves of mint. The result was very good. The oolong is a dark wuyi oolong and has a roasted taste. The mint has a light peppermint taste with a hint of chocolate. The combination really worked for me.

I enjoyed the Foojoy oolong/chocolate mint so much I decided to continue to experiment. This time I went with a bag of Yamamotoyama Hoji-cha. Next, I grabbed my old tea ball which hasn’t seen the light of day in a long time. I intended to put the chocolate mint in the ball to make it easier to remove from the cup. While at it, I figured I might as well free the tea from the bag. I tore open the bag and poured it into… and through… the tea ball. Oops. I learned there is a big difference between the fannings of my usual bagged teas and the dust in this one. This is one time the term dust accurately applied.

Rather than waste the tea I scooped it up and put it into my press. I knew clean up would be a bit of a hassle, but live and learn. The lesson wasn’t over yet. The aroma wafting out of the press was pretty eye opening. This tea is also roasted (supposedly over high temperature charcoal). The smell while steeping was intensely smoky. Nothing like leaving it in the bag. The cup aroma was heavily roasted but not smoky. The sip was really, really good, except I added more sweetener than intended. But, this is the chocolatiest experience I have had yet with the addition of chocolate mint. The roastiness and chocolate blend perfectly. The mint is very mild and in the background. I would give my experiment a 90+ if it were its own blend.

I needed to try this again to see if my perceptions were correct. This time I left the Hoji-cha tea bag intact and added the chocolate mint to the cup. The bag instructions say to boil the water but I have learned using water well below boiling makes a better cup with this tea. The steeping aroma is nowhere near as intense as when I prepared this in the press. The cup smell stays about the same. The sip is good but not as great as before. Less chocolate and a bit more minty. The roasty tea has kind of lost its edge. Looks like removing the dust from the bag really does improve the cup.

This has been a fun experiment. What I learned is if I remove the tea from the bag and add the chocolate mint, this takes on the characteristics of a brand new flavor. But when left in the bag, it tastes like the bag tea with the mint added. More testing needs to be conducted but my thoughts are that the tea bag may be a bigger flavor killer than the tea dust that usually gets the blame.

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