As promised, a green tea follow-up to last weekend's post on scented rooibos teas. This will be our last post until Wednesday. If you're celebrating Christmas, have a perfect holiday and I hope Santa is very good to you. If you're not celebrating Christmas, enjoy the temporary respite from rampant commercialism.
As I said last week, I drink a lot of green tea. Most of the green teas I buy are unscented/unflavored, but I do have a cup of jasmine tea every day, and floral-scented or fruity teas are nice to have around in the afternoon. Here are a few favorites:
Green tea scented with jasmine* is a marriage made in heaven. There are lots of expensive hand-wrapped presentation jasmine teas, where the tea leaves unfurl in the glass to reveal a single blossom, and then there are the famous jasmine pearl teas, where the tea leaves are first scented with jasmine, then wrapped into individual balls or "pearls". All of those are lovely but expensive. Cheaper jasmine teas can be an iffy bet; sometimes they aren't highly scented, sometimes the tea leaves are of inferior quality. For an everyday jasmine tea, Upton Tea's Yin Hao Special Grade Jasmine is hard to beat — it has a simply incredible fragrance (I love to stick my nose right into the foil pack and breathe deeply) and taste, and at $14.80 for 100 gr at uptontea (samples available), it won't eat up your perfume budget. This is my second morning cup, every day (my first is Upton Tea's China Special Green Mao Feng).
Harney & Sons Citron Green (shown above) has a lively, bright citrusy taste, and makes a great iced tea in the summer. You can buy it loose or in sachets, organic or non-organic. The adventurous might want to try their Bangkok blend, with coconut, lemongrass and ginger. I've gone through 2 tins and haven't yet decided if I really like it or not, but it's unusual. A 4 oz tin of loose Citron Green tea is $6, the Bangkok Blend is $7.50 for the same amount at harney (samples available). Harney & Sons, by the way, has a very informative website, including an interesting series of "tea travel" articles detailing the Harney's adventures while visiting tea plantations around the world.
Newcomers to green tea (those who haven't yet learned to appreciate the taste of the unadorned leaf) will find much to love at the French tea house of Mariage Frères. There are too many blends to mention them all here, but three of my floral favorites are Lune Rouge (green tea with rose petals, ginger and honey), Festin d'Or (with marigold petals, fruits and mint) and Bouddha Bleu (with blue cornflower petals and fruits). If you can imagine it, the last time a friend went to Paris and offered to bring me back perfume, I sent her to Mariage Frères instead. Tins of Bouddha Bleu can sometimes be found at Dean & Deluca or Balduccis (or at Bergdorf Goodman, where conveniently enough they keep the tea right by the chocolates on the gift floor), and run around $18. For the Festin d'Or, try culturedcup (although they haven't got it in stock at the moment); for Lune Rouge, you've got to go to Paris (and while you're there, pick some up for me).
Another French tea house, this one not quite so well known in the US, is Le Palais des Thés. Beautyhabit recently starting carrying a small selection, so you've easy access to Thé du Hammam, a delicious green tea inspired by a traditional Turkish recipe (shown at right, with rose petals, orange blossom, green dates and red fruits). This is another that I love to smell right out of the bag. Somebody really needs to make a perfume that matches the smell of this tea. $11 for 3.5 oz at beautyhabit.
Next time you're wandering up Madison Avenue to Penhaligon's, keep an eye out for Ito En (822 Madison at 69th Street). The staff are extremely knowledgeable, and they'll brew you a sample of most anything on request. Their selection of Japanese teas is extensive, and if you love shade grown green teas, you must try their Yame Gyokuro ($18.50 an ounce) and Uji Kabuse ($8 an ounce). In keeping with our theme, I'm including Ito En here because of Estio, a fruity blend of green tea, apricot essence, bergamot, yuzu, dried orange peel and lemongrass. It makes a great iced tea, but also has enough body to make it enjoyable on cold winter afternoons. $5.50 an ounce at itoen.
Wayne Tea Salon's Passion Fruit Green is a simple but enjoyable fruity tea, and one of my favorite summer iced teas. $6 for 2 oz at wayneteasalon, where you'll also find lots of other fruity green tea options, including Blueberry & Mango and Papaya & Wild Pineapple.
Rishi Organic Orange Blossom is a blend of lemongrass, green tea, osthmanthus flowers, lemon myrtle and natural essential oils of rose, orange, lime and tangerine. It is mostly herbal components with only a small amount of real tea, so is a good choice for someone looking for a low-caffeine tea. The flavor is brisk, citrusy and summery, and perfect for hot weather. $6 per ounce at rishi-tea (and can also be found in tins at some health food stores).
Yamamoto Yama Ginger Tea is a simple green tea blended with lots of ginger, and is the very best thing in the world when you're feeling under the weather, especially if you add a dollop of honey. When I run out, I sometimes settle for Tazo Tea's Green Ginger, but it has more tea and less ginger so doesn't pack the same wallop. Another alternative is to buy dried ginger on its own (Upton Tea sells plain organic ginger root) and add it to whatever green tea you've got on hand. Yamamoto Yama Ginger Tea is $6.50 for 100 gr or $3.79 for 20 tea bags at stashtea.
How to brew green tea
Green teas are finicky. If you brew too long or use boiling water, you end up with a bitter mess. Most green teas should be brewed for about 3 minutes using water that is about 180 degrees Fahrenheit, although some very delicate teas (such as gyokuros) shouldn't be steeped at temperatures above 140 degrees. All of the scented teas listed above can handle 180 degree water, but some of them taste better when brewed for less than 3 minutes so it's worth taking the time to experiment. The Yin Hao Jasmine mentioned above reaches perfection at about 2 1/2 minutes, maybe even a bit less.
If you demand precision, the nifty Utilitea from Adagio (shown at right) has controls allowing you to heat water to a preset temperature. It's been on my wish list forever, but I keep spending all my money on tea and perfume so I don't have one yet. $49 at adagio.
* Technically, many scented "green" teas such as jasmine teas are actually pouchong teas (semi-fermented), not true green teas. I am ignoring that distinction here.
Still to come: scented oolongs