A Kinnari Tea Earl Green version! Of course I’ve heard of versions of Earl Grey made with green tea but never got around to trying one. I don’t drink that much green tea or flavored teas (blended or infused, any types), but since Earl Grey is an acceptable exception this may work. I’ve tried jasmine black teas that weren’t bad, and a sticky rice tea from Kinnari Tea was a pleasant surprise, and Chiang Mai shop, Monsoon, did a nice coconut flavored green tea. Osmanthus oolong can be ok, but some might be better without the osmanthus if the oolong is good.
I’ll say a little about expectations first, a pre-review (something different). I’d expect it to taste like green tea with bergamot orange oil flavor added, which is basically just the recipe. The green tea might be a bit mineral intensive, not like Vietnamese green teas are, intense flint or limestone rock mineral on top of a vegetal tea, but likely subdued, maybe more like a sun-dried black or a really mild version of sheng. I’d expect it to not be so vegetal, and not heavy on a toasted rice or nutty element, but with a bit more dried hay range than is typical for a green tea, and soft and light minerals. All that is just a guess, from the looks of the tea and a description of the general style of the other types as much as anything. Of course I’m also wondering how well bergamot orange oil works with green tea, but if those guesses hold up I won’t find out how it works layered in with grass or bell pepper flavors.
actual brewing was close to that, this time
After actually tasting it: the tea is nice; it sort of works. Of course it does taste like bergamot (orange oil, a specific type, so citrusy). The green tea is mild, not grassy, not vegetal, no intense minerals. The orange is a little heavy on the first infusion, or rather the tea is a bit subdued, since the orange is where it should be, but tea flavors pick up in the second infusion. Altogether the flavors are sweet and bright and it all balances well.
I’m making it true Western style (really! ok, maybe just a little heavy on the proportion), even in an infuser device, which my parents gave me for Christmas, just to mix things up. Using that device makes getting water temperature just right tricky because it would soak up lots of heat but I’d expect some guesswork to land that in about the right range. I’d expect this will brew a lot of infusions, even for using a relatively typical Western proportion and timing, because of the tea type (just a guess, though, we'll see).
another gift, my kids call "ugly person" (in Thai)
A bit more vegetable range wouldn’t be as nice, I’d expect, but this tea is soft and earthy, a bit subdued, so the only issue might be that that aspects range doesn’t stand up against the orange as much as a black tea might. But they’ve adjusted bergamot strength to compensate, so it’s just a bit mild, in a lighter balance, brighter and less earthy.
The natural question that might come to mind is “why would they flavor this tea”? Someone else might be an Earl Green type fan, and then they wouldn’t ask that. For others, for me I suppose, it might be more natural to make it into a black tea instead, to oxidize it. At least it is more novel this way.
On the third infusion I went longer and the bergamot and the tea taste both ramped up, but they were already in a good range for the last infusion. It’s nice that somehow that proportion didn’t change, orange to tea flavors. It’s not astringent, at all, just with a trace of edge to give it some feel, which works.
As with Vietnamese green tea standard practice (in Vietnam, at least) going with full-boiling point temperature water would bring more astringency out, but I’d as soon not. The tea being this soft gives you the option of ramping up temperature, or experimenting with different ones. They suggest 85 C, and it wouldn't be as biting as lots of green types when brewed cooler than that. Some people could prefer an edgy green tea (the normal preference in Vietnam, per my understanding), and I suppose that softness could be seen as a flaw, if so.
Made a little stronger in this third infusion it’s possible to teas out more tea contribution / flavor from “below” the orange. It is rich, and mild, but full, reminding me a little of the “cereal” element in the one white tea, the Silver Cloud. There is a little mineral but less than I expected, even though I didn’t expect much, for it to be flinty. You would think there would be some vegetable to be noticed, at least a little, but it’s more in the floral range, it seems. It’s all a nice effect, quite bright and lively, clean and balanced, fruit and floral with mild earth and very light mineral as a base. The sweetness helps support the rest.
A monk gave me some Earl Grey tea not so long ago, the standard Twinings version (odd how that works out, trading teas with monks, a long story) but there’s not much comparison to be made. The bergamot is common, the rest is different, and the balance is quite different. I think this still would work with a more typical green tea, something less soft and subdued, less complex, more grassy or vegetal, but it might be a lot better in this form.
The fourth infusion I went quite long for, and it is fading a little, but that seems fine, getting one light and three normal strength infusions out of a green tea.
I think if I liked green teas and flavored teas more this would strike me as a really exceptional tea; as things stand it was a pleasant change of pace. It's just a matter of preference, not an objectively accurate evaluation, but to me the Sticky Rice Silver Cloud tea worked better. Scanning back through that post there wasn't much there for subjective take, how I liked it, which is also relevant, even if that relates as much to preference for type and attributes as to a general overall judgement. That wasn't just nice for being novel, which it was, but well above average compared to all the plain white teas I've ever tried. I think I liked it better in part because of how well the flavors matched but also because that flavoring was very subtle, so that it really could have been a natural tea that just happened to taste a little like sticky rice.
they grow up so fast