Thursday, September 7, 2017

Assamica Agro Green Adventure and Tulsi Green Sensation

Assamica Agro Green Adventure

Tulsi Green Sensation

I'm trying out two more teas from Assamica Agro, a tea producing cooperative from Assam.  This time I'm onto a plain green tea and a blend (their Green Adventure and Tulsi Green Sensation).  Tulsi wasn't familiar, but from their description it rings a bell:

Being known as the queen of Indian herbs, it was only natural to include tulsi in our tea blends. Tulsi or Holy Basil is one of the most precious herbs in traditional healing methods. This spicy and warm sensation will help you relax and charge your batteries for a new day, while offering a very pleasant flavor combining anis, basil, cardamom and mint notes all in one. Fresh and deep green tea is serving as a base of this perfectly balanced blend. Mild and pleasant scent of brew is matched by a delicate and savory flavor.  

Holy basil is familiar; we cook with that here.  This reference goes on and on about health benefits.  And I thought it was just another type of basil.


The green tea smells fruity and rich, with a bit of concord grape to the scent, and earthy and mineral notes below that.  It actually smells nice, for a green tea, which is not exactly my favorite category.  That grape scent is not all that closely related to muscatel, another somewhat grape-like range of Darjeelings (or in some Oriental Beauty  Taiwanese oolongs), with that version closer to citrus.

The Green Sensation reminds me a lot of Vietnamese green teas as I first try it.  Those have a distinctive mineral base of flavors that is common to this, with differences in the other flavors.  There is some vegetable, as with those teas, as in those close of kale (which works better than it sounds, but if someone really hates kale then maybe not for them).  Beyond that secondary aspects are more floral than fruity.  Given all that is going on it comes across as complex.  The mineral helps it work, and the sweetness is nice, with clean and bright flavors.  If the taste ranged into cooked kale more--or cooked spinach, or other cooked vegetable range--it wouldn't be as pleasant, but it doesn't, it stays fresh and bright.

Since I wrote these notes I retried a version of Vietnamese tea I wanted to mention, which is pretty close to this one in character.  It's somewhere between kind of crazy and slightly bad form to put a tea review inside a tea review (like a Russian doll, someone once mentioned) but check out this green tea description for Hatvala's Vietnamese Purple Rain:

...distinctive taste which is a little earthy but with flavours that hint of mushrooms and other vegetables such as artichoke and asparagus.  Brewed sympathetically it will show off its natural sweetness with no bitterness.

Hatvala Purple Rain green tea (Vietnamese instead, but still a bit similar)

that tea that day; not the way they drink it

The "brewed sympathetically" in that tea description seemed to mean using cooler than boiling point water (around 75C / 170F, but that varies per preference), and not over-steeping it; nothing too demanding, how anyone would brew green tea.  Except most Vietnamese people, it seems; they tend to like the astringency and go with full boiling point water without limiting infusion times (per my limited understanding).

The last time I was in Hanoi (almost three years ago now; the time just flies) cafe staff brought a pot of green tea to drink, and trying the first cup I noticed it was a little edgy, from that boiling point water temperature choice.  I started to panic when five minutes went by and the pot still had the leaves brewing in it.  There was no way to "drink down" a pot of boiling hot tea, tiny cup after cup.  It must have seemed silly to them for a customer to dump the whole thing out in water glasses to stop the infusion process at that stage, but I did already get enough of the effect of where the extended infusion time was heading.  Hanoi is awesome to visit, by the way, a generally cool spot.

This is probably a good place to go back and cite the Assamica Agro Green Adventure description:

Smooth and tingling, moss and mushrooms with mineral notes that change to leafy vegetable flavor with subsequent steeping, light astringency that melts into a sweet aftertaste.

I noticed they had more interesting product information on that page:

picking tea in Assam (credit Assamica Agro Facebook page)

PERFECT FOR:  Deep and autumnal taste, perfect for refreshment in chilly days. 

SEASON:  Second Flush, 2017 

FARMER:  Prithivi Group of Small Growers, Dibrugarh (Assam)

CERTIFICATION:  This tea is produced following India's National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) Standards.  

I'm not so sure about the fall day theme but it is interesting that the teas are harvested in flushes (like Darjeeling), that the producer is a co-operative of sorts (I probably should have said more about that by now in earlier reviews), and that the teas are organic.

Neither of the descriptions for the Vietnamese tea or the Assam mentioned kale but they both taste a bit like that to me.  I'm not noticing mushroom so much in either, but some flavor depth for both could be that.  Unless I'm remembering wrong both have some floral tone to them, and a good bit of mineral base, and are kind of similar.  Good Vietnamese green tea is a nice thing, and even ordinary versions are nice, very consistent, with that "Purple Rain" version a good bit better and more interesting than average.  It's a good tea to seem similar to, for the Assam version, if someone is into complex, clean-flavored, mineral based, slightly vegetal green tea with some rich floral tone.

I'm not necessarily noticing the concord grape (in the Assam tea; back on target here).  There is a lot going on for flavors though, and it could include that.  I'd also list citrus, and the floral range is along the lines of lavender, on the rich side.  To the extent that I like green teas in the normal range for green teas I like this one.  It's not really astringent, the balance works, and it's not "straight grass."

Tulsi left (a bit darker than plain green tea), Green Adventure right

The Tulsi Green is really an herb blend, something I don't get to much.  I drank tisanes instead of tea for a long time, for something like 15 years, so I'm open to the experience of them, and still dabble in them a little.  I just never get around to drinking tea and herb blends, since I tend to value the simple, natural range of aspects in plain teas.  I really appreciate the way complexity and subtlety can result from using only one type of plant leaf processed in one way.

The scent of this dry tea is a bit like incense, or a spice blend, kind of hard to describe, but appealing, and bit intense.

I guess it tastes like infused tulsi (holy basil; one kind of it since there are two).  It's closest to lemongrass, based on spices range I'm familiar with, but comes across as an herb blend that also includes lemongrass, with that as only a base for part of the flavor range.  It shares some taste range with licorice.  Of course I mean the black candy and plant type, although I only ever tend to experience the plant flavor in better versions of the black candy.  It's funny how the Twizzlers version sort of tastes like that and sort of doesn't.  That candy is still nice, it just doesn't taste exactly like real licorice.

The complex flavor range doesn't leave off there, but that's where a struggle to describe it picks up.  A lemongrass and licorice blend would taste like this, but it goes further.  That probably would be a good idea for an herb blend, based on trying this.  That reminds me to check what licorice really is, since I'm only familiar with the somewhat chewy candy:

Liquorice (British English) or licorice (American English) /ˈlɪkrɪʃ, ˈlɪkər-, -ɪs/ LIK-(ə-)rish, LIK-(ə-)ris)[5] is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a herbaceous perennial legume native to southern Europe and parts of Asia, such as India. It is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavouring compounds.

Most liquorice is used as a flavouring agent for tobacco, particularly US blend cigarettes, to which liquorice lends a natural sweetness and a distinctive flavour and makes it easier to inhale the smoke by creating bronchodilators, which open up the lungs.[6][7] Liquorice flavours are also used as candies or sweeteners, particularly in some European and Middle Eastern countries.

Cool, I did not know all that.  Funny how the British are about spelling.

It might have a sweet tone to it that could be floral, it's just hard to isolate as that.  A hint of spice is out towards one that I'm not completely familiar with, maybe tumeric or coriander.  I do cook and eat lots of foreign foods but my range of taste awareness still has limits.  I can barely remember the names for different types of flat breads with Indian foods.

It's odd this doesn't taste that much like basil, any kind of it.  This herb version I cook with isn't just like sweet basil, and definitely not like Thai basil, which tastes a lot like mint, but in cooking it did seem to remind me more of sweet basil than this tea does.  Then again I'm always mixing it with food, and drying an herb can change the flavor more than one might expect sometimes.  Or it doesn't always seem to, it depends on the herb.  Dried rosemary infused as a tisane tastes a lot like fresh rosemary and infused papaya leaf varies lots in taste depending on if you heated it at all during drying or not.

Second infusion

I'm brewing these Western style so there won't be a long list of different infusions to comment on; this second will do, even though these will surely brew a third.

The green tea didn't transition that much, at least in one sense.  The flavor might be a little less bright, filling in some depth in richness instead, with the mineral range broadening.  It's funny how shifting the balance of aspects really did change this tea but I would still describe it using the same concepts, it's just not the same with them layered differently.  With that mineral picking up as much as it did it's now on the flintier, limestone side leaning a little towards metal.  That might sound horrible but I don't mind it; it's the grassy, seaweed or cooked vegetable range I don't care for in green teas.

The kale had been ok, but the overall balance has shifted more towards mineral now, with some floral undertone hanging in there.  But that's a personal preference thing: someone else could love or hate seaweed or intense mineral.  And likes can change over time.  I started out on Japanese green teas, and did like that seaweed / grass range in those, and then later moved on to liking black teas and more roasted oolong aspects range most.

The "Tulsi" tea is fading just a little, but still plenty intense.  It lost a little in terms of the brightest range, and picked up depth and earthiness.  The lemongrass related effect dropped off a little, and the licorice picked up.  I guess it must taste a lot like holy basil, but then I can pick that up locally, dry it out, and check further to verify that.  It has an interesting mouthfeel too, a slight drying effect, which I don't find to be positive or negative, just different.

I have to close this on the early side.  It's time to chase the kids, who seem to be trying to tear down one of the walls from the sound of it.  I did brew a couple more infusions later but didn't take notes on those; as likely it was more of the same, with limited transition.

Both teas were nice, and trying out a tea and herb blend went better than I would have expected.  They included a rose petal and green tea blend sample, way off what I usually drink, but if that turns out to be interesting I'll mention it.  They also sell the rose petals as a plain tisane and I think per my preference I might like that better with black tea, and it would be easy enough to buy both from them and mix them.

they look like trouble, don't they?

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