Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Monk tries DAVIDsTEA High-Mountain Organic Oolong

I recently stopped in at the DAVIDsTEA store in San Francisco's Westfield Center, where I had a fun, tea-centric chat with the knowledgeable and enthusiastic manager Jodet and walked out with a couple of great oolongs.

One was Organic High-Mountain Oolong. Now, I profess no oolong expertise, but I do have a longstanding, well-known fondness for the teas, and this oolong did not disappoint. Even while still steeping, the tea delighted me with its aroma, so wonderfully earthy in that oolong way. The taste delivered on the aroma's promise in a well-balanced manner — not harsh like some oolongs, yet not fleeting like others, either. Even after finishing a potful, the complex fermented taste stayed around leisurely pleasing my palate.

I highly recommend this to fellow oolong fans out there. If you're ever in DAVIDsTEA, be sure to at least give it a whiff. And say hi to Jodet for me.

All ready to brew and review.

But first a close look and the lovely, tightly rolled leaves.

After the first steeping, the unrolled leaves still have plenty of deliciousness inside them.

The brew — rich, tasty, wonderfully aromatic.

—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

About freshness

A customer today asked why our tea doesn't come stamped with expiration dates. This is a completely understandable question, so I wanted to share my answer, as follows:

All of our tea is packaged by the artisans themselves, and they do not add expiration dates. In fact, I've never come across a tea packet from such small-farm artisans with an expiration date, at least in that part of Japan.

I suppose they are behind the times in this regard, but on the other hand, the communities where their tea is primarily enjoyed have never pressed them for "best by" dates. These super-demanding tea consumers just assume that if the artisan is still doing things the old-fashioned way (which they often verify by visiting the farms to pick up their tea in person), then all must be well.

[In my original reply, I mentioned another tea company whose tea I had by coincidence just bought when I received this customer's inquiry and which did not come with expiration dates on it. Here, however, I would rather ask readers to comment themselves in general terms about the use of best-by dates by tea purveyors, especially those specializing, as we do, in tea from smallholder estates. — MM]

Stamping best-by dates is just not something that's widely done among smallholder growers, for better or worse. Rest assured, however, that our growers -- whose operations we also verify in person -- are modern in how they store their tea in special refrigeration units right up until they ship it to us. For our part, we have the tea sent to us small batches to assure freshness, too.

And of course we stand by our tea 100%, so if you're ever less than satisfied in its freshness, just send it back for a refund or replacement.

Feel free to ask any follow-up questions in the comments section.

Happy sipping,

—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, March 03, 2013