Last weekend a friend and I went into the city for a tea-tasting at Adagio Teas. We were able to choose 3 teas to sample – we chose a high-end Gyokuro green, a nice Darjeeling black called Darjeeling Spring Tip, and a middle-of-the-road Assam called Assam Harmony.
Our tea-tasting presenter gave us a little information about how different teas from different regions take on various flavors prior to processing oxidation due to the environmental factors of the region: soil, air, climate. Thereafter the various processing methods change the tea’s character – white to green to oolong to black.
He gave us a rundown of what to think about on your palette:
We started with the Darjeeling Spring Tip which was good but has the same problem I’ve always had with Darjeeling teas: they have a nice, fruity taste, but lack the mouth-feel and strength that I like from a stronger Assam or Ceylon. This was so light that our guide seemed to think that it is mislabled and is actually a white or green tea though it was labeled black.
We moved onto a Gyokuro which is shade grown; it had the typical vegetal flavor of many Japanese green teas but was muted by an almost brothy taste like a light miso soup. It was enjoyable, but Japanese greens are not part of my favourite flavour profile.
We then moved to the Assam Harmony which had the nice, rich red colour I like but fell flat in terms of flavour.
It was a pleasant experience and I enjoyed the guide’s explanations. Some other interesting tidbits: he mentioned that the caffeine content of tea doesn’t actually differ from white to green to black – oxidation isn’t what changes the caffeine amount – but that steeping time changes it – so green tea steeped for 5 minutes includes the same caffeine as black tea steeped for 5 minutes, contrary to the way it is typically explained (greens are typically steeped for a shorter period because they become bitter more quickly). He also mentioned that green teas contain a certain chemical that I am forgetting, but he said it gives it a slight calming feel that evens out the experience of the caffeine; he mentioned that in some forms of Japanese theater, Matcha (the powdery green tean) is sometimes taken at a high dose to give the audience a surreal experience of the show – not hallucinogenic, but a strong calming feel.
After our tea tasting we took a few photos of what is now a Bloomingdales but what was once a Masonic Shriner building called the Medinah Temple; the Shriners play off of a lot of Islamic imagery, but I haven’t looked into their history, but you can read the history of the building here.
To end the day we went to a high-end (for my pocketbook) burger and steak restaurant; there is a company called Creekstone that has recently switched to slaughtering all of their animals in halal fashion – that is, according to Islamic Law – because of contracts they have overseas. The benefit to me? I get to occasionally treat myself to gourmet burgers. We ordered the Bigger Better Burger and the California Burger without the Bacon. The California Burger came out with bacon and we pointed it out and said that, unfortunately, we’ll need a whole new burger because we can’t ingest pork at all, even its fat. The waitress kindly said “Oh I know” and mentioned that they get a lot of Muslim business due to their Creekstone-laden menu; even better, due to the mistake she gave us that burger free and added a free extra side of fries.
It was a nice way to end a very busy Spring Break.