February 08, 2017
Argo Tea Garden Direct Collection
Directly sourced tea from single estate gardens is a holy grail of the tea world. Argo Tea promises this with their new initiative, Garden Direct Collection. I received two teas and one tisane from Argo: Genmaicha, Nilgiri, and Rooibos. The Genmaicha is sourced from Maruei Tea Estate, Mei Perfecture, Japan; the Nilgiri from Parkside Tea Estate, India; and the Rooibos from Western Cape, South Africa. At the time of this post, I have not drunk the Rooibos. This tisane has not agreed with me lately.
Today's review is based on the several cups each I drank of the Nilgiri and Genmaicha. The teas arrived in a tall 4.9 oz glass bottle. My first impression after reading the brewing instructions on the bottle was that each bottle contained a filter and packets of whole leaf tea. I imagined that you could steep your tea on the go and have a reusable bottle to boot. Here are the instructions: "Place loose leaf into infuser....Pour hot water over the premium loose leaf tea. Let steep....Remove infuser...". On reflection it doesn't make sense for the bottle to contain an infuser. The glass bottle is not double walled so it would be scalding hot to hold! Another bottle comment: if you accidentally remove the brown wrapping from the bottle, you will need to store it in a cupboard because the glass is transparent.
I followed the brewing directions. I steeped 1 teaspoon in 6 ounces of 195F water for 4 minutes. Argo did not specify the water temperature so I used the temperature setting recommended by Aiya for it's genmaicha. (To be precise, Aiya recommends 194F.) The tea is beautiful. The white popcorn pops against the vibrant green sencha and the toasted brown rice. The dry leaves smelled nicely of popcorn, equal parts freshly popped and burned kernel. The liquor smelled strongly of rice; the rice that is stuck to the bottom of the pot and slightly burned. This is a very good smell and taste! I infused the leaves again for 5 minutes. The flavors were a little lighter but the toasted note lingered on my palate.
This black tea is listed as whole leaf but the small appearance of the leaves might indicate a broken leaf grade (B). The grade is not listed on the label. The leaf color is fairly dark with copper highlights. My first session with this tea I infused 2 teaspoons in boiling water. It was too hot. I then tried steeping 2 teaspoons in 200F water. It was just right. Infusing the leaves for 30 seconds produced the most flavorful liquor. Sweet and fruity with mild astringency. Another way I prepared this tea was infusing 2 teaspoons in 200F water for 1 minute which produced an unpleasantly strong liquor. The best approach is 2 teaspoons in 200F water for 30 seconds. In my gaiwan, I got 3 tasty infusions
The sessions I described above happened over the course of a day. The following day I used the brewing instructions provided on the label. I infused 1 teaspoon of leaves in 6 ounces of 212F (no temperature was specified) for 4 minutes. The color of the liquor was promising but the taste was mild. I detected honey, malt, and fruit but all these flavors were not fully realized. The dark fruit that I smelled on the dry leaves and even on the infused leaves was not found in the liquor. This tea requires more leaf gram to water volume to shine.
I will continue to drink both teas. The Nilgiri will fit right into our "breakfast tea" stash. The flavor profile of the Genmeicha makes it perfect for mid-morning or early afternoon snack time. This green tea would be a nice one to serve to guests, especially displaying it in a Japanese version of the cha he.
Garden Direct tea collection courtesy of Argo Tea.