Posted by: ben | April 20, 2009

minty scent into sweetness

mintliquoriceheader(title with huge, ridiculous apologies to Eels. if Dan can get away with excruciating puns, i will too!)

Ben: Coming back from holiday, I surveyed the stack of teas I have to try and scratched my head. Where, I thought, am I going to find the time to sample all this tea? Checking the post, I found that the lovely Sofia from teapigs had sent me a parcel with some more things to try! Why be a diligent blogger and start at the oldest tea when I have a box of new, exciting teas?

I am fickle.

The teapigs parcel was full of some of their more esoteric offerings (and two boxes of popcorn tea which, after my very enthusiastic previous post, is very welcome!). One in particular caught my eye – some loose samples of their licorice and mint tea.

Why did this catch my eye?

The brewing process releases a liquorice smell

The brewing process releases a liquorice smell

Because I hate mint tea. I always have. I like the idea of it – mint is such an aromatic and pleasant herb that it seems that it should make an aromatic and pleasant tea. In actuality, I find mint tea very aromatic but awfully, terribly astringent. The light, sweetish smell is lost in a miasma of bitter, tingly cloud. It’s just one of those things – I sorta want to like mint tea but it’s just not my proverbial cup of tea.

Given the run of positive reviews I’ve made recently (and wanting to join in with Dan’s fashionable grumpiness), I thought this would be perfect to criticise. Opening the packet, the smell that hits is of toothpaste. There are vaguely musty hints of licorice but the overwhelming aroma is the peppermint. I proffered the open bag to other people in the house, all of whom crinkled their noses.

Things were going well!

The bag is fairly filled with leaves

The bag is fairly filled with leaves

Brewing the tea, the aroma became more complicated. The mint is still there – very obviously – but the licorice begins to get a little more prominent and adds a calming little edge. The lively buzz of the mint is suddenly suffused, if only just a little. The brew turns a familiar orangey-yellow that comes with all mint teas and, after three minutes or so, I removed the teabag temple as per the brewing instructions.

Because I was so enthusiastically unenthusiastic about the tea, I then left it for a bit. Piping hot tea is great but mint tea is always dry, and cloying. I didn’t much fancy burning my mouth and persecute my tastebuds at the same time so wandered off for five minutes.

Then came back. With a smirk, I had a sip. (Don’t smirk and sip simultaneously. It leads to spillage and looks moronic).

My smirk dropped.

The lovely minty tea

The lovely minty tea

Teapigs have been very clever with this tea. I’ll bet that someone in their office finds mint tea too drying, too, so was determined to rectify that. The licorice had played such a minor role in the experience until the tasting that I had assumed that in the brew it would just be a small note. Instead, it’s a revelation. The licorice is liquid sugar. It’s so strange! Remember when you were a kid and you stole a teaspoon full of sugar to suck on, savouring the sweetness as the grains dissolved down the sizes of your tongue? This tea is precisely like that. The first, immediate taste is of a muted mint tea where the menthol isn’t quite as potent as it otherwise would be. Then, a good three or four seconds later, this tremendous blast of sweetness emerges as if from nowhere! Bizarrely for me, the sweetness seemed to come from the back of my tongue, washing to the front. I could swear that, once or twice, I felt the grains of sugar against the roof of my mouth.

A definite surprise, this one. It’s still a mint tea but it is infinitely better than any other mint tea I have tried before. I’d be tempted to say that the tea is, if anything, now too sweet but the teapigs website assumes me that

the longer you leave this blend the sweeter it get

and as I’d brewed this cup for quite a while, I’d hope that further (weaker) brewings and a little bit of experimentation would get things pretty much right.

Ben was drinking teapigs’ licorice and mint tea, available for ¬£4.49 for fifteen bags temples.

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