5 Tasting Notes
Kusmi, as I should have guessed, does European style tea. When I ordered their green tea sampler (Almond, Green Bouquet, Ginger-Lemon, Spearmint, Green Zoubrovka), the romance in my mind envisioned leaves dried and infused with almond blossoms (if that’s possible) or accompanied with shards of ginger and lemon peel, etc. In reality, we get gunpowder tea spritzed with various essential oils. This doesn’t necessarily sound unpleasant, but the liquor invariably turns out murky and monotone. I’ve chosen to log this review under Green Zoubrovka because it is the one tea in the collection that somehow lends itself well to this murkiness. It’s a sort of rhapsody in dubious qualities that strangely works for me; before brewing, this buffalo grass flavored tea looks admittedly like tiny cow pies, and once infused, it has the smoky scent of oregano, or more candidly, cannabis. It’s all rather bizarre, and it’s this novelty that saves the tea.
The rest of the collection varies in palatability, though most of the teas, as most likely intended by Kusmi, could be improved with the addition of milk and/or sugar. The very notion turns me off, because for me, tea is a revitalizing brew that ought not to be adulterated. And yet the flat mustiness of these teas really does beg for some covering up. (The most offending tea, I think, is Green Bouquet, which smells of dead flowers and old age—a funeral in a cup.)
I am quite willing to believe that Kusmi makes some very nice teas, though their greens leave so much to be desired. I would much rather have a pure, high quality leaf whose complexities naturally emulate the flavors and aromas that Kusmi achieves with additional, and unnecessary, ingredients.
This is true tea “soup.” The pale infusion possesses a very milky mouthfeel with a similarly lactic tang in the form of refreshing acidity. The taste is crisp and complementary to fermented foods; its unctuousness and bright savoriness capture distant echoes of soy. The aroma, though floral, can be damp and almost slightly gamy. Because of this, I prefer to brew this at room temperature for an hour or so.
This was my first Pu-erh. When I first acquired it, I was slightly overwhelmed by its earthy intensity. I drank it with curiosity but not with gusto. Six months later, I have returned to it with very pleasing results. It brews deep tawny and wafts a pleasing fug of damp earth and leaves. The liquor is slightly smoky and surprisingly clean with a suggestion of mushroom. A hint of sweetness lingers on the back of the palate. This is an acquired taste that is well worth getting used to. I look forward to trying other fermented teas.
This tea lends itself well to numerous infusions; the sweetness fades, but the aroma of autumn leaves further develops. I increase the time by thirty seconds for each subsequent steeping.