It’s become a thing of mine: Wherever I travel, I snag teas. So it comes to no surprise that I’ve grabbed a bunch from a nation that takes pride in its tea culture.
One thing I feel utterly disappointed with myself was that I’ve left a really unique tea set that I got from Fujiko F. Fujio Museum on the shinkansen. I mean, it’s bread-flavored tea … it smells like so much like dorayaki. Where else can you get them?! Inside the shopping bag there’s also a raincoat I bought for my friend’s naughty new puppy and an adorable pig-shaped toy for the pup’s teething (it’s a her). I was so excited to come back and bring it to her because she had no idea I was going to give her something to play with. But alas … the whole bag was left behind.
The shinkansen management staff was so helpful to retrieve and transfer it to the nearest station to our hotel. Unfortunately, this happened to be the last day of our entire vacation in Japan. I was already in Hong Kong when I realized the shopping bag was missing, and my fiance’s sisters didn’t get a chance to collect it from the station. They had to catch the Narita Express train promptly.
Somewhere in the Tokyo subway station right now lies my shopping bag. I’m secretly hoping I can still collect it someday …
Anyway, let’s get on with what I got. As you can see, I have not opened sealed any of these seals. I’ve been hoping to snap them with their packaging still intact before I dive in, so here they are. As I try each one, I’ll let you see the tea leaves, and review whether they smell and taste as good as they look.
1. Aniseed, Fennel & Liquorice Infusion + Rooibos, Vanilla & Cocoa Nibs Infusion from Mark & Spencer FOOD, Hong Kong
These 2 were on sale when I got them at Marks & Spencer’s Food section in Times Square. As soon as I saw the word ‘liquorice’ and ‘rooibos’ on these, I grabbed them off the shelf. As you may already know, I’ve been supplementing on licorice root for its mood-regulating benefits, and I figure it’s the whole package too because aniseed and fennel are great herbs for balancing out the women’s hormonal system as well.
The rooibos pack, on the other hand, shall be my cheaper alternative for Eu Yan Sang’s 30-sachet version. which I snagged last year while I was in Singapore. For something that wasn’t extracted from Camellia sinensis, it boasts even more potent antioxidants that the EGCG in green teas (see this post from Inhumane Experiment). I’m pretty curious as to how this one will taste – I’ve always enjoyed my cacao in powder forms, never as a tisane, so we’ll see how it goes.
2. Sencha + Cherry blossom tea from this tea shop (お茶の山口園) at Kuromon Market, Osaka, Japan
I made it a point to get some quality green tea leaves while in Japan right after I boarded for the airplane. You don’t get much of it here in town. The tea shop here has so, so much variety that it felt like a playground. In the end, the green tea that I got was one of the highest-grade sencha 煎茶 varieties. Sencha is the most common green tea variety of all Japanese teas, and its prices range widely, especially in comparison with the rarer types of green tea (such as gyokuro 玉露). When I had my tasting of this sencha, I thought to myself, if this is the everyday quality of tea people drink in Japan (it’s so rich, so earthy, so full-bodied), imagine the kind that’s served in Jakarta’s restaurants …
The pink package is an ujicha 宇治茶, a special type of green tea grown in the Uji area in Kyoto. This alone explains why it’s more expensive than the rest of the pack, added to the fact that this 100g package comes with the stems of the tea tree (what the Japanese refers as 雁ヶ音), which refines and strengthens the quality of its taste. I haven’t got a taste of this one, but I saw a couple of old Japanese ladies who were obviously frequenters of the shop asking only for this tea to the cashier, so I imitated them.
It’s the first time ever I’ve tasted sakurayu 桜湯, or cherry blossom tea. The old lady at the shop was so kind to everyone, offering heaps of tea samples for us to taste for FREE. Most of us at the shop tasted this one, and I bet you won’t guess how it tastes. The cup of blush pink water smells floral and all (more intense than the rose buds), but it tastes … wait for it … salty! Why? Because the Japanese dry out and preserve the petals by using plum vinegar and salt. My fiance doesn’t like the taste, even though he enjoys the smell, but I got it anyway because I thought I might want to use this tea for my wedding tea ceremony.
3. Tokyo Disney Resort assorted tea set from The Sleepy Whale Shoppe at DisneySea, Tokyo, Japan
I know very well that I’m only buying the packaging here. The teas in each tin are fairly common and pretty affordable. But hey, it’s the Disney princesses!! Although my favorite princesses aren’t here … (Jasmine, Belle, and Mulan)
- Cinderella: Earl grey + cornflower
- Rapunzel: Ceylon + Rose petals
- Ariel: Ceylon + Orange pear
Your turn: Where you been to during Lebaran/Ramadhan season? If you’re a fellow tea fan, what’s the most exquisite cup of tea you’ve tasted recently?