Sunday, October 23, 2011

Teatotalers Tea Review Tally: Dare to Darjeeling

By Pam Victor

 Each month, LP and I meet for brunch at Esselon Coffee in Hadley, Massachusetts in order to “collect data” in our quest to find our favorite tea on their extensive tea menu. After years of saying to each other, “Which one is the tea I love?” (to which the other responded, “I dunno. Which tea do I love?”) we finally decided to ferret out our prize once and for all by taste-testing all the teas. Therefore, LP and I set off on our thoroughly highly scientific, thoroughly ridiculously subjective research. 

The Mildly Linear Rating System (from worst to best):

Must Flee---Sorry---Oh Gee---Good Tea---Glee---(subcategories: Glee-Teehee and Glee-Jamboree)-Yippee!

Esselon, we love you. You have been so good to us. But until you add to your tea menu, we’ve come to the end of our tea tasting experience with you. We’ve gone through all your teas. Yes, perhaps it’s true, we’ve outgrown you. It’s not us, it’s you. Here are the final four teas in the Esselon leg of our taste test:

Darjeeling Oolong 2nd FlushRating: Oh Gee (LP & Pam)

We were underwhelmed and uninspired by this tea. According to the Esselon website, Darjeeling Oolong is “our one oolong from India, Darjeeling oolong bears little resemblance to any Chinese oolong. It is winy and heavy-bodied for an oolong, with flavors of toasted grains and orange zest.” According to LP and me, the tea was very light, with a little “bark taste.” That’s bark as in tree, not dog. This response prompted me to challenge, “Have you ever licked a tree?” To which she retorted, “Have you ever hugged a tree?” And I counted, “Have you ever seen a grown man naked?” (More on this topic later.)

Green Darjeeling  - Rating: Sorry (LP), Oh Gee (Pam)

Yes, our theme was Dare to Darjeeling, so we had to sample the both the green and the oolong Darjeelings in the same sitting. Sadly, neither “ling” was the thing with the bling bling that could either make us sing, or make our bells ring ding-a-ling. I loves me some green tea, but this one was just so-so. (My taste buds belong forever to that full-bodied vixen Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearl.) I found the Green Darjeeling to have a flavor of rich foliage with a hint of licorice. While she freely admits to not being a green tea gal, LP gave it a sip and deemed it, “like licking the inside of a chimney” with an essence of “wood tar.” Needless to say, my buddy LP will not be pulling either Darjeeling out of her Christmas stocking this year.

Jade CloudRating: Sorry (Pam), Must Flee (LP)

Personally, I think the name of this green tea would make a great superhero name. Jade Cloud! An Asian wonder woman whose super power is to turn into a cloud. She also can reduce sun glare on the highway. Jade Cloud to the rescue!

As soon as our tea is served, we typically delight in examining and sniffing the leaves. Sticking her nose into Jade Cloud (ok, that sounds really wrong), LP wrinkled her nose and gagged, “Autumn leaves draining in a sewage ditch.” To me, they just smelled like leaves. “You know, it’s pretty funny,” I said. “That after all these tea taste tests, we somehow still seem surprised when tea smells like wet leaves.” We riffed on how we would write a movie review: “It was like an image being reflected…on a screen!” We are masters of taking delight in the obvious.

Still, I sniffed my Jade Cloud leaves like a bloodhound on a scent. It took me a while to identify the flavor, but once I did I knew it when I heard myself say it. Mango. A taste confirmed definite fruity undertones. LP concurred, “Yup. There’s fruit in dem hills.” All in all, my superhero tea was nothing to write home about, and left me wearing “teeth sweaters” after the pot was dry.

Jade OolongRating: Sorry (LP), Oh Gee (Pam)

While last month was all about Darjeeling, our theme for this month was Jade, so LP got the oolong, as she is wont to do. She also popped for our shared order of sausage as a pre-birthday gesture with the promise, “You can always count on me to give you some sausage.” Yes, that turned me on. Perhaps encouraged by her saucy sausage sweet talk, I later – and less subtly – produced an edible erection in my sausage while trying to cut it. Looking at it wistlessly (as opposed to wistfully since erections are not her cup of tea, so to speak), LP reflected how long it had been since she’s seen a grown man naked.

As we are both wont to do, we stuck our noses eagerly into her leaves. (Ok, yeah. Is there no way to smell leaves without it sounding like a porno?) Jade Oolong offered up a yummy leafy (what a surprise!) smell, “like wet leaves but a happier memory.” LP sniffed her tea with a purpose. “Hmmm,” she inhaled before stating, “Definite woodland hobbit smell.” Though when I asked if she had ever smelled a woodland hobbit, LP demurred coyly. Unfortunately, the taste did not provide as much depth as its nose. We found Jade Oolong to be a mild manner tea with a singular hind note that I characterized as “a little chewy on the back end.” So LP gallantly offered her Jade Oolong an assist by first pouring sweetener and milk into it. Trying to bolster the teas confidence, she claimed it “carries sugar and milk well.” Thus I contend that if you really just want warm sugar and milk, Jade Oolong is the tea for you.

Finally, LP made a daring effort to “buff up this 98 pound weakling” of a tea by pouring the leaves directly into the pot. Yes, we were drinking outside the box now. Sadly, our dashing deed did not do much for our tea’s disposition. Happily, I almost fell out of my chair laughing when LP returned to the table, red-faced with shame, when the bitter barista gave her freewheeling leaves a snobby sneer when she asked for a water refill.

To see our full list of tea taste tests, please see our Teatoler's Tally


Pam and LP making comedy together

About your teatotalers:  


LP is a married mother of two adorable doggies (one of whom is my nephew, the poodle.) LP grew up in the Upper West Side (Manhattan, duh) where she acquired many city smarts that fail to do her any good whatsoever in western Massachusetts. She no longer, however, thinks carrots grow on trees. To know LP is to love her, especially if you are a child, a small animal or me. She is funny, wise, and truthful. Also, when she was twelve, she was in a Movie of the Week (“The War Between the Tates”). LP is the best BFF in the world. We both agree that we couldn’t love each other more than we do already, but we remain ever open to the possibility.

I am a married mother of two people who are taller than me. We are a homeschooling family. I like to teach. I like to write. I love to perform, especially comedy and super-especially improv comedy. LP and I have been performing improv comedy together for over seven years in our troupe The Ha-Ha’s (formerly The Ha-Ha Sisterhood).

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