Though the vast spectrum of green teas can range in flavors from delicately floral to beguilingly vegetal, from fruity to earthy and back again, that hasn't kept tea blenders from the temptation to enhance. Flavored tea—from the traditional to the outré—is a concept somehow less brow-furrowing than, say, flavored creamer: at its most successful an organic process of blending harmonious botanicals towards the end product of a sum greater than (or more novel than) its parts.
We sampled five green teas that had enjoyed, shall we say, biblical intimacy with another flavor, and deliberated on the success of each pairing.
Lupicia Chestnut Green
Pacific Rim tea blenders Lupicia are all about the festive flavorings (milk caramel! kyoho grapes! sweet summer tangerine!), but their Chestnut Green is an untropical anomaly to their rather kawaii tea list. Brewing to a pale butter yellow colored liquor, the color in the cup portends your taste experience: a very sweet chestnut up front with a buttery, viscous sweetness, only visited in the middle notes by a light green tea moment.
Though the ingredients only specify the base is "Japanese green tea", there's also a fairy dusting of matcha among the whole leaves and roasted chestnut shards. This tea is tremendously aromatic, with a mellow, totally unastringent mouthfeel, though some might find it too sweet for daytime drinking.
In Pursuit of Tea Jasmine Pearls
One of the oldest teas in the book, if you will, jasmine-scented teas are popularly based on green teas which may delicately back up their intense, often perfumey, floral qualities. This pearl-rolled Chinese green tea is scented with jasmine blossoms—not that you would have any doubt from as far as four feet away: their perfume broadcasts loud and clear from the cup.
The tea is a sort of delicate ricey/floral melange, leaving a little to be desired in structure and mouthfeel but wholly pleasant. For tea drinkers who don't love the vegetal qualities of green, but aren't drawn to distracting fruit combinations, this very sweet blend may be just the thing.
Harney and Sons Moroccan Mint
Yet though it was definitely minty we found the tea base to be jarringly un-refreshing, with the initial dry aroma of the tea leaves to be quite cigarettey. The mint does its best to mask the very roasty-smoky qualities of this tea, but it ends up seeming bipolar, and without a balanced character in the cup.
Rishi Sencha Sakura
If a strongly flavored green tea doesn't scare you off, you may delight in this deeply tart cherry flavored Sencha from Rishi. It's got all the delicate, earthy-grassy umami flavor of its quality tea foundation, with a startling pop of sweet-sour cherry. It's a sort of outspoken tea with a big, round mouthfeel and a slightly tart aftertaste. The intense flavoring is actually derived from cherry blossoms and leaves, rather than the fully ripened fruit. Steeps to a pale green liquor in the cup, but the taste is very cherry red.
Harney & Sons Green Hot Cinnamon
This one's just right for the Bigelow crowd: a super-sensory blast of cinnamon that makes the experience of tea sort of secondary to the Christmasy urgency of cinnamon spice. The dark green tea base for this seems a little like an afterthought (indeed, Harney & Sons' website suggests this is simply a lighter alternative to their Black Hot Cinnamon tea, though I'm not sure it needs caffeine or tea at all).
It's not a bad flavor whatsoever—especially if you like Cinnamon Imperials—it just doesn't feel that tea-like. Brewing to a golden liquor with a rippling cinnamon sediment, this tea smells like it will burn a lot, but really it just stings. It's a bit too sweet for us, but there's surely a time and a place, especially if yuletide spices really get you in the mood.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs, and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is bad at keeping up her coffee-world blog at twitchy.org