Friday, February 19, 2016

Mariage Freres

Since moving to Tokyo last August, I really got into Mariage Freres, probably because there's a tea salon and shop in Ginza, conveniently a few metro stops from my neighborhood.

The first time I came into the store though, I got a bit of a sticker shock. Thanks to heavy Japanese import tax, these teas are double their original European retails here, especially if you want your teas in their pretty canisters :(

So I tried going for sets instead, and even then, I think I paid around 4,500JPY for this gift set that includes 50g each of Marco Polo (one of their best-selling!) and Wedding teas, and an adorable tea spoon. The 50g teas are in a half-size canisters.

Marco Polo is a fruity and flowery black tea that can be quite acidic. If your stomach is sensitive, avoid this tea after dinner. The Wedding tea is a Ceylon black, and I like it spiced with a cracked cardamom seed but otherwise it's kind of boring.

I think my favorite thing about that gift set was this adorable spoon, which is sold separately for 2,000JPY.

My next splurge are Wedding Imperial, a chocolate and caramel version of the Wedding tea above, Paris-Ginza, a black tea with red fruits and caramel, and Paris-Tokyo, a Darjeeling with yuzu.

I really like Paris-Ginza and I prefer it over the super acidic Marco Polo above. Paris-Tokyo is particularly strong, and I brew it very lightly, as in pouring the hot water in and removing the tea almost immediately. It's delicious this way and will last for 4+ brews. But brew any longer with the first couple of steepings and it'll be ruined, turning bitter.

The full size versus half size canisters.

So now I have both the Wedding and the Wedding Imperial, with the latter quite sweet to satisfy my raging sweet tooth. I can't go a day without desserts, at least a piece of chocolate, or I'll go batty. So tea with milk and sugar is my daily fallback.

It was a while ago last year when hubby and I dined in at the tea salon, which I'll be brutally honest that it was decent but definitely *not* worth the price. However, we had this delicious tea, The A L'Opera, a green tea with red fruits and vanilla, and it was sooooo good I bought a canister of that on our way out. I gave some to my friend J. and she went out and got herself a can too. Embolden, I returned to get another canister for mum-in-law's bday and boy oh boy, she loved it ^.^ Best green tea she's ever had, she said. I agree it's good stuff, but I'll save the best for last below.

J. and I loiter the tea shop often, and we found a few of these teas from the Heritage Gourmand Collection on sale for 10% off. So I picked up 2 to try, Crepe Earl Grey, an Earl Grey with vanilla, and Macaron, a creamy and fruity black tea. I love both and will probably buy more if they're still on sale (doubt it... -.-"), because they only come in these brightly colored canisters and aren't sold loose. J. particularly love the Crepe Earl Grey and did end up buying a second canister because she went through the first one just like that!

My holiday purchases were hit and miss, a Milky Blue, Mariage Freres' name for the good ol' Milk Oolong, or Jinxuan (金萱), and a Noel Bleu, a blue oolong that's been spiced. 

Hubby and I like the Milk Blue, which is a pretty decent Milk Oolong (not all are made equal, mind you!). But I'm not too fond of the Noel Bleu at all, because not only it's been over-spiced, they also sweetened it with shimmery gold and silver star-shaped sugar pieces! What sacrilege! A sweetened oolong? Yuck! Shimmery sugars in my tea? Double yuck! 

But but but, D., you just said above you put sugar in your tea!

Yes, I did. I do put sugar in my tea, as in beet sugar in my black tea only. Beet sugar is super mild and very low in calorie. It's only slightly sweet and doesn't alter the taste of my tea, a sugar that's truly unobtrusive. I recommend it for coffee too, if you're wondering...  

Another thing about the Noel Bleu that raises my eyebrows: it brews blue! Yes, blue, as in James-Cameron-Avatar blue! I'll take a photo the next time brew it, which is kind of unlikely at this point because I rarely reach for it. But I kid you not, it's quite literally blue.

Picked up another tea scoop along with my oolong purchase as well. Love these adorable scoops and will start collecting them too ^.^

And as promised, I saved the best for last. In my humble opinion, this is some of the best green tea I've ever tasted, this Paris-Kyoto, a green tea with yuzu and just a touch of vanilla to lend a creamy taste. OMG. It's silky smooth and fragrant with yuzu, just delicious! Stuff ambrosia is made of, I tell you! The problem? It's 3,500JPY for 90g (~3oz.) of tea, especially with that cheesy and cheap-looking packaging too. Ouch. But I will bite the bullet and get a second canister, because I just love it that much. May be I'll put it in a shrine and worship it.


kuri said...

Fortunately I'm not yet able to appreciate flavored teas. Maybe I brew them too long? I stick to genmai, houjicha, chrysanthemum tea, and now soba tea. Also had this ginger oolong from HK that I loved. But love your descriptions!

D. said...

Ah yes, many teas, especially black and/or flavored, will turn bitter if brewed for too long. I've always brewed my teas very lightly, especially black and oolong teas, as in pour in hot water and remove the tea leaves right away or within 30 seconds. I can taste the teas better this way.

Regardless, it's actually bad to brew your teas for too long--too much tannin will affect bone health.


kuri said...

Right away or 30 seconds? I'll keep that in mind.
Oh wow, didn't know that.

D. said...

Well, in the first 1-2 steeping I'll remove the tea within the first 5-10 seconds, sometimes immediately if I'm brewing strong black tea (most traditionals and some flavored's, etc.), strong green tea (konacha, etc.), or tightly rolled oolong teas (those that look like "balls").

With tightly rolled oolongs, you'd have to do a "rinse" first to open up the tea leaves. This means you pour in hot water, remove the tea leaves immediately, and discard that "rinse water". Then the 2nd brew is your actual "first brew," and I'd steep for 5-10 seconds. Tightly rolled oolongs will last for up to 6-7 brews, with higher quality oolongs "morphing" flavors with later brews (going from buttery to flowery, etc.). These later brews you can steep up to 3 minutes.

Sorry that was a really long answer ^.^"


kuri said...

Thanks! That's super helpful.
I'll try that!

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