Friday, May 12, 2017

Lupicia Tea Part II

More Lupicia Tea hoards, both from Tokyo as well as from the Lupicia USA online store. J. and I "discovered" a few new favorites in the spring of 2016, and thank goodness the USA online store does carry many of these. I'd be upset if they didn't!

- Ripe Mango Oolong: mango and oolong? Yes, please! A juicy oolong fragrant with mango flavor. I bought some for my mum and sister when I got home and they love it too. Funny enough, I got hubby and my brother to try it and they both grimaced upon the first sip--it tasted like perfumed water to them. To be fair, both hubby and my brother have very specific tastes for tea. Hubby only drinks milk oolongs (金萱, Jinxuan oolong) and jasmine green teas. My brother only drinks classics like Darjeeling and blends like English Breakfast and Afternoon Teas. He does make one exception for Earl Greys, but only classic Earl Grey. Either way, I'm ignoring them both and will continue to hoard this mango oolong :P

- Grapefruit Green: citrus fruits and green tea make a great pair! My favorite is yuzu, but grapefruit is yummy too. This particular blend has just the right amount of citrus without turning the whole thing sharp, tart, or bitter, which is hard to do with a tart, sharp, and sometimes bitter citrus fruit like grapefruit!

- Tokio: green tea and berries. Interestingly enough, I taste apple in this tea also, and I think this is a better blend than the below Apple & Berry.

- Apple & Berry: supposedly like Tokio but with added apple flavor. However, the apple flavor turns out to be so weak I have a hard time differentiate this with Tokio anyway :( Tokio is the better blend.

- El Nino: chocolate black tea = guilt-free dessert. That said, I've had some terrible chocolate black teas which boggles my mind. How on earth does anyone screw up chocolate black tea? Thankfully, this blend is rather yummy. The chocolate flavor is rich but isn't artificial.

- Alphonso Mango: a mango black tea and one of the few Lupicia teas that disappoints me :( I don't get it. They do the mango oolong so well, how can the mango flavor tastes so fake when paired with black tea here? Will not repurchase.

- Adagio: after my successful venture with (and subsequent hoarding of) the green rooibos blend Jardin Sauvage, I took another chance with this second green rooibos, a blend of lemongrass and grapefruit. Again no cough syrup, dry or brewed, only yummy herbal tea. Gave some to J. to try and she likes it too. Very interesting. Could it be my theory was correct and it was the fermentation/oxidation in the red rooibos that chases me away with its strong cough syrup stink?

- Caramel & Rum: so I to test my theory with this blend of red rooibos and honeybush. Yeah, yeah, excuses :P I can still discern a faint cough syrup here but it's tolerable and I'm able to enjoy this tea without cringing or gagging. It's good straight or with milk and sugar. Will probably move on though.

Summer in Japan means mugicha everywhere. I love mugicha by itself and have never thought it could be flavored. Now that I think about it, why the hell not, right? So when I spotted these flavored mugicha teabags at the Lupicia Ginza store, I bought one each of Anzu, Pineapple, and Ume Mugicha to try.

- Anzu, Pineapple, and Ume Mugicha: now I prefer my mugicha cold so I haven't tried brewing any of these hot. What I do is drop one tea bag into a small pitcher and cold brew it for 2-3 hours in the fridge. Amazingly enough, all three are delicious and I honestly can't pick one over the other. I expected to like anzu and sure enough I do, but pineapple pleasantly surprised me too. Ume is always special, and here it lends its unique flavor to mugicha and what I get is a fantastic tea. Too bad these were seasonal and I couldn't hoard more of them :(

Anyway, upon coming home out of Japan-longing I did some more damage at the Lupicia USA online store ^.^"

This tea scoop is made of sakura tree bark. Neat huh?

This was a summer item on clearance, a box of 10 ice teas in tea bags. So I bought a box each for mum-in-law, aunt-in-law, sis-in-law, and myself (my mum prefer traditional Asian teas like oolongs and green teas so she didn't care for these flavored ones). I already have the loose leaf version of about half of these teas, but still to my surprise my box of 10 disappeared rather quickly, because tea bags are a great convenience at the weekend baby and parenting classes ^.^

- Mimosa: what do you do when you can't have all the mimosas you want? You drink mimosa tea, of course!

- Miss Jasmin: the flavor of this tea is even milder than the Finest Jasmine Pearls from Brewing Market and I prefer it over the pearls. Too bad it was also a seasonal item and no longer available.

Then came the new year and I was excited to see Lupicia offering Lucky Bags (fukubukuro) on the USA online store also! There were 2 versions, a $30 bag with 9 items and a $50 bag with 15 items. I went for the $30 bag because I didn't like several of the teas listed for the $50 bag.

Contents for the $30 bag: Soleil Levant, Golden Osmanthus, Matcha Black Soy Bean Rice Tea, Paradise Green, Ripe Mango Oolong, Assam Calcutta Auction, Darjeeling The First Flush, Cookie, and Earl Grey.

- Soleil Levant: woah, this tea is really strongly scented with grape flavor that drowns out any citrus that comes after. Will not repurchase.

- Golden Osmanthus: I also love osmanthus oolongs and split this bag with my mum so she could try it. Well, she finished her half in a few weeks!

- Matcha Black Soy Bean Rice Tea: this is a blend of gen-matcha with added roasted black soy bean, which gives it a nuttier taste in addition to the toasted brown rice. Very nice. I wouldn't have bought it at the store but I'm glad I got to try it!

- Paradise Green and Ripe Mango Oolong: when I said I probably won't repurchase Paradise Green, I totally lied. It grew on me and I'm keeping this extra bag ^.^ The Ripe Mango Oolong went to my mum because I already have extras.

- Assam Calcutta Auction and Darjeeling The First Flush: both went to my brother who loves them!

- Cookie: not sure how anyone can scent anything with "an image" of something but okay :P Semantics aside, this is actually a delicious dessert tea, especially with milk and sugar and pairs well with chocolate or cookies ^.^ I wouldn't have thought to buy it but I'm happy it was included in the Lucky Bag!

- Earl Grey: I haven't tried an Earl Grey from Lupicia yet, and my brother didn't care for this because he's partial to Ahmad Tea's blend of Earl Grey (and English Breakfast too for that matter). So I kept it and occasionally spice it up with a cardamom seed, sometimes with a small piece of fresh ginger too (my friend A. taught me this, apparently this is a popular way to drink Earl Greys in her hometown Baghdad).

Then came the spring and Lupicia was all about matcha and strawberries, so of course I had to try some Matcha Au Lait Caramel, Matcha Au Lait Strawberry, Strawberry (black tea), Tochiotome Green Tea, and Jasmin Mandarin Special Grade.

- Matcha Au Lait Caramel and Matcha Au Lait Strawberry: these are instant matcha milk powders. Honestly, they were impulse buys because I knew better than buying such mixes. I'd learned my lesson the hard way, you see, having bought one at a Japanese grocery in Tokyo only to find out how freakin' sweet it was. But thankfully Lupicia didn't go all out with the sugar and these are only mildly sweetened. Phew.

That said, they both were a rip-off--$8 for each 50g bag! We're not talking about pure matcha powder but a mix of matcha powder, milk powder, sugar, flavor, etc. In comparison, on Amazon a 200g bag of Japanese imported matcha milk powder goes for $10, and probably half that if you live hear a Japanese grocery store (lucky you!). How much of the powder do you need for a cup of matcha latte? More or less 17g, no really, I did need to use 1/3 a bag to make one cup of matcha latte, so yes I paid $8 for about 3 cups per bag. Ouch. 

This leads one to wonder if the taste commensurate with the cost. Sadly, no :( I discerned zero caramel from the Matcha Au Lait Caramel and only the faintest hint of strawberry from the Matcha Au Lait Strawberry. So no, I don't recommend either of these. Get your 200g from Amazon or your local Japanese grocery store, or better yet, go for pure matcha powder, add fresh milk and whatever other flavor you wish.

- Strawberry: another disappointment from Lupicia. The strawberry flavor in this black tea is so artificial it makes the tea tastes kind of disgusting. Definitely won't repurchase.

- Tochiotome Green Tea: finally, a clear winner from this batch. Very fragrant and juicy strawberry green tea, even better than the Strawberry Green Tea from Kusmi Tea Paris, no joke! Very pleased with this, but of course it was seasonal and no longer available. Argh!

- Jasmin Mandarin Special Grade: yet more disappointment :( the jasmine flavor in this green tea is just too strong, nothing like the delicate Miss Jasmin above. Not only the jasmine overwhelms what little "mandarin" that's in this tea, it turns the whole thing bitter. Even worse is that there's a strange rubbery odor that doesn't go away even after the tea is brewed. The oddest part is that I had this same tea in tea bag form (from the Ice Tea Selection box above!) but thought it was fine. Perhaps the loose leaf version is somehow stronger? Either way, I will not repurchase.

See my previous Lupicia Tea post.

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