Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lupicia Tea

So...living in Japan for the third time means it's time to get into a Japanese-brand tea, as in Lupicia Tea. Ha. I like Nihoncha (Japanese tea, 日本茶) and other traditional teas too, but most of the time I prefer my milk and sugar with tea. Oh woops, did I just say that out loud?

I've known of Lupicia for a long time. When hubby and I were in Yokohama back in 2010, there was a branch in the Yokohama Station we used to walk by all the time. I stopped by a few times back then but was unwilling to try new things. When we were living in San Francisco, there was even a branch downtown (unfortunately closed now, according to the official Lupicia USA online store...) but I didn't care much for it back then either. Now our nearest location is on the B2 floor of the Ginza Printemps.

Below's my collection so far, which I'm afraid will only grow given the seasonal releases. I started out with these 6 tins--I hate that they're round, by the way, quite difficult to store, but this is my only complaint when it comes to Lupicia.

Rose Royal is a black tea with strawberry and sparkling wine. After having the delicious strawberry and champagne tea from the afternoon tea session at the Ritz Carlton, J. and I searched high and low for a dupe. This Rose Royal reminds us of that, though sparkling wine isn't champagne so this is not quite there but still better than nothing.

Wedding is another black tea with flowers and fruits, which is interesting because the Wedding tea from Mariage Freres is a simple Ceylon black, and their Wedding Imperial has chocolate and caramel. I much prefer Lupicia's version to Mariage Freres.

Strawberry & Vanilla is a green tea just as its name described and it's delicious! I absolutely love this, though not as much as J. does because she bought 100g of it and a few more refills afterwards. I'll definitely repurchase this.

Momo Oolong Super Grade is a peach oolong and I love it! Will repurchase again and again.

Mt. Ali Milky Gold is another name for hubby's favorite oolong, the Jinxuan (金萱) or Milk Oolong. This one from Lupicia is not flavored, as in nothing was added to enhance is the milky fragrance. Very good, though unfortunately it was a seasonal release and no longer available.

Kotobuki is an oolong with mirabelle plums. I've no idea what mirabelle plums taste like but this tea, my goodness, this tea just rocks my world. Wow. Its fragrance is sweet and silky, and its taste smooth, very much like drinking a sweet satin. Among my top favorite teas, this one!

I love all the 6 teas in my first purchase, which took me right back to the store for more. This time, I bought some accessories too and got a freebie magnet. 

There are 2 available versions, silver and gold. I prefer silver, of course. How adorable are they? And made in Japan!

Sakuranbo is a black tea with Japanese cherry fruits, also one of Lupicia's best selling teas. It's not quite the cherries we're used to from the supermarket. The fragrance is sharper and more acidic, which makes this tea more acidic. So this wasn't my favorite tea from Lupicia and I won't repurchase, but I did go back for the green tea version which I do like a lot better (see below).

Pineapple Oolong is as its name, so good hot or cold! The pineapple flavor doesn't overwhelm the tea. Another one to add to my favorite list and repurchase again and again.

Paradise Green is a green tea with tropical fruits and flowers. Very good, but I already have a few versions of this from different brands, so this wasn't new to me and I probably won't repurchase.

Of course I went back for the third time this past spring, picking up a non-caffeinated herbal with rooibos and a sakura cha.

The Sakura Cha is interesting. It's literally sakura blossoms pickled in plum vinegar and salt and you just drink it with boiled water. The trick is figuring out how much hot water to use. The first time I tried 1 blossom in a medium sized tea cup and it was too salty. So I tried 1 blossom in a bigger mug instead and that was much much better.

Got this adorable tea infuser ball with Lupicia's logo ^.^

So I really took a chance with Jardin Sauvage, a green rooibos with mangos and citrus fruits. Why? Because I actually can't stand rooibos teas. I've tried a great many, but no matter how delicately or strongly flavored they are, I only smell and taste one thing: cough syrup. In fact, I don't even need to brew them to smell the cough syrup. It's that bad! But this tea? No cough syrup dry, and no cough syrup after brewing. Only the delicious blend of mango and citrus. Amazing!

I think I know why too: because it's green rooibos, non-fermented/unoxidized, which means a lighter flavor than its red fermented/oxidized self. This is just conjecture of course. All the rooibos I've tried in the past have been red and this is the first green, so I'll have to try more green and see. In the meantime, this has become one of my top herbals and I'll hoard it if I could.

Queen's Muscat Oolong has a strong and overwhelmingly sweet muscat fragrance when dry, but after brewing it mellows out a lot and is quite delicious. I'm glad I gave it a chance because I'll definitely repurchase.

This Sakuranbo Green is a recent purchase. Well, recent as in April. It's actually leaps and bounds better than the black tea version because it's not acidic at all and the sakuranbo flavor complements the green tea rather well. Will repurchase.

These are freebie magnets which I can't use right now. Oddly enough, none of the kitchen appliance in my Tokyo apartment has a metal surface, which means there's nothing to stick to :(

After some extensive trial as shown above, and having bought hundreds of teas from dozens of other brands, vendors, and suppliers (yes, I'm nuts, but you already know that...), I can confidently say Lupicia Tea has some of the best stuff out there. The quality of the tea leaves is amazing for the price, which mind you is a fraction of the retail from Mariage Freres, Kusmi Tea, Fortnum & Mason, Janat Tea, Betjeman & Barton, Harney & Sons, etc. Sure, blame the price difference on domestic versus heavily-taxed import, but the high price doesn't always mean high quality. Of course there's a spectrum ranging from gimmicky to excellent teas, but my humble opinion is that Lupicia's quality is better in general, much so that I've stopped buying tea elsewhere and only buy from Lupicia now.

Did I mention the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo uses Lupicia teas with their afternoon tea service? Yes, they do! Either way, I'm so, so, so glad there's an online store for the US of A. Even better news is that the prices are pretty comparable without much markup, and they carry a good amount of what the Japanese stores do with few exceptions, including special promotions like the Lucky Bags, etc.


kuri said...

Fun! I'll look for kotobuki!

D. said...

Hi kuri,

Yes, I really recommend it! Although I should note that one of my friends tasted it and thought it was too sweet (the fragrance, that is), not in a sugary or fruity sweet, but more like a flowery powder sweet.


kuri said...

Now I'm curious! I don't think I've experienced a tea that smelled too sweet, only perfumes, haha

D. said...

and I'm even more curious to know how you'd like it ^.^

This tea's fragrance is nowhere strong enough to be perfume-sweet, but if it were a perfume, I'd totally wear it!

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