Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Review: Numi's Gunpowder Green

This blog, Cap & Kettle, began it's history of squirming and fits with a series of low-end reviews, and by that I am alluding both to the quality of the writing and the tea. The teas were so called "box teas", taken from sterile but dusty grocery store shelves, and the writing was just doggerel. Still is. I got a lot of criticism for these reviews. After all, why would anybody want to read a review of a bad tea? And a tea that everybody already knows is bad? I don't disagree that one wouldn't need Edgar Cayce's (dubious) preternatural powers to predict that old, stale and ground tea leaves won't make for much of a cup. But this is the kind of tea that the unwashed masses take to. I would know, having been part of that pre-loose leaf combine not too long ago. However, I want to bridge the gap between these pedestrian pouches and the fine leaf one can buy from online specialty stores. I wanted to find a tea somewhere between the vulgar line of Stash teas and the fiscal brutality of premium Gyokuro. And that bridge, actually, wasn't hard to find robbing me of a long and glorious tea journey. Big grocery stores, eager to dip into the deep pockets of our new American yuppie culture who balk at many of the mass produced teas, have put out new lines of gourmet tea to satisfy picky palates. I joined this very community of counter-counter-counter-culture for a spell, right at the center of that mediative bridge, to review a tea from Numi: the Gunpowder Green. Not quite fancy loose leaf, but also not a terrible, tasteless tea.

2007-12-25NumiGunpowder0244.jpg


The marketers with Numi have done their research, describing all the fine things a vaguely aware consumer might find rewarding in green tea.

Our whole leaf Temple of Heaven - Gunpowder Green Tea is gently steamed within hours of being plucked, then skillfully hand rolled into small tight pearls. This process preserves its delicate flavor and aroma far longer than other green teas. Steeped in hot water, the leaves unfurl, releasing a well-rounded, full-bodied flavor. Rich in fluoride, calcium, and anti-oxidants - and with very little caffeine - this is a perfect choice to greet the evening.


The big deal here is, instead of getting tea leaves massacred at the hand of an eager knife wielder, Numi is bagging up actual, rolled leaves. This is an immense step for most new tea drinkers and shouldn't be taken lightly.

Leaf & Liquor: This is a bagged tea, which usually makes the actual leaf a moot point. But as noted above, while it is bagged it is also whole. Also, while the leaves might suffer some good thriller chopping and hacking, like a good mystery/horror victim, it is important to note that the tea bag construction is a little different from normal. Instead of a single pouch of tea, Numi uses a "double" pouch. Think of a very thin faced man with bulging jowels and you'll have a good idea of what the tea bag looks like. Once brewed, the tea takes on a dark, woody brown color with a touch of green olive to keep fidelity to the "green" in green tea. It is fairly clear, too, but the depth gradient takes a steep decline into the dark and darker near the bottom of the mug.

Raw & Steeped Aroma: For those who have had a loose leaf gunpowder tea before, the Numi Gunpowder smells very similar to its virgin loose leaf form. For those who have not had a Gunpowder tea before, this will be a challenge. The fragrance is mostly true to orthodox gunpowder leaf, which means it has a seaweed, almost nori pungency, should you ever had the fortune of munching on whole nori sheets. It keeps a medium grassy quality, pronounced but not pouncing, with a strange, deep sweetness that reminds me of barbeque sauce. Please, please, please, don't think this makes the Numi Gunpowder Green oozing or cloying. It doesn't mean you can paint a condensed version of the tea onto a rack of ribs. It just means that the sweeter side is a deep, honey and hickory kind of sweetness and still very faint.

Flavor & Palate: The Numi Gunpowder Green's taste is a bit more transluscent than the aroma, especially at the beginning of the sip where it has a cheap white tea or oolong tea flavor. From there it slowly grows into its full-fledged gunpowder flavor - its potential. A sip and a slurp bring back the seaweed taste, a la nori, or better yet, soupy wakame, but in the flavor this sea grassy quality is far drier and more aloof than in the aroma. It carries through the whole sip with a good, wet aftertaste which, for some reason, seems mossy and moist, yet also a mite of dry astringency that commands another soothing sip.

For the price and the place, the Gunpowder Green is a solid, sturdy and dark green tea; Chinese style, without all the Japanese sod flavors that can be so offputting to newcomers. And, I think, easily the best offering from Numi available.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wait until you try their Decaf Black Vanilla or Monkey King Jasmine

Anonymous said...

We, here at Numi Organic Tea were delighted to read your review on our Gunpowder Green tea! We would love to offer you the chance to receive samples of our other teas.
If you choose to accept our offer for samples, please send us an address by sending an email to denise@numitea.com. Thank you and Happy Drinking!

Dr.Gray said...

I am not a big fan of tea bags. For serious tea drinkers its loose leaf tea all the way.

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