Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Review: Adagio's Raspberry Green

My home state is feeling the first inklings of Spring, and with those spasms of good weather and green shoots comes a necessary change in attitude, decor, activity and above all, palate. Seasonal foods are being swapped around, replacing the sturdier edible ballast of winter stews and soups with a lighter springtime fare. If chefs and gourmets are making the change, why shouldn't the tea drinker? Yesterday a brisk walk outside, (all the better to soak in the fine weather) commanded a matching cup of light, springy and verdant tea. I rolled up my sleeve, shoved my arm deep into my overflowing basket of tea goods and pulled out a small tin of Adagio's Raspberry Green. Perfect! 2008-03-03AdagioRaspberryGreen0390.jpgThe suitability of green tea to a greening spring was obvious, but the raspberry was the joie de vie touch. Although raspberry's are traditionally a mid-summer harvest (Salute Wikipedia!) my childhood raspberry fix was always had in the spring, perhaps because of my local grocer's tendency to put them on sale at that time. Whatever the reason, my memory decidedly fixes raspberry to spring. Thus, the combination of green tea and raspberries couldn't be more appropriate for a light and dancing tea to greet a sleepy, yawning summer en route.

Adagio, the company that distributes this tea, is curiously succinct about it. The "Story Tab" gives a quick run down of raspberry's putative health benefits, while the basic description cuts short with a simple "Raspberries are not berries, but still yummy, especially with green tea.". Here it is in full -

"The moniker 'berry' is actually misleading, for the raspberry is actually a cluster of drupelets around a central core. When picked, the drupelets detach from the core, unlike true berries, which stay attached. However, you're sure to remain attached to our Raspberry Green tea, which combines the sweetly tart flavor of red raspberries and premium green tea from China."

The biggest and most obvious concern when matching any kind of tea with added flavors (especially fruit) is whether the two will co-mingle. For example, I might object to green tea and beets, or green tea with a shot of fondue cheese, but would find the complementary effect between green tea and mikan citrus to be quite lovely. What makes this so is a sense that green tea is something like a fresh vegetable in a salad, with a defining astringency. Often this is smoothed out by drinking a higher quality green. Other times it can be retained and used as a counter-balance to a sweet addition. For example, raspberries. The question is, does the raspberry make a good companion for the green tea as a sweetener, and does it's unique, fruity qualities also fit inside the greater paradigm of green tea as a drink?

Leaf & Liquor: Despite the raw leaf's Christmas coloration of reds and greens, only a drab green diffuses into the beverage; a surly sort of olive oil green with a slight muddy cloudiness. It looks like a fit and hale beverage, but also slightly polluted and murky. Of course there really isn't any oily toxins seeping from the leaves - just an image. It's only a green tea. But the visual play remains less than inspiring. Much easier on the eyes is the raw leaf. Twiggy green tea leaves of variable lengths co-habitate with the occasional rose colored speckle. A head count of raspberry splotches is a bit disappointing, leaving the poor tea drinker despairing over Adagio's stinginess with their raspberry, but not to worry. A sip here and there quickly re-affirms that the rare flash of red-in-green does not correlate to a taste lacking in fruity delicacy

Raw & Steeped Aroma: Full fledged and flowing scents of spring crash out of the cup like cataracts after a thaw. Raspberry, strawberry, creme brulee and fresh scents of a newly mown lawn really lay down the effusive fragrance of spring with a welcome touch of French dessert and dairy richness. Add in the particular smells of a greenhouse and an early summer farmer's market and you've got the very real agrarian/orchard smell of Adagio's Raspberry Green. Lovely a hundred fold, I deign to take a sip for fear of losing a moment from the tea's aroma. I am tethered to it, bound by the overwhelming aromatic allure! It's spring in a cup, and even a twitch of winter interrupting our string of Spring days won't pause the spring induced by a cup of this tea.

Flavor & Palate: The first couple of times I brewed Adagio's Raspberry Green up, I suffered from excess leaf and over-steeping. This made an insipid brew, where the fragile twinkle of raspberry flavor was overrun by mediocre green tea flavors, themselves bland. But a third brew with far less leaf and a disciplined hand ready for the three minute mark (not to mention water that had been cooled off the boil) produced a gentle, sweet and caressing cup of sweet, green tea. Tea drinkers who have long reviled the lawn and leaf bitterness of your standard green tea can rejoice in this tea's raspberry sweet effect. It tames the green tea, then releases its own blend of cherry, strawberry and raspberry into the mix. Thinner and better than a smoothie, this tea is across the board excellence when brewed with caution.

If you haven't reached the stage of orthodox green tea drinking, with the fancy imports and the named Japanese tea ware, then you absolutely must take a cup of this Raspberry Green out on these sleepy spring days. The idea of raspberry in a green tea might offend someone used to the orthodox rigors of chanoyu, but to the drinker adulterated by a flavored bagged tea, this Adagio offering will come as a delightfully welcome shock. My only regret is that I have run out this raspberry green well before spring has finished its seasonal blossoming.

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