Thursday, April 23, 2009

Numi RTD Puerh Reviews

Numi recently launched a line of puerh (also spelled pu-erh, pu'er or puer) teabags in controversial flavors like "Chocolate Puerh." This was just crazy enough that I knew it would be either: a) the worst thing I have ever tasted, or b) actually really good for a flavored tea. Thankfully, Numi knew to put in extra effort when taking risks and made Chocolate Puerh (a potential nightmare in liquid form) into a balanced, rich tea in which the flavors (vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon) mimic the tea itself's naturally rich and chocolaty taste. Now, they are launching a line of RTD (ready-to-drink -- bottled/canned) puerh teas. Will these widen our perceptions of puerh and draw new audiences deeper into the world of tea types? Or will they taste like cotton candy that has been used to clean out a garbage can? Let's find out!

"Earl Grey Puerh Black Tea" -- Earl Grey is the starter tea of starter teas, the one tea offered in most Western "one-tea-only" establishments and (occasionally) a decent cuppa. The packaging on this tea is technically correct (It is a black puerh, yes.), but also slightly misleading to noobs (Those looking for a regular black Earl Grey are sipping from the wrong bottle with this one.). That said, it isn't a far cry from what you'd expect from any other "lightly," "barely" or "other-word-meaning-not-absurdly-and-overpoweringly" sweetened Earl Grey RTD. Citrus notes dominate, followed by tannin and honey. (To be clear -- honey notes. It actually contains agave and evaporated cane juice, but no honey.) The citrus notes are in the form of not only aged Earl Grey tea (which has traditional bergamot essence), but also brewed orange peel and lemon myrtle, creating a more nuanced taste than your usual Earl Grey. I'm not a big fan of the aftertaste, but otherwise I am very impressed with this one!

"Moroccan Mint Puerh Green Tea" -- Whoa! EXTREME minty blast like you can only experience in a chewing gum commercial! I love mint in moderation, but this is just out of control. Hands down, my least favorite of the bunch.

"Magnolia Jasmine Puerh Green Tea" -- More magnolia than jasmine, more green than puerh. As someone who was raised in the South, the fragrance of magnolia blossoms holds a special place in my heart. The taste... not so much. To me, magnolia has a bitter taste, kind of like jasmine green steeped in overly hot water. I'm told that this is because I'm a super-taster. Perhaps that is true, but let's just say that this is NOT my new favorite RTD. If you try it, let me know if you get the "sweet floral taste" the label touts.

"Mango Passion Puerh Black Tea" -- When you open this bottle, you are immediately hit with the fragrance of sweet, ripe mangoes, followed by the tang of passionfruit. The tea reveals itself later in the flavor. This is a great intro tea or a tea for a hot day. The label says it is a "freshly brewed white tea and puerh black tea blend," but the ingredients list a black puerh without any other brews. If the latter is correct, Mango Passion and Moroccan Mint are the only two teas in the line with only one tea type used. The rest have several types included. For this reason, the tea profile is simple, leaving the fruit profile to dominate. Thumbs up!

"Peach Nectar Puerh Green Tea" -- White tea, osmanthus, peach puree... this is a fruity-sweet treat. Along with Mango Passion and Moroccan Mint, it's the sweetest of the bunch, but it's not as sweet as many peach teas and the green puerh cuts the stickiness I associate with peach brews. It's refreshing and smooth -- perfect for Summer. I just wish I didn't spill it all over myself while opening the bottle. (This was an ongoing problem. At first, I thought it was me. Now, I think it's the pop-top. Don't open this over your keyboards, people!)

All this said, I'd like to point back to an article I wrote about a year ago predicting the rise of more diverse RTD tea types with more diverse sweeteners. Not that I was the only person saying this, but... yeah, I totally called it. :P

Bonus Review -- Numi's "Honey Lemon Rooibos Teasan" -- First off, what's up with "teasan?" Haven't we confused tea noobs enough with the whole "it's not a tea, it's a tisane/infusion/botanical" thing? (And, for the record, many "infusions" are actually NOT infusions. If they need to be boiled, they're actually "decoctions." The deeper you go, the more complex it gets...) Now we're saying it's a "teasan?" I'm a respected professional in the tea industry and even I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. (It's a tisane with tea-like properties? No... It's a blend of a tea and tisane? No...) Moving on, this one is not kidding about the "Honey" part. It has more honeybush (rooibos' cousin) than rooibos, which gives it a naturally honeyed taste (hence the name). It's also "Barely Sweetened" (No...) with honey and agave. As you may have guessed, this is a VERY sweet brew. I'd recommend it for people who love Southern-sweet iced tea, but want to skip the caffeine.

1 comment:

VeeTea said...

My hubby and his mama love the mint blend. They said it's very refreshing and perfect for summer. Go figure!