Friday, May 30, 2008

Ginseng Oolong

Pictured above are the leaves of a ginseng oolong after one rinse and one brewing cycle. I was too eager to drink this tea to capture the leaf in its most recognizable form, which is dry. In that state, the shape of the rolled leaves combined with the dusting of powdered ginseng root give the tea a nuggety, Raisinet like appearance.

By now you may have noticed my disdain for flavored teas. It's proportional to my love of teas that magically happen to taste like other things, like Peachy Dan Cong (peaches), Gyokuro (roasted chicken), and Puehr (a cave). Deceptive flavors coaxed from nothing but camellia sinensis are still the most impressive to me, but there is a place for quality additions, both historically and as a matter of taste. This tea is such a one.

The slightly sweet, earthy flavor of the ginseng blends perfectly with the mineral and floral tones of the oolong. The two work together as in a dance, complimenting each other with neither taking the lead. Compare this to the modern flavored teas I so loathe. You'll find them increasingly at places like Teavanna, now in a mall near you, where you'll taste blends such as the "cookie-like" Almond Biscotti Black Tea.

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Kate / Kajal said...

Aaron , i really like how u experiment with s many different tea, but i have to tell you i 'm not very fond of ginseng :( just doesnt work for me inspite of all its wonderful properties.

Aaron Kagan said...


I know what you mean. But this tea is one of the few forms I really enjoy ginseng in, so you might too.

My dad likes the ginseng chewing gum available at some health food stores, though he admits that it tastes like "dirt." I'll stick with the tea.

Anonymous said...

I bought some tea like this in NYC awhile ago at TSalon but the employees there were at a loss as to how it should be brewed and since it looks so odd, I was also at a loss. Can you share your brewing method? By the way, I look at your blog regularly, find it entertaining, enlightening and your photography is great. Thanks.

Aaron Kagan said...


Sorry to not get back to you until now - I thought I had but apparently my response didn't go through.

I can't say that this is the perfect brewing technique, but I've been perfectly happy with it:

1. Steep the leaves for 30 seconds in near boiling water.

2. Discard that brewing (or use it to heat up your cup).

3. Steep the same leaves again for another 30 seconds. Strain. Enjoy!

4. Re-use your leaves until they lose their kick, but you may be pleasantly surprised at how the flavor changes with different brewings.

5. Compost your leaves. They're as good for the ground as they are for you.

Note: The 30 second rule isn't hard and fast, so if it's too weak, go longer or hotter, or too strong, shorter and farther from boiling. Let me know how it works out for you.

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