Foodie Sunday: The Delicate Magic of Aftelier Perfumed Teas
Mandy Aftel is a busy woman – not content with making some of the most sublime artisan fragrances in the world, she branched out with her Chef's Essences to transform the world of food and cocktails, and now she brings us the latest chapter in her creative odyssey with the introduction of a line of scented organic teas. I was very intrigued when I learned about these, because I had stopped drinking coffee several months ago and I was exploring different teas to discover what I liked outside of my usual comfort zone of Earl Grey, Yorkshire style and Jasmine black teas, with occasional forays into green teas, flavored or not. I have always loved tea, but in recent years I became a coffee drinker – after all, I live in Oregon, where it's practically the law to drink lattes! For various reasons, I decided to make the switch when I was facing some health challenges, and it was made easier by my discovery of some new types of tea. One of my favorites now is Chai style black tea, with Stash® Double Spice Chai being my morning beverage of choice so far; with unsweetened almond or soy milk added, it is a comforting cup on a chilly day. I was really interested in the ideas of a green tea chai, so I was eager to try Mandy's new Matcha Chai.
The first of the new trio I tested was the organic Rose Ginger Oolong. I am especially fond of the subtly smoky Oolong style, but it had been some time since I had kept it in my revolving selection of teas. This tea is simply exquisite and ideal for a lover of all things rose like me, a perfect balance of spicy ginger and heady Turkish rose. Mandy recommended re-steeping the leaves to see how the flavor changed; this made the rose more prominent the second time around, and it was delightful. The fragrance still allows for the Oolong character of the tea to shine through, and it is just perfect in that regard. I want this for one of my summer staples.
Next up was the very unusual Frankincense GABA Oolong, featuring an ingredient that is associated almost exclusively with perfumery and not for consumption, but if I had any doubts about it as a flavoring, they evaporated as soon as I tasted this marvelously resinous tea. Smooth as silk and divinely scented, it was a real revelation. Re-steeping this one made it even smoother, like drinking perfumed velvet. I am a convert! The GABA refers to a naturally occurring amino acid that may assist in elevating one's mood and enhancing relaxation. It is not a tea for a hurried morning; it deserves to be savored slowly to capture every last fragrant sensation. This and a cozy lap robe are the ideal ingredients for a winter's evening or a lazy afternoon.
What was really interesting about the two Oolongs was how even after being used twice, the leaves still retain their fragrance; I dried them out and saved them, and they could easily be used in a sachet or potpourri, and I could even make tea with them again.
I saved the Matcha Chai for last. Japanese matcha is the best quality green tea – instead of steeping the leaves, they are pulverized so the entire leaf is consumed, so drinking it supplies a much higher dose of the antioxidants for which green tea is famous. I was afraid that I would mess it up since I don't have the “official” matcha making tools such as a bamboo whisk, but no worries, it mixed into the water just fine. This very high grade of matcha, which is the kind used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, is as fine as face powder and blends instantly. I was not sure how strong to make it, so I made one very weak cup and one very strong one, then mixed and added more hot water as needed until I found the perfect “Goldilocks” balance. When the brew is more delicate, the chai flavors come to the fore, while in a stronger concentration the bracing flavor of the tea itself is more prominent. I had not drunk matcha tea for a long time, although I have often had other food items flavored with it, and this is exponentially better than any I have ever tasted. The tea leaves are much less astringent than you might expect and have an almost oceanic character, like breathing fresh sea air, and I enjoyed that just as much as I did the aroma and taste of the chai spices. I tested the Matcha Chai on a day when I had the time to experiment and enjoy it slowly. It does have a different effect on me than regular tea, and I think it packs more of a caffeine punch than drinking ordinary green tea, because it really gave me an energy boost, and the amount I consumed was actually quite small. I am now convinced that I need to add Matcha to my mornings, for reasons of both health and pleasure, and I can't think of a better way to do it than with this wonderful version of the ultimate in green tea. I can only hope that more flavors of matcha tea will be forthcoming from Aftelier Perfumes.
Image credit: Woman performing a tea ceremony via The Unstuck Diaries at deletetheweb.com, original source unknown.
Disclosure: I received the tea samples for testing directly from Aftelier Perfumes.