Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
|"I'm not sure exactly what's in it, but Fiesta Fria offers a surprisingly refreshing taste of cirtus and berries."|
In the Quest for the Perfect Iced Tea (QPIT), China Mist’s Mango had a brief and illustrious moment at the top. All of about four and a half hours. Well, I suppose its not necessarily been knocked out of the #1 position, so much as it now is “co-leader” with China Mist’s Fiesta Fria.
This is the tea that was originally missing from my order (replaced with a 2nd box of their “Traditional” Iced Tea). But a quick email to customer service and they popped a box of Fiesta Fria straight into the mail and it arrived here lickety split. (This is the main reason why China Mist is a company I like, even if their teas aren’t quite up to snuff with what I’m looking for in a top-notch brew.)
It has a fruitier flavor to it than the Mango, though its hard to nail down what it is exactly I’m tasting. Some citrus, to be sure, but also some “warmer” tastes in there; maybe the hint of berries or some more exotic fruit. Its a very nice blend, whatever it is. I’m not sure if the tea leaves are any different in this blend (I doubt they are), but for whatever reason it seems a tad bit “crisper” in flavor and texture than their other teas. And in my book, that’s a very good thing.
Again, the point and end-game of QPIT is to find the ultimate iced tea. So in that regard, I can only say this blend once again falls short. Its not as crisp and clean as the teas I fell in love with in California. The flavoring, while quite good, still lacks that certain punch and freshness I’m looking for. But of all the teas tried to date – and granted, there’s not been all that many – this one is at the very least tied with China Mist’s Mango for the #1 position.
Still, its good enough to make it into the “Teas I Like” category. I’m looking forward to a rebrew of this blend in the near future.
Some Thoughts on China Mist Iced Teas
Now that I’ve tried three of China Mist’s flavored iced teas (with a fourth – Passionfruit – currently cooling in the fridge), there’s a few generalizations I feel I can safely make.
#1. China Mist’s tea bags (for both their iced tea and for their regular, hot teabags) are rather flimsy. I’ve yet to bust one open in the actual brew, but I came quite close once. (One of my individual teabags tore away from its string as I was dunking it, leaving a small opening at the top). Its a good idea to be very gentle when squeezing, dunking and removing China Mist tea bags.
#2. The tea leaves themselves are fairly low-grade. I opened up several of the used teabags to inspect them (yes, some folks think I’m odd) and found them to be miniscule “tea shavings,” almost powery in size and texture. This generally doesn’t make for the best brews. This may also explain the “creamy” texture of the tea, as there’s a lot of particulate matter floating around in the liquid.
#3. They brew best with the maximum steeping time. The iced tea boxes recommend 5-7 minutes of steeping. I did 5 minutes for the Prickly Pear – the first tea I tried – and found it to be pretty weak and uninspiring. I’ll probably give it another try with a longer, 7 minute brew, and see if it makes any difference. Both the Mango and Fiesta Fria brews got a full 7 minutes, and I thought both were better-tasting than the first – more robust and just a tad more bitter. This works out in the end, since you dilute it 50/50 with plain water in the end, leaving the final taste just about right.
#4. Refrigerate each brew thoroughly and let it sit for several hours before tasting. As I mentioned in #2, there’s a lot of particulate tea-matter floating around in your brew, no matter how careful you are not to puncture the bag. Some folks probably don’t mind this, but for me at least, this results in a thicker, “creamier” texture to the tea. However I’ve found that this is mitigated to some degree if you allow the brew to cool thoroughly, and to sit for several hours before you actually drink it. This seems to give the particulates some time to settle to the bottom of the jug, so that you’re drinking a cleaner, crisper tea in the end.