|"This had just the right balance of rose and black for a middle-class mouth shower."|
When first viewing the title of this blend, my mind immediately turned to Africa. As a matter of fact, I thought it was an African-grown batch given the “Congou” name. I assumed that sometimes “Congo” was given a “u” by more highbrow types. I’m glad I did some research prior and paid attention to the Culinary Teas website. My guess was way off.
This blend actually hails from China. “Congou” refers to tea leaves that are left unbroken. Black tea cultivated in this manner would be similar in grade to an “FOP” or Flowery Orange Pekoe, as opposed to a BOP or Broken Orange Pekoe. The Culinary Teas site lists this as a FOP-grade black tea hailing from Fujian Province. The Rose Congou blend dates back nearly two thousand years. Rose petals are sprinkled in – not whole, mind you – to give it an aromatic and floral scent/taste.
Floral, it is indeed. The first whiff was like stepping out into a freshly cut garden. However, unlike with other rose/tea blends I’ve tried, this wasn’t overpoweringly botanical. The secret being that instead of whole rose buds – pink or red – the petals were pulverized. They had a pink, flaky consistency that matched the dark, twiny appearance of the tea leaves; not too bold.
Brewing instructions per the website were surprisingly liberal; the recommendation being boiling water poured it 1 tsp of tea leaf per cup. By “cup”, I assumed they meant 8 ounces. One can never be too sure about that. I shrugged and went with my usual; 2 tsp steeping in 16oz of hot water for the recommended time of five minutes. Culinary Teas gave a rough estimate of three-to-seven minutes for steeping, depending on user’s preference for strength.
The infusion brewed to a deep copper. Scent and taste were about on par with each other; a pungently rose-lined, slightly astringent black tea. Not an unpleasant combination, just a little dry on the palate. Aside from that initial lurch of “whoah”, it settled on the tongue nicely and went down smoothly. The aftertaste was quite balanced as well. Rose flavoring, scenting or petals are difficult to balance, same with a lot of floral blends. Too much and it’s imperial bathwater, too little and it’s peasant soup. This had just the right balance of rose and black for a middle-class mouth shower. The gold crown, however, still goes to white tea/rose petal blends, but this is a close silver. If only for the “wake-up” factor.
I will confess that the second steep was lighter, but it was also crisper. While the rose petal flavor was more understated, you got more of a presence from the orange pekoe side. In all, I found it preferable to the deeper first infusion. This probably means that if I were to attempt this again, it would be at a three or four-minute steep the first time ’round. All in all, a favorable tea to wake up to if you want to be “chill” like royalty.
In rush hour traffic to work.
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