Saturday, November 6, 2010

Teas from down under and to the right

I've mentioned before my fascination with Portugal — which I'll be getting back to shortly — but my other bucket-list country to visit is New Zealand. No, I was never a huge fan of the "Lord of the Rings" films; the breathtaking New Zealand landscapes Peter Jackson presented on screen helped me suffer through those plodding stories. I'm intrigued by the culture, the laid-back population, the beauty. Now, I'm intrigued by the tea.

This summer, the Chicago Tea Garden became the first U.S. company to offer Zealong, the first Chinese oolong grown in New Zealand. The distant island nation has what seems to be ideal tea-growing climate — mountainous, temperate, relatively unspoiled — so it's a wonder no one thought of trying this there before the 1990s. I finally tried some recently, and it's pretty great. The flavors aren't that complex or showy; what grabs you is the fresh floral aroma and light, clean flavor — a really simple, yellow liquor. I cupped it with food and lost it a bit. On its own, it's a delight, a calm and comforting companion. Bonus: Zealong is grown naturally, no chemicals. Double bonus: It resteeps beautifully, and gets fruitier.

While we're fascinated with that here, Kiwis in the last several weeks have been digging Twinings' latest creation, New Zealand Breakfast Tea. The new blend is the result of a contest in which New Zealanders were asked to create a blend that represented their taste. A fellow named Andrew Fenemor won, and his suggestion was fine-tuned by Twinings for this new offering. Doesn't appear, though, that it's made of tea grown in New Zealand.

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