Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arrivage : Samovar Pu-Erh Sampler

I've heard great things about Samovar from tea connaisseurs, and decided to treat myself to a tiny Oolong teapot and a sample of their Pu-erh offerings after spending a New Year's afternoon watching several of their online tea seminars.

Whether or not you're inclined to be a Samovar customer, it's worth visiting their video page to watch interviews with a variety of tea culture names and learn more about tea drinking in general, particularly the "Tea Mavericks of America" seminar.

The teapot is even tinier than I expected. If you had an American Girl dollhouse, it could be put on a table inside one of the rooms to look like a full-size teapot. And I can understand where it may not be viewed as the most "masculine" of tea tools, so tea "ruffians" may not appreciate it's features.

But don't be fooled - this little piece of glass is serious teaware. There's room for a single-serving scoop of tea, and when filled with hot water, it's enough to steep and pour a fantastic 3-4 oz. cup of tea. Pour in another serving of hot water, and you've got another fresh steeping of tea. Clearly designed for an individual experience - there's no room for more than you're going to drink at once, so there's no water left behind to over-steep the leaves for a bitter cup.

The built-in coil filter works wonderfully, though as it's not a mesh, you can't expect it to work for small-leaf teas and greens. Clean-up is a simple rinse. I learned the hard way that there's a steam vent in the knob of the lid that will let water through when pouring a steep or rinsing.

the tea:

A generous packet of each of 3 Pu-erh varieties: Blood Orange, Maiden's Ecstasy, and Royal Palace. Enough of each to make multiple single-serve pots with re-steeps. I was able to get 3 individual amounts from each packet, and yesterday I steeped 7 consecutive Oolong potfuls of Maiden's ecstasy, with two more servings left in the packet.

Don't let the price of a sampler pack discourage you - you get more than a simple one-mug teaser, an economical way to enjoy and find out if you like some of the more exotic or expensive teas.

My favorite of the three is Blood Orange simply because it's suprising. It is an earthy, brothy brew with a strong and piquante ginger citrus finish. You literally feel it as much as you taste it.

Maiden's Ecstasy is a sweet and balanced Pu-erh, and I would say it's an example of what a good Pu-erh should be - not overpowered by the aged flavors (earth, moss, wood, etc) so much as enhanced by them. Very drinkable, and one I would recommend for the Pu-erh newbie looking to train their palate.

Royal Palace is Samovar's priciest offering among it's Pu-erhs, and I haven't as of yet brewed a cup, as I'm still enjoying the previous selections. Stay tuned for my future tasting note on Steepster.

Final notes:

Satisfied with my purchase, definitely recommend the Oolong pot (on sale this week on their web site), recommend Blood Orange to the Pu-erh fan looking for a warm, citrusy kick, and the Pu-erh sampler overall to the tea lover who's not yet sure they want to invest in a full purchase, but curious to know what loose Pu-erh can be.

The Samovar Oolong glass teapot w/Blood Orange Pu-Erh tea

Made in Taiwan, coil filter, cooking-grade glass

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