I have mentioned before how much I love Glen Arbor’s Great Lakes Tea & Spice Co. and lament the loss of their Bloomfield Hills kiosk, but it doesn’t seem like I’ve really done a great job of reviewing it. At one time the vendor was being carried by Plum Market and I’ve also found it at Ann Arbor’s own Jefferson Market, but beyond that it’s pretty rare… So rare in fact that their loose leaf prices are easily the highest you’ll find in the state (including Goldfish which is saying something. ^^)
Today I’m drinking the uber-rare and now discontinued Organic Ancient Snow Sprout. It only ever sold in a tiny votive candle-sized 0.6 oz can which retailed something on the order of $21? I can’t recall exactly but it was immense. Ancient Snow Sprout is the most refined of the Great Lakes teas I’ve tried so far and it’s all kinds of wonderful. A Jingmai from the Mangjing forest, Yunnan (the region where Pu-erh production predominates), one might easily mistake it for a common Silver Needle (AKA Bai hao), but Ancient Snow Sprout is actually a green. You might ask how i can tell: Whites are almost always steeped at or below 170 degrees F, while Greens are almost always steeped above. Additionally, Greens tend to have more caffeine and astringency than their White cousins. I don’t know this for a fact, but I believe the Chinese name for Snow Sprout (indicating the exact species) is Saiqing Ya Cha, but i do know it’s organic and fair trade and hand picked from ancient trees… and still completely worth it’s weight in gold. Amazingly, Ancient Snow Sprout smells reminiscent of its name: a lightly sweet herb thicket. With a texture of gritty astringency, and a flavor of subtle tangy sweetness akin to fresh rosemary, Ancient Snow Sprout might possibly be the best produced tea I’ve ever had. So it’s somewhat melancholy that I now don’t have enough left for another brewing after today.
As with a lot of highly refined teas, their vintage tends to be single year unique (sometimes they’ll change the name to suit later year harvests of the same plant but it may not be at all obvious) and one may never encounter the likes again. Although it means that you may not be able to necessarily run out and buy what i just reviewed, hopefully it’ll give you an idea of what the more popular/accessible Rishi version of this tea might be like. Thus, I like to think it lends itself well to blogging. ;)