I am normally a straight up, straight tea kind of girl. I invite friends over for two to five hour gong-fu sessions, and we’ll drink Sheng Pu’er and Dan Cong Oolong until the cows come home. I also tend to be fairly skeptical of health claims for teas and tisanes, if only because most scientific studies into these questions lack consistency in their methods/controls (loose leaf or bagged? what kind of tea, actually? how old is the tea? etc etc) and, not surprisingly, very widely in their results. Health as a selling point is also very “in” this decade, which I think has made all of us consumers more skeptical of any product that claims to make us live forever and fly.
So why did I pick up this Tulsi mix? Tulsi is Holy Basil, considered “The Queen of Herbs” throughout India. It’s become popular recently for its antioxidants, relaxation, digestion aid, and Ayurvedic properties. A friend of mine has been a Tulsi devotee for years, but I’ve been reluctant to get on board the Tulsi train. I’ve got a box full of pu’er and a closet full of loose leaf tea; what could an herbal give me in complexity that my “real” teas could not? However, family members have been having trouble sleeping and relaxing in the evenings, so I’ve been looking into ingredients for custom herbal blends. Tusli kept coming up in my searches, so I finally took my friend’s advice and looked into Organic India. This Tulsi Mix was on sale in their bulk section (a jaw-dropping $13.20 for one pound!); how could I resist?
I am so happy I finally bought a ticket and took a trip to Tulsi land! When I think of all of the popular non-tea herbal bases I’ve tried so far (rooibos, mate, gyayusa), this is definitely my favorite. I’ve started to call Tulsi the oolong of herbals, because its remarkable complexity has taken me by surprise every time I’ve tried it.
The dry leaves of this mix smell great. Spicy (like allspice or ground cardamom) with hefty doses of citrus. The aroma is intriguingly complex, and though I try to assign names to it, it morphs and continually escapes my attempts to pin it down to specific flavors. It is almost minty, though not quite. After a few seconds of smelling the leaves, I get a woody impression. It is as if orange rinds and baking spices have been stored in an exotic wood chest for a decade or so, and have now been removed. The lingering scent which fills that chest is now coming out of these leaves.
The leaves themselves are a mix of three different kinds of Tulsi: Rama, Vana, and Krishna. As I mentioned before, I have no previous experience with Tulsi, so I can’t comment on how the flavors of each are interacting with each other. Perhaps it is this blended aspect that keeps me from pegging this scent (and flavor) as decidedly one thing of the other. The leaves are small, broken pieces, with a large amount of dust floating up from the bag into my nose.
I brewed this according to Organic India’s recommendations in my Finum tea basket, probably for about five minutes.
Place a tablespoon of Tulsi tea leaves into the tea basket, ball or tea bag, and place in your favorite mug. Bring clean fresh water to boil, and pour boiling water over Tulsi tea leaves in your cup. Cover and let steep for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove tea basket, ball or bag, and enjoy. Use more tea leaves for a stronger flavor and less for a milder flavor, as per your taste.
Luckily, this Tulsi is extremely forgiving and idiot-proof as far as steep-times go. I’ve let the basket sit in my tea pot for an hour as I poured myself more cups, and the taste remained strong and balanced throughout.
The resulting brew is wonderfully complex. I do not know if this is a feature of all Tulsi’s, or if this is due to the blended nature of this Tulsi mix. Whatever the case, I’m really enjoying it! The description of this Tulsi has no tasting notes, and instead focuses on the health benefits of drinking Tulsi. I cannot speak to these benefits (see my skepticism above), and I think it’s a shame that this lovely flavor doesn’t seem to be as highly valued by Organic India as it is by me. Then again, every company has to tailor its image (and descriptions) to their audience, so who am I to say?
Our certified organic Tulsi Tea Mix has been used for centuries to promote immunity and stress resilience, support strength and stamina, and to enhance calm and clarity. We use a tridoshic blend of Rama, Vana, and Krishna Tulsi to create this warming, soothing herbal blend.
* Botanical Name: Ocimum sanctum & gratissimum
* Adaptogenic herb- helps reduce the negative effects of daily stress.
* Part used: Leaves and blossoms.
* Qualities: Fire adaptogen, pungent, mildly heating, sweet.
* Systems: Nervous, digestive, and respiratory.
* Ayurveda: Tridoshic, increases Pitta when taken in excess.
Did my Pitta increase after drinking this? I have no idea. Honestly, I care more about the taste of tea and the experience of drinking it. If it gets me to sit down and relax for twenty minutes and drink several cups of hot water, then that’s good enough of me on the health front. I will have to defer to other ayurvedic experts.
Instead, let me tell you about this wonderful flavor. There are strong citrus notes of orange, orange rind and lemon peel. As the nose of the dry leaves hinted, I also taste (and feel) sparkling mint or spearmint. As my cup cools, the citrus tastes like it is mixed with melon (cantaloupe or honeydew) in a lovely, mellow way. There are also tons of spices going on in here. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the Tulsi were mixed with licorice and fennel. There are also dashes of cinnamon mixed with peppercorns, along with allspice and clove. Despite all of these tastes roaming around, I still feel that the overall flavor is complete and unified. This Tulsi by itself is more interesting, commanding and balanced than many spa blends I’ve come across. It’s like a perfect blend, all in one leaf! I am looking forward to adding this blends to kick them up a notch. Over the past few days, I’ve found myself thinking that this Tulsi would be great thrown in with pu’er, black tea (especially a nice Yunnan Golden Needle), minty chais, spa blends, green teas… really, anything I’ve got would be fun to mix with this.
After finishing a sip, there is a great sweet aftertaste that coats my mouth. There are also bright citrus notes still playing across the middle of my tongue. I feel cleansed and uplifted, but also settled. A minute or so after drinking, there is light feeling of vibration in my mouth, almost as if my palate is being prepped and primed for more drinking. There is no dryness in the back of the throat or any sense of bitterness, which solidifies my impression that this is impossible to over-steep. The texture of the brew while drinking is fairly straightforward. Apart from a sparkling, sweet sensation, there is nothing either remarkable or negative to note.
If there are any shortcomings to this brew, it would be in further steepings. The leaves hold up well to at least three steepings in a large pot, but personally, my favorite part of tea drinking is seeing how tea changes over time and over multiple steepings. This remains consistent, and does not change at all as far as I can tell. For me, this means it’ll be a good every day tea, but I’m not going to become a Tulsi fiend like my friend. For others, I think this will be a strong positive. As I continue drinking and steeping, there is also a cedar note that becomes stronger in the middle of my tongue. When mixed with the citrus notes, there may be some who find this unappealing. However, the impression is not strong and moves away quickly for the other flavors. It also doesn’t make its presence known until after you’ve been drinking for a good half an hour or so.
All in all, I am very pleased to have tried Tulsi, and to have tried this Tulsi in particular. I can wholeheartedly recommend this to herbal blended drinkers and hard-core gong-fu devotees alike. The complexity of flavor will win over the most skeptical snob, and the pleasant taste and easy brewing means it will become a favorite staple for blending and drinking by itself in any household. Delicious on its own, great mixed with anything else you can get your hands on. Try it for yourself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I!