So this is pretty exciting and novel and expensive and a bunch of other superlatives.
Has Bean have persuaded a farm in Bolivia to painstakingly pick the coffee flowers that grow just after a harvest and send some over for retail purposes. Apparently on the farm they smell amazing and a lot of this translates to tea when brewed up. (We say tea, but I know the tea people will be upset if I keep using that word so let’s say infusion from now on).
From the Has Bean site
The flowering process begins after a coffee harvest, when there’s normally a period of dry weather. During this time the coffee plant gets a little stressed because of the lack of water. Then the rainy season comes, which sparks the coffee plant into creating little blossom flowers. These flowers have one of the most amazing and powerful smells I have ever experienced (if you could make an aftershave of it then it’d be my smell of choice), and the appearance of these flowers marks the start of the process of the coffee plant creating its cherries for our lovely coffee beverages.
I’m not sure I’d like to smell like a tea on a big night out, but each to their own – it’s nice to try something different once in a while.
I bought the entire pack which contained flowers from five different varietals (Bourbon, Geisha, Cepac, Caturra, and Java) – I’ve never even heard of Cepac and Googling doesn’t seem to help me with that; it’s either a typo made numerous times or I’m missing something here.
I decided to cup them all side by side rather than drink them one by one on different days because I wanted to get a general feeling for what they’re like in comparison to each other. Obviously you can’t cup them like coffee but the process of smelling the raw ingredients, making a hot liquid and tasting it as it cools by noisily slurping it over your tongue works for most beverages it seems.
I recruited local coffee super star James Wallace of Back to Black and Laboratorio Espresso so as not to completely waste these on 30 minutes on just me (also when he visits I usually learn a ton about making coffee and get feedback on whatever I’m making in my kitchen so it’s always worth it!)
We made them in an inverted Aeropress (I don’t have a tea-pot and the aeropress tends to work quite well as a way of filtering normal tea leaves) with just off the boil water with a 2 minute brew time.
The flowers themselves when you take them out of the wrappers smell surprisingly like traditional tea and I got quite excited about this. The infusion process is pretty similar too so it’s not entirely like we’re in unfamiliar territory.
Tasting and smells then!
I found the initial smell of the wet flowers to be reminiscent of sea weed so we were definitely off to a rocky start. Drinking it hot yielded in tastes that reminded me of black tea with lemon in it – not entirely unappealing and definitely interesting.
As it cooled down it got a lot sweeter and it kept a lingering sticky mouth-feel all the way through.
This smelt like Rhubarb from the get-go and it was clear we were dealing with something with a lot of interesting acidity. It was very light in the cup though and again lingering citrus notes dominated most of this experience. I feel if this had been made a bit stronger and a little honey added I’d have not been entirely disappointed to receive this in a shop.
This was probably my favourite – it was very floral from the initial aroma, and the immediate taste was surprisingly tart after the other teas. It kept savoury notes all the way through the tasting process and was a lot more in keeping with how I’d expect a tea to taste.
The smell of this reminded me of when I was eighteen and used to stay up all night writing 3D games whilst downing copious amounts of ginseng tea. In the mouth it was overwhelmingly sweet and sticky but this gave way to a flavour I could only describe as wet dog. A wet dog that you liked though – not any old wet dog.
This one really did smell like tea, perhaps green tea, except it smelled sweet before I even drank any of it; in the mouth it was slightly spicy and reminded me a little of the few cups of Darjeeling I’ve had over the years.
Every single of these was different to the last and I found that very illuminating – James had his own thoughts about how they compared to cascara (the fruit around the bean) but I’ve not really had enough cascara to really identify this.
I found every one of them to be surprisingly rich – which is not a word I usually relate to infusions of plant matter and hot water. There were a lot of interesting floral notes in there too which is unsurprising given that they are flowery bits of plant matter.
After a while of cycling through the cups I started getting a bit tired of them, finding them to be slightly sickly due to that richness. (Says the person who will happily sit there and drink a dozen natural-process espressos).
The experience is interesting, and definitely something I’m glad to have done; I’m not a huge tea drinker and the similarities means that this isn’t something I’d have stocked in my house as a common occurence (even if it wasn’t £20 for ten cups of tea!).
It’s probably worth getting these from the Has Bean website while stocks last, as I doubt it’s something that’s going to become a huge thing given the expense of actually collecting them and getting them to us lucky consumers!