Although better known for their coffee, as a major competitor to Starbuck’s, Peet’s Coffee & Tea is a good source for loose tea and good-quality bagged tea in San Jose. The California-based company offers free tea and coffee tastings, both pre-scheduled ones and for walk-ins, in their Bay Area stores. That’s right, you can walk in to a Peet’s Coffee & Tea store in the San Jose area, and ask them to set up a tea tasting for you right then and there!
The South Bay Ladies’ Tea Guild went to the Peet’s store in downtown San Jose on Santa Clara St. recently for one of their tea tastings, and were very pleased with the experience. Peet’s staff prepared seven teas and tisanes for tasting, all from their organic tea collection:
- Gunpowder, a rolled Chinese green tea which was savory and slightly smoky in flavor and aroma. Peet’s describes its flavor as “bittersweet and slightly smoky character”.
- Jade Mist, a Chinese green tea that was fresh-tasting and savory. Peet’s describes it as “fresh, bright taste with a mildly brisk flavor … with aromatic hints of green peas and kale, leaving a crisp aftertaste.”
- Ancient Trees, a pu-erh from Yunnan in China, that was earthy and mildly smoky. Some of the tea tasters thought the first infusions were too strongly “dirty” but the later infusions were milder and more enjoyable. The staff member who led the tea tasting said this was one of Peet’s most popular teas. The website describes it as “rich, earthy, nutty and densely flavorful, as thick and dark as coffee, yet exceptionally smooth.”
- Darjeeling Fancy, an Indian black tea with a mild astringency, smooth aftertaste and surprisingly rose-like aroma. The website says it is a second flush Darjeeling and has a “sweet, floral aroma, and a pungent taste.” Although I don’t tend to like Darjeeling teas – I find them too bitter – I am happy to say that I liked this one; that may be due to the milder tannins in second-flush Darjeeling teas. I did notice that it became much more bitter than astringent after 5 minutes of steeping.
- Buddha Peak Ceylon, a Sri Lankan black tea that had a slight lemony aroma. The website says it has “bright malty flavor and brisk tanginess.”
- Pure Peppermint, a tisane that was strongly minty and refreshing. The website reveals that it is Oregon peppermint, which “has an intensely minty quality.”
- Red Rooibos, a South African herbal tisane that featured the tart, almost citrusy herbal flavor characteristic of rooibos. The website describes its scent as “saffron-vanilla”, with a rich “faintly malty” flavor.
Peet’s has a Tea Wheel with information about all of the teas they sell, but the staffer who conducted the tea tasting was
very knowledgeable as well. He was careful to heat the water to the proper temperature, used a timer to infuse each tea for the proper amount of time, and provided cups of plain water so we could cleanse our palates. The attention to detail also included separate tasting cups for each type of tea, so that the fragrance and flavor of one tea would not influence the next. While the company seems to spend more on promoting their coffee, it’s good to know that they take good care with their tea as well! There are over 10 Peet’s locations in San Jose alone, along with two in Milpitas, two in Santa Clara, and more stores throughout the Bay Area. Peet’s Coffee & Tea is a good tea-tasting destination in the San Jose area.
Copyright 2012, Elizabeth Urbach.
For more information:
Peet’s Coffee & Tea company website
“The Perfect Cup: Tasting Tea” from the Peet’s website
“Tea Tasting Terms”
Peet’s Coffee & Tea article on Wikipedia
“Peet’s Tea Assam Golden Tip (review)” on Lainie Sips
“Tea tasting 101: characteristics of a good-quality black tea”
“Tea 101: what is pu-erh tea?”
“Chinese black tea in San Jose”
“Tea-tasting San Jose area day trips: San Francisco’s Chinatown”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“Tea 101: How to brew a pot of hot tea using loose tea”
“What are the different kinds of green tea available in San Jose?”