I rarely review teas on this blog (would you like to see more of this? Send me a comment.)
When I picked up this tea, I had to share my thoughts with you as it was truly a unique experience. Say hello to TOMATINO from the Gryphon Tea Company!
My first reaction was similar to yours – WHAT?
A Tomato tea? Who would ever drink this? The sommelier in me however became curious. If they are selling it, it must be drinkable. At least I can warn people to stay away from this brew. And I have a lot of respect for Gryphon for developing excellent teas. Gryphon is known for excellent high quality teas and was founded in Singapore in 2006 linked to a family tea importer almost 100 years ago.
So I gave it a try and boy was I surprised. Let me first tell you a bit about the composition of this tea. It is actually not a tea but an infusion, a tisane. In the tea industry normally only if the plant camellia sinensis is included, it can be called a tea, otherwise it is an infusion or tisane. The tea industry is relaxed about this and you will find many “teas’ which do not really have any tea plant inside.
The base for this infusion is Organic South African bush tea, rooibos (Afrikaans for red bush). I love this plant, often used similar to traditional tea and has a hibiscus sweet like taste. The rooibos is then blended with organic honey bush, apple, tomato, carrot, beetroot, cinnamon and orange peel, creating its blend no. 268. Quite a complex blend with many different flavors and textures. The mastery of a good blend is to find the right mix of ingredients based on how their taste will diffuse into the water, creating the final drink. Some ingredients only need very little to explode with taste into the water and some might need a little more. All have to work together at a given time to reach the brewing finish line at the same time. The tea company recommends to use 200 ml of a less then boiling water for one sachet for about 5-6 minutes.
Based on its ingredients the blend is naturally caffeine free.
Different tastes can create a unique experience to our taste palette. The thought of putting a tomato into hot water and digesting the stew, no matter how healthy it would be is an appalling thought. We are primed to believe that tea blends will come with fruits and herbs to create a good taste. But vegetables? Not so much.
The tea comes in a sachet, already a plus for me. A sachet is a more liberating loose tea bag, allowing the tea to fully unfold when brewed. It is intended for high-quality loose-leaf teas to extract their full flavor as intended during the brewing process.
A note on water to be used: a good water would have:
- a low TDS – Total Solids Dissolved (preferably less than 50 – you will find the number on the water label, sometimes called – total minerals diffused); and
- a ph level of about 7, sometimes a little higher is fine.
Sometimes you will find waters different to the criteria but they seem to be working well with tea. It there is interest, I can put together a list of good tea waters from my experience.
The Tomato Taste
Once you overcome your initial reservation about trying a vegetable tea and you made the tea according to instructions, a wonderful sweet smell will greet you. The first sip is amazing as you are crossing the line between your perception and the feedback from your taste buds that something amazing is happening. You can taste tomato and carrot but you will find a gentle balance from the sweetness of the rooibos. The beetroot, the apple, cinnamon and orange peel add a herbal and fruity layer to bring the composition together. In addition to the vegetable taste, you will get a crisp citrus counterbalance to make it a pleasant overall experience. While the tomato taste will be noticeable at the beginning, the finish will bring a burst of additional fruit and spice flavors. Quite a treat for your taste buds. It brings together savory and sweet taste dimensions. In addition to the taste and smell experience, I love the color in the cup. It is a perfect blend of tomato meets carrot, rooibos and orange.
Tomatino is a great tisane to enjoy with food. It would go best with baked or grilled fish with a tomato and red pepper puree. I would also recommend a water with a medium TDS (250 – 800) to compliment your food and tea.
Tomatino, besides a great taste, will come with a huge amount of wellness benefits. The tomato is also labeled the elixir of youth for its anti-aging effects. It is filled with antioxidants and super fruits, so you will get additional mineral and vitamin benefits.
Tomatino is a great example of blending teas to achieve new taste experiences. We all are unique individuals and we all have our different perspectives on what tastes good and what does not. We experience our life journey and make little mental notes on what fruits and vegetables we like and what we better stay away from. As a sommelier it is my privilege to find teas and waters which match your taste and give you the best experience on what matches best your taste experience. Sometimes it is also my pleasure to recommend something new to you, something that might change your mind or that makes you experience a drink that might surprise you. In the case of Tomatino I can promise you that you will experience something which based on the title and the ingredients you might have not expected.
And this is the beauty of life. We never know what to experience next and it might be a wonderful surprise that expands our horizon. You might be able to find a new favorite. The best is yet to come.