Organic Bankok? Not so much.

I have recently gotten a kick out of Harney & Sons products, which are being sold at my local Au Bon Pain.  The products sold are all organic, meaning the tea, the sugar and honey sweeteners, and the flavorings are all organic.  I think that’s cool and diligent, and I appreciate it.  But I appreciate the taste even more, which is sweet but not too sweet, and allows the natural flavors of the tea to come through.

Let’s discuss tea a little bit first, and the way it works.  Tea is a type of plant whose leaves, when dried, can be used to prepare a flavorful beverage by steeping the leaves in hot water.  The key here is hot water – it has to be very hot, just on the verge of boiling, to get the most flavor out of the leaves.  In addition, if you keep the leaves in the water as it cools (especially with green teas), the tea will turn bitter.  To a certain extent, this happens with all teas as they cool, whether the leaves remain or not.  That’s why Southerners know the only kind of iced tea that’s drinkable is sweet tea – the sugar covers that bitter taste.  That’s why fruit teas include at least a hint of lemon – the acid cuts the bitterness of the cold tea.  And that’s why Harney flavors its bottled organic teas – almost every one has some sweetener in it, along with a flavor to cover the bitter aspect of the tea itself but retain its less potent flavors.

Now, Harney does all kinds of teas (loose-leaf, sachets, iced, black, green, flavored, white, organic, iced, and bottled), and guessing from the ones I’ve tasted, they’re all good, high-quality teas.  Unfortunately, the Organic Bankok leaves something to be desired.

The website describes it thus:

Organic Bangkok: An aromatic blend of Organic green teas with Organic honey, Organic lemongrass, Organic ginger and sweet Organic coconut. A fragrant blend reminiscent of Thai cooking.

Unfortunately, there’s not nearly enough lemongrass or ginger in it to counteract the taste of the tea.  So I get bitters and then a faint aftertaste of coconut.  Instead, I would recommend the Organic Peach or the plain Organic Green.


  1. sedgehammer said,

    February 1, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I am pleased to say, I fully endorse the organic lemonade and tea drink.

  2. sweetleaves said,

    February 3, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Different teas want to steep at different temperatures and for different lengths of time. The reason you might be getting bitter tea is a too-high water temperature – generally, the more delicate the tea, the lower the temp. For dark black teas, boiling (212 F) is right, and a 5-6 min steep time. For oolongs, you want 200 F and 5 min. For greens, 180-190 F and 4-5 min. For whites, you can steep as low as 165 F, and perhaps lengthen the steeping time…

    It’s an art, not a science. Play around with teas – steep the same tea at two different temperatures and see how that changes the final product!

  3. sweetleaves said,

    February 3, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Oh, and the way to counteract the bitterness in iced tea is to brew it cold. Use a good amount of leaves, more than you use for hot tea, and let it sit at room temperature for no more than 8-10 hours, then strain.

  4. sedgehammer said,

    February 4, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Thanks sweetleaves. I will try it out.

  5. sedgehammer said,

    February 22, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Update – I tried the Organic black currant today, which is black tea flavored with black current and sweetened with a very little bit of honey and cane sugar. Yum!

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