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It's Not Easy Being Green Tea

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Green tea, rich in antioxidants, has long been praised for its healthful properties. In an attempt to make every bite count, food manufacturers have added green tea to sweet and savory foods and drinks, albeit with varying degrees of success. At best, it gives a nutty earthiness; at worst, it can taste as if someone dropped lawn clippings in the snack mix.

Food section staffers tasted 13 products with green-tea additives listed as an ingredient. In some items, such as the sodas, the green tea or matcha (fine, powdered green tea) was practically undetectable. But in chocolate and frozen treats, it overpowered other ingredients.

-- Leigh Lambert

THE FLAVOR WORKS

· Green Tea Cookies, $5 per 7-ounce package, Ten Ren Tea ( http://www.tenren.com). Surprisingly buttery. One taster suggested pairing them with cheese.

· Steaz Green Tea Soda, $4.99 per four-pack of 12-ounce bottles (cola, ginger, grape and orange), Whole Foods Market ( http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com). Unexpectedly, it was the ginger that let us down. The other flavors came through as dominant and not overly sweet.

· Green Tea Wasabi Peanuts, $5 per 6.35-ounce package, Ten Ren Tea. More heat than tea flavor, but the earthiness of the peanuts worked well with the grassy tea.

· Kanesu Cha Soba (green tea soba noodles), $2.99 for a 7-ounce package, Lotte Plaza ( http://www.lotteplaza.com). Would pair well with strong flavors such as soy, sesame and ginger.

TAKES SOME GETTING USED TO

· Saxon chocolate-covered cherries (with matcha), $12.50 for a 4.4-ounce package, Origins stores ( http://www.origins.com). Green tea powder and cocoa are blended in the chocolate and used as the outer dusting of these confections. A bit grassy at first but soon balanced by good-quality chocolate and a sweet, dried-cherry center.

· Saxon chocolate, cherry bark (with matcha), $12.50 for a 4.4-ounce package, Origins stores. The tea is blended into the chocolate. The flavor muddies the chocolate a bit.

· Sweet Preserved Plum With Green Tea, $4 for a 4.58-ounce package, Ten Ren Tea. These are like large salty raisins (with a pit). Could be a nice addition to a cheese platter.

· Green Tea Pumpkin Seeds, $5 for about 6.7 ounces, Ten Ren Tea. The flavor was balanced, but the hulls were thick and stale.

DON'T GO THERE

· Green Tea Candy, $1.50 for a 4.23-ounce package, Ten Ren Tea. Unless they were doubling as cough drops, we'd pass.

· Green Tea Chocolates, $6 for a 3.85-ounce package, Ten Ren Tea. The white chocolate base was waxy. Nobody reached for seconds.

· Ciao Bella ice cream, $3.99 per pint, Whole Foods Market. The addition of milk "curdles" the tea flavor.

· Rice Dream ice cream, $2.50 per pint, Whole Foods Market. Watery and dull.

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