Russian Caravan/Grace Tea Company

Photo Credit: Grace Tea Company

I am a fan of smoky teas, whether they are smoked over a fire like lapsang teas often are, or whether they are teas with natural smoky notes like some Keemun teas.

Russian Caravan teas are usually less smoky than lapsangs. As tea traveled the great distance from China, India, and Ceylon to Russia in camel trains, the evening campfires of the caravans would gradually scent the teas with a light smoky flavor, and this flavor was so delectable and such a part of the tea that it is recreated today.

Too often, tea companies use inferior leaf for teas that are going to be flavored or scented. I find many lapsangs to be weak and watery as far as the base goes, for instance. While I love my smoke, I don’t want to sacrifice quality in the base. Russian Caravan by Grace Tea delivers with this pure China blend, consisting of mostly Keemun with a bit of Lapsang.

Normally I would review this as a fall tea because I always reach for smoky tea on the first chilly or darkish days of autumn. The campfire/fireplace vibe is so comforting. But I made quite the discovery a couple of weeks ago.

SMOKY TEA IS AN AWESOME PAIRING WITH ICE CREAM! Granted, the first ice cream I tried it with was a s’mores flavor one, so there you already have the suggestion of campfires. It was the power of suggestion when eating the ice cream that made me jump up and make a pot of Russian Caravan to have with it. But I have now tried it with other flavors of ice cream and must declare it to be an awesome foil for the rich, cold sweetness. One bite of freezing sugary decadence, one big sip of smoky, hot comfort.

Alas, I have emptied my tea tin before I ran out of ice cream, so tomorrow night I will be trying a nice, strong lapsang with my vanilla chocolate chip.


Want to Know More About This Tea?

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Grace Tea Company

Description

Being a pure China tea blend, our Russian Caravan black loose leaf tea comes close to the luxury teas that were transported by camel train from the tea-producing areas of India, Ceylon and China to Europe, via Russia during the 18th century.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Bai MuDan/Teavivre

Photo Credit: Teavivre

Someone told me once that white tea just tasted like a cup of hot water to them. I probably would have agreed early on in my tea journey. When your tastebuds are accustomed to strong root beer and sweet, fizzy, highly flavored soda it takes a while to train your palate to find subtle flavors, at least it did for me.

Perhaps the real foodies “get it” right from the start.

I haven’t had unflavored white tea in a while and decided that today would be a good day to take a cup of Bai MuDan outside and enjoy its simplicity while sitting in the sunshine, a rare treat in late winter. Though very windy, it is warm and the sun is welcome after many days of rain.

The packet called for two grams of leaf for twelve ounces of water, which I thought seemed to far too little at first. I used my new Upton Digital Tea Scale since large leaf white tea can be tricky to judge. Teavivre recommends five to eight minutes, and I steeped for about five because I was ready for my break!

First, this is a beautiful golden cup of tea. The color is rich and deep and it actually LOOKS full bodied in the cup. The flavor did not let me down. No one could mistake this for a “cup of hot water!” The flavor lingers for quite a while, too.

I see a lot of white tea described accurately as tasting like sunshine on hay, mainly Shou Mei, but this Bai MuDan tastes like golden stalks with a hint of spring in the air, with the scent of distant flowers laid over, and maybe even a little soft, sweet vegetable like snow pea or sugar snap peas.

I think this is going to be my go-to quiet time cup for a while.


Want to Know More About This Tea?

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Description

Mellow and brisk with thick taste, light soybean milk aroma
with a touch of gentle sweet lingering in mouth

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

East Frisian/Harney and Sons

I purchased this tea to use as an enrichment lesson for some young ladies to whom I am teaching elementary German. Tea and cookies make for a fun lesson! And who knew that if East Frisia was a country instead of a region, they would have the highest per capita consumption of black tea in the world?

I wanted to be as authentic as possible and did a test run today. Their “Teetied” is different from any other.

First, a large piece of rock sugar (Kluntje) is put into a porcelain or china cup. Then the rich tea is poured over it and the rock sugar should crackle. After the tea is poured, a small ladle of cream is added to the tea gently, pouring along the side of the cup so that the cream makes a cloud (Wolkje) in the tea. You must never stir!

It is considered polite to drink at least three cups of tea, although more than that is fine. When you finished, you place a spoon (the one you definitely did NOT use to stir your tea!) in your cup or you can turn your cup over on the saucer.

The tea is usually a strong Assam blended with a bit of Darjeeling and some Ceylon. This one is very dark, earthy, and bready. It is a tad brisk but less so than I expected.

The cloud in the tea fascinated me and really made this Teetied a mindfulness session as I watched the cloud roll and change shape after each sip. The cream coats your lips and takes the edge off the strong tea, then the tea dominates, and at the last you get a small sip or two that is incredibly sweet. The rock sugar should be large enough to last through all three cups of tea and each cup that you drink should be finished completely so that the subsequent cup doesn’t look muddy when you add the cream.

I think this lesson will be a success, and I can hardly wait to try it again with some cookies or pastries!


Want to Know More About This Tea?

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Harney & Sons 

Description

Fortify yourself with East Frisian, our popular full-bodied black tea blend of Darjeeling, Ceylon and Assam. It’s named for East Frisia, Germany’s cold, wet, and dreary North Sea coast – the ideal spot to drink hot tea, and the East Frisians do! They consume more black tea than anyone else in the world. They do drink it with cream and crystalized sugar.

(Credit- Harney & Sons)

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Bai MuDan/Teavivre – Ashmanra

Someone told me once that white tea just tasted like a cup of hot water to them. I probably would have agreed early on in my tea journey. When your tastebuds are accustomed to strong root beer and sweet, fizzy, highly flavored soda it takes a while to train your palate to find subtle flavors, at least it did for me. Perhaps the real foodies “get it” right from the start.

I haven’t had unflavored white tea in a while and decided that today would be a good day to take a cup of Bai MuDan outside and enjoy its simplicity while sitting in the sunshine, a rare treat in late winter. Though very windy, it is warm and the sun is welcome after many days of rain.

The packet called for two grams of leaf for twelve ounces of water, which I thought seemed to far too little at first. I used my new Upton Digital Tea Scale since large leaf white tea can be tricky to judge. Teavivre recommends five to eight minutes, and I steeped for about five because I was ready for my break!

First, this is a beautiful golden cup of tea. The color is rich and deep and it actually LOOKS full bodied in the cup. The flavor did not let me down. No one could mistake this for a “cup of hot water!” The flavor lingers for quite a while, too.

I see a lot of white tea described accurately as tasting like sunshine on hay, mainly Shou Mei, but this Bai MuDan tastes like golden stalks with a hint of spring in the air, with the scent of distant flowers laid over, and maybe even a little soft, sweet vegetable like snow pea or sugar snap peas.

I think this is going to be my go-to quiet time cup for a while.

 


Want to Know More About This Tea?

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Description

Teavivre’s White Peony Bai MuDan tea is farmed and produced on Mt. Taimu, using material from Dabaihao tea trees. While this is a slightly oxidized white tea, it is produced with the same minimal processing as Silver Needle white tea, with the main difference between the two being that silver needle uses only buds, while bai mudan includes opened leaves as well.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Snickerdoodle/The NecessiTeas -Ashmanra

Photo Credit: The NecessiTeas

I had a large sample pack of this, enough for a small pot of tea and not just a cup. Since it is caffeine free I thought it would be perfect for some after dinner snacking and would satisfy the sweet part of my sweet + salty cravings! The base is honeybush, thank goodness, and not rooibos. I don’t usually sweeten my teas and this already contains both white and brown sugar, but I am going for dessert here so I don’t mind.

The instructions call for a seven minute steep. I thought that was perhaps to give the cinnamon chips time to melt. It is worth waiting for! If you could melt a Snickerdoodle cookie (one of our favorite kinds) and pour it in a cup, this is exactly what it would smell like and taste like. The aroma was so incredibly sweet that I thought it was going to be TOO sweet for me, but it wasn’t. I am glad it was paired with popcorn and not a sweet dessert, though, because that would have been too much sugar for me! This was so rich, full bodied, and full of cinnamon goodness! The cinnamon is sweet and not hot. The brown sugar gives it real mouth-roundness, as Graham Kerr used to say.

I should have added a touch of milk, in retrospect, to get that dunked cookie vibe! This would also have made an astoundingly good latte. I may have to get my hands on some more to try that!


Want to Know More About This Tea?

Leaf Type: Honeybush

Where to Buy:  The NecessiTeas 

Description

Snickerdoodles are the perfect holiday cookie. Packed with that classic cinnamon and sugar flavor, this tea will quickly become a family favorite!

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!