Caravan Triad Tea from Brooklyn Tea Blends Co.

CaravanTriad1Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Brooklyn Tea Blends Co.

Tea Description:

BROOKLYN TEA BLENDS CARAVAN TRIAD is a perfect marriage of three black teas.  Blended together to achieve a memorizing complex but smooth taste. Richly and malty yet with great harmony of spices, fruits and wealth of smolderingly smoky aroma.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I was excited when I heard about Caravan Triad Tea from Brooklyn Tea Blends Co.  Not necessarily because it’s a caravan tea which to me means ‘smoky’ and I’ve mentioned more than once that I’m not a huge fan of smoky teas, but because it was a new to me tea crafted by a new to me tea company!

So I contacted them immediately and they sent me a sample.  You can also get a sample (a very generous sized sample!) of this tea for a limited time (the website says that the samples will be available through May 2015).

CaravanTriadAnd while this is indeed a smoky tea that is composed of 60% Lapsang Souchong, I like that when I opened the pouch, I wasn’t overwhelmed with smoke.  And now that I sit here with a cup of the brewed tea in front of me, I’m not being overwhelmed with a smoky aroma wafting out of the cup.  There are some smoky notes, yes, but they don’t overpower the cup.  I also smell some really lovely fruit notes to this cup and I like the way those notes mingle with the smoke.

I’m loving the flavor of this tea!  Yes, the smoke is a dominant flavor profile, but, there are so many lovely layers to this Caravan Triad! It doesn’t impart a heavy smoky taste on the palate and I don’t experience a residual smoky aftertaste, which I really like.

I am picking up on a strong fruity essence to this.  Notes of plum!  And just as I enjoyed how the aroma of smoke and fruit mingled, I am also enjoying how the smoky flavor mingles with the plum notes.  It evokes thoughts of a plum that’s been smoked over a plank of pine wood.

Unlike some other ‘smoky’ teas, I appreciate that the pine notes don’t taste ‘burnt’ or ‘charcoal-y.’  The pine adds a certain crispness that is similar to a minty crispness but without the mint overtones.  This is nicely round with sweet and savory notes.

This is a tea I’d recommend for late morning or afternoon sipping.  This isn’t the kind of tea that I’d want to reach for first thing in the morning.  It doesn’t have that same ‘gusto’ that I want for my first cup.  This is more of a contemplative type of tea, something that you want to take a moment and sit back and take the time to explore the dimensions of flavor.  There are so many delicate nuances to this tea that are just waiting to be discovered!

This is definitely one of the nicer smoky blends that I’ve tried, mostly because the smoke is gentle and unassuming here.  It doesn’t aggressively assert itself into my tea drinking experience the way Lapsang Souchong can do.  It allows me to sit back and enjoy subtle notes of smoke as well as the many other delicious layers of flavor.  I highly recommend this tea to anyone who would typically shy away from a ‘smoky’ tea because they find it too overbearing.  This tea will surprise you in a very good way!

The People’s Tea from Tippy’s Tea

ThePeoplesTeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black & Oolong Teas

Where to Buy:  Tippy’s Tea

Tea Description:

Tippy’s own interpretation of the Russian caravan tea. Strikes a delicious balance between the oolong and black teas. Infuse multiple times for a full tasting experience.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve had a couple of Russian Caravan teas, I think that this one might be the best that I’ve tried!  I think it’s because the Oolong in this blend really comes through in a very pleasant way.  It imparts an almost creamy texture to the cup which is a nice contrast to the smoky notes of the Lapsang Souchong.

To brew this, I lowered the temperature.  When I come across a blend like this that blends two different types of tea (like green and black teas, or in this case, oolong and black teas), I generally yield to the tea that requires the lower temperature.  I’d rather have a slightly weaker flavor from the black tea than the bitterness that would result from a scorched tea leaf.

So I went with 190°F.  I measured a bamboo scoop of tea into the basket of my Kati and poured in the hot water and let it steep for 3 minutes.  After I had started the process, I thought to myself: “Maybe I should have done a quick rinse on the leaves!”  But by the time that I had come to that realization, more than a minute had passed and it was a little passed the time to do a rinse.  Maybe next time!

But as it is, it’s not too smoky.  I don’t know if the rinse would improve the flavor or not, because I’m enjoying it as it is.

It’s smoky, but as I said before, there’s a really nice contrast between the smoky element and the soft, buttery/creamy element of the Oolong.  It’s quite pleasant.  Smooth yet smoky.  Forward notes of caramel.  Middle notes of fruit and flower mingling with the smoke.  Hints of molasses and earth in the distance.  It’s a beautifully complex tea!

In the past, I would shy away from Russian Caravan teas because of the smokiness of them – I’ve never been a big fan of something heavily smoked and when I would smell a Russian Caravan, even though they’re not nearly as smoky as say a straight-up Lapsang Souchong, there is still a strong element of smoke to the aroma and in my earliest days as a tea enthusiast I found that smoky note to be very off-putting.  Now I’ve come to embrace it and enjoy it, but Russian Caravan teas are still not my favorite blends.  The few that I have tried seemed to focus heavily on their black teas and not so much on the Oolong aspect, I like that this tea – The People’s Tea from Tippy’s Tea – brought some balance to the two tea types so that the luscious texture and creamy flavor of the Oolong could be enjoyed with the smoky notes of the Lapsang Souchong and the fruity elements of the Keemun.

It’s a very well thought out blend!  Bravo, Tippy’s Tea!

Russian Caravan Black Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

SimpleLooseLeaf Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

Harmoniously blending the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong, the malty chocolate flavor of Assam and the crisp and smooth flavor of Keemun, “Russian Caravan” is a welcome addition to our family of teas. Best when enjoyed hot, this rich and soothing blend of fine black teas will warm your soul and enliven your mind.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club subscription program here.

Taster’s Review:

I bring today’s review with some exciting news:  first, my second box from Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club arrived yesterday!  Yay!  More tea goodness.  I figured I better get busy and write the review for this tea since it’s from last month and now I have more teas to write about!  The second bit of exciting news is that Simple Loose Leaf has a special offer this month only!  Keep reading this review for more details!

For those of you who read my reviews regularly, you are probably aware of my less than enthusiastic feelings for smoky teas.  So, it should probably come as no big surprise that this is the last of the five teas that I’m sampling from last month’s Selection Club box.  But even though I’m not always excited to try a smoky tea, I’m actually enjoying this cup of Russian Caravan Black Tea from Simple Loose Leaf.

After a quick rinse of the leaves, I steeped this tea in boiling water for 2 1/2 minutes.  The result is a flavorful cup that is smoky but not so smoky that I’m unable to enjoy the other flavors of the cup.  The smoke level here is what I’d classify as “moderate,” and it melds nicely with the malty notes of the Assam in the blend.  I like the smoky caramel notes that I taste.

I taste the sweet, wine-like notes from the Keemun.  It’s got some “chew” to it – that freshly baked, bready sort of taste.  There is a comforting taste to this tea.  It evokes thoughts of the splendor of autumn, when the leaves are falling and there’s a crisp, cool feeling in the air.  That air smells lightly of the smoke that billows out of the chimneys.  It’s my favorite time of year, and I like how this tea brings those images to mind as I sip it.  A really enjoyable Russian Caravan.  If you’re a fan of smoky teas, you should add this one to your list.

As promised, here are the details about the special offer from Simple Loose Leaf:  Check it out:  This code >> 1DOLLARMONTH << (Just the 1DollarMonth part, these things: >< aren’t part of the code and are only added for emphasis) will enable you to get your first month of the Selection Club Subscription for just $1!  Yeah, you read that right.  Just one dollar!

Wow!  So that means that you can get 1 – 2 ounces of two different loose leaf teas from Simple Loose Leaf’s menu for May … or you can get a sampler size of all five of the teas on the menu for May … for just one dollar!

This offer is good only through the month of April, so if you want to get in on this unbelievable offer (and really … why wouldn’t you?), you should act now.

What a deal!  Be sure to tell the nice folks at Simple Loose Leaf that I sent you there.

Carävan Resurrected Black Tea Blend from Damn Fine Tea

caravanTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Damn Fine Tea

Tea Description:

You might think that it’s hard for a classic tea to keep its fans wide awake and screaming for more, year after year, tour after tour. Maybe you wonder if a blend ever grows weary of trashing countertops the world over? Perhaps you think that following an exhausting after-dinner encore in Sioux City, this tea is not prepared to demolish breakfast in Wichita the next morning?

Think again.

We’re proud to welcome Carävan back into our lineup. It’s long been one of our favorite, hard-rocking teas, and now it’s bigger, bolder, and better than ever. Hold on to your biscuits and let this custom blend of strong, smoky black tea from China rock you — you won’t regret it!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The first time I tried this Caravan Black Tea Blend, I tried the original batch (not the Ressurrected version!) from Andrews & Dunham’s Damn Fine Tea third series.  I didn’t review it back then, because I was more than just a little put off by the smokiness of the tea.  Back then … I didn’t know how to brew a smoky tea.  I have since learned a few things on how to best brew a smoky tea for my taste buds, which tend to be a little put off by a really strong smoky presence.

I know I’ve mentioned the “secret” more than once on this blog, but for those that may have missed it, the secret to brewing a very smoky tea (like a Lapsang Souchong or a blend with Lapsang Souchong leaves in it – like this blend) is to do a quick “rinse” of the leaves.  Pour the hot water over the leaves, allow the leaves to steep for 15 seconds, and then strain off the liquid and discard it.  Then resteep the leaves for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes.  This process will produce a tea that is still smoky, but not so smoky that it tastes as though you’re drinking tea from a dirty ashtray.

Because … I like some smokiness to a tea … I just don’t really care for the full-boar, robust smokiness of a tea like this one has when the above brewing method has not been employed.  Some smoke = compelling.  Too much smoke = NO.

But now that I’ve brewed this tea to cater to my taste buds, I’m really enjoying it.  It’s still smoky, sure, but, I can taste other flavors in this tea now that the smoke isn’t overpowering the cup.  The smoke is still the strongest note to the cup, but there are other delightful tastes to be discovered.

It is sweet and caramel-y.  There are deep fruity notes that meld deliciously with the burnt-sugar caramel.  There is some drying astringency toward the tail, but it’s what I’d categorize as moderate.  Overall, this is a very enjoyable cuppa, and certainly worth the little bit of extra effort it takes to rinse the leaves!

Russian Caravan from Bon Thé Place

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Bon Thé Place

Tea Description:

A smokey, strong tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve never attempted to downplay my previous dislike for smoky teas.  In fact, dislike may be too gentle a word!  I disliked them so much that I couldn’t even have them in my house because the smell was so repulsive to me.

I have since come to appreciate them a little more than I once did (which wouldn’t be hard because I had no appreciation whatsoever for them before!  haha) but it’s been a long, hard road to get to that point.

Russian Caravan – like this one from  Bon Thé Place – was one of the first smoky teas that I came in contact with … and I remember being so disappointed that it was so strong and smoky.  I had big hopes for a tea called Russian Caravan.  (I’m part Russian)  It was a horrifying experience for me.

Since then, I’ve come to enjoy smoky teas, including Russian Caravan, but I do have my own method in brewing the teas so that they can be enjoyable.  First, I steep them for about 10 seconds (a 10 second rinse) and then discard the liquid.  This helps remove some of the strongest smoky elements as well as the sort of smoky “dusty” taste that I found most difficult to consume.  Then I steep it as usual, using boiling water and steeping for 3 minutes.  A perfect cup of tea!

Sure, it’s still smoky, but some of the smoky tones have been eliminated by the rinse.  And Now, I can enjoy the sweet, caramel-y undertones (and I love how the caramel notes and the smoky notes mingle together to create a smoky caramel taste … its such a tantalizing flavor!)

The tea is rich and satisfying, full-bodied, with intriguing fruit tones just beneath the smoky layer of flavor.  It is an invigorating cup – one that works well to get you going in the morning, it also works as a pleasing afternoon cuppa when you need that little something extra to cast aside the mid-day doldrums.

If you’ve a sensitive palate to the strongly smoky teas, I suggest trying my brewing method for them.  You may find out that you, too, can enjoy smoky teas!