Darjeeling Black Currant Tea from Russian Tea Time

russianteaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black (Darjeeling)

Where to Buy:  Russian Tea Time

Tea Description:

Unique blend of the finest Dareeling and black teas infused with Black currant aroma. The delicate and flavorful taste of this blend will keep your palate satisfied. Drink and enjoy it hot or Iced, all year around.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

russianteaglassRecently, Russian Tea Time sent me a tea party in a box!  They shared with me their amazing Darjeeling Black Currant Tea that I’m going to review here, plus they sent me this gorgeous tea glass from which to drink the tea and they even sent me yummy, buttery shortbread cookies!  Like I said, a tea party in a box!

What makes this particular tea so unique is that it’s Russian Tea Time’s own, unique blend of Darjeeling and Black teas with black currant essence and currant leaves.  Most tea rooms out there are brewing up tea to serve to their customers.  They usually get that tea from other vendors (nothing wrong with that!) but Russian Tea Time is not just brewing up tea to serve to their customers, they’re brewing up their own blend that they created and serving it up with scrumptious treats.

Since I’m not in Chicago, I can’t visit the Russian Tea Room in person, so I’ll just have to imagine what it might be like as I sit here, sipping on this Darjeeling Black Currant Tea from this gorgeous tea glass that they sent to me.  (They also have some other gorgeous tea cups available in their online shop!)

RussianTeaCuppedSo, I brewed up the tea in my Breville One Touch Tea Maker.  When I opened the tin of Loose Leaf tea – they offer this tea in both Loose Leaf and Sachet form, and since I prefer loose leaf, that’s what I chose to try today – I could see that the tea was a CTC leaf.  It’s not a super-fine chop though.  Because the leaf has been cut, I opted for slightly less time for the steep, and set the timer for 2 minutes.  I measured 2 bamboo scoops into the basket of my tea maker and poured 500ml of tea into the jug.  I set the thermometer for 195°F (my go-to temperature for Darjeeling) and let it steep.

The tea is delicious.  I like the base tea.  I can definitely taste the Darjeeling tea – it has a distinctly crisp taste that’s undeniably “Darjeeling-esque”.  The Russian Tea Room doesn’t go into details about the “black teas” that also comprise the base of this tea.  I definitely taste the Darjeeling, but I am also tasting a more substantial tea in there too.  This tea has that crispness and even a hint of muscatel that I’d expect from a Darjeeling, but there is a thicker texture to the tea too and that’s something that I’ve tasted in only a very few Darjeeling teas.  It’s usually a characteristic that I experience from other black teas.

It’s not an overly astringent tea.  This could also have something to do with the fact that I set the tea to steep for only 2 minutes.  But whatever the reason, I am finding this to be really smooth and easy to drink.

The black currant flavor is a subtle taste – it doesn’t overpower the cup or the black tea.  It adds a pleasant, mild fruit flavor that’s a little grape-like and it melds beautifully with the Darjeeling tea’s natural muscatel notes.  It’s not overly tart, but I do experience a slight tart tingle on my tongue in the aftertaste.

This is a really delightful tea.  It tastes great served hot and I suspect it would be a really excellent iced tea too.  (For the record, the cookies were quite tasty too!)

What a lovely day for tea – thank you Russian Tea Time for the chance to enjoy tea time with you!

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!

Saint Isaac’s Blend Black Tea from Upton Tea Imports

St.IsaacsTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Upton Tea Imports

Tea Description:

A premium blend of Ceylon and China teas, with the flavor of grapefruit, bergamot, and other citrus fruit. Popular in Europe, this Russian-style blend is recommended for an interesting departure from traditional Earl Grey. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I am revisiting a tea that I’ve previously reviewed this evening, mostly because it’s been ages since that previous review published, and when I sat down with this Saint Isaac’s Blend Black Tea from Upton Tea Imports, I felt like writing about it.  It’s one of my favorites from Upton.

And really, there’s nothing wrong with revisiting a tea, is there?  One of the first lessons I learned when I began my tea journey many years ago (more years than you need to know!) I learned that every tea tastes different to every palate, and I think that it should follow that every tea would offer potential to be at least a little different each time you taste it.

This tea has a very pleasant black tea base that is strong and solid, like a robust drapery of flavor.  It is rich with hints of smoke – and I like that the smoke here is delicate.  I’ve tasted at least a couple of “smoky” Earl Grey blends, and of those that I’ve tried and come to memory, I will say that this one offers the softest smoky taste.  There is a slight “malty” note to this as well as a chocolate-y type of flavor from the black tea.   I notice less astringency with this cup than I seemed to indicate on my previous tasting note.

As the tea cools slightly, the citrus notes of the tea begin to POP.  The grapefruit, in particular, is noteworthy.  The bergamot seems a little less apparent than the grapefruit.  Imagine, if you would, two friends at the party:  one friend is sort of out there and really capturing everyone’s attention.  The other friend is right by the party animal’s side, not making as much noise but is still within the focus of everyone at the party.  With this tea, the grapefruit is the party animal, while the bergamot is the party animal’s best friend.

A really enjoyable tea – as I said before, it’s one of my favorites from Upton Tea Imports – because it’s an unusual tea with a captivating complexity.  Definitely one you should try!

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.

Russian Country Black Tea Blend from Harney & Sons


Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Harney & Sons

Tea Description:

A blend of four teas along with an additional touch of Lapsang, this is a softer version of Smoky Lapsang Souchong. This tea is reminiscent of the teas that were carried by camel across the Asian deserts to Russia. As Norwood Pratt quips: “the only choice was one hump or two.”

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Just like I am with most smoky teas … I was a bit hesitant to try this Russian Country Black Tea Blend from Harney & Sons.  I even like smoky teas (so long as they aren’t TOO smoky!) now but, there is still some of the residual memories of a bad smoky tea experience that causes me to recoil a bit when I encounter a smoky tea.

Fortunately though, this one is indeed a “softer version of Smoky Lapsang Souchong,” as promised in the above description.  It certainly has a smoky element to it, but, it is not overly smoky … and truth be told, it’s actually quite delicious.  So much so, that I am nearly finished with this cup, and I had to stop myself from drinking it so that I could compose the review!

I love it when I find a tea like that … something that I’m enjoying so much that I forget that I need to write about it, and by the time I remember, I’m nearly finished with the tea!

The flavor is rich and satisfying.  It has a robust quality to it – this is a tea that you could serve as that first cup of the day to get the eye opening results you need.  There is some astringency to it, and a certain brightness which leads me to believe that this blend has some Ceylon in it … that bright, brisk flavor tastes like a Ceylon to me.

And after examining the website, I see that this is correct, this is a blend of Assam, Keemun, Ceylon as well as Lapsang Souchong and Formosa Oolong!  I don’t taste much from the Oolong … except the smooth texture of the tea.  I do note the malty notes of the Assam, and even the richness of the Keemun.  Overall this tea is sweet, smoky, rich and malty … and possesses that sort of “fresh-baked” taste to it … like the caramelized, chewy crust of a fresh baked loaf of French bread.  YUM!

This makes a great latte if you want one … and it tastes great straight up too.  I prefer it with about half a teaspoon of turbinado sugar to soften the edge a little bit and to enhance the caramel tones.   It’s really a wonderful tea, and a great “smoky” tea for those who tend to be sensitive to the overly smoky taste of a pure Lapsang Souchong, but still want a hint of smokiness to their cup.