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Unflavored

Orange Pekoe Special from Swallowtail Tea

When the tea has “special” in the name, it starts with a lot of expectations to live up to.  Good thing Orange Pekoe Special from Swallowtail Tea truly is a special mug of tea.

Right away, I was taken in by the scent of the dry tea leaves.  This is a pure black tea, not flavored, not a chai, and yet the leaves smelled sweet and earthy and strongly of cinnamon.  It was so comforting and flavorful it was hard to take my face out of the bag.

When I brewed this tea, the cinnamon took a backseat and more of the traditional black tea flavors came to the forefront.  The tea was bright and crisp, with just a touch of citrus that says to me it would be delicious if served with a wedge of lemon.  All of these forward flavors were quickly chased by smoother, toasted tones, almost malty and starchy like a not-too-sweet dessert.

The brewed tea smelled like crushed leaves and old wood, with just a whiff of woodsmoke.  The more I drank the tea the more the smoky notes came forward. This isn’t full-on chimney-bacon smokiness like you find in some lapsang souchong teas, this was more delicate, like the appealing sugar char of a creme brulee, or the faded campfire smell after the logs have long gone out.

All these natural flavors like wood and smoke and leaves in Orange Pekoe Special really put me in the mood for fall.  With a beautifully illustrated tin and such a rich flavor experience, this is now the tea I imagine when I think of someone stumbling upon a cabin in the woods and the owner pulls out “the good tea” for a special occasion.

 


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Swallowtail Tea
Description:

Grown at the base of the Himalayas, this tea was first discovered growing wild in the jungles during the mid 1800’s. Assam is known for its deep, burgundy-red cup and pungent but sweet-starchy flavor. This is India’s most popular variety because of its intense flavor and ability to mix well with milk and honey.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Keemun Chinese Black Tea from The Tea Spot

I love the discovery of new tea flavors, finding their nuances, comparing and contrasting from a baseline. I started educating myself on tea with subscription boxes, and still have a soft spot for them. Looks like Tea Spot will be my next choice. They offer a monthly subscription box for $16 for about an ounce worth of 5-6 teas and also a quarterly loose leaf club at $45 for 3+ teas of one chosen style, in larger portions obviously. This selection seems to be from the former.

The dry Keemun smells very gentle, a bit like the coriander in my cupboard. There are uniformly tight, straight, leaves, appearing medium on the spectrum of browns. I see some broken bits in wet leaves and a tamarind color brew. It smells subtly sweet, and reminds me of cherries – cheerful but with a slightly tart finish.  1 heaping tsp per 8 oz from the brewing instructions, does not make a strong tea, which some people prefer. I’m not the type to drink this flavor straight, because tannins and I are frenemies.  I think it is It may leave a slight orange taste in my mouth but, this tea is still excellent at its job of caffeinating me!

Just like the Beastie Boys, I like my Sugar with [Keemun] and cream, too sweet to be sour, too nice to be mean.

 


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy: The Tea Spot
Description:

A splendor of toasty flavor and aroma! The most refined and perhaps the most well-known of Chinese black teas, this Keemun is handpicked in Anhui Province. This tea has an indescribable flavor, with the most delicate hints of smoky pine, orchid, crushed apple and a rich, sweet body.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

English Breakfast from the Virginia Tea Company . . . .

When you need a tried-and-true pick-me-up in the morning, many of us reach for a cup of English Breakfast black tea.  But each tea company has a little different take on this style of tea. English Breakfast from the Virginia Tea Company is robust in scent, taste, and texture.

This tea is full and malty, almost chewy, with toasty tones of baked bread.  This tea is strong enough to have flavor after being mixed with milk and sugar, and to hold up on its own against the savory flavors of your breakfast.

The first scent and taste are the rich and complex flavors like roasted wheat or leather, followed by the little crisp bite of black tea that we come to expect.  There is a hint of earthy smoke at the back of each sip, along with the the less bitter black tea tannins and thicker mouthfeel.

This is a black tea that makes you feel strong and invigorated, while also giving your palette a full-bodied flavor experience.  For those mornings where it is hard to get your head on straight, be sure to brew up a strong cup of English Breakfast from the Virgina Tea Company and get back on track.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Virginia Tea Co.
Description:

This organic tea is perfect for pairing with your morning meal. The full-bodied flavor can be blended with milk and sugar to create an even better drinking experience.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Inconceivable! Vizzini’s Brew from Geeky Teas . . . . . . .

I love a tea with a good theme, so Vizzini’s Brew from Geeky Teas was a joy to drink and write about.  Vizzini refers to the character from the Princess Bride film, you know the one who was always shouting: inconceivable!  His brew was made with a black tea from the Fujian province of China.

When brewed, this blend was exceptionally smooth, both smelling and tasting reminiscent of creamy hot cocoa.  With a chocolate scent and silky mouthfeel, this brew was far sweeter and more comforting than the grating voice of its namesake.

Beneath the sweet buttery-vanilla cocoa flavors, there were hints of honey-roasted nuts, reminding me of honeybush teas.  The range and potency of these delicious flavors were impressive, knowing that this was an unflavored black tea.

I think the real cleverness in choosing this blend for Vizzini lies in its brewing notes.  Geeky Teas said that this type of tea can be brewed strong or light according to your preference, and it will maintain its tasty cocoa notes without getting bitter.  I couldn’t help but imagine brewing two mugs side-by-side with different brew times and tasting them to compare.

It made me think of Vizzini’s infamous “pick your poison” scene in the Princess Bride.  A clever man would brew a strong tea… Light or strong: which would you choose? Just remember: never go against a Sicilian when death– I mean.. a good cup of tea– is on the line!

 


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Geeky Teas
Description:

Black tea from the Fuijian province of China. Can be brewed strong or weak. As you wish.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Ruhuna Tea from Zesta Tea . . . . . .

The Ruhuna (sometimes spelled Ruhunu) tea from Zesta is part of their regional tea tasting set.  This black tea came in a beautiful red patterned box, and I’m tempted to try the rest of their regional tea set just for the eye-catching packaging alone. Beneath the red box is a foil bag of tea, so I popped it open and started brewing.

The dry leaves were small and tightly rolled, almost like pellets.  When I put my nose into the bag of tea the leaves were very fragrant, with both earthy almost-tobacco notes complimented by bright lemony scents.

In brewing, the leaves unfurled and quickly produced a dark and potent cup of tea.  The taste is definitely that of a strong black tea, but not so strong that it makes your mouth pucker.  This is where the Ruhuna blend stands out. It doesn’t have the fuzzy and chocolatey mouthfeel of some assam or malty breakfast teas.  But it is not sharp or bitter like other brighter black teas I’ve tried, even after a longer steep time.

Ruhuna is powered by its citrus flavors, tasting as sunny and lemony as you can without adding flavoring or lemon peel to the tea.  Beneath that first flush of lemon, there are sweeter orange notes, all supported by a a robust and figgy black tea base.

Sweet without being artificial, and bright without being too tart, it is easy to enjoy such an uplifting and drinkable tea.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Zesta Tea
Description:

Enjoy our regional tea packs featuring teas from five tea growing regions of Sri Lanka – Dimbula, Ruhuna, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Uva. This variety from such a small island is what made Ceylon tea famous – try it – from the low grown Ruhuna teas to the high grown Nuwara Eliya – a true journey in Ceylon tea, packaged in teabags for convenience and offered in a pine wood box. Perfect for gifting.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!