144 Tasting Notes
I was in Charleston, South Carolina, last week and just couldn’t resist picking up some loose leaf tea grown on the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in the United States. The Charleston Breakfast Tea variety brewed for four minutes, resulting in a vibrant amber color. The flavor is pleasant, although not multi-dimensional or particularly bold. The taste is slightly nutty but lacks sweetness that my worn tastebuds are able to detect. All-in-all, this is a kind and gentle breakfast tea that will softly stir you from your slumber.
I was going to wait until next year to evolve from tea bags to loose leaf. However, thanks to my wonderful girlfriend, who bought me the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker for my birthday yesterday, I’m ahead of schedule. I’m a gadget kind of guy and I would love this very cool machine even if all it did was boil water. Of course, though, I need loose leaf tea to properly play with my new toy. I ran out to the store last night and chose Rishi Earl Grey for my inaugural launch. As the tea was steeping for four minutes at 212 degrees, I immediately noticed a richer aroma than I had ever experienced with bagged tea and 192-degree water. The color of the tea was also more vibrant than I had encountered with bagged Earl Grey teas. As I excitedly took my first sip, I tasted a cornucopia of tea, bergamot, malt, and spice. The experience reminded me of when I first emerged from black-and-white to color television. I love this tea, I love my new tea maker, I love loose leaf, I love my girlfriend, I love life, and I love you. All is well with the world today. :-)
To tea…or not to tea…that was the question last night. Once again, I weakened, but wisely chose another caffeine free variety. This time, I selected Wissotzky’s Wild Berries tea. While steeping, there was a sweet aroma that reminded me of a fruit stand. The red-ish color was a cross between grape juice and red Hawaiian Punch. My first sip filled my tastebuds with a fruity sensation similar to a grape juice/Kool-Aid hybrid. There also was a rather pronounced bitterness left on my tongue. However, I was in this for the long haul, so I sipped again and again and again. The bitterness magically disappeared after about the third sip. (Maybe that is what the “Magic Garden” on the package means.) After that, I found the tea to be a very pleasant fruity drink for late at night. I believe this blend would be much more enjoyable for the whole family as an iced selection. The folks at Wissotzky must believe that too. The package points out that this beverage is “great for iced tea”.
I wonder if it is possible to become a te-a-holic. If so, I am rapidly becoming one. This evening, I once again couldn’t resist reaching for another (caffeine-free) tea to accompany my dessert. I was very fortunate to flip a coin in favor of the Bushmen’s Brew Honeybush selection. I couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time to take this delicious number for a spin. It is easy to see how Honeybush got its name. This tea has a wonderful natural sweetness that happily walked hand-in-hand with my butterscotch pudding. The sweet Honeybush is delightful, with a light and easy flavor. There was no bitterness, even after six minutes of steeping. As of now, this scrumptious tea is the leading candidate for my night cup.
I usually try to end my daily tea consumption before 7:00 PM. At that time I’m ready to unwind for the evening and come down from the energizing doses of caffeine supplied by my morning cups. However, tonight I had a craving for tea to accompany my pasta supper. Remembering that my Wissotzky gift chest contained some fruity caffeine-free varieties, I reached in and pulled out a bag of Blood Orange & Mandarin Scent. After steeping, the tea had a clean translucent orange/cherry color. I also enjoyed the tantalizing fruity aroma that emerged from my cup. This tea has an exquisite yet mellow citrus flavor. I don’t seek out flowery tasting teas, but the hint of rosehips in this blend greatly enhances the flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed it with my meal. If you dim the lights in your dining room and use crystal goblets, this tea can be an integral component of any gourmet occasion.
I was already a big fan of Stash’s SINGLE Bergamot Earl Grey tea so I wondered if doubling the Bergamot content was really necessary. The consistency of Bergamot seemed perfect to me. But, when I noticed that the Double Bergamot Earl Grey selection was on sale for a very low price at our fine local French boutique, Tarzhay (spelled T-a-r-g-e-t), my curiosity was too strong to be denied. While steeping the turbo Bergamot blend, I immediately noticed the fortified aroma escaping from my cup. After five minutes, I fastened my seat belt and raised the cup cautiously to my lips. The powerful Bergamot scent slapped me in the nostrils all the way up. As the potent tea swished around my palate, my taste buds were instantly washed in the bright and sunny fruity flavor of the supercharged Bergamot. Although the aspect of tea is definitely relegated to the back seat of this variety, enough is present to create the total sensation of a divine and effervescent compound. After finishing the cup, a zesty aftertaste was left behind that reminded of this great experience. I am captivated by this compelling blend. I fear that there may no longer be sufficient chills and thrills in standard Bergamot tea for my newly enhanced sense of adventure.
For my second journey into the land of The Republic of Tea, I chose their Vanilla Almond blend. I anxiously waited for this tea to finish steeping as the sweet vanilla aroma filled my nostrils. Finally, after five minutes (that seemed like five days), the tea was ready to taste. With my first sip, the full, sweet, vanilla, and nutty properties danced on my tongue. The robust quality of the vanilla joins expertly with the almond presence and the supporting tea flavor to create a delightful taste sensation. This tea instantly became one of my favorite selections. The Republic of Tea continues to create incredible blends that coddle my insatiable sweet tooth.
It is interesting that one of the most reasonably priced teas is also one of the most consistently best. I haven’t found a Twinings tea that I didn’t like…a lot…yet. The Twinings English Breakfast tea continues this tradition with a very robust and flavorful blend. The flavor bursts with a zesty and gallant zing. Visually, even the beaming amber color seems to shout out great taste. As always, I steeped this tea for a full five minutes. This is perfect for my tastebuds but it may be a little strong for some.