16 Tasting Notes
I wasn’t expecting much before I opened this- I’m usually not a fan of chai and only purchased this as part of a sample pack. I gained some hope, however, as the strong cinnamon smell, the generous helping of whole cloves, and the pieces of orange peel made me think this was going to be more of a Christmas tea than a chai. It seems to be blended from at least two different kinds of tea- a slightly twisted black tea and what looks like a knot-shaped green tea. The blend also contains something that looks like a tiny peppercorn- biting down on one, I’m still not sure what it is.
The sampler this tea is a part of did not come with any kind of brewing instructions. Because the blend may be made of both black and green teas, I wasn’t entirely sure whether to give it a cooler green tea brew, or a hotter water temperature that would coax the most from the cloves. It strikes me that this is a tea that would offer drastically different flavors at different temperatures. I ended up going with a cooler temperature because I don’t actually enjoy very hot tea, and was disappointed to discover that Pirate Chai takes FOREVER to brew at a green tea temperature, and it isn’t very good. It does taste like a Christmas tea, albeit a weak, watery one. Some cinnamon and orange peel flavors emerge, but they’re not very satisfying. The liquer was a lovely copper color, however.Take 2: heated the water longer, steeped again. A woodier cinnamon flavor predominated, with clove and orange undertones and a vague bitterness to the finish that faded quickly. Whatever the blend of tea was, it was entirely lost in the spices, which is why I don’t usually enjoy chai in the first place.
All in all, not a cup that I’m very excited about, but it’s drinkable and I’m going to continue experimenting with proper brewing times and temperatures. Since the tin is only sample sized, though, I may run through the whole thing before I get it right.
I’ve always been a fan of Earl Grey, and never fail to be disappointed when the bergamot flavor is too light. Because of this, double the bergamot sounded delightful. Upon first tasting this tea, “delightful” couldn’t have been further from the truth, as the bergamot overpowered the tea flavor to the point it no longer even tasted like Earl Grey.
This time, however, I shortened my steeping time considerably for much better results. While the bergamot did take center stage, there was still a “tea” undertone that smoothed out the vibrant citrus notes. The liquer was a deep amber red color, with an aroma that was a little earthier than I would have expected.
Because of the short steeping time, I attempted to get a second cup out of the teabag and met with success. The liquer was a little lighter, but it tasted much the same as the first.
The first cup of it I made was really grassy and musty, something between a Chinese green and a pu-erh. I didn’t like it at all, but thought it might be better rinsed.
So the next cup I rinsed. The first steeping of the tea (at about 4 minutes) was a deep amber color with a grassy, vegetal aroma. The flavor was much improved; the mustiness was gone, but it was still very grassy tasting and vaguely reminiscent of gunpowder green.
The second steeping (closer to 6 minutes because I was reading and forgot about it) was a rich apricot color, with little aroma. The flavor was less grassy this time as well, but it was also weak, as though it wasn’t sure it was capable of a second steep.
Overall, I wouldn’t purchase this tea again, but have enough leaves left for one more cup and may experiment with a shorter first steeping time.
The first time I brewed this, I forgot it was sitting there and it ended up much too strong and herbal. Because I knew it had sat too long, I was willing to give it another chance.
The second time I brewed it, I carefully timed it for three minutes before tasting. The stuff was awful- all I could taste was the dandelion leaves. Who puts dandelion leaves in with such light flavors as white tea and cucumber, anyway? I ended up dumping it out after half the cup. Figuring that the herbs should be mostly exhausted but the actual tea in the blend should still have some life, I stick the teabag in for a second steeping, four minutes this time. The dandelion leaves were pretty weak by then, and I could taste some of the white tea and lime, but it was still a little on the herbal side.
I ended up emptying all the tea bags into a tin so I could rinse them before trying to brew a drinkable cup or to use as something to put excess honey in when I’m sick so I don’t have to ruin a cup of something actually good. Drinking a rinsed cup as I type, I find that a single hot rinse is enough to lessen the flavor of the dandelion leaves, but not enough so that anything but a hint of limepeel comes through.
This tea is not particularly soothing to my palate … the ginger is too strong and I have no idea what they mean when they say hints of pear … the pear is pretty non-existent. It is excellent for settling motion sickness, morning sickness, or any other sort of nausea, however, and I drank it often while pregnant.
As herbal teas go, this is one of my favorites. Hot, it’s incredibly soothing to the nerves, while icing it makes it perhaps one of the most refreshing beverages I think I’ve ever had. When I worked at Starbucks, this was the tea I usually drank (especially while I was pregnant), and not a shift went by without my drinking at least three cups of it.