Grace Tea Company

Recent Tasting Notes

I had a cup of this a while back after I picked it up at the fancy grocery near my house. I like smokey beers and peaty scotch, so I figured I’d enjoy a smokey tea. Turns out, this is an exception. I passed it along to my Dad, who likes lapsang souchong teas, and is amassing a collection of them as Em and I try and then pass off these teas.

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There’s definitely more interest here than your standard breakfast blend. To my surprise, the Keemun is neither cocoa-y or smoky, but it does have a dry red wine kind of mouthfeel and a slightly oaky and fermented fruit flavor (which was also evocative of a rich red wine). I wasn’t necessarily blown away by the cup, but it’s very nice.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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90

41 years ago my new mother-in-law gave me my first tin of GTC winey keemun. I’ve try dozens of other keemun and English breakfast blends in the years since and never found one that pleases me the way this one does. Perhaps because as my “first,” I simply assumed that all keemun was supposed to be “winey” and so few are. It’s too mellow for me as a breakfast tea, but is sublime in the late afternoon — the perfect cross between tea to go with perfect shortbread and a good glass of wine. Enjoy. And try it with the shortbread.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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It is cloudy and drizzling and COLD! Well, cold for where I live. For it to be 39F at lunchtime is unusual for us, and running to the recycling can bare of foot wearing short sleeves added to my perception of the chill. Sometimes it is nice to get a little cold so your tea is extra cozy! :)

I am finishing this sample from Hesper June today and I am so glad I picked this one to drink. It is a great cold weather choice, and the Grace Rare Tea Company really delivers high quality tea. This is smokey, but definitely not a Lapsang. It is smooth and delicious, even without additions. And now…it is all gone! Sample sip down!

Josie Jade

Haha, I can always count on you to sympathize with me that it is really cold outside! My family in the north always just rolls their eyes when I start talking about how it’s freezing here. :) This tea sounds perfect for a chilly day!

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Back in the early loose leaf days when I used to go to A Southern Season and sniff sniff SNIFF pouch after pouch of tea and tin after tin from the Fine Tea Wall, I thought Russian Caravans were pretty much the same thing as Lapsang Souchong. They both smelled really smoky to me and I was afraid of them, and puerh was on that list, too.

I lost my fear as I drank teas that had natural light smokiness, then I had some lovely blends, and then I was finally ready for the real thing. The funny thing was that my youngest child loved smoky tea right off the bat.

So here I am drinking this Caravan and wondering where the smoke is! LOL! There are a number of teas that used to seem so very smoky to me that now just seem hearty. This is very lightly smoky but it is sweet and good. No milk or sugar is needed to make this palatable, and it is comforting and bracing as we look out on yet another gray, rainy day with no sign of sunshine in the near future.

Grace Rare Tea has done what they set out to do. They carry only a few types of tea but strive to carry the best examples they can get of those types. I have never been disappointed by them.

Thank you again, Hesper June, for the amazing box o’ smoky teas! This has been the perfect week to try them all!

Hesper June

You are most welcome! I am so glad you are enjoying them:)

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I have liked everything I ever bought from this company. Hesper June generously sent me this sample of their Russian Caravan, one of the few of their blends I have never tried.

It was rainy and chilly (for here, fifty degrees is chilly until we get used to it!) today, with flocks of birds mobbing my dogwood trees and stripping them of their berries. Very much a wet, fall day that begs for comfort foods! It stayed gray and overcast all day.

I served this with homemade Snickerdoodles today, but first we had Morgan Blend by Simpson and Vail, which was rich, layered, and smoky, while this tea didn’t smell nearly as smoky, but I guess Russian Caravan teas usually are not as smoky as lapsangs. From the aroma of the two teas, I thought the Morgan Blend was going to take all the awards.

But the first sip of this GRT changed my mind! Yes, it was much less smoky, but the tea base was delicious! And just as complex! My guest, the owner of the puppy we keep every Tuesday, had only had Lipton until a few weeks ago when we asked him to join us for some tea. He has liked everything we have given him so far, and he declared this one his favorite of the day.

What surprised me most was that my youngest daughter, who loves smoky tea, liked this one better than the Simpson and Vail, too. She said the Morgan Blend was very good, but that the Russian Caravan had “personality.” LOL! I think I know what she means.

It was rather like meeting someone that you had no idea you would enjoy talking to, and then you find yourself in lively conversation, surprised at this person not being quite what you anticipated.
What a fun tea tasting we had today!

Thank you, Hesper June! We have several more still to try!

Sil

Sounds awesome!

TheTeaFairy

love these moments in life when tea brings people together :-)

Hesper June

I agree, this tea has quite the personality.
When I first opened the tin on this I thought I was going to be disappointed, it did not smell all that remarkable.
But, like you, the first sip certainly changed my mind:)

TeaBrat

@Hesper June – I want to try this! Would you like to swap for anything in my cupboard? :-)

Hesper June

Sure! I will browse through your cupboard and message you:)

ashmanra

I am having some right now! :)

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I had this again at tea party today. We had made a loaf of homemade buttermilk bread from the flour we grind fresh for baking. I toasted several pieces and cut them small and we tested out some new fruit jams. I had purchased Black Currant jam just because I was unfamiliar with it and like the flavor in some of my teas. I had read that it is sort of the European equivalent to our grape-flavored everything! I also had a French Four Fruit jam for us to try.

The jams were delicious and the tea was perfect with it. It made a wonderful contrast with the sweetness and the smoke was mild and pleasant, almost dignified I might say!

Thank you to Hesper June for the sample!

Rebecca Lynn

You grind your own flour? Like, at home? Or do you work in a bakery? Whatever the case, that’s awesome and I am jealous.

ashmanra

We do! We buy different kinds of wheat and oats and grind it in a Nutrimill. We make bread, pizza dough, cookies, and pound cake mostly. It is whole wheat, yet tastes completely different from whole wheat bread from the store and is far more nutritious. There is none of the sour taste that comes from the oxidation of the vitamin E.

Ysaurella

if your 4 fruits jam was a Bonne Maman jam, you are in possession of my daughter’s favourite jam :)

Hesper June

Mmmm, nothing like homemade bread right out of the oven!
Yes, fresh ground flour tastes so different than store bought, once you have had it and then you go back to store bought, the store bought almost taste rancid.

ashmanra

Ysaurella: Actually it is called St. Dalfour, but it is so good. It has chunks of cherries in it.
I will look for the brand you mentioned!

ashmanra

So right, Hesper June, there is nothing like it! My middle daughter used to have headaches and allergy problems. They vanished when we started grinding our own wheat. Kamut makes excellent waffles – the grain itself is yellow and buttery and makes yellow flour. Hard red makes cookies that taste like they have pecan meal in them, and hard white makes delicious breads and brownies. Soft white is what we use for our pound cakes.

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Not long ago, Hesper June offered to send me a sample of this tea. She asked only a bit of Baker Street in return. But when my tea came, it was a WHOLE BOX of tea in the cutest little tins! There are all sorts of smoky teas in it!

Grace Rare Tea is one of the first fine loose teas I bought. I had never heard of the company but my youngest daughter is named Grace and she loved tea the most at the time, so I bought it on a lark for her. I have since purchased almost every tea they make because the quality is so high.

Looking at this tea, it is hard to believe that I am looking at a Lapsang. Sometimes, lesser teas get chosen for heavy flavoring, but not in the case of GRT. The base looks great, and the aroma isn’t plain smoke. There is more to it. There is a sweet and fruity aspect as well.

Sipping, the taste of the base holds up to my expectations. It is smooth and sweet, medium bodied. The smoke is a surprise, though. There was a strong smoke aroma to the dry leaf but it is much lighter in the cup. Wen you sip, it gets really interesting. The smoke is subtle and then it blooms from your throat to your mouth.

This is definitely going to be added to the cupboard. Hesper sent so much that I don’t need to rush to Durham to buy it, though! Thank you, Hesper June!

Hesper June

You are welcome:)
So glad you are enjoying it!

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We accomplished another sample sip down at tea party time today! Middle daughter made chocolate chip cookies with freshly ground hard red wheat. This was the second tea served. It is my second or third favorite Darjeeling, though I am not yet a Darjeeling connoisseur. It is smooth and fruity and doesn’t have as much astringent bite as some. This was actually the favorite tea of my guest today.

Grace Rare Tea does not offer a great variety of teas, but what they have is excellent. That was their mission.

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I received this in a swap with Liberteas.. Thank you!

I really enjoy the offerings I have had from Grace Rare Tea and this was no exception. The leaf is quite small, looking rather chopped. My first thought was that this might begone of those darjeelings like the first I had ever, the one that bullied me and beat me up.

Not so! This is very nice with lovely fruity notes, some muscatel, and very pretty color in the cup. I am taking it plain, enjoying it with a slice of pound cake with lemon fluff frosting. It must be really good. I just poured the last bit into my cup.

I did use cooler water, around 195F, and ny steeped for about 2 minutes.

Thank you, Liberteas!

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I should have gone to bed a long time ago, but it has been a weird weekend. I took a nap this afternoon and that is probably monkeying with me. I didn’t eat supper but just snacked on walnuts and drank some chocolate milk. So at 3 am I decide it is a good time to continue watching movies with the (college) kids and heat up a plate of Asian buffet leftovers. Probably not smart.

I wanted a nice green to go with it, and this was close at hand and fit the bill. I don’t remember how I made it before, but I was in a hurry and just gave it about 90 seconds at 180F. It came out really well and is great with my food. Now I am going to absolutely CRASH and yet I have to get up early to take care of the chickens. Maybe another nap will be in order tomorrow!

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This was great with my lunch of leftover Asian buffet takeout. The jasmine is fairly light in this one, as in, if you hate tea that tastes like cologne you could drink this. The jasmine is lightly sweet and the green base is a little…gutsy? It doesn’t overpower the jasmine, though.

This is good with food, but for my “cuddle the cup of calm” jasmine tea, I will still take Teavivre’s Premium Jasmine Dragon Pearls or Jasmine Silver Needle white tea!

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I tried this one again, and to be fair gave it a little leeway from comparing it with ANY dragon pearl tea. It isn’t a dragon pearl and I shouldn’t let my love of DP give me a bad attitude toward other jasmine teas!

The pot was sitting out and I gave it a sniff and asked youngest what it was. She said she didn’t remember. I decided to drink it anyway! I thought it was decent with a tad of astringency, the good kind. As I finished the pot, I thought I had figured out what it was, asked daughter if it was Flowery Jasmine, and she said it was. I immediately repented of my bad attitude toward it on the first tasting.

This is a good jasmine tea, but incredibly, Teavivre’s Jasmine Dragon Pearls are cheaper! I like how they make special occasion tea affordable enough for every day. I will probably not ever replace this tin, and mostly bought it out of curiosity and because I had a gift certificate for the store selling it.

I will continue to replace my JDP from Teavivre whenever it gets low. I had a friend growl at me last week because she says I have gotten her addicted to it and now she has to keep it in stock as well! And she didn’t even like green tea until a few weeks ago.

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I have loved every tea I purchased from Grace Rare Tea, until this one. I don’t hate it, it just doesn’t have much jasmine flavor. I wonder if it is old? I bought the two ounce tin at A Southern Season. I asked if it was a pouchong base and the manager said she had never heard of a jasmine tea having a pouchong base and told me it was a black tea base. Hmmm. Most of the jasmine teas I have seen are pouchong! Harney’s basic jasmine is pouchong and really tastes great for the price.

Anyway, I opened it up and sniffed and the jasmine aroma was very good. Steeped, it is a typical pouchong base in color and strength, fairly smooth. The jasmine flavor isn’t strong enough for me, though. It isn’t soapy and nasty like the jasmine black I tried from SS. The more you sip, the more the jasmine comes through. If I had never had Teavivre’s Jasmine Dragon Pearls, I might really like this. Unfortunately, this is standing in the shadow of an awesome tea. I am glad I got to try it, though!

Teavivre’s Jasmine Dragon Peals still have my number one spot for jasmines!

LiberTEAS

most of the jasmine teas that I’ve encountered are green tea, with white tea coming in at #2… pouchong would probably be third.

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Top o’the (chilly) morning to you. Not quite enough for two cups, more than I needed for one, so I used it all, steeped double strength and spiked it with plenty of milk. Classic Assam to get your toes tapping.

…and if that doesn’t work, how about this little Celtic ditty-do? (It’s Carman, so I’m dating myself here—loved him in 1982, love him now :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WjMDRgpKvo

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Breakfast tea notwithstanding, this is way too nice to doctor up with milk. Lovely and juicy on its own. Isn’t a bit drying or acidic in the mouth.

ashmanra

This is my favorite assam so far. This is one of the first loose leaf tea brands I ever purchased, and then only because a.) my daughter’s name is Grace – she is my GiGi! – she is a rare treasure, and she loves tea so it was très meta, and 2.)they have really cool tins. In fact, the tin even has a sticker telling how it won some food design award or something. I love their Winey Keemun and this Assam. I need to try their jasmine tea. Oh dear! I shall have to go to Chapel Hill to visit my son, I guess! :)

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This is another one that needs to be treated gently, or it’ll grow muscles and walk off without you. I think I slightly overdid/oversteeped, but even with that said, this has a nice fruity background note that adds a little sophistication to the morning Assam kick.

ashmanra

Yep. When handled with kid gloves this is one of my favorite Assams. I use a lower steep temp and time and add milk and sugar and then we get along juuuust fine!

teawing

shouldn’t the fact that this is “Irish” be a signal that it might need…special treatment?
:)

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This morning I experimented with making a homemade chai with just my favorite things in it. I am not a huge fan of turmeric in chai but my Indian acquaintances here put a lot of it, as well as black pepper. Now, it may be sacrilege that I didn’t put any pepper, and maybe I can’t legitimately call this chai, but it was really good.

I add 1/2 tsp. of whole cardamom, a few whole allspice, and a bit of Ceylon cinnamon to two teaspoons of Assam. I simmered this in two cups of water for almost twenty minutes. I strained it into a teapot and added sugar, gave it a good stir, and added some hot milk. It. Was. YUMMY.

For all you chai lovers who like the black pepper and turmeric, I apologize for offending your sensibilities. I will happily call this just “spiced tea” and keep on drinking it. My only regret was that I hadn’t made a larger portion!

Molly

Sounds delicious to me!

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Why are the chickens making me crave black tea? Each morning I go outside and watch the chickens we bought Sunday. One of them had laid an egg in the box during the auction. I didn’t expect them to lay for a week or so since they had a major upheaval in their lives, but yesterday both laying hens laid an egg. (One is an adorable pullet, too young to lay just yet.) I am on pins and needles looking for two more eggs to come at about five o’clock. Meanwhile, though, in the mornings I LONG for a pot of black tea even though I haven’t been having tea until afternoons for a long while.

This one sounded good today. It is one of only a few Assams that I can drink and not regret it. Others are too harsh for me and give me an angry stomach. I actually got distracted and steeped this one for over five minutes instead of the 3 1/2 I normally do. I was afraid it would be undrinkable but I took it outside and enjoyed every cup with a bit of Blarney Castle cheese from Kerrygold. Is anyone else excited at the cheese they are carrying at Sam’s Club now? They have some pretty decent ones and I try to buy one or two a month to expand my horizons.

Grace Rare Tea is consistently good for me. They don’t offer a huge number of different teas, but they offer high quality teas and people who have tea at my house generally really like their tea. I have had their Formosa Oolong, Assam, Winey Keemun, and Jasmine Green, and they have all been tasty.

JacquelineM

Even tho they had an upheaval, the also have the best and most caring chicken mom ever!

ashmanra

D’aw! Thanks! I am getting a sunburn sitting out there by their run in the eighty plus degree heat – haha!

Rellybob

80 plus degree heat?!! Here up north Spring hasn’t even shown up yet. >_< I figure it’s making up for the mild winter last year, but I’m soo ready for some warm days.

ashmanra

Rellybob: it was 84 last time I checked! I have the a/c set for 78 and I just heard it come on and it is after 7pm. We have a few more days of this predicted. I don’t enjoy really cold weather but I don’t like the heat and humidity either! If only it could be perpetually 70 degrees!

Rellybob

Absolutely agreed that 70 is the ideal temp. I do enjoy the seasons…but only when they change when they’re supposed to! :)

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I haven’t had this tea in ages, and it appears I didn’t review back when I did have it. I am still experimenting and trying to expand my tea horizons, and I want to learn to like more teas.

The first time I had this I didn’t like it. It was too…Assam-y. I love Irish breakfast teas so I don’t know why my experiences with Assams have left a bad taste in my mouth. I am giving this one another go.

Since the leaves are somewhat fine I decided to steep for only about three minutes. I have to confess I am finding this to be a lovely cup of tea. We are drinking it with Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, which always makes tea seem sweeter to us. I decided to be bold and drink this sans additions. The most surprising thing to me is that I ampicking up a fruitiness in the cup. There is barely any astringency, mostly a hearty, bold malty taste, but not too strong.

I believe I may be able to drink this after all!

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I can’t say as I am a fan of the aroma of this one. The taste…not terrible but not really flavorful…might have to tinker before fully reviewing and rating…

backlogging

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Ashmanra sent me another batch of amazing teas, many of which I have been sooooo excited to try – so much so that I can’t bear to try them just yet! I chose this one to try first because I didn’t know anything about this one yet and have not built it up in my head :), love what I have tasted from Grace teas so far, and the description sounded like it would pair well with buttery, salty shortbread, which is what we are having for our afternoon snack!

Delicious! A good, hearty tea flavor with a slight chewy smokiness. I used a splash of half and half and 2 teaspoons of sugar per cup – too much sugar. I think the barest hint of smoke this tea has along with that caramel chewiness would do better with a scant teaspoon of sugar. My error! Despite that, both my husband and I really enjoyed this. Thumbs up! Whomever is the owner of Grace tea is, boy do I share his/her taste! Everything I have tasted so far is exactly suited to what I like!

Speaking of smokiness – I am starting to get into the smoky! Leeeetle smoky steps – like the touch of smoke in English style breakfast blends or that Yunnan chewysmoky – but I am starting to crave it! Imagine that. When I tasted that little tinge of smoke my heart sang!

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
ashmanra

Ooooo, I think you will like (maybe love!) Queen Catherine then!

JacquelineM

She is one that I want to try so bad that I couldn’t try her!!!

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I am egg-zausted from attending a performance of the Duchess of Malfi last night – talk about intense! It is a strong tea, milk and sugar kind of morning. I thought this one would be fun to try – thanks SO MUCH ashmanra!

This is a very complex and interesting Irish Breakfast! I am getting the feeling that Grace Rare Teas are telling it like it is :) The offerings I’ve had thus far have not tasted like anything I’ve ever tasted!

I taste a true tea flavor, strong but not astringent or bitter – really smooth, full bodied – malty but not overly so, and for some reason, I taste the most gentle of cardamom or nutmeg? flavors. Sort of like cardamom or nutmeg was steeped in milk – or like rice pudding! Very subtle. I know this is not a flavored tea so it must be some unique quality of the tea. It is delicious.

I don’t think I have any choice but to put a leetle more tea into my brewer basket and make another cup!

Mmmmmmmmmm! I’m still getting that unique cardamom-y flavor (and I am f-l-y-i-n-g! This one sneaks up on ya! How can something that tastes so good and sweet and lovely wake you up like this!?!!?!?)

It is truly frightening how much delicious tea I’ve been drinking courtesy of ashmanra!!! Thank you once again!

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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