85 Tasting Notes
So, here it is, Day 3 of the countdown to Christmas with TEA – and I’m already behind a day! In my defense, I was gone pretty much all day yesterday, Mat HAD to see the new Star Wars movie yesterday and was even kinda/sorta lamenting that we didn’t go to see it just after midnight. Instead, we went to see it at 10:30 am yesterday. Seriously? Who goes to see a movie at 10:30 am? Or, to put it another way, what NIGHT OWL goes to see a movie at 10:30 am?
Anyway, after that, I went to watch my grandson graduate from his Tiny Tigers martial arts course which is something I wouldn’t miss for the world. Then my oldest daughter and I went shopping for Christmas and I didn’t get home until about 8 pm – and I came home to a hungry younger daughter and Mat – so yeah, not a lot of time to do other things.
Moving on to tea – this was yesterday’s tea in the 12 Teas of Christmas countdown. Holiday Marmalade. You may be wondering why I chose this name. The name didn’t inspire the tea – I didn’t start out with the name already given to the tea. To be honest, this tea went through a few names before I found one that I was content to give this tea.
My original vision for this tea was a spiced orange curd – you know, sort of like a lemon curd only with oranges. And spices. So I built the tea around that idea, with oranges and vanilla bean and spices – but I was never really happy with the name “Spiced Orange Curd.” I think it was the “Spiced” part. It seems like every time I add some fall or wintery spices to a tea, I just slap on the word “Spiced” or “Spice” to it and wa-lah … it just kind of lacked any sort of creativity whatsoever. So then I thought, Holiday Curd? No, I didn’t like that either. I don’t know why but it just wasn’t doing it for me.
After a few other name variants that I came up with and was equally as dissatisfied with I thought: what about marmalade? It’s not exactly an orange marmalade – well, it is, but it’s also got those spices and I didn’t want to call it Spiced Orange Marmalade for the same reason I didn’t want to call it Spiced Orange Curd. So – after some thought, I decided that Holiday Marmalade sounded right. I just liked the sound of it. Then I found this musical jam with holiday music lead by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen which is called “Holiday Marmalade” (as opposed to “Holiday Jam”) and I absolutely LOVED it … so Holiday Marmalade became the name of this tea – more so for this melody of music than for the actual tea. :)
This is last week’s Tea of the Week. I generally have my tea ‘menu’ mapped out for a couple of months ahead of time, mostly because I need to be sure that I have the proper ingredients for each tea in stock in time for blending. But this is one that I kind of just came up with kind of late in the game. I changed the menu at the end of October to include this tea – because I realized that I didn’t have ANY minty teas around the holiday (with the exception of Graveyard Mist, which is usually in stock) so I needed to remedy that.
Fortunately, even though I didn’t have many of the ingredients for this tea, I can get my herbs locally so I’m able to get them quickly – and the candy canes I got from an online vendor that is really speedy. The candy canes are vegan, gluten free, nut free and organic. Even the color on the candy cane is derived from plant sources rather than artificial coloring. Tasting the candy on it’s own, it’s actually a rather subtle peppermint candy – but it works with the tea.
The tea has a nice sweetness to it, it’s crisp and minty but the vanilla softens it enough so that it’s not like a swig of mouthwash. I love these flavors with the soft taste and texture of the white tea.
Flavors: Peppermint, Sweet, Vanilla
It’s Back! I’m currently taste testing the latest batch of the Pancake Breakfast Tea. It’s been out of stock from our permanent collection for a couple of months (Yeah, I know! I’ve been behind!) but it’s been reblended and it’s been added to the website!
Whenever we get this back in stock, I’m so happy to have it back in my stash that it seems to disappear almost as soon as I have it back – and this time around, I think it’s even better than I remember – because I’ve been listening (well, reading) what the Steepsterites have been saying about it so I altered the recipe just slightly to give it more of a pancake-y flavor – but without taking away from the maple-y goodness.
This is this week’s Tea of the Week as well as the Featured Reblend/Retro Monday blend for October. I argued with myself on whether or not I should start a new entry for this since it is technically a new Pumpkin Chai – as I didn’t follow Frank’s recipe for this one. But I figured that we do have a lot of entries as it is and we actually DO have 2 Pumpkin Chai entries (this one and the Sri Lankan Pumpkin Chai) – the thought crossed my mind that having another Pumpkin Chai entry may just confuzzle everyone so I decided to just use this one.
As I said, my new Pumpkin Chai is different from the original blend. I didn’t actually have Frank’s recipe for this blend – earlier this year my old computer (that I had for about 8 years) died. Fortunately, I did sense that it’s time was approaching and I started saving my recipes to google docs and I didn’t lose too many recipes. I lost a lot of other things that I wasn’t able to retrieve but for the most part, we got through it with as little loss as possible.
Anyway – I wasn’t able to save all of Frank’s recipes and quite a few of his older ones were also lost in his own computer’s death so to be honest, I don’t recall if this particular recipe was in the set of recipes that I did have. But that’s OK. That chai was alright, but I enjoy making chai blends so I wasn’t too set on needing to recreate his.
I wanted to focus on as much pumpkin flavor as possible – which is difficult for a few reasons: a) the pumpkin bits that are added to the blend do not add a strong flavor – they’re mostly about visual appeal; b) I’ve found that it’s a bit difficult to get the pumpkin essence to express itself fully with a strong black tea base and I’m of the belief that chai blends with a black tea base should have a strong, vigorous black tea as it’s base to support those spices; and c) the strong spices tend to mask some of the pumpkin notes.
Nevertheless, I do think I managed to get some of that pumpkin to shine through.
When it comes to a chai though, the most important thing (at least for me) is the spice. I like a warm and cozy chai – and I even appreciate a really robust, spicy chai. Usually when I get a chai with spices on the subtle side, I find myself somewhat disappointed. It’s something that happens often when it comes to coffee shop chai blends – because most of them use one particular brand of chai concentrate (and I’m not going to name names) and it isn’t a very strong chai – it tastes mostly like milk and sugar to me – with some notes of cinnamon and ginger. I usually get no real discernible tea flavor from those blends and very little in the way of spice. There are only a few coffee shops out there where I’ll get a chai latte these days and those are ones that I KNOW do not serve that particular brand of chai concentrate.
Anyway, I digress.
I wanted this chai to be something that kept the spice profile strong even if I added some milk for a latte (because pumpkin chai blends should be made into a latte, amirite?) and I think I managed to accomplish this. I do recommend that if you decide to go latte with this, that you brew it strong so that the milk doesn’t dilute the tea because this was made to be served as a straight up tea.
And it is good as both a straight up tea and as a latte. As a latte, it’s smooth and creamy, with a really nice peppery bite to it. When it’s a latte, the pumpkin becomes very silky tasting, reminding me almost of a pumpkin yogurt but without that tang of the yogurt, which makes me wonder how some plain kefir might fair in this? Would the kefir curdle with the heat of the tea? It’s not something I’ve ever tried – so I don’t know. If any of you have tried such a thing – please let me know how it turned out!
Anyway, I’m quite happy with this blend – happy that I’m able to enjoy some chai as the weather is definitely CHAI weather to me and also because it’s yummy!
This is last week’s Tea of the Week – last night, I brewed a pitcher full of it to stash in the fridge for iced tea today. This is fantastic as an iced tea but I think I do prefer it as a hot tea. As a hot tea, it tastes very much like what I’d expect a candied pear to taste like. As an iced tea, I taste more candy than I do pear – but the white tea comes through really nicely as an iced tea. Very soft and sweet.
This is this week’s Tea of the Week – it was inspired by one of my favorite coffee shop drinks – London Fog. When I go to Mat’s medical appointments with him, I usually order a London Fog from the coffee shop that’s in the lobby of the medical office building. It’s not a big, brand-name coffee shop but they do a really pleasant London Fog. The first time I stopped in, I had ordered a Chai Latte which is pretty much the usual drink I order when I go to a coffee shop, however, it does depend upon what kind of Chai concentrate they use. I am not a fan of Oregon Chai because that stuff is mostly milk and sugar – try as I might, I can’t taste the tea in it. So as it happened, this little coffee shop did use Oregon Chai so I quickly altered my order to a London Fog and requested that they use less vanilla syrup than they usually do and also that they use coconut milk instead of their 2% cow’s milk. I loved the London Fog so much I wasn’t at all upset that I didn’t get a chai! (And I do love chai!)
One morning as I was sipping on one of these London Fog drinks, my mind started to play with the idea of creating a tea inspired by it. What would I change about the London Fog? First, I’d rather it be made with loose leaf tea rather than a tea bag. Well, that part is easy because all I offer is loose leaf tea. :)
Second, I wanted a stronger coconut presence in the drink. So I went a bit heavier on the coconut than you’d experience with a tea drink infused in coconut milk. I kept the vanilla moderate. The bergamot is strong but is softened somewhat by the presence of the coconut and vanilla.
This is my new favorite tea right now. It’s so yummy.
This is last week’s Tea of the Week. Last night, I brewed up a pitcher of this tea to enjoy as an iced tea today.
This makes a yummy iced tea. I find that as a cold beverage, the toasted rice AND marshmallow notes emerge a bit more than I picked up on with the hot drink. The mulberry is there too – I get a tangy tart note and a lovely berry flavor along with that roasty-toasty flavor and the marshmallow.
I’m not sure if I prefer this as an iced tea or as a hot tea – it’s two different drinks depending upon how you decide to serve it.
This is last week’s Tea of the Week. I’ve been drinking this all weekend and into today. Last night I brewed up a pitcher to try it iced today and this is a whole different tea when iced versus served hot. I find that some of the spices seem to pop with the chill, particularly the allspice and cardamom, which is quite nice.
When it’s hot, the apple and pear are much more discernible and this becomes more like a cider-type of drink which really wasn’t my intention when I first came up with the idea for this tea, but I enjoyed the cider-y aspect of it so much that I wasn’t complaining about this happy accident.
This is really nice iced too. It is, as I said, a different drink – the spices are more prominent with the apple and pear being more of a background note – but those flavors develop as I continue to drink. It’s definitely very autumnal and makes for a very enjoyable iced beverage but I think I do prefer it hot.
This is this week’s Tea of the Week. I’m currently on my second infusion of the leaves I first infused about an hour ago. The second infusion is probably my favorite steep of this particular tea so I highly recommend a resteep on these leaves! The flavor of both the Oolong and the fruit has mellowed somewhat – and it’s just soft and sweet and really quite nice. Smooth and silky.