This tea sounded amazing to me as soon as I read the description. Seeing that it was labeled as being vegan-friendly made me lose control of my finger and before I knew it, a pouch of Black Metallic and samples of several other teas had been added to my shopping cart and then I received an order confirmation. While I’m not actually vegan (lacto-veg, so not too far off, though), I’m rather weirded out by some of the things that pass as “natural flavoring” (or at least some things that have been used in the past…beaver castoreum, anyone?). I really appreciate that August Uncommon Teas seems to have actually looked into their flavorings and categorized teas by dietary needs instead of assuming all tea would be vegan/gluten-free/nut-free/etc or that all flavorings must be derived from the fruit/flower/whatever they’re supposed to taste like. It might seem like an insignificant or silly thing to most, but it’s a big deal to those with allergies/intolerances or strongly held dietary convictions. But anyway, on to the actual tea…
It smelled so good when I tore open the pouch. So. Good. It wasn’t the smoky violet scent I imagined but deliciously fruity. Elderberry, I guess? I’m not sure I’ve had elderberries before. I steeped according to the instructions on the package and didn’t add anything to it. I doubt anyone was dying to know, but the nifty 50¢ measuring spoons August sells fit neatly in their 50g/15cup tea pouches but I don’t think you’d be able to close the 4 cup sample pouch with a measuring spoon inside. It was hard to let the tea cool enough to drink. The aroma filled the whole room and it was fabulous. This is another tea I’d buy to use as potpourri even if I couldn’t stand the flavor. The flavor takes a few sips to taste everything that’s going on. At first sip there’s a kind of bitterness that disappointed me but as I keep drinking I don’t notice it and I think maybe it was just my tongue (or brain?) trying to make sense of the combination of elderberry and violet. Maybe like how at first violet candies can taste like soap or perfume but you come to appreciate the floral flavor as you get used to it? I don’t know. The violet seems to be lurking more in the aftertaste for me but it’s definitely there. It’s an interesting combination of flavors. Berry juice with violet flowers floating in it. I’m not sure I can pick out the smoke or oolong flavors but I’m sure they’re adding to the complexity. I could see some people (my mother) possibly wanting to add sugar to this tea but I’m not sure how well it’d do with milk/cream. Maybe it’d work if you brewed it stronger than I did this time. Interestingly, as I reach the end of my first cup and contemplate resteeping the leaves, my tongue has a tingly feeling like I just had a spicy tea. Not sure what that’s all about. Overall, I like Black Metallic and would probably order it again when I run out. But I’d try a lightly smoked violet tea without fruit flavors too. I’m looking forward to trying the other teas I ordered from this company. I’m a fan so far.
A few additional thoughts from the second steep:
1. I think the spicy-like tongue tingle was just acidity. My stomach felt it before my mouth figured out what it was. Maybe not one to drink on an empty stomach if you’re sensitive to these things.
2. If you need a snack to go with this tea, Peanut Butter & Jelly Bobo’s Oat Bars go with it nicely.
3. If my comments about dietary preferences came across as in any way judgemental it was completely unintentional. My stance on that is basically “I’ll do what I think is right for me, you do what you think is right for you”. I’m not looking to push my lifestyle as the one and only right way. My gripe is when someone, whether through ignorance or malice, interferes with me doing what I think is right for me. It annoys the crap out of me and makes me lose all trust in a company if I see obviously mislabeled products (like “vegan” cosmetics with beeswax and carmine or “vegetarian” dishes with fish sauce or chicken broth). And it happens all the time! I think it happens slightly less often with common allergens but I still see it often enough for it to be a concern (and good luck if you’re allergic to something that isn’t a “top 8 allergen”). I tend to look for things labeled vegan because it’s easier than trying to figure out what a company’s definition of vegetarian is because it varies so much…but I still have to read through ingredients lists and try to get an idea of whether the company has any idea what vegan even means or if they think it’s just a trendy thing to slap on packages to boost sales. This is turning into a bit of a tangent…but my point was that I don’t care what you eat or don’t eat, I just want foods/drinks labeled appropriately. Ideally, things would have complete ingredient lists instead of these ambiguous “flavoring,” “coloring,” and “spice” ingredients (as far as I’m concerned they might as well just print out a label that says “ingredients: stuff”) but until then, I’m glad companies like August are putting in at least some effort into labeling and categorizing their products according to dietary needs. Am I 100% sure that I can completely trust their labeling? No, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re at least making an effort.