So, for those of you who may not know, Simpson & Vail is one of the most established tea merchants in the United States, having been around in one form or another since the turn of the twentieth century. They are still going strong today and continue to be renowned for their numerous high quality blended teas. This Russian caravan blend is one of the company’s original blends, having first been formulated at some point in the early 1900s. If one were to compare this blend to other Russian-style blends, however, one would notice something unique about this blend immediately. It does not contain any lapsang souchong. Rather, it is a mix of black teas with a dash of Earl Grey added for additional character. Think of it as something like Kusmi Tea’s Russian blends, only lighter, simpler, and more restrained.
In the glass, the infused liquor shows a clear, dark amber. Mild, layered aromas of leather, tobacco, caramel, cocoa, honey, toast, malt, lemon zest, and bergamot are most noticeable on the nose, though if I really focus, I also get subtle impressions of sweet potato, plum, orange, and apricot. In the mouth, the tea is nicely balanced, offering smooth notes of honey, toast, malt, molasses, mild cocoa, leather, tobacco, and caramel underscored by subtler notes of lemon zest, bergamot, sweet potato, orange, plum, and apricot. The finish is mild, and to me, a little clipped, with pleasant citrus, stone fruit, honey, malt, toast, and leather notes.
Okay, so this is really mild compared to the Russian blends available from many other vendors, and the fact that this is labeled a Russian caravan blend is a little misleading since it lacks the smokiness and woodiness of traditional Russian caravan teas. It is, however, both unique and pleasant. Overall, it is a subtler-than-expected blend with a nice layering of aromas and flavors. I rather like it and would recommend it to those looking for an afternoon tea with a little bit of kick, but without a ton of sharpness and astringency. Just don’t expect a heavy, smoky blend.
Flavors: Apricot, Bergamot, Caramel, Cocoa, Honey, Leather, Lemon Zest, Malt, Molasses, Orange, Plums, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Tobacco