25 Tasting Notes
Open the package, stick your nose in, inhale, and you will think you’ve eaten dessert. The steeped brew is a bit more earthy than that – strongly minty with mild cacao, not at all sweet, which I love. I tried it with cream and sugar, which I specifically didn’t like; this tea doesn’t become more decadent when treated like a dessert tea… Well, not exactly. Feeling adventuresome, I steeped this tea in whole milk and added some homemade hot chocolate, and oh my word! Wow! I and all my guests enjoyed it the entire rainy night! I can’t keep enough on hand this winter! Perhaps a strange way to treat such good quality tea, but it’s a household favorite with all my teens!
This tea is so well-balanced, it’s difficult to identify any particular flavor. Sure, the mint and cacao can be noted in the dry blend, but when steeped, it’s hard to distinguish. I guess that may mean it’s not a complex cup of tea, and yet it’s delicious. Like that very drinkable wine one sips at a party while mingling, this is a nice dessert tea, and it gets tastier and more interesting with the addition of cream and/or sugar. Yum, yum… yum. I actually will probably never drink it because I don’t like the mouth feel of cream and sugar after I’ve had altered tea, but my friends and guests will adore it; I will keep it stocked for them.
I have explored a lot of Earl Grey teas, and this is not one… However, this tea tastes very similar to my favorite Earl Grey Creme by Art of Tea. Though there is no evidence it should be creamy, it has a warm, earthy flavor and a blend of floral notes that suggest the bergamot and vanilla found in earl grey creme. It is more crisp, more defined than a creme tea, and doesn’t seem to oversteep, which is convenient. Like most American Tea Room teas, I don’t prefer it with cream or sweetener; that seems to ruin the complexity of their teas. One of my favorites, I drink it many times a week. And when someone asks what kind of tea I want, and I simply don’t want to have to think about it, I always default to Anastasia.
This Lemon Meringue tea didn’t smell like lemon when I opened the package. It smells of orange. I steeped it anyway, and couldn’t taste lemon. So I read the ingredients and discovered that there is none. True, there is also no meringue, so while I understand these names can’t always be taken literally, I must admit that I missed there being lemon in my Lemon Meringue. I did taste something a little green, a little floral, but nothing too significant. All in all, I found this tea to be a touch indecisive. American Tea Room’s Lemoncello is also mild, but is perfectly creamy, warm and lemony, while California Tea House’s Lemon Meringue is fully fruity and zingy. Art of Tea’s lemon offering? Well, they may want to rethink this tea’s name? …or perhaps, add lemon…
I have been spoiled by the divinity of American Tea Room’s Lemoncello, which is also a rooibos based lemon tea. However, the Lemoncello is so mild that it doesn’t do well diluted with ice. In searching for a tea to ice this summer, I discovered California Tea Room’s Lemon Meringue Pie. Though the dry tea is very astringent, smelling almost as if splashed with rubbing alcohol, the brewed liquid smells fabulous! The liquid tastes and smells unapologetically zingy, zesty, but not too acidic. It’s a strong lemon tea, yet the rooibos keeps it from being grassy. I put it over ice, and it remained strong and refreshing. With sugar added, it developed a whole new character. A delicious find! As long as I don’t inhale while the tea is dry, this is a wonderfully full, versatile cup of lemon tea.
Like most teas blends that are sweetened with candies, chocolate, etc, the aroma was a plenty satisfying dessert substitute—the caramel scent was divine. Yet if ever I sweeten tea, it’s with honey (I like the acidity), never sucrose; the latter is too sweet for me. The caramel chunks left a coating of sugar in my mouth, which would probably please most dessert tea drinkers. So if you like sweet dessert teas (I’m finding I do not), this is a good quality caramel black.
It’s a good blend. It’s not gingerbread, and it’s even a stretch to call it chai—the lemon is too prominent for those previous descriptors to be comfortable. As a pastry chef, I have prescribed notions of what should fundamentally be in gingerbread, and I don’t think you can have an excellent one without molasses, ginger and cinnamon. Though the spices are there, this tea lacks richness, maltiness, “darkness.” The rooibos base is cozy, but not rich enough on its own to lend the molasses I’m missing. But it’s still a good drink if you aren’t looking for chai or gingerbread. A pleasant herbal blend of some lovely spices that’s fine to drink in the evening.
American Tea Room’s description of this tea is that it is strong-bodied and well-balanced. Well-balanced is true, but to call it strong-bodied is almost selling its herbal appeal short. This chai is wonderful for an herbal, and every ingredient of clear, excellent quality. It’s warm, spicy. However, unlike chai with black tea bases, it doesn’t require milk or sweetener to be delicious. It’s spicy, a bit zesty, but not bold, tannic or overbearing. It is round, balanced and cozily decaffinated. Very nice for afternoon chai.