Hey tea lovers! I have a couple of very cool tea focused Christmas gift ideas to share with you from Adagio Teas. They sent me their 2020 Tea Advent Calendar and 12 Days of Christmas tea ornaments gift to check out. The video above gives you a sneak peak of what’s inside. Don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler alert. I only show one tea in the Advent Calendar so you can still be surprised with a new tea every day. The 12 Days of Christmas comes with a tea list though, and I do reveal that.
The advent calendar is available in tea bag or loose tea format. Note, the teas for the loose version are different than for the bagged one. So get both! (I like ‘and’ in this case more than ‘or’.)
I have already dug into these teas and want to share notes on a couple. The black Cream Tea, which is in the 12 Days... as Eight Maids a Milking Cream Tea, tastes as good as it smells. I don’t buy a lot of flavored teas but sometimes they just hit the right note. The leaves have a scent of sweet cream. Brewed it is creamy and slightly sweet on its own, but I think the taste is brought out best with honey and a bit of milk.
This tea is also available in a sample size, 3 oz., 16 oz. and a 15 bag box. The tea base is Ceylon and there is no sugar or dairy in it, just natural flavoring.
Another holiday inspired tea is the Pu-erh Chorange, available loose and in bags. It smells and tastes like the classic Terry’s Chocolate Orange candy! (Now I want one.) I liked this tea naked (The tea, not me. Though I have nothing against naked tea drinking. Drink your tea wearing what you want!) It’s also great with a bit of honey to bring out the sweetness. The puerh is gently earthy, round and smooth creating a great base for the balancing act of the chocolate and orange.
On the caffeine-free end I tried the Rooibos Nutcracker. The hazelnut and chestnut notes were what really grabbed my attention in this blend. It also includes apple, cocoa nibs and caramel flavor. I folded some homemade whipped cream in this tea and it was like Christmas dessert in a cup. This is a good one if you want to roll around in the season without getting a caffeine high.
It’s an unusual holiday season for many. I realize I am appreciating every moment of beauty, fun and kindness more than ever. Wishing you some of the joy of the holidays in your cup.
Note: Though Adagio did provide teas I am not an affiliate and these are just links to products mentioned for ease. Enjoy!
The unboxing video above shows you an overview of what was in the BRUU tea subscription box. Now let’s talk a bit about the teas. It is my understanding that the types of tea change each month. When you join the service you indicate your tea preferences and they create boxes for you around them. BRUU sent me a box to review, so I did not indicate my preference. This time there were 2 CTC (crush tear curl) black teas, a flavored green tea and one herbal tisane. Let's get our tea on!
The first black tea in the BRUU box was an orange pekoe named Somerset Pekoe. This was a very broken leaf tea that gives flavor over very quickly. It has a fruity nose, floral notes and a briskness taking milk and sweetener well. This orange pekoe tea is from Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon). The card that came with this tea indicates it was grown in a cooler region on the Talawakelle tea estate. That information is interesting because temperature is one of the factors that affects the antioxidants (and flavor) in tea. (Note that polyphenols are a type of antioxidant and catechins are a type of polyphenol. Ugh. That’s it for the science lesson for now. We’ll come back to that in another post.)
For those who aren’t aware, orange pekoe (abbreviated OP) is the name of a grade of tea and has nothing to do with the flavor. There is no orange in it. This one is a broken leaf orange pekoe which is usually without golden tips.
Surianalle black tea, from Munnar
This was the "discover' tea in the box and came with a special large information card. From the town of Munnar in the state of Kerala, India this is a high elevation tea - listed as 1532m above sea level.
Both from what I've experienced and what I've been taught tea grown at higher elevations tends to have a more complex flavor profile. One reason is there is greater carbohydrate content in the leaf which lends a sweeter flavor. This happens because the conditions are so difficult that to grow a plant needs to put more carbohydrates in the leaves.
Other details listed include the soil: sandy loam; season: December-February; and average temperature: 19℃.
This is another very broken CTC tea. I found it to be softer, rounder than the OP, and less brisk but fuller bodied. It would also take milk and sweetener well and be a good morning cuppa in the British fashion.
A simple, but pleasing mix of 3 ingredients: apple, pineapple and lemongrass. The fruit and herbaceous notes work well together. They have a pleasant party (without any actual turkey, though it's a funny little image on the package there.)
The card on this herbal tisane said it is a famous tea. If Turkish apple is a famous tea, I must live under a rock. Not surprising as I'm more of an underground, cult favorite kind of person anyway. I am more familiar with the traditional black tea in Turkish culture, made in a samovar as a concentrate with hot water added to obtain the desired strength.
Per my research Turkish apple tea was introduced as a tea for tourists a while back because traditional Turkish tea, just like their coffee, is very strong and most western tourists weren't into it. So a no tea, caffeine free, herbal version was created of which there are many variations. Some use flavorings as opposed to actual pieces of fruit. It looks like this is a variation on that tourist aimed tea.
This is a flavored sencha tea, a Japanese green from Shizuoka. It has everything in it: flavoring, mallow blossoms, rose petals, freeze-dried strawberries, blackberries and raspberries and freeze-dried yogurt granules (that’s a new one for me).
It is very berry indeed, and the sugar in it means no sweetener is required. The tea took a back seat in my opinion, but I think that was the point. If you like the benefits of green tea but prefer fruity tasting tea this would be a good blend for you.
There are different types of tea subscription services for different types of tea drinkers. BRUU’s subscription box is a low cost introduction to a variety of teas for a tea lover looking to expand their knowledge and experience the fun of getting tea delivered to their door every month. The information cards are a fun addition, though a bit hard to read (but that’s why cell phones have magnifiers). They use responsible packaging from recycled sources too with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) symbol on their box. Yes, they deliver to the US.
This tea subscription service would be good for the tea drinker who is:
Thanks to BRUU for supplying the box for this tea adventure.
One of Greater Los Angeles’ very cool evolving areas is Highland Park. From music venues with an independent community scene, to vegan cafes, to dollar stores, to long standing local favorites to new privately owned specialty shops Highland Park is eclectic and surprising. I became intrigued by this area when hosting for the Youbloom music festival at the Hi Hat. Recently I felt the urge to do more exploring there. Interestingly, the very first place I discovered after parking was Wild Terra - an herbal apothecary with a small, carefully curated tea section. They had only been open a week. The owner Danielle Noe and I got talking about a mutual love of tea. She said Earl Grey was her ‘comfort food’ growing up.
The energy. The serendipity. I had to do a blog on this place.
Even better for this tea and entertainment blog, Danielle has a wild background as a special effects makeup artist having worked on some stuff you may have heard of - HBO’s True Blood and the Aquaman film, for example. As a matter of fact, the windows at the back of the shop were from Merlotte’s bar! (see the gallery below) Man, TV and film are everywhere in this town. So cool.
From Bon Temps to Herbs and Tea
Danielle has a clear love for herbs and spices, how they grow and what they can do for the body. Most of what she carries herb-wise is from California and all of it is organic. She even grows some herself. There are two sections of wall dedicated to herbs and spices including 3 types of Holy Basil, Damiana, Mugwort, Skullcap and on and on.
Tea-wise the selection is small but carefully chosen. Some of the teas are from Biodynamic farms, most are organic except for those from Africa which are Fair Trade. She orders directly from some of the estates including Bitaco, a certified organic tea farm from Columbia which has been growing tea for 60 years. Danielle shared their Tippy Negro 2 with me which reminded me of a light Yunnan - smooth and mellow and the color of liquid amber. She has multiple teas from Kenya, including the new purple tea (read more on what that is here). She has an organic Assam from India and some compelling Chinese teas. There are teas from Japan on the way too.
Included in the tea wall are Yerba Mate, and the only US native plant with caffeine, Yaupon. It is in the same holly genus as Yerba Mate and Guayusa and contains similar amounts of caffeine. Danielle also carries two types of Coffee Leaf, regular and mango scented. Yes, there is such a thing as coffee leaf that is steeped like tea! Crazy! (I got to do some tasting and will share that part of the experience in a separate post).
Other Unique Finds
Wild Terra has a variety of mushrooms including whole Reishi mushrooms which look like some pre-historic relic (see pic). She makes tinctures from them too with a triple extraction process:
Wild Terra also carries:
So go get your tea and herb on in this little gem in Highland Park! Tell Danielle the Tea Deviant sent you;)
The adage that there is nothing new under the sun is especially true today with tea. I mean, it takes a lot to surprise me. I’ve seen everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type teas all over the place for a while now (Teavana for example. Is there actually any tea in there?) There is ant tea too...and I accidentally created a tea that tasted like bugs, but don’t worry, I have no intention of marketing my tea fail. Still, I did a double take when I saw this tea hit the Trader Joe’s shelves a couple of weeks back. I love watermelon. It does go well with mint. Mint goes well with tea. Yet, the idea of all three of them dancing in a cup together seemed like something that could go very well or terribly wrong. After having a discussion with one of the awesome employees at my local TJs (I won’t change my TJs because the people there are particularly awesome) I decided I had to make my own assessment.
The black tea was a medium bodied one to my taste. As is often case in the world of shelf tea the ingredients list didn’t help with any origin or other detailed info. It just included ‘black tea’ in the list <sigh>. I think it would take a more deeply trained palate than mine to identify the black leaf behind everything else going on. Oh yeah, the ingredients also include orange peels, the ever vague ‘natural flavors’ and licorice (?!). So I wouldn’t recommend it hot by itself, but once I added honey the sweetness of the watermelon emerged. It was still a little weird, but interesting and fun to taste. I decided to do the full dressing and add milk. It wasn’t gross as some might guess, it was just... not helpful.
My gut instinct is that this tea was made to be iced, but it was in small single serving bags, not pitcher sized ones and included “hot tea by the cup” and “iced tea by the pitcher” directions. I thought I’d start traditional with a hot steep. Even though I would have taken a bet that it needed sweetener to have the best effect I did try it without to start. It tasted more like sucking on watermelon rind with a splash of mint rather than sweet watermelon.
Next I did an iced tea from a hot steep. Again, plain was not the best but I think plain iced was better than plain hot. This time I added amber sugar and it was quite good this way. The mint added a refreshing coolness that went beyond the ice and the sugar was a better fit to the watermelon sweetness than the honey I used in the hot steep (it was a raw honey with a definitive flavor that kind of competed with the watermelon rather than just enhanced it).
Lastly I did a cold steep for 8 hours. I think this was the best of all methods. Though I have come to love some of the tannin release in a hot black tea with milk (and sometimes sweetener) and prefer it to the milder cold brew, with this tea the milder brew allowed the fruit to shine brightest. I dissolved some amber sugar crystals in a little warm water for a quick and dirty simple syrup-like sweetener and added it to the cold brew. Both my friend and I agreed this was a great addition and made for a unique iced tea. I’d toss in the idea of making a spiked version with vodka perhaps or even using it in a cocktail with other fruit flavors.
If you have a curious palate and these flavors are ones you usually like, give this tea spin. Make it for your next cookout or other summer event. It may inspire some interesting conversation.
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