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.
Happy International Tea Day everyone! This is the first official observance of this international day. For those who don’t know, this isn’t just a day to celebrate your tea love. This day was created to put a focus on the needs of tea workers, the industry, the importance of sustainability, and the worldwide impact of tea economically as well as culturally.
Brief Tea Day History
An unofficial International Tea Day was celebrated in 2005 in New Delhi. It is now an official day of observance each May 21 as decreed by the United Nations General Assembly:
“In 2015, during a meeting in Milan, Italy, the IGG on Tea discussed the idea of an International Tea Day. The proposal was then endorsed by the FAO Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) and subsequently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019” - Wikipedia
Drought, Prices and Hard Times for Tea Workers
The tea industry has been hard hit by recent droughts and fires that have actually destroyed some ancient tea trees particularly in the Yunnan province. (Check out my Tea from a Drought Year post.)
When you see a higher price point for some of your favorite teas, especially the rare ones, understand that there are plantations and workers who have been dealing with reduced harvests and lack of employment prior to covid-19 because of drought and fire damage. The cost increases are justified considering the smaller yields. The taste of the tea when it has gone through a drought is really unique it is and worth the higher price point for that too.
To learn even more about this official day check out the United Nations site. There was also a webcast today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) bringing together professionals from major tea producing countries around the world. They discuss tea varieties and how they are part of cultural events and pay homage to those who have passed on the love of tea from generation to generation. You can see the webcast here: http://www.fao.org/webcast/home/en/item/5271/icode/
There’s been a lot of talk about mindfulness in regard to health and how we view our world. International Tea Day is a great opportunity to appreciate the beverage you love, the earth that nurtured it, and all of the human hands that came together to bring it to you. In some ways tea really does bring the world together.
Share a picture of your tea or tell us what you are drinking in social!
Yes, this is a tea blog. I don’t want anyone getting scared. But I’ve never been one for beverage bigotry. Being open minded about what can be done with tea opens up new realms of adventure. I was contacted by Howard Sobel (Ohio’s Bean Brain) of Crooked River Coffee out of Cleveland Ohio about pairing his coffee with tea. Tea and coffee together is an adventure I’ve been wanting to go on. Because I know the quality of his coffee is stellar, having had it before, I was even more jazzed by the idea. I’m going to share recipes I tried, benefits of drinking tea and coffee, and details from my chat with Howard on getting the best flavor out of your coffee.
Tea and Coffee Together
Tea and coffee blends aren’t new, they just aren’t super common. Now, tea is of course my best friend, but I‘ll hang with a good coffee sometimes. If you like both combining them is a new taste exploration.
There are benefits to imbibing both tea and coffee. There’s a great (and funny) article by Dave Brummert over at Evolv about the positive impact of chlorogenic acid in coffee and how the benefits in green tea are given a bump with coffee intake.
Another article by Heidi Hackler at the Chopra Center talks about the immunity and other boosts that come from both beverages.
Pairing the right coffee with the right tea is key. Howard sent me three blind samples (I think he was testing me on what I remember about his coffee. It was fun, though I wasn't spot on.)
Beans: small, dry, a medium cocoa brown
Taste: winey with a sweet start and citrusy finish
I thought it was: Tanzania Peaberry
It was really: Ethiopian
I had the right region but the wrong country. Howard said that my taste description was right on for coffees from that region of the world. I used this coffee in a coffee and green tea mix (see recipes below)
Beans: larger beans, dry, medium brown
Taste: fuller bodied, woody, smooth, more of a pleasantly bitter finish
I thought it was: South American. I had a fleeting thought it might be Sumatra, but dismissed it.
It was really: Sumatra!
I should have stuck with that fleeting first impression. This is very versatile coffee. I used it for the Down and Dirty, Dirty Chai and Customized Chai (recipe below)
Beans: mixed sizes, dark, oily
Taste: smooth, initial sweetness gives way to chicory, charred wood, leather, easy finish
I thought it was: a blend, but that’s all I got
It was really: ?? They forgot what they sent me, lol! So it’s the mystery coffee blend of a dark roast and an African coffee.
Here is what I played around with. With the Sumatra, I decided to try a variation on the famous ‘dirty chai’. Chai tea, with all of it’s warm spiciness and creamy deliciousness is a good fit for a coffee blend. A strong, full bodied black tea and spices stand up to the boldness of coffee without getting lost. I did two variations.
Down and Dirty, Dirty Chai
When all you have are basic chai tea bags and brewed coffee, you can still have a take on this more common tea and coffee blend. This is aimed at a 12-16 oz mug. (Does anyone actually drink a 6 oz. cup anymore?)
Customized Dirty Chai
make coffee by preferred method: espresso shot, french press, drip, cold brew….-( I like making a cold brew concentrate, then heating and adding to the chai. I enjoy cold brew coffee best. The lowered acidity means no stomach issues for me.)
Note: You can make the chai in one pot. Simmer spices in water. Then add milk and sweetener. Bring to simmer again, then turn off heat and steep tea in it. Strain into cup and add coffee.
Spices to try for a customized chai:
*These spices don’t do as well with long steeping times. They can become overpowering or change in flavor
Green Tea Coffee
This combo was trending a few years ago. This was a combination I thought could go either way. I mixed Sample A, the Ethiopian coffee, with a Ceylon sencha tea that had matcha in it. I thought the winey and citrusy notes of that coffee would pair well with the green tea, or be the best bet of the three.
It completely surprised me. I enjoyed the mix of the two. I brewed the coffee in a pour-over style and made the tea separately to honor the different water temperatures and brewing styles for each. After brewing, I mixed approximately three quarters green tea with one quarter coffee. The unique personalities of both the tea and the coffee came through the blend.
Then I made a green tea coffee latte:
Similar to the green tea coffee, this is a simple blend. I used a loose black puerh, steeping one teaspoon for 3 minutes. I brewed coffee Sample C, the dark mystery blend, in a pour over style.
I also liked this one mixed 50/50. This puerh has enough body and flavor to stand up to the bitterness of coffee without getting lost. I’d say the puerh even mellowed the coffee.
A Bit About Howard
and Crooked River Coffee
Crooked River roasts their coffees in-house. You can’t ask for fresher unless you pick the beans yourself beforehand (but leave this to the professionals and you can just enjoy the pristine beans.)
Old Fashioned B2C Personality
CRC sells wholesale of course, but also has retail clients they sell to via a farmer’s market and directly. They vend at their local farmer’s market because that is the place they get to engage with the consumer. Howard tries to take new customers from a lackluster experience to a great coffee experience. “We try to get into people’s palates and encourage them to experiment a lot. I like to be a teacher. That’s part of the joy of being in the business for 28 years.” - Howard
They have a website, but the way to order retail through Crooked River Coffee is to call the office at (440) 442-8330 and have a chat. They have a low retail minimum of 2 pounds of coffee per order.
Howard's Tips for the Best Coffee
Starting with fresh beans and grinding before brewing yields the best cup. Make sure the fineness of the grind fits the brewing method. Store beans in an airtight container away from sunlight. Don’t put them in the freezer.
Check out this coffee grind graphic from The National Coffee Association (Note: coarse is good for cold brew too):
If you don’t have a quality water filtration system at home, buy spring water. It’s a quick fix. Though it costs more it ensures you don’t have chlorine, lots of bacteria, scale, or sediment (which will damage your coffee maker).
Keep temperatures between 195 and 205 degrees to avoid scalding
A Note on Blooming: When coffee is fresh it gives off quite a bit of carbon dioxide when brewing. The gas pushes the water away from the coffee as it releases. If you pour a small amount of hot water over the grounds and let them sit for 20-30 seconds before brewing more flavor is released in the brewing process. Give it a try!
If you love quality coffee like you love quality tea check out Crooked River Coffee for some of the freshest, most delightful coffee you can get. Then go wild! Use herbs and other tisanes like chocolatey cacao husk and orange peel to enhance your creations. If you take a dive into this blending fun let us know on Facebook and Twitter what you create.
Thanks to Howard for supplying the coffee for this adventure. There was no other sponsorship or affiliate links in this post.
I stopped by Denong for a tasting and got a bonus sample of their 2019 black tea. One of the aspects that makes this extra interesting is that this is tea from a drought year (2017 was a drought year too). This was harsh for tea farmers in drought regions because of reduced yield. Sadly, even robust old trees died in fires in Yunnan impacting puerh and Kenyan tea growers were only operating for half the week because there was not enough tea to harvest. This is why you’ll see less product and higher prices.
It saddens me that these beautiful tea plants and the people in the industry have suffered. Nature has a way of creating beauty out of chaos though. The drought causes the plants to work harder and results in more concentrated flavor. The leaf becomes very small and flat (as opposed to in a monsoon or rainy season where it plumps up) and because of that you get deeper, richer flavor.
The dry leaves are dark and twig like. The wet leaves smell rich and deep like hot fresh biscuits and a little bit of walking in the forest with moss on the ground minus the damp or mildew smell.
The first steep was light, like a briefly dunked tea biscuit. It had a bit of sweet syrup taste a little bit like maple syrup. I steeped for only 30 seconds with minimal tannin bitterness.
The second steep smelled even sweeter, coated my tongue, and reminded me of how some books smell. I'm not talking about the extremely new ones, or the ones that have gotten old and musty, but the in-between, well-read, well-kept books. Perhaps it's where the books are stored or the type of paper they're made of, but that's what this tea reminded me of on the second steep. Tea and books - they go well together. (So do tea and cats, but if a tea smelled like a cat I'd be concerned.)
The third step was the thickest and most flavorful yet.
As this was a black tea sample I wasn't sure if it was going to stand up to a fourth steeping, but I thought I'd give it a shot. It held up. The flavor did start to back away and say goodbye, but it was still present. The tea coated my tongue for another round adding onto the previous rounds for a satisfying mouthfeel and taste. This fourth steep was still very soft and mild from a tannin standpoint. A little less sweet and biscuit-like than previous steeps, but worth doing.
I’m always amazed at how much work and how many people are involved in bringing me my cup of tea. I respect all of that coordinated effort. If you are interested in trying a tea from a drought year, bear in mind the smaller yield which may be reflected in the price. If you have had one of these teas, let the tea community know on Tea Deviant Facebook or Twitter which tea you’ve had and what you thought of it.
This is just touching on the impact of drought. I may go further into this subject and how it changes things for the industry and the consumer, if there is interest.
For more on making a great cup of tea check out these posts:
Does your Tea Taste Like Crap? We can Fix That
Are You Having a Tea Crisis?
This is not a sponsored post
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