Yes, whole leaf tea is gorgeous and nuanced and complex, but sometimes a flavored tea is a fun mini adventure. I tried some amusing novelty teas from Yorkshire Tea and Tazo tea that were like sweets in a cup!
Yorkshire Biscuit Tea - Make it Subtle
Before #YorkshireTeaGate, I remember seeing pictures of this tea on Twitter and thinking I must try it. Yes, I dunk tea biscuits in my tea when I’m in the mood. The thought of a tea that tastes like a biscuit has already been dunked in it sounded a bit weird and a bit interesting.
I had a mild tantrum when I found out they don't sell these in the US. Thankfully though, there’s Amazon. The box arrived looking like someone had played soccer with it but the bags were unharmed.
I brought these intriguing tea baggies over to my tea drinking bandmate. We often have tea biscuits with our tea. Side note for all of the Americans that are not Anglophiles: we’re not talking about dunking a southern style doughy biscuit in the tea. We're also not talking about a chunky chocolate chip cookie. These tea biscuits are a lightly sweet, malty, very thin cookie.
Okay so this is a much more subtle flavored tea than the other ones in this post. It had a mild sweetness that was accentuated by adding honey or sugar to it. If you've ever dunked a tea biscuit into a basic black tea, you know what that tastes like. This tea does approximate that pretty well. My bandmate agreed.
In the end, we both decided we prefer choosing our black tea and dunking our favorite biscuit in it. But it was fun to try and I recommend the adventure.
Tazo Dessert Delights - Tastes Like the Real Thing
Tazo Dessert Delights Glazed Lemon Loaf Herbal Tea
Tazo Dessert Delights Butterscotch Blondie tea.
I can't remember when I first saw pictures of these teas but it did make me wonder: awesome or gross or somewhere in-between?
Flavored teas are not a go-to for me, but these were really wild. They actually taste like they smell and are dead ringers for the desserts they represent. I think I would prefer having the dessert because there's something to be said for texture. Still, these were really fun and surprising. Everyone in the room who smelled the teas were intrigued, and agreed that they taste like the desserts.
The glazed lemon loaf tea is herbal. There is no camellia sinensis in it, so if you like having some dessert before bed but don't want a whole lot of caffeine, calories or sugar, try this. It has a green rooibos base with apple, chamomile, orange peel, rose and licorice root. (Note: Licorice root is often included for a bit of natural sweetness. It doesn't taste like licorice at all.)
The butterscotch blondie is a black tea base with chicory root, cocoa peel, licorice root, cinnamon, cardamom, and natural flavors.
I believe it's important to do your due diligence about whatever you put into your body. This isn't about being afraid but rather about being informed so that you can make the best choices that fit with your values and lifestyle.
Generally I find loose leaf teas to be of better quality than bagged teas, but that isn't the case across the board. As many ingredient labels read “ingredients: tea”, we as consumers have to do a lot of work to know the quality of tea we’re drinking. Even then, without knowing the importer or the company in detail we often don't know which countries, plantations, harvests, elevations, shading, etc. (all of which impact flavor, caffeine and compounds) we’re dealing with.
Here are the smartlabel links for the Tazo teas:
Lemon loaf: https://smartlabel.labelinsight.com/product/4857147/ingredients
The smart label information doesn't go into detail about where the tea is sourced or the harvest. It does give a description of what the FDA means by things like “natural flavors." Tazo is owned by Unilever, which is the largest tea company in the world when including all of the brands it owns, like Lipton. Unilever has more information on their tea sourcing, Rainforest Alliance and sustainability initiatives on their website.
Have you tried any of these teas, or other dessert teas you would recommend? Let us know on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TeaDeviant/and Twitter https://twitter.com/teadeviant
I wish you tasty adventures in great tea!
This is not a sponsored post.
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
It's fall! Even in the southland the nights are getting crisper and pumpkin everything is on the shelves. Another flavor that gives cozy comfort in the cooler months is chocolate. Now I don't believe in guilt tripping. I rather sip in joy, but if one of your cool weather concerns is getting too chummy with sugary comfort food, then you need to meet Cacao Tea.
I already did one post on cacao husk that you can read here. When The Cacao Tea Co. reached out to me it was a great opportunity to try a few more options with this fun flavor.
(NOTE: There is no camelia sinensis in this product, so it is technically not a true tea, but rather an infusion. For ease and because of the name of the company, I will be saying 'tea' in the article. If you are a purist, I hope you don't break out in a rash).
Cacao husk tea is the outer husk of the bean and separated after the roasting process. Cacao Tea Co. sources 100% pure husk from Peru, Ecuador and Guatemala. It is also organic.
As you can see, this tea is finer than the cacao husk my friend Elexis brought back from Peru (looks less like potpourri) and doesn't have stevia. I like that this is the pure husk because then I can sweeten or not, depending on my mood.
This is an amazingly flexible tea: hot, cold, sweetened, unsweetened, with or without milk, as a latte or as an infusing element.
As with the previous cacao tea, I really enjoy it without any additions. To me, the creamy mouthfeel and milk chocolate-like flavor alone is my second favorite way of enjoying this tea. My favorite way? One half cacao husk mixed with one half black tea, steeped in grass fed whole milk and sweetened with honey. Decadence!
I did try cold brewing the cacao husk (8 hours in the fridge with filtered water). Maybe it is psychological, but other than cold chocolate milk, I think of chocolate beverages as a warm indulgence.
Being a caffeine free, cold brew is not as big a deal because you aren't dealing with massive tannins in the hot brew. It has a lovely, light amber, cloudy pour. My understanding is the cloudiness is from oils as there is some cacao nib that sticks around. This also give the creaminess that is so lush.
Thanks to Cacao Tea Co. for providing the tea for this tasting adventure. Have you tried cacao husk tea yet? Let us know on social.
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