Tea part Two

My new teas arrived from Numi on Monday, waiting patiently for me on my front porch when I got home. I had to bribe my sister to step outside and bring in the box for me, since it’s Fall Spider Season. Don’t tell Pete or Renee, because I’ve been telling them we don’t have spiders here. Truth is, every Fall, we get these outdoor orange striped things that build webs between stuff, like my front door and the wrought iron railing. So in the Fall, you never walk between two bushes, two posts, a tree and a wall, without looking first.

They’re harmless, completely outdoor-only, and not at all large by standards other than my own squishiness.

Anyway, why am I talking about spiders when this is about tea?

I ordered these from Numi, one of many quality sources for really good teas. First up, I knew I had to try the Aged Earl Grey, an Italian Bergamot Black Tea. As with all teas, part of the experience is the aroma, even when the tea you’re about to drink isn’t laced with florals, you take a wiff of the loose tea, or open up a bag’s outer wrapping and give it a good snort.

The Aged Earl Grey presented with a fine, delicately sweet aroma that brought a promise of a good dark pot to ward off an evening’s chill. Unlike the Republic of Tea’s Earl Greyer, which is a very fine tea indeed, this one didn’t present as a wake-up tea or something strong enough to hold up a tall building, but it was decidedly less delicate than a Lady Grey.

I admit, from the Aged in it’s name, I expected something heartier smelling and seriously blackened, but after some thought I realized it’s more an aged wine, delicate yet full bodied.

Brewing a cup, you find it darkens quickly, and one bag gives you two very dark, well steeped cups of tea. I noticed I couldn’t smell the Italian Bergamot, which is an orange, and drinking it I can honestly say I didn’t taste orange, but there was a lightness to it that was unexpected from such a dark cup. It was smooth, like fine aged wine, and had a mellowness you find in good quality cheese. Great tea for evenings or dark, rainy days – although for a seriously dark, gloomy day nothing beats Lapsang Souchong.

Next up was a cup of the Berry Black, a Raspberry and black tea that smelled very faintly of berries. This tea brewed up slightly less dark than the Aged Earl Grey, but I still got two well steeped teacups from one bag. The aroma of berries is very faint, and easily overwhelmed by the scent of the black tea itself, but even with the first sip I could taste fruit.

Partway through the cup, I couldn’t help feel this would be a great tea to sooth a horrible cold, or even a flu. There was a hint of citrus, not that slap in the face you’ll get when you’ve add a tad too much lemon to your tea (good for sore throats and colds, but not recommended otherwise), just a mild sensation of citrus fruits hidden among the tea that was both lifting and soothing. The Raspberry comes in as a finish with each sip, quietly lingering on the back of your tongue, but not setting up a lawn chair or anything.

I saved the Chinese Breakfast for this morning at work, expecting a very strong kick in the face along the lines of Gunpowder Black, so you can imagine my surprise when the first sip brought to mind Vanilla.

Assuming my tastebuds were compromised by the pretzels I was eating, I continued drinking the tea and stopped eating the pretzels, still somewhat surprised by the mildness. The aroma was more of a Darjeeling than a Yunnan, but admittedly those aromas are quite similar. As I’m working my way through this cup, I still believe there’s a hint of the Darjeeling in there, but it lacks the lift at the end of the swallow you get with a great Darjeeling (some of you might recognize Darjeeling by its more common name: Chinese Restaurant Tea). There’s a lightness there, but it is decidedly a Yunnan. The more I sip, the less Darjeeling-ness I’m feeling.

Every time I bring the cup to my lips, I detect that aroma of vanilla, but the actual flavor is barely there, almost as unnecessary as an A-cup bra. It’s there, but hardly noticeable and doing nothing of importance. It is exactly as they describe: “A distant and hard to place floral quality”.

I was expecting the kick you get with Scottish Breakfast, or Gunpowder, but it isn’t there and I don’t miss it. As I was telling my friend and fellow tea enthusiast Pete, instead of that kick in your face, alarm going off, wake-up tea, I’m getting a gentle, more thoughtful way to start the day. There’s no dark lingering aftertaste that would interfere with whatever I was having for breakfast. Unlike the Scottish Breakfast, which I adore btw, there’s no heavy, mask-the-haggis-on-your-breath aftertaste. The perfect compliment to any food.

If you’re one of those people who thinks Tea is Tea, you pick some up at the store, it comes in a box full of little bags, and it sits in your cupboard for decades because Aunt Rose cancelled her trip last minute – – then you stopped reading this post after the spider mention.

If you’re still easing your way into the Wonderful World of Tea, then I highly recommend you try any of these. Chinese Breakfast, Aged Earl Grey, or Raspberry Black. They’re very enjoyable teas that won’t overwhelm you, good starters for those still not sure if they’re ready for a Lapsang Souchong or Indian Tea Dust. I purchased mine online, directly from Numi, but if you don’t like online shopping, you can find Numi teas at World Market or any store that has a good selection of teas and organic fair trade items.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to boil some more water…

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