Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Handmade Tea
The MVP of Balche is an earthy and smoky black tea from the Yunnan Province of China that finishes naturally with a touch of cocoa. It is then followed up with diced Guajillo chile peppers adding a sweet fruitiness and just a kiss of heat as they are only rated 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville scale. Finally, in traditional Mayan fashion we added a combination of Saigon Cinnamon and organic Cacao Nibs, not only to keep up with Mayan theme, but to compliment the base tea as well.
Learn more about this blend here.
If you’ll recall, I featured Handmade Tea’s February Tea of the Month – Murmur – in a two part series. I did this to highlight not just the featured handmade blend but also the components that comprised the blend as well as the unique concept of Handmade Tea.
You see, when you receive the tea of the month from Handmade Tea, you not only receive the canister of specially blended tea, but also three smaller, sampler size tins that include the components of the blend. For example, with this blend – Balché – which was March’s tea of the month, I received a full size (3 ounce) tin of the blended tea, as well as three smaller tins: a tin of Yunnan Black Tea base, a tin of Guajillo Peppers, and a tin of Cacao Nibs and Cinnamon blended together.
By including these smaller tins with the components, it allows the drinker to fully explore what goes in to the blend … and perhaps play around a bit with the components by customizing a cup of tea by using more of any of the ingredients. Want more cinnamon and cacao in the cup, add more! Want to try a cup with just the Yunnan and Guajillo Peppers, you can do that too. Or… let’s say you want to explore these ingredients in a completely different way … let’s say you want to taste the Guajillo Peppers on their own, or perhaps sprinkled over an omlet … well, you can do that too! This program gives you options, and I like that!
So, I decided to break the review down into two parts, so that I can explore this tea thoroughly. In part one (this part), I’ll be exploring Balché as the blend that Handmade Teas crafted …
When I first opened the tin, I could see the HUGE chunks of Saigon cinnamon. Saigon cinnamon is my favorite type of cinnamon because it is a stronger, bolder cinnamon – less sweet and a bit spicier than the more popular Indonesian variety. These chunks of cassia bark are large and inconsistently shaped – and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. In fact, I love the way that these bits of Saigon cinnamon add to the overall feel of a Handmade Tea blend. It really feels handmade.
The flavor of this tea is very surprising. I expected it to be SPICY. And while it does have its spicy moments, it isn’t what I’d categorize as a spicy tea. It is a gentle kind of spice, warming and comfortable. It isn’t setting my tongue or throat on fire. Instead, it’s warming me from the inside out, and that’s just what I wanted on this chilly autumn day.
The Guajillo Pepper is a pepper that I’m unfamiliar with, so I made a quick detour on Wikipedia to learn more about the Guajillo Pepper. And according to Wikipedia, the guajillo chile apparently has a flavor that is similar to “green tea with berry overtones.” Wow! Now I might just have to try the Guajillo pepper steeped on it’s own, just to see if I can taste those notes. When I do, I’ll be sure to add that information to part 2 of this review series.
The Yunnan tea is a full-flavored base, rich and invigorating, and has a peppery tone to it that complements the Guajillo Pepper. The pepper does offer some fruit notes to the cup, and a mild heat that develops slowly. The first few sips are relatively without heat, but after those initial sips, a warmth begins to develop at the top of the throat and the back of the tongue. By mid-cup, this warmth has radiated almost to the tip of the tongue, with the tingly sensation of the cinnamon adding a very pleasing layer of flavor to this warmth.
The chocolate-y notes of the cacao are not apparent in the first few sips either, but now that I am past the mid-cup point, the chocolate-y notes are definitely present and add a delicious depth to the cup. The overall flavor is rich and flavorful and very nicely round. I taste chocolate and hints of berry, warm cinnamon-y spice and just enough heat to keep it interesting. A really lovely cup … I do look forward to exploring this tea further with part 2 of this series! I hope you’ll watch for it!
Please Note: Handmade Tea is a monthly subscription service that makes unique, handmade blends not available anywhere else. These teas are usually only available the month that they are offered and only available via subscription. I was lucky enough to nab this blend recently on the Fab flash sale site during a special promotion … but this is so good that I may just have to start subscribing!