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.
Sorry it took me so long to get around to posting part 2 of this review! As I mentioned before, I had come down with a really bad bug, and everything got put off, including part 2 of this review! (Here is a link to Part 1 of this review)
I wanted to approach this review as I did with Murmur, which was Handmade Tea’s tea of the month for February of this year: Part 1 focusing on the blended tea as it was intended, and then a further examination of the components of each tea, including a tasting of the tea where I customized the flavor using the individual components.
For this tasting, I am focusing on the Yunnan black tea base that Handmade Tea used in for the Balché blend. Handmade tea makes this easy to do because when you subscribe to their monthly service, you receive not only a large tin of their special blend of the month, but you also receive three smaller tins that include portions of the ingredients that go in to each blend. With the Balché blend, I received a full-size tin of the blended tea, as well as a small sample tin of the Yunnan black tea, a small sample tin of the diced Guajillo chili pepper, and a small sample tin which contained a combination of Saigon cinnamon and organic cacao nibs.
This is a very robust Yunnan tea! Yunnan typically possesses some peppery notes, and that is quite true of this Yunnan … in fact, I think this may be one of the most peppery Yunnan teas I’ve come across. In addition to the well-defined spiced notes, this tea is pleasantly earthy and full-flavored, with a lovely smoky tone. Often I find a strong smoky flavor to be a little 0ff-putting, but, this Yunnan isn’t. It has just the right amount of smoke, and the way the smoky notes meld with the spice and earth of this cup are really quite delightful.
This tea is more savory than sweet, but there is a hint of sweetness to this with a slight caramel-y note in the distance as well as a chocolate-y note that comes through toward the end of the sip.
For this third tasting, I decided to customize the brew a little bit. I added a little bit more of the Guajillo chili pepper – but before I did this, I took out a small flake and tasted it on it’s own. Mild! And very flavorful. It has a warm, fruity taste to it, reminiscent of a childhood favorite of mine: Chili Saladitos. When I was young, I lived in Southern California, and I fell in love with Chili Saladitos. Now, these Gualjillos are not as salty as Saladitos, but, they have a similar fruit note with a little bit of heat. Actually, I think that the Saladitos might have been hotter than these Gualjillo flakes.
I also added a little more of the cinnamon (these are BIG chunks of Saigon Cinnamon, folks!) and the cacao nibs to the already blended Balché tea. I suppose for this third tasting, I could have also brewed up these ingredients as a tisane for a tasting, and I considered that, but, I do love the Yunnan base so much, that I just decided to amp up the flavor a bit on the Balché blend.
And that’s one thing that I’m really loving about the Handmade Tea blends – I love that I can totally customize the tea if I want, and I’m able to train my palate by tasting each of the individual ingredients on their own. I love the way this product is put together.
By brewing it this way, it has given me another way to explore these ingredients. The Gualjillo pepper is slightly warmer, but, still not hot, even with extra flakes in the brew. The addition of the pepper and a little more cinnamon does make the cup slightly spicier, but it is very slight. The extra cacao brings out the chocolate-y notes in the Yunnan a little more, and I notice that with the extra ingredients, the Yunnan seems a little less smoky … a little less earthy … and while I am enjoying this cup quite a bit, I think that the blend was just perfect the way that Caleb from Handmade Tea made it – no additional alterations needed! So, unlike with the Murmur, where the third tasting was my favorite… with this tea, my first tasting was my favorite (although, I could make an argument for the second tasting too. I really liked the Yunnan unblended!)