Queen Catherine/Haney and Sons

Everyone who loves tea should probably take a good look at Queen Catherine of Braganza, sometimes referred to as the “Patron Saint of Tea.” Tea was known in England by the time she arrived to marry King Charles II, but she popularized the drink that was already quite a fixture among Portuguese nobility. Her life story is one of great character and strength in the face of both great privilege and tremendous heartache and sorrow.

In 1988, Harney and Sons was commissioned by the Portuguese government to create a tea blend in her honor, and they did a bang on job of it. Keemun, Panyang, and Yunnan black teas were blended into the tea that has become a shelf staple in my house.

In my early tea drinking days, all black tea got milk and sugar. As my palate and tastes changed and I stopped adding anything to my tea, Queen Catherine stayed, because it was just as good (better) plain than it had been with additions.

It is lightly smokey from the Keemun and has a light fruity aspect as well. I enjoy it at breakfast and in the afternoon equally, and because of its versatility it can be served to guests regardless of whether they take milk and sugar. Drinkable on its own, it is also delightful with sweets or with a meal. Because of how dear it is to me, I am always a little nervous when I introduce new tea lovers to it, but it has never failed to win hearts.

(People new to this blend often cry out, “This is TEA!” on first sips.)

Queen Catherine is my tea for days when I need to be told, “There, there,” but also, “You can do it, dear, I know you can, so get out there and be strong!”

This tea will always hold a place in my heart. It was by my side during some hard days and has also accompanied many happy ones. Fortunately, it is a wonderfully affordable tea as well as a great tasting one.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy:  Harney & Sons
Description

We created Queen Catherine, a Harney & Sons signature blend of three Chinese black teas (Keemun, Panyang and Yunnan), in honor of Queen Catherine of Braganza, who introduced her love of tea to the British. We are privileged to have this tea featured in the Museum of Tea in Hangzhou, China. Harney & Sons is the only Western tea company who has received this honor.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Earl Grey Black/Zest Tea

Earl Grey and I have an uneasy relationship. I like good Earl Grey. Not so good Earl Grey? I will have a glass of water, thank you.

Off the table for me are strong bergamot layered on super fruity Ceylon, and artificial bergamot flavor. Too sour! Both of them!

What a nice surprise this Zest Tea Earl Grey is! Zest is all about caffeine, which is the opposite of important to me. I don’t need it. I don’t really want it. But sometimes people do want it or need it. And getting it from tea gives you the added benefit of L-theanine.

Since this is supposed to have more caffeine than a cup of coffee, I expected it to be harsh. I gave the sachet a sniff when I opened the individually wrapped pouch (+1 for freshness) and it was a delightful, uplifting bergamot aroma.

The steeped tea is definitely toned down aroma-wise from the sachet, as is expected, but the tea is still bright and sparkling with cheerful bergamot. The Nilgiri base is pretty smooth with just the right amount of briskness. Most remarkable to me is how balanced the base and the bergamot are.

I drink my tea plain, but I bet this could take milk and sugar if that’s how you roll. Caffeine warriors, rejoice! This tea may be your new love! So I take it back. Zest isn’t all about caffeine. They are all about providing good tasting, good quality tea with extra caffeine kick, smoothed by L-theanine.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy:  Zest Tea
Description

Earl grey has been a popular blend since it was introduced to the British Earl, Charles Grey, in the 1830’s. Most Earl Greys are made with low-quality base teas, but not ours. Zest’s Earl is made with premium Nilgiri Indian black tea blended with a delicious bergamot essential oil.

 

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Madagascar Vanilla/Golden Moon

When you have a rare, quiet morning to yourself, what tea do you choose to be your companion? Golden Moon’s Madagascar Vanilla is my choice today because I need something that has the chops to follow up waffles and maple syrup.

This vanilla can’t go wrong, with the vanilla taste coming from real Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans and not some mysterious dark liquid that knows beakers better than plants.

I am usually very sensitive digestion-wise to teas that are not from China, but this Indian base sits right with me. It has hearty breakfast tea flavor without the gut twisting bitterness that demands milk to tame it and sugar to tone it down. It has the light, tongue scraping sensation of gentle briskness and a touch of malt. I happily drink this sans additions.

This is vanilla tea for grownups, not a kiddie vanilla. I serve it morning and afternoon, because it does hold up well with a meal or with rich sweets. It is also a good fortifying cup. The hearty base makes it so versatile.

I can’t help but be impressed when I look at their website and see the pains they have taken to assure that the tea that comes to us is as pure as they can possibly make it. But it has to taste good, too! And this one definitely does.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy:  Golden Moon
Description

There’s vanilla, and then there is vanilla. Sometimes “vanilla” is poured out of a small, dark bottle into your favorite boxed cake mix. That stuff is like that “iPod” you bought in Chinatown. Sure it may work, but it really isn’t the same. Our vanilla is straight from the vanilla bean. Not just any bean, but the world famous bourbon vanilla bean found in Madagascar. We chop up the beans, blend them with a pure, organic Indian tea base and let it age for over a month. Why? Because Madagascar Vanilla ends up having a fully infused, rich flavor with no weird chemical aftertaste. Sure it is a lot of trouble for us to make this tea, but it’s well worth it.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Chocolate Cherry Bomb! from The Tea Spot

Chocolate Cherry Bomb!

It’s a special day when you get to drink a tea with an exclamation mark in its name!

I loved the aroma of this one as soon as I opened the pouch. The first impression I got from this deep black tea was that it was boozy, rather than sweet candy. Then I was reminded of the smell of cherry pipe tobacco, which is one of my favorite scents ever. When I see Haley Mills sniffing her grandpa in “The Parent Trap” to ‘make a memory’ as she put it, this is the aroma I imagine, even though she said he also smelled of peppermints!

Steeped, this is a strong and brisk black base with chocolate foremost and cherry after. And hallelujah! The cherry tastes like cherry instead of like horrific cherry cough syrup!

This would be a good breakfast tea thanks to that hefty base, and can easily handle milk and sugar. I do recommend that you let it cool a little before you sip. When I sipped it piping hot, I tasted chocolate but no cherry. With just a little cooling, the cherry flavor came out very well.

Don’t overleaf this one! The base is strong enough to stick with a level teaspoon for eight ounces.

 


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy: The Tea Spot
Description

Think hand-dipped chocolate cherry truffle… sweet, plump, juicy, decadent – without the calories. Its cherry scent and velvety smooth chocolate notes work to enchant, but not overwhelm. Handcrafted from two black teas this is a dessert that you can enjoy for breakfast.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Green Mojito from The Love Tea Company. . . .

I’ve never had a mojito. I didn’t even know what was IN a mojito. But when I opened the pouch, I could tell you right away that a mojito must have lime and mint. The base of this tea is Japanese sencha. I decided to try it hot sans additions, hot with sugar, and iced sweetened. Then…drum roll, please….I found a person who has had an ACTUAL mojito to give judgment on whether the taste is accurate.

I thought this tea might not be too great as a plain hot tea since it was designed to mimic a cocktail, and the powerful smell of limes made me close my eyes and brace myself when I took my first sip. To the contrary, it was quite good sans any additions at all! The lime is natural yet doesn’t pucker your lips and dry your mouth. The mint is refreshing. The sencha is smooth.

I added sugar and had another small cup and also passed some along to my daughter. It was good this way, too.

The hot, sweet tea was poured into a carafe and left to chill in the fridge and to await the verdict of a true mojito drinker. I enjoyed the sweet iced tea with my supper, and poured a small glass to be tested with a wee splash of rum. My test subject declared that, aside from the lack of bubbles from club soda, the taste was to a “T” in the mojito tea!

Check out The Love Tea Company and their mission of awareness and compassion for those struggling with mental illness. Check out their Tea It Forward tea gift – so bright, so special! It is a great way to cheer someone’s day with a colorful gift box of tea, filter bags, and tea measuring spoon. It is a great way to send a message of love or a “thinking of you” for someone who needs it. And did I mention that it is incredibly economical? I have both received and sent these, and they really bring a smile – just like tea should!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:   Green
Where to Buy:  The Love Tea Company
Description

This mojito concoction explodes with flavor.   It starts with Japanese style Sencha, has lime and mint pieces, and all-natural mint flavoring.  Enjoy it with a splash or milk and sugar, over ice, or blended as a mixer for rum and tequila.  If you ask Uncle Google, he’ll give you the famous Hemingway recipe for a Mojito Martini.  This tea will take you across the river and into the woods and down to the deep south where Hemingway certainly enjoyed a similar concoction one sunny sumer day in Key West.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!