Charles Dickens’ Black Tea Blend by Simpson & Vail

Steeping specs: I steeped a heaping teaspoon of this tea in about 10 oz. of boiling water for three minutes.

I tried some of this tea before looking it up, so I didn’t know what to expect but then realized it was rather unusual so I checked out the background and steeping recommendations so I could give it a more “proper” review. Apparently it’s a combination of black tea, oolong tea, and natural flavoring (plus cornflower petals, which add visual interest). I found it to be quite a memorable blend.

(Combinations of black tea and oolong intrigue me . . . I mean, for one thing, they’re really hard to classify. For another, I’m never sure what combining them is supposed to accomplish. Is it supposed to be like black tea but with more floral notes, maybe? I wonder what black tea would taste like if combined with a smoky roasted oolong? Hmm, maybe it’s time for an experiment . . .)

After steeping, it’s a sort of cedar-mahogany color, quite clear, and not very viscous. The scent is a bit tart and so is the first sip. It’s rather more acidic and astringent than your typical black tea, but in a good way. It seems quite well-blended; I think the flavors balance well (they bring out the strong, tannic, earthy properties of the black tea). It’s nice and strong, which I like. It would make a great breakfast or afternoon tea, I think. The S&V website doesn’t say exactly what flavoring is in the tea, just that it has a currant aftertaste, but I found it to be quite hearty in a satisfying, filling sort of way.

Next I added sugar. Sugar tames it down a lot. It’s still strong and a bit astringent, but less acidic and curranty. (It still tastes vaguely berry-ish, though.) It’s also excellent with milk. Adding both sugar and milk makes it a hearty, strong, creamy, and well-rounded cup. Overall I’d give this tea a big thumbs-up for flavor, interest, and comforting-ness.

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black/Oolong Blend
Where to Buy:  Simpson & Vail
Description

Unlike many of his characters, Charles Dickens was born to loving parents in February of 1812. However, when he was only 12, his father was imprisoned for debt and Charles was sent to work in a blacking factory where he labeled endless bottles of shoeshine. He would leave the factory four years later to finish his education, but those formative years deeply affected him and inspired many of the boyhood horrors he would later write about. He wrote many of his most famous novels like Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby episodically, with a new chapter appearing in a magazine each month. These works examined the lives of the less fortunate and found humanity amid the most inhuman conditions.

Tea appeared in Dickens’ work as a calming force like in David Copperfield, when the main character recounts how he “sat swilling tea until [his] whole nervous system, if [he] had had any in those days, must have gone by the board.” Or it could surface as a commonality between classes that allowed Dickens to emphasize the stark differences between lifestyles. While a “real solid silver teapot” and “real silver spoons to stir the tea with” are listed among the treasures of Old Lobbs in The Pickwick Papers, “a regular place of public entertainment for the poorer classes” described in Oliver Twist would provide “a public breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper all the year round.” Our Charles Dickens blend adds a flash of color to a traditional british tea. The blend is a hearty, well-rounded blend of China and Indian teas that has an amber cup with a light currant after-taste.

Ingredients: Black teas, oolong tea, flavoring, cornflower petals.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Wild Woman Black Tea from Tay Tea

wildwomanTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Tay Tea

Tea Description:

An organic high-grown Ceylon tea with wild blueberries, black currants, hibiscus, elderberries and corn flower petals. One heavenly sip of this organic tea is enough to make you go wild! A perfect tea to wake up to.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is a tea I was looking forward to a fair bit; despite the hibiscus in the blend which I personally think it completely unnecessary to include in most blends but especially in berry ones.

When I first started drinking teas I was actually rather hesitant about trying blueberry teas because I don’t actually like the fruit a whole lot, and I definitely don’t like the taste of anything artificially blueberry flavoured but when I finally did try out a couple blueberry blends I learned that it’s a flavour I surprisingly quite enjoy – especially when paired with a black base like this one is. In fact, my most logged tea on Steepster happens to currently be DT’s Blueberry Jam tea – it makes a great everyday sort of tea and brews up very consistently, so when I tried this one I was kind of internally measuring it against that blend.

Dry, the leaf smells mildly of blueberries and black currants with the faintest scent of something sweet and almost black licorice like – which is odd given that none of the listed ingredients are ones I’d associate with that sort of flavour or scent. Visually, I don’t see much (if any, really) hibiscus in the leaf I’ve measured out. I’m slightly relieved about that, though I wonder if it’s going to make for a skewed sampling.

Taste wise, the blueberry is definitely the first flavour here though it’s quickly followed by a little bit of elderberry and the sweeter side of black currant. I don’t actually know how much black currant is blended in here, but for people who dislike the medicinal taste black currant sometimes has I don’t really see that ever being a problem with this blend; it’s all sweet and jammy, and faint in contrast to the blueberry anyway. I will say that compared to Blueberry Jam, this has the same level of berry flavour with the same accuracy when it comes to how realistic it is.

The downside is the base. This had a recommended steep time of three to five minutes and I steeped on the lower end of the spectrum – three and a half minutes in total. Even with a steep on the low end of Tay Tea’s suggested spectrum it brewed up quite bitter, and sadly that bitterness is the finishing note which lingers well after you’ve finished the sip. It greatly detracts from what would otherwise be a very well done blueberry tea.

For that reason, I don’t think I’d order it for myself though I do think it’d be worthwhile to try it again with a steep time closer to two and a half minutes to see if the bitterness could be lessened without losing out on the robust blueberry notes.

Darjeeling Black Currant Tea from Russian Tea Time

russianteaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black (Darjeeling)

Where to Buy:  Russian Tea Time

Tea Description:

Unique blend of the finest Dareeling and black teas infused with Black currant aroma. The delicate and flavorful taste of this blend will keep your palate satisfied. Drink and enjoy it hot or Iced, all year around.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

russianteaglassRecently, Russian Tea Time sent me a tea party in a box!  They shared with me their amazing Darjeeling Black Currant Tea that I’m going to review here, plus they sent me this gorgeous tea glass from which to drink the tea and they even sent me yummy, buttery shortbread cookies!  Like I said, a tea party in a box!

What makes this particular tea so unique is that it’s Russian Tea Time’s own, unique blend of Darjeeling and Black teas with black currant essence and currant leaves.  Most tea rooms out there are brewing up tea to serve to their customers.  They usually get that tea from other vendors (nothing wrong with that!) but Russian Tea Time is not just brewing up tea to serve to their customers, they’re brewing up their own blend that they created and serving it up with scrumptious treats.

Since I’m not in Chicago, I can’t visit the Russian Tea Room in person, so I’ll just have to imagine what it might be like as I sit here, sipping on this Darjeeling Black Currant Tea from this gorgeous tea glass that they sent to me.  (They also have some other gorgeous tea cups available in their online shop!)

RussianTeaCuppedSo, I brewed up the tea in my Breville One Touch Tea Maker.  When I opened the tin of Loose Leaf tea – they offer this tea in both Loose Leaf and Sachet form, and since I prefer loose leaf, that’s what I chose to try today – I could see that the tea was a CTC leaf.  It’s not a super-fine chop though.  Because the leaf has been cut, I opted for slightly less time for the steep, and set the timer for 2 minutes.  I measured 2 bamboo scoops into the basket of my tea maker and poured 500ml of tea into the jug.  I set the thermometer for 195°F (my go-to temperature for Darjeeling) and let it steep.

The tea is delicious.  I like the base tea.  I can definitely taste the Darjeeling tea – it has a distinctly crisp taste that’s undeniably “Darjeeling-esque”.  The Russian Tea Room doesn’t go into details about the “black teas” that also comprise the base of this tea.  I definitely taste the Darjeeling, but I am also tasting a more substantial tea in there too.  This tea has that crispness and even a hint of muscatel that I’d expect from a Darjeeling, but there is a thicker texture to the tea too and that’s something that I’ve tasted in only a very few Darjeeling teas.  It’s usually a characteristic that I experience from other black teas.

It’s not an overly astringent tea.  This could also have something to do with the fact that I set the tea to steep for only 2 minutes.  But whatever the reason, I am finding this to be really smooth and easy to drink.

The black currant flavor is a subtle taste – it doesn’t overpower the cup or the black tea.  It adds a pleasant, mild fruit flavor that’s a little grape-like and it melds beautifully with the Darjeeling tea’s natural muscatel notes.  It’s not overly tart, but I do experience a slight tart tingle on my tongue in the aftertaste.

This is a really delightful tea.  It tastes great served hot and I suspect it would be a really excellent iced tea too.  (For the record, the cookies were quite tasty too!)

What a lovely day for tea – thank you Russian Tea Time for the chance to enjoy tea time with you!

Black Currant Flavored Iced White Tea from Southern Boy Teas

SBT-WHITE-Black-CurrantTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Southern Boy Teas

Tea Description:

Now THIS is the good stuff. Don’t let the uncomplicated, single flavor of this tea give you the impression that is is some humdrum tea. This is a BEAUTIFUL blend of premium shou mei fannings with organic black currant flavors. This is a crowd-pleaser and a thirst-quencher. You’re going to want a few of these, trust me.

Learn more about this iced tea here.

Learn how to subscribe to SBT’s tea of the week here.

Taster’s Review:

Mmm!  I was so excited to try the first White Iced Tea from Southern Boy Teas.  And it looks like SBT chose one of my favorite white tea creations from 52Teas to work with, the Black Currant Bai Mu Dan!  The 52Teas blend tasted amazing iced and this does too!

Of course, this Black Currant White Iced Tea was made with a Shou Mei base rather than a Bai Mu Dan so it’s a little different right from the off.  But this is still every bit as refreshing as I remember that tea tasting.  Tart black currant flavor that contrasts with the sweet white tea base.  These two components were made for one another!

The Shou Mei is also a stronger tasting tea than a typical Bai Mu Dan.  It’s sweet and hay-like.  I like the crisp, airy flavor that reminds me of the way the air tastes after a hay cutting.  You have to be out where they cut hay to experience that, of course.  I grew up in such a place.  Or, if you don’t want to take a drive out to the country, you can just brew a pitcher of this iced tea and get some of that same flavor in a glass.

Actually, I think that the iced tea is better than the air in the country.  The air in the country can sometimes also smell a bit like the cows and horses that eat the hay.  And that’s not my favorite smell.

To brew this tea, I went with the hot brew method.  I heated 1 quart of water in the kettle of my tea maker to 160°F and then dropped the sachet into the water and let it steep for 2 1/2 minutes.  The parameters on the package suggest “not more than 90 seconds” but 90 seconds just didn’t seem long enough for me at such a low temperature.  So I made the decision to go with a little more time and I’m glad I did.  I’m really happy with the resulting flavor!  For the second quart, I resteeped the sachet for 3 minutes.  I combined both quarts in my iced tea pitcher and stashed it in the ice box.

After several hours of cool time, I am left with a pitcher full of yummy black currant iced tea.  I love the white tea base.  It’s crisp and refreshing.  I look forward to the other white tea creations that SBT comes up with!

White Currant Tea from Caraway Tea

white-currant1Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Caraway Tea Company

Product Description:

Juicy aromatic currants paired with the delicacy of white tea leaves delivers a smooth flavor profile with a deeply fruity finish. There’s a lot of flavor is this healthy white tea.

Ingredients

China Pai Mu Tan, China Cui Min, rose hip peel, freeze-dried blackcurrants, flavoring, mallow blossoms, cornflower blossoms.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about UniqTeas hereUniqTeas is the “sister site” of Caraway Tea where you can create your own unique tea blend!

Taster’s Review:

Oh yum!

As I was preparing this review, I had the teacup sitting just under my nose (well, about a foot from my nose) and I enjoyed the fragrance of the tea.  It smells really yummy.  And as I was enjoying the aroma, I started thinking:  there really aren’t a lot of currant flavored white teas.  I’ve encountered quite a few currant flavored black teas and maybe a couple of currant flavored green teas, but I think I’ve only tried a couple of currant flavored white teas.

And that’s a shame, because I think that the tart with a touch of sweet flavor of currants seems really well paired with the crisp sweetness of white tea.

What I’m drinking now – this White Currant Tea from Caraway Tea – tastes a lot like a sweet wine, only without the tannic quality of a wine.  Sure, tea has tannins too, but I find white teas to be less tannic than black teas.  Perhaps this is because I brew my white teas at a lower temperature.  Or perhaps it’s because they’re just less tannic.  I don’t know.

Disclaimer:  I’m not a tannin expert.

So, imagine if you would, a sweet red wine without the tannins.  Now, imagine it … served hot.  That’s what I’m tasting now.  Since I don’t usually drink wine hot, I’m thinking that this tea is a stunner served iced.  (Then again, I don’t drink wine much at all.  Hot or otherwise.)

The currant flavor is lightly tart – not puckery – and there is a pleasant sweetness to it too.  The white tea is not overpowered by the flavors of this tea.  It is light and refreshing with delicate vegetal notes and a sweet, airy quality.  I also notice a hint – just a hint! – of a warm, gentle spice to this too.  Like a slight peppery kick.  It’s a nice contrast to the tart and sweet fruit notes and the light sweetness from the white tea.

A really good tea.  This is one that I’d happily drink again!