Welcome to the first edition of Tea Time with Yami! The cast is listed on the Tea page, above. Please do note that we’re total amateurs, entirely unpaid and prone to making mistakes, so take these reviews with a grain of salt until we get into the hang of it. This week’s teas are all from The Tea Table.
Sample: Caramel Black Tea
Description: This black tea blend has actual caramel bits! Its sweet butterness makes this tea great with dessert, or it can itself be the dessert! The slight vanilla flavor mixes perfectly with a little milk and a dash of sugar. use one teaspoon per cup and steep for 3-5 minutes in freshly boiled water.
Preparation: Brewed the entire sample in my largest cast-iron teapot with boiling water. Steeped 3 minutes before bringing to the table, letting it steep a short time in transit before pouring.
Review: Chaos declared the tea a rousing success, with a nice smooth caramel finish and almost no tea flavor all. This puzzled the hell out of Kae, who declared the tea “barely-flavored water”. As a tiebreaker, Yami sampled hers – and tasted primarily hot water. Passing of cups revealed the secret: as tea drinkers, both Kae and Yami had sampled their tea before adding the usual milk and sugar, while Chaos had gone ahead and dumped his usual black-tea mixture (two sugars and some milk) in before trying it.
It turns out, we’d run out of regular milk and had to use vanilla soymilk. Sure enough, the simple addition of the milk made this a lovely dessert, sweet and creamy. But as a tea?
It may be unrelated, but we tried this tea after dinner, and ended up staying up three hours later than normal. Yami, the most caffeine sensitive, still had trouble getting to sleep at 2am! So there’s definitely the caffeine of black tea, just not the flavor.
Disclaimer: We realized after trying it that we should probably have steeped it longer, given that we were given a 1/3 oz sample and the teapot holds about 32 oz liquid. Then again, it was definitely brewed strong enough to extract caffeine from the leaves, so shouldn’t there have been flavor?
Would Buy Again? Yami: “Maybe. But probably not.” Kae: “No.” Chaos: “I wouldn’t mind it.”
Sample: Earl Grey Winter White
Description: Chinese Mutan white tea combines with the traditional Earl Grey flavoring, oil of bergamot. A lovely lighter Earl Grey, great for evenings. Use 1 heaping teaspoon per cup and steep 2-3 minutes in steaming water.
Preparation: Whoops. We didn’t realize this was white and not true earl grey due to being sleepy from staying up too late. Prepared the same way as the black tea sample above. We did steep longer, however.
Review: One sip had Chaos exclaiming “Ah, it’s bitter in my mouth!” Kae and Yami, however, had a better experience: rich and complex, though definitely requiring milk. On the whole, Kae prefers this to regular Earl Grey: it “has something extra to it”. Yami quite liked it with the vanilla soymilk at first (but then, she likes everything with vanilla soymilk), and even Chaos admitted “Okay, this is pretty good!”. However, halfway through the cup, Yami noticed unpleasant bitter aftertaste that even the milk and sugar didn’t mask. Chaos must have noticed something similar, as he stated: “Even with milk and sugar, I was all, *unpleasant grunt noise*, it’s tea.”
Disclaimer: We do suspect the bitterness to be from the overly-hot water, though to be fair, the package directions are kind of unintuitive for beginners – “steaming” vs “boiling” doesn’t evoke 203F vs 212F to someone like Chaos, the most coherent of us in the morning.
Would Buy Again? Chaos: No, I don’t particularly like it. Yami: I’d try a small amount again, to see if brewing it properly helps. Kae, upon being asked, got up and poured a second cup.
Sample: Blood Orange Tea
Description: The exotic taste of the blood orange infuses pleasing citrus notes that help round out the natural astringency of the high-grown Ceylon in this blend. Contains black tea, dried orange bits, blackberry leaves, safflower petals, and natural flavors. Use one teaspoon per cup and brew 3 minutes in freshly boiled water.
Preparation: The same as the black tea above.
Review: The smell of orange permeated the room as it brewed. Chaos’ exact words upon trying it were “Oh my fucking god”, and Kae replied “Little bitter, isn’t it?”; the general consensus was “Definitely requires sugar”. Without sugar, the orange wasn’t particularly noticeable – all that could be tasted was overwhelming BITTER. With just sugar, Yami noticed the astringency right away, and the citric acid, as well as a bit of bitter notes at the finish. She also looked up the word “astringent” specifically for this review. Kae said it wasn’t bad, but a few sips later, added milk. Yami tried adding milk but eventually gave up after a few more sips – the bitter, astringent, acidic taste was just too overwhelming. Kae added: “The blood in blood orange is a fancy way of saying ‘bitter as shit’ — I’m getting the citric taste but then it’s overwhelmed by an army of bitter.” Chaos added: “Why would you continue drinking that when you know the instant you stop you’ll just taste bitter?” Yami surmised that the black tea in this blend must be the same aggressive type as in the English Breakfast blend, which she found undrinkable for the same reason.
Would Buy Again? Chaos: “No, sir, I don’t like it.” Kae: “No. *strange look*” Yami: “Good god no.”
Final thoughts: The Tea Table favors bitter, aggressive black teas. They might be worth another look into white and green teas, but Yami seriously regrets buying a large bag of breakfast blend in order to get the free samples. If you take your coffee black and drink Arrogant Bastard Ale, you might like them, but the rest of us should give it a pass.
Got a tea suggestion? Leave a comment, and if they do samples or reasonably-priced small quantities, we might give it a shot in upcoming weeks.