Recently I visited the Mary Cassat Tea Room at the famous Rittenhouse Square Hotel in Philadelphia. Their selection of tea is very exclusive and very expensive but, fuck, I've acquired a taste for it. The three teas that I tried were something quite out of my comfort zone when it comes to black tea blends.
Literally translates to “white peony.” Hand-picked and dried for three days, baked, and cured lead to a woody nose with hints of hazelnuts and sweet corn. It is the darkest of white teas.
A rare and exotic Chinese black tea from the Congou region is scented with the essence of lychee. Nutty with a slight sweetness.
This unique organic black tea is dried over pinewood, giving it a heavily smoky aroma and a deep, rich liquor. The tea leaves are first withered over pine root fires, then panfried, rolled and oxidized. The leaves are finally placed in bamboo baskets and hung on wooden racks over smoking pinewood fires to dry and absorb the smoke. This results in a powerfully smoky aroma coupled with a smooth taste.
Trying these exotic and creative flavors got me thinking about how I can recreate the experience at home. I can't exactly smoke my hand selected oolong over pine root fire smoke in my high-rise city apartment. I'm already on my second warning before I receive an eviction notice taped to my door. But I know a guy who knows a guy, and I decided to send my uncle about 8oz of my favorite British white tea. My uncle is a professional chef and has dedicated his lawn to growing an elaborate herb and vegetable garden. A lot of his chef-related projects go on on that lawn, and I figured this guy would be the right person to ask if you need someone to smoke some tea for you. He picked the pine himself and turned his shed into a smoke house for about three days until he could get the process right.
The box he sent back was accompanied with the a heavy fragrance of pine smoke, let alone the tea itself. I steeped it at 130ºF for 3 minutes. The aroma was overwhelming of smoke, but the flavor was like sipping from God's cup. It was almost like tasting melted dark chocolate. The taste had a subtle sweetness to it underneath all the smokiness. And the floral quality of the British white tea brought that much more complexity to the profile. It was delicious and my household drank all 8oz in approximately 9 days. Conclusion: You can buy Lapsang for $15/2oz or make it yourself for $5/2oz.
But then I got to thinking again. I used to be in the business of creating my own blends and infusions using the highest quality single-note teas I could find on Capital Teas. Why not start again, but with the peculiar ingredients in the Rittenhouse blends, like hazelnut and lychee? I took an Uber to my local farmers market and filled an American Apparel tote bag with their entire produce stand, lmao. This project took me a few tries to master, and in the time it took, I ended up eating 80% of the fruit. But in the end, I created two herbal infusions.
I used a preexisting blend from Teavana of white tea, earl grey, and lavender – which had the strong flavor of earl grey, but with a softer, more floral aftertaste that contradicted the bitterness of the black tea – and added to it some dried thyme, baked cherries, and lemon seeds. Conclusion: hell yes, but needs some work. This blend is kind of like a tease. It wants to be sweet and fruity but it also wants to be dark and nutty and it can confuse your palette a wee bit. In retrospect, I should've dropped the earl grey altogether and stuck to the white and lavender, because the distinct flavor of the thyme leaves would've rounded out the flavor profile I was trying to achieve through incorporating an already-distinct black tea. I'm not giving up on this one, it tastes of great potential.
The second blend I created was an ode to Teavana's most famous bagged tea, Peach Tranquility. Chamomile, basil and lemon verbena as the base. Then: dried peach, pineapple, cranberries. And lastly, dried rosebuds. Fixed your tea, Teavana, you're welcome sweaty ;)
This blend is fun and would make a great iced tea, too. I even stirred in a little bit of rosewater into my cup. It's like running through a bunch of linens hanging outside on a clothesline in some New Zealand field. That's to say, it is very refreshing and light and deserves a fucking medal.
Now, as always, I have some top tea recommendations for the spring. These are all the teas I've been keeping stocked in my kitchen and you should too.
I found a new luxury tea outlet. BELLOCQ. Their photographer can have my number anytime they want it, i mean damn.
Even if you don't buy anything i recommend going to the website and scrolling through all the pretty pictures lol.
Their product is very limited and sells out quickly. I also tried to buy their metal urn canisters but they're completely out of stock. These are the two teas i'm married to.
A beautiful, organic herbal blend evocative of a summer meadow. Think Manon of the Spring meets Marie Antoinette after a stroll through l'orangerie. Organic lemongrass and verbena mingle playfully with lavender, rose petals, mint, and sage.
Organic lemongrass, organic lemon verbena, organic chamomile, organic lavender, organic rose petals, organic mint, organic sage, and natural essence
This organic, tightly rolled, full-bodied green tea from Wuyi Mountain yields a distinct flavor with strong vegetal notes and hints of smokiness, steeping to an emerald green liquor.
Your daily Teavana sponsorship since i am now a Teavana/Starbucks partner.
Mind + Body
Anybody who has read my previous contributions to this thread will recognize two of those teas. They're timeless, i never grow tired of them, and they complete every meal perfectly and without question.
I got a complete matcha set from Davids Tea. I'm new at drinking matcha. I'm trying to discover efficient ways of incorporating matcha into my everyday diet like other teas. I love the almost ceremonial process of preparing matcha, and I usually make about 250ml per bowl, but I find that i can never finish a drink. The obvious solution is to drink less, but. I want to learn how to genuinely enjoy it. Any matcha drinkers have their two cents to spare?