Tea Junkies Assemble!
I thought I would pull my blog out of limbo and share something non earth shattering and delicious with fellow tea lovers who are sheltering in place and also those essential workers out on the front lines. Nothing sets you to rights or at least soothes your soul than a good cuppa. Most of us drink it at least some of the time. Apologies for the photos. They are not the best, but I’m making do with my old phone camera. Note: All links open in a separate window so you will not lose your place if you want to investigate.
I’m an unabashed tea addict and despite my limited budget, I’ve built up an excellent stash of tea, such that might rival a hobbit’s pantry if it were food, rather than tea. If you have followed my blog occasionally, you may recall that I lost my home and most of its contents, around a decade ago. I had a small room, about the size of a butler’s pantry dedicated to my collection of teas, cups, pots, books and accessories. Losing the contents was devastating, but over the past ten years I have accumulated a well curated collection of teas. Mostly when I splurge it’s on Harney and Sons Teas. They are high quality and many come in gorgeous decorative tins I can refill. I store most of them on a magnet board in my room.
I usually start my day, whenever it gets started, with coffee brewed in a French press. The rest of the day I mostly drink tea. As a disabled person with chronic insomnia, I don’t have much of a routine. I have very few daily habits and rituals. Tea is the exception. I long for an electric kettle, especially one that has settings for different types of tea, mostly because my stove top is so slow. The ancient electric coil is so pokey that I’ve walked away and completely forgotten it a few times while waiting for it to boil. Thankfully, haven’t yet boiled my trusty Ikea kettle dry, though I have managed to boil it over! (I don’t recommend it, but I’ve discovered that boiling water is a great way to get your stove top clean.) I usually brew my tea in a small pot and place that on a tea warmer powered by a tea light. If I am having tea in my room, I usually use the beautiful tea cozy my friend Libby bought me. Whatever is left, usually gets put into a jar for iced tea. Yes, I mix the flavors.
I rarely go more than a day or two without tea. I also keep a tea journal that tracks what I am drinking, if I am running out of something or if I am not impressed. I sometimes doodle in it and make lists of teas I would like to buy. Here are the 7 teas I brewed this week.
TEA NUMBER ONE:
Bigelow Constant Comment. This has been a favorite of mine since childhood. It’s a classic bracing black tea with the bold flavors of orange and spice. A friend recently posted a recipe to make a knockoff version of C.C. at home, which I will have to try at some point, but I can’t see giving up the original. It’s so good. I remember my mother making Constant Comment tea during my childhood and we both continue to drink it today. I think THIS is the recipe if you want to make your own.
As a brand, I’ve found Bigelow to be pretty consistent over the years, especially for an inexpensive bagged tea. Full disclosure; I don’t purchase from them often anymore so I can’t speak for their other teas. They do include steeping instructions on their bags and their teas are Blended and packaged in the USA.
TEA NUMBER TWO:
David’s Coffee Cake. This is a loose tea made by a company called David’s Tea. It’s amazing. It tastes sort of like fruitcake, but I’m talking about the really good fruitcake. An old client of mine once gave me a fruitcake, Stollen, made from her German Great Grandmother’s recipe. It was like no Christmas cake I’d ever had before or since The fruit wasn’t cloyingly sweet and chewy; the cake itself was dark and rich. This tea kind of tastes like it could have figs in it, but it doesn’t. A former therapist gifted this tea to me a few years ago and I have stretched it out because David’s doesn’t make it anymore.
David’s makes some very interesting teas. They are pricey, around $10-$12 for a two ounce tin. They are pretty to look at. I recommend reading the ingredients carefully because some of their blends have allergens, artificial flavors or colors, sweeteners added or carrageenan in the mix. They usually make a note of allergens like nuts when they are in the teas. All of their teas are also Blended and packaged in China if that makes a difference to you.
TEA NUMBERS THREE & FOUR:
A custom mix: Harney & Sons New York Blend loose tea mixed with a bag of Stash Sunny Orange Ginger. Sunny Orange is one of my regular go to herbal teas. If you like orange and don’t want caffeine, it’s perfect. Harney & Sons New Yorkis a conundrum to me. It’s an herbal. When I think of New York City the last thing I think of is chamomile tea. It’s really good though: chamomile, ginger root, and peppermint. I find the chamomile flavor a bit overpowering (they use the good stuff) and I felt like adding some citrus might balance everything out. I was right. I will do this again for certain.
Stash used to be one of my favorite tea brands, and for a grabbing a tea bag for a quick cuppa, Stash really can’t be beat for the price. They won’t compare to your high quality black teas, but I have lots of Stash in my tea cache. Occasionally you do find artificial flavors. When they do something well, however, they hit it out of the park. They always list their ingredients, give steeping and temperature directions on the package. If you want a guarantee of non GMO products Stash is also a good one to choose.
TEA NUMBER FIVE:
Harney & Sons: My Fair Lady. Not much to say about this one, except it’s a nice go to afternoon black tea. My Fair Lady is simply a mix of black tea that is supposed to evoke a classic black tea. And of course came in a beautiful tin. It’s a nice medium body black tea which holds up fine with sugar and milk.
TEA NUMBER SIX:
Harney & Sons: African Antlers. (Are you seeing a trend here?) This is a weird one. I got a generous sample of this tea and considering it doesn’t take a large quantity to brew a cup or a small pot, I have a few good brews left. You can steep this tea multiple times and still get great flavor. I’m absolutely buying a full tin of this next time I buy tea. It’s literally a bunch of little twigs and buds instead of tea leaves. I’m not usually a fan of white teas, however, the longer you steep this one, the stronger the tea flavor is. It has a nice earthy sweetness and it’s definitely caffeinated!
Harney and Sons is simply top drawer. Every kind of tea you could hope for in a staggering array of packaging and pricing. They even tell you how much each cup will cost you in a particular package. One of the best things is they often sell small samples for $2 or $3. There are usually enough for 2 to 3 small pots or cups. (You can see how big the sample of African Antlers is at the top of the page. I put it in a small jar) I’ve sometimes been able to eek out as many as 5 or 6 cups from a sample! This has allowed me to try teas I could otherwise never afford.
They have discounts frequently and offer free shipping. The company is based in New York. Because they are shipping in ingredients from all over the world, as a carbon offset they participate in 1% For The Planet which distributes that profit money to a list of environmental organizations. The only thing that frustrates many of us H&S lovers is that they do still use the silken tea bags. These are perfect for brewing, and technically compostable, but if you don’t have an industrial composter, they’ll take years to compost.
TEA NUMBER SEVEN:
And finally, T-We Tea: Scandalous Manfriend! This was another fantastic tea gift, this one from my friend Boyd! I have been just using a little bit at a time, because I want it to last. It helps that I have a lot of tea. If you like spicy teas or Chai this is a great choice! Scandalous Manfriend is made with two types of Darjeeling, heather, spearmint, peppercorn and clove. It also makes a banging iced tea.
T-We Tea started in San Francisco and now makes all of its products in Nevada, so it’s a US company, with an amazing array of blends. I think I made a list once and there were twenty-five teas I wanted to try! (lottery goals) They all have very clever and amusing names, like Chai Hard. (If you’re an uptight pucker pout, some of the names, BiCurious George or LesbiFriends, for instance, may offend your less attractive sensibilities. The teas come in square, nicely stackable tins. Most are around $15 for 20-25 cups of tea. You can also buy refills, bulk sizes and empty tins. Probably my only complaint is that the container is far bigger than the amount of loose tea that comes with an order. I would really love the option of a cute little tin half the size.
If you are a tea lover, I hope you will be inspired to try some new things. I may do more of these tea themed blogs. I’m thinking about doing some blogs on books as well. Maybe something light will be a good diversion from the stress we are all going through right now. A note: Nobody is paying me or giving me free tea, darn it. This is not a promotion. I’m just sharing some things I love.
I don’t know exactly how I fell out of posting here. I’ve written plenty. It’s the act of posting that I have stalled out at. When you have a chronic illness sometimes the idea of booting up the computer, arranging paragraphs, and coming up with tags is just too exhausting. I’ve been down physically and emotionally a few times this past year. I lost my beloved cat. It’s just been hard. But I shall persevere! #justkeepswimming