Tea Time

April 1, 2013 at 12:58 am (Personal) (, , )

Most Southerners like their tea one way: iced and syrupy sweet. You think that’s two ways? Not in the South! 😉

Maybe it’s because I went to the UK in my teens and fell in love with the concept of “tea time” or maybe because I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada, actually taking part in afternoon tea, where the world stops at 4p no matter what you’re doing. I actually love tea, both hot and cold, and I enjoy trying new ones.

Although i’ve tried a LOT of teas, i’m still very much a newbie at this. I can vary the temp a bit, but i don’t have a newfangled machine to do it for me…not yet, anyway. I’ve gotten away from bags and now I use the real stuff: loose tea. I can thank my buddy, Nik, for that. Also, thanks to him giving me one of the best gifts ever with Steepster’s Tea of the Month club, through which I have greatly expanded my knowledge of teas, and, hopefully my palate as well.

I wrote a review and some tasting notes for 3 teas that are near and dear to my heart. On any given day, I might declare any of the three my favorite. They are Samovar’s Ocean of Wisdom, Teavana’s Rooibos Chai, and Della Terra’s Ayurvedic Serenity. All three are terrific blends incorporating some of my favorite spices: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and chamomile, among others.

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I’ve found that most folks tend to fuss about cinnamon, Like fuss and cuss. Now, thankfully, I’m in the minority there. i LOVE cinnamon. Bring it on! The more, the merrier, for the most part. Ginger, on the other hand, is slightly opposite…not so much because i don’t like the flavor, because i do. Mostly, it’s because it tends to initiate a migraine, which doesn’t make me very happy. However, and very thankfully, I have no neurological issues with these three. They are so good that I think I would just have to accept the migraine and take medication. Yep, they’re THAT good.

Its goodness shouldn’t be a great surprise to supporters of Ocean of Wisdom, which has been my favorite tea for a couple of years. I mean, honestly, it was custom blended for His Holiness The Dalai Lama. To me, that just says, “Wow”. It also says the dude knows good tea 😉

Seriously, though, I first had this tea just after I’d started drinking loose teas, when I was in San Francisco for Macworld. A group of us went to Samovar’s for tea, and I was hooked after my first sip. I simply could not get enough. I kept discovering something new with each successive sip, with just layer upon layer expressing itself. Maybe it was just the first time I’d had a truly excellent cup of tea that wasn’t Earl Grey.

Regarding the tea itself, Ocean of Wisdom has almost a subdued heat to it that builds to a strong finish, almost the way good Mexican food has a way to sneak up on you before you realize what has happened. It is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, so it’s actually really good for you. Considering all the health issues I’ve had for the past few years, maybe I need to just hook up a permanent infusion and see what happens. This rooibos blend contains cinnamon, cloves, ginger, licorice root, and black pepper. Normally, I run from licorice, because I don’t typically like it, not even a hint; but (you knew there was a but, right?) I don’t really taste it here, which is a good thing, because I would hate to run from this tea. These tea leaves are a dark reddish brown that leaves you with a gorgeous clear red tea after steeping that just beckons you to, “Come. Drink.”

There are many levels to this one. Just when you think you’re done, another layer pops to the surface—or does it come up kicking and screaming and gasping for air—the way I was when I made it a bit strong, so that it took my breath away and my throat burned long after the last drop.

Still, Ocean of Wisdom sets the bar against which all other teas are judged. This is the closest to a perfect cup of tea that I have ever had. I can’t imagine anything else even coming close to this one, but it will be fun trying to find a successor. Let the games begin.

(Note: The above photo was taken at Samovar Tea Lounge, Yerba Buena Gardens, in San Francisco just outside Moscone Center during Macworld 2011. That’s Pugsy, who goes everywhere with me, sitting on top of a pot of Ocean of Wisdom.)

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