Smokey Goodness

Posted: Monday November 26 2012 @ 8:07am

Category: Main

Oh, it was a long holiday weekend! Actually, it was a very nice weekend. The turkey on Pre-Xmas Feast Day was divine. (If you want fool-proof supremely moist meat and aren't wedded to a whole bird and crispy skin, I would highly recommend this Braised Turkey with Gravy recipe.)

But there is one problem with a long weekend: My wife is home all day and she hates the smell of smoked teas!

However, with the end of the weekend comes Monday and a return to smokey goodness. So let's talk about some of the smokey goodness at Discover Teas!

The base of all things smokey is Lapsang Souchong Butterfly #1. Basically, the tea is smoked over wood, in this case, oak. You can also get Lapsangs which are smoked over pine. Lapsang is available from pretty much any tea purveyor. Hell, nowadays you can get Lapsang teabags at the supermarket. Long ago, before Discover Teas was around, I did an extensive taste test of several Lapsangs. They would vary from too weak to so strong that they left a sour taste on your tongue. The Lapsang at Discover Teas is solidly in the middle of that range. It's strong enough to be bracing, yet not so strong that it's sour and off-putting. It works for me.

But what you really need to do is try a variety of them, from different sources, and see which works best for you.

Lapsang is a base for a blend called Russian Caravan. Typically, Russian Caravan is simply a blend of Lapsang with other strong black teas, often a Keemun. It's sort of a Lapsang light. I'm not a big drinker of Russian Caravan, any Russian Caravan. For me, the Lapsang obscures the other teas while the other teas just server to blunt the goodness of the Lapsang. But, if you like Lapsang but simply find it to be too damn smokey, a Russian Caravan might be just the ticket. In that case, the one at Discover Teas is plenty good, just not my... wait for it... cup of tea.

What is my cup of tea? That would be Ken's Karavan, their own take on a Russian Caravan. It's a blend of Lapsang and a Keemun Panda. Keemun Panda is also a rich black tea and a common component of a Russian Caravan. To this standard blend they add Rooibos, which is an herbal tisane from a bush in Africa. This addition rounds out the flavor of the blend without blunting the strong flavors. They also add some tiny caramel chips, which add subtle caramel overtones. It's not a distinct additional flavor, just an overtone that complements the blend. I just love this stuff and I doubt you can find it anywhere else. The dry tea also has this wonderful aroma which reminds me of BBQ. I know, that sounds weird. It's not. It's wonderful.

And, yes, I know that smoky is the preferred spelling these days. Don't care.

Also, if you're reading this the day I posted it, it's Cyber Monday and all online orders over $50 are 25% off. So go get some!

The Next Best Thing...

Posted: Thursday November 15 2012 @ 7:11am

Category: Main

Okay, I said I would describe some other week-end teas on Monday. So here we go!

As I mentioned on Monday, my wife hates the smell of smokey teas, which puts a limit on what I can drink on the weekend. Blackberry Sage is one alternative. What's the other? Why chocolate, of course!

Discover Teas does have a nice Chocolate tea. And, if I remember its formulation right, it doesn't depend on actual chunks of chocolate for the flavor, instead using strips of the cacao bean shell. The result is a really nice combination of a Sri Lankan black tea and chocolate. Neither overpowers the other.

Now, this isn't a house blend. But it does make for a great base for one of my favorite house blends, namely Yorktown Patty. The name is a combination of Yorktown and a York Peppermint Pattie, which should clue you into the nature of the blend. Basically, they mix the chocolate base with peppermint. Sounds simple, but the result is divine. The flavor is smooth and rich and, yes, like a peppermint patty, only in tea form. This is also a particularly aromatic tea. Just smelling the dry leaves is a pleasure. Once brewed, it makes its delightful presence known throughout the house.

I should note that you can also buy plenty of herbs there. So you can get just the peppermint, if you want to try mixing your own. Kenneth is also some sort of certified herbalist, so, y'know, you can also get expert herb advice.

Wild Blackberry Shaman

Posted: Monday November 12 2012 @ 6:56pm

Category: Main

Okay, first off, I'm not really a fan of the name Wild Blackberry Shaman. (I would bet you cold hard cash that Kenneth named this one.) I just call it Blackberry Sage. You can call it that, too, and they'll know what you mean. This is one of the excellent house blends at Discover Teas. It's a hearty black tea base. (Sorry, don't remember exactly what type of black tea.) It's then flavored with blackberry and sage. The combination works amazingly well. The sage complements the blackberry while also cutting its sweetness. This isn't one of those really sweet teas. The blackberry comes through without any cloying sweetness.

Blackberry Sage makes for a great weekend tea for me. My wife hates the smell of smoked tea and many of my favorite strong teas have a smoked base. So I'm always on the search for a good strong tea that doesn't gain any of that strength in the form of smokiness. This one really fits that bill.

If they're low on this blend and need to mix up a new batch, they'll make it with extra sage for me. ('Cause that's how I like it.) It's just one of the many benefits of going to a local tea shop and getting to know the folks there. You can be damn sure a chain won't ask if you want your blackberry-sage blend heavy on the sage!

What else do I drink on a weekend? I'll tell you tomorrow.

Discover Teas

Posted: Saturday November 10 2012 @ 7:27pm

Category: Main

Well, this post is tragically long overdue. We have a wonderful tea shop in town, but I haven't mentioned it because, after all, what do you care? You can't visit it.

Because it's local, I tend to forget that they also do online orders. So you do need to know about them!

The place is called Discover Teas. It's run by owner Chris and her tea guru Kenneth. They're both wonderful folks. They both know their tea and Kenneth is the kind of tea resource I love, someone even crazier about tea than I am. Plus, hugs! (I'm a hugger.)

They've recently expanded to a second shop, which meant hiring on additional staff. What I've seen so far of the additional staff gives me warm fuzzies that the quality of my visits will not suffer. (Morgan seems particularly awesome.)

The Williamsburg store is a treat. It's all nice warm tones. It's not overly Asian-feeling, which some tea stores do to excess. And it's certainly not snooty-feeling. Just nice and relaxing. Tea-ware lines the walls. There's a sniffing table in the center of the floor, where you can get a good whiff of, I think, everything they stock. It's much handier than having to continually ask staff to open the big tins. The store also has a lounge area, with comfy chairs and a couch. So, yeah, you can hang out!

But, this is all secondary to the quality of the tea. Happily, the tea is top-notch as well. They have the standards, of course. I rely heavily on their Lapsang. But they also have a nice variety of custom store blends, which make up the bulk of my tea purchases. I'll be posting separate reviews of my favorites in the days to come.

One benefit of a real live shop is that the staff get to know you and get a feel for what you like. That enables them to make valuable suggestions. That's not something you easily get online. Although, of course, unless you live in Williamsburg, or now Newport News, you're stuck with online.

Now, if you have a local tea shop, and I don't mean a chain like a Teavana store, then you should utilize your local shop. (If you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, try TeaSource.) But if you lack such a local shop, then by all means order some tea from my friends at Discover Teas.

Which teas? Well, that's the topic of future posts!

Why I Can't Talk About My Favorite Beverage In Polite Company Anymore

Posted: Monday January 23 2012 @ 8:56am

Category: Main

Teabag Venn Diagram

Herbal Teas are not Tea!

Posted: Friday August 19 2011 @ 5:25am

Category: Main

Zach Weiner, perhaps the most talented man in the world, knows the truth.

Tea Spam: Black tea

Posted: Sunday June 05 2011 @ 10:05am

Category: Main

Recently, I've been getting weird tea-related spam email. I'm redacting the website, even though the URL doesn't appear to actually work:

Black tea,the name is from the main color of its stem and tea water.It can help the stomach and intestine's digestion,promote the appetite and diuresis, eliminate dropsy and strong heart function.Gargling with black tea can prevent viral cause colds and prevent tooth decay and food poisoning,reduce blood sugar and high blood pressure because of its strong anti-bacterial.The American Heart Academic Association has concluded that black tea is one of the drinks which contains rich flavonoid with the function of anti-acidified and eliminating the free radical,it can reduce the risk of myocardial infarction.

These remind me of the Jimmy James version of my How to Make Tea page.

Tea Spam: Dianhong tea

Posted: Saturday May 21 2011 @ 7:08pm

Category: Main

Recently, I've been getting weird tea-related spam email. I'm redacting the website, even though the URL doesn't appear to actually work:

I learn through the website [redacted]: Dianhong tea,also call Yunnan Black tea,is the famous of black tea varieties in world's tea market. Dianhong has been nearly fifty years history of production and sales. Black tea contains theaflavins and thearubigins items determine the quality of black tea, Both content is higher, the quality is better. Dianhong tea aroma, quality pure, fragrant taste, soup is red, superior quality. Dianhong tea is fit for drinking after a meal, can help digestion, and also as afternoon tea, together with the pastry, both can be refreshing, but also to supplement energy, is a beverage for most people.

These remind me of the Jimmy James version of my How to Make Tea page.

Tea Spam: Pu'er tea

Posted: Saturday May 21 2011 @ 7:08pm

Category: Main

Recently, I've been getting weird tea-related spam email. I'm redacting the website, even though the URL doesn't appear to actually work:

I learn through the website [redacted]: Pu'er tea is black tea, after a post-fermentation processing become the loose tea or pressed tea. The color of shape and brown red,the bright soup are red thick, aroma unique, taste mellow sweet,the tea leaves are red brown. older is better is Pu'er tea considered different from other teas, Pu'er tea is can entrance antique. older the tea, there are more concentrated tea perfume,and taste better. Pu'er tea is withstand brewing, about 20 grams of tea use 500 ml of boiling water to brew,can add boiling water more than 5 times, for that, drinking Pu'er tea both affordable and can make you healthier, life more quality.

These remind me of the Jimmy James version of my How to Make Tea page.

Mr. T

Posted: Tuesday December 07 2010 @ 6:34am

Category: Main

Mr. T

I pity tha fool what don't drink tea!

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