Published on February 19th, 2010 | by Greg0
Tea Time With Tay and Teas Etc
There’s tea- the bags you plop into a cup of hot water and gulp down… and then there is Tea. We’ve tried and tasted a whole lot of different types, from powdered chai to fancy bags, and even liquid concentrates. But we are dealing with a different class of teas today, in two different ways.
Tay Tea is a New York-based company founded by a tea lover, offering artisinal blends with a slightly feminine bent. We loved their Better than Sex tea, a rooibos chocolate peppermint variety that continues to be one of our very favorites. Recently, they sent us a few others to try, and we were delighted to find that they also managed to capture our tastebuds. The Berber tea was a nicely-smoky spearmint, gunpowder green-based, fresh and good sweetened or straight. Kaapstad is as interesting and exotic as it sounds- ginger, almond, vanilla laid over a rooibos base- a fairly hearty and balanced one that could even stand up to a bit of milk, as could the Tuk Tuk chai. This rooibos-based chai offered a twist on typical chai in the form of lemongrass, though it was a bit overpowered by the cardamom for us. Nonetheless, all great and interesting blends sure to put a smile on any tea drinker’s face or surprise even the most jaded palette. We didn’t love the Twiggy (though it was the only organic variety on-hand)- an aged oolong with chrysanthemum- but could see it working well in the suggested place (a spa). Finally, Marry Me Again is a uniquely bright tea, offering color in the form of cornflower, violet, lavender over a ceylon black tea- it was a bit too floral, but smelled wonderful, and was definitely fresh and fun. Ranging from $14-$16 for 4 ounces, including the tins, Tay offers classy teas at reasonable prices.
Some people though, including a writer or two here, prefer their tea straight up. ‘Flowers, nuts, spices merely get in the way of the pure flavors,’ they say. ‘ You wouldn’t you add a bunch of stuff to wine,’ they comment. And with that in mind, we aimed to try out some of the very best- Teas Etc’s set of three winners in the World Tea Championship of 2009 (one of them a runner-up, to be fair, and the set no longer available as next year’s stuff is coming up fairly soon). When they first arrived, we confess to being a bit disappointed- the packaging was nicely green, but not particular classy or special. And things got worse when we tried to open the tins- these were some of the cheapest and junkiest tins we’ve ever seen, with bottoms that don’t stay on, much less prevent moisture from getting in.
Ah, but then we tried the tea. Taking a fair bit of care with water temperature, using the Zojirushi water boiler and filtered water as well as Bodum’s excellent glasses to easily observe color, we made ourselves a couple of small pots. The Assam, a tea we weren’t so familiar with, literally stopped one taster cold- they had trouble trying anything else and kept wanting more of it. The Assam is described as “malty” and that’s accurate, and it’s great as a breakfast tea (it has a decent but not overwhelming amount of caffiene. Smooth, rich, and with an aftertaste that keeps you smiling, we were a bit sad to move on. And the Ceylon OP1 from Sri Lanka isn’t quite as strong, especially right afterwards, but still makes a great impression. Fairly complex, it does require a bit of care in preparation. It avoids bitterness, has just a touch of sweetness, but the real strength here is in aroma. Finally, they won second place for the Golden Monkey, a Yunnan tea that is certified organic. Lovely and delicate, this one brews to a nice light color, offering a more subtle flavor that can pair well with cookies or cheeses. It isn’t strong, and might not grab the nose or tongue of those used to an aggressive tea, but is definitely among the best of this type we’ve tried. One ounce of these teas will set you back $4-$8, or save 20% on larger orders, and are definitely worth the slight premium over many other loose leaf teas.