It’s been a while since we talked about tea, my second favorite love after perfume and slightly ahead of lipstick. I must confess, I’m a tea drinker all year long, from the depths of winter to the triple digits of our blazing Southern summers. But I have a friend who refuses to touch a drop of tea until December. She doesn’t know what she’s missing — I find my tea time to be one of the highlights of my day.
One I’ve taken a shine to this year is Mariage Freres’ Esprit de Noel. It’s a black tea with vanilla, Christmas spices and a touch of orange zest. I think it’s usually only available around the holidays and I have wanted to try it for a year or two now; I just never got around to it. I sampled a cup recently and really enjoyed it — very smooth and subtle in flavor with a nice holiday aroma. Fast forward a week or two later, when our Posse Fairy Godmother post went up and I had a fragrance that one of our readers wanted to try. She, in turn, offered to send me some tea that she wasn’t crazy about. Lo and behold, it turned out to be my wished-for Esprit de Noel! (Thanks, H!) Now that’s beautiful perfume and tea karma at work, folks!
A favorite late fall/early winter brew this year is sort of a mix ‘n match affair: Teavana’s White Ayurvedic Chai and its caffeinated blended cousin, Maharaja Chai Oolong and Samurai Chai Mate. The white tea is more delicate in flavor and is nice any time of day, whereas the blend amps the cinnamon and spice and offers some much-needed get-up-and-go in the A.M. You also can mix these together in whatever ratio suits you for flavor and caffeine level. (Note: the oolong and mate teas can be purchased separately but are also sold blended.)The next two teas really put the fun in tea time, and are from a company in the South (www.georgiateacompany.com). Their Snowflake tea has vanilla, almond and coconut undertones, and it’s pretty to look at with a flurry of white sprinkled throughout the black tea. I’ve only had this with a bit of sugar, but I think it’d be nice with a splash of milk, too. Their Gingerbread House tea (caffeine-free) looks a yummy treat in the bag with popcorn, cinnamon sticks, almond bits, coconut chips and more. I was sorely tempted to snack on it, ha! The cup I brewed had a caramel apple vibe with just a hint of cinnamon, but the flavor might differ a bit depending on what ingredients you get more or less of in your tea bag or ball. This one would be perfect at tea time for the younger ones; they can sip this right along with the grownups. Georgia Tea has another mix with popcorn called Carnival Blend that I’ve not tried but it sounds fun as well.
One of the nice things about this company is that they sell samples, which is a big plus in my book. It’s more than a little frustrating to buy a quantity of tea that you’ve never tried and then if you don’t like it, you often end up giving it away.
I have no affiliation with the company, although I do know one of the owner’s wives and she very kindly gave me samples. But I would have liked these teas just as much if I’d found them on my own.
And since it’s that time of year, tea also makes a nice gift, which you can personalize by finding out your giftee’s favorite flavors and tea types. Get a pretty tin or other container to pack it in (I like to put the tea in a zip-top plastic baggie first for extra freshness) and then tie it up with a festive ribbon or trim. I also like to mark the package with the tea’s name, its caffeine level, what kind (black, green, white, etc.) and how to best brew it. (Black, rooibos [red] tea, and herbal blends can take just below-boiling water; whereas white and green tea leaves are more delicate and like their water slightly cooler, in the 180-degree range.)
You could even assemble a little sampler of various types for those new to the world of tea, and include some nice tea cookies so they can create their own personal tea time ritual.
I’m putting together my tea gifts tonight and tomorrow and I love the way my kitchen smells while I’m measuring and packing.
So please share with me, what are your favorite holiday teas? What are you enjoying now?
Photos borrowed from Mariage Freres and the Georgia Tea Company
I’ve recently had a perfumed tea revelation. White tea with apple, orange, honey, almonds, cardamom and star anise. Somehow the result is christmasy with a hint of orthodox church incense. Very warming
Oh, Amer, that sounds amazing! Did you buy it blended like that or did you mix it yourself? If so, would love the recipe. Thanks for sharing!
I love tea and couldn’t wait to try the Esprit de Noel. Unfortunately, it’s sold out on their web site – how disappointing. Is it sold anywhere else?
Kandice, try over at Market Hall Foods ( www dot market hall foods dot com) and see if they have any in stock. Better yet, try the Cultured Cup, which sells 2 ounce samples ( www dot the cultured cup dot com).
Ann, thanks so much! I’ll check out both sites. (I LOVE the idea of tea samples, so I’m sure I’ll find something I’d like to try no matter what.)
Ann, thanks so much! I’ll check out both sites. (I LOVE the idea of tea samples, so I’m sure I’ll find something I’d like to try no matter what.) -Kandice
Oh that Mariage Frères one sounds fantastic!! Tea is also a longtime love for me, probably on par with perfume haha. I haven’t tried any of the brands you’ve mentioned here other than Teavana, and the only holiday teas I have are from Lupicia. To be honest I was not very impressed with any of Lupicia’s holiday teas from last year (and reprised this year) but bought them all for the adorable dinosaur print tins. Carol was probably my favorite but it’s a fairly nondescript floral black tea. That reminds me though, I haven’t yet tried the only new Lupicia holiday tea, Jingle Bells, yet. I think it has grape flavoring (which I realize sounds like it could be absolutely horrible but I’ve tried a couple of their other grape or muscat flavored offerings and they were surprisingly nice so I have hope :)).
Recently I’ve been drinking a lot of Teavana’s Mango Puerh Mate, which smells and sounds like an absolute mess but somehow works out amazingly. It’s probably the first mango tea I’ve actually liked, with a rich puerh body and some spice. Around this time of year I also like to pull out Lupicia’s Cinnamon Cookie Puerh. It smells better than it tastes, but it smells pretty darn delicious. 🙂
Also, we JUST got David’s Tea here in San Francisco and they have some super cute holiday offerings including a Chocolate Chili Chai which is surprisingly delicious and I am super tempted. Alpine Punch and Cookie Dough also smelled amazing. I bought a set of their adorable tea ornaments to give but might have to wait until after holiday shopping is over before I can indulge myself. ^^;;
Hi, Catherine! Thanks for all your good suggestions. I’ve seen that mango at Teavana and been tempted, but alas, they don’t do samples. I’m not familiar with the Lupicia line — is it a local tea company there in San Francisco? That Chocolate Chili Chai does sound good; I’m guessing it packs a little heat?
Catherine, I completely forgot all about it, but as I mentioned above to someone else, the Cultured Cup in Texas sells MF samples. Give them a try for the Noel tea (www dot the cultured cup dot com)
Catherine, I completely forgot all about it, but as I mentioned above to
someone else, the Cultured Cup in Texas sells MF samples. Give them a
try for the Noel tea (www dot the cultured cup dot com)
I’ve been enjoying Mariage Frères Éros – a fragrant black tea with floral notes. I’d love to gift some of my friends with a tea sampler (I’ve been looking at the Le Palais des Thés site ever since the post a while back that featured their sample box). It’s a lovely collection, but I think I might take a cue from you, Ann, and box up some custom sample sets myself!
Howdy, Lisa! So glad you stopped by. You sent me some Eros a while back and I enjoyed it ever so much — thanks again! Those Le Palais sets look lovely but my wallet is cringing this time of year, so do-it-yourself may be the way to go for both of us.
Well, I clearly don’t enjoy MF Esprit de Noel, but I’m so glad you’re getting such good use out of my neglected tin. (And look, my tea is now on the Posse, and I have lovely perfume in exchange, hurray!!) I’ve realized orange spice isn’t at all my thing (my partner’s finishing up the last of a box of Constant Comment that I just couldn’t stand). I always love a good lapsang souchoung, from around October through March, but right now I’m loving some Aftelier teas I received samples of as part of a great early christmas gift (thanks to said partner, again). The Frankincense one is really interesting and unique, and seems perfect for the season. That being said, I will also have to check out the Georgia Tea Co…I’m with you in that anywhere selling tea samples must be worth a try!
“ouch” (Musette is frantically putting her hands over the ears of her Constant Comment boxes) 😀
Don’t worry, dear — I think they have a pretty thick skin!
Ohh, I didn’t mean to hurt their feelings (or yours, as their curator). 🙂 I’m still sad I dislike spiced orange so much–it means there are quite a few perfumes that just will not work for me, including Andy Tauer’s Orange Star. But I do now know in future where to send excess boxes of Constant Comment, should they come my way 🙂
Heather, thank you again so much!! And those Aftelier teas sound nice, although I’m trying hard to imagine the frankincense one. I didn’t realize she did teas. BTW, I hope you’re enjoying the Mona Ambre. If you really like it, I think I could probably scare up a bit more for you one of these days. Do try Georgia Tea — they’re nice folks!
I think she has like 4 teas, and they’re all oolong. And don’t tempt me on the Ambre–I’m wearing it tonight again and it’s continuing to grow on me (or maybe it’s the perfect scent for a cold winter night, which it finally is here in Tennessee). Thanks again for the chance to try it!
I love the Ten-Ren Hibiscus as well! I’m a huge fan of Constant Comment (decaf, so folks stay safe ! 😀 ) and pretty much any peppermint tea works for me! I have this absolutely lovely pearlized tea set that I use in the evenings, Sequestered in the bedroom with a bit of peppermint tea and a couple of Anna’s ginger cookies and I’m pretty much okay with the world!
Yay, dear A! I can just see you, all cozied up in the bedroom with your tea and cookies and the “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the doorknob 😉 What a nice ritual. Good for you!
I have Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong by Kusmi Tea. The latter is smokier than other brands and wonderful.
Joan, I’ve only tried Kusmi’s Russian tea sampler from Luckyscent — liked it a lot, but need to try their other offerings. Thanks!
Am brewing a cup of Ten-Ren Teas Hibiscus Spice blend as we speak. The quality of the tea from this company has always been good, and in some cases, great! I’ll be trying the Esprit de Noel also. I’m one of those fall and winter tea drinkers.
Mmmm … that tea sounds good. Cooler weather is really my favorite time for tea, too.
Ann, I can’t name any favorite holiday teas because, until I met you, I think the only flavored teas I ever drank was black tea with rose and chai (either homemade or, when lazy, a grocery store brand). Now you’ve got me hooked on certain Mariage Freres and Tea Forte teas … darn you! 🙂 That said, I haven’t tried any holiday teas but will do so today … I’m heading out to a bookshop today that serves some of the Mariage Freres, so I’ll see if they have the Esprit de Noel or something comparable and will have tea today instead of coffee. I loved your descriptions of all of these.
Hi, lady! Do try the Noel if you get the chance and let me know what you think of it. It’s fairly subtle, not a “hit you over the head” with cinnamon kind of thing at all. And I’d love to know what other teas they serve there, as MF can be a little hard to find. Glad you’re coming around to tea — we tea lovers are slowly but surely bringing coffee drinkers over to the dark side (insert evil laugh here: bwah ha ha!).
P.S. I feel badly that I never sent your teas (and many other folks’) all dolled up in pretty packaging — sorry! Sheesh, need to take my own advice. 🙂
Oohh I love Samurai Mate Chai. One of my favorites is Gypsy Rose from Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. Black tea with rose… yummy and it smells fantastic. Another favorite of mine is The du Hammam from Le Palais des Thes. Quite possibly the best green tea I’ve ever had. Cacao Chai from Zhi Teas is another really good one. I also like a good jasmine tea. I had some jasmine silver needle that was really good. I don’t remember if it was from Republic of Tea or Rishi.. I bought it in the bulk section at the store.
Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by. I love the Zhena teas, too, but haven’t tried the Gypsy as I’m not a fan of rose overall (tea, perfume, etc.). I keep hearing about the Le Palais line and need to try it, plus the others you mentioned. Thanks!