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