Holiday brew ha-ha at the Posse: Warm up the tea pot

teaIt’s tea time once again and I’ve been doing a bit of sampling of some new (and some not so new) blends to try. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying recently:

Rooibos Nutcracker from Georgia Tea Company: This tea, perfect for the young and the young at heart, is as much fun to drink as it is to look at it, with its dark red rooibos, white candy snowflakes , tiny silver ball dragees and almond slivers. It has a soft marzipan vibe with its almond-cherry-vanilla undertones and has been my go-to red tea quite often lately. I dare you not to pick out and munch on at least one of the candy bits when you’re scooping this into your tea bag or ball. And as I’ve mentioned before, I love that this company sells samples; it’s so nice to be able to try before you buy large amounts, and the customer service is top-notch.

Teavana’s White Chocolate Peppermint Rooibos: I likened my cup of this to hot chocolate lite — smooth, with a creamy mouthfeel and well-balanced flavors, but without the caffeine, so a perfect after-dinner or bedtime sip. This one was a tea 2hit with several of my co-workers; all four of us drinking it created a lovely aroma wafting through the office. And this one, like the Nutcracker above, might have you tempted to snack a bit from the bag.

Tea Forte Rum Raisin Biscotti: Now I don’t think I’ve ever had rum-soaked raisins, so wasn’t sure what to expect, but this black tea was subtly flavorful with a bit of a pastry accord and a slightly nutty feel. If you’re looking for a hearty A.M. wake-up tea with a wallop of flavor, this likely won’t be your cuppa, but could work well to gently ease you into your morning. And I think it would be perfect for an afternoon tea ritual, with or without biscotti, scones and the like.

Stash White Chai: A co-worker turned me on to this one, a nice little brew that will please those of you who want the convenience of tea bags. I generally don’t add milk to white teas but with the chai flavoring here, it might just work. I love that the very low level of caffeine means you can have a gently spiced, warming cup any time of day; another plus is that it’s available at grocery stores.

Mariage Freres Marco Polo Rouge: I’m so happy that this cult favorite comes in caffeine-free red tea, just wish I’d discovered it sooner. I adore the delicate floral-fruity flavor of the black but didn’t dare drink it later than early afternoon. I got mine from the Cultured Cup in Dallas which sells small bags of various teas (particularly the Mariages) so you can try them without spending $$ on a full tin. The gourmet food mecca that is Market Hall Foods in Oakland, Calif., also sells refill bags of some MFs, this one included, but I went with CC this time around because there were some coffee samplers I wanted for DH’s stocking.

And since it’s that time of year, tea makes a nice gift, which you can personalize by finding out your giftee’s favorite flavors and tea types. Get a pretty tin, box or decorative bag to pack it in (I like to put loose tea in a zip-top plastic baggie first for extra freshness) and then tie it up with 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 brew it. Of course, if you’re doing pre-packaged tea bags, it’s even easier to put together a sampler.

So what about you? Please share with me — would love to know what teas are you enjoying now or which ones are you hoping to try. You all have mentioned some great teas before and I’m looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

  • shylotus says:

    Wow, that nutcracker tea from Georgia Tea Company looks scrumptious.

    I’m still having a love affair with Rishi Tea. My favorite being White Tea Rose Mélange Blend. Oh my, my, it’s to swoon for. A holiday favorite is Teavana’s Youthberry Wild Orange Blossom Tea Blend. Sometimes I’ll throw a few jasmine tea pearls in these blends for extra flower-love.
    Oh! And my favorite Rooibos-in-a-bag this time of year: Harney’s Tea Blend African Autumn. Rooibos with orange and cranberry flavorings. Yes!

    I love reading everyone’s favorite choices.
    Stay warm 🙂

    • Lizzy says:

      Oh, Jasmine pearls are always welcome in my teapot this time of year, how could I have forgotten!

    • Ann says:

      Yummy flavors all! I like that Teavana blend as well but always just sample it at the store. That Harney’s sounds great, too. And Lizzy, jasmine pearls are always a winner here, too!

  • Lizzy says:

    I am fortunate to live in Northern California, so Market Hall is close enough that a shipment of Mariage Freres is only a couple of days away! My favorite is also the Marco Polo Rouge but the Eros is lovely as well.

    Kusmi makes some of my preferred teas for drinking iced in the summer–like their strawberry green tea, OMG!–but their St. Petersburg (which comes as your choice of green or black tea flavored with “citrus fruit, red fruits, and caramel”) is delightful and I just got a tin of their green Christmas tea (“orange, almond, vanilla, and spices”) that I cannot wait to try. It just sounds like a perfect encapsulation of my favorite holiday flavors!

    Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon has a fine selection of herbal, red, and black/green/white teas, and a couple of favorites there are the Vanilla Rooibos and the Honeyroo tea (a blend of Honeybush and rooibos)–both so comforting!

    Finally, I do like to brew up some of the herbs I’ve harvested from the garden over the Spring/Summer months–especially the chocolate peppermint–to warm me during the chill of winter 😉

    • Ann says:

      Oh, Lizzy — lucky you; and besides, that’s a great area! I’m so glad you mentioned the Kusmi teas; I’ve only tried a few but love the St. Petersburg as well, and now you make me want to try those others of theirs. And I think it’s so cool that you brew herbs from your own garden — how lovely! I’d like to be able to do that but alas, I have a black thumb.

      • Lizzy says:

        So far there hasn’t been a single tea I’ve tried from Kusmi that I haven’t liked–I remember the first time tasting one of their blends and being shocked at how intense the flavor was!

  • Mary K says:

    I enjoy tea and appreciate the information here about some types that are new to me. I must seek them out.

  • Dina C. says:

    Ann,
    Yay, it’s tea time! My dear husband gave me a Wedgwood teapot for my birthday last month (Wild Strawberry pattern), and I have recently christened it with Teavana’s Dragon Jasmine Pearls. In the last few years, I’ve become a big fan of green teas. I’m very sensitive to caffeine, so the lower caff of green teas is better for me. I also enjoy Rooibos, decaf black teas and tisanes. I’m not too picky, as long as nobody tries to slip me a Lipton’s teabag! 😉

    • Ann says:

      Oh, Dina, what a nice gift! I know it is just beautiful; and what a great tea to christen it with. I love those pearls and love that you can re-steep them several times. Enjoy your new lovely!

    • shylotus says:

      Dina what a lovely gift. And the perfect thing to christen it with – Jasmine Pearls. Congratulations!

  • dinazad says:

    My favorite Mariage Frères tea is “Route du Temps”. I even converted a non-tea-person to tea-drinking with it. I’m generally not very fond of flavored teas, but I do love the ginger in Route du Temps. And I only just bought three different jasmine teas in order to do a side-by-side evaluation to decide which one I like best. There are vast differences!
    Sometimes I add petals from the fragrant (and unsprayed) roses on my balcony to a cup of tea, but this year I plan to put them in a “Balcony Tea” made from all the herbs and flowers on my balcony (several varieties of mint, catnip, strawberry leaves, rose petals, sage, lemon balm, evening primrose, calaminth, etc.)

    • Ann says:

      Hi, dear, so nice to see you! That Mariage sounds nice; must try it soon. And how wonderful that you will make your own tea, created from your balcony plants — what a lovely idea! Do let us know how you like it, and also tell us which jasmine tea won the brew-off 🙂

  • lucasai says:

    Hot Cinnamon Spice from Harney&Sons!
    Best winter tea… EVER!

  • Portia says:

    Hey there Ann,
    Great to see you drinking gorgeous teas.
    Love the Mariage Freres Bolero, Kusmi Violet, Tulsi Lemon Ginger and a slew of Jin’s Korean teas, I don’t know their names though.
    Portia xx

    • Ann says:

      Yay, Portia, so glad to hear you’re loving tea too! Great choices, and those Korean teas sound quite interesting. BTW, do you have any trouble getting MF down there (I know there distributorship outside France can be spotty) or do you just bite the bullet and pay the big shipping fee to order from the mother ship?

  • poodle says:

    I love tea and have far too much in the cupboard. I’m actually trying to not buy any for a while so I’m going to forget I ever read this post. 😉 I’ve been enjoying my green teas a lot lately along with rooibos. I haven’t bought any holiday flavors this year. 🙁

    • Ann says:

      I understand completely, dear. I had to sneak these in because DH would have a fit if he saw any more tea coming into the house. A friend gave us her daughter’s old dorm-size fridge recently and I was going to use it for perfume (maybe come summer), but right now it’s holding a bunch of tea.

      • poodle says:

        I don’t have to smuggle the tea in yet because I don’t think he really knows how much is in the kitchen. One of the perks of having a hubby who doesn’t cook and therefore has little need to rummage around in the cupboards.

        • Ann says:

          Oh, that sounds good! Lucky you — my DH is big on cooking and winds up seeing all of my various tea stashes 🙂

    • jilliecat says:

      Oh, Poodle, I just had to say how much I admire your restraint! Even my husband has begun to notice how much tea has taken over the kitchen cupboards, and I still can’t stop buying it ,…… that is an addiction, isn’t it??!!

      • poodle says:

        It’s awful. I do drink a lot but it’s just silly when I look at the boxes. My niece does the same thing. We did a tea swap too where she gave me a bunch of hers to try and I gave her some of mine. That didn’t really decrease the amount in the cabinet but it was a good way to try more flavors. Please don’t admire my restraint because I can assure you it won’t last. Lol.

    • Sally M says:

      Poodle, its a desperate situation isnt it? I started with the teas before it became a business and then I was truly doomed. THEN a kind of madness overtook me (not unlike the perfume sickness) and I had to get cool tea tins/caddys to store them in. My long suffering husband built me a shelf that runs all around the kitchen so I could display them (and it’s a lot easier to find them than rootling around in the cupboard, which a-course they had outgrown). I now have -cough- well over 200. Demented…

      • poodle says:

        Lol. I’ve told hubby I should open a tea shop because we need one in our area. He laughs at me but I’m totally serious. Plus I want more teas. Oh, and the tins are addicting too. Just like perfumes. I suppose there are worse things we could be addicted to so I don’t let it worry me too much.

  • Sally M says:

    As a tea merchant I’m lucky enough to be able to sample squillions of teas before I buy and one of the best lines I’ve discovered is Florapharm – they are also from Germany although they do have a US distributor in Georgia. My favorite tea for this time of year – and my best seller – is called Almond Cookies. Its a green Sencha with almond and coconut flakes. Their best white is Raspberry Ginger and their winter Chocolate Rooibos is wonderful. For Oolong lovers, try Cream Caramel. Although as a Brit I ws raised on strong black brews, I dont drink black tea now (unless its decaf) but Grandma’s Apple Pie and Nutcracker Sweet arer very popular with my customers.

    • Ann says:

      Lucky, you, Sally — I am sooo envious! I’ve heard that a company in Germany has just about the best flavors around, so maybe that’s the one. All your choices sound divine, esp. that Raspberry Ginger. Do you know who the tea distributor in Georgia is? Would love to try some of those lovelies you mentioned. Thanks!

      • Sally M says:

        Hi Ann, yes its Florapharm USA – not sure if we can post links here so I’ll do it how we post for the fairy godmother – its at florapharmteausa dawt commm. They are very good at sending samples 🙂

      • Sally M says:

        Ann I’d be happy to send you some samples to try – email me if you like at salmack1 at earthlink dawt net.

  • jilliecat says:

    Sadly I am addicted to a tea that I have to get from Germany! I know that other companies make similar “bratapfel” varieties, but none are like Goetz’s Christmas rooibos, which has a lovely comforting caramelized apple/marzipan flavour. It almost feels boozy as it is so rich, and gives you such a kick, even though it is redbush and doesn’t have any caffeine. It’s my perfect Christmas cuppa!

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Jilliecat! That Christmas rooibos sounds lovely and positively addictive. Glad you found a great Christmas cuppa — enjoy!!

  • Caroline says:

    oh wow Ann, what a timely post! Just made a significant splurge at Williams Sonoma–Breville’s The Tea Maker. It’s the most incredible tea gadget evah. Justified this b/c I drink 4 or so cups every morning…rarely have coffee. And this thing is fast and brews perfectly. Must say I haven’t tried many flavored teas (except for Lemon Zinger). My current fave is Taylor of Harrogate’s Yorkshire Gold. Many thanks for the Cultured Cup tip. It’s wonderful that they offer sample sizes.

    • Ann says:

      How cool is that, Caroline! It sounds so neat, and if you drink that much tea, it’s perfect for you. I’d love one, but we have limited counter space, so I just plug along the old way. BTW, a former co-worker of mine at the newspaper turned me on to Yorkshire Gold — it’s good stuff. Have fun with the sampling!

  • wefadetogray says:

    I love Mariage Frères Paris (Paris Ginza and Tokyo Breakfast tea). I love tea!!!

    • Ann says:

      Oooh, those sound nice — must try one of these days. We are in a cold, drizzly spell right now and tea is really hitting the spot.

  • Kandice says:

    I was just looking at tea web sites last night and wishing I had the money to sample all the tea I saw 🙂 There are several Mariage Freres that I’d like to try, but I didn’t know about the Teavana White Chocolate Peppermint. I live around the corner from a Teavana, and now I must run right over and buy some! Can’t wait to hear other recommendations. Can I ask what coffee samplers you bought from CC? I’m getting ready to order some tea from them but would also love to know of any recommended coffee’s from there as well. Thanks for the review!

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Kandice! I hear you — I wish I could sample them all — so many wonderful teas out there just waiting to be sipped. Do see if your Teavana is sampling the WCP to make sure that you like it. I really wish they would let you buy a 1/4 or 1/2 ounce of it to see if suits you. My DH really likes flavored coffee, so from CC I ordered White Christmas, Turtle Blend and Jumpin’ Java. But I do think they have more sophisticated brands/blends available to try.

      • Kandice says:

        Oh dear. Now I must buy tea and coffee from the CC! The White Christmas and Turtle Blend sound wonderful but so do some of their other blends. Thanks for the recommendations – enjoy your cup of joy!