10 Top Teas for November

As the temperatures go down, the call from within us for hot tea is even louder than ever. The month of November in the Northern Hemisphere is certainly a time of those cooler temps and therefore a time when more people enjoy hot tea, switching from their favorite iced tea and sweet tea. Certain teas seem to be more appealing during this time of year, partly due to the weather and partly due to holiday events, especially Thanksgiving in the U.S. where tea can be an important part of that traditional gathering of family and friends. These ten teas have an especially broad appeal, meeting these desires among tea drinkers.

Tea 1 – Earl Grey

Hi, Boston Tea Company, care to sponsor this photo?
Hi, Boston Tea Company, care to sponsor this photo?

Quite frankly, there are many folks out there who couldn’t get through the day without a cuppa Earl Grey (hey, that rhymes!). This flavored tea has been around since the 1800s and is said to have originated with Charles Grey, the second earl in his line, who supposedly was given the recipe by a Chinese mandarin with whom he was friends, and whose life he had saved. How true this is remains a bit of a mystery. The flavoring comes from the Bergamot orange, a cross between the sweet or pear lemon (Citrus Limetta) and the Seville or sour orange (Citrus Aurantium). The sour orange is native to southern Vietnam, but whether the hybrid existed then is another matter. The Bergamot orange is currently grown in southern Italy in Calabria. Plus the tea is said to be a blend of Indian and Ceylon teas, but when this tea came about, tea from Sri Lanka (formerly, Ceylon) was not generally known to the Chinese, who had plenty of their own growing. But who cares? We have it today, and the flavor still ranks as a top tea in The UK and U.S. There are also various versions available, such as the Earl Grey Citrus tea from The Boston Tea Company, for those who like a stronger taste of citrus. Lots to be thankful for!

Tea 2 – Bewley’s Irish Breakfast Tea

A blend of Assam and Darjeeling teas, regarded as not only the best but also the most distinct grown in India. This tea steeps up a creamy, malty quality and a full-bodied taste. This tea is best enjoyed with the addition of milk. Bewley’s is Ireland’s leading coffee and tea company. Their Irish Breakfast won the 2012 Great Taste Awards, organized by the Guild of Fine Foods and the acknowledged benchmark of specialty food and drink. These awards have been described as ‘the Oscars’ of the food world.

Tea 3 – Twinings Pumpkin Spice Chai

An all time seasonal favorite that starts with a fine black tea and then throws a spice party! Pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice join in to make it a true taste celebration that you can enjoy straight or with milk. Brew for five minutes in water that has been boiled or, in true Indian chai fashion, in half milk and half water. You might also try one of the many others available this time of year from the growing number of tea vendors out there.

Tea 4 – Yorkshire Red Label Tea

Hi, Taylors of Harrogate, care to sponsor this photo? (Photo credit: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
Hi, Taylors of Harrogate, care to sponsor this photo? (Photo credit: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A great tea, blending the best from India, Africa, and Sri Lanka for that distinctive character only Yorkshire Tea has. Strong aroma, rich color, and satisfying flavor will make this a tea you will certainly be thankful for!

From their site:

“At Yorkshire Tea, we know how to make a proper brew. Our tea buyers travel the world’s best tea gardens and estates. They taste hundreds of teas every day to select the quality of tea that’s perfect for our blends and your teapot. Little Urn, our specially converted ice cream van, travels Britain and overseas pouring proper brews – follow his adventures and join in on Facebook and Twitter.”

Little Yellow Teapot is good buddies with Little Urn, even though they are an ocean apart.

Tea 5 – French Blend Tea

Available from various tea vendors, so no specific one is mentioned here. (Photo credit: Composite by A.C. Cargill from Yahoo! Images, same images appear on several tea vendor sites)
Available from various tea vendors, so no specific one is mentioned here. (Photo credit: Composite by A.C. Cargill from Yahoo! Images, same images appear on several tea vendor sites)

A mélange of flavors, starting with a delicious blend with the base teas (black teas from Sri Lanka, Nilgiri, Assam, and Kenya). The mix results in a flowery character and malty notes. Added in are oil of bergamot for that Earl Grey character, a bit of jasmine scent, and some lovely lavender fragrance and rose petals. The overall impression is of a tour around the world:

  • richness from Assam, India, where tea is truly a way of life
  • a saucy but sprightly flavor from Nilgiri, India, and Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon)
  • romance and mystery with superb golden color notes exuding from the Kenyan tea
  • an element key to many Parisian perfumes (Chinese Jasmine)
  • finishing touch of lavender from Provence combined with rose petals – a pairing that will make your feet think they are strolling along the Seine in the Latin Quarter of Paris

Tea 6 – Taylors of Harrogate China Rose Petal Tea

Great tearooms in the UK. Sure wish we had some here in the U.S.! (Photo credit: From the Betty’s website)
Great tearooms in the UK. Sure wish we had some here in the U.S.! (Photo credit: From the Betty’s website)

Chill out while you listen to Irish New Age Star Enya’s song “China Roses” and sip this tea. Orange Pekoe black tea is known as “rose congou.” The tea is the large-leaf variety and is fully oxidized. The rose petals are stirred into the tea as it is dried, imparting it with a sweet gentle fragrance. This is a delightful soothing tea, suitable for afternoon drinking.

Tea 7 – Cinnamon Black Tea

The usual version is a black tea mildly spiced with a refreshing cinnamon flavor and using a tea that is a high grown Ceylon tea from estates at more than 5500 feet above sea level. However, cinnamon (or more often its cousin cassia) is being added more and more to teas, especially here in the U.S. where folks seem to have an insatiable appetite for this spice. And small wonder. It can be used in just about any dish, from meats to desserts to teas.

A tea we tried some years ago, and one that convinced us that straight teas were a better choice for us, was one that had big chunks of stuff thrown in. Some tips here for you tea blenders:

Chunky flavored tea lacks subtlety and finesse. (Photo credit: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
Chunky flavored tea lacks subtlety and finesse. (Photo credit: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
  • cassia may be cheaper than true cinnamon but not as true and tends to be bitter
  • neither cassia nor true cinnamon flavor well when you toss them into something like this – they need to be grated and those pieces used instead
  • ditto for that anise star – there is a reason these things are available in powdered form, that is, their flavors release much better
  • dried fruits do not perk up and taste fruity when you steep the tea, and this chunk of citrus added bitterness

Tea 8 – Apple Spice Black Tea

A standard tea in the Fall. This tea has the lively fruity flavor of fresh orchard apples with delicious cinnamon notes. The base is usually a machine-processed black tea made to mimic orthodox teas. Ceylon black tea is typical, but black teas from Assam, India, and from Kenya and other African nations are also used. The labels often do not specify beyond “black tea.” You can always ask the vendor for more details, but they often don’t know or, for business reasons, don’t want to say. It’s a tightly competitive business so this is not a sign of any deception, just keeping competitors from knowing too much about their sources (in fact, Kusmi refused to tell me what was in a sample they had sent me for review, claiming the need for secrecy – and of course I had to pass on trying the tea with its mystery flavorings).

One of the teas photographed for a client, making it look as enticing and tasty as it is. (Photo credit: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
One of the teas photographed for a client, making it look as enticing and tasty as it is. (Photo credit: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Tea 9 – Ceylon Black Tea

Ceylon black tea is a real taste pleaser. The island nation of Sri Lanka has become a big player in the world of tea. They are ranked 3rd (or possibly 4th after Kenya which has increased its tea production greatly in recent years) in tea production worldwide. Most of the tea is processed as black tea and is usually known as Ceylon (the nation’s former name) tea.

A tea “find” from a small Turkish grocery store. (Photo credit: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
A tea “find” from a small Turkish grocery store. (Photo credit: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A few good foods to pair with this tea:

  • Grilled burgers with all the “fixins”.
  • Various foods such as pizza, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, pork or turkey dishes, and Mexican foods.
  • Desserts with bananas such as banana cream pie, banana bread, and banana pudding (with those lovely Nilla vanilla wafers in it).
  • Desserts with raspberries such as tarts or jams and preserves glopped onto your scones or toast.
  • Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

See more info in this article.

Tea 10 – Kenyan Black Tea

The top tea producing country in Africa at present, Kenya caught on fairly quickly to the best methods of producing teas based on Camellia sinensis assamica. Their teas are now the basis for a number of brands such as Barry’s, Lyon’s, and Bewley’s. Tea production is done by smallholders and by companies such as Brooke Bond, African Highlands (formerly James Finlay) and Eastern Produce Limited operating large estates that are organized under the Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) and that account for about 40% of the Kenyan tea production. Most Kenyan tea is processed by the CTC (Cut, Tear, and Curl) method as black tea in primarily three grades: Broken Pekoe, Pekoe Fannings, and Pekoe Dusts. It is usually bagged, has a strong flavor and a reddish color similar to Assam tea. I find that there is not nearly as much bitterness in it, though, even when steeped up strong. A great example is Kambaa Estate Tea.

In case you need something to toast with these teas:

  1. Marooned without a Compass Day — November 6th — I’d much rather be macarooned without a compass. Who needs to know directions when they’re enjoying those coconutty delights? Certainly not me! And a nice cuppa Kenyan black tea goes well with them.
  2. Chaos Never Dies Day — November 9th — This seems pretty defeatist to me. It’s like saying that all my efforts to be organized are a waste of time. Hm…time for a sit down with a cuppa tea and organize my thoughts on this.
  3. Operating Room Nurse Day — November 14th — The unsung heroes of the operating room. They keep the sweat off the surgeon’s brow, keep track of the surgical instruments, and pretty much assure that things go smoothly, plus they have to have a fairly high knowledge of medicine. That certainly deserves a toast of the teacup.
  4. Button Day — November 16th — A day to celebrate these things that keep our shirts and blouses and coats and jackets and more from flapping around or falling off altogether. Have some button cookies and a nice pot of Breakfast Blend tea.
  5. Electronic Greetings Day — November 17th — Electricity is one of the marvels of the world, and the harnessing of it by such creative minds as Tesla and Edison a true testament to the power of the human mind. Recognizing the wonders of those little leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant is another feat of almost equal achievement and one that affects as many if not many more lives. Time to steep up some tea and celebrate. Oh, and send a text message to a friend just to say “Hi!”
  6. International Men’s Day — November 19th — They comprise about half of the human population and tend to be fairly useful around the house with such tasks as smashing their thumbs with hammers and leaving a smelly trail when taking out the trash. Hee! Give them a nice tea time breakfast with crispy bacon or sausage, eggs, pancakes, and some fresh squeezed orange juice. Oh, and a big pot of strong black tea.
  7. Shopping Reminder Day — Day before Thanksgiving — Whether you’re planning to hot foot it to the local mall or log in and cruise the Internet, have your list handy and your budget, too! And don’t forget some gifts of tea, treats, and teawares for the special folks on your list. In 2015 this is also Thanksgiving Day.
  8. Black Friday — Day after Thanksgiving — Folks who the day before feasted on turkey and a host of other seasonal foods now head out to the stores like a throng of ants leaving their hill on the hunt for any treasures to bring back to that colonial abode. Shoppers, take along a mug of tea or else you’ll need to resort to getting one of those coffee house cuppas.

© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text

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