Oh the indignities of Winter! Whether you’re a kitty suddenly finding yourself wearing a “chapeaux de snow” or you’re a human trying to put on those tire chains with the sudden onset of a blizzard, challenges abound. Make it through this first month of the New Year with hot tea. Very fitting, since this is officially “Hot Tea Month”!
January means that another journey around the sun is complete and a new one is beginning. You probably have your resolutions all lined up, and I just know that trying new teas is one of them. But so should be getting more out of the teas you love.
Either way, here are five teas that are a must for January and great served hot:
1 Start the day with: Taylors of Harrogate Scottish Breakfast Tea
A traditional Scottish blend of the best Assam and African teas from a tea company that has been around quite awhile. The blend was developed for the water in Scotland, which tends to be fairly soft (a lower percentage of minerals in the water). The flavor is malty, rich, and full-bodied, and the liquid has a bright, inviting color.
2 Transport yourself to a tea garden: Soom Estate Tea
A top quality flush Darjeeling tea, with a delicate muscatel character and excellent roundness that comes through in every sip. 1st Flush occurs in Darjeeling from March through to mid April. The tea bushes begin growing (flushing) again after their Winter dormancy. Warmer temperatures (average 20°C) and longer daylight hours combine with that leftover Winter moisture and the clear, crisp mountain air. The bushes soak it all up, and you can taste it in this tea. The Soom Estate is located about 5200 feet above sea level with severe terrain where some of the slopes angle at about 45 degrees. The workers transport the green leaf to the factory by mountain pony. Many of the bushes are over 130 years old but produce remarkable tea; in fact it is not uncommon for some 1st Flush teas to be rushed to Germany in a race similar to the Beaujolais Run.
3 Cleanse your palate and your senses: Pai Mu Tan White Tea
The tea produces a clear slightly pale cup with a fresh aroma and a smooth velvety flavor that has delicate jammy notes reminiscent of Keemun or a mild Bordeaux. An affordable yet pleasurable white tea that’s a step below white teas such as Peony White Needle. The leaves are only special “two leaves and a bud” plucked from a special varietal tea bush called Narcissus or chaicha bushes. They must show a very light green almost gray white color and be covered with velvet peach fuzz down. Instead of being steamed or pan-fired, they are naturally withered and dried in the sun.
4 Counter that dragged down feeling during the afternoon: Twinings Prince of Wales Tea
Prince of Wales Tea was originally blended for the former Prince of Wales in 1921; he honored Twinings with special permission to use his name on the blend of his choice. (In 1936, he became King Edward VIII.) So, this is a truly royal blend of China’s finest black teas were carefully selected to give a light, delicate flavor. The liquid is light in color and has a smooth and mild taste, with a well-rounded character. Great in the late morning or in the afternoon and a flavor you can enjoy with or without milk, sweetened to taste.
5 Any time of day a nice cup will soothe: Pearl River Green Tea
A top quality green tea with even curly leaves. Workers pluck the leaves in the pre-dawn hours so they are still covered with a misty dew that improves the taste. The leaves then are hand-sorted to maintain the high quality standard needed to get them to curl just right. They deliver a full green tea flavor with delicate pungency and body, and the cup is a bright forest green. For the best brew, steep for 1-4 minutes in water that is steaming (150-180° F).
Of course, the perfect setting for enjoying these teas is in front of a crackling log fire, but if your house, like ours, has no wood-burning fireplace, you will have to settle for one of those videos. And I think there’s even a phone app for that!
Happy Hot Tea Month!
©2016-2020 A.C. Cargill photos and text
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