Tuesday Tea – Black Knight

Don’t you love discovering treasures in unexpected places? I know I do, and that’s exactly what happened to me while walking around a local flea market one day.

Probably second only to books, when I hear the word tea, my ears instantly perk up. So, when I heard the owner of Rusted Leaf Tea Company talking about the loose-leaf blends he creates, I made a beeline for his table.

Allow me to paint a picture for you. Imagine a husky, bearded gentleman wearing what I believe was a Celtic-patterned t-shirt, sporting longish hair, and displaying a passion for tea that lit up his face. I try not to stereotype people, but I must admit, he wasn’t what I expected in a tea seller. And I feel just terrible that I didn’t get his name, so I’ll blame it on my own enthusiasm.

My excitement heightened as he described the ingredients in his proprietary blends and, thrill of thrills, allowed me to enjoy their aroma. He had a little tin with a clear top for each tea so one could see the mixtures and inhale the scent of each delicious concoction. It was difficult to decide, but I settled on Black Knight, and I’ll admit it was in part because the name is just so cool.

Black tea, raspberry leaf, and tarragon make up the ingredients, and in the bag, they smell sweet, fresh, and mildly minty. This last detail is from the tarragon which I love as a seasoning in beef dishes but came to adore in my hot tea. I learned a long time ago that mint teas are not my thing, but tarragon is obviously mint’s close cousin with a sweeter, less bitter personality. I was in love with the flavor that didn’t overpower but left my palate with that cool, minty sensation. Also, Black Knight didn’t require any sweetener or cream, but if you try it that way, let me know how it worked for you.

Make sure your water is quite hot for brewing this beauty. One teaspoon of the blend is perfect for a twelve-ounce serving. I found a four-minute steep with an additional minute to swirl my tea ball around the cup delivers a bright, bracing beverage that is perfect any time of the day. The tea is deep mahogany in color and tapers to a lovely green/gold near the edges. The aroma when brewed is that of a freshly mown field with stacks of moist grasses drying in the sun.

Prior to using, a quick fluffing with a fork will keep the settled ingredients well blended in the bag. I suspect Black Knight would make a delicious s iced tea, so if you try it, let me know in the comments how you enjoyed it.

Rusted Leaf Tea Company strikes me as a fledgling company since they are on social media but, as of this posting, do not have a website. Still, Rusted Leaf has much to offer, and I wish the company well and encourage you to seek them out.

Tuesday Tea – Philosopher

Every writer has a favorite beverage he or she imbibes while working through the creative process. Some are famous for partaking of large quantities of their preferred poison. But whether you enjoy coffee, tea, wine, or a stronger spirit, I’m sure you would admit that you’re not at your best until a cup, mug, glass, or tumbler of your chosen libation is coursing through your veins.

For me, that magic elixir is a large cup of tea. I’ve become a fan of loose-leaf teas and purchased stainless steel tea balls in single cup size and teapot size. I’m always on the lookout for my next favorite tea, and Philosopher from Gnat and Bee is the latest winner.

I love black tea, and as a black tea blend, Philosopher instantly caught my eye. What drew me in was the description: dark and earthy with chaga mushrooms for pensive mornings or afternoons. Isn’t that perfectly charming! It’s as if it was made for writers who stare out the window, seeing nothing before their eyes but everything about the scene taking place in their mind.

The specific ingredients are Yunnan black tea, Assam black tea, chaga mushrooms, toasted barley, and black peppercorns. The teas, mushrooms, and peppercorns are certified organic, and the packaging is eco-friendly. What’s not to love?

Dry in the bag, the initial aroma is sweet and slightly woody. Don’t inhale too deeply or you’ll set off a round of sneezing from the black peppercorns, although they finish the fragrance with a pleasant zestiness. You won’t taste the peppercorns as much as you’ll experience them as warmth on the backend of your sip. It’s much the same as when you’ve eaten something with a spicy ingredient that you feel in your mouth instead of taste as an individual flavor.

And speaking of flavor, Philosopher tastes like the quintessential tea. It’s what tea is supposed to taste like. It is the pinnacle of teas as far as I’m concerned. I know that sounds vague, so let me see if I can expound upon that description.

It’s smooth and silky, rich and earthy, elegant and unpretentious on the palate. It evokes images a hawk flying on a cloudy day, the sun burning through fog, dew on the grass, and slipping into a warm, dry barn to escape a sudden shower.

Please do not be put off by the presence of the chaga mushrooms, toasted barley, or black peppercorns. If you do not care for any one of these, I promise you will not taste them individually. Gnat and Bee have created a balanced blend that works in perfect harmony.

Water should be hot but not boiling, and brew time is perfect at four minutes of steeping and one minute of swirling the tea ball around my mug. This is, of course, adjustable based on the size of your cup and desired strength. I prefer mine without cream or sugar because I want to taste the tea itself. If you try it with one or both, please let me know in the comments how that worked for you.

Once brewed, the aroma becomes mild tobacco and sweet leather, the color is deep mahogany.

I hope you try Philosopher by Gnat and Bee. Let me know in the comments how their marvelous tea influenced your own pensive morning or afternoon.

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