After the previous post about herbal teas, I thought I should write about black teas.
I’m relatively new to tea drinking. When I gave up soda in December 2003, I needed to find another source of caffiene, and I’ve never been a coffee drinker, so i turned to tea. Since then, I’ve purchased tea from only three sources: Adagio, Upton Tea Imports, and Teaism. I’ve also been lucky enough to have a few friends who go to India occassionally — and who bring me tea. Thus, my preferences may be biased by my sources and my limited experience as a tea drinker — there may be a wonderful tea out there that these places don’t sell, or that I haven’t tried.
But, disclaimers aside, here are my very favorite black teas right now:
1. Doomni Estate Assam SFTGFOP CL purchased from Upton’s. Unfortunately, it appears that they are sold out of this tea right now, (although it is available in one of their samplers) but if you ever see it, think about trying it. I am a big fan of teas from Assam. The Doomni is a hearty, breakfast-style tea, which means it’s dark, black and strong — this is a tea that will wake you up. It has a sweet aftertaste and is just a bit spicy. You could put milk in it, if you were into that sort of thing (which I am not), and it wouldn’t get watery. This tea is a bit spendy, but at least for me it’s worth every penny.
2. Chai from Teaism. This Chai mix is fantastic — the balance of the spices is just right (too many Chais taste only of cinnamon), and the tea base is not overwhelmed. This isn’t a sophistocated tea, but it’s warm and satisfying.
3. Dellawa Estate FBOPF EX-SP Wilson Select purchased from Upton’s. This is a Ceylon (for reasons unknown to me, tea is referred to by colonial appelations). It’s light, fresh and complex, and brews up a lovely golden color. My other favorite Ceylon is Kenilworth Estate OP Wilson Select — it’s not as deep as the Dellawa, but it’s a good everyday cup of tea, at a very nice price. I’m not as willing to spend money on a Ceylon as I am on an Assam.
4. Finest Russian Caravan purchased from Upton’s. This is a smooth blend of fine teas from India, China and Formosa. It’s hearty, but without the edge of my beloved Assams. It’s a nice everyday tea, one that I like to make for people who don’t drink tea regularly.
That’s the list for now. The Assam and Ceylons are estate teas — this means they are from a single garden and are not blended with other teas. As with wine, terroir makes a difference in the taste of a tea, so my prefered teas may change, as weather, soil and processing change.