Sunday, December 21, 2014

On Tea: Russian Caravan

 So, you say “tea is tea” and it’s all “a bit weak” for your tastes, huh?  Well, this one is guaranteed to knock your socks off.

Celebrating a friend’s birthday/early Christmas with afternoon tea recently, another friend ordered the “Russian Country” tea (a Harney and Sons blend) after hearing its description as a rich, profoundly smoky tea - I opted for the house blend, myself, and the guest of honour took English Breakfast.  When our teas were brought out and poured, the smokiness was exceptional!  It was like sitting in front of a toasty fireplace on a winter afternoon… with a few drops of 18-year Laphroaig in your tea!  I was most definitely intrigued, to say the least.

After tea, I had a look at a few tea lists I keep handy at home and noticed a Russian Caravan loose-leaf listed at both local shops I’m most likely to pick up tea from.  I made a stop at one of the shops and picked up a couple ounces for myself.  Because I’ve been feeling pretty worn out all week (it’s that time of year – cold, dark, busy, and germy!) I decided that just having an afternoon to sit still and drink tons of tea would be the best thing for it.  I went right for this smoky Russian that is the single heartiest tea I’ve ever had. 

Russian Caravan (or Country, from Harney) is a Chinese origin tea, blended from keemun, oolong, and lapsang souchong (which I somehow always manage to call Lhasa Apso), whereas most of the ones I’ve talked about here so far are Indian, like Assam, Darjeeling, etc.  It’s the lapsang that gives Russian Caravan its smoky flavour as that is how that particular tea is dried.  There are stories about how long it took to transport this blend from China into (populated) Russia by caravan and how that influenced the taste, etc.  But really, that’s all rather apocryphal and doesn’t matter anyway. 
If the interwebs could transmit smells, this is what the leaves
would call to mind.  

This is the tea which favors the bold.  Perfectly good by itself, you might wish to tone it down with a splash of milk.  Or send it over the top with a splash of Scotch.  Have it with something flavourful or whatever you have may be overpowered.  Personally, I think this is best suited to afternoon and evenings.  It would be way too much for me in the morning. 

This rates an easy 9/10 with me, with a bonus point for sheer assertiveness.  Full marks!

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