There are times when I'm something of a tea junkie. I can't help but try new teas and new companies and new shops. I think I envision myself steeping and sipping cups of teas while I sit at my desk writing. The reality is that this really only happens a few times a week and really only during the cold winter months and I often tire of one type of tea well before I finish the box. The result is that I have a cabinet full of teas.
I found the Teaman in the etsy forums one evening. He blends and packages his own tea and I was intrigued. I was particularly interested in a green tea and a chai. I like my chai spicy and potent with a little edge of sweetness and I like to drink it with loads of milk (or soy milk, actually). I hate to say it, but I rarely find chai on grocery shelves that I like more than what I get in local coffeeshops. (Or perhaps it's just because I like having someone else do all the work.) The Teaman said that his tea was exactly as I described.
I also wanted a green tea and told him that I like like green (or even white) teas that are floral and subtle. He recommended his apple/ cinnamon. He was very helpful. I ordered a container of both the chai and the cinnamon. The order arrived promptly a few days later. The box they arrived in was a bit mangled, but as much as I like really great, innovative, earth-friendly, creative packaging that sometimes comes from etsy sellers, unimpressive packaging is never a deal breaker. Besides, it came in these really great blue tins that I was already devising plans for reuse.
I was a little disappointed that there were no instructions for how to steep (what temperature? how long?) but I figured that some teas are kind of idiot proof -- just steep for a few minutes in hot water.
While the apple cinnamon tea was steeping it was fragrant without being overwhelming. There was a slight artificiality to the apple smell which I attributed to the "flavor crystals" (I'm not sure exactly what they are) that the Teaman puts in his teas. The cinnamon was even more subtle but comforting. The flavors themselves were also mild -- a barely-there hint of apple and its spicy companion.
I tried the chai steeped in water, steeped in warm soy milk, and steeped in water before adding soy milk. The scent of the chai was rich with pepper and cloves so that it reminded me a little bit of Christmas. I found the chai steeped in just water to be far too understated -- I like my chai with a lot of zing. When I steeped it in water and then added the milk, I ended up wishing that I had steeped it a little longer or else mushed up the bag a bit more to help it release all the flavors. Just steeping it in the warm soy milk gave the chai the body and substance that it needed. I would have preferred just a little more cardamom and ginger in the tea.
I'm not sure if I'll be ordering more tea, but I'm pretty confident that these two won't get pushed to the back of my tea cabinet, never to be steeped or served again. In the meantime, I'm thinking I should start mixing my own chai -- grinding the spices right in my own kitchen to get maximum flavor. But I'm something of a snob when it comes to these things...