Thursday, August 20, 2009

St. Isaac's Blend from Upton"s

This exotic looking building is Karle's Kirche in Vienna, Austria, late in the evening. The little dot in the upper middle is the full moon. This is a truly beau-
tiful church in a beautiful city.

Which brings me to today's tea - St. Isaac's Blend from Upton's teas. Offered as an alternative to the more usual Earl Grey. It is a black tea scented with assorted citrus, with a Russian twist. I have often found that any bergamot tea with other citrussy notes is described as Russian. When I opened the package, there was a faint whiff of bergamot and other citrus but the dominant note was what I can only describe as astringency. Sort of like the bite of a whiff of ammonia. But, I hasten to add, it did NOT smell nor taste of ammonia. There was also a touch of heaviness, which I have come to associate with Russian-type teas. I really don't know what that means, as I cannot describe it very well. Even in the midst of light citrus scents there is a faint background of old incense, perhaps wafting from ancient church walls and settling in the tea. How's that for a description?

Once brewed, the first cup smelled pleasantly teaish, still astringent, still faintly citrussy, perhaps a bit more grapefruit than anything else. In drinking it I found it to be quite strong, with just a touch of astringency and a touch of citrus, but not enough to impress. As it cooled, I could taste more of the citrus on the back and sides of my tongue. All in all, it's ok, but nothing to get too excited over.

However, I am excited by Upton's. I have been a customer of theirs for many years and I have always been pleased with the range of teas and the quality of their service. They have almost everything and you can ask all sorts of questions and they'll answer quickly. My one quibble is that their web page is not the easiest to deal with, but that is minor. They will send you a nice fat paper catelog quarterly which has a continuing story of many aspects of tea and tea merchants. The best thing is their samples. Every tea can be purchased as a sample and the price is given first in the chart. On the whole they are quite cheap - especially if you want to try a very expensive tea for which a sample may be $5 - much better than paying $50 for 70 grams and hating it. Most samples are $1

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