Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Like My Tea With Honey...

Mosaic work in Ravenna, Italy.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I almost never use any sort of sweetener in my tea. I know many of you do and when I was in our local Agway, I noticed they had honey for sale. They had apple blossom, clover, buckwheat, mixed wildflower and raspberry. On my shelf at home I have generic honey and lavender and rosemarry honeys. At the farmers' market last fall I bought some honey locust honey. No that isn't an error, it is from the honey locust tree, which smells divine and which may be the best honey I've ever had. I am sure many of you have had orange blossom honey, which is another very nice one.

These are not flavored honeys, but they derive their different tastes from the flower nectars the bees use to make honey. Each has a subtly different flavor and would bring out different aspects of your tea. For instance, apple blossom is pale and soft and just the tiniest bit floral, suitable for a more delicate tea. Buckwheat is very strong and you may not even be able to use it in tea and then only in a good, sturdy black, such as a Kenyan or Bolivian. Lavender honey goes very nicely with Earl Grey. If you like your tea sweet, get some different honeys and see how they affect its flavor. You might even try one of the Wuyi Honey Black teas with this lovely sweetener and see if it enhances it.

When I was at the Cape, I bought some Before the Rain Flowery Jasmine tea from Grace Rare Tea Company, now owned by Mark T. Wendell Teas. The name indicates that this green tea was probably among the first pluckings of the year, harvested, processed minimally and then stored until it could be infused with Jasmine flowers. The dry leaves are so dark, it looks like a black tea. The jasmine aroma is very heady and the petals that were left in the tea add to its overall charm. I brewed it for 2 minutes at about 175 degrees.

As the tea infused, my kitchen was filled with the heady scent of jasmine and I could hardly wait to taste it. I was rewarded with a fine cup of tea, a beautiful pale amber with a very floral, but not perfumey jasmine. An excellent cup. To date I would rate it third in my Jasmine listing, as Life in Teacup and PuriTeas offerings share first place.

Be careful when you brew this, do not let the water boil. If you do, please let it cool. Otherwise your tea will not be very good, as the jasmine will have to battle with the bitterness of overcooked green tea. The very dark green of the leaves could fool you. I think Grace Tea should label this as a green tea, because lots of tea newbies or those just expanding their tea horizons would think it is a black tea and get a bad cup, which would be a real shame, this is such nice tea.


Alex Zorach said...

How did you find that the Grace Rare Tea Company was owned by Mark T. Wendell? I couldn't find that on either of their websites...but I'd be curious if you have a source that can back that up.

I like to document ownership relationships of tea companies on, both in the interest of transparency, and just because I find it interesting to know.

Marlena said...

Maybe a year ago, Mark T. Wendell announced in its blog they were taking Grace Tea into their fold, as they had already been doing a great deal with them, but that they would maintain the Grace line as a seperate entitiy.