This smooth and earthy Chinese tea has buttery flavors and hints of cocoa—it's mouthfilling, satisfying, and stands up well to multiple infusions. The first comes out lush and soft, the second deeper, wrapped in dark-caramel flavors, with a bit more malty grassiness coming out in subsequent steepings, though by the fifth and sixth it circles around, growing velvety and fruity. This tea just keeps going. Brewed in a gaiwan, it's light on the tannins—a delicate black tea but not a wimp.
'Black Tea' on Serious Eats
The Earl's Garden is a blend of Black Ceylon tea, bergamot, dried strawberries, and black currant. Taken straight, it has a distinct but mild strawberry flavor up front followed by the citrus notes of bergamot and the earthiness of black tea. Fans of Celestial Seasonings' fruit teas will enjoy this blend, with its red berry flavor and light body.
Though the tea-growing lands of India are (for better or worse) synonymous with household teabag brands nowadays, tea is still a relative newcomer to that fertile part of East Asia. Darjeeling tea, which has found a foothold in both the highest- and lowest-brows of the tea-drinking market, only began to spring from the Himalayan soils of West Bengal, India, in the later half of the 1800s, at the hand—yup—of a seed-smuggler just back from a trip to China.
Africa may not be at the top of your mental list of tea-producing continents, but you'd better believe they grow it. Though export to North America is not as widespread as the teas of China, Japan, Taiwan, and India, the teas produced in Africa fall quietly below our radar but are certainly worth exploring.
This tea, inspired by the caramel cakes in the movie, smells wildly sweet and a bit like buttery caramel popcorn. The vanilla aroma is bit overwhelming. But the flavor is mellow and full, with enough black tea bitterness to balance out the rich scent.
What we call "black tea" is known in much of Asia as "red tea"—referring more to the color in the cup than the blackened appearance of the fully oxidized leaves before brewing. It may also be useful to distinguish between the origins of black teas, such as Chinese (whose leaves are picked earlier and withstand more oxidation) and black teas of other origins, e.g. Africa, India and Sri Lanka (whose leaves are picked later and are less oxidized). The difference in processing methods of these teas is reflected in their flavor, and affects the way in which you may choose to brew them.
A person could spend all day in Red Blossom Tea Company. And they just might let you. The gracious, peaceful space in San Francisco's sloping Chinatown is the perfect spot to linger over shelves of carefully sourced teas.
Of these two teas, we preferred the fragrant Lord Bergamot (Blend No. 55), a twist on traditional Earl Grey tea that marries bergamot with whole leaf Ceylon Dimbulla, Uva, and Assam teas. It's smooth and complex, with a rich roasted-orange flavor.