Thursday, April 5, 2007

Tsar’s Blend from Dragonwater

Scent in package: straightforward tea, nothing special
Brewed in: tea for one, tea filter bag (both at work)
Steeping: 5 min@ 212 degrees, 5 min@ 180 or so.
Cup: ceramic café mug

This tea could easily be a cruel joke for the average tea drinker. I got a sample because I thought a tea blend originating in Russia could be interesting, and because I’d never tried a Russian blend before. I had my misgivings from the start though, since it was black tea mixed with white tea – two teas normally brewed very differently. It confused me in how to actually brew the tea from the start.

The instructions on the package say to steep 3-5 minutes with boiling water. I’m here to tell you - *don’t* do that! The white tea in this blend is silver needles, and if the Russian servants actually served it to the tsars brewed that way, they are braver than I would be. Predictably, boiling water just completely ruins any hope of the white tea complimenting the black, and in fact just gives it a lousy, overcooked taste that is just plain nasty. I was rather unimpressed, and actually had to set the whole pack aside for several weeks before convincing myself to try it again.

If your first instinct is different than mine, and you decide to cater to the white tea in the mix rather than the black, bravo for you! When brewed for 5 minutes at the same temp you would normally brew white tea at, you are rewarded with that sweet undertone to a very mellow blend of black Chinese teas, and a very smooth and easy-to-drink cup. Not anything to really go nuts about, in my opinion, but definitely a nice blend of flavors complimented by the silver needle sweetness at the end. I did actually enjoy this cup, and while I doubt I’ll order it again (there’s really nothing distinctive about it), I’ll happily drink the rest of my sample pack.

So in short, a decent, mellow tea *if* you brew it according to the needs of the Silver Needles in the blend (ie, don’t use boiling water as instructed). There are certainly more interesting teas out there though, more worthy of spending the tea budget on.

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