Welcome back for another teatime! Since this week is a certain Irish-themed holiday, I decided to take a break from the green teas this week — they are thematic in name, but since they are Asian teas, I wanted something distinctly Irish this week and went with an old classic! (Don’t worry, green tea fans, I have some amazing blends to share the next two weeks!)
I’ll be honest, here… you know the saying, “not my cup of tea”? Well, unflavored black teas have never really been my cup of tea, so I usually avoid the “English breakfast” varieties. But when I started this segment of my blog, I decided I really wanted to broaden my tea horizons, and made it my goal to try anything I could get my hands on (except for any blends that have banana in them… I have to draw a line somewhere!). Cody was the one that suggested Irish Breakfast for the week of St. Patrick’s Day, and I thought it was as good a time as any to re-evaluate it. But, since it isn’t something I normally keep around for myself, that meant I needed a little help. Thankfully, I have a coworker who loves black tea, who was nice enough to donate me a teabag of Irish Breakfast tea, so this week’s tea is courtesy of Katie at the library! (Thanks, Katie!)
This is a store-bought bagged tea, Twinings of London Irish Breakfast. Since this is a boxed tea, it should be fairly easy to find in local grocery stores and relatively inexpensive. This is just a simple, 100% pure black tea, though it does list the ingredients as “fine black tea expertly selected from Kenya, Indonesia, Assam, and China.” (Okay, so it isn’t as Irish as I thought… maybe I should’ve stuck with another green tea after all! Err… but it does have a striking individually-sealed green package around that teabag, doesn’t it? Doesn’t that packaging just scream a certain upcoming Irish holiday? Okay, I’m stretching here…)
The suggested steeping time was “four minutes or to desired strength.” I usually go for five minutes on my black teas, so I let this steep for a fiver in boiling water…
And true to its “100% pure black tea” claim, you get a nice steaming dark cup of black tea. It’s a bit difficult to describe the scent of black tea to someone who has never smelled it before, but for me…
It smelled just like Grandma’s house! When I was a child, my grandma always had a cup of tea, and for me, tea had a distinct scent, the way one thinks of coffee as having a distinct scent… I had just grown up to learn that was “the tea smell.” Of course as an adult, and just getting into tea-drinking myself this last year, I’ve come to find so many different varieties of tea, with so many different blends and scents — in fact, it is something that has filled the void of wine-tasting for me, something I used to enjoy but had to give up entirely because of my Chronic Migraine, since I can no longer drink alcohol at all; getting to sniff the leaves, and try different blends, and pick out my favorites, and sit down and share a pot with a friend are all things that remind me very much of the “wine-tasting” experience! — that I now know there really isn’t one “tea smell.” But the instant I smelled this, my mind immediately went, “Oh! Grandma’s house! Grandma’s tea!” And now I know; my Grandma was an English/Irish Breakfast drinker!
To be honest, I actually didn’t have any problems with the taste! I remember that before I found the taste of unflavored black teas a bit “harsh” on my palette, but with my typical amount of sugar, I actually found this quite pleasant. I’m not sure if I had just had some very low-quality brands before (never shall we mention the L-word on this blog…) or perhaps, after enough flavored blacks, I’m just starting to get acclimated to the taste, much as one gets used to black coffee after enough time of taking it with creamer and sugar.
I was, however, curious to try it with some milk, since I haven’t really tried milk in tea much, and figured this would be a good opportunity, so I added about a teaspoon of chocolate almond milk to my cup. You can see how much it changed the color!
It was quite good! I think I liked it with the splash of milk just a bit more than plain, so if I’m not at work where I don’t have milk handy, that is probably how I will prepare this kind of tea in the future!
My spring coloring selection this week is an assortment of flowers… with lots and lots of greenery, of course! A rarity for me, this picture was actually done entirely in colored pencil. It was one of the first in my book that I started, though after I discovered gel pens and switched to mandalas, it took me a while to get back to it and finish it!
The white-and-magenta roses in the image were the first part I colored, which are another memory of my childhood with my grandma. She has several flowerbeds around her house, and once when I was a child she took me with her to the greenhouse to pick out some new flowers, including a new rosebush. She let me pick out the rose, and I selected one that looked like peppermint candies to me called “Double Delight.” It’s still blooming in her garden; my mother was visiting last fall, and said it was one of the last to hang onto its blooms, and sent me this lovely photograph she took:
That’s it for this week’s teatime! This Thursday I am heading off to Portland, Oregon, with my friend Todd for a little St. Patrick’s Day weekend vacation! It’s my birthday, and I’m looking forward to it! On the agenda is the Japanese Gardens, Powells Bookstore, Purringtons Cat Lounge, the Saturday Market, and — of course — tea shopping! Expect some photos and new tea stock in the coming months!