Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan

Strawberry for Christmas, Apparently

December 30, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

All of a sudden strawberry black tea has leapt into my life. They say things come in threes, and three different black teas with strawberry have all come along at once.

The first was on Christmas day, at the house of some friends, where we do the annual gift-exchanging and stocking unstuffing. One member of the household there has a truly prodigious variety of teas, probably 100-200 if I had to guess just from looking at the shelves that are visible. (There may well be more stashed away out of sight.) I picked a tea more or less at random and ended up with a black tea from South America that had strawberry in it. I had never had a tea from South America, so was curious about that, but most of what I tasted was the strawberry. Given that we were eating Christmas candy and the like, a sweet-tasting tea blended with it perfectly well. I didn’t write down the name or the seller of the tea, unfortunately. Little did I know that two more strawberry teas were about to land in my lap within the next few days.

Then I traveled on the 26th to Florida to see my parents for the holidays. This meant a layover of a few hours at the new JetBlue terminal at JFK airport in New York, which has espresso bars in the gate waiting areas. At one point I was feeling chilly and inquired whether they served tea. The young barista showed me their selection, which was of a brand name I didn’t recognize (Dammann) but which I gathered was the tea brand carried by Illy coffee affiliates. There were a few of the usual suspects (earl grey, chai, etc…) but she urged me to try the “strawberry tea.”

This tea was named “Jardin Bleu” and using the free wireless that JetBlue provides (hooray!) I was able to look it up on the Illy website: Jardin Bleu: “A distinctive and refreshing tea, combining Black tea from India and China with rhubarb and wild strawberry flavors. Punctuated with a sprinkling of cornflower and sunflower petals, this is a memorable tea, either hot or iced.”

Lately, with the weather having turned bitterly cold, I find myself drinking more and more black tea. That includes just plain dark teas like lapsang souchon and keemun, but also a fair number that have fruit or other flavors. I got tired of earl grey long ago and rarely make it at home, but I have the mango black I wrote about the other day, and dragonfruit black, ginger black, and many others.

So a strong black-but-fruity tea seemed a fine thing to drink on a freezing cold night with arctic wind chill. I found myself very pleased by it and eager to drink it while still as hot as possible. It didn’t taste all that much like TEA, mind you. Both the one I tried on Christmas and this one had such pronounced flavor of strawberry I sort of wondered what the point was in having tea leaves in the mixture, although I suppose the caffeine and tea alkaloids and such are still helpful, even if the flavor is masked by the fruit.

I liked the Jardin Bleu enough that today, when flying north again and changing planes at JFK once more, I stopped by the Illy stand for another cup of it. Just as good the second time, just lightly sweetened with half a sugar packet.

The third strawberry tea I tried tonight when I opened my mail and discovered the monthly Lupicia Tea Newsletter in it, complete with a tea sample of their “Carol” holiday tea, which is a black tea flavored with vanilla and, you guessed it, strawberry. “Decorated with rose petals,” adds the description on the website. (The bags show as sold out, but the Carol tin was still available today, though the blend overall is only available for a limited time.)

I brewed the sample bag they sent me in a pot but not with too much water in it. I mostly just wanted to keep it warmer than a mug would. Upon the initial opening of the pouch, the scent of strawberry was strong and immediate, but this was the best of the three in that I could actually taste the tea as well as the strawberry. The second steeping was still quite flavorful with both tastes and I should have done a third, except I was distracted while talking to a house guest and I discarded the tea bag before I could find out if it would hold up to further brewing.

The one other tea with strawberry I’ve enjoyed this year has been a green tea, from Holy Mountain, the “strawberry and rose melange,” which I have been planning to buy again since I used it up. But the green tea and the black teas seem to take up the strawberry differently, with the black teas more prone to coming out candy-like, while the green teas retain more of a vegetal edge.

Overall, I would not recommend the black strawberry teas to anyone who really wants to taste the tea, but for a nice change of pace, or if you love the flavor of strawberry (which I do), it makes a nice addition to the fruit choices. I think I prefer it to peach, but perhaps I’ll have to do a peach tea tasting to put that to the test at some point. (Suggestions for good peach teas welcome.)

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