Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Christmas in August Moment

In our household, most celebratory events involving the giving and receiving of gifts take place December through April. It starts with Gene's birthday, rolls into Christmas, carries on through my birthday in January, appears in small but sweet ways around Valentine's Day in February, continues on through Anne Marie's birthday in March, and wraps up in grand fashion with Edie's birthday in April.

And while we've become accustomed to lovely packages full of tea arriving on our doorstep from around the world, Edie recently lamented that it had been ages and ages since she has received a package in the mail. (First world problem, I grant you.)

It was just about that time that a package arrived not only for Edie but her sister as well. And it was from Grandma! Hand made quilts. There are few things I love receiving more than hand made quilts for my daughters. I love them for myself as well, but the understanding of the thought and time and care that is stitched into a quilt is very striking to me.

There is the choosing of the colors, the print, the trim, all with the preferences and likes of the recipient in mind.

I think it was with those thoughts running through my head that I was so thrilled when at the same time I received a package from Tea Horse. They had offered to send me some tea to try and asked me my preferences. That, in and of itself, is very usual. A tea company offers to introduce me to some of their tea and they ask what I like. I always share that I love strong black teas, especially Assams. Most often, the package arrives with an amazing assortment of samples, one of which might be one that I expressed interest in. That's part of the fun, though, being introduced to teas I might not seek out on my own. That is how my likes and preferences have expanded. Each tea company mentors me in their own unique way.

But... when I opened the package from Tea Horse, I admit I got as excited as my girls had regarding their package from Grandma.

 All strong black teas, and even a single estate Assam! Christmas! Christmas has arrived in August!!

And so, I celebrated all day.

 First, I steeped the Ceylon Nuwara Eliya, grown on the Kenmare tea estate. Recently, I overheard a gentleman discussing Ceylons in general. He scoffed at drinking them on their own, saying that they're only fit for blending. Well, obviously he's never had this Ceylon. The bouquet of the steeping brew is just that, a bouquet of  wildflowers, marigolds and a hint of caramel apples. I was instantly transported to cozy childhood memories of early fall. The first sip: full bodied and true to its bouquet. The essence of marigolds and slightly burnt caramel lingers on the palate, not unpleasantly. You hear wines described as complex, and that description applies beautifully to this tea. The scents, the flavors, all packed into a strong, robust cup. I'll admit, this is a tea that comes back to my mind again and again. Like a good book or movie that you just can't stop thinking about.

Assam Mangalam. I couldn't restrain myself on this one. I had originally planned to save this one for last, but it just called to me. And I'm weak.  Assams are often described as "malty," and this single estate Assam holds the quintessential maltiness. This is strong, bold, substantial. Everything I love about Assams. This is my definition of pure luxury and comfort. An obsession is born...

Commonwealth Blend. I love that this is an English Breakfast blend, named Commonwealth, inspired by two countries of "the Commonwealth of Nations," Assam and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).  I loved this cup of heartiness. An English Breakfast blend should pack a punch, in my book. It should make you sit up and take notice and carry you through your morning. And this one does. Beautifully.

Finally, Chocolate Peppermint. In the past, I've had mixed feelings about dessert-y teas. Some are very, very nice, and some try a little too hard. This one is one of the "very nice" variety. It needs no more description than exactly what it is. Chocolate and Peppermint. That is what this tea is all about, but not in a sickeningly sweet way. Layered against a canvas of Ceylon, the essence of peppermint and cocoa is just enough to give you the satisfaction of having a treat, but none of the heaviness or saccharine-induced guilt. Adding a little milk makes it that much more decadent.

What a holiday! What an amazing tea journey taken in just one day. The challenge will be to continue exploring other teas and not just come running back to these. Thank you, Tea Horse, for such a gift and for making Christmas arrive in August!

(Tea Horse has a monthly subscription service. One could potentially have Christmas every month of the year!)

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