Three DavidsTea Blends

It occurs to me that this blog needs more tea. So here’s some recommendations for all you fellow tea drinkers. I am drinking coffee as I write this, but I’m no heretic—I’m an equal-opportunity drinker.

If you’re lucky, you live near a DavidsTea. If you’re not, they do mail order. They’re a Canadian company, so I’m predisposed to like them. And their tea sure tastes good. I’m still not sure how I feel about their overexcited marketing, but I do get a kick out of reading their tea write-ups.

1. Glitter & Gold: I’ll be honest. I bought this because the lady behind the counter said it sparkles when it steeps. Yes, I can be won over that superficially, I’ll never outgrow my love of sparkles. And it does, in fact, sparkle. For most intense sparkling, use an opaque or dark cup: when I steeped it in glass the effect was washed out by the light. The sparkling is caused by sugar crystals melting into the water.

Most importantly, however, this tea actually does taste really good! It actually took a few cups to convince me—a slow seduction—but it was worth it.

Glitter & Gold is a Chinese black tea with cinnamon and citrus. It reminded me of Silk Road’s Golden Phoenix, which is a semi-green also blended with cinnamon and citrus, but with darker, fuller flavour. Drinking Glitter & Gold is like wrapping yourself in warm blankets on a cold winter’s night watching the snow catch and shine in the streetlights. It’s probably the best tea ever for New Year’s since, you know, it sparkles. I’ll be buying more when the weather turns cooler.

2. Organic Buttered Rum: This was my favourite tea to bring to poetry workshops. It’s black tea with coconut. I suspect that if you don’t like artificial butter flavours, you’ll probably dislike this tea; but if they don’t bother you, and if you do in fact enjoy them like me, you’ll love this. It’s hard to hate anything related to rum in my opinion. Plus, this one’s organic. Bonus!

This is the kind of tea I can drink anytime, anywhere. For many of my teas, I need to be in the right mood, or it has to be the right kind of tea. (I can’t drink green at night, dessert teas need to be after or between meals, etc). Buttered Rum is right up there with Earl Grey as my workhorse tea.

3. Organic Crème Brûlée: This is the tea I make Red Velvet lattes with. It’s tasty. I don’t find, personally, that it tastes or smells much like caramel, as they advertise. It smells like sugar (though no sugar is added), cream and rooibos. I don’t know much about rooibos varieties, but the ingredients list ‘green rooibos’ as the type in this blend. I guess the flavour of rooibos is much less assertive in this tea than in the regular rooibos I’ve had. My mother, who does not like rooibos at all, loved this tea and drank her whole mug down.

Since rooibos (green and red) has anti-histamines (bioflavonoids), I’ve read that a big mug a day of rooibos will reduce hay fever and other allergic reactions. If you have seasonal allergies and don’t like regular rooibos, this tasty tea might be a great alternative. A spoonful of tea helps the medicine go down? I can’t verify this in any empirical fashion, though, because I don’t have allergies, and it seems there hasn’t been much research. No reason not to try it, though. It certainly can’t hurt.

Book Review: For All the Tea in China

This book brings together the best of both worlds, tea and reading. Sarah Rose’s For All the Tea in China is an engrossing account of how the swashbuckling botanist Scotsman Robert Fortune sneaked into China and stole tea plants, tea workers and the knowledge of how to prepare tea, for the British Empire. The book jacket claims it as “one of the greatest corporate thefts of all time.” And Fortune’s exploits are exceedingly badass: near the beginning, Rose recounts how Fortune, while ill, managed to send two Chinese pirate junks fleeing—with only a pistol and bravado! Fortune never lacks for courage in his adventure, and the resulting story is riveting and sometimes incredulous. Fortune manages his smuggling act while travelling deep into China disguised as a mandarin. Hijinks ensue.

But Rose explains the political and economical environment clearly and when it’s needed, so the reader can clearly see why tea was so important, and what the impact of botanists at the time was.

For the most part I found the book quite readable. It’s short, only around 250 pages, and moves along at a good pace. Nothing about it is dense or off-putting. Rose writes from a British-centric point of view, but she doesn’t hesitate to point out that Fortune was often quite paternalistic to the Chinese he interacted with, explaining the cultural difficulties that led to tensions between Fortune and his Chinese assistants.

This is not the most heavy or philosophical of works. Its simplistic overview of the political events probably leaves much relevant information out. Its delivery is, however, choppy. I understood the logic behind the section’s organization and it proceeded in a roughly linear fashion. I can’t vouch for the historical facts, I’m not a student of history as such, and at any rate I don’t know much about Victorian colonialism, except what I’ve picked up piecemeal, so I found myself somewhat confused by the timeline. I wasn’t sure when Fortune’s activities were in relation to the First Opium War. Fortune makes two separate trips, to collect ‘green tea plants’ and ‘black tea plants,’ even though they are the same and Fortune believes they are the same. We’re never told why Fortune goes on two trips even though he knows the plant is the same, good old Camellia sinensis. What is his rationale? Why does the book progress as if it’s still hiding the fact that the tea plants are the same, waiting for the big reveal? The book’s treatment is shallow and sensationalist. Don’t mistake this for anything other than light reading. I’m not sure if some sort of moral discussion should be present, given the fact that… well, it was a theft. Fortune is celebrated as a hero (albeit with flaws), but was that…right?

Still, all in all, For All the Tea in China is a good way to spend an afternoon or two. A little gem for anyone looking for light reading. Just be prepared to find yourself wanting to know more details—which might not be a bad aftereffect!