Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Holiday Tea by Harney & Sons

After yesterday's marathon of tea reviews (three!) I felt like grabbing something a little more straightforward, so this pre-packaged tea moved to the front of the line.

Seller Description: "Our Holiday Tea is a black tea spiced with citrus, almond, clove and cinnamon. Delicious hot or iced. Wonderful for a holiday table, a cold winter morning, or any time you crave a holiday-inspired brew."
Ingredients: China black tea, cloves, cinnamon, safflowers, orange peel, natural and artificial vanilla, cinnamon, almond, and orange flowers. (Note: Cinnamon was listed twice on tin)
WebsiteHoliday Tea by Harney & Sons
Sample source: Purchased

Teaware: 8oz cup and saucer
Measured dry: 1 sachet
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 2 teaspoons of raw sugar

Because of Harney's shipping costs (a $2 sample costs $8 to ship) the only way this made it into the lineup was because Super Target started carrying tins of their sachet teas. It's a lot easier to justify a $5.99 tin of 20 sachets than only a couple cups of loose leaf for $10.

Now there is a downside to that. Harney's sachets are nylon, and their website describes them as "food safe and stable in boiling water." Unfortunately, they are not biodegradable. One of the reasons I usually avoid bagged and sachet teas is the waste. With a loose leaf you only have the outside packaging to deal with, and nor do you have to worry about the joys of heating plastics in your food and drink.

As of right now, there are better options but nothing yet is nearly as efficient as reusable metal, glass, or ceramic infusers. There are companies out there using PLA plastics, which are biodegradable and made from renewable resources, but according to the Smithsonian, so far the "biodegradable" aspect only works over a long period of time and when it's in a compost-like situation. Because of its unique make-up, recyclers are not accepting it yet, and can actually regard it as a contaminant. Making loose leaf tea with a quality, reusable infuser usually eliminates a whole host of worries for me.

But packaging aside, let's focus on the tea. For me, Harney teas usually take a couple tries before I can dial in the best cup. I followed the directions on the tin at first, and steeped it for 5 minutes. It was a little intense and somewhat bitter, so I reduced the steep time to four minutes and the taste was markedly improved.

I can't really pigeon-hole this one into a pre-set category. It's definitely a black, but after that... it has chai spices but doesn't taste like a chai. It has some creamy vanilla, but that's only one of the layers. The almond, orange, and safflowers don't really present themselves individually, but they do a nice job of supporting the other elements. That said, I'm not entirely sure this actually tastes like a holiday tea. It's gently spiced, sweet, and creamy but doesn't really shout at me from any particular tradition.

I can easily picture us enjoying a cup of this on a chilly morning, and while I can't really define it, I can easily see us finishing up the tin.

Prominent Notes: China black tea and cinnamon
Aftertaste: Cream and cloves
Overall: Creamy and interesting

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