|"When stevia-sweetened and given vanilla extract, the brew gentled on the dryness, settling in on its more robust characterestics - the malt-smoke of the stronger blended elements, and the floral aspects from its high-altitude parts."|
Ingredients for this blend were a bit of a deviation from the traditional black tea mix. Along with the standard Keemun, Ceylon and Assam black tea leaves, Darjeeling black and Formosan oolong leaves were also included. While this would normally cock an eyebrow, I don't consider Formasan oolongs to be that oolongy. They have more in common with Darjeelings anyway, in my not-so-humble opinion. In summary, a couple of odd ingredients, but ones that might work.
Chateau Rouge states that the Calabrian bergamot oil scenting was markedly reserved in comparison to most Earls. I would agree with them somewhat. The citrus aroma was less pungent, but definitely not restrained. It was still bold but also beautiful. Not unlike a certain soap opera...minus the cheese.
Brewing instructions were thus: 1 rounded teaspoon in 95-98C water for three-to-five minutes. I erred on the side of light and went with 95C for three-minutes-thirty. I like my black teas on the subtler side anyway. Plus, I had a few tests to run on the second steep.
The resulting infusion looked like cherry wood in color, very robust even when steeped conservatively. I smelled the astringent/citrus kick almost immediately. Malt held steadfast as the foundation, Keemun and Assam dominated for certain. The taste was dry, slightly cottony at first, but settled into crispness. The aftertaste was a bit on the sour side. When stevia-sweetened and given vanilla extract, the brew gentled on the dryness, settling in on its more robust characteristics - the malt-smoke of the stronger blended elements, and the floral aspects from its high-altitude parts. With a little half-n-half added to the sweetened brew, it lost most of its virtue.
For the second infusion, I ignored brewing instructions and let it steep by hunch alone. I wasn't all that worried since this was a "French Vanilla Creamer Test" to begin with. I know, I know. Sacrilege. But I love it, so nyah. The second steep brewed up just as dark as the first. The added vanilla-ness complimented sweetener and the natural citrus scents of the blend. And as an added bonus, no bitterness.
This is good if only for the second run. First time around, the astringent and sour aspects are a little alarming, but not enough to be a turn-off. If you don't have time or patience to do a follow-up steep, I would say brew this one even lighter than the recommended three-to-five minutes. Try a Darjeeling-style brew-up of two minutes or so at a lighter temp. It's versatile enough for it. Maybe try it with some fromage...er...I mean British cheddar. Yeah.
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