|"The tea certainly has the spirit of the spirits, first revealed from the sweetly alcoholic, aromatic scent. The peppermint is schnapps-esque, playing both hot and cool and melding surprisingly well with the butterscotch tipped fruitiness of the brandy. "|
Although there was no Saint Bernard to bring the tea in his little cask, it’s likely for the best since it would be such a gosh darn long way, but you could certainly spot the tea in the snow. The ebony leaves and stems have a velvety luster, looking almost wet or if they’ve been polished. They are quite uniform pieces, wiry and curled to get the curiosity brewing. Out of their package, they have much more definition.
Aromatic, with a penetrating bouquet, the peppermint and brandy notes are immediately evident and recognizable. The scent is quite alcoholic, not so sharp or raw as liquor, but there’s definitely an alcoholic spin. Although the tea is described as Peppermint Schnapps, I thought that was sassy talk for peppermint but indeed, the mintiness is undeniably pepper and while naturally sweet in character, it has a bit more of an edgier mintiness to make it Schnapps-esque. The sharpness completely rings in with the brandy notes that bring their own compelling sweetness from a background butterscotchy fruitiness. The butterscotch-like bit is ever so tasty but it is harder to hold onto with the more prevalent alcoholic vibe of the brandy, making both the peppermint and brandy quite like extracts in tone while still not being as fierce. Regardless, the bouquet does deliver and the pair have a rather surprising and appealing harmony.
From the general brewing instructions from Culinary Teas for their black teas, I steeped the tea for three minutes with boiling water. The dull sienna brew cues it’s time for the snifter but I opted for a tea cup, despite the temptation. The medium bouquet is heady with peppermint but it’s a hot peppermint, more than cool, rising above the toastier mineral notes of the black tea that envelop the more subtle fruitiness of the brandy. Similar to an amber rum or dark ale kind of fruitiness, although definitively brandy, it retains an alcoholic character, but not a sharp one, that reminds me of cooked off wine or rum. As such, it seems a touch butterscotch, molasses and apple juice with alcohol that’s quite tantalizing despite the slightly assertive alcohol nature. Likewise, the peppermint has some sweetness but it’s hotter like scotch mints or toothpaste, rather than gum or breathsavers or the actual leaf, with little green to its mintiness. Both play off the black tea well, which pipes up as much as the mint pleasingly.
Rolling into the brew, the flavour mirrors the bouquet, reflecting a synchronous melding of peppermint, brandy and black tea, although the balance doesn’t quite seem as comfortable as it could be. The mint dominates the flavour, as it does in the bouquet, and it still plays both hot and cool, riding an alcoholic wave against the cooler minty sweetness that is more cool than sweet and very pure peppermint. In the flow, the brandy is more a hoppy alcohol flavour but it’s not as intense as in the bouquet. Instead, it lights up the palate with an alcoholic high against the black tea’s mellow girth. The black tea is firm enough to be a good contrast but isn’t a real hearty brew. Winding down into a quick finish, the aftertaste carries nice and long, with a light brandy cheer and a cooling bit of peppermint.
Once snowbanked with an empty cup, trying a second and third infusion of the leaves, things get a bit less united. Following a second steep, the mahoghany tones give way to a lighter yellow brown, cast with flurries or not quite clear. While the tea is still moderately aromatic, its components seem de-coupled and fragmented. The peppermint opens, kind of edgy green then icycles of cool that is hot sweet, like extract, with a faint sprinkling of butter toffee, alcohol and dry noodles on its drift. It has some nice parts but it seems to lose some of the harmony of the first cup and with it the suave. All parts continue to lightly animate the light to medium body without being faint, yet the mint gets edgier as the black tea slopes into a waxy noodle like flavour and the brandy’s lovely fruitiness fades, leaning more to its alcohol character which is on the verge of bitter. Although, there’s still a delightful cool that extends into a light but long aftertaste, the stripped down flavour is okay but not as enjoyable as the fun harmony of the first.
Although the tea seems one destined to drink hot, like a warm brandy in leather chairs ‘round a fire, it’s also a dandy nip cold. The avalanche of flavours have enough punch to keep it lively and the black tea holds its ground well.
Regardless of what divine intervention inspired the creation of Culinary Teas Brandy and Peppermint tea, it certainly makes for a smashing combination and a tea I would never have guessed work so well. Although I almost feel like I might need a breathalizer after the tea, the toffee spun fruitiness warms the alcoholic zeal where the brandy meets the peppermint. Warm, hot, cool or chilly, the tea seems to have it all for a great cup to sled into once bitten by Jack Frost’s bite or in the mood for snowman building.
— To purchase Culinary Teas Brandy and Winter Peppermint Black Tea, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.
» Read more about this reviewer on Raven's profile page.
» Find a list of recent posts by Raven.