Most popular teas of 2014
Posted by Gary D. Robson
I’m bringing back the old January tradition that I skipped last year, which is reviewing my tea bar’s most popular loose-leaf teas of the previous year. This time, it’s a little different. In the 2011 and 2012 summaries, I just looked at the overall bestsellers. This time, I’m going to break it down by category.
I don’t want my blog to be a commercial for the shop, but on the other hand, I do want to provide links to the tea bar’s website, in case readers are interested in trying out any of these teas. As a compromise, if you see a regular link in this post, it goes to another post in my blog. If you see the name of a tea italicized in square brackets [like this], it goes to that tea’s page on shop’s website.
My Scottish breakfast blend, which I call [Gary’s Kilty Pleasure] remains the top-selling unflavored black tea for the fourth year in a row. There’s something about the complementary maltiness of the estate-grown Assam and strong traditional flavors of the Mount Kenya black teas that really works together.
The classic [organic tieguanyin], a.k.a. Iron Goddess of Mercy, topped the straight oolong charts. It is medium-roasted and lightly-oxidized, using traditional bamboo coal baking techniques. Most of our oolong drinkers like the flavored options, however, and mango was the top flavor of choice.
Overall, [organic Jasmine Green] did the best. There’s something about the delicate aroma of jasmine that really adds to the flavor of a good green tea. Of the unflavored, unscented green teas, it was Dragonwell (longjing) by a big margin!
Our new Shou Mei narrowly edged out the [Yin-Zhen Silver Needles Supreme], even though it hasn’t made it to our website yet. On the flavored side, the [Peach Blossom White] blew away all of the competition. We don’t serve many cups of it hot, but it’s far and away the most popular iced tea at the bar.
It’s really hard to pin this one down. We get one answer if we measure sales by the ounce of loose-leaf tea sold, but a very different answer if we take into consideration all of the compressed pu-erh (beeng cha, tuo cha, brick, and so forth). In total mass, this year’s winner would have to be ripe “wild” pu-erh bricks from 2005.
We have nine different Earl Grey blends, but the organic, fair trade [Ancient Tree Earl Grey] has not only been the number one Earl Grey, but has held a spot in our top three sellers overall for as long as we’ve been selling tea.
In 2013, we made a scary move. We dropped the Rishi organic masala chai that had been our number-one selling tea and replaced it with a house blend. Several house blends, actually. Our house chai, which is made with estate-grown Assam and our own masala spice blend, did reasonably well, but then serendipity stepped in. We were experimenting around with a caffeine-free option, and blended our spices with rooibos and caramel. The first cup we brewed, Doug looked at me and said, “Oh my God! This is a ginger cookie in a cup!” We named it [Ginger Cookie Chai], and it became our top masala chai, and one of the best-selling teas overall. It also makes a great molasses cookie recipe!
The Holly family
Yerba maté has always been a good seller for us, so we decided to add the other two members of the holly family that produce caffeine: guayusa and yaupon. [Guayusa] became a staff favorite, and soon surpassed yerba maté. It’s an amazing drink that we just can’t get enough of!
We sell a lot of rooibos, and I am still surprised that the green rooibos outsells red rooibos by a factor of three. Yes, [Green Rooibos], which most Americans haven’t even heard of, is one of the top 15 sellers out of the 150+ teas and tisanes we sell. When it comes to flavored rooibos, [Montana Gold], a caffeine-free blend from our friends at Montana Tea & Spice not only handily tops the list of rooibos-based blends, but was our #1 seller overall.
When you think of herbal tea, what’s the first herb that pops into your mind? Probably chamomile. Personally, I’m not a big chamomile drinker, which probably explains why none of my chamomile blends compete with [Evening in Missoula], another complex and wonderful blend from Montana Tea & Spice.
While writing this blog post, I was drinking an organic Iron Goddess of Mercy (tieguanyin), as I so often do. It’s a soft and flavorful oolong that’s lightly baked and medium oxidized. I usually use my leaves at least three or four times, brewing it with 175-degree water. I make my first infusion light (2 1/2 minutes), and then add 30 second to each subsequent infusion.
Posted in Styles & Blends, Tea Biz
Tags: A Nice Cup of Tea, Ancient Tree Earl Grey, earl grey, Evening in Missoula, Gary's Kilty Pleasure, ginger cookie chai, green rooibos, guayusa, holly, Iron Goddess of Mercy, Jasmine Earl Green, masala chai, Montana Gold, Scottish Breakfast Tea, shou mei, TieGuanYin, white tea, yerba mate
Masala Chai Molasses Cookies
Posted by Gary D. Robson
I’m just getting around to posting the recipe for the cookies that my wife, Kathy, made for the Red Lodge Christmas Stroll, but here you go, just in time for Christmas!
Sometimes when you’re cooking with tea, the objective is to be subtle. In this case, it’s not. Kathy wanted to add ginger to her molasses cookie recipe, and it takes something strong to stand up to all of the flavor in these cookies. She selected the Ginger Cookie Chai from our shop, which is a caffeine-free, rooibos- and caramel-based blend with lots of ginger. You could use pretty much any masala chai blend for this, but if you want to duplicate these delicious results, pick one with caramel that’s heavy on the ginger!
- 4 tbsp ginger cookie chai (use loose tea, not syrup, powder, or tea bags!)
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp margarine
- 1 cup white sugar (to mix with other ingredients)
- 1/2 cup white sugar (to roll cookies in)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- Melt the margarine, stir in the loose tea, and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Water is good for extracting flavor from tea leaves, but the masala spices need the fats in the margarine (or butter, if you’re a purist) to pull all of the flavor out.
- Pour the margarine through a strainer or cheesecloth, and squeeze out everything you can. You’ll lose a bit of margarine, but don’t worry about it – that’s what the two extra tablespoons in the ingredient list is for!
- Mix the margarine infusion with 1 cup of the sugar and the egg. Mix until it’s smooth, and then stir in the molasses.
- Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, and then blend them into the molasses/margarine mixture. Cover and chill for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Roll dough into walnut-sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 1/2 cup of white sugar. Place them on ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
- Bake for about 10 minutes, until the tops are cracked.
- Cool on a wire rack.
This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.