So, perhaps I've taken the whole alliterative title thing a little too far...
I'm pleased to say that over the weekend I finally turned a corner on the cold thing. Not quite ready to say it's completely gone as the cough lingers on a bit, but it no longer directly affects my day-to-day so it's good. I'm back to my 5k training, which feels great, and I'll be able to pick things back up with my strength trainer at our appointment later this week. I knocked out a paper this weekend and am all caught up on my school reading. It's a nice recovery after the mayhem of the earlier part of this month!
Meanwhile, I have a recommendation for you. I was drinking gallons of tea over the couple of weeks I was sick. My husband, daughter, and I are all big tea drinkers, although my husband only has a limited number of flavors he likes (Earl Grey, Moroccan Mint, and the occasional green tea--though he mostly drinks plain hot water which we jokingly refer to as "white tea"). My daughter and I are the more adventuresome types. When she was still living at home we had difficulty getting all our varieties to fit on the tea shelf.
I was recently contacted by Andy Hayes, founder of Plum Deluxe teas in Portland, Oregon. He noted how often I referred to tea on my blog and asked if he could send me some samples. As I coughed my way through my email, I thought, "Sure, why not?" He asked me what kind of tea I was interested in and I let him know some of my basic likes and dislikes, and just a few days later I got Happy Mail including three samples of some of their more popular teas.
Let's start with the general overview: Plum Deluxe teas are fair trade and organic. I've been in search of a good fair trade coffee and have yet to find one I like. I'm pleased to say that the same is not true for these teas: These are fantastic! They're also blended by hand when they're ordered, so they're not shipped from some big production house and sitting in bags on shelves for years until they make it to you. They have a great blog covering all sorts of topics, and a newsletter that's got interesting tidbits, life balance encouragement, recipes, and ideas for entertaining. Additionally, Plum Deluxe has a philanthropy fund that it uses to support worthy causes. They list several of the things they've supported in the past on their website. As you can guess, that was a major plus for me before I'd even tasted the teas!
So...let's get on to the teas, shall we?
Let's start with the Oregon Breakfast Black Tea. In Andy's email, he said this was the most popular of their teas among coffee drinkers. Whether it's because I'm a coffee drinker or not, I could probably just say "yum!" and end my review there. But you know me better than that.
My daughter happened to be crashing at our house overnight the day I got these samples. She was standing with me at the kitchen counter when I opened each bag, so we were each taking deep inhales from the bags. (That's not illegal. Really.) When we sniffed this one, we looked at each other, eyes wide. "Holy cow," I said, or something along those lines (!). "This is amazing!" It's deep and rich but not at all bitter, which a lot of "teas for coffee drinkers" can be.
It's a black tea with other additions, such as a hint of orange and hazelnut. You can smell the hazelnut more strongly than you can taste it, which is exactly what I like. I don't like an overpowering hazelnut flavor--I like it to float underneath whatever it's flavoring, and with this tea, that's exactly what happens. And the orange doesn't taste like orange--it's more of a bright note to balance out the black tea and the nuttier hazelnut. All in all, a fantastic blend.
I'm not inclined to give up coffee, but I do find myself finishing my coffee faster in the morning so I can still get in a cup or two of the Oregon Breakfast tea before noon (my cut-off time for caffeine lest I not sleep at night).
Plum Deluxe's Refreshing "After Dinner" Mint tea is a blend of peppermint and spearmint, with a few other herbs added in to give it some complexity.
I'm a mint tea connoisseur at this point. Mint is my go-to flavor, and I have at least three different versions in my tea cupboard. In this case, I liked the complexity of the "After Dinner" Mint tea but I could've used a little stronger mint flavor. Now, mind you, I'm pretty picky about my mint tea. I've had mint teas that tasted like I was drinking liquified toothpaste and almost felt like they were burning the tastebuds right off my tongue; I've had others that felt like hot water with a mint leaf barely dipped in and then thrown away. This one was a little on the quiet side of middle; many folks would probably like it, but for me it could have used a more obvious mint kick to it. I've taken to doubling the suggested amount of tea for one cup and steeping it longer than recommended to boost the mint flavor closer to what I like. That being said, I don't mind that this one was a little less of a big deal for me because I so thoroughly enjoyed the other two.
The third sample, and my other favorite of the three, is Easy to Be Herbal Tea. This one is fascinating. It's also not a super-strong flavor but it's got a lot going on. I think if any of the individual flavors were any stronger, it would be less enjoyable. In the few days since I've gotten these samples, I've fallen into the habit of having the Oregon Breakfast tea when I'm done with my coffee in the morning and then switching to the Easy to Be herbal tea in the afternoon. Easy to Be has a mix of blueberries, raspberry leaves, cranberries, and lots of other good stuff, but it doesn't come out as "fruity." There's a hint of fruit aftertaste to it, but it's not overpowering. I have some other fruit teas, unsweetened, that still taste a little like I'm drinking hot Kool-Aid. There's a time and a place but, generally, I like things a little more subtle (other than my mint, of course). And, again, that smell! I have my sample bags sitting out on my counter and it isn't unusual for me to pull one of them open, take a deep whiff, and close it up again.
I can see making iced tea out of this one in the summer. Tasty. Unfortunately, you can't just buy this one--it's only available to the subscription members.
After I'd had two or three cups of each of the samples, I went on the website and bought a few more. I'll be getting the House Blend Black Tea ("Creamy Vanilla English Breakfast") and Portland Rose City Chai, plus a "Blender's Choice," which means they get to send me whatever they want. It'll be a fun adventure! There are a ton of other very tasty options on their site I'll have to work my way through. They have a subscription club which I may do at some point, but at the moment I'm being very cognizant of my already-overflowing tea cupboard. I need to throw a few more tea parties!
So, thank you, Andy, for the free samples. I enjoyed the experience and look forward to enjoying more of your teas in the future!
(I'm not being compensated for this post, beyond the three free samples I got to begin with. And the words are all mine. I just love tea and am happy to spread the word about a great fair trade product!)