Is there a better time to enjoy a cup of tea or tangy tisane than the end-of-the-year holiday season? I think not. Yes, yes . . . I know . . . tea is the perfect beverage 365 days a year, but you have to admit that the preponderance of family reunions, parties, and other get-togethers during the last month of the year make it a tailor-made time for tea. This year, I had the pleasure of sampling a handful of Rishi Tea’s tisanes – five to be exact – and a quite splendid Chocolate Chai. All the tisanes were organic and two were Fair Trade. The Chocolate Chai was both.
I began with the Cinnamon Plum tisane for one reason – I love cinnamon. Dry, this tisane is a colorful tapestry of fruits and spices. Brewed, it creates a deep, almost blood-red, liquid with a touch of purple that exudes a strong cinnamon scent. As I drank the tisane, I noticed that its cinnamon flavor, which was initially quite pronounced, gradually dissipated. Emerging in its place was the taste of hibiscus. This was rather disappointing, only because I am not a big fan of hibiscus. But the now subtle cinnamon flavor more than made up for the hibiscus. I was hoping for a plum taste – I love plums – but my palate was not sensitive enough to pick it up.
On Christmas Day, I tried the Tangerine Ginger. This time I made a pot of it and shared it with my husband and our son. The consensus opinion was overwhelmingly positive. Although I later learned that this tea, too, contains hibiscus, it was overshadowed in this tisane by the ginger – first and foremost – and the tangerine – a very distinctive undertone. As is the case with ginger tisanes, this one gave us all a boost. Because it was Christmas and the house was full of sweets, we enjoyed this tea with some homemade revani, a Turkish cake made with equal parts of semolina, sugar, and butter and topped off with a sugary lemon syrup, and a very rich, almost fudge-like, dark chocolate cake. The combination of the citrus and the chocolate was heavenly.
The day after Christmas, I was ready to sample the third tisane in the bunch – the Bergamot Sage. I was curious to see how the bergamot – the flavor that defines Earl Grey – would play out with the sage. Frankly, my palate was not sophisticated enough to pick up the bergamot, but I loved the sage and could clearly identify some peppermint in there too. When I later learned that the blend did indeed contain peppermint, I was not surprised. I imagine that this tisane would also make a wonderful rub for lamb or pork.
Next, it was on to the Chamomile Medley. For me, chamomile is a very occasional tisane. I always have some in the house, but it is generally reserved for those times when I really need to de-stress. This tisane, though, should be renamed “Lemongrass Medley.” It has a biting lemon scent and a very lemony flavor. So although it is still a brew to relax with, it puts you into a calm, but alert, state. Like the Tangerine Ginger, I can see this tisane going well with dark chocolate desserts. But frankly, it was not my favorite among these Rishi tisanes. I love lemon as much as the next person, but the lemon in this tisane is a bit over the top.
Finally, I saved what I feared might be my least favorite tisane for last – the Hibiscus Berry. The top billing for hibiscus predisposed me to suspect that the overpowering flavor would be that of hibiscus. And, I’m afraid, I was right. The presence of natural blueberry flavor, currants, and trace amounts of orange and mango oils was not enough to save this tisane. Of course, if you love hibiscus, you will undoubtedly love this tisane. But for me, it was hibiscus through and through, with that characteristic sourness.
Overall, Rishi’s tisanes were excellent – in particular, the Cinnamon Plum, the Tangerine Ginger, and the Bergamot Sage. But I still haven’t expounded on the sixth Rishi product in the mix – the Chocolate Chai. Suffice to say, I absolutely loved it!! Steeped in equal parts of water and milk, this chai is delightfully spicy – the cardamon stands out – and perfect for the cold, rainy weather we have been having here in Southern California. A couple of days after enjoying the Chocolate Chai, I purchased a cup of chai from a local Indian store. There was no comparison – the Chocolate Chai was the clear winner. Hmmm…I think it is time to make some more.