Four beautiful pouches of whole leaf tea, complete with load-your-own environmentally friendly tea bags, arrived on my doorstep a few weeks back, from Steepist. I was reminded that a wag once said, “Freedom is the absence of choice.”  My dilemma: which tea to try first?

My husband and I have a long-standing morning tea ritual: he gets up to greet the sun. Our rustic cottage on the east fork of the Hood River is over a hundred years old and has primarily stone or tile floors.  Seven months of the year, we build a fire in the woodstove to warm the house.  As soon as that fire is built, we share multiple pots of whole leaf tea. Most often, what is in our cups is black tea from India: Jungpana, Rohini, Doke Black Fusion, Margaret’s Hope, Hattiali, or Dooteriah.  This trial box of teas from Steepist found us clearly drinking . . . outside of the box, despite what the package says.

stoneleafteahouselogoOur first venture was the Lapsang Souchong from Stone Leaf Teahouse.  My thoughts about this unique tea have been made plain in many a comment about campfire tea; burning tires; smoke alarms; and wildfire season.  Either you like this tea or you hate it. This particular lapsang has the Fujian pedigree, as well as organic certification.  We steeped it in water heated to 208 degrees for three minutes.  I’m delighted to admit that I actually enjoyed it.  Easily withstanding three steeps, the tea flavor emerges from the smoke on the second and third steepings.

The second tea “inside the box” was from RUNA: clean energy.  Made primarily from guayusa, an herb grown in the Amazon, this tea is consumed for its energy-giving properties.  Purported to balance caffeine with polyphenols to provide just the perfect energy boost all day, I gifted it to an 18 year old tea geek who will need – and want – the caffeine in his first year of university studies.  The Ecuador-based company works with local farmers to produce organic and environmentally sound guayusa beverages.

FijiThe next lovely little parcel was Fiji, from senendipiTEA.  A “deep, lush organic Chinese green tea flavored with juicy pineapple and a touch of papaya.”  Fussy about flavors added to my tea, I was prepared to turn my nose up at this one.  I was gratified to learn that the flavors came from chunks of fruit, not an extract sprayed on the tea.  Steeped for three minutes at 190 degrees, the tea was as promised:  green tea lovers who want a little touch of sweet will love this tea.

Finally, Lychee Oolong from Naivetea.  Before my husband joined my morning tea ritual, I naivetea1spent four years in love with oolong teas.  I love the rolled oolongs and I love the long-leaf toasty twisty oolongs.  Some oolongs have a finish that reminds of salty ocean breezes, and some call up evening walks in a pear orchard. Do brew this tea according to the directions given: water at 205 degrees and steep for 30 – 50 seconds.  I brewed a bit too long, and found the taste of lychee – an acquired taste – to be far too strong.  I started over and followed directions, finding the tea to be quite pleasant.  Lychee lovers will gulp this up!

Delighted to be part of Steepist’s inaugural sampler set, I urge readers who want to try new teas, responsibly sourced, to join the Steepist movement!

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