Snooty Tea Review: Chateau Rouge

Not to be confused with Moulin Rouge, but equally tantalizing.

Moulin Rouge fans may be disappointed; does not contain Ewan McGregor’s soulful tenor.

Today’s review features Chateau Rouge Teas. With a name like that, one would automatically assume that it’s French. (And possibly burst into song.)

In actuality, Chateau Rouge is a UK company with a high-end assortment of steeping-leaves for you to choose from.

To be fair, calling it “Red House” just isn’t as tasty in English. But does their tea live up to the delightful extravagance that its name implies?

Can they cancan?We kick off our samples with Wildharvest Honeybush, an herbal tea.

Wildharvest HoneybushGardeners will love this one instantly, as the bag yields a pungent woody smell, like fresh mulch.

In the cup, we have another case of misleading name-age, though this time we may blame whichever unfortunate sap christened the plant in the first place. Honeybush is similar to rooibus, coming from a related herb of the same region in Africa. This tea, however, is neither honeyed nor bushy. Immediately you get a salty-woody smell, like sea salt caramel. When you dive in for a sip, it’s like diving into a pile of crunchy autumn leaves without fear of worms or other buggies that may be lurking within. Total comfort.

But autumn leaves, as we know, are dry. You won’t get a huge flavorblast to the mouth with this tea. Still, it makes for a resoundingly pleasant cup. The saltiness gives it an eggs n’ bacon vibe, something to pair with breakfast on a lazy, decaf day. Very savory. This isn’t the kind of tea you serve when you want to impress someone–this one is purely for your own enjoyment. Don’t add any milk, please. It’ll be a letdown. (Does anyone even add milk to red tea anyway?) For those with a demanding sweet tooth, feel free to drizzle actual honey in this ‘bush to really bring out sea salt caramel flavor, or add some German rock candy that Teavana’s so fond of dumping in its samples to prevent you from tasting the actual tea.

Then we have Sikkim Temi.

Sikkim Temi

There’s a forest smell in the bag, or perhaps like a tundra just coming into summer; damp ground starting to sleepily shake off the frost.

When steeped, summer comes into full bloom and pervades the cup with a true warmth. It has the aftertaste typical of South Asian black tea, slowing dropping back into the floral. But mind you, with blacks, “floral” means less like downing a bottle of Sabon cream, and more like rediscovering that old prom corsage you left to dry in the basement 5 years ago. Like that corsage, this tea is secure and nostalgic, but you’ve moved on already to the point where it’s not worth getting sentimental. It’s a “That’s now, now let’s get down to the business of the day” kind of tea. Not one you’ll be reminiscing about later, but an amiable way to start your morning.

As it cools, the floral sweetness becomes a main player as opposed to an aftertaste, so I wouldn’t add sweetener; with this tea’s host of flavor-layers already swimming about, why try to drown ‘em? It could do well with unflavored milk, though.

And last but not least, the Pure Ceylon.

Pure CeylonIn the bag, you’re greeted with a smell that’s rich, dark, and loamy. It’s as if you just found the perfect nook in your basement for that wine cellar you’ve been dreaming of.

But as we’ve seen before, what you smell in that bag doesn’t guarantee what you’ll get in the cup. This proved to be a fruity black tea if there ever was one. There’s some really fun hints of peaches and apple, or better yet, grape juice. Reminded me almost of Maneschewitz or Kedem. Like the Sikkim Temi, the flavor deepens and develops nicely as it cools–you’ll even get a whiff of plum in there. Overall, a very low-key, friendly sort of black, one that doesn’t overwhelm the sipper’s palate with too many notes or perfumey distractions. Just straight, robust flavor.

This tea is ideal for someone who’s just getting into blacks. With its warm brassiness, it would also make Keemun lovers very happy, and could possibly persuade Yunnan fans as well. This could be a rather cosmopolitan tea; serve it at an international brunch and even other snooty tea people will be pleased.

Maybe Chateau Rouge isn’t much for cancan-ing, but its teas will lead you in a very satisfying samba.

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