You probably drink tea without the faintest idea of where it came from.
The type of tea will give you a hint, as well as the company or brand name. However, the name only tells you who’s selling it. It says nothing about what kind of place it originated from, and only the label may (or may not) tell you where it was grown or by whom.
Tealet‘s got a different mission. They make sure that you know exactly the roots of your leafy drink, providing a wealth of background on each tea and its source–practically flying in the growers to talk to you.
(Plus, they have trading cards. If you’re into Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, Yugioh, or whatever kids are playing these days, then you might want get on this before Cartoon Network turns it into another profitable TV show and leaves you with nothing but the hipster cred of liking it before it was cool.)
But do all those happy fair trade vibes come through in the tea? That’s what matters.
First up is an oolong: Dark Roast Tieguanyin.
In the bag it has a distinct woody smell, with bronze notes from the roasting. Not very pungent. Once steeped, the aroma is still not too strong, but it turns into this wonderful roasted pecan scent and doesn’t beat your face with it, either. It’s a comforting smell, one that says, “Here, sit down next to me by the fire.” Maybe you’ll get to hear a story.
Off the bat, though, it’s hard to tell what that story is under all its smokiness–those poor pecans nearly all got charred away. The first impression is Sanka, or some sort of instant decaf coffee. Let me tell you, though, although it gets its name from the goddess of kindness and compassion, this tea does not take kindly at all to oversteepage. It produces a metallic taste that serves as a slap on the wrist, going, “Shame on you!” But at its core, you get some real floral notes curling at the edge of all that smoke and bronziness. Like decaf coffee, it fulfills its flavor profile but doesn’t leave you quite satisfied. You’re still wondering what that story could be.
The bag’s got a warm, bright bakery smell, like sesame honey buns fresh out of the oven. This softens in the cup and becomes rather inviting.
The first sip is all malty barleyness up in here. It’s a party in your mouth–now you see why the smell had an invitation to it. That invitation got sent to the right people, as the guests are all salty, brassy folks, probably sitting on the couch swigging hard cider while ever-so-casually discussing the virtues of bacon maple ice cream, which makes the vegans uncomfortable and shuffle closer to their homemade organic, locally-grown kale chips. (They weren’t invited, they just came because they’re your new neighbors and wanted to make a show of goodwill.) This tea doesn’t take itself half as seriously as the Tieguanyin. A touch of oversteeping or over-sitting only brings out the languorous roasty note at the end. However you drink it, it’ll be there for you with a clap on the back and some anecdote about how whatever mess you’ve gotten yourself into, trust me, they’ve screwed up worse. And you feel incrementally better about yourself.
Third up is another oolong, Lishan Spring.
The dry tea smells veggie-green to the extreme. Kind of seaweedy, like sticking your nose in a warm salad bar. Steeped, however, this mellows out to a golden smell, so sunny that you want to take it to the beach now.
At first you want to go, “This is totally a green,” but the tea goes, “Haha, psych!” It’s just a plain fun tea, totally lighthearted. (Can a tea have a happy vibe? Lishan Spring says yes.) Usually there’s a certain solemnity to tea, but this one is a real get-up-and-go baller. It’s not from the caffeine or theanine content, just the flavor alone. “Spring” is a great name for this tea, as it’s like walking on a stretch of new grass with young, fragrant leaves sprouting up behind you with every step, like you’re some kind of epic sun goddess. So get out there and share your happy nature vibes with the world.
If you add sweetener, you’ll be dimming the sun but it’ll kick up the floral factor and bring out the slight pear-y note. As is, the fruit and flowers are overlaid by a fresh, savory zucchini flavor.
Lastly, we’ve got one more oolong, Medium Roast Dong Ding.
The trading card says “sweet roasted barley” and that comes through right in the bag. It’s similar to the Black Pearl smell, with a hint of veggie green. Interestingly, this morphs into a a great nutty-smokiness once steeped, some baked apple in there as well–and some dates, even. Already, this tea could go well with Middle Eastern cuisine (Shawarma, anyone?) or Mom’s homemade cooking.
When you start sipping, it’s really those roasted apples all the way. Surprisingly, not half as much nuttiness as the smell would have you think, so it ends up as just a comfort food kind of tea. The more it cools, the more the darker flavors come into play, and we come back to the dates, along with some raisins in there for extra oomf. But this isn’t that kind of date tea. It’s more of a, “Hey, being single is pretty cool,” kind of tea. Drink it and be merry, and just nod and smile when your friend tells you for the nine thousandth time that you need to settle down with a nice yoga instructor and make lots of babies.
Honey might not be a terrible thing here. (Hear that? That’s the sound of sugar addicts heaving a sigh of relief.)
So what’s the verdict on Tealet?
If you like real, honest tea (as opposed to so-called Honest Tea) and have a passion for the truly good stuff, you can’t miss out on this. For those who balk at the pricetag, save it for when you really want to treat yourself and you won’t regret a cent.