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Tonight I improvised a masala chai by steeping Upton Tea Import’s Orange Spice Imperial tea in a teapot, poring the liquor into a saucepan with 2% milk and pure cane sugar, and bringing the mixture to a boil.

Orange Spice Imperial tea according to Upton’s website is “generously scented black tea, with cinnamon, orange peel, vanilla bean, and a bit of clove.” While this tea does not make an authentic Indian masala chai insofar as the ingredients are not quite right, it does make for a delicious treat. I am debating on whether to try Upton’s Chai Spice Tea or just stick with this nicely flavored blend. As some of you know, Upton provides great deals on samples – for as low as $1.00 – so there is no reason for me not to try the Chai Spice. Look here for a comparison over the next couple of months.

Do you want to know all there is to know about masala chai? Read Wikipedia’s entry on the subject here.

I am always looking for new ways to make chai, and even different blends. Let me know your favorites.

In my new Beehouse teapot for two, the boyfriend and I enjoyed Upton Tea Imports’ Season’s Pick Kenya Blend: his with sugar and mine with milk and sugar.

This tea is rather astringent, which is not surprising for a black tea. It, according to the boyfriend, has an earthy aftertaste. The tea is a little too bold for my palate. I may have overdone the amount of tea leaves with two and a half heaping teaspoons.

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This evening while watching basketball I drank a China Competition Grade Top Tie-Guan-Yin, a personal favorite oolong of mine – but then again all oolongs are personal favorites. I can honestly say that I have not had a oolong that I did not enjoy. This tea comes from Upton Tea Imports.

I received two grams or .1 ounces, which was just barely enough to make eight ounces of tea. I could have easily added another half teaspoon of tea to my infuser.

Description from Upton’s website:
This handmade specialty Oolong is the finest Tie-Guan-Yin we have seen in recent years. The liquor is smooth and sweet, with a complex, orchid-like aroma.

In looking at their website, Upton only sells this tea in two grams and 10 grams. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience this tea. The floral aftertaste is very apparent and extremely delightful.

The liquor, as you can see, is a pleasant yellow-green, which was very clean.

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Tonight I review the festive Christmas Tea from Upton Tea Imports. Christmas Tea, or Mélange Noël, is a blend of black tea with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and cardamom. It is decorated with orange peel, rose petals and almond pieces.

Upon smelling this tea, the first thing that came to mind was potpourri. The taste, however, was not as artificial as the smell. For me, the flavor of cloves really came out in my first brew of this tea. As described above, Mélange Noël is extremely spice heavy, but this adds to the drinking pleasure. It reminded me of a lactose-free chai.

I drank my tea with a slice of homemade banana bread courtesy of the boyfriend. It was a great combination. I especially enjoyed dipping the banana bread in the tea.

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This evening I sipped on Creme Caramel tea from Upton Tea Imports. As you may recall, I purchased a 15g sample of this black tea over the weekend.

The tea is a blend of caramel pieces with Ceylon, or Sri Lankan, black tea. It has a smooth flavor that coats the mouth. This tea is extremely sensitive and should only be steeped as Upton instructs: four minutes. I can honestly say that I allowed mine to go as long as five minutes, and the bitter aftertaste, while not ever-present, did diminish my opinion of this tea. Adding pure cane sugar brought out the caramel flavor and lessened the bitterness of the oversteeping.

According to the Wikipedia entry on tea in Sri Lanka:

Tea production in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, is of high importance to the Sri Lankan economy and the world market. The country is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea and the industry is one of the country’s main sources of foreign exchange and a significant source of income for laborers, with tea accounting for 15% of the GDP, generating roughly $700 million annually. Sri Lanka was the world’s leading exporter of tea (rather than producer) with 23% of the total world export in 1995 but has since been surpassed by Kenya. The tea sector employs, directly or indirectly over 1 million people in Sri Lanka, and in 1995 directly employed 215,338 on tea plantations and estates. The central highlands of the country, low temperature climate throughout the year, annual rainfall and the level of humidity are more favorable geographical factors for production in high quality tea. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, the British planter who arrived in 1852.

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This evening I am sipping on a soothing Moroccan Mint green tea from Upton Tea Imports. The vegetal flavors normally associated with a green tea are absent, but instead are replaced with peppermint.

For a background on Moroccan tea culture, please read Wikipedia’s entry here. According to this entry, “tea occupies a very important place in Moroccan culture and is considered an art form.” We, at BookofTea, can get behind that.

The mint flavor, while not subtle, can be brought out even more by adding sweetener. My selection this evening was pure cane sugar. It was absolutely wonderful.

As previously mentioned, this tea was made with peppermint, but it can often be found with spearmint. The peppermint is blended with a gunpowder green tea. Make sure you pay attention especially if you dislike either type of mint. I would have enjoyed this tea even more had I some fresh mint sprigs.

Moroccan Mint green tea is good both served hot and on ice.

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Today I received a box from Upton Tea Imports of tea tins and samples I had purchased over the weekend. As the picture above shows, it is a beautiful thing.

From Upton I received the following:

125g tin: Bond Street English Breakfast
Sample: Original Blend Russian Caravan
125g tin: Moroccan Green Mint tea
Sample: Orange Spice Imperial
Sample: Creme Caramel
Sample: Christmas Tea
Sample: Jasmine Pi Lo Chun
Sample: Chinese Oolong Bai Hao Imperial Organic
Sample: Tie-Guan-Yin (Top Competition)

I look forward to digging in and telling you all about it!

Soothing tea while watching the Celtics in the playoffs(Game 2 vs. Cavaliers):

Bond Street english breakfast blend from Upton Tea Imports (Hopkinton, MA)

Description from Upton:
A hearty blend of Ceylon and Assam teas, developed by a famous London company. Rich and flavorful even with extra milk.

This is my third black tea in a week. I am really enjoying the heartiness of black tea that is complemented with milk and honey. I used a little too much honey in this cuppa: there was left over honey along with some dust in the bottom of my cup that I, regretfully, decided to drink. The steeping time on this tea was three minutes, and the leaves were finely ground. (Sorry, could not tell you the leaf grade.) I only used a tablespoon of tea, but easily could have added an additional quarter tablespoon for a stronger brew.

Late night tea 4.26.08:

floral tie-guan-yin from Upton Tea Imports

This comes from a 6 gram sample I purchased from Upton. My order was a little green tea and oolong heavy, but I am learning the nuances in these two types of tea. This tea felt so luxurious. It tasted as if I was sipping on flower petals. While some of you might not find this appealing, please be rest assured that was an incomparable experience. I can tell that this tea drinking is going to really cost me a lot of money.

Late night tea:

roasted oolong from Upton Tea Imports (Hopkinton, MA)

Description from catalog:
A classic, medium-oxidized Tie-Guan-Yin, processed in the traditional style, but finished with a process of curing, with a slow firing in bamboo baskets over a charcoal fire. The result is a tea with smooth, rich and inviting character.

This was my first test of my new samples of Upton, and it did not disappoint. This was a very smooth cuppa tea drunk from the new tea cup I purchased from Teavana over the week. (Sorry my camera is dead.) The brewing temperature for this tea was 190 degrees, and it was steeped for 3-4 minutes. It came out a golden brown color, which was easily detected in my new green cup. There was very little dust at the bottom of my cup unlike the genmaicha from Tealuxe and rooibos tropica from Teavana I have been drinking, which was an added treat. I am very pleased with the quality of the tea. While my tap water leaves much to be desired, the oolong had a nice, robust flavor with a hint of nuttiness.