Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ruby Lion Inc: Courageous Tea Blends, A Tea Review

Recently I was sent a bunch of blends from Ruby Lion Inc, an up and coming tea company with a taste for the obscure. Now you might all know by now that blended tea is not really my thing, but also that I love adventure...these two tend to overlap, so when I do look at a blend it has to be unusual. These blends I think run a good spectrum of ones that appeal to people with tame tastes to ones that find culinary experiments to be their main source of adventure (like me!) so I am going to start with the most 'standard' and move to the EXTREME *90s guitar riff*

Min-tea Fresh

We come now to that great moment of struggle: mint. I have often remarked on my really mixed reaction to mint in tea, either I love it and find it soothing or hate it and feel it is way too overwhelming, but this green tea is blended with mint and spearmint...and I freaking love spearmint. The aroma is great, not at all overwhelming, I found the crisp and sweeter notes of the spearmint dominated over the greener and effervescent peppermint. My sinuses were happy for sniffing it, and in allergy season I will take that help any way I can! The green tea adds a mild vegetal and crushed vegetation that just works with the various mints, green tea and mint go together just about as well as chocolate and mint!

The note included with the samples stated that this tea is fantastic iced, so I cold steeped it, and wow is that ever refreshing! Luckily it seems that the spearmint is the dominating taste, and granted the taste of the plants themselves is very similar, spearmint doesn't have as much menthol so I can enjoy the cool minty freshness without feeling like I have inhaled a glacier. Since I am Southern I decided to return to my roots and sweeten it a bit, because it is what we do, I might not live in the South but when I visit family I drink sweet iced tea...some traditions never fade. Plus to me it is very nostalgic, my mom grew sooo many different kinds of mints in her massive garden and spearmint frequently made it into our iced tea, it was either that or lemon and I will not have a lemon in my tea...just no. Anyway, I am rambling, this tea is really good cold, sweet (even before the bit of sugar) spearmint, crushed vegetation from the green tea, and crisp peppermint blend for a very balanced tea.

Lion's Crest

A blend of Darjeeling, Earl Grey, and Ceylon...hoo boy, two of my least favorite teas blended with one that I really have to be in the right mood for. See, I am way too picky for my own good! From the first sniff I was hooked though, it was malty and sweet with gentle bergamot notes, which is good because I find bergamot to be nasty in large quantities. There is a black pepper undertone and none of the metallic undertones I usually associate with Ceylon, you know I should just be open, I have never liked classic Ceylon black teas because they smell and taste vaguely of blood to me and I am just not that much of a Vampire the Masquerade fan to be into that. Brewed up the tea smells of oranges, crisp broken wood, raisins, a tiny touch of metallic undertones, and a nice malty finish.

This tea is decidedly not bad, and I say that as someone who this is the wrong tea for (what with the aforementioned dislike of Ceylons and EG, yes I need to go make offerings of some sort to a shrine of British-ness at the dishonor I am causing that side of my family) It is crisp and brisk in the mouth, every bit a morning tea in texture, but the taste makes it mellow enough to be an afternoon tea. Gentle notes of caramel, malt, raisins, orange peel and cranberries. I find if you let this tea get cold it gets a bit bitter, so chug it hot!

Petal to the Metal

Now, this is a blend after my own heart! Blending rosebuds, cardamom, and black tea, it smells like one of my beloved Persian desserts that I am mildly addicted to. Cardamon and roses just go together so perfectly, especially when paired with a malty and honey sweet tea. The rose is pretty well balanced with the cardamon, rose can be pretty overpowering but since this uses rosebuds and not rose oil it is perfect.

I decided to cold steep this one, with the weather warming up I find myself on the hunt for teas that are good cold steeped, and since one of my favorite (non-tea) drinks is sweet rose milk, drinking it cold seems like a fun plan. The taste is really quite strong, the cardamon stands out strong with the rose taking a backseat. The tea itself is brisk and malty, making a potent base for the other notes. I also had this tea hot and I think that my favorite was cold steeped, especially sipping it out in the sun.


Crossbones

Arrrrgh, pirate tea ahoy! Black tea, coconut, and cinnamon blend together for a really fun combination, and might I point out that everything in this blend is HUGE! Really big leaves, chunks of cinnamon, and long coconut shreds, it is a larger than life blend! I am pretty sure I have never mixed cinnamon and coconut and the idea really intrigued me. The aroma is tasty (mmm coconut so good) the warm sweetness of the cinnamon works well with the coconut and the malty black tea undertones. I feel like I need to be wearing my pirate hat for this session. Brewing it up the coconut takes the dominant role, and I am ok with that!

So, one of the problems (such as it is) with coconut in tea is it always gives an oily mouthfeel and leaves a residue, and that is my only complaint with this tea. I really liked it, powerful warm and sweet cinnamon blend with tropical nutty coconut with a base of malty brisk black. I am half tempted to mix this with some spiced rum for a killer hot toddy next time I am under the weather, but only a hint of rum since this tea is a bit on the delicate side.

Hot Lavender

This tea scared the crap out of me, seriously. Blending lavender and black tea with massive peppers had me at equal parts squeeing in excitement for the bonkers idea of this tea and screaming in terror that my stomach would actually murder me for drinking this. Side story, I love the taste of spicy foods (peppers make me so happy) but due to having a stupidly delicate stomach if I try to eat it I pay...dearly, pretty much I can eat Siracha all I want, but anything hotter than that and I wake up with my stomach holding a knife to me threatening me with violence. The aroma is intense, strong notes of lavender and what smells like cayenne pepper (I admit I am not a huge pro at IDing peppers by smell) and red chilis, it smells hot but not sear my nostrils hot. Brewing it mixes the soapy perfume of lavender and the savory heat of peppers beautifully, not a thing I would have ever thought of blending myself but its uniqueness makes it work.

Do not, under any circumstance, drink this with a sore throat. However, if you drink it with a stuffy nose you might be pretty happy because sinus clearing heat incoming! I would put this at around the same heat level as siracha once it has been dispersed into food, a pleasant heat that warms the mouth but does not overwhelm and melt the taste buds or stomach. It is savory and peppery, as one expects, with a soapy sweet lavender taste that is really weird but really tasty. Granted I love lavender so me liking it is no surprise, but it working so well with something so savory as peppers were surprising.


This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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