My step-mother has led quite an interesting life, including several years of living in Mauritius, a small island off the east coast of Africa. Her tales of Mauritius are so far from the simple life she now leads with my father, like the state dinners she attended, with servants in livery standing behind the chairs of almost every guest. I love these stories so much that when we studied Francophone countries in high school, I picked this tiny African nation.
Flashing back to the present, I recently went on a photo safari around Old Town Alexandria, here in Virginia. Not an exotic locale, but I did introduce my friends to my favorite tea-shop there, a tiny local business called Old Town Coffee, Tea, and Spice. It is a tiny, cramped, dark place just oozing with character, and almost every tea that you can think of.
I hadn’t planned on purchasing anything at all, but who can walk past all that delicious smelling tea and resist? I ended up bringing home two teas, one a hot cinnamon black tea that reminded me of red hot candies. Clearly a popular tea, it was one of the largest jars on the shelf, right at eye level.
On the other hand, I almost missed the tiny jar on the top shelf. I saw the name while flipping through their tea list, sorted by origin. Mauritius. That exotic name jumped out at me, and I looked up, intrigued. I had never heard of tea being grown in Mauritius, Kenya being the African country most famous for its tea production. I told the clerk that I had to have a quarter pound, although I was dubious of the quality. Even more so when he pulled the jar off the shelf and I saw that the leaves were finely ground like Irish Breakfast.
But then he gave me a whiff. Vanilla. And real vanilla, none of that artificial flavoring. Yet, this is an unscented black tea, so how could that be? The desirable orchid vine that vanilla grows on is allowed to twine around the tea plants, imparting its unique flavor to the leaves as they grow. Now I was really intrigued, and a quarter pound came home with me, carefully separated from the bag of cinnamon tea.
So now the question is, how does the tea actually taste? The vanilla flavor is very light and subtle, as would be expected. As for the tea itself, it is very tannic and bold, similar to Irish Breakfast. Because of the small leaf size, you must be very careful not to over-steep. While it may not be the most amazing tea I have ever had, it certainly is a unique addition to the collection.
Check out Stephanie’s blog, The Tea Scoop, for more on her passion for tea!