Few words are more abused than “vanilla.” Despite the fact that vanilla is a prized and not-inexpensive flavor and scent, people frequently use it to describe that which is boring and bland. However, as anyone with a working palate knows, vanilla adds warmth, sweetness and spice to whatever it’s blended with, and is particularly lovely when added to tea.
When I was a child and my mother and I would bake cakes our cookies together, I always made a ritual of smelling the vanilla extract before measuring it out. I still do that, even though I know very well what it smells like and I don’t have to get mom’s permission to fetch it from a high cabinet. Sniffing vanilla lifts my mood and reminds me of special times with my mother (and grandmother). Which is maybe why I like vanilla tea so much.
While my preference is, and always will be, for unflavored teas, there are times that vanilla blends really hit the spot. The nifty thing about vanilla is that it blends well with many other flavors (especially chocolate, coconut and almond) and with just about every type of tea. In fact, I still remember visiting a tea room in Utah and sampling a lovely white tea that was flavored with vanilla and rose. Exquisite. Another advantage to vanilla as a tea flavor is that it naturally adds sweetness without adding calories, which is always a bonus.
Some of my favorite vanilla teas and tisanes are sold by the English Tea Store. Bourbon Vanilla rooibos is absolutely wonderful: It tastes like a liqueur rather than an herbal infusion, and is a wonderful, inexpensive treat. The Republic of Tea’s Good Hope Vanilla Red Tea (rooibos) is another tasty rooibos/vanilla blend, conveniently packaged in paper teabags. For flavored true teas, Earl Grey Cream is a decadent treat, and Monk’s Blend tastes for all the world like a tea-infused Shirley Temple cocktail. Neither will break the bank, so if you are a vanilla lover like me, try ’em both. You won’t regret it.
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