Tea of the Week for June 26, 2017: Kumquat Cheesecake Honeybush!
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Tea Description: I'll admit it - I wasn't 100% convinced with this flavor idea when I was trying to think of a flavor for this week. I knew I wanted a caffeine-free blend - but I wasn't sure what direction to go in. I already had planned a lot of fruity, flavor packed teas - so if it was going to be a fruity flavor, I wanted it to be different than the other flavors that I had going on this month. I thought - almost joking with myself - hey, how about kumquat? Eventually, the kumquat idea began to take hold. I wanted something 'desserty' to go with it - something sweet as kumquat tends to be somewhat tart - but not too sweet. Something that would play to the tangy qualities of the kumquat notes.
So, I decided to go with cheesecake. I blended it and when it came time to taste test it - as I was steeping it - I started thinking of all kinds of ways to 'develop' the blend. "Maybe I'll add some spice. Cinnamon or cloves, perhaps? Maybe some ginger?" As I said, I wasn't 100% convinced with the idea of a Kumquat Cheesecake flavor.
Finally, after an 8 minute steep and another 10 minute cool time, I finally took a sip. And a smile came over me. My taste buds were delighted! This is really tasty! It turned out infinitely better than I imagined it to be - without spicing it up - so I decided that it should be left as is.
So here it is: a blend of organic, caffeine-free honeybush from South Africa and natural flavors (plus a few calendula petals to give it a pretty appearance). Having never actually tasted a Kumquat Cheesecake, I can't tell you definitively that it tastes exactly like one. But I can tell you that I can taste tangy cream cheese and the sweet and slightly sour flavor of kumquat. And I can tell you that if I were to imagine what a Kumquat Cheesecake would taste like, it would taste a lot like what I'm sipping right now.
organic ingredients: honeybush, calendula petals & natural flavors
Usually, when I'm headed into the tea studio to create a new tea, I do so with a clear idea of what I have in mind. Even though it may not seem like it, I do take quite a bit of time to plot and plan each tea. I take time to determine a balance of tea flavors for the month because I don't want to have a month of teas where one flavor profile monopolizes the month. In other words, I don't want three raspberry teas out of the five teas that I produce for the month (or any other flavor, for that matter. Raspberry just happened to be the first flavor that I thought of.) I try to keep things interesting and exciting - not only for you, the customer - but for me too - because I consider my palate to be Customer One - if I'm not pleased with what I've crafted, I'm not going to package it up and try to sell it to you. I don't consider myself to be that good a salesperson to be able to sell something I don't believe in 100%. So I want the teas for each month to have a good variety of flavor, to be fun and interesting and most of all - to be DELICIOUS!
For all the planning that I do, occasionally I get a mad idea (I am the mad tea artist, after all!) and that idea takes over and I start revamping my tea menu for the month. That happened when it came to blending June's teas.
I decided to blend TWO teas for the first week of the month since it's our anniversary month. I made this decision not so much to celebrate our anniversary but because I wanted to do a Unicorn and a Dragon tea - and I thought at first maybe I'd do the Unicorn tea on week 1 and then the Dragon tea on week 2 but since these two teas are kind of 'kindred spirits' - or perhaps yin and yang teas - I wanted them to be together in the same week so they could be announced at the same time rather than try to do them separately. It just seemed to make more sense for me to do them together. It might not make sense to you, but somehow, it made sense to me. I had a real lengthy discussion with myself about it and 'we' came up with the plan to have 2 teas in one week (and thus, cancelling the featured reblend tea for this month).
So with the fruitiness of the two teas - Unicorn and Dragon - plus having a Papaya in the Watermelon Patch and Just Peachy tea too - I wanted this week's tea to not have peach, watermelon, papaya, raspberry, blackberry, lime, blueberry, strawberry or mango in it. That's a pretty tall order and of course, as I was trying to think of what tea to work on for this week, I would come up with stuff like berry cobbler or peach smoothie . . . you know, exactly the stuff I didn't want to think of. So as I was debating with myself, I said, Hey, why not do a Kumquat tea? And then I said, hey, why not go totally mad and make a Kumquat Cheesecake tea?
So I tossed this idea back and forth - because I needed some convincing. I tasked the aureate part of my personality to come up with convincing arguments to persuade the zetetic in me. (Aureate and zetetic are actually words even though my spell check disagrees with me.)
Finally, the cantankerous part of me just said, "screw you, I'm just gonna do it."
And so I did despite the uncertainty that swelled around in my head.
But now that I'm sitting here, tasting this Kumquat Cheesecake Honeybush - I'm so glad that I decided to listen to myself and make this blend. This is really tasty!
The cheesecake is up front and center - I get that tangy, cream cheese flavor right off the bat - and the kumquat is more of an accent flavor. Imagine - if you will - a nice, thick cheesecake with a thin layer of kumquat curd spread on top. That's what I'm getting from this. More cheesecake than kumquat - but the kumquat sort of introduces itself now and then throughout the sip with a bright burst of its sour yet sweet flavor.
A very interesting taste - but one that I'm enjoying quite a bit. I think you will too!
to brew: As usual, I suggest going a little heavier on the leaf measurement with a honeybush (and/or rooibos - in this case, it's an 'and') blend because the herbal leaves produce a bit thinner of a taste and texture versus the camellia sinensis leaf. So you want to compensate for that "lesser" flavor a bit by adding just a little more leaf. I use 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons of the leaf to 12 ounces of hot water (heat it to 195°F, please - boiling water with rooibos and/or honeybush tends to produce a 'sour wood' flavor that I'm not particularly fond of. I find that a slightly lower temperature reduces and usually eliminates that odd sort of flavor which is why I advocate the lower temperature). Steep for 6 - 10 minutes - I went with 8 minutes. Strain and allow to cool for another 5 minutes or so. Enjoy!
You don't need sugar with this, but I find that a wee bit of sugar (maybe a 1/2 teaspoon) will enhance the cream cheese and kumquat notes.