I was tasked with a very simple assignment – to write about holiday teas. There was only one snag. I knew nothing about holiday teas. Most of them were blends, and I rarely talked about those. That and the majority of them contained things like – oh – pumpkin flavoring. Just . . . no.
The only holiday-ish tea-related anything I had any experience with was peppermint. That was the dominant ingredient in candy canes, right? I asked myself. Of course, I couldn’t give myself an answer, and I was too lazy to Google it. Peppermint certainly smelled like candy canes (if it was any good). Then another thought occurred to me . . .
Why don’t I blend with peppermint?
A dangerous prospect, to say the least. Peppermint rarely played well with others. And even when it did cooperate with other ingredients, it had a tendency to dominate the infusion. However, there was one tea in my arsenal that could hold up to – even possibly compliment – the addition of a little bit of peppermint.
Earlier in the week, I received a delivery of Doke Black Fusion (Autumn/Winter Flush 2014) in the mail. It was the third iteration of this particular tea I had tried. Before this, I field-tested the June pluck and the August offering. This was the December picking. Like the others before it, there was a character all its own.
It wasn’t as nutty as the first flush, nor as robust and honey-like as the autumnal. Instead, when I brewed it, I was reminded of a Darjeeling oolong crossed with . . . honey peanut butter-lathered celery sticks. (Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.) Its more herbaceous leanings might compliment the addition of a cooling herb like peppermint. Only one way to find out.
I went with a tablespoon of Black Fusion (the leaves were huge), and scooped barely a trickle of peppermint. A half a teaspoon of the herb, at most; I figured that would give enough of a flavor accent. That and I didn’t want to overshadow the Black Fusion’s smooth delivery.
For brewing, I figured both could take boiling water and a five-minute steep. This iteration of Black Fusion was noticeably subtler than its forebears. It required an extra minute of steep to shine through. Peppermint? It didn’t matter. That sucker could take anything.
The liquor brewed up a shiny crimson – as expected. Black Fusion always did brew to a pretty color. The aroma was all chestnuts and frost, which was semi-encouraging. The taste was odd. It was like Black Fusion was in one corner of a boxing ring, peppermint was in the other, and the two ingredients traded blows for a few seconds. Then they hugged out their differences in a snowfield.