Sampling Loose Leaf Teas
Oregon Tea Traders has a huge selection of high-quality teas and artisanal blends. The teas are perfect for relaxing or for a hike into nature. I have sampled several of the company's teas, and I wanted to tell you about some of my favorites.
Oregon Tea Traders is based in Eugene, Oregon. They connect with tea traders from all around the world including Kenya, China, Nepal, and Thailand, as well as within the United States. The company works hard to bring attention to unique tea flavors. The company also promotes ethical trading and loose leaf tea production in the United States.
Several of the teas have a North American twist to them. From magnolia to birch, there are some flavors that might make you feel like you're traveling into the wilderness.
By sipping a cup of tea, you're supporting good wages for farmers, sustainable agriculture, and a small family-based business. Oregon Tea Traders connects with farmers that do their work in harmony with the surrounding environment. They avoid chemical additives in their farming practices. They also respect animals by not disturbing their habitats.
The farmers take steps to nurture the soil and conserve water. The tea blends are made from organic ingredients.
|Teas||Loose Leaf Type||Brewing Temperature||Time|
Crater Lake Blue
Black Magnolia American Grown
1. Crater Lake Blue
I've never had a tea quite like this one. Believe it or not, when it is brewed it actually has a dark teal color. I've never seen another tea with this hue. It also has a flavor profile that's unmatched. This is the first tea I recommend to others.
The blend is a mixture of Oregon herbs and butterfly pea flowers. My friends and I suspect it has hints of oregano. I would also bet that rosemary is in the mix. Its flavor is unexpected and subtle; its incredible color is bright and bold. Crater Lake Blue is calming; it puts you in a euphoric mood for the day. It also transports you to the West Coast.
The blend is grown and processed in Oregon. The brewed tea is meant to capture the gorgeous vista at Crater Lake National Park, which is home to the deepest lake in the United States. It is famous for its captivating blue color and water clarity. The lake is fed solely by rain and snow.
- Hearty breakfast with eggs and sausage
- Salt-encrusted prime rib with onion rings
- Chicken salad sandwich with chips
- Toasted mozzarella and sundried tomatoes on brioche with kalamata olives
- Spring vegetable medley mixed into a risotto
I would argue this tea is best served with a savory or salty meal. There is something young about the tea's flavor that lends itself to spring or summer. It's not a dessert tea. Anything with herbs will pair well with it.
Time of Day
This is an herbal tea, so I doubt it has any caffeine in it. I would recommend drinking a hot cup of it in the morning or early afternoon. It's a soothing tea, and it whisks you off to nature. It has a certain freshness that reminds me of sunrise, light fog, or gentle rain. It's the perfect tea for a hike. It's what Oregon would taste like if the state was compressed down into a thimble.
2. Birch Chai
If you love root beer and chai, this blend is perfect for you. It's sweet, spicy, and has a slight kick to it. Birch chai is a herbal tea. It has a flavorful combination of spices with wildcrafted birch bark as its base.
Sassafras and sasparilla are traditionally used in root beers. Birch is often added or is the main ingredient to create birch beer. Root beverages have been around for a long time. Native Americans were cultivating them well before the arrival of Europeans in North America.
My friends and I think there might be a hint of cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper in the tea—that's what we can distinguish as the chai. I would describe the drink as peppery, warm, and soothing. It's a blend that I think is appropriate for fall or winter. It works beautifully as a Christmas beverage.
Make a Chai Latte
It's easy to turn this blend into a chai latte. All you have to do is brew up a strong cup of tea then add a teaspoon of sugar. Next, foam milk on the stove. Either whisk vigorously or use a milk frother. Pour the steamed milk into your cup, and you're done!
- Mulligatawny soup with a side of sliced apples
- Roasted chicken and baked potatoes
- Coffee cake and spiced pears
- Pumpkin spiced muffins and maple bacon
- Roasted apples wrapped in prosciutto
Birch chai pairs well with comfort foods and spicy dessert treats. The beverage's warm flavors make it more suited for fall or winter foods such as figs, pumpkins, apples, cranberries, and maple.
Time of Day
I recommend drinking this tea in the afternoon with a spicy treat or at lunch or dinner. It's appropriate for dinner parties or cozy gatherings by a bonfire. Instead of hot chocolate or apple cider try birch chai. It's perfect to sip while eating snacks and socializing with friends.
3. Black Magnolia American Grown
This is a distinctive loose leaf tea grown and processed at the Great Mississippi Tea Company. The magnolia tea has long, twisted black leaves. It has a medium body, and a sweet molasses finish.
It is a slightly bitter tea, but in a good way. It's not fierce or pungent, although the flavor does linger in your mouth after swallowing. (It lingers on the back of your tongue.) One of my friends recommends adding a teaspoon of sugar and/or cream.
It reminds me of English breakfast tea. It's not as robust as that, but it is in the same flavor department. You can taste the molasses when you swallow, which adds a touch of sweetness. It has a dark reddish-brown color and a subtle sweet scent.
FYI: The tea is grown in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Magnolias are Mississippi's state tree and flower. It's also called "The Magnolia State"; so magnolias are a big part of Mississippi's DNA.
- Fried chicken, fried okra, biscuits and gravy
- Catfish and cornbread
- Fried mozzarella sticks and fried green tomatoes
- Fried eggs and hushpuppies
- Crab cakes and mashed potatoes
This tea screams Mississippi—it is certified Southern. It pairs well with soul foods and comfort foods. It's perfect with fried treats. The tea would also complement Cajun-style food. I don't think this is the best tea for dessert unless it is a more bitter-tasting dessert or full to the brim with nuts.
Time of Day
Afternoon with lunch would be my recommendation. A hot cup of it might be nice in the morning to help wake you up, but it's not as strong as coffee. The tea is perfect to sip while sitting on a porch and watching the goings-on of your neighborhood. A rocking chair isn't required, but it's highly recommended to get the right mise-en-scène.
4. Rose Chai
Rose chai is sweet and spicy blend with a red hue. It's aromatic with a hint of rose. It has a more peppery taste than the birch chai.
It is a mix of Indian spices with a fine Assam black tea. I believe there is a hint of cardamom in it. It's a floral tea that isn't overbearing (some floral teas are pungent or soapy). The spices are the loudest part of the tea at the beginning and then you can taste the Assam and then the rose.
Rose chai freshens your breath. It's a great after-dinner tea if you need to clear your palate. It's not as effective as a mint tea, but it's in the same realm.
It reminds me of a fruit cider. In fact, it would probably taste really good mixed into an apple or peach cider. It's a more dessert-like chai. I associate it with fall.
Did You Know?
Assam tea is indigenous to Assam, India. Assam tea is manufactured from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica. It is produced in a tropical climate, which causes it to have its distinct malty taste.
- Chocolate cake with a side of strawberries
- Fruit or cheese-filled Danishes
- Mango cheesecake
- Spicy lentil soup and a turkey sandwich on a croissant
- Chana masala with garlic naan
Rose chai is great with Indian dishes and desserts. The spicy chai works well with chocolate, vanilla, berries, and lemony treats. Foods with cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, paprika, and ginger also go well with it.
Time of Day
Even though this is a black tea, and therefore has caffeine, I think rose chai is the perfect dinner or dessert drink. It's a slightly romantic drink that's meant for chocolate-covered strawberries, sitting by a cozy fireplace, and getting comfy under a blanket.
It's a highly sippable tea and meant for lounging, not for charging you up before/during work.
Cardamom is my favorite spice, and this tea is based around it. I would consider Daydreamer's a dessert tea. My friend described it as, "like a lover's kiss, sweet and leaves you wanting more."
The tea is a blend of rose, cardamom, vanilla, and black tea. The flavors linger on the palate. I can taste the cardamom right off the top. I can also smell the cardamom.
The rose and vanilla blend together seamlessly with a strong, but delightful finish. When you swallow, you can really taste all the nuanced flavors. It's also not bad on the breath.
There is a slight citrusy flavor. The first time I drank it, I thought of a very subtle lemon bar. The tea itself has a peach-amber color. It's a pretty shade, and it adds to the elegance and daintiness of the drink.
Did You Know?
Cardamom is used frequently in Indian cuisine. If you're unfamiliar with it, it tastes piney, fruity, and almost menthol-like. It's a close relative to ginger and turmeric. If you have too much cardamom, it'll taste bitter, but that's not the case with this tea. It is sweet, inviting, and playful. Cardamom is often compared to cinnamon.
Cardamom also comes in different colors. The black type is smokier. The green type is citrusy and a bit minty.
- Strawberry bundt cake with lemon glaze
- Vanilla tea cake cookies
- Blueberry banana bread
- Afternoon tea finger sandwiches with egg salad, cucumber, and chicken
- Peach cobbler with a side of vanilla ice cream
You want to drink this tea with sweets. It's meant for a decadent occasion. A sweet drink should be paired with sweet treats and light snacks, like mini sandwiches. It is a black tea, so it does have some caffeine.
Time of Day
I recommend this blend for an afternoon tea party. The tea will put you in a good mood. It has a certain whispy optimism to it, like you're floating on a cloud. I would drink this when you want to escape from the world, not when you've got to sit down and focus hard on something.
6. Oregon Rain
This refreshing tea is grown and processed in Oregon. It's like walking through a meadow after a light rain. This herbal tea goes well with Crater Lake Blue.
Oregon Rain is a delightful blend of lavender, rosemary, and lemon balm. I can taste all three of those flavors distinctly, and yet they all somehow blend together as one. This is one of the best teas I've tried with lavender. Often when something is made with lavender it tastes soapy, that's not the case here. The lavender tastes sweet, and I think the other flavors balance it out.
The lemon balm adds a nice warm citrusy flavor. It gives the tea body. If a lemon drop was turned into a loose leaf tea and made more sweet than sour . . . Oregon Rain would be it.
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. So this is another tea that's nice on the breath. This blend combines a lot of flavors that are used in medicinal teas.
- Lavender is suggested to help with sleep, reduce inflammation, and boost immune health.
- Lemon balm is used to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and boost cognitive function.
- Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation.
- Primavera pasta with chicken kabobs
- Veggie pita filled with hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce.
- Strawberry scones with vanilla yogurt
- Raspberry lemon cake and peach sorbet
- Carrot cake
A hot cup goes well with a light lunch, particularly a vegetarian one. Foods you associate with spring pair well with this blend. It's also a great tea for berry desserts.
Time of Day
I think you can drink this tea any time of day. Its freshness lends itself to morning time. I would almost recommend drinking it in the shower (with a sealed cup, of course). The drink also works well with a late-night snack. Since the tea has ingredients that are helpful for sleep, a hot cup of this before going to bed might help you drift off to dreamland.
7. Blackberry Basil (Green)
If you don't have a go-to green tea, this could be it. I love green tea. It's my favorite afternoon beverage. Oregon Tea Traders have put out a green tea that's fruity, sweet, vegetal, and a touch spicy.
The tea has a yellow color on par with white grape juice. It doesn't have a strong scent when it's brewed. Before brewing, it smells like a green tea ice cream that you'd order at a fancy sushi restaurant.
The blackberries make it a more summery drink. You could drink this cold while enjoying a lovely summer day outside. Or drink it warm while you sit inside cooped up by a fire.
I would call this a no-fuss green tea. It doesn't have anything overwhelming to it. It's very smooth and subtle. The spicy, basil parts lightly dance on your tongue. I would suggest adding a teaspoon of honey.
My friend says she could taste more of the blackberry initially and more of the basil in the aftertaste. Her husband said it has fruity hints. When I drink it warm, I can taste a lot more of the spices and the basil. When I drink it cold, it tastes sweeter to me. (This drink is playful and can greet you in several different ways.)
- Skirt steak with grilled pineapples
- BLT with potato salad
- Strawberry shortcake with cinnamon ice cream
- Miso soup and sushi
- Tomato and roasted garlic pie
I feel like it goes well with a lot of typical lunch foods from salads, sandwiches, to pasta. The drink is best paired with summer foods. Anything with tomato goes well with it. It's also good with traditional Japanese cuisine. It's a nice drink that doesn't overwhelm your palate, making it sublime for meals.
Time of Day
Green tea typically doesn't have as much caffeine as black tea, so it's okay to drink later in the day. I would recommend drinking this in the afternoon. It doesn't have enough buzz for the morning.
© 2021 Andrea Lawrence