Christmas Teas: which teas should I choose?
No Christmas would be complete without some good Christmas teas to enjoy, no matter how many glasses of wine, champagne or liqueurs are drunk. In fact, several cups could quite conceivably be drunk so which should you choose at the various stages of this special day?
Waking up to a stocking
Whether we are opening one ourselves or looking at children opening theirs is essential to have an early morning cup of tea – even if Father Christmas isn’t able to bring you one personally. I like a good cup of Russian Caravan as it has a satisfying complexity and sufficient body for first thing in the morning without being too strong. As an alternative, I like Ceylon Dimbula which has sufficient body but a certain lightness.
A good English breakfast
If you have time before going to Church or are still recovering from the pub after mid-night mass the previous evening a hearty English breakfast is essential. Today of all days should not be one for guilt! I like a full bodied malty Assam from northern India to cut through my fry-up. It is an immensely satisfying cup that will have you gasping for more by the time you have mopped up the mushrooms with your fried bread! Our English Breakfast Blend is hugely popular but is for those who like a tea which is slightly lighter than a builders brew – having a little Darjeeling, together with Assam and Ceylon. Perfect if the fry-up is not to tempt you!
To accompany a light lunch?
We have our Christmas dinner in the evening so lunch is a light affair (particularly after that breakfast!). So what would you have with such foods as smoked mackerel pate, freshly carved gammon or salmon with salad? For the committed green tea drinker and for those who have no such persuasions I would stay with green. What could be better than good quality Jasmine Pearls in which the floral aroma is wonderfully encapsulated? The highly acclaimed Mao Feng in green form is a brilliant alternative, having a robust quality that will take food well. Of course, for smoked foods such as the pate or salmon a glass of smoky Lapsang Souchong would go down a treat. Yes, tea can look good in a glass – with a stem!
By definition this is the best time for tea and provides the perfect accompaniment to Christmas cake. So what to choose? To accompany the rich fruit of this cake one of my favourites is China Keemun as it has that beautiful burgundy wine character – it’s not called the ‘Burgundy of teas’ for nothing! If not this, then the other classic afternoon tea is Darjeeling. Perhaps a first or second flush. The former is crisp, refreshing and uniquely light and muscatel. The latter is a little less brisk and has a fuller, smoother body. Neither of these teas should be drunk with milk. If you are a green tea lover then green Darjeeling is increasingly admired or you could go for a China green such as Tian Mu Qing Ding – one of our organic teas – or the famous Lung Ching (Dragon Well) which is perfect with toasted tea-cakes.
If you have already over-indulged in the gin and tonic and wine by this stage of the day then what could go with turkey – or beef if that is your preference. I would choose a medium bodied and fragrant Nilgiri or Ceylon – perhaps a Nuwara Eliya high-grown which has a great floral quality. After dinner, as an alternative to coffee I would choose a flavoured tea such as Winter Warmer with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon or Masala Chai. I know that we in this country have an undying passion for all things spicy – however ours is aromatic rather than spicy, as it has no ginger. Orange with spices is another that warms the cockles as it has a lovely heartiness, having the addition of cloves.
To unwind, tea offers many fabulous alternatives to alcohol. Have you tried white tea? Baihao Zinzhen (White Needle) has a well-known buttery character. Alternatively, try Snow Bud which has a slightly more pronounced floral quality and nuttiness. Like all white teas they are very delicate and light so evening is the perfect time to drink them.
Oolongs are best drunk in the evening and make an excellent digestif. Try our unusual Happy Valley Darjilong Organic which has great complexity whilst being unmistakably a Darjeeling. Formosa Toppest Oolong Silver Tip is a delight to savour and like most oolongs from Taiwan is slightly blacker than China oolongs. Of the latter the wonderfully named Monkey Picked Oolong is a favourite being light and floral. The famous Da Hong Pao (China Royal Red Robe) is a great tea to be experienced at the end of a long day having been aged to give a distinct and complex character.
I hope you are not feeling too exhausted by this romp through an eclectic assortment of Christmas teas that will complement and almost certainly enhance your experience of Christmas day. One thing is for certain, tea need not just be drunk first thing in the morning and at tea-time, even on such a day of celebration!