Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tea Review: 3-Finger Black by Smith Teamaker

Tea reviews are fun to write, and give me the opportunity to share my tea tasting adventures with you. They can be helpful if you are mulling over what teas to buy, or looking for a particular brand or variety. Keep in mind that taste is subjective, and depending on how you prepare the tea and the water you use, you may have different results. I usually prepare the tea as instructed by the vendor, unless otherwise noted. If at first you're not happy with a tea, try adjusting your water temp, steep time, and amount of leaf. Keep experimenting and tasting!

I find tea has a sensory experience akin to listening to music. Both conjure up strong emotions and mindfulness. In fact, I wrote a little post about this maaannny years ago. I think they both also stimulate creativity and meditative thinking. Music and tea are deeply related, and it makes perfect sense that Smith Teamaker has partnered with 'banjo badass' (their phrase, but quite appropriate) Béla Fleck for the newest release in their Maker's Series, 3-Finger Black. You should definitely check out the story of the partnership on the Smith Tea website, as it gives entertaining information on how the blend came to be.

The Smith Teamaker website describes the blend as:
A brilliant three-part harmony of uniquely scented Pu-erh, Keemun and Zheng Shan black teas blended with notes of cacao, ginger, pink rose, osmanthus flowers and lavender. We're talkin' some tasty licks, folks.
I was skeptical of this combination when reading the box. I usually don't care for flowers in tea, especially lavender. But I've enjoyed all of the Smith Tea 'Maker's Series' blends I've tried in the past so I cultivated some positive vibes. I decided to prepare the tea for our weekly Office Tea Club meeting, to see how it fared with our group. This group can be ruthless.

The Office Tea Club spread

The ingredients are listed as: Black and Pu-erh teas from China (house scented with Bourbon vanilla bean and pecan wood), cacao nibs, ginger root, pink rose petals, osmanthus flower and lavender flower. The dry leaves have a strong lavender and ginger aroma, along with a bit of smoke (perhaps the floral notes included osmanthus, but none of us have ever smelled an osmanthus flower). A few of us raised our eyebrows in concern at how floral it smelled. As I steeped the tea, a smoky, slightly floral aroma filled the air. After sipping, the group was surprised that the floral notes were quite muted in the brew itself, acting more to even out the flavors in the tea. We tasted strong notes of earth, ginger, fruit, chocolate, something sweet, and a nice bit of smoke. The sweetness and the spice together reminded me of cinnamon, but I think it's just the ginger and wood notes working together. More than one person in the group commented that it was reminiscent of whiskey, which is definitely a big plus in our group. The dark amber color also reminded us of the spirit. This blend is extremely well balanced, and just all-around tasty. Everyone in the group enjoyed it, and my large tea pot was drained quickly.

Tony Tellin, the head tea man at Smith had this to say about the collaboration with Béla Fleck:
How he speaks about making music is how we, as teamakers, speak about making tea. How each and every element is considered, how they interact and balance each other to create a harmonious experience. How at times you search and perfect, but at others you just stumble upon something. How you just have to get started and be committed to making it the best it can be.
Thank you to Smith Teamaker for this delicious sample of 3-Finger Black! We all thoroughly enjoyed this harmonious blend.

1 comment:

  1. Traci aka teainfusiastMay 3, 2018 at 11:01 PM

    Wow! I can’t even imagine those flavors together. Interesting.