Tasting Lab: Okanagan Caravan

AJ Ward - Jan. 1, 2024

For 2023, I was able to bring back and showcase two discontinued blends from recent years. For 2024, I'm continuing that trend with our first tea of the year, but this time going back even further. Hidden in our blend book is a bold, malty, smoky tea that's perfect for fans of smoky Lapsang Souchong, Russian Caravan, Scottish Breakfast, and Storm Watcher.

It's only been just over half a year since the Tasting Lab project launched, and we've sampled four teas so far: two brand new blends, and two returning classics. From that, we've received a lot of feedback and kind words that have helped shape 2024's lineup. I'm looking forward to exploring even older blends (not seen in half a century!), and a couple interesting single-origin sourcings. We'll see where tasting takes us this year!

For January, I thought it would be fitting to open with a very hearty, warming tea for the colder months. 'Okanagan Caravan' ('Okanogan' to our friends to the south) is derived from our historic Blend Book, and is dated somewhere around the 1960s at least, likely earlier. The original blend was simply titled 'Okanagan Blend', a hearty mixture of malty India teas and smoky China teas. For it's 2023 rerelease, the blend has been renamed 'Okanagan Caravan' to better reflect its smoky nature, as a sister blend to 'Russian Caravan'. At the same time, I've updated the recipe to match our new teas. I think this one's a keeper.

Not for the faint of heart, the tasting notes for this tea open with intense smoke, campfire, and an inviting woodsyness. It has prominent notes of malt, cracked grains and pepper, with traces of grilled fruit and burnt sugar. I think I can best describe it as a middle-point between Scottish Breakfast, Storm Watcher, and Lapsang Souchong. This is a robust, cozy cup that feels like the perfect companion-tea for your thermos, keeping you warm outdoors in the dry Okanagan winters.

For fans of Murchie's other smoky blends, I think this tea competes with Parlour Room and London Afternoon for one of our smokiest. It's deeper and richer than our Russian Caravan, and more robust than our Baker St and Queen Victoria, both of which also include hints of Jasmine green tea and bergamot oil to set them apart. That leaves Okanagan Caravan in a category of its own, with malty, robust Indian teas making it an excellent, hearty breakfast blend.

So what of last year's Tasting Lab teas?

I've enjoyed reading through the letters and thoughts sent to us regarding the Tasting Lab lineup. I think there was a clear favourite, so keep an eye out--several will be returning for 2024!

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