Tasting Lab: Poet's Blend

AJ Ward - May 1, 2023

The Tasting Lab has been an Idea and pet project for a while, so I'm glad I get to see it come to fruition. It was conceived as a way to showcase ideas, finds, and old blending classics from the Big Black Book that haven't seen the light of day in decades, possibly even a century. A way to glimpse the ideas that go on behind the scenes at Head Office, and bring others along on an interesting taste-journey.

Experimentation has its ups and downs; occasionally you come across a tea you adore, but can't source the quantities you need for a full release. Sometimes you have ideas for flavour combinations that are so out there, you don't know if anyone else would be willing to try. Murchie's has a lot of history, and I look forward to exploring some of it with interested tea drinkers.

Poet's Blend

Catalogued as "No. 210" in our internal systems, my working name for this blend came about as a potential new addition to our long line of Literary Blends--the likes of Editors', Publisher's, Baker St. and Library, a Poet's Blend just made sense.

The blend itself is another story--the flavour and profile were inspired by Murchie's long history in green-black tea blending. This style of tea has its roots in the early Victorian period, but fell out of favour during the turn of the century, when green tea lost popularity in the west. That happens to be right around the time John Murchie first moved to New Brunswick, and he kept that style alive with him.

Many green-black blends use a scented green tea to add a touch of extra bouquet over a strong, flavourful body. Historically, these were teas scented with fragrant blossoms, including jasmine, rose, osmanthus, gardenia, magnolia, and yes--orange blossom. Jasmine was the most popular, due to the enticing aroma and longevity, and has stood the test of time, while many others have mostly disappeared. Rose and magnolia still see use, but I wanted to explore classical green-black blends with these other, 'vintage' scents.

It started by happening upon an oolong naturally flavoured with orange blossom. Orange blossom refers to the flowers of the bitter orange; the aroma is a subtle citrus, not sweet or juicy--instead highly floral, with a pleasantly bitter edge to it. I find it pairs particularly well with jasmine. Orange blossom as a flavour sees a lot of use in Middle Eastern and North African cooking, but has spread well into Europe and the Americas. It flavours desserts, pastries, sweets, and even beverages; orange blossom water is as versatile as rose water in a lot of home cooking.

Poet's Blend balances green, black, and a bit of oolong (similar to Canada 150 and Vanilla Jasmine). It's most similar to Library Blend, medium-bodied with perfumy jasmine to carry it forward. The black teas are slightly brisk, making for a pleasant afternoon pick-me-up cup, and the oolong helps bridge the green and black for a smoother cup. It leans greener, mellow, and, I think, worth sitting down for. Every sip is accented with the smell of orange blossom and jasmine.

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