Tea Tasting, Part I

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One of my fondest—and most vivid—childhood memories is going to the tobacco shop with my father, who smoked a pipe.*

Bear with me, I’ll get to the tea in a sec.

Pipe-shop adventures

Now, Dad has long since quit smoking and tobacco shops are getting harder and harder to find. When you do happen upon one, it’s usually slicker, slightly nightclub-y, and more focused on cigar culture.

In fact, most of Boston’s tobacco shops are more like fancy smoking lounges. They’re dark and library-ish, with polished wooden bars, deep leather club chairs, and pretty young waitresses. These places are lovely, for sure, but they’re not all what I’m talking about.

I mean old-fashioned shops with barrels of pipe tobacco and the big wooden Indian outside who always seemed—to a little mouse—like he was 10 feet tall. There were the shopkeepers, who were always really nice to me. There were those tempting displays of fuzzy pipe cleaners.

But most of all, there were all those wonderful smells. The air was always thick with an intoxicating mix of cherry, amber, honey, vanilla, and rum.

Today, one of the only traditional tobacco shops left here in town is Leavitt & Peirce, a 118-year-old institution in Harvard Square. Paul Leavitt, the owner, is a really nice guy—and a good, old friend of The Angry Chef. (He lets us come in and sniff around whenever we like.)

Every once in a while, something zaps me back to those days when I would tag along with my father. It’s usually a taste or a smell. Certain whiskeys will do it. And, oddly enough, so will some teas.

Of tea and tobacco

Revolution Honeybush Caramel Tea is one of those teas. At the risk of sounding excessive and just a little bit silly, it should come with a velvet smoking jacket, fireplace, and a pair of fine leather slippers.

I happened upon it quite by accident, when the Lady Otter and I were traipsing through the grocery store late one Sunday night. She has a fondness for caramel teas, but I hadn’t really tried one before.

Man, am I glad I did. This tea is ridiculously delicious.

This full-bodied tea has warm, burnt-sugar and honey notes and a vaguely smokey flavor. It comes in slippery nylon tea bags, and brews into a deep red jewel tone.

Made with rooibos, a South African herb that’s fermented into tea, it’s caffeine free, and has more antioxidents than green tea.

This tea is lovely on its own, and approaches decadent when you add a little milk and sugar.

I’m thinking it would make a great hot-toddy type concoction if you dropped in a little scotch (or even Drambuie).

If you can’t find it at your local grocer, you can order it directly from Revolution. A box of 16 regular tea bags (pictured above) is $5.99. They also sell 20 pyramid-style infuser bags for $8.25.

*For any anti-smoking peeps out there who may be furrowing their brows, you should know that The Hungry Mouse quit smoking a number of years ago. (Because, you know, it’s bad for you.) This is just a nostalgic tale.


Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse�/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. Thanks, guys! Definitely give this one a shot. The flavor is excellent. I think it could even be good in baked goods. (Hmmmm, maybe I need to try to whip up some cookies or a little cake...) +Jessie
  2. I've had a few experiences with these crazy designer teas before. I tried a chocolate caramel tea recently which while it sounds good, was pretty awful. I want to believe that this one is good and you've convinced me, I'll keep my eyes out for this one!
  3. Sounds great. Like Nick, I've tried some really weird designer teas with strange flavours and most of it are...well...bleargghh...but you made this one sounds good.
  4. Smell-driven memories are one of life's underrated pleasures. As for the tea, I am tempermentally about as Midwestern as they come, but my dad grew up in Alabama and I, therefore, grew up on absurdly sweet iced tea, which I admit that I still like. But I remember the first time I smelled a good, fresh Assam tea, it was a revelation.
  5. I love tea! It is the first thing I think of when my eyes open in the morning. I'm very picky about it. I totally trust you not to steer me wrong. Am always on the lookout for new flavors and this one sounds great!