Russian Caravan name originates from the 18th century camel caravans that facilitated the transcontinental tea trade, from tea-producing areas to Russia.
A blended tea is a mixture of single origin teas all put together to yield a magnificent taste and flavour. Russian Caravan is a perfect example of a blended tea and its ingredients are sourced from China. It is easy on the palate and makes a lovely breakfast tea - a wakeup call and treat for the taste buds.
As the name would suggest, it was made for the Russian market. This exotic blend is made of the finest Oolong and Keemun tea leaves. The leaves that make up a serving of Russian Caravan come from a couple of different regions in China, and are produced in various ways. Oolong is grown in and around the Wuyi Mountains and is produced in a unique manner. The tea is withered under the strong sun and oxidises until the leaves twist and curl up giving Oolong its unique look. Keemun comes from the Anhui province.
It is said that tea was introduced to Russia in the early seventeenth century. The ruler of Mongolia, Altyun-Khan, sent a gift of tea to Tsar Michael Fedorovich. Regular trade between the two countries was then established by the signing of the Treaty of Nerchinska in 1689. Initially tea was a status symbol reserved for the Russian elite, but the ceremony around tea was gradually adopted by other social groups who also experimented with the way they brewed and served this fantastically aromatic drink.
Russian Caravan has a really interesting story to it. Although the tea leaves used in Russian Caravan come from China, the name refers to the 18th century camel caravans that travelled the huge transcontinental distances along the 'Great Tea Road' to bring tea from China to Europe. The route took the travellers from Kashgar behind China's Great Wall, through the Gobi Desert to Urga in Mongolia covering roughly six thousand miles in total. The conditions for most of the voyage were harsh. It is said that the tea leaves would take on an additional smoky taste as a result of all the smouldering campfires lit along the way.
We can think of no better way to be able to pay homage to those journeys than tasting some of this Russian Caravan, and maybe having a look at how people in Russia or this part of the world would have been drinking this tea at that time.
BREWING, SERVING AND TASTING YOUR TEA
We believe that how you make your tea is equally as important as the tea you use; here’s how we like to make this particular tea:
- Use fresh, clean water to help develop the flavour, and ideally, brew it in a teapot.
- Warm the pot or infuser first with boiled water, swirl it around and rinse it out ready to be filled again.
- Use one rounded teaspoon per person and one for the pot. This ensures the best results but do add more if you prefer a stronger flavour.
- Pour on freshly boiled water.
- • Allow to steep for 3 to 4 minutes for the perfect flavour.
- Caravan tea has a fantastic taste profile to it that also works with milk. Those with a sweet-tooth can also add a spot of sugar if they wish. Alternatively, it’s not uncommon to use a bit of honey with this tea just to give it a natural sweetness.
Savour the flavours! Keep your tea fresh by storing it somewhere cool, dark, dry and airtight.
TRADITIONALLY PREPARED RUSSIAN CARAVAN TEA
Before we take a look at our Russian Caravan’s taste profile, let’s have a look at how this drink would have been (and still is) drunk in Russia using a Samovar. Samovar is a Russian word meaning ‘self cooking’ or ‘self boiling’.
In the base chamber, the water is consistently kept very hot and just below the boil. In a more traditional samovar, fire cones or coals are kept in a tube or pipe that runs right the way through the centre. Modern versions have an electrical element instead. A teapot is kept on the top and this part will contain a very strongly brewed tea. In here, the Russian Caravan is sometimes stewed for hours resulting in a strong black syrup-like brew. You then mix this syrup with a bit of hot water from the samovar. Et voila, a cup of traditionally prepared Russian Caravan tea.
THIS TEA HAS BEEN SOURCED BY MASTER TEA BLENDER/BUYER ANDREW WHITTINGHAM
Andrew has travelled all over the world sourcing teas, herbs and spices. His blends reflect the memories of those travels and the people he met.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Two things stand out for me: tasting tea is a real delight, and meeting with the various producers who have a real passion for their teas.
HOW DID YOU LEARN ALL ABOUT THE INTRICACIES AND FLAVOURS OF TEA?
Much of the tea knowledge and understanding is passed down from generation to generation of tea buyers – I have learnt from fellow tea buyers, but also from spending many years travelling the world talking and tasting with farmers, tea producers and tea tasters. Tasting at origin with the people that nurture the plants really helps you understand the care and passion that goes into producing a great tasting tea.
TASTING NOTES AND FLAVOUR WHEEL: LOOK – SMELL – TASTE
When you smell and taste your tea, why not use the Twinings flavour wheel and see what aromas and tastes you come up with. First of all, before your nostrils come close to the tea liquor, just smell the back of your hand as this helps to cleanse your palette. As expected from the initial aroma from the infused leaf, the first aroma coming from the infused tea will be the Oolong tea that is letting off that heavy scent.
The ingredients of this Russian Caravan blend have been rolled using the traditional orthodox method of manufacture which gives a delicate wiry whole leaf look and feel.
Pouring the tea into your cup you will notice a beautiful golden hue coming from the liquor just like the warm golden colour of Californian sunshine.
A taste best described as a "savoury smoothness" permeates this tea, yet the tea is unmistakably Keemun - like Yunnan but "nuttier" - first and foremost. It is a powerful mouth experience, not so much in the head but in the main body of the drink. A couple of seconds after entering through the lips, we’re getting a nice feeling around the jaw and cheeks. This tea produces a bright coppery and amber coloured liquor and creates an unforgettable light brew with hints of honey sweetness. If you add milk, the liquor turns pinkish in colour.