Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why Dammann-Frères Is Probably A Beneficient Deity In Disguise

Whether we're detoxing, dieting, or indulging, tea is a completely guilt-free cup of happiness.  Some people may go for the white, green, or herbal teas, while some people love the zing of black tea, and others are addicted to the flavor of black tea with milk (which I was for a while after spending a semester in England).  Some people really can't deal with tea unless it's sweetened, and some people love the kind of chai you get at Starbucks (and I have to confess that one winter when our heating in our 1907 house was broken, my mother and I subsisted on boiling hot chai tea made from powdered stuff from Kroger, which is never the best thing for you unless it is keeping your safe from hypothermia!)  But, hiding out there in the exotic world of tea, mysteries await!  (And it's October, so I can finally blog about hot tea without sounding totally nuts.)

Well, it's a bit less romantic than that.  I was on a four-day weekend trip to Paris while going to school in England, and stopped by a Monoprix to buy a baguette and some apples.  Then I realized I hadn't bought forty gifts for my mother yet, and clearly she needed yet another souvenir from Paris.  We're huge tea drinkers, so I wandered over to the tea aisle to pick up some authentic French tea (from, uh, the cheap grocery in a basement on the Champs Elysées.  I figured she never had to know).  I found a really pretty embossed black box and bought it because it was gorgeous.  Months later, I unpack my suitcase in the United States, we make tea in celebration despite the boiling hot Georgia summer, and it was love at first scent.

I'd accidentally stumbled upon twenty bags of Dammann-Frères' Goût Russe Douchka, one of the most delicately flavored gourmet black teas I'd ever tasted in my life.  Dammann-Frères calls it "citrusy"; I call it "awesome".  We stretched those twenty bags out to last a year, and then my mother hit on the brilliant idea of checking to see if they had a website.  They did!  It was a miracle!  It seemed enormously pricey, especially with shipping, but we couldn't help ourselves.  For the winter holidays, we treated ourselves to a bag of Goût Russe Douchka and another of Earl Grey Goût Russe.  And we've never looked back.

The Earl Grey is the best I've ever tasted.  The bergamot is brilliant, the tea leaves are fresh, and there are actual pieces of orange peel and blue bonnet flowers in the mix.  It's lovely to look at, and the infused tea color is  a stunning golden amber.  The aroma has dashes of citron in it mixing with the oil of bergamot, and the flavor is beautifully balanced--it's 5 euros for 100 grams, and these leaves are such high-quality that two pinches are enough to infuse an entire teapot!

When last winter came around, it was my turn to splurge for my mother, and I went all out!  (Perhaps secretly knowing that she'd offer me some tea to keep me cosy in my apartment so far away from her.  But only perhaps.)  I ordered bags of the two I've already described, and found three others, mainly operating on pure luck and the knowledge that she doesn't like caramel...

Coquelicot Gourmand is just a gorgeous tea--look at it!  Pink peony and cornflower petals make up the color, and the flavors are a blend of tea along with poppy, marzipan, and whatever "biscuit" is.  It's a sweeter scent, and it reminds me a bit of a raspberry glaze over a tart.  I drink it whenever I feel particularly cheerful.

7 Parfums has my beloved bergamot oil and citrus, and gets its lovely color from actual red and white rose petals.  Stunning.  Absolutely stunning.  It tastes as luxurious as a red carpet gown.  It's not as candy-like as Coquelicot Gourmand, which I love--and when I'm not practically making love to the Earl Grey, this is my favorite tea.

Temple d'Angkor is a green flavored tea, and although the description says that it's got flavors of green apple, green lemon, and melon, the impression I got was somewhere between a faint flavor of a sour apple piece of hard candy and a piece of caramel.  Which, occasionally, I'm in the mood for--and my mother, who is an avowed despiser of caramel, loves it!  So you know.  To each her own.

This one is the coolest one ever.  I haven't dared to buy it, because it's so darn expensive (12 euros!) and presumably has only one use, but my gosh.  Look at it!  The Dragon Enchanté is an actual dragon!  It's tea leaves crafted together to produce a dragon whose eyes glow orange and whose mane swells when dropped into hot water!  You've got to have a glass teapot for this; there's no other way.  Wow!  Have you ever seen anything like this?

So there go my plugs for the most amazing tea I've ever tasted.  No, nobody is paying me to gush about these, but they make me so happy I cannot help myself.  If you, or anyone you know, really loves drinking tea, give this brand a shot.

 As a girl who has such an overwhelming love of really good bread, I have to say that the amazing flavor of these teas has often stopped me from inhaling an entire loaf of freshly baked bread in a morning.  It's a life- and waistline-saver!