Since I was about 10, I've loved tea. I LIKED it before—preferred it iced, not oversweet most of the time; if it was to be sweet SWEET tea it had better be strong enough to knock over a godsdamned house, that's to be sure. I've been basically fiending on it since we accidentally discovered it would work on my ADHD instead of the drugs.
I couldn't focus, and one day my uncle asked me if I'd tried this tea right here, this green tea that was just really freaking strong that he couldn't figure out how to make potable to save his life, and in the week it took to figure out how to brew Ceylon teas (remember, we're Black Americans living in Black America, and this is the mid 90's at the time, there aren't resources in our area for tea at the time other than the occasional Claudia-centric Babysitters Club book), the both of us were so mellow and focused that my dad--his brother--wondered if we'd been replaced with pod people. This same week was my appointment for my suspected ADHD. Having heard about this alphabet soup my uncle comes with, as does an aunt. My doctor notices how much more mellow and focused I've become, and Unc and I mention the tea adventure. That's where we learn the beginnings of tea research, and how stimulants (like the ADD/ADHD pills and caffeine) work in managing this thing.
We take one look at each other and go, "Makes sense."
Dad and the aunt that went with us take one look at each other and go, "Whut?"
Since then my tea fascination has only expanded, from strictly "this is delicious" to "So if this ails you I can throw this that and the other into a pot and have a fix for you, yeah?" That brings us to the bonus section here: a tea review!
No, this is not a comically large spoon or a comically small cup. I typically drink my tea from demitasse-sized or espresso-sized cups, and if I sweeten it I don't use much—excepting my Lousiana-style iced tea, which is strong enough to knock a house over and sweet enough to convince an idiot not to blackmail your friend. The clarity is very nice, and the scent is crisp, almost coffee-like.
At first I thought it was my brewing method—
But I'd run a cycle of CLR through the thing, which removes hard water deposits from the brewer, and the carafe had received the same treatment. Little tip: when you use this cleaning method, run a second full carafe of plain water through the machine before you brew anything, to prevent any chemical from getting into your cuppa.
Little known trick: If you own a little four-cup Mr. Coffee-style brewer, you have one of the best ways to brew loose leaf tea out there already. Because the water is never AT boil, it's nigh impossible to cook your tea to death and overbrew it. Further, your leaves have plenty of room in the filter to expand, and you don't have to monitor temperatures quite as obsessively.
Oh, right, don't forget to use a filter. Otherwise you have a reeeeeeeeeeeeal bitch to clean up. As an added bonus you can get a second full-strength brew out of those leaves, just like if you used a tea ball or other more traditional infusion method.
This is only a teaspoon and a half of leaves. The general rule is a teaspoon of leaves per person per pot and an extra for the pot (assuming you're brewing traditionally.) I like strong tea but decided to go with the usual strength. They expand like whoa, and you can see why I said to use a filter if you're going the Mr Coffee (renamed Mr. Tea for me here) route. In fact, the presene of Ceylon in this blend means you have wicked tannins, and they'll bake up as hot tea tends to do to them. If you want to minimize the staining in your mugs and the amount of tannin floating around (because it does aggregate), double up. Use two filters. (No more than two. You'll flood the brew basket.)
Taste 1, straight: STRONG. assertive and coffee-like almost. It's potent, and has this light but sweet air that almost doesn't need anything.
Taste 2, with monkfruit sweetener: This is a VERY EASY TO OVERSWEETEN tea. I only used a slxth of a packet and it was overdoing it. If you sweeten this, make it a strong cup.
Taste 3, with sweet cream and a little sugar: OKAY, STOP. WHAT GAVE YOU THE RIGHT.
This is delicious. Sweetening it by itself is NO for me. It just DOESN'T WORK. But with cream, OH GOOD GRIEF. I'd brewed the entire four-cup (translation: four-person intended) thing and drunk two thirds of it like this, just shotgunning one after the other in disbelief. Adding cream to this tea gives it a nutty, almond-like richness. It becomes like a dessert that you want to eat.
Verdict: If you like a black tea for all occasious, aren't frightened off by loose leaf tea, and suspect that you might be a liiiiiiiitle bit of a tea snob (I will willingly admit that I am), GET THIS TEA. If you're curious about what good tea tastes like, GET THIS TEA. If you like te, GET THIS TEA.
TL;DR: GET THIS TEA.