Reviewing two more blends from the Great Mississippi Tea Company. There was more on this producer that I already shared in this discussion with the owners, or an interview post with Jason McDonald (one owner), and reviews of other tea blends and plain teas, with this the latest, including a yellow tea.
Their teas are pretty good, especially for them being so new to production, something like a half dozen years in. Especially the blends, maybe; they are doing truly novel things, creating what didn't exist before, partially in response to a US preference for teas with flavor range beyond standard oolong and such. I suppose it's that Americans really just aren't as aware of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian teas as they might be, so strong-flavored and novel blends can stand out something new to experience, that those consumers also aren't currently aware of, but at least it's clearer what they are.
Onto review then, after also mentioning the Great Mississippi Tea Company descriptions:
Biloxi Breeze is our newest item for the summer. It is a blend of MS Queen, strawberries, Kaffir lime leaves, and jalapenos.
You supply the ice and lime and this set comes with everything you will need to make a Biloxi Breeze. If you would like, add Tequila and Triple Sec for a little extra fun!
It is the perfect balance of sweet, refreshing, and a little kick to make it fun!
Each kit makes roughly 1/2 gallon.
Tea blend ingredients: MS Queen (green tea), Freeze Dried Strawberries, Kaffir Lime, Strawberry Extract, Dried Jalapeno Peppers.
I had no idea that was intended as an alcoholic drink mix, served cold, or a "mocktail / virgin" version of that. I guess reading the directions makes sense sometimes. It probably would work well for that, although I really don't drink alcohol (not that I wouldn't, I just don't), and not being into pepper spice in general would throw it off.
Pecan Smoked Tea Blend Using US Grown Black Tea & Oolong Tea
This is a real stunner of a tea! Perfect iced with pulled pork at a barbecue or hot while sitting by a fire reading your favorite book.
This is a pecan wood cold smoked black and oolong tea blend with dried peach pieces. The pecan wood smoke lends a vanilla note to the tea.
1 rounded tsp per 8 oz. of 200F water. Steep for 5 minutes.
I can see why they are designing and promoting teas prepared as iced tea; that's what is most accepted in the US. That infusion strength and approach probably would work for hot tea but for iced tea it might work better to go stronger, and double proportion to 2 teaspoons, maybe bump amount to more like 250 ml, and let it "brew out," steeping for 6 minutes, then strain, and add ice to chill and dilute. It's that last step that changes everything; it's going to nearly double the amount of water in the tea. All that isn't best-practice guidance, of course, just off the cuff speculation, since I've not prepared the tea that way. I tried this with a little sugar at the end, brewing it hot, so I can talk about how that changes results.
That critique of the brewing recommendations prompted me to go back and review what was listed for the Biloxi Breeze version: no specific instructions. I think that's actually the best solution, to let people experiment and see what works for them, given that it's an unconventional tea and an atypical final form (as iced tea, potentially used to make a mixed drink). I think the same general approach I just mentioned for the peach version would work: brew it strong, steep it for awhile, then let ice dilute it. Brewing temperature could be hard to pin down as an optimum, since cooler water (eg. 175 F) works well for green tea, and hotter water (full boiling point) tends to work best for tisanes (herbs or fruit). No one optimum would exist; it would depend on preference for balancing slightly more astringency and part of the vegetal range versus the extra fruit flavor that would extract brewed hotter.
I didn't mean to imply that after 6 minutes brewing time the infusion results would be negative (for the second, or both). For a conventional tea like tea-bag black tea that's probably objectively true, but for whole-leaf brewing multiple Western style infusion rounds is normal, so total time of 4+5 minutes (9) wouldn't be so unusual. Gongfu brewing a full dozen or more rounds would tell you how that late stage infusion character would work out, I just tend to stop listing notes after 5 or 6 rounds in these reviews, and used a Western brewing approach this time (it works better for flavored or tisane blended teas).
Biloxi Breeze is lighter and paler, as expected from a green tea and tisane blend
Biloxi Breeze: I hadn't noticed that this had jalapeno peppers in it, along with fruit and green tea. That's most of what I pick up, the spice edge. I think people would either love or dislike this tea based on how they relate to a spice edge offsetting other sweet and fruity range. Since I'm the kind of person who skips putting black pepper in masala chai, because I don't like that addition, even though it really integrates in for that form, I lean towards not liking it. I can still try to describe it objectively, to the extent it works to set aside personal like, for others who would be more on that page.
The pepper doesn't necessarily take over the blend but it's by far the strongest input. That you can even notice it has fruit range beyond that means they tried to keep it moderate and balanced. For someone with a very high tolerance for spice it could be a perfect balance. Even though I've adapted to an above average ability to eat spicy foods, related to living in Thailand for 14 years, I don't love them, and to me there is no overlap with that type of experience and my tea interest or preference. If a balance of food flavors really needs a spice edge to complete it I can appreciate that (eg. in Thai curries; those flavors wouldn't be nearly as good without spice as a main input). But beyond that I skip eating anything spicy.
It's hard to taste what is there beyond that spice, beyond it being fruit. I think the lime is discernable, and the fruit might come across as towards berry range, but there's no way that could seem clear. Maybe a high end berry hint does stand out, but dealing with heat as a main input makes it hard to be clear on other things. Somehow it makes the rest seem savory, like sun-dried tomato, even though it's probably not really like that, it's probably just a perception error related to how a mix seems to present. Pepper with some sweetness, lime, a faint hint of berry, and stronger sun-dried tomato effect isn't bad, especially if the pepper part sounds reasonable to someone.
As a match to my own subjective preference goes this is a complete miss; I don't like it. For someone really into spicy foods, and open to experiences like spicy candy, it would probably be a natural fit. It might be that even how one takes those intense red and white mint disc candies could serve as an indicator, if that heavy hit of spicy mint is appealing, or candy canes (pretty much the same thing).
I love the idea of a peppermint candy cane but not the actual experience of them. I've tried to finish them after my kids start through the same experience, and hand them over, but it doesn't really work. I love sweeter, lighter wintergreen and spearmint versions of mint candy but not peppermint, unless it's really dialed down, like in a Peppermint Patty candy bar.
Grilled Southern Peach: that's pretty cool. The crux for this tea was going to be getting smoke, fruit, and tea to balance, and I think messing around with infusion parameters would help for anyone to get it fully dialed in, but it works. I essentially always brew Western style using a relatively high proportion for that form, and multiple rounds instead of one 5 minute version at more standard / lower proportion. At least I can try it for a second round and say more about how it might work combined, which absolutely wouldn't be possible the other way, guessing at how one infusion would have divided into two, instead of guessing how two would seem if mixed together. I did brew these for at least 4 minutes, so they're not light at all, if anything on the heavy side (stronger infused).
As to balance and how this comes across as a flavor list that's unusual. Smoke is evident, but definitely not overpowering. Peach stands out enough to be recognizable, although maybe without that in the title I'd be fumbling with what fruit this seems like, even though it's the only fruit flavor input. It's a mix of black tea and oolong, which is different. The tea part is a bit non-distinct then, but that works for it being a base, in this form.
On the negative side the peach could "pop" a little more; that would change how it all integrates. On the positive side it tastes natural, and it all does work together, and those three inputs are a great theme. It has richness and depth, and no hint of the "cheap tea" input that grocery store blends, or related main website blenders, all need to work around. I could drink this regularly as a breakfast tea; it works well enough that repetition would still be fine. It's like how you don't really get tired of Earl Grey very fast; it makes that much sense.
Probably adding just a little sugar would get the fruit flavor to stand out more. It's funny how that sweetness input changes the impression of the rest. In a sense I should try it, but it's really not the page I'm on. It's nice that the smoke is subtle, given that this is supposed to work together with a fruit aspect. Anywhere near the intensity of typical smoked Lapsang Souchong and it wouldn't matter how much peach extract they added, it wouldn't be there, but this is balanced. For people into heavy smoked teas I suppose that could be a disappointment, but this just isn't supposed to be that.
It will be interesting to see how the balances shift over a next infusion. Often flavored teas just rinse off, and some of that might happen in this case. But tisanes "open up" slower, and a natural smoke flavor could easily be an exception, so maybe not in this case.
Biloxi breeze: it's a pleasant surprise that the level of spice dropped; this might have been more balanced brewed as one infusion, at half this proportion for slightly longer. Even more evened out, with fruit a little more noticeable, and on the same intensity level, I still don't like it. Pepper spice in tea just isn't for me. Maybe I will add sugar to both of these to check results; that might cut the effect. For the kind of tea enthusiast I am that's sort of throwing in the towel, but then just drinking blends is way outside my most typical range too. I've been drinking more tisane blends lately though, even beyond these samples, so relating to a broader range seems more familiar from that.
with sugar: that does help. The fruit (berry) pops a good bit more, and it drops back the heat effect a little. This is within striking range of making sense to me now, but not quite there, I still don't like it. Only during the final edit did I read that this was "designed" to work chilled, as either an alcoholic beverage base or as a "mocktail," and that does make more sense. Hitting it with just a touch of lime juice if the alcohol is left out might give it other range that balances it, or with triple sec and tequila it might be good. Or vodka, I guess, taking it one step closer to a kamikaze, which I did like back in my youth.
Grilled Southern Peach: smoke might have picked up slightly more than peach; somehow I had expected that. It doesn't work better as a result, or really that much worse either, it's just different. I'll have to check these with a small spoonful of sugar added to see what that changes; it's a necessary part of a more complete review. There's a raw sugar version handy that's probably perfect for the role, adding a hint of molasses warmth along with the plain sweetness.
with sugar: it's strange how much difference that makes. Smoke input seems different, if anything slightly more pronounced, but also just varied in effect. To be more specific it might have shifted the flavor so that fruit is stronger, but an after-effect or undertone of smoke plays a different role. I didn't add a lot of sugar to either of these; one of those small coffee or tea spoons worth (like you get on an airline flight, which you really aren't supposed to keep), in a full 8 ounce / 200+ ml mug.
Peach taste isn't more distinct but fruit range stands out more; funny how that works. Chilled this would probably be one of the best versions of flavored tea someone ever had, beyond the range of what a standard ready to drink bottled version could even potentially achieve. No, I'm not going to do that and write about it here. The tea should be prepared slightly too strong for that use, to account for the water from the ice. [Editing note] cool that this was intended as an iced tea; they're on it.
This is much catchier. It integrated well enough before, but that bit of sugar really ties it all together. There's a chance that stevia could play a similar role (an herb that can work as a natural non-sugar sweetener), someone would just need to be very careful to only add a little, or it would surely ruin it.