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May 13, 2009

My latest obsession


Do you get obsessive about food-related things? I do. (See Brownberry Bread.) This usually happens when it becomes extremely difficult to track something down.

My latest obsession is Murchie's tea, possibly because I'm having trouble finding the one I want. Shortly after my earlier tea post extolling the virtues of Twining's Irish Breakfast, I found the handsome tea tin pictured pushed to the back of a kitchen cupboard.

I remembered vaguely that a friend had given it to me, telling me how wonderful Murchie's tea was. She regularly ordered it from Canada.

I decided to give it a try and fell in love.

The only problem was that there was no name on the tin, and she couldn't remember which Murchie's tea she had given me.

She thought it was probably Empress Afternoon, which the company used to custom blend for the Empress, an exclusive hotel in Victoria. (The blend is now sold to the general public as Murchie's Afternoon.) ...

A couple of days after I called and ordered a pound of Murchie's Afternoon for $23.95 plus $10 shipping, my friend told me she had made a mistake. Maybe the tea was Prince Charles. Or Golden Jubilee. Or even the CBC Radio Blend. She wasn't sure.

Meanwhile I had fallen more and more in love as I finished the nameless tea she had originally given me. It was a robust breakfast tea but with a faintly smoky finish, as though a tiny bit of Lapsang Souchong had been blended in. I yearned for it and could no longer appreciate the Twining's.

So now, a couple of weeks later, a pound of Murchie's Afternoon has arrived at my door, and it's a good tea. Perhaps even a great tea. But it's not my tea. 

And at $35 a shot, I can't keep ordering pounds of tea until I hit upon the right one.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:18 AM | | Comments (23)


Red grapes - I like to eat frozen red grapes as a snack before bed. I have the worst time finding firm, red grapes in local grocery stores. I go from Wegmans, Giant, Superfresh, and back to look for edible red grapes. It consumes much more of my time than it should. Obsessive - I think so.

From the Murchie's tea website here's some of the teas mentioned:

Lapsang Souchong Superior Extra Choice
Derived from the Northern Fujian Province, Lapsang Souchong Superior Extra Choice is of the highest quality Lapsangs. Pan-fired over pine, a unique smokey aroma compliments one of China's most distinguished teas. 3 cups

Prince Charles
A strong, rich blend of UVA Highland, Darjeeling, Extra Choice Keemun and Pure Assam. 5 cups

Russian Caravan
This unique blend of Lapsang, Darjeeling and China black tea creates a rich, aromatic brew with a slight smokey flavour. 3 cups

CBC Radio Blend
Produced as a commemorative blend for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. A “ShowTime” blend of choice Ceylon & China black teas, fragrant Jasmines, touched with lemon. 1-1/2 cups

Queen Victoria
One of Murchie’s original blends created from the teas Queen Victoria ordered while in residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. These teas included Jasmine and other green and black teas, including Lapsang Souchong, creating this sweet tea with smokey overtones. 3 cups

Golden Jubilee
A combination of Queen Elizabeth's favorite teas: Ceylon, Darjeeling and Keemun, blended in celebration of her Silver Jubilee. 3 cups

The cups refer to the strength of the brewed tea, from one to five cups.

A pound of loose tea is like a small pillow. Maniac.

Go to Stash Tea's website and browse their loose teas. There are probably a a half a dozen that might fit your needs. Try a bunch you might like; you can get them in 50 gram portions. Shipping is less too. Their teas are the best and I think you know I never say anything like that lightly. They have some really obscure varieties.

Many companies have samplers. If they don't, could you e-mail them, explain and ask to purchase a sampler?

In today's world of tracking, have your friend contact the company. I am sure they could tell you what was ordered, the date, time, and even the credit card used so she can buy another gift for you.

contact customer service, tell them your situation, offer to send them a tea bag, they should be able to determine what tea you have.

I used to do this at cosmetic counters back in the day.

If only I had a tea bag. :-) EL

Ah...the Empress. The richest I've ever felt was when Mrs. Bucky and I went for high tea at the Empress.

If you are going to live the high life just once in your life, you should live it at the Empress Hotel.

Now you've impressed me. EL

There are probably enough tea drinkers in the sandbox to be able to buy a couple of pounds and divvy it up amongst ourselves. I keep a couple of spare tins around that will hold between two and four ounces. I'd certainly be up for a "tea meet" to trade samples with other folks.

Tea *bag*?!!?

For high tea, try the lodge at Lake Louise.

Lissa wrote: For high tea, try the lodge at Lake Louise.

Both the Chateau Lake Louise and the Empress were built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, around the turn of the 19th century. I'm betting they share the same elegance and tradition. (I think some time after we were at the Empress, it was sold to Fairmont, so it may not be the quite the same as it once was.)

My money's on the Queen Victoria (how many times do we get the opportunity to say that?

Lissa, now that's tea in style--with harp even!

Bucky -- the original Canadian Pacific hotels are truly gems. I fondly remember a wonderful meal in the early 1970s (including my first escargots) at the Château Frontenac in Québec when it was still under CP management.

Bucky, it looks like the Lake Louise Lodge was bought by Fairmont, too. I've never had tea there, but an ex's grandmother used to embroider and put lace edgings on handkerchiefs sold there. She very much approved of tea there, although she thought it a tad upper class. She was British, so my guess is she knew tea.

Oh, yeah, the Chateau Frontenac was excellent! We had a corner suite in the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa once. Both were just lovely.

Ou sont les CP hotels d'antan?

Lissa -- according to Wikipedia, Canadian Pacific bought the Fairmont chain in 1998. In 2001, CP decided to spin off the hotels, and adopted the Fairmont name for the new independent hotel company.
The Château Laurier wasn't an original CP hotel, having been built by the Grand Trunk Railway, later part of Canadian National Railway. CP acquired the former CN hotels in 1988, including The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal (which certainly lacks the style of most CP and CN establishments)..

I have also had great stays at the Frontenac and the Lauier. Next to the Greenbrier, those places represent my best hotel experiences.

Ok, I'm starting to sound way too pretentious. Oh, maybe not.

Well, I wonder what all the poor people are doing now.

Ok, now I'm starting to sound way too pretentious.

hmpstd, I don't know what we would do without you. Really.

Oh RoCK, I don't care what anyone says, I like you.

I've stayed in the Queen Elizabeth in Montreal, and while it certainly isn't as pretty, the service was amazing. Better than at the Chateaux.

Granted, this was over 30 years ago. My father apparently had a thing for CP hotels when traveling.

Laura, you sound just like my mom.

Murchie's is good - I especially remember their ceylon.

I see Owlmeat recommending Stash, but I've always been disappointed with their stuff. It's been pretty bland to me, but I've mostly had their bag stuff so it's not really a fair comparison. Give Adagio a try. It will arrive next day, the quality is great and the prices are much better than Stash, Teavana, or The Fujian Baroque is wonderful.

Spam at 1:36 AM! (It's yet another shiller for a work-from-home scheme.)

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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