Grace Tea Company

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Recent Tasting Notes


The only Earl Grey I’ll drink. Most Earl Greys are too heavy on the bergamot. This one is perfect.

Flavors: Bergamot

195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Very smooth and calming. Steeps well in a Yixing teapot for ~30 seconds for the first 4 or so steeps.

Flavors: Smooth

0 min, 30 sec 4 tsp 11 OZ / 325 ML

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I work as head nurse in very hectic advanced dementia care unit. It is a very rewarding job, but very stressful. The past six weeks at work have been especially busy. My own mother has Alzheimer’s too. I’m exhausted.

On a brighter note, I have the weekend off. It is time for the nurse to take care of himself. Yesterday I sauntered over to Southern Seasons and purchased this tea. I tend to favor Keemun based English Breakfast teas, and I’ve been yearning to try this one for some time. I have never been disappointed by any of Grace Tea Company’s blends, and this one has proven to be no exception.

The lovely dry leaf smells of sweet earth and autumn leaves. A three and a half minute steep yields an orangey red, sweet fragranced liquor. The taste is very rich, and was quite reminiscent of sweet pipe tobacco and warm nuts. True to it’s name, there is a definite note of fine red wine with a pleasant, mild astringency that comes in on the end of the sip. This tea takes milk and sugar very well, though it is not necessary. I think that honey would work marvelously as well.

Winey Keemun English Breakfast is a tea that wakes you gently. This is a luxurious, delicious tea for a long, lazy Sunday. I believe that it would also be superb for an impromptu afternoon tea party. This is a time out tea. A tea to linger over and savor. A tea to relax, unwind, and forget your cares. I feel better already.

Flavors: Astringent, Red Wine, Roasted Nuts, Sweet, Tobacco

Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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This is my first Russian Caravan tea. It has a good tea base with a layer of smoke on it, but not so much smoke that it overpowers. I like it, but not enough for everyday drinking. I much prefer it to lapsang souchong and I can drink this as a stand-alone tea.

Flavors: Smoke, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 11 OZ / 325 ML

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I had a cup of this a while back after I picked it up at the fancy grocery near my house. I like smokey beers and peaty scotch, so I figured I’d enjoy a smokey tea. Turns out, this is an exception. I passed it along to my Dad, who likes lapsang souchong teas, and is amassing a collection of them as Em and I try and then pass off these teas.

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There’s definitely more interest here than your standard breakfast blend. To my surprise, the Keemun is neither cocoa-y or smoky, but it does have a dry red wine kind of mouthfeel and a slightly oaky and fermented fruit flavor (which was also evocative of a rich red wine). I wasn’t necessarily blown away by the cup, but it’s very nice.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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41 years ago my new mother-in-law gave me my first tin of GTC winey keemun. I’ve try dozens of other keemun and English breakfast blends in the years since and never found one that pleases me the way this one does. Perhaps because as my “first,” I simply assumed that all keemun was supposed to be “winey” and so few are. It’s too mellow for me as a breakfast tea, but is sublime in the late afternoon — the perfect cross between tea to go with perfect shortbread and a good glass of wine. Enjoy. And try it with the shortbread.

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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I am very surprised I didn’t have this listed in my cupboard, but I guess I shouldn’t be. I counted just the tea I can see in one go and there was a lot more than what I have in my cupboard. I need to catch up!

I first got this as a sample in a swap with Hesper June. We loved it, so I purchased some at A Southern Season, and have bought it there more than once now.

I usually drink my smoky teas in fall and winter, and it is around 100F here these past few days. However, I am eating Howling Cow ice cream, have bare feet, a wooden floor, and the a/c roaring. The ice cream is from the University my daughter attends – North Carolina State. They have a huge veterinary school and agriculture program so they have lots and lots of cows and they put them to good use making some truly delicious ice cream. The flavor I am eating is called Campfire Delight, and I’ll be durned if it doesn’t taste like a campfire roasted marshmallow with caramel with graham cracker and chunks of chocolate. The light smokiness and the ice cold condition of my toes called for some hot tea, preferably smoky to match the mood the ice cream had set.

This is not as smoky as Lapsang Souchong, but smoky enough. The key here is that the base has FLAVOR and personality, something often lacking in really smoky tea. I think sometimes they use inferior tea since they know the smoke is strong, but you really can have both – smoke and tea base that has great taste.

This is making me want to revisit some of the other Grace Teas and try some new ones, too.


NOBODY does atmosphere like you do :)


Heehee! I’m all about some atmosphere!


I’m not an ice cream person, but that does sound delicious!


Kittenna: I don’t mean to be an ice cream person, but I am. Homemade milkshakes and floats have been a terrible weakness, and now to find that some teas pair beautifully with ice cream….OY!


Do you have Braum’s in NC? (Oklahoma based ice cream & burger chain.) Their sundaes are (heh) pure evil.


Oh my, it is probably a good thing that we don’t have them then! I miss Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor..


Oh, that’s a throwback! (Favorite big sister memory, too…thanks for the reminisce.) Braum’s is tasty, but we are still mourning the loss of our local Baskin Robbins.


Awwww! My Farrell’s memories are all of my mom, patty melts, and hot fudge sundaes! Come see me – we still have Baskin Robbins!

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It is cloudy and drizzling and COLD! Well, cold for where I live. For it to be 39F at lunchtime is unusual for us, and running to the recycling can bare of foot wearing short sleeves added to my perception of the chill. Sometimes it is nice to get a little cold so your tea is extra cozy! :)

I am finishing this sample from Hesper June today and I am so glad I picked this one to drink. It is a great cold weather choice, and the Grace Rare Tea Company really delivers high quality tea. This is smokey, but definitely not a Lapsang. It is smooth and delicious, even without additions. And now…it is all gone! Sample sip down!

Josie Jade

Haha, I can always count on you to sympathize with me that it is really cold outside! My family in the north always just rolls their eyes when I start talking about how it’s freezing here. :) This tea sounds perfect for a chilly day!

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Back in the early loose leaf days when I used to go to A Southern Season and sniff sniff SNIFF pouch after pouch of tea and tin after tin from the Fine Tea Wall, I thought Russian Caravans were pretty much the same thing as Lapsang Souchong. They both smelled really smoky to me and I was afraid of them, and puerh was on that list, too.

I lost my fear as I drank teas that had natural light smokiness, then I had some lovely blends, and then I was finally ready for the real thing. The funny thing was that my youngest child loved smoky tea right off the bat.

So here I am drinking this Caravan and wondering where the smoke is! LOL! There are a number of teas that used to seem so very smoky to me that now just seem hearty. This is very lightly smoky but it is sweet and good. No milk or sugar is needed to make this palatable, and it is comforting and bracing as we look out on yet another gray, rainy day with no sign of sunshine in the near future.

Grace Rare Tea has done what they set out to do. They carry only a few types of tea but strive to carry the best examples they can get of those types. I have never been disappointed by them.

Thank you again, Hesper June, for the amazing box o’ smoky teas! This has been the perfect week to try them all!

Hesper June

You are most welcome! I am so glad you are enjoying them:)

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I have liked everything I ever bought from this company. Hesper June generously sent me this sample of their Russian Caravan, one of the few of their blends I have never tried.

It was rainy and chilly (for here, fifty degrees is chilly until we get used to it!) today, with flocks of birds mobbing my dogwood trees and stripping them of their berries. Very much a wet, fall day that begs for comfort foods! It stayed gray and overcast all day.

I served this with homemade Snickerdoodles today, but first we had Morgan Blend by Simpson and Vail, which was rich, layered, and smoky, while this tea didn’t smell nearly as smoky, but I guess Russian Caravan teas usually are not as smoky as lapsangs. From the aroma of the two teas, I thought the Morgan Blend was going to take all the awards.

But the first sip of this GRT changed my mind! Yes, it was much less smoky, but the tea base was delicious! And just as complex! My guest, the owner of the puppy we keep every Tuesday, had only had Lipton until a few weeks ago when we asked him to join us for some tea. He has liked everything we have given him so far, and he declared this one his favorite of the day.

What surprised me most was that my youngest daughter, who loves smoky tea, liked this one better than the Simpson and Vail, too. She said the Morgan Blend was very good, but that the Russian Caravan had “personality.” LOL! I think I know what she means.

It was rather like meeting someone that you had no idea you would enjoy talking to, and then you find yourself in lively conversation, surprised at this person not being quite what you anticipated.
What a fun tea tasting we had today!

Thank you, Hesper June! We have several more still to try!


Sounds awesome!


love these moments in life when tea brings people together :-)

Hesper June

I agree, this tea has quite the personality.
When I first opened the tin on this I thought I was going to be disappointed, it did not smell all that remarkable.
But, like you, the first sip certainly changed my mind:)


@Hesper June – I want to try this! Would you like to swap for anything in my cupboard? :-)

Hesper June

Sure! I will browse through your cupboard and message you:)


I am having some right now! :)

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We had a rainy, gray day a few days ago that put me in a fall mood even though it was hot outside. I wanted soup and for some reason Cream of Carrot came to mind even though I had never heard of it actually being made. I had creamy Parsnip in Ireland so I knew it had to exist.

The recipe we found online called for bacon and specified it was “to add a smokey flavor.” I didn’t have any bacon but that didn’t stop me. I have never put ham in my split pea soup because my husband doesn’t care for meat, so I am accustomed to changing recipes to be more vegetarian, though I am not one. We just eat that way most of the time.

Anyway, I decided as I was putting it all together to make a really strong cup of this Lapsang and add it, and VOILA! Nice smokey flavor without bacon! The soup as great. I topped it with mozzarella and Penzey’s California Seasoned Pepper. The smoke really did add to it, so I texted my son’s girlfriend (who IS a vegetarian!) to let her know this little trick, as she is a good cook and loves soup as much as I do.


I made roasted chicken rubbed in steeped out Lapsang leaves once, really tasty.


Nice! I am looking forward to doing more cooking with tea!

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Not already in my cupboard? How can that be? I have had this for a long time. Ah well, maybe there was another listing at one time and my notes are elsewhere.

This morning was very overcast and rain was in the forecast for most of the day. Even though it is still pretty hot, it is a good 15 degrees cooler in the mornings than we have seen in a while, and the clouds made it seem so cozy in the house. Maybe I jumped the gun, but I went for a “school year tea.”

I have homeschooled all four of my children and I just have one left – now a senior. I have purchased lapsang as a back to school treat in the past because she loves it so much, and drinks a lot of it in the cooler weather during the school year. And today I am working on her transcript and getting her ready to register with a concurrent enrollment program, the beginning of sounding the final bell on my years as a homeschooling mom. sniff sniff! Mixed emotions!

So today, as I prepare for our final year and gear up to start school in a week, I have a whole pot of lapsang before me. I originally bought this brand about six years ago when we first started drinking loose leaf. My youngest daughter was one of the main reasons I got into tea so heavily, as she started wanting it and was really in love with holding a warm mug and getting cozy. I bought Winey Keemun first, and only because her name is Grace and that was the name on the tin. It was a good choice, though, because all of their teas that I have tried have been good teas.

This one has a medium smoke level to me, not nearly as strong as the delightful Crocodile from Dammann Freres and maybe a little softer in the base than Baker Street. It isn’t quite as sweet as Black Dragon. It is a really good all around smokey lapsang, not too strong, not too smokey, just right unless you really hate smoke.


Wow! How impressive. Congrats on home schooling. That has to be so rewarding and challenging at the same time.


I have loved it. I will miss it, and I plan to make the most of this final year and enjoy every second! I wonder what on earth the future will hold, and I hope it is wonderful.


I homeschooled my kids for a dozen years— it’s hard to let go of such a sweet time. Three years since they transitioned to classrooms, and I still keep up the timeline populated with all of their drawings that extends all the way around the dining room.


It has been twenty-three since I began! It is bittersweet and exciting and sad and wonderful all at once!

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I had this again at tea party today. We had made a loaf of homemade buttermilk bread from the flour we grind fresh for baking. I toasted several pieces and cut them small and we tested out some new fruit jams. I had purchased Black Currant jam just because I was unfamiliar with it and like the flavor in some of my teas. I had read that it is sort of the European equivalent to our grape-flavored everything! I also had a French Four Fruit jam for us to try.

The jams were delicious and the tea was perfect with it. It made a wonderful contrast with the sweetness and the smoke was mild and pleasant, almost dignified I might say!

Thank you to Hesper June for the sample!

Rebecca Lynn

You grind your own flour? Like, at home? Or do you work in a bakery? Whatever the case, that’s awesome and I am jealous.


We do! We buy different kinds of wheat and oats and grind it in a Nutrimill. We make bread, pizza dough, cookies, and pound cake mostly. It is whole wheat, yet tastes completely different from whole wheat bread from the store and is far more nutritious. There is none of the sour taste that comes from the oxidation of the vitamin E.


if your 4 fruits jam was a Bonne Maman jam, you are in possession of my daughter’s favourite jam :)

Hesper June

Mmmm, nothing like homemade bread right out of the oven!
Yes, fresh ground flour tastes so different than store bought, once you have had it and then you go back to store bought, the store bought almost taste rancid.


Ysaurella: Actually it is called St. Dalfour, but it is so good. It has chunks of cherries in it.
I will look for the brand you mentioned!


So right, Hesper June, there is nothing like it! My middle daughter used to have headaches and allergy problems. They vanished when we started grinding our own wheat. Kamut makes excellent waffles – the grain itself is yellow and buttery and makes yellow flour. Hard red makes cookies that taste like they have pecan meal in them, and hard white makes delicious breads and brownies. Soft white is what we use for our pound cakes.

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Not long ago, Hesper June offered to send me a sample of this tea. She asked only a bit of Baker Street in return. But when my tea came, it was a WHOLE BOX of tea in the cutest little tins! There are all sorts of smoky teas in it!

Grace Rare Tea is one of the first fine loose teas I bought. I had never heard of the company but my youngest daughter is named Grace and she loved tea the most at the time, so I bought it on a lark for her. I have since purchased almost every tea they make because the quality is so high.

Looking at this tea, it is hard to believe that I am looking at a Lapsang. Sometimes, lesser teas get chosen for heavy flavoring, but not in the case of GRT. The base looks great, and the aroma isn’t plain smoke. There is more to it. There is a sweet and fruity aspect as well.

Sipping, the taste of the base holds up to my expectations. It is smooth and sweet, medium bodied. The smoke is a surprise, though. There was a strong smoke aroma to the dry leaf but it is much lighter in the cup. Wen you sip, it gets really interesting. The smoke is subtle and then it blooms from your throat to your mouth.

This is definitely going to be added to the cupboard. Hesper sent so much that I don’t need to rush to Durham to buy it, though! Thank you, Hesper June!

Hesper June

You are welcome:)
So glad you are enjoying it!

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We accomplished another sample sip down at tea party time today! Middle daughter made chocolate chip cookies with freshly ground hard red wheat. This was the second tea served. It is my second or third favorite Darjeeling, though I am not yet a Darjeeling connoisseur. It is smooth and fruity and doesn’t have as much astringent bite as some. This was actually the favorite tea of my guest today.

Grace Rare Tea does not offer a great variety of teas, but what they have is excellent. That was their mission.

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I received this in a swap with Liberteas.. Thank you!

I really enjoy the offerings I have had from Grace Rare Tea and this was no exception. The leaf is quite small, looking rather chopped. My first thought was that this might begone of those darjeelings like the first I had ever, the one that bullied me and beat me up.

Not so! This is very nice with lovely fruity notes, some muscatel, and very pretty color in the cup. I am taking it plain, enjoying it with a slice of pound cake with lemon fluff frosting. It must be really good. I just poured the last bit into my cup.

I did use cooler water, around 195F, and ny steeped for about 2 minutes.

Thank you, Liberteas!

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Top o’the (chilly) morning to you. Not quite enough for two cups, more than I needed for one, so I used it all, steeped double strength and spiked it with plenty of milk. Classic Assam to get your toes tapping.

…and if that doesn’t work, how about this little Celtic ditty-do? (It’s Carman, so I’m dating myself here—loved him in 1982, love him now :)

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Breakfast tea notwithstanding, this is way too nice to doctor up with milk. Lovely and juicy on its own. Isn’t a bit drying or acidic in the mouth.


This is my favorite assam so far. This is one of the first loose leaf tea brands I ever purchased, and then only because a.) my daughter’s name is Grace – she is my GiGi! – she is a rare treasure, and she loves tea so it was très meta, and 2.)they have really cool tins. In fact, the tin even has a sticker telling how it won some food design award or something. I love their Winey Keemun and this Assam. I need to try their jasmine tea. Oh dear! I shall have to go to Chapel Hill to visit my son, I guess! :)

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This is another one that needs to be treated gently, or it’ll grow muscles and walk off without you. I think I slightly overdid/oversteeped, but even with that said, this has a nice fruity background note that adds a little sophistication to the morning Assam kick.


Yep. When handled with kid gloves this is one of my favorite Assams. I use a lower steep temp and time and add milk and sugar and then we get along juuuust fine!


shouldn’t the fact that this is “Irish” be a signal that it might need…special treatment?

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This morning I experimented with making a homemade chai with just my favorite things in it. I am not a huge fan of turmeric in chai but my Indian acquaintances here put a lot of it, as well as black pepper. Now, it may be sacrilege that I didn’t put any pepper, and maybe I can’t legitimately call this chai, but it was really good.

I add 1/2 tsp. of whole cardamom, a few whole allspice, and a bit of Ceylon cinnamon to two teaspoons of Assam. I simmered this in two cups of water for almost twenty minutes. I strained it into a teapot and added sugar, gave it a good stir, and added some hot milk. It. Was. YUMMY.

For all you chai lovers who like the black pepper and turmeric, I apologize for offending your sensibilities. I will happily call this just “spiced tea” and keep on drinking it. My only regret was that I hadn’t made a larger portion!


Sounds delicious to me!

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