Last year, or was it early this year, I placed an order with Camellia Sinensis because I saw they offered some unique herbal teas that are wild-harvested from Québec. Labrador tea is in the genus Rhododendron — the leaf underside and stems are covered in a dense, rust-hued fur.
It smells so good in the bag, like an evergreen forest. It reminds me of my times in Canada, the Pacific Northwest and of the wintertime redwood forest here in northern California. Crisp, clean air. Breathe. This is the kind of fresh smell that makes me aware of my own being and the lightness of mind and body I am capable of achieving in nature. It elicits a sense of presence, away from the smells of humans and the industrial worlds we create.
In the description on this page, Camellia Sinensis says of this tea: “a lively and light liquor, supported by strong citrus and camphor aromas. Its vegetal character is reminiscent of lichen and cedar.”
Had I not read that, I would describe it as… let’s see… the same as the smell of the leaf but with some sweetness of strange origin, a thickness that reminds me of silver needle white teas, perhaps due to the fur. Cool evergreen forests. There’s also a bit of pungency — resinous, tar-like, reminding me of kerosene? more than sap. You know, it also reminds me a lot of Bitterleaf Tea’s Jingmai Crab Legs but without the hint of milkiness (https://steepster.com/teas/bitterleaf-teas/78526-2016-jing-mai-crab-legs) and of Juniper Ridge’s Douglas Fir Spring Tips with a thicker, more robust, sweet taste and less of a “green” flavor (https://steepster.com/teas/juniper-ridge/14722-douglas-fir-spring-tips).
It’s recommended by the internet-at-large to not steep these leaves and stems for more than 5-6 minutes due to a high concentration of tannins in the tea that can cause stomachache. I tried to follow the parameters on the bag with 2tsp (crumbled), 250mL, 90C for 4-5 minutes but time often gets away from me. With what was probably an 8-minute steep, I did experience some bloating and big gurgles about an hour later. With that, though, also came an intense sleepiness. I was out. Labrador tea is used as a treatment for insomnia which wasn’t the purpose of my drinking but dang did it work, and it has worked the few other times I’ve sipped.
Flavors: Camphor, Cedar, Citrus, Petrichor, Pine, Pungent, Resin, Spring Water, Sweet, Tannin, Thick