I had a really exciting opportunity to connect with Cai Cai recently. I feel that most recently the blends I've been trying are a more modern spin on tea. Cai Cai offers 4 blends, all using more traditional bases and again, blends I've never had the pleasure of trying. Yay!
In an attempt to have 24 different types of tea in December (like a tea advent calendar) I will start with Cai Cai's sunrise!
Ingredients: Sencha green tea and roasted brown rice.
Before I describe my experience with this tea, you should probably know something about how I feel about rice. I can't live without it, that's how I feel about it! Being from an Iranian family it's pretty central to most meals and I eat rice almost everyday.
As you can probably guess, the first thing I noticed and loved about this tea was the aroma. It had a very nutty scent and reminded me immediately of rice. More specifically, an image of a big pot of rice cooking away on the stove and the aroma filling the kitchen popped into my head. I already love this tea!
When I took a sip it was somewhat what I expected, very bold and earthy with a rich and rice like flavor. I really enjoyed the flavor that the roasted rice brought into the sencha.
This is the kind of tea that I would enjoy without anything and just as a way to bring myself peace. The aroma brings positive memories to my mind and the full body taste warmed my belly so nicely.
Cai Cai has a wonderful story and I had the pleasure of asking some questions so you could get to know them a bit better!
1) What sparked the idea to start CaiCai?
Coming from Asia to London, we found it very hard to find good tea. We wanted to make loose leaf tea more approachable to Brits by selling a balanced and curated selection of teas that get an update from time to time with the goal to make the choice easier to the end consumer and to make sure that the teas offered were always of the highest quality with a very competitive price.
2) How did you decide on the name CaiCai?
The etymological origin of the word tea has found a uniform pronunciation throughout the world albeit being written in many different ways. We wanted to keep that same pronunciation while finding our own way to write it and, we doubled it down to reach the Chinese sense of warmth and cosiness.
3) How would you describe the difference between loose leaf and tea bags to a non tea drinker?
I would recommend anyone to pick up a simple green tea tea bag and a good quality green loose leaf tea. Brew them, taste them (that should be enough already) and put the wet leaves next to each other (open the tea bag to get the ground tea out). You will see that the tea bag is made of small dark-green bits of tea leave. This means that the tea leaf is broken in several pieces allowing it to release its flavour way faster when brewed but at the same time to become bitter and oxidized very easily. On the other hand, the loose leaf tea will be made of full leaves that release their full flavour in a more natural way and with the tasting profile.
4) Of the 4 blends you currently offer, do you have a favorite? Which one and why?
We love all our teas the same. However, I think the most unique one, and the one we are most proud of is True Black, a ripe Pu Erh tuocha. Pu Erh cakes are vastly unknown in the western world. When you do find it, most of the times will come in large and expensive cakes of raw pu erh not yet ready for consumption. We thought that by selling ready-for-consumption ripe Pu Erh in a smaller quantity we would make it more accessible to the beginner and avid tea drinkers.
5) As far as tea prep goes, which blend is your favorite to brew?
The ritual that goes with matcha prepping is so energetic and purposeful that becomes a ceremony even in the most casual of occasions.
6) If you could enjoy a cup of tea anywhere in the world where would it be?
Although we are now based in London, we have lived and travelled extensively through Asia. On one of our trips, we were in a tiny village in Fujian and we had lost our bus so we had to stay at a local’s house for the night. The next morning, before our departure, they greeted us with a cup of tea from their own harvest. I remember that cup of tea as the best one I’ve ever had and I would really like to go back.
Also, when we lived in HongKong, we lived next to a local ChaChaanTeng called Australia Dairy Co. We made it our Sunday brunch ritual to go there and enjoy a scrambled egg sandwich with a sumptuous and thick cup of milky tea.
8) What is your favorite tea pun?
Move oolong, there is nothing to tea here.
If you're interested in trying Cai Cai tea, you can find them here!
Stay tuned as I have two more Cai Cai teas to try this month! Have you tried a tea that caused a memory reaction like this one did for me? Share with me!