Sunday Tea and Books: Yunnan Breakfast Black

Sunday Tea and Books: Yunnan Breakfast Black

Today’s tea: Yunnan Breakfast Black from Simple Loose Leaf.

How I brewed it: I used 1 tsp per cup of boiling water and steeped it for about 3 1/2 minutes. The instructions said that it could be steeped for anywhere between 3 and 5 minutes, but the colour was dark enough at that point that I didn’t want to go any further for fear that it would be too astringent.

What it’s like: The dry leaf for Yunnan Breakfast Black is very dark, with a scattering of golden tips. I’ve seen tippier Yunnan black teas, but this is decent. The dry smell is of malt, cocoa, and a bit of smoke. Brewed up, the tea is a deep umber colour and gives off a rich smell of malt, cocoa, and tobacco, with a little bit of sweet potato thrown in.

If my mother smelled this, she’d probably say the same thing she says whenever I brew up straight black tea like this: “This is real tea! Just give me some orange pekoe!” (Needless to say, my burgeoning interest in loose-leaf tea in all its variety – flavoured, unflavoured, black, green, white, oolong, herbal, pu’erh – has been met with wry amusement in my household.)

There’s very little bitterness or astringency in this tea, despite the depth and darkness of the flavour. So what character does it make me think of?

Since it’s Father’s Day today, I tried to think of famous fathers in fiction that would fit this. And in keeping with my mother’s imagined (but probably accurate) sentiment, I thought in particular of a father that was honest, decent, and straightforward: Atticus Finch.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird – and almost as long a time since I played Atticus Finch in my group’s presentation on the book for Grade 9 English – but Atticus is one of those fictional characters that casts a long shadow. I don’t remember much of what he said, but his strength of purpose, his honesty, and his dignity have stuck with me. This tea is kind of like that: it lacks the frippery of added flavours, but still has a sense of depth and complexity despite (or perhaps because of) this.

Also, I like to think that Atticus Finch was the kind of man who would have avoided drinking southern sweet tea, and the kind of status positioning that it suggests, in favour of something more stripped-down. In honour of him and of the day, let’s raise a mug or glass of tea up to good fathers everywhere.

Where you can get it: Yunnan Breakfast Black from Simple Loose Leaf is available here.