Warmth and Comfort: Perfect Teas for Autumn

Andy invites us to share a cup of tea.

I’m never really sure autumn has begun until I can smell the fallen leaves. Even as the trees begin to shed their green coats, sporadic warm days and bright sunshine deliver teases of summer. Nonetheless, once the leaves begin to tumble, so fall the tea leaves into my cup, and when dried foliage starts to crunch underfoot and release its crisp perfume of vetiver, myrrh, and scorched citrus peels, I know I’m in another season. Much in the way I select a perfume to wear, I often tailor my choice of tea to harmonize with the seasonal scents that naturally color my day. Whether you wish to reflect the time of year in your teacup or simply want to experience a taste of fall wherever you are, below are some of my favorite autumnal teas.

tea-autumn

The Art of Tea Caramelized Pear

I never would have believed a tea could deliver on a promise as specific as caramelized fruit, but this offering by Art of Tea actually does. The real wonder lies in a pear flavor married perfectly with the toasty softness of rooibos, so as to create the effect not merely of pears, but those slowly baked in the oven and glazed with golden sugar. This herbal tea is an indulgent choice, but even a sometimes tea-purist like myself can appreciate the autumnal embrace of this comforting cup.

Oolong Teas

Chestnut, chrysanthemum, and stewed plum are just a few of the nuances I have tasted in various oolongs, though there are plenty more alluring aromas to uncover when savoring these special teas. Oolongs all classify to varying degrees somewhere between a green and black tea, which means that they differ widely. It is this quality that makes them perfect for autumn, a time that similarly charms me with the beauty of transition between contrasting seasons.

I’m particularly partial to greener oolongs, which can remind me of green chypres like Balmain Ivoire in their taste of dusky, bitter greens and spent petals. Ten Ren’s Alishan Oolong is a beautiful example, as is Ruan Zhi, an unusual Thai oolong I recently discovered from Upton Tea Imports. If incense perfumes are your favorite choice for cooler weather, perhaps try the Organic Frankincense Oolong from Aftelier. A crisp frankincense essence is delicately balanced with Taiwanese oolong for an unusually soothing effect, not unlike the relaxation I experience from burning incense. No matter what you choose, it is worth noting that oolongs are a wide category, though; if it’s your first time trying this type, I recommend perusing the selection of oolongs offered by your favorite tea company and trying a few at once. Even a very small selection will likely keep your interest, because these teas are more complex than any perfume.

Le Palais des Thés Thé des Fakirs

Most tea companies sell a spiced black tea, a variation on the Indian chai theme, but Le Palais des Thés provides a point of departure from these rich blends with Thé des Fakirs. A lighter base of green tea is layered with a zingy blend of cloves, cardamom, and grapefruit peel, which provide a crisp taste without sacrificing warmth and opulence. And for a twist on more traditional spiced black tea, this company’s Thé des Amants adds an appealing twist of apple to warm spices and vanilla.

Lapsang Souchong

I could wax poetic about Lapsang Souchong, but the simple reason that I include it in my autumn rotation is that it perfectly captures evenings spent by a bonfire, the marriage of flinty chill and smoky warmth all at once. A cup of Lapsang Souchong is an infinitely sensual experience, as the aroma is liberally laced with the scent of pine smoke used to cure this black tea. For a light veil of smokiness, try a “Caravan” style tea, such as Kusmi Tea’s Samovar. For the full effect, I’ve greatly enjoyed all of the Lapsang Souchongs from Upton Tea Imports, as well as Thé du Tigre from Le Palais des Thés.

Le Palais des Thés Mélange du Cap

If cooler weather is your invitation to start wearing decadent, gourmand perfumes, then this rooibos blend from Le Palais des Thés is sure to please. Rooibos tea naturally has a subtle vanillic edge, which perhaps explains why, when blended with flavors of cocoa and vanilla, the result is so absolutely delicious. I often like this tea with breakfast, for it’s an instant mood lifter on days that promise grey skies and make me long for little more than easy comfort and a touch of cheer.

Extra: Andy’s Tea Primer

What teas are you enjoying these days?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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60 Comments

  • Michaela: What an interesting article, you are a true connaisseur for sure!
    I’d have never paired rooibos and pear… to get caramelized pear. I love rooibos and vanilla, maybe this is the most usual mix.
    You made me curious about Oolong teas. While reading about the nuances in Oolong teas, I recall the surprise of my first pure chrysantemum tea, naturally a bit honey-sweet and spreading such a soft but distinct aroma. October 8, 2014 at 7:34am Reply

    • Andy: I had thought about adding a word in on chrysanthemum tea, but completely forgot while I was writing the post. Thank you for mentioning it, because it is a great herbal tea for autumn. Aside from being a great match to the blooming chrysanthemums outside, the flavor is so intriguing. October 8, 2014 at 3:58pm Reply

  • Aurora: Such a timely and charming article, Andy.

    I am making notes of the various teas you list, I like Kusmi teas very much as the headquarters are in Paris, my birth city.

    You describe very well the appeal of Lapsang Souchong so Samovar is the next tea I’ll get from Kusmi along with Violetta which Victoria recommended. October 8, 2014 at 7:57am Reply

    • Andy: Do report back on how you like the Kusmi teas. I’ve been wanting to try their Violet tea as well. The Zubrovka (black tea with sweetgrass) sounds like it would be a great match for autumn too! October 8, 2014 at 4:03pm Reply

      • Victoria: Zubrovka is so delicious and it would make a great perfume with its mix of almond scented herbs and smoky black tea. October 8, 2014 at 4:30pm Reply

        • Andy: I had seen a big tin of Zubrovka at a Marshalls about a year ago and still regret not buying it. I may have to get some, since my black tea arsenal is looking a little low though. Low, meaning I probably have about half a kilo between all the different tins. 😉 October 8, 2014 at 6:43pm Reply

          • Victoria: If you have some tonka beans, you can try grating a little into your cup of black tea (really, just a couple of specks) for a very similar effect. October 9, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

            • Andy: Off to do just that! October 9, 2014 at 10:38am Reply

  • Hamamelis: Lovely article Andy, thank you. Lapsang Souchong is such a distinctive tea, one of my favourites too. In the Netherlands there is a mild Lapsang tea blend called Kistje van de Keizer, the Emperor’s little Chest. At first it was foremost known in the Hague, brought there on the market by a distinguished gentleman, I think 80 years or so ago (my granny used to drink it, she is long gone!), but now it is quite wellknown among tea lovers in the Netherlands. It is a blend of lapsang, Chinese Panyong and Indonesian Sidamanik, but sometimes it is blended with Assam and Ceylon. It is still the tea my family drinks when we have a get together in the afternoon. October 8, 2014 at 8:45am Reply

    • Andy: How interesting. I had never heard of Kistje van de Keizer before, thank you very much for sharing this. I can just picture sitting with family on an afternoon, the slightly smokey aroma of this tea rising from the cups. 🙂 October 8, 2014 at 4:09pm Reply

  • Hannah: Right now I’m in Berlin and I usually eat at falafel and Sudanese places, partially because they have the best tea. And it is so cheap, sometimes even free. October 8, 2014 at 9:00am Reply

    • Andy: You make me long to visit Berlin again, Hannah. When I go back, I’m tempted to visit one of these types of restaurants just to have this experience, of sipping some good tea with a delicious meal. October 8, 2014 at 4:14pm Reply

      • Hannah: Do you have a contact address? I love being a travel agent! October 9, 2014 at 6:05am Reply

        • Andy: As much as I’d love to, I doubt I’ll be back to Berlin any time within the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, I will keep that offer in mind! I can always use recommendations from those who know a city better than I do. October 9, 2014 at 7:35am Reply

  • limegreen: Thank you for such a soothing article on tea, Andy. I have been drinking pu’er (sometimes romanized as pu-erh) tea, from Yunnan, that is supposed to be good for digestion. I like it because it is a “light” and non-acidic black tea with a subtle but pleasant fragrance. I have friends who bring me all kinds of tea from China and Taiwan, so I always get to try a lot of teas, including whatever is the “latest” in tea fashion (some of those trendy leaves that have been grown, etc.). Pu-er has been around for a while, but they do different things with the leaf, or something.
    I also have been drinking a lot of licorice root “tea” which I’ve craved lately. I’m not fond of anise or licorice fragrances to wear, but love the Malle Marius and Jeannette. Maybe smelling it in our home has made me crave licorice root tea! October 8, 2014 at 10:37am Reply

    • limegreen: I regret we did not buy any tea at Mariage Freres when friends treated us to brunch there this past summer. The tea-infused food and the drinks themselves were aesthetically stunning and delicious. October 8, 2014 at 10:42am Reply

      • Andy: The Mariage Frères boutiques are a place I dream of visiting and dining in someday. I am sure it must be very memorable! October 8, 2014 at 4:41pm Reply

        • ushie: Mariage Freres (.sp.) is an amazing experience! Everything can be made with tea–the tea champagne one gets with the “champagne tea” is delicious. The little savory bites are yummy, and the tea (you choose) is so perfect. It’s probably the best meal, dollar for euro, you can get in Paris. October 10, 2014 at 9:14pm Reply

          • Andy: Thank you for your feedback on your experience at Mariage Fréres. It makes me want to drive to the airport, board a plane to Paris, and head straight to a tea luncheon! October 10, 2014 at 11:20pm Reply

    • Austenfan: You are lucky you get tea strait from the source! Have they brought you any oolongs yet? October 8, 2014 at 1:09pm Reply

    • Andy: Great choices for autumn. Pu-erh often reminds me of peat or leaf mulch in its cool earthiness, definitely reminiscent of the woodlands when the leaves start falling. And I agree with Austenfan, you’re so very lucky to have friends to bring you tea directly from Taiwan and China. Living in the West, where good tea is not nearly as popular, it’s so interesting to think that a certain newly produced tea could be considered fashionable or “in.” October 8, 2014 at 4:37pm Reply

      • limegreen: Tea connoisseurship in Chinese society is much like wine connoissuership in the West, there can be lots of snobbery and trendy fashions to go along with real appreciation of the finer notes.
        Yes, I’m very lucky, and they bring me oolong (usually a fancy high grade) as well as various green and “white” teas. Once a friend/work colleague brought me a specially cultivated tea from Taiwan (I think NPR had a story on it, called Ruby 19 or something) and unfortunately it was placed in my work mailbox but I never received it. It probably was put in someone else’s box by mistake (no note) and that somebody thought they received a special tea! What a shame. After that, that colleague always hands me stuff in person.
        I’m dependent on coffee to keep going and tea is just a change of pace drink, more for relaxation. (I can’t drink wine or cocktails etc)
        Andy — I never thought of it that way but you are exactly right, pu-er is like a peat mulch! You must visit East Asia someday, if you have not already. October 8, 2014 at 8:45pm Reply

        • Andy: Thank you for the insights on Chinese tea culture. I have a friend who visits Taiwan each summer, and the few teas she has brought back have been excellent, despite the fact that she says they were quite inexpensive. It’s amazing how different the perception of quality is too. What I consider to be a very good tea from Taiwan might only be considered mediocre there, since they have access to such a wide variety of very fresh, high quality tea. And I do hope to visit East Asia someday! October 8, 2014 at 9:30pm Reply

          • Michaela: ‘It’s amazing how different the perception of quality is too. ‘

            Perfectly agree! The most interesting conversation about tea I witnessed was one of which I understood absolutely no word, if you can imagine that. In a fabulous tea shop in Shanghai, my Chinese hostess discussed tea with the SA, for a whole hour, passionately, in Chinese, of course, and she bought only a very small pack of some tea with little rose buds! 🙂 And she was very happy. The shop itself was beautiful, tea displayed in very small bowls so you can see and smell, but also in transparent vessels, teas already made, with the plant or flower inside, so one could see the color of the tea and the plant. Prices vary from low to very very high. And the scent… out from this world. This impressed me, we have a totally different education and experience… I know about maximum ten plant tisanes and medicinal uses. My hostess knew, and this is common knowledge for any Chinese, a hundred or more. I may exaggerate, but she started to tell me and she did not finish the enumeration in half an hour. Not to mention the teas.
            I’m sorry I got there only by chance and for a very short time. I would spend some months there if I could 🙂
            You deserve a visit in China, as a tea expert, and a good local guide 🙂 October 9, 2014 at 4:37am Reply

            • Andy: Thank you so much for sharing this story, it’s an absolutely fascinating look at tea culture for me. It’s these sorts of wonderful firsthand stories that I find can teach us so much more about tea than any factual guide. October 9, 2014 at 7:30am Reply

          • limegreen: “might only be considered mediocre there, since they have access to such a wide variety of very fresh, high quality tea”
            Then I won’t go into detail about Chinese restaurant tea here in the US that would have been considered a palate cleanser (mouthwash) in the “old days” of great clans and grand mansions. 🙂 October 9, 2014 at 10:15am Reply

            • Andy: Ha! That’s true, the tea served at Chinese restaurants is good for little else. 🙂 October 9, 2014 at 10:43am Reply

  • Laurie Brown: I agree with you about lapsang; a cold, rainy day cries out for it’s smokey warmth!

    I’m drinking a lot of black tea with jasmine the last week or so; the black tea has more body than the usual green (which I also love!) and stands up better to the colder evenings. October 8, 2014 at 11:34am Reply

    • Andy: Black tea with jasmine sounds great–where do you get yours from? In the past, I’ve had trouble sourcing this particular type of jasmine tea from any one company. October 8, 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Austenfan: How perfectly wonderful to see another tea post.
    I’m trying to reconcile myself to the fact that summer is really, finally over. We had lovely, warm weather here till last Sunday.
    I had my first pot of chestnut oolong tea the other day, it was wonderful.
    I used to drink loads of rooibos tea but I don’t seem to like it as much these days.
    Lapsang however is perfect any season. October 8, 2014 at 11:53am Reply

    • Andy: The weather is still pretty warm here too, but I get so excited for the cooler weather (and the additional tea drinking and richer perfumes that it entails) that at some point I forget about missing summer. And I’d love to know the name of that chestnut oolong, it’s a flavor nuance I especially love. October 8, 2014 at 4:59pm Reply

  • OperaFan: I used to tell friends I was born with a pair of chopsticks in my hand – But that leaves the other hand empty. I’m going to revise it by saying, chopsticks in one hand and a tea cup in the other, for I grew up drinking tea while coffee was considered an exotic beverage.
    Though I was aware they existed, tea was such a part of daily life that I never thought much about their distinct qualities till in my adulthood, never mind the dizzying number of flavored teas.
    Some of my favorites range from the simpler Earl Grey and black currant teas to the cardamom-heavy Indian chai, and “Summer Tea,” purchased at Fortnum & Mason on a trip to England (nearly 20 years ago). The idea of drinking a vanilla-enhanced tea never entered my mind until I had Thé des Amants. I love the delicate nuances of that tea. October 8, 2014 at 12:39pm Reply

    • Andy: I love that turn of phrase,”chopsticks in one hand and a tea cup in the other.” So evocative. And I agree, Thé des Amants is really quite nuanced. When I first tried it, I thought it was just another riff off the spiced black tea theme, until I noticed the accents of vanilla, apple, and citrus blended in. October 8, 2014 at 5:12pm Reply

  • lupo: Thanks for the lovely article, Andy.
    I’m very fond of oolong teas, and I treasure some that I bought a while ago at Mariage Freres in Paris – oolong with orange blossom. However, winter for me is Christmas tea: orange peel, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, star anise. I remember years ago when I was living in Turin a lovely little shop called Olsen selling a great Christmas blend. Or is it too early for Christmas tea? 🙂 October 8, 2014 at 1:01pm Reply

    • Andy: If you ask me, it’s never too early for Christmas! (So long as it’s not an unseasonably early advertisement for sales…)

      That oolong with orange blossom sounds incredible! October 8, 2014 at 5:18pm Reply

  • Lena D.: Thank you, Andy! I feel fall is here and I am tea ready! Going to check the Upton Teas! 🙂 October 8, 2014 at 3:30pm Reply

    • Andy: They really have such a great selection, and I love that they sell inexpensive samples of every tea on their site. October 8, 2014 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Amer: I consider myself a tea purist but this candied pear rooibos is something I’d definitely want to try at least once. Sounds… tea-licious! October 8, 2014 at 3:54pm Reply

    • Andy: I had heard of Caramelized Pear and read positive reviews of it but was very skeptical. But when I tried it, I had to admit that it was delicious! October 8, 2014 at 5:22pm Reply

  • AndreaR: The caramelized tea sounds divine. To me fall is pears and pumpkins. It’s still warm where I live so I’m enjoying a lovely Red Nectar (rooibos) from Steven Smith teas until the temperature dips and it’s time to switch to Oolong. October 8, 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

    • Andy: I’ve been meaning to try some teas from Steven Smith, so thank you for the reminder. I’ve read so many great things about their teas. October 8, 2014 at 5:24pm Reply

  • Courant: Love the notion of pears and rooibos. We are using organic coconut sugar wherever possible (on oatmeal and fruit for example) It adds another flavour but is completely delicious October 9, 2014 at 7:48pm Reply

    • Andy: I haven’t tried coconut sugar yet, but I’ve seen it at the grocery store. If it tastes at all how I imagine, it sounds like it would be delicious in plain oatmeal. I will have to try it! October 9, 2014 at 8:20pm Reply

      • Courant: The sugar is made from the nectar within the coconut flower, so it doesn’t add coconut flavour, like cooking with coconut fat does. It is like dark cane sugar, but without the guilt October 10, 2014 at 1:52am Reply

        • Andy: Ah, my mistake. I must have been confusing the coconut sugar with some other coconut derived product I’ve seen. There seem to be more and more all the time! October 10, 2014 at 8:06am Reply

  • ushie: Having some kind of cold/flu thing (don’t get it!) (It’s not Ebola!) that is causing the usual unlovely symptoms. Made a pot of Lapsang Souchong. Ah. Soothing to the throat, able to inhale its woodsy scent in spite of the whatnot in my sinuses, feeling a little better today. October 10, 2014 at 2:48pm Reply

    • Andy: Feel better! Drinking Lapsang Souchong always has a soothing effect on me, even if, perhaps, its only true healing property is as a balm to the soul. October 10, 2014 at 3:49pm Reply

  • kayliz: I’ve had to cut down drastically on caffeine and haven’t (yet) found a taste for rooibos but am lucky enough to have a shop that sells the Yogi spice teas just around the corner. My favourite for autumn evenings is Rose, and I’m hooked on Himalaya for cold days: ginger, fennel, cinammon, aniseed, coriander, licorice, mmmmm… October 10, 2014 at 5:06pm Reply

    • Andy: Thank you for sharing your fall tea favorites! I remember a friend gave me some Yogi tea once, it was very tasty. I’m intrigued by your mention of Rose. I didn’t know Yogi carried a rose tea! October 10, 2014 at 5:14pm Reply

      • Courant: In Australia Madame Flavour makes rose petal tea, the giftboxes are lovely and not at all expensive October 10, 2014 at 8:44pm Reply

        • Andy: I love rose teas, is the Madame Flavour an herbal tea or a rose scented black or green tea? October 10, 2014 at 8:51pm Reply

      • Hannah: There’s a brand in Germany called Yogi Tea that is different from the American Yogi Tea brand and they have a rose tea (I don’t know if kayliz is referring to the German, American, or possibly even another). Also yogi tee is what they call masala chai in Germany. As for the American Yogi tea, their skin detox tea has rose and I think it works (I think anything with rose will?) but I don’t think it tastes especially good. October 11, 2014 at 7:58am Reply

        • Andy: Ah, how interesting. I had no clue that “yogi Tee” was the way many Germans refer to a spiced, masala chai. October 11, 2014 at 10:45am Reply

          • Kay: Oh, thank you, Hannah, I had no idea there were two different Yogi brands. Yes, I’m in Germany and referring to the German one. Rose is a bit of a cheat (contains 1001 blossoms & spices and also “natural flavouring”) but still wonderful. October 11, 2014 at 5:36pm Reply

  • marlene: You are talking of tea, the first and last thing I drink each day. So good and soothing. I love to visit tea shops and try new teas. A new one recently had a coconut oolong tea. Just a touch of sugar made this tea feel like a Hawaiian holiday. Caramelised pear sounds divine. Thanks for the conversation about one my favorite delights. October 12, 2014 at 12:12am Reply

    • Andy: Glad you enjoyed the article. Coconut oolong sounds like such an inventive combination! October 12, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

  • anon: my favourite fall teas are from the Pawling Trading Company….organic lapsong (I love the smoke as the weather turns), haiku ( a delicate white peach with apricot notes..keeps one foot still in summer :)!!) organic Yoga blend ( an herbal blend of spices and cardamon) and organic cranberry apple. October 30, 2014 at 11:47am Reply

    • Andy: Your tea choices really do sound perfect for autumn! The cranberry apple sounds great, the combination reminds me of a pie I like to make. October 30, 2014 at 11:55am Reply

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