A Russian Caravan tea blend is described as the ideal melange of woody, smoky aroma and velvety sweet taste. It originated over years of loose leaf teas being transported over the harsh wintery Russian steppes. Finally, the tea would arrive to Russia’s elite, fully smoked out from the numerous campfires lit along the way. Today we can enjoy a perfect blend of loose-leaf Chinese teas creating the taste that was once so craved, centuries ago.
What Is Blended Tea?
Blended teas sometimes have a slightly negative connotation. If tea is of high quality on its own, then why blend it with other teas? While we are strong supporters of appreciating each tea to its fullest, in its most natural and original form, we believe there is nothing wrong with a little experimentation! Blending different types of tea together gives us new and exciting flavor combinations that only we can create.
However, there are also tea blends that are already tested and have gained popularity with tea connoisseurs across the world. One such blend is the smoky Russian Caravan tea.
What Is Russian Caravan Tea?
Russian Caravan is a blend of three magnificent single-origin Chinese teas — Keemun black tea, Lapsang Souchong black tea, and Oolong tea. The result is an incredibly malty, sweet, and slightly smoky blend of flavors and aromas. However, Lapsang Souchong can often be omitted from the blend, creating a less smoky — more sweet variety of the tea blend.
Interestingly enough, each tea in this blend originally comes from a different region of China. Keemun black tea comes from Anhui province, Lapsang Souchong from Fujian, and the oolong that is usually used to create this blend comes from the Wuyi mountains. Like Tie Guan Yin, Organic Da Hong Pao or Yellow Goddess Wuyi Rock Tea.
Other variations of the tea include Yunnan Black Tea to achieve an even smoother well-rounded taste.
The History of Russian Caravan
Russian Caravan, being made solely of blended Chinese teas, was indeed initially created for the Russian market. This was back in the 18th century, although tea has been a part of Russia’s elite lifestyle since the 17th century.
The name “Russian Caravan” refers to the caravans of camels which used to travel the “Great Tea Road” (also known as the Siberian Route, not to be confused with the “Tea Horse Road”) on their way to Europe from China, crossing Russia along the way.
The total journey, which started in China, crossed Mongolia and Russia, then ended up in Europe, was over 6000 miles long and took around half a year to finish. The trip was harsh and often extremely cold. Many campfires warmed the traders along the way, and it is believed that the smoke from the campfires imparted a smoky flavor on the transported tea. Nowadays, that same smoky flavor in Russian Caravan Tea comes from the addition of Smoky Lapsang Souchong.
Although it was possible to undergo an easier journey through southern countries, it was believed that the warmer and more humid temperature would ruin the tea. Thus the harsh cold route was undertaken.
Russian Caravan Tea Taste
Sipping a steamy hot cup of Russian Caravan tea, you will be met with notes of smoke, campfire, tobacco, malt, caramel, and chocolate, among others. It is a thick, creamy, and comforting tea. Taking a sip, you can imagine being coated by its warming qualities amidst the snowy, cold Russian nights.
How To Brew Russian Caravan
Traditionally Russian Caravan was brewed the same way any other tea was made in Russia — in a samovar. Literally translated as “self-brewer,” a samovar is a big tea pot-like container which is used to boil water using charcoal. On top of this teapot is another smaller teapot that holds concentrated amounts of loose leaf tea. The tea brew is so concentrated that it is diluted with boiled water from the bigger teapot at a ratio of 10-1.
Although nowadays very few people in Russia use a samovar, the same concentrated method of brewing tea still remains. Extremely concentrated tea is brewed in a teapot and then diluted with more hot water. Since long ago, this method of making tea was used to stretch limited amounts of tea leaf over long periods.
However, now that we are lucky enough to enjoy tea freely, we can brew it without sacrificing the taste. We suggest brewing your homemade Russian Caravan blend western-style, in a teapot.
3 Reasons To Make Your Own Tea Blend: Russian Caravan Tea
- Commercially sold Russian Caravan is often found in teabags. While not always bad, generally, it is better to brew loose leaf tea. Not only will you get more flavor out of your tea but also more brews! Drinking loose leaf tea is both a tastier, healthier and more economical way of enjoying tea.
- Another problem is that commercial blends often add artificial flavors. In the case of Russian Caravan, artificial smoky aroma is often added to the tea blend to make it more “authentic.” Also because it is cheaper than sourcing quality Lapsang Souchong loose leaf tea, which is naturally smoked over pinewood.
- Blending your own teas will give you a bigger quantity of tea for a fraction of the price. Plus you can control exactly which ingredients go into it in the ratios that you enjoy the most!
Tea Blend Recipes: Russian Caravan Tea Ingredients
To blend the tea, we recommend using a scale, rather than a spoon measure, as each tea has different weight and potency.
2 parts oolong tea like our Monkey Picked Tie Guan Yin or Yellow Goddess Huang Guan Yin Oolong Tea
1 part Imperial Keemun Black Tea
1 part Organic Smoky Lapsang Souchong Black Tea
Feel free to experiment with the ratio of Lapsang Souchong based on how campfire-y you like your tea to be!
- Use 3 grams (1.5 teaspoons) of Russian Caravan loose leaf blend for every cup of tea.
- Heat water to 195℉.
- Brew for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove tea leaves to prevent over-steeping. Re-steep when finished drinking, until the tea leaves start losing flavor.