"Saint Petersburg No 523 is based on the original recipe of my 91 yr. old uncle and godfather, Helwig Hooss, a well-known tea merchant in Germany, who since my childhood taught me about fine tea and inspired my personal journey in tea. This blend he created in the 1970s, almost half a century ago, and it became one of the all-time customer favourites throughout his time as a tea merchant. When I started P & T, Uncle Helwig shared with me his well-guarded pure-tea blend recipes, and now we are starting with this wonderfully balanced and highly nuanced blend of 7 (seven!) black teas. This particular blend is based on an old Russian tea recipe which a customer asked my Uncle to blend for him one day. Helwig refined it considerably over the years until he came up with exactly the right balance of these seven teas from China, India and Sri Lanka."
This reverie from our beloved founder, Jens, affords us a peek into the story behind this captivating black-tea blend. While the world owes China for tea’s creation, this particular beverage has established a global foothold. On its journey beyond China, tea found its way to Russian czars seeking to establish a relationship with the Chinese. The trek itself would take over a year, with camel caravans traipsing through desert and tundra to reach these far-flung eastern palaces. It soon became an integral part of life in Russia as its dark, flavorful infusions appealed to those in search of a hearty brew. Perhaps this is what inspired that Russian woman to ask Helwig for this invigorating black tea blend almost half a century ago.
Among its many redeeming qualities are its nuance and complexity, traits which characterize the best tea blends. Like fine wine, a tea blend such as this one accomplishes something utterly unique, which a single cultivar could scarcely hope to do on its own. The harmonious array of flavor profiles and aromas creates a new drinking experience altogether. In the many years since the advent of blending, blended tea has become nothing short of an art form. It’s global popularity has resulted in a berth of novel creations reflective of the cultures from which they hail. While many tea blends contain other ingredients such as bergamot or spices – as is the case with Earl Grey and Masala Chai, respectively – Saint Petersburg adopts a purist approach. This seven-tea blend consists of our finest black teas, each one lending its own distinct attributes to the final assemblage.
In order to achieve the scintillating balance of Saint Petersburg, one must start with not one but two Darjeelings. This type of Indian tea is widely referred to as the “champagne of teas” due to its light, delicate, and aromatic amber-colored cup. Darjeeling accounts for the main base of this storied blend, a melange of both first and second flush teas to balance the fresh, vegetal notes of the former with the warmth of the latter. Our Queen’s Grace, a standard first flush Darjeeling, has notes of a floral bouquet with hints of almond and camphor, offering a brisk and lively cup. Our Muse is a stout, complex and somewhat rugged second flush Darjeeling. Ocher in hue, this expressive cup asserts its classical second flush palate with succulent fruit and full-bodied spice.
Darjeelings aren’t the only Indian teas that made it into this blend, however. Our Assamica tea, Nandana, makes a noteworthy appearance as well. The very intensity of Assam tea is exactly what makes it such a beloved cultivar – its bold flavors, undeniable depth, and robust quality are its greatest selling point. Assam tea’s rich, malty, and astringent flavors lend a welcome astringency to the Saint Petersburg blend. Coupled with our Ceylon, Kipling’s Cup,this duo of its milky sweetness, spicy and velvety notes, balance the blend by imbuing it with a slightly more potent finish. In tandem, these two teas impart a level of intensity to the blend which contrasts the delicate Darjeeling body.
Yunnan Gold and our Keemun, 1876, lend complexity and elegance to this blend, just like Chinese black teas know how. Famous for their smooth silky palate and complex nose, this wonderfully expressive medley of flavors ranges from wine, plums, pine and smoke all the way to luscious floral notes – a duo that surely captivates the palate with a character as bold as it is pleasing.
In a tea made almost wholly out of black teas, the final tea in this mix is something of a secret ingredient. The final addition to this magnificent tea blend is our Four Seasons of Spring, a Taiwanese oolong. This particular one is a daily favourite in Taiwan, and with good reason: its
silky smooth nature boasts an exuberant bouquet of spring flavors. This oolong imparts a buttery texture and unctuous mouthfeel, which gives Saint Petersburg the perfect balance and completes this assemblage of our finest black teas.