Cherry Tea? Cheery Teas to Counter February Dreariness

Perfection: A just-picked cherry. Sweet or tart, either one is amazing. Okay, yes, they are a summer thing, but if the view out of your window is as dreary as the view out of mine, well, you understand why I’m thinking about fruit tea! And cherries are very much a Michigan thing.botanical-cherry-web

Nearly surrounded by Great Lakes, Michigan is a tourist state—but we are also an agricultural state, with some of the richest farmland east of the Mississippi and a climate well suited for crops.

Cherries didn’t grow here, or anywhere in America, originally, however.

Native to Asia Minor, cherries were popular with pretty much everyone. By the 1600s, Europeans were carting them along as they journeyed to our continent, and the French introduced them to the Great Lakes region in-between establishing settlements, like Detroit.

In 1852 missionary (and visionary?) Peter Dougherty successfully planted cherry trees—as a crop rather than a garden novelty—near Traverse City, on Old Mission Peninsula (yes, our peninsulas have peninsulas), and in 1893, the first commercially grown tart (also known as sour or pie) cherry trees were planted nearby.

map-webSoon afterward, cherry trees spanned nearly the entire western side of the state (the Lower Peninsula that is).

It turns out that although tart cherries aren’t overly fussy about their environment, Lake Michigan—which runs along that entire western side of our state—mitigates both winter’s winds and summer’s heat, making western Michigan ideal for cherry trees.

Today, Michigan grows around 75% of our country’s tart cherries and 20% of our sweet cherries.

A Michigan Cherry Tea

Some hundred years after that first commercial orchard was planted, Michigander entrepreneur Bob Sutherland began selling “Life, Liberty, Beaches and Pie” t-shirts (because, well, yeah, except for a portion of the Upper Peninsula, the entire western side of our state, along with the northern side, oh, and the eastern side too, constitutes lakeside property).

Bob branched out, introducing oversized cookies filled with dried cherries and chocolate—along with an emphasis on Michigan flavors and products.

His company, the Cherry Republic, now has six locations in Michigan and offers around two hundred cherry-centric products, including this Wild Cherry tea.

A blend of black tea and natural cherry flavor, this tea is available only in teabags. The tea brews up a deep copper brown, with a cherry aroma.

brewing-web
The liquor has a pleasant and natural cherry flavor, grounded in brisk black tea.

But does it hold up to loose tea?

Another Cherry Tea

To check, I also tried Wild Cherry tea from TeaHaus, Ann Arbor. This loose leaf blend contains black tea, sour cherry pieces, cornflower blossoms, and natural flavor.

After brewing, cherries are clearly evident, along with larger pieces of tea leaves (as opposed to the chopped bits in the teabag), and blossoms.

brewed-webThe aroma is more of a sweet cherry, but with an overall fruitiness along with some floral.

The liquor of the deep copper red brew is much softer and creamier than the Cherry Republic tea, and its creamy fruitiness has a sweet cherry finish. There are more nuances to this tea.

So is there a winner?

Well, no. They are simply different, and tea is always about personal preference. (And happily, the cherry flavor is neither cloying nor reminiscent of cough syrup—in either of these teas!)

Although both are wild cherry teas, and I find both very pleasant to drink, Cherry Republic’s version is brisker, with a slightly sharper cherry flavor, due to

  • the small bits of tea, which release flavor quickly and often are more robust, and
  • perhaps the type of flavor used (there are extracts, oils, distillates, and more).

The mellow, fruity, creaminess of the loose tea blend from TeaHaus derives from

  • its larger pieces of tea leaves, which release flavor more slowly but also have more flavor complexity due to their being larger pieces of leaves;
  • the actual pieces of cherry;
  • as with the teabag, perhaps a difference in the type of flavor used; and
  • the flower petals, since blossoms seem to mellow out the briskness of tea leaves whenever they are added to the mix.

With wintry gray skies and sleet in the forecast, summer’s cherries infuse some sunshine into my morning!


Sources:
–”The birth of a republic,” Cherry Republic, 2019, https://www.cherryrepublic.com/about/history.
–”Cherries,” Encyclopedia.com, 2016, https://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/plants/plants/cherry.
–”History of cherries,” Cherry Works, 2019, http://cherryworks.net/history-of-cherries.
–”History of cherryland,” Cherry Stop, 2019, http://www.thecherrystop.com/Cherryland-History_ep_46.html.

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