“Shadows had fallen in the valley below, but there was still a light on the faces of the mountains far above. The air was warm. The sound of running and falling water was loud, and the evening was filled with a faint scent of trees and flowers, as if summer still lingered in Elrond’s gardens.”
J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”
Oh, have I been itching to introduce our fellow bibliophiles to Whispering Pines Tea Company! This Michigan-based vendor specializing in loose-leaf teas, herbal tisanes, and handcrafted tea blends. Many of Whispering Pines’ offerings are inspired by the wilderness of northern Michigan. A select few, however, are influenced by literature, including three coming from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.
Which brings me to our first Whispering Pines tea for review. In Middle-Earth, Rivendell is the stunningly beautiful home of Lord Elrond and other Elves, and a key location in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In our Tea Time realm, it’s a blend of Chinese oolong tea with cedar leaves and Tahitian vanilla. Sure, it sounds a bit unusual on paper… but let’s leave the “talking” to the tea and find out for ourselves.
Whispering Pines’s Description: “Rivendell is a majestic Elven outpost in Middle Earth, filled with lush vegetation, towering waterfalls, and clean, pure air. Our Rivendell blend was inspired by this ethereal place. With a base of top-grade Anxi Ben Shan, roasted cedar leaves, and hand-cut Tahitian vanilla, this tea is the essence of purity.”
Ingredients: Anxi Ben Shan oolong tea leaves, roasted cedar leaves, and hand-cut Tahitian vanilla
Steeping Instructions: Use ½ tablespoon of tea for every 8 oz of water. Heat water to under boiling (190 degrees Fahrenheit / 96 – 98 degrees Celsius) and steep for 4 minutes.
Multiple Brews?: Yes, about 4
Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf
Caffeine Level: Medium
I know I tend to gush about how pretty oolongs are – but they are pretty! Rivendell is no exception. Its Anxi Ben Shan oolong base shows off vibrant shades of green, allowing the tiny brown cedar sprigs to stand out. The hand-cut vanilla is hard to see, but ohhhh it’s there in the aroma, along with cedar and fruity notes and a slight milky presence. This is already off to a promising, mouthwateringly sweet start.
Using Whispering Pines’ instructions, I brew Cup #1 of Rivendell for 4 minutes. The infusion pours out pale gold with a green tinge and with the scents of orchid, menthol, and butter. I take a sip… Oh my goodness. This may be a mellow oolong, but it offers layers of flavor. It opens with butter, orchid, and a trace of cherry; then a creamy mingling of vanilla and caramel as it rolls over my tongue. The finish is crisp and clean, with hints of flowers and pear. Overall, it’s nectar-sweet and blissfully smooth, with the purity of spring water. I can picture Lord Elrond and his daughter Arwen savoring a pot of this while sitting at one of their home’s open-air pavilions.
Cup #2 (5 minutes) of Rivendell is a lot like Cup #1. It’s still delicate, luscious in texture, and blooming with a bouquet of sweet, floral, and forest scents and flavors. The menthol and lilac aftertaste evokes a graceful, almost stately ambiance that I definitely associate with the Elves. There’s also a mineral quality to this tea, as if it had run over rock and cascaded from a waterfall into my mug. The range of nuances in this oolong really has been astonishing so far.
Rivendell proves to be consistent with each new steep. Cup #4 (10 minutes) takes on a deep golden yellow color; and though the vanilla and cedar flavors have begun to fade, the tea has evolved into a pleasantly floral and “green” oolong. (The latter is “tea speak” for an oolong tea with the grassy or vegetal quality of green tea.) It’s still fairly light to medium in body, and isn’t bitter or astringent. Mmmmmmm…. I could make cup after cup of this beauty for my novel-writing sessions, and I’d be a very happy Tea Timer.
Crisp, ethereal, and refreshing – that’s how I would describe Whispering Pines’s Rivendell Tea. This unique oolong blend is like drinking from a stream and tasting the forests, mountains, and orchards the liquid had flowed through. Not to mention it has the depth of flavor, lush texture, and refined presence that reminds me of its namesake and the Elves who live there. My only criticism would be the price, though I understand why this tea is expensive. (It’s an oolong, plus the cedar and vanilla are prepared by hand.) But if you’re a Tolkienite or an oolong lover who’s willing to splurge on something special once in a while, Rivendell is a regal choice.
Grade: 9.5 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like light, floral, or fruity oolongs, or are fans of Tolkien’s work
- Time of Day and Year: Late mornings or early afternoons in spring or summer, or with your daily meditation
- Possible Book Pairings: Tolkien, of course! A cup of Rivendell would pair exquisitely with anything from his Middle-Earth legendarium. My recommendation would be The Silmarillion, which delves into Middle-Earth’s origins and the Elves’ rich, tumultuous history.
You can purchase Rivendell Tea directly from Whispering Pines Tea Company here. If the tea’s out of stock, select “Add to Wishlist” so you can be notified by email when a new batch is ready.
* * *
In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
If you’re a tea seller and would like to have one of your products reviewed here, please visit the Contributors page for contact information.