“It was a sweet view—sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.”
– Jane Austen, “Emma”
I confess that Emma is one of the few Jane Austen novels I haven’t read. But when Inspired By Jane asked which tea samples I’d like to try, I was immediately intrigued by Donwell Abbey. Named after the the estate owned by Emma’s neighbor (and future love interest) George Knightley, this black tea boasts a unusual yet appealing combination of cinnamon and marsala wine flavors.
Hmmmmm. I do like the sweet, tangy taste of marsala wine sauces in chicken marsala and chicken saltimbocca. So, how will it blend with cinnamon and black tea? Let’s brew some and find out, shall we?
Inspired By Jane’s Description: “Almost a ‘gentleman’s tea,’ but everyone will love this rich, full-bodied black tea flavored with cinnamon and infused with marsala wine flavoring.
Donwell Abbey is the home of Mr. Knightley, who, to Emma, embodies all the characteristics of honesty, warmth and generosity that define a true gentleman.”
Ingredients: Black tea, cinnamon bark, and marsala wine flavoring
Steeping Instructions: Use 1 teabag per 8 oz of water. Heat water to boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit / 100 degrees Celsius) and steep for 3 minutes.
Multiple Brews?: Yes, about 2 times
Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Bagged
Caffeine Level: High
Inspired By Jane exceeded my “packaging” expectations last time with Pemberley. With Donwell Abbey, it’s no different. The vintage artwork style is lovely, and its warm brown tones offer a fitting visual accompaniment to the tea inside. And I can’t help but adore the silken, pyramid-shaped sachets. They’re so fine and light – I almost don’t want to brew the tea because it means “ruining” these bags!
As for the tea inside these sachets? Donwell Abbey features delicate brown twists for tea leaves, with a few golden tips and small bits of cinnamon bark. One inhale, and ohhhhhh do I smell the marsala! Even though the leaves are dry, the aroma is rich and sweet. The cinnamon adds a mouthwatering kick, and its marriage with the marsala also brings clove and cardamom to mind.
Following Inspired By Jane’s instructions, I brew a cup of Donwell Abbey for 3 minutes. The dark brown liquid’s fragrance instantly transports me to the kitchen, reminding me of the deepening aroma of marsala wine as it reduces on the stove. The difference here is the cinnamon tinge. As I sip the tea, though, both ingredients strike a wonderful balance with the black tea. The result is heady and piquant, with a pleasant astringency and a spicy sweetness with lots of depth. Yummy!
I tried a couple more cups of Donwell Abbey with additives: one with milk, and one with agave nectar. The “milky” cup turned out better than I’d hoped, as I was afraid of diluting the marsala and cinnamon too much. However, just a splash adds enough creaminess and tones down the black tea taste without hindering the other flavors. Agave nectar, on the other hand, made the tea too sweet for my liking. Maybe Donwell Abbey doesn’t need additional sweeteners – but if you wanted to sweeten it further, I’d recommend regular or dark brown sugar.
One word of caution: Be careful not to oversteep Donwell Abbey. If it steeps for more than 3 minutes, the black tea’s tannins overtake the marsala and cinnamon flavors, and the cup tastes more like straight black tea. Definitely stick with the shorter brew times so you can relish this tea’s true profile.
I’ve never had a flavored black tea quite like this one before! Inspired By Jane’s Donwell Abbey is full-bodied, savory, and aromatic, with just a hint of dryness. And thanks to its profile of cinnamon and marsala wine, it’s undeniably unique and fitting of its description as a “gentlemanly” tea. That said, Donwell Abbey’s sweetness and distinct flavors prevent it from being a versatile black tea. I wouldn’t recommend it with breakfast – but after dinner or with dessert? Absolutely!
Grade: 8.5 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like black or “sweet and spicy” teas
- Time of Day and Year: Alone after dinner or with non-chocolate desserts such as shortbread or sugar cookies, plain pastries, or New York-style cheesecake
- Possible Book Pairings: The warmth, depth, and sweetness of Donwell Abbey reminds me of aristocratic society, as well as some of the gentlemen I’ve met through “literature.” Try a cup of this with Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Elizabeth May’s The Falconer, or Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
You can purchase Donwell Abbey Black Tea directly from Inspired By Jane here.
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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.
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