What tastes like black tea or pure tobacco?
January 6, 2010 6:29 PM   Subscribe

I love smooth, round, almost earthy flavors. So far, I've only found this flavor type from oxidized leaves, such as black tea (especially with milk) and the smell of good-quality tobacco. Is there any other source of a similar flavor?

I don't smoke and don't want to risk cancer, so tobacco is out for me.

I know about and enjoy pu-erh tea, which is almost as good as black but lacks a little on the high end of the palate.
posted by Earl the Polliwog to Food & Drink (51 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
really good cigars don't have to be smoked to be enjoyed - you can simply hold it in your mouth and maybe gnaw a little. enjoyed in moderation, I cannot imagine your cancer risk would increase appreciably.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lapsang Souchong Tea "A traditional Lapsang Souchong has been smoked over a wood fire giving it a smoky flavor. The tea is dark in color and can be served with or without milk. It is also delicious iced and can be served throughout the day. It is particularly refreshing on a hot afternoon."
posted by MrBCID at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

Roasted coffee beans? Or roasted chocolate beans?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:35 PM on January 6, 2010

Lots of mushrooms are good 'n earthy.
posted by TomMelee at 6:37 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: How do you feel about fragrances? Incense and perfume oils, for example? Might scratch the itch without giving you the cancer.

Also, maybe Riga Black Balsam, or other liqueurs?
posted by hermitosis at 6:44 PM on January 6, 2010

Roasted beets?
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 6:44 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: I may be focusing on an aspect of the flavor that's other than what you're pointing at, but... have you tried smoked paprika? It has a nicely full flavor, IMO, and the smokiness might be appealingly earthy.
posted by Lexica at 6:44 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: I can't recommend something specific, but I have heard both "smooth" and "earthy" to describe red wine. It might have an acidity that overpowers the flavor you are looking for, but it may be fun to explore.

The other flavors I thought of were truffles and saffron.
posted by juliplease at 6:46 PM on January 6, 2010

Response by poster: Fragrances can be OK, but I'm not a big fan of incense.

I guess I could also keep a bag of tobacco around for the smell, but more new stuff would be awesome too. Thanks for the responses so far, please keep them coming :D
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 6:50 PM on January 6, 2010

I had roasted brussels sprouts for dinner this very evening.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:51 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Single-malt scotch.
posted by jdfan at 6:54 PM on January 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Some people find these kinds of flavors in game meat.
posted by box at 6:55 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Darker-than-usual chocolate?
posted by fritley at 6:58 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has a line of fragrances called "Rappaccini's Garden" which contains several really rich earthy fragrances, including two themed on toxic mushrooms that I particularly love.

(Full disclosure: BPAL advertises on my website.)

"Death Cap" is described as "A warm, soft, ruddy scent, earthy and mild."

"Destroying Angel" is described: "Papery white notes evoke the grace of this fungi, grounded by thin, crisp soil.

You can order samples for a few bucks apiece. They don't smell mushroomy in the food sense, they smell -- well, like rich resins and dark earth, with a bit of sweet muskiness.
posted by hermitosis at 7:00 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Gueuze lambic beers have a really nice, funky, earthy taste to them.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:03 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Oh, and good-quality bing cherries rolled in espresso powder. This flavor combination happened accidentally in a friend's kitchen, but it's wonderful.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:05 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Ginger combined with molasses in baked goods have this rooty, earthy flavor. This is the best cake I have ever made, and it that smoky but vegetal thing goin' on in SPADES. I highly recommend it. Orangette has a cookie that combines the two flavors too...oh, here it is. Seems the thing they have in common is they come from Macrina Bakery's cookbook. Which also includes, oddly enough, a fennel and cardamom cream scone which has the potential I'd think to have a similar flavor profile.
posted by ifjuly at 7:13 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Russian Caravan tea is strong and smoky. Also, some porters might hit the spot for you--I like Black Butte, which has a deep, round flavor and silky mouthfeel.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 7:23 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Musky! Yes, that's the other word I was looking for in the title. You read my mind, hermitosis.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 7:27 PM on January 6, 2010

Freshly roasted pecans or Brazil nuts, with a slug of good dark rum.
posted by effluvia at 7:28 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Seconding single-malt scotch, particularly versions from Islay, which features the smoky, peaty flavor that you are looking for. Laphroaig and Ardbeg are two of the most well-known super-peaty scotches easily available. See also this chowhound thread for more recommendations.
posted by googly at 7:30 PM on January 6, 2010

Truffle butter? I find it locally at Whole Foods.
posted by Muted Flugelhorn at 7:36 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Goat meat. Omg delicious. Gamier than game, especially an older goat.

Rabbit, not so much.
posted by bilabial at 7:38 PM on January 6, 2010

Seconding the Black Phoenix scents. Many of them are very earthy. "Zombie", for example, is like the scent of rich black dirt -- only with a kind of patchouli edge on it. Another favorite from BPAL is "Death of Autumn". Like dried leaves and a cold wind. Wonderful scents...
posted by rhartong at 7:40 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: My Chinese friend made me a stir fry with what she called 'fungus'. It had the flavor you describe. She doesn't have an English name for them, but said that they are pretty expensive here in the US. You buy them dry and soak them in water to rehydrate. The texture was not to my liking, but the taste was amazing. I did a Google search, and I think this is it. I think it would be really good chopped in smaller pieces. When my friend made the stir fry they were in really huge chunks, and I didn't really like the texture which was like thinly sliced mushrooms. The taste was really good, very earthy and smokey. I actually asked her if they had been smoked, but she assured me that it was the natural flavor. I think it's exactly what you're looking for.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:50 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Agarwood incense.
posted by scruss at 7:59 PM on January 6, 2010

posted by hermitosis at 8:04 PM on January 6, 2010

You want musky? Jackfruit and durian are crazy musky. You can find them fresh, but also canned, frozen, and freeze-dried, in Asian groceries. Hell, I've seen durian smoothies. You don't get much muskier than that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:16 PM on January 6, 2010

The answers you're getting in this thread remind me of a previous askme (Like drinking the best parts of a bonfire..).
posted by zamboni at 8:18 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hmm. I'm not sure but maybe you want to look into umami?
posted by chinston at 8:31 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't generally enjoy stouts, but earlier tonight I had a stout that I very much enjoyed, and the only way I could describe it was "smooth and earthy." So, I recommend, on top of discovering awesome scotches (which I definitely endorse), discovering awesome stouts.
posted by General Malaise at 8:55 PM on January 6, 2010

I'm not a big fan of incense.
Even so, some incense is wonderfully deep and un-scent-like. Raw copal, for example, or San Francisco Zen Center stick incense. They're a different experience than "shop" incense.
posted by anadem at 8:57 PM on January 6, 2010

Nthing BPAL.
posted by Nattie at 9:23 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: This may be an odd one, but the taste that came to mind (aside from the actual taste of tea or tobacco) is fresh-baked Westphalian pumpernickel rye bread. This is the very dark "German"-style pumpernickel, not the lighter "Jewish" one that's more common in US delis. I can't really describe the taste, except to say that if you haven't ever had it, it's worth a try.

Finding a bakery that does it right is a little hard (it takes a very long time to bake, basically a whole day at low temperature) although sometimes you can get little vacuum-packed slices. (In my local grocery it's in the imported-cheese section, go figure.) That will at least let you smell it a little, but since it's been packaged and shipped across the planet, it's nothing like the real thing.

The real Westphalian-style stuff will not have molasses, caramel color, or anything else artificial in it. You can try making it yourself, although I admit to not being quite that daring.

Also, rye whiskey. Specifically this one, if it's in your budget. Be sure to cut it down with still water if you want to appreciate the taste (which you do); otherwise the alcohol will just numb your mouth.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:28 PM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: I see you've already best-answered truffles, which was going to be my primary suggestion. But, know that you don't have to prepare truffle dishes to get that. If you have a good cheese section at a local grocery, look among the Italian cheeses for a Pecorino Tartufo. It's crazy delish.

Truffle oil can be had quite inexpensively, because it tends not to be truffle oil at all, but 2,4-dithiapentane. If this artificiality doesn't bother you, you should get a wee bottle and experiment with it. It's good on french fries, among many other things.

Also, you might consider very well aged beef, such as a particularly fine steakhouse might dry-age for several weeks before cooking. It develops an earthy, not-quite-"off"-ness that's got quite a bit of the umami I think you're after.

There are red wines that are like what you're asking, and I have had them, but I couldn't point you in a reliable direction. You might find a Brunello that tickles this spot for you, but you could also go through a number of bottles without finding it. Wouldn't be an unpleasant journey, though. I found it once completely unexpectedly in a Tempranillo from La Mancha.

Also, yes to smoked paprika. Why one would use anything but, I can't imagine.
posted by mumkin at 9:29 PM on January 6, 2010

Get a hound dog. A free range dachshund smells like old shoes, grass and sweet musk.
posted by Pennyblack at 9:38 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Most of my best answers are marked because I'd like to try them. I've never had truffles but I'm more eager to after this thread.

I would definitely put some whiskey in there with the flavors I'm seeking, though. That was an "Oh, yeah!" moment.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:40 PM on January 6, 2010

Nice juicy escargot properly prepared, taste like opening a forgotten trunk of old antique books, wonderfully musty eau du terre .
posted by hortense at 10:06 PM on January 6, 2010

I came in to say Islay single malts, but those came up early. I don't think anybody has mentioned Rauchbier yet, though resources linked here do list it. Try it, it's a flavor sensation!
posted by tss at 10:07 PM on January 6, 2010

Loose leaf rooibos tea from here smells just like tobacco to me. I wish you could smell it through the computer!:-) My roommate agrees. Unlike actual tobacco, you can drink it and it doesn't cause cancer! It tastes a lot like black tea, although a little sweeter and is caffeine free. If you don't care to buy it online, maybe you could find some, of another brand perhaps, locally?
posted by MelanieL at 11:06 PM on January 6, 2010

Smoked cheese? I had an applewood-smoked cheddar once that was delicious. You get the sharpness of the cheese with the roundness of the smoke flavour, which might not be what you want, but it really works for me.
posted by handee at 1:34 AM on January 7, 2010

When I first tried Yerba mate tea, it tasted exactly like liquid tobacco to me.
It's very strong and people drink it on every day basis in South America, but I think it takes an acquired taste.
posted by leigh1 at 2:22 AM on January 7, 2010

Pumpernickle, gingerbread, hot chocolate with chili & cinnamon, and sandalwood. (I have a small fabric turtle that my dad was given in Japan; it's a kind of cloth sleeve that holds a small fabric bag of sandalwood shavings, and I like the smell it gives off.)

Toasted food will have undergone the browning reaction and created all the nice compounds you like. Homemade caramel is another place to start: my mom was in town last week and used the Visitation Convent nuns' recipe for caramels dipped in dark chocolate. Very nice!

Bay rum.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:05 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just got back from Oaxaca, home of one of the richest and earthiest sauces I've ever tasted: Mole. The earthiest among these sauces is Mole Negro, which uses a number of different chile peppers and spices, as well as chocolate.
posted by The White Hat at 6:27 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Loose leaf rooibos tea from here smells just like tobacco to me.

Honeybush is similar to rooibos. Very smoky, but slightly sweet, like good pipe tobacco.
posted by electroboy at 7:40 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

a chef friend of mine glazed a rich flourless chocolate tarte frosted with a cream that began with a cigar being simmered until all the leaves had opened up (I think cognac was used to deglaze the mixture, but can't recall). Incredible.
posted by iiniisfree at 8:11 AM on January 7, 2010

Vintage ale.. Also, some microbreweries have really interesting flavors which might suit you -- the one near me has a smoky flavored beer that tastes like bonfires.
posted by spiderskull at 8:33 AM on January 7, 2010

Seconding the suggestion for yerba mate, especially the smoked yerba mate.

It tastes like campfire.

Traditionally prepared matcha may also fit the bill. It's earthy and green tasting.
posted by burntflowers at 9:46 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Regarding wine:

When people speak of the "terroir" of (usually) French wines, they're describing the qualities imparted to it by the soil the grape grows in, and they typically encompass earthy aspects. Côte du Rhone wines are pretty much the poster child for the profile you're looking for. If you're used to drinking American reds, which tend to be "fruit forward", then French reds will be a revelation to you.
posted by mkultra at 10:13 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding looking into Umami. Also, I find that adding Nutritional Yeast to food imparts some of those flavors you describe. It's especially delicious sprinkled on popcorn.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:21 AM on January 7, 2010

Shiitake mushrooms.

Green tea ice cream.

Mochi with red bean paste inside.

Lo Mai Gai (a Chinese dim sum dish of sticky rice with some meat, usually sausage or pork, wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed). Has a salty rich, tea-ish flavour, kind of like risotto made in a hint of tobacco tea. Will run you about $3 in any dim sum restaurant, it's a pretty standard dish.

Rum-soaked black fruit cake (from the West Indies, specifically I've had it made by Trinidadian aunties). The combination of soaked prunes and currants is as rich as the smell as pipe tobacco, it's great. The black kind and the brown kind pictured are both yummers and have that rounded tea flavour. Here's a recipe.

You should try making things with tea. Risotto, rice, or pasta boiled in strong tea; ice cream made with strong black tea (use a green tea ice cream recipe & modify), eggs poached in tea, etc. I dunno, I bet at least one of those would be delicious.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:25 PM on January 7, 2010

« Older Refrigerate or parbake?   |   Dad, please stop beating a dead horse. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.