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Tea: Roasted Almond Delight from The Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co
Price: $7.95 got 1.6 oz
Ingredients: Apple Pieces, planned and crushed almonds, cinnamon pieces, beetroot pieces, flavoring
This is the first out of three (maybe four) reviews for teas from northern Michigan, because I had a lot of luck with tea shops, surprisingly, while on vacation. This little shop is located in Glen Arbor, a small town near the Sleeping Bear Dunes. I ended up choosing a tisane at this shop, because it smelled really good, and it was between this one and Northern Berries, which I’ll probably get eventually and includes bilberries and elderberries which I thought is pretty unique. The almond tea seems more fitting for fall though, so I chose that one.
The tisane’s smell is very strong, and dominated by the nuts. It’s sweet, and the cinnamon is a nice undertone. The apple and beetroot are less present in this tea, and are likely there to balance the strength of the almonds and cinnamon in the taste, and not to be a main part of the tea. I’m surprised, I think this is the second apple and nut tea with beetroot in it that I’ve reviewed. The pieces are large chunks, and look really great because you can see all the little pieces and nuances in the dry mixture.
Steeped, this tea loses a lot of its smell, but makes up for it in taste. The apple flavor is a bit weak, but the almonds create a nice nutty aftertaste. The cinnamon is faint but present, and I can’t really notice any of the beetroot. I like that the sweetness in the smell transfers over in the taste; this tea probably does not need added sugar (although brown sugar might be interesting). The liquid is a faint pale pink hue, but other than that the beetroot is almost invisible.
A note: Looking back on another tea I reviewed in April, Forever Nuts, I realized that these teas have almost identical ingredient lists. However, they possess very different flavor profiles. The other tea was heavily cinnamon based and the beetroot dominated, whereas this one was much more mellow and the nuts shone more. I think this is the better tea of the two.
Overall, I recommend this tea. It would make a good fall tea, and I would be interested to see how it would taste infused into a batch of cookies. It would be nice for the apple to be stronger, but it compliments the almond well how it is. Of course, if you aren’t a fan of tisanes, this might not be the best choice for you, but generally this would be a good caffeine-free drink for the fall.
Tea: Elephant Vanilla Chai from David Rio San Francisco
Price: $8.95 for 14 oz canister or $14.95 for 12 single packets
Ingredients: cane sugar, creamer (coconut oil, corn syrup solids, sodium caseinate [a milk derivative], mono and diglycerides, dipotassium phosphate, soy lecithin), honey granules, black tea powder, vanilla, natural spice blend, natural flavors.
Again continuing with my fall tea trend, here’s a tea that literally got me through two weeks without my hot water boiler. I attended a camp on Stanford’s campus and one of their coffee shops offered this tea. The name made me absolutely need to try it, because how often do you have teas named after animals. When I found this tea available in individual cans I was really excited, so of course I have to review it.
Normally I wouldn’t review powdered chai teas, simply because I don’t drink them, but this chai comes in powder form. It actually looks a bit sandy, which is odd. This tea doesn’t state what spices are included, but I’m definitely assuming cinnamon because that’s what this tea smells most like. Obviously there are also notes of vanilla, but it’s a smoother part of the smell. Overall it’s very sweet, almost a bit too sugary, and strong.
When steeping, I added 8 heaping teaspoons instead of 3 tablespoons. Hopefully that won’t affect the taste too much. The mixed liquid is a light brown, akin to the color of coffee with cream. Its taste is much lighter than the smell, and a bit weak. I steeped this in water, but with the creamer already included, it’s fairly thick. A lot of powder collected in the bottom by the time I was finished drinking, and the last few sips were really bitter because of this.
Recommending this is a bit of a tossup for me, because I think it’s a fairly good chai but it has negative aspects (such as the highly chemical sounding ingredient list) that I don’t like. If powdered chais are your thing, definitely try it, but if you’re used to steeping your own chais and spices, this might not be the thing for you. This tea is good both hot and iced, although I didn’t discuss it iced in this review, and is definitely better with milk instead of water. It might be interesting to try this with almond milk, and it does not need sweetener unless you like your tea extremely sweet.
Tea: Chai Town from Adagio’s Chicago Series
Cost: $9 for a 4 oz tin
Ingredients: black tea, cardamom, cloves, ginger, red peppercorn, cinnamon bark, cornflowers, cinnamon flavor
I reviewed another tea from this series awhile back, and meant to review this one but never did. It’s been sitting on my shelf as a gorgeous tin for awhile now, and I haven’t had it in awhile because chais aren’t really my thing in the summer. But with fall approaching, and piles of homework already looming in my foreseeable future, chai tea is going to become a necessity. So, I figured I would review it in advance, that way it’s already there when chai season arrives.
I love a tea where you can see all the components in it. All the bits and pieces are visible in this chai, and it’s great. The colors are nice too, and overall this tea looks like your standard chai. The smell is similar to a potpourri, and the cinnamon and cardamom reign dominant. The cornflowers aren’t really present in the smell, and I suspect they’re more there for looks because the blue is pretty in the blend. I wish the black tea was a slightly larger leaf and less broken, but given the strength of the additives, hopefully it won’t matter.
The smell coming from the steeped tea is insanely strong. The ginger and cloves are most prominent, and the whole smell is very spicy. The color is nothing special, just a very deep brown. So when I first took a sip, I expected it to be insanely strong just based off the smell, but it wasn’t. The tea was soft. While the taste is intricate, the flavors fit each other and are nicely balanced. I’d almost like it a bit stronger, and if I were mixing it with milk I would have steeped it much longer, but it’s still a full flavor and fairly good. The tea itself is harder to taste because the spices are so strong, but with a chai it’s excusable. Overall not bad.
For the price, I think this tea is worth trying. Four ounces may be a lot to get before trying the tea in a smaller quantity, but even if you don’t like it, there will be someone who will who you can give the tea to. At a bit more than $2 an oz, it’s worth a shot. This may not be my favorite chai, but it’s a good balanced one. I think it’s a bit too strong to drink every day, but every once in awhile it’s a good change. This tea would go well with milk, but I think sugar or honey would detract from the spices. A bit of vanilla wouldn’t go amiss, though, if the tea were steeped in milk over a stove.
Tea: Rooibush Cream-Caramel from Tea Gschwendner
Price: $12.50 for 25 tea bags
Ingredients: Rooibos tea, natural and artificial flavor
Due to travel, once again, I’m reviewing another bagged tea. This one is also from Tea Gschwendner (gasp two from the same company in a row), and is a rooibos (although they call it rooibush on the packaging). The photograph was taken immediately after putting the bag inside the water, which is why the characteristic red is not present yet. I’m just happy I managed to get tea during this trip, even though it was usually not the type of tea I could review. Granted, the only reason I did was because I brought my own, but that’s beside the point.
Starting off with the smell again, this reminded me of caramel covered dessert popcorn, oddly enough. It had a slight papery smell, from the bag, but that was acceptable. It was very sweet, and the rooibos was mild and light. There were also some grape notes, which I thought were a bit odd, but intriguing. The leaves were characteristic of a rooibos, and there was nothing else to note about their appearance.
Again, the color was characteristic, and there’s nothing special to note about it. The taste is heavily vanilla. It was a bit too flat, although there was a nice amount of sweetness. I enjoyed the lightness of it. However, there was far more cream than caramel, and other than the smell, the caramel was almost nonexistent. This tea was definitely a cream tea, with an underlying rooibos.
I recommend this, if you’re looking for a bagged rooibos tea, but there are certainly better rooibos teas out there. It’s a bit flat, and could use more caramel, but those don’t necessarily make it a bad tea. I will note that this tea has artificial flavors, and I think I would have liked it more if it did not, because there was a bit of fake-ness in the taste that I think led to its flatness. Overall, it’s just merely okay.
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Tea: Darjeeling Pussimbing from TeaGshwendner
Cost: $12.50 for 25 bags
Ingredients: Darjeeling tea
I absolutely adore darjeeling, it’s one of my favorite teas. So, when I was in Chicago and able to pick up some sample tea bags from the TeaGshwendner store (my first time inside after many times I meant to go inside and didn’t have a chance to), I had to get Darjeeling. I’m traveling again, this time to California, so I’m reviewing bagged teas again for a bit.
It’s very fruity, but the smell is a richer fruit smell, and also fairly nutty. I’d say it’s muscatel, like many darjeelings, or like dates, but not quite enough. There’s also a sweet edge to it. The overall smell is very light as well. The tea itself, visible through the bag, is very green colored, more than I expected for a darjeeling. There are black pieces as well, but not nearly as many as I thought there should be.
This tea tastes slightly flat, but it’s an edge characteristic to bagged teas from what I’ve noticed. It’s still slightly nutty, though far less fruity. The overall flavor is a tad weak, though that could just be due to the very short recommended steeping time. It’s not too bitter, but it’s also not sweet, it’s almost a bit bland compared to other darjeelings I’ve had. The liquid is a soft yellow, and neither heavy not light. I do like how smooth it is.
Overall, it’s an okay bagged tea but it isn’t spectacular. I don’t think it’s worth the price, even for a darjeeling. Unlike other darjeelings I have tried, I think a bit of sweetener wouldn’t go amiss, but not too much. This tea is just neither spectacular nor awful, and while I’ll happily drink it, it’s not anything I’d buy more of without looking at other options first.
Tea: Guava Cadabra from David’s Tea
Cost: $8.50 for 50 g (1.76 oz)
Ingredients: Mango, apple, hibiscus blossoms, elderberries, guava crunchy, beetroot, rosehips, artificial flavoring.
Well, for starters, I’m not exactly sure what guava crunchy is, and I’m not a big fan of artificial flavoring, but I got this tea in a sample set for Christmas and have been waiting for summer to bring it out because I don’t particularly like fruit teas in the winter. I think the name is supposed to be a pun on “Abracadabra” but it took a bit to notice and I don’t really think it’s very funny. Once again, this is going to be tasted iced and warm, because it’s a tisane.
There’s lots of large chunks in this tea, dried fruits and the like. I can definitely see all the different components of this tea which is really nice. I could do without the artificial flavor, as per usual, but the fruit itself looks nice. This tea smells extremely fruity, and a bit like a berry lemonade. There’s slight acidity in the smell, although it’s also surprisingly light. It’s obviously a very fruity smell, but it does have an artificial twinge to it. It’s a very busy smell, and I’m not sure I like it.
This tea is a beautiful pink steeped. I was really surprised by the color, it’s very nice. The fruit pieces also expanded well. Warm, this tea is too sweet. It’s very heavy, and a bit like cough syrup. Cold, however, this tea lightens up and is much better. Again, this is a tea that really needs to be accompanied by ice. The taste also weakens a bit, but the fruity notes are still present. I think the beetroot adds an interesting flavor, and I really like the blend of mango and hibiscus.
Would I recommend this tea? Overall I think it’s well balanced and one of the better iced tisanes I’ve tried this summer. If you’re going for something light and decaffeinated this is definitely a great tea for it. I may try testing various sweeteners with it, or a rooibos blended in, but it also stands on its own well, and I really like it.
Tea: Magic Dragon from David’s Tea
Price: $8.50 for 50 grams (1.76 oz)
Ingredients: Apple, rosehips, hibiscus, sweet blackberry leaves, dragonfruit, cornflower petals, natural dragonfruit flavouring
When I stopped at David’s Tea, I decided to get Magic Dragon because it was the tea of the month in July and honestly largely because of the interesting name and because dragonfruit is delicious and there are far too few fruit blends that include it. I didn’t have a chance to smell the tea before buying it in one of the sealed packages because we were in a rush, so I’m hoping this was a good purchase. The ingredient blend certainly sounds delicious.
The pieces are very nice looking, and you can see the individual dried fruits and blackberry leaves in the mixture. It definitely smells strong. So strong, that the individual aspects all drown each other out and become a single smell. It’s immensely fruity, and although slightly artificial, a pleasant smell. The entire smell is almost sickly sweet.
There are a lot of pieces floating in my tea, and I really don’t like that. Definitely use a very fine strainer with this tea. It’s a pinkish-purple liquid. Warm, this tea tastes flat and sticky. The dragonfruit is really the only part I can taste, which is sort of good because it’s the name of the tea, but I’d like to be able to detect other flavors as well. Cold, this tea is much better. It tastes as though it already has sugar in it, so more is definitely not necessary unless you like your teas very sweet. The taste is very homogenous, like the smell, but not nearly as overpowering.
I recommend this as an iced tea, although not as a warm tea. It does not need extra sweeteners, and would probably be good accompanying watermelon or some other light fruit.
Tea: Malabar Estate Java OP Clonal from Upton Tea
Cost: $2 for a 12 gram sample, or $11.20/100 grams (3.5 oz)
Ingredients: Black tea
Another tea from Upton, and from a sampler set I got awhile ago. This one is an Indonesian tea, which I’m excited to try because I’ve never bought tea from Indonesia. It’s an estate tea as well, which I like. One of my favorite teas is an estate tea from Sri Lanka, which I may review but I buy in person and I don’t know where I would get it online to link it. So, this is the first estate tea on this review blog, but by no means the first I’ve ever tried.
This tea has an absolutely gorgeous mahogany smell, though it’s very faint. I would like it more if it were a stronger smell, because it’s very fragrant and flowery. Based on the smell, this tea might compliment a darjeeling in a blend. It’s a dark brown, almost black, with very small leaves. Overall, appearance wise this tea is very unassuming and the smell could be stronger.
The tea didn’t steep very evenly, so I steeped it for longer than the recommended amount. Hopefully that doesn’t affect much. It turned out not to matter because the tea was very weak. It was woody, but slightly bland. There was a faint grape note, but I feel like it wasn’t as full as I’d have liked. The tea disappointed, especially after how much I liked the smell. It was nothing special.
I think for the price if you’re looking for a standard black tea it’s worth getting a sample and making your own judgements, but I probably won’t get this tea again. It was just mediocre, and I’ve had much better, similar, teas. I expected more flavor out of an orange pekoe, and this left me wanting.