1076 Tasting Notes
I am comparing Sleepytime Vanilla tonight with a fresh box of Honey Vanilla Chamomile. My verdict is that Sleepytime Vanilla is a more appealing chamomile blend. This is an interesting result because I recently tested a packet of Harvest Chamomile, which is apparently the former name of Honey Vanilla Chamomile. Now I need to check to see whether the ingredients are different in the two blends. Otherwise, my reactions are completely contradictory, since last time I claimed that Honey Vanilla Chamomile was better than Sleepytime Vanilla!
Why do I prefer Sleepytime Vanilla in tonight’s side-by-side steep-off? Probably because I was craving vanilla, which is demonstrably present in Sleepytime Vanilla, while rather muted in the Honey Vanilla Chamomile. I need to go check the ingredients of the Harvest Vanilla—ASAP!
update: I do believe that the formula for Honey Vanilla Chamomile, formerly known as Harvest Chamomile* has changed. My only evidence, however, is that vanilla is explicitly listed among the ingredients in the latter but not the former case. In the Honey Vanilla Chamomile, “natural flavors” is the only place where vanilla might be implicated, but vanilla is not mentioned, except in the name of the blend. One thing is clear, Honey Vanilla Chamomile is much more about chamomile than either honey or vanilla!
Flavors: Flowers, Vanilla
In this evening’s steep-off chez sherapop, Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile is going sniff to sniff, sip to sip against Sleepytime Vanilla.
First observation about Honey Vanilla Chamomile: the dried tea smacks very strongly of orange oil—and not without reason. Orange peel is the number two ingredient, right after chamomile! The brewed tea does not, however, taste very much like orange at all. In fact, it seems closer to a rich chamomile blend with a focus on chamomile, not the other showcased ingredients. Neither the honey nor the vanilla is very pronounced, despite the name of the blend.
I like the flavor of this infusion. It is a pleasant mint-free and somewhat hefty (probably because of the chicory and licorice) chamomile composition, which could be good news for those who find Sleepytime too spearmint heavy. Do I like Honey Vanilla Chamomile more than Sleepytime Vanilla? In a direct, side-by-side comparison, the answer is clear: No, I do not.
update: I just read my review of Harvest Chamomile, which seems to list the same ingredients as this new box of Honey Vanilla Chamomile. I am now wondering whether they changed the proportions of the ingredients, because the chamomile is much more pronounced and the honey and vanilla seem very light. Are they identical? Is my change in evaluation due to facts about me rather than the teas?
We’ll never know, because the Harvest Chamomile sample packet is depleted, so I cannot compare my new box of Honey Vanilla Chamomile with the old supply of Harvest Chamomile reviewed by me earlier, and which at the time I concluded was better than Sleepytime Vanilla!
I’m trying to use up all consumables in heavy packaging before The Big Move. Case in point: this bottle of Tazo Giant Peach. Since it weighs about a pound, I’m much better off imbibing it here and now rather than moving it first!
This is really a juice-type beverage—not so much a tea, at least not to me. Today I added a scoop of Madre Labs Madre-C, of which I have about a quarter of a cylindrical jar left—not sure whether I’ll be able to avoid moving this one! The colors match, so I figured that it was a good choice. A peachy-orange colored liquid with a Giant Peach flavor and a massive burst of wild harvested vitamin C (from camu camu, etc.) thrown in for good measure. It tasted fine.
Hopefully I’m healthier for having drained this bottle. One thing is clear: my moving load will be one pound lighter as a result!
Now perhaps I should go prepare some pumpkin soup with some of my stockpiled cans of organic pumpkin and coconut milk!
I decided to try the Choice organic Premium Japanese Green tea bags to see whether they are on a par with the Stash Premium Green and the Harney & Sons Japanese Sencha filter bags. I’m a big fan of sencha filter bags because they are the exception to the general rule that filter bags offer an inferior tea experience. The Japanese have perfected the sencha filter bag format, and from their centuries of toil on this front, all of us benefit!
The first surprise with this Japanese green from Choice was that the bags are wrapped in the cheap-o Lipton-type paper envelopes—so no attempt to maximize freshness, as with most teas with organic credentials and boasting “premium” quality. I’d have thought that any company charging 30 cents for a filter bag would take the trouble to wrap it in an airtight (foil) envelope. Not Choice.
I know nonetheless that this tea must be relatively fresh—or at least recently packaged!—since the expiration date is not until January 2017, which I presume means that it was only just produced. So the flavor was a bit disappointing, but not surprising, given the budget packaging. The box itself comes wrapped in cellophane, but it did not really seem airtight and hermetically sealed to me. Now that the cellophane has been removed, the tea is going to be exposed to air until the other 15 bags are gone.
I guess that I’ll try to drink these rapidly, because the flavor of the freshest bag, the one brewed today, was a bit wan. The pale greenish-yellow cloudy liquor was promising, and reminded me of Harney & Sons, but the flavor was less pronounced. I’ll try brewing my next Choice filter bag in less water, but my favorite double-walled Bodum glasses—the ones which I use specifically for sencha—seemed to be too voluminous for this 2 gram serving of Choice Premium Japanese Green Tea. Note, however, that the bags contain exactly the same weight of tea as do the Harney & Sons Japanese Sencha filter bags, which I find to produce a much more satisfying cup. I’ll do an official steep-off of these two filter bags soon, but I’ve imbibed enough Harney & Sons Japanese Sencha to be able to speak ex cathedra on these matters—it seems to me!
I had a Tazo Chai at Starbucks today. I brewed it strong—two generously filled sachets in a venti cup—then added four packets of honey and some soymilk.
Based on several experiences with different brews, I think that I don’t really like to use soymilk in place of cream in tea—it’s too watery for me. But the blend of teas and spices in this chai was pretty good. I’ll use half and half next time…
Now I am getting really serious about chamomile. I brewed up a pot of about triple strength Harney & Sons Chamomile, since I now have a huge bag of the loose leaf, so I just kept popping buds (similar to bubble paper) and adding them to the pot while waiting for the water to get hot. The brew is rather dark, so I obviously went overboard, but it tastes like unadulterated chamomile in all its glory.
I may be in danger of chamomile toxicity—if there is such a thing, which I presume that there is, since you can kill yourself even by drinking too much water. I’ll try to avoid doing this every day…
While examining the Japanese Spirit dried tea, I noticed that the chamomile buds were few and far between. I decided to rectify that deficiency in this pot by throwing in some of my loose chamomile from Harney & Sons, which I have in enormous supply and so am able to toss about like so much yellow confetti.
Extra chamomile definitely increased the quality of the resultant brew. The flavor was less gingko-dominant. Of course adding more chamomile did not address the other issue with this tea: that the kukicha is very difficult to discern. Well, that’s okay since I’m drinking this as a therapeutic beverage. Here’s the latest in my ongoing and nightmarish moving story:
My new landlady just called me and withdrew her offer of an extra closet and two trunks of space—which I had already filled with clothes! What’s worse, I accepted the lease only because she offered the extra storage space! When I told her that, she replied, “My lease has no provision for tenant storage.” Oh my God. So much for a long-term living arrangement. Looks as though I’ll be moving again next spring.
Why? Why? Why would someone do such a thing?
End of rant.
Today’s refill chez Starbucks was Tazo Refresh. It’s been a while, as I have been obsessed of late with their Green Tips. But today I needed something minty fresh after my grande dark roast, so Refresh it had to be! Very satisfying and aromatherapeutic, as always.
I was at a different Starbucks today, the one at Central Square, where all sorts of curious people from all walks of life and socioeconomic strata hang around. It really looks like a completely different city from the Harvard Square crowd. I enjoyed people watching while exploring my new neighborhood, which is poised equidistant between Central and Harvard Squares, which means there are about six Starbucks within walking distance from my new place. I see many more cups of Refresh in my future!
I find it impossible to access my own previous reviews of this tea (is there some trick to doing that of which I am ignorant?), so I’m probably just going to repeat myself on this tasting note for Harney & Sons Vanilla Comoro. Of course, that will simply prove that I am telling the truth!
It’s good—and especially for a nighttime, decaffeinated tea! The base is not the China black used for most of the Harney & Sons flavored black teas. Instead, it’s their decaffeinated Ceylon, lightly scented with vanilla.
Tonight I brewed the sachet in only 8 ounces of water, and that appears to be the perfect volume for producing the darker, stronger liquor which I strongly prefer for flavored black teas. I’m really looking for an opaque, caramel-colored result once I’ve added my cream. If the brew is too light, then this becomes obvious as it looks like cloudy brown water with the cream. A propos: light cream also works better than half and half, since there is less dilution.
Vanilla Comoro is a winner and makes me want to try the other H&S decaffeinated black teas—and I shall!
“Giddy with joy” might be a slight exaggeration of the effect of Tealux White Nights on me, but I admit that I am pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this highly original blend of white tea, chamomile, rooibos, and peppermint. Who knew? Seriously who dreamt this combination up?
The flavors all seem to come together but at the same time remain distinct, if that makes any sense. I taste the rooibos and the peppermint and the white tea and the chamomile, and they mingle together harmoniously!
The liquor is peachy amber, and the flavor is probably pepperminty enough to warrant a caveat: this blend is suited only for mint lovers!
second infusion: this is much less minty—I gather that peppermint is water soluble?—and the rooibos is less pronounced as well. Now the blend seems more like a gently scented delicate white tea. So glad that I tried another round! The liquor is now more golden than peach. I like how the rooibos does not dominate the composition, as it so often does…
third infusion: now the liquor is more yellow—closer to the color of brewed chamomile than rooibos. Tastes good. This is a blend which really changes a lot as the more volatile elements are removed with each successive infusion. Still good though—just very lightly flavored at this point. Closer to a simple white tea with just a smattering of rooibos.