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Recent Tasting Notes
In my dual desires to a) drink autumnal teas & b) try the things I have not yet tried in my cupboard, this mornings cup was a happy circumstance. A new tea to try, and an autumnal blend!
This was actually fairly nice! A sweetly spiced blend, where the pumpkin spice is very well balanced indeed. I don’t know that this has actual pumpkin in it, but it gave enough impression of pumpkin that the whole thing worked. They also kept it easy on the clove, so the whole thing felt light, instead of heavy.
Yes, I liked this!
As my morning cup was so bitter, and as it looks to be a long day ahead of me, I thought I’d brew this sample sachet up, and see how it does.
Decent, is what I think. Not, perhaps, “great” as it claims, but a solid, dependable sort of brew.
I suspect that this would indeed pair well with a hearty British style breakfast. Alas, I have no English fry up with me, so I’ll just have to enjoy on its own.
Its been one of Those Days. You know the ones, nothing terrible is happening, but theres an avalanche of little things, the phone ringing, the little tasks piling up, the research to be done. They’re all small, and nothing is absolutely critical, meaning prioritizing is hard. And just when you’ve made a dent in the ol’ pile, the phone rings again.
Ah, yes. Those Days.
So I’ve been busy, and decided I’d have another cup of something. But the black tea samples I had did not immedietly appeal. Fortunatly I threw this in, a sample from my recently arrived Bluebird Tea order.
I can’t say I really get “lemonade” out of this, but I don’t actually think that’s a bad thing. Lemonade might be too tart for enjoyment, at least in a hot brewed tea. Theres a lemony sweetness, rounding out a very fresh and juicy rose, but nothing puckers the mouth.
I actually really enjoyed it! I wont rush out to order it, but it might be pondered when I put in my next Bluebird order….
Aroma: A tender chocolatey aroma that has, if you sniff deep, a hint of dark chocolate.
Flavour: Deep, toasted flavours are followed by a hint of chocolate and slight bitter taste, further giving Choco Pops a dark chocolate element.
Final thoughts: In comparison to the other blends in the Autumn 2016 collection this may seem unremarkable, however it does have autumnal links. Toasted rice blended with green tea is traditionally known as Genmaicha and was used by poor Japanese people to sustain them through colder months. The addition of black tea and chocolate adds a deeper flavour to Choco Pops, creating a wholesome and warming blend, with a real feeling of late autumn in the toasted notes.
Flavors: Bitter, Dark Chocolate, Tea, Toasted
Aroma: Foam banana sweeties!
Flavour: It’s hard to know what to expect from a blend like this, but having NEVER encountered a banana tea before there was an equal mix of excitement and trepidation. Banana + Custard is definitely different. The flavour is a predominant coating of strong artificial banana. Think thick banana milkshake kind of flavour. Yum! This is combined with a light vegetal note that’s developed from the green tea and a finish of liquorice felt in the back of the throat.
Final thoughts: Bananas + Custard is obviously a kooky blend, but it’s well worth trying with it’s delightfully sweet, creamy notes.
Flavors: banana, Creamy, Licorice, Milk, Vegetal
Unlike this morning’s Gurana Chai, this one really is minty. A lot minty. I’ve never had a mint-chai blend before, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect. It’s a black base – assam and darjeeling – but with less spices than you’d normally expect – just ginger, lemongrass, and cardamon. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water.
The result is…interesting. Straight off, I’m not sure I’m a fan. I did the scrunchy nose thing, which generally tells me everything I need to know before I even take a second sip. The black base and the mint work. That’s a thing. It’d work even better with some vanilla, and if the darjeeling was removed from the equation. But even with the darjeeling, it would work. Black tea, mint, and chai spices…doesn’t work. It clashes. In all kinds of odd ways. It sounds like it should work well enough. If I think of ingredient pairings in my head, I’m not immediately disgusted. I wouldn’t even question most of them. Mint and ginger, okay. Black tea and caradmon, fine. Ginger and black tea, ginger and lemongrass…it’s all fine. In practice, though…just no. I want this to be either a mint and vanilla black, or a chai. As it stands, it’s a weird halfway and I’m not enjoying it. I wanted to like it…but I don’t. Sorry Bluebird!
It’s cold today, and I’m feeling totally grim for a variety of reasons, so I figured a warming, energy-boosting (apparently…) chai would make for a better start to the day than the one I’m currently having. I don’t think I’ve ever tried a chai quite like this one before – the base tea is yerba mate, but there’s also a lot of gurana (large, shiny brown balls…?) I used 1.5 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water.
The resulting liquor is a medium green-brown, quite swampy looking. It smells just like a regular chai – spicy, heavy on the cinnamon and ginger. It tastes more savoury than the chai I’m typically used to – more like curry powder dissolved in water than anything else. I’d been expecting a lot of cinnamon/ginger based on the scent, but it’s the cardamon, corriander, and black pepper that are most prominent. I quite like that in a chai, so it’s a happy cup so far for me.
I googled gurana, out of interest, and it appears to be a climbing plant in the maple family, native to Brazil. The “brown balls” are seeds from its fruit, and apparently contain twice the amount of caffeine as a coffee bean. It’s used a lot in energy drinks.
I was expecting the base tea to be more evident in the overall flavour, but it’s actually not. I think the level of spicing is disguising it to some extent, which, when it comes to chai, is no bad thing. One thing I absolutely can’t taste is mint, and given that it’s the third ingredient on the list I was expecting to be able to taste it. Not so, although in all honesty that might be for the best. I’m not sure minty curry powder would be a good thing…
I’m enjoying this one. It’s got a nicely savoury vibe, which is unusual among the teas I drink, and as chai goes it’s deliciously spicy. This one’s a winner with me.
Aroma: spicy, similar to many chai blends, but when steeped this tea is buttery, and creamy, and sweet smelling. And. Oh. So. Very. Tempting.
Flavour: A sudden bitterness that quickly gives way to the spices, buttery pumpkin notes and finally, a sweet vanilla, that lasts into the finish and keeps you coming back for more. A dash of milk removes much of the bitterness of the Ceylon, creating a cup where every mouthful is to be savoured, radiating buttery, creamy vanilla hints and spiced notes. Think chai with an autumnal pumpkin twist.
Final Thoughts: In true Bluebird fashion, they have near flawlessly captured the essence of homey autumn evenings in this teas sweet aroma, delicious flavour and autumnal colours. It didn’t take more than a few sips to completely understand why this tea is a winner. For me, a dash of milk made this tea into perfection. GOD. ITS. SO. DAMN. GOOD. Words just can’t do Spiced Pumpkin Pie justice.
Flavors: Bitter, Cloves, Pumpkin, Spicy, Vanilla
Finally reviewing this one from my order months ago. I don’t love it as much as I’d wish. (Chocolate! Berries!) While using a teaspoon in previous steeps, I didn’t love the weakness of the Ceylon black tea, so I used two teaspoons this time around. It resulted in a deep and delicious cup, but I don’t think it needed two teaspoons (1 1/2 or 1 3/4 would be enough). The description mentions an amazing mix of berries: raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, elderberries, cranberry (apple too) and I do see pieces of berries, but just not enough of them. To create a black forest cake blend, there is also vanilla and cocoa shells. I would say the cocoa shells take over more than anything else but I love that Bluebird uses cocoa shells, with hints of berry but also with tanginess from the bits of hibiscus included in the blend (I wish they weren’t there but it doesn’t ruin the blend more than it could have.) Mostly, this blend is like chocolate and hibiscus no matter how I steep it. I would love more of a cakey flavor and berries from this though, so I’m not rating it very high.
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for a full mug// 10 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 6 minute steep
First cup of the morning! It’s feeling very autumnal today, so I picked out something fall-y, I think for the first time this year (at least, on purpose). What surprises me most is that there are no notes for this one yet – I’m pretty sure it’s from Bluebird’s last autumn collection.
In any case, it’s good. First sip reminded me a lot of David’s Tea Alpine Punch. There’s a very strong almond flavour right up front, very reminiscent of marzipan. In the mid-sip, there’s coconut, and then a touch of warming cinnamon spice in the final fade. It’s a rooibos base, but I can’t really taste any of the woodiness that I typically associate with red rooibos. No sawdust here! I think that’s partly because the almond’s so strong. It pretty well drowns out everything else.
I’m enjoying this one. It’s warming, and comforting, and it perfectly encapsulates early autumn for me. I used 1 tsp for my cup, and gave it 5 minutes in boiling water, plus a splash of milk. Delicious! I’m probably going to add this one to my evening rotation, except I’ll be sad when it’s gone. If only it were still available!
Today’s work cold brew. I’ve waited a while to try this one, but I could probably say that about literally all the teas in my cupboard. It’s just what seems to happen. Anyway, what I really like is when I’ve waited a while to try something and it turns out to be really good. All the anticipation pays off! It definitely worked here, because this is a great candy floss tea, probably one of the best I’ve tried. Usually, they’re either on black or rooibos bases, but this one is white and I think the delicate, sweet (sugar water-like) flavour of white tea really works here.
The initial flavour is sweet, candy-like strawberry, and also something that reminds me very much of the coating on hundreds and thousands (which makes sense, because there are some in the blend!) After the berry flavour fades, there’s a generic caramelised sweetness that’s perfectly reminiscent of candy floss. It’s hard to pin down a flavour that’s so light, airy and insubstantial, but Bluebird have done an excellent job here. It really is strawberry-flavoured candy floss in a cup!
I’m guzzling this one, so if it’s still available I’ll definitely be buying more :)
In my experiences the greener varieties of oolong don’t seem to play well with additional ingredients. Some oolong is so light and floral that it tends to make the flavours seem spaced out and buffered instead of well mixed- if that makes sense. This something that inhibits my enjoyment of most “Oolong Chai” renditions.
Peppermint Cream doesn’t really suffer from this problem in so much that it’s more of a milk oolong flavoured mint tea than the other way around. The milkiness adds convincing depth to the cocoa “cream” (more like skim milk), while the airy green quality of the oolong amplifies the fresh breath quality of peppermint. Space is used well here.
It potently evokes memories of crisp fall mornings and that kind of thing. It also resteeps fairly well. My only complaints are the blend’s metallic tendency, and the fact that I don’t like cocoa in my tea.
Flavors: Cocoa, Floral, Metallic, Milk, Peppermint, Sweet
No notes for this one? I’m kind of surprised about that, because it’s been out a while – I think since last autumn? Anyway, I should probably preface this by saying that smoky teas are generally not my thing. There was a time when just the thought would make me stomach turn, but thankfully my aversion isn’t that strong anymore. I still don’t drink many smoky teas, though, and I tend not to seek them out. I’ll try the occasional one, though, because when it comes to tea I feel like continuing to challenge my preconceptions is still a valid thing to do. I wouldn’t be drinking pu’erh, oolong or green tea otherwise, and that really would be a loss.
The scent of the dry leaf is strong, reminiscent of beef jerky with hints of barbecue smoke. Based on the name, I was hoping for more of a cigarette smoke/men’s club type of scent, rather than bonfire and meat, but there you go. This blend is a mixture of Lapsang Souchong and Russian Caravan, so it contains some formosa oolong and keemun. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. It brewed up to a medium golden-brown, so no additions.
To taste, it’s actually more palatable than I was expecting. The smokiness is strong, and it lingers in the aftertaste, but I don’t have the instant urge to tip the rest of the cup that I would have had at one time. It’s smoother than I expected, with no bitterness or astringency. It’s hard to say whether there are any nuances, though, or how effective the base teas are, because the smoke/meatiness simply overpowers everything else. Not a disaster, though!
Everytime I see/drink a smoky tea, I inevitably recall the way Von Smallhausen of the Gestapo says “I prefer Lapsang Souchong” in ’Allo ’Allo. The subtext of that sentence really has to be “because it reminds me of the concentration camps”, and his tone and delivery totally nail the creepy vibe (as well as being inappropriately amusing).
I’m enjoying another cup of this one at work today. Now that I’m getting towards the bottom of the bag, I’ve noticed that the stevia (if that’s what it actually is) has become more prominent. I’m thinking it had probably just settled and now I’m getting more per tsp than was intended. It does distract from the ice cream aspect a little, just because it’s verging on over-sweet, but it’s still a pleasant cup. I definitely get root beer, and with a splash of milk there’s vanilla ice cream in there too. One word: yum!
Birthday tea! I’ve been hanging on to this sample pouch for a while, probably because it was a limited edition, and sounded like the kind of tea I might really like. Today is a “special occasion” (i.e. my birthday, which is depressing, so I needed cheering up with tea…) I felt like I’d waited long enough on this one, so I pulled it out to try! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 4 minutes in boiling water. I added a splash of milk, because ice cream, dairy…it seemed to fit the bill (and it would have felt odd not to add any.)
I’m pleased to report that it’s delicious! Super creamy, with a definite ice cream flavour. It’s not artificial ice cream, either, but a lovely, rich, “real vanilla” ice cream that you’d either make yourself with actual cream and vanilla pods, or pay a fortune for ready made. There’s also a definite root beer aspect, which really makes this into more of a root beer float than an ice cream float in my opinion, but since it’s lovely I’ll not complain about that too much. I can taste the chicory/medicinal-herbal flavour that’s so reminiscent of root beer for me, plus a fairly hefty dose of cinnamon that really helps to round things out. There’s also just a touch of smooth, sweet caramel towards the end of the sip.
Overall, I’m really pleased with this one. I hope Bluebird bring it back some day!
So that interview I had. I waited over an hour and a half at reception, before I finally gave up and walked out. No-one I spoke to was able to explain what had happened, or seemed to be able to contact anyone who might feasibly know. I came back home to a half apologetic, half rude email saying that organising interviews in a busy building is very complicated, and that it was my fault anyway for not confirming that I’d be attending. I had confirmed, and have since provided a copy of my email, but despite making several complaints (including one half rational, half pissed-as-hell burst of eloquence that I’m quite convinced would inspire abject sorrow in an inanimate object) I don’t feel I’m getting anywhere. This from Cambridge, one of the most well-known and respected Universities in the world. I just expected better. And not to make a 100 mile trip purely to sit in a reception and stare at a wall for the better part of the morning. I don’t know what to think or do at the moment, but I am sure that this has been quite a week.
This tea was today’s cold brew. I used up the rest of my sample to make it – just over 2 tbsp of leaf in 2 litres of cold water, into the fridge for 10 hours overnight. Despite the slight overleafing, I actually think this one came out a bit on the weak and watery side. It wasn’t bad exactly, but it definitely had less flavour than I was expecting. Mostly, it reminded me of citrus fruit pith, but there were brighter bursts of orange towards the end of the sip. It’s a shame they didn’t really linger. This is definitely a tea I prefer hot!
No notes for this one? I find that kind of difficult to believe, but there you go. I picked this one up a while ago, as far as I can remember? I think it was from one of last year’s collections, but I might be wrong about that. Anyway, I think my body is craving anything with a passing resemblance to vitamin C, since it’s the second orange-inflected blend I’ve picked up in the last 12 hours.
The combination of orange and mandarin really appealed to me, and it’s on a black base so that also made it a winner this morning. The Ceylon is perfect here – lightly cirtussy and brisk, and the perfect companion for the sharp, juicy orange and sweeter mandarin flavours it has going on.
There are a lot of other ingredients in this one – apple, hibiscus, blackberry leaf, lime leaf…the list goes on. None of them really seem to make an impression on the flavour, though. This is a straight-up, solid, bright, sunshine-y orange tea! Definitely one to try iced.
I was talking about Kenyan black teas the other day, and then I went through my stash and found that this one has a Kenyan tea as part of its base – along with Ceylon and Assam. It’s also an Earl Grey, like the tea that triggered the revelation, so obviously I had to try it next.
Much like Teapigs Earl Grey Strong, the strength of this blend is in the base rather than in the prominence of the bergamot, and in many ways that makes it a more suitable EG for me. I’m not the biggest bergamot fan, and although the dry leaf seems to suggest that it’s going to be STRONG here, it’s actually very subtle. I gave 1 tsp of leaf 4 minutes in boiling water, and it’s the base tea that I can taste most clearly. It’s deliciously, sweetly malty, with an underlying crisp citrus note attributable to the Ceylon but amped to a certain extent by the bergamot. It’s a well balanced blend, at least to my tastes.
If you like Earl Grey, but aren’t a bergamot fan, this one’s worth a try. I’d say it’s quite a delicate blend, as they go. If you like a good smack of bergamot, you might want to steer clear.
Finally writing a tasting note for this one. I’ve had it a couple times. I LOVE chocolate marshmallow combinations in anything, especially if it’s a tea that actually uses cacao shells. Yum. The marshmallow melts really well so I taste equal parts chocolate and marshmallow on this light base but I come to expect the light base with most of Bluebird’s black teas. That might be because this one is also mixed with houjicha green teas, but I can’t really tell that other than from the description. There is also a toastiness from the toasties (ahem… the toasted rice). Basically I wanted to try this one because it was like Bluebird’s Snowball blend but without the coconut which would slowly ruin the blend. I’m very happy with this fun delicious tea!
Steep #1 // 1 heaping teaspoon for a full mug// 8 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3 minute steep
Flavors: Chocolate, Marshmallow
From the sale recently! I loved the idea of this tea, so had to try it. Sadly, it isn’t as magical as I would hope from a Bluebird tea. I kind of expected the fruit to be pineapple and papaya (and not mango) from reading another tasting note from a Steepsterer. So the fruit flavor was really more like pineapple with hints of papaya. (I’m not sure if there is additional flavoring of mango that Bluebird adds or if it is just the papaya and pineapple chunks.) Though I do appreciate the papaya and pineapple, this blend probably shouldn’t be named ‘mango’. I also expected a vegetal, green bean type flavor to the tulsi, but the tulsi is so mild tasting that I can hardly taste it. There is also a hint of tanginess to the hibiscus… some sweetness from the sugar. I won’t say no to this on a hot summer evening (like now!), but sadly this blend was less than I imagined.
Steep #1 // 1 teaspoon //few minutes after boiling // few minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // few minute steep
I hope everyone has a lovely, enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!
While it’s the tiniest bit stronger and maltier than many I’ve tried, this is a pretty standard British breakfast blend. It’s solid, smooth and flavorful. It takes milk and sweetener well. It’s also quite nice with a squeeze of lemon. I’m always looking for nice breakfast blends to add to my collection for days when I’m tempted to have espresso/coffee, so I’m glad I added this to my Pick N Mix experience pack.
This tea is essentially black forest gateau minus the cake. To my taste buds, it’s more like a cordial cherry more than a black forest cake/gateau. There are so many berries in this blend. The added hibiscus gives the berries just a bit of the tart, sour cherry flavor that one would expect from a traditional black forest gateau. The chocolate is there but only just. I also find that I’m missing the cake element, especially since the vanilla isn’t really coming through very well in my cuppa. Cherry doesn’t rank very highly on my list of berries I enjoy in teas (especially black tea blends), so I’m not really wowed by this tea. It’s pleasant and has decent flavor, but it’s not a tea that I’ll be repurchasing.
I’ve been really enjoying this blend over ice. My first attempt at icing the tea didn’t go over too well, but the more I drink it the more I enjoy it. It really is a liquid version of berry-flavored cotton candy. It’s a lovely treat during especially long afternoons at work. I steep it a bit longer than recommended, and, thankfully, I don’t find that the blend suffers or turns bitter. I’ll be reordering this tea when I place my order for the new summer blends within the next month.