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Recent Tasting Notes
Great news! I fell down the stairs getting off the bus today! My shoulder and back definitely feel like they’re going to be massively messed up tomorrow! I am so grateful I still have a stash of the Canadian back pain pills you can’t seem to get from pharmacies anywhere else!
THANK YOU CANADA FOR RECOGNISING YOU TOTALLY DON’T NEED A PRESCRIPTION TO NEED THE HECK OUTTA ROBAXACET PLATINUM plus I am so tired right now (falling down the stairs getting off the bus probably didn’t help) that I crawled under my desk for a few minutes to see if it would be a good place to nap.
In other news, the pile of Things I Need To Write seems to continue to grow exponentially, and in my current state of being, I have no confidence whatsoever and may have to chop a longish opinion piece down to like 300 words and some quotes from people whose opinions are more important than mine. Ugh. The life of an almost-not-paid-at-all journalista on her quest to, I dunno, get invited to the same parties as Peter Capaldi? Getting paid would be nice, too.
Oh yeah, tea. I was SO nervous about trying a banana thing, because when banana is done badly, it’s massively unpleasant. The last thing anyone wants is to take a sip of something that, it turns out, is a dead ringer for that banana medicine they give you for ear infections and stuff when you’re a kid. Or any kind of readymade banana milkshake. That’s that kind of fake flavour that I think I actually only acknowledge as banana because that’s what I’m told it’s supposed to taste like, rather than bearing any meaningful resemblance to my very favourite source of potassium. NO.
Not so with Monkey Chops. It’s subtle, which is definitely for the best, and really didn’t make a massively banana impression on me until a few sips in. The mouthfeel is creamy with a dash of sugar and skimmed milk, and the soft baked banana flavour is more reminiscent of banana bread than anything else, with lovely bread/cake notes and enough tea-ness that you don’t forget you’re drinking tea. And I do love banana bread. So this is good. I’m very glad I tried this one.
This is one I’ve been wanting to try for ages, and I’m really glad I got it as autumn is in full, blustery November force. Perfect.
I’m not getting masses of bonfire, but I’m fine with this as smoke has a tendency to make itself the only thing I can taste if it’s been applied with too heavy a hand. This, however, is positively buttery. Like, I’m getting a really lovely, buttery mouthfeel from this as well as toffee flavour. That buttery toffee seems to come in first, enveloping a lovely taste of sweet apple.
In other news, it’s far too windy out there, and I’ve literally just remembered an essay I need to write for a forthcoming book that I’d COMPLETELY forgotten about, on the eve of the release of another book I wrote an essay for being released. Yippee!
(Oh my Gosh I have such a full writing schedule for the next few months I might throw up)
I thought I was going to get away without a pre-Christmas cold this year, but obviously that was a complacent thing to think. I was fine all day yesterday, until, inexplicably, at 4.45pm my throat got really sore. It’s only got sorer since, and nothing seems to be helping – not lemsip, not throat sweets, not hot drinks. Usually one of those provides at least a bit of relief, but apparently not this time. It’s really painful when I swallow.
The last thing I have to try is this tea, which now seems like a timely purchase. It’s a slightly odd combination of ingredients, although I can see why, together, they might help with a cold. I’m not sure that I’ve actually got a cold, though. I feel fine at the moment, except for the fact that my throat hurts. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 4 minutes in boiling water. It smells “interesting” – a little like peppermint and liquorice, with a strong herbal/medicinal undertone. To taste, it’s not so bad. I can taste mint, mostly, and that has a nicely cooling effect that I’m really enjoying. There’s also a touch of eucalyptus, and that’s really pleasant too. I feel like I can breathe more easily, so I can see this being a good “stuffy nose” tea. The lemongrass adds a smooth sweetness that’s a little citrussy, but it’s really just background. The chili and echinacia I can’t taste, but that might be me – at the moment it’s hard to say. The only thing I’m not too keen on is the artificial tasting sweetness that’s coming from somewhere. It reminds me of liquorice, or stevia, although they’re not in the ingredients. I can only think it’s the aniseed, although usually that doesn’t bother me too much.
For a “medicinal” type tea, this is actually really palatable. I like the immediate cooling effect, but I haven’t had enough yet to establish whether there’s any longer term gain in terms of easing symptoms. I suspect I’ll be drinking this one most of the day, though, so I’m sure I’ll know for sure soon.
Just in time for the weekend, too. Happy Friday?
another sample from my dear friend kittylovestea
a decent tea :D
when i smell the tea dry, it smells like cinnamon, berries and spices.
when i smell the leaves wet, the smell is intensified.
when i smell the brewed tea, again it has cinnimon, berries and spices.
when i taste the brewed tea, it tastes like all the above plus all the ingredients.
the color of the brewed tea is a blood red. maybe a nice touch for Halloween not Easter.
i rate this a 75 because it is a decent tea, but i am not much for blends.
Flavors: Berries, Cinnamon, Spices
Had this one at work with no idea that there was oolong in it until I poured it out. I never would have thought there would be a green oolong mixture with a peppermint leaf added into it. I probably should have waited for it to be cold to enjoy this more, but it was still good since I was inside drinking it while I worked :)
Interesting mixture that satisfied the mint desire a tea drinker may have, but I don’t think I had a note of cream in this tea… I’m curious what a creamy mint would be like with a tea, maybe a butter-mint?
One of my colleagues is drinking Irish Cream flavoured coffee, which smells DIVINE, but I must not let myself be tempted over to the dark side. I’m countering with Cherry Bakewell tea, which is equally amazing, and which looks a lot nicer to boot. Who doesn’t want whole cherries with their tea? It’s so PINK!
I totally get frangipane, cherry jam, and water icing from this one. It’s an amazing concoction, and I fortunately I have plenty more left. Yay for tea!
I’m hoping I have more luck with this Bluebird choice, and I have a feeling I might be lucky. The dry leaf smells strongly of cherry and almond – almost to the point of being a bit sickly, if I’m honest. The dry leaf is the prettiest thing, though; red and blue cornflowers, chunks of cherry, burgundy and cream hibiscus, cubes of dried apple, almond slivers, the odd currant, and the green and cream white tea leaves. The scent actually reminds me a little of Christmas cake – but I’m thinking that might be the almonds more than anything. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in water cooled to 175 degrees. The resulting liquor is a pale, pale pink and smells just perfectly of fresh cherry bakewell!
To taste, this is as good as I’d hoped. I was a touch concerned that it was going to be overpoweringly sweet based on the dry scent, but it turns out that’s not the case at all. This one really is like liquid cherry bakewell – there’s the sweet, slightly tart, jammy cherry in the initial sip, followed by quite a strong almond flavour, just like frangipane. There’s even a lingering sweetness at the end that reminds me of water icing. I’m so pleased with this one; it’s just as I hoped it would be.
I tried this one hot a couple of evenings ago, and I wasn’t all that impressed because it mostly tasted of rooibos with just the slightest hint of floral pear. I figured I’d use the rest of my sample for a cold-brew, in the hope that that might bring out the pear flavour a little more. I was totally wrong, and, if anything, I like the cold-brew less than I did the hot. And that’s saying something. The reason I dislike this one so much is primarily because of one thing – STEVIA. It’s so strong and artificially sweet, and it’s sticking in the back of my throat so that I can taste it even though I’ve stopped drinking. There’s also no pear. Just rooibos. Wood-shaving rooibos, and stevia. Urgh shudders. Down the sink this one goes!
I’m usually pretty impressed with Bluebird teas but sadly this one wasn’t a hit with me. I love pear drops, but all I got from my cup of this one was a rather woody, drying rooibos. There’s the tiniest bit of floral pear-like flavour lurking in the background, but it’s barely there and I often wondered whether I wasn’t just imagining it.
I really wish the flavour here could have been stronger. It’s such a delicious idea, but sadly not even close to realisation. A rare Bluebird flop.
My second Bluebird tea of the day, and probably the one I was most doubtful about. I’ve tried Tulsi a few times and it’s not really been my thing. Still, worth a try. For a tea that’s called “Mango Tulsi” there’s a suspicious lack of mango actually in evidence. The ingredients list specifies pineapple and papaya, both of which I can see cubes of in the dry leaf. There’s also fluffy green tulsi, and some (really pretty) sunflower petals. Bluebird teas are always so visually appealing! The scent of the dry leaf is primarily pineapple, just like a freshly opened bag of those sweetened, dried pineapple pieces. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 4 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a telling red-pink. Hello, hibiscus. The scent is amazing, though – orange ice pops! It’s so deliciously summery.
To taste, this isn’t (sadly!) quite as good as it smells. I get papaya, rather than mango, with a touch of sweetness that could be the pineapple, or could be the sugar I see has been added to the mix. There’s a fairly strong herbal flavour that I guess is the tulsi, and it’s not a great pairing with the tropical fruit vibe. The hibiscus is also too strong for my tastes, contributing a sour tartness that’s just not really very nice. I feel let down by this one. It sounds promising, and it certainly smells good. It just somehow fails to deliver in the flavour. Not a Bluebird day for me, sadly.
I’m not sure whether it’s harder to write good reviews or bad. Sometimes, when something’s good, it just feels like endless enthusing about how great it is threatens to get a bit boring, but when you have to be critical, you don’t want to risk slipping into the territory of just being mean.
Case in point: I’m reviewing two tv shows at the moment, and one (Yonderland) is pee-myself-laughing good and terrifically clever, while the other (Partners In Crime) is frustratingly meh enough that I’ve shouted at the characters a few times for being bloody stupid. That’s never a good sign. It’s always a struggle to balance being constructive about what hasn;t worked in a show and just ripping its guts out – and as somebody who writes other things besides reviews, you don’t want to be remembered by a potenital future collaborator as somebody who thought their episode of something was a bit pants.
But seriously? Yonderland. Are you watching it? I suspect it would be basically everybody’s favourite show if it weren’t tucked away on Sky – I wouldn’t be able to watch it if I weren’t sent the episodes by the show’s publicists! SO GOOD.
As for this tea? It falls decidedly on the Yonderland end of the scale; that is to say, it’s jolly lovely. I am really, really wary of any teas that list coconut as a main flavour, but it actually mostly gives a sort of creaminess to the final product that works really nicely with the chocolate-marshmallow flavour. It’s one that sort of demands being consumed with milk and sugar to bring forward its confectionary nature, and it’s not for those who prefer their teas to taste mainly of tea, but as somebody with a relentless sweet tooth, something sugary and silly and really well done like this is exactly what I want sometimes. It’s a keeper, for sure.
So right now I’m sitting in my childhood backyard at about midnight sipping on tea, which is an experience I’d never had the chance to have here because I was only just getting into tea when I moved to Saskatoon. So even though it’s a new experience, there’s this feeling of Deja Vu.
And I don’t know why, but I feel sad sitting here right now. But it’s strange; in this kind of silent sadness I’m finding a lot of peace, comfort, and even beauty. I tried explaining this feeling to a coworker once and they looked at me like I was crazy – but this sort of still sadness is one of my favourite feelings in the world. I feel incredibly connected to it. The only thing that would make it better is rain.
This tea is a really nice companion to the mood I’m in; the gentle grassy notes, toasty rice, and hint of sweet, tart green apple is really resonating with me and the atmosphere. I feel like the toastier notes of this tea are hugging me from the inside out and then the lively apple is lifting me up and giving me a little ‘bounce’.
I’m definitely sad that this is a sipdown.
Thank you Sheherazade for the sample!
Calling this blend ‘tea marmite’ is, I think, a pretty big stretch and probably not the best selling tactic if Bluebird Tea Co. wants to get North Americans buying their blends. I’ve had marmite and I certainly was not a fan, nor are most North Americans; that’s one food from across the ocean that I can’t see catching on here. However, this tea? It’s got the potential to, if done correctly.
Genmaicha is one of those teas that I consider a cupboard staple; it makes a very soothing, calming cup of toasted brown rice goodness and it also a great blend for sharing a pot with among friends – and for people truly new to tea who haven’t even come across Genmaicha it’s a good conversation piece as well; explaining the origin of adding brown rice to tea to stretch it out among the lower class in ‘old Japan’ in a fascinating thing to here and gives insight to some just how important tea is in some cultures. I, for one, remember that fact/‘origin story’ being one of the most interesting to me when I was first getting really into tea outside of the flavored stuff offered at local chains such as DAVIDsTEA.
Of course, “Genmaicha with a twist” is a fantastic thing too; one a think more companies should run with. Some of my particular flavourites are Nina Paris’ Japon, Verdant’s Minnesota Blend, and Ette Tea’s Mango Sticky Rice. Apple seemed like an obvious, but untapped route – until now.
The initial wave of flavours was a very roasty brown rice and almost barley flavor; this is by far the best part of Genmaicha to me. If the level of roasty/toasty notes isn’t strong enough I’m going to be disappointed and if it’s too concentrated or has a “burnt” taste, like burnt toast, then I’m probably not going to be able to make it through the cup. However, this strikes a really nice balance between the two and has a lovely robust roasty flavour without overwhelming some of the other things going on.
Underneath that first, and most important flavour, was a mild vegetal note – there was some grassiness but mostly it was very marine with a bit of a seaweed flavour. This part of genmaicha is less important to me personally; as long as I can taste the green tea and it isn’t bitter I’m usually a happy consumer and both of those criterion were definitely checked off in this case. Now we get into the most important part of this particular blend: the apple! I’ll admit I didn’t taste it at first; but once the liquor had cooled I started to notice this very bright, slightly tart apple note at the finish of the sip that was lingering into the aftertaste. It’s definitely a greener apple; think Granny Smith or Sundance apples. However, the tartness and slight sweetness provides a really nice contrast between the flavour and whilst fairly simple I think this would be really enjoyable as a flavoured Genmaicha year round, but particularly in the fall.
Definitely worth trying, if you get the chance!
I actually decided to try this on an evening when I had quite a buggy belly – not sure if it was a bug or something disagreed with me at dinner, but I was feeling FIERCELY unwell. It was like an alien was trying to claw its way out of my tum tum. Awful.
Thus, functioning on the premise that, of course, ginger calms a tumultuous tum, I decided to brew up a cup of this for my evening drink.
It has the bonus of being caffeine-free, which I’m sure was the right decision, all things considered. I’m always a teensy bit weary of rooibos teas as I have to be in a very specific mood to fancy anything that tastes mostly like rooibos. As this is a spiced tea, though, I expected it would likely sit quietly in the background and let the gingerbread shine. And I was right, hooray! It’s got all the warmth and comfort of a lovely gingerbread, and the rooibos is present but quietly so. This is most certainly the nicest gingerbread-flavoured hot drink I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. Well done, Bluebirds!
This one was from the group Bluebird order a while back! I’ve been sipping it a couple times, but this is my first tasting note for it. I love all the incarnations of chocolate mint teas. This one SHOULD have adorable chocolate heart sprinkles, but I couldn’t see any in the blend. The flavor is solid though — equal parts rooibos, mint, chocolate (from SHELLS — very happy Bluebird uses the shells for their chocolate component!) Creamy, sweet, fresh, bright, perfect as a dessert cup! I’m not sure why there are so many bad tasting notes for this one. It is as promised in my experience: chocolate and mint. Points for using cacao shells but I remember the mint in other teas being much crisper.
Tried this cold brewed, and I was much more impressed than I was with my hot cup. I used 2 tbsp of leaf in two litres of cold water, and left it in the fridge for around 10 hours overnight. The resulting brew was very pale, and I wasn’t expecting much in the way of flavour, but fortunately I was totally wrong about that!
I still wouldn’t say watermelon was the main flavour, but it was definitely more of a player than it was when I tried this hot. It reminded me quite a lot of those Haribo watermelon sweets, rather than actual watermelon, but at least some of the promised flavour was there. It turned out quite sweet even with no additions, too, so the candy-like element was quite strong. I would still say that peach was the more dominant flavour, but that’s pleasant and summery enough, and it tastes good, so I’m more than happy with how this one worked out. I’ve increased my rating a little to reflect that the cold brew worked out better than the hot.
The second of the Bluebird samples I brought to work with me this morning. This one is a green/white blend, and smells beautiful as soon as I open the pouch – sweet and peachy, a touch vegetal in the way of cut grass. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in water cooled to around 170 degrees. The resulting liquor is a very pale yellow.
To taste, I’m mainly picking up pineapple, followed by coconut. The watermelon isn’t as prevalent as the name would indicate, but there’s a watery sweetness that somehow suggestive of watermelon kicking around in the background. There’s a hint of hibiscus tartness, although it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavours – it’s one of those rare occasions when the balance is about right. The green and white base is pretty much drowned out by the tropical fruit flavouring, which is fair enough given that it’s a flavoured tea. The pineapple and coconut are sweet and taste fairly true to life, and there’s a pleasant creamy edge that’s actually putting me more in mind of a pina colada than anything else. It’s a tasty cup, if perhaps misnamed.
This is another one I’m going to finish off cold-brewed. I’m hoping I’ll be able to coax a little more watermelon out before I write this one off.
Today’s cold brew. I used my usual method for preparing this one – 2 tbsp of leaf in two litres of water, into the fridge for around 10 hours overnight. The resulting brew is a very pale peach colour, and I have to say that my expectations were fairly low.
Again, I was wrong to doubt. There’s no doubt that this tea is better cold brewed than it is hot – the cola flavour is still very, very mild, but it’s there. It’s a flavour that seems far better suited to cold brewing IMO, so I’m happier with that. Interestingly, the lime seems to have diminished significantly, which is sad. It’s lost the little punch it did have (and that wasn’t much start with).
Although I’m not overwhelmed by the flavour of this one, it is a pleasantly light, refreshing blend. It’s nice to have a cola flavour without all the sugar and carbonation. My only real complaint about this one is that there’s still something gritty about it that’s catching the back of my throat, and I filtered it through muslin as well. Strange.
I’m pleased that this one is better cold brewed, but it’s not one I’d repuchase. I’ve had cola teas I’ve preferred, and the grittiness is hard to get past. I’m not a huge fan.
I’m working a lot of extra hours this week as it’s Clearing, and so it seemed like the perfect time to pull out a Guayusa blend. Cola tea still strikes me as a rather odd thing, but I’ve had reasonable experiences with the ones I’ve tried, so I was fairly optimistic going into this. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium golden-yellow.
Unfortunately, I REALLY don’t like this one. There’s this kind of scrim on the surface that I thought was just oil at first, but it’s actually very slightly crunchy, and it catches the back of my throat. The flavour is also dubious – there’s the merest hint of flat cola, but it’s nowhere near as strong as I would have liked it to be. The main flavour is actually lime, which is okay, but even that’s not especially prominent. It’s clear enough to be identifiable, but I was hoping for a lot more punch. The guayusa is there in the background, slightly dank tasting but not unpleasant. The whole thing just strikes me as a bit “blah”. There’s not much flavour, and what there is isn’t great. I feel a bit let down, although maybe my expectations were too high.
I’m going to use the rest of my sample as a cold brew, and perhaps that will work better. Cola should be cold, after all! At the moment, though, I can’t recommend this one.
FUN FACT: My mother, bless her radiant heart, makes the very best Christmas cake in the whole world.
(Yeah, I know, everybody thinks their mum makes the best Christmas cake, but by Gosh, I mean it.)
It’s warm with spice, dotted heavily with dried fruits and citrus peel, and topped not with heavy icing, but thin slices of almond. A festival of textures and flavours sitting together in perfect harmony.
Just like this tea, in that respect. I was expecting something really quite full-on with cloves and evergreen (there’s spruce needles among the leaves, how cool is that!) but it’s really quite balanced: an undercurrent of dried fruit is elevated with warm clove and softly buzzing cinnamon, enveloped in soft, cakelike notes of caramel and almond. What a jolly comforting brew for a drizzly evening. I’m so glad to have the chance to try it. Thanks, Bluebirds!
Thank you to Scheherazade for sending me a sample of this tea!
Personally speaking, this is one of those blends that I probably wouldn’t have chosen myself just because I’m not drawn to green blends normally and I think the pairing of citrus/lemon and green tea is a little played out, but the dry leaf smelled really strongly of sweet lemon juice or lemon candy, and I do like the simplicity of the tea so I was actually kind of excited regardless.
Because it is something I’ve kind of tried before, though, I wanted to do something a little different than usual – so I made this into a tea soda; while I wont take the time to explain my process of doing that (unless anyone would like me to) I will point out that the process uses sweetener though – and with a tea like this that’s already pre-sweetened due to the stevia in it a preparation method like this negates that aspect of the blend a little bit because when I tasted this tea I knew it would be sweet and expected that; theoretically with a more traditional tasting/preparation method I could have tasted the stevia and been more critical about it’s presence – I don’t typically like when my tea is sweetened for me; I want to have the choice to do that and pre-sweetened blends eliminate that choice.
I think the simplicity of the blend ultimately works against this tea though; the flavour was very monotone and I think the only reason that didn’t read as ‘flat’ was because of the carbonation which makes it hard to view anything as tasting ‘flat’. The green base was eclipsed and instead this had a really strong, distinct taste of lemon verbena or lemon myrtle; not exactly a ‘realistic’ lemon flavour and while strong and steady only really enjoyable if you’re big into those flavours to begin with. And you better be, because it’s all you’re going to taste.
Decent blend overall; the name’s pretty accurate so kudos for that. I just wish it had a little more to offer; I shouldn’t feel like I have to resort to creative methods like tea soda just to make this feel a little less mundane.