Simpson & Vail

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Recent Tasting Notes

86

Another of the Earl Grey blends on which I have been binging lately, I actually polished off the last of this before I started on Simpson & Vail’s Extra Aromatic Earl Grey, but forgot to review it. I am now rectifying that oversight. All in all, I think this one compares favorably to the other.

In the glass, this tea blend produces a rich golden liquor. On the nose, I immediately detect a balance of bergamot, honey, malt, and toast. Judging by the nose, this is going to be a very balanced Earl Grey that doesn’t overwhelm the drinker with bergamot. In the mouth, the bergamot is present up front, but is not overpowering. It is quickly balanced by well-rounded notes of honey, malt, and toast. The finish provides a pleasant, soothing balance of bergamot, toast, honey, and malt.

As mentioned earlier, I think this Earl Grey holds up to Simpson & Vail’s Extra Aromatic blend fairly well. It does not display the depth of bergamot flavor of the other blend, but then again, it is not supposed to. This is clearly intended to be a balanced blend and that is exactly what it is. I could see this being a great introductory blend for those curious about Earl Grey, but not wanting something overly tart, spicy, or fruity.

Flavors: Bergamot, Honey, Malt, Toast

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74

Since I have been investigating more blends lately, I decided to go ahead and crack open my sample of Glen Lochey Blend. This is a smoky, earthy blend of black teas. Of course, the intense smoky aroma and flavor is produced by the addition of lapsang souchong. So, it kind of goes without saying that if you are not a fan of lapsang souchong, then you will very likely not be a fan of this particular blend.

In the glass, the liquor shows a warm, rich honey gold. I was kind of expecting a darker liquor, but still, this looks nice. Aromas of pine, smoke, earth, moss, and peat quickly jump out on the nose. In the mouth, I immediately detect notes of pine, smoke, and tar followed by flavors of peat, earth, moss, malt, roasted barley, and an almost algae/seaweed marine brininess. On the finish, there is an integration of earthy and smoky flavors with distinct pine wood notes and subtle hints of caramel and honey that round things out a bit.

All in all, I rather like this blend, but then again, I am a fan of roasty, woody, earthy, and smoky flavors. That being said, I do wish the aroma and flavor was a bit more robust overall with a slightly greater degree of separation in the layering of flavors. There is quite a bit going on here if you dig deep enough to find it, but for me, the problem is that everything mellows out a little too quickly. Still, I could see this being a good introduction to smokier blends for those who may be new to them.

Flavors: Caramel, Earth, Fishy, Honey, Malt, Marine, Moss, Peat, Pine, Roasted Barley, Tar, Toast

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88

Lately, I have been turning my attention more and more to classic blends. I sometimes feel that they are taken for granted among tea drinkers, and as such, do not always receive the attention and appreciation they deserve. After all, there is a reason so many of these blends have been around for so long: people like them. I especially think Earl Grey is more than a bit underrated, especially on websites like Steepster. Granted, I know that the aroma and flavor of bergamot is a turn off to some, and I know its presence often lends a slick or soapy texture to the tea, but come on people, the Earl is a classic!

This variation of Earl Grey from Simpson & Vail is more or less just an amped up version of their house Earl Grey blend. I mean this one is amped up in the sense that more bergamot oil is present in this blend than in the other blend. In the cup, the liquor is a brilliant, rich golden orange. The aroma of bergamot initially dominates the nose, but is soon balanced by subtle scents of toast and malt. In the mouth, the tea provides a heavy dose of bergamot that is mellowed at mid-palate by notes of toast, honey, and malt. The finish is again heavy on the bergamot, imparting an almost grapefruit or lemon rind flavor and texture in the mouth before the toast and malt notes swell late on the fade.

All in all, I really like this Earl Grey, but then again I also like Simpson & Vail’s standard Earl Grey, and well, Earl Grey in general. I understand that a significant number of people may or may not share my taste for this and similar blends. That does not bother me in the slightest. For those of you who may enjoy Earl Greys, or who may otherwise just enjoy tart, fruity blends, I think this one may hit the spot.

Flavors: Bergamot, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Toast

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62

Normally I like S&V’s flavored teas because they’re on the whole pretty good. Since I love coconut, I figured I’d try their coconut tea. Should be good, right? Well…not as good as I thought.

My problem with it is that whatever base tea they used is too strong for the coconut. I don’t even smell coconut in the dry mix or the brewed tea so much as I do a funky, musty cardboard-like scent. Normally I don’t mind tasting the tea along with the added flavor, but not this time. It’s a bit jarring when you get a pleasant, if light, coconut taste…and then cardboard funk. I had to play around with it for a bit to work around that unpleasant base.

My advice to you is don’t let it get cold, don’t steep it past 4 minutes, and for the love of all things good don’t try to ice it. As long as it’s warm and not oversteeped you’ll enjoy it. Let it cool or steep it too long though, and you’ll think you’ve brewed the box it was shipped in along with the tea.

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78

Last night I found myself in the mood for some Darjeeling. I was looking to briefly get away from the Chinese green and Ceylon black teas I’ve been consuming religiously over the last week or so. I, however, wanted something new that I had yet to try. I ended up choosing this tea. I ended up rounding out a large order from Simpson & Vail with an ounce of this and had yet to crack it open. Honestly, I was a bit shocked to see that there was little mention of this tea on Steepster. If any of you read this tasting note, keep in mind that this is just my first impression of this tea. I may change my score in the future if I deem it necessary.

In the glass, the liquor shows a clear, dark golden orange. The aroma is mild, offering subtly layered scents of straw, honey, malt, toast, and muscatel grapes. In the mouth, the tea presents a thin body with mild, smooth notes of straw, honey, cream, malt, toast, and muscatel grapes. A bit of woodiness is present on a dryish finish, imparting a flavor somewhat akin to oak. Even for a second flush Darjeeling, this tea is unbelievably smooth and subtle with barely any trace of bitterness or astringency.

Overall, I am relatively pleased with this tea. I feel like I’m grading it somewhat more liberally than I should considering it isn’t really all that deep or complex, but on the whole, it is pleasant and easy to drink with just enough flavor to be satisfying on its own. In the end, I would recommend it with the caveat that it will likely be far from the most complex Darjeeling one will ever try.

Flavors: Cream, Honey, Malt, Muscatel, Oak wood, Straw, Toast

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94
drank Pear Black by Simpson & Vail
2013 tasting notes

First tasting note for this tea! You pear fans really need to try this one! Oh wow, THIS is a pear tea. I wanted to try one of S&V’s pear teas and went with this one instead of the ginger pear. I wanted pure pear. And this pear is so pure it’s almost like I’m drinking pear juice. The black tea along with the lovely, sweet, juicy, fragrant pear is mid-strength and has that bright flavor that pairs well with fruit flavors. The black tea really lets this very strong pear flavor shine. This is absolutely the best pear tea I’ve found and the search stops here for a pear tea! Amazing stuff.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// few minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3-4 minute steep

Christie Lee

Sounds REALLY nice!

Whiteantlers

Goodness! I don’t care for fruity flavored tea but your review made me want to guzzle this. Good one, tea-sipper!

R.F. Hill

This could be the tea to have as an iced tea this summer! Great review!

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72

Another tea I haven’t tried before. I generally enjoy chocolate mint teas, but it has been a while since I had one from any company.

In the tin I get a definite Girl Scout thin mint aroma. The steeped tea has a flatter, less powerful and more “spread out” aroma. The color is the same as pretty much all the other Simpson & Vails, medium brown, clear, reddish. I assume that has to do with a common tea base.

The flavor is unfortunately, somewhat disappointing. It’s just way too subtle in the chocolate department. And frankly, in the mint department as well. I was hoping for thin mints in a cup, and I got something that reminds me a lot of what I didn’t like about the Kusmi chocolate teas, including their chocolate mint. But I give it a few more points for having a nice balance, despite the subtlety.

It won’t be hard to sip down, it’s just that one of my rules in life is chocolate should never be subtle. ;-)

Flavors: Chocolate, Cookie, Mint

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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81
drank Blue Moon Tea by Simpson & Vail
1153 tasting notes

The first weekend in a while where I didn’t have to be at something early (never thought I’d be so happy for Little League games to be rained out!) so I get to try a tea I haven’t tried before. Yay!

I definitely bought this as part of my great Simpson & Vail sample-fest, and I’m pretty sure I got this one because I liked the name. It’s a pretty florally tea, with little blue petals in it. In the tin, it smells pretty much like all the other Simpson & Vail “well done florals” but after steeping the aroma is more distinctive. There’s definitely pepper in those flowers! It has a medium brown, reddish liquor.

It has much more “tea” flavor that many of the other S&V’s I have had, which makes it an enjoyable breakfast blend. I can taste the berry undercurrent. It’s sort of dark to me, like blackberry-ish with perhaps a bit of blue, but I can’t get more specific. It just doesn’t come across as red berry to me. I’m not sure I would have identified the berry note, frankly, if I hadn’t read about it, but that may be a lingering effect of the evil grippe that I had two weeks ago, that still has my ears a bit clogged and makes me cough once in a while. Definitely the Simpson & Vail floral thing going on. The pepper, I’m guessing, is what is giving me a very fresh and cool mouthfeel on the tongue, which is interesting.

Not the most robust S&V blend but what it lacks in oomph and intricacy it makes up for in pleasant unusualness.

Flavors: Berry, Floral, Pepper

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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90
drank White Ambrosia by Simpson & Vail
2013 tasting notes

This is another awesome blend from S&V. A very tasty Snowbud white tea blended with fruit flavors and beautiful orange flower petals I’ve never seen in a tea blend before, as well as gorgeous blue cornflowers. It’s tough to distinguish which type of fruits exactly (the description says apricot and mango) but they pair very deliciously with the white tea. I bet it’s also great iced. There are also floral tasting qualities as well as having a milk oolong type flavor. I’d almost like to try the base without the fruit flavors, but I’m glad they aren’t overpowering the white tea. I can’t describe how tasty this is! Using just boiled water with the second steep didn’t make it oversteeped at all. It was nice that way. It’s such a refreshing and bright cup.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 20 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3 minute steep

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83

Thank you so much for this one, Tamarindel! I thought this blend wouldn’t be for me since I’m not a black currant fan but why are S&V teas always so GOOD?!?! If there is a successful black currant flavor, this is one of them. And the pairing with the black tea is wonderful. I wish I knew what types of black tea were used (description says China and India black)… especially once in a while in the scoop there is a tea that looks rolled up like gunpowder green or a really dark oolong. I don’t think the flavor is deep enough for that tea to be a black pearl, but this should be black tea so I’m not sure. The brew is a deep red. The base itself is fruity with hints of floral and whatever it tastes like is perfect with the black currant. A medium level strength brew. If I stocked up on a black currant tea, this would be it!
Steep #1 // 1 teaspoon for a full mug// 10 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep

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82

(ETA: Here’s another sample from the Here’s Hoping Traveling Tea Box.)
I have to admit that I oversteeped this tea because I decided to pour an awkwardly large bucket of DIY laundry soap into bottles while it (the tea) steeped and I totally underestimated how long that would take. (The stuff was somewhere between jello and snot in consistency and occasionally decided to take a break from actually going through the funnel.)

But anyway, despite the oversteeping this was a very nice tea. I found the floral and fruity notes that I like in assams and I have a feeling that being steeped strongly only brought them out more. It was also a bit bitter, but that’s not a problem when you put milk and sugar in and eat a brownie with it for breakfast. :)

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80
drank Lilac Bouquet by Simpson & Vail
2 tasting notes

Standard black tea with tiny purple lilac buds, lightly floral and delicious. Would buy again.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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88

Thanks so much for this one, Tamarindel! I HAD to try this one! A green oolong with fresh looking flakes of coconut, cocoa nibs and big pieces of vanilla I can see in the blend. Coconut, chocolate, vanilla on an oolong base is unique enough to me! I used two teaspoons because there are a ton of goodies here mixed with the oolong leaves. The oolong is smooth and really hides behind so much coconut flavor! I really like the coconut flavor. However, the chocolate and vanilla is also hiding behind all that coconut. With the second steep, the coconut is a bit tamer and the oolong makes more of a presence, though still a smooth delicious green oolong — it seems like a buttery oolong more than any other flavor type. Love the buttery oolongs. The third steep still has a ton of coconut and is still very smooth, even while steeping at just boiled. This is excellent if you’re looking for a coconut oolong. Though the chocolate and vanilla are still missing (unless they just blend in so well it is tough to notice), so I will lower the rating without the balance of the chocolate and vanilla. A better balance between the ingredients and this would be a perfect blend.
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for a full mug// 8 minutes after boiling // 1 1/2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 14 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 70 seconds

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70

Tastes very much like an unsweetened Terry’s chocolate orange. Has a dark roasty flavor from the chocolate with the hint of orange a bit more mellow in the background.

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35

This tea tasted like drinking a bottle of perfume to me. Cloyingly floral and not at all like mango.

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91
drank Lilac Bouquet by Simpson & Vail
2013 tasting notes

Oh I love the tiny little buds in this tea! Such a nice touch… the flowers so tiny you can barely see them. Lilac season is almost here! There are a few lilac bushes in the yard — probably the best time of year for the yard while they are in bloom. Maybe because it’s towards the end of winter I can’t really say how much this tea resembles lilacs, but the tea is certainly floral enough while not being too much for me. Nothing can really beat fresh lilacs though. First steep session, one teaspoon didn’t seem enough for my tastes. With a teaspoon and a half, I get a depth of black tea that pairs perfectly with the floral – a nice brisk black tea. There aren’t too many floral teas in my collection (especially not unless they are jasmine), so I’m very happy I bought a bit of this one. Will be drinking it especially in Spring! The price was amazing too. I wish others would give S&V a chance. They have been around since the 1920s! Nothing but positive things to say about online ordering… though I do wish they would use different packaging for the teas. svtea.com
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// few minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3-4 minute steep

__Morgana__

I just had an S&V this morning. :-)

tea-sipper

I just received a S&V order this morning. haha. :D

Christie Lee

Interesting! Would you say that the flavor is similar to the fragrance of lilac? :)

tea-sipper

It’s hard to tell if it is exactly like lilac, but it is definitely floral and definitely much more like lilac than jasmine would be.

Christie Lee

It has spiked my curiosity! I have yet to try any lilac teas… or lilac inspired anything for that matter. Thanks for the quick reply! :)

AllanK

Simpson and Vail is probably my favorite US independent tea store. They have good quality tea at reasonable prices.

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89

I can’t believe this glorious green was free with my order! It’s one of the best green teas I’ve ever sipped! I love complex green teas with so many elements to them. The dark twisty leaves have a fruity fragrance in the tin. Both steeps were so different, maybe even with each sip. And all sips were absolutely delicious. At times, the sips were nutty, fruity, creamed corn, vegetal, floral. So hard to describe but this tea reminds me how much I love tea. I think I steeped this one perfectly, both steeps.
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for a full mug // 30 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 30 minutes after boiling // 2 1/2 minute steep

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90

I had to try this unique herbal from S&V. The ingredients: organic cinnamon, spearmint, organic rosemary, lavender and lemon verbena. It’s quite a colorful blend! Taste wise, I notice cinnamon, spearmint and lavender in an equal delicious balance. The lemon verbena probably adds sweetness and fruit while I’m not noticing the rosemary at all. Minty, floral, fruity, and spicy sweet from the cinnamon. Somehow it works. Overall, a tasty combination and definitely something different when I’m looking for a caffeine free option. It was a great price which helped me stock up on this one and I’m glad I did!

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78
drank Kashmir Rose by Simpson & Vail
1153 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 42 of 2016 (no. 253 total).

Not the most elegant exit for this tea. I made it, then didn’t have time to drink it before I had to run off to no. 1’s baseball game (he pitched two innings and gave up 0 runs!). I drank it upon my return. It’s better hot, but was ok cold. The spice note came out more strongly in the cold.

Not my favorite among the S&V well done florals. Unlikely to buy it again, but I wouldn’t refuse it if someone wanted to serve it to me.

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78
drank Kashmir Rose by Simpson & Vail
1153 tasting notes

First tea this morning and I’m noticing the spice a lot more.

I haven’t had a Simpson & Vail tea I didn’t like, but I also haven’t had one I adore. They fit into a bit of a niche for me, which I suppose if I had to name it I’d call “nicely done floral.” I expect that if I drank a number of them side by side I’d be able to differentiate them, but when I drink them only occasionally, they meld together as a memory.

This one is reminiscent of the Earl Grey (which had no bergamot flavor to speak of) and I wonder if it is because the cardamom is serving the same purpose, which is to be a punctuation mark within the floral.

I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, but I have a large number of other S&V “nicely done florals” and this one isn’t enough of a stand out to go on the list for 2020, when I come out of lockdown ;-).

Tabby

Their Earl Greys are so disappointing. :/

__Morgana__

Yes, really they are just “nicely done florals.” :-)

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78
drank Kashmir Rose by Simpson & Vail
1153 tasting notes

In the tin it smells remarkably like every other Simpson & Vail tea I’ve ever had. Floral, particularly rosey. Reminds me of the various incarnations of Earl Grey from Simpson & Vail, but even the non-flavored teas smell this way, which I attribute to their being stored together in their paper bag sample bags. And like the other S&V florals, it’s a pretty tea with the petals and pod pieces adding visual interest.

I don’t really smell cardamom in the tin. After steeping, I smell something in the aroma that is spicy, and if I try hard enough I can single it out as cardamom. The spice is actually the predominant note in the steeped tea’s aroma. The floral sort of heads to the background. The liquor is clear medium brown.

It’s mild, pleasant, with some spice and some flora. I have to run out, so I may have more to say about this a bit later.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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82

A lovely assam here with dark twisted leaves with hints of gold. I think assam is so unique — I just love the briskness that also has sweetness and there is plenty of that here! The coppery rustiness in the best way… only assam has that! Always have to have a few great assams in the cupboard. I can’t say much about this one but everything positive and I’m very glad I bought this one. It’s a very comforting and delicious cup! I love that S&V specializes in both unflavored and flavored options… they are always quite delicious teas!
Steep #1 // 1 heaping teaspoon for a full mug// few minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4 minute steep

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78
drank Decaf Assam by Simpson & Vail
2013 tasting notes

Here’s Hoping Traveling Teabox – Round #5 – Tea #30
S&V has so many decaf options! I love that. A decaf assam sounds like an oxymoron since assam is usually bold. This one is on the lighter side (which is understandable). It still has an assam flavor, despite being a decaf tea. I can only describe assams as having a brightness to them or crisp, fruity, brassy. I’m only ever using ‘brightness’ as a description for assams and not other types of tea. I guess they could also be rusty in a nice tea way. This one might not be a bold assam, but it’s delicious for a decaf.
Steep #1 // 1 teaspoon // just boiled // 3 minute steep

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