Simpson & Vail

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Recent Tasting Notes


The second of the green teas from Simpson & Vail that I am getting around to reviewing, I am kind of surprised this one had not been added to the database earlier. After all, seemingly every vendor out there releases a gunpowder green tea at some point. I just kind of assumed that I would not be the person to add a tea like this to Steepster. Anyway, this is a pretty decent, if rather unexciting green tea.

After infusion, the liquor produced is a rich yellow. Aromas of roasted Brussels sprouts, Napa cabbage, pak choi, dried grass, hay, and lemon are just barely detectable on the nose. In the mouth, I detected fleeting notes of roasted Brussels sprouts, spinach, Napa cabbage, pak choi, dried grass, hay, and green beans. The aftertaste leaves impressions of roasted Brussels sprouts, dried grass, lemon, and char.

In the end, I found this to be a pretty solid gunpowder green tea. As green teas go, I have had better, but I have also had far worse. While I wish the flavors were stronger and separated a little more, the flavors that are detectable are interesting. I also appreciate the smoothness of this tea. I especially like the lack of the somewhat coppery aftertaste that can be so off-putting in gunpowder teas.

Flavors: Char, Grass, Green Beans, Hay, Lemon, Roasted, Spinach, Vegetables

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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After spending a great deal of time drinking Chinese green teas over the course of the last month, I have piled up a large number of tasting notes that I have yet to add to my tealog. Tonight, I figured I would take a few minutes to at least start on getting these things online. When deciding which of these to type up first, I ended up settling on this rather unique Chinese green tea.

Before I formally start this review, allow me to state that I know very little about this tea. I know it is Chinese, but I know little else about it. I do not know who grows this tea, which tea varietal it is made from, the specifics of its production, or its province of origin. Simpson & Vail describe it as an aromatic green tea, but that really is not all that helpful.

Prior to infusion, I noticed that the leaves were very small and thin. The aroma of the dry leaves was mild and vegetal. After infusion, the resulting liquor was pale gold and offered mild aromas of damp grass, soybean, snap pea, and fresh spinach underscored by honey and nectar. In the mouth, I detected fleeting impressions of damp grass, soybean, snap pea, and spinach balanced by honey, nectar, lilac, chrysanthemum, and jasmine. Subsequent infusions saw the vegetal and floral notes mellow while puff pastry and sweet cream notes emerged.

All in all, I was not too impressed with this tea. It did not seem to have much depth or character. The flavors it displayed were pleasant, but they did not stick around long enough to really make an impression on me or reveal any sort of complexities or peculiarities. The whole time I was drinking this tea, it kept reminding me of something, but I could not put my finger on it until I was nearly done with it. Then it hit me: Chinese restaurant tea! To me, this tea tastes just like those generic, yet pleasant green teas that you can get in pretty much every Chinese restaurant around. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, but again, I tend to like green teas with a lot of depth and character. While this tea is smooth and approachable, it is definitely short on the characteristics I admire in a really high quality green tea.

Flavors: Cream, Grass, Honey, Jasmine, Nectar, Pastries, Peas, Soybean, Spinach

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Mild fruit scent, mild mixed-fruit flavor. Nothing to really write home about. It’s not a bad tea, but it’s nowhere nearly as good as the description makes it sound. Drinkable, but not memorable.

On a side-note, I wish the literary teas came in smaller 2 oz. tins as well.

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It’s time to celebrate another Earl Grey sipdown! Seriously, I feel like I’ve been inhaling this stuff over the past week. I started this one some time ago and then put it away when I took a break from Earl Grey. The extended break gave me a chance to properly evaluate this tea while I was finishing the last of it up.

Prior to infusion, strong aromas of rosemary and lavender were underscored by a trace of rose. I couldn’t pick up much in the way of bergamot. The herbal and floral aromas seemed to overpower it. After infusion, the resulting liquor was a dark amber. Aromas of toast, malt, rose, lavender, honey, and rosemary were clearly evident. I still couldn’t pick up the bergamot. In the mouth, lovely notes of rosemary, lavender, honey, rose, toast, and malt mingled with light bergamot notes. The texture was very soapy, which one would kind of expect from a traditional Earl Grey. The finish was toasty, herbal, and floral; the rose notes really stood out on the back of the fade, offering a pleasant, soothing sensation.

Overall, there was a lot going on in this blend. Rather than merely being busy, however, there was a lot to like here. I really appreciated how the herbal and floral notes merged so seamlessly. The only real knock for me was the lack of a truly distinct bergamot presence-it really gets overpowered by the rosemary and lavender. Still, I think this is a very good blend, one that fans of Earl Grey would be likely to enjoy.

Flavors: Bergamot, Honey, Lavender, Malt, Rose, Toast

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I finished the last of this tea a couple days ago and honestly had to take a little time to process my impressions of it. I do not have a ton of experience with Vietnamese black teas. The few I have had have been really hit or miss for me. On that note, this tea was another miss, but I do think it has a couple of redeeming qualities and can understand why some people may like it. With that in mind, I graded this one a little leniently, but I still would not recommend it to people looking for a unique and memorable tea.

In the glass, the liquor showed a dark golden amber. Delicate aromas of roasted nuts, nutmeg, toast, and malt were just barely detectable on the nose. In the mouth, faint notes of nutmeg, roasted nuts (hazelnut, chestnut), toast, and malt mingled with a subtle astringency and what I can only describe as a trace of brininess. The finish was not particularly long, offering fleeting impressions of toast, malt, and nutmeg.

Honestly, I really found this to be a bland, boring tea. I kind of doubt I will remember much about it within a couple of months. I didn’t find it bad, just dull. There wasn’t much going on with it. It was very smooth though. I could see it taking cream and sugar fairly well. I could also see it maybe working in a blend. On its own, however, this tea doesn’t offer much of note.

Flavors: Malt, Nutmeg, Roast nuts, Toast

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A festively cheery cup, fragrant with clove and nutmeg, with a beautiful copper tone. I drank the first one plain, for the notes, and then made another into a latte, complete with whip and a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon. In other words, I had a decadent dessert for breakfast, and you’re missing out, but I digress!

The nutmeg really carries through to the sip and weighs on the back of the tongue, just like a gingerbread cookie might do.

Besides the typical gingerbread suspects, there’s a mildly buttery mouthfeel and slightly acidic aftertaste from the black tea, the latter of which I wish was a bit better balanced, but I am hardly complaining about anything in this lovely little cup.

Definitely going to have to stock up on a little of this to share with my sisters during the holidays this December. Thanks so much for introducing me to this one, tea_sipper!

Flavors: Clove, Molasses, Nutmeg

5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Thanks for this, Tamarindel! This one reminds me of spring somehow. A lovely green tea with strawberry and chocolate. Since there is also a creamy scented element, the blend probably reminds me of a chocolate covered strawberry cream candy (and the green tea could look like grass in an Easter basket!). Yum! I don’t see too many cocoa nibs within the blend, but the taste of cocoa is there. Both strawberry flavoring and strawberry pieces represent the strawberry. I think they work very well with the green tea that is both refreshing and showcases the chocolate and strawberry. A delicious, sweet tasting cup. It’s almost the green tea version of S&V’s strawberry cupcake blend!
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for a full mug// 32 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep

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And now we’re back to Darjeeling for a little while. I polished off the last of this prior to going to work this morning, so I have been getting a feel for this tea for the last 3-4 days. I have to say I really like it.

Prior to infusion the leaves show a dark green with delicate aromas of grain, must, and Muscatel grapes. After infusion, the resulting liquor is a dark golden amber. Aromas of Muscatel grapes, toast, grain, straw, honey, malt, caramel, and must are evident on the nose. In the mouth, notes of caramel, toast, malt, and honey quickly give way to notes of grain, must, and straw. Pronounced Muscatel grape notes pick up just before a balanced, layered finish of straw, honey, toast, malt, and grape. Bitterness and astringency are mild to moderate.

I really like this Darjeeling. It is a little rough around the edges, but it displays quite a bit of depth while remaining approachable. Compared to the Dooteriah Estate Darjeeling offered by Simpson & Vail, this tea is not as smooth, but is more complex and displays greater character overall. I could get used to having this around the house.

Flavors: Caramel, Grain, Honey, Malt, Muscatel, Musty, Straw, Toast

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I finished off the last of my ounce of this tea last night. Unfortunately, I’m getting ready to start my workday, so I can’t do a full review, but I will do a quick tasting note.

Prior to infusion, the dry leaves produce scents of smoke, pine, and malt. After infusion, the tea shows an attractive golden amber in the glass. Aromas of pine, smoke, toast, sea salt, malt, and roasted barley are evident on the nose. Notes of smoke, pine, toast, roasted barley, sea salt, and malt swirl around the mouth. The finish is dry, offering plenty of toast, smoke, and pine character.

Overall, I find this to be a solid lapsang souchong. Compared to some of the others I have tried, this one is smooth and approachable. It is not quite as hearty as I would like, but I could see this being a great introductory lapsang souchong for those curious about this style of tea.

Flavors: Malt, Pine, Roasted Barley, Salt, Smoke, Toast

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Nice, tarty tea with great fruit notes. Just let this steep for 7 min or cold steep though. The currant and hibiscus in this can make this tea get very tart fast. But I love this iced and makes a great summer drink.

Flavors: Black Currant, Hibiscus, Mango, Passion Fruits, Tart

Boiling 7 min, 0 sec

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Herbal and Decaf TTB.

This is pretty good. It’s a light and fruity black tea. There’s only the faintest hint of bitterness as it cools – just enough to add some depth to the flavor, not at all unpleasant. This isn’t an exciting tea, but it’s not boring either. It seems like the sort of basic decaf black tea that I might reach for with some regularity.

Flavors: Fruity

Boiling 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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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 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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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 flavor was a bit more robust overall with a slightly greater degree of separation in the layering of individual flavor components. 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 and merges 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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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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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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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 recently rounded 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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drank Pear Black by Simpson & Vail
2033 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!


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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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

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

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drank Blue Moon Tea by Simpson & Vail
1169 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

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

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drank White Ambrosia by Simpson & Vail
2033 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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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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