Simpson & Vail

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Recent Tasting Notes

95

A delectable tea this one is. It might SEEM similar to some of the other almond teas out there, but this one is different. The almond is much more toastier than other almond teas I’ve tried. More toasted almond than a sweet marzipan flavor. Butter notes of the sugar cookie in the background. It’s a lovely flavor, especially on a cold winter day. I love the slivered almonds and the orange flowers in the blend. The black tea has a nice thirst quenching quality rather than a dark,rich flavor, which might sound weird with a toasted almond flavor, but it completely works here. The second steep is just as flavorful. It’s very hard not to love all of these S&V teas. It’s impressive.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoon for a full mug// 12 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4 minute steep

Flavors: Almond, Toasted

Fjellrev

It’s definitely very unique from other almond teas I have had!

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100

I loved this blend. “You get apple. You get cinnamon. You get maple. You get a little bit of a malt note that I might be imagining. But I’ve now put the idea of malt in your head. You’ll therefore taste it when you try this. There’s a deep black tea note that hangs out in the background, letting the sweet kids romp around on the main stage.”

Full review at http://sororiteasisters.com/2016/11/29/apple-cinnamon-french-toast-simpson-vail/

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80

This tea lacks actual wine. Those of you who thought you could have spiked tea on the clock are going to be disappointed. Or, at least, I was. “It was tea, boss! I didn’t KNOW!”

What this tea DOES have is black tea (my bae), beet root (probably the source of the color & flavor), orange (citrus zing!), and malva blossoms (attractive!).

A full review about being a productive member of society while sipping this is at: http://sororiteasisters.com/2016/11/23/spiced-mulled-wine-simpson-vail/

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98

Open the pouch of this one and it could not smell any more like snickerdoodle cookies! It is amazing! How does S&V have such accurate fragrances & flavors to their teas so consistently?!?! It’s very impressive. With such a short ingredient list, I’m just trying to guess the snickerdoodle magic: Organic Green Rooibos, organic cinnamon pieces, sweet blackberry leaf and flavoring. The blackberry leaves sound like it should be weird in this blend, but that COULD be where the magic comes from. It doesn’t really taste like blackberry leaf to me… it’s snickerdoodle cookies all the way. There could be a slight medicinal flavor from the blackberry leaves, but blackberry leaves usually ruin a tea for me, not taste exactly like snickerdoodles. Pure, liquified snickerdoodles, just like that candy cane I liquified today in another tea. Wow. I can’t tell if there is any artificial sugar here, but if I can’t tell, that’s a good thing. The second steep the next night was even more flavorful, more of the cinnamon. A great nighttime option you must taste to believe! This is another essential S&V blend for me.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoon for a full mug// couple minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4 minute steep

Edited to add: S&V got back to me to say there is NO artificial sugars in this blend. It is all from the sweet blackberry leaf!

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85

I bought this one from Simpson & Vail a few months ago. I love a nice vanilla rooibos (it’s one of my cupboard staples!), so I had to try S&V’s. My ideal vanilla rooibos would have plenty of actual vanilla bean but this one only has flavored rooibos (no vanilla beans). But it’s good flavoring anyway. Sweet sweet vanilla cream on the base of a really great flavored and smooth rooibos. The rooibos leaves a really deep red cup. I’ve had this one a few times now. I just guzzle this one down at night! The only way this would have been improved is with vanilla pieces in the blend.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoon for a full mug// few minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 5+ minute steep

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78
drank Creme Brulee by Simpson & Vail
276 tasting notes

Sipdown 62/375 on this sample which came to me courtesy of MissB.

This tea seems to split opinion, and I come down firmly on the side of ‘yay’ over ‘nay’. To me, the flavour is pretty accurately creme brulee – it has notes of vanilla, creamy custard and caramelised sugar which all meld together to create the creme brulee effectively. The base tea is strong, but some slight bitterness actually helps to create the burnt aspect of the topping in my mind and I don’t mind it as much as I usually do. With a little rock sugar and a splash of milk this is delicious.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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92

Sipdown number 18! Phi gave me a generous sample of this delightful blend. It’s sweet almond cookie goodness. Not marzipan. Almond. Two solid steeps. I maybe should not have gone for a black tea so late in the day but… oh well? Not much I can do about it now.

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Sipdown number 10! Thanks to Phi for sharing this with me.

I have no idea what dragonfruit tastes like, so this tea tastes like a berry medley to me. The flavor is tart and sweet, the rooibos is woodsy, and the overall effect is cheerful. It’s a solid evening cuppa. I wouldn’t turn it down but I’m not in love with it either.

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54
drank Root Beer by Simpson & Vail
276 tasting notes

This one travelled to me via MissB ‘s Mystery Box a loooong time ago (verging on 3 years, I think). I have drank it before, I just haven’t gotten around to writing up any tasting notes on it yet.

I definitely think age has gotten the best of this tea, unfortunately, since I remember it tasting more strongly of root beer the last time I drank it. This time I got a lot of smokiness in the scent, so much so that I was starting to doubt my labelling and thought it was a lapsang. No smokiness in the flavour, though, and definitely root beer. It’s mild but definitely there. I actually prefer the root beer flavouring mild, since strong root beer always comes across as medicinal to me. It’s not something which is common here in the UK and I was probably 19 or 20 the first time I drank root beer, and the flavour is still kinda bizarre to me. Anyway, this comes across as more natural to me, which is probably at least partly down to the sarsaparilla root. Is root beer sarsaparilla flavoured? I’m not a big fan of root beer as a drink but I love sarsaparilla tablets (old-fashioned hard boiled sweets). When I tried this tea plain the black tea base was pretty astringent and strong, and pushed the root beer to the back of the sip. I added half a sugar and it brought out the root beer flavour some more, and this was how I liked the root beer flavour the best, but the tea was still too astringent for me to drink a whole mug of so I had to add milk, which helped a lot with the astringency but almost completely erased the root beer. Root beer is also not a flavour I particularly want to drink with milk. I have enough leaf left for one more mug of this tea, and I think I’ll use water below boiling to see if this improves the astringency enough that I can drink it without milk.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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Sipdown! This yummy blend comes to me courtesy of Phi and marks day 2 of my Hannukah sipdown countdown. I drank the first steep yesterday but held onto the leaves for a second steep today. Since that’s confusing, I am counting this as yesterday’s sipdown and will do another one today. On to the tea itself!

This is one of those black teas I have to be careful with lest it hurt my stomach, but it’s delicious. Creamy chocolate caramel goodness. The flavor is just spot on. A touch of rice milk takes it over the top but it is very good without additives too. Thanks Phi!

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86
drank Green Guava by Simpson & Vail
559 tasting notes

This has been in my cupboard for way too long. I got it as a free sample in a Simpson & Vail order about a year ago. I don’t know why I was so put off by it. I mean, I’m not opposed to fruity flavored greens, but guava can be really hit or miss when it’s used as flavoring.

The green tea base they used is mild and well-rounded with notes that remind me of white tea, but stronger. The leaves were pretty as I measured them into my infuser. Slender, pale green, and fuzzy with blue flower petals, dried raspberries, and what look like guava shavings.

This tea surprised me. I thought I was going into a tea that was going to be sour and vegetal, but it’s actually light and fruity. The guava flavor is very lively and sweet. Sometimes guavas can be kind of pungent, but there’s nothing like that in this. I’m really impressed by the base they used. It’s so clean and fresh, but not weak in any way. Nothing like the sometimes seaweedy senchas that often get blended with fruit. I might have to get a sample of it plain.

Flavors: Berries, Berry, Fruity, Guava

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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96

Coconut fans…. have I got a tea for you to try! Oh my gosh, this is the best coconut tea I’ve ever had! It is so perfectly coconut. It seems like both toasted coconut but fresh coconut at the same time. (There is probably coconut flavor as well as the coconut pieces.) I’ve never had a coconut macaroon but I can imagine it tasting exactly like this. There is certainly somewhat of a buttery cookie flavor. With only hints of chocolate from the cocoa nibs, the cocoa nibs and the light flavor from the green rooibos really lets the coconut shine. This is the only tea I would need in my tea collection for my coconut craving!
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// few minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4 minute steep

Nicole/Tea-Historic

And green rooibos instead of red… I may need to check this one out!

Evol Ving Ness

haha, have you forgotten about Coconut Island already?!

tea-sipper

OH Whoops. I really shouldn’t have forgotten about Coconut Island because I just drank it two days ago. Okay, the OTHER best coconut tea. :D

Inkling

Sounds amazing! Adding this one to my wish list. :)

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72

I haven’t been posting reviews for a few days now. I mostly wanted to take a break. I am getting ready to begin a new job after the holiday and will then be leaving immediately for a conference out of town that will last a full week. It is doubtful that I will be posting many reviews or taking part in discussions here on Steepster during this time. I will try to pop in before I leave to share some thoughts on whatever it is I will be drinking between now and then.

I have been working on a 1 ounce sample of this Assam for a couple of days now. I have mostly been using it as a breakfast tea. For the most part, I have been preparing it Western style and only doing one infusion. Most of the time I have been favoring a 3 minute infusion of 1 teaspoon of loose leaf material in 8 ounces of 212 F water, though I have also tried slightly longer infusions of around 4 and 5 minutes and will comment on those briefly.

I was not able to get much of an aroma from the dry tea leaves. After infusion, I noticed mild aromas of wood, spice, and malt. In the mouth, I picked up on notes of oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream, toast, leather, herbs, straw, roasted nuts, and malt. Compared to many of the other Assams I have been drinking, this one was not as smooth or as sweet, displaying woodier, spicier, and more herbal flavors. The longer infusions struck me as being woodier, nuttier, and slightly more herbal with a fairly pronounced astringency.

The first time I tried this Assam I really liked it, but my subsequent experiences with it have modified my first impression somewhat. It is not that I find this to be a bad-actually, I rather like it. I just kind of find it a little odd. It definitely would not be an everyday Assam for me. Still, I think if one were looking for a rather distinctive, atypical Assam that retains a full body and smooth texture in the mouth, one could do far worse than giving this tea a serious shot.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Cream, Herbs, Leather, Malt, Nutmeg, Oak wood, Roasted nuts, Straw, Toast

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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76
Evol Ving Ness

Well, I did.

hehehehe

Sil

i drank half a bottle of wine tonight… i am a happy girl..

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76

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73

Here is another sipdown to log. I only had one ounce of this left and finished it up over the course of the last three days. This tea was a roller coaster experience for me. The first couple cups I made were good, but the last five or six were very bland. I don’t think that was the tea’s fault though. A weird thing happens to my nose and mouth whenever I drink Darjeelings or anything remotely similar-my palate just seems to go numb. If I drink a full cup, I will be able to smell and taste it fully, but if I have more than one cup over the course of a session, anything after that first cup just ends up smelling and tasting like hot mineral water. Also, the longer I spend working on a tea of this type, the more quickly my nose and palate shut down. With all of this in mind, it was a given that I would not be able to pick up much in the last couple of sessions. I think this phenomenon probably has something to do with my seasonal allergies and the constant sinus issues they cause.

I prepared this tea using the one step Western infusion process I favor for many non-Chinese black teas and black tea blends. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 3 minutes. At other times, I have tried longer infusions of around 4-5 minutes, but all of the infusions that I could actually smell and taste were pretty consistent across the board. This review will exclusively deal with the 3 minute infusion.

Prior to infusion, the dry leaves produced a mild, musty aroma with hints of herbs, nutmeg, and Muscat grapes. After infusion, the bright golden liquor produced a delicate aroma of roasted almonds, nutmeg, lemon balm, bee balm, and Muscat grape. In the mouth, I detected notes of toast, malt, cream, nutmeg, chestnut, and roasted almonds accompanied by impressions of Muscat grape, lemon balm, and bee balm, as well as hints of oak and minerality on the finish.

I could definitely see the comparison to orthodox Darjeelings with this tea. It particularly reminded me of some of the grassier and more herbal first flush Darjeelings I have tried in the past. Still, the pronounced herbal character and the strong nutmeg and roasted almond aromas and flavors reminded me that I was drinking a Nepalese tea (I seem to frequently pick up those aromas and flavors in Nepalese black teas). While I enjoyed this tea overall, one thing that I found a little difficult to get past was how dry it became for me in the mouth. Though this tea did not express itself as being particularly astringent, it got to a point where it kept completely drying my mouth out with each sip. Just for that, I have lowered my rating for this tea somewhat.

Flavors: Almond, Chestnut, Cream, Herbs, Malt, Mineral, Muscatel, Nutmeg, Oak wood, Toast

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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90

I am steadily making progress toward my goal of finishing at least one ounce of each of Simpson & Vail’s fifteen original blends before the end of the next calendar year. I have already plowed through the Aromatic Earl Grey, Extra Aromatic Earl Grey, Russian Caravan Tea, Green & Black Mixed Tea, and Special Orange Blend. This review marks the sipdown of original blend number six.

Before I start discussing this tea proper, I feel the need to ask what exactly qualifies this blend as an Irish blend? To me, this is nothing more than a blend of straight Indian black teas with a pinch of Earl Grey added for extra aroma and flavor. When I think of Irish tea blends, I think of robust, malty teas that will keep one going all day. I do not think of a flowery blend of Indian teas with a little citrus character.

I prepared this tea using the one step Western infusion process I tend to favor for many non-Chinese black teas and black tea blends. I steeped approximately 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 3 minutes. Additional infusions were not attempted. At one point, I also tried a 4 minute infusion. I did not feel that the results differed all that radically from the 3 minute infusion, thus I will be limiting this review solely to a discussion of the 3 minute infusion.

Prior to infusion, the dry leaves produced a bright, lemony bergamot aroma. After infusion, the bergamot aroma remained, though it was also joined by subtle scents of cream, malt, and toast. In the mouth, I picked up a heavier than expected note of bergamot balanced by a delicate blend of malt, cream, toast, nutmeg, toffee, and roasted almond flavors.

This was not even close to what I was expecting, but this was still a nice little blend. It was not particularly deep or complex, but it was approachable, easy to drink, and flavorful enough to be satisfying. I found that this worked best for me as an afternoon tea. In the end, I would say that if you are looking for something like an Irish Breakfast, look elsewhere, but if you do not mind the idea of a smooth, somewhat citrusy blend for all-purpose consumption, this may do it for you.

Flavors: Almond, Bergamot, Cream, Malt, Nutmeg, Toast, Toffee

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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85

See my full review on Sororitea Sisters:
http://sororiteasisters.com/2016/11/15/apple-sage-from-simpson-vail/

Flavors: Apple, Blackberry, Cranberry, Herbs, Sage, Tart

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66

I am not sure what it is, but when fall hits, I start craving robust black teas. Now, to be frank, there is hardly a time of year in which I do not crave some sort of black tea, but for some reason, fall equals Assam time for me. My Keemun and lapsang souchong consumption usually goes way up too. This year I managed to hold back a little longer than normal, but I have been hitting the Assam hard for the past week or so. I expect to finish the last of this Assam within the next 24 hours and finally was able to move myself to review it.

I prepared this tea using the one step Western infusion I normally use for non-Chinese black teas and many black tea blends. I steeped approximately 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 3 minutes. At other times, I have attempted longer infusions around the 5 minute mark and will briefly comment on the results of those as well.

Prior to infusion, I did not get as much of an aroma from the dry tea leaves as I was hoping. There was a little bit of a faint maltiness and a fleeting impression of mild cocoa, but that was all I got. Examining the leaves, I could see that this Assam was made up of mostly broken leaves. Some pieces were considerably smaller than others, but I was not particularly concerned. I have had some fine black teas made from broken pekoe grade leaves, so I was willing to give this one a fair chance. After infusion, I noticed aromas of malt, cream, leather, roasted nuts, cocoa, molasses, and toffee. In the mouth, the tea was slightly brisker and more astringent than I was expecting. It was also oddly sweeter than I was expecting as well. I picked up on robust notes of cocoa, cream, vanilla, toffee, molasses, leather, roasted nuts, nutmeg, toast, and malt. I also thought I picked up on a very faint hint of citrus, but it might have been my imagination. The finish provided a pleasantly soothing blend of cocoa, nutmeg, cream, vanilla, and malt flavors with a hint of molasses. The longer infusions were brisker and more astringent, with more pronounced toffee, nut, and molasses notes throughout.

Truthfully, I was not wowed by this Assam. I thought it was decent, but I have had far better. The combination of sweetness and astringency was off-putting for me, though I found the finish to be near exceptional. Of the Assams I have had from Simpson & Vail, this one was by far the most hit or miss for me. I am glad that I tried it, but I do not think I will purchase it again. Still, I could see some hardcore Assam drinkers liking this one. Personally, it just wasn’t my thing.

Flavors: Citrus, Cocoa, Cream, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Nutmeg, Roasted nuts, Toast, Toffee, Vanilla

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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90

I’ve been looking for a good bergamot no caffeine option… probably for the cold winter nights. Something to brighten winter nights up a bit. This one is a winner! This is the strong, crisp, bright lemon bergamot that I love and prefer. Though for me, it could be a tiny bit stronger. But I like a ton of bergamot. That is a small complaint though, when I’m usually very picky with bergamot. The base is just the perfect rooibos — the deepest burgundy in the cup with a lovely flavor that supports that bergamot. The rooibos could be wonderful on its own without any flavor at all. I’m very happy I found this one! Great on the resteep, even if I save the teabag for the next night.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 10 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 5 minute steep

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87

This blend is a mixture of green and black teas from China, India, and Taiwan. It is one of Simpson & Vail’s 15 original blends, going back to the early part of the twentieth century. Actually, these original blends predate Simpson & Vail in its current form by perhaps a decade or more. Simpson & Vail was originally a coffee seller operating under the name Augustus M. Walbridge, Inc. in New York. At some point in its early years, the business also started selling tea, and in 1929, the original owner, Augustus M. Walbridge, sold to his accountant and tea taster, and the current business was born. By this time, these original blends were already in existence.

I prepared this particular tea blend using the one step Western infusion I favor for so many black teas and tea blends. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose leaf material in 8 ounces of 190 F water for 3 minutes. As usual, I did not attempt additional infusions.

Prior to infusion, I noticed that the dry leaves produced a slightly smoky aroma. After infusion, I noticed a fairly strong aroma that was both vegetal and smoky with a hint of spice. In the mouth, I detected notes of pine, smoke, roasted vegetables, roasted barley, and spice. I also got a hint of salt, which provided a brothy note that was especially evident on the finish.

As odd as it sounds, this blend kind of worked for me. It was not particularly complex, but it was both filling and pleasant. I imagine that many contemporary tea blenders would not produce a similar product. This type of blend is very much a product of its era. I found myself thinking of it as “old lady tea” because it just seems like the kind of tea that older women or older people in general would have been drinking in the middle years of the twentieth century. Now that there is so much more variety on the market, blends like this seem to have fallen by the wayside, but I still found some simple pleasures here. I would recommend this blend to those looking for something approachable and filling and/or those looking to get an idea of what vendors were producing in the early years of the previous century.

Flavors: Pine, Roasted Barley, Salt, Smoke, Spicy, Vegetable Broth

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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