7 Tasting Notes
Edited via more words, not different… I know it’s long, but hey, you can save $15+ and even EFFORT just reading this tasting note… er more like tasting novella.
My review pretty much would read like Jason’s except that I’m anxious to get back to Cloud Atlas… what made me come here is that I ordered, from the God of Tea Purveyors (seriously, only someone with special holy powers can have 666 teas on his regular holding list plus another several dozen only available in-store or if-you-ask!!), the licorice root to make this—I have plenty of mint—loose, as tea, etc—and have 2oz, which btw, is like effin HUGE dried (literally a foot tall, 2" diameter bottle here) blissful but too much to use in food container of sweet basil, a pretty useless-otherwise bottle of fennel seed (just not something I am crazy about too terribly often and grinding is a PAIN for that stubborn one)… and yeah, bought 2oz licorice root, which is right at a cup, for a few bucks and voila… my try at Aveda tea.
YES I have had the real deal. Like I said, Jason’s review is pretty spot-on for what I think, as are the other snarky ones :) I dislike licorice when it’s the candy taste (isn’t that a diff part though?) but this… this is the licorice that occasionally makes teas loverly and occasionally makes them just odd. I steeped it SUPER STRONG for my home concoction, and yknow, it’s awesome, just… mmm. I’m really glad for something sweet that needs no sweetener. As for how I did it… oh, that. Well, in my masterful mug professing my super expensive education, I put a bag of Moroccan mint Numi tea (Stash seems way too harsh and my loose mint is on the old and pathetic side thanks to getting lost for months)… why bagged? Simple—my thought was “the mint will steep quick and could overpower” and in fact I DID take the mint out at 8mins (double size cup, 1 mint bag to be clear) while the rest got 12 (super strong—a bit darker than theirs but exact flavor match)… the fennel, while the water was heating in the Ibis, was chopped in half (seeds, that is, cheap McCormick seeds I got for 50c and got for the intrigue but more for the great quality bottle since I grind my own spices for teas often)… so yeah, my cutting board kept the powdery remnants and the seed halves and some wholes went in. The basil weighs SO little that basically its amount was… well, about the same as the fennel’s, but it’s definitely, considering the 1.6oz fennel bottle is tiny and the Spice Islands Sweet Basil is the restaurant size sold at (shameface)bigdollarbuybigsizestores… yeah, equal parts in terms of SIZE… now the mint bag… weight is tricky there, too—it’s light, but there’s a LOT in the Numi bag, and b/c mint goes stale fast when not individually bagged, even in the Rx bottle with UV protectant they use, well, I figured that one strong but not “whoa PNW mint, cough Halls drops taste cough” strong bag was fine. The licorice was um well just… I eyed it. Oh that sounds awful, huh, but really, I looked and sort of thought "if this beast is 2oz of basil and THAT McC jar is almost 2oz of fennel and this bag is 2oz of loose licorice and a box of 18 bags is almost 2oz of mint… let’s go for 40%licorice root, 30% mint but steeped less cause roots take longer than leaves, and 15% each fennel seed-partly halved in my sloppy haste—and 15% Spice Islands sweet basil, which is the ONLY sweet basil suited for tea that I can imagine. Literally, you smell it and think, ahhh THAT is what makes that tea aroma, well, that and GOOD QUALITY licorice root, which is like… 70% of the flavor. The fennel being steeped, not mixed with acidic tomatoes and such maybe helps it be tongue-tickling and not so soapy-anise tasting :) Considering I’m not a huge fan of licorice (at all in stuff like Yogi teas!), of fennel, or even of basil in big amounts, I’m pretty proud I managed this successful and CHEAP blend just days after my haircut, that tea grating my nerves with its ridiculous price tag!
EDIT! Yes, yes, here only 20 ounces of cheap-o avedo and a solid few letters (from one person to another, that is, not A, B, C!) in Cloud Atlas later… I RE-experimented. Not satisfied with simply recreating… here’s the deal. Want nuance, do it all or maybe toss the fennel since its impact is sort of redundant… BUT want it to honestly taste 95% like what you had there? Do this: leave out the fennel unless you want a licorice CANDY taste, and honestly, the basil, too, can go (it’s the nuance in the aroma but doesn’t play so prominently in the TASTE, only in the smell, and I know they go together but trust me, me). Steep a cup of mint tea—again, Moroccan Mint numi is perfect for this; it’s the right KIND of mint. Stash is NOT. Stash would kill the delicacy of this. So yeah, steep the mint tea like… 8 minutes. Steep separately a huge cup of LICORICE ROOT tea for… well, 12 mins is good. This way, you can find your perfect proportion if it was, say, too sweet or you are really a mintaphobe (Moroccan mint may change your mind—I hate harsh mint for drinking, but that stuff is SMOOTH like when I was in the Algarve and addicted). The amount of licorice would be about a tablespoon per 6 or 8 ounces, I think, but really, it’s a matter of its quality, which I honestly can’t judge beyond my 2 plays.
What I DID was steep all 4 ingredients in the same proportions as before in SEPARATE GLASSES, identical (yay for sets of 4), with the same le creuset ceramic adora-lid (for some funny named mini-casserole ramekin) on each. Again, set of 4. The licorice water IS the main sweet thing. The basil water is sweet but mostly AROMA so it should be steeped strong or it’ll be lost flavor-wise and be scented water. The mint is good mint, hence me owning it (I have stash strictly for making Afghan/other middle eastern food/yogurt sauces—they were free at a hotel and I hated drinking them but recognized good mint for FOOD or toothpaste!). The fennel, hmm… well… smells like fennel, tastes like licorice but not as strong, just like the pack says “faint licorice flavor” and honestly, I’m done chopping it. I actually, for steep 2, tried TWO ways: the McC fennel and… I got out my good, kosher, vivid and whoa strong smelling organic fennel seed and yeah… just not worth it to me. Basil, maybe, but here’s my thinking: mint tea, 6oz, licorice tea a solid 12, more for you mintaphobes, and that seems the right mix to get it sweet and light without needing sugar. Licorice needs NO sugar—it’s the cloying part mentioned elsewhere. I couldn’t handle it as anything but “stevia schmevia, here’s my REAL alt-sweetener (as long as there is NO high blood pressure, as licorice root ups it, ironic for a relaxing tea), ha!.” Definitely liking the ROOT, which is totally weird… smells like sawdust, brewed smells like wet plywood… and tastes sweet with honestly little BUT the sweet. The mint gives the sweetness flavor, the others adding scent. The fennel quality will matter! The old fennel steeped was just an aroma, like theirs in what I was served, I have figured. New vac-sealed whoa. For the variation in reviews, I have this to say: those who taste the “licorice” the way candy licorice is, you actually taste that fennel and you got a newer jar, less air contact, or maybe their ridiculous tea bags (cmon a dollar a cup??) are wisely individually packed and that’s what you had at the salon. What I had was from the jar—I saw—and yeah, again, 1 part mint tea steeped 8 minutes, 2 parts licorice root tea, steeped 12ish=95% like theirs, and that… is honestly good enough, right? Oh, I was saying something practical: basil is messy. Fennel not too bad but it takes some time as this TRULY needs the whole cup to swirl in, NOT a tea sac, I can’t stress enough with the size of roots, NOT A TEA SAC (I strained the first attempt over a coffee filter, and it was great, but… no need, as licorice root is a BREEZE to just spoon out, mint bags simple. So yeah, making 18-22oz (and it reheats well—mine got cold typing to you fellow tea junkies!!), I can say for sure that for THEIR balance as I had it, you want to have 1 Moroccan mint bag you take out at 8 mins then 2-3 TBSP (it’d be that true “heaping” term b/c it’s so irregular and mostly square-pieced) licorice root you leave in 12 or to taste; I’m gonna retry the supplies from these 2 cups for another and probably NOT report back, thank me very much! Anyway, to start, I’d do them SEPARATELY (and you can concentrate the mint especially, of course, and water down with fresh boiling agua later) I’d test it as you go and once it hits the sweetness YOU want, voila, you’ve found it. If you hate it sweet, you’ll want to lessen the licorice but then you’ll be having more prominent mint. This is basically a 2 core ingredient tea with 2 dispensable things that make it sound more important, add mystery because like me, nobody seems to know a thing about licorice ROOT since everything we’ve had it in has stuff like anise and fennel that make for licorice CANDY flavors (now I get why panda, etc, is considered fake by my adored ones who like the “generic sweet like sugar pills sweet” licorice candy, doh!)…
Enjoy it or not… but yes, licorice as steeped is naturally VERY sweet, so do NOT add sugar til you’ve sipped a few sips and acclimated to the peculiar product of someone’s wild, AvedaLavenderOverloadObsession-charged dreams…
This is one of our favorites in the category, as both a standalone and… as a base for creative expressive custom tea making (which I excel at, apparently, as people hover like gnats on overripe fruit when I am concocting things)… it is very fresh… Quiet the mind? No. More the opposite—to me it is bright, energetic, and did I mention super duper iced? I like it stronger than suggested, and since it’s herbal, it is great to just let steep a long time. I love taking this as a minty base, fresh lemongrass (I love the stuff), some ginger, NZ Rose apple peels (they are very aromatic), sometimes extra rosehips or petals… the peel from a meyer lemon, and stuff I’m undoubtedly forgetting… local honey, sometimes lemon juice, sometimes not… and we’re set for what we devour after a long few hours working (physical labor or workout) or just a hot summer day, again, cold… but it is also delightful hot on its own.It’s the only Republic of Tea kind we liked enough to get a whole bag of (as in a pound or two, however much the huge bulk one is), and we zip through it pretty dern fast.
No one liked this tea… five people, all blech, and we tried it multiple ways—first exactly as instructed, then different steep times, sweetened and not… it just was a big cup of bleh to us. It was so sad, because it smells like it’s going to be great then ends up being an aromatic cup of bittersweet—literally a bit of bitter and a bit of sweet, almost muddy flavored water. The faint berry taste seemed very fake and candy-like… not in the good spicy candy taste that happens when vanilla and spicy chais mingle, either. It’s just bad stuff for us. Glad we got it on sale when a store was downsizing the shelves of tea for summer; otherwise we’d be out a lot of $ for what ended up being given away (none of our guests would go for it!)
I’m a fan of reading ingredients before I buy stuff… I know licorice and I don’t get along, for instance, so most Yogi teas are out (incidentally, people with high blood pressure or on blood thinners shouldn’t consume licorice)…
I’m confused by the migraine and wouldn’t blame tea—especially as the neurological signal from sip to brain would take about fifteen minutes with even the most intense triggers like MSG. Fluorescent lights are a bigger risk than ANYTHING on this label. My background is in neurology AND I have migraines at times… they come with hormone changes (females especially at the start of a cycle), they come with free glutamic acid, and then environmental and stress triggers… maybe if the person were SUPER SENSITIVE to ginger that could make for a reaction, but not the amount in a tea bag.
So yeah, I read the ingredients… chicory has a chocolate mimicking taste-it’s what makes the chocolate Fiber One bars more chocolatey than normal (and it has fiber). This isn’t truly decaf, and for me, it requires 2 bags… but more often, I’ll make 12-16 ounces and use 2-3 bags vanilla hazelnut by Yogi and 1 bag of this (this one’s much stronger but still not especially strong). It MUST have milk—it’s awful without—and sugar, too, is recommended (it says upfront add sweetener and milk or milk substitute—this too makes doubling the bags a must)…
That said, I don’t fault Yogi for this phenomena, but tea bags almost NEVER have the amount of tea/spices that you’d actually use (even if your “loose” tea was crushed like this, it’d still be more than this)… so be prepared to use more with most bags if they aren’t abundant in “flavors” which could be anything and which almost always are extremely concentrated, unlike “real” ingredients.
I like it. Whether I should or not is debatable… I make it very strong, again typically mixing it with the vanilla hazelnut (which is oddly named as it’s also more like a vanilla chai flavored tisane whereas this is a chocolate chai type tisane)… but this came first, long before the vanilla hazelnut one was introduced, so I’ve plenty of experience with this… oh, and it’s also really neat to use steeped cocoa spice tea as the base FOR actual hot cocoa—droste cocoa, milk or cream (the latter if you’re like me), sugar, and a very strong concentration of this—4oz or so—and boom, you’ve cheated on your spicy cocoa and don’t have to stir and simmer anything on the stove.
I really wish this was in loose leaf or at least family sized so I would be able to put, say, 2 or 4 bags instead of 16… but that said, I like my southern sweet tea strong and sweet, so I was pleased to find that this can handle a pretty intense amount of steep time… as in “oh crap I was supposed to take those out….” still not resulting in a bitter tea.
*EDIT!! My previous note said “I’m not sure what % of this tea’s leaves are FROM the SC plantation—it could be 10% USA tea and 90% other (Bigelow/the plantation haven’t answered my 3 email attempts!), but…” See the comment by Kathy, and HOORAY, it IS 100% SC goodness!
And back to the review: …but it is perfect for cold sweet tea and leaves NO bitterness. I’ve found AGE matters—the boxes aren’t really sealed well and the leaves being quite small, there’s a decent amount of powder that ends up spilling out. Older boxes definitely show their age in strength as it takes several more bags (and when I use 16, it’s for a half gallon that I add a very little bit of ice to). When I’ve been able to get it in grocery stores in NC, though, it was much fresher than what Bigelow delivered (my sister’s b-day gift to me)… still, it’s good stuff. Don’t miss out on it; again, with age, it only loses strength; it doesn’t get bitter at all (I also recommend you store it in zip lock bags or snapware etc—something air tight will serve it well!)
I wasn’t especially impressed with this tea; it wasn’t bad, wasn’t great. It was certainly fresh enough, had been stored well, etc. and the flavor was clean and not astringent or foul, but for the price—about $3.50 an ounce—there are dozens of whites I’ve preferred at half the cost. I like teas that are memorable, that leave an impression, that I’ll specifically crave later, and this was none of those. I can hardly believe I’m saying this, but among the snow dragons I’ve had… Adagio’s was preferable, and I usually find Adagio’s offerings mediocre at best. I will say this much: Metropolitan does a very good job with their packaging and the marketing built-in to their descriptions… the problem is when the descriptions aren’t very accurate to the tea. Maybe there’s a subliminal element where if they say it’s floral, you’ll find something floral and if they say it’s jammy you’ll find something jammy. In that respect, I tend to just look at the ingredients and the source and read descriptions AFTER I’ve consumed. I honestly wouldn’t have believed the tea I drank was the tea described if I hadn’t grown up seeing how silly the more common brands like Celestial Seasonings, Harney and Sons, Stash, and later Tazo are in romanticizing their leaves :)
This tea is good for four or five steeps; before steeping, rinse the leaves briefly (I just use a mesh drainer then toss the leaves in the bottom of a very thick glass that I cover with a ramekin top for steeping). I tend to add a touch of either a very neutral honey—sourwood or fireweed, never wildflower/clover/alfalfa/blackberry ones as they overpower—or minimally processed sugar ie Florida Crystals.
The aroma is absolutely stunning. It is a special occasion tea, though—not necessarily meaning I need company but meaning I really don’t grab it for everyday occasions but rather when my palette is especially sensitive and I am desiring this particular sensory experience as it’s $10 an ounce on average (now, at least—I got it for $4 an ounce ever so long ago… running low on that so I use it sparingly) and can’t imagine it for the jelly mentioned as all the gelatin and sugar (and it being cold) would take an already delicate flavor and for me ruin it. The first steep, stick to a minute… after that, it can handle up to 2:25 or so but I only usually steep that long at the final steep to prevent any bitterness. It is extremely calming… I just wish I could capture its scent as brewed and burn it in a candle! Oh, I should also mention… the glass I use is clear, almost the size of a stein… the reason simple: it’s BEAUTIFUL as it unfolds. Frankly, every time I open my special little triple layer bags of it, I just stare at the beautiful hand-rolled leaves and think fondly on the proud farmers as their teas were chosen for the silk road prize, ensuring them many years of success. (Angelina’s Teas, btw, is not the “maker” only a shop that is able to import it; Loong Tea is another that sells Zui Gui Fei, though their word is “Tipsy” Concubine instead of Drunken and is a bit more accurate to the original word).