Once upon a time, I thought it would be a good idea to try some plain rooibos samples from well-respected tea companies on the assumption that said well-respected tea companies would also, more likely than not, have finer quality exemplars of plain rooibos than I might find in my local grocery store. This was back when I was scratching my head over what rooibos truly tasted like since I’d only had it in flavored tisanes and felt it necessary for my own education to understand what rooibos tasted like on its own.

Since then several things have happened. One, my tastes have evolved. Two, I have learned what plain rooibos tastes like. Three, I have concluded that rooibos is not my favorite thing, though it has its place and I can enjoy it if it is in a blend and playing the role of the backdrop, quietly. And all of this managed to happen before I got around to trying my non-grocery store samples.

But I feel for completeness’ sake that I must follow through on my original experiment, even though I already know going into this that I’m not going to be buying a boatload of this after I dispense with my sample.

In the sample packet, the smell is actually pretty unbelievable. In a good way. It’s a richer smell than I normally associate with rooibos, and a sweeter one. It’s pretty close to spiced apple. The “needles” look like your basic red rooibos, though they’re not as fine and splintery as some I’ve seen. They’re more of a medium grain.

It brews very red, not surprisingly. The aroma is appley, with a bit of wood mixed in.

The taste is pretty much like it smells, which is what I expected. A better tasting version of bagged rooibos. It has a soft feel and a hint of vanilla.

It’s not something I’m going to be drinking straight, but it makes me appropriately curious about what H&S rooibos blends are like. I may end up trying some in my search for the quiet non-rooibos rooibos.

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I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tea skills and tastes developed they became less appealing to me — but I still enjoy nicely done blends where the base doesn’t taste like hamster cage chips. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with me. That said, I’m not entirely a purist and I enjoy a good flavored tea, particularly flavored blacks.

I like all kinds of tea depending on time of day, mood, and the amount of time I have to pay attention to preparation. These days, I’ve been drinking primarily green tea during weekdays after my first cup of coffee. On weekends, I’ve been drinking only tea.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

People have sent me tea on occasion, and I was once persuaded to send some Tazo Om to AmazonV. I’ve also done at least one group buy here on Steepster, the famous Doulton-led Dammann Freres experiment years ago. But mostly, I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it, though I don’t put samples in my cupboard and not everything I have at any given time is showing in my cupboard. I do try to remember to remove things from my cupboard once I no longer have them.

I was an early internet adopter and have been online in various environments since around 1990. Steepster is one of the nicest online environments I’ve ever been privileged to participate in and that is saying something. :-)


Bay Area, California



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