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Recent Tasting Notes
Let me just start this review by saying I normally like rose and cardamom-flavored things; the container of rose-cardamom ice cream in my freezer is testament to that.
That said, this was awful. The first thing I often do with a new tea is open it up and take a whiff of the dry leaf; I instantly regretted it as this smelled powerfully, overwhelmingly like floor cleaner. I actually grimaced a little. To be fair I’ve had a lot of teas with a strong scent in the pouch that turned out to be more subtly-flavored, so I decided to brew a cup, add some sugar, and try it out.
It tasted just like it smelled, but now it was sugary floor cleaner. One of the listed ingredients is cardamom flavoring, and there’s far too much of it. I hardly get any of the rose for all the cardamom, and it goes beyond making the tea spicy and on to simply unpleasant. Maybe if it had cardamom seeds or pods instead of flavoring it would be better-balanced, but as it is, it’s a no-go for me.
I’ve never read Joyce but this tea is fantastic. I’m glad that S&V included a plain black tea blend because this one is amazing. The blend uses three black teas from India, Sri Lanka and Kenya. Not sure what they are specifically, but the result is perfection. I would agree with S&V’s description that this is a malty brew with a fruity aftertaste. The sweetness and depth are there. I love a strong yet sweet black tea. I can appreciate a great complex black tea. Too complex to really fully describe. Note to self: I brewed this perfectly. I’d stock up on this one!
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 12 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 10 minutes after boiling // 3-4 minute steep
The first thing I noticed about this one was the lavender. Little purple oblong buds in abundance in this tea. The scent in the tin is, remarkably, unlike many other Simpson & Vail flavored teas that have been packed together for shipping — this one has a distinctive smell that lives up to its name. Definitely nectar.
The steeped tea also has this smell. Nectar, floral. Yep. It’s got a definitely lavender scent which carries over into the taste. So three for three! It’s a clear, medium orange-brown in color. The base is surprisingly supportive of this tea without being distracting.
It’s one of the better S&V flavored teas I’ve had. I find this surprising as I didn’t expect to like it at all.
Flavors: Lavender, Nectar
I think I’ve mentioned that my latest tea-drinking pattern is that I drink only green tea and fruit blends or herbals during the week and black and other teas on weekends and holidays.
There are some variations. For example, last week I found an empty storage tin, so went into my stash to find a tea in a bag to transfer to it. That one happened to be the coconut white from Teafrog, but the tin wasn’t big enough to hold all the tea. So I decided to drink up the excess — I am alternating green tea and white tea at work until the excess is gone (unless I decide to cold brew it, which is also a possibility).
I’ve also mentioned my logic for how I select the next cold brew experiment (I find the lowest rated tea in my cupboard that I have enough of to cold brew, and if it seems like it would work as a cold brew, into the fridge it goes).
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that there is a micro-pattern to my weekend black tea drinking. This is likely interesting only to me, but I’m recording it here for posterity.
I start with an unflavored black, sometimes one I haven’t tried before, sometimes one I have. After that, I move to a flavored black that I haven’t tried yet. Today, that’s this tea.
The third cup is a flavored black that I’ve had before, and is in active sipdown mode. The fourth is a lapsang, which has its own separate project going on (project Lapsang sipdown).
Today I recorded things a bit out of order. This is my second tea, but my third note. I have the Violet in steeping at the moment, though I recorded it as a sipdown first because I didn’t have a lot more to say about it.
That’s the method to my current madness. It’s making a dent, I think, particularly in the lapsangs.
Now, for this tea. The dry leaf smells like the melange of Simpson teas that shared their essential oils through the paper packing bags they came in, so there’s not a lot of interest there.
Steeped, the aroma is of — plum! Maybe tending a bit toward the prune-like. It’s a dark flavor for the synesthetes out there, a bit darker than I associate with plum which is why I’m going toward prune.
Now that I have prune in my head, it’s hard to get it out and that’s pretty much what I’m tasting as well. But it’s not a scary prune. Scary prune is shriveled and dry. This is juicy prune. If you’ve ever eaten prunes out of a package, you know when you get that one that’s really soft and juicy and reminds you of the plum from whence it came? It’s like that.
The tea is dark, reddish brown, and clear.
I am not sure I’d buy this again, but it’s a fun change.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Plums
I love a delicious assam and this is one of them. A nice organic tea — mostly black leaves with hints of gold. Once brewed, the cup has the fragrance of one of those tomato soup type tea flavors that I sometimes find in assams. Somehow it is only in the wafting fragrance of the tea and not the flavor itself. Instead, the flavor is malty and savory at the forefront but then switches to a lovely thirst quenching quality that reminds me of fruit. This assam has many layers and I like those layers. The brew color with the sun shining through the clear mug is a deep burgundy. I don’t think this one gets bitter. A great example of a tasty assam.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug // 13 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // couple minutes after boiling // 4 minute steep
SPRING where are you? One of these NY winters will be the death of me. sigh. This is the perfect tea to have for those end of winter blues. It’s so lemon, fresh and bright! Super lemon with multiple lemon ingredients: organic lemon peel, organic lemongrass and natural lemon flavor. I’m not sure what eleuthero root is, but it’s in there too. The green tea is lovely with the lemon. And the ginger doesn’t really make an appearance which is fine with me, I don’t love ginger. Overall, a very tasty, refreshing and fruity blend. Lemon lovers, give this one a try!
Steep #1 // 1 teaspoon for a full mug// 30 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Also, if anyone is a fan of the Bitaco estate teas, Simpson & Vail sell them now. I’ve heard they were hard to get before, so now svtea.com is your source!
Sipdown no. 55 of 2018 (no. 411 total).
This did grow on me some, though I still find it a tad soapy and I prefer the Kusmi overall. So I’m bumping the rating.
I had considered trying this cold, but ultimately decided against that. I figured the cold wouldn’t help the tendency toward soapy/lotiony. Part of me feared it would create suds.
I didn’t even realize I had this until I was looking for a new flavored black to try.
The dry leaf smells perfumey-soapy, but then that’s how most S&V flavored teas smell to me. They all smell pretty much the same when dry, which I still think may have been because they came in paper bags and their smells cross-pollinated.
After steeping the soapiness goes away, at least for me. It’s replaced with a sort of essential oil, perfume quality in the aroma and flavor. I wish there was a way for that to evaporate out, because I’m conscious of it while drinking.
I love the violet smell/flavor, apart from the essential oil aspect. It makes me want to give the Kusmi Violet another try for comparison purposes. Perhaps I’ll do that next weekend. I’m parking this at a 70 for now because I like the uniqueness of the violet, which is balancing out the grade I’d give the actual flavor, what with the oil aspect and all.
Flavors: Perfume, Soap, Sweet, Violet
I’ve had a tin of this but haven’t reviewed it yet. Now is the time! Any tea named after the morbid Poe must be blood red, and thanks to beet root, this is a mighty red cup. I love that touch. Poe is a mix of ripe pu-erh, lapsang souchong black tea, bergamot and beet root. The black tea seems to hide under the pu-erh, but the pu-erh isn’t overwhelming. Immediately on opening the tin, the smokiness makes itself known. But I love a smokey tea once in while and this just fits with Poe anyway. Really this entire blend is perfect for Poe. The classic bergamot mellows out the not-too-strong smokiness. Both black tea and ripe pu-erh seem essential for Poe. So for the creativeness for a Poe blend, this gets an A+. Not to mention the blend is very unique and very tasty. This is very worthy of having an entire tin of.
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for a full mug// 10 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // few minutes after boiling // 5 minute steep
I found this tea in the back of my pantry this morning and thought, “It’s an oolong kind of day today.” Last time I had it, I drank it “grandpa style” and remembered it being quite good that way, so that’s what I am doing again today.
It’s still a great tea—I especially love looking over at my glass tumbler on my desk and seeing the floating leaves throughout the morning. I’ve been neglecting oolongs these past few months while focusing on blacks and greens throughout the day—this tea tells me that I have to remedy that going into these next few months.
Drinking this “grandpa style” today. I looked at my To-Do list for the day and realized I just needed a tea to keep me going through the day, so I decided on this one. I loaded my glass tumbler with 9 grams of dried rolls of leaves and have been filling it with water as needed throughout the morning.
This is a very smooth and light tea, with a silky taste and mouthfeel. I haven’t been paying any attention for specific flavors today—just enjoying the tea. This is an oolong that I’d like to keep stocked in my collection, as it is one that I come back to fairly regularly.
I needed a whimsical tea today for this mad as a hatter winter weather. This tea should do. It’s also very tasty. Immediately on opening the pouch, I am reminded of all of the flowers that are constantly in anything Wonderland related, from the book to the Disney movie. So many flowers in this cup! The blend is made up of an Indian black tea, rose Congou, violet flavoring, and tons of pretty flowers. The flavor is divine — both rose and violets equally take the stage but the black tea also comes through amazingly well. It’s malty, smooth and sweet. I’d love the base tea even without the floral flavors. I’d definitely stock up on this one. It’s one of my favorite floral teas.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a mug // 12 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4 minute steep
Now for Dostoyevsky’s blend. I haven’t actually read any of his books… yet. Assumptions out of the way, I kind of expected this to be a smoky blend… and with the bergamot would have been lovely. I’m a fan of the occasional smoky tea, yet this is not one. This blend features black teas from India, Sri Lanka, China and Taiwan and bergamot oil. The black teas here make for an exceptional blend with just the perfect amount of bright bergamot. The black tea is brisk enough while also being smooth, sweet, and tasty. A great showcase for the bergamot. Though this tea does not have my favorite bergamot (that would be tough to beat) this bergamot is certainly delicious enough for me.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 13 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4 minute steep
Great Expectations is one of my favorites, so I’m happy to try a Dickens blend! I’m a little puzzled by this one though. Interestingly enough, this is a black tea blended with a little green oolong. I don’t think I’ve had many green oolong/black tea blends before, but the result basically just tastes like a roasted oolong instead of bits of green oolong with black tea. I can tell there is some sort of fruit flavor but I had to look up what it is – black currant. Not much flavor, just enough to tell it’s there. Black currant isn’t my favorite but I’ve had worse black currant teas. This is an interesting flavor combination but not really one I love.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 15 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4 minute steep
Edited to add: svtea.com has 15% off everything until the end of 1/8 with the code HOTTEA18!
I was weirdly excited about this and I have no clue why because I don’t love Jane Austen. However, I guess I could sense it was a good tea because this awesome smelling brew came out with lovely notes of spearmint, lavender, and vanilla. All distinctive and yet subtle.
Check out the full review here: http://sororiteasisters.com/2017/10/07/jane-austens-black-tea-blend-from-simpson-and-vail/
Work tea session
Sweet, malty, & full of nom-noms.
I had shared this tea with a coworker. She made this into a latte (per suggestion from the note on the packet) while I had mine ‘black.’ Upon listening to her taking her first sip of the tea, I assumed that by the “Holy shhhhhhhh*t,” she liked it.
I liked my cup, too, and will look into finding more of this, if available.
This tea seemed like a good tea to have around the holidays. I haven’t read Little Women yet (it’s around here somewhere) but it seems like a wintery book to me? At least what I know of the book suggests winter. Anyway, this tea is more summer than winter. It is fruity and fresh. The base is a Chunmee green with additional rose petals, apples and strawberries. I noticed many pieces of fruit in my infuser! I wouldn’t say the flavors stand out with strictly apple or strawberry… it’s more of a general fruit flavor. The rose notes are very light… more in the background. The description mentions an almond flavor and I wish it would have been more noticeable. But I’m very glad for the green base in this one. This is a delicious blend but I think it needs adjustments to make it a fantastic blend.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 30 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Now, I was never much a fan of Austen, especially when I heard the Brontes were also not much of a fan. I’m a Bronte fan completely. I recently watched ‘To Walk Invisible’ and was wondering what is with all the Branwell screen time? I guess he added drama. I’m much more of a fan of this tea than Austen. The black tea acts as the perfect base (there, yet not too strong) for great flavors. It’s a unique blend of spearmint, lavender and vanilla flavor. Not only do these three flavors go wonderfully well together and complement each other, but they are also equally balanced. This tea almost should have been the Bronte tea and each flavor could have represented each sister (lavender for Emily because she loved the moors, vanilla for Anne because she was the sweet one, and spearmint for the boldness or possibly the freshness of Charlotte’s writing). I read Anne’s ‘Agnes Grey’ last year, and if it wasn’t for her sisters brilliant writing, I think her writing would have been even more well received than it is. So even though some would say Anne didn’t bring much to the table, I disagree! Now I wish I were reading a Bronte book today. This tea would be lovely with reading.
Another one of my kitty buddies had a rough night last night. Fluffy didn’t pass too far behind her brother, who passed away on 2/4 of this year. She seemed fine up to a couple days ago.. she was a scrappy one! Her suffering wasn’t long, but it is very hard to know they are suffering even for a short time. Another hard day in a hard year. Both cats kind of bookended my Dad’s hospital visits this year. Next year HAS to be better.
Flavors: Lavender, Spearmint, Vanilla
I was looking for some herbal treats to share with my wife in the evening, and was happy to find some rooibos-based holiday flavors to add to my cart. Then in a true show of bipartisanship, I smiled, drifted to the OTHER side of the aisle, and found plenty of caffeinated options to agree with. Simpson & Vail’s “St. Nick’s Tea” is the first among them to make it to our cup.
Deliciously nutty with a strong sense of maple, this flavored black tea has just enough of a chocolate edge to make it seem decadent. While it was my first cup on this cold morning, it won’t replace my daily black tea any time soon. Great tea to share with family and friends – holiday or any day.
Flavors: Chocolate, Maple, Nutty
I have been enjoying a number of Ceylon teas lately (this year is the 150-year anniversary of teas from Ceylon/Sri Lanka), so I thought I’d add some of my favorites to my notes on Steepster. I will start with this tea.
The dried leaves are broken and machine-rolled; very black and consistent. The color of the brewed liquor is similar to that of a brown ale beer.
I steeped 9 grams of dried tea in 20 ounces of near-boiling water for 4 minutes. I attempted multiple steepings of the same leaves, but this tea does not work for multiple steeps.
The initial aroma came across as malty—bread-like, even. The initial flavor I picked up was that of oatmeal or even cooked barley, with a hint of malt to it. There was also some creamy and bread/toast-like flavors as well.
Overall, it was a very typical black Ceylon tea, and is one of my favorite teas sold by Simpson & Vail. I have come to appreciate these types of black teas as ones that have enough caffeine to move me through the day but not so much that I am up for long hours after drinking them. I appreciate the fact that I can drink this on an empty stomach and not feel ill from the tannins (unlike a malty Assam tea). This has become one of my regular teas and, given the inexpensive cost for the loose leaf variety, it doesn’t “break the bank” to have it frequently.
An enjoyable tea.
Flavors: Cream, Malt, Oats, Roasted Barley, Toast
Trying again. I bumped up the steep time and heat a bit.
The tea is a very pale yellow and clear, and smells like a vegetal green tea. I don’t smell the rose in the aroma.
The flavor has just the slightest hint of rose. Honestly, if I didn’t know it was there, I probably wouldn’t identify it as such. It’s there mostly as a sort of whiff of volatile oil right at the beginning of the sip.
I like it, but I want more rose. Maybe the next cup? Right now I have to mark it down for roselessness.