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Recent Tasting Notes
It’s summer, time to write a tasting note for Nutcracker! I’ve tried this tea a few times but it just never results in the cup I want. There are so many ingredients here, but it’s very light in flavor, both with the black tea itself and the flavors and ingredients. What should be here: almond pieces, orange peel, cranberries, cinnamon & chocolate mint flavors. Even though I noticed plenty of orange pieces, and at least two cranberries and other various bits go into the infuser, it’s tough to taste any of these. In a blind taste test, I probably wouldn’t mention ANY of the included ingredients. Maybe all the flavors just combine together to create a new flavor instead of flavors I can’t pick apart. Because honestly, I can’t distinctly taste any of these flavors. Also, the black tea results in a very light brown color with both steeps. So overall, not the holiday magic I expect (and the steeps were the same in the winter as well, so it isn’t just a matter of sipping season.) Ah well, can’t win them all.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoon for a full mug// 12 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4 minute steep
Drinking this again today it’s honestly just SO Good and I really need to add this to my To buy list. I’d love to get a bag of this. I definitely am excited to try some more teas from this company in the future. So hopefully the bar isn’t set too high based on how much I enjoyed this one as my first.
Today was my birthday which was pretty uneventful but I babysat for a friend which was fun. This is a freebie that came with the teas I bought from Tea-Sipper’s Stash Sale. I’d been wanting to try this one and she was kind enough to send me some of it. It’s also my first time trying a tea from Simpson & Vail. This note is going to be brief as I am exhausted from babysitting all day.
I prepared this as the instructions said to and added the tiniest bit of honey and milk.
Taste wise I’m getting some soft floral notes that remind me of earl grey tea. Yet isn’t any bergamot in this or cornflower petals. My initial thoughts are that this is not what I expected it to taste like but if it were actually an earl grey tea. It would be an exceptional earl grey. The black tea base isn’t specified what type they use but it is really tasty and pairs nicely with the floral-ness. I don’t get lilac from this unfortunately but really am enjoying this. I definitely wouldn’t mind buying some more of this for my cupboard but would need to make a note to reach for it when I’m craving some EG.
Flavors: Bergamot, Earl Grey, Floral
Since I said goodbye to a flavored green this week, I thought I should apply the law of conservation and crack open a new one.
As I’ve said, I’m a huge jasmine green fan. I also quite like rose teas, done right. So I found the prospect of this one exciting.
Not surprisingly, the scent in the tin is the generic S&V scent — a sort of perfume/lotion floral without clear borders and not really unique to this tea. The steeped tea produces a light golden yellow liquor that smells mostly of jasmine.
It’s in the flavor that it becomes clear this isn’t a straight jasmine. Rose teas often produce a sort of aromatic presence that seems to come from an essential oil, and I get that here, though just a bit. It really is just a kiss of rose, so points for accurate naming.
The underlying tea is not discernible to me as a separate flavor, but that’s ok. This is an enjoyable switch up on a straight jasmine green.
Flavors: Jasmine, Rose
I thought I’d entered all of my non-sample teas in my Steepster cupboard, but periodically I find one that slipped through the cracks.
This is one of those.
The aroma in the tin reminds me of every other Simpson & Vail tea in my order, only stronger. And now I’m thinking that this is the culprit that shared its smell with all of the other teas. Who knew that packaging was so important? I haven’t ordered from S&V in a while. I certainly hope they’ve improved their packaging and are no longer using paper bags — the kind that they have in the grocery store to place under the coffee grinder.
Anyway, I am not good when it comes to differentiating the smells of various types of purple flowers. When I smell something I know is lilac, I’m like — hey, yeah, lilac. Same when I smell something lavender or violet. But put them all in front of me and ask me which is which? I might be able to do it, I guess. But it seems unlikely because I don’t have a clear entry in my mental database that I can call up as any of these.
The fragrance of the steeped tea is a delicate floral, with a tad of the soap/lotion that plagues some floral blacks. The tea is a pretty standard black tea color, perhaps a little darker and a little redder than some.
The flavor is much like the smell, only intensified. I wouldn’t say this is a subtle flavor, or particularly delicate, but neither is it eyewateringly unpleasant. It’s juicy enough that it doesn’t have that dead flower thing going on that some chamomiles have. Thankfully the soap/lotion is less, and there’s an interesting sweet upturn at the end of the sip which makes it enjoyable.
As I sit here, I can’t recall what other lilacs I may have had and how they stack up. But I’m now wanting to taste purple flower teas back to back just for laughs.
I thought for sure I’d written a note about this one before. Apparently not.
The dry leaves smell strongly of chocolate. The orange is all but missing. After steeping there is more balance. More orange, a bit less chocolate. The chocolate is a baked chocolate smell, by which I mean it’s a cookie rather than a candy chocolate smell: a bit flatter and more diffuse. The tea is clear and dark amber in color.
Have I had a chocolate orange tea before? I don’t remember. This one is nice, though there is something about it that I could do without, best described as a generic floral/lotion quality that carried over from the other S&V teas with which it shipped. If I get past that, it’s something I’d drink again.
Flavors: Chocolate, Orange
I’ve found most of the S&V teas I’ve tried to be very solid, but not terribly distinctive. Solid, very enjoyable, but not stand outs.
This one breaks that mold. This tea does one thing, but it does that one thing extremely well.
Everything is blackberry, blackberry, blackberry — smell in the tin, smell after steeping, taste. It’s a deep, organic infusion of blackberry into the tea base, which is really not all that discernible except as a substrate. If this wasn’t as tasty, that might be a problem for me, but I find the flavor delicious — rich but not heavy, strong, but not too strong, not medicinal or artificial. The reviews on the S&V site disagree with me, finding the flavor artificial. But I’m standing by my tea.
It’s going on the wish list.
Chai to Stay Dry! Today I felt like trying the sampler of this chai that was kindly provided to me from the last Here’s Hoping Traveling Teabox, so thank you so much to tea-sipper and all the previous participants of that teabox! This was the one chai from the box I decided to sample, and now, during my “month of chais” seems like the perfect time to do so!
The sweet smell of the leaf is giving me a bit more of a “candied ginger” feel than chocolate; I don’t distinctly pick up on a chocolate aroma, but I do get a sweet or sugary impression, as well as spices, particularly that “musky clove” scent that I attribute to cardomom. Brewed up, it has a deep reddish-brown color and it is easier for my nose to pick out some cocoa notes, but the spices are still predominant.
I wouldn’t say the flavor of the tea is a strong chocolately flavor, but the rich black base comes off much sweeter, with some cocoa notes in the aftertaste, and there is no bitterness or astringency, making this the sort of chai that would be easy to drink plain. The spice blend is a pretty good balance, though the cardamom notes do linger a bit in the mouth. It is not overly spicy, causing a pleasant warmth rather than an unpleasant lingering heat.
Since I wanted to bring out a stronger chocolately flavor, I decided to try this chai latte-style, and use chocolate almond milk. I made a fairly strong infusion and was careful not to overdue the hot milk, and it was very tasty! A good choice to “ramp up” the chocolate flavor since I found that rather subdued in the base tea.
Flavors: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate, Sweet
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
Sipdown no. 80 of 2018 (no. 436 total).
I’m glad I have so many teas I like. The outliers that I really don’t care for I dispose of fairly fast, so I’m left with things that are all quite good to the point where grading them becomes an exercise in hairsplitting. Apart from the mega-standouts, most of the teas I have fall into the 70-90 range so when it comes time to follow my protocol for picking a cold brew, unless there’s one in the fast disposal category, I hit things I like pretty quickly. This is both sad and a good thing. Sad because making a huge pitcher of cold brew goes through tons of tea fairly fast, and a good thing because the cold brew is always yummy.
That’s where we are with this one. A yummy cold brew, and also yummy as a hot tea. Sorry to see it go.
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