Simpson & Vail

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Recent Tasting Notes

70

I decided to stick with Simpson & Vail teas this week and went with this blend for breakfast today.

The dried leaves were very dark, almost to the point of being black. Some stems, but mostly broken and a few whole leaves. Almost no fannings. Some golden tips.

I steeped 13 grams of dried leaves in 20 ounces of boiling water for 4 minutes. I went with the larger amount of leaves because of my experience with a similar tea from S&V earlier this week (East Frisian Blend).

The tea brews into a dark brown liquor. The flavor has a bit of malt and a bit of hay together. Slightly astringent, but that could also be related to the amount of dried leaves I used when brewing (a bit more than usual).

Overall, it was good, but not one of my favorites. I expected more flavors, I think. I prefer some of the other S&V blends over this one.

Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Malt

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 13 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

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80

I really, really want to like this tea enough to call it a favorite. I’m not there yet, though.

On paper, this has everything I generally look for in a black tea: Strong, with a malty flavor. But, it hasn’t yet broken into my list of favorites.

It doesn’t help that it took me a few tries before I found the right amount to brew for my strength preferences: 13 grams for 12 ounces of boiling water for 4 minutes. And, one steeping only—repeated steepings of the leaves does not work with this one.
The length of steeping time is different than what was recommended by the vendor but, when I tried the vendor’s recommendations, my tea seemed weak.

The dried leaves themselves are very pretty: dark to the point of almost being black, with some golden tips mixed in. There is a hint of berry to the aroma of the dried leaves.

When brewed, the liquor has a copper color, much like the vendor’s description states. The liquor has a malty flavor which is slightly astringent, but not nearly as malty as I expected. Since this is a blend, I know it won’t be as malty as a straight Assam tea—maybe a blend of Ceylon and/or Kenyan teas…? Just a guess. The hint of berries in the aroma of the dried leaves also translates into the flavor.

Overall, I like it, but it isn’t the strong breakfast tea I expected. It is one to enjoy throughout the day, and might even be very good with ice. I’ll have to try that as the hot summer weather moves in.

Flavors: Astringent, Berries, Malt

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 13 g 12 OZ / 354 ML

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95

I drank this one last night before bed. Didn’t feel like getting up to type in my notes on the desktop computer (an example of a time I really wish Steepster had a mobile version/app), so I had to wait until today. Anyway…

I had a rooibos tisane years ago that I loved and have been searching for one similar to that ever since. I have never been able to find it…until now. I loved this one!

The dried leaves were cut to the point of being fannings—just what I’d expect from a quality rooibos where you want as much leaf interaction with the water as possible when brewing.

The liquor brewed into a nice amber color. It had the familiar scent of a rooibos tisane—hard to describe, but recognizable. Besides the familiar rooibos flavor, there was an undertone of buckwheat. The flavor also had notes of plums and raisins. Overall, an excellent rooibos tisane that I will certainly add to my regular collection. It’s an excellent quality tisane which captures the essence of rooibos perfectly.

I brewed 6 grams of dried leaves in 12 ounces of boiling water for 5 minutes.

Flavors: Plums, Raisins

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 6 g 12 OZ / 354 ML

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77

This is an excellent tea with a light fruity taste and that brisk taste that I think is common to Ceylon teas. I think there is just a little bit of malt to this tea. This was a very good value as it was not expensive.

I steeped this tea one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 minutes.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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78

Bought this because I thought it would be interesting to try a tea from Georgia, the former Soviet Province, not the US State. This tea is relatively good. It is slightly bitter and it has a strong malt flavor to it. There is more depth to this tea though and I would say it has a bit of a fruity character largely in the background. Overall I like this tea.

I steeped this tea on time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 minutes.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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94

I bought this a few months ago… looking for some root beer teas and S&V delivers! For such a small amount of ingredients here (mostly rooibos and some sarsaparilla) this PACKS flavor. Whoa. And this is some definite root beer here… I can almost taste a creamy flavor, maybe I’m imagining it, like it’s a root beer float with the tiniest amount of ice cream. The rooibos has the deepest red color, which I don’t usually see with rooibos. If you don’t like the idea of hot root beer (I don’t mind it at all), you could always brew it hot and throw it in the fridge for a while. Or there is so much flavor, I’m sure an iced tea would be great. The second steep the next night was brewed for a WHILE and there was even more flavor which was surprising and addicting. I almost didn’t brew the second steep but I’m glad I did. S&V aces the flavors almost every single time. Love this. Half the mug disappears while writing this review.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// few minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 7+ minute steep

Flavors: Root Beer

Fjellrev

Their root beer flavouring is bang on!

tea-sipper

Most of S&V’s flavors usually are so accurate!

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83

“This tea is giving me an identity crisis. Or, rather, the Brontë sisters are. Did you realize that the oldest-lived Brontë was 38 upon passing? They did ALL THAT WRITING before 38.

Do you realize I am 32 and have only succeeded at NaNoWriMo once? What. am. I. doing. with. my. life?!"

Oh, and I also talk about the tea itself here: http://sororiteasisters.com/2016/12/22/bronte-sisters-black-tea-from-simpson-and-vail/

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80

I’ve been looking for an Earl Grey decaf and S&V has plenty of decaf options! The base here is light but not off tasting like some decaf options sometimes are. Decaf is tough to get right, but this one gets it right. I’m really picky with bergamot so this might not be my ideal bergamot, but it also isn’t a bad tasting bergamot — it’s crisp and bright and great for the light base. My perfect bergamot with this decaf base would be amazing, but I won’t say no to this tea.

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65

Here’s Hoping TTB

This is pretty good, although it doesn’t hold a candle to my favorite Market Spice gingerbread tea. Ginger and clove are the main notes with a hint of molasses.

Flavors: Clove, Ginger, Molasses

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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75
drank Pear Black by Simpson & Vail
495 tasting notes

Here’s Hoping TTB

Pear is a flavor that seems hard to capture in a tea and I was intrigued by the fact that this one had a black tea base instead of the more typical white or green. It definitely smells like pears and has a strong, sweet fruity flavor. But to me, it tasted more like apple than pear. Quite good, but not exactly what I was hoping for.

Flavors: Apple, Pear, Sweet

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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74
drank Vietnam Black by Simpson & Vail
1703 tasting notes

This is a very nice tea with some malty and fruity notes.

I brewed this noe time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 minutes.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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79
drank Rwanda OPA Rukeri by Simpson & Vail
1703 tasting notes

Bought a one ounce sample with my order last week. This is surprisingly good considering Rwanda is in my understanding very new to tea making. It has a weak note of malt and a fairly strong fruity note although I am not really sure what fruit. It is very good. It doesn’t qualify as spectacular but is quite tasty.

I steeped this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 minutes.

Flavors: Fruity, Malt

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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75

Here’s Hoping TTB

This is nice! I’m not really getting the chocolate, but it has an enjoyable creamy strawberry flavor. Not a standout, but I would certainly drink it again.

Flavors: Creamy, Strawberry, Sweet

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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81
drank Colombian Black by Simpson & Vail
1703 tasting notes

This is a fairly nice black tea. It is a bit malty and a bit sweet. It is strong enough that someone who likes to add milk to their tea probably could add it and still taste the tea. It is interesting to taste tea from someplace like Columbia. It does not seem to have the depth and character of a Chinese black but I do like it. I may try cold brewing it and see how it does as an iced tea. Overall this is a good tea.

I brewed this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 minutes.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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drank Sunny Afternoon by Simpson & Vail
654 tasting notes

Is anyone else having trouble coming to terms with the fact that it’s been 20 years since the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The show was an iconic part of my adolescence. Suddenly it’s 20 years later. When did I become an adult?

In honor of the day we first met the residents of Sunnydale, I’m doing a greatest hits marathon this weekend and drinking some of this Sunny Afternoon herbal tea. This blend came to me courtesy of Phi just last weekend (impeccable timing)! The vanilla flavor is extremely similar to that of DavidsTea’s Vanilla Swirl – sugary, creamy, slightly artificial, almost like vanilla cotton candy. Unlike that blend, this one also has notes of lemon and mango. It’s very sweet and dessert-like and I would not dream of adding anything to it. Quite enjoyable exactly as is.

Evol Ving Ness

Yeah, it happens quickly.

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80

Another sample from tea-sipper! I love caramel-flavored teas, so I was excited to give this one a try. The scent is absolutely heavenly! Warm and sweet and nutty and buttery…it definitely suites the name. For me, the taste didn’t quite live up to the scent. I definitely get the walnut coming through strongly along with hints of caramel. But I would have loved an even stronger caramel flavor and more of the buttery shortbread flavor I was smelling. Perhaps this one needs sweetener to fully bring out its potential? Don’t get me wrong, this is a delicious tea! Just not quite the amazing flavor experience promised by the aroma.

Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Smooth, Walnut

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 min or more 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML
tea-sipper

I agree the aroma might be better… but a shorter steep time might bring out more flavor? Like 2-3 minutes? That usually works for me.

Inkling

Thanks for the tip! I’ll give that a shot.

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75

This one has been on my wish list for a while and tea-sipper was kind enough to include a sample in my recent stash sale purchase. To be honest, my first cup really didn’t impress me. But I think it’s because I drank the whole thing while it was still piping hot. This time around, I let it cool for a good 10-15 minutes before drinking and the coconut flavor is popping a lot more. It’s still not the best coconut tea I’ve ever tried, but it is creamy and yummy and I’m glad for the chance to try it. Thanks, tea-sipper!

Flavors: Coconut, Creamy, Vanilla

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 min or more 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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70
drank English Toffee by Simpson & Vail
495 tasting notes

This is nice! Not quite as sweet and caramelly as I would have expected, but a very pleasant nutty flavor with a rich, malty base adding complexity. I did get just a tinge of bitterness in the aftertaste, but I’m not sure if that’s the tea itself or user error (I lost track of time and over-steeped by a minute or two). Overall, I’m quite impressed with these Simpson and Vail teas I’ve been sampling! I may have to finally break down and place an order with them one of these days…

Flavors: Bitter, Nutty, Toffee

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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100

Wow, this tea is amazing! It smells like a Mrs. Fields cookie stand (do they still have those anymore?) and tastes like exactly what the name promises: smooth, buttery vanilla almond goodness. I’ve had other almond cookie teas before that tasted more like marzipan, but this one actually tastes like a cookie in a cup! One of the best dessert teas I’ve had in a long time.

Flavors: Almond, Butter, Smooth, Sweet, Vanilla

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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drank White Ambrosia by Simpson & Vail
1560 tasting notes

I got this as a sample from someone (from reddit) in an exchange, and it was labelled as “White Ambrosia – Tea Zante”, however Tea Zante doesn’t seem to be a tea company. Tea Sante doesn’t sell the blend, Tea Forte’s White Ambrosia is mostly coconut/tropical, so I think the sample I received is this one. At least, it matches the ingredients/description.

Flavours of orange peel, mulling spice (cinnamon and clove), orange blossoms, and a delicate white tea. Very orange-oriented, but it is still quite good.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Clove, Fruity, Orange Blossom, Orange Zest, Spices, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 24 OZ / 700 ML

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70
drank English Toffee by Simpson & Vail
2314 tasting notes

I sipped this one a couple days ago. From my dessert sampler! This one is a little on the plain side, as it is simply black tea and flavoring. I can definitely tell that it is toffee, but not enough toffee flavoring for my tastes. The black tea in the base isn’t my favorite (it seems like or tastes like Ceylon). Maybe I didn’t use enough leaves or steep it the right way. Not the best from the dessert sampler. But it’s fine enough for a sweet tasting tea! So many delicious options from S&V though….
Steep #1 // 1 teaspoon for a full mug// 11 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3-4 minute steep

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80

For the past week I have been focusing on sipping down teas of which I had purchased a larger amount. I think that will remain my focus throughout February, perhaps March as well. I bought an ounce of this tea either late last spring or early last summer, put it in storage, and promptly forgot about it. I think my original intention was to spend the fall focusing on Assams, but I ended up changing plans by August. That led to me just getting around to this one late last week. I found it to be a very smooth, mild Assam. Its mellow character may have been a result of the tea fading in storage, or it could have just been the natural character of the tea. I’m honestly not sure which was the case.

I prepared this tea using a simple one step Western infusion process. Though Simpson & Vail recommended a steep time of 3 minutes, I prefer my Assam strong, so I steeped a teaspoon of loose leaves in 212 F water for a full 5 minutes.

After infusion, the dark copper tea liquor produced mild aromas of malt, toast, straw, cream, and roasted nuts. In the mouth, I picked up a delicate mix of toast, cream, orange, malt, cocoa, straw, leather, nutmeg, and roasted almonds. The finish was smooth and rich, offering lingering impressions of malt, nutmeg, and roasted almonds.

While this was not the most robustly flavorful Assam I have ever tried, I found its layering of flavors and rich malty character rewarding. I have noticed that the other organic Assams I have tried from Simpson & Vail have tended to be mild in both aroma and flavor, so I am not entirely certain the tea had faded all that much, though that remains a possibility. As is, I would not hesitate to recommend this tea to anyone looking for an approachable, basic, all-purpose Assam.

Flavors: Almond, Cocoa, Cream, Leather, Malt, Nutmeg, Orange, Straw, Toast

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Fjellrev

Ooh, those are some seriously hardcore notes.

eastkyteaguy

Fjellrev, they don’t really come across in such a straight-forward manner though. That was what I found so perplexing. There was a big swell of malt, almond, and nutmeg that coated my mouth once I swallowed, but otherwise, the actual flavor notes in the mouth were very mellow. I had to swirl and swish the liquor across my palate a couple times before I got any kind of idea of what was going on with this tea. I did find it to be a pleasant tea though. It reminded me a little bit of the 2016 Belseri Estate Organic Assam from Simpson & Vail, but this one was not as chocolaty and had a few more quirks.

Fjellrev

Either way, that sounds like a unique, pleasant experience! Quirky Assams are the bomb.

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85
drank Violet by Simpson & Vail
16 tasting notes

Violets, intriguing.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this tea. I like the look & smell of violets. Their vibrant purple petals remind me of springtime in Wisconsin.
I can’t say that I’ve ever tried anything violet flavored. I believe I ate a violet in a salad once, but I couldn’t tell you what it tasted like. I know candied violets are rather popular, but I’ve never crossed paths with the sweet treat.
This is not the cup of tea I was expecting. Quite honestly I didn’t know what to expect with this one. The aroma is unmistakably violet. The strength of the aroma was unexpected, but pleasant. The maltiness of the black tea is the perfect complement to the sweetness of the violet. It’s sweet, much sweeter than I anticipated. I thought this tea would be a soapy, perfumey mistake. I ordered it because I was intrigued and it turned out to be an excellent choice.
I can’t quite place it, but the tea has a fruity undertone. Make no mistake, it’s floral….but balanced. Tasty, unique, and refreshing. I can’t wait to try this one iced.

Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Sugar, Violet

Preparation
3 min, 30 sec

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92

It’s cold and windy and rainy and TBH I’m semi-irrationally scared that the wind will blow my air conditioner out of the window. Mostly I am perturbed by the eerie noises that the wind is making and the fact that some of it is getting through the a/c. So, like any good Steepsterite, I reached for a comforting cuppa. Phi first exposed me to this tea when she sent me a sample (thanks, friend!). Then there was an ounce of this in our gift bags at the Philly Coffee & Tea Fest. I am trying to enjoy rather than hoard it but it’s SO GOOD and I don’t want to run out. It basically tastes like a cinnamon oatmeal cookie. This tea is just wintry comfort in a cup. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put in some earplugs, curl up under a blanket, and try to sleep through (hopefully) the worst of this storm.

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