Thursday, 3 May 2018

Teatourist - March 2018

March's Teatourist theme is 'Quintessentials: Full of traditional flavours and aromas, we're taking you back to basics for a little timeless indulgence'. And I was very pleased to see four black teas in this box, along with a green and an oolong. Just about a perfect balance for me!

Bright Afternoon by Brighteas
Chinese Keemun black tea, Chinese Mao Feng black tea, Chinese Yunnan black tea.
This is a mixture of three types of Chinese black tea, and there are a lot of subtleties going on here, not all of which I caught! Apparently this blend should have 'a traditional earthy flavour with subtle tones of smoky wood chips, dried autumn flowers, and tangy tinned peaches'. It  has a delicate overall flavour, and I caught the smoky notes - they stand out most strongly - and a slight floral taste. This is a medium leaf tea, and best drunk without milk to let the flavours come through. I would steep for a little longer than the recommended three minutes, but as with all teas it's a little bit of trial and error and finding what works for your own taste!

Ceylon Tea (Pekoe Fannings) by Cheeky Chai
Small leaf Ceylon tea (Pekoe Fannings).
Sometimes you just want a good basic Ceylon to put in your pot. In fact, I'm often asked, by people who would like to expand their tea game upwards from supermarket-brand dunked teabags, where they should start, and this is what I tell them: with some basic loose-leaf Ceylon. And this is it. This is a small leaf tea with something of a 'rough' taste to it, but light and delicious. Drink with or without milk, at any time of day.

Morgan's Brew Tea by Morgan's Brew Tea Company
East African black tea, including Kenyan, Ugandan, and Rwandan.
This is the company's flagship tea, hence its name. I picked this out of the box because Kenyan tea is usually pretty strong and I was flagging by 3pm after an early start and needed a bit of a buzz. It's actually far more delicate than I was expecting: just that right balance between light and strong that takes one back in the imagination to 1940s tea rooms with pretty china cups and saucers, and tea in proper pots. And this is one that just keeps going! I rebrewed it over and over, and it got weaker by stages, but it lasted for 4 or 5 pots! It's a small leaf tea that turns a very pretty orange colour on brewing. This is another good starter tea blend, really pleasant and a great all-rounder.

Safari Oolong by Nothing But Tea
100% Oolong tea from Tumoi Teas in Nandi Hills (Kenya).
This Oolong is 'crafted in small batches by a Kenyan cooperative in the Nandi Hills region of Kenya' where 'profits help local farmers build better communities'. I very much enjoy Oolong tea, and this one was a pleasant enough brew, but I missed the 'smooth floral flavour and honey notes' that it's supposed to have.

Green Tea with Jasmine by Pure Leaf
Chinese green tea, jasmine flowers.
This is a 'simple green tea made using the finest long-leaf Chinese green tea leaves' and is 'layered with real Jasmine flowers as they dry'. I'm a fan of an occasional floral brew of Jasmine petals steeped by themselves, but I'm also aware that usually when people talk about jasmine tea they mean green tea with jasmine, which can vary vastly in strength and flavour. This one makes a pleasant brew, although the jasmine flavour itself is subtler than I was expecting.

Earl Grey 1833 by Chash The Fine Tea Co
Finest Ceylon black tea, pure bergamot oil, cornflower petals.
The name of this tea is 'in salute to Earl Grey's 1833 charge to abolish slavery across the Empire', and it celebrates this with its mix of red, white, and blue cornflower petals. It's a pretty tea with a pungent scent. On brewing, the bergamot flavour is strong, but the tea itself tastes mild, with beautiful floral and citrus notes. It's a very smooth taste, and its high caffeine content is an excellent pick-me-up. This really is a top Earl Grey.

You can still order this box, or any past Teatourist box that you fancy, so check out my reviews of previous boxes and see if there's something that you like.

Teatourist have also given me a special discount code for 30% off your first box when you start a monthly subscription: just use the code FOXGLOVE30 at the checkout. I don't get commission for this, it's just a treat for you.


I have to apologise, profusely, for the utterly ridiculous amount of time that it's taken me to publish this review. I mean - seriously - babies have been conceived and born in less time than it's taken me to write this. So, my apologies to you, Teakruthi, and thank you for your kindness and patience.

Ceylon is just about my favourite everyday tea. So I was very pleased when Teakruthi offered me the opportunity to select a range of their Ceylon teas to review.

All of these teas are exquisitely fragrant, and I was surprised at the vast variations in flavour, influenced by factors such as the region the tea comes from, the altitude at which it is grown, its age when picked, and how the leaf is processed.

Teakruthi supply a lot of information with their teas, and it's hard to beat the aroma descriptions and tasting notes on the cards, so I have included them here, along with my own thoughts. The size of their testing samples is generous, and they were even nice enough to include a little infuser with the package.

Each tea comes with specific brewing instructions, and I have followed these as far as possible, paying attention to weights and measures, brewing temperature, and steeping time.

Sampling this range of Ceylon teas has been a delightful experience, and one that I would be happy to repeat.

If you'd like to learn more about Ceylon teas, then head on over to Teakruthi's blog.
. . .

Island Heritage
Ingredients: Pure Ceylon black tea.
Strength: Medium.
Brewing guide: 1 tsp (1.5g) per 6oz cup at 85-90 C for 3-5 mins.
Serve: Without milk. Up to 3 steepings.
Aroma: Burnt wood.
Liquor: Orange.
Taste: Flowery, mild.

This is a large-leaf tea from the Dimbulla plantation region. These leaves come from tea bushes that were planted in the late 1800s. I had no idea that tea plants were so long-lived! These leaves - 'two distinctive leaves and a bud' - are so large that it is hard to measure by the teaspoonful, so if you're serious about your tea you might want to weigh each measure for your pot. Brewed up, Island Heritage is orange in colour, and highly fragrant - almost like perfume - on the tongue. Don't add milk to this one: drink it plain in order to fully experience the floral notes.

. . .

Rainforest Indulgence
Ingredients: Pure Ceylon black tea.
Strength: Strong.
Brewing guide: 1 tsp (3.0g) per 6oz cup at 85-90 C for 3-5 mins.
Serve: With or without milk. Up to 3 steepings.
Aroma: Mellow notes of malt, fresh milk, and dark wood.
Liquor:Reddish orange.
Taste:Strong, full-bodied.

Grown in the shade of the Sinharaja Rainforest in Sri Lanka, this blend is hand-picked and then mechanically processed. This creates small torn leaves, slightly larger in size to the fannings that you would find in generic teabags, and graded as Broken Pekoe. This is a good tea for your morning cuppa: strong and flavoursome but without being too fancy or floral.
. . .

Colonial Mornings
Ingredients: Pure Ceylon black tea.
Strength: Medium.
Brewing guide: 1 tsp (2.6g) per 6oz cup at 85-90 C for 3-5 mins.
Serve: With or without milk. Up to 3 steepings.
Aroma: Dominant note of fresh fruits with a hint of roasted almonds.
Liquor: Reddish amber.
Taste: Sweet, spicy, aromatic, flowery, strong.

This medium-leaf tea comes from the Dimbulla region of Sri Lanka: one of the oldest plantation regions, and founded by English colonial traders, hence its name. The leaves in this blend are from high-altitudes, which apparently impart 'slightly fruity, mineral notes' and 'a medium to full body'. At 4 minutes of brewing time it has a beautiful golden-brown liquor, and is sweetly scented. Without milk it has a light flavour, but I did detect a hint of bitterness. With milk it's strong, and and I really enjoyed the slight creaminess. 

. . .

Zen Mint
Ingredients: Pure Ceylon black tea, mint leaves.
Strength: Strong.
Brewing guide: 1 tsp (2.0g) per 6oz cup at 85-90 C for 3-5 mins.
Serve: Without milk. Up to 3 steepings.
Aroma: Peppermint.
Liquor: Orange.
Taste: Fresh, spicy, cool.

When I was selecting my tester teas from Teakruthi I wanted to include a blend, something that wasn't solely a single type of Ceylon tea, and this fitted the bill perfectly. It has an incredibly strong mint flavour, given depth by the black tea. And the mint tastes far stronger than it smells: I usually find the opposite with mint or mint blend teas. This is tingly and refreshing: a really delightful dessert tea that keeps giving.
. . .

Afternoon Ritual
Ingredients: Pure Ceylon black tea.
Strength: Medium.
Brewing guide: 1 tsp (2.0g) per 6oz cup at 85-90 C for 3-5 mins.
Serve: Without milk. Up to 3 steepings.
Aroma: Hot honey, unsweetened chocolate, and faint apricot notes.
Liquor: Copper.
Taste: Burnt rose.

This tea is from 'a low country plantation belonging to a beautiful estate that sits high and overlooks the fields and rainforests below'. It is supposed to produce 'a sweet honey fragrance and appears a warm russet hue in the cup'. However, I found it hard to find anything that stood out about this one. It wasn't particularly full-flavoured, and it had a slight bitterness to it - possibly the 'burnt rose' flavour that the tasting notes suggest? For me it just tasted like an average cup of tea.
. . .

Wild Monsoon
Ingredients: Pure Ceylon black tea.
Strength: Medium.
Brewing guide: 1 tsp (2.1g) per 6oz cup at 85-90 C for 3-5 mins.
Serve: With or without milk. Up to 3 steepings.
Aroma: Roasted nuts.
Liquor: Dark gold.
Taste: Mild, malty, fine.

This is blend is from 'the Southern province of Sri Lanka in the Ruhuna tea district... in an area nourished by high humidity and monsoon season, and surrounded by diverse wildlife'. This tea has a slightly nutty scent to it, and with milk added is mild and slightly creamy, with malty notes. It has an overall fresh taste that is very enjoyable.
. . .

Blissful Harmony
Ingredients: Pure Ceylon black tea. Pure Ceylon white tea.
Strength: Mild.
Brewing guide: 1 tsp (2.3g) per 6oz cup at 85-90 C for 4-5 mins.
Serve: Without milk. Up to 3 steepings.
Aroma: Mellow note of roasted cashewnut.
Liquor: Dark copper.
Taste: Flowery, light.

I very much enjoy mixed colour teas, as they can combine body with lightness. In this blend 'the black leaves are delicate and wiry and produce a refined taste, while the white leaves were naturally withered and gently hand-rolled before firing'. This produces a sweetly-scented tea with honey notes, lightly floral, and a flavour that alternates between light and strong. It is highly perfumed, with just too many notes to identify! I think that this is my favourite of all the Teakruthi teas that I selected.

. . .

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Teatourist - February 2018

February's Teatourist box is 'Crushes & Blushes Tea Adventure' - a very pretty selection of teas and tisanes, themed around the idea that tea is love!

North Jetty Beach by Beach House Teas
Blackberry leaf, peppermint, basil, lemon verbena, lavender, rose hips, bee pollen, peaches.
I'm a sucker for a pretty name, and Beach House Teas have really gone to town on making their teas sound joyful, evoking both childhood beach holidays and romantic strolls in the sand. Bravo Beach House! This herbal blend, North Jetty Beach, uses ingredients sourced locally to the Southwest Washington Coast. It has a minty and sweet scent, and tastes slightly peppery, and leafy. As with many multi-ingredient herbal teas, different notes and flavours come through with each sip. 
Tea-taster Debbie: "I like it, but I don't know what I'm tasting. I like the name."

Sparkling White by Hoogly Tea
Chinese white tea, Chinese green tea, lemongrass, orange blossom, apple pieces, elderflower, hibiscus, rosehip, orange peel, flavouring.
This is fascinating: a blend of tea that attempts to mimic white wine. And it succeeds. As a white tea it is less delicate than I was expecting, given body by the addition of green. It's fruity, with floral notes, and definitely manages an underlying alcoholic tartness. I imagine that, chilled, this would be a great non-alcoholic alternative to white wine, and delicious on a summer evening.

Honey Red Jade by Golden Leaf Tea Co.
100% black tea.
Red tea? Black tea? What? To clear up any confusion, what is referred to as 'red tea' in China is what elsewhere, including in the UK, is referred to as 'black tea'. This one has been fermented, which means that it will taste somewhat different from the original black tea that it started out as. It might seem a strange flavour at first, but it is definitely something worth trying, if only for the taste experience. This particular tea has an incredibly sweet honey flavour to it, with earthy undertones. It's strong-bodied and might make for an interesting dessert tea because of the sweetness. Apparently it's also good cold, and this further enhances the 'sweet floral  flavours'. I'll be trying this later, but for now I'm enjoying it hot.

Raspberry and Rhubarb by The Tea Experience
Rooibos, elderberries, raspberry and rhubarb pieces, rose petals, coconut peel, flavouring.
Each time that I review rooibos I have to say that I am not a rooibos fan, as I usually find it too watery as a base. But I actually quite enjoyed this. It smells sweet and fruity, and made me think of rhubarb crumble, or rhubarb and custard sweets. I was expecting tartness, but it was actually sweet and a little syrupy. A pleasant surprise.

Cheeky Charlie by The Kettle Shed
Chinese green tea, lemon verbena, calendula, apple pieces, lime leaves, sunflower petals, flavouring.
This one smells like sweets! It reminded me of pear drops. The green tea gives body to the floral and fruit flavours, and there are also acidic, slightly sharp notes, from the lime and pear. This would make a fantastic refreshing summer tea, served iced.
Debbie, inhaling deeply: "This is a reaaallly nice tea. You can really taste the lime."

Whole Rose Buds by The Tea Makers of London
100% whole rose buds.
This little packet full of rose buds is a delight. I love purely floral teas, but I usually buy rose petals rather than the whole buds. These are beautiful, and look best brewed in a glass teapot, or you could just pop them whole into a cup if you don't mind them bobbing about as you drink. This makes for a fragrant brew, with a sweet and subtle taste. Rose tea is love!

I loved this selection; it was a real winner for me this month!

You can still order this box, or any past Teatourist box that you fancy, so check out my reviews of previous boxes and see if there's something that you like.

Teatourist have also given me a special discount code for 30% off your first box when you start a monthly subscription: just use the code FOXGLOVE30 at the checkout. I don't get commission for this, it's just a treat for you.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Teatourist - January 2018

January's selection box from Teatourist is the 'Nourish and Flourish Collection'. These are billed as  'health-promoting' teas, that 'cleanse' and 'detox', so just a quick reminder that I review tea solely for taste, and not for any supposed health benefits. This month we have 1 black tea,  2 green, 2 herbals, and a Yaupon - something completely new to me! Let's get stuck in.

Black tea with Turmeric by Oteas
Well, this is one that would never have occurred to me: black tea with the addition of little chunks of turmeric. Simple, yet effective. I drank it black, without milk, and it was actually a decent cup of tea with a little hit of extra warmth from the turmeric. With milk (heads up, I use soya sweetened with apple juice), the flavour comes through more, and the sweet and spicy notes create an even more warming balance.

Bamboo Leaf and Nettle by Wise Owl Tea
Wild picked bamboo leaf, nettle leaf.
I've never had bamboo in tea form before, but since I'm not a fan of nettle I wasn't expecting much from this. However, it wasn't at all what I had thought it would be. It's a pretty pale green on pouring, with a light, grassy flavour - (bamboo is a type of grass!) - with hints of nettle coming through. What was most surprising was the sweetness that came through, without even a hint of bitterness from the nettle. Pleasant and enjoyable - I liked it!

Simply Green by The Tea Leaf Company
100% Green tea.
This is a Ceylon green, 'with subtleties of varietal, seasonal and regional flavour'. I love Ceylon as a black tea, but I'm not such an expert on greens, and I don't always get the subtleties. This was pleasant and mild, and without a note of bitterness. As recommended I re-steeped several times. Very enjoyable.

Chakra Tea Flora by SWILK
Peppermint, hibiscus, lavender, marigold, chamomiles, rose, cornflower.
A caveat: I don't review teas based on their purported health benefits, I review teas on taste only. So whilst I have previously - and with tongue-in-cheek - discussed chakras, I am not going to comment on them here. The blend of herbs and flowers, however, does indeed sound delightful. I was careful to brew this lightly, as lavender can get bitter if brewed too long, but even at less than 4 minutes the lavender was on the verge of overpowering. Take a sip and you get lavender, and then mint - and then the flavours change with each mouthful. Overall this is pleasant, floral, and - yes - relaxing.

Traditional Green Yaupon by Yaupon Brothers
100% Yaupon Holly from Florida, USA.
Yaupon tea is something that I hadn't even heard of, much less tried! And this is the beauty of a subscription selection box: you get to try things that you would never otherwise have even thought of trying. Yaupon is a type of holly that is native to North America. Yaupon tea is high in caffeine, and suitable for your morning or afternoon pick-me-up. The tasting notes say that it is 'grassy' with 'notes of honey and hay without tasting bitter'. I found it to have an earthy flavour. It was surprisingly sweet, but it did have a bitter aftertaste, although you could sweeten it if you wanted to. An interesting experience, but not something that I would drink regularly.

Organic Time to Drink-Clean by Caley's Apothecary
Lemongrass, green tea, nettle, bilberries.
I don't think that I need to comment on the name of this tea. Anyway... It's a simple and yet successful blend of ingredients. The lemongrass is light and refreshing, and the green tea gives body and depth. Overall it is sweet and pleasantly flavoured.

You can still order this box, or any past Teatourist box that you fancy, so check out my reviews of previous boxes and see if there's something that you like.

Teatourist have also given me a special discount code for 30% off your first box when you start a monthly subscription: just use the code FOXGLOVE30 at the checkout. I don't get commission for this, it's just a treat for you. 

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Teatourist - December 2017

Magic & Mischief: 'A sensual selection of unforgettable flavours, full of wonder.' Sounds good, Teatourist, let's do this! This month we have 2 black tea blends, 1 white tea blend, 1 rooibos, 1 fruit, and 1 herbal. Hopefully something for everyone to enjoy.

Amarettea by Tugboat
Black tea, almond, vanilla, flavouring.
I like a good tea pun, and this one plays on Amaretti, for its almond flavouring. This is an excellent dessert tea, and one that I would happily serve to guests at a decadent dinner party. I tried it both with and without milk, but I prefer it with, as it becomes sweeter and more mellow. The almond and vanilla notes are perfectly balanced, and come through strongly. I could become a little bit addicted to this tea, but sadly it’s now all gone! A note on labelling: I can definitely see some blue petals (cornflower?) in this blend, but they’re not on the ingredient list on the info card, or on the listing on Tugboat’s website. Someone might want to check out this labelling, as it’s important to know what’s actually in a brew.

Cranberry Sauce by Parched Tea
Rooibos, rosehip, raspberry & cranberry pieces, lime leaves, natural flavours.
I've said before that I'm not a big rooibos fan, so any rooibos review comes with that caveat. I brewed this for 6 minutes (of the recommended 3-7 minutes) but it still tasted rather watery and weak. My second brew I left for 10 minutes, and this was far more acceptable to my tastebuds. I was expecting it to be tart, but it's not, not at all. It doesn't really taste of anything specific actually, just a general fruitiness with a sweetness that comes in under the rooibos. I imagine that it might be a hit for you if you like fruit infusions, or rooibos. I didn't actually dislike it, but it's not one I would drink again.

White Christmas by Nothing But Tea
White tea, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, rose petals.
I don't have much luck with white tea. Possibly it's too subtle for my tastebuds; possibly I just get it wrong each time. I was excited by this one, and then, inevitably, disappointed. I was careful to brew it at the recommended temperature, and for the correct amount of time, but to me it still just tasted like hot water that had once met some ginger. Left to brew longer it went bitter. I re-steeped, as suggested on the info card, and varied the brew time, and this brought out the spices more, but overall I found it lacking in flavour. An observation from Debbie, one of my taste-testers: "I feel like there's almost too much going on here. You know when you mix all the colours together and get brown?" Yes. Indeed.

Christmas Cake by Bluebird Tea Co.
Ceylon tea, cloves, orange peel, spruce needles, cinnamon, vanilla and almond pieces, snowflake sprinkles, flavouring.
This is the second tea this month that I've had to flag up as being under-labelled in terms of ingredients. This one contains 'snowflake sprinkles', and yes they are very pretty, and they melt into the tea upon brewing, but what are they actually made of? Do they contain milk? Because if so, that's an allergy note, and also makes this tea unsuitable for vegans. Do they contain sugar? Because that's going to affect people with certain medical conditions. Look: this is my unimpressed face. But aside from all that, how did it taste? Well, it has a tempting marzipan and cinnamon scent, and really was pleasant enough in a mild spiced-chai kind of way, but I fail to see the point of the spruce needles, and overall, for me, it didn't quite hit the spot. Sorry Bluebird: just call me The Grinch.

Mulled Wine Infusion by Rutland Tea Company
Hibiscus, rose hip, apple, orange peel, almonds, cinnamon pieces.
Well now. This is a thing. Thick and fruity, with a brew time of ten whole minutes, this is an excellent alternative to mulled wine. It hits the tongue as sweet, and then suddenly sharp, but the tartness is followed by a flow of cinnamon notes, and the whole thing comes together beautifully. It tastes very red! You could add sugar or honey if you find it too sharp, but for me it was just right. I'd recommend this to anyone wanting festive flavour without the alcohol, and I would happily buy a big bag and serve it up to all my friends.

La Beauté by Pacifique Herbal Infusion
Quince, ginger, apple, carrot, lemongrass, spearmint, mallow, verbena, cranberry, cornflower blue.
This is an intense burst of flavours. What I got first of all was the punchiness of the spearmint and lemongrass, and then the warmth of the ginger and the sweetness of the fruits comes through. The info card describes it as 'vibrant', but I might go so far as to call it 'alive', as its flavours move and change. There's a suggestion here to add a little gin to make a refreshing cocktail, and I can see that this might be rather appealing.

Complimentary Brew Buddy: Chocolate Orange Fudge by Fab Fudge
'Handmade intensely deep chocolate fudge swirled with the profound zestiness of orange.' I snuck a piece of this, and it was wonderfully creamy but without being sickly. Heads up that this company also stocks a whole range of vegan fudge, which looks absolutely mouth-watering in their photos!

Some hits and some misses this month, but always pleasing to try new teas.
You can still order this box, or any past Teatourist box that you fancy, so check out my reviews of previous boxes and see if there's something that you like.

Teatourist have also given me a special discount code for 30% off your first box when you start a monthly subscription: just use the code FOXGLOVE30 at the checkout. I don't get commission for this, it's just a treat for you. 

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Teatourist - November 2017

November's subscription box theme is 'Shine & Sparkle': a collection of teas to celebrate Teatourist's 1st Birthday. What a lovely idea. All six of these teas are award-winning, so I'm expecting something rather special. This month we have 4 black teas, 1 green, and 1 oolong. Very pleasing.

Autumn Fire by Leaf TeaShop
Ceylon black tea, cinnamon, orange peel, rose blossoms, almonds.
Autumn Fire: ‘a spiced black tea that’s packed full of Autumnal colours, flavours, and aromas’. It’s a lovely name – but I’m going to dispute it! Because, for me, this is a winter tea. With its orange and cinnamon flavours, and its strong marzipan scent, this tea made me think of Christmas cake, festivities, and the warmth of a winter fire. It’s a very pretty tea to brew up, and a delicious one too. I'm going to be a rebel, and drink it all year round!

Himalayan Darjeeling by Pure Leaf
100% hand-plucked, second flush Darjeeling tea leaf.
It’s been months since I’ve had Darjeeling. It’s a little too fine to drink every day, so it tends to come out for celebrations or commiserations: “Right! Time to break out the Darjeeling!”. This one is a real treat. It’s light, floral, and supremely fragrant. You really do want to sit and just breathe it in before drinking it, enjoying the scents rising from the cup. The info card suggests brewing it in a glass teapot to appreciate the spectacle of the leaves unfurling. This is good advice, and can be a calming, if not mesmerising, part of the tea ritual. Just remember to set an alarm so that you know when to pour!

Ali Mountain Oolong by Golden Leaf Tea Co
100% Oolong leaves.
Well, this is just gorgeous. I’m an Oolong fan and this is my type of tea. The rolled leaves unfurl to produce a mass of greenery in the pot, and the tea itself, when poured, is a pale gold, barely there at all. This is a delicate tea, sweetly scented and gently floral, something like meadow hay. The tasting notes describe ‘a sweet milkiness’, and yes, this is accurate. The leaves can be steeped up to five times, and I will absolutely be drinking all five pots!

Black Cardamom Chai by Ichai Tea
Black tea, cinnamon, black cardamom, green cardamom, star anise, cloves.
I don't think I've tasted black cardamom before. It imparts a smoky flavour, which - the internet tells me - comes from the way it is dried, over open flames. For me, what comes through most strongly in this blend, is a peppery scent and flavour, at first sip and then lingering on the tongue. This is a languidly spicy blend when drunk with milk. Without milk it is somewhat harsher, with a more raw taste. If you're looking for a variation on the standard spiced chai, then this might just be it.

Cheshire Breakfast by Cheshire Tea
Luxury black tea, naturally dried safflower petals.
When I sat down to review this tea, I looked for my tasting notes but I couldn't find them. All I could find is that I'd circled 5 on the ratings section of the info card, and drawn a big smiley face next to it. I thought, for a moment, that I'd got so caught up in drinking something so fresh, so tasting like tea should taste, that I forgot to write any notes. But then, thankfully, I found them. I bloody loved this tea. I was surprised that it is a blend of just Kenyan and Assam, not a Ceylon leaf in sight. I love Ceylon, but this is perfectly balanced – just perfect. This is a top breakfast tea, and you can't really go wrong with brewing this, whether you like it light or strong. With milk it makes a fresh and creamy brew, full of flavour, and with a good hit of caffeine. It takes me back to the tea I remember drinking as a child, from fragile bone china cups, although it's robust enough to drink as an everyday cuppa in a big mug, after staggering out of bed at dawn on a winter's day. This blend has won two Great Taste Awards, and deservingly so. I need more of this.

Jade Tips by Good & Proper Tea
100% organic Jade Tips leaves.
This is a beautiful green tea. The first thing I noticed was how sweet it is - something that you might not usually associate with green tea. But yes - sweet and fresh-tasting. This is spring rain on grass, and the flavour shifts subtly with each re-steeping. If your only experience of green tea is a bag of dusty leaves dunked in a cup of boiling water - well your bitter mouthful is miles away from the real thing. Invest in some quality loose leaf. Pay attention to the brewing time and temperature: don't scald your green tea! Take your time to breathe in the scent, and appreciate the flavour. Enjoy!

Complimentary Brew Buddy: Shortbread Hearts by Rachael's Secret Tea Room
'Handmade vanilla shortbread infused with caramel and pecan flavoured rooibos tea.' I wasn't able to try this, but it was a lovely addition to a celebratory box of tea, and very much enjoyed by one of my fellow tea-tasters.

You can still order this box, or any past Teatourist box that you fancy, so check out my reviews of previous boxes and see if there's something that you like.

Teatourist have also given me a special discount code for 30% off your first box when you start a monthly subscription: just use the code FOXGLOVE30 at the checkout. I don't get commission for this, it's just a treat for you.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Teatourist - October 2017

Hats & Scarves Selection
October's Teatourist theme is 'Hats and Scarves': a selection of 'cosy cuppas' to keep the wind out of your nooks and crannies. This month we have 4 black teas and 2 herbals, which suits me very well, as I've been deserted by my fellow reviewers and I'm drinking alone. More tea for me then?

Mazawattee Earl Grey by Mazawattee Tea
Black tea, orange peel, lemon peel, natural flavouring.
Ah, teabags! I usually buy my specialty tea loose-leaf these days, but I have to admit that when I’m reviewing I often go for the teabags first, as they’re quicker and cleaner when I’m short on time or feeling lazy. Now, I’m a bit of a geek, and I can’t say ‘Earl Grey’ without mentally adding ‘hot’ onto the end of it. But whilst it might be Captain Picard’s tea of choice, I find that some blends of Earl Grey (hot!) can give me a headache and make me feel slightly odd. Does anyone else experience this? I assume that it’s the bergamot oil, or perhaps the bergamot flavouring. Anyway, I’m pleased to report that this blend did not make me feel odd nor induce a headache! This is a full-bodied Earl Grey, fresh, with a lovely clean scent from the orange and lemon peel, and would make a good everyday cuppa.The Mazawattee website has some excellent information about the history of the company (it was once the most famous tea company in England!) and the name itself (which is a combination of 'maza', a Hindi word meaning 'pleasure', and 'watte', a Sinhalese word meaning 'garden'). I feel enriched for knowing this.

Mint Choc Royale by Jollybrew
Black tea, blackberry leaves, peppermint leaves, natural flavours.
This… This is just what I have been looking for: the perfect dessert tea. I avoid sugar, but of course I still want dessert, so specialty blended and flavoured teas are the answer for me, providing that hit of sweetness and flavour, and bringing a meal to a close. This tea uses a beautiful Ceylon as a base, and adds the perfect balance of mint and chocolate notes. The info card suggests adding milk, and I wouldn’t have thought to do this with a mint-flavoured tea, but it is absolutely right, as the milk (in this case soya) brings out the depth and flavour. Teatourist have sent out a few chocolate teas in previous boxes, but I think that this is the first one to use black tea as a base, and it works a charm. I loved this.

Spiced Orange Pekoe Tea by Spice Kitchen
Black tea, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon, natural orange flavour.
As we head into autumn and winter it’s natural for the spiced teas of the world to come out of hiding and once again take their place proudly on the counter top. I would have been disappointed not to see a spiced tea in this ‘Hats and Scarves’ selection, and I imagine that this was a popular choice for inclusion. I mentioned headaches earlier, and spiced teas are another type that can sometimes leave me with a headache. But, again, all was well this time, and this nicely spiced blend conveyed only warmth and festive thoughts. A note on ordering more: on Spice Kitchen's website this is just called 'Orange Spiced'.

Fika Tea by The Tea Experience
Blended black teas, vanilla, marigold blossom.
The scent of this in the packet is light and vanilla-ey. But my first attempt at brewing it was not a success. I followed the instructions: measure the tea, measure the water, correct temperature, correct brewing time. But it didn’t come out quite right. I was expecting more vanilla and floral notes, but these were very subtle and were overwhelmed by the blend of black teas, one of which was slightly bitter. On my second attempt I used less tea and brewed for less time, and this time the floral and vanilla notes came through more strongly, although I could still detect an underlying bitterness from the black tea. If I were to try it again I would go for an even lighter brew. It was still enjoyable, but I found it to be rather unbalanced and couldn’t get past the strange bitterness.

Time For Winter by Caley's Apothecary
Liquorice root, thyme, elderflower, ginger root.
This is a strange blend. It's warming, and the sweet notes come through eventually, but it's thrown completely off-kilter by the overwhelming taste of thyme. Now, I appreciate a good pun during the tea-naming process, and perhaps there is a bitter lesson here. And I did get used to the taste after a while, but I'm not sure that one should have to get used to a tea! Very odd, and not one that I'd drink again.

Turmeric Revival by MDTEA
Turmeric, ginger, liquorice, lemongrass, cinnamon, elderflower.
Elsewhere this might be categorised as a herbal spiced chai. You know what I mean. I was expecting something punchy and curried, but actually this is a mild, warming and fragrant blend, with sweet and sharp notes. Very enjoyable.

And what's this? Teatourist have included some delicious-looking biscotti as a complimentary treat! I wasn't able to try this, but I gave it to a friend, who wolfed it down and came back with the review that it was 'biscotti-tastic'. So, there you go.

What's New(ish!)?
I've been saying for some time now that I'll talk about the new packaging and info card design, and each month I've run out of time. So they're not all that new now but I'm going to talk about them anyway!

First up, the packaging that the tea comes in. This has changed from resealable clear plastic bags to Teatourist-brand green bags, with just a small clear window for viewing the tea. I was a little worried about this change at first, as when I opened the first subscription box that used the new packaging I got a strong whiff of plastic, and I was concerned that this might affect the taste of the tea. However, the smell seems to have vanished with subsequent boxes and it didn't affect the taste at all.

Labelling-wise, the round name sticker has gone, and in its place we have proper card labels, with space for the tea company logo. Along the top is a colour-coded strip, so that you can see, at a glance, what different types of tea the box contains. Grey for black tea, blue for herbal, pink for fruit, and so on. Also printed on is the type of tea (black, herbal, etc), the weight of tea inside (which will vary with each blend), and approximately how many cups it makes. The new bags also have the advantage of hiding the information cards, which are attached on the back, giving the whole thing a slicker, more modern look.

The information cards have gone through several changes but they finally seem to have landed where they need to be. They have packed on just about everything you might need to know: tasting notes, ingredients, allergy warning, serving advice, company background and contacts, detailed brewing guide, info on caffeine level, country of origin, and flavour. The only thing that I really dislike on the cards is the box that suggests what the tea is good for: sharing, diet, health, relaxation, etc. These seem rather random, and not based on any kind of science or attempt at humour, so really, what's the point? What I do really like is the space for rating and reviewing each tea. And if you find something that you just have to keep drinking, Teatourist have negotiated deals with the individual tea companies, and supply you with a code that gives you the treat of a percentage off your order, free delivery, etc.

It's worth mentioning again that you can order any past Teatourist box to try, so do take a look at my previous reviews and see if there's something that takes your fancy. It's all rather tempting...