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.