Saturday, January 3, 2015

In Case You Thought I Was Sane...

Writing this as much a note-taking exercise for me as it is for anyone out there who may be interested...

During this holiday, I've tried countless new teas. Like really, I can't exactly remember how many and there are still some in transit.

Yesterday, I hit Tealish and Teavana yet again (not that there were any sales remaining) because I'd done some stealth research on terrific, lesser-known teas produced by both companies. Have you ever heard of Steepster? When you become like the crazy cat lady of teas, this is where you go to check out what's what. Note: I've declined to leave my own reviews on the site. I can only take an obsession so far.

My family members, semi-jokingly, say I have a problem. And just to hit that contention head on, if having a problem means hydrating one's body infinitely more frequently than ever, while eschewing wine, when the teas in question are free of caffeine naturally, then fine. Have at it.

Yeah, I know that spending 300 bucks on tea in a month is not moderate (and I'm not talking about last month), but we know I'm not moderate. Way to be true to myself! Now that bras have become such a challenge, I need a new platform for reviews.

Below, please find info on 6 new teas I bought yesterday:


Wild Blueberry: This rooibos tea is quite punchy, very tart and fairly floral. If you don't like perfumey aftertastes, it's probably not going to work for you. Having said that, I don't mind a perfume note if it isn't artificial, and this one is authentic. I feel this may be best blended with other fruit tisanes or with a herbal vanilla. I've been blending it with Honeybush Vanilla (see below). Will I buy more? Probably but I need to go through my sample (2 oz) before I'll know for sure.

Pink Dragonfruit: I am in no way on the fence about this herbal tea - it's delightful! So fruity (you can eat the fruit after if you feel like it), so pink, so cheery. So natural. This ties for the best one I bought in this recent batch. It would win if it weren't quite so distinct (and therefore limited in blending).

Sweetie Pie: Um, ugh. It smells good. It's got almond flavouring in a rooibos base. What's not to like? Well, it has a repulsive, almost vegetable-like subnote. When that's not overwhelming one, it's fake tasting on the top note. I've not tried a tea from Tealish that I've disliked before. Sure, some are better than others, but this one is bad. I'm going to shop it around at work and see if there are any adventurers who can corroborate this claim.


Honeybush Vanilla: This honeybush (like rooibos, but a bit less medicinal and more smooth) ties for best tea of the day because it's so darned practical. It's light, will blend with fruit or nut bases - really with anything - and the vanilla is quite believable. Mind, I don't think it benefits from over-steeping, it can get a bit sour. So far it works terrifically with the Wild Blueberry (above) and Teavana Peach Tranquility (one I haven't reviewed but which I appear to love and which can be resteeped a couple of times). It's also good on its own, but I like a bit more sass than plain vanilla.

Caramel Almond Amaretti: Lord, this herbal stick blend is HIDEOUS! Worse even than its Tealish cousin Sweetie Pie (see above). There are no negative reviews of this tea - well, except for this one. My guy, Wade, at Teavana (we're on a first name basis) highly recommended it and he hasn't steered me wrong before. It smelled nice. But honestly it was one of the worst tastes I've tried in a long time. How to describe it? Sort of vomity, like ground-cover - no, more like dirt. Neither M nor I could drink more than 2 sips. I've already given it away - I couldn't let it live in my house. Don't worry, the person who received it did so with full disclosure. Why didn't I start with 2 oz? I spent 20 bucks on this shit. Live and Learn.

Passion Tango: This herbal mashup isn't a failure but it's not a success. It's so fucking overwhelmed by hibiscus. Use little. It'll blend well with the Peach Tranquility (Teavana) or the ubiquitous herbal Orange Blossom (Teavana). Apparently, it's awesome cold - probably because it tones down the sour-note of the hibiscus. I'm not much of a cold tea person, but maybe I'll develop an interest. It's kind of bitter, though how I can't quite put my finger on - maybe because of the cinnamon? It's also sour (see hibiscus overused). In truth, I don't love passionfruit (not that I dislike it). Update: Just realized that this is made with papaya, not passionfruit and I really don't like papaya. This might be more about mismatch and over-brewing than bad tea.

Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • I don't put sugar in tea. I rarely add milk (unless it's plain black tea, and then it's got to be super strong). I like lively, outgoing tastes most of the time. Apparently, I don't mind hibiscus or cardamom (2 tastes that are divisive and that frequently appear in herbal teas) but I prefer them to be balanced. I'm alright with subtle addition of sweetness (via fruit or stevia) but I'm not a fan of juice or sweetened drinks so any sweetness has to be on the light - and real - side. Although I like Toasty Almond, every other almond blend so far has been disgusting to my palate. Of course, those other blends were "amaretti" based, aka almond essence that doesn't have much to do with almond.
  • In general, Tealish teas are much subtler and less sweet/artificial than, well, many if not most other tea boutique brands. The plus is that, when they're good, they're so beautifully balanced and of high-quality. But when they're mediocre, they can be wishy washy. Teavana is at the other extreme. When their teas are good, they're like fireworks on a July night. But when they're bad they're overloaded, top heavy, sweet and plain fake tasting. They're also, and I know I've said this before, almost too expensive to be worth it. In light of this, blending really can be your saving grace to produce a brew that has all the good of one tea highlighted by all the good of another tea. Of course, you have to care to do this. Then you have to own all the teas.
So there you go. Two total keepers to add to the cupboard. One likely to be a repeat, one not to be repeated (but to be used) and two horror stories. In truth, this isn't my best luck to date but, once you've tried almost everything you have to start digging deeper. Deep isn't always good. Have you tried any of these? If yes, do you concur with my perspective? Which of these most appeals to you? Let's talk!


  1. I actually call myself a tea whore because I like pretty much all teas, just less keen on chai teas probably because I don't like milk in my tea. Black teas (leaning to Earl Greys, particularly Lady Grey), green teas, fruit teas, rooibos teas, mulled wine teas... you name it, I've probably got a bag or canister somewhere.

    I loved Toasty Almond, but I haven't had many teas from Teavana nor Tealish (Toasty Almond was a Christmas present). This morning I had Loyd mulled wine tea in plum, but it does have a little artificial sweetner in it you probably wouldn't like. At this particular office, I have Yorkshire Gold Orange Pekoe (good but would be better in a pot as it's strong), The English Tea Shop peach & ginger tea (good, peach smell, slight ginger taste black tea), and a coworker left a Tetley vanilla earl grey.

    Mmm, tea... I should make another cup.

    1. Ha! I have to find some mulled wine teas - sounds like a good way to get the wine experience without the sugar and booze.

    2. I buy both the Loyd mulled wine and fruit teas at Starsky's, a Polish grocery store in Mississsauga & Hamilton. Most of the box is not written in English, so maybe keep an eye out where Eastern European products are sold?

  2. I love your reviews, and appreciate them. It's difficult to navigate the bewildering array of choices. Like you, I don't like sugar or milk in tea. I also avoid the really crazy blends - I actually saw one online somewhere that contained marshmallows. My favorites so far are jasmine green tea (really, more like an oolong), Earl Grey, and Teavana Wild Orange Blossom.

    I have never understood what roobois tea is, and I've never tried it.

    1. Thanks Marie! You know, I tried my friend's marshmallow oolong this morning and, gotta say, it was just wrong :-)

      Rooibos is not tea, technically, but the dried leaves of a legume plant that grows in Africa (I believe). I used to dislike it, but then I hadn't tried many rooibos blends at that time.

    2. Mallow is in medicinal teas for sore throats (check Throat Coat for an example), but that's mallow, not marshmallow flavouring.

    3. I saw actual marshmallows in a blend ...

    4. Hey - the tea in question (for me) was an oolong with marshmallows (those little white ones).

    5. That's just freaky. Marshmallows are for hot chocolate, not tea.