Day 9: Hot Lips

Part of me thinks this tea is misnamed. It’s called “hot lips”, which I associate with a slightly spicy gummy candy. Lip-shaped, bright red. However, this reminds me more of the cinnamon hearts from valentines day than that particular dime store candy.

However, a tea by any other name should still taste as…. …tea-ish, right?

Red and green. Very cinnamon-y!

Red and green. Very cinnamon-y, and very festive!

Day 9: Hot Lips by DAVIDsTEA

Ingredients: Organic: green tea, cinnamon, safflower, pink peppercorn, chili pepper.

Steeped: 1.25tsp in tea ball. A splash of cold water in the bottom of the cup, then boiled water poured in.

First Cup: Steeped 3 minutes. Clear.
Without taking a sip, already I can really smell the cinnamon. Wow!
The spiciness is the most obvious thing about the flavour. The first few sips seemed hot in both senses of the word. As it cools, I’m noticing the slight sweetness to the tea itself, though the spiciness is still quite strongly coming through. I’d probably like a bit more of the cinnamon sweet, actually, to balance the spiciness, like in a cinnamon heart.

Second cup: Resteep. 4 minutes. Clear, then sugar added.
Again, the heat of both kinds is the first thing I notice about the tea, outside of the cinnamon scent. There is a bit of a dry taste, I think it’s from the cinnamon.
I tried adding a bit of sugar, and it brightens up the flavour for me. The spiciness isn’t really as strong as it was in the first steep, though it’s still there.  The sugar adds a nice balance to the cinnamon flavour though, I quite enjoy it.

Third cup: Re-resteep. Approx 5 minutes. Clear, then sugar added.
The flavour seemed rather dull (mainly the cinnamon) until I added a bit of sugar. Again, it really brightened the steep up. Still, starting to fall a little flat. This will probably be my last cup.

Overall impression: I never really got a taste of the tea at all. I’m not sure if I consider this a good thing or not, as it’s the first ingredient. Still, the flavours that did come through were fairly enjoyable. I still would have liked a hint more sweetness in the tea itself to brighten up the spiciness.

My rating: 78. B+. Certainly not bad, but (again), the ideal tea, in my opinion, should need nothing added to be its best. By that standard, this needs to be a bit more sweet to get an A from me.

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Day 8: David’s Organic Breakfast

I didn’t get to open my tea advent calendar until nearly 3 in the afternoon today, having been out of the house from within half an hour of my awakening just short of 2pm. Upon finding a breakfast tea behind the door, I promptly wondered aloud if I was allowed to drink breakfast teas after breakfast time.

I am such a rebel....

I am such a rebel….

I was promptly answered with “no”.

I decided, however, to be a rebel and drank it anyways.

This is the first straight tea that I’ve had the chance to review so far. (It only took me around 1/125 of the way to make it to one!) Straight teas are very interesting to review, in my opinion, because the lack of flavouring means you get to concentrate on just how the tea alone tastes. You may think that black tea is black tea is black tea and green tea is green tea is green tea and so on and so forth, but that’s not true at all. Even the little bit of experimentation I’ve done in the past has definitely shown me first-hand how different one can be from another. The method in which the tea is processed, how it’s finished, where it’s from, and several other factors really allow for a large variety of flavours to come out of different varieties and blends of teas that fall under the same general category (such as “black tea”).

Of course, as you’ll see, in order to best describe these different teas, I may need to work on my vocabulary a  bit, but that’s a task I shall relish over the length of this challenge!

All measured and ready to go!

All measured and ready to go!

Day 8: David’s Organic Breakfast by DAVIDsTEA

Ingredients: Organic black tea from India (Darjeeling), China (Yunnan) and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

Steeped: 1tbsp in my 2-cup pot. Brewed with freshly boiled water.

First Cup: Steeped 5 minutes. Clear.
One easy way to tell that I need to expand my vocabulary: I’m having problems describing the taste of this black tea in ways that go far beyond tea-y, but I’ll do my best. Although the brewing time is well within the suggested time limit, I’m still finding it a little bitter. There’s a bit of strength to it, which I like, but there is a bit of an off-putting bitterness. I assume it would taste better with milk and/or sugar… which is more or less the standard way to drink a good breakfast tea, in my humble opinion. (That being said, the best black teas can be really enjoyed clear, and I’ve had a few which I’d never put anything in.) It’s enjoyable as it cools, with a bit of a flowery taste.

Second cup: Same steep. Steeped approx 1 hour. Added milk.
Ok, I got majorly sidetracked between cup 1 and cup 2. But such is life, and I’m glad to have my second cup now. I’m really noticing the earthy and slightly floral scent of the tea. The bitterness is very much cut by the milk, though it still could do with a bit of sweetness. However, I think it would be better paired with something sweet rather than have the sweetness directly added. Just a hunch.

Third cup: Resteep. Steeped 10 minutes. Clear.
I think I like the milder resteep better than the original steep in all honesty, at least as far as flavour depth goes. Although there’s some bitterness to the scent, there’s not much in the taste at all. The tea is milder overall, but the distinctive flavour still really comes through.

Fourth cup: Same resteep. Steeped for around an hour (again). Clear.
Despite the long steep, due to it being a resteep, it’s really not that bitter. Actually, the flavour is strong, but less powerful than the initial steep, making it really enjoyable despite (or even due to) the long steep time.

I’m actually tempted to try a third steep and see how that works out, but I don’t think I could handle it right now, so leaving it at two steeps it is.

Overall impression: Not bad. Not the greatest cup of black tea that I’ve ever had, but I can see this being good in the morning as well. I wish it were a little less bitter, but I think that paired with something sweet like a pastry (this and a Danish? mmmm…), it would be perfect. Especially with a bit of milk in the tea itself to cut the bitterness.
As I said, my ideal cup of black tea would not require any milk to be at its best, so for me, this one is out for that purpose, but I can still see it holding up quite well in the right context for sure.

My rating: 75. B. Not a bad breakfast tea, but not the ideal cup of black tea either.

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Day 7: Crème Brulée

Tea party, anyone?

Tea party, anyone?

Day 7! It’s now been a full week of tea blogging! Huzzah! Only 142 to go! 😉

To celebrate, I decided to pull out one of my tea cups for tea time today. Of course, tea cups don’t really hold very much tea… meaning that, as I’m still developing my palate, I only really have a little bit to say about the tea each time. It’s over several cups though….

This tea cup was given to me by my parents earlier this year, and this was its maiden voyage. I rather like it, actually! Another time, I think I’ll hold off on the tea cups unless I’m drinking with someone else, or else am set up to have a proper tea, though. As much as I love them, tea cups for the sake of them aren’t necessarily the best fit for me right now.

Of course, if I can make myself a proper cream tea or high tea… that’s another matter altogether!

Day 7: Crème Brulée by DAVIDsTEA

It smells amazing already!

It smells amazing already!

Ingredients: green and red rooibos, safflowers, calendula marigold.

Steeped: 1 tbsp in my 2-cup pot with freshly boiled water.

First Cup: Brewed 5 minutes. Clear.
There’s a sweet, citrusy flavour to this, and a roundness to the taste. Quite enjoyable.

Second cup: Same steep. Brewed approx 10 minutes. Clear.
Pretty much the same as the first cup. Perhaps a bit stronger, but that’s to be expected. I’m definitely enjoying this… and it does have a nice dessert-ish flavour to it. Not the most well-versed in crème brulée, but from what I remember, it may be reminiscent of the real dish.

Third cup: Same steep. Brewed approx 15 minutes. Clear.
Flavour is stronger. I let it cool, but it’s not as nice when it’s not hot.

Fourth cup: Last of the first steep. Brewed 20-30 minutes. Clear.
A little too strong by now. It seems thicker as well, and again cooler. The tea definitely is best hot and brewed a bit less than this.

Fifth cup: Resteep. Brewed 10 minutes. Clear.
Flavour is lighter. Still citrusy, smooth and rounded, and nice. The lingering taste is gone, though. I rather miss it….

Sixth cup: Same resteep. Brewed approx 30 minutes. Clear.
Ok. So, I gave up on the teacup and poured the rest into a larger mug. The teacup just… wasn’t the best way to go for drinking this tea on my own. But oh well. That being said, I think the tea may be best served in a dainty mug, halfway between these two vessels. Something to keep in mind for next time.
As for the tea itself, the resteeped flavour is stronger now, more reminiscent of the first cup. The smooth, creamy aftertaste is back, if still not as strong as it was on the first steep overall. The tea cooled as I drank and again I am reminded that this tea tastes much better hot.

Overall impression: A very nice flavour. I’m surprised by the ingredients in this one — it tastes like it should have something citrusy or creamy or something in it, but it’s just rooibos and flowers. Still, delicious, especially warm. And smelling the dry tea is wonderful as well!

My rating: 84. A-. It would’ve made a straight A if it were as good cooled as it is hot. Still, it’s got a lovely flavour for a dessert tea, making a great and calorie free alternative to the real food.

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Day 6: Glitter & Gold

The other day, I talked about Big Mug Teas. But really, I find that just about every tea has a style of drinking that suits it best. Some are best with long steeps in mugs. Some, short steeps in oriental style cups. Others just won’t feel right unless served in your finest bone china.

Today’s tea is an interesting one, because I swear to you, it is best served in a clear vessel. It will do fine in plain mugs as well taste-wise, don’t get me wrong, but it has a visual element to it. This is a tea that I will never ever ever drink out of an opaque travel mug, because I would miss the visual element, which is part of the enjoyment and wonder of the tea itself.

As it is, I would brew it in a clear teapot, like on should use for flowering teas, if I had one. As it is, I don’t, so I try to make the most of it in-cup as I can.

I literally refer to this as the Twilight of teas. Can you see why?

I literally refer to this as the Twilight of teas. Can you see why?

What makes this tea so special  you ask? Well, the short version is that it sparkles. Tiny specks of glitter appear to be floating in the tea, making for a beautiful sight, especially when looked at directly under a source of light. Yes, this tea is absolutely perfect for those who like a little bling, those who enjoy a bit of magic and whimsy in their food and drink, and Twilight fans alike (but only perhaps if you’re Team Edward).

Myself? I fall closest to the whimsical side of things if had to choose. In any case, having the beautiful visual element makes my day.

That being said, on with the review.

Would you like some sugar bling with your tea?

Would you like some sugar bling with your tea?

Day 6: Glitter & Gold by DAVIDsTEA

Ingredients: Chinese black tea, sugar crystals, gold sugar balls, vanilla, orange peel, cloves, natural and artificial flavouring

Steeped: 1 tbsp in my 2-cup pot with freshly boiled water.

First Cup: Brewed 5 minutes
This tea is very mild, with a vanilla aftertaste. The spices come through as well, for sure, but the overall flavour is very mild and light. I wonder if it might do well with a longer steep time. That being said, the visual experience is AMAZING!!! I love watching all the suspended sparkles in the tea.

Second cup: Brewed about 40 minutes. Milk added.
I tried a little bit clear before I poured the cup proper with milk… no real change in flavour strength.
Usually, when I make it with milk, the top still sparkles beautifully, but I can’t seem to make it do so this time. That being said, the milk goes quite well with the vanilla. The spices still seem underdeveloped, but I’m enjoying the sweetness of the tea as a whole.

Third cup: Resteep. Brewed for around 30 minutes.
There is a mild substance to the flavour… a sweet, vanilla, spiced somethingness. It’s still very weak, and I wish it was stronger, but it’s still good. Also, the tea is just as visually interesting as it was on the first cup. Seriously, I love these sparkles.

Fourth cup: Same resteep. Brewed for around an hour. Added milk.
The sweetness and slight spiced-ness are still coming through as I sip. I wish I’d left the milk out though I preferred it without milk, I think. Plus, it’s still not as sparkly with the milk as usually is still. Perhaps I put in less gold sugar balls somehow or something? That being said, I let the last half the cup cool while I ate lunch… the sweetness and slight mulled/spiced-ness was nice after my meal.

Overall impression: A little lighter in flavour than I like, but still quite nice. For those of you who have tried Bigalow’s Constant Comment before, it’s like that tea with vanilla and sparkles added to it. Seriously, though, I might have to pick up a large amount of this tea just to watch it glitter. I love it!

My rating: 83. A-. I may have rated it lower for taste alone, but the visual element is A+++++ so I have to balance them out a bit.

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Day 5: Cream of Earl Grey

If I were still five, I'd never have even tried this!

If I were still five, I’d never have even tried this!

When I was little, I didn’t like tea very much. I was pretty much anti- any hot beverage that wasn’t chocolate or apple based. However, I grew, my taste buds developed, and by the time I reached my early double digits, I was an avid tea drinker.

However, it took a lot longer than that for me to develop a taste for Earl Grey.

Back then, it was my father’s favourite tea. It still is among his favourites, though it seems to have been beaten out by jasmine green tea, judging by the sheer number of varieties of the stuff sitting in our cupboard. I tried it with him a few times, and couldn’t quite stand the bergamot.

Again, time passed. Another decade, actually. And in my early 20s, I rediscovered Earl Grey. This time, however, I found I did enjoy it. However, I still find it finicky at times. It needs to be brewed just right, or else be a brew that can stand up to a lot. I prefer the latter, myself.

One of the interesting things about Earl Grey is how it sides toward the delicate on the flavour scale. After yesterday’s bold Big Cup tea, it was a nice change of pace to find an Earl Grey blend in my advent tin for today.

Day 5: Cream of Earl Grey by DAVIDsTEA

Ingredients: Black tea, cornflowers. With natural vanilla and bergamot flavouring.

Steeped: 1 tbsp in my 2-cup pot with freshly boiled water
First Cup: Steeped 4-4.5 minutes
Ok. Apparently this tea requires a very low steeping time. While the package says 3-5 minutes, this already feels a bit overdone. Rather than coming off creamy, it seems rather flowery and a little bitter for it. Going to try it with milk and see how that goes

Second cup: Same steep. Steeped 25-30 minutes, added milk
Yes, it tastes a whole lot better with milk. This isn’t surprising for various reasons. First, milk is generally wonderful at cutting through bitterness in oversteeped tea. Second, I find teas with vanilla pretty much always taste better with milk to add to their creaminess. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I don’t think I’ve met them yet.

Tea and honey are a match made in heaven! My honey dipper says so!

Tea and honey are a match made in heaven! My honey dipper says so!

Third cup: Same steep. Steeped 30-35 minutes, added milk and honey.
Oddly, I don’t think the honey makes much of a difference to the flavour. However, I’m sure that it is the perfect compliment if added sweetness is necessary, as its floweriness matches well with the  cornflowers in the tea itself.

Fourth cup: Resteep. Steeped 5 minutes. Clear.
Flavours no longer bitter, but very muted. Drinkable but delicate. I can taste the vanilla and get its smoothness more now.

Fifth cup: Same resteep, 25 or so minutes.
Flavour a little stronger now. Finally a cup that tastes more or less like I like my earl greys. Could still do with being a little stronger, but not bad at all. We’ll see how the last of this steep is.

Sixth cup: Same resteep, 40-60 minutes (I lost track)
Not bad. Tried adding honey after a few sips to see if it would brighten the flavour, but somehow it ended up hindering it instead. Worked better with the milk.

Overall impression: There are some earl grey blends that I love, and some that I don’t. This, unfortunately, is closer to the latter end of the spectrum. It wasn’t bad by any means, and I may change my mind after steeping it for a lower time, but right now… it’s off my list of Best Earl Greys Ever.

My rating: 71%. B- It was going to be a C+ based on the original steep, but the further resteeps gave it a bit of a reprieve.  Judging by other reviews, I do think I may change my rating after trying it with a lower initial steep time. However, I’ve had this and a few similar teas before, and haven’t quite found them to be my thing, so it could also be that. I generally prefer a more basic earl grey or a fruity play on the classic overall.

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Day 4: Salted Caramel

Because sometimes size really does count

Because sometimes size really does count

There are some teas, especially black teas, with a strong, rich flavour. In my experience thus far, they tend to be caramel-y back teas, though strong-brewed straight black also qualifies. These are teas that taste best with milk, and maybe a little sugar or honey as well. Something about having a robust tea like this in a big mug… somehow makes the tea. They just… don’t fit with the delicate nature of a teacup, and even a regular mug seems a mismatch. But in a big mug, like, the kind with a thick edge that can easily hold two regular cups of tea? They absolutely thrive.

You can tell what these big mug teas are at first sip. They’re strong, robust and heady. They’ve got a bold flavour and require a bold vessel to carry them in order to feel complete, just like they need the creaminess of the milk and perhaps a hint of sweetness just to round out the flavour and make it into something extraordinary. These teas aren’t ruined by the additions like their daintier cousins. No. They’re enhanced by them, and become magnificent — truly their own.

They especially go well with hot cinnamon buns, but unfortunately I’m lacking at these in the time. Oh well.

However, as you’ll notice, I discovered while drinking my tea today, that it was a big mug tea. The log actually goes through my discovery of the fact, so bear with me if it seems repetitive. I thought of putting this bit at the bottom, but I figured I’d be best explaining myself up front rather than after, plus it adds a sense of consistency to my writing.

With that said, let’s get to the tea!

This tea is ready for its closeup!

This tea is ready for its closeup!

Day 4: Salted Caramel by DAVIDsTEA

Ingredients: Black tea, coconut, caramel bits, English toffee bits, sea salt, natural and artificial flavouring

Brewed: 1tbsp in my 2-cup pot

First cup: Brewed 5 minutes
Before I even brewed the tea, I had a smell of it, it was very rich and heady. This scent certainly comes through in the tea’s brewed flavour as well. It’s very rich, musky, and, actually, a bit salty and bitter, even though it was only brewed for 5 minutes (with a 4-7 minute brewing recommendation). I’ve got a feeling that this would taste better with milk. Actually… it may taste best as a big mug tea. I’ll have to try that sometime….

Second cup: same steep, brewed for around 40 minutes. Milk and honey added.
While I’m sure it’s oversteeped by now, it’s not bad with the milk and honey. Still rather strong in flavour, though it’s mainly up front. There’s a musky aftertaste, but the strength is mainly right upon the tea hitting my mouth. And I still definitely think this tea would work best in a big mug.

3rd cup — resteep, brewed for 30-40 minutes and poured into BIG MUG with milk
Yes, this is DEFINITELY a big mug tea. And, ok, I kind of forgot I was making this, but with the milk, and the fact that it’s a second steep, it doesn’t taste overdone at all. If anything, I wish the flavour was a little stronger. Still, quite good, and still very musky. A decent second steep for sure, and definitely worth the big mug.

4th cup — re-resteep, brewed for around 30 minutes again, and again taken in BIG MUG with milk
Weaker, more delicate, but still a passable big mug tea.

My overall impression: Bold. Heady. Musty. In almost all the right ways. The flavour combination isn’t quite my favourite, but it’s still quite decent. I think I’d prefer something a little sweeter and less salty. Still, a decent cup of tea.

My rating: 79%. Again. A decent cuppa, good and solid. But it’s not… quite to my tastes. It’s a good big mug tea, that’s for sure, but I’ve had better. So it stays off my to-stock list and my A list, but it remains a solid choice overall, for sure.

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Day 3: Coco Chai Rooibos

After the high caffeine of yesterday, it’s nice to see that today’s is a rooibos. Of course, it’s interesting to note that with these two, we manage to hit both of the most common (to my knowledge) replacements for Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) in tea. But then, that may just be me being a dork.

Today’s also a chai, which is a lovely treat. My mom and I both happen to love chai teas, actually, though we both enjoy them differently, and neither of us partake in it the way that it’s traditionally meant to be made.

The traditional way: brewed in milk on the stove, and with sugar/other sweetness added.

My way: brewed like normal tea, with milk and sugar added.

My mom’s way: brewed like normal tea, served clear

Really, there’s nothing wrong with any of these methods in my opinion. Or, for that matter, liking it with milk or sweetness but not the other.  Or brewing it in apple cider or another beverage for that matter. It just goes to show that any tea can be enjoyed many ways, and you really do need to experiment to find what works for you.

And now, the tea.

Yum, right?

Yum, right?

Day 3: Coco Chai Rooibos (rooibos) by DAVIDsTEA

Ingredients; Rooibos, coconut, cinnamon, ginger root, cardamom, cloves, pink peppercorns.

Brewed: 1 tbsp of tea brewed loose in 2-cup pot with freshly boiled water.

First cup: Steeped 5 minutes
The cinnamon is the strongest note, with the various spices also rounding out the flavour. I don’t notice the coconut as much (it’s there, but not one of the major notes I’m noticing), but as I’m not a huge fan of it anyway so that’s just as well by me. I can tell that this would taste better with milk and sugar (the way that chai is really supposed to be enjoyed) but it’s not a bad cup on its own either.

Second cup: Same steep, around 25 minutes. Milk and 1 tsp sugar added.
Definitely better with the milk and sugar — more rounded out. The sweetness balances out the spice blend wonderfully.

Yes, that's bagged milk. And I'm definitely a milk-firster!

Yes, that’s bagged milk. And I’m definitely a milk-firster!

Third cup: Same steep, around 35 minutes. Milk and Sugar added.
Ok, this is more of a half-cup. (The pot makes 2 cups clear, 3 with milk.) Cooled down a bit as well. The spices are very strong. Not off-putting, but strong, nonetheless. Makes me wonder how this would work if used to spice some sweet cider…. I bet that would be good. I may have to try it sometime.

The spices definitely leave an aftertaste, but thankfully not a bad one. I suppose it more speaks to just how strong the spices were in the first place.

Fourth cup: Resteeped. Milk and sugar added. Steeped for around 10 minutes.
The spices are still coming through very strongly, and I can taste the coconut more, I think.

The second half of the resteep went to my mother, who quite enjoyed it.

I also did a third steep. In general, it wasn’t bad, but the flavours were starting to mellow — the spices were starting to lose their power, and it needed to be clear to really be enjoyable.

My overall impression: Not the best chai that I’ve ever drank, but certainly not bad either. I know my mom likes this one quite a bit as well — she enjoys a good cup of chai and can’t drink much caffeine, so it’s perfect for her. Myself… I’d probably go with a different one if given the chance, so it wouldn’t be a staple for me, but I’m glad it’s there as it’s a solid non-caffeinated backup.

My rating: 79% B+. Definitely a good, solid tea. Not quite at the A level, but enjoyable nonetheless.

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