Holiday Tea

Tea Collection Review: Art of Tea Holiday Sampler

Holiday Tea Sampler Pillow Box

Company/Brand Name: Art of Tea

Collection Name: Holiday Sampler includes Cran Marnier, Butterscotch, Santa’s Little Helper and Pumpkin Pie

Category: Various Organic Blends – White, Black, Puerh and Rooibos/Honeybush

Form: Loose Leaf

Origin of the Leaf: Various

The Leaves: Various

Overall: At first I was a bit disappointed with the four Holiday Sampler teas, because the flavors were quite different than what I was used to, being the black tea lover that I am. So, I had to remind myself that I had purchased the sampler set to step outside the box and try something new.

To fully enjoy the experience, I had to let go of my preconceived taste preferences and allow each tea to speak to me in its own distinctive way. That is when I really started to enjoy each sample and appreciate the nuances of the four unique blends.

As the Art of Tea website states, “This is a great way to expand and engage your palate on teas and beyond. I have to say that I whole-heartily agree.

Tea Review:

Sample 1

Name: Cran Marnier {Available Year-Round}

Category: Tisane; Organic South African Honeybush and Organic South African Rooibos

Cran Marnier

The Leaves: Red rooibos shreds with visible chunks of dried apple and cranberry, plus various spices

Additions: Organic Cinnamon, Organic Licorice Root, Organic Apple Bits, Organic Cranberries, Organic Cloves, Organic Nutmeg, Natural Flavors

Flavor: When I first opened the sample pouch, I noticed that the leaves smelled like orange and spice; I just had to brew up a cup right away.

This caffeine-free rooibos blend had a subtle spiciness that was reminiscent of chai tea, but with a smooth-creaminess that was a bit of a welcomed surprise. Speaking of surprises, if the creamy-spiciness wasn’t enough there was also refreshing, citrusy finish that made for a brilliant cup.

The overall flavor reminded me a bit of Tang Spice Tea Mix that my mom made for us as kids. This mixture had Tang and instant tea in it, plus cinnamon and cloves (if I am remembering correctly). Anyway, it was a tasty treat. But, the Cran Marnier is a much healthier option!

I have to say that out of the four holiday samples, I most enjoyed the Cran Marnier. My cup had plenty of character and each sip was a new delight. Luckily, this tisane blend is available year-round as a dessert tea.

Preparation Tips: As recommended by the Art of Tea website, I used nearly boiling water and let the leaves steep for a full 5-7 minutes. For best flavor, be sure to use one full tablespoon (not teaspoon) of rooibos per cup of water. Also, I Finum Brewing Basket will come in handy to keep all the tiny rooibos shreds separated from your brew.

Sample 2

Name: Pumpkin Pie {Seasonal Only}

Category: Tisane; Organic & Fair Trade South African Rooibos and Organic South African Honeybush

Pumpkin Pie

The Leaves: Red rooibos shreds with bright yellow marigold petals and noticeable chunks of spices

Additions: Organic Cloves, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Ginger, Organic Marigolds, Natural and Artificial Flavors

Flavor: This caffeine-free blend is quite delicate tasting, so much so that I could barely detect any flavor at all at first, except for the rooibos itself.

Once I quieted my mind and focused on my cup of tea, that is when I tasted real pumpkin pie. However, the flavor was quite elusive. Each cup seemed to reveal just one brilliant sip and then the brew became just a gentle swirl of sweet-spiciness with a hint of creaminess.

Overall, I liked this rooibos blend because it made me concentrate on the taste and nothing else. I will often drink a cup of brew will working, only stopping to take a sip, experience the flavor and move onward. But this tisane, demanded my full attention and for that I am grateful.

Preparation Tips: I used one heaping tablespoon (three teaspoons of rooibos) per eight ounces of boiling water and let steep for 5-7 minutes. Due to the elusive tastes in this tea, filtered water is a must. In addition, to keep all the tiny rooibos shreds from sneaking into your cup, consider using a Finum Brewing Basket. I really love mine!

Sample 3

Name: Santa’s Little Helper {Seasonal Only}

Category: Organic Puerh, Organic Black Tea

Santa's Little Helper

The Leaves: Dark chocolate colored leaves punctuated with tiny candy cane and pine tree sugar confections

Additions: Sugar Confections, Natural Flavors

Flavor: When I opened the sample pouch the leaves smelled of mint and dark chocolate, so I was pretty excited to brew up a cup. But, when I took my first sip, there was a musty taste that caught me off guard. If I hadn’t been willing to investigate further, I would have poured the rest of the concoction down the sink because I found the initial flavor to be quite displeasing to my untrained palate.

During my second attempt, the musty taste became more of an earthy flavor, which I assumed was the puerh talking to me. Not entirely dissuaded, I took a third sip and that is when I noticed the bittersweet dark chocolate note, the subtle sweetness and the cool minty finish.

After several more sips, I began to enjoy myself and started to notice the complexity in my cup. Each taste experience was slightly different and as the tea cooled the cocoa note became quite pronounced.

However, the musty-earthy taste continued to linger to the very last drop. This key taste is what will keep me from purchasing the Santa’s Little Helper in the future. But, I’m glad to have given it a try for something different.

Overall, this is a high quality blend, but for my personal tastes it wasn’t a winner.

Preparation Tips: As recommended on the Art of Tea website, I used water at 206F (just under boiling) and stepped the leaves for about 3-5 minutes. In addition, I found one-teaspoon per eight-ounces of water sufficient for a quality cup.

Sample 4

Name: Butterscotch  {Available Year-Round}

Category: Organic White Tea

Butterscotch

The Leaves: Beautiful green leaves with bits of yellow marigold petals, punctuated with round, pink peppercorns

Additions: Organic Cinnamon, Organic Pink Peppercorn, Organic Marigolds, Natural Flavors

Flavor: The leaves have an intriguing aroma, quite similar to butterscotch. I was expectant of a fascinating cup. But, I just never found it. Instead, I got a slightly sweet, light tasting tea that was satisfying, but not extraordinary.

The butterscotch flavor did play the leading role in each cup, but I could find little depth. I have to admit that I am not a connoisseur of white tea and perhaps someone with a better trained palate may find the complexity I was missing.

Although, there were moments when I had steeped the leaves just right and a nuance of creaminess was present. This added some character to the infusion.

I also discovered that if the leaves are steeped too long or in water that is too hot, this resulted in a bitter tasting brew. While it wasn’t displeasing, it was a tad bit annoying because I was trying to find that perfect cup that kept eluding me.

I’m not sure I would purchase this tea again, only because I would want to try other white teas first. But, for a white tea lover this may be a wonderful treat.

As with the other teas in this holiday sampler set, I am glad I stepped outside my comfort zone I gave something new a try, especially since I’ve tried so few white teas this past year.

Preparation Tips: Since there were no directions on the sample pouch other than a steep time of 3-5 minutes, I went to the Art of Tea website for more thorough instructions.

The website recommended a water temperature of 175-185F and a steep time of 1-3 minutes. I followed these instructions, playing around with variations. As suggested, I also used one heaping tablespoon per eight ounces of water; you’ll need this much Butterscotch for maximum flavor.

Art of Tea Sample Packaging

Due to the delicate tastes in this blend, filtered water is a must.

Packaging:

Each blend is packed in a resealable, foil-lined pouch. The four pouches come together in a kraft pillow box with decorative label and brown ribbon.

I love this packaging because not only does it make for a stunning presentation, but it also makes it perfect for gift giving any time of year.

Each sample contains around 1-2 ounces or 15-20 servings.

I Want This Tea!

If you’d like to purchase this holiday sample pack, or any of the other unique tea blends from Art of Tea just click the link below, it will take you directly to the Art of Tea main web page. Enjoy!

Art of Tea

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: Yes

Photo Credits: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

 

Tea Collection Review: Adagio Holiday Cheer

Adagio Holiday Cheer Sampler Collection

Company/Brand Name: Adagio

Collection Name: Holiday Cheer

Category: Flavored Black Teas

Form: Loose Leaf in Pyramid Tea Bags

Origin of the Leaf: Unknown

The Leaves: Midnight black tea leaves that are chopped into half-inch pieces

Overall: I really enjoyed Adagio’s Holiday Cheer tea collection. In fact, I went through all the individually wrapped teas from my original order so quickly that I have already ordered another box!

It was fun to try all the different flavors. I definitely found a couple of new favorites for the holiday season!

Each tea is highly flavorful. However, if you don’t like flavored teas, then this sampler set probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re a bit adventuresome and like to try new tea flavors, then this holiday tea collection may be just perfect for your inquiring tastes!

Tea Review:

I’ve listed the following six holiday teas in order. My favorites are listed first.

Tea Name: Cranberry

Cranberry Pyramid Tea Bag

Additions: Cranberries, Raspberry Leaves, Cranberry Flavor

Flavor: Initially, while the tea was steeping, there was a faint fragrance of cranberry that floated through the air. The first sip had a note of cocoa and then the fruity-sweetness shined through. I have to say that I really didn’t taste cranberry much at all; it was very subtle, if it was there at all. The overall experience reminded me of Cella’s Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries for some reason. It was love at first sip.

Tea Name: Gingerbread

Additions: Ginger, Cinnamon, Orange Pieces, Gingerbread Flavor

Flavor: There was a warm-spicy fragrance to this Gingerbread tea. When I took the first sip I noticed the spiciness, but it wasn’t chai-like. Rather, it reminded me of the subtle spice you would find in a spice bread. There was even a subtle hint of rum flavor, which added a little extra something to this holiday tea. Lastly, a tangy, almost tart taste rounded out my cup giving this tea plenty of depth and character.

Tea Name: Chestnut

Additions: Sunflower Petals, Chestnut Flavor

Flavor: I’ll admit that I have never eaten a chestnut, so I can’t say how close this comes to the real thing. For some reason, the taste did remind me of amaretto liqueur, which I haven’t had for years, so I can’t vouch for accuracy. The overall taste was sweet and nutty. There was just a touch of creaminess that brought all the flavors together harmoniously.

Tea Name: Pumpkin Spice

Additions: Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves, Pumpkin Flavor

Flavor: The Pumpkin Spice tea was quite flavorful with a touch of spice and a hint of sweetness. The saying, “Sugar and spice and everything nice,” came to mind when sipping this blend. The pumpkin flavor can be a bit “fakey” tasting, as if it was trying too hard to be pumpkin. Nonetheless, I was captivated and wanted more. I even discovered an ever so faint dark chocolate note that added some extra character to this holiday tea.

Tea Name: Candy Apple

Additions: Apples, Cinnamon, Caramel Flavor

Flavor: There was just an ever so slight touch of apple and cinnamon flavor in the Candy Apple tea. I really didn’t get a caramel flavor at all. Rather, my first impression was an almost too sweet, candi-like taste. It wasn’t overpowering by any means, rather it nestled in the background to add a flavorful touch. Overall, a sweet tasting tea that somehow grows on you.

Tea Name: Candy Cane

Additions: Candy Cane Pieces, Peppermint Flavor

Flavor: I have to admit, that I am not a big peppermint fan, so this was not my favorite tea of the bunch. Although, I did find that the Candy Cane tea had a nice warm-vanilla flavor that was punctuated by a touch of peppermint. Overall, a sweet tasting, peppermint tea that reminded me of the holidays.

Holiday Cheer Package

Packaging:

The presentation of this Holiday Cheer tea collection is simple yet elegant. The box is well-constructed and once you open the lid you are rewarded with a beautiful display of individually packed teas. Each tea flavor is gathered together in its own little, perfectly sized, compartment! This would make a wonderful gift for that special someone who loves seasonal, flavored teas.

Each individually wrapped tea comes in a foil pouch and the tea itself is encased in a silk pyramid bag, which gives the leaves plenty of room to unfurl. Not to mention the convenience! All you have to do is pour boiling water in a cup and plop in a tea bag for a delicious holiday treat!

Preparation Tips:

On the back of each individually wrapped tea package are the steeping recommendations. I found these instructions to be quite accurate in producing the best tasting tea. Although, I do suggest using filtered water for a premium experience.

Additional Notes:

Dessert Tea – I especially enjoyed drinking all these  scrumptious teas after a meal because the flavors where interesting enough to keep me from raiding the holiday cookie stash! In fact, I found myself enjoying a lovely cup of Holiday Cheer tea even more than a high-calorie treat. Win for me! Especially since I’ve been trying to cut back on desserts and other goodies!

Holiday Cheer – Why not spread some joy around to co-workers, family and friends! The individually packaged teas (one pyramid tea bag per pouch) are perfect for the office, holiday parties, tucking into a holiday card, or handing out randomly to people who might need a little holiday cheer!

I Want This Tea!

If you’d like to purchase this tea, just click the link below. Please note that the Holiday Cheer collection is a seasonal item.

Adagio

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: No

Photo Credits: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

Chai Tea Review: Stash Holiday Chai

Stash Holiday Chai

Company/Brand Name: Stash

Name: Holiday Chai

Category: Black Tea Blend (Seasonal)

Form: Tea Bag (Paper)

Origin of the Leaf: Unknown

The Leaves: Not applicable because the leaves are finely ground and hidden inside the typical tea bag exterior

Additions: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger Root, Allspice, Clove, Gingerbread, Rum, Nutmeg Flavors

Flavor: A spiced black tea, where the nutmeg flavor seems to play the leading role

Overall: A mixture of spices that seem to hide the flavor of the black tea, rather than compliment it.

Tea Review:

I admit, I’m not a big fan of Chai flavored tea and therefore have not made many attempts to drink it. In all, I have only drunk two types of Chai tea, other than this one, all of the bagged variety.

I guess I should explain why I don’t like Chai tea just to set the stage here: It’s too spicy.

Of course, that is the point of Chai and why I presume that so many people select it as their tea of choice.

Knowing this about myself, I did try to approach this tea review with an open mind and did drink several cups of the Holiday Chai to get a good feel for the tea’s overall flavor.

I’ll be honest, I’m still not impressed. The spicy flavors in this tea seem to be chaotically mushed together to cover up a poor quality black tea.

If I were to have an expectation for Chai, I would want the flavors to be crisp and distinct; coming together in a dance of spice and enhanced by a creamy, robust black tea.

Perhaps I am asking for too much. Although, I’m starting to think that I might actually like Chai if I could find the combination I had just described. But, it is not to be in this version of Chai tea.

In addition, to not being impressed with the overall flavor, I was disappointed to not experience any gingerbread or rum flavors, which the label on the box claims to be present in this tea blend: “A warming winter drink infused with gingerbread and rum.”

Unless, of course, that strange acidic taste is the rum…not having tasted pure rum my entire life, I guess I am not one to question the rum flavor. But, I do love gingerbread and I certainly didn’t experience that flavor in this chai tea.

What I did taste, without a doubt, was nutmeg. It really stole the show.

Just to make sure I was on target, I rummaged through my spices and took a taste of nutmeg straight from the jar and bingo, definitely nutmeg. That could be the reason I am not a fan of this version of Chai, I like nutmeg behind the scenes, not as the lead actor in my food and drink.

So, if you love nutmeg, this may be just the tea for you!

Packaging:

Stash Holiday Chai Packet

This chai tea comes in a cardboard box and each tea is sealed in a foil packet.

Preparation Tips:

I followed the directions printed on the box: “Bring fresh water to a rolling boil. Pour hot water directly over the tea bag in a pre-heated pot or cup. Brew 3-5 minutes or to desired taste.”  Since the directions didn’t specify how much water to use, I went with the general guideline of one cup.

I Want This Tea!

If you’d like to purchase this tea from Amazon.com just click the link below. Enjoy!

Stash Holiday Chai

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: Yes

Photo Credit: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

 

Black Tea Review: Trader Joe’s Vanilla & Cinnamon

Trader Joe's Vanilla & Cinnamon

Company/Brand Name: Trader Joe’s

Name: Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea

Category: Black Tea, Flavored (Seasonal)

Form: Tea Bag (Paper)

Origin of the Leaf: Unknown

The Leaves: Not applicable because the leaves are finely ground and hidden inside the typical tea bag exterior

Additions: Vanilla, Natural Flavors, Cinnamon

Flavor: The cinnamon and vanilla flavors are a bit muddy tasting, yet they still work well together

Overall: I’m a sucker for any vanilla and cinnamon tea combination, even if the brew is a bit weak!

Tea Review:

When I first purchased this tea, I was wondering if it would taste similar to one of my favorite holiday teas, which is Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet. They both have exactly the same ingredients: vanilla, “other natural flavors” and cinnamon.

As soon as I got home and opened the wax seal, I knew that I had been correct in my assumption.

While allowing the tea to steep, the resulting fragrance pales in comparison to the Nutcracker Sweet’s inviting aroma.

I had a similar experience with the taste. The flavor is suggestive of vanilla and cinnamon, but it makes for a rather weak brew. Although, I found I could compensate for this by simply using less water.

At times, I got a little bit of a paper-y taste. Overall, the flavors were rather muddied; not clean and crisp tasting. It was difficult to distinguish the vanilla and cinnamon individually, but the combination somehow works out to make a sweet tasting holiday treat.

In conclusion, the Trader Joe’s brand just didn’t have that extra oomph of the Nutcracker Sweet, but would do in a pinch.

Packaging:

This holiday tea came in a rectangular cardboard box. The tea bags are square in shape and layered in twos on top of each other in a wax-lined paper seal. Because two tea bags are connected, you’ve got to tear them apart to use just one.

Trader Joes Vanilla and Cinnamon

Preparation Tips:

Per usual, I simply followed the directions printed on the box: “Pour boiling water directly over tea bag in a cup and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove tea bag.”  Since no instructions were given regarding the amount of water to use, I went with the general guideline of 8-ounces. However, I would recommend 6-ounces to obtain a better flavor.

One thing I did find out accidentally, is that this tea can steep for quite a while without getting bitter.

Additional Notes:

Dessert Tea – I would classify this as a dessert tea, because it does taste sweet due to the vanilla and cinnamon combination.

Holiday Tea – For some reason the warms notes of vanilla and cinnamon seem to be well suited for the holidays.

I Want This Tea!

If you’d like to purchase this tea, you’ll have to live near a Trader Joes (because it isn’t available online) and wait until the holidays when it will be in stock again :)

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: No

Photo Credit:  A Girl With Tea 

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

A Trip to Trader Joe’s for Tea

jarchie – via Flickr CC Attribution License

On the way home from work tonight, I decided to stop at the new Trader Joe’s store in town. I had never been to one of their grocery stores before so, I was looking forward to a new adventure. I was also hoping to find some cool new tea to try.

After wandering around the store for a good 20 minutes taking in all that Trader Joe’s had to offer, I finally made it over to the tea section.

Looking over the selection of teas, which was pretty sparse, I had a sinking feeling that I was not going to find anything exciting to purchase tonight. Bummer.

I saw that they do carry Yogi tea, but I can purchase that anywhere in town.

Although, they do have several of their own store-brand teas.

After a few moments of deliberation, I decided to try their Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea. I suspected that it would be similar to Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet, which has been an annual holiday favorite. I guess I would soon find out.

Trader Joe’s and Celestial Seasonings (Vanilla and Cinnamon Tea)

When I got home, I immediately tore off the plastic wrapping from the unpretentious light-blue box, lifted the pressed-cardboard lid and opened the wax paper seal. At that moment my nose encountered a very familiar scent: the tantalizing fragrance of warm vanilla and spice.

Once I actually got to drinking Trader Joe’s holiday tea, I knew for certain that this tea was very much like Nutcracker Sweet, but maybe just a tad weaker.

So much for trying something new…

Maybe I’ll try another one of Trader Joe’s teas in the future, but for now I think I’ll take a few moments and enjoy a warm cup of vanilla and cinnamon black tea.

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: No

Additional Photo Credits: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

Have you ever tried any of Trader Joe’s teas?

Black Tea Review: Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet

Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet

Company/Brand Name: Celestial Seasonings

Name: Nutcracker Sweet

Category: Black Tea Blend (Seasonal)

Form: Tea Bag (Paper)

Origin of the Leaf: Unknown

The Leaves: Not applicable because the leaves are finely ground and hidden inside the typical tea bag exterior

Additions: Vanilla, Natural Flavors, Cinnamon

Flavor: A sweet, aromatic tea with an enchanting vanilla taste and just a hint of cinnamon spice

Overall: I always look forward to this time of year, because I know it is holiday tea season! Nutcracker Sweet has been one of my favorite holiday teas for many years now. Every time I open a box, my senses are captivated by the sweet vanilla scent. I can feel myself drift away momentarily to some magical place where anything is possible.

Tea Review:

As this tea steeps, it fills the surrounding area with a wonderful aroma, like something yummy is baking in the oven.

Once the tea is ready, the first sip never disappoints. The brew has a warm vanilla note that is delightfully creamy and rich tasting.

What makes this tea particularly interesting is the touch of cinnamon spice that lingers in the background. The spiciness is just right, not too harsh and not too subtle as to be overlooked.

I’ve found that sometimes vanilla flavored tea can taste a bit off, but I didn’t find that to be the case with this particular combination.

In fact, the vanilla is the star of this black tea blend, making it a holiday favorite.

Packaging:

Inside the colorful cardboard box is a wax-lined paper seal where all the tea bags are held. The square, flat tea bags are layered in twos and each tea bag is connected to another. To separate the two tea bags, you’ve got to tear them apart at the perforated center.

Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet

Preparation Tips:

I simply followed the directions printed on the box: “Pour freshly boiled water over one tea bag. Steep 3 to 5 minutes and remove tea bag.” Because there were no notes about how much water to use, I went with the general guideline of one cup. Then, I used a holiday mug to make things extra special!

Additional Notes:

Dessert Tea – The Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker box states that this is a “decadent-yet-healthy treat.” With zero calories, this tea is perfect when craving a little something sweet.

Iced Tea – This tea blend is also quite tasty when iced. Drinking it cooled seems to bring out the cinnamon flavor; it actually ends up tasting a bit spicier when chilled.

I Want This Tea!

If you’d like to purchase this tea from Amazon.com just click the link below. Enjoy!

Nutcracker Sweet

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: Yes

Photo Credits: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.