Kenya Marula Black Tea from McQuarrie’s Tea & Coffee Merchants

McQuarriesLogoTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: McQuarrie’s Tea & Coffee Merchants

Tea Description:

Flavourful African black tea from Kaimosi, an exotic combination of sweet banana with the tart, fresh taste of the yellow-gold African Marula fruit.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

McQuarrie’s is a local loose leaf tea and coffee store; the kind I feel like most larger cities have at least one of – usually privately owned, and not part of a chain of any kind. They source their teas from other companies, such as the Metropolitan Tea Company and are an interesting middle ground between more commercial/branded loose leaf companies such as Teavana or DAVIDsTEA which can act as ‘gateway’ loose leaf shops and less commercial, higher quality stores for more seasoned tea drinkers. If that makes sense at all. This tea in particular is sourced from a larger manufacturer called Wollenhaupt tea, however it doesn’t appear to be currently listed on their website.

According to my Aunt, McQuarrie’s has ‘probably been around longer than she has’. It’s, of course, right in the heart of my cities’ more ‘hipster’ area with all of the other stores that specialize in more obscure hobbies/interests and fancier, offbeat cafes and such. My roommate, coincidentally, happens to work at one of those restaurants!

I picked this one up in person; it’s always kind of nice shopping in person because you don’t have to blindly purchase something just based on the description or other people’s reviews. I got to see and smell this before hand! The smell was definitely very banana and that certainly made me excited because it’s been a while since I’ve had a good banana tea with a black base – right now 52Tea’s Butterscotch Banana is sticking out in memory but it’s been an awfully long time since having it. The marula was very interesting too; other than knowing it’s an exotic fruit I have no experience or familiarity with it so that absolutely caught my attention.

It seemed, overall, like a very interesting find from my local store!

I cold brewed my sample – someone recently called me the ‘Queen of Cold Brew’ and that may be pretty accurate. I will cold brew just about anything, especially at this time of the year.

This had a very interesting flavour! The banana was the dominant note; it was almost sickly sweet and tread a thin  line between realistic, overripe banana and banana candy. It struck up fairly vivid recollections of two things. The first was the banana liquer that I currently have in my fridge, which is very sugary and sweet. The second thing was Khao Tom Mad which is a Thai dessert made of banana, sticky rice and coconut milk served in either a banana or coconut leaf. I’ve only had it once, but it was pretty amazing – maybe even life changing. I definitely think some of the sweetness of the banana comes from the blackberry leaves; my experience with them has been that they tend to made fruit flavours really, really pop.

I don’t have a familiarity with marula, but I’m told by my roommate that it’s supposed to taste a little bit like guava. I don’t know if I necessarily got that with this blend – though I did get a little bit of tartness which the roomie says is probably from the marula. It was quite mild though and didn’t play much into the overall dynamic of the tea. I am a little bit sad the marula didn’t have more of an impact on the taste – I love when I get the chance to experience new flavours in tea.

The rest of the tea was supporting notes for the banana; both mild cinnamon and a bit of drier wood notes were present. The finish was the biggest let down for the tea though; there was a light sudsy/soapy flavour than was unpleasant and slightly lingering. I first thought that the wood was a little weird to have been coming from the rooibos in the blend, which was my initial assumption – but then I remembered that one of the listed ingredients is lapacho. Aha! I’ve had bad experiences with lapacho, including soapy notes and very dry hardly palatable wood notes. I definitely do NOT see the appeal of lapacho. Fortunately, it was quite mild here. It would certainly explain both the soapy notes and the off wood notes, though.

Overall this tea was pretty interesting, and a bit of a rollercoaster. It had an incredible beginning with some of the tastiest banana notes I’ve had in a very, very long time and the middle was pretty solid too but the weird lack of anything Marula, of which the tea is named after, and unfortunate presence of Lapacho made for a bit of a disappointing finish.

Still a worthwhile try though given how unique it is, and something I’ll continue to personally fiddle around with. I’m determined to taste some marula!

Green Rooibos from M&K’s Tea Co

greenrooibosTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal.

Where to Buy: M&K’s Tea Co

Tea Description:

The non-oxidized, green counterpart to the redbush rooibos you may have heard everyone talking about! Less red, more green, less autumn, more spring! Green rooibos tastes much more vegetal and refreshing and less robust than regular rooibos. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The weather is getting warmer and the spring bug is starting to set in.  I’ve noticed that my iced tea intake has gone way up.  My kids have the bug too.  Everyday they ask me if they HAVE to go to school.  My five year old who goes to a pre-K program has already declared himself as being done with learning and school.  I had to inform him that he has many years ahead of him and that next year he will be going all day next year versus the half day he currently goes now.

This tea reminds me of springtime.  The dry leaves smell very vegetal and have a hay/grass like smell to them.  Brewed up (212F-3tbsp-5 minutes in my Breville-then poured into a tumbler of ice) this is honey goodness.

Beautifully done. Smooth and honey like. A well done yet simple tea.  I’m not picking up any kind of vegetal flavor like the description had said.  That is fine with me.  This hit the spot.  Just wish I would have brought more along with me. I could drink this all day. Yum!

Bvumbwe Malawian White Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

Bvumbwe Malawian White TeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

Bvumbwe white tea is harvested in Africa in the country of Malawi! Similar to a Chinese Shou Mei white tea, Bvumbwe white tea offers something different than the usual White Peony (Bai Mudan) or Silver Needle Chinese white teas. With a lovely caramel note that lingers on the tongue, this Malawian tea offers tea drinkers (experienced and beginners alike) a different experience and will open the door to the world of Malawian tea!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I was excited to try this Bvumbwe Malawian White Tea from M&K’s Tea Company.  I’ve tried many different white teas, but very few of those are from Africa.  In fact, I think I’ve only tried one other white tea from Africa so I was excited to have the opportunity to try another.

This is really nice.  The flavor is delicate – like I’d expect from a white tea.  It has a really pleasant, soft mouthfeel.  It has a flavor similar to what I might experience from a Chinese white tea – it’s a gentle flavor with notes of hay and a crisp, airy sort of flavor.  I’m also picking up on soft notes of fruit.  It has a very clean and refreshing sort of taste.  Soothing and mild.

As I continue to sip, I start to pick up on some flavors that I wouldn’t normally expect from a white tea:  a hint of caramel!  I don’t think that I’ve ever encountered a pure white tea with a caramel-y sweetness like I’m experiencing with this tea.

Then I notice gentle notes of warm, peppery spice.  Like white pepper and a hint of cinnamon.  It’s warm and a rustic sort of flavor.  For such a delicate taste, there is a whole lot of dimension to this cup!

A really lovely white tea – one I’d recommend to any tea drinker.  The complex flavors of this cup are something to be experienced!

Seven Seas Herbal Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

Seven_Seas_HerbalTisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos & Herbal

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf here.

Tisane Description:

This healthy and harmonious herbal tea blends peppermint, ginseng, cinnamon, echinacea, sarsaparilla, licorice, and organic South African rooibos. The cooling peppermint and warm cinnamon notes pair perfectly with the sweet, soothing finish provided by the other herbs. This special blend is an ideal and tasty way to stimulate your immune system.

Learn more about this tisane here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op program here.

Taster’s Review:

As I’ve said in the past, I’m not usually a big fan of ginseng, but this blend has enough going on that I barely notice that the ginseng is there!  I’m too busy enjoying the contrast between crisp, cool peppermint and zesty cinnamon and snappy licorice to focus on the ginseng.  The peppermint, cinnamon and licorice are the three strongest components of this cup.

This is a delightful tisane to sip on this cold winter’s night.  The combination of cinnamon and licorice are warming me from the inside out, while the peppermint adds a refreshing element.  As I said, I don’t taste much from the ginseng.  I also don’t taste a lot from the rooibos or the echinacea.

At first, I had trouble locating the sarsaparilla in this, but if I slurp the sip, I do pick up on a light root beer-ish flavor in the distance, and it’s quite an interesting note to be tasting along with the cinnamon.  Peppermint and licorice are both profiles that I’ve occasionally noticed in gourmet root beers, but not cinnamon.  The cinnamon and sarsaparilla are quite intriguing and this combination is keeping me sipping.

This is a tisane that was a sample in my last box from Simple Loose Leaf (when they switched from the selection club to the co-op plan), and I held on to it for a while because … well, because it’s a tisane.  That’s why.  I have admitted before that I’m often skittish when it comes to tisanes and this just goes to show what I mean by that.

But I’m glad I finally decided to try it because I enjoyed this.  It’s a wonderful medley of contrasts, and there’s a lot of health benefits in this too!

24 Days of Tea Holiday Countdown – Day 15 from Teanzo 1856

Today is Day 15, it hardly seems REAL to me that it would be December 15th already.  Just ten days until Christmas.  Just 14 shopping days before the day.  This year vanished way too quickly!

altered badgeToday, I decided to feature something that I made several years ago, and I had not intended on making it for the tree, but it has since become an ornament for the tree.  This is an altered toy sheriff’s badge.  I covered it with polymer clay and then I embellished it with more polymer clay accents, glitter, paint and some metal embellishments.

When I created this piece, I did so because I was working on an art ‘zine and the main topic of that issue was my favorite artist of all time, Vincent Van Gogh.  His painting, “Starry Night” is my favorite work of art of all time and this altered badge is an interpretation of that work.

In case you’re wondering what an art ‘zine is, it’s a handmade ‘magazine’ – there are many different types of ‘zines out there, but the ones that have always appealed to me and the kind that I focused on were altered art ‘zines.  In these ‘zines I would talk about art and also tea (my two obsessions) and I’d include short stories, journaling, “how to” tutorials, and little art sample inclusions (like little bits of ephemera and stuff).  They were fun.

Still curious?  This book might give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Let’s get to today’s tea, shall we?

Simply Rooibos

orgrooibosTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Where to Buy:  Teanzo 1856

Tea Description:

This high quality organic rooibos iced tea from South Africa is a great source of antioxidants and trace minerals. Simplicity at its best, rooibos is naturally caffeine free.  Also great as a hot tea and takes milk well.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

OK, yeah, I was less than enthusiastic when I saw that today’s tea is pure rooibos.  But, I was happy to find that it’s organic rooibos (I am not all that crazy about plain, pure rooibos.  But the organic rooibos is pretty good.  And yes, there is a difference, I did a side-by-side comparison to them at one point, and there is a distinct difference in flavor between the two.)

But really, there’s not a lot to say about this organic rooibos that I haven’t said about organic rooibos in the past.  It’s sweet with honeyed notes and a flavor that is somewhere between warm nutty flavors and woodsy tones.

To brew it, I recommend going slightly lower than most vendors of tea will suggest.  Most suggest using boiling water.  I don’t.  I lower the temperature to 195°F.

Here’s why:  A lot of tea drinkers, myself included, often complain about a “sour wood” taste to rooibos.  I didn’t call it “sour wood” though, I called it a “funky, weird taste” because I didn’t think of putting the words sour and wood together.  Yeah, I got the wood flavor, but it didn’t taste like “sour wood” to me, it tasted funky and weird.  So that’s what I called it.

After tasting that funky, weird, sour wood taste (or whatever you want to call it!) more often than I wanted to taste it when drinking something that is supposed to be a pleasure to sip (ie:  tea/tisane), I decided to play around with how I brew the stuff.  And I lowered the temperature of the water that I steep rooibos in and I found NO funky, weird taste.  No sour wood.  That’s my secret to avoid that strange flavor.


I steeped the rooibos for 10 minutes and it’s a very enjoyable cup.  Nutty, a little woody (but more like a nutty flavor than a woodsy one) with notes of honey-like sweetness.  Hints of a toasty, smoky note in the distance.  Quite pleasant, really.  Simple, organic, pleasant and naturally caffeine free.  A nice tea to sip later in the evening when you’d rather not overstimulate yourself with caffeine.