#PeruvianSpiceBerry from #IncaTea

The dry leaf smells like mulled wine, with fragrant elderberry, cinnamon, and cloves. Pour a bit of water on these leaves and they brew up fast!  Wow, what a dark red berry brew after only a few seconds!

Brewed, this tea gets much more tart, thanks to the powerhouse of hibiscus flowers.  The ingredients list also include purple corn.  I’m not sure how it adds to the flavor, but the brewed tea is a vibrant purple-pink color.

This tea is best served warm, though the fruitiness might be suited for an iced tea, I’m not sure all the spice is appropriate in a cold beverage.  I’m of the opinion that cinnamon and cloves are best suited for a drink from a hot mug.

The cloves and hibiscus dominate this tea, which were a perfect combination for a cold, grey, rainy day when I brewed this cup.  Drinking Peruvian Spice Berry made me feel like I was tucked in on a cozy autumn day, warming up with peppery cloves and dark currant flavors.

This is definitely a tea for fans of mulled wine and hot toddies.  Or, if you just want to be able to say that you tried a tea made from purple corn!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Herbal
Where to Buy: Inca Tea

An enlivening herbal, fruit tea blend of purple corn, berries and spices. Caffeine free. This is our Original blend to characterize the true ancient Incan recipe.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Aria blend from The Jasmine Pearl Tea Co.

Immediately evident in the dry leaves are whole cloves and some seed pods that I thought at first were anise but, after looking at the ingredients, I decided must be fennel. The attractive-looking combination also includes bits of licorice and marshmallow root as well as orange peel and peppermint plus cinnamon and ginger.

I used a heaping teaspoon of the tea leaves in a cup of water at approximately boiling temperature and then watched it steep for about the next four minutes. It smelled all nice and licorice-y while steeping and became a nice light yellow color, which reminded me a bit of a medium-strong green tea.
When I sipped it, I noticed right away the very present flavor of anise (licorice). It reminds me of the “throat coat” tea I grew up drinking whenever I had a cold, except that it’s a bit more delicate and refined in how it presents the licorice flavor. The licorice still manages to overpower the other flavors in the cup, though. I tried really hard and detected a hint of tingly spiciness from the cloves (I think. Or was I just making that up? I may have been just making that up), but I didn’t detect a noticeable presence from any of the other components. This was a little surprising as I’d seen citrus peel in the cup and that’s generally pretty strongly flavored. Fortunately, the licorice flavor itself was quite pleasing.
The effect of the tea is definitely soothing and relaxing to the throat. It’s a bit viscous as if it had lots of honey in it (likely because of the marshmallow root), which makes it even more soothing. It’s also caffeine free, which means it’s non-stimulating. This can be important when your throat is irritated and you’re trying to relax-soothe it, and it’s also good for singers in general especially near a performance because, according to some experts, caffeine can have a detrimental effect on the voice (the vocal cords, that is).


I’d say this tea would probably great for reducing throat irritation/scratchiness/etc, whether you have a cold or allergies or have just overused or abused your voice recently. (Which I haven’t. But I’ll be sure to use this tea next time my throat is feeling under the weather!) It probably can’t work miracles, like if you have laryngitis and are hoping to still go on stage or something, but it does have a markedly soothing effect. Also, this tea can be re-steeped! So you can use it over and over again, although I personally didn’t test to see how many cups of tea it will make so I can’t give a figure. I’d recommend this tea for not only singers but anyone who might sometimes overuse their voice or who might have to use their voice while sick, like teachers (can’t stop teaching just cause you have a cold!).

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Herbal
Where to Buy: The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company

A singer’s best friend! This herbal blend was originally designed for Portland’s very own Hampton Opera Center. Licorice, marshmallow root, cinnamon and mint are some of the ingredients used in this blend to provide relief and aid to the throat. Aria satisfies, soothes and warms.


Licorice Root*, Fennel*, Clove*, Cinnamon*, Orange Peel*, Ginger*, Peppermint*, and Marshmallow Root.

*Organically Grown.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Sherlock Holmes Black Tea by Adagio

sherlockholmesTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Adagio

Tea Description:

All at once exotic and mysterious and perhaps a little bit insane, with a lingering hint of smoke.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is one of Cara McGee’s Sherlock fandom blends, inspired by the character of (who else?) Sherlock Holmes. It’s a blend of Adagio’s Lapsang Souchong, Assam Melody, and Oriental Spice, all of which are black teas. The dry leaf smells reasonably strongly of smoke, with a hint of spice underlying. Exotic and enticing! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown, so no additions this time.

I will freely admit to being more than a little scared of smoky teas, and particularly Lapsang Souchong. One early experience with a very strong Lapsang really, really put me off, and I’ve been very wary ever since. I’ve tried a few lightly smoked teas since and not been repelled, so I’m hoping that I can perhaps gradually build up an appreciation of smoky teas, given time. My forays into this territory are still fairly rare, though, and this will be the first in a while!

The first sip was taken with a little trepidation! I’m pleased to report, however, that this is palatably smoky. The initial flavour is, of course, the Lapsang Souchong. It’s quite a gentle smoke, though, reminiscent of a just-beginning barbecue rather than a raging bonfire. I think this is owed at least in part to the assam, however, which adds a sweet malt undertone that seems to temper the smokiness a little, rounding off what might otherwise have been quite harsh edges. There’s a spiciness in the midsip that’s very welcome, adding a third string to this particular bow. I can taste cinnamon, clove, and maybe a touch of ginger, although none are particularly strong or overpowering. Mostly, I’m struck by how well balanced this blend is between its three elements – smoke, sweet, and spice. Each flavour can be tasted individually, but they also work well as a cohesive whole to make this an interesting and enjoyable tea. It’s certainly frames each of its constituent parts in a new way! What surprised me most is how smooth this tea is. I’m really pleased that it didn’t turn out acrid or bitter, especially since I’ve not added any milk.

 With regard to the fandom aspect of this tea, this blend seems like a fairly fitting tribute to Sherlock. It’s a dark and a little mysterious with its background of almost hidden spice (shrouded in smoke, perhaps?) It tastes like I imagine Sherlock’s coat might smell. This would make a good introduction to smoky teas for someone uncertain (or just plain scared, like me!), or for a fan of flavoured blacks looking to try something a little different. This one’s a winner in my book.

Happily Headless (Custom Blend) from Adagio Tea

happyheadlessTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black/Green

Where to Buy:  Adagio

Tea Description:

You’ll lose your head over your loyalty to this kingly brew!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:


(But really this is season one so if you’re not aware of this you might be living under a rock…)

I have to say, I’m quite happy I watched enough GoT to understand the character reference here! I’ve really only seen the first two seasons and part of the third. I think the ingredients picked out by this blender are pretty well thought out too; though I do think there might just be a bit more “Fire” than “Ice” – although to be fair there certainly are a lot of very visable candy cane pieces in the dry leaf. Aun-Juli Riddle is a pretty good blender; in particular her Doctor Who blends tend to be pretty good and well thought out.

This is essentially a Chai, though an unconventional one, so I wasn’t the most excited about this blend because I’m not a Chai fan myself, but it came out pretty tasty! The clove is easily the strongest flavour here, and since that’s the one ‘conventional’ Chai spice that I personally feel you can never have too much of that works very well in my favor.

The rest of the flavour is pretty nice too; there’s an even dispersal of ginger, cardamom and cinnamon with just the faintest little touch of smoke from the Lapsang. It’s not enough smoke for people who are fearful of Lapsang to be worried about, though. The candy cane isn’t as strong as I expected given how much I could see in the leaf and the fact that this is inspired by Ned Stark which obviously ties into the whole “Winter Is Coming”/Ice thing. It is present, but subtly so and it’s more acting as a sweetener than really contributing any strong mint flavour. The finish is a little bit peppery, with maybe a touch too much cardamom.

Overall I think this is better than most Adagio fan blends though; they tend to get pretty muddled because blenders pick out ingredients that are either too similar so there’s no contrast or playing off one another or they pick ingredients that fit the ‘character’ but clash with one another/don’t compliment each flavour. This kind of avoids that for the most part, while still being fairly thoughtful.

I definitely wanted more “ice” – but maybe it’s poetic irony that the “fire” was the most dominant thing…

Product Review: Caramel Chai Tea Latte from International Delight

CaramelChaiProduct Information:

Where to Find:  Where International Delight products are sold.

Tea Description:

Exotic flavors of cinnamon, clove & ginger blended with notes of sweet caramel & fragrant black tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Rarely do I go into the grocery store and think that I’ll find something tea-like in the dairy section.  I find milk (of course) and half and half and I do use these products in my teas to make a latte on a rare occasion.  Occasionally, I’ll see a ready-to-drink iced tea in the dairy section, but it’s my experience that most of these drinks taste more of sugar than they do of tea.  So, I generally cast a disproving look toward those products and move along without giving them a second glance.

But this product earned a second glance from me because while I’ve seen many iced coffee latte drinks in the dairy section, I’ve not found a lot of chai latte drinks in the dairy section (except for in the high end grocery stores like Whole Foods).

My husband has become a fan of chai lattes lately so after checking the label to make sure that it was made with real milk and also to make sure it didn’t have any artificial sweetener (I’m allergic to aspartame), I decided to put it in the cart and give it a try.  If nothing else, it would offer an affordable offering to my husband who wants to stop at Starbucks frequently to pick up a chai latte now.

Yes, I can make a chai latte, but, he doesn’t seem to like mine as much as he likes those horrible, sugar laden ones from the coffee shops.

The labeling shows serving this one iced but also suggests trying it hot which is how I prepared it for myself.  I simply shook the carton vigorously for about 15 seconds or so to make sure that all the spices and stuff that no doubt have settled to the bottom of the carton are well incorporated and then poured about six ounces of the creamy beige liquid into my teacup.  Then I zapped it for about a minute.

This is tasty.  Now, granted, this is a very sugary drink.  It’s very similar to what I’d get from one of those aforementioned coffee shops but without the frothy top.

If you want that frothy cap, you could probably achieve it with a frother.  Mine is no longer functional so I just had to imagine that I had a frothy top.

But the lack of frothy cap aside, this tastes a lot like what I’d get if I ordered a Caramel Chai latte at one of the coffee shops.  But the price for a whole carton of this costs about half of what a large chai latte would cost from that coffee shop.

It’s warmly spiced but not what I’d call spicy.  I find myself missing the cardamom so the spices do leave a little to be desired.  But I can taste the luscious caramel notes which are very nice and I can also taste the black tea and that’s something that I often don’t taste in those coffee shop chai lattes – so this might actually have an advantage over one of those concoctions.

Note:  not all coffee shop chai lattes are created equal.  Some are better than others.

Sugary, yes.  But it’s also creamy and rich and has a pleasant flavor.  And if you happen to have a mate who prefers a coffee shop latte over a superior chai brewed from loose leaf tea and spices like I do, this could present you an agreeable substitution for those pricey drinks at the coffee shop.