24 Days of Tea Holiday Countdown – Day 19 from Teanzo 1856

It’s day 19!  We’re getting closer and closer to the finish line here, folks!

Day11For today’s artistic inspiration, I chose another gift that I received as a 12 Days of Christmas mail art swap gift – this time, I chose to feature a gift from artist Shelly Rae Wood.

This is big – about the size of a saucer.  There is a pin back on it, so, I’m guessing the intention was that it be a broach but it’s a bit larger than I would wear as a broach, so instead, I got some “pine needle” garland and wrapped it with that sparkly garland (you know, the kind that most people wrap around their tree?) and I attached this to the center of the garland as a centerpiece of the garland.  I like the overall effect.

For the rest of the garland, I hung small bulb ornaments.  (I don’t like those bulb ornaments for my tree, but, I don’t mind them for the garland.)  I hung the garland up over the living room window.

It seems like there have been quite a few tisanes over the last few days, so I was a little surprised that today’s tea to also be tisane – it’s a good one though so I was happy to have it!

Vanilla Rooibos

Vanilla_RooibosTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Where to Buy:  Teanzo 1856

Tea Description:

Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors in the world, and we bring this to you in the form of a loose leaf rooibos. It is delicious with or without milk and is naturally caffeine-free. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The dry leaf has a very strong and natural vanilla scent.  Having tried several vanilla flavored blends and being greeted with a sort of alcohol-ish vanilla aroma (like an inexpensive extract), I was happy to smell this and not pick up on a strong “extract” type of note.

To brew this, I used one of the little DIY tea bags that was included in the Advent Calendar box.  I learned from one of the previous rooibos tisanes from this box that the rooibos from Teanzo is very finely chopped and these DIY tea bags help prevent any stray rooibos leaves from getting into the beverage.  I put the entire contents of the sampler package into the tea bag and put the bag into my favorite mug.  I heat 12 ounces to 195°F and poured the hot water into the mug and let it steep for 10 minutes.


As I’ve said before, I usually prefer it when the flavoring of a rooibos and/or honeybush blend overpowers the natural flavor of the leaf, because I’m not all that crazy about the flavor of rooibos.  And even though this has not been overpoweringly flavored, I like the way the vanilla notes complement the natural nutty and woodsy flavors of the rooibos.  It’s a very pleasant flavor combination.

That’s especially true because what I’m tasting now is a true vanilla flavor.  It doesn’t taste artificial.  It tastes as though this was flavored with either a very high quality flavoring oil or it was flavored with vanilla beans.

Either way, I really appreciate the flavor here.  It’s not an overpowering vanilla flavor, but it’s sweet, it’s creamy, and the natural nutty flavors of the rooibos work very well with the vanilla.  This would be a great “late night” snack.  Low in calories and fat – but high in indulgent flavor.

24 Days of Tea Holiday Countdown – Day 18 from Teanzo 1856

It’s Day 18!

Last week, I had a dreadful cold.  I’m still in the process of “getting over it,” not really sick anymore, but still coughing up a lot of that congestion that’s trapped in the lungs.  Not fun.

12day9giftAs I confessed in the review below, I actually “drank ahead” with this advent calendar.  And after going through that horrible cold, I’m glad I did, because otherwise there would have been several days without reviews being posted!  I was just too sick to be reviewing teas and my taste buds were not operating at optimum levels.

I’m glad to be feeling better and I hope that everyone else out there is feeling fine – it’s a bad time to be caught feeling under the weather!

For today’s artistic inspiration, I chose this cute little mini clipboard that was altered with a Christmas theme.  It was created by Liane Ceglar for one of the 12 Days of Christmas swaps I was in.  (The photo isn’t great, but, it’s still such a wonderful little gift that I wanted to feature it!)

It’s another of those gifts that may not have been intended to be an ornament, but, I turned it into one.  I love it and it looks great on my tree of altered art!  Thank you Liane!


hibiscusTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal

Where to Buy:  Teanzo 1856

Tea Description:

Hibiscus flowers are high in vitamin C, and recent studies suggest that hibiscus supports cardiovascular health.  Hibiscus tea has been consumed for centuries for its health benefits.   This herbal tea is delicious and steeps to a gorgeous pink color.  The tart flavor of hibiscus is balanced by adding a sweetener.  Perfect for entertaining.  Garnish this herbal tea with a sprig of fresh mint.  This herbal tea is caffeine free.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

OK, so I admit it.  I checked to see what the teas are in this Advent Calendar ahead of time.  I kind of have to so that I can write the review in enough time to publish on the day that they correspond with the calendar.  Yeah, I guess I’m cheating, but hey, I’ve rationalized my behavior because I’m doing it for you, my readers.

And when I saw that 100% pure, not-part-of-a-blend hibiscus was one of the tisanes in this box, I think I may have screamed out loud.  And not a happy, excited scream.  More like a mortified scream of horror.

Since that time, a few things have happened.  First, I started plotting.  Hmm … what if I just don’t post anything for the 18th day?  Maybe say there was some glitch in the system and the review was lost forevermore.  No.  I’m sure that someone who knows more about computers than I do (they wouldn’t be hard to find) would challenge this claim.  What if I just refuse?  I could just protest.  NO HIBISCUS!

NoHibiscusThen, something else happened:  I got sick.  I came down with a terrible cold.  And even though hibiscus isn’t my favorite thing, I do know that it’s loaded with Vitamin C and every time I consume something with lots of vitamin C while I’m sick, well, I feel better for a while.

So, I thought, hey, maybe it will work with the hibiscus.  What have I got to lose?  I mean, it won’t kill me to drink a cup of hibiscus, will it?

Well, it might.  I mean, I could be deathly allergic to pure hibiscus and I might die if I drink this stuff.  But, I’m thinking I’m not deathly allergic to hibiscus since I’ve had quite a few tisanes with hibiscus in it.  And confession time:  I’ve never actually had a cup of pure hibiscus tisane.  Yep.  It’s true.

So, I figured, it’s time to try this stuff that I’ve been cursing for so many years.

To steep the hibiscus, I used my Kati Tumbler (again!) and poured the contents of packet number 18 into the basket.  I heated the water to 195°F and let it steep for 4 minutes.  Usually, I’ll let a tisane steep for 5 – 10 minutes, but since this is pure hibiscus, I decided to go conservative and only steep for 4 minutes.

Of course, I didn’t think to actually try this when my taste buds were kind of out of whack because of my cold.  That would have been THE time to try this, right?  But, I didn’t think about it then.  Now, I’m still dealing with a sore throat (actually, it’s more of a dry, irritated throat from coughing) and a weakened immune system and a tired and achy body, but my taste buds are in working order.

How do I know?

Tart!  Yeah.  I even added a teaspoon of raw sugar to this and yep, still tart.  The sugar did tame the tartness down a bit though.  I found that it’s also a lot more tart when it’s hot than as it cools.  It becomes more “berry-like” when it starts to cool down and there are some fruity notes that are actually quite agreeable!

So, as it turns out, I’m not deathly allergic of hibiscus, I’m just more afraid of it than anything.  It’s not that horrible.  It has a nice berry taste and it does have health benefits.  I do recommend keeping the steep time to a minimum because even at 4 minutes, some texture does develop here (the longer you steep hibiscus, the more syrupy the liquid becomes).  I think 4 minutes is as far as I’d go, and you still are getting a really strong, hibiscus-y flavor (it is, after all, hibiscus).

While hibiscus will never be a favorite drink of mine, it isn’t a horrible drink.  I’ve tasted teas and tisanes that I’ve liked a lot less.  If I had other options, I wouldn’t choose to drink another pure hibiscus drink.  I certainly would not buy pure hibiscus.  That said, it wasn’t as horrible an experience as I thought it would be when I saw the word “HIBISCUS” on the label of the pouch marked 18 in this advent calendar from Teanzo.

The hibiscus does have some redeeming qualities.  First of all, it did soothe my sore throat and I found that it did help me feel better after I drank it.  (Remember, I’m dealing with a cold here!)   So, it’s not all bad.  And I know that there are some people who swear by this stuff.  I bet kids would love it – most kids love the tart stuff – and it would be much better for them than some sugary soda or punch drink.

24 Days of Tea Holiday Countdown – Day 17 from Teanzo 1856

Day 17!  How many of you have finished your shopping?

Me either.

Day7Today’s artwork comes from Jeri Aaron from the last 12 Days of Christmas Art Swap I was in (I think it was from 2012).  She “stuffed” a holiday mitten with a Santa Stuffy.  I think it was originally created to be a broach or something like that because there’s a pin back on it, but, it’s kind of big for a broach.  (At least for me.)  But, I really liked it and so I decided to make it a wall ornament for the holidays.  I hang it along with the stockings to add a little bit of color to the place where the stockings are ‘hung with care.’  (We don’t hang our stockings by the fireplace.  We hang our stockings on the wall next to the front door in the living room.)

Anyway, this was a fun little gift to receive.  It seems like with these exchanges, most of the people are focused on making tree ornaments (myself included!) so, it’s nice to get something just a little different and unexpected like this.  It’s a fun gift.

Today’s tea was also quite fun and festive!

Cranberry Tea

Christmas-TeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Teanzo 1856

Tea Description:

Delicious black tea with cranberries is a holiday delight.  Cranberry Tea makes a wonderful gift for a holiday host or a great stocking stuffer.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The appearance of the dry leaf is really pretty, lots of little red safflower petals and a couple of big chunks of freeze-dried cranberries.  The aroma of the dry leaf is black tea with a berry note.

I brewed this the same way I’ve brewed most of the teas in this wonderful Advent Calendar from Teanzo, in my Kati Tumbler.  I poured the contents of the sampler pouch into the basket of the tumbler and added 12 ounces of boiling water.  I let it steep for 3 minutes.

The brewed tea has a sweet smell with notes of berry and black tea.  I let the tea cool for a few minutes – a few minutes cool time is really essential to getting those flavors to pop!

Tasty!  The sip starts out surprisingly sweet:  sweeter than I expected since this is a cranberry tea and cranberries are usually quite tart.  But as the sip progresses, some of those tart notes come forward to contrast with that sweet start.  It’s almost a jammy start.  It’s sweet and quite pleasant.

The mid-sip is where I notice most of the tartness of the berry, but the sweet notes in this tea help to soften the tartness so I’m not experiencing a pucker with this tea.  I also get just a hint of berry tingle in the aftertaste.

The black tea base is smooth.  No bitterness nor is there a strong astringent tone to the finish.  Some astringency, not a lot.  The black tea seems to complement the cranberry well.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable tea and I’m glad that it was included in the Advent Calendar!

24 Days of Tea Holiday Countdown – Day 16 from Teanzo 1856

It’s Day 16 of this Advent Calendar/Holiday Countdown with Teanzo 1856.  There are eight days left to shop!  Every year, I tell myself that I’ll start my shopping early, but every year, I end up waiting until the last minute.  (Sigh!)

12day1giftFor today’s artistic inspiration, I am turning to another piece that I received in a 12 Days of Christmas mail art swap.  The artist I’m featuring today is Gwynn Thoma, and she made this beautiful rustic heart ornament for my tree.

This is another one of those ornaments that’s just FUN to discover every year when I start “unwrapping” all my ornaments for the tree.  It’s so cute and there are so many neat little details about it that I seem to keep finding something new about it every year.  I also like the bit of rustic whimsy it adds to my tree.

Another thing that really stood out to me about this particular ornament was the packaging.  Gwynn stitched together little “envelopes out of Kraft paper and adorned them with bits of aged sheet music and a swatch of the burlap that she used to create the heart ornament.  It’s a very clever and lovely package and I love how it “matches” the gift that was tucked inside.

I hope that you guys are enjoying my art “roundup” as well as the countdown to Christmas with teas from Teanzo this year!

Seasonal Relief Herbal Tea

Seasonal-ReliefTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Tulsi

Where to Buy:  Teanzo 1856

Tea Description:

In India, licorice root is used to soothe sore throats, and the tulsi plant is revered for its many health benefits. In this delicious herbal wellness tea, we’ve combined licorice root and tulsi with a powerhouse of helpers: peppermint, hibiscus, honey bee pollen, and eucalyptus. Not only is the tea delicious, but it is soothing too.  Enjoy this tea hot or iced.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I suffer from seasonal allergies that seem to last all year long now.  I never used to!  Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, I didn’t have allergies.  But I guess with all the pollen in this area, I soon started feeling unwell in the spring with allergy symptoms, but because I never had allergies before, I thought maybe it was something else.

Then I started taking allergy medication and my symptoms disappeared.  At first, I only needed these toward the end of winter, through spring and at the very start of summer.  Then I started needing it through summer.  Now, I need the medication year round or I start sneezing, eyes start watering and I’m just really uncomfortable with my symptoms.

So, I am always looking for a tisane that I enjoy that might help me alleviate my symptoms so that I don’t have to take so much allergy medication.   So when I saw that this was a Seasonal Relief blend, I was excited to try it.

Unfortunately, I’m just not enjoying this one very much.  Perhaps it’s the eucalyptus, but I feel like I’m sipping on liquefied VapoRub.

At first, I enjoyed the peppermint and licorice-y notes, and I could taste notes of tulsi that I enjoyed.  But after drinking about 1/4th of the cup, the flavor of the eucalyptus seemed to build and it got to the point where all I could taste was the eucalyptus and this does not create a very pleasant cup for me.

On the plus side, the hibiscus is not a heavy flavor or texture.  I think that this could be much nicer if maybe there was less eucalyptus, and maybe a little more peppermint and tulsi.

Overall, this just wasn’t my cup of tea.  They can’t all be, though.  Teanzo has had some real winners with this Advent Calender, this just didn’t do it for me, so hopefully tomorrow, we’ll have something yummy!

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.