Anne Has Returned – What Can I Say? I Love Subscriptions!

Greetings – it’s been a while since I last posted a review here – as it’s now coming up on my 3rd year as the Mad Tea Artist over at 52Teas, it’s been almost that same amount of time that I’ve not written a review! Many things kept me from writing here: a lack of available time and feeling a little unsure if I can be an unbiased reviewer since I am now – once again – a tea vendor. I’ve missed reviewing though and I’ve also missed receiving boxes of tea in my mailbox.

But recently, I caved and subscribed to Tea Box Express. I have received one box from them in the past – it was their debut subscription box and they sent both Jennifer (aka TeaEqualsBliss) and me a box to review here.  (I wrote that review in two parts. To check out part 1, click here. To check out part 2, click here.) I loved that box and have considered subscribing many times, but for one reason or another, I never did. Finally, I caved and treated myself to a 3-month subscription.

So let’s get down to it! Five items were tucked into this month’s box, including a stamped teaspoon; a white chocolate dipped fortune cookie; a pouch of raspberry hibiscus flavored S’mores; a pouch or raw cookie dough and of course, it wouldn’t be a tea box without some tea, would it? This box contained one 2 ounce pouch of flavored green tea.

If I’m being totally honest, I wasn’t all that excited after opening the box. A fortune cookie? Hibiscus flavored S’mores? The two redeeming things (or so I thought) were the beautiful spoon (which I do love) and the cookie dough . . . which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. But more on that later.

My favorite item in the box was the first thing that I examined closer – the stamped teaspoon from Mountain Bird Banners. This is one of those things that I’ve wanted for a while but could never justify getting for myself, so what a joy it was for me to find it in this month’s box. The spoon came tucked inside a colorful burlap wrap – I was charmed by the presentation. This spoon is stamped with the words: “Tea Time is Me Time”. Beautiful!

At that point I decided it was time for a cuppa, so I decided to try the tea that was included in this month’s box: Walnut Cake from Polar Tea Co.  It’s a blend of Chinese Sencha, pineapple, coconut, walnut, brittle pieces, almonds and natural flavors. I steeped roughly 3 grams of tea in 12 ounces of hot water (175°F is my go-to temperature for green teas) for 2 minutes. I taste walnut and pineapple and a sweetness from both the brittle and candied pineapple. I didn’t get much ‘cake’ flavor so I put my new spoon to use and added about half a teaspoon of raw sugar to the cup to see if it helped bring out more of the flavor. It did – I could taste a subtle cake-y background. Overall, a decent cup.

As for the sweet treats that were included in this month’s box, my favorite – hands down – was the Raspberry Hibiscus S’mores from Malvi. I was originally not all that excited about this confection because of the hibiscus, but I found that the contrast of tart and sweet tasted fantastic. I also didn’t have high hopes for the Fancy Fortune Cookie but I am happy to say that I it exceeded any expectations I may have had. The cookie was fresh and crisp and the white chocolate coating was not heavy – I was worried this might prove to be something a bit too sweet for my liking but the light shell of white chocolate was not at all cloying. The one thing that I thought I would like – the coconut chocolate chip raw cookie dough from Ello Raw – turned out to be the one thing that disappointed me. This isn’t really ‘raw cookie dough’ like what you might expect – it’s more like a soft, less dense granola bar made of cashews, coconut, oats, coconut oil, cacao nibs and raw honey. It tasted like cookie dough trying to be health food – and when I indulge in cookie dough, I’m not thinking health food! It was good – it just was not what I was expecting  . . . or hoping for.

Overall, I’m much happier with this box of tea time goodies than I originally thought I’d be.  Sure, the cookie dough didn’t turn out to be exactly what I expected, but I didn’t hate it either, so I don’t consider it a loss – but perhaps a draw? Everything else gets a thumbs up from me.

Here’s the scoop!

Where to Buy: Tea Box Express

Each box includes 4 to 6 curated gifts. The contents are a surprise but subscribers can look forward to a tea care package that contains:

  • Whole leaf tea that is high quality, fresh, and flavorful.
  • Items such as cookies, honey, specialty sugars, chocolate, and infusers.
  • A new selection of tea and unique artisan treats every month.
  • Your very own tea party in a box! 

Murmur from Handmade Tea. . . .

I received this tea at the beginning of the year after a tea friend signed me up for a monthly subscription to Handmade Tea. It smelled awesome and was just full of strawberry bits and cacao nibs but the white peony base had me apprehensive. However, it was gifted to me and the smell caught my attention so I got to brewing.

I made this both as a plain cup of hot tea and as a chocolate milk latte. I steeped both for 4 minutes in boiling water as per the recommended steeping parameters. In the process I managed to spill chocolate milk all over the counter, the floor, and my pajamas but I suppose there’s no point crying over that now.

I tried the latte first and I am definitely picking up on those cacao nibs. This is a whole lot of cacao flavor and not much else. Honestly what it tastes like to me is a packet of rich instant hot chocolate that’s been made with water instead of milk because it’s got the almost dark chocolate flavor (and a fairly high quality one at that) but it’s thinner than a typical hot chocolate.

The hot cup allows for more of the flavors to stand out as they aren’t being drowned out by the strong chocolate milk flavor. The base tea is floral but also has a honeydew flavor as promised on the package. Unlike what’s promised on the package, I don’t quite get the “drizzled with honey” part this tea should have per its description. There is also less strawberry flavor than I expected given the copious amounts of that ingredient in the dry leaf. What I do get is a heavier/darker taste as each sip ends and I think that is the result of the cacao.

If I am being honest, this tea is lacking a lot of the flavors described on the package which is surprising because the dry leaf is clearly built up of a variety of different ingredients that just seem to get lost in the mix. It’s by no means a bad tea but I wanted a chocolate covered strawberry and all I’m getting is a dark and fruity white tea. I wonder if maybe a smaller cup or different steeping parameters could help coax out more flavors? Luckily I still have some left I can experiment with.

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  White
Where to Buy:  Handmade Tea

This tea is no longer available but click below for more information regarding  their monthly tea subscription.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Lost Maples from CatspringYaupon. . . October’s Sips by Box. . . .

A few days ago, my first Sips by box arrived.  Included were four unique designed teas curated to my tastes and likes.  Sips by is a monthly subscription box that curates teas to a survey/profile that you put together.  Each month you receive four teas that you want, which I love.  Being one that is picky about their herbal and black teas, I loved the fact that I could say no to certain teas while including tea varieties that I’ve always wanted to try.

My first box was a huge success and so far I’ve loved all of the teas I’ve tried.  Lost Maples from Catsprinng Yaupon was the first tea that caught my eye and so far my favorite of the bunch.  I’ve tried Catspring Yaupons tea before and was excited to try this medium roast version of Yaupon.

Yaupon is a plant that grows wild in North America.  The plant itself is naturally caffeinated and this particular Yaupon is harvested right on the Catspring Ranch and conveniently packaged in tea bag form or loose leaf if you like.  The last time I experienced Catspring’s Yaupon Tea, I had the loose leaf option, which I loved.  This go around I’m enjoying the tea bag version.

And am I enjoying this tea.  If you have never experienced Yaupon tea, I encourage you to do so.  With a light vegetal undertone and a roasted flavor, this tea could be compared to an yerba mate tea blend but with a lighter and more airy feel.  Through each sip, you can almost get this roasted chicory note that reminds me of coffee.

This is one of those teas that I’ve always meant to pick up more of and just never got around to it.  Thanks Sips by for reminding me what a smooth well balanced tea that I’ve been missing in my tea drinking routine!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Yaupon
Where to Buy: Catspring/Sips by

Sips by™ is a startup based in Austin, Texas, founded by a small group of tea lovers who want discovering tea to be fun, personalized, and affordable.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Beneath the Pines from Global Tea Hut. . . . .

I had a little bit of trouble getting to this tea. I had to use a combination of my foot and a can opener to wrench the tin open.

Packaging difficulties aside, this tea tastes a bit like what I imagine seafood tastes like. (No, I’ve never had seafood. Of any sort.) This is a flavor profile that doesn’t usually pop up in black teas.

In part, the taste probably differs from a straight black because the tea has been fermented. Fermentation is how a “black” tea becomes a “pu’erh” tea.

To make it more confusing, people in Asia think of our “black” tea as “red.” And they call pu-erh “black.” If that hurts your spirit, feel free to forget I said anything. If that intrigues you, you can read a lot more about this tea and its processing technique here.

Though this tea wasn’t my favorite, I figured you’d get a kick out of my experience of opening it. Plus, the combinations of tea & fermentation types can turn into a wide bounty of flavor options! Who knew? This tea or one like it might be for you!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Puerh
Where to Buy:  Global Tea Hut

Subscribe to next month’s Global Tea Hut below.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread from A Quarter To Tea. . . . .

Most summers growing up were spent helping my mom tend to our vegetable garden. Beaming proudly at my over-run chives, measuring my height by the sunflowers, plucking tomatoes from the vine and popping them into bowls with a hefty sprinkle of salt, warm from the sun. But nothing was more ubiquitous than our zucchini plants. Come late summer, we were literally swimming in zucchini. Try as she might, my mom could hardly keep up with our producing plants, and was finding every possible way to work them into our daily repertoire. Who knew all she needed to do was turn them into tea??

This chocolate zucchini bread tea from A Quarter to Tea perfectly captures the flavors of one of my favorite iterations of our garden spoils– a warm, gooey, chocolatey loaf that was just as healthy as it was tasty (okay, maybe not the abundant chocolate chips sprinkled on top. But you gotta live a little, right?). Somehow, this blend manages to make the zucchini flavors prominent while keeping them from being gross– balanced with the cocoa, it’s almost reminiscent of a hot chocolate (and with a splash of maple syrup and coconut milk, it’s nearly a dead ringer). The walnuts bring a warmth and roundness of flavor that are simply delightful, and the malty, bread-y-ness impressively captures the pasty-like quality of such a dessert without feeling heavy or overwrought. If you have nostalgic garden dreams from childhood like I do, this is a great blend to pick up for your afternoon cuppa. Particularly when paired with a snack of some zucchini bread.

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy:  A Quarter To Tea

This tea was part of the limited monthly subscription.  Click below to learn more.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!