Chinese Five Spice from 52Teas. . . . .

I love spicy teas, so when I saw that 52Teas has a special spiced blend for the Chinese New year, I had to try it.  Chinese Five Spice from 52Teas is one of my favorite chai blends I’ve tried in a while. In the dry leaf, you can smell the Szechwan peppercorns, adding a little heat and a little tingly, earthy ground pepper scent.

The peppercorns are well-balanced with the sweeter spices like anise and ginger.  The orange peels are specifically mandarin oranges, and there’s something distinct in the citrus flavor that makes it feel different than the usual orange notes. Finally, there are also plenty of cloves that add their own sweet-spice, almost making the dry tea leaves have a fragrance like Dr. Pepper or Moxie soda.

Brewed, the black tea really shines and shows off its quality, tippy tea leaf origins.  Somehow both smooth and tart, it makes the pepper and orange pop on my tongue but without any spicy after-burn on my throat.  There is still a very full-flavored scent in my mug with cloves and ginger, but it’s not sweat-inducing spicy in taste, very drinkable.  No honey or milk needed (though you can always add them if you love it), the blend is well-balanced right out of the bag.

I ordered the sample size but I’ve already finished it, so I’ll have to put the full size bag in my shopping cart soon.  This is a tasty, unique chai for spicy tea lovers everywhere.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: 52Teas
Description:

Since China is a very important part of what I do (since most of my tea comes from China!), I decided it was important to do something to celebrate the ringing in of the Chinese New Year this year (The Year of the Dog)! I started with two black Yunnan teas – a Yunnan Black Gold and a tippy Assamica grown in the Yunnan Province – and added dried mandarin wedges and the whole spices of a Chinese 5 Spice blend: Cinnamon, Cloves, Star Anise, Fennel and Szechwan peppercorns. Then I added just a wee bit of ginger to enhance the peppery notes just a little. The result is a cuppa that is a little bit sweet, a little bit savory and a little bit spicy! It’s a really nice, round flavor! The mandarin orange flavor is bright and adds a nice touch to the spices here. It’s kind of like an orange flavored chai – Chinese style! I’m really happy with how this one came out – the spices are strong enough to be inviting but don’t blow out the taste buds with the spice – and the mandarin is really lovely: sweet and juicy!

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Green Tea Chai by Vahdam Teas

Steeped with a heaping tablespoon of leaves at 175 degrees in about 1 cup of water.

This tea was a new experience for me! I’ve tried lots of flavored green teas, but never one where the green tea was a substitute for black tea in a chai blend. As a result of this tea, I’ve realized how different these spices are outside of a conventional chai context and how much I take the black tea base for granted in chai blends!

As it steeps, I can detect a fragrance of spices; it smells like cinnamon and possibly cloves. The tea liquid isn’t very dark. In fact it’s only achieved a pale honeylike color after it’s finished steeping; it’s a little viscous, with nearly invisible flecks (of cinnamon, perhaps?) swimming in it.

The flavor is very different from any chai I’ve ever tried. The spices, instead of melding with a malty black tea flavor to form a rounded flavor profile, are instead mingling with the bright astringent green tea notes (grassy almost, but not much on the floral side that I can detect). This makes for a very focused flavor overall. It’s highly concentrated in the bright and forward flavor notes and not so much rounded out with the deeper tones that a black tea normally imparts to a chai (in my experience). It’s almost bitter, but then again, I may have oversteeped it a bit–I like my chais strong.

With milk, it’s suddenly not very strong at all. It still has spice flavors, but I’m really missing the black tea base here. And I know you aren’t really “supposed” to put milk in green tea, but that’s what I normally do with chai so I figured why not?

So to sum up, don’t expect this to taste like a more conventional chai! Instead, expect a bright, spicy, focused flavor that’s intended to be enjoyed alone or with a little sweetener; I recommend trying it without milk. In fact, I bet this would make a great iced tea!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Green
Where to Buy:  Vahdam Teas
Description

A superior blend of fresh green tea from Darjeeling blended with choicest Indian spices like Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove & Black Peppercorns. Discover a smooth fulfilling aroma of fresh greens with delicious undertones of raw spices in every sip. The liquor is bright green with an energizing aroma. A unique chai tea which can be served with or without milk.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

9 Spice Chai Black Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

9SpiceChaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

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

Tea Description:

Could it be? A perfectly balanced chai tea? Yes, we know chai means tea and we are saying tea tea. But we like tea tea. Anyway. 9 Spice Chai is a smooth, deep, and complex black tea with just enough spiced flavor to penetrate the Indian and Sri Lankan black teas. Finally, a cup of chai that isn’t literally a cup of cloves or a cup of cinnamon nutmeg! Rejoice! This blend is part of the Original 20 M&K’s Blends.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

If you’ve read many of my reviews, you know by now that I love a good chai!  So, I looked forward to trying this 9 Spice Chai from M&K’s Tea Company.  After reading the description, it would seem that M&K’s is promising me a good chai here, so I am eagerly anticipating that!

And I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the humor in M&K’s description.  I know that ‘Chai’ means tea and when I say “Chai,” I am more often than not – 99 times out of 100 – referring to a spiced tea blend.  But I also often find myself worrying about those purists out there that might read one of my post titles that say “chai tea” and they’re snickering about me saying “tea tea.”  I like that M&K’s addresses this “confusing” subject with humor.  Thank you.

Anyway … let’s move on to the chai tea that sits in front of me, tempting me with it’s lovely aroma.  It smells warm and spicy, like the kitchen during the holidays when there are lots of tasty things being baked.

Especially when I was a kid in my gramma’s kitchen … not so much now because if tasty things were being baked in the kitchen, that would mean that I was baking them and doing all the work.  Things smell a lot better when I’m not the one doing the work.  I think that’s why the childhood memories of pies, cakes, cookies and other yummies “smelled” so much better than when I make those things.

I’m just full of tangent today, aren’t I?

As I was saying, this chai smells good.  It has a lovely, warmly spiced fragrance.  And, I’m happy to say that it tastes as good as it smells!  The spices are nicely balanced (as promised in the above description), I taste gentle notes of cinnamon and cardamom and clove.  Hints of nutmeg and vanilla.  The pepper and ginger are zesty.  The allspice and coriander round out the flavors.  The spices have been carefully considered here to create a pleasing, round flavor that warms you from the inside out without coming across as too spicy.

It has a flavor that is reminiscent of a homemade spice cookie.  It isn’t too strongly spiced – but it isn’t subtle either.  It’s somewhere in between a very strong, spicy chai and a more softly spiced chai.  The spices aren’t competing with one another and there isn’t one spice that overpowers the others.  This isn’t all about the cinnamon or ginger or clove.  I get a little bit of each spice in each sip and that’s what I mean by a nice balance of spice.

The black tea base is a blend of Ceylon and Assam, and these two teas provide a solid background of flavor.  It’s robust and holds its own against the strong spices so that I’m not just tasting spices in each sip, I’m also tasting tea.  The teas don’t taste bitter but there is some dryness toward the tail – a slightly astringent sensation – but it isn’t unpleasant.  I like the way the dryness allows the spice notes (a contrast between spicy and sweet) to come through in the aftertaste.

I really am enjoying this chai.  I think if I’m to offer any kind of criticism about it at all, it would be that I think I’d like just a tad more vanilla to this.  The vanilla here is rather subdued, perhaps because it’s in the presence of so many other spices but I think I’d like to experience a little more of the sweet, creamy notes of vanilla here.  A little more vanilla and you wouldn’t need to add dairy to make this a latte – it would be like a latte in a cup without the dairy!

Pumpkin Chai Blend from 52Teas

52teas-Pumpkin-ChaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Zoomdweebies

Tea Description:

This week’s tea is a new blend of Indian, Ceylon and Chinese whole leaf teas with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves, and organic pumpkin flavors. If this doesn’t get you in the mood for fall, nothing will.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I know that 52Teas was planning on working on a new black tea base to use with their black tea blends – I wonder if this is the blend?  It’s a little difficult to judge a black tea blend when it’s in a chai because the spices tend to be the star of the show, so it will be difficult to give you a clear idea of what I think of this “new blend,” but I’ll do my best!

This is actually a really tasty cup.  The black tea base is strong, smooth and robust.  There is some astringency to it, but I’m not finding it to be overly astringent.  It’s got a rich, full flavor.

But as I said in the first paragraph, the spices tend to be the star of the show when it comes to a chai and that’s certainly true here.  I like the way the spices come through here – it’s spicy and warm.  There’s a good balance of spice flavors:  I taste all the components.  I guess if I could change anything about the spices that have been used in this blend, I’d want just a tad more pepper.  Maybe instead of using “whole peppercorns” – crack them so that more of the peppery aspect comes through.  But, I like that there isn’t too much cinnamon or ginger.  I like that I can taste the cardamom and cloves.  Overall, I’m enjoying the way the spices present themselves in this blend.

And I like that I’m tasting pumpkin too!  The pumpkin tastes sweet and has a certain savory element to it too, and I like the way the pumpkin and spices taste together.

This is good served straight but even better when served with a dollop of honey to bring out the flavor of the spices.  If you want to go for a serious yum factor:  go latte – the creaminess of the dairy adds something to the pumpkin to make it more pumpkin pie-ish.

Winter White Chai from Simple Loose Leaf

WinterWhiteChaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

A soft, delicate version of traditional Indian chai, Winter White Chai features our fine Shou Mei white tea amongst the backdrop of customary chai spices, with one surprising addition: coconut. Delicious served in the traditional chai manner with milk and sugar or untouched for a more simplistic and delicate cup.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s NEW Selection Club subscription program here.

Taster’s Review:

I love the aroma of the dry leaf of this Winter White Chai from Simple Loose Leaf.  It smells so delightfully spicy with notes of cinnamon, clove and pepper with a high note of coconut.  My mouth began to water when I smelled it.

The brewed tea doesn’t have an overpoweringly spicy fragrance, instead, it smells warm and mildly spiced, like spice cake baking in the oven.  And that’s the first thing I thought of when I took my first sip:  spice cake!  The spices come together in a very pleasing way in this chai – they’re warm and comforting.

Of the spices represented in this blend, the cinnamon and cloves are the most prominent.  I taste a light kick of pepper from the ginger and the pink peppercorns, and there is a very gentle cardamom flavor to this too.   I think that these spices were very thoughtfully blended:  it’s a well-balanced masala chai blend that pairs well with the light Shou Mei base.

And I do taste the Shou Mei.  When it comes to white teas, I think that Shou Mei is the least delicate tasting, and I think that it was the right choice for this particular blend because it needed something that could be tasted beneath the spices and other components of this blend.  It has a subtle earthy tone, but the biggest contribution that I’m getting from the tea base is a refreshingly crisp note that enlivens the palate.

The coconut and vanilla notes work in unison to offer a soft, creamy note.  I don’t taste a really obvious “coconut” flavor, but I taste more coconut in the aftertaste than in the actual sip.  I find my thoughts debating among themselves as I’m trying to decide if I’d want more distinct coconut flavor to this tea.  On the one hand, I do like the creaminess from the coconut and vanilla; it sort of gives a “latte-ish” taste to the cup without adding milk or cream to the tea (milk in white tea?  No, that just seems wrong!) and I think that a stronger coconut presence might shift the focus off the lovely spices of this blend.  I really like the blend as it is … then again, I really like coconut and there’s that part of me thinking “more coconut might be nice.”

The lemongrass adds a very light citrus-y note to the cup.  It isn’t a strong presence, but it brings a little brightness to the overall flavor.

I really liked this Chai.  It’s light and crisp, but still pleasantly spiced.