Lavender Daze Herbal Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

LavenderDazeTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal Tisane

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

Tea Description:

Soothing lavender, sweet cinnamon, adjective ingredient! You get the idea. But this herbal infusion is a special one, with a taste that is all its own. You’ll have to try it to describe it! But, as far as we can tell, it tastes something like lavender, chamomile, licorice, and a hint of cinnamon. This blend is part of the Original 20 M&K’s Blends. Additionally, this is the first M&K’s blend officially invented.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Usually when I find a lavender tisane like this Lavender Daze Herbal Tea from M&K’s Tea Company, I expect it to be a combination of lavender and chamomile – and this is such a blend.  But what makes it different from other blends is that M&K’s didn’t stop at just lavender and chamomile.  They added honey roasted licorice root, star anise, ginger, lemon verbena and cinnamon!  Most of these ingredients are not ones you’d find in the average “nighttime” lavender and chamomile blend.

So I didn’t know what to expect with this tea.  I brewed it in my Kati Tumbler, using 1 1/2 bamboo scoops of tisane and 12 ounces of near boiling (195°F) water and steeping for 8 minutes.

As I surmised based on the list of ingredients, this isn’t the typical nighttime lavender/chamomile blend, and it certainly doesn’t taste like it either.

The licorice is really strong with this blend.  Maybe too strong.  I love licorice, but the licorice notes here overpower the other flavors a bit too much because I’m tasting mostly just licorice.  The sip starts out with a soft cinnamon-y note, and then the licorice hits and it lingers throughout the rest of the sip and into the aftertaste.

Just after I notice the cinnamon, I pick up on the subtlest of hints of lavender, ginger and citrus.  But again, they are so faint because bam!  The licorice hits and overpowers the rest of the blend.  I do taste whispers of honey, but mostly, I taste licorice.

And as I’ve said, I LOVE licorice, but I think that with this combination of ingredients and what seemed to promise a really interesting fusion of flavors, I find myself just a wee bit disappointed because I would have liked to experience a more balanced cup.

It’s good, don’t get me wrong.  If you like licorice, you’re bound to enjoy this and I am enjoying the licorice notes here.  I just think it would have been more interesting to taste more of the other components to this blend.

Mint Marigold Spice Herbal Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

MintMarigoldSpiceTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

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

Tea Description:

Sweet spices and a minty rooibos blend swirl together in this exclusive M&K’s creation! Peppermint and spearmint coat Asian star anise, providing a licorice taste complimenting the spicey, roasted ginger. This infusion is part of the M&K’s Original 20.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

My first reaction to my first sip of this tisane was:  mmm!  Now, granted, that’s my reaction to many teas that I taste for the first time and it’s usually my reaction when I indulge in a favorite tea.  But, it’s not always a first reaction when I take a sip of a tisane.  And it’s certainly not a frequent reaction when I take a sip of a rooibos tisane.

But M&K’s created a winner when they crafted this rooibos blend.  It’s warm and cozy but also cool and invigorating!  It’s a lovely medley of contradiction.

The first flavor I notice when I take a sip is cinnamon.  Almost immediately after picking up on the cinnamon notes, I taste the crisp, refreshing taste of peppermint and spearmint.

Mid-sip, I notice the zesty licorice flavor from the anise.  It’s not an overwhelming flavor and I suspect that even those who are not typically fond of blends with star anise would enjoy this tisane.  It is more of a warm snap of licorice with a hint of sweetness from the anise without the strong spicy snap of it.

I also notice a warm, peppery ‘glow’ from the ginger.

What I don’t notice is a strong, obvious flavor of rooibos and I’m sure that those who are familiar with my likes and dislikes know that I’m quite alright with the lack of rooibos flavor.  I like that I’m tasting the gentle honey sweetness of the rooibos and a hint of nutty flavor without a really strong rooibos taste.

I like the way these flavors – peppermint, spearmint, anise, ginger and cinnamon – come together in this blend.  Any one of them can be a very aggressive flavor but rather than one flavor overpowering the others, they are working together in a synergistic way to create a very harmonious taste that’s both spicy and sweet, warming and cooling.

I like this one!

Aniseed Balls Tisane from Bluebird Tea Co.

aniseed_ballsTisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Spice Melange

Where to Buy:  Bluebird Tea Co.

Tisane Description:

Award-winning nostalgic aniseed, star anise + liquorice herbal tea blend

This blend won the highest food award in the country. The judges said: ‘Truly original and delicious infusion that packs a true punch.. finally a blend that’s blokey’! It’s also the nation’s favourite childhood sweet. Not just our opinion, it’s fact. There was a survey, questionnaire and everything.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

When Bluebird Tea Co. asked me what teas I’d like to try, this one was near the top of my list.  After reading the ingredient list, you might wonder why it was that this was one of the teas I requested…

Ingredients: Liquorice, Aniseed, Star Anise, Hibiscus, Stevia, Chilli. 

I mean, this tisane has two of my “I’d rather this tisane not have this ingredient” ingredients:  hibiscus and stevia.  So you might be wondering why I’d choose this tea.  But this tisane also has three of the ingredients that I love to see in teas/tisanes:  Licorice, Aniseed and Star Anise!  And I guess my requesting this tisane proves that my love for these three ingredients overpowers my disdain for the hibiscus and stevia.

Oh, I’m still wishing that the hibiscus and stevia weren’t in there.  Before even taking a sip, I’m thinking that it would be a better tisane without them, although it isn’t really a fair assessment because I haven’t yet taken a sip.

Star Anise – one of my favorite spices. Photo from Wikipedia. Click on the pic to go there.

The dry leaf is gorgeous.  Lots of whole pieces of star anise!  They’re so pretty.  It smells delightful too:  sweet, warm and zesty.

To steep this tisane, I used my Kati Tumbler.  (I prefer to use this device when I’m brewing a spiced tea/tisane like this because when I brew a spiced tea in my Breville, the spices become “embedded” in the tea maker and it requires a soak in baking soda to get the odors to release.  Then again, I need to soak my Breville anyway, so maybe I should have used it to steep this!)  I measured out 1 1/2 bamboo scoops of the tisane into the basket of the Kati and then poured hot water (195°F) over the tisane and let it steep for 8 minutes.

Ordinarily, when brewing a tisane with hibiscus, I steep it for 6 minutes or less.  However, I could see very little hibiscus in the loose leaf blend so I figured that this tisane could benefit from a little more time.  Spices need time to get their flavors to release fully.

OK!  So now it’ sip time.  I can definitely taste the hibiscus.  Next time I try this tisane, I might go with 6 1/2 or 7 minutes rather than a full 8 minutes.  That said, it doesn’t taste too hibiscus-y.  But I’m still wishing it wasn’t there.

That said, this is really quite nice despite the presence of hibiscus and stevia.  And for those who don’t really mind hibiscus quite so much, it does add an interesting tart, berry like flavor to the cup.  It’s a little bit tart and I can feel the insides of my cheeks pucker slightly as I take a sip, but because there is enough going on with this blend from the warmth of the chili to the zesty sweetness from the licorice-y notes, I find that the tartness doesn’t upset me.

The stevia adds sweetness (obviously) and this is a nice contrast to the spicy chili tone.  And take note:  even though chili is listed as the last ingredient, this tisane has a real spicy kick to it from the chili!  I can feel the heat at the back of my throat.  It’s not too spicy or hot.  I’m not running to the kitchen to find something to temper the heat.  But it is warm enough to alert the sensors in the mouth that something spicy is dancing around the palate.

But the three real stars of this cup are the licorice, star anise and aniseed!  This has a really lovely licorice-y flavor!  If you are a fan of black licorice, this tisane should be at the top of your must try list!  This has a lot of snappy licorice flavor!  Sweet and zesty.  It reminds me so much of the black licorice candy that I love.  In fact, it tastes as though someone liquefied some black licorice candy and then served that in a cup with a splash of hibiscus, a pinch or two of chili pepper and a little bit of sweetener.

I like this served straight up without additions but it would also be quite nice with a cinnamon stick garnish.  (I like the combination of cinnamon and licorice.)  Really, it doesn’t need anything other than that.  It could do without the hibiscus, although I’m not hating that the hibiscus is there.  The same goes for the stevia.  I like the little bit of sweetness that the stevia adds to this.  It’s enough sweetness without getting that funky flavor that I sometimes taste from stevia in teas.  Bonus!

Yet another huge win for Bluebird Tea Company!

Star of India Black Tea from ArtfulTea

starofindiaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  ArtfulTea orArtfulTea on Etsy

Tea Description:

A blend of black teas from three of India’s premiere growing regions: Assam, Darjeeling and the Nilgiris. This tea has all the highlights of India’s best black teas in a flavorful, coppery-colored blend that is similar in style to an “English Breakfast” tea. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’m always excited to try teas from Etsy sellers, because I used to sell my tea blends on Etsy.  I like to support these artisans – and yes!  Blending tea is an art!   I also always check Etsy first when there’s something that I need like a new set of pot holders (I just purchased some recently similar to these lovelies!)

So when I found the seller ArtfulTea on Etsy, I decided to try some of their teas.  I purchased this sampler, and I think I mentioned it in an earlier post.  The sampler is so beautifully packaged.  The box was lined in brightly colored tissue paper, and the loose leaf samples were pre-measured into unbleached paper DIY teabags which you can opt to use or you can empty the tea into a small brewing vessel to let the tea steep loose.

Everything about this experience was lovely – and I have to admit that it reminded me a bit of when I was a tea purveyor on Etsy … I took a lot of care in my packaging too.  It is a practice that is often overlooked, and one that I personally appreciate when I order teas online.

This Star of India is not the first tea that I’ve sampled from ArtfulTea, but I think it might be my favorite thus far.

My first reaction after taking a sip of the coppery liquid?  Wow!  It’s a very well-rounded cup of tea.  My palate seems very satisfied with this tea.  It’s sweet but not too sweet, it’s smooth, not overly astringent, and it has a rich, flavorful taste.  It’s not bitter (although I wouldn’t advise oversteeping it!) and it’s got a substantial flavor without feeling or tasting too heavy.

The blend is crafted using Assam, Nilgiri and Darjeeling teas, and I really like this combination of tea leaves.  The Assam and Nilgiri offer a pleasing malty flavor with a nice caramel-y undertone.  Sweet and rich!  These both are hearty teas, and I like how the Darjeeling rounds them out, lightening the overall flavor and texture of the cup so that it feels less heavy.  It would make a very agreeable afternoon cup, or if you’re looking for a nice weekend breakfast tea, this one would do nicely.

Along with these malty notes and flavors of caramel, there are sweet, fruity notes that contrast with an earthy, woodsy note.  The flavors seem nicely balanced with one another.  There is a light cleansing astringency toward the finish, and it leaves the palate feeling refreshed in the aftertaste.

It’s not a tea that I’d add milk to (I just don’t really care for milk in my Darjeeling teas because it overwhelms the delicate nuances of a Darjeeling, in my opinion), but it would take a dollop of honey nicely if you want to add that, or perhaps you’d like a thin slice of lemon, that would work well here too.  I found that I preferred this one hot.  As the tea cooled, it ended up tasting a lot like an average black tea, but while hot, I could taste a lot of the subtleties that this tea offers.  It’s a pleasant, complex blend that should be explored!

Star Anise Masala Chai from Blue Lotus Chai

AniseChaiChai Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Blue Lotus Chai

Chai Description:

Our new Star Anise Masala Chai is absolutely delicious! It has all of the signature BLC spices, with star anise contributing deep, but subtle licorice notes.

Learn more about this chai here.

Taster’s Review:

OK … do you guys remember when I first reviewed the Original Masala Chai from Blue Lotus Chai and I suggested in that review that they add some Star Anise or Fennel to the chai for some licorice-y notes?  Well, guess what?  They took my advice!  (Those people at Blue Lotus Chai … they’re smart cookies!)  And they contacted me after they perfected the blend … and sent me some of it to try!  And I’m sure it’s no great surprise:  I love this stuff!

I like this Star Anise Masala Chai from Blue Lotus Chai even better than the original Masala Chai, and I’m not just saying that because I suggested the Star Anise.  I’m saying because I love that hint of licorice-y snap that the additional spice adds.  It’s just a hint of licorice-like taste.  It doesn’t attempt to compete with the other spices, instead, it blends in there harmoniously, creating a very enjoyable, exceptionally well-spiced cup of chai!

This is delicious iced too.  Instead of adding the full 4 ounces of water to the chai, I’ll add some ice cubes to the blender along with the chai mix and milk, and blend until the ice cubes are obliterated.  It’s like a frosty cool, iced “frappe/freddo” type of beverage you might get from the local coffee shop without having to pay five bucks a cup for it.  YUM!

The spices here are good and strong – just like in the original Masala Chai from Blue Lotus Chai – spicy, peppery and sweet.  I love the balance of spices in this chai because one spice is not stronger or heavier than the others … I taste a little bit of cinnamon, a little bit of clove … a little bit of ginger, black pepper, nutmeg and cardamom too.  And then there is that delightful licorice-y tone from the Star Anise!  LOVE!

This is the PERFECT chai … I love love love it.  I might … even like this better than my Masterpiece Chai.  And that’s saying something … because … well, that was a masterpiece!  (Even if I do say so myself.)   Next suggestion for the brilliant minds at Blue Lotus Chai:  How about a Chocolate Rose Chai!