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Maple Baked Pear Honeybush Tea from 52Teas

It’s the first day of autumn here in the northern hemisphere, which means that it’s the perfect time to discuss harvest-y things. Mulling spices. Cool, nippy breezes. Pears and apples. Warm mugs of tea. You know. Today’s tea, Maple Baked Pear Honeybush Tea from 52Teas is perfect to celebrate the coming of fall.

But first, a confession:

You know how squirrels hoard acorns and bury them for the future? I’m like that with tea. I have stuff in my cupboard that’s been there for at least 2 years by now. Some of it is stuff I’ve bought and have not opened even once — because I have so much tea that sometime’s I just don’t want to look at it, I’m so overwhelmed.

Today’s tea is one of those kinds. It’s yet another blend that I bought from the 52Teas 2015 Christmas Kickstarter campaign, and yes, even though I got it in December 2015, I didn’t actually open it until….about 2 months ago.

Luckily, Anne seals her packages very well, and since I didn’t break the seal for over a year, the tea inside was still delectable. So, say hello to Maple Baked Pear Honeybush tea from 52Teas!

An unopened zip-locked bag of Maple Baked Pear Honeybush tea.

This tea was one of the bonus, non-Christmas-flavoured teas offered by the campaign. The ingredients are honeybush, dried pear, cinnamon pieces, nutmeg, and other natural flavours. Overall, it’s meant to be fruity yet toasty – perfect for this time of year.

The dry leaf smelled really interesting: I smelled cinnamon and pear right up front. Eventually I also smelled maple, although it was hard to tell apart from the cinnamon. However, the most interesting smell was hard to describe: deep, nutty, and pastry-like, almost like pecan pie but not quite. That scent was eager to hang around in the back of my mouth and my sinuses.

It looked just as interesting, too. I’ve never had a pure honeybush tea before, and it looks distinctly different from its cousin, rooibos. Depending on the variety, dry rooibos seems red and feathery, like if you made peach fuzz out of cedar wood. But the texture of dry honeybush appears to be much darker and coarser, like coffee grounds. Amid the honeybush bits are also nuggets of dried cinnamon.

Dried Maple Baked Pear Honeybush tea leaf. The dried leaf is somewhat coarse-looking, like reddish coffee grounds, mixed with small cinnamon pieces.

To brew this, I steeped 1.5 teaspoons of dried leaf in 95°C water in a large mug for 6 minutes, and then let it sit for 10-15 minutes afterward to really cool down. The resulting liquid was a cool reddish brown, a rich colour like stained wood or old leaves on the forest floor. Lovely stuff.

The brewed Maple Baked Pear Honeybush tea is a reddish brown colour and smells like granola clusters.

After letting it cool and taking a first, experimental sip, I finally twigged onto what that unusual nutty, pastry-like note was: granola! The tea, both dry and brewed, smells like sweet granola clusters, with fruity hints of blueberry muffin and apple.

The flavour is different from that, but not completely so. It was mild, with a gentle aftertaste of cinnamon and maple on the back of my tongue. However, I didn’t notice much pear with this Maple Baked Pear Honeybush tea. Cinnamon was the dominant note and made the tea sweet. I ended up not adding any sweetener to the mix and it was just fine, though I’m sure that adding some agave or honey would amp things up.

This blend is unfortunately NOT available on the 52Teas site because I’m lazy and let things pile up in my cupboard. But there’s always something worth investigating on 52Teas, so you can take a look any time.

My Favourite Teas Ever

Teavivre is one of my favourite tea companies, and when they have a sale, I always try to take advantage of it. They’re having a sale right now to celebrate their 6th anniversary, and it’s wrapping up tomorrow. So, while there’s still time, let me tell you about my favourite teas ever, the ones I always want to keep in my cupboard, whether they’re from Teavivre or other tea companies.

Peach Jasmine Dragon Pearls from Teavivre

Jasmine pearls are a tea staple, but I love the twist that Teavivre provides by flavouring them with peach. The peach is subtle, but it’s there, and the first steep or two always has a slight fruit hint to it. Subsequent steeps are just jasmine-flavoured, but hey, that’s still a win.

This is one the teas I keep with me at work since it’s so dependable. I just bought a whopping 300 grams of it! Part of that will be given as gifts to others, but I’ll be keeping at least half for myself. I bet I could make 150 grams last all year at work, especially since I can steep a single serving for at least two days in a row.

Superfine Tan Yang Gong Fu Black Tea from Teavivre

Yes, the name is a mouthful, but the tea itself is an even better one. It’s more expensive than some of Teavivre’s other offerings, but it’s so good. Quite possibly my favourite tea EVER. When you brew it up just right, it smells like dark chocolate, and it tolerates rough treatment well. Steep it too long? Add too much leaf? Use boiling water? No problem, it’s flexible. The only thing that doesn’t work is using water that’s too cool. Then it just tastes like muck.

Laoshan Black Tea from Yunnan Sourcing

Yunnan Sourcing refreshes their tea every season, so the batches may undergo some changes, and the URLs aren’t static. But, that aside, you can always just search for “laoshan black” on their site and see what comes up.

The Laoshan black tea that I have from them tastes chocolaty, but there’s also an alkalinity to it that reminds me of bread and biscuits. So, chocolate biscuits. And, like the Superfine Tan Yang Gong Fu above, it’s pretty forgiving of brewing mistakes.

Le Digestif from David’s Tea

David’s Tea is ubiquitous in Canada, and now that Teavana is closing, it looks like its place at the top of the heap is secure. Thus, it’s easy to assume that as Canada’s “gateway” purveyor of tea, its stuff is meant only for noobs.

Which is sad, because there are some genuine gems that are part of David’s Tea’s permanent collection, and Le Digestif is one of them.

I mean, if they ever decide to discontinue this tea, I will WEEP. I have a lot of digestive problems, and Le Digestif, with its mix of mint, fennel, ginger and mango, is one of the only teas out there that regularly makes my stomach feel better. It may be an acquired taste, especially if you hate fennel, but it WORKS.

Forever Nuts from David’s Tea

You need to add some agave syrup to this to really get it going, but when you do, Forever Nuts tastes like coziness personified. The apple, the cinnamon, the almond, the pastry flavouring! It’s hard to go wrong here.

Cranberry Orange Cider Rooibos from 52Teas

Dear Anne, I beg you, please make this cider part of your permanent collection at 52Teas. I went gaga over it when I reviewed it in 2015. I have restocked this at least twice, and I’m holding on to my last 30 grams like Scrooge because I don’t know what I’ll do when I finally finish what’s left in my tin.

30 Days of Reviews: Sweet Caramel O’Mine Black Tea from 52Teas

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In the spirit of the month, instead of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m going to write a short review every day, up to a maximum of 300 words. Think of it is NaNoReMo (National Novel Review Month). This month I’ll do short reviews of books, varieties of tea, and even individual short stories as the mood strikes. So read on!


Tonight’s review is of yet another tea from 52Teas that’s part of my untouched backlog. When a tea friend of mine asked to try some, it gave me the kick I needed to drink some today so I could see how I liked it and whether it would be a good fit for her. So, tonight I give you Sweet Caramel O’Mine black tea.

Sweet Caramel O'Mine black tea in the packet

I opened the packet, hoping to be hit with the same burst of sweetness that I encountered a while back with the Pancake Breakfast blend, but no dice. I was expecting a thick, creamy, sweet aroma. Instead, I got something vaguely sweet (probably the calendula petals, because it had the same sort of high, back-in-the sinus cavity character as something I noticed in the Pancake Breakfast tea, which also contains calendula), but mild and light.

In fact, if I hadn’t known up-front that this was a flavoured tea, I would have been surprised if someone told me so. It’s that mild in terms of flavouring; the tea leaf itself dominates.

Speaking of which, the leaf also looks pretty similar to the Pancake Breakfast tea, with a smattering of calendula petals sitting among thin, twiggy, blackish-brown leaves:

Sweet Caramel O'Mine tea leaves - the orange bits are calendula petals.

I steeped 1 teaspoon in just-boiled water for 3.5 minutes and then let the brew sit to cool down and develop character. Immediately after pulling the steeped leaves out of the liquid, they smelled citrusy and peppery.

After sitting for a bit, the liquid was a rich, orange-red:

52teas_sweet_caramel_brew

The scent was still mild, but the taste was surprising – not a lot of caramel, but I did sense smoke and pepper. Considering I wanted caramel, this was kind of a disappointment. I’ll give the rest of Sweet Caramel O’Mine to my tea-friend in the hopes she’ll enjoy it.

30 Days of Reviews: Pancake Breakfast Black Tea from 52Teas

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In the spirit of the month, instead of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m going to write a short review every day, up to a maximum of 300 words. Think of it is NaNoReMo (National Novel Review Month). This month I’ll do short reviews of books, varieties of tea, and even individual short stories as the mood strikes. So read on!


Tonight I’m going to look at a tea that I got nearly a year ago from 52Teas as part of last year’s holiday Kickstarter campaign. In addition to her seasonal blends, Anne also offered backers the chance to try limited-edition reblends of older teas, so I took her up on it.

And oh man, some of the teas in this reblend package looked amazing, like tonight’s sample, Pancake Breakfast Black Tea.

52teas_pancake_breakfast_pack

Upon opening the package, I was greeted by an intense smell of sweet, syrupy cakey-ness. It really did smell amazingly of syrup-soaked pancakes! Underneath the sweetness of the syrup scent and the doughiness of the pancake batter scent, I also detected a note of creamy saltiness: the perfect companion note of a pat of butter, melting over the pancakes.

Here’s what the leaf looked like — curled black bits mixed with the occasional orange streak of dried calendula petals:

52teas_pancake_breakfast_leaf

Brewing this according to the directions on the package resulted in a deep, dark brew with cool, coffee-coloured undertones rather than warm, amber ones.

52teas_pancake_breakfast_brew

On the tongue, I tasted the sweetness of the syrup and a doughy thickness at the back of my mouth that was definitely reminiscent of pancake batter. However, there was also a slight floral sharpness underneath, which I’m assuming came from the calendula petals.

The overall combination gave me the impression that I was drinking a tea flavoured not just like pancakes, but like blueberry pancakes, which is really something. Pancake Breakfast Black Tea is totally legit. Who would have guessed?

End-of-Summer Iced Tea Extravaganza (Birthday Edition!)

Now that September is nearing its end, there’s an occasional chill in the air. Fall is coming, which means that there will soon be mugs of cider and chai to consider, as well as pumpkin-spice-flavoured-everything.

But! It’s my birthday today! And technically it’s still summer for a few more days! And I still have a lot of blends that are perfect for making iced tea in my cupboard. Besides, with climate change, the summer heat is just going to last longer as the years pass! So I might as well try and wring one tiny positive upside from near-certain long-term catastrophic changes in weather patterns by brewing as much iced tea as possible.

(Aren’t I a fountain of optimism?)

So, here are a bunch of teas I brewed over the summer and my thoughts on each.

Wild Woman – Tay Tea

I’m not familiar with Tay Tea; instead, I bought this packet through Amoda Tea’s Black Friday sale last year. It’s been sitting in my cupboard for a while, so honestly I just wanted to say that I used this tea up. This blend contains Ceylon black tea, blueberries, blackcurrants, blue cornflower petals, hibiscus and elderberries.

tay_tea_wild_woman_label

 

Looking at the dry leaf, it’s easy to see the blue flecks of cornflowers among the small, gnarly black leaves, as well as the occasional dried berry. I also saw small bits of red that could have been hibiscus. The smell is overwhelmingly of blueberries, to the point of it being kind of artificial – I like my blueberries on the tart side, while the smell here was reminiscent of pancakes and jam.

I took the entire sample of tea (about 10 grams) and cold-steeped it in about 5-6 cups of cold water overnight. I just eyeballed the amounts here, instead of doing something a bit more measured and scientific. I also added some sweetener to the pitcher to counteract the potential tartness of the hibiscus.

However, I have to admit that taste-wise, this didn’t really work for me. The blueberry/blackcurrant flavour was too strong, bordering on medicinal. I just chugged it in order to get the pitcher overwith.

Blueberry Mojito Green Tea – 52Teas

This was part of the same order that the Sparkle Pony Oolong came in last month, and this combination of flavours – blueberries, lime, mint, and rum – promised to make an excellent iced tea.

The strongest smell I noticed upon opening the package was mint. Which is obvious, but this was a baseball bat of mint to the nose, with a soft hint of lime playing underneath. Alongside the mint and lime was a candied sort of sweetness that reminded me of marshmallow, making the overall aroma similar to that of Graveyard Mist, another 52Teas blend.

The dried leaf was a varied mix of green bits of all shapes and sizes. Along with the small flakes of mint were different varieties of green tea – some leaves looked short and stubby, while others looked long and flat. The mix was studded with small, puckered blueberries, as well as the occasional wedge of dried lime.

52teas_blueberry_mojito_leaf

I took the entire half-ounce package and brewed it with 1 L of 80C water for 3-4 minutes. Before I poured the water in I made sure to add a splort of agave nectar to the pitcher to sweeten things up. After that, I took out the leaves and topped the extra-strong brew with cold water, then let it cool down in the fridge overnight. The resulting brew was somewhat cloudy and had an amber-green-orange colour to it that reminded me of Hoegaarden or other types of witbier.

52teas_blueberry_mojito_brew

Like the aroma, the strongest taste is of mint, with a hint of lime at the back of the mouth. However, that sweet, marshmallow-like note morphs into something a bit deeper and more distinctive. I had a  hard time putting my finger on it, but then I figured it out: it reminded me of sarsaparilla, one of the key flavours in root beer.

I wonder if it was added to give the brew the depth of rum. Whatever it is, it certainly adds an interesting flavour. However, I didn’t get a whole lot of blueberry here.

Blackcurrant White Peony – 52Teas

This one, unfortunately, was a bust for me. I guess I just don’t like blackcurrant teas – the smell of blackcurrant just reminds me too much of cough syrup and lozenges for me to enjoy it on its own merits. I took the entire half-ounce package, brewed it with hot water, diluted the brew with cold water…. and then just couldn’t drink it. I let it sit in my fridge for too long that it eventually went bad, so I just poured the remainder down the drain. Sorry, 52Teas!

52Teas_black_currant_white_peony_leaf

Strawberries and Cream – Zen Tea

As with the Tay Tea blend above, I decided to cold-brew this rather than brew it hot and strong then dilute it down. The short, black, gnarly leaves here are interspersed with the occasional bit of green (strawberry leaves) and red (dried strawberry pieces). The dry leaf smelled of strawberries, chocolate and vanilla – in fact, it reminded me an awful lot of chocolate-covered strawberries!

zentea_strawberry_cream_leaf

I ended up with a nice, almost peach-coloured brew after everything was said and done.
zentea_strawberry_cream_brew

The iced tea tasted exactly like it smelled – like chocolate-covered strawberries. It wasn’t bad, but I honestly think this was a waste served cold. I bet this tea would be much better hot, where the contents would probably taste like an amazing strawberry-laced hot chocolate.

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