Books. Tea. Cats. Scribbling.

Tag: vanilla

Chai Noir from T by Daniel

Lately it feels like I’ve been on a flavoured tea kick, and my visit to the Toronto Tea Festival in late January pushed that into higher gear. When I was there, I bought 5 separate flavoured blends from T by Daniel, a company based in Brampton. I remember at last year’s tea festival, friends of mine oohed and aahed over their blends, so I resolved not to throw away my shot this year. So today’s review is of their Chai Noir blend.

Chai Noir is a masala chai with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and some rather unexpected ingredients: hazelnut, almond, macadamia nuts, and cactus blossoms.

The dry leaf itself looks different from other chais, because the spices definitely dominate the blend visually. My guess is that, at most, only half of the blend is black tea, with the other half being cardamom pods, flower petals, cloves, cinnamon pieces, and nuts.

The weird thing is that despite the label not listing ginger as an ingredient, I swear I can smell it in the blend. I’m pretty sure I can even see a few dried pieces of ginger in the mix — I see at least one chunk of something that looks stringy and somewhat beige. There are a few other ingredients in the mix that I can’t identify, however. I’m not sure what a cactus blossom looks like, but there are a few pieces in the blend that look like dried fruit.

Despite my inability to identify every ingredient, the aroma of the dried leaf is pretty awesome. I can smell the usual suspects — cinnamon, cloves, cardamom — but beyond that, there’s a richness and roundness and depth to the scent of Chai Noir that I find pretty enthralling.

Is it the hazelnuts? The vanilla? The macadamia nuts? Whatever it is, it’s kind of oily, but it adds a surprising amount of body and smoothness to the aroma.

I took 1 big teaspoon of the blend and steeped it in just-boiled water for 2-3 minutes — I wasn’t really keeping count. However, because I’m a goof, I used a mug with an apple-green interior, making it much harder to actually guess the true colour of the resulting brew.

That was a goof because judging by the taste, I should have let the tea steep for at least a minute longer. While the flavour was very smooth and well-balanced, it felt faint. Not bold at all. And if there’s something I expect from a chai blend, it’s to wallop me over the head with flavour.

Overall, the roundness and depth and oiliness of the aroma was true to the flavour of the brewed tea, but it just didn’t feel there enough. Either more brewing time or more leaf is warranted.

You can buy Chai Noir from T by Daniel here.

30 Days of Reviews: Vanilla Chai from Zen Tea

The holidays are coming up, which means that it’s time for warm, comforting, spicy teas. And today’s tea, Vanilla Chai from Zen Tea, is a good example. I bought a sample of this from Zen Tea all the way back in February/March, and now that the cold weather has returned, this tea made its way into my cup.

This vanilla chai contains black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla pieces, ginger, cloves, black pepper, natural flavouring. The black tea base used here looks smaller and more cut-up than traditional loose-leaf tea, but larger and more intact than a CTC (crush-tear-curl) tea. Bits of clove, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom are visible among the leaves, giving the leaf a kind of jaunty, festive look.


Up close, the dry tea smells very rich and spiced, but the dominant scents are of ginger and cinnamon. I smell hardly any vanilla at all, and in fact can’t distinguish any pieces of vanilla pod in the dry leaf.

The instructions said to boil the leaf gently for a few minutes then add milk bit by bit – but frankly, that’s far too labour-intensive for me. So I just did the usual method of letting the leaf sit in hot water for a few minutes. After 3-4 minutes, the resulting brew was a rich red-brown colour, warm and welcoming.


I had it straight with no sugar or milk. Overall, this vanilla chai is very balanced and smooth, with no astringency. While I could taste a variety of spices, mostly ginger and cinnamon, I couldn’t taste very much vanilla at all. Vanilla showed up only at the end of the sip, in the back of my sinuses.

So much for vanilla chai, huh? Lots of chai, but vanilla, not so much.

You can buy Vanilla Chai from Zen Tea here.

Intro to Aromatica Fine Teas: Ginger Cream and Peach Ginger Rose

When I buy teas to review, it can sometimes take a few months to get around to tasting them. I’m writing this on Good Friday, but I bought today’s teas from Aromatica Fine Teas waaaay back last year during a Black Friday sale.

So… four months. And I’m still buying tea for future posts.

I didn’t get these two teas from Aromatica Fine Teas themselves, though; I bought them from Amoda Tea, a Canadian tea subscription company that specializes in finding new and unique blends from smaller vendors and bringing them into the limelight. Amoda has some pretty cool stuff available; if I ever manage to get my cupboard under control, I may sign up for their monthly boxes — you never know! In the meantime, these two will be a fitting introduction.

Anyways, on to today’s teas.

Ginger Cream Black Tea

First up is the Ginger Cream blend, a mix of Assam black tea, ginger pieces, and vanilla bean pieces. The dry leaf is pretty true to expectations, and I’m pretty sure I can distinguish the chunks of vanilla bean from the black tea. The ginger pieces look a bit stringy, but that’s okay.


I’m surprised by how well the vanilla and ginger meld together, smell-wise. They create an aroma that’s soft and gentle, and they blend with the black tea to create a scent that’s actually kind of reminiscent of mocha/coffee. I normally associate ginger with fruity and spicy flavours, so this earthier, sweeter profile is unexpected.

I took a big heaping spoonful and steeped it with a pot of just-boiled water for 3 1/2 minutes. The brewed tea was bit less mocha-like, with the ginger and vanilla flavours becoming more distinct as they wafted towards my nose. Even after only 3 and a half minutes, the tea was a really rich, eye-popping brown.


However, I didn’t taste much ginger or vanilla when I tasted it. The most dominant flavour was the Assam base — brisk, malty, a tad astringent, with a bit of citrusy hint underneath. If you had just given me a mug of this straight-up without letting me know what tea I was drinking, I would have been able to guess that it was an Assam and that it was flavoured, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell what it had been flavoured with. Overall, the brewed tea just tasted like it had a hint of something else added to it.

You can buy Aromatica Fine Tea’s Ginger Cream black tea from Amoda Tea here.

Peach Ginger Rose Black Tea

It’s really interesting to see how the same ingredient can taste so radically different from food to food. Where the Ginger Cream tea had an earthy, subdued note, this blend — containing Ceylon tea, rose petals, ginger pieces, and natural flavours — is punchy, sweet, juicy, and bright-smelling. The most prominent smell of the dry tea is the peach, which is the perfect hit of sunshine on the cold, sleety day that I’m writing this.


The rose petals are a great addition because they add depth and roundedness to the peach notes without being overwhelming. I can also smell the ginger, but it’s there more as a dry, sharp sparkle on the top. The peach is really the star scent here.

I took a big heaping spoonful, put it into my teapot and let the whole thing steep for 4 minutes. In the end, I got a really robust-looking brew that smelled more strongly of rose than before.


Like the Ginger Cream tea, though, the strongest flavour was the base tea rather than the flavours. However, here, the Ceylon is a very good choice, because it’s generally a bright-tasting kind of leaf with its own inherently fruity notes. As the tea cooled, I could taste more peach, but I was honestly expecting the ginger to show up more than it did. This is quite pleasant, though.

You can buy Aromatica Fine Tea’s Peach Ginger Rose black tea from Amoda Tea here.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén