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Easily Distracted By Shiny Things
Meanderings from the City of the Red Castle
March 14th, 2017 
12:42 am(no subject)
To get this ball rolling, since I seem to have started slow. This is a collection of a series of things I posted on facebook, collected (And re-ordered, the formatting made more uniform, and edited) partly so I can find them again. I may also slightly amend final scores as I think my early and later calibrations were slightly different.

As well as the packages I picked up while in Abbotsford, I came home to a seemingly giant box of David's Tea. Seemingly giant because they packed it in something much huger than I would think strictly necessary.

This is because one thing I got was a 60% off one of their winter samplers, itself a slightly unwieldy box for the quantity of tea therein. To get this out of my kitchen at maximal speed, I made the personal ruling that I have to try, and ideally finish, all the samplers (or, if I genuinely HATE one, at least give it a fair try) before I go on to any other tea. This adds up to 13 teas - 10 from the sampler (Which started as 12, but two I owned already, know what they taste like, and melded the samplers with my other containers) and three of the freebies David's throws in. There's enough of each from the big box for 2 pots, more in some cases, and enough in the freebies for one.

Ratings Reference:

F= Did not finish the cup.
D= Finished the cup, will not ever make more or willingly drink
D+= lowest possible passing grade. Would drink if I was desperate and it was all a restaurant had. Think Lipton, or maybe cheap Chinese restaurant green tea when the pot has steeped too long and it's gone bitter.
C= Bare bones tea, drinkable but not a top choice.
C+= Red Rose or cheap Chinese restaurant green tea when fresh. Staple teas, enjoyable but not ones that thrill.
B= Enjoyable, might need to be in the right mood. GOOD Chinese restaurant green tea, or the sort of brands higher end non-Asian restaurants might pick up and bring a selection to your table in a wooden box.
B+ and up: Varying shades of "Would drink again or put in my tea cupboard."

Apple cider (herbal): (not to be confused with the also included spiced apple.) When hot, the flavour is smooth, and very like apple cider - the powder kind, not the real apple kind - if a touch less sweet (Less sweet is good). It roughens up fast as it cools. B, maybe even B+, while hot, C or lower cooled down.

Chocolate orange (pu'erh): Solid B. Not as good as the hot chocolate pu'erh, might be better if the orange were a tad more pronounced so it didn't feel quite so much like "the same thing but not as good". Still, it hit the spot on the day I tried it. Made a second pot teh very next day (And used only 2/3 of the tea so far).

North African Mint (green): A green tea that's closer to chai than mint. The firstr pot was made during an RPG, and my immediate impression when drinking distracted was C+ to B range, but I tend to be harsh on green teas.

The second pot - a couple of weeks and several other teas later: I definitely felt it earned itself a raise. The mint softens the spice burn a little, keeps it smooth -- but I kept getting a strong aftertaste that was familiar, and sweeter than the tea proper, slick but pleasant and I was having trouble placing it. I reread the ingredients list to see if it was artificially sweetened (though that's usually an *un*pleasant aftertaste). Nope. But it does contain licorice root, which is what I was getting, and strong enough to make me wonder why mint is the ingredient they emphasize. So if you like licorice or licorice spice, this is a good tea. I do, so it ended up nudging into a B/B+ rating. (It probably won't quite become a staple.)

Spiced Apple (herbal): Also tried during the same RPG, but retried the very next day. Exactly what the label implies. Not as applish as the apple cider, and the other spices don't jump out enough to make it much more exciting than an apple cinnamon herbal, though it IS better than the standard restaurant teabags thereof. Drinkable, inoffensive, would make again, not excited. C+

Nutty and Spicy (Oolong): I sipped this, and thought, "Ooh, I like this!" And kept thinking it through 2 pots. It's a little sweet, though well within my taste parameters. Pretty firmly A.

Also a reminder that I have had pretty good luck with Oolong; it feels like the same niche as green tea, but I enjoy it much much more consistently (flavoured or straight). I thought it was a bit pickier about steeping duration, but it didn't seem an issue when I left the leaves in the pot or did a second steeping with just a few fresh leaves added for support.

Toasted Walnut (Green): Decent. A flavour profile I like, but the tea is overwhelmed by the flavours, making it feel to me like what a friend has described as "hollow". B.

I also have a green and black blend "Maple Walnut" tea I got from a different vendor, which is highly similar but stands up better. Following on the review above, and based on the other tea, my feeling is that this should have been an oolong or a mix of more than one kind of tea.

Alpine Punch (rooibus): So I drank this on three separate occasions to the equivalent of two pots ... and I still can't clearly formulate what it tasted like. A bit fruity, a bit coconutty, sweetish. The rooibus came through well. C, maybe C+, but clearly just not memorable.

I will say this was better than feared; I had gone off rooibus for a while there. I'm thinking maybe it's just rooibus and apple (or orange) or rooibus and spice (and the stuff plain.) I gave my Mom several rooibus samplers I hadn't even quite been able to bring myself to try, based on their smell. I knew I still liked it with apricot, but then I like apricot. A lot.

At this point, I took a day as a palate cleanser and drank a bunch of two different plain black teas.

After which, I decided that since the first rooibus went better than feared, I'd try the less likely winner -

Cinnamon Rooibus chai. Less likely because, see my last post re rooibus and spices.

I'm not sure how this justifies the chai rating: "Chai" as a word means tea as in the tea plant, which rooibus isn't, and in North America is specifically associated with tea (or tisane) mixed with multiple spices, cinnamon and ginger most often, cardamom and pepper close behind. This rooibus is mixed with some apple and cinnamon and cinnamon flavouring and NO other spices.

But that being said ... WOAH, cinnamon! A LOT Of cinnamon. The artificial cinnamon flavouring tips it closer to cinnamon heart territory than cinnamon pure, with extra heat. With no listed sweetener I have to assume the apple is the source of the sweetness. It barely tastes of apple, especially compared to either of the apply herbals.

I kinda like it. More than I recall doing on a previous try, but that could have been self-sabotage -- I had found another spicy rooibus actually took to being drunk with a splash of milk (not something I normally try with rooibus but my association with chai is with milk tea).

If I was in the mood for burny cinnamon drink (Not that unlikely, I suppose), this is the place to go. B+, though it's maybe too specialized a drink for a staple.

An observation I realised at this point: Almost every tea sampled to this point strongly pinged on the sweet scale.

I associate Teavana with the "every flavoured tea is sweet even if there's no justifying it" school of flavouring, and David's usually with a more balanced mix of sweets and others (Le digestif, a ginger/fennel herbal mix, is NOT sweet, for example). I have a sweet tooth, and so far most of them have seemed to justify and support it, but it might be altering my view of David's. Or maybe they're shifting that way in response to customer demand or competition from Teavana. or maybe it's just a Christmas tea thing.

The Spice is Right (green tea): Another cinnamon based mix (cinnamon is the first ingredient before tea). Less sweet than the cinnamon rooibus, and without the cinnamon heart burn both (there's a tiny bit of spicy burn -- but chili pepper is another ingredient.) The spice mix underneath is nice enough. Not a strong sense of the tea, but it's not *absent*. Did not like this as much as the cinnamon rooibus chai (to my surprise) or the nutty and spicy oolong, it's about even with the North African mint depending on your relative opinions of licorice and cinnamon.

Notably the least sweet tea so far. In a good way. B for me.

Chocolate covered almond (black): The almond is actual nut bits so works pretty well. (My family includes people for whom artificial almond flavouring is a killer.) A decent chocolatey tea but not a fabulous one. I had a cup of the hot chocolate to compare, and the difference really is as boring as remove the earthy strength of the pu'erh, replace with a lighter nuttiness. There's yerba mate in it but I don't feel I noticed it much.

Steeps weak, so be generous scooping into the pot, but even the weak-for-me tea had flavour.

Nothing wrong with it, but I don't see what this is bringing to the table that I personally want and it loses out to at least two other chocolate based teas from David's alone. But this is the weakness AND the strength of the "hundred flavours" model; there are teas with very similar profiles and relatively subtle differences so everyone can have their exact perfect ideal. And I never mind giving it a try just in case this small variation is the one for me.

I did slightly regret not trying it in the vicinity of the chocolate orange because of that; they're both in B-land but no idea which would win.

Moroccan Mint (green): Despite the geographic location of Morocco, this bears little resemblance to the North African Mint green tea, being purely mint and tea. Alas, I oversteeped it, putting it firmly on the bottom of the teas tried. And it was one of the mini samples, so only one pot's worth, so I can't retry. But it contained no surprises as far as the basic tea-and-mint goes. So: experienced as a D+, could just barely drink, but steeped right I would guess a C+ if you like green minty. Also, not sweet.

Cocoa Boost (pu'erh): another mini sampler, though i then proceeded to get a 50g freebie. Cocoa and chicory. I half expected another "Yawn, Hot chocolate does it better but it's the same thing" reaction - but actually, the chicory makes it stand out nicely. Also, the pu'erh isn't mellowed with any plain black tea, and it's a bit more cocoa than chocolate - despite the addition of stevia as a sweetener, it's not as sweet. This may duke it out with the hot chocolate tea for which one stays long term on my shelf. A. (A second pot, steeped long and very strong even for my tastes, tipped the scales towards Hot Chocolate but was still eminently drinkable.)

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait (herbal): The last multi-pot sampler. A cheater of sorts, as I have had this in the house before. It's pleasant; as with the pies, the flavours complement well, the rhubarb cutting the implied sweet of the strawberry. In fact, it's less sweet than most of these. I was actually advised when first introduced to it that it works better with just a hint of honey or sugar added to counter the astringency, and that's true for me. B+


As a passing note, the two teas I got in the sampler and didn't sample because I already own them are Cardamom French Toast (black tea, sweet and heavy with spices but not spicy per se, strong emphasis on the cardamom as you'd expect - C+ when oversteeped, A when steeped right) and Santa's Secret (black tea and candy canes, basically - *sugary* minty, B+ to A)

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)
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