Review: Darvilles of Windsor Earl Grey

Black Tea, Darvilles of Windsor, Earl Grey Tea 7 Comments »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Earl Grey done right, from the folks who supply Queen Elizabeth's private tea stash..."
Stephen’s Teaview: 7/10
Your Reviews: 8.8/10
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darvilles-windsor-earl-grey.jpgMy latest online tea order shipped with some unanticipated freebies – a handful of individual teabags from Darvilles of Windsor. I didn’t think much of them at the time, and only just today rifled through them to see what was included. There were two packets each of Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Darjeeling and one called “Royalty” (which I later learned is a special blend produced only by Darvilles of Windsor, apparently by “Royal Appointment” of the British Royal Family, who they’ve served since 1946).

Anyway, it was time for my pre-dinner cuppa and I didn’t feel like fussing with loose tea, so I rooted through these packets and brewed up a Darvilles of Windsor Earl Grey. And surprise, surprise – it was quite good! A clean, crisp brew which is neither too smoky nor too scented, but pretty darned close to just right.

I’ve only one more bag left but if the 2nd one comes out as nicely as the first, I may just have to place a proper order for a tin of the loose stuff and give it a proper side-by-side comparison to my old standby, Twinings Earl Grey.

Altogether a nice – and completely unexpected – tea surprise on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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Review: Ocean Spray White Tea with Cranberry

Iced Tea, Ocean Spray, White Tea No Comments »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"If there's actual tea in here, I'll be darned if I could taste it. But as a fruit drink its better than average."
Stephen’s Teaview: 5/10
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ocean-spray-fruited-tea.jpg Ok, this one I just had to review. If only because its apparently the beverage which doesn’t exist. At least in the eyes of Google. I tried:

+”Ocean Spray” +”Fruited Tea”

Nothing.

+”Ocean Spray” +”White Tea with White Cranberry”

Nothing.

Now, I realize even Google can’t find everything, but its rare these days to consume a product, be somewhat enthused about it, and then be able to find absolutely nothing about it online. Maybe its there and Google can’t see it. Maybe I’ve entered the tea-Twilight Zone and this is somehow leading towards my weird, yet ironically fitting punishment for a life of selfishness.

Anyway, I just had to snap a photo of the thing to prove that it exists. And hey, I might achieve my very first “Google Whack” just by blogging about the darned thing.

This is a “tea” in the same way Sanka is a “coffee”. Which is to say, it really isn’t, but it kinda sorta has a flavor that can fool you into believing it is. But that’s ok, because I actually really enjoyed it. And that’s remarkable because (1) I hate Ocean Spray products and (2) I especially hate cranberry juice. For me to drink a bottle of cranberry juice is newsworthy in and of itself. For me to like it, well, that’s blog-worthy.

The drink is definitely more juice than tea, but the “tea” smoothes out the tartness of the cranberry nicely so that it all goes pretty well together. I encapsulate “tea” in quotes here because tea is acually the 5th ingredient in this drink, and is listed as “White Tea Extract and White Tea Powder.” All this means is that there is barely any “tea” flavor to speak of, though its kinda, sorta there if you really concentrate (haha) hard enough.

I probably liked this more than other juices because instead of being laden with plain old sugar or corn syrup, it uses “Evaporated Cane Juice”. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t have that disgustingly sweet texture to it, the kind that leaves you thirstier after the drink than you were before it.

I also see there’s apparently more “White Grape Juice” in this than there is “White Cranberry Juice”, which is another clue as to why I enjoyed it so much.

All in all, a surprisingly good drink.

If it actually does exist.

Which it very well may not.

Creepy.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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Review: Adagio Anteadote Iced Tea

Adagio, Black Tea, Iced Tea 1 Comment »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"A crisp, clean, preservative-free iced tea with a slightly smoky aftertaste. I enjoyed it, but I doubt I'll buy it again."
Stephen’s Teaview: 6/10
Your Reviews: 4.2/10
5 reader reviews | Add your review »

adagio-black-iced-tea.jpgA few days ago I gave Adagio’s Jasmine Iced Tea a whirl. It was a really great tea, but one of those blends I just don’t see myself drinking all that often. I likened it to a Thai Iced tea… perfect when you’re munching down on some spicey Pad Thai, but not necessarily a drink you’d want to have every day. (Incidentally, I gave my fiance a sip of the jasmine and it nearly sent her into a fit of the dry heaves… so, its going to be one of those drinks you probably either love or hate.)

With that experience behind me, I was looking forward to drinking Adagio’s Black Iced Tea. And, much like the Jasmine tea, I liked it. I liked it a lot, in fact. It was crisp and clean and fresh-tasting, with a nice bite to it and a fairly smoky aftertaste. The little write-up on the bottle describes it as a “smooth peppery taste” and I guess I can see that, but for me the key word is smoky – like a light or somewhat-mixed Lapsang Souchang.

But in the end I come to the same conclusion as with the jasmine… although I really enjoyed it, and was quite refreshed by it, its not what I’d call an everyday tea. Its an excellent once-in-a-while tea, when you’re in the mood for something cool and a little different.

Of the two, I probably enjoyed the jasmine more, if only because it was a little more pronounced, flavor-wise, and a really unique tea-experience. Will I order either again? Its hard to say. In my Quest for the Perfect Iced Tea (QPIT), these two really do deserve special mention – like “Most Original Performance” or something along those lines. They’re both teas I enjoyed, but neither would be something I’d buy by the caseload. If I was placing another order at Adagio – and odds are, I will – and I needed to pop a few extra dollars onto the bill to get over their $50 threshold for free shipping, I’d certainly not be averse to ordering another bottle or two of either. But no, I’d likely not order them again simply for the sake of ordering them.

I’ve yet to try their green and white bottled teas, and probably will with a future order. If these two are anything to go by, I look forward to the experience.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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Review: China Mist Raspberry Iced Tea

China Mist, Iced Tea, Raspberry Tea No Comments »
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Its OK"China Mist's teas aren't exactly awe-inspiring, but this Raspberry iced tea is among their best offerings."
Stephen’s Teaview: 6/10
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china-mist-raspberry-tea.jpgAs I’ve mentioned before – you have been paying attention, right? – I’m not a huge fan of berry-flavored teas. Particularly not after having had the misfortune of tasting China Mist’s Black Currant (hot) tea, which was perhaps one of the worst tea-experiences I’ve had this decade. But, I’ve had some decent brews so far from China Mist’s line of iced tea flavors, and raspberry was next on the chopping block, so in I went.

Surprisingly, it went quite well. The tea smelled wonderful right out of the box – a sweet, definite raspberry-ish aroma – and thrill of all thrills, the taste translated directly to the finished product. For someone who generally doesn’t dig berry teas, the fact that I’m even remotely enthusiastic about this brew should be taken as HIGH PRAISE for this flavor. Of all the China Mist iced teas so far it may well be my favorite. Not perfect, but pretty good in a pinch.

And speaking of pinches, I brewed another batch of this stuff with just a bag of loose peppermint leaves and it was even better. (Peppermint flavor wicks off the leaves pretty quickly, so I only had it in there for maybe 30-45 seconds, just enough to give it the hint of flavor without actually overpowering everything else). The raspberry-mint combination plays really well off one another, and I’ll definitely be tinkering with this some more in the future.

The big mystery I’m left with is, how can their iced teas taste one way and their hot teas another? I assume its all the same ingredients, more or less. Maybe there’s a greater margin-of-error for iced tea since its more watered down?

So far the count for China Mist is:

(Nearly) Cravable: Raspberry Iced Tea

Drinkable: Mango, Fiesta Fria and Passion Fruit Iced Teas.

Forgetable: Prickly Pear Iced Tea, Earl Grey, Simply Mint, Lemon Ginger Green Tea

Regretable: Tea Lover’s (ha!) Decaf, Black Currant (blech!)

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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Sympatea – The Tea Spoon

Sympatea, Tea Gadgets, Tea Infusers 2 Comments »

spoon-tea.jpg The Chicago Tribune put out an article today briefly summarizing some of the highlights of this year’s World Tea Expo. Seems folks are trying to put green tea into anything and everything besides actual green tea – candy bars, energy drinks, gum, you name it. I’m not sure why, its not like drinking green tea is some sort of chore or unpleasant task. But I suppose folks who are used to a dark brew still can’t get past the fact that just because their tea is translucent, doesn’t mean it won’t taste good.

The one item that caught my eye was Sympatea’s “spoon-tea”. They’re trying to open up the loose tea market to folks who are just too plumb lazy to deal with loose tea (and yes, I know, I was once one of them). Their innovation – package their “loose tea” inside disposable plastic spoons. You drop the tea-filled spoon into a cup of hot water, mix it about until the brew is done, and then throw away the spoon. No muss, no fuss.

I’ve got a few problems with this.

First, doesn’t the act of containing “loose tea” inside plastic make it no longer, by definition, “loose tea”? The idea is to let the tea leaves swim about freely, maximizing their surface-area-to-water ratio and extracting the full flavor of the tea. These “tea-spoons” seem pretty compact to me, so I wonder how good a brew will actually result.

I also wonder what kind of plastic is being used, and whether it might impart any kind of bitter or otherwise unappealing flavor to the tea.

But I guess, most of all, I just wonder – why? How is this any different from a tea-bag? I guess if you’re back-packing through Europe, or camping out in the woods somewhere, this could come in handy, but really, who doesn’t have room to pack a single metal spoon in their bag?

Besides, most tea-drinkers these days are eco-friendly folk. The idea of chucking a big ol’ plastic spoon in the garbage or recycling bin after every brew would almost certainly be anathema to them.

In the end I don’t see this being much of a success. Its clever and cute and I suppose it will derive some business from those who like things that are suitably clever and cute, but this novelty will wear off soon enough.

But I’ve been wrong before.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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Review: Adagio Jasmine Iced Tea

Adagio, Iced Tea, Jasmine Tea 1 Comment »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"A uniquely-flavored iced tea that hits the right notes in the smoky and flowery categories. Crisp, clean and delicious."
Stephen’s Teaview: 7/10
Your Reviews: 6/10
1 reader reviews | Add your review »

adagio-jasmine-tea.jpgSo far in my ongoing Quest for the Perfect Iced Tea (QPIT), I’ve had mixed luck at best. China Mist has some decent flavors, but their tea is pretty low grade, leaving a lot of particulate matter in the brew. This results in a slightly thicker, creamier texture to the tea which is a big turn off for me. Still, some of their flavors have been ok.

I’ve long been a fan of Adagio’s teas, but up to now have never tried their line of iced tea flavors called “Anteadote”. They only offer four – Black Tea, Jasmine Tea, Green Tea and White Tea. These are pre-bottled in 16.9 ounch square containers, so no muss, no fuss. You crack open the cap and you’re on your way to tasty iced tea goodness straight away.

For my first order I stuck with the Jasmine Tea and the Black Tea. Jasmine was the first one I tried – its also, by a pretty far degree, the best-reviewed iced tea on their site. Its for a 4.5/5 rating, whereas the others are 3.9 or 4.0.

Before I get to the taste, I have to mention the fact that this was the first bottled ANYTHING I’ve ever purchased which didn’t have a single air bubble in it. Usually you shake these things up, and when you turn the bottle upside down, a big bubble void squirms up to the top (bottom) of the bottle. Not so in this case. And so I shouldn’t have been surprised, when I opened the twist cap with quite a bit of effort, that the thing exploded all over me.

Mental note – open with care.

But now on to the important stuff – how does it taste? Well, the reviews were right. Its a delicious and rather unique iced tea. The tea is crisp and clean, with a delightful jasmine, flowery aroma to it which also translates to the taste. The after-aroma is flowery but also a bit smoky, like a very light lapsang-souchang, but not so smoky as to be overpowering or unpleasant. The result is a fairly unique iced tea experience. Drinks well on its own and would probably be an excellent accompanying drink for an Asian summer dish.

The only ingredients: jasmine tea and vitamin C. I’m not sure how much vitamin C exactly – it certainly didn’t taste over “zingy”, but the entire bottle contains just over 200% of your daily recommended allowance of it, so it must be a fair amount.

Now, this will sound strange, but as much as I liked it, I probably wouldn’t order it all that often. At $2 a bottle its a bit pricey. Its also not what I’d call an “everyday” iced tea. Its the sort of drink I’d like to have once in a while; a unique tea experience to shake things up every now and again. It sort of reminds me of a Thai Iced Tea… its delicious and you love to have one when you’re eating out at a nice Thai restaurant, but its not the sort of thing you want to have every day (or even necessarily every week). Its a great once-in-a-while drink when you want to switch things up a bit.

UPDATE: I see now that you can buy the tea in bulk… a case of 15 costs $24. $1.60 a bottle is slightly more reasonable. So if you really, really like the tea that’s a nice option.

UPDATE #2: Ah ha. Just read on another site that the reason why there’s no air pocket in these bottles is that air causes tea to oxidize. Bottling the tea in a 100% air-free environment allows it to stay fresh and tasty without them having to add preservatives. Nice touch! Its almost worth getting a face full of exploding tea every time you crack open a new bottle. (Seriously though, it is – nothing worse than a potentially good tea spoiled with preservatives)

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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