Simpson and Vail Almond Sugar Cookie Dessert tea — A Review

One of my favorite cooking shows is Chopped. The premise is 4 professional chefs get a box of mystery ingredients at the start of one of 3 rounds, then they have 30 minutes to incorporate those ingredients into an appetizer, entree or dessert. At the end of each round the chefs present their finished dish to the judges for critique.

One critique that is given a lot is to be careful what you call your dish. Names set up an expectation of what that dish is supposed to be and taste like. When that expectation isn’t met, it can lead to a some what disappointing experience. I find this especially true of dessert teas. To me, they never taste like the desserts they are named after so I was a bit disappointed to find an Almond Sugar Cookie dessert tea in my Simpson and Vail Subscription this month. I expected a good tea because Simpson and Vail teas are always good teas. I just didn’t expect it to taste anything like a sugar cookie. Sometimes it is good to be wrong.

What I like:

  1. There are actual slices of almond in the tea not just almond flavoring.
  2. You can smell the almond and vanilla when you open the package. It immediately makes you think of a sugar cookie.
  3. It tastes really good. Its warm and comforting like a sugar cookie right out of the oven.

What I didn’t like:

  1. The package was too small and I ran out of this tea way too quickly.

Almond sugar cookie is my favorite tea from Simpson and Vail so far. I will be ordering more in the future.

Steep Me A Cup of Tea Haul

Last week I got to make my first trip to Steep Me A Cup of Tea, a tea company based right here in my hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. I was so excited to finally get to go. A lot of stores in Fargo sell different big brands of tea but having a store that blends and sells its own teas is next level tea stuff. It wasn’t something I thought I would ever find in my hometown. Sometimes, its good to be wrong.

The night before I went, I sat down and made a list of teas I wanted to try and set myself a budget for myself based on the list. Of course, when I got to the store only 2 of the 7 teas, I chose the actually made it into my haul. The other 5 teas that went into my basket because they smelled good or had combinations of ingredients that intrigued me. And no, I didn’t stick to my budget either. A last-minute find put me over budget by about 20 dollars but I couldn’t resist. It could have been worse, I wanted a lot more tea.

The great thing about Steep Me A Cup of Tea is their blends are unique, either in ingredients, I have never seen a rhubarb tea before, or in how they combine ingredients. I also love how they have teas across all tea types, not just black and herbal with a few green teas thrown in because that is what people are used to.

The teas I got are:

Orange Pu’erh — I am a fan of the fermented teas called Pu’erh (poo air). This particular Pu’erh is stuffed into a small orange to flavor and ferment the tea. It can be resteeped several times.

Indian spice — When I think of Indian spices, I think of Chai. This isn’t a Chai. It has whole fennel seeds, cardamom, anise, cloves and chunks of cinnamon bark. It is a very light and refreshing tea.

Harvest tea — I chose this tea because it has pumpkin and cranberries in it. I am an absolute sucker for anything cranberry. Cranberries are my favorite fruit.

Rhubarb road — I chose this tea because I love rhubarb and I have never seen it in a tea before.

Mango Pineapple Green Tea — Before I started drinking loose-leaf tea, I wasn’t a big fan of green tea. I found that it isn’t that I don’t like green tea, it’s that I am very particular about what kind of green tea I drink. But I want to try it before I say I don’t like it and mango and pineapple are generally flavors I like so I thought a green tea with those flavors. Spoilers — it is very good.

Milk Oolong — Milk oolong has been on my to try list for a long time so I decided to give it a try.

I can see this store becoming a very favorite place for me to go and hang out and read or work on the blog. The teas are good and the employees very nice. I love to shop at a place where I can get and give good conversation. I will do further reviews of the teas and store after I have spent a little more time and money at the store.

Tea Advent Calendars

When I was a kid the surest sign it was almost Christmas was when my mom brought home that little cardboard advent calendar filled with chocolates from the grocery store. My brothers and I would eagerly, but not always patiently, wait our turn to open the little door and feast upon the chocolate contained inside. It was one of my favorite parts of the lead up to actual Christmas day. I always thought it was a little sad to lose that as my brothers and I got older.

Last year, I discovered there are actual adult themed advent calendars when one of my favorite tea companies put out a pre order for their tea themed advent calendar. I will admit I felt kind of silly ordering an advent calendar at 51 years old, it seemed kind of childish in a way, but I am glad I didn’t let my inner adult get in the way of my inner child. For each day leading up to Christmas, I took the first 30 minutes of my day and had a cup of tea and read a book or spent time with my pets or just sat and enjoyed my tea. It really helped me start the day in a positive frame of mind that bled over into everything I did during my day. I loved it so much that this year I ordered 2 different advent calendars. I chose both calendars because I had only ordered once from each company and wanted to try more teas from the companies.

T2’s Sip The Future Hello isn’t a traditional advent calendar. It doesn’t scream Christmas when you look at it. In addition to great tea, the calendar gives you a suggestion for being kind to yourself, kind to others and ways to be kind to the planet. I really like that idea because sometimes I think, in all the activity and stress that can come with the holidays, we forget the most important thing is to be kind, especially kind to ourselves.

The teas that are included in the calendar are printed on the back of the calendar along with the ingredients, in case you need that information. The order of the teas on the back of the calendar aren’t the same order they are in the calendar so it will still be a surprise.

The second advent calendar I bought was from Adagio. The calendar is more of a traditional looking Christmas style. The names and ingredients of the teas included aren’t on the box but can easily found on the Adagio website if needed.

Neither of the Adventent calendars are filled with exclusive holiday tea blends. The teas in the calendars are from the company’s general stock of tea that is available all year long. If you order from T2 or Adagio a lot you may get a lot of teas you are already familiar with. That isn’t a deal breaker for me, but it is for some.

I would like to take a second and talk about the Advent calendar I bought last year from a company called Plum Deluxe. You get to choose between a caffeinated or herbal calendar. Unlike Adagio or T2, half the teas in each Plum Deluxe calendar are exclusive to the calendar. Each envelope has enough tea for two or three cups of tea. The teas come in a numbered envelope and there is an option to buy little reindeer clips to hang them if desired. After Christmas, you get a limited time to buy full size packages of the exclusive teas. For those that don’t celebrate Christmas, Plum Deluxe also has a Hannukah calendar too.

I opened day 1 on each of the calendars because I wanted to share a little about the teas themselves. Each packet in each of the calendars has enough tea for single 8 oz cup of tea. Because T2 and Adagio are quality tea companies you can generally resteep the leaves for at least one additional cup of tea.

Is it worth it? I, personally, can’t wait until December 1st to start opening those little doors and see what is behind them. I think that anything that gives a moment of pleasure and peace in an often hectic and stressful season is definitely worth it. But don’t wait too long. Avent calendars tend to sell out fast.

Teatime fun list #14 Try a tea subscritpion and a Harney and Sons Subscription Review

One of the best ways to explore the world of tea is through a tea subscription. A tea subscription is simply, an amount of tea sent directly to your home each month for a fee. Almost every tea company has some sort of tea subscription. What you get in each subscription can vary so widely, I thought I would review each subscription I currently have in detail, rather than try to do a general overview of subscriptions. This month, we are going to look into my Harney and Sons Tea of the Month subscription. I have been a subscriber for 6 months.

When you subscribe you get the choice between receiving tea sachets or loose-leaf tea. If you choose the sachet subscription you get a tin of 30 sachets. The teas you get will be flavored and unflavored. The teas will be a mixture of black, herbal, white, green and oolong teas. If you choose the loose-leaf option, you will get up to 4 ounces of tea. If you choose tea sachets for your subscription your first month will include a teacup or mug. The teas will be flavored and unflavored. The teas will be a mixture of black, white, green and oolong teas. If you choose loose-leaf tea for your subscription, you will get a small 2-3 cup tea pot with an infuser. There are no substitutions or returns on teas in the subscription. I prefer loose-leaf tea so that is what I subscribed to and what this review is based.

I decided to subscribe to Harney and Sons’ tea of the month after seeing some You-Tube videos and reading the reviews on the Harney and Sons website. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive but there was a couple of comments I would like to address further because they really apply to all tea subscriptions, not just Harney and Sons.

One commenter wasn’t pleased that he could have purchased the teas that came in his subscription box cheaper if he had bought them directly from the website. I understand the frustration, but the monetary value of a tea subscription isn’t based on a single month’s tea. The monetary value of the tea subscription is based on the value of the tea over a period of time, usually a year. I would argue, the value of a tea subscription isn’t the amount the tea costs but in how much you enjoyed drinking the teas over time. Generally, Harney and Sons subscription gives two teas a month if they are cheaper teas and then the next month they will give a one tea that is more expensive.

Another commenter stated there weren’t enough classics in the subscription. In the last year and a half, I have subscribed to several different tea subscriptions and none of them have included the classics like Earl Grey or English Breakfast. The idea behind tea subscriptions is to get you to try teas you may not pick for yourself so they may not include the everyday classics, no matter how good they may be.

After 6 months of being a Harney and Sons tea subscriber here is what I like:

  1. Harney and Sons subscriptions are very generous with the amount of tea of tea they provide. These are no 5-6 cup samples. These are full sized tins with enough tea for 20 to 40 cups of tea.
  2. The variety of teas they provide is amazing at getting me out of my comfort zone with teas I would have never picked for myself. I wouldn’t have picked these teas because they are outside my limited tea drinking experience or outside my price range for tea. I have recently put one of the teas I have received on my list of all time favorite teas.
  3. I love the fact this subscription comes in tins. There is just something classy about tea in tins. Also, empty tins are expensive, so I love the fact I can reuse the tins for other teas once they are empty.
  4. Every month, the order comes with free samples. Free samples always make me happy.
  5. Shipping is always free on any tea order, no matter how big or small, not just tea subscriptions.

What I don’t like:

Haney and Sons is easily one of my most favorite tea subscriptions I have ever tried. The things I don’t like about it are more personal preferences then reflections on the subscription itself.

  1. I would like to see herbal tisanes and Pu’erhs included in the subscription because they are my favorite kinds of teas.
  2. I would like to Harney and Sons to seal the tins with something other than stickers. I hate sticker residue with a mad passion. No matter how careful I am when I try to open the tins, I always end up with sticker residue that has to scrubbed off. I get why they do it but it still drives me crazy

Like I said these things are personal preferences not a reflection on the subscription itself.

Is it worth it? If you are looking for the classic flavored teas than this subscription isn’t for you. However, if you are willing to be open minded and try teas that may be outside of what you are used to this subscription is definitely worth the 19.50 a month you pay for it. While not all the teas I have received over the last 6 months have been my favorites, all of the teas have been enjoyable and furthered my tea education in some way. To me, that makes this subscription worth what I pay for it.

This product was paid for by me. I don’t take any form of monetary compensation, free product or free subscriptions from the companies whose products I review. All opinions are my own.

Pinkys Up Glass Travel Infuser — A Review

One of my favorite things to do before bed is to watch Tea videos on You Tube. I get a lot of my ideas for tea subscriptions I would like to try from these videos and its always interesting to see what other people are drinking. One thing that has always puzzled me though, is why many of these you tubers have so much tea ware. Many of them have large walls with multiple shelves filled with dozens of mugs, infusers, teacups and saucers, travel mugs, Iced tea glasses, and tea pots galore. I mean you can only use one big teapot at a time and only need one teacup or mug for each person in your family, right?

Well, after some recent experiences, I can honestly say, I don’t buy tea ware strictly for its functionality or because it I’d something I need. Sometimes, I buy tea ware because it is just so darn pretty, like this Pinky Up Travel infuser. It was the prettiest piece of tea ware I owned by far and I really wanted to like it but there are some significant problems that, in my opinion make it unsuitable for traveling anywhere with it.

What I like:

  1. The infuser basket has very fine holes in it so the finest teas won’t escape the infuser and float around in your tea.
  2. The infuser basket has a lid so there will be no escaped tea leaves floating in your tea. Can you tell I don’t like tea debris floating in my cup?
  3. The lid on the bottle doesn’t leak. I had some doubts about this when I first tried the infuser.
  4. The infuser basket sits firmly in the infuser bottle, so it won’t bash you in the teeth when you take a drink.
  5. It’s really pretty, especially when you have a richly colored tea in it and the sun behind the infuser bottle.

I really wanted to like everything about this infuser bottle but there are a few things I don’t like about it at all.

  1. The lid doesn’t have a spout, so you have to take the lid completely off to take a drink which makes it difficult to take a drink when you are driving or walking. You really have to stop moving to take a drink which is very inconvenient in a travel bottle.
  2. The notes on the box talk about being able to use it to brew hot and cold teas. When you pour 212-degree water in it to infuse a black tea, the water bottle almost immediately becomes too hot to handle. Since it is glass bottle that doesn’t have a handle there is no place to put your hands where you won’t burn the crud out of them. It takes about 20-30 minutes to cool down enough to grab and go.
  3. What do you do with the infuser when you don’t want to oversteep your tea?
  4. They break way too easily for something you are supposed to travel with. I have been keeping my infuser on my desk at work to make cold brewed iced tea for after lunch. This morning, I accidently knocked my infuser over and it broke when it hit the desk, a drop of less than 6 inches. How is something that delicate going to last being jostled around in your bag while you are out walking the dog or doing your errands?

The infuser is beautiful and if you are going to use it at home, at your desk at work, or going your mom’s to visit, it is definitely worth having. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well as a travel infuser it is just too delicate and gets way too hot to handle. I have other mugs in my collection that are much more suited to traveling, so I won’t be purchasing another Pinky’s Up Travel Infuser.

This product was paid for by me. I don’t take any form of monetary compensation, free product or free subscriptions from the companies whose products I review. All opinions are my own.