Mintberry Pine Green Tea Blend from M & K’s Tea Company

MintBerryPineTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

Sweet roasted sloe berries doused in honey and liquid hibiscus, tossed with fresh spearmint and 3-distinct green teas, paired with real pine needles. That’s Mintberry Pine. It’s our limited-edition green tea holiday blend that offers a more complex, subtle taste (as opposed to mint exploding in your mouth with the force of a white hot sun). If you’re a green tea lover, mint lover, berry lover, or all three, this tea is perfect for you. Get it while it’s here!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I saw that M&K’s Tea Company had some really intriguing holiday blends, I decided that I needed (yes, needed) to try them!  Fortunately, they understood this need and they offered a Wintertime Tea Sampler!  This sampler offers five different teas:  Moroccan Mint, Pine Needle Tea, Winterwolf Tea, White Vanilla Peppermint and this Mintberry Pine Green Tea.  These samples were all packed into a special sampler package that’s just the right size for stocking stuffers.  It’s a handsome package, something that Santa would be proud to give!

Before I received my package, I received a message from Marty (the “M” of M&K’s, I think!) explaining that the Mintberry Pine (and the Pine Needle Tea) are both very subtle teas.  He recommended steeping them a little longer than the package directs and to allow plenty of steep room for the leaves (let them steep loose in the teapot instead of using an infuser tool).

To steep, I grabbed my small teapot (4 cup size) and dusted it off – it’s been a while since I’ve used this!  I have gotten spoiled with my Breville!  I warmed the teapot and poured the contents of the sampler into the teapot and heated 16 ounces of water to 180°F.  Then I poured the water into the teapot and let it steep for 3 1/2 minutes.  The package suggests 2 – 4 1/2 minutes, but I couldn’t bear to let a green tea steep longer than 3 1/2  minutes.  I was willing to sacrifice a little of the mint, berry and pine flavors but I didn’t want a bitter green tea.

Yes, the flavors are a little subtle, but I like that I’m tasting all the elements of this tea and that the green tea doesn’t taste bitter.

I like the subtle flavor of the mint here.  I like that I have a crisp, cool minty taste without it tasting like I added a shot of mouthwash to my cup of green tea.

The berry notes add some sweetness and not a lot of tartness (which I was a little apprehensive about because I saw liquid hibiscus up there in the description).  There is a light, tingly tart tone that tickles the tongue (try saying that five times fast) in the aftertaste, but that’s to be expected with berry blends.  I’m also picking up a delightful honeyed note from the honey roasting process.  Nice touch.

The pine needles are the softest flavor component of the three elements in the name of this tea.  I do get a very slight, resinous pine note to this that hits the palate right at the start and then it quickly disappears and reappears just after mid-sip, just to remind me that it is there.  It’s very faint and it’s something that I think I’d have missed if I didn’t search for it.

However, as I continue to sip, I taste more and more of the pine, and by the time I’m halfway through my second cup of this tea, I’m getting a nice pine note.  It never becomes a strong presence, but it certainly is a noticeable presence at this point.

And let us not forget that we’re drinking tea here.  There’s a soft, buttery note of green tea.  It’s lightly grassy (and I think that the grassy tones accentuate both the pine and the mint notes in a positive way), and it has a nice mouthfeel.  It’s not bitter nor is it overly astringent, even though I steeped it longer than I typically would steep a green tea.  I think that this could have even gone another 30 seconds to 1 full minute longer without bitterness!

Overall, a very unique blend.  Certainly festive and definitely different from the other teas that everyone else is producing out there!  Bravo M&K!

9 Spice Chai Black Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

9SpiceChaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

Could it be? A perfectly balanced chai tea? Yes, we know chai means tea and we are saying tea tea. But we like tea tea. Anyway. 9 Spice Chai is a smooth, deep, and complex black tea with just enough spiced flavor to penetrate the Indian and Sri Lankan black teas. Finally, a cup of chai that isn’t literally a cup of cloves or a cup of cinnamon nutmeg! Rejoice! This blend is part of the Original 20 M&K’s Blends.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

If you’ve read many of my reviews, you know by now that I love a good chai!  So, I looked forward to trying this 9 Spice Chai from M&K’s Tea Company.  After reading the description, it would seem that M&K’s is promising me a good chai here, so I am eagerly anticipating that!

And I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the humor in M&K’s description.  I know that ‘Chai’ means tea and when I say “Chai,” I am more often than not – 99 times out of 100 – referring to a spiced tea blend.  But I also often find myself worrying about those purists out there that might read one of my post titles that say “chai tea” and they’re snickering about me saying “tea tea.”  I like that M&K’s addresses this “confusing” subject with humor.  Thank you.

Anyway … let’s move on to the chai tea that sits in front of me, tempting me with it’s lovely aroma.  It smells warm and spicy, like the kitchen during the holidays when there are lots of tasty things being baked.

Especially when I was a kid in my gramma’s kitchen … not so much now because if tasty things were being baked in the kitchen, that would mean that I was baking them and doing all the work.  Things smell a lot better when I’m not the one doing the work.  I think that’s why the childhood memories of pies, cakes, cookies and other yummies “smelled” so much better than when I make those things.

I’m just full of tangent today, aren’t I?

As I was saying, this chai smells good.  It has a lovely, warmly spiced fragrance.  And, I’m happy to say that it tastes as good as it smells!  The spices are nicely balanced (as promised in the above description), I taste gentle notes of cinnamon and cardamom and clove.  Hints of nutmeg and vanilla.  The pepper and ginger are zesty.  The allspice and coriander round out the flavors.  The spices have been carefully considered here to create a pleasing, round flavor that warms you from the inside out without coming across as too spicy.

It has a flavor that is reminiscent of a homemade spice cookie.  It isn’t too strongly spiced – but it isn’t subtle either.  It’s somewhere in between a very strong, spicy chai and a more softly spiced chai.  The spices aren’t competing with one another and there isn’t one spice that overpowers the others.  This isn’t all about the cinnamon or ginger or clove.  I get a little bit of each spice in each sip and that’s what I mean by a nice balance of spice.

The black tea base is a blend of Ceylon and Assam, and these two teas provide a solid background of flavor.  It’s robust and holds its own against the strong spices so that I’m not just tasting spices in each sip, I’m also tasting tea.  The teas don’t taste bitter but there is some dryness toward the tail – a slightly astringent sensation – but it isn’t unpleasant.  I like the way the dryness allows the spice notes (a contrast between spicy and sweet) to come through in the aftertaste.

I really am enjoying this chai.  I think if I’m to offer any kind of criticism about it at all, it would be that I think I’d like just a tad more vanilla to this.  The vanilla here is rather subdued, perhaps because it’s in the presence of so many other spices but I think I’d like to experience a little more of the sweet, creamy notes of vanilla here.  A little more vanilla and you wouldn’t need to add dairy to make this a latte – it would be like a latte in a cup without the dairy!

Witch’s Brew Black Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

WitchesBrewTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

Broo! Spooked ya, scared ya. This tea doesn’t have real witches inside (apparently that’s illegal), but it does have witch hazel bark! Witch’s Brew combines sweet Ceylon tea and hearty Assam tea with sleepy-inducing chamomile and a host of other herbs in order to blend into this secret holiday brew. Try it with some cream and sugar for a real treat!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:
By now, you may have already read some of my praise of this Etsy company.  One of the things that I’m so pleased with is their customer service.  But I didn’t go into detail with why I’m so impressed with them.  Here’s my tale:

I placed my order with them and the next business day, I received an email telling me that the order has shipped.  Along with that email, I was provided a tracking number (I like that.  It’s not something that all companies do, but I think they should.  It would provide great peace of mind to their customers.)

Later, I received a message from M&K’s that there was a problem with my shipment.  Apparently, the package that I was sent wasn’t my order, it was someone else’s, but they were sending out the correct package.  They told me to keep the wrong package as well.  I told them that to “compensate” for the loss, that I would be writing about the “extra” teas that I’d be receiving.

When the wrong order arrived, I was aghast at how many samplers were inside the box!  Wowza!  It was an exceptional opportunity to try so many of this company’s teas – teas that I hadn’t ordered in my original sampler.

A couple of days later, the teas that I had ordered arrived.  Inside the box was not only the five samplers that I ordered but a free sample as well (I like that too.  Again, not something that all tea companies do, but I think they should.  It not only feels like a “free gift” for the customer, but it may well turn into additional business for the company.  If the customer likes the sample that they try, they might order it again.)

In addition, there was a handwritten note thanking me for my order.  I really appreciate those little touches.  It makes me feel like I’m buying from a real person and not a company.  It makes me feel like that person sees me as a real person and not just a number.

So, even though this company made a mistake with my order, they more than made up for the error.  I appreciate that a lot.  And while the mistake was an “error in my favor,” I have no doubt that M&K’s made it up to the person who was “shortchanged” with this mistake.  That just seems to be the kind of company that they are.  And that’s the kind of company that I appreciate and want to do business with.  And because it seems like companies like this can be a rarity (I’ve found quite a few WONDERFUL tea companies that are a pleasure doing business with), you want to continue to do business with them so that they stay around!

Let’s get on with this review, shall we?

This Witch’s Brew is actually the first tea from my actual, original order with M&K’s.  The ingredient list intrigued me:


It looks like a recipe straight out of a witch’s recipe book, doesn’t it?  Well, except for the Ceylon and Assam tea.

witchesBrew1I wasn’t sure how I’d like it, as it does look like a lot is going on with this blend.  But, I was intrigued by it so I decided I’d give it a try.  That’s one of the cool things about these samplers.  You get just enough to “try” out the tea and the cost is minimal.

The black tea offers a solid background of flavor without being too powerful.  It doesn’t overpower the herbs and spices in this blend – and this tea does seem to be a little more about the whole of the ingredient list (at least for me!) so I’m glad that I can taste these other flavors.

I am getting a fair amount of flavor from the licorice root and I taste the honey roasted-ness of it.  I don’t know that I’ve tried honey-roasted licorice root before, but I do like the way the honey roasting softens the bite that I’d normally experience from licorice root.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that sharp snap of the licorice root, but it’s nice to get a sweeter, more subdued licorice note too.  I also am getting a sweet flavor from the toffee notes and the honey notes meld nicely with the toffee.  I think that these two components work together to complement each other and bring out the best in one another.

The chamomile is a fairly strong flavor which actually kind of surprised me.  I hadn’t expected to taste much of the chamomile in the presence of other strong flavors in the cup, but I am getting that apple-y note that I often get from chamomile.  And I think that the floral notes of the chamomile accentuate the helichrysum flowers as well, because there is a flowery note to this as well.

The tea, toffee, honey roasted licorice, chamomile and helichrysum are the strongest notes, but I’m also tasting a light nutty flavor from the rice, and other herbaceous flavors.  Notes of bitter that I attribute to the skullcap.  I think that the bitterness might be accented by the witch hazel bark and the cat’s claw.

Like I said, this tea has a lot going on.  Maybe a bit too much going on, and I could have done without the bitterness that I experienced from a few of the herbs in this.  That said, even with the notes of bitter, I’m enjoying this beverage and am nearly finished with the cup.  I find that the flavors become smoother and more unified as the cup cools, so if you do get try this one, I recommend letting it cool for a few minutes first.

Steeping parameters I used:  1 heaping bamboo scoop of tea in the basket of my Kati Tumbler, 12 ounces of water heated to 205°, steeped for 3 minutes.

Morningtime Black Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

morningtimeteaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

We don’t have a catchy intro for this tea. But it’s smooth, jolting, and flavorful. We consider this tea to be our flagship blend, perfect for the morning. Extra-strong Ceylon tea, Chinese Dianhong Gong Fu and Keemun tea, and Indian Assam tea: three continents in your cup! This blend is part of the Original 20 M&K’s Blends.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  The above description suggests that this is a jolting blend, and let me tell you, they got that right!

I was happy to find that the sample from M&K’s of this tea is just the right amount to brew 500ml of tea in my Breville One Touch!  I poured the sample into the basket of the tea maker and added the water and then set the parameters for 212°F and 2 1/2 minutes.

The result delighted my taste buds!  This Morningtime Blend is a great wake-me-up tea.  It’s a bold, rich tasting black tea.  Full-flavored and well-rounded.  The sip starts out sweet yet bold.  I notice notes of caramel and molasses mingling with malty tones, earthy notes and flavors of stone fruit and flower.  There’s a lot of complexity beneath that robust, jarring flavor of WAKE UP!

Toward the tail, I pick up on light citrus tones and there is some dry astringency at the finish.  The tea isn’t bitter, however, I suspect that it could very well become bitter if the tea were oversteeped, so don’t do that.  I recommend no longer than 3 minutes brew time for this tea and from there, experiment a bit and find that right time for you and your particular tastes.

Another thing that I’m appreciating about the blend is that it really is a blend.  A culmination of the four teas used to create the blend:  I can taste notes of malt from the Assam, a wine-like flavor and hints of smoke from the Keemun, citrus-like flavors from the Ceylon and a rich Chinese DianHong rounds everything out with its rich, satisfying flavor.  I can taste each of the components but they unite in this blend so well that it becomes almost seamless.

A really lovely breakfast blend type tea.  It would take the additions of milk and honey well, but I like it straight up!  It’s got just a little bit of edge to it that I like, but it isn’t too aggressive.  It gives me the alertness I need and the smooth, rich, roundness I love from a well-crafted tea.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve tried from this new-to-me company.  They have excellent customer service – they promptly reply to questions and my order arrived very quickly.  And I love these samplers!

Sweet Violet Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

SweetVioletTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Flower

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

Sweet Chinese violets, creamy and sweet with just a hint of floral flavor! If you enjoy the lighter side of life (chamomile, rose buds, green tea) you will love this tea. Just throw a couple of flowers in some boiling water, and–viola! You have some sweet violet tea. Although this isn’t a rare flower, it is a difficult tea to locate, which makes us extra happy to offer it to our customers.

Learn more about this tisane here.

Taster’s Review:

Every once in a while, I’ll shop around on Etsy.  As an artist myself, I like supporting other artists.  And also, every once in a while, I’ll come across a new-to-me tea company whose offerings are too enticing to pass up.  Such is the case last week when I was looking around on Etsy and I found M&K’s Tea Company.

I was thrilled with the prices of their samplers.  The one I ultimately decided upon was just $4.99 for a custom five tea sampler, but there are several other samplers to choose from as well.   The order turnaround time is speedy:  I placed the order and the next business day, my order was already in transit!

I really like the packaging of the samples from M&K’s Tea Company.  The outer “sleeve” is a small Kraft envelope that is about the size of a coin envelope.  it has a “window” cut out of it to offer a visual of the tea which has been sealed in a small zipper pouch that’s been sealed inside the Kraft envelope.  The front outer label has the M&K’s logo and the name of the tea.  The back outer label offers brewing parameters, ingredients and harvest information.

Under the sealed flap of the Kraft envelope is “Your Lucky Tea Symbol.”  For this particular tea, my symbol is The Fox.  I’m not sure exactly what that means.  But it adds a little whimsy to the whole thing.

A lot of thought has gone into packaging and I like that.  I like that it has a certain “small company” type feel to it but some time and effort was invested in it to give it a quality appearance while also providing the customer with the information needed to properly brew a cup of tea!

So, this Sweet Violet Tea is the first of the teas that I’ll be trying from this new to me company!  Not actually a “tea” because it contains no camellia sinensis, this flower tisane is crafted from Sweet Violets.  The flowers are gorgeous, colorful, whole and beautifully fragrant.

To brew this, I emptied the sample into the basket of my Kati Tumbler.  The other samples from M&K’s hold enough for 500ml in my Breville One-Touch, but because these flowers are so large and bulky, the sample envelope looks like it’s just the right size for my tumbler.  There are four whole flowers in the sample package, which seems about right for the size of the tumbler.  Maybe one flower too many, but I’d rather go a little more on the leaf than a little less.

I filled the tumbler with water heated to 195°F and steeped the flowers for 8 minutes.  (Incidentally, I didn’t follow the parameters as suggested on the packet, which called for 2 whole flowers per cup of boiling water, steeped for 2 – 5 minutes.)

Viola odarata aka Sweet Violets. Photo from Wikipedia. Click on the pic to go there.

Wow!  I like this!  I can’t think of another time that I’ve consumed a “pure Sweet Violet” tea/tisane such as this.  I’ve had other flower teas, of course, but no Sweet Violets.  I like this a lot.

The above description compares it to “the lighter side”  and uses Chamomile, Rose Buds and Green Tea as examples.  I think I like this better than chamomile.  I like green tea better, but I think this would make a really good blend with green tea, I think.  Perhaps a Dragon Well.  As for rosebuds, this reminds me a bit of a rosebud tisane.  The floral notes of a rosebud tea are maybe a little sharper – here, they’re soft and … well, the word I want to use is “fluffy.”  There is a creaminess to this that I don’t experience with a rosebud tisane and that’s what’s giving it the fluffy taste.

So, I think I might actually like this better than a rosebud tisane.  Or at least just as much.

The flowery notes are not sharp, they’re soft and sweet.  And like the description above suggests, the floral notes are delicate.  They don’t taste perfume-y or soapy at all.  And the cup has a barely there floral aroma which kind of surprised me (I did, after all, steep flowers!)  There really isn’t much aroma to the liquid at all.  But the flavor is really enjoyable.  I don’t generally get all excited over tisanes – I prefer my camellia sinensis – but this is actually one that I could see myself wanting to keep in my pantry.  It’s really quite lovely!

And as it represent my first tea experience with M&K’s Tea Company, I’d say that we’re off to a really good start!