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Aniseed Balls Tisane from Bluebird Tea Co.

aniseed_ballsTisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Spice Melange

Where to Buy:  Bluebird Tea Co.

Tisane Description:

Award-winning nostalgic aniseed, star anise + liquorice herbal tea blend

This blend won the highest food award in the country. The judges said: ‘Truly original and delicious infusion that packs a true punch.. finally a blend that’s blokey’! It’s also the nation’s favourite childhood sweet. Not just our opinion, it’s fact. There was a survey, questionnaire and everything.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

When Bluebird Tea Co. asked me what teas I’d like to try, this one was near the top of my list.  After reading the ingredient list, you might wonder why it was that this was one of the teas I requested…

Ingredients: Liquorice, Aniseed, Star Anise, Hibiscus, Stevia, Chilli. 

I mean, this tisane has two of my “I’d rather this tisane not have this ingredient” ingredients:  hibiscus and stevia.  So you might be wondering why I’d choose this tea.  But this tisane also has three of the ingredients that I love to see in teas/tisanes:  Licorice, Aniseed and Star Anise!  And I guess my requesting this tisane proves that my love for these three ingredients overpowers my disdain for the hibiscus and stevia.

Oh, I’m still wishing that the hibiscus and stevia weren’t in there.  Before even taking a sip, I’m thinking that it would be a better tisane without them, although it isn’t really a fair assessment because I haven’t yet taken a sip.

Star Anise – one of my favorite spices. Photo from Wikipedia. Click on the pic to go there.

The dry leaf is gorgeous.  Lots of whole pieces of star anise!  They’re so pretty.  It smells delightful too:  sweet, warm and zesty.

To steep this tisane, I used my Kati Tumbler.  (I prefer to use this device when I’m brewing a spiced tea/tisane like this because when I brew a spiced tea in my Breville, the spices become “embedded” in the tea maker and it requires a soak in baking soda to get the odors to release.  Then again, I need to soak my Breville anyway, so maybe I should have used it to steep this!)  I measured out 1 1/2 bamboo scoops of the tisane into the basket of the Kati and then poured hot water (195°F) over the tisane and let it steep for 8 minutes.

Ordinarily, when brewing a tisane with hibiscus, I steep it for 6 minutes or less.  However, I could see very little hibiscus in the loose leaf blend so I figured that this tisane could benefit from a little more time.  Spices need time to get their flavors to release fully.

OK!  So now it’ sip time.  I can definitely taste the hibiscus.  Next time I try this tisane, I might go with 6 1/2 or 7 minutes rather than a full 8 minutes.  That said, it doesn’t taste too hibiscus-y.  But I’m still wishing it wasn’t there.

That said, this is really quite nice despite the presence of hibiscus and stevia.  And for those who don’t really mind hibiscus quite so much, it does add an interesting tart, berry like flavor to the cup.  It’s a little bit tart and I can feel the insides of my cheeks pucker slightly as I take a sip, but because there is enough going on with this blend from the warmth of the chili to the zesty sweetness from the licorice-y notes, I find that the tartness doesn’t upset me.

The stevia adds sweetness (obviously) and this is a nice contrast to the spicy chili tone.  And take note:  even though chili is listed as the last ingredient, this tisane has a real spicy kick to it from the chili!  I can feel the heat at the back of my throat.  It’s not too spicy or hot.  I’m not running to the kitchen to find something to temper the heat.  But it is warm enough to alert the sensors in the mouth that something spicy is dancing around the palate.

But the three real stars of this cup are the licorice, star anise and aniseed!  This has a really lovely licorice-y flavor!  If you are a fan of black licorice, this tisane should be at the top of your must try list!  This has a lot of snappy licorice flavor!  Sweet and zesty.  It reminds me so much of the black licorice candy that I love.  In fact, it tastes as though someone liquefied some black licorice candy and then served that in a cup with a splash of hibiscus, a pinch or two of chili pepper and a little bit of sweetener.

I like this served straight up without additions but it would also be quite nice with a cinnamon stick garnish.  (I like the combination of cinnamon and licorice.)  Really, it doesn’t need anything other than that.  It could do without the hibiscus, although I’m not hating that the hibiscus is there.  The same goes for the stevia.  I like the little bit of sweetness that the stevia adds to this.  It’s enough sweetness without getting that funky flavor that I sometimes taste from stevia in teas.  Bonus!

Yet another huge win for Bluebird Tea Company!

Chilli Chai from Teapigs

Chai Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Teapigs

Chai Description:

This chilli chai is a twist on our traditional chai, a recipe that has been the Indian drink of choice for centuries. Alongside the assam tea, cardamom pods, chunks of ginger, cinnamon and vanilla, we have added flakes of chilli for an extra fiery kick. This chai is for those of you who don’t order korma and plain naan from your local curry house.

Learn more about this chai here.

Taster’s Review:

With my first sip or two, I found myself thinking … “hmm, OK, I can taste the chai spices, but, isn’t this supposed to be a Chilli Chai?”  But then, a few moments later, I FELT the heat from the chilli!  I could feel the warmth develop at the back of my tongue and in my throat, and with every moment that lapsed I felt that heat intensify!

That being said, I don’t think that this is a super-fiery-hot chai!  Yes, it has a kick to it, but, it never gets uncomfortably hot.  Intensely warm … it isn’t so hot that all I can taste is the chilli.  I like that I can taste the other spices, the Assam tea, and even a hint of sweet, creamy vanilla underneath that spicy heat!

The Assam base adds a nice amount of malt and a pleasing full-bodied flavor to the cup.  The spice that I notice (beyond the chilli!) is the cinnamon, and the chilli and cinnamon seem to work together to bring a spicy-yet-sweet heat to the cup.  The ginger adds a hint of pepper to the mix, while the cardamom gives almost a fruit-like note to the background.

This Chilli Chai from Teapigs is very enjoyable, indeed!  One I’d recommend to those who are looking for a spicier-than-the-ordinary chai, but not too spicy!

Organic Fiery Temptress from The Rabbit Hole

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  The Rabbit Hole

Tea Description:

Chilli and chocolate, such strange bedfellows. Throw a black tea in the mix and you’ve got one mind-blowing brew. Perfect for when you need to spice up your life.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I shop for snacks and treats, one thing I find myself looking for is flavor contrasts.  My favorites are salty and sweet  – like chocolate and bacon, or salted caramel – and spicy and sweet – like chocolate and chili … as in THIS tea!  I find the palate is much more satiated when I appeal to different taste receptors, and right now, this tea is satisfying a certain “hunger” for flavor by appealing to the spicy and the sweet taste receptors on my tongue.

With the first couple of sips, I didn’t notice much of the chili or the chocolate flavors.  But by the time I was taking my third or fourth sip, I began to notice the spicy-hot sensation on the back of my throat.  This quickly spread to my tongue, and now I am feeling the full effect of the chili pepper in this tea.

The same is true of the chocolate … it wasn’t until about the third or fourth sip that I began to pick up on the cocoa flavors which are more like a dark chocolate-y flavor than a milk chocolate.  It is rich and bittersweet and delicious, and helps to balance the spicy hot chili thing going on in my mouth!  A fantastic contrast, indeed!

Despite the explosion of heat and sweet in my mouth, the flavor of the black tea is not going unnoticed.  It is smooth and richly flavored.  It has a solid kind of flavor that this tea needs for a back drop, something even-tempered and mellow to allow the bold flavors of chili and chocolate to express themselves fully.

Another awesome offering from The Rabbit Hole!

Organic Fiery Temptress Tea from The Rabbit Hole

Tea Type: Black Tea

Where To Buy: The Rabbit Hole

Product Description:

Chilli and chocolate, such strange bedfellows. Throw a black tea in the mix and you’ve got one mind-blowing brew. Perfect for when you need to spice up your life.

Tasters Review:

I’ll be up-front and blunt here…I have had some go-arounds with chili and chocolate in tea and there are some really hard-to-handle ones out there!

THIS is a WINNER!  The Rabbit Hole really did do a great job with this one!  Both the Chili and Chocolate are tasty without being over done!  Both taste REAL and not super fake – like other companies tend to do with the flavorings!

I would say there is a tad more chocolate than chili…just what I was hoping for!  This is one of the best Chili/Chocolate combo’s in a tea I have tasted!

Nice Job – Rabbit Hole!

The BEST part?  You can still taste the black tea! Lovely!