Firebelly TeaEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
…and we finally find ourselves at the end of today’s stretch of Firebelly tasting notes. One for every tea that they’re currently carrying.
This is a straight Nepalese black tea. It’s not specified in what minimal copy is written about it, but it seems like this is probably a second flush picking. The dry leaf, which composed of smaller leaves, is quite pretty and has some lovely silver tips within it. The smell is nice – a little floral and a bit sweet among greener elements. It steeps up very harshly. Really quite astringent and hard on the palate though not bitter per say. Dominant notes are muscat grapes, heady florals, malt, and autumnal leaves. Vegetal, also – but in a less descript way.
I don’t much like it, but I also feel like this is a tea with a learning curve. It seems very hard to steep it well right off the bat but I got the sense that with patience and experimentation you could definitely find a sweet spot. The ‘bones’ that are present in terms of flavour direction seem like they’d make a good foundation for a flavourful cup with the right time investment spent to get it right.
This was my absolute favourite out of all the Firebelly Blends.
I think it’s perfectly named because the combination of highly aromatic and slightly citrus/pine tasting cardamom combined with crisp and menthol rich peppermint really do come off as incredibly fresh and clean and very much like you’re walking deep through a pine and cypress tree heavy forest – and y’all know that I love a tea that makes me feel immersed in nature. If I have any complaint at all it would be that I think the woodruff is lost in the blend, but the balance of the mint/cardamom is really well done and overall I just enjoyed this blend a lot.
It’s a breakfast blend.
You’re absolutely getting what’s being described and, in my opinion, nothing more or less. Very robust and brisk with a hearty astringency and notes of malt and raisin. Would take milk and sugar very, very well which is an important quality for a breakfast tea. Like Flower Power (the jasmine green), I would view this as a good option to add on to an order if you needed a restock of a breakfast style tea but probably not the reason for making the order.
Soooooo… I don’t think this is an Earl Grey.
Like, if you were a customer who wasn’t used to ‘variant’ Earl Greys and you ordered this expecting a slightly more lemony version of your standard EG (which is kind of how the tea is described) I think you would be very disappointed with what you had received. Now, to be fair to Firebelly, there is bergamot peel in this blend so it’s not completely abandoned the standard EG ingredient composition – it’s just hard to taste with everything else going on. Firebelly doesn’t use flavouring or oils in their blends though – it’s one of the reasons some of the blends taste a bit more ‘flat’ than what a lot of people would be used to. So, not incorporating bergamot oil into an Earl Grey blend would make it very challenging to present something that would taste ‘normal’ to the average person.
So ignoring the fact this is present as an Earl Grey… it’s a good tea.
It tastes really citrusy but distinctly lemon leaning. I get a lot of the lemon thyme from the flavour and it’s very soothing and refreshing. Lemon thyme isn’t an ingredient you’ll see really anywhere in commercial tea blends and Firebelly has used it a couple of their blends. It’s delicious. Not really savory like a ‘regular’ thyme would be, and creates this punchy citrus top note that works in a similar way to what a good lemon oil might come across as if used sparingly. There’s also juniper in the blend which adds a nice gentle pine-y undertone and compliments the lemon myrtle and lemon thyme perfectly. Were it a bit more aggressive in the blend you might think ‘gin’ because there’s a pretty botanical vibe to this tea already. I’d personally love more juniper, but this is a nice restrained amount.
Definitely an interesting tea! …but not an Earl Grey.
This is a pretty expensive black tea blend but as soon as I saw the dry leaf visual it was very clear to me why. There is a frankly very high amount of vanilla bean in this blend. Possibly the highest amount of actual cut up vanilla bean that I have ever seen in a tea blend. Y’all, vanilla (especially organic vanilla) is not cheap. Seeing how much is present here… I’m actually surprised it’s not more expensive.
With that said, I’m surprised they didn’t lean into that all in the name. Steeped up, it tasted like authentic vanilla more than anything else. Like, the almonds in this are doing nothing. Super aromatic. It’s fairly tannic and drying in the finish, though. More than I think the ‘average’ tea drinker is used to experiencing which is yet another reason why I feel like a name like “The Crowd Pleaser” isn’t the best fit for what this tea actually is. I think it would hold up really well to milk though, which would make it a pretty good vanilla black option to fit in that kind of ‘breakfast blend’ realm.
Overall I thought this was interesting and pretty good, albeit poorly named.
We’re ending the green tea section of today’s Firebelly reviews with the one I enjoyed the most. I don’t dabble with straight greens (outside of hojicha) must, but Mao Jian is one of the few that I will typically keep a very small amount of on hand. I thought this was a very nice one – it was fresh and vegetal with a hint of sweet snow pea coupled with some faint peachy undertones and notes of corn silk in the body. Not something I’d generally reach for unless I had that rare really specific craving but I thought it was a solid quality Mao Jian!
Personally I thought this was the least memorable and interesting out of all 20 of Firebelly’s teas. It’s a bit too similar to some of their other blends, and really just tasted like a general mix of ginger/cinnamon. I know there’s Genmaicha in the blend but you can’t taste it at all because the spice ratio is a little too high and because of that there’s not really anything that I would call “toasty” in terms of flavour. It’s also not really warming spices so much as it is spicy spices. Not as bad at Zest For Life or Internal Combustion, but just… meh.
So this is a jasmine green tea. It’s a nice jasmine green tea, but at the end of the day there’s nothing stand out about it aside from the fact the quality is solid. Good quality ingredients are very important – especially when it comes to these type of ‘cupboard staple’ profiles. So, if you were already planning on placing a Firebelly order and you needed a restock or top up of this type of profile I think you’d be getting a good one. I’m just saying that it’s not the type of tea that is the reason you place the order. Does that make sense?
Not entirely related but this tea is also a good example of how some of Firebelly’s copy in their tea descriptions make me feel very uncomfortable. It’s just like, aggressively sexual at times for these tea profiles and names that should not lend themselves to that level of overt “sexiness”. Like, here is an example from the benefits section of this tea’s product page to show what I mean:
Promotes good oral health (“good” and “oral” should always be in the same sentence).
Maybe I’m the odd one out here, but I just find that really awkward and uncomfortable to see in the description of something as basic/classic as a jasmine green tea called ‘Flower Power’. Would love to hear other people’s thoughts…
So when I said, in my tasting note for Internal Combustion, that there was a hotter/spicier tea in the Firebelly assortment… this is it.
This tea absolutely puts the “Fire” in “Firebelly”. It’s deceptive too because you smell the dry leaf and you do get the tickle and burn of the chili and ginger but you can also smell hints of the citrus and thyme. Steeped, though!? Yeah, it just taste like the burn of hot peppers. Every other quality is drowned out – which is a shame because the green tea base used actually visually looks pretty high quality. It is an ungodly level of spice though. Like, I think it would be physically painful to drink a full mug of this tea. I tapped out after a couple sips and the burn of that chili lingered for quite a while after. This is the tea that should be named Internal Combustion. The name Zest For Life is misleading – I was certainly expecting citrus zest and playful ginger and spices. Nope. Nope.
Mixed feeling on this one, I think.
I do drink straight matcha but I definitely prefer flavoured matcha since more oceanic leaning matcha is unappealing to me in the same way that Sencha or Gyokuro is. This is a pretty umami and kind of nori/seaweed heavy tasting matcha which are, of course, the qualities I’m less a fan of. I prefer a more vegetal matcha with maybe note of garden greenery. However, the mouthfeel is excellent and well balanced between a silky and thicker creamy texture and I do think the overall quality of the matcha is really nice even if it wasn’t a taste I personally was a fan of pure.
The dry leaf visual of this tea is breath taking! The gyokuro is a deep emerald green and the sakura petals are such a cute and colourful pink contrast. It’s the type of visual that I think, even if you’re like me and you dislike green tea, is immediately eye catching and elegant. Sadly all I tasted when I drank this tea was the gyokuro. Mind you, I generally hate gyokuro so perhaps my attention was more fixated on it in a negative way than other people would be.
It wasn’t a surprise to me I disliked the blend though. It was fighting an uphill battle from the start.
We have now reached the portion of Firebelly’s catalog of teas where pretty much everything is a write off for me – the green teas.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a sencha and gyokuro blend before. I’ve had soooo many teas that my instinct is that I must have but I really can’t recall any so perhaps I’ve not. This was just waaayyyy too oceanic/marine tasting for me to enjoy but I did get the faintest buttery finish which was nice. Just not enough to sell me on what is honestly my two least favourite kinds of straight tea.
I love a good yancha and Big Red Robe/Da Hong Pao can be quite delicious if you find a good one. However, they can also taste quite unpleasant. I think this one is that sort of rare middleground. It had the pleasant spice notes and slight stonefruit undertone that pulled me in a bit but it also tasted metallic/brassy and the flavour notes were muddy and lacking clarity.
It could be much better steeped Gongfu versus Western (which is how I tasted it) but based on this snap impression I feel like it’s definitely priced higher than I would be willing to pay to find out…
While not my favourite tea overall in the Firebelly assortment, this is my favourite of their straight tea selection. I might be wrong but from memory it’s also the most expensive tea that they’re carrying? So that kind of sucks.
It’s a pretty gorgeous looking Hong Shui though, and steeped out Western style I thought it had really pleasant and playful notes of golden toasted grains, praline, syrupy red fruits, and a light creamed honey note. Very smooth and coating across the palate. I’d be curious to see how it performs Gongfu. Seems like it would make for an excellent session.
Super, super straight forward blend of mint and eucalyptus.
I feel like I expected it to finish with more of a menthol punch given that this is just a two ingredient tisane blend and both of the ingredients should be menthol rich. It wasn’t really what I expected mouthfeel wise though, even if the flavour was crisp and the finish very clean. Mostly I think I just didn’t love the taste of the eucalyptus used – there’s was something about it that was almost marshy? That’s not really the word I want but right now it’s the closest thing coming to mind…
So I definitely expected this to be a hot blend given the name Internal Combustion but let me just say that, when it comes to their blends with chili in them, Firebelly does NOT fuck around…
The dry leaf smells deceptively sweet and of black licorice. I know not everyone like black licorice but (despite not loving liquorice root) I love those deep and more molasses-like black licorice flavours from anise or fennel. This blend smelled very appetizing to me. It does actually still taste strongly of anise and fennel when steeped, but the fucker is hot! Lots of ginger and the kind of chili that burns going down and hangs in your mouth.
Of the “spiced” teas in their line up this one was my favourite and I might actually drink it again because the anise/fennel flavour was soooo good and so fresh tasting. However a full sixteen mug might be a struggle just ‘cause of that heat level. There’s something to be said about the fact you sort of feel like it’s doing something good for you when you drink it, though…
One of the blends from Firebelly that doesn’t really stand out in my mind super strongly as either a good or unpleasant blend. It’s very straight forward. Straight forward and no frills flavours that neither over or under exceed expectations a consistent of pretty much every blend from Firebelly, in my opinion.
Earthy turmeric and hot spicy ginger and galangal – all of which are things I do not reach for personally but I did feel the quality was nice if you like turmeric or that style of ginger. Perhaps a little more heat than I’d call ‘average’ for a ginger blend. Best part was that I couldn’t taste the moringa at all – it’s not a great flavour on its own so hiding it under spices is smart.
I thought this blend was quite boring and forgettable, but to be fair I’m also decidedly not a consumer of chamomile or these other more light/delicate and floral leaning tisanes. To me it just tasted like a bland chamomile/lavender mix with the faiiinnnttteeessttt little bit of a lemony undertone to it from the verbena. Never something I’d reach for personally and, truthfully, one of those flavour profiles and ingredient lists that I feel you can find from so many other companies too.
This was also pretty nice.
The flavour is very straight forward and pretty much completely matched my expectations. Just a well balanced and clean duo of crisp peppermint with light cocoa notes. Not heavy or cloying and pretty smooth. It’s maybe a little lighter than what I think you could reasonably call a rich flavour but sometimes that’s good too because I think it’s the right level of flavour where you could have a full pot of it and not feel bogged down at the end.
The one thing that is weird to me though is putting cocoa husk/bean and Valerian in the same tea. Cocoa husk and beans are caffeinated so in my head it feels a little counter intuitive to pair them with something for relaxation?
But maybe that’s just me.
Truthfully I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this blend.
I’m not a fan of chicory root and liquorice root and roasted dandelion is also something that I’m a little more fickle about. However, this was very deep and roasty and I didn’t get that sourness from the chicory that is my biggest turn off. The liquorice root comes through pretty clearly but I think the reason it didn’t bother me so much was that it kind of naturally lifts the sweetness of the cacao shells to more of the forefront and the result is this deeply earthy/roasted flavour with a sweeter bit of natural chocolate taste. That combo of liqourice root/chocolate actually was nostalgic a bit too – reminded me of the long since retired DT blend “Choconut Oolong”. I know a lot of people disliked that tea, but I wasn’t one of them.