40 Tasting Notes
I’m down to my last 1 or 2 servings of this, and I’ll be so sad when it’s finally gone.
That said, I think there’s the slightest possibility I’m beginning to “grow out” of this tea.
I still love the creamy, sweet flavour. There’s something in there that feels kind of “graham-cracker-and-caramel sweet” to me that’s really enjoyable and different, that I’m always noticing when I make it. I’ve only had 1 kind of ice cream cake in my life, and it has a layer of caramel in between the layers, sprinkled with what I think are maybe oreo cookie crumbs or something. It’s that flavour. I can almost feel the texture in my mouth, and it’s fantastic.
But some of the sweet aromas of this are also getting a little too strong for me, perhaps as I’m getting a little older and tastes are shifting. It’s still not an inherently sweet tea, thank goodness. DT have been pushing way too hard on their stevia lately and I’m trying out more duds than hits lately, especially with shops inaccessible or closed entirely. But even the flavour essences are a little strong for me in this one now. I’m hopeful it’s a one-off, since I’ve normally found this one really fun and easy to drink. It’s not super chocolatey, and it reminds me of ice cream cake, but what flavour of ice cream cake? I’ve never put my finger on. And I kind of like that about it.
If I had more left, I think I might even try mixing it with other favourites. What would a Pumpkin Chai-Ice Cream Cake tea yield? (I tried Kawartha Dairy’s Pumpkin Pie ice cream this past autumn – I blame them for this inspiration.) I am hoping they’ll bring it back again, unaltered. I’d probably buy some if they did. But… Maybe not as much as I would have in the past.
Flavors: Caramel, Cream
This was one of the first flavoured teas I ever tried as a teenager. There were no looseleaf tea shops around, and I really didn’t know there was much else out there yet beyond Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey, English Breakfast or Peppermint tea. At a market downtown I saw the little wooden cartons of these and thought, “Hmm. I like Earl Grey. But I also like delicious things. Like cream. Is this something I’d like?” I might’ve asked the shop keeper what it meant that it said “cream” on it (oh, I was so young!) and, from what I took away, I remember she told me it was sweeter and creamier tasting than a typical earl grey. Well, okay, I was sold. I think I also bought a carton of Irish Cream Tea that day.
I quickly fell in love with it. It was the first time I’d ever tried buying myself a box of any tea, and I was, mercifully, not disappointed. But eventually it became difficult for me to find it anymore – this Christmas my mum was putting in an order from a British Imports shop and they happened to carry it. I mentioned to her how I used to love that tea, and, lo and behold, a little wooden carton appeared at my door soon after.
Opening it for the first time in what must be close to ten years or more was quite an experience, as you may imagine. It was such a blast of memories and nostalgia to my teenage years. It was also much more aromatic than I remembered. In the years since that first purchase, I’ve tried a number of Earl Grey Cream teas, and all of them have been so different. I worried, before it arrived, that this would taste just like one of the others and I wouldn’t even be able to tell it apart from, say, a Tetley or a Twinings or even a David’s Tea version. But this was different as could be.
In some ways I can understand those who say it’s too perfumey. I kind of agree. I can usually let a tea bag sit in my cup until I get to the bottom, but I’ve been mindful to pull this one out. Even so, sometimes I think to myself that I’ve overdone it. It’s so strongly… floral? Sweet? Whatever the “cream” flavouring is, it might be just a titch too strong for me sometimes in a way my teenage self really didn’t notice. I occasionally have to wince after a particularly concentrated sip. But even so, I still love it.
I think if one controls the strength of one’s steep, it might be manageable. Maybe I just need to add more milk- I used to take more when I was younger and never found fault with it. I haven’t quite been able to bring myself to bother yet, however. I kind of keep convincing myself that even when it’s a bit too strong, it’s just right. It kicks me back to the past, to a time where I was just beginning to “experiment” with tea and venture out beyond my mum’s tea cupboard of 200% Earl Grey, when venturing “downtown” was a pretty big deal. (Ironically, now in 2021, venturing out just about anywhere kind of feels similarly significant!)
In summary, this is a fun, aromatic tea that will fill your mouth with scent and flavour. Sometimes maybe too much, with too much gusto and teenage enthusiasm. It’s a little floral, a little fruity, a lot of energy, and I think somewhere in there there’s Earl Grey too. It’s like an excited puppy, jumping up to lick your face the second you walk in the door. It comes on a little too strongly sometimes, but it’s sweet, endearing, and familiar, too. With a little training, I feel certain I can get it to behave – but sometimes I’d rather not.
Flavors: Cream, Floral, Fruity
I was a little frosty towards Mr. Frosty. Or maybe you could say I was hot and cold. Allow me to explain, because it was a whole fun-fair of wackiness and an experience I have no answers for.When I first opened the pouch for Day 6 of the Bird and Blend 2020 Advent Calendar and gave a sniff, I picked up a sort of slightly fruity mint tea. I’m not the biggest mint fanatic, but every now and then, and with the right crowd, we get on well. This smelled a little like, well, somewhere in the middle. It definitely is a spearmint, as the ingredients say, rather than a peppermint, and maybe I just wasn’t prepared for that. I’m more pals with spearmint’s well-known cousin, and tend to avoid spearmint quite easily. We don’t run in the same circles.
Brewing this up, WOW. Talk about a show! I wished a little that I’d steeped it in a glass cup so I could enjoy the show even more – the dark blue was more dramatic than any other butterfly pea flower/blue pea flower teas I’ve tried before (which is only a couple, let’s be honest). This thing was a deep blue in seconds, whereas, say, David’s Tea’s Magic Potion will get to a semi-decent purple eventually, maybe, if you leave it steeping for 8 minutes and onward. … Usually. Assuming you chucked in a lot of tea. And I always thought, “That’s fair; surely it’s an expensive ingredient and sometimes that’s the best you can do.” But wow, this tea was an explosion of colour, so much so that within 1 minute of putting it to steep, I was double checking the ingredients list because I was CONVINCED there was artificial colour in there, possibly smuggled in by my suspicious friend Spearmint. But no, that was just the power of this tea. I was dazzled. I was excited. I was ready to experience a Mr. Frosty that was Toasty.
Or… was I? Because when I took those first few sips… And then subsequent sips… And from beginning to end of this cup, the flavours I got were… Mildly, unnamably fruity, slightly spicy, slightly spearminty… hotdogs. Yep, that’s right. To me, by whatever magic of science, I was tasting watery minty hotdog.
I have no answers; only questions. How did it get there? Where did it come from? What is it trying to tell me? Is our alien overlord to be a spearmint-scented blue hotdog named Mr. Frosty?
The biggest question of all, however, is this: if that’s what I was tasting the whole way through, why in the world did I eeeever so slightly… kinda like it?
Like I said. Only questions.
Flavors: Fruity, Spearmint, Spices
I was NOT prepared for this! When I opened Day 21 of the Bird and Blend advent calendar and read the name I think I probably rolled my eyes at least a little. “Sure – a green tea that tasted like Panettone,” I thought. “That sounds great, but highly unlikely.” Then I smelled it and – instantly, I was transported.
My family is one who typically buy a panettone every Christmas. It sits in its little box right up until Christmas morning, hidden away so as not to tempt anyone, and then sliced up and divvied out, inevitably for everyone to probably at least once find themselves chewing on a sneaky slip of paper casing. And here was this green tea, smelling just like it – buttery, fluffy, cakey, even zesty, it was all there. No way, I thought, could it hold onto all that into a brew.
I’m not sure why I seem to have so little faith in flavoured green teas. Maybe I’ve never given them enough of a chance, or maybe I just haven’t encountered enough of them. But this Panettone tea absolutely held onto all those notes of flavour as it steeped.
Every time I sipped, I was again transported back to my childhood home, surrounded by family, so clearly I could honestly imagine someone slipped something into the flavour profile of this tea to mimic that rogue piece of paper casing – I could taste that too! And every time it happened, I had to take a second and say to myself, “That’s crazy they did that so well.”
As with its edible namesake, sometimes this tea seemed just on the verge of too buttery, as some others have noted, but for me it didn’t really detract but rather it added to the illusion. (Also, I’ve had David’s Tea’s Butterscotch Chai, which I’m pretty sure is just liquified buttered toast with sugar, so if you ever want to overdose on butter flavour, well, that’s my cautious recommendation. Or avoid it – your call.)
This was one of those lovely experiences where I tried to make the cup last, while struggling to make sure I didn’t let it get cold, and hating it would be over soon… But also fighting not to just chug it down. Again, as I said, I’ve not had a lot of faith in green teas – Bird and Blend have been surprising me in the loveliest ways in that regard, and I found myself very surprised to love this as much as I did.
If you’re not a fan of Panettone, it’s likely you’d give this a miss anyway. If, like me, however, you are, it’s worth it just to experience the craziness of how well they did on this blend. I could definitely come back to this again most happily, especially when I’m feeling like cozying into some nostalgia, or, you know, if I happen to have a craving for some paper cake casing. Either/or.
Flavors: Butter, Cake, Citrus, Lime
Day 14 of the Bird and Blend Advent Calendar – which I put off all the way until January to give a go because I just did not think this sounded like something I’d enjoy. A fan of peach juice I am not, nor of peach teas, so the blend of rose and peach sounded… iffy. Rose can be so hit or miss as well – I’ve had love dalliances with rose flavoured Turkish Delights, and I’ve also gone right off of them for years. I’ve had rose lemonade I loved at first sip – only to find that after several sips more it’s just too much like chewing on a pot pourri posey. I’m not even that big on green teas – yet here was this tea, ready to assail the senses in whatever way it was going to do.
But when I tried it, much to my surprise, I liked it! I’d even say I quite liked it! The peach was so subtle I wouldn’t have even guessed it was there. As I sipped, I forgot all about the peach and all I got was a slightly fruity kind of rose flavour. Couldn’t remember what fruit was supposed to be involved though- even as I sipped and sipped! (“Was it that peach one?” I asked myself. “No, couldn’t be – I’m not a fan of peach, but I could get behind whatever this is!”)
The rose was surprising to me, too. Maybe it depends on the tea scoop each individual gets, but my experience with this one bag was that the rose was present enough to be clearly identifiable as that most identifiable of floral flavours – yet not so overpowering as to make me feel like I was guzzling hand cream or cramming down Turkish Delights. It reminded me of Fentiman’s soda’s Rose Lemonade drink – but without the sweetness or the fizz. The tea felt feminine, and fresh (maybe even “flirty” in a playful-but-sophisticated kind of way – and even I’m cringing that I said that), and I could absolutely imagine hosting some kind of girl’s night where this was on the drinks menu… Which I say whilst being the kind of person who would never be hosting a girl’s night. This wasn’t my grandma’s rose tea, thank goodness, and the rose didn’t linger in my mouth. It was a light and airy tea whose flavours seemed to dissipate almost as soon as I’d swallowed each sip, which I think is maybe more blessing than curse when rose is involved. It fully fit the title of Fairy Dust – I’d say it was even more like Fairy Mist. A spell was cast with every sip, but so fleeting and ethereal that one wasn’t quite sure one saw a thing after a moment or two.
Against all odds, fully prepared not to like this (and the first whiff of the pouch upon opening it really reinforced that expectation – THAT got to the back of my throat, and the peach came through much more strongly in scent!), I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish. I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it, and if I were gifted a pouch of it, it might only get pulled out once in a blue moon… But I can totally see myself brewing up a cup in a kind of “I deserve nice things” moment while I put on some kind of shamelessly indulgent crap-TV to binge. Because nice things don’t actually have to be THAT nice. It’s probably the feeling people get when they pop open a bottle of cheap champagne or something. I wouldn’t know – my equivalent, apparently, is Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade. Which, I gotta say, is pretty good too. For something hotter and less sweet though, this is a great match.
Flavors: Fruity, Rose
Day 4 of Bird and Blend’s 2020 Advent Calendar – I’ve had rotten luck with a lot of coconut-centric teas in the past. Either something (likely the coconut) in them had gone off by the time I got to them, or it just smelled like it. And how it smelled, it tasted and I couldn’t get behind them. I went in to this tea with mixed expectations – everything should be fine, smelled fine… but experience warned me to be on guard!
I need not have worried – this was absolutely lovely, and honestly my first good experience with coconut in tea in ages! Whilst I imagined it being evocative of a (milk or dark) chocolate snowball, in the cup what I was reminded of a white Ferrero Rocher snowball – creamy, light, with a refreshing hit of coconut. I’ve never been the greatest fan of those little chocolate nuggets (though neither will I turn them down!), but this was even, I would say, an improvement on them! Whereas white chocolate can quickly get overpoweringly sweet, the creaminess in this tea was gentle and well-balanced. I’m finding so far with the B&B teas that they accomplish more with the flavour themselves (and less with subtler sweeteners) than I’m used to, and it’s really been interesting to find something can feel sweet without actually being so. Did I pick up on marshmallow or dark/milk chocolate? No – but what I got was delightful anyway, and a welcome end to the decade of coconut horror I’d grown accustomed to!
Flavors: Coconut, Cream, White Chocolate
Bird and Blend Advent Calendar 2020 – Day 5! This tea, dry, smelled absolutely divine to me, and I could hardly wait to tear into it! I’ve never had a tea that featured hazelnuts predominantly, but I am partial to a hazelnut ganache in a chocolate come December! Or a Ferrero Rocher, which I imagine is exactly what they were aiming for here.
I’d say that once it was brewed up (with a splash of milk, as I nearly always add) it was too smooth for me to associate with a Ferrero Rocher, however. But I was put very firmly in mind of hazelnut ganache enrobed in chocolate – though perhaps less of the outer chocolate than the ganache itself. (Purdy’s signature Hedgehog chocolates leapt to mind pretty much immediately on the first sip!) There were moments where I kind of wished the chocolate flavours sang a little more loudly, but I couldn’t complain at all when the rest was so lovely. After all, I’ve had many chocolatey teas – I kind of feel I know how that’ll go by now. But the hazelnut was the main attraction here, most certainly. It wasn’t a thin or watery kind of hazelnut flavour, but a beautifully well-rounded, creamy hazelnut experience that I could absolutely find myself luxuriating in time and time again. And as an alternative to scarfing down a box of GuyLian seashell molded chocolates, this is probably better for me. It felt like all the decadence of doing just that, but the sweetness was implied, rather than explicit. I’d probably need to stop gobbling the chocolates from sweetness overload long before I’d want to take a break from this cuppa – although I’ll err on the side of caution and make no promises!
Flavors: Chocolate, Hazelnut
Bear with me as I don’t think I’ve ever had a “proper” apple strudel! (Surely one can’t count Tim Horton’s apple strudel as “proper”… I’m pretty sure it has more in common with a danish, at best!)
This tea was such a surprise to me. There was an interesting “dryness” to the mouthfeel it gave that put me in mind of a powdered (apple) jelly doughnut, and the flavour of an apple fritter. I’ve become so accustomed to teas with both apple and cinnamon to have this mysteriously sharp sweetness to them that this one, lacking that, was a breath of fresh air! I think what I’m finding with the Bird and Blend teas so far is that they don’t seem to lean so heavily on sweet flavourings as other teas I’ve become accustomed to, that sometimes the flavours are allowed to shine without such added sweetness. Instead I’ve been reminded of the sweetness by association of the rest – the flavours, the textures.
I paired this with a dash of milk, and found it lovely. I always feel like I’m searching for something slightly more full bodied, but with this it was hard to complain when I felt like the entire tea was such a treat just the way it was. Would I have loved for it to have been more full bodied? Absolutely. But it was sufficient to fill every other desire I might’ve had.
I will say that (quite sadly) I let some of it get cold – not enough, I told myself, to bother warming it up. Only a couple sips at the very end. And, cold, it did nothing for me. It felt like a huge waste on my part to have drunk it without joy like that, even such a small bit (as the B&B Advent Calendar really doesn’t give you enough for anything more than a small cup. I feel I’ve been pushing it with 16 oz cups – 10 oz would probably be better, but I can’t bring myself to have such a small cup juuust in case it turns out it would have stretched to 16 oz just fine!)
As an aside, so far I’ve been really loving this calendar, and it feels like I’ve been judging them with unfairly high scores. There is no bias – I’m just enjoying this journey thoroughly. I had no expectations of the calendar (which was a gift), and have had Davids Tea’s advent calendars in past years. I think the thing that has stood out so far with B&B’s advent calendar is that every tea so far has evoked feelings and flavours I associate with the holidays, whereas DT’s calendar tends to touch on the holidays here and there, but is primarily more like a 15 day “DT Sample Pack” with 9 days of festive cheer. (Why they don’t include more of the holiday blends they’ll release each year is a mystery I’ll never understand.) I often find myself skipping days with DT’s advent to reach for something more festive. This has not been the case at all (as of Day 5) with the B&B advent calendar, and I would absolutely recommend it to someone who really wants to indulge in wintery holiday cheer via tea, where every day truly does feel like consideration has been given to the lead-up of Advent.
Flavors: Apple, Cinnamon
I was very excited to try Spiced Clementine on day two of the Bird and Blend Advent Calendar for 2020 – I’d previously purchased Davids Tea’s Satsuma Spice Cake with high hopes and been very disappointed, and this seemed like something that could fill the void that left. The two have fairly different premises, but the similarities are also obvious. When I first opened the pouch for this tea and gave the dry tea a whiff, it was like sticking my nose into a juicy orange – with hints of marmaladey, spicy goodness. The sense was that it was warming without ever having fired up the kettle. I kept my expectations in check, however, as apple came before orange peel in the ingredients list, and I’ve had plenty of times where an herbal tea of any flavour quickly devolves into yet another muted apple cider.
Once said kettle was sufficiently fired up, and tea steeped, however, I found this remained a perfectly zesty orange flavour – and spices! They were so lovely and balanced here that nothing ever touched on “apple cider” (thank you for leaving out the cinnamon!). Instead, I was transported back to the old Christmas shops I used to see popping up in malls around Canada in the 90s, where everything smelled like Christmas, and chutneys and dips were on sample with little crackers or pretzels, and about 3-5 different apple ciders were on offer to try. Strangely, it didn’t taste like the ciders, but like the whole shop smelled.
The hibiscus gave a tartness that was, I believe, just the perfect level here – it was tart but not sour. It balanced the clementine flavour out to a convincing degree without making one’s eyes water or want to reach for a glass of water, as hibiscus sometimes can. It felt like it might be reaching up there, but it never crossed the threshold, maintaining instead its place as a supporting role rather than the starring one.
I’ll frequently reach for a black tea over an herbal, and I’d have loved to experience this as a black tea one could add milk to without fear of a curdling catastrophe, but I still really enjoyed the depths this offered thoroughly, and appreciated how nicely every flavour seemed to complement the others. Every worry and misgiving I had about this tea was assuaged by experiencing it, and I have to say it delivered exactly what the name promised. And all whilst delivering “Christmas” to a tee.
Flavors: Cloves, Orange, Spices, Tart
The first day of the Bird and Blend Advent Calendar for 2020 was a wonderful start indeed with this one – my only regret is that I put what was likely too much water for how much tea there was in the pouch and how long I steeped it. (I steeped according to the steep time suggested on the package, but without a water volume recommendation I hoped “more would be more”. It turned out far more likely that less would have been more – or a longer steep time! Lesson learned! I’ve been steeping the other teas in this release for about 7 minutes for 16 oz of water with much improved results!) Because of my fumble here, I found this a little “thin” (especially as I added a splash of milk) and not as potent as I believe it would have normally been – but I can see the potential in a more informed steep, and I believe my rating would have gone up to 90-95 if I had taken the proper care.
I’ve always been a little on the fence about Lebkuchen as a dessert – I like it, but I don’t love it. I’d more likely reach for a ginger molasses cookie when given the choice between them, but I enjoy them if they are available – it’s likely I wouldn’t head to the shops for them, however. But this tea really reminded me of them – enough that I wasn’t actually sure what Lebkuchen was – and guessed correctly what it was once I’d tasted the tea! (I’d had them, but never mentally hung on to what they were called.) I want to say I’d have loved it more if it’d been a touch more robust, but again, that likely came down to my steeping choices. I’d absolutely love to try this tea again, and wouldn’t scoff at adding it to my collection whatsoever. The flavour was so spot-on that I could picture the texture of Lebkuchen perfectly, and those sweet “caramelly” notes fit in perfectly.
I haven’t had Bird and Blend tea before, and I should add that I felt that there was more to experience in this tea – the tip of my tongue and the back of it had very different experiences, which was a delight of riches to encounter. I love a flavoured tea – I’m not much of one for classic, traditional, straight teas, so I thought I’d experienced a wealth of of what was on offer with regards to the flavoured variety. But this one really made me take a step back and think, “Maybe I have been misunderstanding what’s possible with flavoured teas.” The depth of flavours really was much more broad than my favourites at, say, Davids Tea have been. Nothing against them – I still love them, but I felt like Bird and Blend really might have some exciting treats in store for me that I hadn’t even thought to imagine. As of recording this tasting note, I’m now on Day 5 of their Advent calendar and I have to say I haven’t been disappointed once.