The Spice & Tea Exchange

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Recent Tasting Notes

Second steep. I managed to wring a second cup out of the leaves with a very long steep and a little milk. The rock sugar was spent with the first cup, but there was still adequate cinnamon, lemon, and raisin to make it believable. I won’t hoard the rest of the packet (just picked up a 1 ounce sample), but the rest needs to be saved until there’s plenty of time to savor it.

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We are not Black Friday shoppers. However, I incorrectly assumed that Rangeline (our main drag) would be clear of the crazies by this afternoon, and made a run to Goodwill to drop off some surplus. The traffic was absolutely bananas, and it’s good to be back in the burg. (Remember the story of the city mouse and country mouse? Oh, wait…you’re
too young for Captain Kangaroo. I’m the country mouse.)

I’m celebrating my survival home with an afternoon tea splurge. The Spice & Tea Exchange is a fun but pricey stop on the Branson Landing (online as well), but I succumbed to the seasonal bait they had at the front of the shop…and glad I did. This couldn’t make a nicer post-Thanksgiving treat. We’ve got creamy vanilla. We’ve got fresh cinnamon. We’ve got a teeny bit of lemon. We’ve even got a little bit of raisin-i-ness; that must be a contribution from the black tea base.

Paired with a leftover slab of pumpkin pie dump cake and a scoop of carrot cake ice cream—-taste so good it makes my toes wiggle!

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This one grew on me. Caramel, pumpkin, chocolate anise, tannin, nuts, and smoke this morning. Really easy to drink in fall weather. Most teas taste better in Michigan’s colder weather anyway. I still think it’s overpriced, but it’s a very good black tea.

Sip down!

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Backlog and present note reflection.

I took a vacation to tour the historic Saint Augustine Florida and visit my father. I thought about taking my teas with me, but decided not to because I know my dad doesn’t have a filter and drinks tap water. I planned on going through my Hugo Bagged Earl Grey and Jasmine Bai Hao because I know those teas can usually withstand okay bottled water while retaining their flavor, and I wouldn’t lose out on the flavors of my more expensive leaf.

Then I had a hair up my butt, and decided to get some Coconut Pouchong and this one from the Spice and Tea exchange and see how they held up. This Golden Money is the tea that begins to convert regular drinkers to higher end fancier black teas-a stepping stone drug if you will. I know I’ve had this one years ago and didn’t think much of it, so I decided to go at it again by pure impulse.

Opening the bag and 10 dollars spent later, the tea’s earthy but distinctly spicy, smelling like pepper, ginger, anise seed, and distinctly, licorice root and chocolate. Spice and Tea I’m not sure if it’s because the tea sits in a spice store soaking up the other flavors, or if its the tea itself since some black teas can have an edge to them. Brewing it western at my dad’s house with bottle water, I only got some flavors. The Spice and Exchange undersold the description making the tea savory, which is accurate. Dense malt, honey hints, muddled chocolate, and earth licorice root. Solid, okay. Quaity water is needed, and less humidity that is not Florida weather.

Back in Michigan on a hot day with only ten percent less humidity, the dry tea smells incredible. Spicy more so with qualities of the golden monkey that I know I like. Gong fu, and I got the flavors I described about and thick layers. Chocolate, honey, yams are more prominent yet still equal with the licorice and malt. Some people say tobacco for it, and I can see it more now in the malt. I’m getting mega peanut butter vibes in steep one and two.

I like this one’s profile, but $10 is a lot for it. So far, I never go beyond 3 steeps with it before the tea loses flavor, and I’ve gotten better quality for the same price and cheaper.

Flavors: Anise, Butter, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Honey, Licorice, Malt, Peanut, Pepper, Spices, Sweet Potatoes, Tobacco

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I don’t really like this one. The flavor is a bit fake and weird. It’s not too tart, but its tartness also doesn’t hit in a very pleasant way. It doesn’t really have any notes that make me think smoothie, only sour orange. Milk made it taste a little better. I think I’d have it again that way, but it’s definitely not tasty enough to purchase.

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Sipdown! (1 | 205)

“An Ode to Tea” Alphabet Challenge – A

So Mastress Alita’s sipdown theme for April is “An Ode to Tea”, and the challenge is to drink a tea starting with each letter of the alphabet. So I’m starting today with the letter A, and this tea sample from a recent swap!

The aroma is tantalizingly apricot, but I’m getting a lot of ginger in the taste. So much that really, the ginger is the main flavor for me, with the apricot acting in a supporting role. So, it ends up tasting quite earthy as opposed to fruity, thought there is a nice tartness from the apricot.

Drinkable, but not something I would choose, not being that big on ginger. But it was fun to try, and yay easy sipdown to start the month! :D

Flavors: Apricot, Dried Fruit, Earth, Ginger, Tart

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML
Tiffany :)

Ooh, I love ginger & apricot… :)

I’m also definitely going to play but I don’t know if I’m going to do mine in A-Z order or not, I’m still missing some letters too…


@Tiffany – I didn’t have a tea for “X” so I think I may just skip it

Cameron B.

I’m missing a couple of letters too, so I’ll have to figure out what to do for those…

Mastress Alita

I’m not going in order, nor am I writing notes for all of them (only the “new to me” ones).


I might play along too, though I don’t have a tea beginning with X, either. Maybe [Zheng Shan] Xiao Zhong? :D

Mastress Alita

I have had to use some creative interpretation for Q and Z for mine. I actually have the elusive X, “Xingyang Shu Pu-erh”.


Ooh, I might have a very old packet of Xingyang Mao Jian from Teavivre somewhere…

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Better cold brewed, still not my favorite.

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Wow! This is good. I don’t usually dig herbals / tisanes, but this has a perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors and just the right amount of cinnamon. One can discern each and every voice in the choir, and relax with the beautiful melody. This gift makes me smile every time I brew it. Time to order more!

Boiling 4 min, 45 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Pretty sure this is the same tea as Adagio’s green rooibos bonita. It has a light green rooibos and fruit flavor, which is just lovely. It’s like a soft orange peach. I love Adagio’s green rooibos. I actually have a 3 oz bag of Adagio’s green rooibos bonita, which I was planning on saving for a few months before drinking, but my cat bit some holes in its bag, so I’ve transferred it to a tin, and now I’ll be able to make a direct comparison sooner than I thought.

Mastress Alita

I also came to this conclusion not long ago. Fairly sure they wholesale source it from Adagio.


Yeah, when I was looking for something to drink in my sister’s collection, I saw this one and was like yep, I know this will be good.

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Work tea from yesterday.

This is ok. It definitely needs precise water temp and brewing time to bring out the berry flavors and any hints of the white tea base. Overstepping results in a cup o’ hibiscus.

185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

“cup o’ hibiscus” XD

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Work tea #1

This is nice. The base tea is a bit woody, but it does have substance and body. The blueberry flavor is a bit odd. Some sips it’s right there, a delicious juicy blueberry flavor. Sweet and fruity. Other sips… nothing. I’m not sure why it’s that way, but if this tea were more consistent I’d be tempted to pick some up for myself. As it is, I’m glad I got to try it from the stash of teas they keep for us at my work. I think I’ll leave it at that.

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Firstly, I will note that the preparation instructions say 1 TBSP (aka 3 tsp) loose tea to 8 ounces of boiling (212˚F) water. As soon as I poured that boiling water over my tea infuser stuffed with that TBSP of loose tea, I noticed an immediate colorful cloud leave the infuser and quickly darken the water. I was to let it steep and sit for 5 minutes, which I did, and then removed the infuser.

The brewed tea smelled less strongly than the dry loose tea. The dry loose would make an excellent potpourri, by the way, but that wasn’t what I had selected it for. The brewed tea tasted … like hot water. I expected, at a minimum, to taste rooibos. But no. Just the flavor of hot water. I was confused.

But I’d had a similar problem with a sugar cookie tea that smelled fantastically of sugar cookies but also tasted to me of hot water. I wondered if my tongue was broken for this realm of teas-that-attempt-to-duplicate-baked-desserts.

Perhaps, thought I, what I need is to add a sweetener to this tea. I normally take my tea black. So I hunted down some honey and added the honey. And then it tasted like hot, thin honey. So no, the honey didn’t help the tea flavors appear. Again, it still smelled fantastically, but I have this habit of halting my inhalations as I’m pouring my sip of tea into my mouth, too many aspirated drinks as a child, so the smell didn’t carry over to mask the lack of taste.

Then the strangest thing happened. I declared the tea a failure and let it cool to (I didn’t have a thermometer) lukewarm (cooler than I typically take tea, slightly above room temperature). And then the flavors appeared. All of them. Correctly.

I looked at the packaging: no mention is made of this. I looked at the website for this tea: no mention of this. So I came here to Steepster and put the tea into the database specifically so that I could make mention of this.

Brew according to the directions, but then let it naturally cool. If you still want it somewhat warm, you’ll have to figure out the exact point of lukewarmness that it is still as warm as it can be while still being flavorful. If you don’t mind a room temperature cuppa you are guaranteed flavor when it reaches that temperature.

So this tea is no longer a warm-me-up tea. It has become, instead, a “drink”. And I will enjoy it as such. And I hope you will as well.

Flavors: Sweet, Whiskey

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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So my insomnia has been pretty bad lately, even after cutting back on tea. Wanting to avoid going the melatonin route, I decided to look into tisanes. Internet research consistenly turned up chamomile and valerian as effective sleep aids. Since I like chamomile on its own, I decided to try it first.

My stash of Rishi chamomile medley had more herbs than chamomile flowers left so yesterday I set out to procure some organic loose leaf chamomile. However, Whole Foods only carries the bagged variety and the giant 1 lb bags sold on Amazon are overkill. Luckily I was able to get half an ounce of pure chamomile from the Spice & Tea Exchange.

Tastewise, this was a delicious tea on its own. Sweet, citrusy, and honeyed with a bright yellow color. Normally I steep chamomile for 5 minutes but I decided to brew it extra strong and steeped for 10 minutes. Even then it was soft and very soothing.

A couple of cups of this and some classical music on Spotify definitely helped me sleep better last night. Hopefully it’s not simply a placebo effect because it’s such a lovely and relaxing bedtime tea. I will experiment tonight by upping the quantity of chamomile and maybe blend in some dried lavender.

Flavors: Citrusy, Honey

Boiling 8 min or more 1 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

When you start looking into valerian, check out Bedtime Blues from AQ2T. It is absolutely the most relaxing tea I’ve ever had. And so delicious! Plus it has chamomile too.

Mastress Alita

I don’t like the taste of chamomile, so I have to use valerian, but it works amazingly well for me. I only ever use it in blends, usually with mint and lavender, but it really hits me hard.


Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll definitely be sure to check out valerian


Whether placebo effect or not, linden works the best for me followed by valerian. I’d much rather drink flower nectar than stinky feet.

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No stand out, but still a good Russian Caravan, and it’s nice to find something at a local shop, seems like I am constantly waiting on the mail and it gets old.

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Autumn Harvest! This pumpkin tea has a soft spot for me, because it was pretty much the first loose leaf tea I purchased that got me into tea, back when I was on a vacation Labor Day Weekend back in 2016 (I think the other tea I bought that vacation was a Cinnamon Plum herbal full of hibi that pretty much everyone on here would hate, but that cemented me as a hibi lover for life… I’ve just about sipped that one down, too!) It’s simply time for these oldest teas to go, even though they hold dear memories for me.

The tea steeps up a lovely rich amber color and has a lovely spicy scent. This is one of those pumpkin teas that actually has a savory, squashy pumpkin note, which I really like. The black base is medium bodied and there is a notable cinnamon spiciness that is left on the tongue and creates a warmth and sense of coziness. It isn’t too overbearing, as there is a natural sweetness to the cup from the maple crystals that balances the cinnamon nicely.

This is a pumpkin tea that is far less “desserty” than others; the whipped cream and caramel flavorings just don’t really pop in the cup, and it doesn’t really have a “pumpkin pie” flavor, so if that is what you are looking for, this isn’t really the pumpkin tea for you. To me, this tea tastes a bit more like pumpkin squash roasted in cinnamon and sweetened with just a hint of maple, and the taste it leaves on my tongue just makes me think of autumn… that spicy, warm feeling just reminds me of fires and fall leaves on a cold morning, somehow.

It does have “latte” in the name, and does hold up to making latte style quite well! When making this tea as a latte, I like going in with extra leaf, and using vanilla almond milk. Personally, the tea evokes such strong feelings of autumn to me when drunk plain that I actually prefer it sans milk. It’s a bit stronger, spicier, and just has a unique savory flavor profile that I haven’t quite found in any other pumpkin tea. But it’s all a matter of personal taste!

It’s a nostalgic tea for me. The closest taste match I’ve found to this one is 52Tea’s Pumpkin Chai, which is equally nom, but also comes and goes sporadically. I try to avoid Spice and Tea Exchange these days because their prices are highway robbery (as a tea newb I didn’t know better!) but maybe next fall I’ll restock this one, just for old time’s sake.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Malt, Maple, Pumpkin, Spicy, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 12 OZ / 350 ML

OH that’s why you like hibiscus… it was one of your first teas. :D

Mastress Alita

I just like the taste of it! #TeamHibiscus

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This is my first and long overdue first review for this website. This was the first tea I tried from the spice and tea Exchange and have fallen in LOVE with this tea. It’s the perfect combination of black tea and chocolate. I usually steep this tea for 5 minutes.

Flavors: Chocolate

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I normally prefer my teas very strong, so the flavor was almost too subtle for my taste. Even so, the aroma was strong and the flavor was still pleasant. I didn’t taste the strawberry and rhubarb very much, but it was more present in the aroma. The grassy and floral aspects were more present in the taste.

Flavors: Floral, Green, Rhubarb, Strawberry

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 250 ML

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This is one of my favorite peach teas. It has a rich peach flavor, with a lot of fruity flavor notes. There is a bit of a subtle citrus-orange flavor beneath the peach in the aftertaste. I prefer to drink the tea sans sweetener as the tea has a lot of natural sweetness, but do find that adding just a touch tends to bring out some very subtle berry notes in the tea, which I didn’t really notice otherwise. The green rooibos is a nice base which is very light and takes the fruit flavors well; there are no lingering grassy or vegetative flavors like you might find in a similar green tea fruit blend. This is a great caffeine-free option for a strong peach-flavored sweet tea. It also makes a great iced tea! I find I can’t stand red rooibos iced (I love it warm, but something about icing it brings out a certain flavor to my palate that is cough syrupy to me!) but I have no problem at all with green rooibos as an iced drink, and this blend is very refreshing as an iced tea!

Full review:

Flavors: Berry, Fruity, Orange, Peach, Sweet

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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When I first reviewed this tea on my blog, I really gushed about it. I really loved how it reminded me of creamsicle orange-vanilla ice cream, and it really seemed to have wide appeal when I made it for non-tea drinkers. But over time I’ve sort of lost my taste for it. This was one of the earliest teas I had in my collection, and I think that as my tea collection expanded, I just came to find other herbal blends that also went with a “creamsicle” flavor profile where I just felt it came out much creamier and stronger in the vanilla notes, leading to a better balance in the orange and vanilla. This tea is much bolder in the orange flavor, which I suppose makes sense, considering it is called blood orange smoothie, and while I normally absolutely love the tart bite of hibiscus, I just think that after sampling the sweeter, more “ice creamy” creamsicle teas that going back to this tea, with its more citrusy, tart flavor and very subtle hints of vanilla it just couldn’t hold up for me anymore. I could still drink it, but I no longer preferred it, and definitely no longer felt the need to rave about it like I once had.

I will say that I do still enjoy it latte-style, made with warm vanilla-almond milk. Since the vanilla flavor of the almond milk enhances the weakness of the vanilla flavor of the tea, this gives the tea more of that creamsicle flavor that I enjoy… and the milk gives it a really nice creaminess, too!

Full Review:

Flavors: Citrus, Hibiscus, Orange, Tart, Vanilla

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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Drank two cups of this today. It was disappointing and even less enjoyable than the last time I drank it. Trying to drink up the last few teas I have that are about or over a year old. This one is about a year old and smells like a decadent chocolate truffle.

Prep: 1st Cup: Boiling water for 2:15 minutes
2nd Cup Just below boiling water steeped slightly longer than before.

Ended up tasting like a weak plain black tea. I changed the steeping parameters though to try to bring out the chocolate notes.

Boiling 2 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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