Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Holiday Tea Tasting

 My tea cabinet has several holiday teas left from last year and I ordered a few new samples.  I put them to the test and here are my results.  I did not read the descriptions of the teas before tasting.  The flavors I describe are what I tasted.  I am not an avid tea taster, so this is a very novice review.  I divided them into four rounds.

Round 1 – Simpson and Vail

The aroma smelled a bit like my kitchen after an afternoon of holiday baking, especially gingerbread boys.  When tasting, the cloves were the prominent flavor.  The tea was a bit bitey at first, but mellowed and had a smooth finish.

St. Nicks Tea
I did not detect a noticeable aroma with this tea.  There was not distinguishing flavors when tasting the tea, perhaps a hint of spice or walnuts.  It was a buttery tea and the smoothest of these three.  (When I went to the website to look up this tea while writing this, it says it is chocolate, roasted nuts and a hint of maple.) 

Nutcracker Tea
The aroma was definitely nutty.  Upon tasting, I detected almonds with a nutty aftertaste.  This tea was the biteiest of these three, especially the aftertaste.

My rankings – Gingerbread, St. Nicks and then Nutcracker

Round 2 – Kusmi Teas

Tsarevna – definite spicy aroma.  I couldn’t put my finger on the exact spice and headed to my spice cabinet for help in detecting it.  I was not successful.  When tasting, I noticed the clove first, then the orange.  The spices were the dominating flavor and seemed oriental to me.  This was the spiciest of these three teas.  The aftertaste was smooth.

Christmas Green Tea – The aroma is much softer.  The spices were a bit different in this one.  It was a much lighter tea.  I first noticed a bit of floral undertone.  Perhaps it was just the green tea.  The flavors were very blended in this tea and nothing stood out above the others.  I could detect cinnamon, cloves, nuts and a bit of citrus.  The aftertaste was bitey.

Christmas Tea – The aroma smelled of basic black tea.  The tea was the dominating flavor in this cup.  I had to really focus to pick out a bit of floral undertone; a bit of vanilla, which I think really mellows tea flavors.  There was a hint of spice.  The aftertaste lingered a bit.  It was nutty, but not bitey like usual.

My rankings – Tsarevna, Christmas Tea, Christmas Green Tea

Round 3Holiday Teas

Holiday Tea – Harney & Sons
Sugar cookies and vanilla wafted from this cup.  It was a mellow flavored tea with a soft tea taste.  It had a hint of vanilla.  This would go great with flavorful holiday foods, especially cookies or fruitcake.  It would only enhance other flavors, not clash with them.  It had a smooth finish.

Holiday Blend – Simpson & Vail
The scent of this tea was just a bit more sugar cookie and vanilla.  The flavor was again soft and mellow.  There was again, a hint of vanilla.  This tea would pair well with any strong flavored holiday food, same as the Holiday tea.  It would enhance instead of overpower other flavors.  The finish of this was a bit biteier than the Harney and Sons tea.

Comfort & Joy – Republic of Tea
This is one of my favorite holiday teas, usually.  My tin has been in the cabinet for a couple years and it still has an expiration date of June 2016.  I think the quality of tea degrades with age.  This tea smelled like a good pot of wassail, spicy and orangey.  I detected apples when I tasted it (I don’t normally care for apple teas.)  I detected some anise.  The tea was a bit stale tasting.

My Rankings – Comfort and Joy, and then a tie between the other two.

Round 4 – Various Teas

Cinnamon Orange – Marketspice
Soft spiced oranges greet you when you smell this cup.  This tea was the sweetest and had the most pronounced flavor thus far.  The orange and cinnamon flavors were a bit artificial tasting.  The artificial taste was even stronger in the aftertaste

Vintage Christmas – Swan House Tea Room
Again, the aroma was mellow vanilla, like sugar cookies fresh from the oven.  The flavor was creamy and pepperminty, like the soft peppermint sticks that melt in your mouth not the hard peppermint of a candy cane.  It seemed softened with a bit of vanilla.  It reminded me of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  It would be wonderful alone as a dessert tea, or served alongside a bit of chocolate fudge.

Decaf Hot Cinnamon – Harney & Sons
Aaah, cinnamon rushes up to meet your nose.  This tea is again sweet from the cinnamon.  It tasted like drinking a cup of melted red hots.  I detected no tea at all.  It would be great as a dessert tea, on its own, or with a complimenting flavor.    It would also be wonderful served alongside French toast for breakfast. 

My rankings – Tie - Vintage Christmas and Hot Cinnamon, Cinnamon Orange

And the final results – Tie – Vintage Christmas and Hot Cinnamon, Comfort and Joy, Tie – Holiday Tea and Holiday Blend.  

 You will notice some saltine crackers are added to the photos in the later tastings.  I did need something to cleanse my pallet.  I also enjoyed a couple of my Holiday CD’s during the tasting.  The Oak Ridge Boys have been my favorite singing group for a long time.  I enjoy their song “Christmas Carol” during the holidays.  I also listened to a bit of Jim Brickman.  I find his music relaxing. 

If you need a Holiday Tea with a visual presence, this is the Vintage Christmas from Swan House.  It is by far, the most festive looking tea.

My used tea leaves.

Sips and Smiles,


  1. Oh my a gingerbread tea sounds delightful!

  2. I am always amazed that some people can differentiate the subtle differences (and described them).
    Rochelle, ATAA

  3. What a fun review of Christmas teas. Did the traveling teapot enjoy sipping with you too?

  4. That was a fun activity! I went to a tea tasting at a friend's house once. We had someone from a local tea company conduct the tasting. It was really enjoyable.

  5. Enjoyed this very much. Especially since I don't drink a lot of flavoured teas. Being part of the card exchanges has introduced me to a whole new group of teas... I very much appreciate.