Happy Valley Darjeeling: A DAVIDsTea Review

With aromas of ripe plum, apricot and fresh herbs, this black tea is pure happiness.

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japsench

$14.98/50g

C’mon get happy…

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(Black tea from Darjeeling, India.)

Happy Valley is the only tea garden in the town of Darjeeling, India, and this unique second-flush darjeeling is grown there at 6,800 feet. Typically, Darjeeling teas are classified as a type of black tea (but are also available in oolong, green, and white), while a “flush” refers to a period of growth (or harvest), as tea bushes and trees grow constantly, pushing out new buds and top leaves at regular intervals, which are then plucked. Happy Valley Darjeeling is an organic tea, with a distinct aroma that apparently boasts notes of ripe fruit and damp wood. I wish I could have picked up on those particular characteristics, but to me, it just smells like an ordinary Orange Pekoe or English Breakfast. And because of how strong black tea tends to be, three and a half minutes is as long as I steeped HVD for, which resulted in that well-known brown/red orange colour that you would expect of a Orange Pekoe or a classic Darjeeling.

For someone who religiously craves a splash of milk and sugar in their black tea, it was more than a little bit impressive that I was able to enjoy this tea just fine without either. Especially, because I was so wholeheartedly expecting it to be unpleasant and bitter, but to my great surprise, it was not. For a darjeeling, it’s thankfully not very astringent, but still astringent nonetheless. Overall, it has a great, well-rounded, but complex flavour. While hot, it is woodsy and earthy, but as it begins to cool, it becomes fruity and has a really smooth mouthfeel. It’s nice, because Happy Valley Darjeeling tastes basically how it is described: all of the aforementioned with a dainty, floral finish. Best of all, it possesses that rare trademark muscatel (grape/raisin-like, wine-y) character throughout, even into the aftertaste. My love for this tea will have to remind at a level of long distance infatuation though, because the price of maintaining such a smooth drinking Darjeeling in my collection is way too steep.

Butter Sencha: A DAVIDsTea Review

This beautifully unique green tea from Japan boasts notes of rich caramelized butter.

japsench

$12.98/50g

You butter believe it…

(Green tea, natural roasted butter flavouring.)

DAVIDsTea currently offers around ten different straight green teas, with four of those being of the “sencha” variety. Including Butter Sencha, which is brand new as of today. Now you may be wondering what exactly sets this particular Japanese sencha apart from the others… well, the answer is located in its name. Butter. Most green teas of this variety already possess an innate butter-like quality to them, so why not amplify that? With the addition of some natural flavouring, this tea really shines. Never mind it’s plain Jane look, there is an aroma that is super rich and almost irresistible. It basically commands your attention and appeals to the senses. I’d say it bares slight resemblance to Movie Night and Gyokuro Yamashiro. The colour? A standard yellow-ish green that deepens as it brews and the leaves start to expand.

As is the case with a lot of green teas, Butter Sencha is a little tricky to get just right. The recommended steeping time is between 2 and 3 minutes (I opted for the former option), but even that might have been too much… The initial flavour was a tad bit too strong for my liking. Quite astringent too. But once some more hot water was added to dilute the cup somewhat, I found the tea to be a lot more enjoyable. The butter notes come through perfectly, you can even smell the caramelization to a greater extent once steeped. I can’t say that the thought of drinking melted butter is the most appealing thing in the world, but that’s kind of what this tea is like, and I am kind of surprised at myself for being as fond of it as I am, especially with a touch of honey added. Butter Sencha is really an exceptional green tea. It’s bold, crisp, and smooth going down. A satisfactory choice for those who are still getting a feel for straight green teas, but want to try something a little different at the same time. But be prepared to drop some serious cash… this one is pretty pricey!

Moonlight White: A DAVIDsTea Review

This exquisite white pu’erh tea is delicate and smooth, with a sweet honey finish.

japsench

$24.98/50g

Can’t fight the moonlight…

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(White tea from Yunnan Province, China.)

The original Chinese name for this tea is “Yue Guang Bai”, which quite literally translates to Moonlight White, word for word. Yunnan, a province of/in China that is known for their pu’erh tea, is the source of this special tea blend. And I say tea blend, because people often get confused on whether Moonlight White is in fact a white tea, or is it Pu-erh? The answer is both, technically. Even though it has been lightly processed just like your typical while tea, you can steep this as if it were a pu’erh, ultimately making it a “white pu’erh”. Its appearance is comprised of white silvery leaves, complete with a black underbelly, which the Chinese believe mimics the glow of the moon. Not to be ignorant, but to me, Moonlight White has the standard “white tea” scent: light, fresh, and vegetal. Kind of like a green tea, actually.

The fact that you can steep Moonlight White up to 7 minutes if you wanted is pretty refreshing. I have often accidentally burnt a white tea (or six), because I forget how delicate they can, and this tea helps take some of the stress out of that process. After four minutes, this tea brews up to a beautiful golden colour. Although I bet more time would have brugh t forth a rather toasty, brown shade. The aroma wafting off the cup now smells a bit like warmed cream, oddly enough. As for the taste, super smooth. And the pu’erh aspect gives it this malty depth. It’s a little bitter as you make your way to the bottom of the cup, but it’s really not so bad, because there’s a nice honey finish with each sip. Quite the tea experience, but it’s very limited edition, so get some while you still can!

Blackberry Blizzard: A DAVIDsTea Review

This sweet and tangy blend is bursting with fresh blackberries and creamy yogurt.

zero

$7.98/50g

Snow big deal…

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(Apple, papaya, pineapple, rosehip shells, hibiscus, sweet blackberry leaves, blackberries, artificial blackberry, red fruit and boysenberry flavouring.)

The blackberry, in comparison to its famous counterparts (strawberries, blueberries, etc.), is generally very underrated; despite being delicious, nutrient dense and quite versatile. This relative of the raspberry is the star component of DAVIDsTea’s BlackBerry Blizzard, one-fifth of their newly released summer collection. Imagine Berry Poppins — a fruit infusion from teas past — with much less hibiscus and a stronger presence of cream. That’s basically what this tea is. The dry leaf is basically a combination of dried fruit, blackberry leaves, hibiscus, rosehip shells and additional flavourings. Every single component is visibly present, although there could honestly be some more blackberries dispersed throughout. I know that there will be others who can attest to this as well. The aroma on the other hand is promising. It is tart and clearly berry packed, with just a subtle hint of rich creaminess.

Blackberry Blizzard transforms into this striking, vibrant shade of red after close to seven minutes, with its tangy berry scent still very much intact once steeped. There’s a natural sweetness present. The blackberry leaves definitely help back up the candied pineapple and papaya, but are no match for the level of tartness that the berries and hibiscus bring to the table. Some additional sugar would definitely be beneficial here to balance everything out. It’s very candy like and artificial in its general flavour, and it’s hard to say that they actually nailed the blackberry aspect to a T, but I digress, because it’s caffeine free and super refreshing iced. It would have been nice to see the “berries and cream” concept executed better and that the resulting flavour profile was a lot stronger. I believe that the creaminess is most noticeable in the lingering after taste. It’s very reminiscent of a mixed berry flavoured Greek yogurt. But it’s yet another tisane where hibiscus is featured, completely eliminating the possibility of creating an awesome latte. What a shame.

Coco Colada: A DAVIDsTea Review

This creamy coconut-pineapple blend tastes just like a perfect piña colada.

zero

$7.98/50g

Cuckoo for coconuts…

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(Pineapple, roasted coconut, mango, apple, hibiscus, natural coconut and pineapple flavouring.)

Pretty much everyone and their mother has heard of the Piña Colada. It is that deliciously tempting rum, pineapple and coconut concoction that was featured in the 1979 Rupert Holmes’s Piña Colada song, “Escape”. This is one of the most popular tropical cocktails, and of all the piña colada-esque teas that DAVIDsTea has released over the years, and trust me there have been quite a few (Pura Vida, Tropicalia, Hot Tropic, Fruits of Paradise), Coco Colada is probably the most true to what a piña colada tastes like. And that’s because instead of bogging the tea down with a bunch of different, sometimes unnecessary ingredients, Coco Colada is simply pineapple and coconut, with a tropical twist of mango and a pop of colour/tang from the hibiscus.  The smell is kind of off putting. I don’t know if it’s the roasted coconut, per say, but it’s really not pleasant.

Even after seven minutes of steeping, Coco Colada still only changes to a really pale, cloudy pink shade. The smell after steeping gets worse, if you can believe it. I honestly can’t describe it… But I can’t ignore it as much as I’d like. I am thankful for the mango, which I find ups the fruity factor and spices up the classic piña colada recipe somewhat. Overall, it has a real nice coconut/pineapple flavour, although the coconut comes through more so than anything else, giving this tea a creamy quality to it, coating your mouth, while the pineapple and its sweetness settle into the aftertaste. I think adding any more sugar to this blend would be extreme overkill. The candied fruit already contributes plenty of natural sweetness. Even though this tea doesn’t do a whole for me, the inclusion of hibiscus, instead of say, beetroot is pretty disappointing though, because this tea has all kinds of latte potential… What a missed opportunity!

Rainbow Sherbet: A DAVIDsTea Review

Remember going to the ice cream shop when you were a kid? This sweet and fruity blend will take you right back to your favourite cone.

zero

$8.98/50g

Over the rainbow…

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(Apple, pineapple, orange peel, hibiscus, sweet blackberry leaves, cornflower petals, raspberries, natural flavouring.)

The names sorbet and sherbet have been used interchangeably to some extent over the years, which can get pretty confusing at times, but let’s get things straight. Sherbet is simply sorbet’s creamier cousin. Once some dairy is added, the result is a frozen dessert that’s richer than sorbet, but is still lighter than ice cream. And I think that’s why I enjoy sherbet so much, because it’s the best of both worlds, and when you’re indecisive like me, you really don’t want to have to choose! Inspired by the classic, DAVIDsTea’s Rainbow Sherbet combines ripe raspberry, sweet pineapple and juicy orange into a feast for the senses. The cornflower petals bring a nice additional pop of colour amidst the other ingredients. It’s almost as beautiful as the colour that appears after 7 full minutes of steeping – hibiscus red. And the tea still smells as fruity as ever; the orange is what stands out the most.

Oddly enough, one of my very first thoughts while sipping this tea was, “why does this taste exactly like a piece of gum that has lost the majority of its flavour almost instantly?”. Fruit Stripe gum is a perfect flavour comparison. And the thing is, if you enjoy fruity teas that aren’t too sweet, Rainbow Sherbet is right up your alley. Its overall flavour is on the lighter, more diluted side, especially before any added sweetener. The fruit notes can best described as non-descript. The citrus (orange) is kind of obvious, and there’s something like a red fruit flavour representative of the raspberry, but then the pineapple seems to kind of blend in with everything else. It has a slight tropical vibe going for it. Maybe if lime was included in this mix of fruits, that would have amped this tea up for me, and taste even more like the Rainbow Sherbet that I grew up eating. Either way, it’s super refreshing and a definite future summer staple!

Sour Watermelon: A DAVIDsTea Review

We all know watermelon is the king of summer. And this tart and juicy brew takes its deliciousness to a whole new level. Pucker up!

zero

$7.98/50g

Sour power…

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(Sour apple, honeydew melon, watermelon, beetroot, artificial orange-mint flavouring.)

Each and every summer, there’s one fruit that people prepare to feast upon, whether it is at a picnic, barbecue, pool party, or a family gathering of some kind, and that is the watermelon. With its juicy texture, this pink melon is great for hydrating/cooling down the body, and hence is truly refreshing, rightfully making it king (of summer). And with Sour Watermelon, DAVIDsTea takes this fruit to a whole other level, from sweet to pleasantly tart. If you like Jolly Ranchers, or even the penny candies from your childhood, this caffeine free blend is just for you! It’s a bit on the chunkier side, with big pieces of dried fruit (how does one dehydrate a melon, anyways?), as well as beetroot. Everything basically sticks together, and has a scent that is reminiscent of the aforementioned candies.

If you want to get the true sour experience, 10 minutes and up is your best bet. Shorter steeps result in a cup that looks like straight up watermelon juice, but the longer it sits, the more the beetroot comes through, and the colour develops. The aroma kind of tricks you before you take a sip, because it smells like sweet watermelon candies, but the taste makes for quite the pucker face! It’s not at all tart/sour in the way that hibiscus is, it’s basically the sour apple getting to shine amongst the melon. You even get some subtle green apple-esque undertones in each sip. But I feel like Sour Watermelon could use some added sugar to cut the edge of the tartness somewhat and bring everything together. Although, I can’t quite speak for where the “orange-mint” flavouring comes into play, but it’s probably for the best that it cannot be detected. Simply put, Sour Watermelon is the best (water)melon tea I’ve encountered to date, next to Melon Drop. It is spot on to what it is trying to portray, and what more could you possibly ask for?

Grapefruit Granita: A DAVIDsTea Review

Looking for a little sophistication with your summer refreshment? This delicate and lively blend tastes just like a frosty grapefruit sorbet.

low

$9.98/50g

Chill out…

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(Ginger, green tea, sweet blackberry leaves, apple, apple pomace, beetroot, grapefruit peel, marigold flowers, artificial grapefruit and cream flavouring.)

Just in case you didn’t already know, a granita is a semi-frozen, Italian-style flavoured ice, similiar to that of a snow cone. Sweet, cool, and refreshing. Just the thing you want to reach for on an especially smouldering summer day. Grapefruit Granita, one-fifth of DAVIDsTea’s newly released Summer Collection, just so happens to be directly inspired by this treat. It lists ginger as its first ingredient, and you can definitely smell it right away; while – the intended star of this blend –  grapefruit lingers in the background. Having ginger, grapefruit, and cream (flavouring) mixed together on top of a base of delicate green tea is slightly intimidating. On “paper”, it doesn’t really work… But thankfully after three minutes, the ginger has toned down a bit, giving the grapefruit some room to shine.

Of course, it’s still there, but it’s not as intense as it would be if you prepared this tea for the maximum recommended steep time of 5 minutes. All I can taste is grapefruit (the brew even looks like it could pass for a cup of red grapefruit juice), and surprisingly enough, the cream flavouring too! Unfortunately, it is desperately missing something to implement some kind of sweetness and balance out the unpleasant bitterness that stays in your mouth as you continue to sip on this, which I believe can be attributed mostly to the grapefruit peel. Oddly enough, drinking this tea reminds me of a herbal infusion called Pink Flamingo… even though that particular blend doesn’t contain any grapefruit at all. And despite being a little too heavy handed with the ginger, DAVIDsTea doesn’t have very many grapefruit-flavoured teas featured on their tea wall, so I would say Grapefruit Granita is still worth trying. Especially iced!

Caribbean Crush: A DAVIDsTea Review

This sweet, tangy blend of pineapple, papaya and cranberries is as fresh as it gets.

zero

$7.98/50g

Your new crush…

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(Pineapple, apple, papaya, cranberry, hibiscus, artificial flavouring.)

I’m not sure if anyone else has gone out of their way to buy an excessive amount of one tea before, but Caribbean Crush was definitely that tea for me last year (with up to 700g purchased), when I fell absolutely fell head over heels for this tangy fruit infusion. But conveniently enough, as my stash dwindles down to the last couple ounces, it comes back as the tea of the month for April. Compared to last summer when it first released, Caribbean Crush appears to have gotten a slight makeover. It’s basically the same ingredients, but at the same time, it looks more lively. The chunks of cranberry, the candied pineapple and papaya, as well as the bits of hibiscus come together to mimic escaping to the Caribbean, or even to the beach without having to leave your couch. It certainly smells like a taste of the tropics…

The liqueur after close to six minutes results in a nice rosy pink colour. It doesn’t smell as vibrant as before steeping, more so like pineapple and cranberry, if anything else. I love how much this blend resembles juice, let alone fruit punch (one of my very favourite beverages). It is a great balance between sweet and tangy, and even though the papaya is not as prominent as you would expect from a drink boasting tropical notes, the pineapple really helps make up for that. It’s one of the first things you taste upon sipping, with a “red fruit” flavour following closely behind. The overall flavour is on the mild side, almost diluted, and it’s not too sweet either. It is a tad surprising how decent Caribbean Crush is when prepared hot. The concept of drinking “hot juice” is still pretty odd, but it’s not the worst thing ever… Iced still reigns supreme though!

Sunny Citrus: A DAVIDsTea Review

Brighten up your cup with this blend of hibiscus, orange and sweet flower sprinkles.

zero

$7.98/50g

Zest for life…

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(Apple, hibiscus, sprinkles, currants, blackberry leaves, rosehip shells, orange peel, sunflower petals, safflower petals, mallow flower petals, natural flavouring.)

Slightly reformulated with little multi-coloured flower shaped sprinkles, Sunny Citrus has risen from the DAVIDsTea tea graveyard just in time for Easter! Unfortunately because of the peanut oil in these very sprinkles — which pose too much of a health risk to those with nut allergies — this tangy fruit infusion is a certified “online exclusive”! It has quite the appealing loose leaf appearance, It’s mostly red you see, like the hibiscus, rosehip shells, currants, but then there are bits of orange peel and apple, alongside the pretty sprinkles (and various actual flower petals). Before steeping, Sunny Citrus has a very strong, pungently tart aroma. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it definitely catches you off guard and throws you through a loop.

Thankfully after 5 to 6 minutes, the scent has dialed down a bit. The citrus is present and it’s almost kind of creamy. I would say it smells a lot more like lemon, as opposed to orange. The hibiscus is what is greatly responsible for the vibrant crimson hue that fills your cup, as well as the powerful tang that flows throughout this tea with each sip. It’s definitely the first thing that hits you with its harsh sour pucker. There is some natural sweetness from the dried fruit and even some buttery notes, but unfortunately the hibiscus really dominates over everything. As soon I heard of this tisane, I had some pretty high hopes for Sunny Citrus. It honestly had all the potential in the world to be a great fruit infusion, but it still fell flat in my opinion. If it cut down significantly on the hibiscus, and upped the amount of orange, this would have been an automatic winner in my books.