After rounds 1 and 2, we’ve got the herbals lined up for for Steven Smith Teamaker: Round 3.
Big Hibiscus comes to you with a very odd smell in the bag. Initially you get the lush, rich hibiscus to be sure, hung with the accents of elderflower and rose like a particularly favored courtesan. Yet there’s this strange mustiness that you just can’t shake off. It’s the fault of the Indian sarsaparilla, most likely. In the cup–which yields a very seductive wine-y liquor–this off smell dies down and you can discern more of the ginger. (Mm, ginger. Smith has definitely caught on to how ginger goes well with everything.)
What a punch! In every sense of the word. This courtesan has some wild proclivi-teas, and she’s more than ready to show you how it’s done. All the flavors of the blend gather together in a rollicking jamboree. Most red fruit teas are largely composed of sharp, sour hibiscus, but this one is a well-attended diva with the rose and elderflower–there’s even some citrus-y-ness that came out of nowhere but is more than welcome to the party. (Where is this metaphor even going?) At any rate, Big Hibiscus would make a flat-out amazing sangria.
Keep a pitcher of this on ice, and people will start showing up to your house just because they can. Anytime you want a wine that’s alcohol-free, here’s your answer. No milk, and sweeten only if you really must–the fruitiness on its own is more than adequate.
Peppermint Leaves needs no introduction. It is exactly what they say it is: peppermint leaves. In a bag. For tea.
It just so happens that these leaves are magical things, housing a Wonderland of scent and taste where peppermint is the ruling Queen. Her King Consort? Mr. Freeze. The minty-ness makes no secret of itself, and before it’s even steeped, your senses are awash in its powerful cry. Ditch your Tic Tacs and your Listerine.
You aren’t sipping peppermint leaves. These are truly Peppermint Leaves.
If you steep it for longer than recommended, it gives you a bit of that herbal earthiness at the base. After being attacked by the mint, your sinuses will be grateful for the chance to breathe.
Take this tea into the winter with you, and you’ll be warm for the rest of your days. Ix-nay on the milk or sweetener if you want the full icy blast of this tea.
African Nectar (the only tea which lacks a picture) does not come off in the bag as being very nectar-y. The rooibus and honeybush are all up in their mulch-y-ness, but this dry-smelling tea seems to be more of a savannah than an oasis. In this savannah, you have to scrape at the ground for any additional sweetness. There’s a hint of coconut. Maybe. Some of the dust settles when it’s steeped, but you better pack a canteen of water with this drink.
Luckily, the missing fruit emerges when you give it a taste. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of rosehip tea, this one may be a satisfactory stand-in, but only if you really like rooibus. (Hey, it’s a polarizing tea. Some people love it, and some wish that it had never reached our shores. But for the review’s sake, we’re going to maintain a bit of objectivi-tea.) Although there’s no hibiscus actually in this blend, the sense of it is created with a mellowing sweetness that manages to deac-tea-vate most of that arid mouthfeel that rooibus and honeybush always induce.
This one could be decent for the afternoon or an evening dessert-accompanying tea, but don’t expect to make a main attraction out of it. It’s a nice little blend that you can take out with your friends, that’s all–and for once, milk or sweetener might do it some good.
Meadow is magic.
There, I said it.
With one whiff of the dry bag, Smith Teamaker transports you to an sun-warmed field in the middle of spring. Nothing subtle about it–without so much as a “Hang on tight, spidermonkey,” this tea simply plops you in the middle of the flora and fauna buzzing with the readiness for long, sunny days. It’s particularly effective if you’ve got resounding memories of rural plains–those who grew up in sleepy farm towns, living generally out of the way. Once steeped, the scent becomes a heady thing dominated by sweetness and a touch of fruit, the first impression being apple cobbler in a tea.
The actual flavor, however, is not all that sweet. The apple cobbler sensation disappears with the initial sip, but comes back to your tongue a few seconds later to linger. The main thing you receive is chamomile and rooibus, two totally neutral tones, tapped smartly overhead with the rose petals’ sugary attitude. It’s a bit of a doublethink, in fact–as much as you’re getting the fruit-flower fragrancy, there’s the savoriness of the other herbs balancing it out. You can taste it on both sides of your tongue simultaneously.
Enjoy this whenever you want to be surrounded by sunshine and the feeling of beauty. Could picture this well with honey, but you’re doing yourself and the tea a disservice if you go crazy with adding sweet. No milk.
The final verdict on Steven Smith Tea.
Their blacks are underwhelming.
Their greens are very pleasant.
But none of that matters in the wake of Smith’s talent for herbal tea.
This is the kind of stuff that you want to buy in bulk, to drink when you’re stuck and there seems to be no other light or hope in the world. A truly fantastic zombie apocalypse tea. (Or, when enter-tea-ning, keep this treat in store for anyone who can’t do caffeine.)