Hey tea fans! It’s our last week of Icy Summer, and I’ve been enjoying hibiscus teas like Papaya and Pineapple and last week’s Raspberry Limeade so much I thought I’d finish off the month with a few more from my collection!
First up is Kauai Cocktail Fruit Blend from Art of Tea. This herbal tisane is available from their site in a $5 sampler, pictured above, or can also be purchased in a 4 oz. bag for $18 or in larger 8 oz. or 1 lb. bulk sizes.
This caffeine-free tisane is made of rooibos, organic honeybush, organic rosehips, organic black currant, organic hibiscus, organic apple bits, pineapple bits, and natural flavors. Looking at the leaf, it looks like a hibiscus and fruit tisane, like the Papaya and Pineapple tea featured a few weeks ago! I couldn’t even see or smell any of the rooibos or honeybush that is apparently in the blend! The hibiscus, currant, and pineapple give the blend a lovely tropical fruity scent!
I steeped a teaspoon in boiling water for five minutes, and unsurprising, that hibiscus produced a lovely red tea. The taste of this tea is very reminescent of Papaya and Pineapple! It also has a very tangy and tropical fruit taste beneath a strong hibiscus flavor. I’d say the main difference in the flavor profile is that this blend is lacking papaya, and is therefore a little less tangy and the pineapple flavor is much stronger than in the Papaya and Pineapple blend. Perhaps the fact this blend is just a touch naturally sweeter is also proof there is some rooibos and honeybush hiding in the blend even though I can’t make out their distinct flavor, since those teas lend a certain sweetness. This is a fine fruit tea plain, it has just a touch of tangy tartness but is naturally sweet enough to be enjoyable on its own. The tea sweetens well, so if you find it too tart and tangy for your preferences, try a little sweetener of your choice.
While I really enjoy the Papaya and Pineapple blend, compared to this one I’d say I probably prefer this one just a little bit better, just for its slightly sweeter flavor profile and the stronger pineapple flavor (I’m a huge pineapple fan!) If you prefer a slightly tangier flavor profile with some papaya flavor in the blend, then go with the Papaya and Pineapple blend!
I like to prepare my herbal blends warm first, so I gave this a five minute steep in two cups boiling water, then added two cups cold water, allowed the brew to cool to room temperature, and put it in the fridge to get a nice chill. It turned a very striking red color, like fruit punch or Kool-Aid!
Of all the teas I’ve tried so far, this one has had the greatest difference in flavor profile from warm to iced! (In fact, all the teas I’ve tried have tasted pretty much the same, albeit a few have needed sweetened up a bit iced while I’m fine drinking them straight warm, or a few I have a preference for iced compared to warm). When I iced this tea, I could definitely taste the flavor of rooibos and honeybush in the tea, which I just couldn’t taste at all when I’d prepared it warm! So despite the fact I couldn’t see the rooibos in the tea blend, now I know it’s definitely in there! When the tea was prepared warm, it was the hibiscus, not the rooibos, which was the dominant flavor in the blend for me. I’m not sure why there was such a dramatic difference in the flavor between the warm and iced tea! I suppose it could be as simple as I just didn’t get much rooibos on my teaspoon when I made my warm cup (I only had a small sampler bag of this tea) and making a jar of iced tea, I had to use a lot more leaf from the sampler.
The rooibos gives this tea a much different flavor than the Papaya and Pineapple, as I first thought and experienced, above. Rooibos has such a defined flavor! The tropical flavors go with it well as it is a naturally sweet tea that the tangy hibiscus and pineapple blends with nicely, but compared to the Papaya and Pineapple fruit tisane, I think I like that one better… I just find the taste of rooibos iced a little… odd. It isn’t bad, just strange to me. I would hate to call it “cough syrupy” because that makes it sound bad, but I can’t think of another way to describe it… I adore red rooibos, but it just feels like it has this odd sort of medicinal bite to it on the back of my tongue when I ice it, so when I make iced rooibos, I tend to use green rooibos instead, since my tastebuds don’t have that issue at all with the green varient, and I stick to warm brewing red rooibos. The last time I made iced red rooibos I just thought the issue was from cold brewing it and didn’t think anything of it, but I warm brewed this tea and am still finding that… odd taste, so I guess I just don’t prefer the flavor of red rooibos iced. But that’s just me. This is a highly rated iced tea on Art of Tea’s site, so your mileage may vary completely differently!
So as a warm brew, I prefered the Kauai Cocktail Fruit Blend. I loved the natural sweetness the rooibos and honeybush added to the blend and the pineapple flavor was amazing! But iced, I prefer the Papaya and Pineapple blend featured previously. The rooibos just made the whole blend taste funny and off-putting to me iced, while the Papaya and Pineapple blend tasted like a tangy fruit punch!
Next up is Hibiscus Cooler, also a tea blend from Art of Tea. I purchased an economical $5 sampler, featured above (these really are excellent for trying out a tea to find out if you are interested before investing in a larger size!). A 4 oz. bag is $20, and they also have 8 oz. and 1 lb. bulk sizes available.
This leaf looks like yerba mate, but actually consists of guayusa, the Amazonian cousin of yerba mate. It is also a caffeinated rainforest holly tree, and has a similar flavor, but has a bit more of a fruity flavor and smooth taste lacking some of the bitterness of yerba mate. Guayusa has been compared to green tea, but it is less tannic, nearly impossible to oversteep, can be resteeped dozens of times, and has a more creamy texture.
This tisane is composed of organic hibiscus, organic guayusa, organic lemongrass, organic stevia leaves, and natural flavors. Note that unlike many tisanes, it is not caffeine-free because of the guayusa; it is quite unusual to find a stimulating fruit blend! The scent of the tea is very interesting; it actually smells like schizandra berries to me, even though there aren’t any in this blend! I was also surprised to find that it didn’t smell grassy or vegetative at all, which I half expected because of the guayusa leaf. It really has a sweet, berry scent. Though I’ve had a few yerba mate teas before, this will be my very first guayusa tea!
I steeped a teaspoon of this tea in boiling water for five minutes, and the hibiscus again brought out a deep red color to the tea. This tea was a lot richer than most hibiscus teas I drink, perhaps because of the lack of the fruit so the floral flavor was very full. I’m not used to my hibiscus teas feeling so full-bodied! That’s certainly not a bad thing, just surprising! There was just a hint of citrus bite on the very back of the tongue that was very pleasant, and the tea, while having that natural hibiscus tartness, was just sweet enough from the stevia to be able to be enjoyed straight. I did, however, enjoy my cuppa with just a little extra sweetener, which I felt made it taste a little more fruity. I really enjoyed how this is a hibiscus blend that can give you a gentle morning pick-me-up, something I’ve never found before! As a hibiscus fan, and someone who enjoys a little tea-caffeine in a morning cuppa, I was really enjoying that little energy boost from the added guayusa! There are plenty of non-caffeinated hibiscus tea choices out there, but it’s nice to also have a natural (and tasty!) caffeinated option!
After doing a bit of research, it turned out guayusa could be cold brewed, so I decided to try out cold brewing this tea! I mixed four teaspoons leaf with four cups cold water and set it in the fridge to steep overnight. The next day it was ready to strain and enjoy!
The tea was such a vibrant red color, and smelled lovely! It still had that somewhat sweet berry scent to me, and I couldn’t wait to try it out! The only thing to note is that the guayusa had some very fine leaf, so when straining the tea with a fine mesh, I got a few small floaters in my strained jar. I prefer to let my tea free float when I cold brew as I like the flavor it produces (just look how clear and red that tea is!) but if those few little floaters cause too much problem, next time I may just have to bag the leaves when I cold steep instead.
So how was it? All I can say is, wow! This tea was aptly named “Hibiscus Cooler” because it is simply made to be iced! In iced form that stevia leaf in the blend really shines, because the tea has a perfect natural sweetness, and at no point did I feel I needed any of my trusty Kelly’s Delight Liquid Sugar! The tea has a really full-flavored hibiscus taste, which to me tastes like a refreshing summer punch when the tea is prepared chilled. It has a slightly tart pop to the flavor from the citrus notes in the blend, but not overly so; it’s a nice balance. So far this blend has been my favorite of the hibiscus teas, and I will probably stock this one in my collection as my go-to when I’m in the mood to make a batch of iced hibiscus tea!
The final tea I’ll be taking a look at this week is Hibiscus White. I picked up one ounce of this tea for $6 last May on a trip to Boise from Snake River Tea, but they are no longer offering it on their website. I e-mailed the shop about it and was told by the owner they were doing an inventory overhaul and everything on their site would reflect their current stock by the time this review went up, so it appears they decided to discontinue carrying it, which is a shame, because this is an amazing tea! Fear not, though, because I have found this blend stocked from an alternative source! Beleave Teas has this blend available for a $2 sampler size, $10.95 for a 4 oz. bag, or $17.95 for a large 8 oz. bag. They have excellent customer service and got my cupboard stocked right back up!
This tea is made from Bai Mu Dan white tea, hibiscus, cornflowers, rose hips, and is infused with natural lychee, goji berry and cabernet flavors. The tea has a very sweet scent, floral and fruity, that when combined oddly enough remind my olfactory senses a bit of bubblegum! It’s such a beautiful flowery smell, this tea would make lovely sachets… if it weren’t so tasty!
I brew my white teas with water at 175 degrees F and steep for three minutes. As you can probably tell from the picture above, this is a very different hibiscus tea! I was quite surprised to end up with a pale yellow tea (though my cuppa above brewed a bit darker since it was photographed at work and I’ve noticed the water difference there sometimes causes slight discolorations!) instead of a bright red tea! Perhaps naming this tea “Hibiscus White” was a bit misleading?
This tea is amazing! It is light and dainty and naturally sweet, with a sweet lychee flavor with fantastic floral notes and touches of a berry aftertaste. The smell wafting from the cup is phenominal, like a summer garden, the flower blooms and fresh berries sharing their scents on a warm breeze. This tea is not what I was expecting from a hibiscus tea at all, as there is no strong hibiscus taste… in fact, I can’t even really make it out. Lychee is the strongest flavor, with perhaps some notes of rose. There are some slightly tart berry hints in the aftertaste that leave an amazing finish, so I assume this must be where the hibiscus in the blend plays its main role. The natural sweetness of the blend makes it enjoyable straight. I added a little sweetener and found that it strengthened the lychee flavor of the tea and really brought out the floral notes, but dulled the tartness of the berry aftertaste which I quite enjoyed; if you want to emphasize the lychee and floral notes, sweeten it up just a touch, but for a more balanced flavor profile, I recommend drinking the tea sans sweetener.
This tea is simply fantastic, and is one of my favorite floral teas I’ve ever tried! It certainly isn’t what I expected from a hibiscus tea, but at the same time, it proved to be a little hidden gem, completely original from all the other rich “punchy” hibiscus teas I’ve tried this month! If you aren’t a fan of hibiscus, by all means, do give this one a try! This tea is a light and delicate floral concoction, with any hibiscus notes so subtle you aren’t likely to notice them; it’s taste and aroma will simply dance on your senses with other floral and fruity tastes, like a sweet summer bouquet.
I enjoy preparing my white teas iced by cold brewing them, so I simply mixed four teaspoons Hibiscus White tea leaf and four cups water and put it in the fridge to steep. The flowers in this tea looked particularly beautiful floating in the water steeping! After about eight hours, it was ready to be strained!
It looked great! A very clear, very pale yellow tea! It still had that lovely sweet floral scent! I couldn’t wait to try it!
The tea was excellent iced! It’s such a light and sweet tea already, that it makes a nice chilled tea. It has that same lychee flavor with those sweet floral notes, and I still find the tea very naturally sweet and don’t really feel inclined to sweeten it. The only main difference I find with the cold brew of the blend is that the tart berry aftertaste seems to be lost. I’m not sure if this is just natural course for the blend to lose those subtle flavor notes when the tea is cold, or if those flavors were lost from the actual cold steeping process, and if they would have perhaps come out if the tea was hot steeped and then chilled instead. Since those tart notes are lost on the cool cuppa, feel free to add a bit of sweetener to really bring out the flavor of the lychee! This is a great iced tea, it’s very different than anything else I’ve tried but still so light and refreshing with its floral, fruity flavor.
So which hibiscus tea is the best? If you aren’t caffeine-intolerant, for an easy-to-make iced tea with a great hibiscus flavor, I’d say the Hibiscus Cooler! If you are caffeine-intolerant, you might want to try either the Raspberry Limeade, Papaya and Pineapple, or Kauai Fruit Cocktail, depending on which one seems to be to your particular flavor preferences. And if you hate the taste of hibiscus, then try White Hibiscus, it tastes nothing like it!
So that’s it for Icy Summer! I’ve looked at iced teas for the last nine weeks, and I’ve learned a lot! I started the summer not even knowing how to make iced tea, and I sure made a lot of mistakes along the way! Here are some of the things I have learned this summer from switching to iced brews!
- Don’t add extra leaf to cold brewing! The age old “add a little extra leaf for a little extra flavor” doesn’t apply to cold brewing… it adds bitterness! Strictly use one teaspoon leaf per one cup water!
- Cold brewing tastes best on green, white, and oolong teas. Other leafy green teas like green rooibos and guayusa will work too!
- If trying to cold brew black teas, pu-ehrs, or herbal blends, give them a hot rinse first.
- When hot brewing a tea to chill it, don’t use the full amount of hot water and then put it in the fridge! This will vacuum-seal the jar. Instead steep in half the amount hot water. After steeping, add the other half of the water with cold water to equalize the temperature a bit, keep it out and let it cool just a bit, then put it in the fridge. No more vaccum-sealed jars and the flavor is just as good, as long as you use the same amount of leaf to account for the total amount of water!
- Some teas I have to sweeten warm I find I don’t need to sweeten iced, or vice versa!
- Tea popsicles are a great treat and so easy to make!
- Pretty much any tea I enjoy warm I enjoy iced! The only exception to this… red rooibos! I love it warm, but when I ice it, it tastes like cough syrup to me!
I have enjoyed a lot of iced teas this summer, far more than I actually had a chance to review! Flavored green teas and oolongs, spicy chais (or anything with spices, like a nice lemon spice tisane or orange spice black!), minty licorice tisanes, hibiscus tisanes, and fruit-flavored teas and dried-fruit tisanes have been summer favorites. I also love adding Butterfly Pea Flowers to an iced green, white, or oolong tea and letting them cold steep, as they don’t really change the flavor of the tea much, add lots of antioxidants, and make the tea a beautiful blue color!
So what’s coming up for next month? I’ve had something special planned for September for months! (Did anyone read my tea tin incident on the forums? It was related to the tea that came in the tins for what I have coming, heh!)
Please look forward to…
That’s right, for the month of September Teatime Tuesday will be holding the (first ever? Has anyone else out there ever done this?) Harry Potter House Cup… of Tea! I have four tea blends, one for each House, and one will be featured each week of the month! I will be rewarding House points on each blend I sample, but on the last week a poll will go up and you will be allowed to vote as well! (If you want to vote on which tea sounds the tastiest, go ahead, or if you simply want to show House pride and vote for your House, go for it!) Those points will be added and the first week of October the winner of the House Cup (of Tea) will be announced!
Hope to see you then!