I’ve never been much of a fan of flavored teas, I like black tea enough as it is. I’ll make an exception for Earl Grey, but that’s about it. I didn’t even begin tasting flavored teas until we started going, more or less regularly, to the Golden Tea Garden in Hayward. The owner is a huge flavored tea aficionado, and her menu of teas reaches into the dozens, if not hundreds. Every time she gives you a taste of something new and features special flavors. I still always order black tea, but the girls and whoever else comes with me freely explore the flavors.
Last week, as I was considering Christmas presents for the kids, I remembered how much Mika loves caramel tea and decided to buy her some. Browsing through Amazon.com, I was amazed to find out just how expensive caramel tea was! Fortunately, I eventually came about ESP Emporium teas. ESP Emporium is an online tea specialty store selling all sorts of exotic, flavored and regular teas, as well as tea making/drinking equipment. Basically, they seem like a competitor to Teavana. Fortunately, they price the items they sell through Amazon.com much more reasonably. More importantly, they have some amazing, if very fleeting, sales on items – I’m not sure if they are overstock or lower quality (the photos of what I got do not always match the ones on ESP’s website) -, but the prices are definitely attractive. I now make it a point to add in whatever ESP Emporium is on sale at a good price whenever I’m making a qualifying Amazon purchase.
ESP Emporium sells teas either in canisters or in bags. If you buy them at Amazon.com, it’s very clear which you are buying. It’s much less clear on their website – I assume they all come in bags, but don’t really know. They both seal very well, but the canisters are difficult to open – so if you have arthritis, you may want to order the bags instead. That said, I prefer them in canisters.
Also, please note the brewing time for each tea on the bag/container. Rooibos and fruit teas require longer times than regular black teas.
I’ve been using my Keurig machine to brew the tea, as it’s very easy. You can usually get at least 3 10-oz mugs of brewed tea from each filled canister. But fill the canister, otherwise you’ll end up with a very weak tea.
Also to note, I only recently realized that Chinese tea comes from China (duh!). I mean, I knew it, but Chinese tea has been such a commodity for centuries that it did not occur to me that it might suffer from the same problems of soil contamination that every other food from China does. Unfortunately, studies show that it does. It contains high level of lead, though fortunately the lead stay with the leaf and doesn’t make it into the tea itself. Still, I think I’ll be cautious and stop buying Chinese tea in the future. I’m also going to be noting where teas are made, whenever I can find the information.
These are the teas I’ve tried:
Goldrush Bergamot Lemon Premium White Green Tea Blend has green & white tea, white rose buds (I didn’t get any in the photo, but they’re there), yogurt granules and natural bergaot and lemon flavors. This is a pretty weakly flavored tea, not too citrusy, but enjoyable with quite a bit of sugar.
Piña Colada tea
Pina Colada Rooibos Tea Blend is a mixture of Rooibos tea with pineapple cubes, coconut shreds and flavoring.
I also really liked this light, fruity tea. It didn’t remind me of piña colada as much as it did of candy in general. But it was light, and easy to drink. Again, I felt it needed sugar and did best without milk.
Sir Stuart tea
Sir Stuart is a blend of black and green teas with “ginger pieces, fennel, cardamom seed, flavoring, rose petals, cornflower blossoms”.
This is a really nice tea. It is very balanced, with a grown up orangy flavor, a little bitter and a little bit spicy at time. I always drink my teas with sugar, and I felt this one really needed it for the full flavor to burst through. This is often my to-go tea when I don’t know what else to drink.
Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend
Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend is a mixture of black tea with “broken cocoa bits, coconut shreds, chocolate chips” and “flavoring”.
I got a bag of this one and the smell when you open it is unbelievable. The chocolate and coconut really come through and work well together, so that the end product is really neither. It’s very tasty though, but I do thing it needs both milk and sugar for the true flavors to shine – otherwise I found the tea sort of weak.
This is a Sencha green tea from China and includes cocoa peel, orange peel, cocoa pieces and other flavoring.
I made this in my Keurig and I found it to be very weak. Of course, the Keurig doesn’t give it the 2-3 minutes seeping time this tea needs, but yet it does well with other teas that require longer seeping times. I will try it again using a tea kettle and report back.
Caramel Black Tea Blend is black tea with caramel pieces and flavoring. It retails for $11.50 for 100g. I paid $3.
I originally came across ESP Emporium while looking for caramel tea, so I was very disappointed at how weak this tea is, both in terms of caramel flavor and flavor altogether. This was the case both through a regular brew and in the Keurig.
Maple Taffy Black Blend
This black tea has cinnamon pieces, dehydrated maple syrup, cinnamon rods, popcorn, white cornflower blossoms and flavoring.
I have to confess that I just loved that this tea came with popcorn. I don’t know if it added anything to the flavor, but just how cool is it to make popcorn tea? The tea, meanwhile was very good. It had a nice old-fashion caramel flavor and was definitely better than the caramel tea.
Flower Garden Fruit Tea Blend
Flower Garden Fruit Tea Blend is a mixture of pieces of dried sour apples and pears, pink rosebuds, freeze-dried strawberry and raspberry pieces, blackberry leaves, cornflower blossoms, marigold blossoms, rose petals, Roman chamomile and flavoring.
This tea is just beautiful, pretty much just a combination of flower bulbs. And it tastes like flowers too. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s mostly like a rose hip tea. Definitely needs sugar to bring up the flavors, though.
Also see Piña Colada tea above
Creamsicle Rooibos Tea has rooibos tea, flavoring, orange peel and freeze-dried yogurt pieces. I guess I was expecting this to taste like an orange creamsicle, but it tasted like a very good, very balanced cup of tea with milk. It was really nice, and definitely something to keep in the pantry for when you want just a classic tea with milk, but have no milk around.
Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea
Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea adds chocolate chips, brittle pieces, caramel pieces, freeze-dried yogurt pieces, roasted coffee beans, Roman chamomile and flavoring to the rooibos tea.
I’m not sure I can see all those ingredients in the tea, and perhaps that’s why it doesn’t actually taste like either Tiramisu or Mascarpone or a combination of either. It lacks the sour element of both, other than perhaps as an aftertaste. While I can’t quite describe the flavor of this tea – beyond being a well balanced rooibos – it is very pleasant, with or without milk.
Ginger/Pepper/Orange Rooibos Tea has almond slivers pistachios, orange peels, coriander, pink peppercorns and flavoring added to the rooibos tea.
This is pretty much a generic rooibos tea. It’s good if you like rooibos tea, which I do, but I think the added ingredients substract from each other rather than add, and what you are left with is pretty generic.