A friend gave me this deliberately because it was probably bad. And so, with some trepidation, I opened this bag. The scent that spilled out was the familiar, bitter, woody odor of rooibos, but an undercurrent of something else ran below it, like a snake in the grass. Something unpleasant; my nose wrinkled involuntarily. Upon getting a better whiff of the bag, I placed the scent: that of a yogurt covered raisin, one that has spent a week mummifying between two couch cushions. Upon first pour I peered apprehensively into the cup and discovered the initial release of color produced a shade known only to man as dishwater. Fortunately, swishing it around turned the contents the usual red of rooibos. I sniffed it again. It then smelled like cooked raspberries. I didn’t recall then if there were raspberries in this. Thankfully, there are, and this was supposed to happen.
Penance was the name of the game, so I gave it a full five minute steep.
A long steep deepened the color, and the chocolate came through in the aroma. It smells like cheap Valentine’s day chocolate, the kind that smells like the reality of Valentine’s day, which is to say, capitalism and February. I gave it a minute to cool, and had a sip.
I tasted nothing but a distant walnut. After a moment, this strengthened on the tongue to a much less offensive chocolate than the smell suggested. Despite the strong, cloying raspberry that overwhelms most of the other notes in the steam, it scarcely comes through in the drink, except when it does because somehow separate sips of this tea taste slightly different. This is fine in say, a stir fry, where what lands on your fork may vary. It is not how liquids are supposed to work. It is how this liquid works. Faint walnut, chocolate, maybe berry. Some degree of berry. No guarantees.
It isn’t killing me. Perplexing, but ultimately drinkable and inoffensive. Unless inhaled; at one point I coughed while having a drink and managed to breathe some in, and spent a solid five minutes thereafter sputtering.

Flavors: Chocolate, Raspberry, Walnut

200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Getting back into tea after a hiatus of a few years, thanks to some friends. Aside from tea, I enjoy zoology, fish and orchid keeping, writing and the odd bit of art.

My ranking criteria:
100: Floors me. Something I can drink over and over again without it ever becoming routine. Things I’d buy again without hesitation after running out.
90-95: Impressive, very solid. Something I’ll drink more than once, although I might not always drink it while paying attention. Things well worth buying again when the mood strikes me but not things I always pine for when out of them.
80-85: Good, enjoyable to drink casually but still interesting enough to have a meditative session with. I don’t really care to utilize anything I like less as a daily drinker. I’ll rebuy these if I find myself missing them but don’t always miss them.
70-75: Nothing wrong with them, but they don’t really hold my attention long. I don’t rebuy these when I run out of them, though I might look for a ‘better’ version if I felt they had merit that could be brought more to the fore. I usually reserve them for times when I want my tea but will be too distracted to notice anything fine.
60-65: Okay. Not repulsive or extremely disappointing, but nothing special. Things I’ll drink if I don’t have to pay for them. They don’t inspire my feelings towards either pole.
50-55: Has some flaws, usually limited to disagreeable dry smell or lack of complexity. Still drinkable, but does not clear the bar. Did not upset me.
40-45: Committed the unforgivable sin of grabbing my interest and then letting me down. Bland, one or two note teas. Not bad tasting so much as boring. I’m much more likely to score an unimpressive tea here than an unmemorable tisane, which usually land a category higher due to my lack of emotional investment in them.
30-35: Bad notes on the tongue that can’t be overlooked, or a funky order that throws everything off. At some point I consider putting it down the drain, especially if they’re tisanes.
20-25: Probably would score a notch or two higher if they succeeded in avoiding my scorn, but for whatever reason, they’ve bothered me. Not expressly terrible but drew my ire.
10-15: Major flaws. Gross.
1: Wretched, miserable sinful waste of vegetation. Major flaws and it made me angry.


Massachusetts, USA

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