Russian Blend

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Black Tea
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Edit tea info Last updated by Jason
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205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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27 Tasting Notes View all

  • “I have been eagerly anticipating tasting this tea but I wanted to make sure I had time to give it my full attention so I thought I’d be waiting until the weekend to try this. But now that I am...” Read full tasting note
  • “Thanks to Auggy, I can have my Samovar debut! This post is actually part backlog and part recent because I’ve got two different sessions and two different preparation methods in it. Western...” Read full tasting note
  • “We had this today at the Samovar tea lounge in San Francisco, where my honey actually got to drink it out of a Samovar, which was how it was served. I am a bit of a smoky tea fan but this was too...” Read full tasting note
  • “Steep Information: Prepared in store, and bought some for home. Tasting Notes: Dry Leaf Smell: (lapsang souchong) smokey Steeped Tea Smell: (lapsang souchong) smokey Flavor: sweet, smoky, black...” Read full tasting note

From Samovar

Origin: Proprietary Blend of Teas from China.

Flavor Profile: Smoky, sweet, and lightly fruity. Brew it like as you would any other black tea and it is smooth and full bodied with an apricot sweetness, and a light tarry smokiness. Prepare in your Samovar and it is a potent and exciting astringent, sweet, and deeply smoky treat.

Tea Story: The best Russian Blend you’ll ever taste.

One of our most popular custom blends, this black tea infusion is based on the traditional Russian blend from the icy tundras of Siberia. This brew is best sipped after steeping it in the teapot on top of a Samovar, making a very smoky, astringent, super-strong tea concentrate called “zavarka.”

Traditionally, you pour a little bit of the zavarka into your cup from the samovar, and then dilute it with hot water to taste. Add a little organic fruit jam, and some milk, and voila, you’ve got yourself a real wake-up meal-of-a-tea. Our secret blend is lightly fruity, smoky, full bodied…and delicious with or without milk.

If zavarka is too potent for your taste buds, just follow the the brewing directions on the back of the can for a tamed-down, but no less delightful, cup of Russian Blend.

Smoky, sweet, and smooth, this tea will sooth your soul as you contemplate wise words from Russian sages…. such as Tolstoy, “Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them.” Ahhh…..

Samovarian Poetry: Smoky, strong, sweet, fruity, caffeine-loaded & certain to warm and to wake.

Food Pairing: This tea is so potent- you don’t want to drink it on an empty stomach! So pair it with smoked salmon blinis, deviled eggs, or potato pancakes. The bitter, fruity sweet, and smoky notes of this tea compliment foods that have similar profiles such as dark chocolate, fruit tarts, and smoked salmon.

About Samovar View company

Samovar's is dedicated to preserving the simplicity and integrity of the tea traditions and inspiring people to practice peace through drinking tea.

27 Tasting Notes

911 tasting notes

I have been eagerly anticipating tasting this tea but I wanted to make sure I had time to give it my full attention so I thought I’d be waiting until the weekend to try this. But now that I am snowed in, I have nothing but time! (Which means long tasting note! YAY!)

And since I have the time, I’m going to try it ‘traditional style’ (check out the “How To Brew Video” here for the official word on how to do this). Directions include strawberry jam. I’m so there.

The tea smells seriously yummy. Smoky and fruity sweet- it reminds me of the Fifth of November tea I have but better because the fruit flavor isn’t raspberry. It is a blend of lychee, lapsang and breakfast blend teas (so sayeth Samovar) and I can certainly pick out the lapsang and the lychee (well, I pick out fruit – no clue as to what lychee smells or tastes like).

Three tablespoons of tea ended up being 12g exactly, so I put that in 16oz of boiling water and waited for 10 minutes, then strained and decanted it into my tea pot. Because no way am I drinking that tea made at that strength in one go.

Now, it doesn’t say how much to dilute this. I have the desire to do half and half but I think that might be a bit too wussy of me (especially since I’m going to add strawberry jam to it – okay, a strawberry spread… I have no jam). So I’ll do 8oz of tea, 4oz of boiling water. Also, no clue how much strawberry jam to add but I ended up doing about a tablespoon. Because honestly, I love strawberries. And any excuse to put them in my tea must be fully taken advantage of. And even using a small spoon, I’m physically incapable of scooping out a small amount of strawberry preserves.

This smells insane. Smoky, thick, sweet, tarry, sweet, fruity, syrupy, OMG. Like burnt sugar and jam on toast. Times two million. And OMG at the taste. I have no idea how to comprehend this. Sweet, tart, tarry, thick, smoky, sweet, thick. Wowza. This is nuts. Let me see if I can break this down into something that makes sense…

I start to sip and it smells dark and thick and fruity, like overripe fruit (but not rotten – just soft and on the edge of too ripe – rich). Sipping it is smooth, thick, fruity, mellow but very bold and strong. It hits the middle of my tongue and there is a tartness or sourness. Not like something has gone off but like a strawberry that is just about ripe but still has that little bit pucker taste to it. Holding it in my mouth, that’s the main taste I get with a little more heavy but really sweet tarriness at the back of my tongue. Then I swallow and it’s very silky and heavily fruit but also tarry and then right at the very end there is a strong, sweet smoky that flashes through my mouth.

The crazy thing is, it isn’t bitter. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do this less diluted or with less preserves because the two main flavors I’m getting is the sweet fruit and holy monkeys tarry smokiness. The balance is probably a little heavier on the fruit but not by a whole lot. The tarry actually pairs and mushes together with the fruity really naturally. It’s very sweet but doesn’t feel as sweet because of that strong tarry smokiness. However, it’s very thick and rich and it feels like I’m eating a crazy rich dessert that will ultimately make my eyes roll back in my head as I overdose on richness.

Half way through my 12oz, I added a bit of milk to see what that does. Wow. Sweeter and tarrier at the same time. Maybe a little less smoky at the end? It feels a little less rich but at the same time is still pretty powerful. Like a rich chai minus the spice and plus pine and strawberry.

This is pretty different. I can’t say I’m going to drink it this way often (or maybe even ever again!) because not only am I too impatient to wait for a 10 minute steep, this is a way overpowering for me because of how thick and rich it is. Just too in my face with thickness and flavor. Wowza. Anyway, because of that, I’m holding off on rating this and going to use the rating for making this tea the ‘normal’ way. But even though this is not something I’m going to do in the future except as a novelty, I would highly suggest if you have this tea to give it a go the traditional way. It’s been quite a nifty experience!

I’m going to be so wired today. Seriously. Bouncing off the walls.

Boiling 8 min or more

This review. So. Cool. <333 you!


Yay! I AM SO CAFFEINATED!!!!!!!!! Are you at work? Steepster at work? Yes? If yes then YAY!


Er, what? You put strawberry jam in your tea? Like honey?

Interesting. People are just surprising me all over the place today with weird food combinations.


Denisend, seriously, go check out the Samover link in the log. The video is really short but kinda crazy because that’s how they say to do the traditional method. I thought it was pretty intriguing!


I looked at it, but it’s a video and I can’t listen to it right now. I’ll have to look at it when I get home.


I have to admit the jam sounds odd to me too, but on the other hand I’m also strangely intrigued. I wonder if it would work in my black powder blend…
This sounds all kinds of yummy! I do wish I could get to try out Samovar.


YES! I WANT THIS! I’m placing my Samovar order tomorrow (pay day). This was already on my list to buy, but OMG…adding the jam? I might have missed the video if not for your review. Thank you for this wonderful post!!!


I had known about the jam in tea from some of my random fiction reading, but I’ve never talked to an actual person who has done it. I’m so want to try it sometime.


@denisend – it’s basically saying the ‘normal’ brewing and then it gives the traditional method as 3 tablespoons of tea in 16oz of boiling water, steeped 10 minutes, then diluted with more boiling water and then adding some strawberry jam.
@Angrboda – I think we talked about the weirdness of adding fruit to the 5th of November, right? I mean, this already has lychee in it but the sweet fruity of the strawberry actually blends surprisingly well with the pine tarry in the tea. The idea is still weird to me but it works!
@Lena – they only had this in the larger tin when I made my order last week but it smells so awesome that I think I’m going to be very happy I got the big tin! I probably would have gotten this anyway (love the smoky teas!) but that jam thing? Totally made it a must have!


Auggy, yes now that you mention it, that does ring a bell. I can definitely imagine strawberry and lychee being a good combination too. You really ought to try them in their natural fruit-shape. We get them here but they can be fairly pricey. So worth it though. They’re sweet and yummy.


Wombatgirl – I hadn’t ever heard of it before so I think that it is pretty neat that you have. Is it always strawberry? Do you know?
Angrboda – After having lychee tea and now this one, I’m quite curious to taste real lychee! I’m hoping it will show up in my grocery store sometime. Enough weird stuff shows up, lychee should too!


This is really exciting to see. I just put this on my order yesterday. The flavors you describe are totally intriguing. This was a fantastic tasting note.


This is such a cool review! :) Strawberry jam and smokiness sounds so interesting..


What a great post! This one’s going on my shopping list. They ought to pay you.


Mmm this sounds so delish. I actually did know that Russians sweeten their tea with jam (my mother is Ukrainian) although I’ve never tried it that way myself.


1. This log rocked my world.

2. I’m excited to give this a try. I’ll need to pick up some strawberry jam when I’m at the store next.

3. If there’s an Asian mart near you they may have lychee, though you have that specialty grocery store so I guess they’re just as likely. If I stumble across some the next time I find myself in the Korean grocery store I’ll send some your way.


Aw, yay! So happy people enjoyed this log. It was fun to do!
Jillian – Any clue if it is typically strawberry or just any jam?
takgoti – The closest Asian grocery is about an hour and a half away I think. A little too far to go for fruit but I hold out hope that my regular grocery store will have them. And I can’t wait to hear how this goes for you!


I think that it’s most often strawberry jam (because that was the most common type made, perhaps) but any type of jam/fruit perserves can be used. So I think it’s really up to your tastes – though I don’t think they’d use say mango-guava jam traditionally. ;)


Ha! I wasn’t sure which was most common… all I could think of is if it were here, it’d probably be grape jelly. Which actually might not be too bad either!

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1353 tasting notes

Thanks to Auggy, I can have my Samovar debut! This post is actually part backlog and part recent because I’ve got two different sessions and two different preparation methods in it.

Western Style
This is the backlogged bit. I started out making this one western style, primarily because at the time I had forgotten that this was the one to try with jam and milk in it. I didn’t realise that until afterwards.

The dry leaves smell strongly of ashes. Being a smoky tea lover, this is to me a good thing. (Ironically though, I abhor cigarette smoke…). Once brewed up, it still smelled smoky but also with a creamy sweet note to it.

The taste, however, was not as smoky as I had expected. It did have smoke, but it was still quite smooth. There was a sweet note too, which originally I thought of as ‘the absence of honey’. Once I tasted a bit more thoroughly, concentrating on it, I decided that at first it was a reminder of fruit, but then developed in the mouth and turned sort of darker. Samovar’s description mentioned apricots, but I couldn’t really find any properly apricot-y apricots, but I could agree that the initial fruityness of the sweet note could very well be apricots. It added a slight tartness to the smoke sort of.

When it cooled off a bit, I was surprised to find it turning almost flowery. I don’t really understand how you can have flowers and smoke at the same time, but evidently you can. It defies logic, but it works.

I decided that based on this session I would give it about 85-90 points, and the next time I would do it the russian way. Jam and all.

Russian Style
This is actually quite similar to the turkish brewing method that I have posted about before, in that you first brew a concentrate and then dilute and sweeten it to taste. The difference here is just the additives used. In Turkey they use only sugar. In Russia apparently jam and milk is popular.

There wasn’t any description on how exactly to make the concentrate (or ‘zavarka’) so I decided to just use my normal amount of leaves and half the amount of water with a long, about 13 minutes steep. Of course, I’m curious about such things, so I had to taste the zavarka by itself before continuing. It was indeed very smoky, but not really as super-strong and astringent as Samovar’s instructions said it should be. So it probably should have been stronger. That’s just a shame, though, because I was given this sample as a gift and therefore have limited amounts of leaves available. I didn’t want to use them all up for the sake of this one cup.

I diluted it half zavarka/half water, added a splash of milk and a large teaspoon of raspberry marmalade. Samovar said to use strawberry jam, but I didn’t have any and when I asked Auggy, she thought that raspberry marmalade should work just as well.

I can taste three things here. Milk, smoke and raspberries. It’s a bit like eating a raspberry cream cake in a smoke-filled room, actually. I can definitely see why they would call this a meal in itself because it almost is. It’s more smoky this way than when brewed western style, I assume because of the zavarka. The raspberries give a funny tart sort of flavour too that reminds me of hibiscus. I understand now why hibiscus is so often used to imitate berries. The difference here is, though, that his actually tastes nice. Whereas hibiscus is quite simply, in a word, undrinkable.

I would be hard pressed indeed to say which of these two styles I preferered. The western style gives a very good cup and it’s more than good enough for everyday use. The russian style seems more luxurious. To be reserved for special occasions, like when you want to be a little extra good to yourself or when you need a little extra comfort.

Or a celebration. It kind of tastes a little bit of birthday.

Having had both the western and the russian style, I’m ending up at a solid 90 points.

Madison Bartholemew

“It kind of tastes a little bit of birthday.” quote of the day! totally awesome!


russian co-worker note: what was loosely translated as jam is more like raspberry (sub any berry here) syrup


Madison, thanks. :)

AmazonV, okay that would be a fairly inaccurate translation then. I’m not sure I could get something really syrup-y with fruit. Except maybe dessert topping which you can get with strawberry, but it really just looks like a super-processed strawberry jam iirc… Hmmmm… Eh well, it’s good enough, I think, to give an impression of what it’s like. :)

Madison Bartholemew

Don’t they sell those syrup’s at starbucks?


The only Starbucks in Denmark is at the airport in Copenhagen. Don’t really fancy a three hour travel in each direction just for a coffee shop. :)


I want to go to the Russian Tea Room in NYC after reading this for authentically prepared Russian tea! (goes and makes suggestion in Steepster NYC meetup discussion). Mmmmmmm!!!

Madison Bartholemew

Oh my, I always forget you are so far away! You want to tea trade for syrup?


That’s okay, Madison. I don’t have enough leaves to try this again, I don’t think, so I don’t really know what I would use it for anyway…


It’s because of you that I ordered a sample of this =]


At the Russian Tea Room in NYC, they offer cherries in some kind of syrup. Not highly-processed maraschino cherries, but still sweet in that same kinda way.


Whee! I think the Samovar video or something I saw somewhere said 3 tablespoons for 16oz (before being diluted). Anyway, I wasn’t brave enough to try the concentrate before the additives but now I want to! And I agree – it hits me as a very special occasion cup, too. Glad you are enjoying the teas!

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2816 tasting notes

We had this today at the Samovar tea lounge in San Francisco, where my honey actually got to drink it out of a Samovar, which was how it was served. I am a bit of a smoky tea fan but this was too much for me. When asked, I got the deets on this tea which is a blend of Lapsang, Earl Grey and Lychee black teas. It was ok but I was not wild about it. Will be blogging about the whole experience soon. =)


Lucky, Lucky, Lucky you!!!!


There’s Amy, all all the wonderful tea places in SF. :)) I’m tea envious right now! ;-))

Scott B

Would love to have my own samovar!


We were just saying the same thing yesterday -lol


Yeah, I’d like a Samovar too, and have thought about it over the yrs, but then again I want alot of things. It sure would be nice to have to use, say, on Sundays, with some Russian Cravan tea or this-which I had yrs ago and really enjoyed.:::

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788 tasting notes

Steep Information:
Prepared in store, and bought some for home.

Tasting Notes:
Dry Leaf Smell: (lapsang souchong) smokey
Steeped Tea Smell: (lapsang souchong) smokey
Flavor: sweet, smoky, black tea
Body: Full
Aftertaste: none
Liquor: translucent dark orange oaker

Lightly smokey, less than a lapsang souchong, with the nice hint of fruit.

MilitiaJim had this for breakfast at the Yerba Buena Gardens location. It was a part of the “Russian Service”

Tarragon-Marinated Beets, Smoked Whitefish & Horseradish, Devilled Egg with Caviar, Herbed Crackers, Fresh Fruit, Chocolate Brownie. They say that Tolstoy fueled his creativity by drinking Russian tea from the samovar. See what it does for you. Start with our zavarka, dilute it with a tad of hot water and add milk and sugar.

MilitiaJim experimented with it plain, milk, sugar, milk and sugar. The tea came from the samovar and then was diluted with hot water in a kettle on the samovar.

The location has comfortable benches, outdoor seating, huge windows for natural light and is very cozy. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful.

The box we purchased was a nice recyclable cardboard, containing a plastic bag containing the tea, held shut by metal clip. There was also a sticker included. Not sure why.



What, no Vodka?


bleh, i’ve tried tea / alcohol combos and usually i don’t like them, i also tend to dislike alcohol (flavor)

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371 tasting notes

Doulton’s Shakespeare: A Tasting Note in 5 Acts
Act I scene 7

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Sonnet 116

Oh the smell of the sampler when I opened it: a fruity ever-so-lightly smoky fragrance. I actually thought that this would make an excellent perfume. I have yet to throw out the bag: I keep sniffing it.

I was a bit concerned with Samovar’s instructions. I tend to make larger cups of tea using about the same amount of tea (if not a little more). What if I destroy my first experience with Samovar? And I was still concerned after I went for it and had my first few sips. I felt like it really wasn’t that remarkable of a tea. Then the magic happened.

I’ve never had lychee before (I now suspect that there’s some in the Nil Noir that I had yesterday), but I think it’s absolutely delightful. As I sipped my first steep I began my now almost ritualistic pondering of where this tea would fit in Shakespeare’s works. I got a lot more sweetness than smokiness out of this tea. It’s as if the tea blender just happened to be in a room where a fireplace was in use. Just the subtlest hints of smoke.

During my musings I kept coming back to Hamlet, but Hamlet the character or the play? It just wasn’t sitting well with me. This tea is elegant in its simplicity, but I think that my Hamlet tea will be complex as all get out and still be one of the best cups of tea in my life. It may be years before I stumble upon my Hamlet. Then I tried to think of sweet/masculine characters: Romeo? No. That’s not right either. And then the glimmer of an idea came. I should look at sonnets. I realized that if I felt like writing a poem to the tea that I’m drinking, then I should peruse the sonnets and see if one fits. And one did for this tea.

Sonnet 116. It’s got it all: the declarations of love, beauty, and most importantly it is very masculine. I didn’t study much of Shakespeare’s sonnets in school, but I thought that I recalled that these are written from one man to another. So I did some research and found a great site that helps put the sonnets in context. Here’s the link to Sonnet 116 in its entirety as well as its commentary for those who are curious: You’ll need to scroll down a bit to get the sonnet and its commentary. This tea truly is a beautifully sweet masculine sonnet. TG

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I think I am missing something with the Shakespeare. :)


To do a brief comment on my own note: several times I started to comment upon gay rights and marriage. I erased them all. I didn’t want to bring a political/religious debate to Steepster. This really isn’t the place imho.


Nevermind. I went back and read your old reviews. Got it.


Lol! I’m glad that you figured it out :) I think that for now it’ll only be Doulton’s Shakespeare teas that I do this for. However, I’m thoroughly enjoying drinking my first cup and pondering what work would this tea be. I may continue to do that with all my teas but widen it up to encompass all literature, poetry, and music. Maybe even art. It adds a wonderful dimension to tea drinking for me. :)

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259 tasting notes

Thank you so much to LORI for sending me a generous sample of this tea. I knew that I would like it. As a Lapsang Souchong addict, I’m partial to any smoked teas. This Russian Blend is not exception. While it does not have the deep scorched-earth taste of some smoky teas, it is an exceptional blend that adds an element of fruit and natural sweetness to the smoke. Their notes suggest an apricot taste and I fully concur with that.

This may be another tea that I will have to purchase a full tin of because of the exquisite blend. I’m not certain how Samovar’s blenders managed to strike such an expert balance between smoke and fruit without allowing the smoke to take over. It’s a nifty hat trick.

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This is one tea I cannot live without!


Ooooh – I want! I’m adding this puppy to my ever-expanding shopping list which (as of yesterday) exceeds the # of teas in my cabinet. ’Twas inevitable! :)

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328 tasting notes

Now this is a tea to start your day! Yes the does start off smoky (and strongly smoky) but rounds off to other non smoky tea flavors. And even though sometimes I may let it steep for >5 minutes, still does not taste bitter or astringent…

Now my daughter tried this one and prior to tasting said," Mom, this smells like beef jerky!" but after she tasted, “Hmmm,,,this does not taste like beef jerky. Wow! This is good….”

One problem- As I am new to world of smoky teas and based on the reviews, I may have been spoiled early by this excellent blend …


I have yet to try Samovar’s Russian Blend, but I’ve sampled many excellent Russian or Lapsang Souchongs. They are all a bit different and some are decidedly stronger than others—although for many reasons a weaker smoke might be more appealing to people. Good for your daughter!


Definitely it was open-minded of my daughter to even try this tea…
Yes some are stronger than others- I had a sample of Russian Caravan from Upton Teas and the smoke was more like a waft than anything….I will add this sample to the package I am sending you tomorrow…

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237 tasting notes

I’m really pleased with this one! I’ve loved Lapsang Souchong for a long time, but never would have thought about pairing the smokey with the fruity. It threw me off when I saw that this was a blend of black tea and lychee; one of my favorite fruits as it so happens, so how bad could it be?

In fact, it’s really, really good. It’s not as deeply and intensely smokey as some other LS varieties out there (cough, cough – Golden Moon – cough, cough), but it is blended so skillfully with the fruit that the sweet flavor just feels like a natural extension of the smoke. Brilliant!

With cream and sugar the smoke is scaled back to be more present in the aftertaste, letting the fruitiness come to the fore in both taste and texture. I didn’t have any jam to mix in as suggested by Samovar, but I’d love to try that in the future.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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314 tasting notes

Had this at the Tea Lounge at Yerba Buena. I loved it!! It’s smoky, rich, chewy and kind of fruity—like black currant. It’s just as advertised. Served with cute little silver pitchers of milk and brown sugar—which I added both to—enhanced the underlying sweet jamminess.

A delicious tea for a cool, blustery afternoon.

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2031 tasting notes

This is the fourth Samovar sample I’ve tried and I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever run across something of theirs I don’t like.

As a recent inductee to the smoky fan club, I was delighted with the smell of the dry leaves, which reminded me of how my dad’s pipes smelled after he’d smoked them. I realize that this may not sound that appealing, but I’ve always loved the smell of really good pipe tobacco. It’s a smell one doesn’t run across that much anymore now that the health dangers of pipe smoking are so well documented, but to me it’s reminiscent of an era of narrow ties, Fedoras, and big honking cars with fins.

The aroma is smoky as well, with that campfire thing going on, but I can also smell the fruit. I didn’t make the preparations necessary to taste this the traditional way — I’m drinking it straight up, but it is quite enjoyable without any additives at all and I am eager to give it a try the traditional way.

This is a beautiful, sophisticated tea. There’s a smoothness to it that I’ve come to expect from Samovar’s blends, and which I really adore. As with the others I’ve tasted, all of the flavors work together harmoniously; the piney/smokiness, the fruity/nutty upswing from the lychee, the sweet finish with an extremely interesting warm/cool after-effect on the tongue. I feel a foresty coolness in my mouth, but there’s a little heat and bite there as well.

I don’t need a crystal ball to see a very large Samovar order in my future…

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Another tempting Samovar review! What is it about Samovar and their enchanting teas? It seems like all of Steepster-ville is under their spell! :)


Truly, it does seem that way.

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