Plum Deluxe: Tea Club Review

Plum Deluxe
Monthly Tea Club Subscription
$10-16 USD per month

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Plum Deluxe has provided me with their January Tea Club package for the purposes of providing an honest review. I received this product at no charge to me and received no other compensation.

First Impressions

Andy Hayes of Plum Deluxe contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a monthly club package for Plum Deluxe – of course I said yes! Plum Deluxe offers a monthly tea club subscription, an online shop for à la carte tea shopping, as well as an online community and blog full of tea resources. It was fun getting the January tea club shipment in the mail – I was sent the two teas option (two 1oz teas, with 1 tea sample), as well as the autumn/winter playbook for Plum Deluxe, which costs $16USD/month. There is also a single tea option (one 1oz tea with 1 tea sample) that is $10USD/month. Subscriptions are paid for quarterly (3 months), and at the time of writing they only ship within the United States and to Canada. For Canadian tea lovers, they offer the 1 tea option of their monthly tea club subscription for $17USD/month and the 2 tea option for $23USD/month – also charged for 3 months at a time.

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For my package, I did get to choose one of the tea choices. Whichever option you choose (1 tea or 2), you’ll always receive the special blend of the month. If you opt for the 2 tea option, you get the 1oz of the special blend of the month, 1oz of a surprise signature blend, and 1 tea sample. I had gone through the Plum Deluxe website and Vanilla Latte had appealed to me, so Andy was kind enough to make that the ‘surprise’ signature blend for me. In this package, the teas I received were A Dark Night Orange Spice Puerh (1oz), Vanilla Latte Tea (1oz), and Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Tea (sample). The special blend of the month is exclusive to tea club members.

I was quite pleased with the packaging that Plum Deluxe has opted for. They use clear, resealable bags. It’s nice because you can easily see what the tea blend looks like, as well as how much you have left. For storage purposes, I always recommend keeping teas in a dark place – light is one of the things that can speed up tea going a bit stale or losing flavour.

I’ll be keeping the order of each tea throughout the sections consistent – with the special January blend first (A Dark Night Orange Spice Puerh), followed by my pick (Vanilla Latte Tea), and the tea sample (Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Tea).

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A Dark Night Orange Spice Puerh has a very strong cinnamon, orange/citrus smell in the dry leaf. I like that I can make out the ginger and anise in the tea blend. This puerh blend is made up of: puerh tea, cinnamon bark, orange peel, ginger root, hibiscus, rose hips, anise, safflower, and orange essence.

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Vanilla Latte Tea’s dry leaf has a honeyed smell, I can also make out the vanilla and the cardamom. The smell of Vanilla Latte Tea reminds me a lot of a vanilla birthday cake, which is quite pleasant. Vanilla Tea Latte’s ingredients are: black tea, honeybush tea, ground cardamom, and vanilla essence.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Tea is a cute little sample, there’s really just enough for one cup and to get a taste for it. It smells like chocolate and hazelnut, which is a winning combination in my book! I love hedgehog chocolates (which have a hazelnut filling, if you don’t know the magic of hedgehogs), and the smell of this blend remind me of the hedgehogs so much! Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Tea is made up of: honeybush tea, cocoa nibs, hazelnut pieces, and hazelnut essence. Read More …

24 Days of Tea: English Toffee

English Toffee by DavidsTea
Pu-erh / Flavoured
$9.98 for 50g

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First Impressions

It is day 22 of the 24 Days of Tea advent calendar and I’m going to be so sad when this calendar is done! It’s been so much fun trying all sorts of teas (and discovering new ones that I want to keep a stock of in my tea stash!). Luckily, I have a (huge) backlog of teas to try and review after December 24th that I’m very much looking forward to. English toffee is not a candy that I’m too familiar with, but I’ve had toffee before so I’m assuming it’s fairly similar (please don’t send pitchforks after me if it’s not…). English Toffee smells like sweet toffee candy, and has these lovely earthy notes from the pu-erh base.

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English Toffee is made up of: pu’erh tea, cocoa beans, cocoa husk, caramel, natural flavouring. For those looking out for allergens, this one contains milk (in the caramel).

Preparation

DavidsTea recommends steeping English Toffee in near-boiling water (90-95°C/194-203°F) for 4 to 7 minutes. I did my first cup for 4 minutes (and the second steep for 5 minutes).

First Taste

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English Toffee steeps to a beautiful deep amber colour and has a very sweet toffee smell to it. There’s a thin oil of film on the top (from the oils in the caramel), but it isn’t a very thick layer so it’s paletable. On first sip, I do notice that it has an oily mouthfeel to it, but because it’s not a thick heavy layer of oil, it isn’t unpleasant. The tea itself tastes like chocolate and caramel, so it reminds me a lot of Rolo candies. There’s a slight creaminess to this tea that is quite good, I think the flavour profile of this tea brings to mind ‘hot chocolate’ more than ‘toffee candy’ to me. English Toffee reminds me a lot of instant hot chocolate mixes (which I love and frequently enjoy at this time of the year), it’s just missing a heavier milk component to really make it tastes like hot chocolate, and maybe a handful of marshmallows.

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A Second Cup?

One resteep of English Toffee yielded a very similar cup of tea in terms of flavour, but by the second resteep it was very watery and barely resembled the first two cups of tea. I would say that English Toffee is only good for one more steep.

My Overall Impression

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I loved DavidsTea’s English Toffee. There’s just something delightful about a cup of tea that reminds me of hot chocolate (unlike the actual tea named Hot Chocolate, which incidentally also a pu-erh tea and from DavidsTea!). This is an excellent dessert tea that has a nice balance of chocolate flavour with the sweetness, I don’t even mind that the toffee flavour isn’t at the forefront.

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24 Days of Tea: Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate by DavidsTea
Pu-Erh Tea / Flavoured
$8.98 for 50g

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First Impressions

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It’s day 11 of the 24 Days of Tea advent calendar and I was a little bit disappointed to pull out the drawer to see Hot Chocolate. Hot Chocolate and I have a bit of a history in that it had let me down. I posted my first review of Hot Chocolate in November 2015. I had high hopes for this tea then, and I still kind of do because of the name. Hot chocolate to me should be creamy and rich with chocolate flavour.

The ingredients in Hot Chocolate are: pu’erh tea, black tea, cocoa nibs, chocolate chips, chocolate curls, chocolate liquor, whey powder, lactose, soy lecithin, stevia extract, natural and artificial flavouring.

Preparation

DavidsTea recommends steeping Hot Chocolate in near-boiling (90-95°C/194-203°F) water for 4 to 7 minutes. I had to steep close to 6 minutes to fully melt all of the chocolate.

First Taste

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Hot Chocolate steeps to a deep brown colour, there’s oil on the top of the cup. That is one of the issues with having chocolate in your tea (or sprinkles), is that it’s made up of oils so when it melts, you wind up with an oil slick on top of your tea. Not necessarily the most appetizing. It smells a bit like chocolate, but the taste itself isn’t helping the tea at all. There’s that dank earthiness from the pu-erh base, and then the watered down chocolate flavour from the chocolate shavings. Of course, when you take water and melt it in hot water, you’re going to wind up with watered down chocolate. There’s that harsh sweetness from the artificial sweetener, which I don’t like because it doesn’t add anything positive to this tea for me. I wound up adding a lot of milk to the tea and then finishing off the cup. The milk helps cut the sweetness, and make it more palatable.

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A Second Cup?

Hot Chocolate doesn’t do well when resteeped. The chocolate flavour is further diluted (there’s no more chocolate to melt!) and it doesn’t make for a very good cup of tea when you try one more steep.

My Overall Impression

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I didn’t like DavidsTea’s Hot Chocolate. With my second critical eye on this tea, I just find that it’s not very good. It needs a stronger chocolate flavour in order to make it remind me more of a hot chocolate, and it’s lacking a much needed creaminess to the tea itself that’s needed to better evoke the taste of a much beloved beverage.

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Teavivre’s Fengqing Raw Pu-Erh 2006

Fengqing Raw Pu-Erh 2006 by Teavivre
Pu-Erh Tea / Straight
$12.90USD for 100g

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First Impressions

This is my first tea from Teavivre, so I’m not sure what to expect! The packet is simple, with a printed label that tells you all the information you need to know. The ingredients are listed as being “tea buds and leaves of Yunnan large-leaf tea trees”. The sample packet contains 10gs of loose leaf tea.

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I poured out the 10g of tea into a small tea cup so I could take a look before steeping it. There’s this earthy, woody smell that reminds me a lot of pine trees. The dry leaves are a dark green, almost brown. As this tea is often sold in tea cakes, I could see several ‘chunks’ of tea leaves that are still pressed together. I’m curious about this raw pu-erh, which means that the tea was harvested and then stored. A ripe pu-erh means that the tea was harvested and allowed to ferment.

Preparation

Teavivre recommend steeping Fengqing Raw Pu-Erh in 100°C (212°F) water for 3-10 minutes.

First Taste

I steeped this tea for about 4 to 5 minutes for the initial steep. It steeps to a golden brown, and it smells woody still. The taste itself is interesting, there’s some grassy, woody notes, and it does have some astringency to the tea. There’s some mild bitterness that isn’t unpleasant, although I can see other people having a problem with it. The astrigency isn’t off-putting, so I enjoyed the first cup immensely.

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A Second Cup?

Resteeping Fengqing Raw Pu-Erh is… interesting. It steeps much darker, and the astringency and bitterness is more pronounced. It is, quite literally, hard to swallow.

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My Overall Impression

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I didn’t like Teavivre’s Fengqing Raw Pu-Erh 2006. The first cup was fantastic! But the second steeping was much too bitter for me. The mild bitterness in the first steeping was a fantastic and welcome layer of complexity to the flavours of the pu-erh tea, but it was overwhelming and made for a difficult cup of tea to drink.

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Tea Shop of East West Company’s Puerh Vanilla

Pu Erh Vanilla by Tea Shop of East West Company
Pu-erh / Flavoured

This is a review of a tea that I received for my birthday in 2015. I won’t be doing too much digging into the costs of the gifts that I’ve received.

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First Impressions

Pu-Erh Vanilla came in a darling little branded tin. I love insects, I took an entomology course as part of my first degree, so I’ve always had a place in my heart for six-legged creatures. The dragonflies on this tin just make me smile. There’s a simple label on the tin with some hand-written details including the name of the tea and how long to steep the tea for. The back of the tin includes some more details that I can’t read. This tea was given to me for my birthday in 2015 from a friend who went to a jaunt around Europe! She came back with several teas for me to try, which definitely put a smile on my face.

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Pu-Erh Vanilla has a nice earthy, woody scent to it with vanilla overtones. It’s very pleasant and inviting, the vanilla reminds me almost of baking but the earthy notes to it reminds me of camping, which is a nice touch. I did manage to find the tea page on their website, which stated that this is a “red tea with vanilla scent”.

Preparation

According to the label from Tea Shop, this tea is to be infused for 3 minutes. There’s no temperature information, but I normally steep pu-erh teas in 96°C (204°F).

First Taste

Pu-Erh Vanilla steeps to a rich reddish orange colour, and gets darker the longer you steep it for. The scent is incredibly inviting as it’s vanilla, it smells very strongly of vanilla. The taste is purely pu-erh though, with hints of vanilla flavouring. Because it’s mostly of the pu-erh base, the tea has a strong earthy taste to it, that isn’t unpleasant. It reminds me a lot of teas that I’ve had before in more traditional Chinese restaurants, which isn’t a bad thing. I think they used a fairly robust pu-erh base, which is why the vanilla has such a hard time standing up next to the pu-erh base/natural flavours. Steeping for three minutes did the trick here as the tea isn’t too dark as pu-erh teas can be when steeped for a long time. The flavour is good though, it tastes like a good quality pu-erh which is always well appreciated.

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A Second Cup?

I resteeped this about four times, and the flavour profile remains the same. Mostly the robust flavours of the pu-erh, some hints of vanilla, but mostly the pu-erh. It holds up very well to repeat steepings.

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My Overall Impression

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I liked Tea Shop of East West Company’s Pu-Erh Vanilla. I feel weird because I’m really only docking a cup because the vanilla isn’t more of a star in this tea. The pu-erh that they used is much too strong to be properly flavoured, so the vanilla is a bit muddled and not shining as much as I would have expected. The pu-erh itself is wonderful though, the flavour is strong and makes for many great cups of tea and it resteeps so well. Because the vanilla was so present in the dry leaf, and in the ingredients and the name, I really do wish that it was more present in the steeped tea because it was so inviting. I’m not that torn up about it though, because I got many cups of tea and it’s good regardless of the lack of vanilla in the taste.

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