O Christmas Teas O Christmas Teas
12 Teas for the 12 Days of Christmas
The approach of winter sends me to my kettle and teapot. As the air cools, then chills, then freezes, I need a hot beverage to thaw my insides and purple hands. And for that noble purpose, nothing in the world beats a cup of holiday-season-inspired tea.
Over the years, I’ve found my favorites. This year, I decided to expand my horizons and test out some new Christmas teas. My reviews – brutal, honest, firm – are below.
Whatever tea you choose this holiday season, may it give you life and joy!
Five Christmas Stars
Save the best for last, right? Nope, I am saving the best for first. This is the greatest tea ever of all time, Christmas or no Christmas, and that’s a hill I’ll die on.
First, the look. Huge chunks of almond, apple, orange and raisins. It isn’t a sprinkling of flavor – it’s a wonderful, gorgeous mixture. I smelled every one of them too – and cinnamon, cloves and safflowers. Louisville Tea Co. gets the combination perfect – a delightful blend, a harmony in which each flavor buttresses the others and none overpowers the compound.
I steeped the tea and it came out a gorgeous, deep brown. Every ingredient appeared on stage. Lovely to behold in my clear teapot. After the steeping, I could smell each ingredient distinctly. The citrus of the orange peel. The sharp sourness of the apple. The sparkle of the cinnamon. And on and on.
It smelled of Christmas morning: snow on the ground, Santa had visited, trees and decorations lit, beaming smiles on all our faces. It smelled exactly like Christmas morning.
Oh the first sip. The first resplendent sip. A dram of angelic joy.
Like the look and smell, the flavor on the tongue flawlessly mixes each ingredient into a miracle in a cup. A burst of orange. A stick of cinnamon. They all meld in my palate in lovely accord.
I have loved this tea since my first sip a few years ago. Each year, I eagerly (aggressively?) await its return to the Louisville Tea Co. shop. It is one of the true highlights of my year.
I hope you’ll try a cup.
Four Christmas Stars
One of the most affordable teas on this list, this tea comes in individually packaged sachets or as loose leaf tea. I tried the sachets. The orange came through strongly with both the smell and taste of this tea. The aroma reminded me of orange and powdered sugar – a fine, light hint of the sweetness at the end of an inhalation.
I steeped it for about 4 minutes, during which the water turned a pleasant reddish brown – less dark than many black teas. I like that color a great deal and usually like teas that steep to that color.
This tea was no different. The smell and taste blended really well into satisfying sips. The orange came through, a slight sourness on my tongue to complete each sip. It almost reminded me of an orange pekoe tea, which I enjoyed about 20 years ago, but rarely drink now. Maybe this Taylors Spiced Christmas Tea subtly returned me to those more youthful days.
I drank this tea in a mug a friend sent me. The first cup in a new mug always provides a warm and special experience. The mug, like the tea, reminded me of good, even noble, days of my past – days which had passed, a life which had passed, and would never return. But the memory did not fill me with sadness; rather, as I emptied my cup, the memories stirred up by this tea and this mug poured into me with gratitude for my unique path.
A unique tea in this list, Winter Spice is an herbal tea and therefore caffeine free. After many days tasting black teas, this one came as a welcome retreat from that flavor profile. Instead, Winter Spice delivers a refreshing, clean, subdued experience. The tea bag doesn’t really smell like much. Even after steeping it in hot water, the smell remained subtle and delicate.
The tea bag advertises the tea as containing “a sweet apple flavour and savoury cinnamon, cardamom and clove spices.” I could detect the apple and clove as hints, deep in my cup after many sips. The cinnamon and cardamom never came through for me.
But no matter. It smelled and tasted of a dainty floral arrangement, which I enjoyed thoroughly. The tenderness of the flavour (in keeping with this tea’s British heritage) became a pleasant prompt to slow down, to enjoy, to savour this cup of tea. I took the hint and decelerated.
I’m probably fooling myself but my body doesn’t really respond to tea having or not having caffeine. I felt this tea calling to me as a British gentleman might:
“I do say, my good man, you don’t always need that rush of caffeine to enjoy a fine cup of tea. Sometimes you just have to take it easy. Take it easy with time. Take it easy with the body. Take it easy with the mind. Sit down and enjoy this cup.”
So after drinking this tea, I didn’t miss the caffeine. I welcomed its pretty floral experience and its (or his) invitation to simply enjoy.
The clove and cinnamon smell and taste came through with more punch in this Twinings tea. There was a nice balance between the flavors. And they came through in smell and taste.
Again I heard the British gentleman calling out from this cup:
“I do say, my good man, sometimes you do need a jolt of the good stuff. Revs you up, I might say. Yes, that’s it, revs you up. Can you pass the teapot, my good sir?”
Yes, the British gentleman has a point here too. A wee bit of the ole caffeine sometimes helps too.
The Twinings Christmas Tea makes a solid, fine cup. Well worth enjoying.
This tea comes in triangular sachets. Opening the container, a potent scent of cinnamon hit me – almost like a nice cinnamon gum. The sachets contained a deep, dark black tea and chips of cinnamon. Really lovely. No orange in this one or at least orange wasn’t mentioned and wasn’t apparent.
Cinnamon dominated this tea, in smell and in taste. The tea steeped to a rich darkness. The cinnamon smell wafted from the steaming cup. And, unlike several teas in this pseudo-advent calendar, the cinnamon flavor came through beautifully in the taste of the tea too.
That consistency between the smell of the tea unsteeped, the smell steeped and the taste made my day. It announced the cinnamon triumphantly with the first note, and the entire ballad rang clearly and loudly of cinnamon. I really loved that consistency in this delicious cup of holiday tea.
Three Christmas Stars
Thirty sachets come in a sturdy white and blue tin. It smells of nuts and dates and apricots. The nuts – walnuts and chestnuts to my nose, did smell nice. But the smell and the taste, like many teas in sachets, seems flat to me – without definition. Two dimensional. Many little tea particles floated in the water – something I’d expect more with a loose leaf tea.
This tea comes in a lovely, sturdy tin. The red counterpart to the blue “Celebration” tea. Curiously, the sachets were less sturdy. I tore two of them as I peeled the small label attached to the string away.
In smell and taste, the dominant ingredient here were the safflowers. The chocolate and tobacco milieu of the safflowers really came on strong the moment I opened the tin. Steeping the tea and then drinking, again those notes came out, especially the slight bitterness of the chocolate dimension of the safflowers. Then the sweet smell of hung, drying tobacco wafted out delicately at the end of an inhalation or a sip.
Other flavors mentioned – orange peel, vanilla flavor, clove, almond and cinnamon – did not come out for me. Still, the safflowers made for a different twist on the holiday black tea theme.
Inspired by my friend Bryan McGrath’s enthusiasm for Hallmark Christmas movies, I wanted to try out this tea. The front of the tin proclaims in big letters, “Cardamom Cinnamon.” Opening the tin, the smell of cardamom came on strong and thick. A rich, earthy tone. After a few breaths, the cinnamon came through too – faint and distant, but present.
Again, after steeping, the tea smelled strongly of cardamom. The cinnamon did come through, if possible even fainter than before. Tasting the tea, the cardamom was very strong. The cinnamon seemed to have disappeared.
Still, I found that earthen taste pleasant on my tongue. And while it did not contain caffeine, the heavy smell and taste of cardamom braced me as if it did have caffeine. I enjoyed the tough jolt of this cup, different from most caffeine free teas, which tend to favor a delicate, light and airy profile.
I wouldn’t drink the tea every day, and when I do drink it, it will probably be no more than a cup. But for a break from my normal teas, or on an especially frigid morning, this tea would be perfect. I think back to the frigid days we had throughout much of the United States before Christmas in 2022. Yeah, this would have made for a hearty, warming, soul-reinforcing tea on those days.
This tea comes in little round sachets, like most of the teas from The Republic of Tea. Opening the tin, I caught a big whiff of orange, apple and cinnamon. So I felt excited to try this tea. I steeped it for about 4 minutes, and appreciated the sweet, orange aroma from my cup.
This tea did remind me of the Taylors Spiced Christmas Tea. It aimed at similar spice notes. Alas, the smell is the highlight of this tea. The tea itself fell flat for me; the flavors simply didn’t pop like the ones in the Taylors tea did. No taste notes lingered in my mouth after swallowing. The tea tasted bland, almost plastic-y, almost like a bottle of water had stayed out in the sun too long.
My wife and I sometimes note that the spices included in Blue Apron meals don’t really add much flavor – yeah, we add them to the meats or shrimp or veggies – so the color changes but the taste of the food doesn’t. I felt the same way about this tea. The spices, so evident in the delightful aroma, didn’t come through in the tea itself.
A lovely tea from Danville, Kentucky. The tea comes as loose tea or in sachets. I tried the loose leaf version. I opened the tin and peered down into gorgeous black dried tea leaves, along with specks of cinnamon and chunks of orange peel. What a sight!
To me, the tea smells almost like a nice bourbon ball. A dark flavor, yes, like chocolate. But then a hint of the sharp and yet sweet bourbon at the end of the inhale. I really enjoyed the aroma.
It steeps into a rich, dark color, gorgeous to behold. In the tea, the cinnamon came through, but the orange did not. It tasted more like a straight up black tea.
I sunk my nose deep into the cup, intent on reclaiming the glorious smell. Yep, it was there. But for some reason, that delightful smell didn’t translate into the cup. Disappointing.
Still, I enjoyed this tea. And as you can tell, the aroma – crisp, orange-y, with the cinnamon coming through on top of the orange – made my morning tea experience pleasant and full of winter smiles.
Two Christmas Stars
I find it confusing when the smell of a tea does not match the look of the tea leaves. This tea contains: black tea leaves (check); orange peel (check); cinnamon chips (check); and “flavoring” (whatever that means). When I opened the tin and took in a whiff, I smelled….nothing. Well not exactly nothing, but no spices, no “flavorings.” Only, at best, a simple, unadorned black tea.
Same after steeping the tea – no aroma to write home about. Same about the taste of the tea – it tasted like…nothing more than a plain, cheap black tea. I took a few more sips, wondering if the flavor would emerge gradually. A full cup drained and nothing changed.
It was an odd experience. The sight of a lovely tea was there, but no smell and no taste. I’ll pass on this one in the future.
One Christmas Star
With a maker named Celestial Seasonings, I expected the sugary breath of the immortal gods to gently and lovingly sigh out from this tea. I expected little flakes of angelic gold to steep out, floating into a harmonious and calming pattern of divine invention. I expected a veritable experience.
It smelled and tasted like something firmly ensconced in the soil. No, that’s not right. It tasted like soil.
The listed ingredients: “Black Tea, Natural Vanilla Flavor with Other Natural Flavors and Cinnamon.”
I got a touch of vanilla. No cinnamon. Almond, while not listed as an ingredient, shows up on the box. I did detect almond – burnt almond. “Other Natural Flavors”? Who knows what that includes? Maybe cow dung. That’s a natural flavor. Maybe soil. Again, a natural flavor.
Whatever was or wasn’t actually mixed in, this tea was easily my least favorite of this holiday tea tasting extravaganza. Skip this one – you have far better holiday tea selections in this big wide world.
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