This has been a wonderful week in tea-drinking adventures. Not least because Tuesday December 15th was the day I got to experience Butter Brew tea which I am pretty confident includes actual magic in its ingredients list.
Poppin’ Xmas Butter Toffee
Before we go any further with this review there is something that needs to be got out into the open right at the outset. THERE IS RICE IN THIS TEABAG. Also quinoa. The rice is toasted and the quinoa is puffed and I’m guessing one or both of these ingredients is responsible for the things that looked like tiny kernels of popped corn inside the bag.
I don’t actually have a problem with grains in my tea, I have simply never encountered such a thing before. It’s quite reassuring to know that in times of, say, a Zombie Apocalyptic siege situation (which in 2020 doesn’t seem all that unlikely), one could brew a cup of Poppin’ Xmas Butter Toffee tea and then eat the contents of the leftover bag as a rudimentary meal.
The tea was absolutely gorgeous, by the way. The sweetness and butteriness of popcorn really come through with each sip. I suspect that this is largely down to the presence of the mysterious “natural flavouring” at the end of the ingredients list. I don’t think any of the other ingredients – Rooibos, rice, fenugreek, quinoa and sunflower petals – taste all that much like sugar and butter.
(Friday’s guest book was High Rise by J G Ballard because it was the first book with a movie tie-in cover that I cam across. And what better way to enjoy Ben Wheatley’s depiction of sex, violence and dog-eating than with a big ol’ bowl of buttery popcorn?)
Only two days after ‘Mince Pie’, I was being treated with ‘Christmas Cake’ tea. And while I may have been a little overwhelmed by mincepieliness of the previous Thursday’s offering, I can safely report that the Christmas Cake blend delivers a damn fine cup of tea.
The base is Sri Lankan black tea and the additional flavours enhance rather than overwhelm the tea flavours. There are spices, obviously and almond pieces which lend the subtle taste of marzipan to the whole endeavour. There are also, strangely, pine needles in here. The pine flavour actually works really well but does make me a bit concerned about where Bird and Blend are getting their Christmas Cake recipe from.
(Saturday’s guest book is Festive Food of England by Henrietta Green.)
Fairytale of New York
The packaging for this teabag says “And the bells were ringing out for… tea inspired by creamy Irish coffee” to which I responded with an emphatic “Hmm”. Wouldn’t methylated spirits and heroin be a more appropriate choice for a Fairytale of New York inspired beverage? I’m fairly sure that Shane McGowan’s character didn’t end up in the ‘drunk tank’ at the beginning of the song due to a few liqueur coffees.
Coffee beans made up 12% of this Rooibos-based tea’s ingredients list which makes for quite a baffling drink. Of all the weird shit that Bird and Blend put into their teabags (and they use a lot of weird shit, I refer you to the pine needles and rice mentioned in previous posts), coffee beans are definitely the weirdest.
Is it coffee? Is it tea? Is it cofftea? Well, actually, it was a perfectly pleasant drink that I actually rather enjoyed. The rooibos, coffee, cocoa shells and roasted dandelion root all play nicely together and give this tea a smooth, creamy comforting vibe.
I’ll tell you what, this advent calendar is giving me a new-found respect for Rooibos tea. I used to think it was quite a nothingy sort of bland tea alternative. I now know it’s quite a robust flavour that can hold its own regardless of whatever kind of weird anarchic nonsense you might want to throw at it.
(Sunday’s guest book was the Collected Dorothy Parker. Because she was a New Yorker who wrote about New York, bad love and unhappy endings.)
This Chinese Sencha based brew is the palest tea I’ve ever seen. It’s also oddly sediment-y. I’m not sure if this is due to the “sprinkles” part of the ingredients list. I wouldn’t describe the floaty residue as exactly sprinkles-like. It looks like actual dust. Surely, fairy dust should be a bit more, well, glittery? (And yes, I do want my 100% natural tea to contain glitter. I never said I was easy to please.)
As delicately scented cups of hot water go, this one is perfectly pleasant, largely due to the presence of rose petals alongside the tea, peach and sunflower petals. I am a sucker for all rose-flavoured sweets and beverages. I am happy with anything that tastes a little bit like Turkish Delight.
(Monday’s guest book is A Dictionary of Fairies by Katharine Briggs. For obvious reasons.)
Galloping Gargoyles, this was a damn fine cup of tea! I am not entirely sure what Harry Potter has to do with Christmas, but I, for one, was not complaining. I got to enjoy a cup of tea which tasted EXACTLY like Butter Beer. Or rather, it tastes like Werther’s Originals which is how I always imagined Butter Beer would taste. I felt like I was in the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.
Once again, I think the mysterious ‘natural flavourings’ part of the ingredients list was doing a lot of the leg work. I’m not sure three types of black tea and some calendula petals could really replicate the taste of a sweet, creamy, caramel-y wizard’s brew.
Unless there is ACTUAL MAGIC involved, of course. And personally, I am perfectly happy to accept that as an explanation. Yesterday’s Fairy Dust may have been a bit disappointing magic-wise, but this here Bird & Blend Butter Brew has clearly been assembled by highly trained tea sorcerers.
I’m enjoying trying all the teas in this advent calendar – even the ones that I’m quite rude about. But the majority of them fall squarely into the “Tea bucket list” category. I’m glad to have tried them but I feel no desire to repeat the experience.
Not so Butter Brew. I could happily add this to my tea shelf and consume it on a daily basis. It’s probably my favourite so far. It’s certainly sitting up there in my Top 3 along with the Snowball and that pretendy Ferrero Rocher one.
You’re a Wizard, Bird & Blend.
(Tuesday’s guest book was ‘The Occult, Witchcraft and Magic: An Illustrated History’ by Christopher Dell.)
They do like a challenge these tea people, don’t they? “I know!” they presumably said to themselves, “let’s make a vegan non-alcoholic version that something that traditionally consists entirely of eggs, milk and hard liquor.”
I’ll have to take their word for it, that this combination of rooibos, cinnamon and sunflower petals is a dead ringer for eggnog, because, surprisingly, the real thing is not a drink I have ever tried. I assume it’s because the appeal of eggnog (and its association with the festive season) is a US thing which never really gained traction in the UK after it and its forbears (like posset) faded from popularity at some point in the nineteenth century.
I’ve missed my chance to ever have eggnog now as I have forsworn alcohol forever. It’s almost a shame that I missed that window of opportunity because it sounds like actual eggnog is basically an egg custard with booze in it which would have appealed to me greatly during my drinking days.
This eggnog tea however just tasted of rooibos so I suspect the ambitious plan to make a dairy, egg and liquor concoction out of leaves didn’t really pan out as well as its makers intended.
(Wednesday’s book was Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey. I think those two characters on the cover probably need a hot mug of something warming given that most of their clothes appear to have fallen off.)
Cherry Cola Bottles
I wondered if Coke would make an appearance in this calendar and on the 17th of December it did!
Coca Cola have tried to align themselves with Christmas for over a hundred years now. They take quite a lot of credit for Father Christmas or at least his red suit which is quite a significant part of the bloke’s branding.
I suspect that Santa has quite a lucrative sponsorship deal with The Coca-Cola Company. Seems reasonable. He has to pay for the present materials and maintenance of that premises in the North Pole somehow.
Admittedly, this tea is actually ‘Cherry Cola Bottles’ rather than Cherry Coke so it has actually been modelled after the Pick ‘n’ Mix sweets rather than the fizzy drink. Which is a bit less Christmassy to be honest.
You’ll notice that this tea was photographed in a jam jar. I’m not proud of myself. I felt the urge to channel my wanky hipster side and Cherry Cola Bottles seemed an appropriately quirky tea with which to do it. (Admittedly I took the straws out and poured it into a proper mug before I drank it so apparently I’m not THAT committed to the hipster lifestyle.)
There are eleven (11!) different ingredients in this tea, not including the mysterious ‘natural flavourings’. But really, all you can taste is the cherry.
The inclusion of ‘cola nuts’ would give it some authenticity were it not for the fact that Coke haven’t used cola nuts in their beverages for a century and cola bottle sweets and never contained anything vaguely nut-like, consisting entirely of sugar, gelatine and e-numbers.
I’m not complaining about Bird & Blend’s lack of authenticity in this regard. Not only would the inclusion of gelatine in one of their tea blends bugger up their vegan credentials but I really don’t think the world is ready yet for gelatinous tea.
(Thursday’s guest book was the marvellous Ha Ha Bonk Book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.)