Several years ago, I quit drinking. Two years ago I quit drinking (most) soda. Ok, I still cheat every once in a while, but I’ve cut back to a root beer around once a month. With alcohol and soda cut out, coffee can’t substitute all day long, so, for the last two years, I’ve been drinking almost exclusively tea. Recently, I found myself out of the iced tea I had grown accustomed to, and “fell back” on the small supply of tea I keep around for the rare single-serving. Usually, I make my tea in bulk… I make around two liters at a time, and keep a pitcher in the fridge. This wasn’t feasible with the number of extra tea bags I had on hand, at least not without some seriously messed-up blends. Well, long story short, I found myself actually enjoying the variety, so I decided to make it a full-time thing!
Unfortunately, the local grocery stores never seem to have a decent variety of tea, let alone decent tea, so I started looking for other options. Sure, I could order online and take my chances, but not all teas are created equal, and I didn’t like the idea of buying by the box (or tin, or whatever) just to find out I didn’t care a particular variety, so a subscription service seemed the way to go. After reading a metric ton on the million different options available today, I decided to give Sips by™ a chance. Their premise is pretty straightforward; you answer a few questions so they have a baseline for your preferences, they send you four varieties per month, you review what they send you and they adjust your profile based on the feedback. I signed just a few days before the end of the month, so wasn’t overly expecting to get my first box until October, but was pleasantly surprised when I received it just a few days into September! So… what did I think about it?
#1 Hibiscus Elixir by Firepot Nomadic Teas
I’m not normally a huge fan of things that fall into the “flowery” category, but this tea may be changing that! It’s obviously hibiscus-based, evidenced by the sweet hibiscus aroma, but it’s more than that. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, despite being packed with apple, elderberries and orange peel on top of the floral base. Additionally, it contains licorice root and ginger, which give it a slight, but noticeable, bite. While I only drank it hot, I can only imagine that it would taste excellent iced.
It’s billed as being a rejuvenating blend, and after just the few cups I got this month, I can see why. It doesn’t have the “kick” of a cup of coffee, but still managed to make me feel more relaxed and focused after each cup. I doubt this will become a mainstay in my collection, but it’s definitely a tea I’ll be buying again.
#2 “Perla Negra” Cascara by Kasira
Unlike black, green, herbal or even oolong teas, this one might take a little explaining. While I wouldn’t call myself a tea connoisseur, I always thought I had a decent understanding of what types of tea were out there… until I got this one. For the uninitiated, “cascara” is the dried skin of coffee cherries. Yep, coffee beans aren’t your average bean, they’re actually the seeds of the coffee cherry. I had no clue! Come to find out, it’s actually becoming quite popular as a substitute for those looking for caffeine without the flavor or dehydration that come with traditional coffee.
Ironically, it’s this very quality that kept me from giving this tea a spectacular rating. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good tea, it’s just not for me. As a long-time coffee drinker, I’ve come to expect certain things from beverages that even remotely resemble coffee… and this one is a pretty close match. It has a distinctly coffee aroma and flavor, backed by a touch of fruit. I’m not sure if it’s just the knowledge that this is made from something called a cherry, but to me it had a distinctly cherry flavor.
Irregardless of my issues with the flavor, I will say that this tea has two huge things going for it. First, while it is definitely reminiscent of coffee, there is absolutely no aftertaste. Anyone who has had the average store-bought coffee can tell you that unless it’s actually high-end coffee, there’s always an aftertaste. Second, it does have a noticeable “kick,” though not quite as much as a cup of good coffee. All in all, it’s a good tea, though it won’t be making its way into my daily rotation.
#3 Viking Moxie by MoxTea
Viking Moxie by MoxTea[/caption]This tea threw me for a bit of a loop. At first blush, I didn’t actually like it. The majority of the flavor comes from cinnamon and cloves, but it’s surprisingly subtle. It has a distinctly earthy aroma with hints of clove, which makes sense, and initially, I found that the earthy aroma carried over into the flavor a bit more than I like. However, the more I drank, the more it grew on me.
MoxTea bills this as a blend which “the vikings drank 1000s of years ago,” and while I can’t validate this claim, I can certainly see why they would have. While the tea itself takes some getting used to, its effect speaks for itself. Within moments of taking my first sip, I felt noticeably both more relaxed and more focused. While it doesn’t have the caffeine kick present in coffee, I found the combination of relaxation and mental focus to actually be preferable to the effects of caffeine. While this isn’t a tea I can drink all day, it most certainly is something that I can, and will, drink in the morning instead of a cup of coffee. Even better, it’s one I’ll drink when I’ve already had a long day and still have a ton of work to do… which happens more often than I’ll ever admit.
#4 DAWN by Turmeric Teas
This one is unique in that it isn’t actually what I was supposed to receive. According to both the Sips by™ website and the nifty, personalized datasheet that arrived with my box, my fourth tea was supposed to be Lemon Yaupon by Asheville Tea Co. I’m assuming that the reason I received something different had to do with how late in the month I placed my order. Given that Sips by™ is a curated service, it’s distinctly possible that such a late order resulted in insufficient product and they had to adapt to deliver the promised four teas in a timely manner. Ironically, while I still hope to have a chance to both try and review the Lemon Yaupon, they actually did me a favor. I have an interesting relationship with things that are lemon flavored; sometimes I love them, sometimes I hate them. It’s one of the few flavors that is 100% black and white for me; no wiggle room, no in-between. On the other hand, I have always had a soft spot for chai.
To date, I’ve never found a chai I didn’t like, and this one was no different. Most chai is smooth, but this one seemed to go above and beyond; it was like drinking silk. It’s a wonderful blend of a bright flavor with touches of cinnamon and ginger. Cinnamon and chai isn’t a new idea, but the ginger was a welcome addition for me. As with any Chai, DAWN has just enough caffeine to make a great breakfast tea without the drawbacks of coffee and, being a turmeric tea, it has additional anti-inflammatory properties.
Intentional or not, this tea was the crowning jewel of an already great experience with my first Sips by™ box. Even better, for those who are charitably minded, Turmeric Teas runs a “Buy One, Feed One” program, where they donate money to feed someone in need with each purchase. In fact, it’s the one tea in the collection that may well find a permanent place in my collection.
Sips by™ Tea - Month 1
All told, I’m happy with my subscription and am eagerly awaiting the October shipment. While I didn’t expect to get a five-star box, let alone for my first month, I was pleasantly surprised that three out of four options ranked well on my “I’d drink that” scale.
It should be noted that I’ve adjusted my reviews a tiny bit; the Sips by™ site asks you to review each tea you try, but restricts reviews to whole-star increments. I’ve decided that I’m going to rate each tea the same on my site that I do on theirs, even though this means slight adjustments may sometimes be necessary. For instance, the DAWN tea is a solid 4.5 star tea in my opinion, but this isn’t an option on the Sips by™ site. Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to give it the full five stars, so that relegates it to being a four star tea. Oh well, what can you do?