Review of Holiday Spice

10 of 104 of 55 of 590 of 100

This blend of rooibos, orange peels, hibiscus, and cloves (the visually obvious ingredients...I think there's some cinnamon and ginger in this too) wasted no time rocketing to the top of my flavored-rooibos list, and very nearly the top of all herbals for me. The website says the tea is modeled after pomander oranges, which makes sense with the cloves so highly involved, but the flavor is more complex than that.

Part of a holiday-tea variety box, I could detect this tea's dry aroma outside the wrapping of the box, then outside the box, then outside the sealed, Ziploc-style sack in which it is packaged. That's with three other teas in the box too. Upon opening the sack, an intense fruit/spice aroma wafted across the combined kitchen and living room, catching the attention of my wife while she was watching a favorite TV show. The scent? An eruptive, alluringly sweet fusion of Juicy Fruit gum and chai spice is the closest analog I can wield. It thoroughly overpowers the rooibos in dry form, but is so pleasant and intense that to not smell the rooibos was no disappointment.

Worry not, rooibos fans—you can detect the rooibos in the flavor directly. Non-rooibos fans: the rooibos (which seems to be of good quality) is tamed by the fruit and spice enough that it serves mainly as a ballast or vector, more than a freestanding component. Folks who don't like rooibos therefore might enjoy this brew, regardless. The flavor overall is nowhere nearly as strong as the dry scent, but still quite pleasurable for anyone who likes a fruity herbal, with strong orange, a faint twinge of sourness from hibiscus, and rooibos' earthiness (but without the broom-straw effect of plain rooibos). The bonus: a well-developed cloves kick with a hint of cinnamon that you don't get from typical fruit herbals such as Celestial's "Zinger" line. The aftertaste is similar, and takes a very long time to fade off. When I breathe in through my mouth after a few sips, there's a distinct cooling effect too, with a background flavor reminiscent of wintergreen.

In my experience with herbal teas, it's extraordinary for so many flavors to swirl forth at different levels, and they're all good. Whomever conceived and blended this one at Murchie's has a solid keeper. This should be more than just a seasonal tea.

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