Tea Sparrow sent me their July subscription box of tea, so that I might review their service, but no other consideration was received. All opinions are my own.
As you might recall, last month I visited the Tea Sparrow Iced Tea Festival. Afterward, they were kind enough to send me their July selection of teas for my review.
Each month, Tea Sparrow sends their subscribers four teas, chosen from producers around the world. They choose their loose leaf teas based on quality and flavour, in order to give their customers a survey of the best teas worldwide. The teas are first selected by their tea sommelier, then presented at tea tastings for subscribers and tea experts in Vancouver. The highest rated teas at each tasting are the ones that make it into Tea Sparrow’s monthly boxes. Each tea package includes a description of the tea, steeping instructions, and the URL of the producer – so, when you find a tea you especially like, you can order more, directly from the source.
In the summer months, Tea Sparrow sends out teas that are especially good iced. It’s a nice practice and July’s mix included some teas that are good hot or cold. I was very happy to have the opportunity to try a summer box, because Vancouver’s been enduring hot, dry weather for months now. I usually drink tea hot, year-round, but this summer has been my own personal iced tea festival.
In July, their picks were Vanilla Honeybush from Aromatica Fine Teas; Iced Ginger Peach Tea from The Tea Spot; Quince Green from Silver Service; and Strawberry Mint from Herbal Republic.
I tried each of the teas hot and cold, taking advantage of the very few grey days we’ve had recently to have some hot tea. Three of the four teas are on my list for re-stocking my tea cupboard (when I finally drink it down to a manageable level). The other wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t get it again.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who read my post about the Iced Tea Festival that my favourite of the four was Herbal Republic’s Strawberry Mint. This tea is superb either hot or cold and is incredibly fragrant. My second favourite was Aromatica’s Vanilla Honeybush. It’s delicious cold, but I’m saving it for cooler weather, because I enjoyed it best when it was hot. A close third was Silver Service’s Quince Green. I know it’s meant to be served cold, but I thought it was quite good hot, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t care as much for the Ginger Peach Tea from the Tea Spot. Perhaps if I sweetened my tea a little, I would have enjoyed it more. (I’m not a fan of American-style iced tea and the Ginger Peach is perfect for sweet tea. If that style of iced tea is your thing, I suspect you’d love it.)
Still, three out of four is quite a good score for a sampler selection. Based on this sampler and the teas I tasted at the festival, I think it’s quite likely that I’d enjoy four out of four teas most months, a dangerous proposition for a tea lover who has a year’s subscription. I’d run the risk of having a tea kitchen, rather than a tea cupboard.
Tea Sparrow’s boxes are $20.00 USD/$25.00 CAD per month, including shipping and taxes, for US and Canadian orders. International orders are $30.00 CAD, plus shipping. The quantity of tea averages to about 35 cups per month. You can get loose tea more cheaply from a tea shop, but for a sampler of teas from various producers around the world, Tea Sparrow provides good value.
If you’re a tea beginner, I’d recommend finding a good tea shop or two in your area (hint: not a national chain) and exploring what they have to offer. Once you’ve developed your palate, then you can move on to Tea Sparrow’s service. Your local merchant will have developed offerings that fit into the taste profile of their brand. The advantage of a sampler service is that you can try teas that represent a wide variety of taste profiles, finding new favourites (and developing a tea mail order habit).
I also think a six or twelve month subscription would make a wonderful present for a tea lover. (I may or may not be hoping that friends and family are paying particular attention to this paragraph.) If you’re a subscriber who happens to live in the Metro Vancouver area, you can also vie for tickets to their tea tastings, which happen every other month.
As habits go, a monthly tea subscription is both healthy and pleasurable. And honestly, the idea of a tea kitchen isn’t such a bad one, really. You can just keep everything else in the pantry, right?
You can order a Tea Sparrow subscription for yourself or a gift for a friend at their website: Tea Sparrow