Over the past year, I've become much more of a tea drinker, spurred in part by a gift of a tea infuser last fall. A few months back, I ordered and received a shipment of tea from Tiesta Tea, consisting of a total of 18 varieties of loose-leaf tea, to expand my selection. This included 8 varieties apiece from their Energizer and Relaxer sampler flights, some decaf royal breakfast, and a bonus sample of Granny's Garden from their Immunity line. In addition, I already had one different flavor I'd bought from the local grocery store, although most of their line isn't available locally from what I've seen. In total, then, I have 19 types of their teas.
But which ones are the best? Tastes will vary, but these are the ones I would get again after the samples are gone, and the ones I'd pass on.
I should also note that, comparing what I got with what's online now, they've reformulated a lot of flavors, so what you get may not be the same as what I got. One specific trend in the new versions, which I personally am not a fan of, is that many now have artificial flavors. None of the ones I ordered had artificial flavors at the time, and if they had I probably wouldn't have ordered them. I've noted where the current flavor is different (or the old one is discontinued). The recommendations are based on the formulations as they were when I ordered them this spring.
I've been brewing the teas to their recommended temperatures (verified with a kitchen thermometer), and haven't been adding milk, sugar, or anything else to them.
This is my favorite of their black teas, as the raspberry and passion fruit really complement it to lead to a unique tea. It was the first of their teas I bought locally, and the main reason for getting the sampler.
Unfortunately, their is a caveat as the current ingredients list listed online is not quite the same as the one on the sample and full-size-from-store bags I have. The ones I have list "black tea + raspberry and passion fruit flavoring + marigolds + cornflowers". Online, it now lists "black tea + artificial flavors + cornflowers + marigold petals + raspberry bits". The combination of the different ordering and the artificial flavoring in the online listing makes me suspect they're reformulated it, so it may or may not be as good as what I have. I'm also hesitant about artificial flavors in general - I'm buying tea for the flavor of the tea and other herbs, not the additives. So in the end, this is a "buy it if you see the old formulation in the store; no recommendation about the online formulation" recommendation.
This is toe-and-toe with the Passion Berry Jolt for my favorite of the energizers. The mango complements the mate quite well, and while it gives a nice energy boost, it would be enjoyable to drink simply for the taste as well. Being less bitter than most black teas, it's a very nice change of pace.
Alas, I no longer see this variety listed on their website, so it appears to have been discontinued. There is a "Yerba Mate Power" that wasn't in my flight, so perhaps that is its successor. But without the mangoes, it wouldn't be the same. I suppose that means I'll have to be sure to get a second brew out of the remainder of my Explosive Mango Mate - had I know it was going to be discontinued, I would have ordered more ahead of time.
This one has been especially popular among my roommate and guests, and it's a tasty mix. There are a lot of chai teas available, however, so whether it's worth getting this particular one is hard to say. But if you're debating trying this one, I'd recommend it.
Although again, it appears to have been reformulated. The one I have contains "black tea + ginger root + cinnamon + cardamom"; online it is listed as "black tea + ginger + cardamom + cloves + cassia vera + pink peppercorns". In this case the new version sounds as though it may actually be more interesting; but not having had it I can't say for sure.
None of the teas were bad, but most of the energizers weren't good enough that I'd specifically order them again. I'm glad to have tried them - and I doubt I would've discovered my new favorite of the Mango Mate without the flight - but with so many options in the tea world, they don't justify an additional purchase for me. Still, you may like them more than I do.
The Royal Breakfast came in the flight; the decaf version was a request of my roommate. Personally, I've always found Royal Breakfast/English Breakfast in general to be rather bland, and this was no exception. Nothing against this particular variant, it just isn't my style of tea.
This tea is the same online as when I received it.
I wanted to like these more than I did. Earl Grey, previously, was perhaps my favorite variety of tea. But there's a major difference in these - there's no oil of bergamot - and it turns out that was the distinguishing factor of Earl Grey for me. There's aren't bad per se, but they aren't variants of Earl Grey to me.
Victorian Earl Grey has been reformulated, from the "black tea + lavender pieces + rose petals" I received, to "black tea + lavender + artificial flavors + rose petals + marigold blossoms". Earl Grey de la Creme has changed from "black tea + vanilla flavorings + blue mallow blossoms" to "black tea + natural and artificial flavors + cornflowers". In both cases these are non-trivial changes.
Kokomate contains yerba mate + rooibos + coconut fruit + cinnamon. The only difference online is that it now adds "natural flavors (contains nuts)", so it's still fairly close. It's an interesting blend, with both mate and rooibos, and ultimately my preference for the Explosive Mango Mate comes down primarily to preferring the flavor of mango to coconut. If I preferred coconut, however, this would be in the "Would Buy Again" category.
In theory this should be an interesting mix of tea and chocolate; it does taste notably different than if it were just black tea, but the chocolate isn't there quite enough to really distinguish chocolate as the reason it tastes different. And ultimately that's what I was hoping to be able to notice.
This flavor has also been reformulated, from "black tea + chocolate chips + cocoa kernels" to "black tea + cocoa peel + coriander + artificial flavors (contains milk)". Whether this will make the chocolate more pronounced, I can't say.
Of the two sure-fire recommendations, one (Passion Berry Jolt) has been reformulated, and the other (Explosive Mango Mate) discontinued. The two runners-up would be Chai Love, which is good but perhaps not worth ordering online over a local variety - and also reformulated, though perhaps for the better - and Kokomate, which I would recommend to those who like coconut more than I do. On the whole, the likelihood of me ordering additional teas from this line decreased after I compared what I had to the current listings online, though if they did do a special run of the Explosive Mango Mate, without a formula change, I'd definitely buy more of it.
This is a very interesting melange of flavors, which works out quite well. It's hard to describe how it all comes together, but suffice to say it works. It's also received very positive reception from the guests who have tried it.
This one is also reformulated, with the new version having artificial flavors and different amounts of the other ingredients. The version I have contains "apple pieces + blackberry leaves + eucalyptus leaves + carrot bits + beetroot pieces + hibiscus + lemon grass + tangerine pieces + orange slices". The new one has "apple pieces + carrot flakes + blackberry leaves + eucalyptus leaves + beetroot pieces + hibiscus blossoms + lemon grass + artificial flavors + tangerine pieces + orange pieces". Would it still get the same positive response? Plausibly, since the ingredients are the same, but it's only the original one that I can personally recommend.
Another case of a mix of several different flavors coming together well. This and the Palm Beach Punch are my one-two from this flight. The Pear comes from the top ingredient - it has "pear bits + apple bits + papaya bits + hibiscus + rapsberries + acerola bits". True, pear and apple aren't usually the strongest flavors, but it works.
The new formulation of it, ironically, doesn't actually contain any pear. Instead, it has "apple pieces + pineapple bits + mango + hibiscus + natural and artificial flavors". Actually, it doesn't have any berries, either! In this case, I would not recommend the new one based on the old one, as unlike the Palm Beach Punch, in this case the ingredients are so different that I wouldn't even consider it the same tea anymore. Apple and hibiscus are the only ingredients that both share. Tiesta should probably rename their new formulation, since the namesakes for the Berry Pear-Adise are both missing.
Despite the fact that Christmas has been far away for the entire time I've had this tea, I've enjoyed it and its Christmasy taste. If you want an herbal tea that tastes like Christmas, this cuts the mustard. It's also very similar online today to what I got - the only difference is it now has "natural flavorings" as a last ingredient, in addition to the "apple bits + raisins + almond flakes + cinnamon + roasted chicory roots". I could see myself getting it again come last autumn.
Don't be alarmed if this one brews up quite pale - it's supposed to do that! Despite not actually having any peach, it is a good herbal tea. With ginger as the top ingredient, a key question will be whether you like ginger. Personally, I'm a fan - strong ginger ales and ginger beers are among my favorite soft drinks to get while I'm out. This isn't nearly as strong as those, but you should probably still like ginger.
The formulation has changed, however. The one I have has "ginger pieces + hibiscus blossoms + rosehips + peppercorns + honeydew melon + rose petals + orange blossoms"; the new one has " apple pieces + hibiscus blossoms + rose hip peels + ginger pieces + peppercorns + candied honeydew melon bits + artificial flavors + rose blossoms + orange blossoms". The most notable difference is that ginger has fallen down the list considerably, so it may be significantly different now.
I'm not really a fan of figs in general, but I like this tea. Perhaps it's that mangoes are actually the top ingredient (figs are second). While I'll pass on fig newtons nineteen times out of twenty, if offered this tea I'd take it (provided there wasn't another herbal one I liked even more).
Alas, this one is also quite different now. My version has "mango pieces + fig pieces + apple bits + rosehips + hibiscus". The current one has "apple pieces + hibiscus + elderberries + candied mango bits + apple bits + fig pieces + artificial flavors + rose hip peel". While I am a fan of elderberries (and elderflowers) and would like to see them become more common on this side of the Atlantic, it does seem disappointing that the namesake figs are now low on the ingredient list, and mangoes are falling from here as well - though at least they aren't gone completely.
This is one I've only had once or twice, so this is a soft recommendation. It's rather similar to St. Nick's Surprise, and I've gone to that one most of the time.
It's switched up a bit now, from "apple pieces + crushed almonds + beetroot pieces + cinnamon pieces" to "apple pieces + almonds + cinnamon pieces + beetroot pieces + artificial flavors (contains nuts)". This is relatively tame by some of the reformulations, but still noteworthy.
I keep calling this one "Minty Winty Wonderland", but it's actually "Winter". In theory I would think I would like it - it has "rooibos + peppermint + white chocolate". I like rooibos tea, I like peppermint, and I like white chocolate. But combined together, I'm just not as big of a fan of it as if I just had, say, peppermint tea or rooibos by themselves.
This tea seems to have been discontinued, and its successor is "Coca Mint Chill", which has the same two leading ingredients but then has "cocoa shell + chocolate chips + naturla [sic] and artificial flavors + cornflowers (contains nuts & milk)" in place of the white chocolate.
Maybe I'm just not much of one for chamomile - I hadn't had it much previously - but this one didn't really click for me. It's simple, with chamomile and lemon myrtle leaf as the ingredients.
It also appears to have been discontinued, with Lavendar Chamomile being the new chamomile mix, with "chamomile + lemon grass + blue mallow blossoms + lavender". In this case, the new mix sounds more interesting to me than the old.
In addition, there are two teas I've tried outside of the flights.
Containing elderberries, hibiscus, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and black currants, this is another hit along the lines of the top Relaxer teas (Palm Beach Punch + Berry Pear-Adise). With all those berries, how couldn't it be good? This one was thrown in as a free sample with our order, and it didn't disappoint.
Unfortunately, it's no longer listed online, and thus was discontinued. It's a shame as I would have ordered more of it. Perhaps they were already planning to discontinue it and that's why they added it as the free sample. Can't complain too much though, since we got a pretty good tea as a free bonus.
Along with Passion Berry Jolt, this is the other one I'd picked up at the local store before ordering online. It's probably more that I'm into black tea than green, but the green tea + lemon peels + lemon grass + bergamot oil didn't really do much for me - despite being a fan of bergamot in Earl Grey. It was really the strength of the Passion Berry Jolt that persuaded me to do the order online, and not so much this one.
This one is reformulated, and now contains " green tea + lemon grass + orange peel + lemon peel + natural and artificial flavors" and no bergamot oil.
I'm glad to have tried the flights, and am glad to have ordered it prior to the reformulations. Only two (Chai Love and Lavender Chamomile in place of Lemon Meringue Chamomile) sound like they'd be net improvements to me in the new formulations. I did discover several really good teas by way of the flights, and also discovered mate tea more quickly than I would have otherwise. Offering the flights with a wide variety of teas was a great way for Tiesta to convince me to place an order online without too much of a commitment to any one new tea, and for me to expand my experiences in tea, and I'd recommend the flight option to others looking at sampling tea (from any tea company) for this reason.
It's also worth noting that the sample sizes aren't that small, particularly when you consider that you'll get at least 8 in most of the flights, and if you order enough to qualify for the free shipping like I did, you'll have somewhere in the range of 18-25 teas. The sample bags say they make 8-12 cups of tea, and in practice I'd say it's at least that, since with most of them you can also get a good second brew if you do so in reasonable time (though third brews tend to be too weak to be worth it). Overall, a flight makes about 100 cups of tea, and if you do a second brew half the time, you're looking at about 150 cups of tea - not bad at all. Since there's a wide variety and we don't have tea every day, my roommate and I have yet to finish a single sample since they arrived about 5 months ago.
This post also wound up being much more about the reformulations than I expected when I started writing it. By and large, my impression is they were largely driven by lowering costs - it went from none of them having artificial flavors in the spring, to many of them having it now, and in several cases less expensive ingredients such as apples climbed the ingredient list. And while these less expensive ingredients can be good, the combination makes me think costs and not flavor was likely the main reason for the changes. Personally, I would have rather had them increase prices slightly, since they're pretty reasonably priced as-is. Even at 10-15% higher prices, I would have ordered about five of them again without hesitation (Passion Berry Jolt, Explosive Mango Mate, Palm Beach Punch, Berry Pear-Adise, Granny's Garden), and possible a couple more. Between the changes and a couple discontinuations, the only one I might order again is St. Nick's Surprise around Christmas time, and perhaps a sample of Lavender Chamomile since that sounds mildly interesting.
All in all, despite the reformulations making most of the recommendations here no longer directly relevant, I would recommend the flight model to those looking to try a variety of teas for an affordable price and without a large commitment to any one tea.Return to Blog Index