Monday, June 08, 2015

David's Tea

I haven't ever reviewed a tea shop before, but I've been really impressed by the tea at David's Tea, so I wanted to share.

David's Tea shops are found throughout the United States and Canada.

David's Tea opened up in San Francisco a few years ago in the Westfield mall near my house (and another location on Polk street, and another in Noe Valley).  I wasn't familiar with the brand before, but they carry a very large variety of teas: black, green, white, rooibos, herbals, you name it.  In every category they have traditional teas, but also a slew of dessert teas that sound absolutely incredible.  They have one called Birthday Cake that actually contains rainbow sprinkles, another called Red Velvet Cake that smells exactly like a cake, a Crème Caramel that has bits of caramel in it, etc.  They all sound absolutely amazing, particularly given my love of dessert.

They also always feature two teas of the day, one hot and one iced, which you are offered samples of the moment you walk in the door.  I've enjoyed getting to try so many different teas this way.

The David's Tea locations are primarily retail stores selling loose leaf tea and accessories, but they also sell individual cups or pots of tea.  Most patrons are there to buy tea to bring home, so the fresh brewed tea area is really just a side thing, with barely any counter space or signage devoted to it.

The staff are incredibly knowledgeable, and will ask you questions about what sorts of teas you like, and start bringing down canisters of tea for you to smell, to help you narrow in on a selection.  It can be a bit overwhelming, as they have soooo many choices.   But they really do seem to want to help you find your perfect tea.  This has been true at every location I've visited, in both San Francisco and the Boston area.

The teas are fun and unique, so if you have a tea drinker in your life, definitely check it out sometime.  Side note: they also make the best travel mug ever, the "timolino".  I'm not one to market random products, but I bought one of these for Ojan for a Christmas gift a few years ago, borrowed it once, and have pretty much refused to give it back.  The thing is magic: it keeps my coffee hot literally all day long.  Not just 1-2 hours, not just lukewarm.  Piping hot.  For hours.  It is also a really sleek design, easy to throw into my purse, super comfortable in my hand.  It is my constant companion around the city.  For times when I actually brew tea, it also has a built-in infuser, and even a compartment to store a tea bag or extra tea.  It is an amazing mug.  Highly recommended.


Iced Forever Nuts Tea.  $3.
It was a rare hot San Francisco evening when I first walked by David's, and the idea of an iced tea was really appealing.  So I stopped in, and found that you can get any tea prepared, hot or iced, for $3.  Perfect!  I asked for recommendations for a not caffeinated iced tea, and the woman working gave me a slew of choices.  She brought each down for me to smell.  But it was her description of this one that sold me: "it tastes exactly like an oatmeal raisin cookie" she said.  Dessert in a cup!

As it brewed, I was intrigued.  Why was it pink?  The answer: beetroot!  It also had almonds, apples, and cinnamon.  And indeed, it did taste a lot like an oatmeal raisin cookie.

She also asked if I wanted any milk in it.  I've never put milk in iced tea, but it actually sounded like a good idea with this, in a milk and cookies sort of way.  I think she detected my hesitation and told me she'd never had milk in iced tea until she worked there, but discovered that some iced teas take the milk really well, and this was one she really liked with the milk.  I decided to take her suggestion, and added soy milk.  It was even better, as it added a creaminess.

I really enjoyed this, and it made me wish we had summer days like that more often.  Hard to describe the flavor exactly, but yes, it was a bit nutty, and with the milk and sugar, a bit like a oatmeal cookie.  Really fascinating and delicious.  I'd certainly get another.

I bought some loose leaf Forever Nuts to bring home, intending to make myself more iced teas when the mood struck.  I never got ambitious enough to make it iced, but served it hot instead, slightly sweetened, with soy milk.  It really makes for such a sweet treat when you want a little bit of liquid indulgence.  It also pairs nicely with real cookies, particularly iced sugar cookies, as I soon discovered.

This is my goto David's tea.
Cocomint Cream Tea, Iced.  $3.
My next visit was inspired by another hot day, again perfect for iced tea.  I returned, eager to have another experience like my first, an iced tea, with soy milk.
I asked for a recommendation, and was easily overwhelmed.  So many great teas to choose from!

After smelling about 15 different teas, I settled on a new herbal holiday tea: Cocomint Cream.

It contained apple, coconut, peppermint, and blackberry leaves.  The coconut flavor was very pronounced, and went really well with the mint.  I didn't taste the blackberry or apple.

I tried a few sips before having the barista add the milk.  It was really quite good, and had an amazing aroma.  I had the milk added since I was in the mood for it, but I think it was better without the milk, as it totally drowned out the more subtle herbal flavors.  I probably wouldn't get it again.

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  • Black
    • Chocolate Chili Chai.  Made with black tea, chocolate and ancho and Aleppo chilis.  It had some subtle chocolate flavor, and some kick, but was not really my thing.
  • Green
    • Grilled Pineapple.  Made with green tea and rooibos tea, plus candied pineapple bites, dried pineapple pieces, blackberry leaves, and toasted rice?  This was super refreshing and sweet, really perfect as an iced tea, and would be great on a summer day.
  • Rooibos
    • Pink Lemonade.  Roobios tea, with hibiscus, mango, lemon peel, lemon myrtle, lemongrass.  It is sweetened with both stevia and sugar.  Fairly refreshing, it reminded me of an Arnold Palmer, which, makes sense, given that it is tea and lemonade.  Neither the tea nor the lemonade were very strong however.

Hot Teas

Birthday Cake Tea, Hot, $3.
When I was in Boston one winter, I decided to somehow bypass Dunkin' Donuts, and head to David's Tea to get my warm, sweet drink instead.  I know, shocking, but somehow warm tea sounded better to me.

I went for the "Birthday Cake" tea, because, honestly, how do you not try a tea called "Birthday Cake"?  This insane creation is a blend of red and green Rooibos teas, along with ... sprinkles and ice cream bits.  For real.  The tea mix itself contains dairy.  And the sprinkles are very visible in the mix.  The aroma of it is unmistakable.  This is a cake!
The aroma was stronger than the flavor however.  It did taste of cake, but I found it needed some soy milk and agave to really amp it up.  I enjoyed it, but probably would not get again.

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  • Black
    • Banana Dream Pie.  Ok, this one sounded amazing, so I actually ordered a cup of hot tea one day when I was browsing in the store.  Made with black tea, cocoa nibs, banana pieces, white chocolate, and cocoa powder.  But, I just didn't get much banana, nor chocolate flavor from it.  Wouldn't get again, and I wished I had sampled it first!
    • Brazillionaire.  Made with black tea, Brazil nuts, golden raisins, and coconut chips.  The aroma on this was amazing.  It was nutty, slightly sweet, with a subtle coconut thing going on.  Very tasty.  I think it would have also been good iced.  And would tolerate milk pretty well too.
  • Green
    • Merry Cranberry.  This is a holiday tea, made with green tea, cranberry, apple, mistletoe leaves, star anise, cinnamon, blackberry leaves.  A fairly complex tea, fruity, but spicy.  Very festive.
  • Rooibos
    • Creme Caramel Rooibos.  Made with rooibos tea and bits of caramel.  This was delightful!  Sweet, balanced, delicious.  It was as good as the name implied it would be.  I think it would be great with some milk too.
    • Green & Fruity (sweetened).  Made from a mix of both red and green rooibos, with apple, mango, papaya.  I hadn't ever had green rooibos before, but this did remind me a lot of a standard green tea.  I didn't get any of the depth of flavor you expect from a red rooibos.  And it had some subtle fruity tones.  I wouldn't normally go for a tea like this, and actually got it for Ojan, but I of course tried it.  For fruity green tea drinkers looking for something with less caffeine, I could see it being a good choice.  When she asked if I wanted it sweetened, I hesitated, and she said it was best that way.  And since Ojan likes sweet tea, I said yes.  She added several pumps of their agave syrup, which made it way, way too sweet for me.  Ojan didn't really give me much of a review of it, so I think he didn't care for it.  Whoops
  • Herbal
    • Mulberry Magic.  Made with mulberry leaf, macadamia nuts.  This had a nice nutty flavor to it.  I think it would have been tasty with some soy milk added.
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