Features Reviews

Soothing Sips: Spiced Apple Cider Rooibos is the perfect autumn tea

Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

Today I finally purchased a tea I have been lusting over since its release a few weeks ago. Teavana’s Spiced Apple Cideris fall in a cup—the blend of rooibos, apple, cinnamon and clothes warms you up on a crisp, fall day.

Teavana’s Apple Cider Rooibos is a delicious combination of apple, cinnamon, plum, hibiscus and hickory. PHOTO/Stephanie Sokol
Teavana’s Apple Cider Rooibos is a delicious combination of apple, cinnamon, plum, hibiscus and hickory. PHOTO/Stephanie Sokol

After adding about 2 tablespoons of the blend to my infuser, and half a tablespoon of rock sugar, I poured slightly cooled boiling water over the tea. The aroma is lovely—smells like fall, maybe even Christmas, with cinnamon standing out and apple following behind to add sweetness to the spicy scent.

After steeping about 6 minutes in hot water (some people like to bring water to a certain temperature, but I just use slightly cooler than boiling), I removed the tea and took the first sip. Cinnamon is the first flavor that stands out; this tea is spicy. Apples are tasted next, along with cloves and sweet rooibos. Hibiscus and plum are bottom notes in the beverage, leaving interest to the blend.

Spiced Apple Cider is one of my favorites for fall. I have always enjoyed Bigelow’sApple Cider Spiced Herbal tea, which is heavier on the apple. Teavana’s cider is much spicier, though both are good in their own way.

This festive flavored brew is one of my favorites from Teavana so far. If you enjoy cider, this is a great alternative. Apple cider is one of my favorite fall traditions, though it sometimes bothers my stomach. This tea blend gives me the taste without as much sugar and acid. It will probably become an autumn staple to my tea collection, as the perfect way to warm up when the weather grows cooler. But for now, it’s filling that void in my life from missing the cookie tea.

Wondering about a tea flavor? Questions about steeping? Contact Soothing Sips’ Stephanie Sokol at or follow her on Twitter @StephanieSokol


Farewell, Cookie Tea

Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

Tonight was a somber evening. I had to say goodbye. As I brewed and drank my last cup of Cookie Dough tea from David’s Tea, I knew that things would never be the same.

Cookie Dough is a discontinued tea from David’s Tea. Stephanie is currently seeking a cookie tea substitute. PHOTO/Stephanie Sokol
Cookie Dough is a discontinued tea from David’s Tea. Stephanie is currently seeking a cookie tea substitute. PHOTO/Stephanie Sokol

The loose white tea, which was a splurge purchase during a trip to San Francisco, was one of my favorite teas of all time. Steeping the blend in 208 degree water gives you the taste of cocoa, walnuts and chocolate chips—it was like drinking a cookie, with a taste of tea. The beverage did not even need any sweetener, it was naturally on the sweeter side. And the aroma was deliciously comforting, like that of warm cookies fresh out of the oven. It smelled like chocolate, happiness and childhood.

With cookies being one of my favorite foods, and tea a favorite beverage, I should have thought to order more. Cookie flavored tea just is not something you see everyday. But it never occurred to me that it might not always be there. After I prepared that last cup, however, I visited the David’s Tea website to order more (they only have a few locations in the United States, non of which being Michigan), only to find that the tea blend had been a limited edition seller.

I’m not sure why it was not popular. People love chocolate beverages,

Who doesn’t love some good chocolate chip cookie dough? Now imagine drinking it.  PHOTO/Stephanie Sokol
Who doesn’t love some good chocolate chip cookie dough? Now imagine drinking it. PHOTO/Stephanie Sokol

and this one was the perfect balance of tea and dessert. And people love cookie dough. Name one person you know who doesn’t like to sneak cookie dough when baking, or buy it just to snack on. Now just imagine that, in beverage form, without sugar or calories? How could it fail? But the fact is, my favorite tea is gone, so I will have to find a way to manage.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a tea junky. I enjoy other beverages as well, but give me a good cup of tea and I will be happy. Some of my favorite blends are loose teas, this tasty tea being one of them. What will replace Cookie Dough in my tea collection? Looking at the David’s Tea website I see a few possibilities. There’s red velvet cake, another dessert brew—a black tea that brews to a bright red shade. That one might be tasty. Or maybe birthday cake, a rooibos blend with freeze dried ice cream and sprinkles – maybe I can have my tea and eat it too. Both sound interesting and tasty enough, but they aren’t cookie dough. I might order them to replace the void in my life, but today starts a new journey—the search for another cookie tea.

Stephanie Sokol is currently taking recommendations for a replacement for cookie tea. If you have some tea tips, comment below, email her at, or tweet to her @StephanieSokol.

Blog Reviews


Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

After sampling it a few dozen times as I walked by the store, I finally broke down and invested in Teavana’s most popular tea combination, Youthberry White Tea and Wild Orange Blossom Herbal Tea. And I have to say, I am happy with my purchase. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the store’s exchange policy, and returned the bit too sour Berry Kiwi Colada, for this sweet treat.

Youthberry White Tea and Wild Orange Blossom is a signature blend Teavana offers in stores. I purchased the two and tried it for myself. Photo/STEPHANIE SOKOL
Youthberry White Tea and Wild Orange Blossom is a signature blend Teavana offers in stores. I purchased the two and tried it for myself. Photo/STEPHANIE SOKOL

While the two teas are sold together as a blend, I purchased two ounces of each kind. Herbal teas usually taste best when mixed with a black, green, white or rooibos. Youthberry white tea is a great pick, and mixes well with the crisp orange flavors for a tropical treat. The tea blend is good both hot and cold, but when chilled takes on a sweeter flavor.

Orange is the main note flavor, and has the highest aroma in the tea.  The drink is very citrusy, which meshes well with the hint of berry in the white tea. Floral follows in taste. It’s not overpowering, but offers just the right amount of earthy flavor to create a great tasting beverage, that is also healthy and enjoyable.

To make Youthberry and Wild Orange Blossom Tea blend at home, add one tablespoon of each tea to your basket, and about a half to one tablespoon of sugar  to desired taste. (I usually use Teavana’s German Rock sugar, which has a hint of honey, but any kind works)

Bring the water to 175 degrees, and steep for only two minutes. With flavorful teas, steeping too long can lead to a bitterness, so keep the process short. After following these steps, let the drink cool somewhat, and poor over ice into a tall glass, to enjoy the last few weeks of summer tastefully with this refreshing and energizing beverage.



Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

There’s nothing like a cup of iced tea on a hot summer day. While many teas taste great served over ice,Celestial’s True Blueberry Herbal Tea is divine when chilled and slightly sweetened.

???????????????????????????????Celestial describes the beverage as “combining herbal tea benefits with the sun-ripened flavor of real wild blueberries.” The caffeine-free herbal drink contains hibiscus, rosehips, orange peel, natural blueberry flavors, blackberry leaves, wild blueberries and blueberry leaves.

While the drink is good hot, to create an iced variation, boil four cups of water in a measuring cup. Add in three tea bags, leaving to steep for five to 10 minutes depending on strength preference. Add approximately one and a half tea spoons of sweetener (I like Teavana’s German Rock Sugar, but granulated sugar works just as well) to bring out the rich blueberry taste.

After brewing, let boiling water sit for ten to 15 minutes, transferring it to an iced filled pitcher.

True Blueberry can be purchased alone in a box of 20 tea bags, or as part of Celestial’s Fruit Tea Sampler. If you’re new to the tea world, the multi-pack box contains 18 bags of five fruity flavors to try.


There’s a tea trend brewing among young, health conscious

Teavana associate Lauren Delmonico, right, shows a customer the Wild Orange Blossom loose tea. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL
Teavana associate Lauren Delmonico, right, shows a customer the Wild Orange Blossom loose tea. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL





Stephanie Sokol for OU News Bureau

It can be prepared in many ways, and taste is up to the brewer. Tea, the world’s second most popular beverage behind water, has soared in popularity during the past 10 years.

Americans drank over 3 billion gallons of tea in 2011, 85 percent of that black tea, 14 percent green tea and the rest oolong or white, noted the Tea Association of the USA, which is based in New York.

“(Tea is) now well over an $8 billion category, with growth in different areas — not only in the specialty tea segment, which are the more premium teas and the flavored teas — but also in the raised drink segment, which has been quite a big driver in this category,” said Peter Goggi, tea association vice president. “Tea has benefited very much so from its healthful positioning.”

Health benefits

Tea has the ability to relieve stress, improve heart health and potentially prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, according to WebMD. The site cites tea as a “superfood” with polyphenol antioxidants and flavonoids, both healthy.

“Nowadays, tea is a little bit trendier,” said Liz Webster, assistant manager at Lakeside Mall’s Teavana. “People see it on shows like ‘Doctor Oz’ and come in seeking tea for its health benefits.”

In addition to providing nutrition, tea can act as a pick-me-up, providing caffeine, though in a more balanced way than coffee, according to Alan Laszuk, tea consultant for the American Tea Masters Association, based in San Diego, Calif. Laszuk offers training in tea preparation.

“Tea does not distribute caffeine to the body in the same way that coffee does,” Laszuk said.

“Coffee is like an injection of caffeine where you get all of it at one time and then you peak and crash afterwards,” he explained. “Because of the theanine in tea, the caffeine enters your system in a brand new manner, so you tend to be more alert mentally and your heart rate doesn’t start to rise.”

The taste of tea

Bigelow Tea is the No. 1 specialty tea company in the U.S., said Elaine Gavoli, Bigelow communications manager. The brand has 120 varieties of tea, and has


people researching the latest trends and preferences among customers through social media and grocery store statistics.

“We here at Bigelow like to think tea’s popularity growth is because it tastes so good,” Gavoli said. “We make all of our teas to please the pallet — it’s a taste profile that we’re going after, and we hope that people are enjoying teas for that reason.”

While Bigelow is mainly bag teas, stores such as Teavana offer loose tea that the drinker measures out and steeps, for more flavor, Webster said. Its sample Chai-Chai blend, made up of Macaraza Chai and Cinnamon Tea, is one of the store’s top-sellers.

The largest tea producing areas are found in China, Taiwan and Japan, each of which has influenced tea drinking in the U.S., Laszuk said. While all countries have played a part, he said England has most shaped U.S. preparation of tea with its traditional tea bag preparation.

Half of the U.S. population drinks tea daily, 85 percent being iced, with ready-to-drink tea growing by more than 17.5 percent, according to the Tea Association of the United States.

Laszuk said that while people attending his training seek healthiness, the taste is crucial. For a stronger cup, he said, people can steep tea in boiling water, but typically most people leave it for about four minutes to avoid bitterness.

“The first thing people seem to discuss is the health benefits, which seems to be driving people,” Laszuk said. “But the flavor, from my experience talking with people in the tea business, I’d say its 80 percent flavor and 20 percent health benefits. Everybody’s interested in the health benefits, and there are some things very apparent with tea not in coffee.”

Growing popularity among young people

While tea is popular among many age groups, Laszuk said, 70 percent of tea drinkers attending his sessions are college age.

“Tea, like music, has many eras,” he said. “This is a new era for tea.”

Tea has gone through style and development changes over the years, Laszuk said, though the most success occurs for tea shops close to colleges.

Oakland University Junior Lindsey Brendel just started drinking tea. She said she likes the health benefits and the flavor. Her favorites are Taj Mahal Chai and green tea.

Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak is my favorite tea house,” Brendel said. “The perfect combination is to see an independent film at the Main Art Theater and talk over tea after. It’s a good beverage to converse while drinking.”

Health benefits aside, tea offers something other drinks can’t, which is what makes it attractive to its drinkers.

“The bottom line is this: Tea tastes good,” Goggi said.

“It’s refreshing, you can make it any way you want. You’re not limited to what someone hands you. You can start with a tea bag, some loose tea, you can brew it yourself, make it as strong as you want, add whatever you want. It’s completely up to you, the brewer, as to how you consume your tea.”