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For anyone who may not know, I am a huge nerd. The majority of my life has been spent immersed in various fandom cultures to some extent or the other. I love seeing what inspires people in different fandoms to create art or fiction or even song parodies.
It’s only been in the past year or two that I learned that the above list of fandom creations aren’t the only things a piece of fiction can inspire. In fact, I recently learned that this can also extend to one of my favorite things: tea.
Despite what the numerous streams that begin with me sipping hot chocolate might tell you about my hot beverage preferences, tea always has been and always will be my first love. I’ve been drinking it for at least twenty years now (if not longer), and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
So I’m sure you can imagine my delight to discover that there are various online tea shops that carry uniquely crafted blends of tea inspired by the various pieces of fiction the shop owners enjoy.
One such shop is Friday Afternoon Tea, which boasts not only a brick-and-mortar location in Seattle, WA, but also an online shop. This means anyone anywhere can place an order and acquire some delicious tea from them, most of which is inspired by some of the geeky things you may just love.
Adding to the uniqueness of this shop is the owner herself, Friday, who experiences Lexical-Gustatory Synesthesia, a condition that results in a person experiencing language and concepts as flavor profiles. This basically turns Friday into something of a tea wizard, using this “power” of sorts to create unique blends of tea that you’re not going to find anywhere else.
So naturally, I had to try some (and share my thoughts with the internet).
Please note that all opinions that follow are my own. I am not being paid for this post (although I am an affiliate of the company and will gain a small commission should you choose to purchase some of the tea mentioned within if you click on the relevant links or use my coupon code).
Ultimately, I chose three different teas to try, obtaining an ounce of each. However, the tea wizards included two samples, as well.
Sailor Moon is the first franchise I can really recall being a fan of. At the time it aired on western TV, there was something magical about it to someone who grew up on cartoons, especially when all the girls got magical powers and weren’t reduced to the damsel in distress role.
Friday Afternoon Tea’s Magical Girl Collection takes inspiration from this iconic show with teas representing Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask, all her scouts (senshi), and, of course, Luna, Sailor Moon’s faithful (and sometimes frustrated) cat-shaped adviser.
After examining all the blends in this collection, I decided the Luna-inspired Black Cat was the best place for me to start as I wanted to try a more fruity tea. Being an oolong blend with lemon peel, pomegranate seeds, and natural vanilla flavoring, it seemed to fit the bill.
While the scent of vanilla was surprisingly strong in the bag, the first cup of tea I steeped with these leaves was fairly light on the vanilla flavor, although I suspect it added an element of sweetness to the overall cup. On my first pour, the vanilla was a bit overwhelmed by the pomegranate seeds and lemon peel, but I wasn’t unhappy with that. The resulting acidity gave it a bit of a bite, which I actually enjoyed the more I drank it. To my mind, this very much suits the cat the blend was inspired by.
The next day, I will admit I was slightly wary about steeping these leaves again simply because of the pomegranate seeds (they were a pleasant pale pink by this point and not the robust red shade we all know and love), but the tea was still pretty tasty. The next day’s steep resulted in bringing out more of the vanilla flavor, but I lost some of the acidity that I enjoyed from the pomegranate seeds and the lemon peel.
I’m not sure I’d put it into my regular tea rotation (teas with fruit in them make me a bit nervous), but overall, I think Black Cat created a good cup of tea that I was surprised to enjoy and would probably drink again.
Darcy’s Delight is one of the samples that was sent along with my order. As a literary nerd, I realized almost immediately that it was inspired by Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pride and Prejudice. It was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read and the one I willingly keep devouring as people reinvent or modernize it, so I will admit that I was curious as to what exactly a tea inspired by Mr. Darcy would taste like.
Scooping out the leaves, I was immediately hit with the scent of oranges. I really shouldn’t have been surprised, since the blend contains orange peel along with oolong tea and osmanthus flower.
(I had never heard of osmanthus flowers before this, nor did I have any idea what they looked like. Turns out they’re very pretty.)
Given how strong the scent of the orange peel was when I initially scooped out the leaves, I expected the orange flavor to be a bit on the strong side. However, upon sipping the tea, that wasn’t the case at all. The flavors came together in such a way where I actually got more of an earthy and almost buttery quality to the tea itself thanks to the osmanthus flowers, with the barest hint of sweetness and citrus from the orange on the back end.
In fact, I enjoyed the first cup so much that once I was done with my first cup, I immediately returned to the kitchen to steep a second cup for myself, which is the first time I’ve done that with any tea I have ever consumed. The second and third cups were just as good as the first.
To my surprise, this oolong that I didn’t even initially look at has become one of my new favorite teas, and I would absolutely recommend this one to anyone who may be looking for an incredibly smooth oolong.
For anyone who may not know, I’m a fan of Critical Role, an actual play where a bunch of nerdy voice actors get together and play D&D (among other games). With two campaigns under their belts and a third in progress, there’s no shortage of characters for people to be inspired by to create a variety of fanworks.
I wasn’t really expecting tea to be one of those fan-created works, but when I discovered the site I was already buying some tea from had a blend inspired by my favorite pastel goth cleric of the Wildmother (Caduceus Clay from Campaign Two’s Mighty Nein), I knew I needed to try it.
This is one of many teas from Friday Afternoon Tea’s Critter Collection, a collection of tea inspired by, you guessed it, Critical Role.
The Caduceus Clay-inspired blend is called Death’s Flower. Made up of pu-erh tea, hibiscus flowers, and grapefruit peel, Death’s Flower claims to be a rosy pink brew with a fruity aroma that gets richer and more earthy-fungal with longer infusion.
The dried leaves smelled very earthy as I was scooping them into my teapot, which felt very appropriate. True to the description on the site, the resulting tea was very much a rosy pink, the result of the hibiscus flowers steeping with the pu-erh leaves.
Despite smelling the earth in the tea before I poured water in, I don’t think I was expecting the first sip to taste quite as earthy as it did. Most surprising of all was that I didn’t mind it, although I absolutely tasted more of the earthiness the closer to the bottom of the cup I got. I picked up a little sweetness and acidity from the grapefruit, but not that much. All I could think of as I continued to drink my first cup was that Caduceus himself would probably approve of this. I could legitimately picture him serving this up to the Nein when they showed up on his doorstep in the Blooming Grove.
Overall, I think Death’s Flower isn’t going to appeal to everyone and might be a bit of an acquired taste. Some might find the earthy flavor to be a bit off-putting, but for me, the whole thing worked surprisingly well.
Power was the second sample tea sent along with my order, notable as it was the only blend I obtained that wasn’t inspired by some other work. It is instead inspired by more of a concept, drawing inspiration from the darker side of things, perhaps the very thing that led someone to become a villain. I was pretty sure I’d find out as I tried this interesting blend consisting of both dark (cave aged) and black teas, turmeric, red chili flakes, pomegranate oil, and pine smoke.
This tea was the one I was perhaps the most anxious about trying. Although I’m fond of spicy teas, the fact that this blend in particular contained red chili flakes and pine smoke left me a bit concerned. Spice is one thing. Chili flakes are another thing entirely, and I wasn’t sure how exactly “smoke” would play into the tea itself, or if it would play nicely with everything else in it.
How much heat would be in this cup?
Opening the packet, I found the scent of spice and smoke to be fairly strong, but not as unpleasant as I feared it might be. Even after only steeping the leaves for two minutes, the tea itself was dark, almost to the point where the liquid in the cup reminded me more of coffee than tea. And the first sip of the tea wasn’t too bad! It was spicy and dark and it was a surprisingly pleasant experience.
At least at first.
Now, I don’t mind spice in my tea, since, as I mentioned earlier, I like spicy teas (especially chais). However, Power turned out to be less “spice” and more “heat,” a fact I was not entirely aware of for the first few minutes until all I could feel in my mouth was just heat and spice burn, making me regret any decisions I made to continue drinking it.
I did attempt to doctor it a bit with some sugar, but it unfortunately didn’t help. The heat was still present, but now it was sweet on top of that.
While I can see this tea appealing to a very specific audience, it was definitely a miss for me, and this is one tea I am making no plans on revisiting.
When I initially learned of Friday Afternoon Tea, Friday, the CEO who also happens to run the company’s various social media accounts, and I had a bit of an exchange on Twitter. In that exchange, I asked for recommendations for someone who, and I quote, “likes kind of spicy chais, rooibos, and florals (but not really fruity or citrusy tea)[.]” Friday almost immediately replied to me with three suggestions: Red Viper, Red Chai, and Queen of Hearts.
Her description of Red Viper being “dreamy,” however, ultimately won me over and was the first of the trio of her suggestions that I elected to try.
Hailing from their Ice and Fire Collection, Red Viper is, you guessed it, inspired by Game of Thrones (specifically taking inspiration from the Red Viper himself, Prince Oberyn Martell). Described as a sensual blend, Red Viper contains both rooibos and green teas, as well as orange peel, cinnamon, rose, and dandelion root.
Having consumed this one a lot, I can confirm that “sensual” and “dreamy” are both very accurate descriptors for this one. I was in love the minute I sipped it. The cinnamon is almost not noticeable at first; I mostly got it on the back end of my first cup, but the longer you let the tea steep, the more the cinnamon flavor comes out. This was another one I was surprised by but in the most pleasant way possible.
I hesitate to use the word “sinful” to describe tea, but it’s honestly the best I can do for this one. (And it feels appropriate given Prince Martell.)
For me, Red Viper absolutely is 5 out of 5 stars. It’s one of my go-to blends now, and if you like the same sorts of teas I do, give this one a try! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Overall, my opinion of all the teas I sampled from Friday Afternoon Tea is particularly high. Seeing Friday in various places on social media and interacting with her, I can tell she cares about her tea and her community of Teahearts. I found ordering from the company to be an easy experience, as well, and I’d happily order from them again.
(In fact, I may be placing an order for more Red Viper as you read this.)
I’d recommend anyone interested in loose leaf tea inspired by various fandoms to give them a try. You might just find something for you.
And if you decide to make a purchase, feel free to use the code THYANEL to get 10% off your entire order!
Originally published on Medium on January 14, 2022.
About the Creator
A gamer, streamer, storyteller, and tarot reader.
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