Herbology meets Heat-not-Burn
Recently, we reviewed the Cigoo sticks from Uwootech which were, admittedly, quite surprising as an alternative to the very popular HEETS from PMI. This time, we managed to get our hands on some more alternatives to HEETS. Unusually, for a heat-not-burn product, they don’t contain any tobacco.
Inspired by long time study on tea powder and food grade botanical essences from the mile high cloudy mountains in the middle of Taiwan, Dr. Ray Chung had dreamed of introducing healthy inhalation solutions for smokers on this warm and humid island in Pacific.
Dr. Chung has been a leading research professional at Taiwan Tsing Hua University with his academic focus on new technology innovations for tea products.
That’s right. These are made, primarily, with tea powder. It is certainly an interesting concept and a distinct divergence from conventional thinking on heated tobacco products. The question is then, are they any good?
Darlings herbal sticks are available in five different flavours both with (2mg strength) and without, nicotine.
- Mint – pretty self-explanatory
- Icy Blue – Blueberry (a common starter flavour for vapers)
- Icy Brown – Coffee
- Forest – Jasmine Tea
- Regular – Tobacco flavour
As with any flavour review, the taste is entirely subjective and as such, you may have a different experience.
I like a good mint flavour. I have a distinct preference for the Blue HEETS and various mint e-liquids over above most other flavours. My initial impression of the Mint Darlings, even before popping one into my device to consume, was the scent. Blue HEETS have a very strong scent. The Mint Darlings didn’t have a strong scent. They did, however, have a distinctive smell to them which wasn’t entirely unpleasant as some strong scents can be. It was clear, just from the scent, that the Mint Darlings
didn’t contain tobacco.
The very first draw was far stronger than the scent would suggest and overall the taste was much smoother than you would expect. Sadly, after 4 or 5 puffs, the flavour disappeared rapidly which meant that, towards the end of the heating session, the taste was nigh on non-existent. The taste at that point was very much the tea-powder that appears to be the primary ingredient in Darlings herbal sticks.
Blueberry should be an easy flavour to reproduce. Unlike the Mint sticks, Icy Blue didn’t have a strong scent once the pack was open. The scent was more subtle. As I have discovered when testing other heat-not-burn sticks, the opening scent doesn’t necessarily mean that the flavour will match. As is the case here.
Even though this flavour is touted as simply “Blueberry” there is a very subtle mint behind the main blueberry flavour. This makes the overall flavour akin with a blue Slush Puppie but somewhat softer in intensity.
Icy Blue did produce a more consistent taste throughout the heating session but, it too did fade long before the end. It did vary slightly between sessions, sometimes the flavour lasted until the penultimate draw (roughly 10-11 draws), in other sessions, it faded earlier (somewhere around 7-8 draws).
There aren’t many coffee flavoured heat-not-burn products on the market right now, for good reason. Translating the taste of coffee to a heated product could, theoretically, be simple. But it isn’t. Though, given the makeup of Darlings herbal sticks, it should have been better. Sadly not. As with the other flavours, Icy Brown does have the scent of coffee but, that is as far as it goes. There is, unfortunately, very little coffee taste to them in my view.
The fact that the flavour name is “Icy Brown” does suggest that there is meant to be some kind of menthol/mint undertone, but even that was muted.
I’ll freely admit to being sceptical about this flavour – Jasmine Tea – in a heat-not-burn product range. It just didn’t strike me as the type of flavour that belongs. I can understand the other flavours in the range – Blueberry, Regular and Mint – as they tend to be the norm. I can even, to an extent, understand Coffee being there. But, Jasmine Tea? I am not sure how I feel about that. Maybe it’ll grow on me.
Scepticism aside, I cracked open a pack and was greeted by the scent of Jasmine Tea. Being a Brit, you would expect me to comment on the whole tea thing, but I won’t. Mostly because I prefer coffee, but I do know what Jasmine Tea smells like and Darlings herbal sticks nails it. However, the scent of the Forest sticks is pleasant enough. Probably a bit strong for my taste but it may suit some.
Surprisingly, out of all the flavours I tried, Forest managed to keep most of its flavour throughout the majority of the heating cycle. Both myself, and my better half, found ourselves quite surprised by this flavour. It isn’t one that I would use regularly, but it is one of the more flavourful out of the batch I received.
No heat-not-burn line-up would be complete without the traditional tobacco flavour, and Darlings herbal sticks are no exception. The question, therefore, is this: are they any good? I mean, tobacco flavour heat-not-burn sticks should be ridiculously easy, right?
Well, if the primary ingredient of a heated-tobacco stick is, in fact, tobacco then yes. It is easy. When it is tea-powder? Not so much. As with Icy Brown, the regular sticks had the smell of a light tobacco product. However, there wasn’t much in the way of tobacco flavour when the sticks were heated. There was some, but like the other flavours, the flavour tended to either be muted or fade quickly.
It goes without saying that taste is entirely subjective so, what I found to be muted may, in fact, be flavourful for some. As these sticks are primarily made with tea powder, there were hints of that flavour throughout my taste testing – some flavours had more than others. It wasn’t an unpleasant taste, just different.
Sadly, some of the flavours (Icy Brown, I’m looking at you) just didn’t appear to work. Don’t get me wrong, all the flavours I tried had the right smell to them. Even Icy Brown had a decent coffee-like smell. It is just that, when it came down to it, that scent didn’t translate into taste very well, if at all.
If I had to rank the flavours I tried in order of preference, Forest would be the surprising list-topper with Icy Brown at the bottom.
I suspect that, given the departure from using tobacco, it will prove difficult to improve upon the longevity of the taste. But, as I discovered when reviewing Cigoo recently, even using tobacco isn’t a guarantee of success for taste longevity.
The bottom line is, the scent is – mostly – on point with Darlings herbal sticks which leads you to believe that they’ll taste as good as they smell. The only flavours that do that are Mint and, surprisingly, Forest. That doesn’t mean the others are bad, they just don’t live up to the smell.
Hanwa Group are trying something different and, as it is completely different it’ll take some time to
get things right. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.
Due to current obligations we will not be selling these at the moment but for more info and to make a purchase please see the following URL’s: