2 Tasting Notes
This was my first experience trying tea from Mariage Frères. I’ve been looking for a good flavoured black tea that is both comforting and uplifting at the same time. I was drinking a lot of oolong tea and straight blacks, but other than that I had basically converted to coffee because I thought that no tea could ever match the boldness of a good cup of coffee. Then Marco Polo sailed into my life and I was blown away. This tea really changed everything I thought I knew about tea. It’s fruity, flowery, creamy, and soft all at once with no bitterness and a pleasant aftertaste.
I start with about 80 mL of half & half cream and two flat teaspoons of sugar, then enough brewed tea to fill my 16 oz travel mug. Cream and sugar complements Marco Polo exquisitely. It tastes like a fruity dessert, like a strawberry spongecake, except in liquid form. It’s velvety over the tongue and extremely smooth. There’s a bit of a floral afterbite the lingers for a moment in between sips. The feeling that I get from drinking this tea is out of this world. I thought no tea could be bold enough to match coffee, but I went through 100 g of Marco Polo in just under two weeks and didn’t even touch my stovetop espresso maker once. I recently ordered more from Mariage Frères and was absolutely amazed that it traveled from Paris to my doorstep in a mere three days! Now I am back in strawberry velvet heaven and never want to leave (pardon the pun).
I can see why this blend has made Mariage Frères famous, or more specifically, their current president Kitti Cha Sangmanee. Certainly, if I came up with something this good, I’d want recognition too. This tea is incredibly versatile. I’ve had it first thing in the morning, I’ve had it between meals, I’ve had it after dinner. In fact I just had it after a bowl of lobster bisque and it went perfectly well. My head felt kind of sludgy this morning, but now I feel sharp as a tack after drinking this tea. You could say that this review for Marco Polo tea is sponsored in part by the tea itself.
This tea is art. Sometimes when I drink it, I can peer into myself and feel something strange. It conjures up thoughts of existentialism and self-reflexive meditation, sometimes only for a few seconds at a time. Then I snap out of it and smile, slightly, because for no explainable reason I instantly feel better about the world. Wow.
This tea is pure disappointment in dried form. Getting Pumpkin Chai from David’s Tea is like buying a Rembrandt painting at an auction house: you’re excited because it looks so authentic. Then you bring it home and guess what? It’s a fake. This tea smells excellent, like pumpkin pies baking and an assortment of spices all raveled into an orgasmic bundle of aroma. The unfortunate thing is that this doesn’t translate into your cup. The resulting tea is bland, lacking most of the flavour notes that your nose picked up from the dry blend. To me, this speaks volumes about David’s Tea’s philosophy: produce tea that smells amazing in order to make people want to buy their tea and place less importance on actually making the tea taste good.
The problem is with the ingredients: tiny pieces of pumpkin-shaped candies and bits of caramel mixed with a ton of aromatics. However, these ingredients don’t actually get extracted by hot water very well. The actual tea leaves are low-quality, so what you taste is a poor quality brew with minimal quantities of scent extracted from the other superficial ingredients.
The bottom line is that Pumpkin Chai from David’s Tea doesn’t taste as good as it smells and needs to be supplemented with plenty of sweetener and dairy in order to be halfway enjoyable. On the grand scale of tea, this blend (and most others from David’s Tea) are somewhat of an embarrassment and really shouldn’t be getting the praise they receive. Overall, this is a sad and disappointing attempt at a holiday-themed tea and doesn’t belong in anyone’s tea cabinet unless they pass by it once a day to smell it, but not drink it.