This is definitely a magnificent, well balanced cuppa of quality tea I’d expect from our favorite brothers Mariage. The dry leaves have a very strong, intoxicating smell, like a shot of krupnik (a spiced honey liquor from my homeland) diluted with Amaretto.. smells almost like it has alcohol. Made me think I’m about to get drunk brewing a bit of Amaretto with maraschino cherries or some other divinely sweet desert drink.
The brewed tea loses the “alcohol” scent but the almond/spiced honey fragrance is joined by some smashed red berries, I’d say closest to strawberries and dark brandied cherries. One of the “spices” is definitely mahlab, which gives that bitter almond & cherry flavor. That part brought me back to Egypt the moment I took my first sip, but in some European-style cafe in Cairo next to a hookah/sheesha bar. I can’t quite pinpoint the other spices (saffron? black sesame?), but they are very well balanced, neither muting the concert of sweet honey with cherry amaretto nor fading into the background.
The brewing suggestion was 3-5 minutes at 95C water, 2.5g/20cl. I found that 200F, 2tsp/300ml at 3 minutes works best for me, as some bitter notes from the mahlab start becoming more pronounced at 5 minutes. 4 minutes and I already needed some sweetener to bring it back to balance, but the flavor was a bit more robust. When I brewed a cup for my mom at her house, I used freshly boiled water (no precise kettle) I’m guessing was around 205-210F for 4 minutes and it definitely needed sweetener.
Finicky and you’ll have to play around with the temps to get it just right for yourself, but when you nail it, it’s a real treat. Also got mine fresh direct from Mariage Freres, so maybe the longer steeping times are for leaves that have been sitting around for a little while.
Flavors: Chestnut, Honey, Nutmeg, Nuts, Stewed Fruits