9 Tasting Notes
I do like this Sencha – it’s nice and light and flowery, and when I can’t decide what to have and all the flavours in my Mariage Freres teas are too much for my poor brain to cope with, I can grab this tin of tea and go for it.
I put about 1-2 desert spoons in a six cup pot, add water that is off the boil, and steep for about 2-3mins, or until the leaves have all expanded and opened but still leaving enough freshness for the next steeping to be just as nice.
It’s very flowery, with a hint of woody/grassiness, but not with that “vegetal” feeling one can get from some Senchas, and it doesn’t feel bitter at all. I prefer this one late morning or afternoon, as being quite light, I prefer something with more “meat” to it first thing in the morning with breakfast, and I prefer something a bit softer/smoother/creamier in the evening before bed.
At present, this is my favourite Sencha, and it’s the only one I currently own, but have had a few samples from Grinnyguy of other senchas – one was a Fukuyu and the other was a woody one.I would say this one was quite “middle of the road” and therefore likeable and easily brewed by anyone – it’s not as much of an acquired taste as one might find with certain Senchas, Oolongs or greens. I would recommend this to anyone newer to Sencha as a good pace to start – and it’s robust enough that you can’t go wrong. This is a good tea to have when working, as you just sit with the pot next to you and a smaller china cup and just keep refilling until all gone, and it’s good for concentrating and focussing – at least I find!!
I remember the first time I found this tea, I was in the Mariage Frères on the Place de La Madeleine, it’s a funny little shop without the full tea room as you would find (for example) in Rue Bourg Tibourg in the 4th, no this was in an area surrounded by the exclusive epiceries of Hédiard and Fauchon. Thus, though they did not have a tea room (why bother when you are competing with Laduree too?) they carried quite an extensive range of teas, not to mention a complete selection of the paraphanalia of tea: everything from sables au the (Tea flavoured biscuits!) to mousselines de coton (muslin tea bags, either filled with your tea or empty) to théières (tea pots sounds much more profound in French!) and all sorts of items.
Thus, the sight of this tea on my shelf in it’s bag, and even the handwriting of the lovely man who sold it to me, still make me think of the discovery of this wonderful tea – why? Because it reminded me that it’s not all the same, not every tea is the same.
And how, is this “fruit green tea blend” (how boring sounding??) so different?
Well, firstly, from the first wiff when you open it, you are hit in the face by Lavender – uniquely, it has not just the flowers but, I remember the Mariage Frères assistant pointing out, the oil of lavender and rose in it – so it’s quite unique because lavender is not used that often in blends of tea, because it can be overpowering.
In amongst the flowers, there are herbs like rosemary and thyme, which also feature strongly in the scent, and touch on the taste too. Amongt the herbs, you can subtlely taste the flowers (rose, violet) and the fruits (lemon, orange, berries).
The other thing i love about this tea, is after transporting me to Paris on looking at it and deciding to grab it off the shelf, when I open it I am then transported to Provence: over a month spent walking the hills of Venasque (nr Avignon), smelling the lillies, the lavender, walking through “le voie des cerises” – the avenue of cherries, and finally spending hours carefully tending vineyards in the early spring to get them ready to bud and grow all summer.
All of that, in a tea, not sure how that is possible, but it does remind me of it!
I would definitely use 1.5 desert spoons for a 6 cup pot, and use water off the boil, and brew very quickly with this particular tea – the colour comes out a very awesome bright green, and is super refreshing, like drinking a valley full of flowers and trees.
I can recommend it any time of day, but I think the lavender definitely gives it an aspect of unwinding, so perhaps evening is better.
Just an lovely tea, exceptionally well blended – I gave the man in the shop a description of what I was looking for: not a black tea, something a bit outside the box, with unusual flavourings that blend well with a lighter tea and he pondered for a while, and found me 3 different teas (including this one) and I think I bought all three!
Finally, the masterpiece I have been building up to.
This is the first Marco Polo Blend I tried, I had been obsessing about Rooibos for years, and then when I found this I bought 100g in a Boite du Thé withouth trying it, and have since got a re-fill of 200g on a successive Paris visit.
The is something just amazing about this blend, I can drink it any time of day, with or without milk, and never ever get sick of it, I’m “always in the mood” for this tea, and it helps me set to work on the task at hand.
How to brew?
I put 2/3 desert spoonfuls of it in a 6 cup pot, as rooibos doesn’t suffer from tannins and I can re-steep the hell out of this baby.
Water has to be boiling or just off, and I prefer to warm the pot as it makes it brew better, and it’s fine with milk or without, if I have brewed it strong with milk is best.
Colour, once brewed, is lovely, taste is so fruity and rich and warm, not at all heavy, a really excellent brew!
And very reasonable in price too.
So, I have almost completed the round robin of all the Marco Polos – and I am determined to finish! As I said on the Thé Blanc of the same name, the Marco Polo Flavour is simply beautiful.
I was in fact drinking this yesterday, I suddenly rediscovered all my Mariage Frères teas that had been hiding in their beautiful Boites du Thé!
It may seem unncessary to have a green and a white version of this tea, but honestly, it tastes so different, and the brewing is so different.
How would I brew?
Well, 2 desert spoonfuls of leaves in a 6 cup pot, simply because I like to re-steep, and if you don’t have enough of the flowers in there the later brews taste like straight green tea otherwise.
Brew this one, easily for close to 3mins, this makes sure the flowers have come out into the tea properly.
And I ‘d say 85 degrees, so not as cool as the white tea, but not boiling either because I prefer a calmer slower brew with slightly less hot water – and I found the re-brews benefitted from this too.
What about taste?
It’s fresh, light, cool and sort of like drinking a forest – that sort of dewey taste you get when you breathe in your garden early in the morning!
And the successive re-brews are just beautiful too, definitely worth 3 (I might have done 4 last night actually!). And I always notice how lovely a colour this is when it brews in the pot, no murkiness to be found her, just a lush grass green.
Absolutely worth it, comes in a “Boites du Thé” for 100g, which is the most efficient way to purchase this if you want a tin, because it costs less than buying the tea and a boites separately, and the Mariage tea boites are excellent quality, with beautiful images and a proper label instead of my illegible writing!
I don’t actually own this tea, I only ever drink it if I am in a Mariage Frères teahouse and have the opportunity to drink it at my leisure, when they have brewed it to perfection for me!
This tea is clearly very very popular, so I won’t go and review it again, we all know the blend is awesome and special.
For anyone who likes this tea, I would strongly recommend:
Thé Blanc Marco Polo
Thé Vert Marco Polo
Marco Polo Rouge
And finally, Sablés au Thé, au Saveur du Marco Polo Noir – these are “tea biscuits”, flavoured with the original marco polo tea flavourings, but they aren’t sweet or savory, just somewhere in between – one of these goes perfect with your first cup of Marco Polo of the day! They are available on the Mariage Frères website: http://www.mariagefreres.com/boutique/FR/fa+sables-au-the-marco-polo+E33.html
I picked up this tea in a hurried trip round Fortnum & Mason, post obligatory ice cream parlour visit – lovely!
The tea section, although very similar to the great Tea Emporiums of Europe, is a little smaller in size, but has a subtley different range available compared with others (see Tea Palace or Mariage Frères) which therefore makes it a bit of a treasure trove – this occasion I was on a hunt for a lovely Oolong, as my cupboard was sorely lacking. I simultaneously purchased this tea and Formosa Poochong Oolong Tea.
How to brew?
Well, don’t over do it – don’t add to many leaves as this this stuff is £200/kg !! – and also don’t brew too long, it really does go quite bitter and unpleasant in my opinion, and I believe it should be a light green-brown, not the dark brown I get the times I forget how quickly this brews! I would say 2mins, then check it, then brew further to taste. And brew off the boil, just say 90-95 degrees.
What about the taste?
Lovely, quite rich and filling, I prefer this one late afternoon, it’s too heavy for during the day – although it could also be an “unwind” tea for the evening. Because it’s an oolong it does have more, shall we say, “meat” to it, than my usual light coloured teas, it has a wonderful dusty burned feeling, both in the raw spirally leaves when they come tumbling out of the packet, and in the taste, like you can feel where it’s been before it made it to your tea cupboard!
It has got some sharp notes, like a sort of citrus flavour, and then the after taste can be a bit like bitter lemon, if like me you brew it a minute too long by accident (which I seem to do every time I brew this after not brewing it in a while!).
Simply that although the tea is expensive (£10 my 50g cost me!), the leaves are re-brewable – you could easily get 3 out of it, and each one would taste different, but also the leaves are large and light, so the bag came to the same size as the 125g I bought of Formosa Poochong.
I am going to rate this as good, not at the very top of tastiness, simply because it can be hard to brew (and that is subjective to personal taste anyway) and because it’s very expensive but as enjoyable as my other oolong, which is more flowery.
I have always loved the Marco Polo flavourings, but there is something truly special about having them mingle so beautifully with the flavour of Pai Mu Tan.
How do you brew?
As with any white tea – concentrate on your brewing methods. I prefer “lighter” teas to not have very much of a bitter/overbrewed sensation when I drink them – if I wanted that I’d buy tea that was supposed to be brewed darker.
Consequently, I own every variety of Marco Polo except the Black tea version (although there are some beautiful Sablés au Thé flavoured with Marco Polo Noir which I would recommend to have with you first cup of the day!).
Back to Thé Blanc Marco Polo – I use a 6 cup pot and about a desert spoonful of tea in the infuser, unless I know I want to rebrew several “quick light” brews, then I will add a little more and steep a little less to get more out of these beautiful but expensive leaves.
I brew for 2mins 30s, check colour and if necessary for another 1 minute. Water temperature, has to be off the boil completely – I would recommend boiling the kettle walking off and doing something for 5 mins before coming back to pour. I have definitely noticed this makes the second brew of the same leaves easier and tastier.
How should I describe this tea for flavour?
Like the Thé Jaune d’Or, also by Mariage Freres, this is a light and refreshing tea – not so much a comfort drink to have late at night, or an envigorating wake up tea to be had first thing – this is a during the day tea, in which you can taste the fruit (esp first brew) and the warm honey and vanilla, with complements the warm honey character of the Pai Mu Tan underneath – but it also has a chocolatey note, especially in the raw leaves.
I was pleasantly surprised by this unusually named tea bought from a souvenir shop from a marine life museum in Cherbourg – not the most usual of locations for tea shopping I know.
However, it has an attractive aroma, both in the leaf in once properly brewed.
Brew it quick (3mins) if you want it without milk, but leave it a bit longer (4mins) if you are a milk drinking person.
It never needs sugar, as the name would suggest it tastes sweet (but not unpleasantly so) already.
This is a good after lunch tea, relaxing but with muted fruity tones and a great aroma. I wouldn’t recommend after dinner as it might keep you awake, and not whilst eating either as then your mouth will have too many tastes in it and it would be too overpowering.
Would taste nice with a slice of almond cake or lemon drizzle cake.