545 Tasting Notes

95

2 TB for 600mL pot, bare, steeped 8 minutes on a warming plate.

Okay, the only reason I’m logging about Damn Fine Holiday Blend AGAIN is because I keep experimenting with it and want to share. This time I made a small pot and steeped it on the mug-warmer playe I keep on my desk these days. Highly recommend one for your small pots.

Normally I use 1 TB for 500mL, but today tried adding “one for the pot.” Then carefully poured some of this ambrosia into a small china cup.

Yep, right thing to do.

Slightly heavier body, no bitterness, dark copper liquor, bright Ceylon (?) notes, assertive Assam malt. Winey Keemun (?) in the aftertaste. Faintest whiff of Darjeeling, I think.

Every batch of HB I’ve made has been slightly different. Very glad I ordered another tin, because this one is 3/4 gone.

Thank you, Steepsterites, for alerting me to A&D.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 min or more
Michelle Butler Hallett

Second cup from this pot yields much more Darjeeling snap and Muscatel. Bliss.

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95

1 TB for 500mL water, drunk bare, steeped 4 minutes in a covered mug. water just off the boil.

I’ve already made several notes on the Damn Fine Holiday blend. Today I just want to add that, as it cools, fruity notes come out. Second fruity surprise today, and most welcome.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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93

1 sachet for 250mL water, covered and steeped a good 10 minutes while I showered.

Oh, mad-hot steeped tea right out of the shower. YUM.

This Darjeeling, one of my faves, does not get bitter with a long steep but does get very fruity — sunshine fruit with a hint of plum, plus some sharp Muscatel. A lovely Darjeeling blend.

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more

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34

1 sachet for 250mL water, stepped 5 minutes, drunk bare.

Hmmmmm. God save the queen. Or at least this tea. The label says “Chinese black teas, stirred with pieces of dried stone fruit, then finished with oil of bergamot and honey flavors.” The base teas are fairly robust, especially for China tea, and they don’t drown beneath the fruit, bergamot and honey flavours. The bergamot is subtle but kisses you in the aftertaste. The honey scent is pleasant. Not sure what the “stone fruit” is — peaches? plums? I get more plum scent than anything else.

Overall scent is a tiny bit artificial. The taste is less so, but still there’s something fakey going on. I am strongly biased against flavoured black teas, so my review of Tower of London (and Paris) should be taken with my prejudices in mind.

A pleasant-enough flavoured black, but still disappointing. Maybe I have a stale batch. I won’t be buying this again.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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1 sachet for 250mL water, drunk bare.

I’ve only seen Harney and Sons Tea in my city at Christmas time, and then only at the ChaptersIndigo (like Barnes & Noble) book store. The tins are pretty, especially the big ones that hold 30 sachets, but they’re also expensive. And tins that only show up around Christmas usually aren’t the highest quality in the land.

But I’ve done some research on Harney this year, and today I broke down and bought a 20-sachet tin of Paris and a 30-sachet tin of Tower of London. (Dang — thought the ToL was loose tea. Oh, well.)

Flavoured black tea and I often don’t get along. I found an Earl Grey I really like earlier this year and nearly tap-danced for joy. Too, too often the flavours mask a poor quality base tea.

Paris. Hmm. Visited Paris in May of 1989 and left a large chunk of my heart there. Totally hope to return. Paris smelled to me those weeks of fruit, coffee, diesel (?), dirty river (the Seine), dog turds, fresh baguettes, brie, oranges butter, chocolate and people. I loved it. A lively, not always pretty smell.

The Paris tea, however, is awfully pretty. The tin promises “natural and art [artifical, I presume] vanilla, fruit and citrus flavors.” Apparently this is a “fruit black tea with a hint of lemony bergamot.” It’s a pretty subtle hint. I can catch awhiff of it from the dry sachets, but in the brew all I’m getting is limp China black tea and a really heavy vanilla flavor. Almost sickly sweet. And grenadine — yeah, this reminds me of a horror I once tried called Vanilla Monk’s Blend. Oh. Yuk.

I really wanted to like this tea. But, for me, I gotta file it with dozens of other flavoured black teas: Don’t Bother.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Michelle Butler Hallett

Seriously, have I got a bad batch? Other reviewers are over the moon about Paris.

Meghann M

I have a tin of loose Paris if you would like a sample to see how it compares. I got it direct from Harney online along with Florence, Cranberry Autumn and Sally’s Secret if you would care to try any of those.

LiberTEAS

I recommend the loose leaf vs. the sachet. The rule that loose leaf is better than bagged seems particularly true when it comes to Harney’s tea!

Michelle Butler Hallett

Meghann, thank you, that’s very kind. I’m only gonna say No thanks — with sincere gratititude — for now because I did get a pile of teas I really like for Christmas, and I’m just not that intrigued by flavoured black teas. I wouldn’t want you to waste your time and postage on a grumpy curmuedgeon like me.

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95

Second infusion note.

1TB for 500mL water. First steep: four minutes. Second steep: a good eight minutes, easily, as I got distracted by laundry.

Only slight less sharp that the first infusion. No bitterness, which surprises me as the first infusion can get better past the four-minute mark. Not quite as much depth this time, but the differences are subtle. A bit more Yunnan pepper-mineral coming through.

Wow. What a cup of tea.

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more

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94

Second infusion … two minutes, almost indistinguishable from the first. I really, really like this yea.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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94

2 TB for a 600mL pot

Received a lovely tin of this Dragonwell as a gift last night. The large leaved spied through the peek-a-boo lid are long, a bit twiggy, dark dark jade … and look good enough to eat. Ever the cynic, I dumped some tea out of the tin to see if most of the volume was fannings of broken leaves over which full leaves had been laid … but nope. All leaf, all the way.

First infusion: steeped for just under two minutes. Liquor is pale green with yellow tones. Scent is sweet and light. Body is light but creamy. Taste is sweet and very refreshing. No mineral or brine notes. Faint fruitness rounds out the aftertaste. Maybe some distant smoke — hard to say. Slight nuttiness.

A competitor’s Dragonwell promised improved concentration, which did happen. I’ll report later on this one.

Refreshing. I keep coming back to that, but yeah, refreshing to the point of being invigorating. Not at all a caffeine smack-up-the-head like, say, Damn Fine’s Captain Assam, but definitely a sweet buzz. Invites meditation.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 45 sec

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93

1 heaping TB for 600mL pot, 1 packet of stevia, no milk.

Blueberries. I adore blueberries. And they grow wild, rampant and lush here in Newfoundland. Not the great big rubbery monsters that import from South America in the winter months, no: sun-warmed, low-bush, get-down-on-your-knees and eat em off the bush bits of deep blue heaven.

So I’m spoiled for blueberries. And I honestly believe the best wild ones grow here.

And I’m leery of flavoured black teas. Hubby, however, adores flavoured black teas — and blueberries — so he bought us a nice sized packet of Wild Blueberry from Britannia.

The aroma: redolent. Seriously penentrating blueberry. REAL blueberry, not that powdery horror that might scent an eraser.

Black tea base is quite mild—China blacks, I’m guessing. I followed instructions — three-minute steep — and got a beautiful amber liquor, clear all the way through, with that delicious, now almost winey scent of blueberries. I also used water just off the boil so as not to scald the fruit, ’cause yes, there are dried real blueberries in here!

The light sweetening does bring out the berry taste, but I think I’ll drink it bare from now on so I can taste the black tea, too.

Lovely flavoured tea. I’d recommend this for evening-in sipping, or in place of / alongside port, cognanc etc.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Michelle Butler Hallett

Oh yes — NO HIBISCUS IN THIS BLEND.

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95

2 scant TB for a 600mL pot, drunk bare.

A most resilient tea. This time I nearly ruint it — really, too much leaf for the pot, but even though the brew got slightly bitter, it’s still great. Also brighter and more assertive, in a cheery way, like a noisy and well-loved friend announcing herself as she swings open the door. I had planned to make this tasting note a warning not to use too much leaf, but I’m really liking what I made here.

Mineral notes are also more pronounced, but, as I’ve noted elsewhere, mineral notes may come from my tap water, which in turn comes from a lake.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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Bio

Writer and tea fiend. Author of DELUDED YOUR SAILORS, SKY WAVES, DOUBLE-BLIND, and THE SHADOW SIDE OF GRACE.

I prefer straight teas but will try almost anything … so long as it’s not tainted with hibiscus. I loathe hibiscus.

Oolongs and blacks are my favourites.

Location

St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

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