248 Tasting Notes
Hello, fellow Steepsters! It’s great to be back! I posted my last review 10 months ago. I don’t need to tell you what a crazy year this has been. I hope you all are staying safe and healthy. One of the personal consequences of the pandemic was it pushed me into full retirement when my employer laid off/furloughed 90 percent of the staff in March. I was already semi-retired so I’m enjoying the extra free time and not complaining. Now, onto the reason I am here…
I read about this tea on the Harney & Sons website. I was somewhat fascinated by its history. To quote the Harney folks:
“Amba Thieves Tea is handmade brisk black tea with a storied past. Years ago, all tea had to go to the owners. However some ladies plucked the tea and then made a crude and strong black tea in their hut. They were ‘Thieves.’”
The tea was highly rated on the website and sold at a reasonable price. For these reasons, I was moved to order a one pound bag of the blend.
When I opened up the bag, the aroma was full and rich and obviously a blend of several players. The short brown and black tea leaves were without uniformity and really did resemble leaves “plucked” from an agglomeration of black teas.
I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product had a color like dark molasses. The smoking smell was quite pronounced and pleasant, but indiscernible as a specific ceylon black tea.
The flavor of this blend is fabulous, with both sweet and fruity attributes. It is robust and full-bodied. It has everything that I hope for in a black tea. Astringency is little to none. The aftertaste is amiable without lingering bitterness.
This is an excellent tea that I intend to add to my morning black tea rotation. It matters nothing to me that I can’t be blindfolded and identify the origin and composition of this terrific concoction.
Flavors: Fruity, Sweet
My wife and I were in Savannah, Georgia, after the Christmas holiday. It’s a beautiful and historic city covering the Savannah River from immediate view. We love walking River Street with its cobblestones, shops, and restaurants, charmingly set facing the river.
Among the ever-changing gems we encountered on the street this time was a kiosk operated by Rachel Nicole, the nice and knowledgeable creator, owner, and purveyor of RachelMade skincare and tea products. Although I purchased her Revitalizing Rosemary Peppermint Dead Sea Salt Soak (after her free sample application DID resuscitate my life-long dry skin), I was primarily interested in her teas.
Rachel very kindly gave me a few free sample packets of her tea to bring home and take for a spin. Rachel currently offers about seven different DRINKING teas. I make the distinction because she also offers several teas for your BATH.
This morning I decided to start with her sample of Earl Grey. I chose this one because I have sampled many teas of this variety and now have a pretty good handle on what I like and don’t like.
I opened the sample package and was greeted with a potent but amiable bergamot aroma. The tea leaves were dark and short.
Following Rachel’s brewing instructions on the packet, I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees, my usual brewing temperature for black teas.
The finished liquor had a pleasant bergamot odor with flowery undertones. The color was a deep reddish gold, a shade lighter than molasses.
Rachel does not specify the origin of her black teas on the website, but the flavor seemed to contain the familiar maltiness of Assam. The taste was pleasingly bold, malty, a tad flowery, and lavishly peppered with bergamot. The aftertaste was quite gentle. No astringency whatsoever materialized during the sips or afterwards.
All in all, this is a very nice black tea. I have no complaints about its flavors or drinkability. Although I utilized it to complement my breakfast, it would be a fine afternoon tea too.
Flavors: Bergamot, Flowers, Malt, Tea
I thought I had already reviewed all of Teavivre’s Keemun black tea offerings but somehow I missed this one. I’ve purchased their Grade 1 and Grade 2 Keemun teas in the past and enjoyed them both. I was surprised and happy to find this free sample packet from Teavivre when I opened my tea cabinet this morning.
When I opened the small silver foil container, an earthy and fruity aroma emanated from it. I followed the brewing instructions on the packet and steeped the short black leaves for five minutes at 185 degrees.
The finished brew had a dark gold color similar to motor oil. The odor was faintly sweet and fruity.
The taste of the tea was sweet with honey overtones. There also existed slightly floral and undefined fruity flavor characteristics. All of this merged perfectly together to form a sweet and mildly fruity taste experience with no astringency. The aftertaste continued this theme with gentle sweet and fruity attributes briefly floating on my palate.
The disposition of this tea is incredibly smooth. It is one of those fairly rare teas that I have to restrain myself from gulping down quickly. This is truly a tea that should be savored and enjoyed.
I don’t believe I have ever been disappointed with a Teavivre black tea. But, if I were forced to rank them in order of taste and smoothness, this one would be listed in at least my top three.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Honey
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I retired three days ago after working for over 50 years. I am optimisitic and hopeful about the rest of my life. I can’t think of a better way to contemplate the future than while sipping a new black tea sample, compliments of Teavivre.
When I opened the two-cup silver sample package and sniffed the rich earthy aroma of the unbrewed golden-tipped leaves, I knew I was in for a treat.
I followed the instructions on the package and brewed the leaves for five minutes at 185 degrees. The resulting liquor was a bright amber color. The odor was sweet with honey-like undertones.
The flavor of this tea was quietly sweet, with well-blended fruity, bread, and sweet potato attributues. The entire experience was remarkably smooth as silk with no astringency in its orbit. This was one of those teas that was so velvety serene that I had to restrain myself from gulping it down. There was zero astringency and the aftertaste was mild and welcoming.
This is an exceptional black tea that would be a pleasing addition to breakfast or afternoon desserts. It is very easy to see why it is an “award winning” selection.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Fruity, Honey, Sweet Potatoes
Thank you, Teavivre, for the sample of this tea! I’m finally ready to try it! Black teas are my favorite, particularly in the morning when I need to shake the cobwebs off of my brain.
I opened the silver rectangular sample package and was greeted with brown and golden brown leaves. The aroma was malty and like bread.
I steeped the leaves for three minutes at approximately 185 degrees as recommended on the package. The brewed color was a bright amber. The aroma was faintly sweet and malty.
The taste of this tea was mild and smooth. There also was a sweetness to malty and bread flavor attributes. The aftertaste was gentle and lingered for a few minutes.
Although I prefer to be jolted with bolder flavors in the morning to defibrillate my brain, I found this selection tasty enough to help me face the workday ahead. I liked it!
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt, Sweet
Because of my restricted tea budget these days, I’m always on the prowl for sales. This month (August 2019) happens to be Teavivre’s 8th anniversary. Coincidentally, it is also my 8th anniversary for entering the scrumptious universe of loose leaf tea. When I saw ads for Teavivre’s anniversary sale, I considered it my destiny to make a purchase at this time.
I had never tried Golden Snail tea before. When I opened up the silver package, the leaves were dark brown and firmly curled with a multitude of golden points. The aroma was moderately rich and earthy.
I steeped the leaves according to Teavivre’s recommendations, eight minutes at 195 degrees. Actually, Teavivre recommends 194 degrees, but who’s counting? The brewed liquor had a deep amber color. The aroma had characteristics of a honey-like sweetness.
The taste of this tea was silky smooth with absolute zero astringency. It was full-flavored, yet mellow. An underlying sweet honey attribute was easily recognized but not disagreeable in any way. There also was an identifiable and quite pleasant Yunnan taste, which is one of my personal favorite tea flavors. The aftertaste was delicate and affable. It sweetly and quickly rolled off my palate.
This is a delicous and sweetly mild Yunnan black tea that I enjoyed at breakfast but could also be well-placed at brunch, lunch, and early supper. I would love to experience it with several Scottish tea biscuits (that I’m not supposed to have).
Flavors: Honey, Tea
While we were out and about this weekend, we noticed that a new Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Cafe was about to launch in our booming neck of the South Carolina Upstate. We saw through the big glass storefront window that there was life inside. Boldly opening the unlocked door, we walked in. We were immediately greeted inside the new bright, shiny, and spacious store by Ryan, the very cordial owner of the cafe. We knew immediately that this was a place where we wanted to spend some time drinking…or sipping.
Since they weren’t completely open yet and mainly breaking in new employees at the drive-in window that day, we were invited to attend their friends and family opening on the next day. It was great! Besides teas and coffees, we also sampled some delicious pastries and brownies.
I wasn’t familiar with Sweetwaters products so I opted for the Imperial Black, which was labeled their “house” tea. This was a loose leaf selection, freshly scooped inside a wide silky-textured bag for steeping, while partially hanging over the side of the paper cup.
The tea arrived very hot with a brewed aroma similar to Assam. The flavor was initially slightly astringent, again more characteristic of Assam versus the advertised Chinese tea. However, what separated this selection from Assam, was the smooth sweet flavor attribute that grew with each sip. This was a very pleasant taste with sweetness that was not cloying but steady and gentle. At the end of my large cup, I was left with a sweet, mild, and brief aftertaste that was amiable and unassuming.
I will definitely return to the Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Cafe soon to try more Sweetwaters teas. For now, I recommend giving their Imperial Black tea a spin. I believe any tea establishment would be proud to label it their “house” tea.
Flavors: Sweet, Tea
Many thanks to Teavivre for this sample. It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to try a new Teavivre tea.
When I opened the small sample package, I was greeted with small, tightly curled, dark brown leaves. The aroma was faint but slightly sweet.
I steeped the leaves at approximately 203 degrees for eight minutes as instructed by the package. The brewed liquor was a vivid reddish-gold. The aroma was slightly sweet and malty, but again faint.
The flavor of this tea was like malty hay with a perceptible “edge” to it. The edge was not quite astringent but it did bite into a sweet characteristic of the taste that subsisted underneath.
All in all, the flavor was amiable. The aftertaste was not obnoxious and lingered only briefly.
Personally, I prefer more robust flavors in black tea. However, this selection should be fine for those who do not need to pump up the volume.
Flavors: Hay, Malt, Sweet
Besides celebrating Independence Day this week, I am also celebrating the receipt of a tea that I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. My Harney & Sons points accumulated from previous purchases made it possible for me to reel this one in within my budget. I’m excited to give this tea a whirl. So, without further adieu, away we go….
When I opened the black Harney & Sons bag, a sweet and malty aroma greeted me. The dark brown leaves were medium length.
I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The color of the brewed liquor was dark amber. The aroma was surprisingly weaker than in its unsteeped state but there was still a detectable sweet potato odor that was not unpleasant.
The flavor was mild. I again recognized sweet potato that was now accompanied by malty attributes. The taste had a slight twinge of astringency with the initial few sips but this characteristic quickly disappeared. The trademark keemun smoothness was very much in the moment. The aftertaste was light and gentle.
Although this isn’t the most flavor-fortified tea I’ve experienced, it is still a smooth and solid keemun with all the flavor notes that I expected. Another “thumbs up” for Harney & Sons.
Flavors: Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
My tea budget was depleted recently so I’ve been happily focused on my stock of morning rotation black teas in my cabinet. But, as great as they are, it wasn’t long before I started getting the itch to venture out into something new. Again Harney & Sons came to the rescue with a great sale on already very reasonably priced teas.
I found this Songluo Broken tea in their Chinese Teas section. Apparently, this variety with broken leaves comes at a much lower price than the one with non-broken leaves. Since I care more about flavor than appearance, this was fine with me.
When I opened the Harney & Sons bag, an aroma of keemun wafted forth. There also was a sweet attribute to the smell which was quite pronounced. The dark brown leaves were small and appeared…uh…BROKEN. They reminded me of finely ground mulch.
As the folks at Harney & Sons recommend, I brewed the leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes. The color was an orange-brown. The brewed odor was subtle with sweet keemun-like undertones.
My first sip had an astringent attribute but this completely disintegrated with the next sip. The flavor was mild with keemun and sweet characteristics. Harney’s web page likens the sweet attribute to agave. To me, it was more like Sweet’N Low, which I have become very familiar with since I am no longer allowed to drink the South’s traditional sweet tea. I really don’t have any complaints about that flavor (or agave’s for that matter).
The pleasant and moderate flavors were also quite smooth. I had no trouble swallowing my first cup rapidly. The taste levels were certainly sufficient to please my palate. The aftertaste was light and gentle.
This tea is a tremendous bargain with first-rate flavors. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys Chinese teas but has a limited tea allowance (like yours truly). I also believe that people with hefty tea budgets will not be disappointed either.
Flavors: Sweet, Tea