195 Tasting Notes

78

After much deliberation between three of us (me, myself, and I), I decided to review each of the ten teas separately to make the individual tasting notes easier to find. With that in mind, the tea of the day is:

Vanilla & Rooibos Tea

I really like these cool glass “test tubes” that package the ten teas. When I unscrewed the lid of this one and stuck my nose inside, I could immediately smell the vanilla. I steeped the orange/brown leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed color was orange/gold. A faint presence of vanilla was detected in the aroma.

The flavor of this tea was pretty much all vanilla. I could taste the tang of the rooibos when I concentrated, but vanilla best described this selection. The flavor was smooth and there was no astringency. However, the vanilla aftertaste stayed on my tongue longer than I preferred.

This is the second of the teas in Trader Joe’s ten-pack that I’ve tried so far. It’s not an unpleasant tea. I would probably like it better in the afternoon than I did in the morning.

Flavors: Rooibos, Vanilla

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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90

I don’t drink many bagged teas anymore but The Republic of Tea’s products were among my favorites when I did. Two aspects of this tea enticed me to try it:

1. It was a free sample that came in the mail
2. I enjoy drinking Christmas teas during the festive season

When I opened the sturdy envelope to expose The Republic of Tea’s signature tea “disc,” an inviting spicy cinnamon aroma spewed out. I steeped the disc for five minutes at 212 degrees. The color was a light gold/orange. The aroma was…like…Christmas!

The brewed liquor had a sweet and spicy flavor that was reminiscent of hot apple cider at Christmas time. I could taste the cloves underneath the dominant flavors but this taste was positioned perfectly without bullying the other great attributes. The overall flavors of this bagged blend were surprisingly robust and quite smooth. The after taste was gentle and delicate. I didn’t detect even a trace of astringency.

This delicious tea really did spread Christmas cheer on my morning. If you find yourself without your loose leaf infuser during the holiday season, this bagged selection just might bring you some comfort and joy.

Flavors: Cloves, Spicy, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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96

Rishi teas are usually solid and reliable. When I saw their English Breakfast black tea in our Whole Foods store, I knew it was worth giving it a try.

A rich malty aroma instantly charged from the metal tin and inner foil envelope upon opening them. The dark brown leaves were extremely short compared to my other Rishi teas. Maybe that is the signature of English Breakfast tea?

I followed Rishi’s brewing instructions and steeped the leaves at 200 degrees for four minutes. The color was bright amber. The smell was malty and slightly sweet.

This tea had a very well-balanced malty and sweet taste, like cocoa. It also was extremely smooth.

The flavor was quite different from most of the other English Breakfast teas I’ve tried. Those all seemed to emphasize the raw taste of the teas that comprised the blend. However, this selection, although definitely not hiding the tea flavors, expertly coated them with cocoa sweetness and malt. The result is the perfect breakfast tea for those of us who like it sweet but straight-up!

The aftertaste was light and smooth. Astringency was not in this blend’s vocabulary.

I bought this product hoping to find a pleasant breakfast blend. Instead, I hit the jackpot. This is an exceptionally robust, full-bodied, and delicious morning tea. My taste buds didn’t locate the advertised cherry notes but that didn’t hinder my sweet and lovely morning ride through four cups of this awesome find.

Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Sweet

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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89
drank Earl Caramel by Buddha Leaf
195 tasting notes

I told myself I wasn’t going to buy any more teas until I make room in my tea cabinet Plus, I haven’t found another job yet after being laid off, so I should be more frugal with my tea habit. However, I couldn’t resist this one! I love Earl Grey. Caramel (and anything sweet) is high on my list too. I found this one at the local Word Market store. The price wasn’t unreasonable. It cost $10 for a little under three ounces.

The packaging was a very simple sealed bag. When I opened it up, a sweet caramel and coconut smell emerged. The dark tea leaves were peppered with cornflower petals, citrus peels, and, I assume, coconut chips.

I steeped the tea at 212 degrees for five minutes as suggested on the package. The brewed liquor had a gold color. The aroma was sweet, with caramel as the dominant characteristic.

From the very first sip, the tea had a smooth and well-balanced rich taste, comprised of MOST of the claimed ingredients (caramel, flowers, coconut, and citrus). Oddly enough, one of the ingredients implied in this blend’s title was not easily distinguished – BERGAMOT! The aftertaste was gentle and brief.

Usually, I knock off a few points when a featured ingredient is missing from the flavor. But, the tastes that did exist were so good and smooth that I didn’t care this time.

This is a very good tea. I do recommend it. Although I drank it at breakfast, it could very easily become a favorite afternoon tea too.

Flavors: Caramel, Citrus, Coconut, Flowers

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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78

I got this set of 10 loose leaf teas at Trader Joe’s a while back. I’ve been wrestling with how to do the tasting note(s) for it. Do I review them all in one note or do I create individual notes for each one? While I am making up my mind, I will start with…

Bergamot Black Tea

Putting loose leaf teas in glass test tubes is a novel idea. I felt like a mad scientist when I poured the tea from the tube into my infuser.

The unbrewed short black leaves had a strong bergamot aroma. There also were little blue cornflower petals mixed in with the leaves. Since the packaging had minimal individual information about the teas, I chose my stand-by black tea steeping method: 212 degrees for five minutes.

The brewed aroma contained bergamot and sweet attributes. The color was amber.

The flavor could be best described as a flowery Earl Grey. The flower and bergamot tastes seemed to be constantly fighting it out on my palate, making it difficult to zero in on either. Maybe that is just called “balanced,” but I prefer flavors that are harmonious rather than locked in mortal combat. There was no astringency and very little aftertaste.

This isn’t a bad tea but the flavors need to be fleshed out more clearly. I would definitely NOT try to use it for iced tea.

Flavors: Bergamot, Flowers

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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83

I don’t know how many people are aware that Charleston, South Carolina, besides being a beautiful city, is also known for its teas. The Charleston Tea Plantation teas (now owned by Bigelow) are excellent and have been well known in the South for a long time. I’m not familiar with Oliver Pluff & Company teas, but since they are also from Charleston and my home state, I feel obligated to try them out.

The tea was packaged in a sturdy air-tight tin that was very similar to the containers sold by The Republic of Tea. When I opened the lid, a citrus and spicy aroma greeted my nostrils. It was sweet and enticing. The leaves were brown and medium-length. Orange peel pieces were sprinkled throughout the container.

Oliver Pluff and Company recommended steeping the leaves at 195 degrees for (3-)5 minutes so that is what I did. The brewed smell was faintly cinnamon. The color was dark gold.

Not a lot of flavor registered during my first couple of sips. However, I’m willing to give the tea the benefit of the doubt since my sinuses are still at the tail end of Fall allergy season. Also, a medium-strength cinnamon and slightly fruity taste did emerge through the mist after a few more sips.

The taste was smooth and I didn’t encounter any astringency. The aftertaste had a touch of orange and cinnamon to it and it hung around for an appropriate time period.

I would have liked the taste to have been a bit stronger and more defined, but all in all this is an amicable blend. If you are not an allergy sufferer, you might find the flavors more amplified.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Orange

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML
ashmanra

Their tea is also sold in Colonial WIlliamsburg and at A Southern Season in Raleigh, NC. I would really love to go to Wadmalaw Island! I have a good friend who lives in Charleston and I hope to go stay for a few days and visit the tea plantation.

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90

About a year ago, we discovered in our Publix store the best bottled tea I’ve ever had. Most bottled teas taste artificial or watered down to me. The bottles of Pure Leaf tea set a new standard. They tasted great, natural, and freshly brewed. So, when I discovered a loose leaf Pure Leaf product in Publix last night, I immediately tossed it into the cart.

My hopes were high for this tea. It was packaged in a simple and contemporary plastic jar. Inside the lid, just a simple paper seal protected the contents from the world we live in. The short dark brown leaves had a nice rich earthy aroma.

As always, I followed the manufacturer’s instructions and steeped the leaves at 212 degrees for three minutes. The brewed liquor was a dark honey color. The smell was like Assam with a tad of sweetener.

The flavor of this tea was smooth, robust, and full-bodied. I could taste both the Ceylon and Assam, which seemed to be blended in perfect harmony. There was just an itsy bitsy twang of astringency, but this seemed to disappear after the first couple of sips. The aftertaste was strong but amiable.

As I said earlier, I had high hopes for this tea, and it didn’t disappoint me. It had all of the characteristics that I look for in a black tea. It was bold, defined, and flavorful. I will overlook the twinkle of astringency since it went away quickly.

If your grocery store has this tea, I would recommend you give it a try. You can’t go wrong at under $7 for 4.7 ounces!

Flavors: Tea

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 36 OZ / 1064 ML

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89
drank Czar Nicolas II by russian royal tea
195 tasting notes

I found this tea at our local international foods store. I love this place because it is the only location in my area where I can acquire the great Scottish foods that I grew up on, such as, meat pies, bridies, and sausage rolls. The store also has a fairly large selection of loose leaf teas that are mostly Russian. Let’s check out this one…

The tea comes in an interesting thin cardboard box, adorned with individual color pictures of Czar Nick himself and his wife. This colorful packaging reminds me of the containers of many products sold during the 1950s, particularly European goods.

I opened the inner silver foil envelope to access the leaves. They were long and brown with a potent sweet and flowery aroma, almost like perfume. I don’t prefer flowery teas, but this aroma was not unpleasant.

I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees as recommended on the colorful box. The brewed liquid had a faintly flowery and sweet aroma. The color was dark gold.

The tea tasted much like it smelled. It was medium-strength, semi-sweet, and flowery. If I had to identify the flower, I would guess, rose. I actually liked the flavor. It was smooth. There was no astringency. The aftertaste was gentle and did not overstay its welcome.

This is one of the few flowery teas that I have liked so far. Of course, though, I like anything that is sweet, so maybe this sensation on my palate over-ruled the flowery contribution. If you happen to run across this product, give it a try. I don’t find anything offensive about it.

Flavors: Flowers, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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91
drank Pu-erh Tou Cha by No. Six Depot
195 tasting notes

You either love Pu-erh or you hate it. Nobody seems to be in the middle of the road when it comes to this tea type. Personally, I’m one of the Pu-erh tea lovers. I revel in the earthy, stout, and steady flavor of Pu-erh.

This brand of Pu-erh came packaged in a metal tin. The tou cha (or tou chas?) were all individually wrapped in delicate, white, and tissue-thin paper. As soon as I opened the tin, I immediately smelled the strong leathery and earthly Pu-erh aroma. I knew that was a good sign.

The brewing instructions were not detailed. They did supply recommended temperature and time ranges. However, no recommended number of tou cha(s) per cup was given. I decided to use the amount suggested by other tea companies and brewed one tou cha per two cups of tea for four minutes at 200 degrees.

The steeped aroma was exquisite. Some people (including my wife) describe the smell of brewed Pu-erh as “fishy.” Although I understand the comparison, to me the odor is more like the rich fine leather of a new pair of boots.

In any event, this tea was absolutely pleasing to my palate. The standard Pu-erh flavor was booming but not obnoxious. It was even slightly sweet. Although the taste was forceful, it was also smooth and without astringency. The aftertaste was strong at first but it was pleasant and it dissipated quickly.

If you are on the “love Pu-erh” side of the aisle, this is definitely one that you should try. If you are a “hate Pu-erh” member, you still might want to give this one a chance. It just might make a convert out of you.

Flavors: Earth, Leather

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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93
drank Chinese Breakfast by Rishi Tea
195 tasting notes

If I were forced to pick my favorite black tea country of origin, it would have to be China. I just love the leathery smell and rich earthy taste of Chinese black teas. China obviously got it right a long time ago, which is why their ancient trees are still used today.

I was so excited when I saw Rishi had a Chinese breakfast tea that I sent away for a pound of it, sight unseen and taste untasted. I realized the risk but I had faith in Rishi and Chinese black tea in general.

When I opened the one pound plastic bag, the rich familiar and welcoming leathery smell greeted me. The leaves were long, black, and brown.

I steeped the leaves according to Rishi’s instructions at 212 degrees for five minutes. The brewed aroma was rich, luscious, sweet, and robust. The color was bright amber.

The taste of this tea was absolutely delicious. It was full-bodied, sweet, malty, and earthy, with accents of cocoa. It was also tremendously smooth with no inkling of astringency. The aftertaste was extremely light and gentle and it lingered only momentarily.

This tea is nothing short of delightful. It is the perfect morning tea for me but I would not object to drinking it in the afternoon either. My gambling paid off for a change. This tea was worth the risk.

Flavors: Cocoa, Earth, Leather, Malt, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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Bio

I ventured into the world of serious tea drinking in the Summer of 2011. I started out slowly and gently with bagged tea but climbed to the incredible flavorful heights of loose leaf teas in October of that year. Once you go leaf, you never go bag (except when you get free samples)!

Location

South Carolina, USA

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