166 Tasting Notes

80

I’m itching to sample another Pu-erh tea. Thanks to Angel, that itch will be scratched this morning!

I cut open the silver sample package and snorted deeply. The familiar earthy smell was present but there was also a musty attribute to it. It reminded me of when I open a drawer filled with old clothes.

I don’t know if it’s old age catching up to me but I am finding it increasingly more difficult to read the tiny directions on Teavivre’s sample packaging. I couldn’t quite make out the recommended steeping time so I brewed the dark brown matted and clumped leaves and “cake” for three minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed color was a dark brownish amber, like maple syrup. The aroma was earthy and leathery, what I expected from a Pu-erh tea. The musty attribute had disappeared from the smell.

I didn’t find the flavor as robust as some of the other Pu-erh teas that I have sampled recently. I wondered if this was a result of the shorter steeping time, the more recent processing time, or a combination of both.

In any event, the flavor was mostly smooth and unmistakably Pu-erh. As I slurped more and more from my cup, the attribute that I had earlier tagged as musty in the unbrewed odor began to creep into the flavor. This peculiarity lingered on my taste buds as a slightly bitter note. The quirk didn’t ruin my experience with the tea but it wasn’t something that I cherished either. After almost a full cup of the brew, my brain (and buds) seemed to learn how to push most of the musty trait aside.

I can’t deny that I would have been more enthusiastic about this tea without the flavor foible. I also would have appreciated a richer and more powerful Pu-erh taste. However, that being said, this is still a decent Pu-erh offering from Teavivre.

Flavors: Earth, Leather, Musty

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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97

I have the day off from work today! Not only is that a great thing by itself, but it also means I can really concentrate on this new tea sample from Teavivre. Thanks, Angel!

When I opened the sample package, the “cake” had the expected matted, grassy, compost-like appearance. The aroma was strong, leather, and earthy, but there was also a sharp edge to it.

I steeped the entire sample package in 16 ounces of boiling water for eight minutes. It seemed like a long brewing time at that high temperature but I was game since I like strong robust teas.

The brewed color was a muddy brown. The odor was, surprisingly, much milder than the unbrewed smell. It was undeniably Pu-erh, but not unpleasant.

My first sip was loaded with the unmistakable Pu-erh taste that I’m accustomed to and actually like. It was deeply earthy and leathery. This selection also had a slightly sweet attribute that I found quite enjoyable. The whole concoction was very smooth. Each swallow streamed gently down my throat with delightful bliss. No astringency appeared on my taste buds and the aftertaste was equally sweet and pleasing.

In summary, this is a very nice Pu-erh from Teavivre. It’s not the strongest one I have encountered (even after brewing at 212 degrees for eight minutes) but it is among the sweetest and most satisfying that I have experienced. Great flavor with no face-scrunching bitterness.

Flavors: Compost, Earth, Leather, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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98

Ah. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood because it is time to taste another Teavivre tea for my first time! Thank you for this sample, Angel!

After black teas, the Pu-erhs are my second favorites. I was excited to try this variety from way back in 2008 when I was a bit younger and had a few less aches and pains. :-)

I opened up the little silver sample package, scanned the brown clumped tea leaves, and stuck my nose inside. Not only did the appearance of the unbrewed tea remind of the clumped mud and grass that I pull out from the blades underneath my lawnmower, but the aroma was not unsimilar either.

I am not one to judge a tea by its appearance, so I merrily began to steep the “cake” and cake pieces at 212 degrees for eight minutes. The brewed color was a dark mud brown. The aroma had the familiar Pu-erh leathery quality. My tea drinking experience has shown that, usually, the darker the color, the heartier tea. I love the robust teas so I was excited at this point!

At first sip, I noticed that the flavor was quite strong and very leathery and earthy. This is to be expected from a fine Pu-erh. There also was a twinge of sweetness to the taste. What impressed me most was that the flavor, as powerful as it was, was also incredibly smooth. There was absolutely zero astringency to the taste. Even the aftertaste was sleek and silky.

Teavivre has once again produced a magnificent tea. I know a tea is terrific when I have to force myself to take sips and not gulp it all down. This is definitely one of those brews for me. My only sadness is that 2008 will never return. However, knowing Teavivre, they will follow this winner with something equally great (if not better) in the years to follow.

Flavors: Compost, Cut grass, Earth, Leather, Smooth, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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98

It’s 10 degrees in my neck of the woods this morning. That’s a little chilly for South Carolina. Ten degrees is probably a little chilly for polar bears. All is not lost, though, as I am about to try out a new tea (new for me) from Teavivre on this arctic morning!

When I opened the customary Teavivre silver double packaging, my nostrils were immediately greeted by the rich, leathery, sweet, and earthy aroma that is a trademark of my favorite Teavivre black teas. This made me even more anxious to begin the brewing process.

I steeped the long black and brown full tea leaves for three minutes at 195 degrees. The finished color was a dark reddish amber. The aroma was sweet with a slight honey quality.

The taste of this tea was instantly complex. After about my third sip, my taste buds began to disseminate the different flavor sensations. Sweet, fruity, and malty were all recognized. There also was just the right twinge of earthiness to cap off a fine flavor symphony. As with several of Teavivre’s teas, this one was so smooth that I had to force myself to savor each sip and not gulp it down.

There was no astringency to this blend. The aftertaste was light and gentle. It dissipated as if in a delicate mist.

You probably have surmised by now that I like this tea. Wrong! I LOVE this tea! It’s another terrific selection from the folks at Teavivre. This one is a bit more expensive than some of their other black teas but I am already saving my pennies for my next order!

Flavors: Earth, Fruity, Malt, Sweet

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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95

My wife and I were browsing through the local Home Goods store recently when we spotted a huge 35.27-ounce cardboard “barrel” of Touch Organic loose leaf black organic tea for under $20. I was not familiar with Touch Organic’s products but the frugal part of my brain began to kick in and send me alerts. I thought, if this tea is even half-decent, I’ll have some emergency utility black tea to reach for whenever I run out of the “good stuff.” If the tea is terrible, I haven’t lost a lot of money and I can use it to fertilize my garden.

After purchase, I waited a week to try this tea. That is very unusual for me. Normally I can’t wait to try newly acquired items and do so no later than the next day. You can see that my expectations were not very high.

I finally opened the huge cardboard container, slit open the plastic inner bag, and pushed my nose inside to investigate the unbrewed aroma of the dark black tea leaves. The substantial smell was similar to that of the Keemun teas from the Yunnan province of China which I LOVE. The tell-tale leather quality was definitely there. After closer inspection of the very plain barrel label, I noticed that it also identified this product as Keemun English Breakfast tea, in small hard-to-read letters.

I steeped the dark leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a reddish amber. The odor was semi-powerful and slightly floral.

At first sip, I still was only hoping for a taste that I could live with when I had no better tea at my disposal. But…WOW…the flavor of this tea was (as Tony The Tiger used to say)…GREAT!!! I was blown away by the melodious effect of Yunnan taste partnered with subtle fruity and floral attributes. The balance of all flavors was exquisite. The sum of the parts was an extremely smooth, tasty, and satisfying tea. The aftertaste was light and airy. I encountered no astringency at any time.

I learned two valuable lessons with this tea:

1. You do not have to spend a fortune to enjoy a superior blend.
2. Good teas do come in plain wrappers.

This selection was immediately promoted from my emergency-when-nothing-good-is-available standby product to one of my favorite teas in my arsenal!

If you are lucky enough to stumble upon this tea at a Home Goods store or elsewhere, GRAB IT!!! You will be glad you did!

Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Leather, Tea

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

Got to love stumbling upon a bargain keeper.

Stoo

For sure, K S! I need to stumble upon some more! :-)

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90
drank Paris by Harney & Sons
166 tasting notes

A few days ago, I celebrated making it to another birthday! My wonderful and very thoughtful wife gave me a Breville OneTouch Tea Maker for my birthday three years ago. That amazing machine has really contributed to the joy and fun of my tea tasting experiences. If you are looking for an extremely convenient method to make a consistently fantastic cup of tea every time, I highly recommend the OneTouch Tea Maker. But I digress…Where was I?…Oh yeah…Now I remember. (Please bear with me. You will recall that I am another year older.) For this year’s birthday, my beautiful wife also remembered my tea “habit” by giving me a trademark black container of Harney & Sons Paris tea.

When I lifted the lid of the metal container, there was a strong fruity aroma underneath. I’ve tried a few other French teas by Mariage and those teas seemed to have the identical unbrewed odor.

I steeped the short black leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees as directed on the container. The finished color was a very dark gold, almost brown. The aroma was more vanilla than fruity.

My first taste produced a medium-strength black tea flavor. After that, vanilla followed by fruit seeped into my taste buds for the remainder of my cup.

It’s interesting that the flavor of this tea is also very similar to the Mariage teas. That’s not a bad thing because I do enjoy those teas. Maybe the signature flavor is mandatory to call the blend “French.” I would say the one characteristic that sets this one apart is the dominance of the vanilla flavor over the fruit.

This is a nice smooth tea with no bitterness and a lighter than expected after taste. The flavor theme is a composite of fruity vanilla. The tase is neither overpowering nor overly sweet (if there is such a thing!). This selection was another one of those teas where the more I drank it, the more I liked it!

Flavors: Fruity, Tea, Vanilla

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

Happy birthday! It sounds like your wife made a lovely choice for you!

Stoo

Thanks, Caile! Yes, she spoiled me again!

ashmanra

Happy birthday, Stoo! I am glad she is spoiling you. You spoil her, too, I bet!

Stoo

Thanks, ashmanra! I try to spoil her but I’m sure I’m getting the better end of the bargain!

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90

Thank you one more time, Angel and Teavivre, for the sample!

This is my second consecutive day of trying out a white tea. I was quite pleased with the one I sampled yesterday so I was hoping for a similar experience today.

When I opened the sample package, the leaves were long, wide, green, and fresh looking. The aroma was rich and grainy and perhaps a little sweet.

I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 195 degrees (no 194-degree setting on my tea maker). Even with maximum steeping time, the color was a very light (almost transparent) yellow. The faint brewed odor was slightly sweet with a hay-like quality.

The taste was not robust but it was ample and sweet. As I swished the liquor around my mouth, flashes of fresh hay, grass, and honey registered on my palate.

The more I sipped this tea, the more I liked it. The brew was quite smooth without any hint of astringency. The mild flavor seemed to increase its presence as I journeyed toward the bottom of my cup. By the time I finished my first cup, I had achieved enjoyment status. The aftertaste was delicate but also smooth and likable.

As a white tea, this one is quite good. I didn’t find any undesirable characteristics. My only recommendation would be to bring out this fine selection with lunch, dinner, or dessert. There was nothing wrong with it at 8:00 AM, but I personally depend on the stronger and more robust teas at that time of the morning to jerk me out of my sleepy stupor.

Flavors: Cut grass, Hay, Honey

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML

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98

I must also thank Angel and Teavivre for this sample!

It’s been a while since I’ve tried a white tea. I’m usually focused on the bold black and Pu-erh teas which help me return to the land of the living each morning.

When I opened the sample package, the flat and clumped “cake” pieces were dark brown and reminded me of raked fall leaves that meld together in the pile after a few days of rain. The emitted odor was earthy like a Keemun black tea.

I set the tea maker on 212 degrees for nine minutes. (The recommended maximum steeping time was 10 minutes.) The brewed color of the liquor was a bright amber. The aroma was interesting and sweet. It wasn’t at all unpleasant but I struggled to identify it. I finally settled on describing it as a mixture of honey and hay.

The taste contained a sweet and medium-powered bounty of honey, hay, and green wood. This fusion was further complemented by grass with light and fresh tea components. The sum of the parts was a delightfully smooth and satisfying cup from start to finish. The aftertaste danced and rolled on my palate with no astringency in its vocabulary.

Teavivre has produced a splendid new white tea with this offering. All of the flavors blend perfectly at the right volume and seem made for each other. I could easily enjoy this selection at morning, noon, or night. Once again Teavivre has made me emerge from my black tea cocoon and be glad that I did!

Flavors: Grass, Hay, Honey, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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65
drank Earl Grey Supreme by Rishi Tea
166 tasting notes

I really liked Rishi’s regular Earl Grey because it had a very robust taste and the flavor was just loaded with bergamot. Therefore, I was quite excited to try the Supreme edition of their Earl Grey after I read that it contained “a smooth liquoring Keemun and a bold flavored Yunnan with 100% natural essential oil pressed from real bergamot citrus fruits.” I’m a very enthusiastic fan of both Keemun and Yunnan. (Getting a nice discount on this tea helped too.)

When I opened the package, a strong bergamot aroma with a fresh quality filled the room. I steeped the black leaves at 212 degrees for 5 minutes. The brewed color was a dark amber/gold. The finished odor also was fortified with bergamot.

The taste of this tea was similar to the regular Rishi Earl Grey that I drank and enjoyed semi-regularly for a year. But, that was my gripe with this blend. At a price of roughly $1 more per ounce than Rishi’s standard Earl Grey, I wanted…no…EXPECTED…something in the quality to elevate it from the basic (cheaper) product that I will be going back to the next time I order Rishi Earl Grey. Nowhere could my searching palate locate the Yunnan or Keemun infusion. I could taste black tea but that part of the flavor was unexceptional. Ironically, there also was a twinge of astringency that I didn’t encounter with the lower grade blend. This attribute remained with the strong aftertaste.

Do I like this tea? Yeah, but (surprisingly and perhaps fortunately) not as much as the lower-priced edition. Rishi’s bergamot in both offerings tastes fresher than several other Earl Grey selections that I have experienced. Rishi also seems to supercharge the bergamot presence in their teas.

This is the first time that I have ever subtracted rating points from a tea due to price. However, I feel that it is my duty to do so for two reasons:

o significantly higher price of this version (when compared to the very good basic offering)

o absence of enhancement over the basic Earl Grey (to justify the cost)

I will recover from this disappointment. I don’t mind being humble. I will continue to enjoy Rishi’s no frills Earl Grey.

Flavors: Astringent, Bergamot, Tea

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

Interesting comparison—thanks! I just picked up a box of the “basic” on sale at Whole Foods. Looking forward to trying it now! ;-)

Stoo

I hope you like it! I bought a pound of it last year and drank it all! Thanks for your comment!

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80

Thanks once again to Angel and Teavivre for this new tea sample!

I sampled another Teavivre raw Pu-erh tea cake last week. It was last year’s (2013) model but quite tasty. I was anxious to see how the 2014 version stacked up against it.

When I opened the package, the same grassy, compost-like aroma encountered with the 2013 rendition was experienced. However, I do believe the color of the unbrewed matted “cake” was a little greener in the new entry than the one harvested last year.

I steeped the leaves for 9 minutes at 212 degrees, again opting for almost maximum strength. The brewed color was a light gold. The odor had a mowed grass trait.

The taste of this tea was much like the 2013 entry. It was quite grassy with very similar flavor attributes as green tea. The main difference that I noticed with this younger offering was a tanginess to the taste. I wouldn’t call it astringency or bitterness. It was probably due to the more recent harvest and processing. The tanginess did eliminate the light and airy quality that I enjoyed in the raw 2013 tea.The tangy attribute also hung around for the after taste.

This is a cordial tea with pronounced flavor. Like the other raw Pu-erh that I sampled last week, this entry tasted much more like a green tea than a black selection. Having said that, though, this one (like the 2013 version) might be a nice tangy alternative for folks who are nauseated by the more robust and ripened Pu-erh teas.

Flavors: Grass

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 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)!

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South Carolina, USA

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