168 Tasting Notes

drank Rouge Bourbon by Mariage Frères
168 tasting notes

This is the third of four teas that I snatched from the bargain bin at Dean & Deluca last weekend. I tried two black teas by Mariage Frères a while back and found them both interesting. I’m not a huge Rooibos participant but I’m not a hater either.

When I opened the French company’s trademark black tin, I was smacked between the nostrils by a very powerful aroma. It may be because I have been a teetotaler (teatotaler would be more accurate) for a long time, but the smell did seem to be strongly like bourbon. If so, I wondered if I could pass the breathalyzer test after the huge snort I took of the unbrewed red leaves.

No brewing instructions were on the package so I used the ones I found on Steepster: 205 degrees for five minutes. The steeped liquor was bright reddish-gold. The aroma brought flashbacks to the last time I drank Rooibos tea. Again, the remainder of the odor contained my recollections of bourbon with a splash of vanilla.

The flavor of my first sip was overwhelmingly vanilla. I could taste the Rooibos underneath and perhaps the bourbon in the background. If there is no bourbon in the ingredients, the power of suggestion related to the title of the tea got the best of me.

As I continued sipping from my cup, the flavor of the tea became totally-vanilla-times-10 to my taste buds. I do like vanilla so that wasn’t a problem per se. However, I would have liked more complexity in the taste attributes. The aftertaste screamed…you guessed it…vanilla.

All in all, this selection was not unpleasant. I’m sure I will eventually empty the tin. I just was not bowled over by anything in the taste (except vanilla). I expected more of a flavor bouquet from this French tea maker. Since I didn’t pay a premium price for it, I won’t complain…too much.

Flavors: Vanilla

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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Here is tea #2 that I picked up from the Dean & Deluca 50% off rack. The packaging was extremely classy! The tea was enclosed in a sturdy cardboard and exotic-looking outer box. On the inside, the short black leaves were secured in a beautiful cylindrical wooden container. I will be saving the container to store my teas of the future!

When I opened the wooden vessel, a wonderful sweet smell like cinnamon toast emerged. Mixed with this aroma was a rich wooden odor that was obviously produced by the container.

There were no brewing instructions to be found in the packaging, so I wrestled with how I wanted to steep this selection. There seem to be a lot of different philosophies dedicated to the brewing of Pu-erh tea. After reading several articles, I wondered if I should rinse, pre-rinse, or blow-dry the leaves first. Since I was in a hurry, I took the easy way out and steeped the tea using the good ol’ (fast and easy) western method. The steeping occurred for five minutes at 212 degrees. I also used one teaspoon of leaves per cup and a teaspoon for the pot and good luck. Since I rarely re-steep more than twice, I resolved that this plan of action would be fine for my tastes.

UPDATE: I just noticed that brewing instructions ARE included on the outer box in very small print and using the metric system. I doubt I would have taken the time to convert 10g into spoonsful, 50cl into ounces, and 95 degrees Celsius into Fahrenheit, so THE point is moot at THIS point.

The brewed aroma of the tea was quite inviting and sweet with cinnamon. The subtle rich smell of the wooden container was also present. The color was a deep muddy brown.

My first sip immediately bombarded my taste buds with wooden cinnamon bursts. The flavor was not too strong, though. A potent Pu-erh flavor was also resident but behind the sweet wooden cinnamon attributes. I didn’t detect any bitterness. The aftertaste was sweet and subtle.

As I continued to empty my cup, this tea became more and more pleasant. I drank it early in the morning as I began my work day. If I hadn’t been on the South Beach Diet, I would have definitely reached for a (or several) tea biscuit to amplify the experience of this very tasty tea.

I believe this tea would be great as an afternoon or dessert tea. It wasn’t too shabby at breakfast time either. If you or someone you know cringes just at the thought of Pu-erh tea, this may be just the blend to help you and/or them jump that hurtle. Although definitely a Pu-erh tea, this one is not aggressive about it.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Wood

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

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I didn’t expect to buy tea during the holiday weekend and certainly not at Dean & Deluca’s. We just dropped in to impress visiting family members with the classy establishments residing in our neck of the woods. As I browsed around the store, it was a dream come true when I spotted the several high-end tea selections on the 50% off rack! Of course, I couldn’t resist and bought four different teas to try.

This first tea has Dean & Deluca’s own label on it. They might be phasing this one out, though, as I wasn’t able to find any information about it on Dean & Deluca’s website.

When I opened the round silver tin, the aroma of the black and gold-tipped leaves had the familiar rich and leathery Yunnan smell. I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees as recommended on the label.

The brewed aroma was very mild. The color was a deep rusty gold.

My first few sips didn’t pick up robust flavor. As I belted down more and more from my cup, the signature leathery Yunnan taste with malty and slightly peppery accents began to flow through my taste buds.

This is an amiable tea. The flavor is a bit more benign than the teas I am accustomed to from the Yunnan Province, but there is nothing disagreeable or unpleasant about this selection. It is smooth and the aftertaste is mild and gentle. If you can find this tea at YOUR local Dean & Deluca store, it is definitely worth a try, particularly at the current very low price.

Flavors: Leather, Malt

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

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I’ve been trying to reel in my tea and other purchases lately as we save up our funds for a vacation this year. However, as the saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go on rye bread,” or something like that. Anyhow, I couldn’t resist purchasing this selection when I saw that it was black, spicy, and contained almonds.

When I broke the seal of the metal container, my nose was rushed with a spicy almond aroma. My first thought was that this smell would be fantastic on freshly baked cookies.

I steeped the short black leaves with multi-colored bits for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a reddish gold. The aroma carried on the spicy almond theme.

The taste of this tea in its natural state was already quite sweet. Any added sweeteners would make the flavor so sugary (even for me!) that my teeth would hurt.

The flavor was very cordial, though. The almond and spice attributes were very pronounced and harmonious. I wasn’t able to put my finger (or taste buds) on any recognizable fruit component, but the sweetness probably originated from that element. The only other taste that I could identify was a smooth and subtle black tea accessory in the background.

The after taste was also pleasant and it didn’t linger any longer than necessary. There was no bitterness and I thoroughly enjoyed my cup.

This was only my second journey into the world of Mariage French teas. I am also a fan of their Marco Polo offering. Although I am reviewing this Pleine Lune tea at breakfast, it would be an exquisite afternoon tea as well. I would love to join it with a plate of British tea biscuits (the WHOLE plate)!

Flavors: Nuts

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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This was another freebee bag sample sent to me by Republic Of Tea. I thought I’d give it a try. Why not?!

When I opened the single bag package, I had to go, “WHOOOAA!” An extremely overpowering hazelnut smell smacked me upside my head…and nose!

I plopped the bag into boiling water for five minutes. The bag was a round satchel without attachments. It worked, but it was also a little inconvenient since there was no string and tag bound to it to help pull the hot dripping sack from the cup. The tea bag is one of the few gifts in life that is desirable to have with strings attached.

The brewed color was a bright orange-gold. The aroma was again loaded with hazelnut, but fortunately it was toned down from its unsteeped state.

The taste was disappointing and not what I expected. I had rallied my taste buds for a symphony of vanilla and caramel orchestrated in expert harmony. That fantasy came crashing down with a diluted hazelnut taste aimlessly drifting on a life raft in an ocean of tangy tea.

When the journey through my cup was about 4/5 completed, I started to pick up some sweetness in the taste and MAYBE some caramel. At that point, though, it might have just been my brain trying to fill in the gaps for the anticipated flavors. That being said, not even my imagination was wild enough to conjure up some vanilla flavor. The tanginess was still present. I won’t say that it was astringency but it was misplaced and didn’t add value to the taste. The aftertaste lingered for quite a while but it was the tangy tea flavor, more than the hazelnut/caramel, that hung around.

Here’s how I would summarize this tea. If I were attending a meeting and someone handed me a cup of it during a break, I would courteously drink it. However, if I were at the same meeting and I saw several rows of tea bags laid out on a buffet table, this would not be my first choice.

Flavors: Nuts

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

It sounds like the name is deceiving for this tea!


I believe it is at least misleading. Maybe they thought the taste of hazelnut is close enough to caramel and vanilla to kill two birds with one stone.

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drank White Chocolate Obsession by Bigelow
168 tasting notes

Being the tea snob that I am, I rarely drink bagged tea anymore. But, every now and then, one materializes that piques my interest. Such was the case when a very thoughtful friend of mine (who is also the manager of the FINEST BBQ restaurant in the UNIVERSE! – a review best saved for another place and time!), gave me this selection to try because she remembered that I was a tea enthusiast.

Since I have a mouth full of sweet teeth, and I am abstaining from all desserts and other favorite treats of my daily diet for Lent, just the title of this tea had me salivating. Initially I couldn’t make up my mind whether to brew or eat it.

Sanity prevailed for a change and I opened the single bag package to prepare the tea for steeping. The aroma that spilled forth definitely lived up to the title. It was wonderfully sweet and chocolaty and I blissfully snorted it into my nostrils for several minutes.

I dropped the bag into boiling water for five minutes. The finished color was a brownish gold. The aroma, though fainter than the unbrewed bag, still contained the sweet chocolate attributes.

The flavor of the tea was sweet and fairly full with the essence of chocolate. I immediately recognized the presence of cocoa powder. The focus was so entirely on the chocolate that the black tea component was lost underneath. I love chocolate so I can’t say that I was disappointed.

I don’t know if this tea was intended to compete with hot chocolate. If you are looking for a full blast of creamy rich chocolate in a cup, hot chocolate wins for sure. However, both choices have their own valuable places in the world of beverages. Since this is a tea, though, it would have been more appealing to me if there had been an identifiable partnership of black tea flavor marching alongside the chocolate.

To summarize, this is a likable tea (especially when I am without access to sweets). I found no astringency in the flavor. The aftertaste was pleasant although it quickly dissipated. Would I recommend this tea as an equal substitute for hot chocolate? No. Would I suggest that someone try this to get a good understanding of what black tea tastes like? No. Would I drink it again when I am craving tea and some sweet chocolaty sassiness? You betcha!

Flavors: Chocolate

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

Sweet chocolate sassiness sounds good! : )


Can you tell I’m going through sugar withdrawal? :-)

Thanks for checking in, caile!


haha, I love sweets too, so alternatives to the ‘real thing’ are always good!

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And another thank you to Angel and Teavivre for this sample!

I really enjoyed the last Pu-erh sample from Teavivre so I was very much looking forward to taking this one around the block. I don’t think I’ve met a Pu-erh that I haven’t liked so far.

When I opened the sample packet, a typical leathery Pu-erh smell materialized. I steeped the dark cakes and pieces at 212 degrees for eight minutes (Teavivre recommends 3 to 10 minutes for the first steeping).

The color of the brewed liquor was a dark chocolate brown. The aroma was surprisingly mild but common for Pu-erh.

The flavor of this tea was quite robust and contained the full-blown leathery Pu-erh taste attributes that I personally find delicious. The taste was smooth, consistent, and vigorous throughout the cup. Although eight minutes of steeping does give you a strong cup of tea, I did not detect any bitterness whatsoever. The aftertaste was also surprisingly mild and cordial.

This is a tasty and very fine Pu-erh selection. It has everything that I look for in my favorite teas:

savory, robust, and consistent flavor
no astringency

Normally, if I were asked to sum up this beverage in one word, I’d say, “Bravo!” But, since this is Chinese tea, I’ll say 精彩

Flavors: Leather

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

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drank Black Dragon Pearl by Teavana
168 tasting notes

It’s Monday morning and I am back to work after taking Thursday and Friday off. I knew this morning would require drastic measures to get back into the flow, so I reached for this Black Dragon Pearl tea that my lovely wife bought for me this weekend at the Teavana store.

The sales pitch was that this selection is stronger than your average black tea. I planned to save it for those mornings when I needed shock treatment to return to the land of the living. And here we are.

When I opened the container, a slightly more powerful than usual tea smell shot out from the rolled dark tea balls inside. I had high hopes that the taste would follow suit.

I steeped the “pearls” (I used 10 for two cups of tea) for four minutes at 195 degrees as instructed. The brewed color was a muddy gold. The aroma was richly tea-like.

The flavor was like a potent English or Irish Breakfast tea. However, the taste was a little sweeter and more focused than those blended varieties. My first few sips also contained some bite which I initially thought was astringency. However, this was soon overpowered by the more robust black tea taste.

My head started to clear during my first cup which is always a positive sign for me. As I began my second cup, the well established flavor on my palate began to seem smoother and sweeter. The pseudo-astringent bite had all but disappeared. The sweetness began to identify itself as brown sugar. Also, the Yunnan flavor attributes emerged. The aftertaste did not have any bitterness.

All in all, I found this to be a very pleasant morning tea after the first few sips. I’ll determine how powerful it was at quitting time today when I measure my production for the day.

195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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My thanks again to Angel and Teavivre for this new tea sample!

Black teas are my favorites of all the teas. Their flavors tend to be more robust than some of the lighter color products. Also, I often need the extra kick of caffeine provided by the selections at the darker end of the tea spectrum.

I don’t think I had ever tried a “red black” tea, which is what Teavivre is calling this blend on the sample packet. I was intrigued and ready to go!

When I opened the packet, the rich odor was instantly recognizable as Yunnan tea, but with something extra. There were syrupy and fruity undertones that sparked my sweet tooth.

I steeped the dark leaves at 195 degrees for five minutes. (I don’t have a 194 degrees setting on my One Touch Tea Maker as recommended by Teavivre – but close enough!) Teavivre’s brewing instructions are always dead-on for my tastes.

The brewed color was a bright golden amber. The aroma was like a sweetened Yunnan tea.

I’m a purist when it comes to tea. I drink every selection straight-up without milk or sweeteners. However, I imagined the aroma wafting from my cup to be similar to what other Yunnan teas would smell like if you added a liberal spoonful of honey.

The taste was a well-balanced cornucopia of Yunnan, sweet, and fruity flavors. The overall flavor strength was full-bodied with all tastes expertly co-mingling in unison. The aftertaste was lightly sweet as it gently faded away. There was no astringency to be found.

As you probably have guessed by now, if you are following even a small portion of my reviews, I am a big admirer of Teavivre teas. I almost always appraise their selections very high on the rating scale. I find the exceptional quality and robust flavors of their increasing varieties to be consistently superb.

This red black tea is also a winner. The taste is outstanding. The flavors are potent without being overbearing, while also somehow managing to be smooth. It’s just another fabulous tea from the folks at Teavivre.

Flavors: Berries, Earth, Honey

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Many thanks to Angel and Teavivre for this sample!

I am already a big fan of Teavivre’s Ripened Aged Pu-erh tea so I was looking forward to trying another selection from their Pu-erh collection. Pu-erh doesn’t seem to be everyone’s cup of tea (I confess that the pun was intended) because of its strong taste and smell, which some people liken to fish or leather. However, I like the exotic flavor very much.

I opened up the sample packet and pushed the tip of my nose inside to analyze the unbrewed odor. The smell was somewhat leathery (which I find appealing) with a twinge of sweetness.

I followed Teavivre’s recommended brewing instructions and steeped the long chocolate brown leaves and brick for eight minutes at 212 degrees. That seemed like a long time to brew (the packet listed the maximum recommended brewing time at 10 minutes!) but Teavivre’s instructions have never failed me yet.

The resulting liquor was dark brown in color (like other Pu-erh varieties). Interestingly, the brewed aroma was quite mild and unassuming. I had to place my cup directly below my nose to detect the faint earthy and leathery odor that I have become accustomed to with teas of this variety.

The taste of this tea is nothing short of excellent. The prominent Pu-erh flavor (you decide if it is fish or leather) is in the house but it is smooth, sweet, and exquisite without becoming overwhelming. The aftertaste is also rather wispy, floating on the palate for a few brief moments.

I thoroughly enjoyed this selection and am now in the process of wringing at least two more steepings out of this sample. I like this tea so much that I am tempted to have my wife (who gags at just the thought of anything Pu-erh) give this one a try.

In short, Teavivre has produced another sterling tea. If you LIKE Pu-erh, I am confident that you will LOVE this Pu-erh!

Flavors: Leather

Boiling 8 min or more 4 tsp

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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)!


South Carolina, USA

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