195 Tasting Notes

90

Ah. I’m taking another one of my birthday teas for a spin today. This one came in classy packaging: a fancy box, well-made tin with outer and inner lids, and a cool little brass handle fastened to the middle of the inner lid. When I navigated through this packaging and opened the inner lid, I was struck by a forceful sweet chocolate aroma.

The instructions said to brew this tea in “simmering” water for three minutes. I don’t know what temperature equals simmering, but I took that to mean 195 degrees.

The brewed odor also carried forth distinct sweet and chocolate characteristics. The color was a rich amber.

The flavor had sweet overtones with another hint of chocolate. The taste was also very smooth with no inkling of astringency.

I usually maximize the recommended brewing times and temperatures to pull the most flavor possible from my teas. In this instance, I followed the recommended stingy time and temperature to the letter and was pleasantly surprised by the potency of the taste.

The aftertaste was also just right. It lingered on my palate pleasantly and gently.

I like this tea a lot. Not only will I happily look forward to swilling the entire tin, but I will DEFINITELY put this selection on next year’s birthday wish list.

Flavors: Chocolate, Smooth, Sweet, Tea

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML
ashmanra

How did you fare in the hurricane, Stoo?

Stoo

Hi ashmanra! We didn’t have any problems since we are about three hours from the coast. We had some gusty wind and a full day of rain but we were fine. Thanks for asking! I hope all is well with you!

ashmanra

I thought you were in Charleston. Our city was one of the hardest hit by flooding and it followed right on the heels of flooding a week before, but my house never lost power, just water, then a week of boil advisory. Still lots of roads washed out. The flooding was brutal.

Stoo

Yes, I saw that. Sorry to hear that you got hit hard by flooding. Are things back to normal for you now? I’m in the upstate near Fort Mill.

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78

Hello again, great tea tasters across the fruity (and malty) plains. It’s been way too long since my last review. I’ll try to make this one brief.

I have had Mariage teas before. Although I respect their complex blended flavors, I am not big on fruity, liquor-laden, flowery, and chemical-like tastes. I’m more of a purist when it comes to my favorite teas, especially black teas, which I depend on to jump-start my brain during the work week.

When I saw Mariage’s French Breakfast Tea in the local Dean & DeLuca store, I hoped that it would have robust flavors but in a more conventional black tea way. My hope was dashed. This tea seems to have a taste that is very similar to their Bourbon Rouge and Marco Polo (can’t get that swimming pool commercial out of my head) blends.

The flavors are robust but have a chemical-like tang to them. I don’t want to call this astringency, but it’s borderline so. Also, this attribute stays on my palate way too long. Like their other teas that I’ve tried, my tongue detects a hodge-podge of liquor, flowers, and fruit.

I don’t hate this tea but it is not one that I would prefer to pry my eyes open in the morning. For that purpose, I will cling to the tried-and-true English and Chinese breakfast and Earl Grey varieties.

Flavors: Alcohol, Biting, Bitter, Floral, Fruity

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

I’m not sure ANYONE can get those swimming pool commercials out of their heads. ;) The best part is the llama.

Are you in America or Canada or somewhere else? I’m an American, and I keep hearing great things about this company, but never spot it anywhere.

Stoo

Hi Super Starling! Thanks for your comment! I am in the United States in South Carolina. Where are you?

Super Starling!

I’m in Pennsylvania. Like, that middle part with the cows. I’ll have to see if I can find a Dean & DeLuca next time I’m in a place with a concentration of humans. :)

Stoo

We were just in the Scranton area visiting my wife’s family two weeks ago. My favorite place up there is the Dunmore Candy Kitchen.

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70
drank Roasted Black Tea by Williams Sonoma
195 tasting notes

As Donald Trump would say, I’m not H-U-U-U-G-E on spicy and floral teas. So, it was with trepidation that I took this blend for a ride.

When I slit open the plastic bag of tea inside the metal tin, I was immediately slapped with a strong cinnamon aroma. I brewed the dark brown leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product had a weak cinnamon smell. Nothing else stood out.

The taste of this tea was almost completely cinnamon. The flavor also contained leathery hints of pu-erh. With everything that is said to be going on in this tea, I was surprised that the taste was medium-strength at best without a lot of accents from the other ingredients.

This brew is also claimed to include mushrooms! I’m not sure how to discern mushrooms from other flavors, so I guess I failed that test. The aftertaste was all cinnamon and lingered on my palate for a good while.

I’m one of those folks that actually likes the full leathery taste of pu-erh. In my opinion this brew would have been better if the pu-erh characteristics were allowed to at least slightly make their presence known.

I didn’t hate this tea but it didn’t wow me either. I won’t write off Williams-Sonoma just yet.

Flavors: Cinnamon

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

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77

I ran across this tea at a little welcome center while driving through Fort Lawn, South Carolina. I enjoy trying out the local teas because there is something very cool about having fine teas in my own backyard.

When I opened up the tin, a very strong bergamot aroma burst forth. I thought, “Now you’re talking.” Inside were long brownish black leaves with sprinkles of YELLOW blossoms which I guess must be the BLUE mallow blossoms.

I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes at 212 degrees. I now steep almost all black teas using those parameters. “Robust” is what I always strive to wring out of every tea.

After reaching critical brew, the tea had a fainter bergamot aroma than it did at pre-brewing. The color was a light brownish gold. The flavor at first taste was a hodgepodge of sensations, none of which were distinct.

The orange pekoe flavor was definitely waving to me. A slight bergamot-like taste also peeked through. Other than those two flavors, the rest were unrecognizable.

This isn’t a bad tea but I can’t call it an exciting one either. I will continue to drink it until the tin is empty but it won’t be the first one I reach for when I’m looking for a brew to exhilarate my morning.

Flavors: Bergamot, Tea

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

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70
drank Chocolate Pu-erh by Numi Organic Tea
195 tasting notes

This was my first foray into Numi’s Pu-erh and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I opened my one pound bag (another good deal), I was surprised by the strong spicy aroma that burst forth. Having a mouth full of sweet teeth, I was hoping that the dominant smell would be chocolate. However, so far the chocolate was missing in action. There also were yellowish chunks of…something…mixed in with the muddy brown leaves.

I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a very dark amber, close to brown. The aroma that wafted from the pot and cup was full of spice, similar to ginger.

At first sip, the flavor seemed almost like I was drinking liquid potpourri. After a few more gulps from my cup, I kinda, sorta, maybe, tasted very faint accents of chocolate. The one thing I am sure that I did not taste was the expected leathery and earthy presence of Pu-erh.

I also thought that the overall flavor could have been bolder. The taste had no astringency while drinking or afterward.

Give this selection a try if you are in the mood for a Pu-erh tea that doesn’t taste like a Pu-erh tea. If you are craving a strong Pu-erh offering that is bursting with chocolate flavor, you might be a bit disappointed.

Flavors: Chocolate, Spices, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

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77
drank Aged Earl Grey by Numi Organic Tea
195 tasting notes

I decided to take advantage of Numi’s advertised 15% off sale and grab a few of their teas. I don’t believe I’ve had any Numi teas since I switched from bags to loose leaf four years ago.

When I opened the one-pound bag (yeah, when I see a good deal I buy it by the pound and hope I like it), I could instantly detect the Assam aroma blended with a bergamot scent. I brewed the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed aroma was again Assam-ish. The color was dark amber.

At first taste, I was deluged with the Assam flavor. The bergamot undertones frolicked underneath but not as strongly as I expected.

The flavor was not bad. I’d rate it as being medium-power. I would have liked more bergamot, though. It could be that my taste buds have been hypnotized by the extremely heavy bergamot presence in Rishi’s organic earl grey selections. I’ve been drinking Rishi’s earl grey offerings almost exclusively for the last two years.

In any event, I like this tea enough to continue drinking it (especially since I do have a pound of it to imbibe). If I purchase it again, it will be in smaller quantities.

Flavors: Bergamot, Tea

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

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70
drank Nilgiri Blue by The Tao of Tea
195 tasting notes

Sorry. I’ve been out of (brewed tea) commission for a while since I started a new job in April. I’ve been working long hours at an office where I haven’t time or an apparatus to brew and review new teas.

Enough with the excuses. Here I am, ready to get back into the swing of things by trying out this Nilgiri Blue tea that I picked up in the bargain bin at a local discount store.

When I opened the brown paper bag packaging (which a Teavana store associate once told me is a barbarous mechanism to store tender tea leaves – while she tried to sell me a thin metallic can for $12), a Darjeeling-like aroma wafted upward. I brewed the short mostly black leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed color was a deep reddish amber. The odor was mostly nondescript but slightly sweet.

My first few sips were not very powerful. After 1/3 of my cup was history, I began to discern a less-than-robust tea-like flavor with a faint sweet attribute.

This tea is not bad. It isn’t bitter. I just didn’t find it exciting or compelling (much like this review). The after taste had no astringency. It also was “ho-hum.”

I will drink this tea again but I won’t be brimming with anticipation to fire up the tea maker for it. Oh well. Can I take a nap now?

Flavors: Sweet, Tea

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

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60

This is my second foray back to the past today as I test another free sample from The Republic of Tea. Since I am in the office today, my tea choices are my Republic of Tea bag samples or mud-like selections from the company Flavia machine. Although I am grateful for the free fringe benefit, just about any alternative wins over the machine in my mind.

The unbrewed scent of the bag was kind of like peppermint and kind of like chocolate but there was something very chemical or artificial about the smell. I had a feeling that this was not a good sign.

I steeped the stringless round Republic of Tea bag/disk for five minutes in boiling water. The smell had a faint mint attribute. The color was dark amber.

When I put the cup to my lips, my mood was negatively affected when I peered into the cup and saw that there was mucky dark sediment at the bottom of the brew. I don’t even experience debris from my loose leaf tea maker, so another warning sign was chalked on my wall.

The first sip of this tea caused me to stand back and analyze what my taste buds were experiencing. Finally I determined that there was some mint to the flavor with a mouthwash like aftertaste. Another peculiarity was also present that I believe was disguised as chocolate. There was no astringency really but I didn’t find the aftertaste something that I wanted to hold on to.

In short, I found the flavor of this brew to be less than desirable and way off the mark of what usually reminds me of chocolate and mint in a tea. Additionally, the rubble in my cup that apparently leaked from the tea bag was visually distasteful and a foreshadowing of this product’s other flaws.

Flavors: Mint

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 6 OZ / 177 ML

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88

I’m back to bagging it today. I never look a gift tea in the mouth (or bag). So, when I received this sample in the mail from The Republic of Tea, I ran with it!

Before my eyes were opened by the universe of complex and splendid flavors in loose leaf tea, I confess that I bagged often; daily, as a matter of fact (you are my Steepster friend so I am confident that you will not judge). One of my favorite bagged teas at the time was the products by The Republic of Tea. However, that was almost four years ago so I was curious to see if my taste buds had now become elitist.

When I opened the sample package, the strong berry smell slapped me in the nostrils. It was sweet and like fresh berries, but maybe too strong for folks with sinuses that are less allergy-clogged than mine.

I steeped the Republic of Tea trademark “environmentally friendly, round, unbleached tea bag – free of wasteful strings, staples, and tags” in a cup of boiling water for five minutes. The brewed aroma was berry-like but not as powerful as before. The color was a reddish dark gold.

The taste was definitely full of berry flavor. It was also sweet and surprisingly smooth. In addition, the taste was as potent (without being obnoxious) as the flavor of some loose leaf teas. However, this flavor was a single-dimensional, one-trick pony. No intricacies or mysteries were contained within. The aftertaste was smooth, sweet, and berry pleasant (sorry, couldn’t resist).

To sum up my experience, there was nothing that I disliked about this product. If you evaluate it only by its own merit as a bagged tea, it is a superior offering. I will definitely reach for it again…if they send me another free sample.

Flavors: Berry

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 6 OZ / 177 ML
RiaDarling

Good to know! I saw this at World Market and wondered if it was any good. I too need tea bags for the office and then brew the loose at home.

Stoo

Happy New Year, RiaDarling! Let me know if you try this tea, I would love to know your opinion of it!

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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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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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