198 Tasting Notes

70

Here’s a little gem I picked up at Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Golden Monkey is one of my favorite black tea varieties so I was excited to give this one a try when I spotted it at the store.

The unbrewed leaves of this tea are long and are both brown and golden brown. The aroma is earthy with standard black tea characteristics .

I steeped the tea for four minutes at 212 degrees. The color was dark amber gold.

The flavor was much like the unbrewed leaves smelled. It was earthy flavor with standard black tea attributes…and something else less pleasant. There was a faint taste behind the other flavors that reminded me of the smell of un-emptied ashtrays on the morning after the party. The sensation was weak but there just the same. It didn’t ruin the experience for me but it did subtract from the positive feelings.

I’m not ready to write this tea off yet since it does have some good features. I will try a lower brewing temperature next time to see if that reduces or eliminates the ashtray effect.

Flavors: Ash, Earth, Tea

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

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90
drank Ancient Golden Yunnan by Rishi Tea
198 tasting notes

Another day above ground. Another tea to review. How can I complain?

I am very familiar with Rishi’s Earl Grey tea. It is both the strongest and most natural tasting earl grey that I have ever tried. I regularly buy it by the pound. So, with that track record, I was anxious to take their Ancient Golden Yunnan tea out for a spin.

The unbrewed tea leaves are both dark and light brown. Think of golden monkey tea if you are trying to envision this description. The aroma is rich, earthy, leathery, and recognizable for tea from this area of the world.

I followed Rishi’s brewing instructions and steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product was dark amber in color and smelled sweet and chocolaty.

The taste was sweet and cordial with chocolate undertones The flavor was also robust which is important to me with my life-long sinus challenges. The aftertaste was light and gentle with no astringent annoyances.

This is an exceptional morning black tea that will fit the bill when I am looking for a reason to get out of bed. I also need to make room in my tea cabinet for a pound of this great blend.

Flavors: Chocolate, Sweet

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

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91

It looks like I will have more time to review teas for a while. My job was eliminated last Thursday. I am not going to rant, whine, or complain. This is the first time it has happened to me in a 40-year career, which makes me fortunate. The last thing I will say about it is if you know someone who is looking for a very experienced technical writer, online training developer, and jack of many computer trades, please let me know.

OK. Now to the fun stuff! I found this tea for a great price at our local Dean and Deluca store. Its round cardboard container intrigued me as it reminded me of the packaging for fireplace matches.

The very short and thin black tea leaves had a sweet malty smell. I brewed them for four minutes at 212 degrees as recommended on the container.

The steeped result was a dark molasses-colored liquid with a sweet aroma. The odor was almost like tea covered with healthy doses of milk and sugar, although I was drinking it straight.

The flavor of the tea was extremely pleasant with distinct sweet and malty accents. The specific black tea flavor was just a subscript to the other more clearly enunciated attributes. The entire cup went down exceptionally smoothly with no astringency detected by my palate.

I like this tea a lot! It is the perfect storm of flavor and smoothness. It will be a fantastic addition to my morning black tea rotation.

Flavors: Malt, Sweet

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

Sorry to hear about your job!

Stoo

Thanks, Caile. I wonder if there are any open positions for a professional tea reviewer… :-)

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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
198 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
198 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
198 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
198 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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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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