154 Tasting Notes

98

After sweet black teas, I believe my next favorite category is smoky black teas. I’ve tried a few Lapsang Souchong teas in the past and liked them all. I was looking forward to trying The Spice and Tea Exchange’s (TSTE) entry in this arena. Their black chocolate tea showed me that they know how to load a tea with flavor.

As I opened the zip-lock pouch of thin black tea leaves, my nostrils were instantly slapped soundly by a potent campfire aroma. It was a deep rich odor that almost smelled like burning hickory wood.

I brewed the leaves at 212 degrees for four minutes (my choice as TSTE does not include steeping instructions). The finished liquor was a deep amber color. A strong smoky smell that reminded me of my Boy Scout campout days erupted from the tea pot and filled my kitchen.

The initial sip shot strong smoky signals to my taste buds at the speed of light. Although quite potent, the taste was also smooth and complete. The smoky flavor of this tea was so well defined and complex that I kept trying to identify the components that comprised it. (I’m still leaning toward hickory wood.) There was no bitterness whatsoever. The flavor of each sip was as full and detailed as the one before. The aftertaste delightfully echoed the great flavor. The black tea taste took a backseat as it usually does with good smoky teas.

This is a fantastic Lapsang Souchong tea with all of the elements that you would want in this blend and more. I will be reaching for this selection in the morning again soon. TSTE’s teas are pricey but I don’t feel cheated.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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100

My sweet wife took a trip to the Washington, D.C., area this weekend and I was unable to go. To make me feel better and missed, she picked up some teas by The Spice and Tea Exchange for me while she was in Annapolis, Maryland. Due to my insatiable sweet teeth (a whole mouth full of them), I naturally reached first for the Black Chocolate tea pouch this morning.

The moment I opened the small zip-lock pouch, a powerful and sweet dark chocolate aroma drifted from it. It smelled so good that I was ready to munch on the short black tea leaves without brewing them!

Finding some restraint, I steeped the leaves at 212 degrees for four minutes (no brewing instructions were on the pouch). A dark amber-colored brew was the result. A strong and inviting chocolate aroma floated from the tea pot.

The very first sip produced a full, sweet, and rich dark chocolate flavor. There was no need to search for the chocolate flavor. It exploded against my taste buds like Fourth of July fireworks.

All sips (and then gulps) after the first one remained consistent, smooth, and steady. The flavor was always sweet, chocolate, and delightful. There was no bitterness lurking in the taste, not even a hint of it in the dark chocolate. The black tea flavor was quiet and in the background. Chocolate was the indisputable star of the show.

The hot chocolate flavor of this tea was so luscious that I was tempted to drop a few marshmallows into it. I thoroughly enjoyed this selection at breakfast, but this blend must also be incredible at lunch or dinner for dessert.

This was my first experience with The Spice and Tea Exchange and it was a terrifically memorable one. If you love chocolate (and who doesn’t?) and are a sweet-a-holic like I am, you won’t be able to drink this tea fast enough…or just enough!

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
tigress_al

This sounds amazing! I like your comment about a whole mouth full of sweet teeth… I definitely have that as well!

Stoo

Sugar is my (or one of my) greatest vice, tigress_al. If I ever win a supermarket sweep, I’m hitting the cookie, candy, and ice cream aisles first!

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95
drank Vanilla Tea by Sandy Creek Herb Co.
154 tasting notes

I had a nice experience with Sandy Creek Herb Company’s Southern Mint Tea that I purchased from our local Provisions store about a month ago. So, I was more than willing to take a chance on their new Vanilla Tea when we dropped by the store last weekend.

I love black tea with sweet flavors so I had high hopes for this one. When I opened the package, a strong (but not overpowering) and sweet vanilla aroma wafted up from the zip-locked container.

Sandy Creek Herb Company doesn’t include brewing instructions for their teas. I called upon my most commonly used black tea settings (212 degrees for four minutes) to steep the sweet-smelling short black leaves.

A slight vanilla aroma emerged from the brewed blend. The color was a bright amber.

With the very first sip, a well-harmonized vanilla and black tea concerto was performed merrily on my taste buds. Every sip thereafter, throughout two cups, was consistently sweet and full-flavored without bitterness or artificial aftertaste.

The vanilla flavor is balanced perfectly with the black tea so that neither outshines the other. And, the smooth black tea taste is expertly complemented by the natural vanilla accompaniment. Although I like to chug my black tea in the morning, this fine selection would also be a big hit as a dessert tea at lunch or dinner.

In summary, this is another great tasting tea from Sandy Creek Herb Co. They are now two for two with the offerings that I have tried. Since two of their Provisions stores are less than a 20-minute drive from my house, I see more Sandy Creek Herb Company teas in my future!

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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100

I was already quite familiar with Teavivre’s pu-erh tea via their Ripened Aged Pu-erh Mini Tuocha (bird’s nest-shaped little tea cake) selection, my absolute favorite pu-erh tea. I liked it so much that I sent away for seven ounces of the product from Teavivre in China a few months ago. When I received the order, the ample amount in the package made me think that I would be tuocha-sufficient through the end of the year. However, I brewed through all of the little birds’ nests in about three weeks! Since I try to maintain Teavivre’s pu-erh and a few of their black varieties in my stash of staple teas, I immediately hit their website to order more pu-erh. This time, I thought I would give their loose leaf Ripened Aged Loose Pu-erh tea a shot, hoping that it would just approach the great quality of the tuochas.

When I opened the package, the strongest pu-erh aroma that I have ever experienced burst forth from the bag. It was a potent, earthy, and leathery smell that screamed pu-erh in several different languages. The long tea leaves looked like shredded landscaping mulch and were a milk chocolate color.

I was surprised (and a little concerned) when I saw that the instructions recommended three to four teaspoons of the leaves for each eight-ounce cup. I was afraid that I would empty the entire package twice as fast as with the tuochas. However, Teavivre’s instructions always seem to suit my taste buds, so I used their recommended amount (three tablespoons), temperature (212 degrees), and brewing time (two minutes).

The steeped brew was a deep dark brown. A fragrant medium-strength pu-erh tea aroma arose from the pot.

The flavor of the tea was absolutely, thoroughly, and incredibly delicious. It was rich, powerful, smooth, and exploding with flavor. The taste was fresh and earthy with a full-bodied leather quality. Bitterness was not in this tea’s vocabulary. The aftertaste lingered blissfully without annoyance.

I would give this tea a rating of 200 if that choice were available. I will do my best to make sure that this tea is NEVER missing from my daily stash.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec
ashmanra

Oh my goodness! I am drinking one of their wonderful puerhs right this minute, but I am adding this one to my wish list!

Stoo

It’s a great one, ashmanra! I’ll be looking forward to your tasting note!

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90

I stumbled upon this little gem at our local Provisions store. This tea comes from a company that I was familiar with for its herbs and spices, but not teas. These folks knew what they were doing when they decided to whip up a blend of black tea and mint herbs.

When I opened the two-ounce packet of leaves, a very fresh spearmint/peppermint (both herbs are in this blend) aroma was present. There was such a generous portion of mint in this selection that I had to read the ingredients on the packet to verify that this was black tea and not green tea. The leaves were very short, almost like pipe tobacco.

There were no steeping instructions on the packet so I brewed the tea for three minutes at 205 degrees. I thought maybe I should go a little easier on the mint than full steam boiling. The color of the steeped tea was a golden reddish mix.

Although there wasn’t a strong mint aroma spewing from the cup, the taste of this tea was just loaded with mint. The spearmint/peppermint infusion was perfect. It was fresh and potent without becoming obnoxious. I couldn’t identify a tea taste per se, but it didn’t matter. The flavor was just a wonderful waltz of mint. The aftertaste was a pleasing mint symphony that I wished had lingered longer.

I thoroughly enjoyed four cups of this tea in the morning. The next time the leaves hit my tea maker will be in the afternoon. I’m going to pour it over ice after brewing. I’m sure this will be an excellent iced tea to which Southerners I know will happily say, “Y’all come back, hear?”

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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78

Thanks once more to TeaVivre and Angel for this sample!

Again I must preface this note with a disclaimer that I am not a green tea aficionado. As an allergy sufferer, I need strong smells and tastes to penetrate my constantly tormented sinuses and taste buds. A lot of green tea selections seem to have flavors that are much weaker than the black tea powerhouses that I prefer. Plus, I require a more electrifying caffeine jolt in the morning to bring me back to life.

When I opened this package, I noticed the fresh quality of the long green tea leaves. This is probably because the harvest was less than two months ago. The unbrewed odor was very faint and somewhat grassy.

I steeped the leaves for two minutes at 185 degrees as directed on the package. The color of the brewed tea was an extremely pale greenish gold, just a tad darker than clear. I didn’t detect any aroma emanating from my cup, even when I pushed my snozz deep inside of it.

The flavor was…there…but it lacked definition, depth, and power. It wasn’t unpleasant. It wasn’t bitter. It was illusive. After really concentrating and focusing hard during a cup and a half of sips, I was finally able to register a ghostly sweet and lightly grassy taste on my palate.

If green teas are your preference, and your sinuses are in much better shape than mine, you probably won’t find anything dislikable about this selection. However, if you are olfactorily challenged (as I am), you may find yourself pining for TeaVivre’s Premium Keemun Hao Ya or Yun Nan Dian Hong – Golden Tip black teas (as I did).

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec
ashmanra

It has been good to see you back in Steepster, Stoo!

Stoo

Thanks, ashmanra! It’s very kind of you to say that! I’ve missed being here! My birthday is coming up in a few months. Hopefully I’ll get more new teas to write about! :-)

Stoo

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93

Thanks again, Angel And TeaVivre, for this sample!

It appears that I wrote a tasting note about this tea a year ago. After I finish this note, I’m going to go back and read last year’s note to see if I’ve become wiser or just more crotchety.

A strong but nice grassy aroma emerged from the sample packet when I opened it. The unbrewed green tea leaves were long, bright, and flat.

I steeped this tea for two minutes at 175 degrees (one degree lower than the recommended 176 degrees due to tea maker limitations). The brewed color was a fairly vibrant golden green. The odor was grassy and sweet.

As you may have seen me write ad nauseam, I am not a green tea banner waver. However, I’ve got to say, I REALLY like the taste of this one!

The flavor is fresh, sweet, and grassy, like a newly mowed Spring meadow. Absolutely no bitterness is present. The aftertaste lingers delicately on your palate.

It’s hard for me to rank green teas since I tend to dismiss them after tasting them. But, if forced to do so, this selection would definitely be near the top of my list!

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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90

Thank you once again, Angel and TeaVivre, for another sample!

OK. I don’t want to beat a dead horse (or tea leaf) but green teas and I aren’t close. I’ll try them and any other variety of tea, but I’m a black tea kind of guy.

When I opened the sample package for this selection, a fairly strong grassy aroma burst forth. The leaves were full, bright green, and flat.

I steeped this rascal for two minutes at 175 degrees. The brewed aroma was again grassy and a touch sweet. The color was a fairly golden green (which became bright gold after 30 minutes of post-brewed heating).

I was pleasantly surprised by the moderately full taste of this tea. Sometimes green teas don’t contain enough flavor to completely register with my taste buds. This selection had a very recognizable grassy and sweet flavor. The taste was light and lively with an equally affable aftertaste.

I’m not ready to replace my stash of black teas with green blends, but I did find this variety quite pleasant to sip during the early afternoon. I’m sure I would also enjoy it during my days off from work when my brain doesn’t require as much kick-starting.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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83

Thanks again to Angel and TeaVivre for this new sample!

Let me quickly again sum up my feelings about green tea: not much into it. However, I am always willing to try new varieties, and have found a few that I’ve liked, not enough to make them a daily habit, but they’ve been tasty.

The flat bright green leaves in the sample package of this selection had a sweet grassy aroma. I steeped them for two minutes at 175 degrees as recommended in the instructions (176 degrees was recommended, but close counts).

The brewed liquid was an extremely pale golden green. The steeped aroma was very faint and slightly sweet.

It took several sips before my brain and taste buds could process enough flavor information to classify it. Then, I began to discern a sort of sweet, slightly spicy, kind of grassy taste. The flavor was smooth, very light, and too delicate to produce any bitterness.

This tea was pleasant to drink and may be a fine late afternoon or early evening selection, but I prefer stronger and more robust flavors. To be fair, I should also mention that we are now in peak pollen and allergy season here in South Carolina, so my tasting apparatus isn’t as sensitive as it is at other times of the year.

Having said that, there is nothing at all wrong with this tea’s amiable flavors. The volume just isn’t pumped up enough for my preference.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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90

Thank you Angel and TeaVivre for this sample!

I am always excited to try new black teas. The black blends are definitely my favorite. I love their robust and powerful flavors as well as the extra jolt of caffeine that they give me in the morning to launch my day.

This selection from TeaVivre worried me at first because of the word “fragrant” in the title. I tend to not enjoy blends that include flowery or perfume-like tastes and aromas. However, I was immediately encouraged when I noticed that there was no flowery or perfume smell when I opened the sample packet.

I steeped the thin black short leaves for three minutes at 195 degrees (one degree more than the instructions recommended due to tea maker limitations). The brewed color was a dark amber. There was no “fragrant” aroma wafting from the cup (which was fine with me).

The taste of this brew was slightly sweet and malty. It also had the earthy quality that I’ve grown accustomed to with other Keemun teas. I did not detect any floral or fragrant attribute in the flavor either.

The aftertaste was pleasant and a tad sweet. Bitterness was completely absent.

This is another very nice tea from the folks at TeaVivre. In my opinion, the absence of anything “fragrant” makes it even better!

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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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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