160 Tasting Notes

89

It is already great to be off from work until the new year, but having a new Christmas present tea to taste makes life even better! I was fascinated by the name of this tea.

Being of direct Scottish heritage (my mother was born and partially raised in Scotland), and having spent a month and a half in Scotland myself, I was intrigued by the inclusion of Scottish thistle in this tea. Heather, I could understand. After all, heather is a sweet and dainty little flower that grows on the Scottish hillsides. Thistle, on the other hand, has painful thorns. According to legend, the invention of the kilt was necessary to allow Scottish soldiers to be mobile when marching through fields covered with this prickly plant. So, thistle is not an ingredient that I would expect to find in my beverage.

When I opened the hinged tin and pierced the bag inside, I noticed that the short tea leaves were like coffee grounds. Also, many red and yellow thistle blossom pieces were mixed with the leaves. The aroma of the unbrewed leaves was standard African tea with something extra, although the smell was not flowery.

I brewed the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees, the maximum recommended time and temperature. The color was a brownish gold. The brewed aroma was again standard tea with something else.

I hate to be repetitious, but the flavor of this tea also was…you guessed it…standard tea with something extra. The best way to explain it is that the sweet overtones and astringency that I’ve often noticed in flowery teas were present in this tea, but not to the extent where I could classify them. I can only identify the taste by calling it STANDARD AFRICAN TEA PLUS.

This is a pleasant tasting tea. It is not bitter. I liked drinking four cups of it. I just did not find the flavor easy to pinpoint. Maybe that doesn’t matter. Perhaps I should just shut up and enjoy it.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Bonnie

Sounds interesting! A Bonney cuppa Scots Tea! I was sent some Campbell’s Shortbread, we should’ve gotten together! I’m an active member of Clan Cameron, and you Stoo?

Stoo

Hi Bonnie! Campbell’s shortbread sounds great! My wife is Italian but she is a pastry chef that can make anything. She makes me Scottish Empire Biscuits for Christmas each year. They are just as good as the ones my Scottish grandmother used to make! The Scottish teas would definitely go hand-in-hand nicely with the shortbread! I’m a member of Clan Stewart (“Stoo” is a derivative of that name) and Clan Robertson. I hope you had a nice Christmas!

Bonnie

Yep! My Grandmother was a Stewart and my dad Johnstone. Lot’s of fun! The Highland Games in Estes Park (about 45 miles away) are grand at over 7,000 ft. and 14,000 ft. peaks surrounding, makes me feel like I’m in the Highlands of Scotland. http://www.scotfest.com

Stoo

You and I must be related then, Bonnie! The Stewarts must have gotten around more than George Washington. It seems that I run into Stewarts everywhere! I attend the local Scottish festivals in the Carolinas when I have a chance. They are always fun and it gives us our only chance around here to partake in Scottish cuisine like meat pies and steak & kidney pie. Although, my wife has made both for me and hers are great too! Your festival in Estes Park looks like it’s fantastic!

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92

I was starting to get a little bummed out. I hadn’t had a new tea to taste in a good while. But, thanks to Santa Claus and my always wonderful and thoughtful wife, I now have two new Scottish teas to try out!

When I snipped open the bag of loose leaf tea inside the well-designed hinged tin, my sniffer was immediately slapped with an aroma similar to Rooibos tea. Perhaps that is because the leaves were grown and produced in Kenya. The leaves were very short and had a consistency almost like ground coffee.

Other reviews that I read about this tea seemed to be unanimous in their assessment that this was a milder breakfast blend. Since I prefer potent black teas, I opted to steep this selection for the maximum recommended brewing time of five minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed liquid had a reddish gold color. The smell was like a light but standard black breakfast tea.

The first sip produced a slightly sweet malty taste. It was quite pleasant but still mild, even after five minutes of steeping.

With subsequent swallows, I started to experience a flavor kick with this tea. It was not bitter but it lingered to form the basis of a malty, African black tea blend aftertaste.

This is a very nice tea. I enjoyed it straight up without milk or sweeteners, which is how I drink all of my teas. It was also a fantastic complement to the terrific Scottish Empire Biscuits that my lovely wife baked for me for Christmas.

I don’t think you could go wrong with this tea at breakfast or in the afternoon. I look forward to sampling another tea by Edinburgh Tea and Coffee Company…TOMORROW!

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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89

I haven’t tried a new green tea in a while and I was ready to do so to mix things up a little. Another big thanks to Nuvola Teas for this sample! I’m taking this one for a spin in the morning, although I prefer the heartier black teas at this time of day to pounce on my partially awakened senses.

When I opened the sample packet, the aroma of the long dark green leaves was grassy and slightly earthy. I brewed the leaves at 175 degrees for three minutes.

The brewed liquid was mostly odorless. The color was a light greenish gold.

I found the flavor to be very mild but not unpleasant. There was a sweet undertone to a generally grassy green tea flavor. The taste was light, airy, and quite smooth.

I had no trouble drinking four cups of this offering. My personal preference is for the stronger-flavored black teas but that does not make this selection any less palatable.

If you enjoy smooth, sweet, and mild-flavored green teas, you will certainly like this one. So far, Nuvola seems to have a great handle on both black and green teas!

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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99

My tea hobby is starting to make me feel like I am traveling all over the world without leaving my house. Today, we journey to Taiwan for a first taste of Nuvola Tea’s Taiwan Oolong Black Tea.

I didn’t even know that you could combine oolong with black tea. I truly learn something new every day!

When I opened the little sample packet, graciously provided by Nuvola Tea, a rich, earthy, and sweet aroma escaped from within. The unbrewed leaves were dark green, long, and thick.

I wasn’t sure what time and temperature to use for steeping, so I opted for my milder black tea settings of 205 degrees for three minutes. The color of the brewed liquor was a light amber. The aroma was sweet and airy.

At first sip, the taste was sweet, malty, and very smooth. With additional gulps, I became aware of the oolong in a stronger sense than I had experienced with other oolong teas. This might have been the influence of the black tea.

This tea is so smooth that I had to force myself to slow down to keep from chugging it. The more I drank, the more I found myself really enjoying this blend.

The flavor is gentle but not weak. It has a sweetness that is almost like honey. There is also just a stitch of earthiness and malt in the taste. The aftertaste is sweet and extremely pleasant. There is not a hint of bitterness anywhere.

This is simply a wonderful tea. I’m not sure yet if it will provide an explosive enough caffeine jolt to earn a spot in my morning tea rotation, but the flavor is so good that I may make an exception. I will definitely be adding it to my shopping list shortly.

I have one more Nuvola Tea sample to try. I am anxious to see if it is in the same class as this Taiwan Oolong Black Tea. So far, I am very impressed with Taiwan tea and Nuvola!

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

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100
reviewed One Touch Tea Maker by Breville
160 tasting notes

I received the Breville One Touch Tea Maker as a birthday present last year from my then girlfriend and now wife. (That alone was a good reason to marry her!)

With this tea maker, you get a perfect cup of tea every time. It also keeps your tea warm after brewing for up to an hour.

You can choose pre-selected brewing times and temperatures based on the type of tea (black, green, etc.) or you can customize them according to your individual taste (no pun intended).

If you leave your house early in the morning and don’t have time to brew the tea before you leave, you can set the automatic timer so that the tea is ready and waiting for you when you rise.

Being a gadget kind of guy, I also enjoy observing this great machine at work. Over a year later, it’s still fun for me to watch the infusion basket automatically drop and rise.

Cleaning is extremely fast and easy. This is also important to me. Most of the parts can be run through the dishwasher.

I just have three minor complaints:

1. You have to make a minimum of two cups of tea. This isn’t a big deal, but every now and then I only have time or desire for one cup.

2. The maximum warming time after the tea is brewed is one hour. When I make a full pot of tea (five cups), occasionally I don’t drink it all within an hour. I can nuke it, which also isn’t a huge inconvenience, but it would be nice to have more warming time in the machine. I talked to Breville about this issue and they said that tea warmed for over an hour can lose quality and become bitter. Why did I get the feeling that I was being pacified?

3. This one can potentially be major. As of the last time I checked, you could not buy a replacement teapot from Breville if the glass pot should break. A lot of the electronics are contained in the base of the pot. Perhaps this complicates a replacement. However, glass does break and the French glass used for the pot is not extraordinarily thick. I did read in Breville’s question and answer forum that you can call them if your pot breaks. Hopefully they have some kind of resolution. This machine is not cheap or what I would consider to be a disposable item.

Those three issues aside, I absolutely love this machine. There is no doubt in my mind that it has also increased and enhanced my appreciation of tea. I wish I could figure out a way to smuggle it into the office so I could have great tea every day!

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90
drank Earl Grey Classic by Fortnum & Mason
160 tasting notes

I’m back at Tea Central (my house) today with real tea making equipment and a cup that is not composed of paper. I also have more than five minutes to make and drink some tea. Life is good. And, this is the perfect time to take Earl Grey Classic by Fortnum & Mason for a test drive.

When I pried open the lid of the tin, one of the freshest and most natural bergamot aromas that I had ever experienced hit my nose. I hoped that the taste would match this great smell.

Fortnum & Mason doesn’t include detailed brewing instructions on their packaging. After researching the procedures of other fellow Steepsters for this tea, I chose 205 degrees for three minutes as my method of madness.

The brewed liquor also had a fresh bergamot scent, although a little lighter than I expected. The color was golden brown.

The taste was black tea, balanced with bergamot flavor. The freshness of the bergamot scent did carry over into the taste, but the bergamot did not control the total flavor of the tea. Instead, it was a smooth, malty, and full black tea flavor with bergamot blended into the taste. There was no bitterness. The aftertaste was lightly shadowed with bergamot accents.

This is a fine and smooth Earl Grey tea. I would rate the bergamot power 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

One thing that sets this tea apart and above some of the other Earl Grey teas I’ve tasted is the freshness of the bergamot flavor. It’s not as strong as the Rishi Earl Grey (still my favorite Earl Grey), which I would give a 10 on the bergamot power scale. But, this is a very nice tea that I would enjoy in the mornings or afternoons.

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

Doesn’t look like you can get this in the US any more, and apparently the shipping is very high from the UK. Too bad Williams Sonoma no longer carries it, because I would like to try it.

Stoo

Actually, I purchased it at our local Williams Sonoma. Have you asked your Williams Sonoma if they would order it for you?

Donna A

Good idea Stoo. Will give that a try.

Keemun

If you got a chance then try to taste the Earl Grey blend from “Whittard of Chelsea”…then compare it to Fortnum & Mason

Donna A

As an update, I did get the Fortnum and Mason at my local Williams Sonoma for 75% off because it was about to go out of date. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed it-I got the best results brewing for 2 minutes 45 seconds. Keemun, I’ll put your suggestion on my list. I love a good Earl Grey Blend!

Stoo

That’s wonderful, Donna! I’m glad you found it at such a great price and are enjoying it!

Stoo

Thanks, Keemun. I’ll keep on the lookout for a chance to try that one!

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84
drank Earl Grey Imperial by Harney & Sons
160 tasting notes

Here’s some speed reviewing of a quick cup of tea I had today. I received a few tea bags of this selection to try. Thank you, ashmanra! I had only a few minutes to gulp one down while at the office. Here are my results:

o The tea bags were impressive. They were strong like nylon, large, and pyramid shaped.
o I couldn’t smell bergamot in the unbrewed bag.
o I steeped the tea for about five minutes in boiling water.
o The color was golden brown in my paper cup.
o The flavor was medium-strength, pleasant, malty, slightly sweet, and without bitterness, but I could barely taste the bergamot.
o Did I like it? Yes, but I would like to try this blend in a real cup and in loose leaf to see if the bergamot is less shy.

And that ends this tasting note moment.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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92
drank Marco Polo by Mariage Frères
160 tasting notes

This is another of the premium imported teas that we picked up at the local Williams Sonoma store this weekend. I wasn’t going to buy it because it also carried a premium price. However, my sweet wife insisted that I do it. OK, she twisted my arm.

I had never tried a French tea before. I realized that the leaves weren’t grown in Paris, but I still thought it would be fun to see if a French twist had been applied to the beverage.

The product came in some impressive packaging. A sturdy and glossy black carboard box protected the black metal tin inside. The tin was capped with a solid metal lid. Beneath the outer lid was a sealed peel-back inner lid with a pull ring, like vacuum-packed food items use.

When I pulled back the inner lid, I immediately smelled strawberries. It wasn’t an artifical aroma, but quite natural.

No steeping instructions came with the product so I opted to brew the black leaves for four minutes at 212 degrees. The steeped liquor was a reddish golden brown.

I could smell strawberries again as I raised the cup to my mouth. My first sip had a strong fruity taste. Again, strawberries seemed to be the dominant resident. There also was an underlying floral flavor, but it was a partner to the fruitiness, not a competitor.

As a rule, I am not crazy about fruity and floral teas. The main problem I have with them is that I feel like I am drinking perfume. I also find these teas to have a strong chemical-like aftertaste that lingers much too long for my liking.

This Marco Polo selection had none of those negative characteristics. The strawberry flavor was natural, fruity, sweet, and smooth. The floral attribute blended softly and amiably with the other flavors. The aftertaste was light, pleasing, and sweet. Bitterness was nowhere to be found. The black tea taste was so far in the background that it was hardly noticed. But, the overall body, taste, and mouth-feel of this brew left no doubt that this was a bona fide card-carrying member of the tea family.

I may have to rethink my philosophy about fruity and flowery teas. I really like this one a lot. Thanks to this Marco Polo blend, I say, oui, to trying more fruity and floral teas, plus grand oui, to tasting more French teas, and, le géant oui, to sampling more Mariage Frères teas!

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Ysaurella

you definitively should ! Mariage is a giant as you mentioned and the MF compositions are always so natural, you’ll never have an artificial blend and artificial flavours.Dammann Frères is the challenger but MF flavoring is really much delicate & refined.

Stoo

Hi Ysaurella!

I am very glad that I took a chance with this tea. It gives fruity and floral teas a good name. I’m going to look for other MF teas. Hopefully I’ll find some on sale. Thanks for your comment!

Bonnie

Well Stoo, you are a refined Southern Gentleman too!

Stoo

Thanks, Bonnie! All of these fine teas are giving me class…maybe third class…but class nonetheless!

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85
drank Royal Blend by Fortnum & Mason
160 tasting notes

A couple of our generous friends gave us Williams Sonoma gift cards as wedding gifts. My wife, who is a pastry chef and all-around fabulous cook, loves this store for all of its cool cooking gadgets and utensils. I guess Williams Sonoma is her Best Buy.

Anyhow, we were at Williams Sonoma to see what we could purchase with our gift certificates. I assumed we would spend them all on some fun cooking toys for her. That was fine with me because I would reap the rewards by eating all of the great food items that she would create. However, always the wonderful and selfless soul that she is, my wife insisted that I buy some of the fine imported teas that Williams Sonoma offers.

The first one I chose was the Royal Blend by Fortnum & Mason. The tin brags that this tea was “first blended for King Edward VII and hugely popular ever since”.

I could smell the Assam tea in the short brown leaves when I pried open the lid. I steeped this tea at 212 degrees for four minutes. I also followed the tin’s recommendation to add an extra teaspoonful of tea leaves “for the pot”.

There was no discernible aroma wafting from the brewed liquor. The color was a golden red.

The first sip sent pretty standard tea flavors into my tastebuds. The taste was full, malty, and a little spicy. I also thought at first that I was experiencing a tad of bitterness. I didn’t want to rush to judgment, though, so I kept my eye…or…buds…on it through the next several gulps.

My conclusion was that the flavor was not bitter but slightly tangy. Perhaps that was the Assam. The taste of this tea was somewhat schizophrenic because there also was a smoothness to it. Maybe that was the blended Ceylon. Or, maybe vice versa.

This is a nice flavorful black tea without bells and whistles. The overall taste is standard black tea but there is a complexity to the Assam and Ceylon blend that gives it something extra. I couldn’t detect the sweetness that some have mentioned. I also wouldn’t classify it as an exciting blend. But, hey, if this tea was good enough for Queen Victoria’s son, who am I to complain?

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
CupofTree

I always saw this in that store and wanted to try it. I also wish they had more of a tea selection and more fancy like tins. Its kinda lame how they only have a few teas. I don’t like Ceylon though either so I’m glad to have read your review!

Stoo

Hi CupofTree!

I felt almost guilty giving this tea a less than stellar review after reading so many glowing ones. But, our different preferences help make this an interesting world! I am glad to know that I’m not alone in my tastes…so to speak, though. :-)

Thank you for your comment!

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90
drank Earl Grey Supreme by Harney & Sons
160 tasting notes

The Earl Grey tea that I measure all other Earl Greys against is my favorite (so far) from Rishi: http://steepster.com/teas/rishi-tea/5258-ancient-tree-earl-grey-organic-fair-trade. To me, that selection is the mother of all Earl Greys. It is strong, bursting with bergamot, and a complete, full-bodied, black tea blend. I was curious to see if this Harney & Sons offering could go the distance with Rishi.

When I opened the double-sealed sample packet, so kindly provided by ashmanra, the bergamot aroma immediately drew my attention. It was strong but not overwhelming.

I steeped the black leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes. I’m experimenting with five minutes for all black teas now. I like my tea to be potent in the morning as I need all the help I can get to shock myself out of the previous night’s slumber.

When my tea maker beeped completion, the bergamot aroma was much more subtle than I expected, particularly with five minutes of brewing at a boiling temperature. The smell was still pleasant. The color was a golden red.

With my first sip, the dominant taste was black tea. The flavor was nice, smooth, and malty, without bitterness, but I had difficulty sorting out the bergamot from the black tea attributes.

As the number of sips quickly multiplied, my tastebuds began to pinpoint the bergamot beneath the commanding black tea taste. It then occurred to me that the bergamot was not hidden behind the black tea flavors. The bergamot was so perfectly balanced with the black tea taste that it was actually fused into the overall tea flavor. Once I figured that out, my sleepy brain was able to separate the bergamot from the black tea when desired.

To sum this tea up, it did not dethrone my Rishi favorite, but it is tasty, smooth, and malty, without astringency. It would still be a great breakfast tea minus the bergamot.

If you like bergamot to slap you silly in your morning Earl Grey (like the aforementioned Rishi product), this tea may be a little too mild for you. However, if you can only tolerate bergamot when it is a quiet aspect of your cup, this selection will be a great choice. This Harney & Sons product will also be a winner if you prefer your bergamot intensity to fall somewhere between those extremes.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Scatterbrain

Love Rishi’s EG!

Stoo

Me too! It’s the turbo Earl Grey!

ashmanra

Stoo: this one was getting a little age on it. I wonder if it has mellowed? Although I don’t find it as strong as their sachets of Imperial Earl Grey.

Stoo

Hi ashmanra!

It could also be that my tastebuds are getting a little age on them. I’m bringing the sachets of Imperial Earl Grey into the office tomorrow. That’s where I do my bagged tea drinking. I’m looking forward to trying them. Thanks again for the samples!

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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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