173 Tasting Notes


It’s great to be tasting and reviewing new teas again after my three-month hiatus! Since I’m the only tea drinker in my house, it became urgent for me to go into self-imposed exile, to whittle down my accumulating stash before it needed a room of its own.

Thank you, Teavivre, for putting me back in the game with more free samples!

I’d already tried a few other brands of Lapsang smoky tea and liked them all, so I was anxious to experience Teavivre’s variation on this familiar theme. Bring it on!

Upon opening the two-cup sample package of full tea leaves, my nostrils immediately detected the smoky aroma that I remembered from the other Lapsang smoky selections. However, this scent was not nearly as powerful as the other brands had been.

In accordance with Teavivre’s instructions, I steeped the tea at 195 degrees (the instructions specified 194 degrees but my tea maker is not quite that precise – close enough!) for two minutes. The brewed liquid was a light golden color. A slightly smoky aroma was emitted from my cup.

At first sip, the smoky taste was definitely obvious but it did not slap me silly like the other brands. The other selections gave me flashbacks of sitting by a campfire.

With my second sip, I contemplated whether the more subtle smoky quality was a good or bad thing. But…then it happened. A mellow and sweet taste began to emerge from the smoke. The extra flavors added an interesting complexity that I hadn’t experienced with this type before.

The aftertaste of this tea was complex, mellow, and sweet without bitterness. The smokiness was discernible but did not scream for attention.

I like this selection very much. I realize now that, with tea (like other things in life), what you are used to is not always the best, and more is not always better. This tea has everything that you would expect and desire in a Lapsang Souchong smoky black tea, and so much more, without shouting. This blend should be savored, not gulped!

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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drank Ginger Peach by The Republic of Tea
173 tasting notes

This was another bagged sample obtained by my lovely wife at a high-class hotel during her business trip. I am no longer a big bag advocate but I am always more than willing to sample new tea selections.

I steeped this tea on our office Flavia coffee machine by pouring the machine’s boiling water over the bag into a paper cup. The Flavia aparatus does include a “tea” setting to do this, but the setting is no more designed for tea than it would be for instant oatmeal.

In any event, I let the bag sit in the boiling water for five minutes. The resulting color was a reddish golden brown.

As I raised the cup to my lips, I detected a peachy aroma. This made me anxious for my first taste since I rarely smell anything with brewed tea bags. However, the party ended when the flavor hit my taste buds. I did not think it was possible but the taste was actually weaker than the aroma.

The flavor was lightly peachy. The ginger was missing in action, up to about my twentieth sip. Then, I tasted the hidden ginger behind the peach attribute.

This tea does have a natural (instead of chemical) peach taste. There is no astringency to note. I would have liked it more if the flavor was bolder and the ginger was allowed to assert itself. The bag package claims that it was made from the “finest black tea leaves.” If so, let them shine, Republic of Tea! This selection had about the same amount of black tea flavor as herbal tea.

Did I hate this tea? No. Will I go out of my way to try it again? No. However, I would give it another shot if I had the opportunity to test this blend as a full loose-leaf and properly infused incarnation.

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I have become a tea snob and don’t drink bagged tea anymore unless I am in the office. Such is the case this morning as I sample this “Eco Bag” obtained by my thoughtful wife at an upscale hotel during her business trip.

I have to admit, the bag looked pretty cool. It was extremely clear so you could thoroughly see the chopped full-leaf tea particles inside. The package boasted that it was “made of renewable resources, including bamboo, its open weave design allows optimal full-leaf infusion.” That sounded impressive but I was more concerned about flavor.

I tossed the bag into a paper cup and set our office’s Flavia Creation 400 coffee machine to run boiling hot water over it. I let the bag soak for five minutes. (Oh, how I missed my Breville One-Touch Tea Maker.)

As has been my experience with most bagged teas, there was no discernible aroma emanating from the cup. The color was a reddish golden brown.

My first sip only produced a mild black tea taste with a touch of astringency. I needed several more gulps before I could begin to identify the Assam, Ceylon, and Darjeeling flavors that comprised this blend. After that, the taste settled into a mild but slightly shrill breakfast tea.

All in all, this selection was not bad but it did not excite me or make me want to add it to my shopping list. Perhaps the full loose-leaf version, brewed in my tea maker and gently poured into my layered glass mug at home, would thrill me much more (location…location…location).

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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.

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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?


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!


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


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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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!

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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!

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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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!

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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reviewed One Touch Tea Maker by Breville
173 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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drank Earl Grey Classic by Fortnum & Mason
173 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.

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.


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.


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!


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


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

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drank Earl Grey Imperial by Harney & Sons
173 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.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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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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