163 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!
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?
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.
This was one of the few Mondays that I looked forward to! Thank you ashmanra, for sending me this Harney & Sons sample to taste!
When I opened the sample packet, a light vanilla aroma was noticeable. I steeped the very black short leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a dark amber.
The flavor of the first sip was smooth and breakfast-tea-like with mild vanilla undertones. As I drank more and more of this selection, the vanilla taste became more obvious.
I did detect a slight twinge of something additional with the vanilla flavor. I am not quite sure what it was. It wasn’t bitter and it wasn’t astringent but it did seem to be pointing in that direction. I noticed a similar attribute in another vanilla tea I tried a while back. Maybe it is just the chemical reaction of the vanilla bean when boiled in tea.
In any event, this was a pleasant enough tea with sufficient vanilla flavor to keep me from craving more. It became even more satisfying with a couple of English tea biscuits!
Since I love chocolate, mint, and anything sweet, this has been the most highly anticipated item on my list of teas to try since I first heard about it. Many thanks to ashmanra for sharing her stash with me!
The unbrewed chocolate mint aroma of this tea was so strong that I could smell it through the double wrap of the sample’s packaging. Instead of tea, the aroma was more like an imported fine candy bar.
I brewed the greenish leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The result was a golden brown liquid.
I could smell the mint with a hint of chocolate as I began to sip it. The taste was smooth and minty with the chocolate flavor in the background, but still quite recognizable, much like the blend of chocolate mint ice cream. The balance of mint and chocolate was perfect.
I have tried other mint teas before. What sets this one apart from the rest is that this tea has a nice refreshing quality. It reminds me a bit of the mint juleps that were once so popular here in the South.
As I guzzled more and more of this tea, I enjoyed the aftertaste almost as much as the actual experience. The chocolate mint flavor echoed on my palate minutes later with zero bitterness.
This is a phenomenal tea that more than lived up to my expectations. I am currently enjoying it in the morning but I can also see it in my future as a fantastic late afternoon and Summer tea. It will also be wonderful to bring this selection out for those special occasions with friends and family. I am greatly looking forward to sampling other Harney & Sons blends!
If you’ve kept up with my tasting notes, you know that I am a huge fan of Teavivre Teas. I have yet to be disappointed by any of their products.
If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Teavivre’s fabulous Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea. That tea is nothing short of incredibly fantastic, albeit a little pricey. This time, I thought I would save some money and hope that their Grade 1 Keemun selection was good enough to satisfy my Keemun itch.
I love the aroma of the short unbrewed tea leaves. It is a rich, sweet, and earthy smell that seems to belong only to Teavivre’s Keemun.
I steeped the tea at 205 degrees for three minutes as instructed on the packet. The color of the brewed liquor was golden brown.
As I brought the cup to my lips, I could already smell the savory Keemun. The first sip was absolutely delicious. The taste was sweet, earthy, full-bodied, and very smooth. There was no bitterness to be found. Subsequent sips…and cups…were at least equally delightful.
In my opinion, this Grade 1 Keemun is every bit as delicious and satisfying as Teavivre’s Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea. If you are on a budget (as I am), and you love Keemun, take advantage of the great taste and very reasonable price (currently – 10/24/2012 – Teavivre is also offering 20% off!) of the Grade 1 Keemun tea. I am very glad that I did! By the way, if your budget is even more restricted than mine, Teavivre has a Grade 2 Keemun black tea at even greater savings (and also currently – 10/24/2012 – 20% off)!
I found this item at a reduced price at our local Earth Fare market yesterday. This is my first foray into Irish Breakfast tea and my second venture into Adagio Teas.
Even if you don’t like Adagio Teas, you have to award them a high score for innovative packaging. They give you a fairly large and strong round tin with a solid tension-clipped plastic lid for tight resealing. In addition to the lid being clear so you get a good view of the tea leaves inside before purchasing, Adagio claims that the lid blocks ultraviolet rays to preserve the quality of the tea. Very cool!
When I sprang open the lid of the tea, the aroma that burst forth was like a spicy pipe tobacco. The unmistakable smell of Ceylon tea was also present.
I steeped the tea at 212 degrees for five minutes as prescribed by Adagio. The brewed liquid was a dark amber color.
The first sip contained fruity and standard black tea flavors. A tad of sweetness was also peeking in. I did notice a slight bitterness to the aftertaste. This may have been due to an extra spoonful of leaves that I might have tossed in when I lost count. The astringency dissipated with subsequent sips and complexities in the flavor began to appear.
My tastebuds are not experienced enough yet to immediately recognize all of the various types and growing locations of black teas. However, in this tea, I can tell that there is more than one variety involved. And, it so happens that this selection is a blend of Assam and Ceylon teas. It is a tasty combination with just a hint of sugar and spice.
I found this tea to be enjoyable and bold enough to start my always challenging Monday morning. It also seems to be a little more flavor-inclusive than some of the English Breakfast teas that I have tried. I am sure I will reach for this one again to help crank up my day and week.
One of my teeth broke in half yesterday, probably caused by many years of chewing pens while working. I always rationalized that it was a safer habit than smoking cigarettes. Apparently the pen chewing addiction has its own repercussions (besides accidentally swallowed pen caps and the occasional mouthful of exploded ink).
Anyhow, I am anxiously, without access to pain pills, awaiting my high noon dentist appointment today to get my broken tooth fixed. However, my dedication to tea tasting (when I have new teas to taste) is greater than the pain in my mouth at the moment. So, I took one for the Steepster Team and prepared this Harney & Sons tea for testing.
When I opened the tin, a strong bergamot scent became instantly recognized. The tea inside was short and brown, like particles from a damp pile of raked Fall leaves.
I brewed the tea for five minutes at 212 degrees as recommended. I was struck by the absence of bergamot aroma in the brewed beverage. The color was a dark golden brown.
When I took my first sip, the next thing that was obvious (besides the stabbing pain in my damaged tooth), was the extreme understatement of bergamot flavor in this selection. The flavor is nice, smooth, and like that of an English Breakfast tea. However, the Earl Grey component is well hidden. In fact, I detected more bergamot in the aftertaste than in each cautiously directed sip (to the opposite side of my mouth from the screaming tooth).
All in all, this is a smooth and tasty tea with no bitterness. If you can take or leave Earl Grey, or you like the fruity flavor of bergamot in small doses, this tea may be quite satisfying. But, if you like bergamot to be the overpowering ingredient in this variety, you may feel short-changed.
Aaaah. This is my kind of Monday! I’ve finally got a new tea to taste and review. I’ve been so busy getting married and keeping up with work tasks that I’ve had to push new teas down on my priority (and financial) list. It’s been a while since my last tasting note so my typing fingers and brain are a little rusty. But, here we go anyhow…
I’ve wanted to try Harney & Sons teas for quite some time. I’ve heard and read great things about their products. But, until this weekend, we didn’t have a local outlet from which to purchase them. I thought their on-line shipping charges were a little steep (no pun intended) so I didn’t buy any from their website either. Now, thanks to our local Fresh Market, we can purchase Harney & Sons English Breakfast and Earl Grey teas at discount prices.
When I opened the big black tin, the aroma that burst forth was like that of pipe tobacco in a tobacco shop. It was sweet and rich.
I steeped the short black leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees as recommended on the tin. I didn’t notice any particular smells wafting from the teapot during this process. The color of the liquor was a bright golden amber.
At first sip, the flavor was sweet and a tad earthy. The taste intensity was medium. The flavor remained mostly consistent after subsequent sips, but I did notice slight twinges of malt and the tell-tale woody and leathery flavors of keemun later on. There was no bitterness present in this brew.
Although this tea does not have bold flavors, it is, nevertheless, a smooth and pleasant beverage for those mornings when you don’t need something shouting at you to wake you up. There is still plenty of good flavor to get your morning off on the right foot.
I have come to my last sample in this round of Teavivre’s latest offerings. Let’s see if Teavivre has batted 1,000 again like they have with samples in previous rounds…
When I opened the sample packet, a very strong grassy aroma escaped into the air. It was not unpleasant. It was like the smell of a freshly mowed putting green after a Summer sun shower.
I steeped the long green leaves for two minutes at 195 degrees. A pale green liquid emerged at the end of the brewing cycle.
The taste of this tea was light, fresh, and grassy. There also was a slight hint of sweetness beneath the leafy flavor. There was no bitterness to the taste and a light and fresh aftertaste lingered on my palate.
Like the several other Teavivre green teas that I have tasted, one word best describes the flavor of this selection: FRESH. All of Teavivre’s green tea offerings have a just picked taste that makes you think the leaves were harvested this morning.
This is yet another exceptional tea from Teavivre. I can’t wait to see (and taste) what they come up with next!