drank Black Orchid by Mariage Frères
1184 tasting notes

I missed my workout today and desperately need to go do it, but it’s been a long week and I’m not exactly perky at the moment. So I’m going to start a little adventure called a tale of three vanillas in the hopes that by the end I’ll be energized enough to work out.

This is the first in the saga, to be followed by a rerun of The Jade Teapot’s Starry Night and my sample of the Samovar Vanilla Dian Hong.

Gee, this tea smells terrific! No, really, it is a tantalizing smell coming out of the tin, a sultry vanilla smell. It’s incredible, you can actually smell the beany grain of the vanilla which gives it a slight resemblence to the smell of coffee. It’s like being inside a vanilla bean, or rather, swimming in a vat of vanilla beans like toddlers do in those ball pit things. There’s a dark roasty smell as well, which is certainly the tea, which is dark brown and luscious. You can see pieces of vanilla bean among the leaves.

The aroma during steeping is equally delicious. I think vanilla may be a hard flavoring to get exactly right and it seems as though its success is highly dependent on the quality of the vanilla used to flavor as well as the thing being flavored. My experience with the Numi Vanilla Decaf was pretty bad, and though I thought it unlikely this experience would be similar I was relieved to be right. The vanilla aroma rises gently and organically out of the cup, along with a malty, sugary tea smell that is quite enticing.

The liquor is lighter in color than I’d expected from the darkness of the leaves, a sort of burnt orangish brown.

Yum. It tastes smoother and more delicate than I expected. It’s not a shot over the bow so much as a gentle rumble. The vanilla is sweet and delicious, and it melds with the tea’s own sweetness to create something that, astonishingly, is just the right amount of sweet. The flavors lean on each other nicely. A wonderful cup.

I’m not sure exactly what the right steeping time for this one will turn out to be. It was fine at 3 minutes but a bit better at 4. I might try 5 next time, just for laughs.

And as a postscript — the empty cup smells nommy!

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tea skills and tastes developed they became far less appealing to me. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with me. That said, I’m not entirely a purist, and I enjoy a good flavored tea, particularly flavored blacks.

I like all kinds of tea depending on time of day, mood, and the amount of time I have to pay attention to preparation.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

People have sent me tea on occasion, and I was once persuaded to send some Tazo Om to AmazonV. I’ve also done at least one group buy here on Steepster, the famous Doulton-led Dammann Freres experiment years ago. But mostly, I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it, though I don’t put samples in my cupboard and not everything I have at any given time is showing in my cupboard. I do try to remember to remove things from my cupboard once I no longer have them.

I was an early internet adopter and have been online in various environments since around 1990. Steepster is one of the nicest online environments I’ve ever been privileged to participate in and that is saying something. :-)


Bay Area, California



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