It’s become apparent to me that I can’t really tell one black tea from another. Not yet, anyway. This isn’t the best cup of black tea I’ve had, but it’s very nice. Its fragrance is comforting, as the tea smells exactly like what I think when I think black tea. This is a very humble, unassuming tea; it just ambles along, dum dee dum, doing its thing. It’s that A- student that gets her grades by keeping her head down and getting her work done, not by wriggling in her seat with her hand in the air every time the teacher asks a question.
118 Tasting Notes
I think this is one of those tea types that you will either love or hate. I don’t think that there’s a lot of room for somewhere in between, here. I am in the latter camp. So far, this is the worst tea I’ve ever had.
I was excited about the prospect of trying a completely different, new-to-me kind of tea, and I am still very happy that I got to try it. I’m even happier that I didn’t go out on one of my tea-buying adventures and spend a bunch of money on this; the Golden Moon sampler was more than enough.
I put the water to boil, took out my kitchen scissors, and snipped the end off the packet. There was no need to stick my prodigious proboscis in the packet and inhale deeply—it was like the aroma was just waiting to escape, and within a matter of moments my whole kitchen smelled like a smokehouse. Having no knowledge of lapsang souchong, I was quite taken aback and rather sceptical. Instead of adding my customary demerara sugar to the tea, I actually felt like adding salt. The whole thing was a very strange experience, and I hadn’t even tasted the tea yet.
Well, things only rolled further downhill from there. I took one (unsweetened) sip of the tea and the flavour accurately matched the aroma. I didn’t like it, but I thought I would give it a chance, so I tried a few more sips. In my mind, I was drinking water that had been poured into a mug by way of a bed of coals. This might be the first mug of tea that I couldn’t finish because it made me physically ill. Lesson learned: I do not like lapsang souchong. =)
My first taste of this1 was reminiscent of Lucky Charms marshmallows marinated in oolong. This second taste was a second steep, this time correctly pressing the oolong button on my kettle. The leaves, prior to steeping them a second time, were almost fully unfurled, making themselves quite comfortable in the roomy infuser. This time, the fragrance was not of Lucky Charms marshmallows, but of…cotton candy. The tea itself smelled mostly like the oolong, with faint, sweet undertones. The flavour is a bit hard for me to describe. Adjectives that come to mind include “mature” and “baked,” maybe “layered.” It’s quite nice, really.
So…I read “green leaves” and pushed the “green” button instead of the “oolong” button. Oops. I’m going to see if I can get a second steep out of this at the oolong temperature and see how that goes. Aaaaanyhoo…
This is, hands down, the oddest tea I’ve tasted thus far. When I opened the packet, my first whiff of the tea was just sweetness, nothing else. I gave it a minute and inhaled again, and this time I could smell the oolong base. The first “eh?” moment came when I steeped the tea: the sweetness all but disappeared from the fragrance; mostly I just smelled the earthy, vegetal fragrance I associate with green teas. The second “eh?” moment came when I took my first (unsweetened) sip: how do you have sugar-caramel flavour without it actually being sweet? I just don’t get how that works, and it made my brain hurt because the taste didn’t match the fragrance. So I went ahead and sweetened it, as I usually do. I’d left out the sugar because I thought the tea was going to be sweet on its own.
It was upon taking a sip of the sweetened tea that I got my third “eh?” moment: Basically, if you take the marshmallows from Lucky Charms cereal and add them to your oolong base, you get this tea.
Odd, right? See, toldja.
After my recent spate of mediocre-to-blech tea tasting experiences, I’d say the universe owed me this. And whoa boy did she deliver. There are loads of other reviews here, from Steepsterites of whom I’m regularly in awe, that dissect this tea, that will tell you all the different flavours and notes you’ll get from it. Whether it’s my lack of experience or my underdeveloped palate, all I can tell you is that this smells like black tea and tastes like very yummy black tea. Note that I steeped it for eight minutes (my tea mug is 16oz.) and there wasn’t even the hint of bitterness. If you’re anything like me, that just might be enough information. =)
(It’s really, really yummy.)
False advertising! My nose feels betrayed! This tea smells amazing. You can clearly smell the pumpkin spice and the chai, and my mouth started to water because I thought I was in for a treat. Sadly, no. It tastes awful.
Wait, that’s not entirely fair. Let me clarify: like some of the other bagged teas I’ve tried, it’s really not that bad, if you ignore its name. As a hot, spiced beverage, it’s okay. Unfortunately, its name and fragrance are its downfall. They create an expectation of a particular kind of yummy, and those expectations never get met. =(
I’ve got a whole box of this stuff, so I might try Frankensteining it like I have some other bagged teas to make them more palatable. In one recent case1, especially, I enjoyed great success; maybe I’ll get lucky again. =)
I decided to try this because I wanted to get it out of the way. See, I don’t really like vanilla or mint, so I figured I wouldn’t care much for this. Sometimes when I make such assumptions I’m pleasantly surprised, but not this time. Dry, the tea smells like one of those pinwheel candies, except I can’t quite make out whether we’re talking spearmint or peppermint, here, or a combination of the two. Steeped, the minty fragrance is dulled just a little bit; I’m not able to detect much vanilla, at all. The taste is balanced, though. The very first sip had an odd bitterness to it, but it didn’t reappear. The aftertaste is again a bit odd: neither mint nor vanilla lingers, but suddenly I feel like sweet spots are covering my tongue like glitter. So weird. (The tea is sweetened with demerara sugar, but I didn’t eat or drink anything before this, so my palate should be clean/neutral.)
I’m obviously biased, but I think even if I loved vanilla and mint (in tea), this one wouldn’t be at the top of my short list. Unrelated to this tasting note, I’m also giving this tea growly face because it burned my tongue. Hmph.
It smells and tastes like…black tea. Yep. Just straight-up, run of the mill, black tea. It’s the type of baseline black tea that Mum used to make chai whilst I was growing up. As someone said in an earlier tasting note, it’s like a “way better Lipton.” (Mum used Tetley, but eh, same diff.)
Like using The Fifth Element to demonstrate the benefits of a superior home cinema, I’d use this to demonstrate the benefits of proper loose tea to Lipton and Tetley drinkers: it’s familiar enough that anyone should be able to taste how much better this does the basic tea they’re used to drinking. In spite of its obvious quality, it’s not a tea I’d run out and buy again. As you probably know by now, I like my tea with a little more oomph, a little more flavour. If I had more than a sample of this, I would likely have blended it with something else for my next cup.
My first sencha. Underwhelmed. It smells like run-of-the-mill green tea, both dry and steeped. The flavour, though, I dunno, it tastes almost a very a tiny bit…spoilt? Is that even possible? And it even has a very teensy bit of dry mouth going on, something I don’t generally associate with green tea.
I’m very glad I only had a sample of this. From your reviews, it kinda seems like I mightn’t have been able to find anyone with whom to swap the rest if it were more than a sample.
This episode of Sniff ‘n’ Sip brought to you by…Lemon Pledge. For that fresh, lemony scent throughout your home.
This was my first Earl Grey. And a very fine first it was, indeed. Fragrance, dry: Basically, I wanted to strap the packet onto my nose like a horse’s feed bag. Goodness, me, does this smell good. So refreshing. Fragrance, steeped: More of the same, really; I almost burned my nose. Oops.
Flavour: Just as good as the fragrance and exactly as expected. No false advertising here!
Verdict: More, please. I have too much tea to justify buying this right now, but it’s definitely been added to the shopping list.
Sometimes I like to read what you say about a tea before I say anything. Sometimes I’m inspired by your words, sometimes I’m inspired to completely disagree with you. =) Sometimes I just borrow some of your vocabulary to avoid getting repetitive. In this case, I gotta tell ya, I’m feeling a bit bad about having read your reviews, because I’m afraid I’m going to pull the average down on this one. I’m really glad you love the tea; I just wish I did, too.
Reminder: I’m a tea-ophyte and especially new to black tea. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Darjeeling and a Ceylon; until recently, I didn’t know there was one. I read some of your reviews talking about flavour profiles and notes of this and that, as if you were describing a fine wine1, and honestly, I feel like my senses must be dulled or something. =) This smells like black tea. Molasses? Caramel? Sweetness? None of that. About the most nuanced I can get about this tea is that it smelled to me like “green” black tea. This makes sense, if indeed it’s picked from land bordering a rainforest. I do agree that that “green” smells and tastes somewhat roasted.
I like strong flavours and I like flavour infusions. While my most recent foray into black tea (the Nepalese afternoon tea2) left me wanting more, this Sinharaja just made me want to get through it so I could try a different one. It’s not bad for what it is, I think, it’s just not my cuppa, so to speak.
1 I don’t get wine, either. It all tastes like grape juice + rubbing alcohol to me. =)
There’s nothing very special about the fragrance of this tea. Dry, it smelled like black tea, but it smelled really fresh. Steeped, it smelled like more of the same, with a hint of floral undertones. I didn’t get a whiff of sandalwood at all, though, or of honey. So overall, pleasant, but not amazing.
Which is why the flavour kind of bowled me over. The floral notes became more apparent and made this a really yummy, yummy cuppa. Sadly, I made the mistake of letting it cool a bit, at which point I tasted very, very slight bitterness that I didn’t like. Other than that, it was great.
Doulton ‘s review1 of this tea pretty much sums up my feelings. I had to really work to enjoy this. I opened the packet and inhaled. The fragrance is light, fresh, green, very subtle. Not green like freshly cut grass, but green like young. When steeped, the fragrance is a bit stronger, but not much. The flavour is like the fragrance. I felt kind of bad drinking it, really, as if by leaving it in my cupboard, it’d continue to mature: so, little tea, what would you like to be when you grow up? I’m thinking my palate’s just not sophisticated enough for this one.
tl;dr: I don’t really like vanilla, but I quite liked this tea. Therefore, if you really like vanilla, this tea may leave you rather…dissatisfied.
Upon cutting open the packet, my first whiff was of a vanilla milkshake. I couldn’t smell any tea at all. Then, I took another whiff, and thought, oh, hey, there’s the tea! I have very low tolerance for caffeine, so I don’t drink black tea very frequently. For me, its fragrance is quite a treat.
The powerful vanilla fragrance died down quite a bit upon steeping the tea, to where it was comfortably sharing olfactory real estate with the base tea. Very pleasant.
As always, I took a sip untainted by milk or sweetener, and it was okay. Then I added some sugar, and discovered that I (unexpectedly) like this tea! It brought out both flavours equally. I do agree with some other folks who stated that the tea is a bit weak, not hitting the palate with enough oomph and not really lingering, either. I was expecting a heavier sip, especially with the added sugar, but it remained very light. Now, as I’m not a fan of vanilla (except ice cream and milkshakes), I might have had an entirely different complaint had the flavour been stronger and longer-lasting. I’m kind of a pain that way. =]
All in all, I’m happy with the vanilla/base tea balance here. It’s a bit too light, and I would like to turn up both the bass and the treble just a little bit, so for that I deduct some marks.
Opened the bag and inhaled. Mint and gunpowder smokiness, but pretty light on the smoke. Ignored the instructions to pour boiling water over it and steeped for four minutes in 175-degree water.
I drink my tea sweetened, but do like to take the first 1-3 sips “untainted” by milk or sugar. In my first (unsweetened) sip and in every (sweetened) sip thereafter, I felt that the smokiness in the tea’s fragrance was absent from its flavour. And while I tasted the mint that seemed a combination of peppermint and spearmint, I didn’t feel any of the “coolness” with which mint generally hits the palate…until I swallowed. Then, to my surprise, the coolness spread in my tummy; I kind of felt like there were good little microbial soldiers going to work setting things right in there. While it felt like good things were happening in my tummy, my mouth wasn’t nearly as happy (that sounded so much better in my head, but you know what I mean): I’m beginning to think that “dry mouth” is a gunpowder thing. The gunpowder taste may not be strong in this tea, but it’s a champ at dry mouth. =(
I’m not really a fan of mint tea, so I probably should’ve saved this one for Mum, but it’s late, way past my bedtime, and whenever I blindly reached for a tea packet I kept coming up with black/caffeinated teas that wouldn’t sit well with me right now, so I just went for it. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. It’s kind of uneventful, really. I probably wouldn’t buy it, but if I had more of it, I’d drink it.
My first gunpowder. I opened the packet and inhaled. Hmm, smoky, I thought. I steeped. I inhaled again. Smoky, like roasted grass. Or…cigarettes? That was fleeting, and very strange. It sort of put me off the whole thing, but I carried on. The flavour is earthy, not as smoky as the fragrance. There’s a wee bit of bitterness, way back near my throat. And hoo-ee, does it leave my mouth dry. I drank about a litre of water after drinking my tea.
Is this the way it’s supposed to be? I dunno, I guess I’ll find out when I’ve tried some more gunpowders.
Thanks, people, for the tip1 on adding our own blends to the “Custom” brand. It’s not a perfect method, but given the state of things, it’ll do.
Can I just tell you guys how happy I am right now? This blend is so yummy! The Twinings perfectly fills the orangey void in Numi’s tea. From the fragrance to the sips to, well, even the aftertaste(!), the sum here is far, far, FAR better than its parts. I’m so glad I decided to try this little experiment; now I won’t have to bore you by repeatedly whining about the weak bagged teas I have to get through. :D
A quick note about water temperature: the Numi box (white tea, remember) says to boil the water, which doesn’t really make sense to me. The Twinings box says the same for the honeybush, which does make sense to me, so I split the difference and steeped for 10 minutes. It seems to have worked well.
The third bagged tea I’ve tried in as many days and, like the others, a disappointment. It’s got a bit of spiciness to it, but no real bite. As Liv said in an earlier review1, it’s pretty flat. I don’t like cardamom and whatnot, so I wouldn’t be sad if the ginger were really strong in this, but it’s not. None of the flavours really jumped out at me individually, nor did they work very well together for a nice, smooth flavour.
I sweetened this cup but added no milk. Think I’ll try it with milk next time and see if that makes it better.
Orange! I’m pretty happy with this tea. It’s refreshing and lovely, and I’d like to try it iced one of these days. My only complaint is that it’s kind of weak: as others have said, the fragrance is stronger than the flavour. I might try two bags and a longer steep time, next time, to see if I can pull more flavour from it.
This has been a real disappointment. I should’ve read more carefully before buying it; if I had, I would’ve seen that it’s naturally and artificially flavoured. And that’s the problem: it tastes artificial. I’ve had simple, pure rooibos, and I’ve drunk plenty of chai. This, unfortunately, retains the beauty, freshness, and lovely flavour of neither. I’ve tried steeping it for more/less time, more/less/no sweetener, some/no milk, but nothing I’ve tried so far has made this tea actually taste good.
Meh. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t live up to the name. It’s white tea, but I didn’t really get the flavour of white tea. It’s spiced, but all I could smell and taste were cinnamon and clove. It’s orange, but there’s hardly the hint of citrus. I think I’d like it a lot more with less clove, more ginger, and more orange. I might try breaking open a bag and mixing it with some other teas, see how that works out.
This is the best tea I’ve had thus far. I tried it for the first time at Samovar Tea Lounge and bought a tin for myself. At the time, I hadn’t yet started steeping loose tea and it looked like it was going to be too much and last forever. I was mistaken. The tin recommends using 2-3 tablespoons of tea per 16 ounces of water, more tea than I’ve yet been instructed to use; consequently, the tin empties pretty quickly, especially if you simply can’t get enough of the tea.
As others have said, it’s a very warm, mellow tea that does what chamomile is supposed to do: warm you to the tips of your fingers and toes, loosen those tight muscles, and help you relax. In addition, it has such a smooth, comforting flavour and lovely fragrance that just steeping a mug makes me happy. One of the nicest things about it is that although cinnamon appears in its list of ingredients (it seems I can’t seem to get away from that stuff), the overall flavour and fragrance are both extremely well balanced. Cold weather + Ocean of Wisdom = very quickly depleting stock. Fortunately, I’m headed back to San Francisco in two months so that I can re-stock in person; this time, I plan to buy more than one tin.
Amazing what a difference six months (and a whole lot of better tea) can make. I seem to have joined the rest of the tough crowd1. Sweetened or unsweetened, I really don’t like this tea anymore. It tastes fake to me now. Either it’s that I’ve developed a mild dislike for the overpowering fragrance and flavour of cinnamon or it’s something else, but whatever it is, I’m pretty sure I won’t be buying this one again. Rating lowered from 70.