300 Tasting Notes

95
drank Wedding Impérial by Mariage Frères
300 tasting notes

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Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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95

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Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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60

I’m cheating just a bit – I had this before, but as an after-dinner tea to accompany raspberry sorbet. It turned the whole thing into the most berryful of orgies, so I didn’t bother with a tasting note.

I still find flavoured black teas slightly overwhelming at times. There’s just so much of everything. Then again, black teas get away with things a green tea never could. This makes them so much harder for me to analyze using scent alone.

In the case of Fruites del bosc, the forest fruits in question are very present in the nose; the berry aroma is deep and rich and tart, which is nice enough, but there’s just so much of it.

In a green tea, or an infusion of some kind, this kind of berry would probably end up tasting like a mouth/noseful of chemicals when steeped. The black tea, on the other hand, rounds off the flavouring nicely. The base tea is very present scent wise in the cup, but the taste is more subdued. The individual berry notes are mostly lost, and the end result is a somewhat generic, impersonal berry. I would have enjoyed some more character, and maybe a little less tartness.

And, I guess, an element of surprise. This tea is exactly what it says it is, and though it may seem unfair to detract points for honesty, I do love a good trickster.

[Gifted by my friend T, who got it for me in Barcelona in August 2013.]

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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75
drank Vert Provence by Mariage Frères
300 tasting notes

Much like in the case of Rouge Provence, this is a tea I gifted someone who ended up hogging it relentlessly – you know, ‘I swear I saved some for you, but then I was all out of tea and I HAD to drink it!’ (Uh-huh.), so it does seem it has a certain suave appeal.

In terms of looks and scent, it far surpasses the Rouge – it’s very pretty, and adds complex layers of fruits and florals to the nose.

The flavour, though – it’s a perfect, green echo of the rooibos, but it’s so polite. So elegant. So sophisticated. This reminds me of the Thé à l’Opéra (Mariage Frères)/Bravissimo! (Lupicia) comparison I made earlier this week.

I suppose I just have to face that my crush on the Mad Hatter is permanent and that I’ll always favour the anti-heroes.

[Surreptitiously acquired from Mariage Frères in London, August 2013.]

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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90

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Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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75

The first time I smelled this tea, it was so familiar. I’m absolutely elated it only took one more whiff to figure it out, because it’s a weird one and it would have driven me crazy trying to hunt it down.

Dry, Thé des Impressionistes smells like… Shea Butter Hand Repair Cream with Cocoa Butter & Sesame Oil from Burt’s Bees.

It really, genuinely does.

The tea is more elegant, of course; where the hand cream speaks of long days in the freezing potting shed, the tea is smooth and creamy and indoorsy with a hint of something delectable baking in the oven – most probably Nigella’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake (http://food52.com/blog/5226-nigella-lawson-s-dense-chocolate-loaf-cake).

This is all scent so far – I’ve been so torn about tasting this (It smells like hand cream! And Nigella!) I’m doing a live tasting note in case it’s so horrifying I need moral support.

Okay, in the cup this just gets stranger. No hand cream. A dash of Nigella, but it’s a good dash. This comes off as a light, sophisticated gingerbread-esque shortcake.

I’m extremely confused by this tea right now, but I do enjoy it.

[Surreptitiously acquired from Mariage Frères in London, August 2013.]

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 30 sec
Fjellrev

I’d be skeptical about trying a tea that smells like hand cream too!

Anna

Haha, yeah – but we have to be brave!

greenteafairy

I’d always wondered what this tea tastes like. Not quite what I imagined, but it does sound interesting!

Ysaurella

I have a sample from Ruby Woo Scarlett to try so I’ll jump on it to smell if I get the hand cream too !

Anna

I had some of the Burt’s Bees cream lying around, so I sat there smelling the tube (sniff) and then the tea (SNIFF) and then both (sniff-SNIFF-sniff-SNIFF). It was completely ridiculous, but it did smell so much the same to me.

Look forward to reading some more tasting notes on this!

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85

When I buy teas, I generally pick them out myself, going on scent alone – this is why so many of my ratings are clustered in the 80-90 range; I know what I’m going to like in the cup. When I procure tea in a different manner, though, anything can happen. For my latest Mariage Frères batch, I used reviews to put my list together. When I then smelled the actual teas, some of them were really surprising – the Marco Polo blends more than any other.

Overripe, boozy plums are what I get from the dry tea. This carries through into the cup, but not overwhelmingly so, and with a stronger addition of florals. Not well-behaved cutting flowers, however – cryptid, deceptively lovely plants alive only as rumours in the journals of long-dead explorers, maybe.

This really is a very tipsy blend. It’s walking around the orchard in the fall, trying not to crush fat, juiced-up wasps feasting on rotting fruit underfoot. It’s an autumnal tea, echoing that brief half-mesmerizing, half-terrifying time of year when the death throes of decaying summer are balanced perfectly by the crisp, clear freshness of impending fall.

Balance really is the key word here – this is a tea that could easily have gone wrong, in spite of all its velvety smoothness. But go wrong it doesn’t.

It’s exactly what it should be.

[Surreptitiously acquired from Mariage Frères in London, August 2013.]

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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95
drank Wedding Impérial by Mariage Frères
300 tasting notes

I suppose the time has come for me to confess I’m not a big fan of the kind of ‘dessert tea’ that contains large chunks of chocolate and caramel and whatnot. I’d rather just have a hot chocolate, complete with rum and whipped cream and vanilla extract and all the decadent little trimmings. I do love flavoured teas, but it has to be subtle – aside from the occasional petal and delicate piece of fruit, I want the magic to be all in the leaves.

So holy hell am I excited about this tea. It smells SO good dry. So good. I could sniff this all day. And steeped? This is full-on malty caramel chocolate fudge decadence in a cup.

It doesn’t have the masterful complexity of Pleine Lune, but it’s definitely up there with the smoothest, lushest of the Mariage Frères blacks. In addition, this is a tea I look forward to experimenting with. I got no bitterness at 4 minutes, but definitely hints of coffee; that’s how much punch the main flavours pack. A shorter steeping time might very well result in a subtler, lighter brew.

Only on the rarest of occasions do I put milk in my tea, but this is definitely one I’d like to try it with – maybe even as an iced milk tea.

Very worthwhile re-steep.

(ETA: It just gets smoother as it cools. This is seriously tasty tea.)

[Surreptitiously acquired from Mariage Frères in London, August 2013.]

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Ysaurella

this is an incredible tea and from far my favourite caramel chocolate tea but I am unable to steep it 4 min, 2 min is the max for me. It has such a character…I’m out of stock with it and try to calm down for not buying it before I finish other caramel teas I have but like less…

Fjellrev

If I ever stumble upon a Mariage Frères, I’d be in big trouble.

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85
drank Thé à l'Opéra by Mariage Frères
300 tasting notes

So what do you do when you have a self-imposed ban on buying more teas? Outsmart yourself, of course. Maybe one of your friends has a small debt to repay. Perhaps said friend is going on a trip. Maybe, just maybe, you refuse cash, but suggest your friend repay you in tea instead?

This is all hypothetical, of course, but there’s no denying the eight new teas that have mysteriously turned up in my cupboard, seven of them from Mariage Frères. I drank Marco Polo (black) first, but I need some more time to ponder that, so this will be my first note from this batch.

The best way for me to describe this is as a more refined, subtle Bravissimo! (Lupicia), which is high praise indeed, seeing as that’s my favourite green tea at the moment. On the other hand, I find Bravissimo’s lack of sophistication very endearing – in fact, I’d say that very exuberance is one of the greatest qualities of Lupicia’s tea.

But this is still so, so good. The balance of the various floral notes is very well achieved, and right at the end there’s that little triumphant, unexpected flavour (‘Surprise!’) that makes for a lovely aftertaste.

[Surreptitiously acquired from Mariage Frères in London, August 2013.]

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 30 sec
cteresa

That is a very clever, technique, and it would have been a pity to waste a friend´s trip!

Anna

I’m so glad you agree!

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55
drank Safari by Bönor & Blad
300 tasting notes

I’m pretty sure this is the same tea found here: http://www.tehusetjava.se/shop/product/smaksatt-safari—102-38-1478.aspx. Its origin escapes me – all the main tea chains seem to share certain blends. I got this for a friend to try, but ended up with some that didn’t fit into the special Anna-fashioned Tea Travel Set™ gift canister.

I get no pineapple whatsoever, and not much papaya. This seems to be all passion fruit, with some vague floral notes. Going by scent alone, it’s not the kind of tea I’d buy for myself – I generally find passion fruit too sour. And that’s the case here as well – Safari is a little too sour, a little too flat and a little too boring to be a favourite of mine.

Completely pointless re-steep.

[Purchased at Bönor & blad in Uppsala, August 2013.]

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 30 sec
Fjellrev

I love how you’ve been reviewing all of this Swedish tea! You make me miss living there. I was stupid and only ever bothered buying loose leaf from Hemköp while I was there. :)

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Bio

I’m going to try all the teas.

Then I will choose a lucky few perfect specimens, and we will live happily together in my tea cupboard.

Forever.

  • * *

2014

This year, all bets are off. I am going to drink both peppermint and chamomile and possibly suffer a little. But it’s okay – it’s for science.

I’m doing Project Jasmine, Project Peach and Project Unflavoured Green.

In terms of flavoured teas, Lupicia and Mariage Frères have become my massive favourites, and I have learned that Dammann Frères/Fauchon/Hédiard and Butiki aren’t really for me.

The O Dor, Adagio and Comptoir des thés et des épices are all on this year’s I’d like to get to know you better list.

2013

Getting back into tea drinking last fall, I was all about rooibos. This past spring has been all green tea, all the time, with some white additions over the summer. Currently attempting a slow, autumnal graduation to black teas. Oolongs are always appropriate.

The constant for me, flavour wise, is the strong presence of fruity and floral notes. Vanilla is lush, as long as it’s not artificial. Peach, berries, mango. Cornflower, rose, lavender.

No peppermint.

No chamomile.

No cinnamon.

Ever.

  • * *

My ratings don’t reflect the ‘What does this tea do for me?’ standard, but rather my own ‘What would I do for this tea?’ scale.

100-90
My absolute favourites. Teas I would travel for – or, in any case, pay exuberant postage for, because they simply have to be in my cupboard. Generally multi-faceted teas with complex scents and flavours. Teas with personality. Tricky teas.

89-80
Teas I wouldn’t hesitate to buy again if and when I came across them. Tea purchases I would surreptitiously weave into a travel itinerary (Oh! A Lupicia store! Here?! My word!).

79-70
Teas I enjoyed, but don’t necessarily need to make any kind of effort to buy again.

69-0
Varying degrees of disinterest and contempt.

Location

Rome, Italy

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