Imperial Teas of Lincoln

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Recent Tasting Notes

54

Following on from the last two notes, where I, first, made a really excellent brew with less than half the recommended amount of tea and, second, made an indifferent brew with the correct amount, I made a mug of this with 1g of tea, carefully weighed and steeped for two and a quarter minutes – I’d intended two, but my attention momentarily wandered.

I’m struggling for words, here. Like in the first note, it made an excellent cup of tea. This was probably to be expected as I’m making it the same way. The trouble is it’s a different cup of tea.

It actually tastes of basic tea and Turkish Delight!

I made a second infusion, the same way. This time the Turkish Delight is reined back a bit and there is hint of butter or toffee and the tiniest hint of chocolate.

Thinking on it, I may have used a fraction less tea than in my first note. That time I roughly weighed out a gramme whereas this time I very carefully weighed it out – so it was just the bare gramme. Whether that explains the difference I don’t know. Next time, I’ll weigh out a gramme, add a few strands and see what happens. Or perhaps I’m cracking up.

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54

In my last tasting note for this, I noted that I absent-mindedly used less than half the recommended amount of dry tea. This time I used the correct amount, about two and a half times what I used last time. I brewed it for two minutes, again – boiling water.

It made a dark brown, very slightly yellowish infusion, intense enough in colour to be pretty much opaque.

This is seriously weird. I’m not getting anything much in the way of aroma and little more in the way of variety of flavour: in the mouth there’s the basic tea element, which is now very slightly bitter – I think I’ve brewed it too strong – and just the tiniest hint of chocolate. And that’s it – a real disappointment after last time’s absolutely heavenly brew of this stuff.

I’m just baffled by this – I’ve even gone to the length of going outside to breath fresh air deeply through the nose for a minute or so, to make sure my head is quite clear, but it makes no difference.

I’m making a second infusion, two minutes again.

It’s a little less intense in colour and I get a faint metallic hint and touch of the pizza dough in the nose.

In the mouth there’s now possibly a little grass and a little butter, and that bitterness is no longer noticeable. As the tea is cooling, there may be the tiniest hint of vanilla coming in. It’s pleasant enough, but nothing special, still.

I’m quite bemused about this – how can 1g of tea taste so much better than 2.5g? The dry tea is so distinctive in appearance that it’s quite impossible for me to have got the wrong tea today or last time – they’re definitely both the same tea.

Well, I’m even less ready to rate this. I now, of course, have to make another brew with the lesser amount; to be sure that it’s the tea and not, somehow, me. I shall do that later – I’m tea-full at the moment.

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54

I actually got it a bit wrong with this.

The instructions are for 1g per 100ml, which is, for my mugs, normally a well-heaped teaspoon, which is about 2.5g. The trouble is, this is so coarse and long and straggly in the dry that I couldn’t handle it with the spoon. So I used my fingers and weighed it on the kitchen scales. The trouble was that I absent-mindedly weighed out 1g instead of 2.5g.

Here’s the strange thing: it made an excellent cup of tea – I mean really, really excellent.

It made a quite intense clear-brown infusion and didn’t look at all too weak for a black tea.

The aroma is a little odd – it seems to change. I sniff it and get that pastry dough or pizza base aroma; but another sniff will get a beautiful, grassy, perfumey, flowery aroma.

In the mouth, there is what immediately struck me as a ‘garden’ element. I mean the ‘lawns and flower beds type’ garden. It’s that warm evening perfume of damp lawns and mixed flowers, especially if there are a few lilies in the garden. There’s just enough good basic tea to it, and there’s a toffee or butter element adding body and smoothness.

Is it over the top to describe a tea as ‘sensuous’? I’ve got into a habit of describing teas as either ‘delicate’, as with Darjeelings, or ‘robust’ as with a Lapsang Souchong; but neither seems to fit, here. It seems on the delicate side, but it’s full-on and seductive, rather than delicate and refined. I’m now sorry that I used that ‘Theda Bara of teas’ crack about the Turzum ‘Muscatel Dream’ because it would fit much better here.

I made a second infusion – same way.

It was a little lighter in colour and I thought the aroma was now more grass than flower.

The flavour is still pretty good, but different. The basic tea element has developed a little toastiness, bringing it more to the fore; the floweriness is reined back a bit and it’s a little more grassy. Having mentioned the Turzum ‘Muscatel Dream’, above, it strikes me that this second infusion could very easily be the first infusion of a good Darjeeling – it’s that sort of flavour.

I made a third infusion – same way. This was too many and the tea was much less intense in colour and rather lacking in flavour.

I’m not going to rate this at the moment. I’ll wait till another day when I’ve used the correct amount of dry tea. Having said that, it was so excellent as it was that it hardly seems worth the bother of trying a larger amount.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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94

These notes are from five or six weeks ago and I forgot to post them.

My previous tasting notes were for a sample; these are for a new 100gm. Interestingly, when I opened the packet for the first time, I got a distinct whiff of oranges and leaf tobacco. I made this brew with a heaped teaspoon steeped for two and a half minutes with boiling water.

It made a medium-intensity, clear, orange-brown brew.

In the nose there is straw and a herby note that I think comes nearest dried thyme – it’s in the general thyme-rosemary-sage area – and a touch of pizza base. The aroma is comparatively strong with this one, so that you can’t drink the tea without being conscious of it.

In the mouth it’s quite complex. Sipping it, I get butter and – quite strongly – the thyme note, plus digestive biscuits and good basic tea. Taking a good mouthful, I can also detect the straw note, the thyme is reined back a bit and there’s just the tiniest hint of orange juice in there. I can’t make up my mind whether there’s also a hint of orange peel in there or whether that’s just the interface of the thyme and orange juice notes.

This is very enjoyable. With most things, it’s ‘damning with faint praise’ to call something ‘interesting’; but, in the case of tea, I think it can be regarded as a high compliment and this one is definitely interesting. It has big, ‘here I am’, flavour and aroma notes that really grab you and make you give it your full attention. It’s a pleasure to just sit and savour it.

I made a second infusion, two and a half minutes, again.

I don’t think it looked any weaker.

In the nose I got cut grass and pizza base and a definite note of digestive biscuits, but no straw that I could detect.

Sipping it, I get cut grass, digestive biscuits, butter or toffee, perhaps the tiniest hint of orange juice. It could do with a little more of the basic tea note – that’s quite subdued – it’s still a good tea, though. Surprisingly enough, taking a good mouthful gives me much less flavour – it’s quite bland, but with a rather firm and metallic note. It’s much nicer sipped.

A third infusion was showing signs of being weaker, but still quite drinkable.

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94

These are my notes for the day before yesterday:

I used a well-heaped teaspoon steeped for two minutes, boiling water. The tea hadn’t completely waterlogged and sunk at the end: the instructions are for one infusion; but, I suspect there’s another one there.

In the mug it’s a moderately intense brown, with a slightly yellowish tinge.

In the nose I get a faint combination of the smells of nettles and of straw, plus a little basic tea and a slight hint of uncooked pastry-dough.

In the mouth I get good basic tea and the straw and nettles smells elements again. It hasn’t got that grass or hay sweetness, but it’s not particularly bitter or astringent – it’s clean and firm without being that. There’s something else in there that’s difficult to pin down: it’s a hint of a bite, but not so much a peppery bite as nearer to dried raisins or currants – it’s just a tiny hint in the background, noticeable as the tea cools.

Bearing in mind what I said about thinking there was another infusion in there, I made one – steeping for two and three-quarter minutes. The tea was surprisingly good and not noticeably weaker, similar to the last cup but with the addition, perhaps, of the tiniest hint of vanilla. I’m now thinking that, if the sellers are only recommending one infusion, I might have given the original infusion a bit longer than their recommended two minutes.

Just for an experiment, I tried another infusion. It’s still good. It’s less intense in colour and in flavour, but it’s a little more buttery, and, I think, a little more grassy.

These are yesterday’s notes:

I made a mug today with a well-heaped teaspoon, boiling water, and this time, bearing in mind all the infusions I was able to get yesterday, I brewed for three minutes.

It was the same intense but clear brown in the mug.

I’m not sure I get the same straw and nettles in the nose; there’s the pastry dough – or, perhaps, pizza base – and, now, a metallic touch.

In the mouth it’s harder and firmer and less sweet and I think three minutes was probably too long. This surprises me a little after all yesterday’s infusions without that happening. I must try two and a half minutes for next time’s first infusion. I’m sort of getting the straw and grass thing but it’s varied a little towards something like the flavour of digestive biscuits but without the sweetness.. As the level is falling and the tea cooling, I think the flavour is getting a little more intense and a little less firm and hard – or, perhaps, my taste buds are just getting used to it.

I made a second infusion but forgot it and let it steep for twenty-four minutes. It wasn’t anything like as bad as one might suspect, but not really to be recommended.

I made a fresh mug with a well-heaped teaspoon, this time brewing for two and a half minutes.

I think I hit this one spot on.

It has a good, noticeable aroma to it, the straw and nettles and pizza base, plus, perhaps, the tiniest touch of grassiness.

In the mouth it has the straw and nettles and the digestive biscuits, plus the tiniest hint of cut grass and that tiny bite – I described it above as ‘not so much a peppery bite as nearer to dried raisins or currants’, but now I’m thinking there’s a hint of sage to it.

The whole thing adds up to a refreshing and characterful tea, nearer to the ‘delicate’ side than the ‘robust’, but a little more robust than the typical tea of this type, I think.

I made a second infusion, two and a half minutes again, and I really can’t spot much difference – it’s the equal to the first, I think.

These are today’s notes:

I made a brew today with a well-heaped teaspoon and steeped for three minutes – I’d intended two and a half, but let it run over while I was checking through my (mostly junk) mail.

So it should have been a little too ‘hard’, like yesterday. It wasn’t; it was pretty good – but different to yesterday.

It has a doughy aroma with a hint of grass.

In the mouth it has good basic tea and, this time, has more than a hint of butter – it’s a definite element, giving a mellow smoothness and I’m not sure if it hasn’t the tiniest hint of chocolate to it – I mean a smooth milk chocolate, not one with any bitterness. There’s the tiniest hint of sage and thyme underneath. The flavour definitely gets a little stronger as the tea cools.

I’ve made a second infusion, this time managing to hit the two and a half minutes. It’s no weaker but slightly different in that, this time, there’s the addition of that ‘smell of nettles’ hint, both in the nose and the mouth.

This business of a tea altering from day to day makes me wonder if it’s my taste buds are altering; but it’s only with Darjeelings that I’m really aware of it happening – don’t know what to make of that. I’m fairly sure it’s the teas that are altering, not me, but I wouldn’t want to swear to it.

Anyway, as is evident from all the woffle above, I’m finding this a fascinating tea. It’s quite seductive – you start off being cool and objective, then you’ve fallen under the spell and find yourself cajoled and forced into giving a high rating – a Theda Bara of teas.

ETA – Since I posted the level in the cup has got half-way down and the tea cooled noticeably, and the aroma and flavour have most definitely got more intense – it’s well-worth having the patience to let it cool a little.

ETA, again – I made a third infusion – it may have been fraction weaker but it was still a delightful cup of tea. This one will definitely stand a second and third infusion.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 45 sec

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94

I made a mug of this with a heaped teaspoon brewed for three minutes – boiling water.

It was a medium intensity red-brown colour in the mug. I didn’t get a lot of aroma – a hint of rust.

I struggled a bit to describe the flavour, though I found it very pleasant. There was some of the proper, generic, tea flavour; there was butter, giving a pleasant smoothness to it; there was also a fruity, ‘bright’ element in there that I found difficult to place – the dealer’s description mentions an “almost ‘Muscatel’ fragrance and aftertaste” so perhaps it was a hint of that I was detecting – it could well have been a hint of grape juice.

I found this a very enjoyable tea.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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80

I’ve found this one of those most difficult of teas to describe. On first sup, it doesn’t seem anything special and I’d describe it as having very little flavour, but then it sort of sneaks up on me and I realise that I’m quite enjoying it and finding it quite satisfying. The best summation I can think of is as a ‘very subtle’ tea, though I know that doesn’t mean much.

I can’t really detect anything in the way of aroma – nothing I can describe, anyway. In the mouth, there is a quite mild flavour somewhere in the middle between chocolate, roast beef and basic tea – I don’t mean three elements but one, somewhere between them all. There is also a subtle, difficult-to-define, ‘tingle’ to it: it’s not really that hint of ginger or white pepper I get from some teas – I want to say ‘metallic’ but it’s not at all unpleasant, as ‘metallic’ implies, rather something like the smell of nettles, but cleaner – perhaps leaning very, very slightly towards spearmint. There’s a very faint fruitiness to it, too faint to define more exactly but making the tea a fraction sweeter than the norm. There’s the faintest hint of liquorice. Oddly these flavours seem to get more noticeable as the level in the cup falls – perhaps because the tea is cooling?

The instructions are for 2.5gms to the cup, which is a bit more than normal, so I used two heaped teaspoons; for one to two minutes’ steeping, so I gave it two; and for only 70°, so I let the water go off the boil for several minutes and then for several minutes more (so two severals of minutes off the boil – really must sort out a thermometer).

I actually got a fourth infusion out of the tea with no noticeable difference in flavour and the tea still floating at the surface and I’m sure I could have gone on.

Quite an intriguing tea.

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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95

The instructions are a little confusing for this as the website recommends 1gm to a cup and the packet recommends 3gms. It’s quite a light tea – long, tangly strands – so I shoved in two heaped teaspoons (brewing in the mug). I used boiling water (they say 80-100 °) and brewed for three minutes (they say two but – absent-mindedness).

The brew was an intense, but clear, orange-brown with an aroma that was part yeasty and part new-mown grass. The flavour had some basic tea, a firm, fruity element somewhere between orange-peel and gooseberry, and an element somewhere between new-mown grass and good, sweet hay. There may have been, just on the very edge of my sense of taste, a floral perfume element – or possibly vanilla.

The instructions say that it ‘can be rebrewed a number of times’, so I made a second mug with the same tea. This was a little weaker but, strangely, there seemed to be more ‘bite’ to it – a slight hint of raw ginger root.

I have to say that I find this rather special – an excellent tea and definitely one of the best Darjeelings I’ve tried.

ETA – I’ve realised that I haven’t really explained why I’m so much more enthusiastic about this than some other Darjeelings I’ve tried. Quite simply, for me it has a noticeably more intense flavour.

Another ETA – I can’t resist just adding that I found this tea delightful(!)

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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60

I’ve finished this sample now but here’s a follow-up to my last note.

I managed on one or two occasions to get a reasonable brew out of this. It had a difficult-to-pin-down ‘greenery’ aroma – not quite cut grass and not quite nettles. This was an element in the flavour as well, plus an equally difficult-to-pin-down hint of ‘fruitiness’ – possibly gooseberry. On the strength of this (though I really didn’t find any ‘strength’ to the flavour), I’m upping my rating from 50 to 60.

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60

I used a well-heaped teaspoonful to a half-pint mug. The instructions for this are for two minutes’ brewing at 85° – 100°, so I let the water go off the boil for a couple of minutes and then brewed for two minutes. I noticed that all the tea had not sunk to the bottom – the instructions say you can get a second infusion.

It was quite a strong colour in the mug, a dark orange-brown, but I couldn’t detect anything much with the nose. In the mouth it had a little basic tea flavour – not a lot, at all – and, perhaps, the tiniest hint of butter smoothness.

I made a second infusion from the same tea and that was definitely a bit watery.

So I made another mug with a well-heaped teaspoonful and this time I used boiling water and brewed for three minutes. It really wasn’t much different. There may, possibly, have been the tiniest hint of fruitiness and a metallic hint, but they were very elusive and I only really detected them at all on the very first sip.

That was all yesterday. I made another boiling water stroke three minutes mug today, remembering how other Darjeelings have struck me differently on different days, but this one was no different.

This is a disappointment for a comparatively expensive tea, but it’s quite innocuous – nothing at all unpleasant about it – so I’m going to give it a neutral 50 rating.

A postscript: this tea prompted me to experiment with my kitchen scales and some of the teas I have in quantity, to work out the weights of various teas, and I am definitely using at least the recommended quantity (Imperial Teas recommends 1gm to 100mls for this one).

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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75

I found this worked best with a well-heaped teaspoon to the mug or three of the same to the pot and brewed for three minutes.

It had a good proper tea flavour with a hint of ‘firmness’ or ‘hardness’ to it, plus a touch of butter, giving a smoothness to it. I bought this in the same order as the Ceylon Lovers Leap Broken Orange Pekoe, which was a little cheaper, and – to me – it suffers a little by the comparison to that one – though pleasant enough, the flavour has less complexity and interest. If I’d had to guess on tasting alone I’d have said this was the cheaper tea.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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82

This is another of those difficult-to-brew teas: it is very easy to make it either bland and boring or over-strong and harsh.

When I get it right it is with a moderately-heaped teaspoon to the mug or three such to the pot, and brewed for three minutes.

It has plenty of the proper generic tea taste with the tiniest touch of ‘firmness’ or ‘hardness’ to it – I don’t mean anything like staleness; plus it has a touch of pear (imagine a pear nicely in the middle between the quite sweet ones and the quite dry ones), plus the tiniest touches of toffee and a ‘brightness’ – difficult to describe this last but it’s slightly reminiscent of the ‘bite’ you get from sparkling wines – as I said, it’s just the tiniest touch.

Not a big favourite but it is quite pleasant.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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10

I have to say that I plain dislike this.

There’s a hard, firm edge to the taste that I find quite difficult to describe but that I find unpleasant. It’s not something different, it’s a version of the generic tea taste. I thought I’d brewed my first pot a bit too long and it had got stale but, though it’s slightly similar to staleness, it’s not really that taste. Perhaps if one could imagine what liquorice would taste like devoid of any hint whatsoever of sweetness, that would be something like it. I’ve tried decreasing the quantity of loose tea and the brewing time but it’s always there underneath.

In its defence, I have to say that the instructions recommend the addition of full-cream milk, so perhaps it’s just not intended for drinking ‘black’ – but I don’t take milk.

ETA – I should have mentioned other elements to the flavour: I get a hint of freshly-cut grass, the tiniest, faintest ‘bite’ – something like the smell of black peppercorns and not in any way unpleasant, and, strangely enough, a hint of beef.

Edited again for lousy punctuation.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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92

This makes a very pleasant cup of tea at its best. I get a good balance of a proper tea flavour and a ‘mild bite’ (if that makes sense) of something like orange or orange peel, a touch of fresh, sweet hay and, underneath, the tiniest perfume or flowery hint.

I say ‘at its best’ in this case because I’m finding it the devil’s own job to make a decent mug of tea with it. Making it exactly the same way twice doesn’t seem to necessarily mean identical cups of tea, and neither does increasing the amount of tea or length of brewing time seem to necessarily mean increasing the flavours. One of my best brews was one heaped teaspoon to the pot, steeped for two and a half minutes, but the next time I did that I found it bland and flavourless.

When I get it right it strikes me as a quite ‘delicate and refined’ tea (it makes me feel a little guilty about my mugs, feeling it really belongs with delicate cups and saucers – and probably with the company of elegant ladies in hats) and I suspect that my tastebuds are not always in the right mood to receive it. Also, I’ve found I can’t pile in the sweeteners as I normally do; it really demands I use less to appreciate it properly.

So, an excellent tea at its best, but I suspect this one is demanding I give it special treatment – keep it well away from mealtimes and sit down with it and give it my full attention – just sit and ‘savour it’, as it were (and buy some cups and saucers!).

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75

At its best, this was a reasonable tea. It’s another of these teas with touches of chocolate and fresh, sweet, hay; but also with the tiniest hint of dry cider. What I didn’t get very strongly was the basic, generic tea taste.

I say ‘at its best’ as it was quite difficult to get right. First of all, it seems a very weak tea – I used more and more until I ended up using two heaped teaspoons to the mug. And it was difficult getting the timing right. I settled on three minutes brewing – trying to get more flavour by brewing for four minutes turned the dry cider element into the roughest scrumpy – the kind that makes your leg twitch when you’re drinking it – not what I appreciate in a cup of tea. Less tea or less brewing and it was bland.

It’s nice enough at its best but not a favourite.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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82

A proper basic tea taste plus touches of malt and chocolate and the tiniest hint of the lovely, black, crusty bits you get on the outside of a good roast joint of beef. The seller’s tasting notes mention Turkish Delight – I think I can taste what they mean but I don’t think I’d have picked it up if I hadn’t read about it – I think it’s noticeable in the aroma rather than the flavour. A smooth, soothing sort of cuppa.

I don’t find this a particularly strong tea and went up to a heaped teaspoon plus a heaped half-teaspoon per mug to get a reasonably-flavoured brew. I brewed this one for three and a half minutes but it doesn’t seem critical and there doesn’t seem any difference in flavour between three and four minutes’ brewing.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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95

I’m on my second mug of this and knew as soon as the first was cool enough to taste properly that this is really special.

I used a heaped teaspoon for each mug – which, as it’s a fine, granular sort of tea, means heaped as far as it would allow – and steeped for three minutes.

In the mug it’s extremely dark and opaque and I fancied I got an aroma of nettles. In the mouth it’s yet another of these teas with touches of chocolate and toffee – more towards the toffee, I think, but plenty of generic ‘tea’ taste and with the smoothness of the toffee nicely balanced with a clean, bright edge – possibly the flavour equivalent of that smell of nettles.

I’d describe this as quite a ‘robust’ sort of tea and it has everything – richness, smoothness and ‘bite’ – but all well balanced together. I’m quite surprised to note that this is one of the cheapest teas I’ve bought as – of the teas I’ve had so far, at least – I think this is going to be my ‘go to’ Assam.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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82

I’ve noticed that I’ve sometimes come to appreciate a tea more after I have drunk it a few times and I’ve come to the conclusion that, sometimes, my taste-buds have to ‘learn’ a new tea. This one is a case in point: at first I thought it was bland and boring, but now it’s become a current favourite.

In the packet, it’s one of those long, straggly teas: difficult to get the spoon into and, when you do, you get a miniature haystack on it and have to shake some off to get a typical spoonful – difficult to measure the amount I use.

The flavour has hints of chocolate and toffee, fresh, sweet hay (this especially noticeable in the aroma) and a smooth butteriness (or buttery smoothness – I mean a hint of butter that gives a definite element of smoothness to the flavour). To be a bit less specific, I’d describe it as a ‘mild and gentle’ sort of tea – but not bland – and very enjoyable.

ETA – I should have mentioned that I’m using a generous teaspoonful to a half-pint mug.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

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81

Fast becoming one of my favourite teas, I think it tastes of an old wooden box or chest. Kind of dusty and old and woody and full of old things. I could have had a cigar in it once, and it probably had treasure, or at least an old silver sixpence or two. Nowadays it’s probably only got a few buttons and a key that doesn’t fit anything any more, but at least it still smells incredible.

That’s what this tea tastes like

LENA

I love your descriptions. Great post!

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81

Gosh I love this tea. I’ve had it twice before and have now taken the plunge and got some for myself. I love the cooked taste to it

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80

Found a bit of this sample left yesterday, and made a brilliant batch of tea brewed up with osmanthus blossoms. Fruity delight.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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80

Got a sample of this in a tea swap, and compared it to another Taiwan black tea here:

http://www.well.com/user/debunix/recipes/TwoBlacksTaiwan7.10.html

This was a nice sweet fruity black tea, not bitter, but if the brewed tea sits, it may develop bitterness.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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