The Tea Merchant
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Recent Tasting Notes
I received a sample of this from bluebelle. Thank you for sharing this one with me.
I was looking for a black tea to add milk and a bit of sugar to for dessert tonight, but came across this and thought what the heck. I am glad I opted for this one. It is very yummy. It is a light cup that is smooth, creamy, and sweet. There is a light hint of coconut, and a very nice flavoring of vanilla. I am so glad I got to try this one. For next time I will try to add a bit more leaf and steep time to see if the flavor is enhanced any.
The smelled so malty and raisiny. More than anything it was raisiny, though – I’ve never smelled that much of a fruity note in a black tea before, unless it was flavored.
My note for this mentioned how astringent it got even after 3:30, so I reduced the steep time to 3 minutes even and…its still pretty rough around the edges. That beautiful raisined and fruity note is nowhere to be found, and without a good helping of creamer this would be impossible for me to drink. It’s a breakfast tea and so that’s fine, but I wish I could have the option of having it plain, you know?
Oh well, it is still brisk enough to get me moving this morning. And I can always reduce the steep time even more to see if that makes for a less astringent tea. I’ll go for 2:30 next time and see what happens.
Cue the sense of dread that just courses through you (or otherwise sits in your stomach) when you see the work week stretching out before you, accented with awful, awful weather. Sometimes it feels like tea is the only thing that can cheer me up on a Monday morning. After having this cup turn into a disaster of epic proportions on Saturday, it was lovely to have a perfectly creamy vanillay cup this morning. I am also taking my mini keurig into work today, and i’m hoping i’ll actually use it to enjoy tea in the afternoon, but it’s starting to feel complicated, and I might not. I hope I do though!
Ok, so this isn’t actually going to be a tasting note about this tea, because I’ve written about it enough for you to know that it’s a lovely EGC, and that’s about all you need to know.
But last night, I decided to take a timolino full of this to a friend’s place for dinner and hanging out. And instead of using my Keurig to dispense the hot water like I typically do, I used Watson (Watson is the name I’ve given to our Culligan water cooler, that has both a hot and cold water tap—we named him Watson after the computerized jeopardy contestant! /nerd). Anyway, from my understanding, the water dispensed from Watson is around 107 degrees F, while the Keurig website says that the Keurig dispenses water that’s 192 degrees f, so that’s definitely a noticeable difference. The thing is, however, that I never never successfully brewed a cup of satisfactory tea using Watson, and it seems odd to me that a temperature of about 207 (ETA—sorry, I originally wrote 107, which explains the general wtfness in the comments below, but it really was 207) would be too hot for absolutely every tea (especially since I drink mostly blacks, which are reputed to almost always take extremely hot water). As for the water I use, the Keurig takes filtered water through my brida filter, and Watson uses Culligan’s water—both are filtered, but are provided by different companies, so perhaps that has to do with it. But last night’s tea tasted bitter and horrible, just horrible. No vanilla cream notes to speak of—only an amped up bitter bergamot note that was bitter and gross.
But this has me terrified to ever get myself a variable temp kettle, because what if the Keurig is the only acceptable source for hot water for me in this universe? this is actually really upsetting to me! Because i so badly want the Bonavida goose-neck one liter variable temp kettle, but like, if I drop 100 dollars on it but it makes all my tea taste like bile, then…then…then what?!?!?!?!!?
Please comfort me.
Thanks to bluebelle for a generous sample of this in our swap! I’m really loving TGYs, and this is no different. It delivers on the sweet, nutty, smooth combination that I’ve come to expect from my oolongs. The flavor for the first two steeps was a bit intense or sharp, though. And it got bitter as it cooled down. So I waited a little longer for my water to cool before steeping the third and fourth times and really hit the sweet spot. The flavors were still there but mellowed out and blending together well. By the fifth steep, started to lose too much flavor, but I’m gonna keep resteeping it until I’m just drinking hot water.
It’s immediately noticeable from the first sip that the vanilla in this tea is different from what I normally expect to find in an Earl Grey Cream tea. It has a much heavier feel to it and now that it’s been pointed out to me, does remind me of ice cream made with an egg custard base. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try this type of ice cream, then you’re really missing out because it is absolutely sinful. As the tea cools the flavor of the vanilla becomes much stronger, which is one of the reasons why I prefer it hot instead of iced. When I know I’m going to have a busy week I like to make up a huge pitcher of tea in advance since I don’t always have the time to be hanging out around my hot water pot. With this tea I noticed that after a few days in the refrigerator the heaviness of the vanilla overwhelmed the other flavors in the tea, making is somewhat difficult to tell that this is an earl grey. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great tea to drink iced, it has an interesting creamy orange flavor, but this isn’t going to be my preferred way of making this tea because I find myself really missing the flavors of the black base.
Now, while I may have mentioned not enjoying this as much iced, it is a whole other story hot. The 4 ounce package that I splurged on isn’t going to last nearly as long as I had hoped; in the last week I’ve run through nearly an ounce of this tea trying to ward off the chill from the sub zero temperatures we’re having at night. I’ve really enjoyed the way the French vanilla, bergamot, and black base blend together, although I do prefer a longer steeping time so the black base comes out more than the vanilla. This comes down to my personal preference, while I have a massive sweet tooth I find that at a 3 minute steep the French vanilla is a little sweet for my tastes and is much better balanced with a 4 minute first steep and 5 minute resteep.
For the complete review please visit my blog:
Perfect just perfect. Had 2 steeps and I’m going to cold steep in fridge. When i looked at my previous note I mention coconut. No coconut, it’s shouldn’t even be there, but it smelled so incredible yummy I wanted coconut in there. Probably oolong itself has some coconut notes ( at least to me).
Flavors: Coconut, Cream, Vanilla
Despite two glasses of wine last night, i was somehow incredibly wired and had a really hard time falling asleep. I read my book, watched a few Judge Judy episodes, listened to like seven podcasts, and was still tossing and turning. So much for waking up for this morning’s game!
I hadn’t had this one in a while, and it seemed like a fairly unobtrusive tea that would be noticeable, but wouldn’t command my attention in a way that would compete with my most delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs doused with garlic pepper (seriously, you should try it). And because I’ve described this tea in detail before, I’m just going to list some words that this tea brings to mind:
-fall and winter, especially winter
Additional notes: Sipdown! This tasted the same as it did last time, so I can’t tell if this is aged coconut or what it is supposed to taste like. It’s definitely one of the toughest teas I’ve had. Not much chocolate that is supposed to be there… or any that I notice. It does have an odd flavor.. not sure if it is just the pu-erh. I don’t mind this one, but it probably isn’t a pu-erh for newbies. This was also closer to two teaspoons but I was bound and determined for a sipdown! I just did two minute steeps for three cups rather than two cups. It balances out that way I think!
I like Dinosara’s idea of sipping teas that are the oldest in the cupboard. I might do something like that, especially when I don’t know what to drink. But I’ve been mainly focusing on new-to-me teas and sipdowns!
Nice nice nice. After and still being very sick (and still sorry to the people who are supposed to be getting tea from me), I’m making tea for the first time in days and it had to be this one, something sweet and light and delicious.
I have a headache again so I can’t appreciate it fully but I’m managing to forget it sometimes between this wonderful white coconut tea an the Sherlock fanfiction series that I’m deeply invested in.
Tea & Cards TTB #8
I spent a good part of my day at a brewery today, so suffice it to say, I had a lot of non-tea beverages today. Anyway, when I finally got home, I wanted a nice pot of tea to wind down with a bit, and this one looked so pretty in the bag that I just went for it. I goofed a bit and underleafed, so it was a bit watery, but I still got a very strong vanilla flavor. I don’t think I’ve ever had vanilla oolong (as opposed to vanilla black), but I found the combination quite nice. I’m glad to have this tea to cozy up with at the end of a long, cold day!
I still quite enjoy this tea, although either it’s lost some of its freshness or I’ve simply become used to it. I think I’ll always want to have an EGC on hand, and this does travel well, but I’m not blown away. Which is fine, I suppose: I don’t think the purpose of this tea is to sweep you off your feet.
There are several reasons why this tasty oolong deserves such a high score. Any of them taken alone would have justified an 81-90 but combined this pushes it into the 90’s for me.
First, DO expect vanilla. Lots of it. Particularly on the first infusion. But even with the tons of vanilla, you can still taste the oolong so it’s not like drinking a pure vanilla shake. The liquor is incredibly smooth and has a creamy mouthfeel, I suppose hence the name silk dragon. Once you add any kind of sweetener (I like stevia leaves or raw honey), then the first infusion is pretty much a vanilla eden. What an awesome desert. That alone, however, would have only put the tea into my 75-79 score range, as I make my own fresh vanilla extract and can slap some into anything for flavor and aroma, although this does cut down the cost of it dramatically.
Next, this tea has a lot of patience. I’m on the 5th infusion and it still tastes wonderful. I’ll do a side-by-side tasting of multiple steepings for further comparison later, I didn’t save any from the previous infusions because it was very tasty. The vanilla hasn’t faded away, although maybe the oolong is coming through a bit more prominently now. Since you can also make so much tea from the leaves, I have found an awesome use for this as well — combine a bunch of steepings into a container, add some sweetener of choice, let it sit in the fridge overnight, filter it, then carefully run it through the sodastream. Boom, cream soda tea. From 2-3 tsp of leaves I can make a liter of this tasty beverage, and unlike some other teas which carbonate poorly, there is no astringency or bitterness for the bubbles to highlight so it really does become like a cream soda to me, minus any of those calories.
This is also my new vanilla blender for teas. Any time I want vanilla in something, I’ll reach for this (first I need to buy a supply, as I have now finished the sample I ordered). There are several reasons why it goes into blends so well. One, unlike vanilla blacks, greens and rooibos, the oolong is so mellow that it does not fight or overpower even the most delicate of nuances from other teas. Unlike vanilla whites, i’m not paying white tea prices for something to blend into other teas. My favorite blend so far: 1 part Slik Dragon, 1 part Bourgeons De Yunnan from Palais des Thes (any good Dian Hong will do), and 1 part Spice of Life from Teavana (still trying to replicate that using fresh nuts & spices). Makes a 10-12oz cup, add 1 tsp raw honey and you have yourself a nutty vanilla creme brulee in a cup. OMG lovely.
Starts off smoky-sweet and quite smooth. Mineral notes like deep limestone spring water are strongest, next come the toasted woody acidity. Leafy greens like kale add some slightly bitter notes one would expect.
As you progress through infusions, sweet floral notes begin to appear and become more pronounced, sometimes a dash of cinnamon and honey, bitter notes fade into the distant background. Comes a bit earlier if you start with a rinse, which makes a more well rounded start, but I kinda enjoyed the more distinct phases/evolution.
A fun journey with a few unexpected twists and turns, and was a fun brew to show my Mom (who I am introducing to quality teas slowly) how flavor profiles can change dramatically as you resteep.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Flowers, Honey, Kale, Mineral, Tobacco, Wood
It is a nice dessert oolong smelling and tasting strongly of vanilla, but also of some undefined milky candy sweetness. Not bad for a flavored green oolong (its dry leaf looked pretty awesome too).
Now that I have the last few sips of it cold, it actually reminds me a little of Golden Moon’s Coconut Pouchong.
Cold steep resteep; about 18 hours in the fridge. More hay notes and a slightly floral finish, but it’s not as nice as the first time around. It reminds me a lot of straight white tea but much stronger in flavor. I don’t think I’ll be getting this one again, and I’m starting to consider putting it in the swap pile for someone who’ll like it more. I still have at least half the bag.
Cold-brewed this last night, three teaspoons to 16 oz for about 16 hours in the fridge. It still has that hay quality and it’s a bit sharp and almost smoky up front, but then the aftertaste mellows into a floral honey flavor. It is so much better this way, and I think that’s how I’ll be using it up. Hot it’s just not for me. It’s obvious to me that this is a good one, though, so I’m bumping the rating up a little.
As a side note, does anyone know if leaves that have been cold-steeped can be re-cold-steeped? They haven’t uncurled entirely and they still smell pretty strong (in fact, the resulting tea is much stronger than I expected). I may try it anyway just to see what happens.
I somehow feel as though if I stayed home today, comfortably snuggled up on the couch with a hot mug of tea, I’d be far more productive. Something about sitting at a desk in an office just doesn’t encourage me to get nearly as much done, which I know sounds counter-intuitive because a lot of people say they’d feel distracted by their couches. But not mine! My couch, in its warm glorious depths, encourages me to do great things! and I don’t want to leave it!
But I must. Sucks.
Anyway, I had this tea with breakfast. As far as EGCs are concerned, I’m liking this the most, but I don’t know that I’ll replenish my supply of this once it’s out, although i imagine I’ll always want something like an EGC on hand-I just don’t know if I’ll commit to a particular company. Or maybe I will. Who knows? The wonderful thing about this one is the extremely toned down bergamot, although it’s still a bergamoty bergamot if that makes sense.
All I know is that I’m tired and want to go back to bed at once.
Brewed up a mason jar full of this to have with breakfast with this morning. I’m still trying to nail the proportions right when I make, like, triple the amount of tea I typically do, and i’m finding that it isn’t nearly as simple as just tripling amounts and keeping steep time the same-because I still somehow get slightly more watery tea than I’d like. But it’s about time I come up with a system for brewing in different vessels.
But aside from that, the tea was still pretty good. Some sips were better than others, although I feel as though the flavours were muted some-as if I were drinking the tea while having a cold or something. A little more vanilla peaked through as the tea cooled, which was lovely.