It seems like Marco Polo is the first Mariage Freres tea that most people stateside try. It’s their most famous, and most readily available tea. Certainly it has been on my list to try almost since I started drinking tea, and at least since I joined Steepster and heard about it. It’s name is invoked often in tasting notes of Harney’s Paris tea, which I love, and I just had a feeling that Parisian tea would be My Kind of Tea (turns out, I was right). Nevertheless, I came back from Paris with nary a leaf of Marco Polo on me due to my buying restriction that I would only get teas I couldn’t easily acquire in the states. Still, it seemed silly to me that I still hadn’t tried their most famous tea after all of that, so when I swapped JacquelineM for some of my French teas, I asked if she could send a sample of Marco Polo, and she happily obliged.
So that was a long-winded intro. Some people pick out strawberry notes in this tea, and while in the dry tea it comes through as just ‘berry’, in the brewed tea it is most definitely strawberry. Sugary strawberries in syrup, but there’s also a darker, almost caramelized sugar note to the aroma. Maybe even a roasty cocoa note?
In the taste I get the black tea first: a tiny bit bitter, dark, there’s that roasted note. There’s a bright-ish berry note at the back of the sip. As it cools they meld together more and create a nice flavor that’s almost like cooked strawberries? Or strawberry pie (without the crust, but with caramelized strawberry sugars). I described the berry note as “bright”, and there’s definitely a tartness to the tea—and other people have commented on it, so I’m not crazy—but it’s the exact same tartness I experience in MF’s Trois Noix tea, although here it works better. A quirk of their tea base, or flavoring procedure?
Overall it’s nice, it’s tasty, I enjoy it. But am I blown away, like I might have once expected to be? Not really. Maybe it’s because although I love fresh strawberries, I’ve never been enthusiastic about them in their other forms. Maybe it’s because I’ve now had other Parisian teas that have blown me away. Maybe it’s that tartness to the tea base (seriously, what is that?). I think I did expect more than what tastes to me like just strawberry black tea. I’m going to play around with my steeping parameters, and I’ll happily drink the rest of it up (thank you again JacquelineM!), but I am kind of glad I saved room in my luggage for other teas.