1851 Tasting Notes
Even though Earl Greys are some of my favorite teas, I didn’t buy many while I was in Europe because I wanted to reserve the precious space in my luggage for (for the most part) more unusual blends. But when it came down to picking extra samples at Tea Palace, being unprepared, I fell back on some versions of Earl Grey that sounded interesting. This is one of those EGs that is combined with other citrus besides bergamot, which I’ve usually enjoyed. The tea definitely matches its photo: this thing is jam packed with fairly sizeable hunks of orange and lemon rind. The dry leaf smells like a bergamotty EG, but perhaps a tad sweeter—if bergamot is a high, bright note, the orange fills in the bottom and is warmer.
As is often the case, the strong flavored notes are much more subdued in the brewed tea. Here the black tea base is at the forefront and it smells a bit like an English Breakfast blend, actually. Which is a bit disconcerting, as I’m not the biggest fan of most English Breakfasts.
When very hot, it definitely reminds me of an English Breakfast. Cooled a bit the bergamot starts to come out, adding a high bright note, but it still tastes primarily like the black tea. Disappointing for me; I was expecting more flavor from the added orange and lemon. I wish Tea Palace would said what black teas went into their blends (on other Earl Greys they say “China Blacks”… not that helpful). I can imagine some people really enjoying this, as it’s not highly bergamot flavored and is really all about the black tea base, but I’m not really one of those people, unfortunately.
Its funny, because it seems like a lot of people get into tea on flavored tea blends, then move toward unflavored and purer teas. True, I got into tea with flavored teas, but I went through a period where I enjoyed plain black tea (and I’m talking about a straight up English Breakfast or something like that, not the high quality single-source blacks which I haven’t tried many of), but now I really do not like it. It may be one particular tea in the blend that I’m reacting to (Assam perhaps?), but I don’t know because I can’t really parse them out. I guess even though I’m not a plain black drinker, maybe I need to do a tasting of a bunch of different single-source plain blacks just to figure them all out.
When I went on Tea Palace’s website before my trip to London to scope out the teas I was going to buy (that’s right, I was that prepared), this one piqued my interest because I do enjoy rose and mallow blossoms, but I wasn’t sure about it. Then I tasted a sample in the shop and I was sold. The flat leaves of the sencha green tea have a ton of flower petals mixed, both roses and mallows.
I no longer remember what exactly the sample tasted like, but the dried leaves smell remarkably fruity. I wanted to say passionfruit, but then I smelled it back to back with Passionate Rose and Blue Sky is brighter and more citrusy, but with a rosey floral overtone. There’s a warm sweetness underlying it; I’m pretty sure that’s the mallow flowers. The liquor is still a very pale yellow after 3 minutes, but it’s a very fragrant brew. The brewed tea is more subdued in aroma, with the grassy green sencha coming through. The fruity note has resolved itself into a more floral aroma, though still with a definite sweetness.
The flavor gives the feeling of dense, fragant florals. The rose is the primary note, but the mallow rounds things out a bit I think. It has a lovely natural sweetness, almost like fine jasmine pearls (but not jasmine in flavor). It is the nectar sweetness that comes from outstanding florals; I’m beginning to realize how much I love that in a tea. The tea has a soft tartness (is that an oxymoron?) as well, reinforcing a tropical fruit feeling (mango? passion?), but overall this is a floral tea. The green tea provides a grounding backdrop, like being in a lush flower garden (you not only smell the flowers, but the soft fragrance of the greenery all around them).
Now I’m remembering why I was sold on this tea! Delicious, and it fits in well with where my taste buds have been taking me lately.
ETA: I don’t always resteep, but this one told me to. The second steep (same parameters as the first) is equally delicious: still slightly sweet, floral, lovely, but this time with a bit more grassiness coming through from the green tea.
This is the only tea I brought back from Poland. By the time I got to Warsaw, I was experiencing some tea-buying fatigue (believe it or not!), so I said I wouldn’t buy any tea there. But I had passed a tea shop a couple of times, and an adorable tin in the window with a European Robin on it drew me in. I could get the small tin filled with effectively a sample size of any tea, and I immediately chose Mnichów (the pronunciation of which I completely butchered when ordering it… I’m lucky he understood me enough!).
I had a pot of Mnichów (Polish for “monks”, i.e., Monk’s Blend) at a tea place in Warsaw earlier, which I liked and was generally intrigued by, but the tea house didn’t sell their teas dry. This one I have no description for, but the smell of the dry leaves indicate it’s probably a fairly traditional Monk’s Blend. What that means… well, the descriptions for the Polish tea Mnichów that I’ve found online indicate a bergamot, jasmine and vanilla flavor is standard. Sometimes no vanilla, but this one definitely includes it. This is not quite the same it seems as most Monk’s Blends in the states, which seem to be primarily vanilla and grenadine (exception: Upton’s, which is more like the Polish blend). Oh yeah, and this one is actually a black/green blend (again, I found out after steeping when the difference is more obvious). All of this makes me feel pretty dense because quite obviously this tea is very similar to the last tea I reviewed, Thé au Tibet by Mariage Freres. Perhaps that one is really more properly Thé au Tibetan Monks.
As I mentioned, the dry tea leaves definitely have notes of vanilla, bergamot and jasmine to their aroma. There is also a distinct chocolate aroma, which is surprising. (spoiler: this doesn’t show up in the taste). The aroma of the brewed tea is very vanilla, though I do detect the bergamot adding a high, citrusy note. Sometimes I think jasmine florals can almost smell a bit earthy when in a blend with other flavors, and I’m getting that here as well.
This is another one I’ll have to steep at a lower temperature to really get a feel for (darn hiding green tea leaves!), but it the vanilla flavor isn’t as omnipresent as I expected. It’s light, especially as the tea cools, but definitely detectable in the background. It’s overall fairly floral, the bergamot lingering at the tail of the sip. The jasmine is floral but on the earthier side and not honeysuckle-sweet. It’s a good blend, and I can’t complain about the flavor combination. I think I prefer the blend of these flavors in Thé au Tibet, but I also think I need to try both again at a lower temperature to really know.
Here it is, my final French tea. Even though I wish I could have brought home 10x more than I did, I’ve been very (very!) satisfied with my choices. This tea sounded awesome to me: jasmine, rose, bergamot and vanilla? Yum. I’m not sure how all that has anything to do with Tibet, but I’ll take it anyway.
I have to say, the dry leaf on this tea smells amazing. The citrusy bergamot and creamy vanilla are the primary notes and give it the hint of an Earl Grey cream, but the floral jasmine adds it’s note to that and I think detect a sweetness of the rose. It smells at once floral and citrusy and creamy. The dry leaf is all tea (no additions that I can see), with some rather large non-black tea looking leaves in it. Mariage Freres’ website says this is just a black tea (in both French and English!), but after steeping: no way. There are definitely green tea leaves in my steeping basket mixed in with the black. Which means I would have steeped it below boiling had I known that, but oh well.
The liquor is a medium reddish amber and it’s become more floral in aroma, though there’s no hiding that creamy vanilla note. The taste has a floral beginning (rose, some jasmine, general “florals”), and I think the bergamot comes out in the later part of the sip, but to be perfectly honest I’m having a tough time accurately parsing it from all the other flavors. The tea is ever so slightly bitter, maybe from the bergamot, maybe from a too-hot steep temp for the (unexpected) green tea. Underlying everything is a wonderful creamy vanilla flavor that just smooths all the flavors out and ties them together. As it cools I the bergamot asserts itself some more and it reminds me again of an Earl Grey creme, but while the floral notes aren’t incredibly distinct in their own right at this point, they definitely add to the overall flavor. In fact, now they seem to have shifted more to the tail end/aftertaste of the sip.
I really want to try this one at a cooler steeping temp to see how it turns out now that I know that it’s got green in it! Still very tasty even so.
What’s this? A tea not from Paris? No, this one’s from London. I suppose this one is a little unusual for me recently; I mean, I like apples, but I don’t currently have any apple teas. In fact, a spiced apple tea was the very first tea that I drank and what allowed me to get into tea, but I haven’t drank any in quite a while. I’m not sure what it was about this tea that made me buy a bag of it at this shop (well, I’m guessing it was the aroma, but I’m not sure why an apple tea called to me that day). I think I was intrigued also by a non-spiced apple tea, since so many of them seem to be. The dried leaves are indeed full of hunks of apples and small pieces of strawberry leaves. It smells like warm, sweet, juicy apples, not bright crisp tart ones. It almost seems like there’s a caramelized or brown sugar aroma to it, like a baked apple (but not one baked with spices, just baked!)
The brewed tea has much more of a black tea aroma to it with an underlying appley sweetness. The taste is nicely appley in a juicy way, but it’s not overly flavored. It mostly tastes like a black tea with a bit of apple. There’s a warmth to the tail end of the sip, again kind of like a baked apple flavor, and a bit of what reminds me of apple skins. It’s a well-rounded apple flavor that works nicely with the black tea. And, since it’s summer and I can’t stop thinking about iced tea, I bet it would be really good iced as well.
When I made a list of teas to buy at Mariage Freres, I initially thought that I should go for all of the myriad of teas that I want to try, and the standards like Marco Polo. But then I decided that actually I should only buy teas I couldn’t get in the states… and you can order quite a few Mariage Freres teas online from shops in the states, it turns out! But this was one that isn’t available here but that I had to have. On Mariage Freres’ English site, this tea is merely described as a blend of “three nut flavors.” But google translate tells me that on the French site they identify the nuts as almond, walnut and pecan. I initially thought that hazelnut would be one for sure, but no. The dry leaf smells wonderfully nutty, with a strong dose of marzipanny almond. I haven’t had a lot of experience with walnut and pecan flavors (since the concentrated flavors can be a bit different from just eating one of those nuts), but I can tell there are other nut flavors that aren’t almond in with the mix. The dry leaf is speckled with bits of nuts.
Brewed, the aroma of the black tea base comes out much more. I’m also getting a kind of earthy, nut-meat scent, with a lighter almond and again some other interesting aromas that I can’t quite place.
The flavor on this one starts out very subdued, then blooms in my mouth throughout the sip. I definitely get that sweet marzipanny almond flavor, but I’m also getting an odd, bright, almost metallic flavor. On some sips it is almost lemony citrus. I suppose a more accurate way of putting it is slightly acidic, which is surprising because I think of nuts as been smooth and rich. As the tea cools a bit the acidic flavor takes over more of the sip… it’s just really unexpected. It’s almost like I added lemon to the tea (but I didn’t). I am at once wanting to try a longer steep time to see what it tastes like a bit stronger, and also thinking that it would probably be pretty refreshing as an iced tea.
This is the first of my French teas that hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations, but I’m not ready to give up on it yet… fortunately I have plenty to fiddle with. I also may have to realize that while I love some nut flavors (almond, hazelnut, pistachio), this may not extend to all nuts. I think I like pecan flavoring, so perhaps it’s the walnut that’s the issue.
ETA: I’m deleting my previous rating of this because I can’t actually sure that it’s not my water that’s tasting funny! When I had some water at lunch (the same water I make my tea with), it also tasted oddly acidic. Or maybe it’s just my tastebuds today. Either way, I’m rescinding my judgment on this one just yet.
I briefly considered not having a French tea for my afternoon tea… but then I stopped kidding myself and grabbed this one. This tea has a powerful scent. When I got it at the shop it was the only tea that I could smell very clearly through the bag without even holding it up to my nose. I think it scented my clothes in the suitcase on the trip home! The dry leaves smell overall very tropical. The first thing that hits you is the passion fruit, mango, and pineapple. Further investigations (i.e., sticking my nose in the pouch) yields jasmine notes underlying everything.
This is a green/black blend, which can be tricky to find the right steeping parameters, but I brewed it like a green this time. The color of the liquor is a dark shade of amber, and it smells like jasmine tea with a little something extra. I can definitely detect the sweet aroma of mango/passion, but it’s not as powerful as in the dry leaf.
This tea is in the same family as Oriental by Mariage Freres: that of jasmine with fruit flavored teas. It seems to be a very French family since I hadn’t really encountered it before, but it’s certainly one of my favorites now. This is one of those teas with a lot of flavors that just meld together. In this case, not all of them do: the jasmine and the fruit maintain their separate identities, and play well off each other. But the tropical fruits have joined and I can’t really pick out mango from passion from pineapple. Perhaps it’s a bit more mango/passion than pineapple, but it’s like a good tropical fruit juice blend: its just “tropical”. The flavors of this one don’t really hit one after another as some other Dammann Freres teas have done to me; I get fruit and jasmine at the same time, over the entire sip. I feel like these tropical fruits really play up the honeysuckle notes in the jasmine, too, unlike the orange Oriental where I didn’t get those.
Yet another amazing Parisian tea; I feel crazy that my 90-100 range is getting rather populous these days, but I can’t help it. I guess I’m finding that aromatic, complexly flavored French teas are the teas for me!
With a name like 7 Parfums, you know this one is going to be complicated. I chose it primarily because of the mix of floral with citrus fruits and fig. The dry leaf, unsurprisingly, has a lot going on, aroma-wise. I can pick out bright citrus notes, and I think I can find the deeper, richer fig notes with some rose and other florals, but they all mesh together very well. Not shocking, I know!
In the brewed tea the aroma has definitely changed, but it’s hard to figure out how it’s changed. I think the main thing is the citrus notes have faded substantially, and I’m mostly getting a mix of florals (it’s always hard for me to pick out any individual floral note that’s not rose or jasmine) bolstered by a rich, sweet fig underneath.
Now that I can drink it, its really quite tasty. Very floral, and the fruit notes act as a kind of base that has melded together. As others have said, it’s a very well blended tea, and very “French”. If I look really hard I can maybe pick out some individual notes, but why? They all work so well as a whole that it’s nice to just appreciate the tea almost as a separate, new, untasted flavor. It has both bright and dark notes, a kind of floral fruity sweetness and a thick herbaceous savour. Of the teas I’ve tried so far that I’ve brought back, this is probably the one that makes me think of Paris most.
I hadn’t planned on reviewing this bar here on Steepster, but it was just too good not to share. This is a chocolate bar that they describe as midway between a classic milk and a classic dark; perfect for me since dark chocolate is sometimes too bitter for me. This company is actually a cacao grower and chocolatier, and their estate is located in Saint Lucia. They have a cafe/store right next to Borough Market in London, so if you’re ever in the area and you like Earl Grey tea and chocolate, you might want to pick up a bar. The cafe also offered a chocolate “tea”, which was really just steeped raw cacao. The cashier told me it was an acquired taste, heh.
I’m not sure if the tea is steeped in the cream of the chocolate prior to making it, which is a common way of tea-flavoring chocolate, but perhaps not because the bar has quite a bit of coarsely ground tea leaves set into it. It makes for an interesting texture (slightly gritty, but not in a bad way… in more of a less-processed chocolate bar way), but the flavor is amazing. Strongly bergamotty, with the black tea adding a further depth to the flavor of the chocolate. I wish I had bought more of the bars!
If there’s one sweet I have to get when I’m in Paris, it’s macarons, usually from Laduree. The light almondy cookie sandwiched with flavored creams or jams—heaven. So when I was prepping for my trip by looking at all the teas on Dammann Freres’ website and saw that they had two teas flavored “macaron”, I knew at least one had to be mine. Mango and Jasmine was the obvious choice as I adore both flavors. This is the only tea I bought at Dammann Freres that I didn’t smell before I purchased (they didn’t have it in the bins for smelling), but it didn’t matter. Now I can smell it, and the dry leaf almost smells different every time I stick my nose in the bag. At first, tons of mango. Then, rich floral jasmine. Then again, a sweet almondy “macaron”.
The brewed tea added the slightly vegetal aroma of the green tea base to the mix, a floral jasmine-sweet almond scent has taken center stage. Occasionally I can detect a fruity mangoey hint to the mix, but it seems to be blending well.
Somewhat similar to Coquelicot Gourmand, the sip is divided into stages with a floral beginning, fruity middle and almondy end. The aftertaste is distinctly, strongly marzipan-style almond. I’m getting a hint of mango across the entire sip, but it plays differently with the jasmine and the almond. The beginning is very floral jasmine (influenced mostly by the aroma which is heavily jasmine at this point), which delivers a burst of sweet fruity mango that is initially more floral but then juicier as the almond comes in. The almond isn’t quite the biscuity almond of Coquelicot Gourmand, nor a straight marzipan; no, it’s pretty definitely macaron, though concentrated and a bit more almondy than the cookies usually are. The green tea provides a fairly solid background that seems to pull all the disparate flavors together.
Overall this is similar enough to evoke Coquelicot Gourmand in the tasting, but it’s also distinct and delicious. I’m sure the green vs. black tea has something to do with it, but it’s also the addition of a fruit flavor to the floral/almond mix. I don’t know if I can really choose one over the other, but I do know I wish I had gotten some of the Violet Cassis Macaron tea!