1994 Tasting Notes
Ooh, another Mariage Freres tea that I didn’t bring back from France! This sample comes thanks to QuiltGuppy. It’s another one that’s been on my “to try” list for a while. The dry leaf smells, to me, just like sweet-tarts candy. Definitely very fruity, but not necessarily a particular fruit flavor I can pick out.
The brewed tea is a golden yellow color, and that fruit aroma remains, but in a more subdued role, joined by the aroma of a buttery, slightly grassy green tea. The taste is pretty spot on to the aroma; it’s light and pleasant, but definitely full of fruit flavor. My cup is actually fairly tart. I don’t get a strong vanilla flavor, but I can detect its presence at the tail end of the sip, giving the overall feel of the tea a creaminess after a sharp tartness.
Quite a tasty tea, really! I thought I might be turned off by the candyish aroma, but the green tea goes a long way to mitigating that. Thanks so much for sending me a sample QuiltGuppy!
I’m bumping the rating up into the 80s on ths one because I’m really enjoying it iced! I cold brewed it last night for about 24 hours. The liquor never got very dark, which was initially disconcerting, but it’s still full flavored. A solid black tea base to hold it up, flavored liberally with vanilla and gently with the sweet-tart fruit flavor of rhubarb. The vanilla really brings out the caramel notes in the Keemum, and the rhubarb kind of sits back behind everything else, adding a fruity and almost floral flavor to the vanilla. This tea now reminds me of some other, higher quality tea, but I can’t place it now. Perhaps even one of my French ones, because it inexplicably made me think of Paris while I was drinking it. In any case, I’ll definitely make this one iced again!
I’ll admit it: I’m afraid of pu-erh tea. Even tasting notes by people who like them don’t sound good to me. Dirt, fish, horse farms? No thanks (and I grew up on a horse farm so that last one sounds really unappetizing). But when QuiltGuppy offered to send me a sample of this one, which she enjoyed and did sound good from her tasting note, I decided to take her up on it and give it a try. Thanks QuiltGuppy, for giving me my first pu-erh!
The aroma of the dry leaf surprised me on this one. I feel like I can sometimes pick out the coconut, and the fig, and the fennel individually, but when I stick my nose in the pouch they combine and I get overwhelmed by one scent: fine bourbon. Perhaps with a hint of bourbon balls (bourbon cream candy with pecans covered in chocolate) but wow if it doesn’t smell like the inside of the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival I go to every year (note: I’m a Kentucky girl, and I love bourbon). I could smell the dry leaves all day! Sweet, a bit molasses-y, oak barrel aged, a hint of rye, a bit of fruit, herbs… it’s like describing a bourbon tasting note.
Anyway! Onto the actual brewed stuff. THIS smells like the inside of an oak barrel previously used to age bourbon: much much woodier, a touch resiny, with a tantalyzing hint of the bourbon notes in the dry tea. I feel like this aroma carries over into the dry tea well, with a hint of added smokiness. It’s almost like the (brewed) tea was aged in a bourbon barrel, like some bourbon barrel ales I’ve had. It’s sweeter than I expected, smooth and full-bodied. As it cools it gets a touch less woody (though still present), and there’s a spiciness at the end of the sip. Still very bourbony, but without the alcohol hit. Wow, I really like this one! Thanks so much for sharing it with me, QG, because I probably would have never ventured there on my own. Between this one and the Milk Oolong, I sense an order to ATR in my future when my samples run out!
ETA: Second steep, 5 minutes (the time recommended on ATR’s site). Wow, this tea is really dark. I looks a bit like a black cup of coffee. It’s less sweet this time, but a hint of sweetness is still there. Not as fruity from the fig or creamy from the coconut, but more charred oak barrel (but in a tasty way!).
Fun facts: dandelion root (an ingredient in this tea) is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is apparently a herbal medicine, which has been used to treat just about everything but specifically things to do with the gut, liver, and kidney. It contains inulin, which might be contributing to the sweetness here. It’s sometimes described as being somewhat bitter, which I’m glad doesn’t come through in this tea. It’s also a mild diuretic and digestive aid. (I got my info from the University of Maryland Medical Center website: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/dandelion-000236.htm)
It’s hot and humid today, and for some reason I find myself wilting in it more than normal. Since my morning involved a long walk across campus in the already murderous sun, I didn’t feel like drinking a cup of hot tea before I went. A nice cold tea for when I got back, however… I brewed this one like usual but let it cool and stuck it in the fridge. An hour wasn’t quite enough to make it cold before lunch, but it was cool enough to be refreshing. Cold, this tea is mostly a strong green with a light jasmine flavor. I found myself wishing for more of that jasmine sweetness, and now that I think about it I bet a bit of sugar might have brought it out (even though I normally wouldn’t sweeten this tea hot). All in all it was a nice glass of tea to have. And today I remembered to put a glass of black tea in the fridge to cold steep overnight for tomorrow’s lunch!
Another day, another oolong. QuiltGuppy showered me in oolongs, which have always been the tea I was most likely to enjoy unflavored, but never had never gotten around to trying some of the really high quality oolongs out there. I feel like I got a mini oolong tasting course from QG, which is awesome!
The dry tea on this one smells vegetal and a little spicy. I looked over the previous tasting notes and chose a semi-consensus brew time and temp for my first cup. The leaves just about completely unfurled in two minutes, which was actually surprising, as It seems like most rolled teas take a second steep to unfurl, at least in my Kati cup (I know, I know, not the best oolong brewing conditions, but I drink tea primarily at work, and I’m not going to be keeping a tetsubin at work). Initially the brewed liquor, a lovely golden yellow color, smelled very much like the dried leaf, but as its cooling way more floral notes are coming out.
This definitely has the complex flavor profile I’m coming to expect from good oolongs. It’s primarily vegetal, but it’s also got sweet floral notes with a hint of nutmeg or other such spices. As it cools, I get a hint of smooth butter, but notably not any bready or milky notes.
The second steep, at 3 minutes, is similar, but this time with a few bready notes. I’ll probably steep this a few more times, but I’m not going to write about them here. In any case, this is a very nice oolong, and I’ll definitely enjoy my sample. It’s probably not on my must-buy list, mostly because I still prefer more strongly-flavored teas, even ones that are all natural (see ATR’s Milk Oolong). Thanks again, QuiltGuppy, for the opportunity to try it!
Last Friday I tried this tea for the first time, and I steeped it a bunch of times (unusual for me, and it takes an impressive tea to make me want to steep it more than once), though I can’t remember quite how many, 3 or 4 at least. I then took those leaves, covered them with water and stuck my cup in the fridge at work “overnight” for lunch the next day… but of course I forgot it was a weekend, and a three-day weekend at that, so they sat there, cold steeping, for 3 days and 4 nights until I got back to work today. The already fully-expanded leaves had somehow further expanded to fill the entire 16 oz cup, floating all up and down the column of liquid like they were suspended in some kind of jelly. I didn’t know what to expect, but the tea was nice and light, probably because the leaves had been well steeped before I put them in the fridge. At this point, the flavor had lost all of the peachy-floral notes and almost all of the creaminess, and it was primarily the vegetal, slightly nutty flavor of a simple green oolong. Still very tasty, and I’m kind of amazed at the result.
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.
Thanks to JacquelineM for sending me a few sachets of this tea to try! We’ve already covered recently that I love passion fruit, but I also happen to love hibiscus. Since it’s fairly hot today and I’m at home where there is no A/C (versus at work where it is overly cold inside), I made this one iced. I brewed one sachet in probably 6oz of water for 10 minutes… I wanted it strong! I also added a bit of vanilla sugar during the brew time. Then I shook it up with several ice cubes until it was nice and cold.
Mmm… it really hits the spot this hot afternoon! Tart and sweet, fruity with a little citrus zing from the lemongrass. I don’t get much distinctly passion fruit flavor, but it’s somewhat tropical and definitely tasty. Definitely hibiscusy, so it’s probably one to avoid if you dislike hibiscus. The light sweetening brings out the fruity flavors, and I can see how it could be too tart without a bit of sweetener. Thanks again JacquelineM!
Let me just first say that this is a tea unlike any other I’ve ever tried, and I have QuiltGuppy to thank! I’ve always been a bit curious about milk oolongs, but I’ve never tried one before. The smell of the dried leaves when I opened the package was amazing… definitely milky (sweet, like a condensed milk), but also with a floral fruitiness.
After a light brew, the liquor is only a pale yellow, but the aroma is full bodied and strong. Here the notes are primarily floral, vegetal, a bit ‘bready’. The milk aroma is still there but a bit muted. I never expected to be this blown away by this tea, but it’s true! It’s so delicious. Sweet, creamy, buttery peaches, like the most delicous fresh peach cobbler with cream. That’s what this tea is recalling. I don’t even love peach cobbler all that much, but I would love one that tasted like this. All the elements are there: fresh, floral peach, right off the tree, both very sweet and slightly tart; buttery crust, and breadiness from the oolong; bubbling caramelized sugar; smooth, rich, sweet cream. Definitely a major yum.
Thank you so much QuiltGuppy for sending me this sample! I have a whole new kind of tea to explore and love!
Before my package from JacquelineM, this was the only rose black tea I had. Since I haven’t had a cup in quite a while, another was in order so that I could compare it to the other rose blacks I’ve had recently. Previously I steeped this for 4 minutes, but I dropped it to 3 minutes this time to match up with the others.
This one definitely has the sweet-rose aroma, but it seems tempered by the black tea. A taste confirms that it seems to fall between Harney’s Rose Scented and Upton’s Rose Congou in that the rose flavor is sweet and floral like the Rose Scented (not herby rose like Rose Congou), but it features equally with the black tea base like Rose Congou (not overwhelming it like Rose Scented). This black tea base is malty, and almost bready, which plays well with the warmth of the rose florals. I think a four minute steep is probably better for this one since it seems a touch weak, but it’s still tasty.
All in all, this tea holds up well to both Harney’s and Upton’s, actually, and it seems like it might be what Harney’s would be like if the rose wasn’t so all-consuming. ’
Side note: I really wish all tea companies would list the origin of their black tea bases. All black teas are not created equally! I always assumed this black tea base was Chinese given the name, but it’s possible it’s only referring to the Chinese process of scenting the tea, not the origin of the tea itself, and honestly it tastes more like a Ceylon than the various Chinese teas I’ve had. Not that I can be totally sure because most of the time I’m not sure exactly what kind of black tea I’m drinking! I guess I really am going to have to break down and go through samples of varieties of plain black teas so that I can start identifying them better myself.