When dry, this tea had a smell I think I can’t really describe. It didn’t smell much like any other tea I’d ever smelled before, though earl grey would be the closest comparable smell. Like all other blacks I’ve had, I found it needed sweetener to be palatable. Hot and with sweetener, the flavour was something completely unexpected. There was a faint hint of orange blossom, a bit more of lemon, and a real sense of floral. The first thing it reminded me of was actually Kusmi’s rose tea with some peachy kind of overtones, to the extent that my first thought was to wonder whether it had rose in it. When it cools, it’s really more like those pre-made liquid iced teas that are black plus lemon, which is nice—except for the annoying peppery note in it. That damn peppery note! Y u do dat, Kusmi? Hahaha! Seriouly though, it’s a letdown that it’s there, because otherwise this is a nicely fruity, slightly floral black that could be good both hot or cold. As it is, I don’t think I could bring myself to buy it. That demonic peppery element lurks there in every mouthful. It doesn’t even lurk, actually—it’s the first thing you taste. Only after it do you get the delicious tea taste and well-executed fruitiness.
It’s hard to not be on the fence about this. I can’t stress enough how tasty the fruitiness is. When I lived in Australia, I used to drink the pre-made Lipton iced lemon green tea and iced peach black tea, and they’ll always have a place in my heart, though their flavour is hardly groundbreaking or exotic. This tea (once you get past the damn peppery aspect, of course) reminds me of it and I like that.
I didn’t try this with milk (well, I did take a spoon out and add some milk to that just for a tiny test, but the flavour wasn’t tempting), and wouldn’t suggest it, because the fruity flavour is more lemony than orangey, which I think makes it a poor candidate for a latte (and a good candidate for serving iced). I’d recommend giving this tea a try (do try before you buy), and perhaps adding fruit juice like lemon or peach to it, on top of the sweetener. Also, the peppery thing goes away a bit when the tea cools and may have been exacerbated to a degree by my over-steeping (but if it was, presumably the fruitiness was too), so all hope isn’t lost with this. At room temperature, I thought it had something of a classic iced tea flavour (but a bit less fruity), which wasn’t what I was expecting of something whose description makes it seem kind of complex and refined. That’s not a criticism, though if you were expecting something that really balanced all of those citrus ingredients and genuinely represented lemon, orange, and lime all at once, you’d probably feel disappointed.
Update: I raised the rating for this a little bit because on the second and third steepings (the third was pretty weak, so don’t count on it being satisfying), there was almost none of the peppery note, and iced with a bit of lemon juice and sweetener, it was good.
I tried this again, hot, with sweetener, and with no milk. It seems really different to what it was last time. The aftertaste has a beautiful delicate orange flower sense if you really pay attention, and this time, even though I oversteeped it as per usual, there wasn’t an annoying peppery element, and no bitterness. It seems a lot less lemony than I found it last time, but overall, I think I was wrong about my impression that this is no more than a failed earl grey. The more that orange flower element gets to me, the more I want to raise the score of this. I raised it two points, but the taste in my mouth says that wasn’t enough. The tea of adequate strength without being dominating, it’s ladylike without being overly demure, and it’s floral without being perfumey. Not bad, Kusmi! I’d drink it again!