829 Tasting Notes


First, a story:

I had gone out with friends to breakfast last week and ordered hot tea (earl grey – I don’t know the brand) and was surprised, in a good way, when they brought it out to me loose in the equivalent of a Perfect Tea Maker from Teavana. Not as surprised as the other girls, though – they had never seen one before. They stared at the steeper and their eyes got even bigger and all conversation stopped when I put it on top of my cup to let it drain.

“I’ve never seen that before.” One of them said. “Where’s the tea bag?” was another question. There was much turning over of the plastic steeper to see how it worked. Then the waiter came by and refilled it to let it resteep. All of their minds, collectively, were blown. All for a cup of pretty mediocre Earl Grey.

Okay, digressing to actual review now:

When the girls at the breakfast asked how I liked the tea I shrugged my shoulders and thought of Smooth Earl from Compass Teas before telling them I prefer it with vanilla (tea snob that I am). That was before I met this guy though.

A sure sign of a good tea to me is one that I can’t stop thinking about or want to have again soon after I’ve had it. For the sake of having a lot of other teas to drink I avoided coming back to this one right away, but it has been in the back of my mind.

So yesterday to celebrate having almost a week off from work I made a huge mug of this and savored that thick vanilla scent and taste. So lovely. I wish when I’d been at the breakfast last week I’d been able to show everyone this Earl Grey Cream. This is what amazing tea is.

A lot of you already know that, judging by the other tasting notes here, but really. Its finding teas like this that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise that makes the whole tea habit so much fun. For me it is, anyway….

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I am so kicking myself that I forgot to put this on my last order!


Cool that a restaurant would use those!

And thanks to your note, I have another EGC on my shopping list. :D

El Monstro

Yeah, tea merchant’s french earl grey is probably my “if I was on a desert island and could only have one tea available” tea. Either that or a good dian hong.

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I always manage to drink down teas iced much faster than I drink it hot. I think its because as a rule hot drinks don’t do as much to quench my thirst and are more for enjoyment than anything else. Iced tea is usually what I love to drink with meals.

This was, predictably, great iced. I had it with a few different foods and really it went perfectly with all of them, though it did take a good overnight in the fridge before it reached its full potential. It did end up reminding me of Hawaii and had a very nectar like quality (guava and mango are so sweet that doesn’t surprise me) with a pretty floral scent, which is a plus for me – I prefer to smell flowers, not eat them.

I like this iced for sure. I can’t wait for summer to get here so I am drinking cold tea more, because this will be a must order for me then!

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Tea of last night.

Made in my Klean Kanteen insulated tumbler, which works a little too well at keeping things hot and burned my tongue even after sitting for an hour with the lid halfway off to vent. Sigh, this is actually going to be me reviewing that tumbler because I really feel like I’m just not able to do hot teas in stainless steel. I know how much I love this tea but it just came off weak, watery, slightly metallic tasting and way too hot for me to enjoy drinking it straight away. So heartbreaking because it smelled SO good every time I’d go to take a (disappointing) sip.

I still had some left in the mug 7 hours later and since it’s cool I went ahead and tasted it for any weakness in flavor. The buttery vanilla is there now for these last few sips (which I love this tea so much there is no way I’m throwing it out) but I guess the take home message for me is to not put any tea I’ll be drinking any time soon into a travel tumbler. Lesson learned!


I have the hardest time finding a travel tumbler that actually works for me. Why is it so hard??

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This was a part of the black tea sampler I included with my Tea Merchant order. It’s the last of the four I have to try and since the name alone suggested it would be good iced I went ahead and made one cup hot and have made 1/2 gallon of iced tea my favorite way (boiled then cooled – i.e. a very slow way). I’ve got refried beans on the menu for tonight so I imagine I will be very happy to have this alongside it!

The smell of this dry is amazing! It reminded me so much of my Hawaii vacation last year – I do get mango but I also seemed to smell a lot of guava. This makes me so happy…and reminds me that I should see if there are guava flavored teas out there. I’d love to have some.

Anyway, for the hot cup of tea, I went ahead and got smart and steeped 1 tsp. of leaf at 3:30 seconds rather than the 4 minutes I traditionally do with blacks, since my last two teas from the Tea Merchant have come out a bit bitter with the extra 30 seconds. I am now very optimistic about going back and trying the Assam Gold and English Breakfast again, because less time did take care of all the astringence. I pretty much got a richly textured cup of tea flavored mango/guava juice. Which is to say, awesomeness.

A bit of sugar really made this pop even more which means I’m looking forward to being able to have this iced later today. It is pretty amazing hot and as the cup cooled it got even better so I have a feeling I will want this around when the weather hots up.

I’ll write another tasting note on the iced method tonight but I’m pretty optimistic at this point that come summer I’ll have this in hand most days!

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Backlog from a few days ago, at breakfast.

I’m not sure why I’m so sporadic with my tealog lately – some teas I’ll update as soon as I have them, and then others I’ll just…wait a day or so before posting. I even store the little details in my head because it’s just like opening the tasting note box at that moment takes so. much. effort. compared to just storing it in my head.

It makes so much sense, I know.

Maybe it’s just that as far as English Breakfast teas go, this was good, but not “100” good and worth shouting about? Because it IS good – a nice organic black tea that is strong and brisk and bright all at the same time – but it is not the best of its kind I’ve ever had. Especially at the 4 minute mark, where some bitterness starts to creep in as it cools and necessitates some sugar.

I’m thinking 3:30 will work as a steep time when I get around to this one again… same as when I retry the Assam Gold. Less time than I traditionally steep my black teas for, but perhaps that just means I’ll get more mileage out of them in resteeps? I will test that theory when I get around to it again.

As for rating this preparation, I will consider it a solid option, just not my first choice for a breakfast tea.

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Tea of the morning earlier today.

Malty assam, you are so perfect for the morning. I always just melt over the smell of freshly brewed black breakfast teas, and this was no exception. While steeping I went for about 30 seconds less than I normally do for a black tea just to try and have this without additives. I really just wanted nothing but bold black tea this morning.

I could have actually gone about 30 seconds lighter, even, as this was still a bit astringent. It certainly was bold and earthy and chewy and all things a good black tea should be though. I’m sure sugar would have smoothed out the rough edges but for some reason it being all the way across the kitchen just seemed too far to go, haha.

Eh, I have plenty of this to give it another go with a bit lighter hand on the steeping. With the way I’ve been drinking pure black teas lately, I’m sure I’ll be revisiting it sooner rather than later.

Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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drank Peach HoppiTea by Butiki Teas
829 tasting notes

Well this has been a gorgeous Sunday. Reading, tea and a mid-50 degree day in January, with no plans on the horizon. All weekends should be like this.

I picked this tea mostly because it’s one of the few Butiki teas from my last order that I have not tried yet. That and it smelled so temptingly of peaches when I opened the bag that there was no way I’d be able to try anything else. As it is I want time to speed up to summer so that I can eat a fresh one…peaches in season are one of my favorite things.

Once steeped the fresh peach smell turns into banana and peach. Maybe the hops did that? The flavor is sort of bitter banana peach, too. I’m drinking these first sips plain but I’m thinking this might need sugar to help ease the bitter notes…

Ah, much better. The sugar emphasizes the juiciness of the peach that much more and reduces some of the bitter flavor, which I am now realizing is from the hops and not the tea base. For some reason I assumed hops = carbonation. I’m sure it surprises no one when I say that I’m not a big beer drinker.

This is absolutely a fantastic tea though- outstanding with a little bit of sugar. The flavor accuracy of the peach is my favorite part, and I imagine this would be perfect iced in the summer. If it lasts me that long

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Butiki Teas

Yep, the hops is bitter and this particular hops has strong grapefruit notes. Our other beer tea, the hops adds a spicy flavor with minimal to no bitterness.

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drank Ruby Pie by Butiki Teas
829 tasting notes

(This is a tasting note of the original version of this blend – from a swap with Sil – thank you!)

This is a backlog from a few days ago… so I’m working on a slightly diluted memory. Mostly I remember the scent of strawberry, the taste of pastry crust, and a prickly sharp texture from the rhubarb. The taste was crust and tart strawberry.

Steeped per the recommended parameters.

I still have enough for more, plus the current reblending of this, so I’ll be trying them both out closer together for comparison sake soon.

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Love sil’s blend :-)

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Between having this tea on my shopping list for a while, and seeing that awesome deal on the ceramic teaware, I was not passing up an order from the Tea Merchant. I’m glad I caved, too – the cups are so cute and will be perfect for some gong fu sesisons with my gaiwan, not to mention making some hot green tea to go with soba noodles and miso. Mmm.. that’s definitely happening next weekend, now that I think of it.

Anyway, so this tea was on my radar because I love Earl Grey Creams. While part of me loves trying all the teas, I do so mostly because I want to find the best of its kind and then stick with it forever. I believe this tea is the highest rated EGC on Steepster, but I’ve been trying to work through the huge amount of EGCs I currently have in my cupboard so that when I finally did try this I would have room to stock up.

Dry leaf smell is custardy vanilla followed by the familiar zing of bergamot. We’re starting off on a good foot already – I like more vanilla than bergamot in my Earl Grey.

Steep notes: 2 tsp. leaf, 500 ml. water, below parameters in my Breville.

Once steeped the vanilla becomes even stronger. It is definitely french vanilla, too, because the note of custard is unmistakable. I could smell the steeped tea all day, it is that yummy. Taste wise this bears out – vanilla first, then citrusy bergamot, then a smooth , bright black tea base. This is perfectly balanced for my palate. I steeped for four minutes and ended up using a pinch of sugar but I really think if I lopped about 30 seconds off the steep time I would be able to forgo that. So a note to myself for next time.

Finally, I also have to say that the fair trade/organic label is probably the plus that pushes this into being my favorite EGC to date. This is absolutely going to be my go to from now on. Can’t wait to get into the other teas from my order!

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drank Jardin Bleu by Dammann Freres
829 tasting notes

A sample received from the awesome Sil, who came to my rescue when I said I’d never tasted French teas. :)

It’s always hard for me to get an accurate picture of what the dry leaf smells like when a bunch of samples (especially a bunch of fruity DF samples) have been in close proximity to each other. This one just smells like generic fruitiness, but nothing readily identifiable.

Steeped I smell strawberries and cream. It reminds me alot of Marco Polo by Mariage Freres, actually. This is good, because I like that tea a lot.

The taste is virtually all strawberry, with rhubarb present only in the small irritation at the back of my throat. There is a slight tartness alongside the strawberry, but nothing I’d be able to identify as rhubarb. I will say that though it is a tart tea, it still manages to pull of the smoothness that only DF can.

Eh. Its a good tea, I can taste the quality and it stands on its own without additives. Nothing too memorable though. It’s another one I can cross off my list at getting to try, though, so that’s always a good thing!

Boiling 4 min, 15 sec

yay for crossing things off the list!

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I have come to the point (as of October 2014) where quality in tea is more important than quantity. Especially because I’m a seasonal tea drinker where hot tea is concerned, and a SLOW one to boot. I generally don’t resteep only because I’d be here all day if I did, though I do break out a gaiwan from time to time.

I adore French teas in practically every iteration, Japanese Sencha (specifically from the Uji region, as they offer the most seaweed flavor), and Dan Cong oolongs. I am trying to focus on plain teas and so companies like Verdant, Upton, and Butiki are on my favorites list.

When it comes to tea, I feel like the 10th Doctor says it best:

“Tea! That’s all I needed! Good cup of tea! Super-heated infusion of free-radicals and tannin, just the thing for healing the synapses. "


Atlanta, GA

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