106 Tasting Notes

drank Phoenix Pearl by Zen Tea
106 tasting notes

Sample package label:
“Black tea China
Naturally sweet and smooth with a touch of earthiness. Comprised of only the highest quality leaves and buds, expertly rolled into a pearl-like shape. Subtle cocoa notes whisper gently as each pearl unfurls delivering a superior tea experience not to be missed.

Preparation: (1 cup): 1 heaping tspoon, 95C(203F), 3 min

  • Recommended to steep 2-3 times for different nuances of flavor.”

Technique: 6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm, heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 203*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer. 1 heaping Tevanna teaspoon, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

This tea has an earthy / woodsy fragrance.

Brown hue

First 3-min Infusion:
This is a smooth, earthy, full-bodied tea with a natural sweetness and light notes of cocoa. It did not have any bitterness or astringency.
2nd 3-min Infusion:
A little less full-bodied, but just as enjoyable as the first cup.
3rd 5-min Infusion:
A little less full-bodied, but still enjoyable – a pleasant surprise.

2nd Cup
4-min Infusion:
Same experience as the first cup, but with more body a more well-rounded natural sweetness. Once again, there was no bitterness or astringency.

Impression: An excellent, smooth, earthy, full-bodied tea with a natural sweetness and without any bitterness or astringency that will go the distance. Well Done!

Thanks to Zen Tea Life for providing this free sample.

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Sample package label:
“BLACK TEA / ORGANIC
Lovers of Earl Grey adore this creamy alternative to the original blend. We’ve added a touch of vanilla for an unexpectedly rich, creamy taste experience.

Ingredients – Organic: Black tea, marigolds, cornflowers. With natural and organic flavoring.

1.5 tsp. / 98*C 208*F / 3-5 min.
USDA Organic / Canada Organic Biologique / PAREVE”

6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm, heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 208*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
1 Heaping Tevanna teaspoon

Introduction: I understand Cream of Earl Grey from DAVIDsTEA is a blend of organic Sri Lankan and Chinese black teas. Most EG teas have a 100% Sri Lankan (Ceylon) base. Having the addition of a Chinese black tea, was a significant reason for wanting to sample this EG tea. Our current EG has a Ceylon base and I can’t get past the astringency. Other primary reasons: My wife loves EG and prefers organic teas.

This tea has a vanilla / floral fragrance, which is different than a classic lemony Earl Grey.

Dark brown hue.

3-min & 4-min Infusions: The initial taste at both these time points was too light.

First 5-min Infusion:
There was a strong vanilla & floral aroma, but we didn’t detect a lemony aroma as is typical of a classic Earl Grey.
This tea was very smooth and rich with a strong vanilla & floral taste and a very subdued oil of Bergamot lemon flavor. There was no hint of bitterness. There was a moderate amount of astringency, as compared to our current Earl Grey Cream from Whistling Kettle. The reduced level of astringency appears to be consistent with this EG tea’s reduced level of Sri Lankan black tea.
2nd 5-min Infusion:
The second infusion was enjoyable. I was surprised that the flavoring was still present.

Impression: This tea is a good choice for creamy vanilla lovers who also appreciate strong floral notes.

For those who prefer a classic lemony Oil of Bergamot flavor:
“It’s complicated.” The additional natural ingredients that give this Earl Grey its rich full-bodied taste are much stronger than the classic Oil of Bergamot EG flavor. Achieving just the right balance must be quite a challenge as the number of ingredients increases. DAVIDsTEA also offers an Earl Grey.

Suggestion: For those like my wife who love the classic EG aroma & flavor, DavidsTea may also wish to develop another version of their Cream of Earl Grey where the oil of bergamot is as strong as the other natural ingredients – a Cream of Classic Earl Grey.

Many thanks to DAVIDsTEA and Natalie for providing this very generous size free sample.

Preparation
5 min, 0 sec
Bonnie

This tea is pretty strong made by the pot. I never would have thought of making it in a Gaiwan with short timed infusions. Earl Grey is a ‘by the pot’ type of tea. Did you try it the traditional way, or suggested way? (I only use it to flavor puddings and in cooking because the flavor is so strong…so I do see what you mean by it not being a true EG).

looseTman

We typically brew a pot of EG. However, since we are currently sampling many different teas, I brewed it by the cup and tasted it at the DAVIDsTEA recommended time points. I imagine that by the pot, all the natural flavors of this Cream of Earl Grey would be stronger and the vanilla / floral flavors are strong enough by the cup.

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Sample package label:
“This Darjeeling is a bright, woodsy and earthy, with notes of honey, fresh mushrooms and meadow flower. Parve.
1.25 teaspoon, 98*C (208*F), 5 min.”

Per http://www.davidstea.com/second-flush-darjeeling?&TF=77477126A52D&DEID=:
“Darjeeling is known as the “champagne” of teas: if it doesn’t come from India’s Darjeeling region, you aren’t allowed to use the name. That might be why the best Darjeelings taste just like the mountains they were grown on. While the first leaves in the spring tend to be delicate and almost green in flavour, second flush Darjeelings generally have a richer, darker taste. This one is bright, woodsy and earthy, with notes of honey, fresh mushrooms and meadow flowers – like a forest getaway in a cup.

Ingredients
Second flush Darjeeling tea (grade FTGFOP 1) from Darjeeling, India.

How to prepare
1 tsp / 98°C / 208°F / 5 min”

Heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 208*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
Steeped the entire 5 g tea sample in 12-oz for 5 minutes, then poured two six ounce servings.

Tasted without sweeteners, milk or cream.

The tea had a light woodsy/earthy fragrance.

Amber brown hue

First Infusion – 5-min:
This tea a light woodsy/earthy fragrance. It’s a full-bodied tea without any bitterness and a clean fresh finish. There was a slight but pleasurable hint of astringency.
2nd Infusion – 6-min:
A tad less full-bodied, with a slight trace of astringency but just as enjoyable as the first cup.
3rd Infusion – 7-min:
Too weak for an enjoyable 3rd infusion.

Impression: An excellent, full-bodied tea without any bitterness, a mild pleasurable astringency and a clean fresh finish. Well Done!

Thanks to DAVIDsTEA for providing this free sample.

Preparation
5 min, 0 sec

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drank Je t'aime by Nina's Paris
106 tasting notes

Sample package: 2” x 2” clear plastic zip-lock – 2 level tsp
Label: “JE T’AIME” (No ingredients listed. No brewing instructions.)

Per http://www.ninasparis.com/en/pro_tea0.html:
“Le celèbre thé JE T’AIME
Vanilla, caramel
A voluptuous tea with the sweet taste of vanilla and all the tenderness of caramel. A blend that will envelop you in gentleness and warmth.”

Thanks to Laurent at Nina’s Paris Tea Store USA
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ninas-Paris-Tea-Store-USA/569332199761362
for the recommended brewing instructions: 1 rounded tsp / 195*F / 6oz / 2.5 min.

Technique:
Water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 23 ppm
Heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 195*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
Steeped the entire tea sample in 12-oz for 2.5 minutes, then poured two six ounce servings.

This tea has a potent caramel vanilla fragrance.

2.5-min Infusion: The aroma followed the caramel vanilla fragrance. Similarly, the flavor followed both the fragrance & the aroma. The caramel vanilla flavor was so dominate that I cannot easily comment on the character of the base tea other than to say that it was not at all bitter or astringent and had a clean finish. Perhaps a longer infusion time may have allowed the base tea to more fully develop. Since the tea was very sweet, I wasn’t inclined to steep it longer.

Impression: A smooth, very sweet desert tea.

Suggestions: Perhaps Nina’s Paris might consider recommending a longer infusion time or a little less flavoring to allow more of the merits of the tea to shine through.

Thanks to Nina’s Paris for providing this free sample.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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drank Earl Grey by Nina's Paris
106 tasting notes

Sample package: 2” x 2” clear plastic zip-lock – 2 level tsp
Label: “Earl Grey.” (No ingredients listed. No brewing instructions.)

Per http://www.ninasparis.com/en/pro_tea0.html:
“Le Royal EARL GREY
Bergamot from Sicily
The smoothness of Keemun together with the freshness of bergamot. An ancient recipe that was handed down by a high dignitary of China to Earl Charles Grey. A classic that definitely shouldn’t be missed.”

Thanks to Laurent at Nina’s Paris Tea Store USA
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ninas-Paris-Tea-Store-USA/569332199761362
for the recommended brewing instructions:
1 rounded tsp / 195*F / 6oz / 2.5 min.

Technique:
6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 22 ppm
Heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 195*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
1 rounded teaspoon
Stepped for 2.5 mins.

Introduction: Most EG teas come from Shi Lanka formerly known as Ceylon. Having a Keemun base (a favorite tea of mine), was a significant reason for wanting to sample this tea. Our current EG has a Ceylon base and I can’t get past the astringency. Other primary reason: My wife loves EG.
This tea has a lemony Earl Grey fragrance that’s slightly stronger than the Keemun base.

Amber hue

2.5-min Infusion: My wife noted an initial peppery/thyme-like aroma. I noted that the aroma of the tea was stronger than the light oil of bergamot lemon sent. Some Keemun teas have a smokey aroma. Perhaps this characteristic was competing with the lemon aroma?

Similarly, the taste followed the aroma. The Keemun stands out above the light oil of bergamot lemon flavor. This Earl Grey was very smooth, not at all bitter or astringent with a clean finish.

Impression: A very smooth muted Earl Grey tea.

Suggestions: Perhaps Nina’s Paris might consider adding more of the wonderful Sicilian Bergomot to this very smooth Keemun. Another possibility might be to select a less aromatic Keemun or a Yunnan Dian Hong style black tea instead.

Thanks to Nina’s Paris for providing this free sample.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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drank Golden Monkey by Teas Etc
106 tasting notes

Sample package label:
“USDA Organic
*Heat water to boil
*use 1 level teaspoon of leaves per 8 oz.
*pour water over leaves, brew 4-5 mins.
Ingredients: Organic Chinese Black Tea (Golden Monkey)”

6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 18 ppm, boiled, allowed to cool to ~200*F
(After yesterday’s experience with Nilgiri tea from Teas Etc., and given the cost of this tea ($81./lb.), I didn’t want to risk using this sample to find out that 8 oz. of water is too much.)

1 level Tevanna teaspoon, without sweeteners, milk, or cream.
This tea has a wonderful fragrance that reminds me of fine pipe tobacco.
Amber hue
3-min Infusion Initial Impression: The taste is light-bodied and creamy smooth. It’s not at all bitter or astringent. (I then let it steep for an additional minute.)
4-min: It’s a creamy smooth medium-bodied tea with a caramel-like natural sweet flavor and a finish that leaves you with a wonderful full mouth feel that lingers long on the tongue. (I’m glad I chose to use only 6 oz. of water.)

2nd Infusion: 212*F, allowed to cool briefly until steaming hot
5-min: It’s a creamy smooth medium-bodied tea with a caramel-like natural sweet flavor and a finish that leaves you with a wonderful full mouth feel that lingers long on the tongue. – Yes, the 2nd steep was as good as the first!

3rd Infusion: 212*F, allowed to cool briefly until steaming hot
5-min: Noticeably lighter but still enjoyable. (I then let it steep for an additional minute.)
6-min: Somewhat light, but still enjoyable.

Impression: This is my first Golden Monkey black tea and a wonderful first-impression and one that should not be missed! – Excellent!

Thanks to Teas Etc. for providing this free sample.
http://www.teasetc.com/details.asp?prodid=0140

2/2/14 Update:
Teas Etc. now offers “Golden Monkey Superior”, which is not USDA organic certified but is EU compliant.

Flavors: Caramel

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML
Rachel J

I really enjoy your thorough tasting notes!

looseTman

Thank you for your very kind comment. I’ve also enjoyed following your enthusiastic tea journey on Steepster and its given me some helpful information for mine. Kudos! Congrats also on your young son!

Rachel J

Thanks so much! :)

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drank Nilgiri by Teas Etc
106 tasting notes

Sample package label:
“USDA Organic
*Heat water to boil
*use 1 level teaspoon of leaves per 8 oz.
*pour water over leaves, brew 4-5 mins.
Ingredients: Organic Indian Black Tea”

8-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 22 ppm, boiled
1 level Tevanna teaspoon

This tea has a light grassy fragrance.

Amber hue

4-min Infusion Initial Impression: The taste is light-bodied, smooth, not bitter or astringent with a clean finish. (I then let it steep for an additional minute.)
5-min Infusion: It has a smooth light- to medium-bodied flavor that’s not at all bitter or astringent with a clean finish. (I then let it steep for an additional minute.)
6-min Infusion: It has a nearly medium-bodied flavor with an initial bitterness that has faded as it has cooled. It’s not astringent and has a clean finish. A five minute infusion is probably best.

Given how my experience didn’t match this tea’s description, I tried again:

2nd Cup: 212*F, 6 oz., 1 level tsp.
5-min Infusion: It has a smooth nearly full-bodied flavor that’s not at all bitter or astringent with a clean finish – Much improved versus 8 oz. of water. However, it doesn’t provide a full mouth feel or a rich/creamy flavor.

Impression: This is my first straight Nilgiri black tea. For a breakfast tea, I typically prefer a fuller-bodied rich black tea. As such, I would welcome an opportunity to taste an Assam and a Keemun from Teas Etc. I also have an unopened sample of Golden Monkey from Teas Etc. that’s much more likely to be “my cup of tea”.

Thanks to Teas Etc. for providing this free sample.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Organic Earl Grey by Teas Etc
106 tasting notes

Sample package label:
“USDA Organic
*Heat water to boil
*use 1 level teaspoon of leaves per 8 oz.
*pour water over leaves, brew 4-5 mins.
Ingredients: Organic Black Tea, and natural Bergamot essential oil.”

8-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 17 ppm, boiled
1 level Tevanna teaspoon

Introduction: I understand Organic Earl Grey from Teas Etc. is a blend of organic Nilgiri teas. Most EG teas come from Shi Lanka formerly known as Ceylon. Having a different base tea, was a significant reason for wanting to sample this tea. Our current EG has a Ceylon base and I can’t get past the astringency. Other primary reasons: My wife loves EG and prefers organic teas.

Fragrance: This tea has a very potent classic lemon Earl Grey fragrance that will wake up your senses all by itself!

Amber hue

4-min Infusion Initial Impression: A strong lemon aroma. The taste is smooth, not bitter or astringent with a clean finish. (I then let it steep for an additional minute.)

5-min Infusion: It has a strong lemon aroma and a smooth medium-bodied EG flavor that’s not at all bitter or astringent – Excellent! A pleasing tart lemon flavor lingers long on the tongue.

2nd 5-min Infusion: A lighter-bodied & less lemony version of the first infusion that’s still very pleasing.

Impression: An excellent classic Earl Grey tea with a potent lemon fragrance, a strong lemon aroma and a lemon flavor that that stands out above the organic Nilgiri base. Clearly the best “lemon forward” Earl Grey I’ve tasted.

Additional thoughts: I would like to encourage Teas Etc. to also develop a well-balanced organic EG Cream or Vanilla Earl Grey.

Per Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergamot_orange):
“Citrus bergamia is a small tree which blossoms during the winter. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. The distinctive aroma of bergamot is most commonly known for its use in Earl Grey tea.8

The tartness of citrus bergamia is a common characteristic of most Earl Grey tea. Adding a creamy vanilla should smooth out the natural tartness of the oil of Bergamot while adding a full mouth feel. Other tea companies have tried this approach. Many of them are not organic, and at least one uses artificial flavoring. Only a few have discovered a pleasing balance of among all the ingredients.

Thanks to Teas Etc. for providing this free sample.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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Sample package label:
“Golden tips evoke the hot sun of the early June Second Flush Harvest. One of finest producers in region delivers a beautiful example of what is possible under the right conditions. Slightly heartier and creamier than some whole leaf Assams, this selection picks up deep malty notes of cocoa and subtle fruit.

Preparation: (1 cup) 1 heaping teaspoon, 95*C (203*F), 3 min.”

6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm, boiled, left to stand so only steaming hot. (I do not have a quick-reading (tea) thermometer with this level of precision.)

1 heaping Tevanna teaspoon, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

The fragrance of this tea reminds me of fine pipe tobacco.

Amber brown hue

First 3-min Infusion:
There is a VERY ROBUST, full-bodied, creamy smooth morning tea with a light woody/earthy fragrance and without any bitterness or astringency.
2nd 3-min Infusion:
A little less robust, but just as enjoyable as the first cup.
3rd 3-min Infusion:
Definitely, not as robust. However, on my second cup of this Assam, I tried a 4-min 3rd infusion and found much more pleasing results.

Impression: An excellent, VERY ROBUST, full-bodied, creamy smooth morning tea without any bitterness or astringency that will go the distance. Well Done!

Thanks to Zen Tea Life for providing this free sample.

Preparation
3 min, 0 sec

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drank Earl Grey Cream by Zen Tea
106 tasting notes

Sample package label:
“If you are a fan of Earl Grey and had not tried this, you are in for a treat. Cream Earl Grey has a taste that is smooth with vanilla overtones which stand out above the premium bergamot flavor the signature taste of Earl Grey. Our Earl Grey mellowed with a delicious creamy taste.

Ingredients: Ceylon Tea (Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Uva), cornflower petals, natural flavor.
Preparation: (1 cup) {6 or 8 oz.?} 1 heaping teaspoon, 95*C (203*F), 4 min.”

6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm, boiled, left to stand so only steaming hot. (I do not have a quick-reading (tea) thermometer with level of precision.)
1 heaping Tevanna teaspoon:

This tea Earl Grey has a strong vanilla fragrance.

Vibrant reddish hue

First 4-min Infusion:
There is an equally balanced lemon & vanilla aroma, followed by a very smooth, medium-bodied lemon taste without tartness. The overall aroma (bergamot, vanilla, & Ceylon blend) has notes of toasted marshmallows according to my wife’s keen sense of smell. There’s just enough creamy vanilla to smooth out the oil of bergamot tartness, but not so much as to obscure the classic EG flavor. There was zero hint of bitterness or astringency from this blend of Ceylon teas. The taste of lemon lingers on the tongue.

2nd 4-min Infusion:
I was surprised that a mild lemon flavoring was still present – quite enjoyable.

Impression: An excellent, much smoother Earl Grey tea that’s very well-balanced preserving the Classic EG flavor – Quite an accomplishment!

Thanks to Zen Tea Life for providing this free sample.

Preparation
4 min, 0 sec

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Bio

I am passionate about teas that are full-bodied, rich, & smooth. I joined Steepster to explore Multiple Infusion Teas (MITs) such as Pu-erh.

Currently, my focus is on un-flavored orthodox black & pu-erh teas. Cost-effective organic teas or teas that meet the EU Food Safety Commission Pesticide Maximum Residue Limit are also of interest.

My wife is an Earl Grey Fan. We enjoyed Twinings for many years – mostly Earl Grey, also English/Irish Breakfast, & Prince of Wales. Several years ago, TEG no longer tasted as good.

Through our local co-op we tried Frontier Natural Products Co-op bulk loose tea – mostly Assam, also Irish Breakfast, & EG.

Rishi EG & China Breakfast then became our regular teas. However, after winning Tea Expo awards, the prices kept rising.

Kevin at The Whistling Kettle introduced me to Keemun, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and my wife enjoyed their Earl Grey Cream.

Our most recent orders were from TeaVivre & Zen Tea Life. Kudos to both Angel Chen and Kenneth Son who have been extremely helpful.

High quality water is essential for excellent tasting tea.
Our 450’ well provides hard water. For details see: http://steepster.com/looseTman/posts/176233#comments.

Solutions:
#1. Rainsoft water softener with
Q2 computerized control valve

#2. Abundant Flow Water
Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water System with re-mineralization filter
Model: Zeta RO: https://www.afwfilters.com/drinking-ro-systems/6-stage-alkaline-zoi-zeta-reverse-osmosis-system-16.html
Includes:
- Dow Filmtec TFC R.O. membrane
- Omnipure Inline Post filter
- Puregen Aptera Alkaline Filter: http://www.puregen.com/products_detail.php?id=301&lang=en

Options:
- Aquatec ERP-500 & ASV 2000
- 3/8" Output
- HM Digital DM-1: http://www.tdsmeter.com/products/dm1.html

My profile picture is a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, an annual winter visitor to our woodpecker feeder.

Location

Mid-Atlantic, USA

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