407 Tasting Notes
I tend to avoid Tea Forte like the plague. It’s everywhere, but every runin I’ve had with them has been poor; during the Christmas season I’ve picked up their sample packs and hated every one (I don’t even know if I even bothered to review them!); I don’t know, it was something about the base maybe, or how they chose to flavour them.
I picked up Orchid Vanilla a little while back because it was on sale half off, didn’t have horrible reviews on Steepster, and really, who could fuck up Vanilla. That one turned out pretty pleasant, so when I saw this in the window I decided ‘why not’.
Plus they redesigned the package—it’s part of Tea Forte’s “Noir” collection, with pan-roasted black teas (back of the tin says assam).
I’ll start by saying this doesn’t taste like an assam. But if it’s ‘pan-roasted’ (???), that might be it, but I’m getting no roasted flavours either. There’s a soft hint of vanilla maybe, and it smells faintly of strawberry and cough-syrup cherry… Might be getting a bit of fake cherry taste as well, or maybe that’s the liquorice.
For that matter, there’s a warning at the end of the ingredients about how the tea should be avoided by people with high blood pressure due to the use of organic liquorice root. What? I thought in this day and age, the glycyrrhizic acid in liquorice that /causes/ hypertension, was usually artificially removed from from most liquorice products (for this very reason), or replaced with artificial flavouring/fennel or anise. So was Tea Forte just a little slow on the origin of their root, or did they actually source un-deglycyrrhizinated liquorice, and the FDA didn’t frown on them?
At any rate, I might try more leaf next time/longer steep, because this fell utterly flat for me. I think I’m getting something like astringency and bitterness, plus liquorice. Almost three whole ounces. Lovely. Learned my lesson, I guess. Still, I’ll come back to this one.
Thought I posted a review for this, since I drank it first out of my samples, but I guess I forgot. So here’s my second time around.
Dry, it smells like drop fruit, as well as something like malt chocolate; can’t say 100%, just notes that remind me of an assam varietal.
First steep (after a rinse): 15 seconds. Dry spices. Like bark, maybe cinnamon. Actually more spices than I remember the first time around I drank this (I remember there being a lot more ‘fruit’); still, there’s a deep honeyness that makes me think of drop fruits—the darker fruits like plums, rather than bright, like peaches.
Second steep: 15 seconds. Spices and sweetness; the syrupy fruityness is coming through more. It’s reminding me less of an assam, which usually has more malt than spice in my experience. This isn’t astringent. In fact, it’s very smooth thus far. Spiced sugar plum almost? Maybe?
Third steep: More spice again. Sweet—the description suggests baked bread, but it’s less yeasty, and not toasty.
Fourth steep: 20 seconds. Wow, feels a bit thicker, like chocolate. Spice and honey. Actually, very cinnamon-and-honey. Reminds me of honeycarrots with cinnamon, growing up.
Started playing TF2 around this point, and wasn’t paying as much attention. It’s actually a very nice, naturally sweet tea.
Edit: Fourth or fifth steep? Starting to get a more ‘baked bread’ taste out of it.
The smell is similar to the Li Shan, but not quite as syrupy strong. Notes of assam in teh smell, but there’s no real malt in the taste. Thick and mouth-coating, honey, barley. Definitely smooth. I can get where the ‘peach’ and ‘raisin’ flavours in the description come from, though I wouldn’t tag it that personally. Light fruit flavours, again comparing this to the Li Shan sample I got, which has a darker drop fruit taste (peach vs. plum, I guess). Honey when I breathe out, but floral in the forefront with each sip.
The honey reminds me of ceylon teas, but there’s no oak or astringency to round it out. The assam smell of the leaf didn’t carry over, which leaves me wondering if it’s an assam varietal used or not. The leaves are long (but not quite THAT long).
The dry leaf has a very strong, deep smell. Brewed, it has the maltyness of an assam but without the bitterness or astringency. Pretty much what I expect in a china black. There’s a bit of cocoa in there as well. Sort’ve my everyday favourite, except not at /this/ price.
The leaf has a darker fruitier smell than other green oolongs, though brewed it returns to the green and floral, slightly toasty scent (though I think I detect something like apple in there).
I brewed a western two minutes in a teacup, getting a honey yellow liquid; it’s smooth, and I’m mainly getting cream and apple. Not as buttery as some oolongs, although it’s still got that similar mouth-feel to it. Toastier notes when I breathe out, with a touch of honey. It’s really nice to just roll around on your tongue, and I can see myself definitely buying more of this to enjoy.
All three samples came very nicely packaged in labeled vacuum-sealed bags. Long ago I invested in a box of tiny clamps from the office supplies aisle to keep track of my tea samples (I’ve only got the three now, but when I went on a sample-buying spree through Teavivre…).
Since I didn’t rinse it beforehand, the leaves opened up a lot more during the second steep (also 2 minutes). Sticking my nose in there for that sweet appley smell. Taste is definitely stronger; I’d almost have kept the second steep to 1:30, maybe (but it’s not bitter); the apple’s gone completely. Toasty butter, maybe a bit of cream, definite floral notes.
Third steep was definitely a little sharp, very floral.
No notes yet. Add one?
Brewing this, it smelt strongly Darjeeling. I wish I still had a plane Nepal tea on hand to sniff in comparison, but I finished that up a while ago. I remember it having a more Ceylon smell.
The taste is definitely more Ceylon. Bright and lightly astringent with definite honey tones. The astringency doesn’t hit right at first, but does build up with sips; it’s not sweet, more of a dry tea. Definitely not as sharp and muscatel as a Darjeeling, that seems to have just been the scent.
I don’t think I’m getting much from the wine barrel it was stored in, but that might also just be the afore-mentioned burnt tongue. Definitely not as astringent as the Nepal teas I’m used to though, so I think I’ll enjoy the rest of this.
Edit: This actually steeped up a pretty nice second cup at five minutes.
You can definitely smell the bergamot on the dry leaf. Was a bit surprised when I brewed it up—it doesn’t brew up dark like a puehr, more like a black.
But it tastes like a puer—the earthy, peatness adds a sweet undertone to the bergamot, and it works quite well for me. Though I burnt my tongue on the first sip, so I can’t say if I’ve missed anything (you’d think after several years I’d have learned to be patient in waiting for tea to cool). As it cools, the peat gives way to a bit of yunnan multiness as well. I wonder if this is a blend.
Soko’s was handing out little bagged samples of this. I haven’t had much luck with Tea Forte, but it was free, so what can you say.
It SMELLS fruity and sweet/vanilla—both dry and brewed; the blend was quite colourful, with purply petals and little dried berries.
Not getting too much fruit in the taste. Mostly vanilla and rooibos, but it’s not bad. I think the problem I’ve had with past Tea Forte teas was too much flavouring going on at the same time (so the end result was almost sharp, or chemically?), but this is mellow while still tasty.
Getting a bit more fruit while it cools. Berry. Might just be from the rooibos, though. I see it has rosehip as well.