405 Tasting Notes

78

This is the rare black breakfast-style tea that I prefer without milk. It’s fairly smooth and creamy on its own, and subtle enough that milk can drown out some of the best flavor points.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 15 sec

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83
drank Vanilla Black by Harney & Sons
405 tasting notes

This is a good vanilla black tea. I find the flavor a good balance between authenticity (Adagio’s in particular always tastes fake, more like frosting, to me) and strength of flavor (vanilla teas flavored just with vanilla bean tend to be overpowered by the black tea). This will likely be included in my next order to Harney.

I’m backlogging from a weekend w/o internet, so I can’t remember anything more nuanced about the flavor. It was very satisfying though.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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80

Beautiful deep red hue in the cup; I think someone pegged it as garnet. I think my water was a little too cool, because the flavor is very mild: sweet, smoky, a little bit of an earth/pine taste, but with none of the heft I’ve gotten from Jackee in the past. Will try to remedy this on the next steep (Jackee always gives me two, if not three).

2nd steep (with slightly hotter water) is a little sweeter, less smoky. The color is less intense, but the flavor is still strong, and smoother.

3rd steep is amber, sweet, and mild. Definitely got a dark/sweet flavor on the last couple of steeps that could be called burnt sugar. Any hint of astringency is gone by the 3rd, so it’s just a round, mellow, yes caramel-y, flavor. Almost starting to remind me of honeybush, but not as woody.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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76

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68
drank Black Night by Red Leaf Tea
405 tasting notes

This is hands-down the strongest tea I own. Fruity, brisk, energizing. I think describing a tea as a “coffee converter” is a bit cliched at this point, but that is what comes to mind – it has the caffeine and the strength of flavor. It was fruitier before adding milk, but a little harsh for my taste. I think maybe I have been oversteeping this, because at 3 minutes (and 1 level tsp/8oz) I’m getting a lot more of the fruity/winey taste, so bumping the rating accordingly.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 15 sec

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70
drank Indian Spice by Harney & Sons
405 tasting notes

First thing I notice about this one is the CTC leaves – the dry tea looks like a bunch of tiny pellets. The tea itself brews up a nice dark red/brown, and certainly smells the way chai should: warm spices and black tea. A nice blend of spices too, not too much cinnamon. I find this too bitter to drink plain; honey helps a little, milk helps more. With both, it is tasty. A very solid chai choice – might buy again, but I’d rather find something that doesn’t absolutely require sweetener.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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85
drank Fujian Baroque by Adagio Teas
405 tasting notes

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76

Minty, slightly sweet, not bitter, and impossible to oversteep. The only way to ruin this is by not using enough leaf – I like one heaping tsp/8oz. This makes a nice bedtime tea for those of us not fond of chamomile (…is there anyone other than me?) I can’t do caffeine at night, and since learning that white and green teas aren’t actually lower in caffeine and most decaffeinated things taste like crap (in addition to not being completely caffeine-free) that leaves herbals.

Anyway, bumping this rating a bit because of how often I drink it, and the fact that I will absolutely be buying more when this 4oz bag runs out.

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more

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63

A light golden color in the cup, this smells toasty and a little fruity, but the flavor is sweet/smoky. The leaves unfurl beautifully from their pellets. This is nice, and I’ll steep it as long as it goes, but it’s not wowing me. Still, it’s definitely a step above the tea I’ve received in (American) Chinese restaurants.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Profile

Bio

Some notes on ratings:

I’d have separate rating scales for tea types if that were possible (probably Black, Flavored Black, Darjeeling/Dark Oolong, White/Green/Light Oolong, and Herbal) because the flavors and quality markers are just too different. A flavored black rated 100 isn’t better than every oolong I’ve ever drunk, just delicious for a flavored black.

Ratings are a combination of my enjoyment and the perceived quality – I do often demote teas a few points for artificial flavorings, small quantity of steeps supported, or weakness of flavor (requiring extra leaf).

I pay less attention to the number than the order of my ratings; I don’t necessarily keep a stock of everything rated 80+, but if two breakfast blends are rated 82 and 84 I consistently enjoy the 84 more.

And in case it’s not obvious? I am not an expert. I don’t even know what I like until I taste it sometimes, but I’m ok with that :) I like learning to like new teas, as well as enjoying the comfort of familiar ones.

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Boston, MA

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