Happy New Year, Steepsters!
So, I said that my first tea of the new year would be Marco Polo by Mariage Freres, and I lived up to my word. takgoti sent me some in her amazing box of wonders, and I’ve been dying to try it since I first smelled it. I don’t know how she held out for so long.
Let me tell you, this has to be the most delicious smelling tea I’ve ever stuck my nose in. Seriously, amazingly delicious-smelling. Sweet strawberries bursting with a juicy and full aroma, layered with creamy vanilla and subtle hints of black tea. It is an experience for the nose, let me tell you. Once you smell this, you may never come up for air again. Unless it smells like Marco Polo, that is.
So I dumped this in the pot, nearly jumping up and down with excitement. The leaves are fairly small, although there are some wiry pieces mixed in, and each single leaf has the intoxicating aroma I’ve been describing. How do I know this? I picked one up and took a big sniff. Yep. Marco Polo.
The tea juice that arrived in my cup on the pour was rich and decadent smelling. The wet leaves smelled very similar to the infusion, so I’ll just skip that. A lighter version of the dry scent, with the vanilla battling the strawberry-ish tones in a symphony of amazing. First sip… and I’m happy surprised! No, this tea does not taste as it smells. But would you want it to? That’d probably be ridiculously cloying and overwhelming.
The taste is a rich, slightly bitter and astringent black tea, layered with a hint of creaminess (without the taste of vanilla). There’s a bit of a floral soapiness. And I mean this in the best way possible, although that sounds a bit bizarre now that I’ve typed it out. Unless there was soap in my cup/IngenuiTEA, which would then be pretty interesting. Then the tea opens up in pure berry goodness. It’s not a strong, domineering flavor, so if you’re expecting to be assaulted by berry, then you’re thinking of the wrong tea. It’s almost entirely in the aftertaste, a sweet-tart combination of strawberry-ish bliss. Very full and red and rich. It’s a sweetness and specifically strawberry taste that lingers on the tongue long after you’ve swallowed.
I definitely did hit the temperature point that takgoti mentioned. There’s this magical point when the berry comes to the forefront of the cup. It doesn’t last for very long, but it does indicate that there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface than what you first might think.
This tea tastes distinctly French. I have no idea why. It just does. And it’s completely a tea for the senses. You should be smelling and sniffing this as much as you’re tasting it and allowing it to roll around on your tongue. I highly recommend that you aerate the tea on your tongue. Slurp some sips, that way the full body can be tasted. Sort of like what you do with wine.
I finished this about 5 minutes ago and the sweet berry and cream components are still lingering in my mouth, in a wonderful fashion.
Yes, Mariage Freres is expensive, but it’s so worth it. One of the better flavored teas I’ve experienced!