33 Tasting Notes


This is my all-around “black tea” default for when I’m in the mood for just a straight cuppa, when making a base for an iced tea, or just when I want to add more straight black Keemun to some other blend.

First let’s be honest and admit you get what you pay for and there is no such thing as “cheap top-shelf tea”, but this tea does fulfill the category of “inexpensive but still good”. For the price point (around $7-8 USD on Amazon per 100g tin or $20 USD for half a kilo), this is surprisingly decent. I prefer it with lemon, because without the acidity there is a hint of that wet-hay flavor you can expect from slightly older teas. 75% of the time when I am making this tea it is a few liters at a time with half a lemon thinly sliced in the pitcher and then keep it in the fridge for a fresh supply of iced tea — this is where it really shines the most for me. Unlike other more expensive kinds, it doesn’t feel too expensive to just load up 6-8 tsp per liter to make a good base for iced tea and drink that in lieu of water or soda. Goes well with fruits like peaches & assorted berries, but I still prefer the sliced lemons for this stuff.

There is nearly always a supply of this in my tea pantry, I consider it a consistent staple.

The short version: A solid English Breakfast that is readily available on Amazon in bulk quantities at a low price, best used for iced teas IMHO. Better than your off-the-shelf supermarket English Breakfast teabags. What most non-tea-drinkers think of when they hear “tea”.

Flavors: Hot Hay, Malt, Tea, Wood

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 240 ML

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After a few years of being away from my tea cabinet and passion for all things Camellia sinensis, it was a cuppa from one of my favorite mass-market purveyors of that wonderful leaf that brought me running back to the wonderful world of tea: Harney and Sons with their Hot Cinnamon Spice.

Yes, it’s more spice than tea. Yes, it’s punchy, fully of cinnamon, and tastes a lot like the winter holidays. It’s also one of my favorite “over-flavored” teas I can also share with my roommate or someone I am introducing to the huge variety of teas available and how delicious some of them can be. Doesn’t require any sweetener or additions whatsoever IMHO, as it is perfect unadulterated.

I would score it higher just because it brought me back to the old tea habit (now searching for local tea shops having just moved from Chicago to San Fran), but then one cuppa last week I felt some of those “wet hay / animal bedding” flavors in it… characteristic of improperly stored or older teas. The spices do a good job covering it over and it’s less pronounced when piping hot, but as it cools more of the undertones become noticeable.

What do you want for a USD $8.00/100g loose leaf you can subscribe to on Amazon for monthly shipments? It won’t be top-grade tea and I don’t expect it to, but the perfect blend of the orange peel, cinnamon and clove totally make up for it. Perfect for a foggy morning!!

A new score for a solid tea. Don’t have it with sandwiches, just drink it on cold foggy days or in the evenings before heading to bed.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Citrus Zest, Clove, Hot Hay, Straw

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 20 OZ / 600 ML

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drank Marzipan by TeaGschwendner
33 tasting notes

This tea smells exactly like its namesake — sweet, fragrant marzipan. I wanted to start scooping leaves into my mouth right there at the store, so I picked up 250g of it without ever tasting it brewed. I’m glad I did for two reasons — first, I went through about 30g of it before I found my “sweet spot” for this VERY FINICKY tea, but once I got it right I am glad I have a decent supply of it.

The more TeaGschwendner teas I try, the more I am learning to just ignore their ridiculous brewing recommendations. They pretty much just say “boiling water, 2 minutes, 1 tsp-8oz cup” for every flavored black in their book. On some of their teas, more than 2 minutes WILL result in bitter, muddled, or unbalanced flavors, and for me this was one of them… but at 2 minutes with boiling water, I still smelled the marzipan but the flavor was a bit weak for my tastes.

So, like a few other TeaGschwendner teas which disappointed me at first, I experimented with some varying temps and brew times “bracket tournament style” (I only have 2 of my favorite stainless steel infusers lol). After a morning of brewing several liters of this stuff, I have a kitchen that smells like a patisserie and finally a delightful cuppa marzipan goodness. I also have a small pitcher of this sitting in the fridge (a blend of the unfinished brews) to try iced just for fun, although without the strong aromatic effect from a hot tea I am guessing it won’t be as good as I imagine.

2 minutes wound up being the sweet spot for me, but at 200F and two heaping teaspoons of the leaf (probably about 2.5tsp). Anything over 2 minutes and the black tea starts overpowering the marzipan, everything goes out of balance and it doesn’t really even taste that great anymore, somehow the faint notes of marzipan fool my senses into sensing some straw-like notes you’d expect from a Dian Hong but not an Indian black, and it doesn’t go well with the almondy-marzipan in the background. But at 2 minutes, 1 tsp winds up being a bit weak for me overall.

So my recommendation is to go heavy on the leaf, bring the temp down from boiling to about 200F for me, and stick to the odd 2-minute warning and you get a delicious hot cuppa marzipan. There is a slight smooth sweetness to the brew unadulterated, but I just HAVE to add a bit of stevia (or other kind of sweetener) to really make it pop "hey, you’re drinking liquid marzipan!!). I have already tried this blended with a few other teas, it’s horrible with Mariage Freres Vanille Imperial, pretty good with TGSR’s Caramel and I love it with a few cocoa nibs. Still searching for that perfect “dark chocolate covered marzipan” blend so I can make this a permanent stock in my pantry.

Definitely one of my favorites from TeaGschwendner so far, still plenty of bags to open & try once a few tins go empty & free up ;-)

200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 250 ML

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drank Blood Orange by TeaGschwendner
33 tasting notes

Stopped in at TeaGschwendner last weekend while in downtown Chicago and picked up a bag of this because it smelled awesome — it really has a strong sweet orange smell, not just “citrus” you get in a lot of other citrus teas. I thought it would translate into the brew just as prominently but was let down a bit the first time I used their brewing instructions and quantities.

I doubled the tea, brought the temp down a bit and let it steep 3 minutes, which resulted in something closer to what I expected based on the aroma, but still not out of this world. On these parameters it is a nice orange tea without the bitters of citrus zest, and the orange isn’t that tart store-OJ kind but more the nice fresh squeezed kind. It’s nowhere near as strong as you would think, however.

Nothing to write home about but it’s nice to have a mellow, non-bitter orange tea without tartness for those evenings I just crave something up that alley. This would probably go well with a lemon scone or piece of toast with marmalade on it.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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drank Youthberry White Tea by Teavana
33 tasting notes

No no NOOOO YUCK. I usually like Teavana teas when I want something overpoweringly flavored or don’t mind overpaying for just a good straight loose leaf (love em or hate em, they do have some good quality unflavored teas… just pricey). This is characteristically Teavana in that the tea comprises a minority of the contents and they drown it in extra flavors. The main problem, however, is that they have chosen “essence of petrochemical rubber tire factory” as one of the flavors they added to this one along with all the berries & other stuff. I can taste the conveyor belt and fractional distillation chamber rinsing fluid just as prominently as the berries and tart florals.

For those who enjoy this tea and call it “unique”, maybe they just like their Acai berry notes well balanced with trimethylbenzene, or enjoy the tartness of pineapple offset with a good phenolic benzotriazole type methacrylate… Perhaps they are just used to brewing fruity teas with industrial factory waste-water imported direct from China. I guess, then, it would be unique. Not in a good way though.

Once it cooled and you spoon it full of sweetener, you can almost drink it. The trick is to try not to breathe in the aromatics (too artificial) while drinking it, and try to imagine yourself in a sweatshop shoe-sole factory while you do.

I would only wish this tea upon my worst enemies and those who actually enjoy artificial/industrial chemical flavors.

185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec 5 g 10 OZ / 300 ML

“essence of petrochemical rubber tire factory”
Lol, sounds appalling!!!


What a shame, it would be a nice fruity and tart white if not for the chemical flavors and smells


bleh ! sure not something I would like to try !


Awe!!! This is one of my favorites! Although I blend it with Wild Orange Blossom


That’s okay darby, I love blue cheese but have friends that abhor the stuff.. and some chemicals like phenylthiocarbamide have genetic markers which make it tasteless to some but bitter to others… maybe it’s something complicated or maybe just the candied pineapple, but it just didn’t go over for me ;-) You can certainly have what’s left if we ever do a swap!

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All-around excellent matcha! I’ve been drinking this usucha style, heated chawan, two almond-sized chashaku mounds of matcha finely sifted, bamboo chasen pre-moistened, 175F water around 75-85ml I’m guessing, added about 10ml first to mix up the paste then added the rest of the water to froth. Creamy, frothy, that perfect deep jade color underneath the foam, and very easy to form that smooth froth of uniformly small bubbles.

The aroma first hits you a bit like the first infusion of a gyokuro — that warm briny ocean smell, but nowhere as strong and quickly joined by a lot of deep vegetal aromas… it’s that special note my favorite matchas have in the aroma, and lets me know the leaves would have made a fine gyokuro if processed differently. But also like I enjoy my matcha, it doesn’t translate into the flavor — this tastes very vegetal with a sweet finish, and I find myself going through the whole process 2-3 times a day now just to enjoy a good bowl of this stuff more than once. I know it is a bit blasphemous, but some cream & stevia (not enough to make it a real latte, maybe a tsp of each) makes it oh-so-rich and oh-so-enjoyable.

Good quality for the price point.

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 3 OZ / 75 ML

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Hmmm, interesting.. very interesting. This is one of those “wait, is this tea or is it an herbal blend?” teas, but done very well in my opinion. I am really thinking people will either love this or hate it because it is so unique. Being born in the Year of the Horse as well as this being the Year of the Horse, I picked up a tin of this from MF on my last order.

First, the aromatics – the green lemon/orange zest, coupled with the very noticeable ginger immediately remind me of taking cooking classes in Thailand. I feel like I’ve just prepared some fresh lemongrass and ginger, and am smashing it in a mortar and pestle getting ready to add some Thai eggplant and chili peppers to make an awesome fresh curry. I almost want to brew a cup of this and add some garlic, peppers and eggs to try making a soup, but there are just enough sweet notes in there (probably from the kumquat) to stop me… today. In fact, when I add some stevia it really brings out the tart goji berries (or is that still the kumquat, I can’t tell). I definitely will try adding some cayenne to this on my next brew, and if that works out I’ll even try some fish sauce! LOL.

I can barely tell from drinking the liquor that there is tea in here. I see it, it’s the majority of the leaves, but the ginger, citrus, and really make this taste like an herbal blend, and quite a savory fresh green thai curry one at that (not the kind you buy, but the kind you make fresh!). There really is no astringency to lock in on and the ginger gives it a bit of that smooth but tart mouthfeel, so it almost feels like an herbal.

If you have ever had TWG’s Poetic Star oolong and/or TeaGschwendner’s Bamboo-Pomelo herbal tisane, this is somewhere between those two for me, plus ginger. I definitely like it a bit more than either of those other two.

Try it if you have a chance, it’s definitely one I’ll be reordering next time.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 14 OZ / 400 ML

Mmmmmmmmm ginger!,

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drank Thé de Lune by Mariage Frères
33 tasting notes

This tea is….(drumroll)… Eros 2.0. Well, a slightly modified version of Eros. In fact, I brewed a cuppa Eros just to try them side by side, because I thought I had brewed the wrong tea!

OK well with a direct comparison, there are some differences. All the floral notes are still there, drinking this tea is still like walking through the gardens of Château de Chenonceau. HOWEVER, the hibiscus is gone, and with it all the tartness and sour notes of Eros. Comparing the two, this tea tastes a little bit sweeter and the tart is replaced by a slight hint of spice – picking through the leaves it looks to me like they replaced the hibiscus with french marjoram blossoms, but for all I know it could be sweet rocket, purple marigold, or some herb/flower I don’t recognize.

This also has a slightly smoother, creamier mouth-feel than Eros. Once again, probably attributed to the removal of hibiscus which has a pretty low pH.

Eros is a nice solid foofoo girly tea, and so is this. I loved visiting Château de Chenonceau but it wasn’t the gardens I loved the most, it was the display cases filled with swords and antique guns. ;-) I guess that being a pretty manly guy will get in the way of giving this a great score, but it will make great tea for my mom or female guests. If you love “flowery” flowers (think French garden, perfumes, etc.) in your tea, give this +10-20 points, depending how much you love flower gardens. If you are a woman, give this another +10-20 points, depending on how feminine you are. Voila, your personalized score. :-)

It is at the very top of my “Standard cuppa” rating though, since it still is tasty. I mean, if I ever break a nail while welding a metal statue of guns that fire bacon, this tea would fit perfectly and will be wonderful for guests. Would I recommend it? YES to certain audiences.

I realize this review may sound a bit sexist LOL. I guess after having 700ml of flowery foofoo tea, I guess I feel like I had to overcompensate in manliness to restore the balance in my evening. Excuse me, I now have to go smoke a cigar and cook some steaks over a campfire. Mmm puts me in the mood for a lapsang souchong LOL.

Flavors: Flowers, Peppercorn

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

Hahaha love it!


So glad I’m following you….this sounds like a winner to me!


So I guess my rating would be 80 for this tea. lol (Although I enjoy antique swords too but not as much as flowers)


;) Yes ubacat, if I were to make a youtube video review of this or Eros, I’d set it to Mumford & Sons “Flowers in your hair” but change all the lyrics around and re-title it “Flowers in your tea”

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You guessed it: vanilla. Not the chemical/artificial vanilla flavor you find in a lot of teas… a good, solid, pleasant natural vanilla. Not quite as good as splitting fresh beans from Papua New Guinea and dropping them into a bottle of grey goose for 6 months, but hey it’s tea not vanilla extract, and still beats the taste of typical grocery store vanilla extract or vanilla sugars/syrups I have tried adding to tea & coffee before.

The vanilla isn’t overwhelmingly strong. It’s there but doesn’t drown you in it. Not necessarily a bad thing, as the tea itself is pretty mild as well – the website says “black tea” but I’m guessing it will be a partially oxidized Darjeeling because it brews coppery/amber somewhere between an oolong and a BLACK black, and I picked up a bit of muscatel flavors in there. Balanced, but I have had better vanilla flavored teas, and there’s not really much else to it. Tea Merchant’s Silk Dragon holds the top spot on my vanilla leader board right now and wasn’t in any danger of being unseated by this, but when I want a little less vanilla without having to skip the first infusion, combine 3-4 infusions, or without any other additional flavors, I’ll come back to this.

No complaints, but not wowed. Nice, pleasant vanilla tea I won’t bother restocking after I run out – too many quality alternatives with less hassle and lower cost. Now, if I lived in Paris that would be a different story and I might stock it more often ;-)

Flavors: Vanilla

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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drank Marco Polo by Mariage Frères
33 tasting notes

Okay okay, so I finally see what all the fuss is about. And now that I have tried it, I am torn.

First, this is an awesome tea. It is essentially the closest thing to my all-time favorite black tea (TWG 1837 Signature black) I have ever had. It has all the rich and dark wild European berries you’d find from blackberries in Germany’s Bavarian woodlands to the prized bilberries people hunt for in Lithuania’s peat-covered pine forests where they filmed “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves”. It successfully muddles them with fresh black Vietnamese sugarcane you’d buy at a roadside vendor on the way from Hanoi to Mai Chau. It’s got that unique hint of wild and rare flowers in the background. The black tea adds that subtle but perfect touch of tannins, as if you brewed your cuppa in some monastery’s old wood barrel they once used to age berry wines for decades. It’s fragrant, it’s fruity, it’s rich, it would have earned a perfect score of 100 and made it to my all-time top list, were it not for the fact I was already spoiled and had tried something a little bit better.

Marco Polo’s berries are ripe, dark, and sweet, but they’re missing that handful of indulgent over-ripe berries, the kind that fall apart with the slightest agitation and dye your hands deep blue and purple hues. It’s also missing that hint of hot caramel your mom would make on the stove with fresh cream and butter from the farmer next door. And this is why I am torn. TWG’s 1837 seems like a copy of Marco Polo (don’t let the 1837 fool you as those guys only started in 2008), but it’s not some cheap Asian knockoff. They actually managed to improve the already decadent flavors and even enrich them.

So, I love this stuff but it doesn’t dethrone my current favorite (scented/flavored) black tea. Bonus points, however, as this is much more readily available and cheaper, and I can have MF ship it direct to my house. Downside of 1837 is that I’ve tried the bags from Dean & DeLuca and they don’t do any justice to the stuff you buy at their salons in Asia.

I can’t wait to try them side by side, that should happen in about 6-7 weeks once I restock the 1837. But for now, I am sooooo happy to have over a pound of this in my cabinet, I will be drinking it daily for sure. I’m liking Mariage Freres more and more with every new tea I try from them – and while I haven’t moved on to their “purist” (read: not scented/blended/flavored) teas, it’s something I will definitely have to consider next time I order or drop in on them.

Flavors: Berries, Flowers, Jam

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Musician, pilot, philanthropist, tea lover. Nothing beats a spiced oolong at 10,000 feet. Except maybe a cuppa dian hong with my feet next to the fireplace. Or some fresh bai hao yin zhen before bedtime. My rating system is pretty much like this:

1-20 : ‘Blech’ cuppa. Didn’t even finish the one I brewed, rest went in trash. That bad, at least for me.

21-40: ‘Meh’ cuppa. Finished it but threw away the rest of the tea or used it for other purposes like baking, gifts for in-laws, or serve to unwanted houseguests. Kinda like Twinnings or Lipton bag tea.

41-60: ‘Standard’ cuppa. Won’t buy any more, but will certainly brew all that I have left. Probably will use it to blend with other teas or as a base, or large quantities of iced tea for parties and such.

61-80: Good cuppa. Now we’re talking. Worth buying more if at the right price, love blending some of these too. Sometimes a few oddballs will find their way into this score just because I liked the fruity flavor or having it as an iced tea. Also my starting score range for new kinds of tea until I develop a good feel for my preferences or learn to better distinguish quality characteristics.

81-99: Awesome cuppa. You’ll probably find this in my pantry pretty regularly, unless it has been discontinued or I’m waiting for my next trip to Asia or Europe to pick up some more. Holds up well to multiple infusions (unless black/herbal), and will typically drink it unadulterated/straight. I’ll gladly pay premium prices and chances are I’ll be ordering and tasting a bunch of other teas this producer/company offers.

100: Cuppa bliss, oh where have you been all my life???! I will burn frequent flier miles and journey to the ends of the earth while paying nearly any price to make sure I have this stocked at all times. Over time as I discover some magical new teas, a few may fall off this list. Try to keep it max 1 per type of tea.

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