15 Tasting Notes


I’ve been drinking this tea every now and then for the past few months. The good: this just might be the best Ali Shan I’ve tried, interesting and satisfying, and has a tendency to bring a good mood after a couple of cups. The bad: I really disliked how buttery it could be, since I’ve never managed to get a solid body from the tea. Not even when I did the insane thing and overbrewed a huge amount of leaves. I wonder if good quality Ali Shan is supposed to have a body that thin – if it is, I guess it’s just not for me.

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Just discovered this in my cupboard. Although the tea is quite old – more than a year old, in fact – the tin was just good enough, and some of the original scent is still there. Gave it a really long, barbaric steep – something like 7 minutes – and ended up with a very nice cup. Don’t do that if you get Opium Hill fresh, though :)

(rating is for fresh tea, from memory – really powerful when re-steeped several times – has a characteristic cold orchid-like scent and flavor in later steepings)

200 °F / 93 °C 7 min, 0 sec

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Dry leaves give of a rather overpowering scent of citrus fruits – quite tangy, and just a little bit sweet. No wonder, since MF mentions 7 types of citrus fruits here! But there are also flowers, safflower among them, which gives off a very particular scent. The tea itself isn’t as strong as the smell – in fact, quite soft, almost tender if it weren’t for some citrus astringency. Most teas of this series have a comparable body.

Like many MF teas, this one is fun to experiment with. One day it had a very strong orange note. Another day, another flavour – like a mix of light citrus juices with tea (if this sounds disgusting, I can’t help it – can’t find other words for it). Last time I brewed this, lime was the leading note. I’m not a very big fan of citrus fruits, but if you are, I’m sure you’ll find this fascinating – like discovering a whole different side to your favorite flavours. Unfortunately, the tea is quite expensive, and I think a bit overpriced.

Flavors: Citrus, Lime, Orange

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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Make no mistake, this is an intensely floral tea, with gratuitous amounts of lavender and a rather large amount of rose petals (so the flavor is “dry rose petals”, not “rose essential oil”). If you dislike lavender, stay away as far as you can.

I don’t really like lavender myself, but the tea became very interesting once I realized that I should use lower water temperature. Lately I’ve been using 80-85C for spring Darjeeling teas – which only works when the tea is very high quality, I think – and when you do that to Paris-London, you get a rather interesting mixture of floral notes in the cup. Some of them come from the Darjeeling, others are products of lavender mixing with Darjeeling notes, etc. Very intriguing and captivating if you’re into detailed tasting. So while I’m probably not going to brew this again, I’d recommend Paris-London to anyone interested in fine mechanics of tea blending, and, of course, to lavender enthusiasts.

(Also, it’s incredibly soothing for a tea, very much a beverage for the evening.)

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 15 sec 2 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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I’ve never tasted the candy this tea is based on, but I love rooibos and was more than willing to give it a try. Some of the HG collection teas aren’t very strong with their flavors (aromas are another matter), yet are quite pleasant in a light, unobtrusive way. This one had medium strength flavors, but… Not sure what these flavors are, but it’s quite probably the strangest, and one of the most unpleasant rooibos teas I’ve ever had. There’s a particular kind of sweetness that reminded me of bad cream in cheap cakes. Or even cheap alcohol! Milk did not help at all. Oh course, it could be a perfect imitation of the calisson taste, but I wouldn’t know.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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A rare Laos tea with a smoky aroma, but it’s nothing like Lapsang Souchong, or any Keemun I know. I could say it has an earthy flavour, but it’s not at all like puerhs. The taste is… wet trees, moss, and smoke? With a dry, gingery finish. I wish I could try the non-ginger version (called Champasak, I believe). Brewing this gongfu style made me even more confused about the flavours here. A tea to return to, periodically.

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 45 sec

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This is a blend of white, green, and oolong tea, with ginger and liquorice root. As you can imagine, dry leaves give off a rather complex aroma, full of subtleties. Sweet-ish and gingery. As for the taste, well… The liquorice root doesn’t really enter the equation at that point. Ginger does, but it’s never as strong as in Indian Chai, or similar spicy drinks.

As for the actual tea, well, if you’re lucky, brewing this at high temperature you may get a yummy gingery drink, with translucent liquor. And a lower temperature, around 75 degrees C, may deliver to you a very gentle, sweet cup, like a complex white tea with very subtle floral notes. Trouble is, if you’re unlucky, you’ll just get a very average, light green tea with ginger, a very poor green version of Chai.

So, an interesting and somewhat strange blend, but its worth a try if you like conducting experiments every now and then. It may also yield interesting results when brewed gongfu style, something I haven’t tried with this tea yet.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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Dry leaves are mixed with flower petals and give off a very dry, flowery smell – reminds me of herbariums. Not the kind of scent I want tea to have. Steeped, it still gives off the same aroma, but the taste is completely different. The floral accents are just the surface. Beneath lies a very strong, very tasty black tea, full-bodied. Kind of like if you mix a Yunnan black tea without the astringency and bite, and a Dianhong without the fruitiness. Not sure if this makes sense. What I mean is that if you like Chinese black teas, give this one a try as well.

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 15 sec

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Mariage Frères are characteristically coy with their descriptions. Their website claims Hunan, but my sources tell me this is similar to Anhui’s Huo Shan Huang Ya (Yellow Sprouts). Whatever the origin, this is a difficult tea to make, or at least I found it to be so. Strictly 75 degrees Celsius, and keep the cup/teapot open so that the water is cooling down as the tea is steeping. And it’s properly steeped after about a minute. Keep it steeping for a longer time and it loses most of its aroma and taste, and becomes an average green tea. I think I only got this two times out of ten.

But the results, oh the results! Impossibly beautiful flavor and aroma, gentle and full-bodied at the same time, layer upon layer of different kinds of sweet and floral taste and smell. And if you keep the wet leaves after steeping, they give off a yet another kind of sweetness. Breathtaking, really. Just very demanding to make.

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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I work in a tea shop. The shop in question mostly sells Mariage Freres teas, so I drink a lot of those.

Chinese black teas are currently my favorite teas, especially Dianhongs, Keemuns, and occasionally Lapsang Souchong. I also love Thai black teas when I can get my hands on them. Of herbal teas, I only drink rooibos and have a strong dislike towards anything that has too much camomile, lavender, etc.

At this point, I’m trying to get a working knowledge of Chinese green teas and Chinese and Thai oolongs.


Moscow, Russia



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