20 Tasting Notes

95

(Note: I used the proportions recommended on the tin for this tasting, aka 3 teaspoons for the teapot. I made it for two.)

This was my first time trying a Lapsang Souchong. I didn’t get a sample of this one, I bought a whole tin right away – it was somehow calling me in a way that I can’t really describe. I had to have it shipped to a distant acquaintance in England who then brought it to France. The shipping costs are awfully high when you have F&M’s tea shipped to the continent.
It would have been an absolute personal tragedy had I not liked this tea. But I tried to dive into it without having too high expectations.

The leaves of this one are very nice to look at. They’re long-ish and unbroken for the most part. I’d never smelled Lapsang Souchong before. So I opened the tin, preparing for the best moment of my life and… salmon. And rubber tyres. What?
I must admit, I was disappointed. I had been hoping for that deep, wonderful revelation you only see in movies. But like all challenging teas, your love for Lapsang Souchong must be earned. You gotta work for it. So that’s what I did.
I smelled the tea every now and then during the whole steeping process. The initial salmon and rubber progressively turned into a more herbaceous smell that was very evocative of a romanticized hearth and everything it implies. You know – the small home you’d imagine the people from the Middle Ages might have lived in (I’m sorry, darling), where everyone would gather and have tea together near the fireplace. As I said, romanticized.

Once steeped for 5 minutes, the brew was very clear and bright orange.
Now, the taste. It was very difficult, for me, to go beyond the salmon and rubber. I had to force my way through it until I emerged on the other side. Lapsang Souchong is a quest – not everyone makes it (which is okay, to each their own!), but if you do the finest rewards await you. What a delight to sit at the table and know that your cup contains such joy and happiness, and that if you truly want to get through to them, all you have to do is listen to the leaves!
At first I didn’t sense any astringency at all, which made me wonder if I had brewed it wrong somehow. I later realised that it is, in fact, astringent, but in a very stealthy way.
When I finished my first cup, I wasn’t quite sure I had made it yet. Therefore, I very bravely put the leaves back in for 2 more minutes.

And then – oh wow. The earthy notes just exploded. It tasted like the ground in a forest, just after it has rained a little. The twigs crack under your feet while you walk further into the woods. Pine needles are everywhere on the floor, and a cold wind is blowing your scarf away. This tea tasted like comforting silence. I loved it.
And that’s when I realised – I have overcome the barrier of salmon and rubber that might have prevented me from enjoying Lapsang Souchong. I did it.
The tin suggests mixing some of it into other black teas to add aroma; I think I’ll try this in the future, out of curiosity.

Tl;dr: I’m OBSESSED.

Flavors: Herbaceous, Pine, Smoke, Wet Earth

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 34 OZ / 1000 ML

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I have never had pu-erh before today. I went to the supermarket the other day and saw this “made in Germany” pu-erh, cheap and easy, no outrageously high shipping costs, and no risk – because I wouldn’t be disappointed if it was bad, and it’d only make me curious for more. And I’d only be blown away by the first good quality pu-erh I’d have after this one.

I tried it earlier today.The loose leaves are quite small, but mostly unbroken. They strongly smell of algae, somehow – please excuse my ignorance, I know absolutely nothing about pu-erh. I want to change that though. Anyway, back to the leaves – they’re greenish in colour, and snail-ish in shape. The drink itself is very clear.
Since I was very curious about pu-erh, I let my guard down. I straight-up stuck my nose into the cup and was immediately hit with the strongest hazelnut smell I have ever smelled in my life. Even a room filled to the brim with fresh hazelnuts would not smell this strong. We had hazelnut bushes in our garden when I was a kid and my sisters and I would spend every summer trying to make Nutella by mixing all the hazelnuts we could find with some dirty water (I honestly don’t know how we’re all still alive) and it reminded me of that.

The first sip was extremely underwhelming, I must admit. “Is this hazelnut water?” I thought to myself. Is it normal that this has no astringency whatsoever? Again, please don’t hate, I am new to this. I followed the brewing directions, in any case. It was too flat for me.
So I decided to steep new leaves for 30 seconds (guess which dumbass had thrown the first leaves away in a hurry, haha). The smell got way more earthy after that. Still no astringency, but the flavours got deeper and thus, more interesting. The hazelnut becomes more earthy, and the childhood hazelnut becomes an adult pine forest. The tea grows up as you let it steep, I feel.
Just to be sure, I put the new leaves back in for 2 minutes. The colour became significantly darker. The pine forest deepened; before, I was standing on the top of the mountain, looking down on the forest – now I was right in the middle of it, the big trees were everywhere around me, very big and very silent, and it was growing cold and dark. The hazelnut was back now, but it had moved into the background and therefore it was way more interesting than in the first 2-minute steep.
I definitely liked it better after steeping it for 4 minutes+ in total instead of the 2 minutes the tea bag was recommending.

I suppose that better quality pu-erhs are going to be way more interesting than this one – but I don’t think tasting this one as my first pu-erhs was a mistake, on the contrary. It definitely made me curious to try more, and I will be sure to do so. Another positive: I haven’t set myself up for disappointment. Well done me!
If you’ve got any recommendations or general advice, I’d be glad!

(Not rating this one, because I’m not qualified to!)

Flavors: Hazelnut, Wet Earth

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 34 OZ / 1000 ML
tea-sipper

Welcome to the world of pu-erh! I don’t usually find that any ripe pu-erh can ever be astringent. Also, give Teavivre a try, if you haven’t already. They have awesome pu-erh and you can ask about samples!

Olive

Thank you for the recommendation! I’ll be sure to check them out, and get some samples – I really want to get to know pu-erh more. Earthy teas are a passion of mine hehe!

mrmopar

Gong Fu preparation with puerh will increase your enjoyment.

Olive

mrmopar: I’ll look into that, especially since I got a sample of another pu-erh not long ago. Thanks for the suggestion!

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86

I got this one a few weeks ago, at the start of the post-Halloween season, because I think that caramel rooibos is a great tea to drink during the cold months of the year.

This one is very interesting in terms of smell. Just after steeping, it starts with a very vanilla-like smell that becomes richer and deeper as the tea cools down; it gradually becomes more caramelly, and more interesting. That didn’t surprise me – it is my humble opinion that tea is usually most interesting to the palate when it’s just a bit warmer than lukewarm.
I have had a soft spot for rooibos since I moved out from my parents’ home. I used to drink a vanilla-flavoured rooibos from Meßmer for a while a few winters ago, it would comfort me after hard days. This Dammann Frères is way less brutal to the taste than the Meßmer one; the aroma isn’t thrown into your face as if the drink were trying to punch you in the nose. It’s way more subtle and feels nicer to drink.
Your mouth still gets that nice rooibos feeling when you drink it, but it doesn’t feel burnt out after drinking just one cup like I’ve had it happen with other rooibos(es?).
The aroma is clear and good caramel, but it has a pleasant gingerbread vibe as well, and just like the smell it becomes richer the more it cools down. It’s sweet, but not too sweet – I didn’t sweeten it because I never sweeten any of my drinks, but I don’t think you’d need to sweeten it even if you did. The balance between rooibos, caramel and sweetness is pretty harmonious.
If I had to describe the taste of this rooibos in an image, I’d say there’s that hint of spices you’d smell in the streets of Strasbourg on a cold December evening, when the Christmas market is just closing and people are making dinner in their warm homes.
It’s a fine rooibos to drink around 5 or 6pm, after a long and cold walk in the forest, or after a cosy day spent practicing some meaningful, hearth-centered witchcraft. It reminds me of an alternate childhood I might have had if I’d lived in a fantasized version of another century.

This rooibos takes you on a journey – whatever mindset you were in before you took that first sip.

Flavors: Caramel, Rooibos, Spices, Vanilla

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 15 sec

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87
drank Earl Grey by Whittard of Chelsea
20 tasting notes

(Note: the tea I tasted for this review is the classic Earl Grey by Whittard of Chelsea. However, it seems they’ve changed the packaging of their teas, and the one I own doesn’t look like the one in the picture on here. I found conflicting info on the web so I’m not sure of anything. Should I find out that this tasting note is in the wrong place, I will remove it.)

My sister brought this tea back from her school trip to England and I hadn’t tasted it before yesterday. My mother brewed it for Sunday brunch, which is why I had no control over the water temperature and steeping time, but I decided I’d write a tasting note anyway.
The tea has a dark brown colour which is very nice to the eye, and a very interesting marine smell when hot. As it cools down, the smell of the black tea becomes more prominent and the mix of the two is pretty nice.
I started sipping it as soon as it got cool enough for me not to burn my tongue and lose my taste for three days. It’s nicely astringent, which is exactly what I wanted from it on this lazy Sunday morning.
It has some kind of herbaceousness to it, as well as the marine feeling I got when I first smelled it – it’s also kinda cold, like stone perhaps. It’s a tea you might drink after a walk along the shores on a windy October day. It’s a tad salty in smell and taste, and the balance between briskness and smoothness is near perfect for my taste.
It doesn’t become bitter and bad once it starts to really cool down, aka the last few sips are still drinkable even when you’ve forgotten your tea on the living room table for a while. Which is something that happens to me quite often, hehe.
I recommend this one!

(The box recommends 100°C and steeping 3-5 minutes. I only steeped it for 2, so I’m gonna steep it for at least 3 next time I sip it, just to see how it unfolds when steeped longer.)

EDIT: I steeped it for 3-ish minutes just now and was amazed by how bergamot-y it smells? I didn’t get that at all the first time I had this tea, so I’m guessing that flavour only ever comes out when you’ve passed the 3 minute mark. Even just the dry leaves smell like one single huge bergamot (I’ve never actually seen one though). Someone on here says it has almost a creamy flavour, which I totally agree with. Interestingly, that whole saltiness is gone now that I’ve steeped it for longer than 2 minutes.
So, if you want a marine tea, steep 2 minutes, if you want the whole Earl Grey deal, steep for 3 minimum!

(I initially gave this Earl Grey an 83, but now that I’ve sipped it again I’m going up to an 87.)

Flavors: Astringent, Bergamot, Creamy, Earth, Herbaceous, Salt, Wet Moss

Preparation
Boiling

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80
drank Afternoon Blend by Fortnum & Mason
20 tasting notes

I tasted this blend in a nice tea room with a delicious torche aux marrons. (Please don’t assume I’m arrogant because I use French words. I’m actually French. Which, upon reflection, doesn’t help my case. But let’s move on.)
I was given an empty cup and my own teapot to brew my tea myself, which gave me the opportunity to brew it for exactly 3 minutes. What a joy!
Once I was done I poured it and looked at it. The beautiful dark orange colour it had was so mesmerizing that I forgot my pâtisserie and just kept looking at it until it had cooled down enough for me to drink it without burning my tongue.
I smelled the tea before drinking. It evoked a small but cosy English cottage somewhere on a coast, where you’ve been invited for tea by an elderly lady who might be the queen in disguise, you’re not sure. Very nice.
The first sip was accompanied by the immediate thought “wow, this is so subtle!” – because it really was. It felt like I was drinking silk – it kind of melted on my tongue.
The blend had a very pleasant earthy and herbaceous tone to it, which my sister noticed as well when I handed her the cup to taste. The first thing that came to mind was the moss you’d find between the stones of a low wall separating two fields.
To sum up, this is a very calm, subtle and reassuring tea; a tea that comforts you like a wool blanket you’d wrap yourself in on a late evening near the fireplace while the storm is howling outside.

Flavors: Earth, Herbaceous, Wet Moss

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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90

Another one I’ve owned for quite some time and haven’t had in a while. I remember the first time I had a cup of it though, I liked it a lot. Wasn’t big into tea at that time though. It was pleasing to drink but I had nothing to compare it with.
The loose leaves smell a bit like an old confiserie, because of the bergamote. The brewed tea has a beautiful bright orange colour, and a smooth and subtle taste, while still tasting somewhat like your classic Earl Grey. This might not satisfy everyone, as it leads to the tea having less complexity and depth than other, more full-bodied teas.
It also has a very floral side, a bit like the smell you first get when you enter a flower shop. The bergamot is perfectly balanced and brings out the tea very well. You taste the black tea, but you don’t feel it in the texture. Again, I love it, but it might not please everyone.
This tea also opens up as it gets cooler, and that’s something I love in my tea.
Definitely a favorite!

Flavors: Candy, Floral

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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87
drank Vintage Darjeeling by Twinings
20 tasting notes

This tea has a beautiful colour. It has a sweet smell, like a fruit tree’s leaf (a cherry tree, I thought) and also smells like fermentation. The tea itself is very present in that smell. It reminds me of one of my primary school friend’s garden – she had a giant cherry tree in the middle of her garden, where we used to play in the summer. I’m very fond of these memories.
The tea has a very floral taste, almost herbaceous. It tastes like a footpath that leads into a forest going up a mountain. It almost reminds me of sap.
It also opens up in its flavors as it cools down, which means that drinking it slowly is really interesting.
Oh, and the loose leaves are beautiful.

Flavors: Cherry, Herbaceous, Pine, Sap

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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45

I tried this tea a few days ago with my fiancee. I’ve been owning it for quite a long time but I hadn’t had it for some time.
The first sip I drank made me think of sitting in Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe’s hut with a candle and a gamba, or a Georges de la Tour painting. This is a tea you’d dive into after a long day of writing an aria.
The tea leaves are very badly-looking: the leaves are practically crumbs, and there’s quite a lot of stems mixed with them.
We pre-soaked one of the tea bags and not the other one, which made a huge difference (pardon me if this is common knowledge – I’m a beginner). The pre-soaked one was way less bitter than the other one.
The tea itself is still extremely bitter, and the aromas kind of help covering that up. Which can be a good or a bad thing. I kind of felt cheated, to be honest. I feel like the aromas are supposed to highlight the tea, not cover it up. The tea is okay when you drink it very hot, but as soon as it goes below 40°C it becomes so bitter that I had trouble drinking up.
Tl;dr: the first 3 sips are okay, but then it gets tough. I felt like the aromas are there to cover up the fact that the tea is barely drinkable. I don’t recommend this one.

Flavors: Caramel, Vanilla

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

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35

I got this tea as a gift from my mum. It was the “nomad” version, a small box with 10 bags inside.
My fiancee and I tasted it a few days ago. The tea bags smell amazing – a strong and spicy smell that’s mostly cardamom and ginger, along with black tea.
I must say, I was rather disappointed. Chai masala is supposed to be spicy, with the milk bringing balance in its taste. This tea is spicy until you let it infuse in the milk – then it loses most of its flavour. I could still taste the tea and a faint pink pepper, but that was it. The ginger was completely gone, along with the rest of the spices. It’s a shame, really, cos you end up drinking hot milk with a vaguely spicy aroma. We tried adding sugar to see if it would help, but it just made it taste even less good. I think adding sugar helps if you wanna drink large quantities of this tea, as it tones down the spices, but it’s really not epic, whether you add sugar or not. It simply lacks the spiciness you’d expect from a chai masala. I could taste cardamom and a bit of pink pepper, and that’s all.
Basically, this tea smells and tastes like the shop my mum bought it at, which is Nature & Découvertes. If you’ve been to one of their shops, you know what I mean. I don’t recommend this tea.

Flavors: Cardamom

Preparation
4 g 17 OZ / 500 ML

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60
drank AquaRosa by Kusmi Tea
20 tasting notes

I tried this on a train home, and since this is my first review I wanted to try a tea that’s completely new to me instead of reviewing a tea that I already know and love. I will say that I did drink it in a paper cup – please don’t judge, it’s the only thing they had – so that might explain why I didn’t like this tea very much.
The first thing I immediately tasted was the berries, which to me was the strongest flavour in this tea. Then I got the hibiscus, which I like a lot, it was almost as intense as the berries. The tea itself is very sweet in its taste (and I didn’t put any sugar in it). It reminded me of Gummibärchen, you know, those Haribo bear things? That’s the first thing it reminded me of, along with a bath with candles on a late summer night, which I think the name of the tea evokes as well.
The flavours died rapidly though, and I think it was either the apple texture (which I loathe), or just the paper cup.
AquaRosa is not a tea I’d drink for fun, but I do think it’s pretty nice if you need comfort on a long trip. I recommend it iced more than hot, as well.

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

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Profile

Bio

I got into tea-tasting in the summer of 2018 – before that I enjoyed tea without really thinking about it.
I like: Lapsang Souchong, that cheap Earl Grey in the morning, and teas that don’t pretend to be better than they are.
I don’t like: aromas used to hide poor quality, clearly overpriced tea, colonialist aesthetics.

I’m quite fond of a few Dammann Frères blends and I’m obsessed with Fortnum and Mason’s Lapsang.

Hit me up for tea shop recs in Alsace (France)!

My ratings:
100-90: I’m in love and drinking this forever
89-70: very good tea, will gladly drink again
69-50: pretty okay, might drink again
49-30: not convincing, probably won’t drink again
below 30: won’t drink again and do not recommend

Current obsessions: Autumn Tea, Fortnum & Mason

Location

France

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