201 Tasting Notes

78

My better half and I accidentally stumbled upon an almost hidden spice and tea store yesterday while we were eating lunch at a vegan restaurant in Charlotte. Since we now eat only plant-based foods, as of four months ago, I guess we are vegan too. (My wife says we no longer consume anything with a mother or a face. That is very dire news for a BBQ rib-o-holic like myself. In my mind, ribs are the mother of all meat.) But I digress…Getting back to the tea…

I purchased this Death By Chocolate selection based on its incredible chocolate aroma alone. (Plus, since I can no longer eat dairy or sugar products, I thought it was a clever-or desperate-way to sneak some chocolate back into my life.)

The rich dark chocolate aroma was seeping from the silver bag and hitting my nostrils from about 10 feet away. When I opened it, I wished that the bag was the size of my bathtub so I could dive into it. The whole leaves were dark brown, almost black. Generously spread throughout the leaves were thin cocoa nibs.

I was almost drooling as I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed aroma was rich and all chocolate. The color was a cloudy yellowish amber, like you might encounter with an herbal tea.

The flavor was completely, unequivocally, and most definitely chocolate. It was a fine tasting chocolate too and had no artificial attributes. I was disappointed, though, to experience some bitterness that remained on the ol’ palate. In fairness, the unwanted characteristic faded after several sips.

As great as the chocolate flavor was, I found myself wishing for at least a smidgen of tea flavor. The overall sensation was more like chocolate water than chocolate tea.

Another important element in a great black tea for me is a registered amount of caffeine kick. I am sorry to say that this blend had no caffeine awareness whatsoever, not even after four cups.

Getting back to the positives, I will say that the tea re-steeped very well. There was virtually no difference in taste or color from the first to second steeping.

My plan for this tea in the future is to use it as an added ingredient in my ho-hum, blah, and unexciting black teas. The chocolate in this product is strong enough to perk them up as a second-string additive.

So, to sum it all up, if you like chocolate-flavored beverages, you will find a rich chocolate taste here that shouts from the (tin) rooftops. However, if you are looking for a robust black tea with just chocolate complements, this one might seem as lacking as it is overwhelming.

Flavors: Chocolate, Dark Chocolate

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML
Arby

Props for going vegan! The environment and all the animals you will save thank you. I’m vegetarian/mostly vegan and I can’t believe how easy it is. Between tempeh, legumes, tofu, and seitan, I’m not having any issues making delicious (and interesting) meals. I feel so much less guilty now too.

I’ll be adding this to my wishlist. It sounds fantastic!

Stoo

Hi Arby! Thanks for your comment! Enjoy the tea!

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86
drank Earl Grey by Bigelow
201 tasting notes

You know, I’m starting to rethink my snobbery regarding bagged tea. I started a new job this month (praise God!) and one of the fringe benefits is the company provides free coffee and free tea via boxes of Bigelow tea bags. At first the tea snob in me said I’ll just brew my own tea at home and bring it to the office in my thermos. But, my daily commute entails a 30-minute car ride followed by a 30-minute train ride followed by a 10-minute walk to the building, each way. I wasn’t quite ready to lug my five-cup thermos on my daily travels yet, so I decided to give the Bigelow tea bags a chance.

I steeped the standard paper bag for about five minutes using the office Keurig machine’s hot water setting. As common with brewed bagged tea, I didn’t notice a strong odor, but I could detect the bergamot with this one.

When I started sipping the tea, my taste buds were infused with enough Earl Grey flavor to scratch the itch. The flavor had no bitter twinge to it and the bergamot complemented the black tea taste as you would want and expect of any Earl Grey, bagged or loose leaf. I had no problem with the tea-heavy aftertaste either.

I liked this tea. It did satisfy me enough during the work day to keep me focused on my job (and the price is right!). I can’t deny that I miss my favorite robust loose leaf morning teas that I’ve enjoyed and depended on during the last five years. I will eventually bite the bullet and start hauling my thermos into work and home each day. However, until I get ambitious and motivated enough, this Bigelow tea will keep me from becoming tea-deprived.

HEY! I JUST NOTICED THAT THIS IS MY 200TH TASTING NOTE!!! IT ONLY TOOK ME FIVE YEARS TO GET HERE! THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON THIS FUN JOURNEY!

Flavors: Bergamot, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML
Shae

Congratulations on your new job and your 200th tasting note! I still enjoy bagged tea every once in a while too. I won’t ever go without Twinings Earl Grey in my tea cabinet. :)

ashmanra

Congrats on the new job, Stoo!

Stoo

Thanks, Shae! Twinings does make great teas! I hope all is well with you!

Stoo

Thanks, ashmanra! With the new job, I can continue to support my tea habit! I hope you are doing well!

Nattie

Congrats on 200 tasting notes!! (:

Stoo

Thanks, Nattie!

ScottTeaMan

Congrats on the job & your 200th review Stoo!! :D After a 4.5 year hiatus, I’m back on Steepster reviewing teas-it’s good to be back with my tea friends! :)

LuckyMe

Congrats of the 200th tasting note, I’ve enjoyed reading them all :-)

ScottTeaMan

I love Earl Grey teas! Stash regular Earl Grey is my favorite tea bag EG, & in my top 5 (maybe top 3) for favorite EG. I like the balance of the tea base & bergamot—very nice! :D Their double Bergamot is also a top EG for me, but I don’t like it as much as a few others for hot tea, but it is truly amazing iced!! :)

Stoo

Thanks, ScottTeaMan! Welcome back! I’d have to say that Earl Grey teas are my favorite bagged tea too.

Stoo

Thanks, LuckyMe! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my 200 ramblings! :-)

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98

Every now and then, while out and about, I stumble upon a great tea at an incredible value when I least expect it. Such was the case when we were shopping at Earth Fare.

I don’t know why, but I don’t find their loose leaf tea displays very appealing, and I usually don’t peruse the tea aisle at all anymore. It could be because they store the loose teas in plain, clear, long plastic chutes that remind me of the containers jammed with candy that you buy per pound in the malls.

However, while my wife was searching for great deals on fairly interesting plant-based food items (our current diet of two months) during this trip, I thought looking at the teas might distract me from dreaming and reminiscing about the wonderful sweet treats of old in the candy and cookie aisles. So, I decided to wander down to the calorie-free tea aisle.

All aesthetics aside, I did find the PRICE of this Frontier China black tea irresistible. It was just $17.99 a pound! I thought risking a little over four bucks for four ounces wouldn’t break the bank as I opened the trap door in the chute and let about four ounces drop into the provided plain brown paper bag with Earth Fare’s logo on it.

When I got home and opened the brown bag to see if I should have bought $4 worth of lottery tickets instead, I was quite taken by the rich and sweet-smelling aroma of the long dark tea leaves. This smell was similar to some of my favorite black China teas costing considerably more.

Since neither the clear plastic candy chute nor the plain brown paper bag had brewing instructions, I opted for my standard black tea brewing method: five minutes at 212 degrees.

The steeped result had a deep brownish orange color. The aroma was rich and sweet with hints of chocolate.

As I swirled the liquid around my palate during the first sip, I quickly realized that the taste of this tea was…TERRIFIC! From the first sip to the bottom of my cup, it had to be the smoothest orange pekoe that I had ever sampled! There wasn’t even a RUMOR of astringency. The flavor was also peppered with softly sweet cocoa accents that perfectly accompanied the mild black tea flavor as if both elements were grown and harvested together in one hybrid tree.

If I have any complaint at all (which I don’t), it would be to make the flavor just a tad stronger. However, I say this about almost all teas (due to my sinus challenges) so ignore it.

I just can’t say enough (or maybe I already have) about the great value of this tea. I found it an absolute joy to sip, from the first moment when it hit my tongue to the last when it gently evaporated on my palate. I firmly recommend this tea for everyone, from yacht owners to those of us on budgets.

Flavors: Cocoa, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML
ScottTeaMan

Stoo, I remember having a China Black many years ago from Stash Tea. While their was no cocoa aspect, it was very smooth, tasty and delicious and also well worth the money. :)

Stoo

Hi,ScottTeaMan! Stash is also a good brand! If you get a chance, try their double bergamot!

ScottTeaMan

I love Earl Grey teas! Stash regular Earl Grey is my favorite tea bag EG, & in my top 5 (maybe top 3) for favorite EG. I like the balance of the tea base & bergamot—very nice! :D Their double Bergamot is also a top EG for me, but I don’t like it as much as a few others for hot tea, but it is truly amazing iced!! :)

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80
drank Assam Superb Tea by Fortnum & Mason
201 tasting notes

My sweet wife was due some merchandise credits at the Williams Sonoma store. She so very nicely picked up this tea for me with her credits.

Assam is not my favorite tea as I prefer the Chinese products over those from India. I can’t always find Assam teas that are robust enough for my palate. However, I always try to experience new teas with an open mind. Hopefully, this Assam will be a great one.

My container for this tea was different than the one in the picture. It was also metal but round with a narrower neck. The cap had a cool plastic and reusable inner seal underneath it.

The unbrewed short brown leaves had the familiar aroma of Assam. I steeped them for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product was the color of maple syrup. The smell was sweet and malty.

The flavor had a sweet malty edge to it. I thought I detected a slight twinge of astringency during the first sip but it dissipated quickly and didn’t return.

I liked this Assam. It had sufficient tea flavor to keep my taste buds interested. I enjoyed the sweetness and malty emphasis in the taste. Some Assams have just tasted like weak tea to me. There was no unpleasant bitterness in the brief aftertaste. If you also are on the fence about Assam, you might want to take a chance on this one!

Flavors: Malt, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML
NofarS

My favourite Assam as well :)

Stoo

It’s a good one for sure, NofarS! Thanks for your comment!

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80
drank Tazo® Joy™ Full Leaf Tea by Tazo
201 tasting notes

It was another wonderful Christmas at my house, the day when we Christians celebrate the most precious gift of the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. In addition to this miraculous gift, I also received some other cool presents this year. One of the great ones was a box of Tazo Joy tea from a dear friend of ours.

I don’t drink a lot of bagged tea anymore as I prefer the bolder and more complex flavors that more consistently occur in loose leaf tea. However, there are some bagged teas that are exceptional. I believe Tazo often falls into that category.

First of all, you know Tazo makes “classy” products because their teas are enclosed in “sachets” rather than “bags.” All kidding aside, they do use a silky woven material for their bags…uh…harrumph…sachets, instead of paper. One of my complaints with bagged tea is that you can occasionally taste the paper bag. The Tazo sachet material seems to be tasteless and odorless which allows the tea to sink or swim on its own merit (or lack thereof).

One interesting NOTE: When I was researching this tea on the Internet, I found what must have been an image of older packaging for this tea. At that time, the box said the tea was contained in “filterbags.” I guess “sachets” does sound more sophisticated. :-)

The Tazo Joy sachet contained long black full leaves, as advertised. Other tea bags that I’ve tried contained leaves/by-products that were pulverized to a dry powder. I haven’t found that method optimal for producing superior flavor. The Tazo sachet also had an enticing fruity aroma.

I steeped the sachet for five minutes in eight ounces of boiling water as recommended on the box. The resultant color was a goldish orange. The brewed smell was slightly sweet and fruity.

The taste of this tea was quite decent. The flavor was fruity, mildly sweet, smooth, and lower-end-of-medium-strength. There was absolutely no astringency. There really was no aftertaste either.

The package revealed that the fruity flavor came from peaches. My palate wasn’t sensitive enough to discern the specific fruit’s classification but I was able to identify the flavor as a resident in that family.

All in all, this is a nice tea that I will be happy to drink on those days when, for whatever reason, I don’t have time (or the inclination) to set up the Breville tea maker for a pot of loose leaf tea. Also, I would definitely choose this blend over some of the nasty tea-like substances produced by certain office tea pod machines.

Flavors: Fruity

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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77
drank Russian Caravan by No. Six Depot
201 tasting notes

This was another economical find at our local Dean & Deluca store. The reason for the low price might be because this product was discontinued. (I could not find any specific information about it on the Internet.)

When I opened the drab, but signature, No. Six Depot metal container, the aroma of the short dark leaves reminded me a lot of English Breakfast tea. No. Six Depot seems to use black teas from all over the world. I’m not sure which was used here but I’m relatively confident that it wasn’t Chinese tea. My guess is that it consisted of Indian and Ceylon leaves.

As always, I followed the manufacturer’s recommendations for the initial steeping. I brewed the leaves at 200 degrees for five minutes. The color was orange/gold. The odor had weak English Breakfast and malty characteristics.

The first sip of my cup produced very little flavor. It was early in the morning when I tried it but my taste buds should have been alert enough to wring more taste from this blend. At about the fifth gulp, and after quite a bit of swirling inside my mouth, a defined malty tea taste began to register. The flavor was nice once it clocked in. It was smooth without astringency and the aftertaste was brief and faint.

Maybe the Russian Czar had more sensitive taste buds and/or clearer sinuses than I have. Regardless, this American peasant would have liked the tea to be stronger.

Flavors: Malt, Tea

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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78

After much deliberation between three of us (me, myself, and I), I decided to review each of the ten teas separately to make the individual tasting notes easier to find. With that in mind, the tea of the day is:

Vanilla & Rooibos Tea

I really like these cool glass “test tubes” that package the ten teas. When I unscrewed the lid of this one and stuck my nose inside, I could immediately smell the vanilla. I steeped the orange/brown leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed color was orange/gold. A faint presence of vanilla was detected in the aroma.

The flavor of this tea was pretty much all vanilla. I could taste the tang of the rooibos when I concentrated, but vanilla best described this selection. The flavor was smooth and there was no astringency. However, the vanilla aftertaste stayed on my tongue longer than I preferred.

This is the second of the teas in Trader Joe’s ten-pack that I’ve tried so far. It’s not an unpleasant tea. I would probably like it better in the afternoon than I did in the morning.

Flavors: Rooibos, Vanilla

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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90

I don’t drink many bagged teas anymore but The Republic of Tea’s products were among my favorites when I did. Two aspects of this tea enticed me to try it:

1. It was a free sample that came in the mail
2. I enjoy drinking Christmas teas during the festive season

When I opened the sturdy envelope to expose The Republic of Tea’s signature tea “disc,” an inviting spicy cinnamon aroma spewed out. I steeped the disc for five minutes at 212 degrees. The color was a light gold/orange. The aroma was…like…Christmas!

The brewed liquor had a sweet and spicy flavor that was reminiscent of hot apple cider at Christmas time. I could taste the cloves underneath the dominant flavors but this taste was positioned perfectly without bullying the other great attributes. The overall flavors of this bagged blend were surprisingly robust and quite smooth. The after taste was gentle and delicate. I didn’t detect even a trace of astringency.

This delicious tea really did spread Christmas cheer on my morning. If you find yourself without your loose leaf infuser during the holiday season, this bagged selection just might bring you some comfort and joy.

Flavors: Cloves, Spicy, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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96

Rishi teas are usually solid and reliable. When I saw their English Breakfast black tea in our Whole Foods store, I knew it was worth giving it a try.

A rich malty aroma instantly charged from the metal tin and inner foil envelope upon opening them. The dark brown leaves were extremely short compared to my other Rishi teas. Maybe that is the signature of English Breakfast tea?

I followed Rishi’s brewing instructions and steeped the leaves at 200 degrees for four minutes. The color was bright amber. The smell was malty and slightly sweet.

This tea had a very well-balanced malty and sweet taste, like cocoa. It also was extremely smooth.

The flavor was quite different from most of the other English Breakfast teas I’ve tried. Those all seemed to emphasize the raw taste of the teas that comprised the blend. However, this selection, although definitely not hiding the tea flavors, expertly coated them with cocoa sweetness and malt. The result is the perfect breakfast tea for those of us who like it sweet but straight-up!

The aftertaste was light and smooth. Astringency was not in this blend’s vocabulary.

I bought this product hoping to find a pleasant breakfast blend. Instead, I hit the jackpot. This is an exceptionally robust, full-bodied, and delicious morning tea. My taste buds didn’t locate the advertised cherry notes but that didn’t hinder my sweet and lovely morning ride through four cups of this awesome find.

Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Sweet

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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89
drank Earl Caramel by Buddha Leaf
201 tasting notes

I told myself I wasn’t going to buy any more teas until I make room in my tea cabinet Plus, I haven’t found another job yet after being laid off, so I should be more frugal with my tea habit. However, I couldn’t resist this one! I love Earl Grey. Caramel (and anything sweet) is high on my list too. I found this one at the local Word Market store. The price wasn’t unreasonable. It cost $10 for a little under three ounces.

The packaging was a very simple sealed bag. When I opened it up, a sweet caramel and coconut smell emerged. The dark tea leaves were peppered with cornflower petals, citrus peels, and, I assume, coconut chips.

I steeped the tea at 212 degrees for five minutes as suggested on the package. The brewed liquor had a gold color. The aroma was sweet, with caramel as the dominant characteristic.

From the very first sip, the tea had a smooth and well-balanced rich taste, comprised of MOST of the claimed ingredients (caramel, flowers, coconut, and citrus). Oddly enough, one of the ingredients implied in this blend’s title was not easily distinguished – BERGAMOT! The aftertaste was gentle and brief.

Usually, I knock off a few points when a featured ingredient is missing from the flavor. But, the tastes that did exist were so good and smooth that I didn’t care this time.

This is a very good tea. I do recommend it. Although I drank it at breakfast, it could very easily become a favorite afternoon tea too.

Flavors: Caramel, Citrus, Coconut, Flowers

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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Bio

I ventured into the world of serious tea drinking in the Summer of 2011. I started out slowly and gently with bagged tea but climbed to the incredible flavorful heights of loose leaf teas in October of that year. Once you go leaf, you never go bag (except when you get free samples)!

Location

South Carolina, USA

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