233 Tasting Notes

92

The prices on the Harney & Sons website were so good when I was checking them out last week that I decided to buy two pounds to keep me alert in the morning while I hunt for employment. I purchased Scottish Morn, which I enjoy, and this Dorchester Breakfast tea. Both of these selections were highly rated on the Harney website.

When I opened the one pound Dorchester package, an aroma like Assam pipe tobacco burst forth. The leaves were brown, very short, and ground-looking, like coffee, which I’ve become accustomed to with tea made for/by the Brits.

I steeped the tea at 212 degrees for five minutes. The final product was the color of molasses. The odor was Assam with a slightly sweet and malty characteristic.

The flavor was malty Assam with a fruity sweet attribute. Although the taste was quite bold, it was also gentle on the palate. I detected no astringency and the aftertaste was brief and pleasant. I found this tea to be quite delicious from the first sip of my initial cup to the last one, four cups later.

This selection is advertised as being specially blended for the Dorchester Hotel in London. They definitely came up with a winner. If I ever make it back to London, I will include on my itinerary a stop at the hotel for afternoon tea time.

Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Sweet, Tea

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

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89
drank Scottish Morn by Harney & Sons
233 tasting notes

As I am still seeking employment after finishing a contracted project five months ago, it’s become even more important for me to maintain a balanced budget. One of the “frills” I’ve had to eliminate (for now) is the purchase of my favorite higher-end teas.

Years ago I purchased a tin of Harney & Sons tea at a local Williams-Sonoma store. Since the store and tea were fairly pricey, I assumed that Harney & Sons teas were, therefore, always expensive.

When I became desperate for bargains and checked the Harney & Sons website for deals and discounts, I was excited and surprised about how reasonable their tea prices were, particularly when you purchased the selections in one pound packages. Currently, Harney is offering many fine black teas (my favorites) at a little more than $20 a pound, with free shipping! The Scottish Morn product was one of the teas offered in this very reasonable price range.

When I opened the one pound bag of Scottish Morn, my nostrils were introduced to a very pronounced Assam odor. The leaves were dark brown and quite short, almost like ground coffee. In my experience, this seems to be a UK tea trademark (for example, PG Tips).

I steeped the leaves for four minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product had a muddy brown molasses color. The aroma was Assam all the way.

The flavor was extremely bold and full. Assam was the taste leader but it was accented with an almost equally pronounced malty attribute. Another present flavor characteristic, that I’ve found in all of the Assam teas that I’ve tasted, was a slight tad of astringency. However, this steadily dissipated as I approached the bottom of my cup. The aftertaste was curiously mild and brief for a tea with such brisk flavors. Overall the flavors were without garnish but quite gratifying.

Being an American of direct Scottish heritage (my mother was born and partially raised in Scotland), I, like my ancestors and cousins, enjoy and seek out bold black teas for my mornings. In my case, my brain seems to need them in order to kick into gear for the day ahead. Scottish Morn definitely fit the bill with sharp and engaging flavors.

Flavors: Malt, Tea

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

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90
drank Panyang Congou by Harney & Sons
233 tasting notes

I’m now stockpiling black teas by the pound that I find on sale. Since my days in corporate America may finally be over, I’m now on a fixed income and need to watch my expenses. However, I still want to make sure I have plenty of my favorite (or soon to be favorite if the price is right) black teas on hand while I’m in (or off) my rocker.

I found this tea on the Harney & Sons website recently for a very reasonable price per pound. I had never heard of the selection. But, based on my admiration of several other Harney teas, I am reasonably confident that I can make myself like it if my first few cups don’t go down nicely.

When I opened the very sturdy one pound package, a very strong aroma similar to some of the loaded French bourbon teas I’ve tried wafted from the bag. The leaves were fairly short and dark brown with tan accents.

I followed the brewing instructions on the bag and steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The resultant liquor was a bright golden orange. The aroma was slightly fruity and sweet.

From the very first sip to the bottom of my cup, my taste buds were consistently greeted with a smooth honey and nut flavor that included an accompaniment of fruity undertones in the orchestra. These flavors could have become noisy together if overdone, but the medium-strength concoction made the combination seem well balanced and quite amiable. There was no astringency in the blend and the aftertaste was pleasant and brief.

It appears that I rolled the dice and won with this choice. I am enjoying four cups of it today at 5 PM. That is a revelation in itself as I usually stop drinking black teas by 2 PM so I can start winding down for the evening.

I have absolutely no complaints about this tea. It has enough good flavor and sweetness to make me more than satisfied with my purchase.

Flavors: Fruity, Honey, Nutty

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

I totally agree with your description. I also got it for the price and was pleasantly surprised how satisfying it turned out to be. And yes, not oversteeping it is critical, otherwise the taste becomes to jumbled.

Stoo

Hi Bluegreen! Thanks for weighing in on this review. I’ve learned that if you keep your eyes open and stay patient, you can find really great teas at excellent prices. There is a little browser extension called “Honey” that I use. After you install it and go to product purchase pages, it automatically searches for the best price available for the item and any discount coupons that you can apply to it. I’ve saved substantial money with it already!

Bluegreen

Wow, thank you so much: downloaded, installed and it does work amazingly. No more tedious googling around for coupon codes and going through sketchy websites!

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75

I found this fascinating sounding tea at our Home Goods store. I was familiar with Tea Forte but not this selection. The price was so low that I was unable to resist.

When I opened the metal tin and snipped open the clear plastic bag, I found black leaves peppered with yellow marigold flower petals.

The aroma was very strong. I could sift out the powerful caramel and butter attributes. All ingredients and flavors are listed as organic and natural. If so, they were somehow supercharged to produce some of the strongest smells that I’ve experienced in an unbrewed black tea.

I strictly followed the company’s brewing instructions and steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product was a dark golden orange. The aroma was pure caramel.

The taste was quite potent. The flavors screamed caramel and butter with a flowery whisper in the background. My palate was so bombarded with these attributes that I wasn’t sure where the taste ended and the aftertaste began. I did notice that the aftertaste lingered…and lingered…and lingered.

It is unusual to find a black tea with flavors that are too robust for me but this one is definitely on the cusp. The overall taste isn’t unpleasant and I can’t say that astringency is a problem. However, at least in the morning, this selection is too much for my drowsy taste buds to process. Maybe it would be better received in the early afternoon when I’m already dueling with the issues of my day.

Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Flowers, Tea

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

I wonder if lowering temp to 205F and time to four minutes would soften this enough to make it a real joy? Sometimes that works for me.

Stoo

Not a bad idea, ashmanra. I will give it a try. Maybe the “pan-roasted” production method advertised on the tin might have something to do with it too.

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80

While at the local Trader Joe’s store in Charlotte yesterday, I stumbled on this little item for the first time. I recently purchased a few pounds of tea online and said I wasn’t going to buy any more for a while but you know how we teaholics are. Plus, the price was reasonable and it didn’t break the bank.

When I opened the sealed plastic package, I was struck by the very strong aroma. Olfactory fireworks were going off inside and I struggled to pinpoint their components. I could definitely identify the bergamot and vanilla. The others were up for grabs. The leaves were short and black with blue cornflower petals and yellow sunflower petals sprinkled generously within the blend.

I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 195 degrees as instructed. The brewed liquor was bright orange and the aroma was very vanilla with a whisper of bergamot.

The flavor of this tea took a few sips to settle down on my palate. I think my taste buds experienced flavor overload at first. They seemed to be bombarded with several strong flavors all at once.

Eventually, I was able to discern the vanilla, bergamot, and cornflower tastes. I don’t know if I would recognize the flavor of sunflower even if I only had a mouthful of its petals. Ironically, the one advertised flavor I didn’t find was black tea.

My ultimate taste analysis recorded a sweet mixture of vanilla in the forefront with bergamot and cornflower accents tip-toeing in the background. This combination was pleasant with maybe just a twinge of astringency. The twinge was not too annoying but also present in the aftertaste.

Flavors: Bergamot, Flowers, Vanilla

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 6 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML
Bluegreen

Sounds yummy, I need to try it. I didn’t even know that TJ carries loose tea. Kinda excited.

Stoo

Hi Bluegreen! Yes, this is definitely a tea worth trying. It must be a fairly recent edition to Trader Joe’s stock. We shop there about every two weeks and this was the first time I saw it. I hope you enjoy it!

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79

With the impending demise of Teavana, I have been watching the stores for sales. Yesterday, I found this product at 50% off and figured it was worth a try.

The short black unbrewed leaves had a spicy smell to them. I’ve never encountered this aroma with an English Breakfast tea before.

I steeped the leaves at 205 degrees as instructed but added an extra minute to the recommended time for a total of four minutes. Three minutes didn’t seem long enough to inject the caffeine level that I need this morning.

The finished result was a bright orange-gold in color. The brewed aroma was on the sweet side, like honey.

The first few sips contained a strong sour attribute. Could this have been due to the extra minute of brewing? It reminded me of sourdough bread. Behind that taste was a little honey, malt, and a slight reminder that I was drinking black tea. As I got further down into my cup, the sourness was not as prevalent and the malt and honey accompaniments took over. The aftertaste had a slightly astringent quality but not upsetting.

At first I wasn’t sure if I liked the tea but my palate did seem to quickly adjust to the unusual qualities of this English Breakfast. By the time I finished my first cup, I knew I could easily drink the whole pot. Next time I will follow the instructions and try steeping for just the recommended three minutes.

Flavors: Honey, Malt, Sour, Tea

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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70

I don’t drink a lot of bagged teas these days but I saw a box of these English Breakfast tea bags during a visit to the break room at my wife’s office. I was curious about this new Steep By Bigelow tea line and “borrowed” one tea bag. This line appeared to be an upscale version of Bigelow’s standard tea bags. The label specified that the tea within was organic and Fair Trade Certified. Bigelow seems to be in an expansion mode lately as they also recently acquired South Carolina’s Charleston tea plantation and tea company. At one time, Charleston had the only remaining tea plantation in the country.

To prepare this tea, I microwaved a glass mug of filtered water for three minutes until boiling. I then instructed Alexa (of my Amazon Echo) to set a four-minute timer.

The brewed color was golden orange. The aroma was faint and like malty black tea.

The flavor was actually quite robust. It tasted malty like the aroma indicated. The tea flavor was full and easily identifiable as Ceylon. My first few sips contained just a tweak of bitterness. The liquor also seemed to briefly coat my tongue and mouth with some sort of milky texture. That twist was unexpected and strange but quickly disappeared with the bitter attribute after a few more sips. The aftertaste was light and posed no problems.

Although I wouldn’t pay more for this item than I would for the standard Bigelow English Breakfast tea bags, this was a decent blend that was perhaps a tad more flavor-fortified than their standard offering. I would have no problem drinking this tea in an office situation if I didn’t have access to my infuser.

Flavors: Malt, Tea

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

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67

I “borrowed” a tea bag of this selection from my wife’s office breakroom. I mainly wanted to see how this apparently deluxe version of Bigelow’s Earl Grey compared to their standard Earl Grey product. The Bigelow Steep line of teas all seem to be labeled “organic.” Some are also labeled “Fair Trade Certified” (but not this one).

When I tore open the bag’s wrapper, I could smell the bergamot. The aroma was potent and easily recognizable.

I boiled a cup of filtered water for three minutes in my “nuker.” I then steeped (no pun intended in this instance) the bag for four minutes to comply with the wrapper’s preparation instructions.

The finished color was a dark amber. There was very little aroma (bergamot or otherwise) to speak of, even with my nose pushed into the cup.

The flavor of this tea was medium-strength. The taste was mildly bergamot with Ceylon attributes quietly tip-toeing in the shadows behind it. As with another Bigelow Steep selection that I tried, this one also seemed to coat my tongue and mouth with a strange milk-like texture that remained during the first few sips. There also was a slight astringency present but not enough to complain about. The aftertaste was inoffensive.

Personally, I prefer a more robust and natural bergamot flavor in Earl Grey blends. Perhaps this is just an advantage of the loose-leaf teas that I drink 99.9999% of the time.

I initially stated that I wanted to see how this assumed higher end version of Bigelow’s Earl Grey compared with its standard product. On Amazon, a package of six boxes containing 20 bags each of the Bigelow Steep Earl Grey currently costs about $9 more than an equal package of their standard brand. Having experienced both products, I would not feel like I was missing anything by choosing the standard offering.

Flavors: Bergamot, Tea

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

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78

I’m on a (tea) bag roll today. I received this free sample in the mail from The Republic of Tea just before Christmas. This was one of my favorite companies during my bag days seven years ago when I was just a TEAnager (hee hee). The company displays a lot of imagination and creativity with the many tea selections they offer, including special limited holiday selections, like this one.

When I opened the wrapper, my nostrils were immediately filled with a delicious aroma like eggnog or a Christmas cookie. My senses are easy to please when it comes to sweet stuff. I dropped the round and tag-less bag disc into boiling water for five minutes as recommended by the wrapper for the maximum brewing time.

The finished aroma was also like eggnog…yes…or a Christmas cookie. The color was bright amber.

The flavor of this tea was true to its smell. It tasted just like eggnog…and, one more time… or a Christmas cookie. Although the flavor was potent, and probably not found in nature, it did not taste chemically artificial to me. There was no astringency and a pleasant enough aftertaste remained on my palate that reminded me of Christmas cookies past.

If I were ever to return to my early life as a bag drinker, I would be fine with this selection again during the holidays. I prefer loose leaf but sometimes I don’t have a problem when I’m told it’s in the bag.

Flavors: Cookie, Eggnog

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

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89

There is a tiny spice and tea store next to one of our favorite diet-compliant (i.e., vegan) restaurants in Charlotte. When my wife and I finally decided to “dry out” after eating many NON-diet-compliant items during the Christmas/New Year holidays, we launched our return to sanity at the restaurant, with the side benefit of a trip to the spice and tea store.

The store’s tea stock was almost wiped out after the Christmas shopping season, but a few bags of this one remained on the shelf alongside a sample “sniffer” of the leaves to smell what the tea might taste like after brewing. I love smoky teas and the aroma of this item in its unsteeped state was quite potent and alluring.

When I opened the package to prepare the tea for drinking, the smoky aroma was much stronger than the already powerful odor in the store’s sniffer. It was so controlling that I hoped it was all natural. The last time I encountered a smoky smell that powerful was from my boy scout uniform after a weekend of camping and sitting by the fire.

I steeped the short black leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The label suggested brewing for two to four minutes but I let it steep for one more minute for good luck.

The finished product had a golden amber color. The smoky aroma had greatly settled down after it met the hot water.

The taste of the tea was quite pleasant with the smoky characteristics in line with a lot of other teas of this type. There was an additional flavor attribute that was minty, like the wild mint plant leaves I used to find and chew while walking home from junior high school. The two flavors worked together amiably. The overall effect was smooth without astringency. The aftertaste was not obnoxious.

I did like this tea and will not have trouble finishing the entire package. Once I got past the three-alarm fire smell of the unbrewed leaves, the final result was a tasty, genial, and smooth concoction.

Flavors: Mint, Smoke

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)!

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South Carolina, USA

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