257 Tasting Notes

drank Royal Tea by Farm Fresh Fare
257 tasting notes

My wife and I were at a street festival on Saturday. Besides sampling a lot of great local baked goods, we stumbled upon some interesting loose tea packets at one of the booths.

I decided to purchase a small packet of Royal black tea, packaged and sold by Farm Fresh Fare, a local store based in Fort Mill, South Carolina. I occasionally pick up small samples of tea when visiting street festivals. Some I really like, some not as much.

In this case, the unbrewed black leaves smelled like Ceylon to me. I steeped them for five minutes in boiling water. The final liquid had a slightly honey-sweet aroma. The color was a dark reddish-gold.

I was somewhat surprised by the bold, yet quite smooth taste of this tea. I didn’t detect Ceylon in the flavor. Instead, it was more like Yunnan or another Chinese tea. Whatever the exact tea is, it is quite tasty, flavorful, and goes down effortlessly like water. There was no astringency and the aftertaste was equally pleasant.

I am more than satisfied with this tea and am already planning to purchase a larger packet next time. This was one of those times when taking a chance paid off. Maybe this would be a good time to buy a lottery ticket?

Flavors: Honey, Tea

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

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I recently bought a pound of this tea, flavor untasted. I’m becoming brave (or reckless) in my old age. What intrigued me about this one was that it was advertised as an English breakfast tea blend of four black teas from three countries: India, Sri Lanka, China. That all sounded good to me and worth checking out.

I opened up the pouch and the aroma that shot out was a pleasant combination of, yes, more than one tea type. Black China teas are my favorite and my sniffer could definitely detect their presence in this tea. I also perceived the existence of Darjeeling and possibly Assam, all coming together nicely in the unbrewed whiff.

I steeped the brown leaves for five minutes in boiling water. This resulted in a golden amber colored liquid with a pleasant aroma containing tea and sweet undertones.

The taste of this tea was very smooth and full of flavor. The four teas melded exquisitely into a total merger of sweet and malty deliciousness. No bitterness was discovered anywhere.

I should also add that I drink all of my teas straight up. I never add milk or sweeteners. I prefer to experience the teas on their own merits.

If a tea plantation can figure out how to create this richly combined flavor from just one tree, they will have a huge winner on their hands. But, until then, I will just appreciate this exceptional blend as it is.

Flavors: Honey, Malty, Tea

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

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drank PU'ERH, ORGANIC by The Tea Spot
257 tasting notes

Pu-erh tea is one of those entities that people tend to love or hate. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground, even when someone WANTS to love it. I happen to be a guy who loves Pu-erh. However, let me qualify that by saying I love GOOD Pu-erh. I have tried one or two Pu-erh selections that left me less than enamored.

I am fairly new to The Tea Spot’s offerings, having discovered them in a great pastry café in Myrtle Beach a few years ago. I’ve had great experiences with their Bolder Breakfast and Earl Grey selections. So, when I saw that their Pu-erh tea was on sale, I figured it was worth a taste.

When I opened the one-pound pouch that I purchased, I was instantly greeted with the familiar rich and leathery aroma of Pu-erh. I steeped the medium-length black and brown tea leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes, as recommended by the folks at The Tea Spot. The brewed result was the color of black coffee. The smell was leathery but not as strong as I’ve experienced in the past with other selections of that variety.

Another surprise (somewhat) was the flavor contained a gentle fortitude. It was quite pleasant and smooth, without slapping my tastebuds. A leathery and earthy zest was front and center, but it was in no way over-powering. I did not detect astringency anywhere. Even the aftertaste did not overcome the bowl of cereal that the tea washed down.

To summarize, the flavor is rich but not oppressive. This is a very tranquil Pu-erh tea that probably won’t trigger the most committed Pu-erh skeptic’s gag reflex.

Flavors: Earthy, Leather

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

Heeeeeeeey, Stoo! Welcome back! Looks like the dashboard is frozen again but at least it seems to get fixed fairly quickly.

Buying a whole pound of puerh was a bold move! I am glad it turned out to be one you enjoy!


Well Hellooooooo, ashmanra!

I finally have a couple of new teas to talk about. I have mostly good experiences with Pu-erh, and two prior good experiences with The Tea Spot, so I was willing to roll the dice. Fortunately, I won that bet!

It’s great hearing from you!

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drank Bolder Breakfast by The Tea Spot
257 tasting notes

For the last few years, I’ve been in a kind of tea rut. I’ve quietly settled into my favorite five or six black teas, rarely venturing out into unchartered waters (not sure if this is a pun). However, I’ve been wanting to try out teas by The Tea Spot after a pleasant experience with their Earl Grey at Myrtle Beach in February.

So…for my first venture into the The Tea Spot universe, I decided to purchase some Bolder Breakfast from their website. I chose that blend because I need all of the caffeinated help I can get to fuel up my brain in the morning, and that blend seemed to be advertised as caffeine-fortified. I also learned that Bolder Breakfast is their #1 top-selling tea.

The purchased pound arrived in a sturdy decorative pouch. When I ripped open the seal and plunged my honker into the bag, I was deluged with a strong, but pleasant, flowery and chocolaty aroma. The full brown tea leaves were peppered with calendula flowers and sunflower petals.

I followed the directions on the pouch and steeped the leaves, flowers, and petals, for five minutes at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The brewed blend smelled sweet and chocolaty with flowery accents close behind.

My first sip produced a flavor of chocolate mixed with flowers. There also was a twang of another flavor which I almost chalked up to astringency. However, I then remembered that this blend also contained aged Pu-erh tea as one of its ingredients, in addition to black teas from China, India, and Sri Lanka- twang solved.

This is a surprisingly gentle tea, considering all of its different components. The pronounced dark chocolate essence is more than satisfying to my relentless sweet tooth. In my case, the rich sweetness of this blend more than cancels out any twangs that might materialize.

All-in-all, this is a delicious tea with many fine attributes. As for the effects of the bolder caffeine, I don’t know yet, but I do seem to be typing faster than usual!

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

I had a sample of this years ago and enjoyed it. If I remember correctly, a puerh hater was drinking it with me and had no idea there was puerh in it. Good stuff!


My wife hates Pu-erh too. As a chef, she has very sharp taste buds. She took a sip of this tea and immediately identified the Pu-erh in it. No more Bolder Breakfast for her. :-D

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Pu-erh tea is a type of tea that isn’t everybody’s…uh…cup of tea. I, personally, am a big fan of Pu-erh and always welcome the opportunity to taste its unique flavors.

The round raw Pu-erh cake arrived in decorative outer packaging. The cake was also wrapped in tissue paper for freshness and extra protection.

The hard cake appeared to be wound with long young green leaves to form the circle. The aroma was subtle and slightly floral.

I brewed 18 grams of the leaves in 40 ounces of water at 205 degrees. I was surprised by the honey-amber color of the finished product. The aroma was floral with a touch of sweetness.

The flavor of this tea was unusually smooth for Pu-erh. It was floral, a bit grassy, and had sweet undertones. There was a tad of astringency, but this is common with young raw tea. The astringency was not obnoxious and dissipated rapidly. The aftertaste was pleasant and brief.

The TeaVivre 10th Anniversary Raw Pu-erh Cake is truly a special tea that more than lives up to this momentous occasion. I highly recommend this selection for current and future Pu-erh enthusiasts.

Flavors: Floral, Freshly Cut Grass, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 18 g 40 OZ / 1182 ML

I was looking at this one! I might need to add it to my next order.


It’s a good one, ashmanra!

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I’m always on the hunt for another good morning black tea, hopefully with at least a hint of Yunnan or Keemun with a price that doesn’t break the bank. This Harney & Sons Malachi McCormick’s Blend seemed to fit the bill.

The short brown unbrewed leaves have a subtle aroma of chocolate, Assam, and Keemun. I steeped them for five minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed liquid had an odor of honey and chocolate. The flavor definitely contained chocolate undertones without familiar sweetness. However, this was compensated for with sweeter honey accents. Both Keemun and Assam notes were recognizable and blended quite well.

The overall taste was smooth without astringency. The aftertaste was also gentle without lingering bitterness.

This is a delicious tea that I intend to add to my morning rotation. It’s not overpowering for sleepy tastebuds and it would be just as amiable in the afternoon. Taking a chance on an unfamiliar blend really paid off for me this time!

Flavors: Chocolate, Honey

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

This is one of my favorite blends as well. In my opinion, the Keemun takes away a lot of the harshness of the Assam, making it a pleasant cup!


Hello, Stoo! Yes, this is a good one. I bought it for our Bible study leader as a Christmas gift and she loved it!

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A new Middle Eastern grocery store just opened a few miles from my house. I’m always anxious to check out new restaurants and food stores as they pop up in my booming neck of the woods in South Carolina. While I was perusing the exotic meats and sweets, my wife was excited for me when she saw a rack of teas from abroad.

When I noticed this El Arosa tea on the rack, two things immediately intrigued me:

1. amazingly low price
2. packaging in a vacuum-packed brick, like coffee

I had almost nothing to lose so I brought it home for a trial spin. I made a crucial mistake when I opened the package. I assumed that the brick of tea was solid. It was not. Thirty percent of the contents poured down my sink when I opened the package at a precarious angle. You know what they say about “assume”…

After steadying the remaining contents of the package, I stuck my nose inside to get a whiff. The extremely finely ground tea (hence, the name, Egyptian “Dust” Black Tea) had very little aroma in its unbrewed state.

I brewed the powder-like dark brown tea leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product was also dark brown like coffee. I’m wondering if the six teaspoons of tea I used to brew five cups were overkill. I’ll play with that next time.

The brewed liquid had a little more smell than its dry counterpart. The aroma was definitely black tea but I couldn’t discern its origin.

The flavor was smooth and pleasant, but mild. It had malty characteristics. If I were forced to name the variety of black tea used by taste alone, I would guess Assam.

Personally I prefer more robust flavors, but this taste was engaging enough for me to drink the whole pot and look forward to more. It is allergy season in my region so that might also explain my perceived lack of flavor clout. The aftertaste was also mild without excess astringency.

This tea is a good bargain. I would definitely recommend it for its smoothness and its mild but cordial flavor. And, did I mention price? :-)

Flavors: Malt, Tea

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 6 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

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drank Osmanthus Black Tea by Teavivre
257 tasting notes

I rotated the stock in my tea cabinet a few months ago as I’ve been trying to finish up my older teas before they mummify. Surprisingly, some of my teas that are at least 10 years old still have great flavor.

While completing this tedious task, I found a sample packet of Teavivre Osmanthus Black Tea squooshed in a corner of the shelf. Surprised and excited by my discovery, I immediately ran to my tea maker to brew it .

I opened the five-gram silver sample package and plunged my nose inside. The aroma was sweet like honey with chocolate accents. The leaves were black and long with yellow Osmanthus flowers sprinkled throughout.

I followed the instructions on the packet and steeped the contents for five minutes at 195 degrees. The finished blend had a bright orange color. The aroma was sweet with a faint flowery characteristic in the background.

The flavor of this tea was sweet and mild. I had to really focus my taste buds to identify specific aspects such as chocolate, honey, or Osmanthus. I believe this is the result of the flavor aspects being so well-blended that an essence all its own was created.

As with all Teavivre black teas, this blend was smooth as silk and went down very fast and easy. It was so good that I had to force myself to savor it instead of gulping it down.

The sweet aftertaste lingered gently on my palate for several minutes. At no time did I encounter excess astringency.

This is a very nice tea from the folks at Teavivre. It is mild enough to be enjoyed with meals and robust enough to stand on its own.

Flavors: Osmanthus, Tea

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

Hi, Stoo! Was thinking about you a couple of days when the big storm came. How were things your way? We ended up having a mild day with lots of very late rain.


Hi ashmanra! How are ya? Thanks for thinking of me! We were fortunate here. The storm skirted around us. We had a little rain and wind but nothing major. I’m glad you made it through the storm too!

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For the past nine years, I’ve become a huge fan and very accustomed to Teavivre’s fine Chinese black teas. When I was out on the Teavivre website a few weeks ago, something new and unusual caught my eye. Teavivre was offering an English Earl Grey black tea made with Sri Lanka tea. Since I love Earl Grey, and trust Teavivre to do something unique and special with this blend, I went ahead and ordered it.

The unbrewed long brown leaves had a fruity and slightly flowery aroma. I steeped them for five minutes at 195 degrees.

The brewed color was a bright amber. The aroma was pleasantly fruity and a tad flowery.

From the very first sip, the tea tasted fresh and fruity with the advertised chrysanthemum accent giving the flavor a slightly sweet attribute. No astringency existed and the experience was a pleasure from start to finish of my cup. A very light and fruity aftertaste appeared when I finished. This also was quite amiable.

As I expected, this tea was quite unique from the many other Earl Grey blends I have tried over the years. The bergamot citrus flavor was present, but with a new tasty dimension resulting from the chrysanthemum notes. Although different, I enjoyed it immensely. As the old commercial goes, “This is NOT your father’s Earl Grey!”

I encourage any English Earl Grey lover to give this unusual blend a try. It opens up new horizons for this type of tea.

Flavors: Flowers, Fruity

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

Stoo, how I wish they would make an Earl Grey from their Keemun!


I was thinking the same thing, ashmanra!

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drank Amba Thieves by Harney & Sons
257 tasting notes

Hello, fellow Steepsters! It’s great to be back! I posted my last review 10 months ago. I don’t need to tell you what a crazy year this has been. I hope you all are staying safe and healthy. One of the personal consequences of the pandemic was it pushed me into full retirement when my employer laid off/furloughed 90 percent of the staff in March. I was already semi-retired so I’m enjoying the extra free time and not complaining. Now, onto the reason I am here…

I read about this tea on the Harney & Sons website. I was somewhat fascinated by its history. To quote the Harney folks:

“Amba Thieves Tea is handmade brisk black tea with a storied past. Years ago, all tea had to go to the owners. However some ladies plucked the tea and then made a crude and strong black tea in their hut. They were ‘Thieves.’”

The tea was highly rated on the website and sold at a reasonable price. For these reasons, I was moved to order a one pound bag of the blend.

When I opened up the bag, the aroma was full and rich and obviously a blend of several players. The short brown and black tea leaves were without uniformity and really did resemble leaves “plucked” from an agglomeration of black teas.

I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product had a color like dark molasses. The smoking smell was quite pronounced and pleasant, but indiscernible as a specific ceylon black tea.

The flavor of this blend is fabulous, with both sweet and fruity attributes. It is robust and full-bodied. It has everything that I hope for in a black tea. Astringency is little to none. The aftertaste is amiable without lingering bitterness.

This is an excellent tea that I intend to add to my morning black tea rotation. It matters nothing to me that I can’t be blindfolded and identify the origin and composition of this terrific concoction.

Flavors: Fruity, Sweet

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

Welcome back, Stoo!


Thanks, ashmanra! I hope all is well with you.


Welcome back!


Welcome back. Always enjoyed your reviews, hope to see more of your tasting notes!


Thanks, mrmopar and LuckyMe! It’s great to be tasting and noting again!


Thanks, LuckyMe! It’s great to be back! I appreciate the kind words!

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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)!


South Carolina, USA

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