209 Tasting Notes

drank Earl Grey by Oliver Pluff & Company
209 tasting notes

Since Oliver Pluff and Company packages its teas in my state, South Carolina, I’ve begun trying out their selections to see if I want to make a steady diet of them. Their containers are extremely similar to those sold by The Republic of Tea. Both companies just might be using the same supplier.

As is my habit with any Earl Grey that I am about to brew, I opened the lid and immediately stuck my nose near the opening to breathe in the bergamot amongst the long dark tea leaves. The promotional information on the can seems to imply that the actual fruit is somehow infused into the tea. However, the Oliver Pluff website (http://www.oliverpluff.com/earl-grey-tea-loose-tea-in-signature-tea-tin/) states that the oil of the fruit is utilized. In any event, the smell was pretty recognizable as bergamot in its unsteeped state.

I brewed my first cup at 212 degrees for six minutes. Boiling water is my standard treatment for teas in this category. The six minutes were an accident. I usually steep black teas for five, but someone in my office had the nerve to ask me a work-related question, and I lost track of the time. The Pluffster recommends 195 degrees for three to five minutes. The finished product was dark brown, like molasses. The odor had a sweet aura but I could not locate the bergamot.

My first cup tasted completely like black tea with only a hazy fruit (of some kind) note in a place far, far, away. There also was a bitter twinge to the flavor. In all honesty, this could be my fault due to the hotter than recommended brewing temperature and exaggerated brewing time.

In the interest of fairness, I cleaned out my infuser and started from scratch with another cup. This time I followed the container’s instructions to the letter. I brewed the leaves for five minutes at about 195 degrees.

In my second cuppa, the bitterness I experienced in the first one disappeared. The tea flavor was definitely more pleasant but my taste buds still had to put out an all points bulletin for the bergamot. The aftertaste was mild but it would have been more memorable if the advertised bergamot hadn’t been missing in action.

To summarize my final analysis after two differently infused cups of the brew, it wouldn’t have been a bad morning black tea if that was what I purchased. However, I laid my money down for an Earl Grey tea, and I wanted bergamot, doggone it! So, this selection was disappointing, lacking, and came up short.

Flavors: Tea

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

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Let me start out by saying that I am writing about the LOOSE LEAF version of this tea. I am making this qualification because I noticed that a lot of the reviews done previously were about the TEA BAG version.

Since Yunnan black tea is my favorite category, I purchased a pound of this tea on-line, sight unseen and flavor untasted. I also have had good experiences with Numi products in the past so I didn’t consider it to be much of a risk.

When I opened the big one pound shiny black bag and stuck my nose inside, the familiar leathery smell of Yunnan was there. However, there was another element to the aroma that was stronger and more like British breakfast tea.

I steeped the long brown leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees, my standard modus operandi for most black teas. The brewed color was dark gold. The aroma had the leathery Yunnan attribute in the distant background but the dominant smell was slightly acerbic, again reminding me of some of the “Briteas” (my answer to “Brexit”) I’ve tried.

The flavor of this cup had a harsh and biting characteristic to it. Unfortunately, that factor smothered the usual richness, sweetness, and smoothness that put Yunnan at the top of my most beloved tea list. I hesitate to call the taste astringent but it is definitely borderline. It conjured up my bitter memories of over-steeped black tea. There also was a tobacco aspect to the flavor of which I am not a fan. The aftertaste wasn’t acrid, but calling it abrasive wouldn’t be a huge stretch.

All right, so where does this leave me with my one pound bag of the stuff? Will I split up the bag into smaller increments and try to sell them on the street corner? No. Will I gift wrap the bag and try to pawn it off on someone at the next White Elephant Gift Party? No. It is not so horrible that I won’t drink it. But, it won’t be near the top of my morning tea rotation either. I am just a little more than disgruntled that I can’t get excited about this selection.

Flavors: Biting, Tea, Tobacco

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

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Thank you, Teavivre, for this sample! I don’t think I ever tried a yellow tea before. I anticipated that it would have characteristics similar to green tea since it was on the lighter side of the color spectrum.

When I opened the silver sample package, long green tea leaves greeted me from inside. The aroma of the unbrewed leaves was grassy and, yes, similar to the grassy smell of green tea.

I brewed the leaves at approximately 185 degrees (I had to estimate using the office microwave machine to heat the water) for eight minutes as recommended on the package. The steeped color was light yellow. The odor was again definitely like that of green tea.

The flavor of this tea was surprisingly full-bodied, distinct, and satisfying. Yes, the taste was similar to green tea, but this yellow tea had its own flavor signature as well. The taste was a bit grassy like green varieties but there was also a blended sweet potato attribute that lay comfortably on my palate. As is common with Teavivre teas, it was extremely smooth without a glimmer of astringency. The aftertaste was light and airy and it quickly dissipated.

I didn’t expect to like yellow tea too much since I almost exclusively favor the robust, high octane, black teas. However, I REALLY enjoyed this one…A LOT! I don’t have a long list of preferred afternoon and evening teas yet but this offering is definitely high up on it!

Flavors: Grass, Sweet Potatoes

185 °F / 85 °C 8 min or more 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Another Friday, another sample from Teavivre to try. Things are looking up.

These “dragon ball” teas are pretty cool. This one was individually wrapped in clear cellophane and fastened with a little baggy tie. It was a tightly rolled ball of dark leaves and pinkish flowers about the size of a gumball. The unbrewed knob had a pronounced tea smell with a slightly rose/flowery accent.

I followed the instructions on the silver sample package and brewed the ball for five minutes at 195 degrees. The package actually said 194 degrees but 195 was the closest my One Touch Tea Maker could get. What’s one degree between friends anyway?

The steeped liquor had a bright gold color. The odor was very much like its unbrewed incarnation: tea with a rosy accent.

The taste was completely consistent with its smell, before and after brewing. The tea flavor was full-bodied and robust, yet it was remarkably smooth. A rose bud undertone melded into the taste perfectly. This was a relief for me as I am often overwhelmed by flowery-tasting teas. There also was the presence of a sweet attribute to round out the extremely harmonious blend. I did not detect any astringency and the aftertaste was quite light and pleasant. If the 195-degree liquid temperature hadn’t been capable of producing blisters on my gullet, I would have chugged my cup down even faster than I did.

This is another outstanding tea from Teavivre that I can easily recommend. It worked extremely well for me with my breakfast but I’m sure it would also be a fantastic lunch or mid-day selection as well.

Flavors: Rose, Sweet, Tea

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

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I was quite excited to receive more samples from Teavivre. I have sampled and purchased their teas from the very beginning of the company’s existence (five years). I have found their teas to be consistently superior quality, smooth, and tasty. Will this new offering keep that tradition alive? Stay tuned…

When I opened the silver sample package, inside was a dark, tightly rolled ball of tea and flower buds, about the size of a jawbreaker (candy). Its aroma was so faint that I had to press the ball against my snout to get a reading. It was slightly sweet and a tad flowery.

I steeped the ball in my handy-dandy portable infuser that I use at the uptown Charlotte office for eight minutes at approximately 195 degrees (as prescribed on the package). The brewed liquor was the color of molasses. The smell was strong of tea with a flowery accent.

The brew tasted like tea with well-blended flower undertones. I’m not a big fan of flowery teas. Some are so overbearing that I wonder if I am drinking perfume. However, this selection is so perfectly blended that the flowers truly complement the fine tea flavor instead of stomping all over it. The taste was hearty yet amazingly smooth. It was also completely free of astringency.

The aftertaste was quite pleasant. It remained on my palate briefly and gently.

Teavivre has done it again! This is yet another superb blend from the Chinese tea company. Teavivre says it produces tea using traditional methods, proving that the old ways are often the best ways.

You can proudly serve this selection on your most special occasions. Or, just bring it out on an ordinary work day to start your morning off feeling good (like I did).

Flavors: Flowers, Tea

2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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drank Indonesian Gold by Teavana
209 tasting notes

I stayed away from Teavana tea purchases for a good while, not because they don’t have great tea products, but because I always found them to be a bit pricey. However, that didn’t stop me from browsing through their stores every time I was in a mall.

Yesterday, the very astute young lady sales associate knew exactly what buttons to push to get me to pull my wallet out once again. She touted this one as a robust, bold flavored, and, most important, reasonably priced, black tea. It also smelled great as she waved the wide tin lid under my nose. I long ago learned to fight the hypnotic powers that command you to spend your money when they do this. But yesterday I succumbed to the spell. I’m just glad she didn’t make me bark like a dog or strut like a chicken.

The long black leaves of this tea looked fresh and rich. The unbrewed aroma was interestingly unique for a black tea. I could smell citrus but it wasn’t bergamot or lemon. The closet entity that came to my mind was tangerine.

I steeped the leaves for four minutes at 205 degrees. Teavana recommended three minutes at that temperature but my personal rule of thumb is to never brew a black tea for less than four minutes if you really want to pull bold flavor from it.

Both the steeped color and odor were unique for a black tea. The hue was a bright gold which made me wonder if I should have steeped it for another two or three minutes. The aroma was slightly citrus and sweet, with an accent like a bowl of Frosted Wheat Chex with caramel lightly drizzled on it.

The flavor was quite smooth. It was not robust or bold but it didn’t register as empty on my palate either. The taste, again, was slight fruity, sweet, and grain-like. This time I couldn’t make up my mind if I was tasting wheat or corn. The flavors harmonized well and nothing seemed odd or out of place – just unique. There was no astringency and no annoying attributes remained in the after taste.

Another reason I purchased this tea is I was told it had a high caffeine level. That characteristic is required in all of my morning teas to jump start my metabolism. I didn’t notice any major jolt from the tea but I was sufficiently alert for early in the morning.

All in all, I would classify this as a very pleasant tea. The flavor is not strong, but adequate. The smoothness makes it easy to quickly down a full pot (which I did). If drinking a beverage with a nice, but hard to identify, flavor doesn’t irritate you, Teavana’s Indonesian Gold is definitely worth a trial run!

Flavors: Caramel, Citrus, Corn Husk, Wheat

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

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Here I am with the third and last of the Tin Roof Teas that I purchased a little while back. The first two were outstanding. Let’s see if this one maintains that record…

When I unfastened TRF’s signature package, with its unsealed but clamped down opening, the smell that greeted me was very much like the smell of tobacco in a freshly opened pack of cigarettes. Since I have never been a smoker, I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign.

The brewing instructions said to steep this blend for three minutes. That seemed insufficient for the punch I wanted it to pack, so I brewed the medium-length dark brown leaves for four minutes. (Just call me a tea rebel.)

The finished product was a bright amber in color. The unbrewed cigarette tobacco odor was gone and replaced with a slightly sweet malty aroma.

This tea had a really rich flavor from the very first sip until the end of the cup. The taste played no other flavor notes except tea with a hint of malt. It was unmistakably Darjeeling, but amplified, almost like Darjeeling on steroids. In spite of the supercharged flavor, it was remarkably smooth. The aftertaste was no burden on my palate for the few minutes it remained.

I have to admit, I am not a huge Darjeeling fan. The main reason is I find the typical flavor a little blah when compared to other black teas. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Somehow a simple flavor was made complex. The taste was like a symphony of violins. They are all playing the same instrument but the harmony makes the music beautiful.

I’m starting to see a pattern with the Tin Roof Teas that I have tried so far. In my experiences with the three I have sampled, they have all contained simple, yet very powerful, full flavors without astringency. Usually just one very dominant flavor exists, but you are not disappointed and you don’t yearn for more.

This is another winner from TRF. I will definitely look for more selections to take for a spin!

Flavors: Malt, Tea

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

Nice review Stoo. :-)


Thanks, ScottTeaMan!

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drank Vanilla No. 990 by Tin Roof Teas
209 tasting notes

This is the second of three Tin Roof Teas I bought recently. Since its name is “vanilla,” my sweet tooth started itching when I saw it.

When I opened the silver pouch (which, by the way, is closed and fastened with a gold wire clamp instead of sealed), a very pleasant and fragrant vanilla aroma spilled out. This made me even more excited to get the brewing underway.

I steeped the full dark leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes. The package recommended up to four minutes but I like my black tea as robust as I can get it without bitterness. Five minutes of brewing has never failed me yet.

The brewed aroma of the tea was also very vanilla. It was strong but not fake or obnoxious. The color was golden brown.

The flavor was interesting. The vanilla taste was so striking that there was no room for any other flavor accents. As powerful as the taste was, it somehow wasn’t overwhelming. I found it to be quite enjoyable for the entire duration of my cup. I also was surprised that the booming vanilla flavor produced no astringency. It was actually smooth and the aftertaste never wore out its welcome on my palate.

This is another one of those teas for which I have no criticism. The entire experience was delightful through four cups this morning. I’ve started brewing my own tea at work using my little handy-dandy infuser. This vanilla tea will definitely help launch my work days off to a cheerful start.

Flavors: Vanilla

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

My problem with most vanilla & the majority of flavored teas is the artificial taste (and some are worse than others). I am glad you noted a more natural vanilla flavor-this sounds like a vanilla tea I might like.


It is definitely one of the best ones I’ve tried!

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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

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

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!


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


Although it has been a number of years—many in fact—Stash Tea used to have a chocolate hazelnut tea that was very good, & a cherry almond (which they no longer carry) that was delicious as well. :) I see they still carry their chocolate hazelnut. I also tried their almond creme that was very good.


It has been a long time tasting such teas because I have gotten away from flavored teas, but on occasion I will indulge. While they have so many other delicious flavors (as you see), the cherry almond is no more-I tried both the loose and teabags. Most of their flavored teas are in teabag form, and I usually prefer loose tea. Just another reason I don’t buy nearly any of Stash’s flavored teas for me, myself, & I.


Stash’s Coconut Mango Oolong tea is delicious.



I’m just seeing comments on some of my tea reviews now. It would be nice if steepster.com would post notifications on the web site regarding comments. Thanks for your comments, ScottTeaMan! I will DEFINITELY have to try the coconut mango oolong tea!

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drank Earl Grey by Bigelow
209 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.


Flavors: Bergamot, Tea

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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. :)


Congrats on the new job, Stoo!


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


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


Congrats on 200 tasting notes!! (:


Thanks, Nattie!


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! :)


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


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!! :)


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


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

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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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