217 Tasting Notes
Many years ago, I had such enormous faith in the quality of music by The Beatles (still my all-time favorite band), that I would buy their new record albums (the vinyl kind) before I heard any of the songs. I was never disappointed. I always loved every track on every album.
During the last six years, I have grown to have the same confidence in teas by Teavivre. I’ve tried a lot of their teas and I don’t remember ever being disappointed. So, for the first time, I actually bought a pound of this Yunnan Gongfu Fragrant Black Tea without seeing, smelling, or tasting it. My wife expressed skepticism and astonishment when I told her I sent our hard earned money all the way to China for a whole pound of a product I never even sampled! I gently assured my more sensible half that she need not worry. I know what I’m doing (I hope).
When the pound arrived, it was shipped and packaged in five 3.5-ounce silver zip bags. So, it is in reality a total of 17.5 ounces- more than a pound. I decided not to convey this fact to my sweet spouse just yet.
After consolidating the five bags into one tall metal container, I noticed the sweet and fragrant aroma (hence its name) of the long black leaves with golden accompaniments. The smell was like honey and chocolate.
I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 195 degrees. These settings were within Teavivre’s recommended brewing range. The resulting liquor was a deep amber color. The aroma was sweet like honey.
As I hopefully and optimistically took my first small sips, my palate was flooded with the sensations of honey and chocolate. These flavors were perfectly blended and the entire experience was smooth as silk with no astringency lurking under the covers. Through my entire first and second cups, the very pleasant tastes remained consistent, smooth, and steady. The aftertaste was light and amiable. It seemed to softly dangle on my tongue until it tenderly dissipated.
I am very pleased (and relieved) to report that this is another exquisite tea from the folks at Teavivre which I highly recommend. If you like sweet, smooth, and full-bodied black teas (and who doesn’t?), you will love this one. Now I will tell my wife how brilliant her husband is to purchase 17.5 ounces of this terrific tea! ;-)
Flavors: Chocolate, Honey
I was ecstatic to discover this unused tea sample while I was taking inventory of my tea cabinet! I’ll never know how I missed it before since I am a big fan of Teavivre black teas and usually start drinking them as soon as I pull them out of my mailbox. Maybe the tea fairy brought it to me. It doesn’t matter. I am just thrilled that I found it!
When I opened the small silver package, I was greeted with dark brown twisted and glossy leaves. The aroma was slightly sweet and earthy.
I steeped the leaves for about 5 minutes at 190 degrees. The brewed liquor was a light golden orange. The odor was like sweet wheat.
Beginning with the first sip and ending with the last, the flavor was consistently mild and smooth yet full and complete. The taste reminded me of pancakes lightly slathered with maple syrup. The sweet flavor was delicately balanced and not overpowering. The aftertaste was also mild and did not wear out its welcome. There was no astringency whatsoever.
This is simply another fantastic black tea from the folks at Teavivre. It is one of those exceptional selections that seem to get even better after the first steeping. The maple syrup/pancakes flavor attributes make this offering perfect (in my mind) for breakfast. However, I wouldn’t turn this one down at midnight either.
Flavors: Pancake Syrup, Sweet
My always generous and considerate wife wanted to buy me a pound of tea for my birthday while we were browsing through the local Teavana store. 99.9% of the time at this stage of my life, I buy black teas. I do this because I am still working and need a considerable amount of shock treatment in the morning to jolt my brain into multi-tasking analysis mode. One of my retirement fantasies is to drink green, white, and oolong teas throughout my day while I lounge on the beach (any beach)…but I digress.
Getting back to the tea du jour, the Teavana store had just been remodeled and only three or four black teas were on hand. I was in the market for another earl grey selection, and the “creme” bonus in the title was tantalizing enough to help me make my choice…and it was 50% off.
When I opened the official metal Teavana container that my wife purchased with the tea, the leaves were long and chocolate brown. There also was a plentiful presence of yellow flowers spread throughout them. The aroma was very strong in a sweet sort of way. It reminded me of egg nog that had a shot or three too much booze poured into the mixture.
I steeped the leaves at 195 degrees (which was recommended) for four minutes (which was not recommended – Teavana suggested three minutes). The result was a brew with a rich bright amber color. The odor was strong with fruity and flowery attributes.
From the very first sip, this tea’s flavor was robust and full-bodied but surprisingly smooth. The taste accents were fruity and flowery, with a pinch of vanilla, but not in an annoying way. There also was a honey-like sweetness left on my tongue after each gulp. My palate has been alcohol-free for 24 years but my mind hearkened back to the warm taste of a small snifter of after-dinner brandy. The aftertaste of this tea was amazingly brief and gentle after such pronounced flavors.
I have to rate this blend as one of my absolute favorite Teavana teas. I found the experience to be delightful from the top of my first cuppa to the last drop of my fourth. The brew was so entirely smooth that I had to suspend my normal disdain for teas that shout at me with flowery and fruity flavors.
This tea is definitely a winner! Although I will mostly prescribe it to myself as a morning liquid defibrillator, I will also be proud to serve it at night after one of my wife’s famously elegant dinners.
Flavors: Flowers, Fruity, Honey, Sweet, Vanilla
NOTE: This review is on the LOOSE LEAF version of the tea.
I enjoy Numi’s organic black teas, in bags or loose leaf, particularly their Chinese Breakfast selection. They also offer some of the best prices I’ve found for a pound of loose leaf tea during their periodic sales. A sale was going on this week so I thought this would be a perfect time to try another Numi product.
The tea leaves in the one pound bag were short and black. The smell was rich and tea-like. No specific aroma jumped out at me.
I steeped the leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes. The brewed aroma had a slightly sweet vegetable quality to it. The color was bright amber.
My whole cup of this tea maintained a pronounced and distinctive taste throughout. The flavor reminded me of sweet potatoes lightly sprinkled with maple syrup. The overall effect was quite smooth and only slightly sweet. I didn’t detect any harshness. The aftertaste was brief and appealing.
This Numi blend turned out to be even better than I hoped. The achievement made the extremely reasonable sale price that much more delightful. I am going to add this brew to my official morning tea rotation. I predict that I will be ordering another pound before this time next year.
Flavors: Maple Syrup, Sweet Potatoes
Just some quick notes I jotted down while I was working about this bagged tea sample I picked up in the kiosk at our local Sam’s Club:
- North and South Indian tea blend
- Well-constructed silk pyramid bag with a clever notch on the tag to keep it from falling into the cup
- I steeped it for 7 minutes (by accident- lost track of the time) in boiling water
- Surprisingly mild flavor for 7 minutes of brewing
- Tasted slightly harsh
- Mild aftertaste
- Overall standard black tea taste- no flavor attributes shouted for attention
- Neither exceptional nor exciting
I should qualify this review by admitting I had a fine cup of Oliver Pluff English Breakfast loose leaf tea 15 minutes before this one, and Pluff was still on my palate (and mind).
I don’t drink a lot of green tea. I prefer the high-octane black teas, particularly while I am working. But, I liked the name of this free sample from Teavivre and knew (based on the great track record Teavivre has, with me enjoying virtually all of their offerings) that this one was worth a try.
When I opened the silver sample package, the long wrinkled green leaves strongly reminded me of something that is smoked instead of drunk. The unbrewed odor also kind of reminded me of the same…uh…herb.
I followed Teavivre’s guidelines and brewed the leaves for five minutes (the recommended maximum) at 195 degrees (the instructions said 194 degrees but what’s one degree between friends?).
The steeped color was a brilliant gold. The flavor was nutty and slightly grassy but exceptionally smooth. I didn’t detect any other flavors riding piggyback on this. However, there also was an underlying tangy sweetness to the taste that I liked immensely. The slightly sweet and airy aftertaste floated gently on my palate until it regrettably drifted away.
Teavivre has done it again! They have taken a tea that is usually low on my priority list and made it so enjoyable that I heartily recommend it.
If I ever get to retire one day, and no longer need the full-body thunderbolt that black tea gives me in the morning, I will positively include AT LEAST ONE green tea to leisurely sip while I slowly churn back and forth in my rocker. Thank you, Teavivre!
Flavors: Grass, Nutty, Sweet, Tangy
This selection has an interesting name. I’ve never associated snails with tea before. I do like escargot, so why not? I am now curious. I need to do some research to learn how this tea got its name.
When I opened the silver sample package, the smell inside was very rich, sweet, earthy, and pleasant. I steeped the full black leaves at 185 degrees for five minutes as recommended on the package.
The brewed result was a bright gold color. The aroma was like SWEET sweet potatoes.
I have to say, this was the first time I could easily identify the flavor of sweet potatoes in a tea. Although prominent, this taste was congenially complimented by attributes of molasses and honey. These flavors blended harmoniously. They also seemed to desire to be individually acknowledged. I could taste them moving in and out of the flavor forefront.
Initially my palate thought there might be a twinge of astringency present. However, the old taste buds settled into a nice smooth ride by the third sip. The brief after taste also presented nothing negative to upset the experience.
This is a smooth and amiable black tea for morning consumption without a blowtorch. If you need to be slapped awake when you start your day (as I often do), you might want to save this one for lunch. Either way, you’ve got yourself a winner!
Flavors: Honey, Molasses, Sweet Potatoes
While purchasing a pound of Teavivre Golden Monkey tea (which I consider to be the BEST Golden Monkey of all that I’ve run across) online, I chose this Yunnan Dian Hong Ancient Tree Black Tea as one of the three free samples included with my purchase. I am always excited when there is a new black tea to try!
I opened up the sample package and I was immediately struck by the rich leathery smell and the long dark fresh-looking leaves. I steeped the tea for eight minutes (the maximum recommended time) at 185 degrees.
The brewed liquor smelled rich and leathery. The color was a bright orange-gold.
The taste was extremely full and smooth, with finely blended accents of sweet potato, malt, and earth. Astringency was not in its vocabulary. The aftertaste was gentle and brief.
This is another one of those teas that goes down so smoothly I am tempted to chug the entire cup. However, I’m sure I enjoyed it even more by savoring each sip.
This is an excellent black tea. It is worthy of a prominent position on my highly recommended list.
Flavors: Earth, Malt, Sweet Potatoes
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.
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