217 Tasting Notes
My tea hobby is starting to make me feel like I am traveling all over the world without leaving my house. Today, we journey to Taiwan for a first taste of Nuvola Tea’s Taiwan Oolong Black Tea.
I didn’t even know that you could combine oolong with black tea. I truly learn something new every day!
When I opened the little sample packet, graciously provided by Nuvola Tea, a rich, earthy, and sweet aroma escaped from within. The unbrewed leaves were dark green, long, and thick.
I wasn’t sure what time and temperature to use for steeping, so I opted for my milder black tea settings of 205 degrees for three minutes. The color of the brewed liquor was a light amber. The aroma was sweet and airy.
At first sip, the taste was sweet, malty, and very smooth. With additional gulps, I became aware of the oolong in a stronger sense than I had experienced with other oolong teas. This might have been the influence of the black tea.
This tea is so smooth that I had to force myself to slow down to keep from chugging it. The more I drank, the more I found myself really enjoying this blend.
The flavor is gentle but not weak. It has a sweetness that is almost like honey. There is also just a stitch of earthiness and malt in the taste. The aftertaste is sweet and extremely pleasant. There is not a hint of bitterness anywhere.
This is simply a wonderful tea. I’m not sure yet if it will provide an explosive enough caffeine jolt to earn a spot in my morning tea rotation, but the flavor is so good that I may make an exception. I will definitely be adding it to my shopping list shortly.
I have one more Nuvola Tea sample to try. I am anxious to see if it is in the same class as this Taiwan Oolong Black Tea. So far, I am very impressed with Taiwan tea and Nuvola!
I received the Breville One Touch Tea Maker as a birthday present last year from my then girlfriend and now wife. (That alone was a good reason to marry her!)
With this tea maker, you get a perfect cup of tea every time. It also keeps your tea warm after brewing for up to an hour.
You can choose pre-selected brewing times and temperatures based on the type of tea (black, green, etc.) or you can customize them according to your individual taste (no pun intended).
If you leave your house early in the morning and don’t have time to brew the tea before you leave, you can set the automatic timer so that the tea is ready and waiting for you when you rise.
Being a gadget kind of guy, I also enjoy observing this great machine at work. Over a year later, it’s still fun for me to watch the infusion basket automatically drop and rise.
Cleaning is extremely fast and easy. This is also important to me. Most of the parts can be run through the dishwasher.
I just have three minor complaints:
1. You have to make a minimum of two cups of tea. This isn’t a big deal, but every now and then I only have time or desire for one cup.
2. The maximum warming time after the tea is brewed is one hour. When I make a full pot of tea (five cups), occasionally I don’t drink it all within an hour. I can nuke it, which also isn’t a huge inconvenience, but it would be nice to have more warming time in the machine. I talked to Breville about this issue and they said that tea warmed for over an hour can lose quality and become bitter. Why did I get the feeling that I was being pacified?
3. This one can potentially be major. As of the last time I checked, you could not buy a replacement teapot from Breville if the glass pot should break. A lot of the electronics are contained in the base of the pot. Perhaps this complicates a replacement. However, glass does break and the French glass used for the pot is not extraordinarily thick. I did read in Breville’s question and answer forum that you can call them if your pot breaks. Hopefully they have some kind of resolution. This machine is not cheap or what I would consider to be a disposable item.
Those three issues aside, I absolutely love this machine. There is no doubt in my mind that it has also increased and enhanced my appreciation of tea. I wish I could figure out a way to smuggle it into the office so I could have great tea every day!
I’m back at Tea Central (my house) today with real tea making equipment and a cup that is not composed of paper. I also have more than five minutes to make and drink some tea. Life is good. And, this is the perfect time to take Earl Grey Classic by Fortnum & Mason for a test drive.
When I pried open the lid of the tin, one of the freshest and most natural bergamot aromas that I had ever experienced hit my nose. I hoped that the taste would match this great smell.
Fortnum & Mason doesn’t include detailed brewing instructions on their packaging. After researching the procedures of other fellow Steepsters for this tea, I chose 205 degrees for three minutes as my method of madness.
The brewed liquor also had a fresh bergamot scent, although a little lighter than I expected. The color was golden brown.
The taste was black tea, balanced with bergamot flavor. The freshness of the bergamot scent did carry over into the taste, but the bergamot did not control the total flavor of the tea. Instead, it was a smooth, malty, and full black tea flavor with bergamot blended into the taste. There was no bitterness. The aftertaste was lightly shadowed with bergamot accents.
This is a fine and smooth Earl Grey tea. I would rate the bergamot power 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.
One thing that sets this tea apart and above some of the other Earl Grey teas I’ve tasted is the freshness of the bergamot flavor. It’s not as strong as the Rishi Earl Grey (still my favorite Earl Grey), which I would give a 10 on the bergamot power scale. But, this is a very nice tea that I would enjoy in the mornings or afternoons.
Here’s some speed reviewing of a quick cup of tea I had today. I received a few tea bags of this selection to try. Thank you, ashmanra! I had only a few minutes to gulp one down while at the office. Here are my results:
o The tea bags were impressive. They were strong like nylon, large, and pyramid shaped.
o I couldn’t smell bergamot in the unbrewed bag.
o I steeped the tea for about five minutes in boiling water.
o The color was golden brown in my paper cup.
o The flavor was medium-strength, pleasant, malty, slightly sweet, and without bitterness, but I could barely taste the bergamot.
o Did I like it? Yes, but I would like to try this blend in a real cup and in loose leaf to see if the bergamot is less shy.
And that ends this tasting note moment.
This is another of the premium imported teas that we picked up at the local Williams Sonoma store this weekend. I wasn’t going to buy it because it also carried a premium price. However, my sweet wife insisted that I do it. OK, she twisted my arm.
I had never tried a French tea before. I realized that the leaves weren’t grown in Paris, but I still thought it would be fun to see if a French twist had been applied to the beverage.
The product came in some impressive packaging. A sturdy and glossy black carboard box protected the black metal tin inside. The tin was capped with a solid metal lid. Beneath the outer lid was a sealed peel-back inner lid with a pull ring, like vacuum-packed food items use.
When I pulled back the inner lid, I immediately smelled strawberries. It wasn’t an artifical aroma, but quite natural.
No steeping instructions came with the product so I opted to brew the black leaves for four minutes at 212 degrees. The steeped liquor was a reddish golden brown.
I could smell strawberries again as I raised the cup to my mouth. My first sip had a strong fruity taste. Again, strawberries seemed to be the dominant resident. There also was an underlying floral flavor, but it was a partner to the fruitiness, not a competitor.
As a rule, I am not crazy about fruity and floral teas. The main problem I have with them is that I feel like I am drinking perfume. I also find these teas to have a strong chemical-like aftertaste that lingers much too long for my liking.
This Marco Polo selection had none of those negative characteristics. The strawberry flavor was natural, fruity, sweet, and smooth. The floral attribute blended softly and amiably with the other flavors. The aftertaste was light, pleasing, and sweet. Bitterness was nowhere to be found. The black tea taste was so far in the background that it was hardly noticed. But, the overall body, taste, and mouth-feel of this brew left no doubt that this was a bona fide card-carrying member of the tea family.
I may have to rethink my philosophy about fruity and flowery teas. I really like this one a lot. Thanks to this Marco Polo blend, I say, oui, to trying more fruity and floral teas, plus grand oui, to tasting more French teas, and, le géant oui, to sampling more Mariage Frères teas!
A couple of our generous friends gave us Williams Sonoma gift cards as wedding gifts. My wife, who is a pastry chef and all-around fabulous cook, loves this store for all of its cool cooking gadgets and utensils. I guess Williams Sonoma is her Best Buy.
Anyhow, we were at Williams Sonoma to see what we could purchase with our gift certificates. I assumed we would spend them all on some fun cooking toys for her. That was fine with me because I would reap the rewards by eating all of the great food items that she would create. However, always the wonderful and selfless soul that she is, my wife insisted that I buy some of the fine imported teas that Williams Sonoma offers.
The first one I chose was the Royal Blend by Fortnum & Mason. The tin brags that this tea was “first blended for King Edward VII and hugely popular ever since”.
I could smell the Assam tea in the short brown leaves when I pried open the lid. I steeped this tea at 212 degrees for four minutes. I also followed the tin’s recommendation to add an extra teaspoonful of tea leaves “for the pot”.
There was no discernible aroma wafting from the brewed liquor. The color was a golden red.
The first sip sent pretty standard tea flavors into my tastebuds. The taste was full, malty, and a little spicy. I also thought at first that I was experiencing a tad of bitterness. I didn’t want to rush to judgment, though, so I kept my eye…or…buds…on it through the next several gulps.
My conclusion was that the flavor was not bitter but slightly tangy. Perhaps that was the Assam. The taste of this tea was somewhat schizophrenic because there also was a smoothness to it. Maybe that was the blended Ceylon. Or, maybe vice versa.
This is a nice flavorful black tea without bells and whistles. The overall taste is standard black tea but there is a complexity to the Assam and Ceylon blend that gives it something extra. I couldn’t detect the sweetness that some have mentioned. I also wouldn’t classify it as an exciting blend. But, hey, if this tea was good enough for Queen Victoria’s son, who am I to complain?
The Earl Grey tea that I measure all other Earl Greys against is my favorite (so far) from Rishi: http://steepster.com/teas/rishi-tea/5258-ancient-tree-earl-grey-organic-fair-trade. To me, that selection is the mother of all Earl Greys. It is strong, bursting with bergamot, and a complete, full-bodied, black tea blend. I was curious to see if this Harney & Sons offering could go the distance with Rishi.
When I opened the double-sealed sample packet, so kindly provided by ashmanra, the bergamot aroma immediately drew my attention. It was strong but not overwhelming.
I steeped the black leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes. I’m experimenting with five minutes for all black teas now. I like my tea to be potent in the morning as I need all the help I can get to shock myself out of the previous night’s slumber.
When my tea maker beeped completion, the bergamot aroma was much more subtle than I expected, particularly with five minutes of brewing at a boiling temperature. The smell was still pleasant. The color was a golden red.
With my first sip, the dominant taste was black tea. The flavor was nice, smooth, and malty, without bitterness, but I had difficulty sorting out the bergamot from the black tea attributes.
As the number of sips quickly multiplied, my tastebuds began to pinpoint the bergamot beneath the commanding black tea taste. It then occurred to me that the bergamot was not hidden behind the black tea flavors. The bergamot was so perfectly balanced with the black tea taste that it was actually fused into the overall tea flavor. Once I figured that out, my sleepy brain was able to separate the bergamot from the black tea when desired.
To sum this tea up, it did not dethrone my Rishi favorite, but it is tasty, smooth, and malty, without astringency. It would still be a great breakfast tea minus the bergamot.
If you like bergamot to slap you silly in your morning Earl Grey (like the aforementioned Rishi product), this tea may be a little too mild for you. However, if you can only tolerate bergamot when it is a quiet aspect of your cup, this selection will be a great choice. This Harney & Sons product will also be a winner if you prefer your bergamot intensity to fall somewhere between those extremes.
This was one of the few Mondays that I looked forward to! Thank you ashmanra, for sending me this Harney & Sons sample to taste!
When I opened the sample packet, a light vanilla aroma was noticeable. I steeped the very black short leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a dark amber.
The flavor of the first sip was smooth and breakfast-tea-like with mild vanilla undertones. As I drank more and more of this selection, the vanilla taste became more obvious.
I did detect a slight twinge of something additional with the vanilla flavor. I am not quite sure what it was. It wasn’t bitter and it wasn’t astringent but it did seem to be pointing in that direction. I noticed a similar attribute in another vanilla tea I tried a while back. Maybe it is just the chemical reaction of the vanilla bean when boiled in tea.
In any event, this was a pleasant enough tea with sufficient vanilla flavor to keep me from craving more. It became even more satisfying with a couple of English tea biscuits!
Since I love chocolate, mint, and anything sweet, this has been the most highly anticipated item on my list of teas to try since I first heard about it. Many thanks to ashmanra for sharing her stash with me!
The unbrewed chocolate mint aroma of this tea was so strong that I could smell it through the double wrap of the sample’s packaging. Instead of tea, the aroma was more like an imported fine candy bar.
I brewed the greenish leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The result was a golden brown liquid.
I could smell the mint with a hint of chocolate as I began to sip it. The taste was smooth and minty with the chocolate flavor in the background, but still quite recognizable, much like the blend of chocolate mint ice cream. The balance of mint and chocolate was perfect.
I have tried other mint teas before. What sets this one apart from the rest is that this tea has a nice refreshing quality. It reminds me a bit of the mint juleps that were once so popular here in the South.
As I guzzled more and more of this tea, I enjoyed the aftertaste almost as much as the actual experience. The chocolate mint flavor echoed on my palate minutes later with zero bitterness.
This is a phenomenal tea that more than lived up to my expectations. I am currently enjoying it in the morning but I can also see it in my future as a fantastic late afternoon and Summer tea. It will also be wonderful to bring this selection out for those special occasions with friends and family. I am greatly looking forward to sampling other Harney & Sons blends!
If you’ve kept up with my tasting notes, you know that I am a huge fan of Teavivre Teas. I have yet to be disappointed by any of their products.
If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Teavivre’s fabulous Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea. That tea is nothing short of incredibly fantastic, albeit a little pricey. This time, I thought I would save some money and hope that their Grade 1 Keemun selection was good enough to satisfy my Keemun itch.
I love the aroma of the short unbrewed tea leaves. It is a rich, sweet, and earthy smell that seems to belong only to Teavivre’s Keemun.
I steeped the tea at 205 degrees for three minutes as instructed on the packet. The color of the brewed liquor was golden brown.
As I brought the cup to my lips, I could already smell the savory Keemun. The first sip was absolutely delicious. The taste was sweet, earthy, full-bodied, and very smooth. There was no bitterness to be found. Subsequent sips…and cups…were at least equally delightful.
In my opinion, this Grade 1 Keemun is every bit as delicious and satisfying as Teavivre’s Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea. If you are on a budget (as I am), and you love Keemun, take advantage of the great taste and very reasonable price (currently – 10/24/2012 – Teavivre is also offering 20% off!) of the Grade 1 Keemun tea. I am very glad that I did! By the way, if your budget is even more restricted than mine, Teavivre has a Grade 2 Keemun black tea at even greater savings (and also currently – 10/24/2012 – 20% off)!