209 Tasting Notes
Every now and then, while out and about, I stumble upon a great tea at an incredible value when I least expect it. Such was the case when we were shopping at Earth Fare.
I don’t know why, but I don’t find their loose leaf tea displays very appealing, and I usually don’t peruse the tea aisle at all anymore. It could be because they store the loose teas in plain, clear, long plastic chutes that remind me of the containers jammed with candy that you buy per pound in the malls.
However, while my wife was searching for great deals on fairly interesting plant-based food items (our current diet of two months) during this trip, I thought looking at the teas might distract me from dreaming and reminiscing about the wonderful sweet treats of old in the candy and cookie aisles. So, I decided to wander down to the calorie-free tea aisle.
All aesthetics aside, I did find the PRICE of this Frontier China black tea irresistible. It was just $17.99 a pound! I thought risking a little over four bucks for four ounces wouldn’t break the bank as I opened the trap door in the chute and let about four ounces drop into the provided plain brown paper bag with Earth Fare’s logo on it.
When I got home and opened the brown bag to see if I should have bought $4 worth of lottery tickets instead, I was quite taken by the rich and sweet-smelling aroma of the long dark tea leaves. This smell was similar to some of my favorite black China teas costing considerably more.
Since neither the clear plastic candy chute nor the plain brown paper bag had brewing instructions, I opted for my standard black tea brewing method: five minutes at 212 degrees.
The steeped result had a deep brownish orange color. The aroma was rich and sweet with hints of chocolate.
As I swirled the liquid around my palate during the first sip, I quickly realized that the taste of this tea was…TERRIFIC! From the first sip to the bottom of my cup, it had to be the smoothest orange pekoe that I had ever sampled! There wasn’t even a RUMOR of astringency. The flavor was also peppered with softly sweet cocoa accents that perfectly accompanied the mild black tea flavor as if both elements were grown and harvested together in one hybrid tree.
If I have any complaint at all (which I don’t), it would be to make the flavor just a tad stronger. However, I say this about almost all teas (due to my sinus challenges) so ignore it.
I just can’t say enough (or maybe I already have) about the great value of this tea. I found it an absolute joy to sip, from the first moment when it hit my tongue to the last when it gently evaporated on my palate. I firmly recommend this tea for everyone, from yacht owners to those of us on budgets.
Flavors: Cocoa, Tea
My sweet wife was due some merchandise credits at the Williams Sonoma store. She so very nicely picked up this tea for me with her credits.
Assam is not my favorite tea as I prefer the Chinese products over those from India. I can’t always find Assam teas that are robust enough for my palate. However, I always try to experience new teas with an open mind. Hopefully, this Assam will be a great one.
My container for this tea was different than the one in the picture. It was also metal but round with a narrower neck. The cap had a cool plastic and reusable inner seal underneath it.
The unbrewed short brown leaves had the familiar aroma of Assam. I steeped them for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product was the color of maple syrup. The smell was sweet and malty.
The flavor had a sweet malty edge to it. I thought I detected a slight twinge of astringency during the first sip but it dissipated quickly and didn’t return.
I liked this Assam. It had sufficient tea flavor to keep my taste buds interested. I enjoyed the sweetness and malty emphasis in the taste. Some Assams have just tasted like weak tea to me. There was no unpleasant bitterness in the brief aftertaste. If you also are on the fence about Assam, you might want to take a chance on this one!
Flavors: Malt, Sweet
It was another wonderful Christmas at my house, the day when we Christians celebrate the most precious gift of the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. In addition to this miraculous gift, I also received some other cool presents this year. One of the great ones was a box of Tazo Joy tea from a dear friend of ours.
I don’t drink a lot of bagged tea anymore as I prefer the bolder and more complex flavors that more consistently occur in loose leaf tea. However, there are some bagged teas that are exceptional. I believe Tazo often falls into that category.
First of all, you know Tazo makes “classy” products because their teas are enclosed in “sachets” rather than “bags.” All kidding aside, they do use a silky woven material for their bags…uh…harrumph…sachets, instead of paper. One of my complaints with bagged tea is that you can occasionally taste the paper bag. The Tazo sachet material seems to be tasteless and odorless which allows the tea to sink or swim on its own merit (or lack thereof).
One interesting NOTE: When I was researching this tea on the Internet, I found what must have been an image of older packaging for this tea. At that time, the box said the tea was contained in “filterbags.” I guess “sachets” does sound more sophisticated. :-)
The Tazo Joy sachet contained long black full leaves, as advertised. Other tea bags that I’ve tried contained leaves/by-products that were pulverized to a dry powder. I haven’t found that method optimal for producing superior flavor. The Tazo sachet also had an enticing fruity aroma.
I steeped the sachet for five minutes in eight ounces of boiling water as recommended on the box. The resultant color was a goldish orange. The brewed smell was slightly sweet and fruity.
The taste of this tea was quite decent. The flavor was fruity, mildly sweet, smooth, and lower-end-of-medium-strength. There was absolutely no astringency. There really was no aftertaste either.
The package revealed that the fruity flavor came from peaches. My palate wasn’t sensitive enough to discern the specific fruit’s classification but I was able to identify the flavor as a resident in that family.
All in all, this is a nice tea that I will be happy to drink on those days when, for whatever reason, I don’t have time (or the inclination) to set up the Breville tea maker for a pot of loose leaf tea. Also, I would definitely choose this blend over some of the nasty tea-like substances produced by certain office tea pod machines.
This was another economical find at our local Dean & Deluca store. The reason for the low price might be because this product was discontinued. (I could not find any specific information about it on the Internet.)
When I opened the drab, but signature, No. Six Depot metal container, the aroma of the short dark leaves reminded me a lot of English Breakfast tea. No. Six Depot seems to use black teas from all over the world. I’m not sure which was used here but I’m relatively confident that it wasn’t Chinese tea. My guess is that it consisted of Indian and Ceylon leaves.
As always, I followed the manufacturer’s recommendations for the initial steeping. I brewed the leaves at 200 degrees for five minutes. The color was orange/gold. The odor had weak English Breakfast and malty characteristics.
The first sip of my cup produced very little flavor. It was early in the morning when I tried it but my taste buds should have been alert enough to wring more taste from this blend. At about the fifth gulp, and after quite a bit of swirling inside my mouth, a defined malty tea taste began to register. The flavor was nice once it clocked in. It was smooth without astringency and the aftertaste was brief and faint.
Maybe the Russian Czar had more sensitive taste buds and/or clearer sinuses than I have. Regardless, this American peasant would have liked the tea to be stronger.
Flavors: Malt, Tea
After much deliberation between three of us (me, myself, and I), I decided to review each of the ten teas separately to make the individual tasting notes easier to find. With that in mind, the tea of the day is:
Vanilla & Rooibos Tea
I really like these cool glass “test tubes” that package the ten teas. When I unscrewed the lid of this one and stuck my nose inside, I could immediately smell the vanilla. I steeped the orange/brown leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees.
The brewed color was orange/gold. A faint presence of vanilla was detected in the aroma.
The flavor of this tea was pretty much all vanilla. I could taste the tang of the rooibos when I concentrated, but vanilla best described this selection. The flavor was smooth and there was no astringency. However, the vanilla aftertaste stayed on my tongue longer than I preferred.
This is the second of the teas in Trader Joe’s ten-pack that I’ve tried so far. It’s not an unpleasant tea. I would probably like it better in the afternoon than I did in the morning.
Flavors: Rooibos, Vanilla
I don’t drink many bagged teas anymore but The Republic of Tea’s products were among my favorites when I did. Two aspects of this tea enticed me to try it:
1. It was a free sample that came in the mail
2. I enjoy drinking Christmas teas during the festive season
When I opened the sturdy envelope to expose The Republic of Tea’s signature tea “disc,” an inviting spicy cinnamon aroma spewed out. I steeped the disc for five minutes at 212 degrees. The color was a light gold/orange. The aroma was…like…Christmas!
The brewed liquor had a sweet and spicy flavor that was reminiscent of hot apple cider at Christmas time. I could taste the cloves underneath the dominant flavors but this taste was positioned perfectly without bullying the other great attributes. The overall flavors of this bagged blend were surprisingly robust and quite smooth. The after taste was gentle and delicate. I didn’t detect even a trace of astringency.
This delicious tea really did spread Christmas cheer on my morning. If you find yourself without your loose leaf infuser during the holiday season, this bagged selection just might bring you some comfort and joy.
Flavors: Cloves, Spicy, Sweet
Rishi teas are usually solid and reliable. When I saw their English Breakfast black tea in our Whole Foods store, I knew it was worth giving it a try.
A rich malty aroma instantly charged from the metal tin and inner foil envelope upon opening them. The dark brown leaves were extremely short compared to my other Rishi teas. Maybe that is the signature of English Breakfast tea?
I followed Rishi’s brewing instructions and steeped the leaves at 200 degrees for four minutes. The color was bright amber. The smell was malty and slightly sweet.
This tea had a very well-balanced malty and sweet taste, like cocoa. It also was extremely smooth.
The flavor was quite different from most of the other English Breakfast teas I’ve tried. Those all seemed to emphasize the raw taste of the teas that comprised the blend. However, this selection, although definitely not hiding the tea flavors, expertly coated them with cocoa sweetness and malt. The result is the perfect breakfast tea for those of us who like it sweet but straight-up!
The aftertaste was light and smooth. Astringency was not in this blend’s vocabulary.
I bought this product hoping to find a pleasant breakfast blend. Instead, I hit the jackpot. This is an exceptionally robust, full-bodied, and delicious morning tea. My taste buds didn’t locate the advertised cherry notes but that didn’t hinder my sweet and lovely morning ride through four cups of this awesome find.
Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Sweet
I told myself I wasn’t going to buy any more teas until I make room in my tea cabinet Plus, I haven’t found another job yet after being laid off, so I should be more frugal with my tea habit. However, I couldn’t resist this one! I love Earl Grey. Caramel (and anything sweet) is high on my list too. I found this one at the local Word Market store. The price wasn’t unreasonable. It cost $10 for a little under three ounces.
The packaging was a very simple sealed bag. When I opened it up, a sweet caramel and coconut smell emerged. The dark tea leaves were peppered with cornflower petals, citrus peels, and, I assume, coconut chips.
I steeped the tea at 212 degrees for five minutes as suggested on the package. The brewed liquor had a gold color. The aroma was sweet, with caramel as the dominant characteristic.
From the very first sip, the tea had a smooth and well-balanced rich taste, comprised of MOST of the claimed ingredients (caramel, flowers, coconut, and citrus). Oddly enough, one of the ingredients implied in this blend’s title was not easily distinguished – BERGAMOT! The aftertaste was gentle and brief.
Usually, I knock off a few points when a featured ingredient is missing from the flavor. But, the tastes that did exist were so good and smooth that I didn’t care this time.
This is a very good tea. I do recommend it. Although I drank it at breakfast, it could very easily become a favorite afternoon tea too.
Flavors: Caramel, Citrus, Coconut, Flowers
I got this set of 10 loose leaf teas at Trader Joe’s a while back. I’ve been wrestling with how to do the tasting note(s) for it. Do I review them all in one note or do I create individual notes for each one? While I am making up my mind, I will start with…
Bergamot Black Tea
Putting loose leaf teas in glass test tubes is a novel idea. I felt like a mad scientist when I poured the tea from the tube into my infuser.
The unbrewed short black leaves had a strong bergamot aroma. There also were little blue cornflower petals mixed in with the leaves. Since the packaging had minimal individual information about the teas, I chose my stand-by black tea steeping method: 212 degrees for five minutes.
The brewed aroma contained bergamot and sweet attributes. The color was amber.
The flavor could be best described as a flowery Earl Grey. The flower and bergamot tastes seemed to be constantly fighting it out on my palate, making it difficult to zero in on either. Maybe that is just called “balanced,” but I prefer flavors that are harmonious rather than locked in mortal combat. There was no astringency and very little aftertaste.
This isn’t a bad tea but the flavors need to be fleshed out more clearly. I would definitely NOT try to use it for iced tea.
Flavors: Bergamot, Flowers
I don’t know how many people are aware that Charleston, South Carolina, besides being a beautiful city, is also known for its teas. The Charleston Tea Plantation teas (now owned by Bigelow) are excellent and have been well known in the South for a long time. I’m not familiar with Oliver Pluff & Company teas, but since they are also from Charleston and my home state, I feel obligated to try them out.
The tea was packaged in a sturdy air-tight tin that was very similar to the containers sold by The Republic of Tea. When I opened the lid, a citrus and spicy aroma greeted my nostrils. It was sweet and enticing. The leaves were brown and medium-length. Orange peel pieces were sprinkled throughout the container.
Oliver Pluff and Company recommended steeping the leaves at 195 degrees for (3-)5 minutes so that is what I did. The brewed smell was faintly cinnamon. The color was dark gold.
Not a lot of flavor registered during my first couple of sips. However, I’m willing to give the tea the benefit of the doubt since my sinuses are still at the tail end of Fall allergy season. Also, a medium-strength cinnamon and slightly fruity taste did emerge through the mist after a few more sips.
The taste was smooth and I didn’t encounter any astringency. The aftertaste had a touch of orange and cinnamon to it and it hung around for an appropriate time period.
I would have liked the taste to have been a bit stronger and more defined, but all in all this is an amicable blend. If you are not an allergy sufferer, you might find the flavors more amplified.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Orange