201 Tasting Notes


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

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

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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

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

Their tea is also sold in Colonial WIlliamsburg and at A Southern Season in Raleigh, NC. I would really love to go to Wadmalaw Island! I have a good friend who lives in Charleston and I hope to go stay for a few days and visit the tea plantation.

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About a year ago, we discovered in our Publix store the best bottled tea I’ve ever had. Most bottled teas taste artificial or watered down to me. The bottles of Pure Leaf tea set a new standard. They tasted great, natural, and freshly brewed. So, when I discovered a loose leaf Pure Leaf product in Publix last night, I immediately tossed it into the cart.

My hopes were high for this tea. It was packaged in a simple and contemporary plastic jar. Inside the lid, just a simple paper seal protected the contents from the world we live in. The short dark brown leaves had a nice rich earthy aroma.

As always, I followed the manufacturer’s instructions and steeped the leaves at 212 degrees for three minutes. The brewed liquor was a dark honey color. The smell was like Assam with a tad of sweetener.

The flavor of this tea was smooth, robust, and full-bodied. I could taste both the Ceylon and Assam, which seemed to be blended in perfect harmony. There was just an itsy bitsy twang of astringency, but this seemed to disappear after the first couple of sips. The aftertaste was strong but amiable.

As I said earlier, I had high hopes for this tea, and it didn’t disappoint me. It had all of the characteristics that I look for in a black tea. It was bold, defined, and flavorful. I will overlook the twinkle of astringency since it went away quickly.

If your grocery store has this tea, I would recommend you give it a try. You can’t go wrong at under $7 for 4.7 ounces!

Flavors: Tea

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 36 OZ / 1064 ML

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drank Czar Nicolas II by russian royal tea
201 tasting notes

I found this tea at our local international foods store. I love this place because it is the only location in my area where I can acquire the great Scottish foods that I grew up on, such as, meat pies, bridies, and sausage rolls. The store also has a fairly large selection of loose leaf teas that are mostly Russian. Let’s check out this one…

The tea comes in an interesting thin cardboard box, adorned with individual color pictures of Czar Nick himself and his wife. This colorful packaging reminds me of the containers of many products sold during the 1950s, particularly European goods.

I opened the inner silver foil envelope to access the leaves. They were long and brown with a potent sweet and flowery aroma, almost like perfume. I don’t prefer flowery teas, but this aroma was not unpleasant.

I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees as recommended on the colorful box. The brewed liquid had a faintly flowery and sweet aroma. The color was dark gold.

The tea tasted much like it smelled. It was medium-strength, semi-sweet, and flowery. If I had to identify the flower, I would guess, rose. I actually liked the flavor. It was smooth. There was no astringency. The aftertaste was gentle and did not overstay its welcome.

This is one of the few flowery teas that I have liked so far. Of course, though, I like anything that is sweet, so maybe this sensation on my palate over-ruled the flowery contribution. If you happen to run across this product, give it a try. I don’t find anything offensive about it.

Flavors: Flowers, Sweet

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

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drank Pu-erh Tou Cha by No. Six Depot
201 tasting notes

You either love Pu-erh or you hate it. Nobody seems to be in the middle of the road when it comes to this tea type. Personally, I’m one of the Pu-erh tea lovers. I revel in the earthy, stout, and steady flavor of Pu-erh.

This brand of Pu-erh came packaged in a metal tin. The tou cha (or tou chas?) were all individually wrapped in delicate, white, and tissue-thin paper. As soon as I opened the tin, I immediately smelled the strong leathery and earthly Pu-erh aroma. I knew that was a good sign.

The brewing instructions were not detailed. They did supply recommended temperature and time ranges. However, no recommended number of tou cha(s) per cup was given. I decided to use the amount suggested by other tea companies and brewed one tou cha per two cups of tea for four minutes at 200 degrees.

The steeped aroma was exquisite. Some people (including my wife) describe the smell of brewed Pu-erh as “fishy.” Although I understand the comparison, to me the odor is more like the rich fine leather of a new pair of boots.

In any event, this tea was absolutely pleasing to my palate. The standard Pu-erh flavor was booming but not obnoxious. It was even slightly sweet. Although the taste was forceful, it was also smooth and without astringency. The aftertaste was strong at first but it was pleasant and it dissipated quickly.

If you are on the “love Pu-erh” side of the aisle, this is definitely one that you should try. If you are a “hate Pu-erh” member, you still might want to give this one a chance. It just might make a convert out of you.

Flavors: Earth, Leather

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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drank Chinese Breakfast by Rishi Tea
201 tasting notes

If I were forced to pick my favorite black tea country of origin, it would have to be China. I just love the leathery smell and rich earthy taste of Chinese black teas. China obviously got it right a long time ago, which is why their ancient trees are still used today.

I was so excited when I saw Rishi had a Chinese breakfast tea that I sent away for a pound of it, sight unseen and taste untasted. I realized the risk but I had faith in Rishi and Chinese black tea in general.

When I opened the one pound plastic bag, the rich familiar and welcoming leathery smell greeted me. The leaves were long, black, and brown.

I steeped the leaves according to Rishi’s instructions at 212 degrees for five minutes. The brewed aroma was rich, luscious, sweet, and robust. The color was bright amber.

The taste of this tea was absolutely delicious. It was full-bodied, sweet, malty, and earthy, with accents of cocoa. It was also tremendously smooth with no inkling of astringency. The aftertaste was extremely light and gentle and it lingered only momentarily.

This tea is nothing short of delightful. It is the perfect morning tea for me but I would not object to drinking it in the afternoon either. My gambling paid off for a change. This tea was worth the risk.

Flavors: Cocoa, Earth, Leather, Malt, Sweet

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

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This is another selection that my better half brought back to me from her trip to the nation’s capital. I have a feeling the name of the tea company is no coincidence.

When I opened the container, expecting a bergamot and/or cream aroma to flood out, I got something completely different, yet familiar. Flowers again! There were little blue flowers spread throughout the container of short black leaves. The Capital Teas website says they are cornflower petals. I assume it was the smell of those petals that totally defeated any competition from bergamot or cream.

I followed Capital’s brewing instructions and steeped the leaves (and petals) for five minutes at 195 degrees. There wasn’t much brewed aroma of any kind. The color was amber.

The first sip provided a mild flowery taste and not much else. After that, I could taste the Ceylon tea AND the flowers. I don’t know why, but I have detected a slight twang of astringency in almost every Ceylon tea I’ve tried, and this one was no exception. The astringency wasn’t overpowering but it was noticeable. I also really had to shake down my palate to find the bergamot in this blend.

All in all, I would say this tea is okay. It’s not exciting. The flavor is medium-strength. And, if you bought this product because you experienced a severe bergamot and Earl Grey craving, you might be disappointed.

Flavors: Flowers, Tea

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

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drank Lapsang Souchong by Capital Teas
201 tasting notes

My thoughtful and caring wife brought this tea back for me after her business trip to Washington, D.C. It was even NICER of her to do it when you consider how much she HATES the smell and taste of smoky teas.

Personally, I LOVE smoky teas- when they are produced correctly. They shouldn’t be overpowering to the point that you feel like you fell into a campfire. And, they shouldn’t be so weak that you feel like you need to rub two sticks together to create your own campfire effect.

This tea came in a black metal tin similar to the containers that package Harney & Sons teas. Whether that was done on purpose or not, it did give me the impression that I was about to partake in some classy tea.

When I removed the lid for the first time, a wonderful and potent smoky aroma filled the room (much to my wife’s nausea). To me, the smell was blissful. It was like the inside of a smokehouse where rows and rows of fine pork hang as they wait to become barbecue.

I followed the container’s brewing instructions for black tea and steeped the black leaves for three minutes at 195 degrees. Both the time and temperature seemed a little light-weight to me but I always give the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt…on the first steeping.

The steeped aroma was also delightful, conjuring memories of the great campfires I sat around while a Boy Scout. At the other extreme, my wife had to leave the room at this point, her nausea too much for her to endure. The brewed hue was dark like maple syrup.

From the first sip to the bottom of two cups, this tea was just a joy to drink. The smokiness in the flavor was at the perfect pitch. Powerful and booming, but extremely pleasant. In spite of the mighty presence of the smoky taste, it was also smooth with no astringency to be found.

My wife clearly showed me that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). However, if you find smoky teas as delicious as I do, you will love this one. I HIGHLY recommend it!

Flavors: Smoke, Smoked

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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drank Earl Grey by Dean & Deluca
201 tasting notes

FYI…This tasting note refers to the loose leaf version of this tea.

This selection has been sitting unopened in my tea cabinet for several months. I can’t believe I forgot it was there! No problemo (that’s Spanish). Let’s take it for a spin now!

When I opened the lid on the squat metal tin, the strong bergamot odor that burst forth was like bergamot pipe tobacco. That impression was probably related to the floral notes touted on the container. The India tea leaves were short and dark brown.

As is customary for me, I used the container’s instructions for brewing. That translated to three minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed color was a golden molasses. The aroma reminded me of the freshly heated and molded plastic of a toy I once had.

The flavor of the first sip seemed rather odd to me. I had to roll it around my mouth for a while to grasp what I was tasting. I could definitely sense the bergamot but there was a strong additional aspect. At first I thought it was a bourbon flavor. Then, its true character materialized through the haze. Flowers! The taste was flowers!

I’m not crazy about floral flavors in teas but don’t mind them when they keep their place in the background. In this case, I found that the floral features completely overpowered the bergamot. This is not what I prefer in an Earl Grey tea. Call it something else and maybe I will lighten up. Also, the strong flowery scent completely hijacked my nostrils every time I raised the cup to my lips. No astringency was present but I didn’t find the flowery aftertaste pleasing.

My overall opinion of this tea is that it is smooth and robust enough to be likable, but not when it is disguised as an Earl Grey tea. In general, it is way too flowery for my personal preference, but don’t let that stop you from trying it out.

Flavors: Bergamot, Flowers

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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drank Earl Grey by Taylors of Harrogate
201 tasting notes

FYI…This tasting note refers to the loose leaf version of this tea.

This is the third and last of the Taylors teas that I picked up last weekend. I hope it will be the best. So far, I haven’t been thrilled by their offerings. The first two I reviewed here weren’t very exciting. Oh well, I’m putting on my open-minded pants now.

Let’s cut right to the chase. This tea was packaged like the two Taylors teas I already tried: metal container, inner foil wrapper. The unbrewed tea leaves were short and dark brown. However, they didn’t have the through-the-grinder appearance of the others. This might be attributed to the fact that this is black China tea versus orange pekoe.

I’ve imbibed a lot of black Earl Grey teas lately so the smell of bergamot is acutely registered in my nostrils. The unbrewed leaves of this blend, though, had a bergamot-like aroma that my nose hadn’t encountered before. The smell was definitely bergamot but it had additional flowery attributes. At first, I wondered if there were chemical or other additives, but the container label clearly stated that, other than black China tea, the only other ingredient was NATURAL oil of bergamot.

As usual, I followed the company’s brewing instructions for the initial trial. I set the Breville tea maker on 212 degrees for five minutes. The brewed blend was dark amber in color. The aroma was faintly syrupy.

The taste of this tea was fruity and sweet. I don’t know if I could pick this flavor out of a lineup as bergamot, but I did like it. It was mellow, smooth, and slightly honeyed. What’s not to like?

There was no astringency (unlike the other two Taylors teas) and the entire cup (minus the vessel) went down very smoothly and easily. The aftertaste was affable with only a brief hang time.

My hopes were realized this morning. This is definitely my favorite of the three Taylors teas. I will drink all of the contents of the other two Taylors containers, but I will be smiling while I finish this one.

Flavors: Fruity, Honey, Sweet

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

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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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