219 Tasting Notes


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
219 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
219 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
219 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
219 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
219 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
219 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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Here’s another Taylors tea that I picked up this weekend at the World Market store. To be honest, I purchased them because all of the Taylors selections were only $9.99 each for 4.4 ounces of tea. I can’t resist a good tea sale.

I tried out the Taylors Tea Room blend yesterday and I’m starting to see a pattern. The leaves are very finely ground. The packaging says the leaves are hand rolled in the traditional British way. I wonder if they are hand rolled and machine ground.

As I was saying, this tea had many of the same unbrewed characteristics as yesterday’s blend: metal container, short brown ground-up-looking leaves, and rich tea aroma.

I brewed the leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes. Taylors’ brewing instructions also seem to be standard for their teas.

The steeped color was a dark amber. The odor was faint with tea attributes only.

The flavor contained (again, like their Tea Room variety) only semi-robust tea characteristics. There was nothing more or less. This blend is said to contain two types of orange pekoe so maybe I shouldn’t have expected anything more exciting. I would have been willing to lower my expectations if this blend hadn’t also contained a bite of astringency.

So, to sum up my Taylors English Breakfast Leaf Tea experience:

o Ho-hum tea taste
o More than a hint of astringency
o Not horrible but booooriiiiing

Flavors: Tea

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

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I saw a few Taylors tea selections this weekend at a very reasonable price at our World Market store. I had heard of Taylors but hadn’t sampled their wares.

When I removed the lid on the metal container of this one and snipped open the inner foil packaging, I was surprised by how ground up the tea leaves appeared. They were brown and extremely fine, almost like powder. I would expect this characteristic if I cut open a tea bag. The aroma was potent and rich, more like Chinese tea than an Indian and African blend.

As always, I followed the manufacturer’s brewing instructions on the initial launch. In this case, that meant 212 degrees for five minutes.

The brewed liquid color was dark, almost like black coffee, except for the golden highlights. The smell was nondescript.

The flavor was plain and simply, like tea. No undertones or harmonious or complementary taste attributes materialized. It just tasted like tea. If you were to ask me what kind of tea flavor appeared, I would say Darjeeling was the dominant flavor. The Rooibos was not shouting to me. At best, the blended African tea flavor was only knocking on the door.

The overall flavor power was good but it was offset by a twinge of astringency. This slight bitterness remained on my tongue and kept slapping around my taste buds.

I am not wild about this blend but I will probably drink all of it. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either. I will most likely mix it with other livelier black teas. It’s just a little dull and featureless on its own.

Flavors: Tea

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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