209 Tasting Notes

drank Nilgiri Blue by The Tao of Tea
209 tasting notes

Sorry. I’ve been out of (brewed tea) commission for a while since I started a new job in April. I’ve been working long hours at an office where I haven’t time or an apparatus to brew and review new teas.

Enough with the excuses. Here I am, ready to get back into the swing of things by trying out this Nilgiri Blue tea that I picked up in the bargain bin at a local discount store.

When I opened the brown paper bag packaging (which a Teavana store associate once told me is a barbarous mechanism to store tender tea leaves – while she tried to sell me a thin metallic can for $12), a Darjeeling-like aroma wafted upward. I brewed the short mostly black leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed color was a deep reddish amber. The odor was mostly nondescript but slightly sweet.

My first few sips were not very powerful. After 1/3 of my cup was history, I began to discern a less-than-robust tea-like flavor with a faint sweet attribute.

This tea is not bad. It isn’t bitter. I just didn’t find it exciting or compelling (much like this review). The after taste had no astringency. It also was “ho-hum.”

I will drink this tea again but I won’t be brimming with anticipation to fire up the tea maker for it. Oh well. Can I take a nap now?

Flavors: Sweet, Tea

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

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This is my second foray back to the past today as I test another free sample from The Republic of Tea. Since I am in the office today, my tea choices are my Republic of Tea bag samples or mud-like selections from the company Flavia machine. Although I am grateful for the free fringe benefit, just about any alternative wins over the machine in my mind.

The unbrewed scent of the bag was kind of like peppermint and kind of like chocolate but there was something very chemical or artificial about the smell. I had a feeling that this was not a good sign.

I steeped the stringless round Republic of Tea bag/disk for five minutes in boiling water. The smell had a faint mint attribute. The color was dark amber.

When I put the cup to my lips, my mood was negatively affected when I peered into the cup and saw that there was mucky dark sediment at the bottom of the brew. I don’t even experience debris from my loose leaf tea maker, so another warning sign was chalked on my wall.

The first sip of this tea caused me to stand back and analyze what my taste buds were experiencing. Finally I determined that there was some mint to the flavor with a mouthwash like aftertaste. Another peculiarity was also present that I believe was disguised as chocolate. There was no astringency really but I didn’t find the aftertaste something that I wanted to hold on to.

In short, I found the flavor of this brew to be less than desirable and way off the mark of what usually reminds me of chocolate and mint in a tea. Additionally, the rubble in my cup that apparently leaked from the tea bag was visually distasteful and a foreshadowing of this product’s other flaws.

Flavors: Mint

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 6 OZ / 177 ML

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I’m back to bagging it today. I never look a gift tea in the mouth (or bag). So, when I received this sample in the mail from The Republic of Tea, I ran with it!

Before my eyes were opened by the universe of complex and splendid flavors in loose leaf tea, I confess that I bagged often; daily, as a matter of fact (you are my Steepster friend so I am confident that you will not judge). One of my favorite bagged teas at the time was the products by The Republic of Tea. However, that was almost four years ago so I was curious to see if my taste buds had now become elitist.

When I opened the sample package, the strong berry smell slapped me in the nostrils. It was sweet and like fresh berries, but maybe too strong for folks with sinuses that are less allergy-clogged than mine.

I steeped the Republic of Tea trademark “environmentally friendly, round, unbleached tea bag – free of wasteful strings, staples, and tags” in a cup of boiling water for five minutes. The brewed aroma was berry-like but not as powerful as before. The color was a reddish dark gold.

The taste was definitely full of berry flavor. It was also sweet and surprisingly smooth. In addition, the taste was as potent (without being obnoxious) as the flavor of some loose leaf teas. However, this flavor was a single-dimensional, one-trick pony. No intricacies or mysteries were contained within. The aftertaste was smooth, sweet, and berry pleasant (sorry, couldn’t resist).

To sum up my experience, there was nothing that I disliked about this product. If you evaluate it only by its own merit as a bagged tea, it is a superior offering. I will definitely reach for it again…if they send me another free sample.

Flavors: Berry

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 6 OZ / 177 ML

Good to know! I saw this at World Market and wondered if it was any good. I too need tea bags for the office and then brew the loose at home.


Happy New Year, RiaDarling! Let me know if you try this tea, I would love to know your opinion of it!

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I’m itching to sample another Pu-erh tea. Thanks to Angel, that itch will be scratched this morning!

I cut open the silver sample package and snorted deeply. The familiar earthy smell was present but there was also a musty attribute to it. It reminded me of when I open a drawer filled with old clothes.

I don’t know if it’s old age catching up to me but I am finding it increasingly more difficult to read the tiny directions on Teavivre’s sample packaging. I couldn’t quite make out the recommended steeping time so I brewed the dark brown matted and clumped leaves and “cake” for three minutes at 212 degrees.

The brewed color was a dark brownish amber, like maple syrup. The aroma was earthy and leathery, what I expected from a Pu-erh tea. The musty attribute had disappeared from the smell.

I didn’t find the flavor as robust as some of the other Pu-erh teas that I have sampled recently. I wondered if this was a result of the shorter steeping time, the more recent processing time, or a combination of both.

In any event, the flavor was mostly smooth and unmistakably Pu-erh. As I slurped more and more from my cup, the attribute that I had earlier tagged as musty in the unbrewed odor began to creep into the flavor. This peculiarity lingered on my taste buds as a slightly bitter note. The quirk didn’t ruin my experience with the tea but it wasn’t something that I cherished either. After almost a full cup of the brew, my brain (and buds) seemed to learn how to push most of the musty trait aside.

I can’t deny that I would have been more enthusiastic about this tea without the flavor foible. I also would have appreciated a richer and more powerful Pu-erh taste. However, that being said, this is still a decent Pu-erh offering from Teavivre.

Flavors: Earth, Leather, Musty

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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I have the day off from work today! Not only is that a great thing by itself, but it also means I can really concentrate on this new tea sample from Teavivre. Thanks, Angel!

When I opened the sample package, the “cake” had the expected matted, grassy, compost-like appearance. The aroma was strong, leather, and earthy, but there was also a sharp edge to it.

I steeped the entire sample package in 16 ounces of boiling water for eight minutes. It seemed like a long brewing time at that high temperature but I was game since I like strong robust teas.

The brewed color was a muddy brown. The odor was, surprisingly, much milder than the unbrewed smell. It was undeniably Pu-erh, but not unpleasant.

My first sip was loaded with the unmistakable Pu-erh taste that I’m accustomed to and actually like. It was deeply earthy and leathery. This selection also had a slightly sweet attribute that I found quite enjoyable. The whole concoction was very smooth. Each swallow streamed gently down my throat with delightful bliss. No astringency appeared on my taste buds and the aftertaste was equally sweet and pleasing.

In summary, this is a very nice Pu-erh from Teavivre. It’s not the strongest one I have encountered (even after brewing at 212 degrees for eight minutes) but it is among the sweetest and most satisfying that I have experienced. Great flavor with no face-scrunching bitterness.

Flavors: Compost, Earth, Leather, Sweet

Boiling 8 min or more 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Ah. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood because it is time to taste another Teavivre tea for my first time! Thank you for this sample, Angel!

After black teas, the Pu-erhs are my second favorites. I was excited to try this variety from way back in 2008 when I was a bit younger and had a few less aches and pains. :-)

I opened up the little silver sample package, scanned the brown clumped tea leaves, and stuck my nose inside. Not only did the appearance of the unbrewed tea remind of the clumped mud and grass that I pull out from the blades underneath my lawnmower, but the aroma was not unsimilar either.

I am not one to judge a tea by its appearance, so I merrily began to steep the “cake” and cake pieces at 212 degrees for eight minutes. The brewed color was a dark mud brown. The aroma had the familiar Pu-erh leathery quality. My tea drinking experience has shown that, usually, the darker the color, the heartier tea. I love the robust teas so I was excited at this point!

At first sip, I noticed that the flavor was quite strong and very leathery and earthy. This is to be expected from a fine Pu-erh. There also was a twinge of sweetness to the taste. What impressed me most was that the flavor, as powerful as it was, was also incredibly smooth. There was absolutely zero astringency to the taste. Even the aftertaste was sleek and silky.

Teavivre has once again produced a magnificent tea. I know a tea is terrific when I have to force myself to take sips and not gulp it all down. This is definitely one of those brews for me. My only sadness is that 2008 will never return. However, knowing Teavivre, they will follow this winner with something equally great (if not better) in the years to follow.

Flavors: Compost, Cut grass, Earth, Leather, Smooth, Sweet

Boiling 8 min or more 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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It’s 10 degrees in my neck of the woods this morning. That’s a little chilly for South Carolina. Ten degrees is probably a little chilly for polar bears. All is not lost, though, as I am about to try out a new tea (new for me) from Teavivre on this arctic morning!

When I opened the customary Teavivre silver double packaging, my nostrils were immediately greeted by the rich, leathery, sweet, and earthy aroma that is a trademark of my favorite Teavivre black teas. This made me even more anxious to begin the brewing process.

I steeped the long black and brown full tea leaves for three minutes at 195 degrees. The finished color was a dark reddish amber. The aroma was sweet with a slight honey quality.

The taste of this tea was instantly complex. After about my third sip, my taste buds began to disseminate the different flavor sensations. Sweet, fruity, and malty were all recognized. There also was just the right twinge of earthiness to cap off a fine flavor symphony. As with several of Teavivre’s teas, this one was so smooth that I had to force myself to savor each sip and not gulp it down.

There was no astringency to this blend. The aftertaste was light and gentle. It dissipated as if in a delicate mist.

You probably have surmised by now that I like this tea. Wrong! I LOVE this tea! It’s another terrific selection from the folks at Teavivre. This one is a bit more expensive than some of their other black teas but I am already saving my pennies for my next order!

Flavors: Earth, Fruity, Malt, Sweet

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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My wife and I were browsing through the local Home Goods store recently when we spotted a huge 35.27-ounce cardboard “barrel” of Touch Organic loose leaf black organic tea for under $20. I was not familiar with Touch Organic’s products but the frugal part of my brain began to kick in and send me alerts. I thought, if this tea is even half-decent, I’ll have some emergency utility black tea to reach for whenever I run out of the “good stuff.” If the tea is terrible, I haven’t lost a lot of money and I can use it to fertilize my garden.

After purchase, I waited a week to try this tea. That is very unusual for me. Normally I can’t wait to try newly acquired items and do so no later than the next day. You can see that my expectations were not very high.

I finally opened the huge cardboard container, slit open the plastic inner bag, and pushed my nose inside to investigate the unbrewed aroma of the dark black tea leaves. The substantial smell was similar to that of the Keemun teas from the Yunnan province of China which I LOVE. The tell-tale leather quality was definitely there. After closer inspection of the very plain barrel label, I noticed that it also identified this product as Keemun English Breakfast tea, in small hard-to-read letters.

I steeped the dark leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a reddish amber. The odor was semi-powerful and slightly floral.

At first sip, I still was only hoping for a taste that I could live with when I had no better tea at my disposal. But…WOW…the flavor of this tea was (as Tony The Tiger used to say)…GREAT!!! I was blown away by the melodious effect of Yunnan taste partnered with subtle fruity and floral attributes. The balance of all flavors was exquisite. The sum of the parts was an extremely smooth, tasty, and satisfying tea. The aftertaste was light and airy. I encountered no astringency at any time.

I learned two valuable lessons with this tea:

1. You do not have to spend a fortune to enjoy a superior blend.
2. Good teas do come in plain wrappers.

This selection was immediately promoted from my emergency-when-nothing-good-is-available standby product to one of my favorite teas in my arsenal!

If you are lucky enough to stumble upon this tea at a Home Goods store or elsewhere, GRAB IT!!! You will be glad you did!

Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Leather, Tea

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

Got to love stumbling upon a bargain keeper.


For sure, K S! I need to stumble upon some more! :-)

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drank Paris by Harney & Sons
209 tasting notes

A few days ago, I celebrated making it to another birthday! My wonderful and very thoughtful wife gave me a Breville OneTouch Tea Maker for my birthday three years ago. That amazing machine has really contributed to the joy and fun of my tea tasting experiences. If you are looking for an extremely convenient method to make a consistently fantastic cup of tea every time, I highly recommend the OneTouch Tea Maker. But I digress…Where was I?…Oh yeah…Now I remember. (Please bear with me. You will recall that I am another year older.) For this year’s birthday, my beautiful wife also remembered my tea “habit” by giving me a trademark black container of Harney & Sons Paris tea.

When I lifted the lid of the metal container, there was a strong fruity aroma underneath. I’ve tried a few other French teas by Mariage and those teas seemed to have the identical unbrewed odor.

I steeped the short black leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees as directed on the container. The finished color was a very dark gold, almost brown. The aroma was more vanilla than fruity.

My first taste produced a medium-strength black tea flavor. After that, vanilla followed by fruit seeped into my taste buds for the remainder of my cup.

It’s interesting that the flavor of this tea is also very similar to the Mariage teas. That’s not a bad thing because I do enjoy those teas. Maybe the signature flavor is mandatory to call the blend “French.” I would say the one characteristic that sets this one apart is the dominance of the vanilla flavor over the fruit.

This is a nice smooth tea with no bitterness and a lighter than expected after taste. The flavor theme is a composite of fruity vanilla. The tase is neither overpowering nor overly sweet (if there is such a thing!). This selection was another one of those teas where the more I drank it, the more I liked it!

Flavors: Fruity, Tea, Vanilla

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

Happy birthday! It sounds like your wife made a lovely choice for you!


Thanks, Caile! Yes, she spoiled me again!


Happy birthday, Stoo! I am glad she is spoiling you. You spoil her, too, I bet!


Thanks, ashmanra! I try to spoil her but I’m sure I’m getting the better end of the bargain!

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Thank you one more time, Angel and Teavivre, for the sample!

This is my second consecutive day of trying out a white tea. I was quite pleased with the one I sampled yesterday so I was hoping for a similar experience today.

When I opened the sample package, the leaves were long, wide, green, and fresh looking. The aroma was rich and grainy and perhaps a little sweet.

I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 195 degrees (no 194-degree setting on my tea maker). Even with maximum steeping time, the color was a very light (almost transparent) yellow. The faint brewed odor was slightly sweet with a hay-like quality.

The taste was not robust but it was ample and sweet. As I swished the liquor around my mouth, flashes of fresh hay, grass, and honey registered on my palate.

The more I sipped this tea, the more I liked it. The brew was quite smooth without any hint of astringency. The mild flavor seemed to increase its presence as I journeyed toward the bottom of my cup. By the time I finished my first cup, I had achieved enjoyment status. The aftertaste was delicate but also smooth and likable.

As a white tea, this one is quite good. I didn’t find any undesirable characteristics. My only recommendation would be to bring out this fine selection with lunch, dinner, or dessert. There was nothing wrong with it at 8:00 AM, but I personally depend on the stronger and more robust teas at that time of the morning to jerk me out of my sleepy stupor.

Flavors: Cut grass, Hay, Honey

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 24 OZ / 709 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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