204 Tasting Notes
Another hearty thanks to Angel and Teavivre for this sample!
When it comes to Pu-erh tea, people in my realm seem to be divided into two main camps: those who love it and those who (to put it kindly) detest it. Personally, I am a proud card carrying member of the first group so I was anxious to try this new offering from Teavivre. My wife, however, is almost sickened by anything Pu-erh. She hates the smell and taste of it and doesn’t even like to be in the same room when I am brewing or drinking it.
I will start this review by warning you that if you are already predisposed to disliking Pu-erh tea, the initial opening of the package of this one will probably not miraculously endear you to it. The consistency of the dark brown Pu-erh “cake” reminded me of the two-day-old cut grass that becomes dried and jammed in the chute of my lawn mower. The unbrewed aroma is also a little reminiscent of compost. However, do not give up on it at this point! You’ve come this far. Be brave! Steep it!
I brewed the cake and remaining loose leaves for two minutes at 212 degrees. The color was like no Pu-erh that I had ever experienced. Instead of the dark muddy brown that I was used to with the Pu-erhs of my past, this one had a very light gold color. It was almost as light as green tea. The aroma had a grassy attribute that was, again, like green tea. Nowhere to be found was the strong earthy odor that seems to accompany many Pu-erh selections.
The taste of this tea was completely devoid of the expected leathery and earthy flavors that I usually find in the Pu-erh teas that I have tried. The taste of this one was light, smooth, and grassy. The flavor again reminded me more of green tea than either black or Pu-erh. At that point, I decided to stop comparing it to my Pu-erh acquaintances of days gone by and began enjoying it on its own merit.
This tea is quite tasty. The flavor is without astringency and is light and airy. I would liken the taste to a meadow of freshly mowed grass. The aftertaste is very mild and quickly diminishes.
I like this new product from Teavivre. It may be a good alternative to reintroduce the Pu-erh haters to this variety before they attempt to jump back on the traditional robust Pu-erh wagon.
I wonder if the untraditional characteristics of this tea are related to it being advertised as “raw” Pu-erh. It just goes to show you that, as in most areas of life, when you think you’ve seen (or tasted) it all, you haven’t.
A huge thanks to Angel and Teavivre for this sample!
As Teavivre continues to add new teas to its ever-growing repertoire, I am always anxious to try them and see what the young company is up to. The black teas are my favorite so I was eager to take this one for a spin!
When I opened the sample package, the strong aroma of the black and slightly curly leaves was quite interesting. It was faintly nutty, a bit fruity, and a lot like bread.
I brewed the leaves at 195 degrees for five minutes. The steeped result was a reddish gold liquid. The aroma was again nutty and fruity with a bread attribute.
The taste of this selection was slightly sweet. All rolled up in the flavor was nuttiness, a very subtle fruity flavor, and that lurking bread quality. When you put it all together, it reminded me of a tasty piece of fruit and nut bread. The tea was extremely smooth with no astringency. The sweet and soft aftertaste lingered quite pleasantly on my palate.
This is another delicious tea from the folks at Teavivre. For a company that is only three years old, they really have their finger on the pulse…or, should I say, tongue…of this tea lover. I will definitely be adding this great new entry to my shopping list in the future!
Flavors: Fruity, Nutty
I find World Market teas to be reasonably priced with usually adequate flavors. So, I grabbed the Mountain Wūlóng tea while we were browsing through the store on Saturday.
When I opened the silver bag, the clumps of dark leaves smelled very grassy. It wasn’t a freshly mowed aroma. It was closer to the odor that cut grass expels after it ferments in the compost pile for a day or two. The smell was recognizable but not necessarily unpleasant.
I steeped the thick black leaves for four minutes at 185 degrees as recommended on the package. The brewed color was a deep gold. The aroma was like slightly sweet grass (i.e., the yard variety).
The first few sips of this brew produced a strong grassy taste. However, the more I drank, the more subtle the flavor became. By the time my cup was half full (or was it half empty?), the grassy flavor was embedded in a semi-sweet honey taste which I preferred over my initial impression. I didn’t discover any astringency. The aftertaste was smooth with a slightly sweet attribute.
This was a cordial tea and not a bad way to kick off my Monday morning. It didn’t have the caffeine kick that I normally require to jump start my brain. However, this selection did seem to keep me in a calmer state of mind than I am accustomed to when I begin the work week. That’s plausibly not a bad thing!
Flavors: Cut grass, Honey
We were back at the local Dean & Deluca store this weekend when I noticed the Ceylon Orange Pekoe tea on the bargain rack. I succumbed to the temptation of purchasing it, in spite of my personal agreement to finish some of the teas I already have before cramming more into the cabinet.
The dark black leaves smelled rich and fresh when I opened the container. I followed the instructions on the can and brewed the tea for five minutes at 212 degrees.
The brewed aroma was faint and nondescript. The flavor was mild and slightly malty with a tad of Ceylon converging in the mix. I didn’t encounter the mild astringency that was advertised on the can. The aftertaste was also quiet and unremarkable.
The description on the container states that this is an afternoon tea. I drank it in the morning. My morning teas usually consist of the strongest and most jolting black blends in my arsenal. Could that be why I was less than wowed by this one? It wasn’t bad, but it won’t be moving to the front of the line in my morning rotation either.
I received a tea bag sample of this tea in the mail from the folks at The Republic of Tea. I have liked several of their teas so I thought I would drop this one into a cup of boiling water too.
After the round bag was steeped in boiling water for about five minutes, the brewed aroma was incredible. It smelled just like fresh blackberries. The aroma made me quite excited to take a swig.
The flavor of my first sip was…quite mysterious. The very sweet and potent blackberry smell was replaced in the taste by something floral and almost perfumed. The exact flavor was at first nondescript. Then, after several seconds, blackberry began to slowly crawl onto my taste buds.
All in all, this tea wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bitter. I just felt like the cart was put before the horse this time, or perhaps more accurately, the aroma was put before the taste. Maybe I would have liked it more if the flavor had arrived sooner. Even so, I would love it if I could put it in an incense burner instead of a tea pot.
UPDATE: I just discovered that I reviewed this tea two years ago. Either I was in a better mood then or I wasn’t quite the curmudgeon that I am now. Surprisingly, even though I described it more favorably last time, I still gave it the same exact rating, a 70!
Flavors: Berries, Blackberry, Floral, Perfume
This was the fourth and (sadly) last of the fancy half-off sale teas that I purchased from Dean & Deluca last weekend. Being a Southern iced tea with lemon drinker for many years, I was anxious to see if this French hot version would reach the same high level of enjoyment for me.
When I opened the classy tall metal container (which was packaged in a somewhat elegant and sturdy outer box), a powerful scent of lemon instantly filled the air. The lemon aroma also smelled like the real deal, and not comprised of artificial components.
Mixed in with the black leaves were little yellow flowers that looked almost like miniature dandelions. I steeped the mixture for five minutes at 205 degrees as recommended on the outer box. The brewed color was dark amber. The odor was like tea. I couldn’t detect any of the lemon scent in the finished product.
My first few sips contained strictly black tea flavors. The ingredients say that orange pekoe is also in the mix, but I wasn’t able to discern it. I rolled the tea around in my mouth a few times to try to squeeze some lemon flavor from the liquid. This technique was unsuccessful, but after a few more sips, I noticed some lemon residue in the aftertaste. There also was a slightly sweet and tangy quality that probably resulted from the combination of the flavors.
This tea became more lemony for me as I reached the half-empty (or was it half-full?) mark of my cup. The wisp of lemon was with me from that point forward.
Here’s how I summed up the experience:
o Nice medium-strength black tea flavor with lemon accents (but don’t expect lemon bombardment)
o No astringency
o Slightly sweet and tangy aftertaste
This was a friendly tea. I would not trade my Southern iced tea with lemon for it, but I will drink it periodically until the container is finished. After all, the price was right. I would also not hesitate to serve it to friends. You might want to give it a try if you are looking for a black tea with quiet lemon accents.
This is the third of four teas that I snatched from the bargain bin at Dean & Deluca last weekend. I tried two black teas by Mariage Frères a while back and found them both interesting. I’m not a huge Rooibos participant but I’m not a hater either.
When I opened the French company’s trademark black tin, I was smacked between the nostrils by a very powerful aroma. It may be because I have been a teetotaler (teatotaler would be more accurate) for a long time, but the smell did seem to be strongly like bourbon. If so, I wondered if I could pass the breathalyzer test after the huge snort I took of the unbrewed red leaves.
No brewing instructions were on the package so I used the ones I found on Steepster: 205 degrees for five minutes. The steeped liquor was bright reddish-gold. The aroma brought flashbacks to the last time I drank Rooibos tea. Again, the remainder of the odor contained my recollections of bourbon with a splash of vanilla.
The flavor of my first sip was overwhelmingly vanilla. I could taste the Rooibos underneath and perhaps the bourbon in the background. If there is no bourbon in the ingredients, the power of suggestion related to the title of the tea got the best of me.
As I continued sipping from my cup, the flavor of the tea became totally-vanilla-times-10 to my taste buds. I do like vanilla so that wasn’t a problem per se. However, I would have liked more complexity in the taste attributes. The aftertaste screamed…you guessed it…vanilla.
All in all, this selection was not unpleasant. I’m sure I will eventually empty the tin. I just was not bowled over by anything in the taste (except vanilla). I expected more of a flavor bouquet from this French tea maker. Since I didn’t pay a premium price for it, I won’t complain…too much.
Here is tea #2 that I picked up from the Dean & Deluca 50% off rack. The packaging was extremely classy! The tea was enclosed in a sturdy cardboard and exotic-looking outer box. On the inside, the short black leaves were secured in a beautiful cylindrical wooden container. I will be saving the container to store my teas of the future!
When I opened the wooden vessel, a wonderful sweet smell like cinnamon toast emerged. Mixed with this aroma was a rich wooden odor that was obviously produced by the container.
There were no brewing instructions to be found in the packaging, so I wrestled with how I wanted to steep this selection. There seem to be a lot of different philosophies dedicated to the brewing of Pu-erh tea. After reading several articles, I wondered if I should rinse, pre-rinse, or blow-dry the leaves first. Since I was in a hurry, I took the easy way out and steeped the tea using the good ol’ (fast and easy) western method. The steeping occurred for five minutes at 212 degrees. I also used one teaspoon of leaves per cup and a teaspoon for the pot and good luck. Since I rarely re-steep more than twice, I resolved that this plan of action would be fine for my tastes.
UPDATE: I just noticed that brewing instructions ARE included on the outer box in very small print and using the metric system. I doubt I would have taken the time to convert 10g into spoonsful, 50cl into ounces, and 95 degrees Celsius into Fahrenheit, so THE point is moot at THIS point.
The brewed aroma of the tea was quite inviting and sweet with cinnamon. The subtle rich smell of the wooden container was also present. The color was a deep muddy brown.
My first sip immediately bombarded my taste buds with wooden cinnamon bursts. The flavor was not too strong, though. A potent Pu-erh flavor was also resident but behind the sweet wooden cinnamon attributes. I didn’t detect any bitterness. The aftertaste was sweet and subtle.
As I continued to empty my cup, this tea became more and more pleasant. I drank it early in the morning as I began my work day. If I hadn’t been on the South Beach Diet, I would have definitely reached for a (or several) tea biscuit to amplify the experience of this very tasty tea.
I believe this tea would be great as an afternoon or dessert tea. It wasn’t too shabby at breakfast time either. If you or someone you know cringes just at the thought of Pu-erh tea, this may be just the blend to help you and/or them jump that hurtle. Although definitely a Pu-erh tea, this one is not aggressive about it.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Wood
I didn’t expect to buy tea during the holiday weekend and certainly not at Dean & Deluca’s. We just dropped in to impress visiting family members with the classy establishments residing in our neck of the woods. As I browsed around the store, it was a dream come true when I spotted the several high-end tea selections on the 50% off rack! Of course, I couldn’t resist and bought four different teas to try.
This first tea has Dean & Deluca’s own label on it. They might be phasing this one out, though, as I wasn’t able to find any information about it on Dean & Deluca’s website.
When I opened the round silver tin, the aroma of the black and gold-tipped leaves had the familiar rich and leathery Yunnan smell. I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees as recommended on the label.
The brewed aroma was very mild. The color was a deep rusty gold.
My first few sips didn’t pick up robust flavor. As I belted down more and more from my cup, the signature leathery Yunnan taste with malty and slightly peppery accents began to flow through my taste buds.
This is an amiable tea. The flavor is a bit more benign than the teas I am accustomed to from the Yunnan Province, but there is nothing disagreeable or unpleasant about this selection. It is smooth and the aftertaste is mild and gentle. If you can find this tea at YOUR local Dean & Deluca store, it is definitely worth a try, particularly at the current very low price.
Flavors: Leather, Malt
I’ve been trying to reel in my tea and other purchases lately as we save up our funds for a vacation this year. However, as the saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go on rye bread,” or something like that. Anyhow, I couldn’t resist purchasing this selection when I saw that it was black, spicy, and contained almonds.
When I broke the seal of the metal container, my nose was rushed with a spicy almond aroma. My first thought was that this smell would be fantastic on freshly baked cookies.
I steeped the short black leaves with multi-colored bits for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a reddish gold. The aroma carried on the spicy almond theme.
The taste of this tea in its natural state was already quite sweet. Any added sweeteners would make the flavor so sugary (even for me!) that my teeth would hurt.
The flavor was very cordial, though. The almond and spice attributes were very pronounced and harmonious. I wasn’t able to put my finger (or taste buds) on any recognizable fruit component, but the sweetness probably originated from that element. The only other taste that I could identify was a smooth and subtle black tea accessory in the background.
The after taste was also pleasant and it didn’t linger any longer than necessary. There was no bitterness and I thoroughly enjoyed my cup.
This was only my second journey into the world of Mariage French teas. I am also a fan of their Marco Polo offering. Although I am reviewing this Pleine Lune tea at breakfast, it would be an exquisite afternoon tea as well. I would love to join it with a plate of British tea biscuits (the WHOLE plate)!