212 Tasting Notes
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)!
This was another freebee bag sample sent to me by Republic Of Tea. I thought I’d give it a try. Why not?!
When I opened the single bag package, I had to go, “WHOOOAA!” An extremely overpowering hazelnut smell smacked me upside my head…and nose!
I plopped the bag into boiling water for five minutes. The bag was a round satchel without attachments. It worked, but it was also a little inconvenient since there was no string and tag bound to it to help pull the hot dripping sack from the cup. The tea bag is one of the few gifts in life that is desirable to have with strings attached.
The brewed color was a bright orange-gold. The aroma was again loaded with hazelnut, but fortunately it was toned down from its unsteeped state.
The taste was disappointing and not what I expected. I had rallied my taste buds for a symphony of vanilla and caramel orchestrated in expert harmony. That fantasy came crashing down with a diluted hazelnut taste aimlessly drifting on a life raft in an ocean of tangy tea.
When the journey through my cup was about 4/5 completed, I started to pick up some sweetness in the taste and MAYBE some caramel. At that point, though, it might have just been my brain trying to fill in the gaps for the anticipated flavors. That being said, not even my imagination was wild enough to conjure up some vanilla flavor. The tanginess was still present. I won’t say that it was astringency but it was misplaced and didn’t add value to the taste. The aftertaste lingered for quite a while but it was the tangy tea flavor, more than the hazelnut/caramel, that hung around.
Here’s how I would summarize this tea. If I were attending a meeting and someone handed me a cup of it during a break, I would courteously drink it. However, if I were at the same meeting and I saw several rows of tea bags laid out on a buffet table, this would not be my first choice.
Being the tea snob that I am, I rarely drink bagged tea anymore. But, every now and then, one materializes that piques my interest. Such was the case when a very thoughtful friend of mine (who is also the manager of the FINEST BBQ restaurant in the UNIVERSE! – a review best saved for another place and time!), gave me this selection to try because she remembered that I was a tea enthusiast.
Since I have a mouth full of sweet teeth, and I am abstaining from all desserts and other favorite treats of my daily diet for Lent, just the title of this tea had me salivating. Initially I couldn’t make up my mind whether to brew or eat it.
Sanity prevailed for a change and I opened the single bag package to prepare the tea for steeping. The aroma that spilled forth definitely lived up to the title. It was wonderfully sweet and chocolaty and I blissfully snorted it into my nostrils for several minutes.
I dropped the bag into boiling water for five minutes. The finished color was a brownish gold. The aroma, though fainter than the unbrewed bag, still contained the sweet chocolate attributes.
The flavor of the tea was sweet and fairly full with the essence of chocolate. I immediately recognized the presence of cocoa powder. The focus was so entirely on the chocolate that the black tea component was lost underneath. I love chocolate so I can’t say that I was disappointed.
I don’t know if this tea was intended to compete with hot chocolate. If you are looking for a full blast of creamy rich chocolate in a cup, hot chocolate wins for sure. However, both choices have their own valuable places in the world of beverages. Since this is a tea, though, it would have been more appealing to me if there had been an identifiable partnership of black tea flavor marching alongside the chocolate.
To summarize, this is a likable tea (especially when I am without access to sweets). I found no astringency in the flavor. The aftertaste was pleasant although it quickly dissipated. Would I recommend this tea as an equal substitute for hot chocolate? No. Would I suggest that someone try this to get a good understanding of what black tea tastes like? No. Would I drink it again when I am craving tea and some sweet chocolaty sassiness? You betcha!