14 Tasting Notes
Chamomile takes center stage in Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves. An herbal remedy known for alleviating stress-induced aches and indigestion, this flower looks a lot like a daisy thanks to its golden, fuzzy head. Peppermint, the second most common ingredient in Compassion, is also believed to help with upset stomachs. Finely chopped sprigs of this plant are mixed in with the chamomile, along with dashes of pink and purple from the passion flower, rosehips, and lavender. (By the way, Compassion comes with a printed warning that pregnant women should be careful with this tea due to the passion flower.)
One whiff of Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves and – whoa! The fragrance punches its way out of the package with equal parts fresh, zesty peppermint and sweet, mellow chamomile. Maybe there’s a trace of fruit in there… but it’s hard to tell. Either way, the strength of this tea’s aroma shocked me. It’s invigorating enough to perk your eyes open. Which isn’t such a bad thing; it’s just not what I had expected.
For my first cup of Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves, I brew 1 teaspoon with boiling water for 5 minutes. Out comes a honey-colored infusion that oozes the refreshing qualities of its two main herbs. Imagine a river of chamomile with the bite of peppermint flowing over your tongue. That’s pretty much what Compassion is like. This tea also finishes with a medium astringency that catches me by surprise. Each sip leaves a little dryness on my tongue and causes my cheeks to pucker slightly, especially as the liquid goes down my throat. Most herbal teas don’t have this effect on the drinker, and in my opinion it somewhat defeats the purpose of Compassion.
Experimenting with longer brew times and more dry “leaves” (1½ teaspoons) doesn’t change the experience with Compassion. Each cup blooms with bright yet somewhat sharp contrast. For this reason, I’m not sure whether I’d call this a “relaxing” tea. The peppermint acts like a stimulant, overriding any calmness the chamomile would provide. So, instead of feeling relaxed, I feel awake – not in a caffeine- or spice-induced manner, but in a pleasantly natural way. This herbal is therefore a better choice for an afternoon pick-me-up instead of a nighttime wind-down. (EDIT: Maybe my sample had a larger amount of peppermint than usual…?)
My only other comment about Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves is that its clean-up can test a tea drinker’s patience. The wet ingredients clump together and create a thick, fuzzy carpet at the bottom of my infuser. (In case you’re wondering, I use Teavana’s Perfect Tea Maker for a western-method brewing.) I’m not sure whether the chamomile or the lavender causes this, but it takes a thorough wash and rinse to get everything out.
Flavors: Floral, Peppermint
First of all, these Red Dragon Pearls are gorgeous when dry! They’re a deep black-brown with streaks of toffee brown. And with the size and roundness of marbles, they’re noticeably bigger than pea-drop Jasmine Dragon Pearls (which are lovely in their own right). I read somewhere that these pearls can contain between 20 and 30 leaves. It sounds like a lot, but it looks shockingly accurate once you see the huge pile of wet leaves in the strainer. I actually counted the leaves one time after they had cooled – and three Red Dragon Pearls contained over 70 leaves!
Despite having no additives, Red Dragon Pearls has a bolder, more complex aroma than other black teas. Along the usual tannins, I smell woods, cocoa, earth, even a hint of smoke. Ohhhhhh, I love it already! It makes me want to curl up by the fire and sip the night away. (Small problem, though: No fireplace in my condo!) The aroma subdues once the tea’s been brewed, but it still exudes a comforting warmth that’s perfect to offset a cold morning in autumn or winter.
Since I’m not a fan of strong black tea, I make my first brew by steeping two Red Dragon Pearls for 3 minutes. Out comes a beautiful, rich chestnut brown liquid that suits its fragrance. Each sip blooms with the flavors of cocoa, earth, and autumn leaves, with a hint of malt and a slightly sweet aftertaste. This reminds me of the fall-ish / outdoorsy taste of Dong Ding Ming Xiang Oolong, except deeper and fuller. Something tells me this isn’t the tea’s full potential, though. Maybe it’s the medium, slightly watered-down body. Well, I did use only two tea pearls for this first cup….
Let’s kick the next brew up a notch with three fresh Red Dragon Pearls. WOW! Now this is what I was looking for. A fuller body, with more flavor and a thick smoothness that blankets your mouth. The additional pearl enhances the tea’s maltiness without adding much bitterness. In fact, this tea isn’t bitter at all (possibly because of the short brew time). It’s scrumptious down to the last drop, even after it cools. This would be a wonderful way of warming my insides after shoveling snow – or, returning to my earlier metaphor, the perfect fireside companion.
Teasenz doesn’t offer resteeping options for Red Dragon Pearls, but I was curious to see how it would come out. So, I let the previously used three pearls worth of tea sit in newly boiled water for 5 minutes. Not bad! It’s weaker than the two-pearl cup, but still yummy. There’s also a touch of astringency that leaves a slight dryness on my tongue, and a headiness from having two consecutive cups of black tea. Or, maybe the latter is giddiness from finding what could be my new favorite black tea.
Read my full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/12/03/teasenzs-red-dragon-pearls/
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cocoa, Earth, Malt, Wood
High-quality White Peony tea is known for its downy, gray-green leaves and abundance of unopened buds known as tips. (Lower grades contain thinner, brownish-green leaves and fewer tips.) So, right away, I can tell why this White Peony sample from Yezi Tea is ranked at Master Grade. Each teaspoonful contains twists of fine, sage green leaves and strong, silvery tips. Many of the leaves have a soft, downy underside that’s velvety to the touch. White Peony is also fluffy and well-stretched, so fewer leaves will fit on your measuring spoon. This explains White Peony’s higher leaf-to-water ratio compared to other teas.
When dry, White Peony’s aroma suits its delicate appearance. A subtle floral aroma with hints of plants and almond drifts out of the package when I open it. I think I even detect a whiff of caramel. Once brewed, the liquid carries a mild floral fragrance with a trace of seaweed. I’m not crazy about the seaweed undercurrent, but it’s still a pleasant-smelling tea. Not a permeating jasmine-like perfume, but gentle and fresh.
Despite the tea’s high leaf-to-water ratio, 1 teaspoon of dry tea for every 2 ounces of water sounds like a lot of leaves. So, I decide to steep 2 teaspoons of White Peony in 8 ounces of 185-degree water for 1 minute. The infusion results in a faint yellow-green – almost colorless! The flavor is there, though: a mellow blossoming of floral, seaweed, and almond. Again, I could do without the seaweed note, but it’s quiet enough that it doesn’t overpower the more attractive flavors.
To my delight, White Peony improves with each subsequent brew. With Steep #2 (1 minute 15 seconds), the liquid turns a brighter gold, and the seaweed tinge dissipates to let the floral and almond notes shine through. As it cools, the tea develops a slightly sweet aftertaste that reminds me of the caramel I thought I’d smelled earlier. Yay! Steep #3 (1 minute 30 seconds) introduces a buttery texture that enhances the flavor combination even more, especially once the tea’s down to room temperature.
My fifth and final cup of White Peony steeps for about 2 minutes. The flavor bouquet is mostly floral and plant now, but still mellow. No bitterness, no astringency – simply soothing from sip to finish. The ambiance this tea creates reminds me of floating down a river: peaceful and serene, with the soft trickling of water, the flicker of sunlight on the surface, and a touch of mist. Ahhhh, yes. I can see myself meditating or relaxing with a good book while savoring this.
Read the full version of my review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/11/18/yezi-tea-white-peony-master-grade-white-tea/
Flavors: Almond, Caramel, Floral, Seaweed
Dry honeybush roots have a naturally reddish-brown, woody look. However, I was surprised at how dark Sanctuary T’s Chocolate Honeybush appeared in the sample bag. Maybe the chocolate bits enhance the brown tones a little more. The dark background also allows the pink rose petal specks to stand out visually.
Now, considering this drink’s name, guess which smell delighted this tea and chocolate lover as soon as she opened the bag? Ohhhhhhhhhh yes! It’s not a sugary chocolate scent, though. Instead, It’s more like cocoa, raw and slightly nutty. The wood and honey notes from the honeybush also bloom through, giving this blend a warm and unique sultriness. I can’t detect much of a rose scent… but let’s see what happens when I make my brew.
For my first cup of Chocolate Honeybush, I steep about 1.5 teaspoons in 8 ounces of nearly boiling water for 5 minutes. (I prefer to make my herbal teas with water of 195 degrees Fahrenheit [90 degrees Celcius] instead of 208.) The vibrant reddish-brown infusion is gorgeous and tantalizing, especially with the wood and cocoa notes whispering at my nose. Flavor-wise, this tisane offers equal amounts of cocoa and honeybush, followed by a delightful bittersweet finish. The cocoa complements the wood tones surprisingly well and gets an unexpected boost from the roots’ natural sweetness. I still don’t smell or taste much from the roses, but the lack of either doesn’t detract from the drink.
I’m curious whether a longer brewing time enhances the chocolate flavor, as Sanctuary T suggests. So, I steep a second cup of Chocolate Honeybush for over 6 minutes. The liquor takes on a deeper brown hue; and while the cocoa overtones have strengthened, they don’t overpower the honeybush at all. The two flavors are still evenly balanced – a sort of tea equilibrium. (If “tea-quilibrium” wasn’t a word before, it is now!) I admit that my tongue misses the typical sugariness and silky texture of chocolate. Then again, if Chocolate Honeybush actually was sugary-sweet and silky, it wouldn’t be guilt-free, would it? ;)
Read the full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/11/03/sanctuary-t-chocolate-honeybush-tea/
Flavors: Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Honey, Nutty, Wood
Tea From Taiwan is right to call Dong Ding Ming Xiang (loosely translated as “fragrant tea from the frozen peak”) a dark-colored oolong. I immediately notice the difference with the dry leaves. These tightly curled pellets aren’t various shades of green, but a blackish brown with streaks of green. And while most oolongs produce a golden liquor, Dong Ding Ming Xiang results in an alluring dark amber that grows more lustrous with the longer brew times.
Aroma is another area where Dong Ding Ming Xiang deviates from its fellow oolongs. The dry leaves give off a slight forest scent that strengthens with the first steep. Instead of the usual orchid base, moist earth, wood, and hints of coffee lilt from the liquid and wet leaves. It’s not an unwelcome change. In fact, the mix of smells reminds me of early fall in New England. I wonder if the tea will taste like autumn, too.
And it does! With my first steep of 45 seconds using the instructions above, Dong Ding Ming Xiang offers an autumnal flavor foliage. Earthy and faintly tannic, it carries accents of coffee, caramel, and – as Tea From Taiwan described – honey. Not a dominant honey, but it’s there in the aftertaste. The second steep (about 90 seconds) highlights the honey without becoming overly sweet and introduces wood and roasted tones. This is when Dong Ding Ming Xiang reminds me of the current season. If I sit back and sip this tea, I can picture myself strolling along a tree-lined road, surveying the red and orange leaves, and savoring the crisp, bonfire-tinged air.
Longer brew times for Dong Ding Ming Xiang lead to a more outdoorsy infusion. My fourth and fifth steeps (about 3 and 4 minutes, respectively) bring out more of the earth and wood flavors. The honey and caramel notes have also disappeared. These later brews are more like a soft black tea than a typical oolong. They also lack the clean or creamy finish and orchid currents that most oolongs have. (So did the earlier steeps.) While I miss those familiar qualities, I can’t complain about Dong Ding Ming Xiang’s departure from the norm because I enjoyed every drop of it.
Read my full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/10/23/tea-from-taiwan-dong-ding-ming-xiang-oolong/
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Caramel, Coffee, Earth, Forest Floor, Honey, Wet Earth, Wood
Tried this at a friend’s house last weekend – and didn’t like it one bit. The first few sips weren’t too bad. A strong lime flavor, very puckery, and way too sweet. It reminded me of candy, a liquid version of Sour Patch Kids or Smarties. Then as the tea cooled down and I drank further down into the cup… UGH. The lime aftertaste was so powerful in the back of my throat that I needed to drink something else to get rid of the taste. Will not be having this again, not even iced.
Flavors: Candy, Citrus, Lime, Sour, Sweet, Tart
Marianne’s Wild Abandon begins its flirtation well before brewing. A sweet, fruity perfume bursts from the packet each time I open it. The scent isn’t cloying, though. It’s just enough to capture my attention and beckon me to breathe it in again. Also, look how pretty this tea is when it’s dry! Yellow, blue, and red-orange flower petals with sprinklings of candied pineapple and papaya against the black and dark green leaves – you can’t help but fall in love with it at first sight, much like how Marianne did for Mr. Willoughby.
The packet for Marianne’s Wild Abandon didn’t come with brewing instructions, so I applied what I knew about brewing green and black tea blends. I steeped about 1 to 1 ¼ teaspoons in boiling water and adjusted the brew time for each cup to see which one appealed to me most. The liquid turns a beautiful amber color that darkens with longer brew times. The fruit aroma mellows out slightly to make way for the tannic black tea scent, but the magic that drew me to Marianne’s Wild Abandon is still very much alive.
Drinking Marianne’s Wild Abandon is no different than smelling it: It wakes up your senses! Pineapple and papaya embrace the grassy notes of green tea with a black-tea bite. No one flavor overpowers the other as they play on my tongue and then in the lingering finish. And with each sip, I feel as though I’m drinking “liquid sunshine.” The tea’s natural sweetness and bright body make it an ideal choice for a rainy day pick-me-up. (Oddly enough, Marianne had a bad habit of getting caught in the rain… )
Because of its range of flavors and variety of tea leaves, Marianne’s Wild Abandon is best enjoyed when steeped between 3 to 4½ minutes. Infusions on the lower end of the scale have a more vegetal backdrop thanks to the green tea, with just enough spark from the black tea. (The shorter brews were my favorite for this reason.) If you prefer your tannins, try the higher end. The black tea’s bitterness starts to kick in then, prevailing over the green tea while creating a pleasantly sharp contrast with the fruit flavors with little compromise. I don’t recommend brewing Marianne’s Wild Abandon for 5 minutes or longer, however; the tannins overpower the rest of tea from that point on.
Marianne’s Wild Abandon also makes a delicious iced tea! For that, I brewed 2 teaspoons in 8 ounces of boiling water for 3½ minutes, then flash-chilled in a small pitcher and refrigerated for a few hours. The cold water brightens the fruitiness while sharpening the black tea flavor. This would be an excellent refreshment for a hot summer afternoon.
Read my full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/10/07/tea-time-at-reverie-mariannes-wild-abandon-bingleys-teas/
Flavors: Fruity, Pineapple, Sweet, Tannic, Vegetal
A mingling of two scents greeted me when I opened the Oasis canister: clean and grassy green tea, and… lemon? Yes, lemon flavoring may be listed as the final ingredient, but it permeates more than the floral notes do. I wouldn’t describe it as overpowering, but for someone who’s not a huge lemon fan it wasn’t a welcome surprise. The leaves of Oasis are appealing to look at, though. The blend is like a miniature flower garden, a bed of dark green with lots of yellow (marigold) and bits of blue (cornflower) and rose.
When brewed as instructed and without sweetener, Oasis produces a beautiful golden-yellow brew with a hint of green. The green tea, floral, and citrus scents balanced out, giving the drink an earthy yet sweet aroma. It’s such a harmony that any worries I’d had about a lemon-dominated tea dissipated with the steam – and so I took my first sip.
Balance continues to be the key as you taste Oasis. The green tea undertones allow the other flavors, particularly rose and lemon, to poke through, so you get a little bit of everything that Tea Forté promises. Altogether the tea is light, mellow, and smooth, with a subtle sweetness and a tangy, slightly acidic finish. It reminds me of summertime, of sitting on the back porch just after the grass has been cut and relishing the bright colors of blooming flowers. Not tropical by any means, but it still offered the “oasis” state of mind I was seeking, only in a different way.
Oasis is a delicate tea, so be careful when brewing. It can grow bitter if the water’s too hot or if you let it steep too long. Keep it to the recommended 2- to 3-minute timeframe to get the flowery, soothing cup that Tea Forté intended.
Read the full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/06/18/tea-forte-oasis-green-tea/
Flavors: Grass, Lemon, Rose, Tangy
Opening a canister of ToLife® is like opening a treasure chest. There’s so much to see – tiny rooibos sprigs, banana-shaped silver-green buds (Silver Needle), rolled balls of jasmine leaves, dried rosebuds, and all the little fruit pieces listed above, with strawberry being the most common. Each teaspoon of this tea differs from the last for this reason. Sometimes it brings up mostly rooibos and fruit, other times jasmine rolls with silver needles. The variety explains why each cup of ToLife® offers a unique experience to tea drinkers.
Now, ToLife®’s aroma…. Ohhhhhhh. Imagine fruity, floral, and jasmine mingling together in a seductive dance that whispers, “Come try me.” The fruitiness emerges more once the tea’s been brewed, but it’s not cloying. And, the brew’s golden-orange color is breathtaking. I’d go so far as to describe this tea as sunrise-colored, since I see a pinkish hue in there too.
I’m used to brewing ToLife® for about 4 minutes. That was Teavana’s recommended brew time when I first tried the tea, and I’ve stuck to it since then. And when steeped for that amount of time, ToLife® delivers on all its promises. You get a bright, sweet cup of perfectly balanced floral and fruit, with hints of jasmine, and a cleansing smoothness from start to finish. It’s also more delicate than the initial aroma implies. I consider that a strength, though, because the drink still presents a surprising array of flavors. If ToLife® were any heavier, it might come out syrupy (yuck!) and too bombastic in flavor, as some fruity teas do.
I was curious, though: How would ToLife® taste when steeped for only 1 to 2 minutes, as Teavana calls for now? For the sake of this review, I experimented with the shorter brew time… and it’s not bad. The color and fragrance is about the same as with the 4-minute brew, but the taste lacks the nuances it should have. (The jasmine, for example, is barely detectable.) Those extra couple minutes therefore prove to be crucial in making a true quality cup of ToLife®.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Jasmine, Smooth, Sweet