249 Tasting Notes
My tea budget was depleted recently so I’ve been happily focused on my stock of morning rotation black teas in my cabinet. But, as great as they are, it wasn’t long before I started getting the itch to venture out into something new. Again Harney & Sons came to the rescue with a great sale on already very reasonably priced teas.
I found this Songluo Broken tea in their Chinese Teas section. Apparently, this variety with broken leaves comes at a much lower price than the one with non-broken leaves. Since I care more about flavor than appearance, this was fine with me.
When I opened the Harney & Sons bag, an aroma of keemun wafted forth. There also was a sweet attribute to the smell which was quite pronounced. The dark brown leaves were small and appeared…uh…BROKEN. They reminded me of finely ground mulch.
As the folks at Harney & Sons recommend, I brewed the leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes. The color was an orange-brown. The brewed odor was subtle with sweet keemun-like undertones.
My first sip had an astringent attribute but this completely disintegrated with the next sip. The flavor was mild with keemun and sweet characteristics. Harney’s web page likens the sweet attribute to agave. To me, it was more like Sweet’N Low, which I have become very familiar with since I am no longer allowed to drink the South’s traditional sweet tea. I really don’t have any complaints about that flavor (or agave’s for that matter).
The pleasant and moderate flavors were also quite smooth. I had no trouble swallowing my first cup rapidly. The taste levels were certainly sufficient to please my palate. The aftertaste was light and gentle.
This tea is a tremendous bargain with first-rate flavors. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys Chinese teas but has a limited tea allowance (like yours truly). I also believe that people with hefty tea budgets will not be disappointed either.
Flavors: Sweet, Tea
It’s always a wonderful day in the neighborhood when I have a new tea to take for a spin. We have a few European market stores in the area that offer Ahmad teas. The prices for these teas are usually very affordable. This one is currently listed on Amazon at under $12 for a nice one-pound tin container.
The marketing for this tea says it contains the finest high-grown (black) teas from the hillsides of Sri Lanka, subtly blended, with the elegant fragrance of bergamot.
The dark short tea leaves are well-protected within the square tin box in a gold foil bag. When I opened the bag, the aroma was rich and full of bergamot and other fruity attributes.
I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a dark reddish amber. The odor was very quiet, almost non-existent. What I could smell seemed to only have a nondescript sweet characteristic.
The taste of this tea did not match the complexity of its unbrewed aroma. In fact, the flavor was surprisingly bland. About all I could syphon from the taste was an unidentifiable tea attribute. Pulling that from the brew was made even more difficult by a sharp astringency that defined the flavor. The aftertaste was also dominated by astringency.
I was disappointed by this blend. I had high hopes that it would be a cornucopia of great flavors. I’m not ready to write off Ahmad altogether but this will most likely be my one and only experience with the Special Blend product.
I haven’t posted a tasting note in a while. The reason is my teas were piling up again and I needed to consume some of the ones I had to make room for new containers in my cabinet.
I found this Harney & Sons Lapsang Souchong at the local Fresh Market for an exceptionally good price. I’ve seen some comments on Steepster that this product may have been discontinued. That could explain why its price was too economical to resist.
All of the Harney & Sons teas that I’ve experienced and bought by the pound have been great values for the price. I was highly hopeful that this one would continue that pattern.
When I broke the sealing tape and opened the black metal tin for the first time, my nostrils were filled with a strong but pleasant smokehouse aroma. It smelled very natural and without the presence of “helpers.”
I steeped the medium-length dark brown leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished color was orange-gold. The odor was deliciously smoky without making me want to open windows for fresh air.
The taste of this tea was absolutely exquisite. The smoky attribute was definitely the dominant player but there was also a striking, yet delicate, sweetness to the brew. These two flavor forces were extremely smooth and savory. Astringency was non-existent and the aftertaste was lasting but congenial to the end. The last time I partook of a sweet and smoky combination this perfect was probably two years ago when my wife brought home a honey-baked ham.
I have absolutely nothing derogatory to write about this tea. It was completely satisfying from my first to my fourth cup. I sincerely hope that Harney & Sons does not discontinue this tea. It would be a tragedy for Lapsang Souchong lovers everywhere.
Flavors: Smoked, Sweet
I don’t usually comment on a tea unless I am completely responsible for the brewing process. That is, I personally break the seal on a new package, scoop out a precise measurement of leaves, activate the exact time and temperature settings, and witness the entire steeping process myself. However, my wife and I had such a nice experience today at the French Market Cafe Tea Room in Cornelius, North Carolina, that I am compelled to break my rule and talk about this Mark T. Wendell Tea Company Hu-Kwa Lapsong Souchong tea that I tried. Besides, the very generous and personable proprietor, Kathy Montbleau, allowed me to observe most of the preparation by bringing the infuser pot to my table immediately after boiling.
Kathy permitted me to smell the unbrewed leaves in their package before the setup began. The dark brown leaves had a strong, but pleasant, smoky aroma. There also was a light sweetness to the smell that I hadn’t experienced before in smoky teas.
I watched the steeping brew become a dark liquor for five minutes. The odor was pleasingly smoky and sweet. The color was similar to dark molasses with a golden aura around the sides of my cup, like a dark sunrise.
The flavor was nothing short of splendid. It was marvelously smoky, sweet, and smooth. Kathy brought my wife and I an ample pot to share. Fortunately, my wife does not care for smoky teas so I was able to enjoy it all to the last drop. Even the aftertaste was stunningly mild and gentle. Astringency was completly nonexistent.
This just might be the BEST smoky tea I’ve ever had. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the tea, I GREATLY RECOMMEND Kathy who is a wonderful tearoom owner with a FANTASTIC personality and ENORMOUS generosity (she very kindly let me sample the tea without charge and gave me a large portion of unbrewed leaves to take home with me), and I PROFOUNDLY RECOMMEND the French Market Cafe Tea Room as an extremely friendly and elegant little shop to sip fine teas, munch on tasty biscuits, and let the stress of your work week blissfully slip away.
Flavors: Smoked, Smooth, Sweet
This was another very competitively priced offering from Harney & Sons. As I mentioned in an earlier review, Harney gives you great value for your buck, plus fast and free shipping.
Pu-erh is an interesting variety in itself. People seem to love it or hate it. Personally, I’m one of its lovers- when it is good. My wife, on the other hand, is repulsed and almost sickened just by the memory of her lone Pu-erh experience. The one time I successfully coaxed her to try a sip, the agonized look on her face made me worry that her head was going to explode.
I have tried one or two Pu-erh products that I didn’t love, like, or want to spend time with again. Hopefully this one will fall into a beloved category since I rolled the dice and bought a pound of it untasted.
When I opened Harney & Sons’ one pound bag, I was immediately greeted by the familiar deeply earthy and worn leather smell that is Pu-erh. The look of the brown leaves, which always reminds me of finely ground wood mulch, also did not stand out as anything unusual for this tea type.
As is my custom for preparing Pu-erh, I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a very dark brown, almost like molten chocolate. The aroma was definitely all Pu-erh (which has to be experienced to understand).
The tea had full and robust Pu-erh flavor: earthy, leathery, and of the dirt. However, it was extremely smooth for this variety. There was absolutely no astringency. There was also an inherent mildness to the taste that I don’t always find in Pu-erh teas. Even the aftertaste was extremely amiable and gentle. I had to force myself to slow down my sipping because it was one of those exceptional teas I like so much that I subconsciously shift into chugging mode. My cup (and then pot) was a delight from start to finish.
If you have anti-Pu-erh activists in your house, this might be the product to move them to the other side of the aisle. I might even try to muster up the courage to ask my wife to try it.
This tea so greatly exceeded my expectations that I now consider it one of my best tea finds of all-time. I am also feeling so lucky after taking a chance on a full pound purchase, that I am strongly considering buying a lottery ticket today. ;-)
Flavors: Dirt, Earth, Leather
Harney & Sons teas have become my go-to morning jump starters lately for several reasons:— Their online bulk tea prices are currently among the best values out there. — They have fast, free shipping. — The teas are good.
I have wanted to try this Tippy Yunnan tea because of my love for Yunnan and Keemun teas. I don’t think I’ve yet encountered a bad one, by any company, regardless of price.
I bought a pound of this product and when I opened the large sealed bag, my smelling sensors didn’t receive the leathery aroma that I expected. The odor was sweet and more like Ceylon tea. The leaves were medium-length and dark brown.
I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The final liquor was a dark molasses brown. The aroma was mostly sweet like syrup.
The flavor of this tea had primary caramel and pancake syrup attributes.
Recognizable black tea tasting points were at least five rows back. There was a slight amount of astringency in my first couple of sips but that seemed to disappear quickly as I slurped deeper into my cup.
I would not easily identify this tea as a Yunnan tea but it does possess some of the qualities I like about that variety. It is smooth without (lasting) astringency and there is no bitter aftertaste. I also enjoy sweet black teas, as long as they taste natural (which this one does).
I would chalk this one up as another wise purchase from Harney & Sons. I will savor its sweet and smooth characteristics in my morning jump start tea rotation and I will have no problem devouring the entire pound. And, I just might repurchase another pound when the bag is empty.
Flavors: Caramel, Pancake Syrup
The prices on the Harney & Sons website were so good when I was checking them out last week that I decided to buy two pounds to keep me alert in the morning while I hunt for employment. I purchased Scottish Morn, which I enjoy, and this Dorchester Breakfast tea. Both of these selections were highly rated on the Harney website.
When I opened the one pound Dorchester package, an aroma like Assam pipe tobacco burst forth. The leaves were brown, very short, and ground-looking, like coffee, which I’ve become accustomed to with tea made for/by the Brits.
I steeped the tea at 212 degrees for five minutes. The final product was the color of molasses. The odor was Assam with a slightly sweet and malty characteristic.
The flavor was malty Assam with a fruity sweet attribute. Although the taste was quite bold, it was also gentle on the palate. I detected no astringency and the aftertaste was brief and pleasant. I found this tea to be quite delicious from the first sip of my initial cup to the last one, four cups later.
This selection is advertised as being specially blended for the Dorchester Hotel in London. They definitely came up with a winner. If I ever make it back to London, I will include on my itinerary a stop at the hotel for afternoon tea time.
Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Sweet, Tea
As I am still seeking employment after finishing a contracted project five months ago, it’s become even more important for me to maintain a balanced budget. One of the “frills” I’ve had to eliminate (for now) is the purchase of my favorite higher-end teas.
Years ago I purchased a tin of Harney & Sons tea at a local Williams-Sonoma store. Since the store and tea were fairly pricey, I assumed that Harney & Sons teas were, therefore, always expensive.
When I became desperate for bargains and checked the Harney & Sons website for deals and discounts, I was excited and surprised about how reasonable their tea prices were, particularly when you purchased the selections in one pound packages. Currently, Harney is offering many fine black teas (my favorites) at a little more than $20 a pound, with free shipping! The Scottish Morn product was one of the teas offered in this very reasonable price range.
When I opened the one pound bag of Scottish Morn, my nostrils were introduced to a very pronounced Assam odor. The leaves were dark brown and quite short, almost like ground coffee. In my experience, this seems to be a UK tea trademark (for example, PG Tips).
I steeped the leaves for four minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product had a muddy brown molasses color. The aroma was Assam all the way.
The flavor was extremely bold and full. Assam was the taste leader but it was accented with an almost equally pronounced malty attribute. Another present flavor characteristic, that I’ve found in all of the Assam teas that I’ve tasted, was a slight tad of astringency. However, this steadily dissipated as I approached the bottom of my cup. The aftertaste was curiously mild and brief for a tea with such brisk flavors. Overall the flavors were without garnish but quite gratifying.
Being an American of direct Scottish heritage (my mother was born and partially raised in Scotland), I, like my ancestors and cousins, enjoy and seek out bold black teas for my mornings. In my case, my brain seems to need them in order to kick into gear for the day ahead. Scottish Morn definitely fit the bill with sharp and engaging flavors.
Flavors: Malt, Tea
I’m now stockpiling black teas by the pound that I find on sale. Since my days in corporate America may finally be over, I’m now on a fixed income and need to watch my expenses. However, I still want to make sure I have plenty of my favorite (or soon to be favorite if the price is right) black teas on hand while I’m in (or off) my rocker.
I found this tea on the Harney & Sons website recently for a very reasonable price per pound. I had never heard of the selection. But, based on my admiration of several other Harney teas, I am reasonably confident that I can make myself like it if my first few cups don’t go down nicely.
When I opened the very sturdy one pound package, a very strong aroma similar to some of the loaded French bourbon teas I’ve tried wafted from the bag. The leaves were fairly short and dark brown with tan accents.
I followed the brewing instructions on the bag and steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The resultant liquor was a bright golden orange. The aroma was slightly fruity and sweet.
From the very first sip to the bottom of my cup, my taste buds were consistently greeted with a smooth honey and nut flavor that included an accompaniment of fruity undertones in the orchestra. These flavors could have become noisy together if overdone, but the medium-strength concoction made the combination seem well balanced and quite amiable. There was no astringency in the blend and the aftertaste was pleasant and brief.
It appears that I rolled the dice and won with this choice. I am enjoying four cups of it today at 5 PM. That is a revelation in itself as I usually stop drinking black teas by 2 PM so I can start winding down for the evening.
I have absolutely no complaints about this tea. It has enough good flavor and sweetness to make me more than satisfied with my purchase.
Flavors: Fruity, Honey, Nutty
I found this fascinating sounding tea at our Home Goods store. I was familiar with Tea Forte but not this selection. The price was so low that I was unable to resist.
When I opened the metal tin and snipped open the clear plastic bag, I found black leaves peppered with yellow marigold flower petals.
The aroma was very strong. I could sift out the powerful caramel and butter attributes. All ingredients and flavors are listed as organic and natural. If so, they were somehow supercharged to produce some of the strongest smells that I’ve experienced in an unbrewed black tea.
I strictly followed the company’s brewing instructions and steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product was a dark golden orange. The aroma was pure caramel.
The taste was quite potent. The flavors screamed caramel and butter with a flowery whisper in the background. My palate was so bombarded with these attributes that I wasn’t sure where the taste ended and the aftertaste began. I did notice that the aftertaste lingered…and lingered…and lingered.
It is unusual to find a black tea with flavors that are too robust for me but this one is definitely on the cusp. The overall taste isn’t unpleasant and I can’t say that astringency is a problem. However, at least in the morning, this selection is too much for my drowsy taste buds to process. Maybe it would be better received in the early afternoon when I’m already dueling with the issues of my day.
Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Flowers, Tea