247 Tasting Notes

70

I don’t drink a lot of bagged teas these days but I saw a box of these English Breakfast tea bags during a visit to the break room at my wife’s office. I was curious about this new Steep By Bigelow tea line and “borrowed” one tea bag. This line appeared to be an upscale version of Bigelow’s standard tea bags. The label specified that the tea within was organic and Fair Trade Certified. Bigelow seems to be in an expansion mode lately as they also recently acquired South Carolina’s Charleston tea plantation and tea company. At one time, Charleston had the only remaining tea plantation in the country.

To prepare this tea, I microwaved a glass mug of filtered water for three minutes until boiling. I then instructed Alexa (of my Amazon Echo) to set a four-minute timer.

The brewed color was golden orange. The aroma was faint and like malty black tea.

The flavor was actually quite robust. It tasted malty like the aroma indicated. The tea flavor was full and easily identifiable as Ceylon. My first few sips contained just a tweak of bitterness. The liquor also seemed to briefly coat my tongue and mouth with some sort of milky texture. That twist was unexpected and strange but quickly disappeared with the bitter attribute after a few more sips. The aftertaste was light and posed no problems.

Although I wouldn’t pay more for this item than I would for the standard Bigelow English Breakfast tea bags, this was a decent blend that was perhaps a tad more flavor-fortified than their standard offering. I would have no problem drinking this tea in an office situation if I didn’t have access to my infuser.

Flavors: Malt, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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67

I “borrowed” a tea bag of this selection from my wife’s office breakroom. I mainly wanted to see how this apparently deluxe version of Bigelow’s Earl Grey compared to their standard Earl Grey product. The Bigelow Steep line of teas all seem to be labeled “organic.” Some are also labeled “Fair Trade Certified” (but not this one).

When I tore open the bag’s wrapper, I could smell the bergamot. The aroma was potent and easily recognizable.

I boiled a cup of filtered water for three minutes in my “nuker.” I then steeped (no pun intended in this instance) the bag for four minutes to comply with the wrapper’s preparation instructions.

The finished color was a dark amber. There was very little aroma (bergamot or otherwise) to speak of, even with my nose pushed into the cup.

The flavor of this tea was medium-strength. The taste was mildly bergamot with Ceylon attributes quietly tip-toeing in the shadows behind it. As with another Bigelow Steep selection that I tried, this one also seemed to coat my tongue and mouth with a strange milk-like texture that remained during the first few sips. There also was a slight astringency present but not enough to complain about. The aftertaste was inoffensive.

Personally, I prefer a more robust and natural bergamot flavor in Earl Grey blends. Perhaps this is just an advantage of the loose-leaf teas that I drink 99.9999% of the time.

I initially stated that I wanted to see how this assumed higher end version of Bigelow’s Earl Grey compared with its standard product. On Amazon, a package of six boxes containing 20 bags each of the Bigelow Steep Earl Grey currently costs about $9 more than an equal package of their standard brand. Having experienced both products, I would not feel like I was missing anything by choosing the standard offering.

Flavors: Bergamot, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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78

I’m on a (tea) bag roll today. I received this free sample in the mail from The Republic of Tea just before Christmas. This was one of my favorite companies during my bag days seven years ago when I was just a TEAnager (hee hee). The company displays a lot of imagination and creativity with the many tea selections they offer, including special limited holiday selections, like this one.

When I opened the wrapper, my nostrils were immediately filled with a delicious aroma like eggnog or a Christmas cookie. My senses are easy to please when it comes to sweet stuff. I dropped the round and tag-less bag disc into boiling water for five minutes as recommended by the wrapper for the maximum brewing time.

The finished aroma was also like eggnog…yes…or a Christmas cookie. The color was bright amber.

The flavor of this tea was true to its smell. It tasted just like eggnog…and, one more time… or a Christmas cookie. Although the flavor was potent, and probably not found in nature, it did not taste chemically artificial to me. There was no astringency and a pleasant enough aftertaste remained on my palate that reminded me of Christmas cookies past.

If I were ever to return to my early life as a bag drinker, I would be fine with this selection again during the holidays. I prefer loose leaf but sometimes I don’t have a problem when I’m told it’s in the bag.

Flavors: Cookie, Eggnog

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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89

There is a tiny spice and tea store next to one of our favorite diet-compliant (i.e., vegan) restaurants in Charlotte. When my wife and I finally decided to “dry out” after eating many NON-diet-compliant items during the Christmas/New Year holidays, we launched our return to sanity at the restaurant, with the side benefit of a trip to the spice and tea store.

The store’s tea stock was almost wiped out after the Christmas shopping season, but a few bags of this one remained on the shelf alongside a sample “sniffer” of the leaves to smell what the tea might taste like after brewing. I love smoky teas and the aroma of this item in its unsteeped state was quite potent and alluring.

When I opened the package to prepare the tea for drinking, the smoky aroma was much stronger than the already powerful odor in the store’s sniffer. It was so controlling that I hoped it was all natural. The last time I encountered a smoky smell that powerful was from my boy scout uniform after a weekend of camping and sitting by the fire.

I steeped the short black leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The label suggested brewing for two to four minutes but I let it steep for one more minute for good luck.

The finished product had a golden amber color. The smoky aroma had greatly settled down after it met the hot water.

The taste of the tea was quite pleasant with the smoky characteristics in line with a lot of other teas of this type. There was an additional flavor attribute that was minty, like the wild mint plant leaves I used to find and chew while walking home from junior high school. The two flavors worked together amiably. The overall effect was smooth without astringency. The aftertaste was not obnoxious.

I did like this tea and will not have trouble finishing the entire package. Once I got past the three-alarm fire smell of the unbrewed leaves, the final result was a tasty, genial, and smooth concoction.

Flavors: Mint, Smoke

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

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90
drank Rose Dian Hong Black Tea by Teavivre
247 tasting notes

I found this nice surprise while digging through my sample tin this morning. I always look forward to trying new teas and Teavivre teas never seem to disappoint me.

When I opened the signature Teavivre silver sample package and drove my schnoz inside, I was met with the aroma of a fine bourbon instead of the expected rose. The leaves were fairly long and black, brown, and golden.

I steeped the leaves at 195 degrees (as close as my tea maker can get to the recommended 194 degrees) for five minutes. The final color was a dark amber and the brewed aroma was very much like a rose as I again expected.

I am not a big fan of flowery or fruity teas. I especially tilt toward being a purist when it comes to black teas. However, there have been several fruity/flowery teas that I have tried and liked. I am happy to say that this is one of them.

My first sip had a strong rose taste with a mild black tea flavor riding shotgun. There also seemed to be a slight bite of astringency in the first sip. This very quickly settled down and, by my third sip, my taste buds were treated to a smooth, amicable, and full-bodied black tea flavor with excellently intermingled rosy characteristics, going forward. The aftertaste was graceful and brief.

This is another good flowery tea from Teavivre that I actually enjoyed drinking. Even though the rose flavor is quite recognizable, it tastes natural and is not overwhelming or perfumed.

Flavors: Rose, Tea

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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99

I love pu-erh tea and thought that tangerine pu-erh tea sounded fascinating! I wasn’t quite brave enough to buy it sight unseen and taste untasted, but I selected a sample of it with my last Teavivre purchase.

When I opened the silver sample package, I found short brown leaves inside and something I hadn’t expected- big hunks of tangerine peel! Since the package stated that the tea was produced in 2012, I wondered if I was looking at five-year-old fruit remnants. The peel chunks were quite dry and looked almost mummified.

There also was a pleasant tangerine scent inside the package. This smell cancelled out any earthy and leathery pu-erh odor that might have existed.

I followed the instructions and brewed the tea at 212 degrees for eight minutes (the maximum recommended time). The brewed color was a deep golden brown. The aroma was fruity but nondescript.

The taste of this tea was dominated, but not overwhelmed, by delicious fruity tangerine attributes. The leathery and earthy pu-erh flavor was surprisingly subdued in the background but still quite present. This taste partnership was beautifully harmonious.

This is the first pu-erh tea I’ve ever had that I would describe as having a BRIGHT flavor. The entire blend was also surprisingly smooth with an equally amiable aftertaste.

The folks at Teavivre have produced another terrific pu-erh tea. If you enjoy fruity teas AND pu-erh teas, you should be satisfied on both fronts with this one.

Flavors: Fruity, Tea

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

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100

Ah. Another day and another sample from Teavivre to try. I am one of THOSE tea lovers who really likes the smell and taste of pu-erh tea. My wife wouldn’t go near anything pu-erh with a ten-foot tea cup.

I’ve enjoyed other Teavivre pu-erh offerings in the past so I am anxious to give this 2007 version a shot! When I opened the silver sample package, there were short brown leaves inside. The aroma was tell-tale pu-erh: deep, rich, and leathery.

I followed the package’s instructions and steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The brewed color was a bright reddish brown. The odor was leathery and earthy.

The flavor was pu-erh all the way which is just the way I like it. A strong leather and earth taste danced on my taste buds with every sip. What impressed me most about this selection was the silky smoothness to it.

I tried some pu-erh teas in the past that sacrificed a smooth taste for an overpowering one, resulting in a bitter side effect. (I won’t mention bitterness again because there was not a trace of it in this product.) This pu-erh was incredibly smooth and a pleasure to swallow. I had to slow down the consumption of my first cup as I found myself unintentionally guzzling it.

The aftertaste was also remarkably smooth, light, and gentle. I was sorry to see it go when it delicately drifted away.

This is the BEST pu-erh tea that I have tried to-date. 2007 must have been a banner year for this category. If you LIKE pu-erh tea, you will LOVE Yunnan Palace Ripened Pu-erh Loose Tea 2007!

Flavors: Earth, Leather

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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90

One of the benefits of ordering tea from Teavivre is they allow you to select free samples of their teas with your order. This presents the opportunity to take other choices from their constantly growing lineup out for a spin.

The description of this Jinhao Golden Tip Black Tea intrigued me because it advertised a possible wide range of flavors to be experienced. I also chose this one because black tea is my favorite due to higher caffeine content and (usually) more robust flavors than the less oxidized types.

I opened the silver sample package and found long black and golden leaves inside. The aroma was rich and leathery like a lot of Chinese teas.

I brewed the leaves at 195 degrees for five minutes. (I am unable to steep at the recommended 194 degrees since my automatic tea maker was not designed with this temperature selection. Close enough.)

The final product had a golden brown color. The aroma had sweet and malty characteristics.

My first sip had a fleeting flavor like English Breakfast tea. Then, out of the multitude of tastes noted for this tea, my palate was able to pull three out of the hat: malt, fruit, and bread. The flavor was blended so well that I had to truly focus my taste buds to dissect it into separate entities. The end result was also sweet, smooth, and hardy.

With my first few sips, I thought I was experiencing just a tad of astringency. However, this sensation completely settled down before I was half way through my first cup. I believe Angel’s comment on the Teavivre website explains this part of the ride: “This is a rare infusing-durable organic black tea with charming fruity fragrance and sweet taste. The taste will turn mellower as time goes on.”

All in all, I found this tea to be a unique and tasty blend. After my first few sips, I just sat back and enjoyed it.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Fruity, Malt

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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82

I received a sample of this tea with my order from Teavivre. I was curious to see how pine needles relate to black tea.

When I opened the silver sample package, there were long brown leaves inside. No aroma immediately presented itself so I sent my nose on a seek and find mission deep inside the package. Ultimately my sniffing sensors were able to pull a very slight grassy smell from the leaves.

I pretty closely followed the recommended brewing instructions and steeped the leaves at 195 degrees for five minutes. (NOTE: My Breville Automatic Tea Maker does not have a setting for the recommended temperature of 194 degrees.)

The finished product had a bright amber color. The aroma was a bit like southern sweet tea but very faint.

My first two sips produced a dim and distant flavor that was somewhat malty with an extra twinge that was kinda sorta like pine. I am not sure that I would have arrived at the pine flavor conclusion if I hadn’t been expecting it.

As I continued with two cups worth of sips, the flavor did build up on my palate sufficiently to make it seem stronger than it was initially. There was no astringency to speak of. I attributed the twinge to the pine-like attribute. The aftertaste also contained no bitterness.

As I am seasonally sinus-challenged, I prefer strong and robust flavors in my teas. The flavors in this selection are a bit anemic and indistinct for my taste. However, the flavors are not unpleasant, include Teavivre’s trademark smoothness, and may be strong enough for other tea drinkers.

Flavors: Malt, Pine

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML
TeaVivre

Compared with other Dian Hong tea, this tea has a lighter taste!

Stoo

Yes it does! Thanks, Angel!

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98
drank Golden Monkey Black Tea by Teavivre
247 tasting notes

Five years ago, I had the pleasure of trying Teavivre’s exceptional Premium Golden Monkey Black tea. That tea still stands out as the premier Golden Monkey tea that I’ve tasted.

Recently, Teavivre was selling its “standard” Golden Monkey tea selection at a great price. Even though I had been spoiled by the premium offering, the discount on this one was too good to resist. I decided to take a chance and reasoned that if it had at least an OK flavor, it would be worth the money.

When I opened the silver shipping bag, my nose was greeted with a semi-sweet and earthy Chinese black tea aroma. The leaves were long and brown with equal amounts of golden accompaniments.

I steeped the tea at 195 degrees for four minutes (one degree higher and one minute more than the recommended method) as I like my teas at maximum strength.

The brewed color was dark and golden. The smell was sweet and chocolaty and much more intoxicating than in its pre-liquefied state.

The closest word I could think of to describe the flavor of my first sip was SUPERB! The taste was rich with chocolate, caramel, honey, and other sweet accents, without making it a chocolate drink. The sum total of the flavor recalled my memories of a brown sugar ice cream cone.

This taste remained amazingly consistent through two rapidly demolished cupfuls. Even with the steady bombardment of the robust flavor, I didn’t detect any bitterness whatsoever. The entire experience was incredibly smooth. The aftertaste was delicate and it dissolved quietly.

This is an awesome Golden Monkey tea which I HIGHLY recommend. I will mainly be drinking it in the morning but this selection could just as easily be served to your favorite guests at your most special events.

I am very pleased with myself that I rolled the dice and purchased a pound of this tea at the discounted price. My only concern is that I will devour the entire pound too quickly!

Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Honey

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML

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Bio

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)!

Location

South Carolina, USA

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