612 Tasting Notes

drank Marco Polo by Mariage Frères
612 tasting notes

This tastes like a memory I’m having trouble placing, something from childhood. Candy strawberry and flowers, a memory-provoking perfume. I’d say it’s a little like those tinned little fruity hard candies from Europe, or even slightly like the gooey centers in those strawberry candies, sized and textured like lozenges, that come in wrappers designed to resemble a (clip art-ish) fresh strawberry, you know the ones I mean? A bit like that. I loved those and would gorge on ‘em ’til my teeth hurt when I was a kid (and I wasn’t really a candy person in general). So this was a sweet reminder this morning of something I used to be very fond of as a kid. The French and their perfuming skills!

That said, this does still have that tinge of fruit-tart bitterness that seems inevitable whenever strawberry mixes with black tea. It’s not something I enjoy. But it’s almost worth it, for that sense memory the smell and the front of the sip give me.

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I have such fond memories of Marco Polo. It was one of the first flavoured black teas I had. Sadly I haven’t been able to replace it as I haven’t been able to find a retailer up here that carries it.

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I was bracing myself, coated in shame as I’ve had this awfully long given it’s an oolong (on the roasted end of the spectrum sure, but still)—I could be remembering wrong but I think it came with my 5 for $5 order, the very first one I placed with Verdant, so definitely more than 6 months ago. :O Figured it might be disappointing given that, and assumed I wouldn’t say much at all because it wouldn’t be that fair given it’s my fault. Also, I haven’t been mad for any of the “rocky” Wuyi oolongs as much as the greener or aged ones, so there’s that too.

But no! I kinda love this. Granted, this feels like the right time of year to appreciate it—it smells a lot like barley soup (which I’m making in the slow cooker tomorrow, yum) in a comforting cold weather sort of way, but the taste isn’t barley-ish so much as creamy soft and surprisingly sweet. I can kind of see why they’d mention creme brulee—I don’t get that per se but the toasty smell combined with the surprising luscious sweet taste is kind of vaguely analogous to how creme brulee has a toasty “hard” exterior that gives way to a sweet silky interior. There’s a warming element in the taste I’m really digging too—it’s like an internalized hug, all comfort and no harsh bite. I love the clean sweet lingering notes on the tongue that last until your next sip however long it takes. And sure enough, the last cooler sip at the bottom of the cup has a honeydew melon thing going on, complete with the texture of one! Wonderful. The last couple steeps bring out a cooling aspect, vaguely like pine or mint. Makes one think of a winter forest somehow.

Now I see on the Verdant site this one’s archived, likely unavailable forevermore. That’s what I get for waiting around on this, aw.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Terri HarpLady

I need to drink some of this one…it’s been awhile…so good….

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As usual, Sil is spot on in that this feels like it delivers what I was hoping Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish would—the dry and steeping smell has a distinct cream cheese pastry element that is scrumptious! I did this one per the proper instructions (though I couldn’t figure out how much boiling water to use…I guessed and did it half and half, 4 cups boiling steeped then added to 4 cups cold). It did have that slight edge traditionally brewed iced tea always seems to, that cold steeped doesn’t, and which I’m not crazy about, but it also, I’m guessing, had more overall flavor. Decisions, decisions! Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Iced 3 min, 0 sec

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Smoky and fairly strong, like a Caravan blend. I felt obligated to do it at least once the prescribed way (here: https://www.samovarlife.com/5-steps-to-the-ultimate-russian-tea ) with American Spoon strawberry preserves, but I must say, Samovar’s steeping instructions are awfully vague, giving amounts of leaf and jam to use but not amounts of water nor how long to steep nor how to go about straining (the “steaming” step implies you add the tea directly to the teapot, not within an infuser basket) given you’ve added jam to the tea. So it was all a mess, and unfortunately a waste of good jam too ‘cause I didn’t like it (I shouldn’t be too surprised; I have yet to find any strawberry with black tea base blend I like). Oh well. I guess it’s good (kinda) you can only order this in big amounts so wasting some the first time isn’t the end. :/

I appreciate Samovar’s steeping directions in general for trying to stay open to people’s varying tastes and also for being gongfu-ish, but sometimes you want a decent cup of western-style tea and no more than that (brisk blacks especially are something where I’m only going to want 1 cup, usually in a hurry first thing in the morning so no resteeps, and especially don’t want to be using 1 whole Tbsp a go). That’s what I want some specific guidelines for. Oh well. Next time I’ll try 1 teaspoon for 8 oz, boiling, 3 minutes and hopefully it’ll go ok.

EDIT: Hm, looking more closely I think I can put the pieces together, but it’s easy to overlook if you skim and requires additional link-hopping to figure it all out—it appears to be around 13oz boiling water, 3 Tb tea, 2 Tb strawberry jam, 10 second dry steam condition of the leaves then 15 minute steep jam and all. Filter afterward (somehow…), and then do equal parts the steeped super strong tea and additional boiling water, add sweetener and/or dairy to taste. I might just try it one more time…maybe. It’s vaguely like southern sweet tea, ha.

Terri HarpLady

I love Caravan style teas :)


Im from Russia. We never make tea this way. You make a zavarka, then dilute with hot water to your liking. Jam, pastries are on a side;)


yeah, the jam added right into the tea while steeping seemed very unorthodox to me—i’m vaguely familiar with “make a crazy concentrated tea, then dilute with hot water from a samovar and lots of sugar” but not the jam thing, ha.


that said i don’t really care about hewing to tradition or anything. it just seemed fun. but without clearer instructions the first go-round, and first thing in the morning when my head’s still fuzzy, it was a mess waiting to happen.


Let us know the results if you decide to try again

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drank Ocean of Wisdom by Samovar
612 tasting notes

So it’s chai weather, but I only ever want chai at night when it’s too late for Assams. This seemed to get ok reviews so I thought I’d try it. Steepster is the best because someone on the boards (I’m sorry I don’t remember who, ack!) mentioned their “lazy chai” using this: http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/bill-waddingtons-real-chai

and I just had to try it because while it might not be the greatest thing if it was halfway decent it would solve the eternal dilemma of wanting chai late at night when the kitchen’s all cleaned up and the last thing in the universe I feel like doing is heating milk in a pan. Just stick spices you like in condensed milk, pop in the fridge, and ta da, instant chai milk all week, just add to hot tea to taste. Yay! So. I put a bit of that stuff (I add anise because I love the stuff) in with this, and now I am a satisfied, lazy gal. You can definitely still smell and slightly taste the rooibos, but given how little effort this required I can’t complain.

Also got fantastic, uplifting news this afternoon about the cat. Someone got a hold of her original owner finally—not the boyfriend but the woman getting her PhD in Ohio—and she was stunned and horrified, is coming back around Thanksgiving and making plans to resolve things. Meanwhile the neighbors who told me this also said she gave them the cat’s vet info and they’re going to take her in sometime this week. So, fingers crossed, there IS a happy ending to this whole thing. I am so, so relieved. It’d been bothering me trying to figure out what the hell to do in December when we go out of town twice and it might be bitterly cold again, and that in turn reminded me while our set-up is working fine now it’s not tenable forever. So glad it looks like things are going to be ok. Slightly bittersweet—getting to know her this week has been funny; she’s much smarter than our two cats and also hella bossy and feisty on the edge of mean (tough, you know, to survive). Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea (har) but I stupidly relate (long backstory involving my origins, feeling abandoned and trying to be tough and always feeling alone, all that). I also learned today her name is Tina. I’ve been referring to her as “OK” (orange kitty, and jokingly like, “she’s just ok”). I’m glad this is happening now before I get too stupidly attached. Crossing my fingers she can be my fond memory, a little random connection in a strange world of ups and downs.

205 °F / 96 °C 8 min or more

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Then had this one for afternoon tea before heading out to do errands and stuff. This was delicious too! At the risk of painting too broad a brushstroke my first impression of Fauchon is that it reminds me of what Kusmi teas seem to be trying to do, but done right—where there’s a uniform quality to how the flavors and scents blend with the tea base, it’s subtle and light in taste yet perfume-y, evocative more than substantial, in a specific French sort of way I can’t describe well. Honestly, with the Kusmis I’ve tried so far the connection between the fragrance and the base, that thin/weak, usually-always-tastes-the-same,-light-and-perfumed thing the tea itself has going on, doesn’t do much for me even as I can see what it’s going for. So far, Fauchon feels like it aims for similar but works in a way the Kusmis haven’t for me. Lovely. Husband loved this one too, kept putting his nose to the cup between sips. Really pleased this out-of-nowhere foray into a company I didn’t know about has been positive, not at all disappointing so far.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec

many of the tea apothecaries work side by side with parfumeries. many of the apothercaries produce perfume as well. learning french teas was essential in my evolution of tea love… but it has changed the way i view all loose leaf now.

BrewTEAlly Sweet

You are making me daydream… And so jealous :)


FYI, I was recently informed by Ysaurella that Fauchon doesn’t blend their own teas but actually sources their blends from Dammann Frères! Of course Fauchon has a lot of proprietary blends that I assume Dammann blends just for them. I always figured that’s why I love Fauchon teas so much.


I know precisely what you mean by Kusmi, a brand which is pretty ubiquitous but whose blends are mostly just wrong to me. Though Fauchon I only tried one of their teas (which was a dud, and why I have been avoiding it mostly).


Dinosara, ah, the plot thickens! That is verrrrry interesting news, thanks for sharing. Makes me even more excited now to try some DF.

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drank Raspberry Macaron by Fauchon
612 tasting notes

Dear me this tea! I love Steepster so much—I jumped on the Fauchon sale mentioned in the “Misc Sales” thread in an attempt to assuage my Dammann Freres/Frenchy perfumed tea craving. Thinking about it, it’s sorts of nuts how reasonable the teas came out to be—on par with a lot of what I think of as fair-to-midling brands right here (about $3/oz). So that’s awesome. I couldn’t help but internally squee when I opened the package—the tins are so fancy with their indented internal lid chamber and little gold pull. And the perfume. Oh my. Heady, sweet, floral, and sexy. Wonderful. I definitely smell raspberry macaron in the dry leaf.

Steeped, it’s less apparent, but the smell continues to be dreamy. Unsurprisingly the taste is not as crazy as the aroma—how could it be?—but it’s a nice tea that does evoke macarons to me, and raspberry flavoring. I am so not a girly person but ohhh I love the way this smells. My friends wanna do our very first ladylike tea party next weekend (I am SO EXCITED vknlafbvasjdln), and this would be excellent to bring (the hostess loves girly Frenchy gourmet perfumed things; before this arrived I was going to bring my coveted Butiki Champagne and Rose Cream or Rose Violet Calendula Oolong for her sake). Funny part is my husband’s bandmates wanna join in so I’m picturing guys in black gothy metal or horror t-shirts sipping from dainty cups, ha. Friend’s husband promised to make a “vat of chai” for them, so there’s that.

Next time I might try this at a slightly lower temp a la Kusmis. We’ll see. It’s still a lovely cuppa. I could be in the throes of new excitement but my initial impression is I like this more than the Mariage Freres flavored blends I got earlier this year (and these were a heck of a lot more affordable!). Teas like this are always a bittersweet moment for me—when I love them it’s with the knowledge I likely won’t ever be able to restock, alas.

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i tried the link. nope. i am so let down. i will say dammit now…. but without the energy of anger. =0(


i wonder if you would like jarding bleu by dammann?


So glad that you took advantage of that sale, and the posting! I was told by a staffer at Winners/HomeSense that they’ll be stocking these on a yearly basis, as the companies locally rotate out old stock for the new year’s blends. So… there’s still hope that this may become a yearly thing!


Oh, and while the cute boxes only say the time to steep and not the temp, I’m finding these do best (the ones I bought) just under boiling.


JustJames, I’d totally be down for swapping some Fauchon for DF! For sure. I’m about to head out for the evening, so if I don’t PM deets right away no worries. Sometime this weekend. If you’re up for it of course—don’t mean to be presumptuous. (:


Thanks for the useful info, MissB! Yeah, I’m getting that impression about some of the Frenchy teas—that they’re becoming more available on a seasonal basis based on turnaround. Which I certainly don’t mind as the tins keep them very fresh and I doubt I’ll have this around for too long, ha. I will try the temp slightly lower and see if that makes it even awesomer. (:


sounds good to me! i have a few of them too….

BrewTEAlly Sweet

Oh my gawd I’m soooooooo jealous. I tried the link but it would let me through for some reason. I am drooling just reading this I have always wanted to try these since the day I read about them on steepster last year. :(


I am missing whatever link you guys are talking about. BrewTEAlly Sweet, I purchased a lot of Fauchon this past week and would be happy to send you some to try out if you’d like. I also bought two tins for Dinosaura and shipped them out to her, although I’d be surprised if there was much left where I am… just Anniversaire and lots of Abricot last I looked.


@MissB if you look under the discussion tab at the top there’s a subject header titled something like misc. sale. the only guarantee with them is that i’ll miss them. it’s a tradition, lol.

BrewTEAlly Sweet

@MissB where did you purchase them? I would love to swap you for some. I have a lot to add to my cupboard.


BTS, coming in here just to offer the same. I’d be more than happy to swap or just send you some—it’s the least I can do as a thanks for setting up Secret Pumpkins. If you’re interested feel free to PM me your addy.


(i couldn’t send whole tins as this was my only opportunity so far to get any fauchon—we don’t have winners here—but samples of the 6 i grabbed, to clarify)


@BrewTEAlly Sweet, I got them at Winners/HomeSense here in Canada; I started a thread about Fauchon in Canada and someone posted in there about where they found them in the US. $12.99 CDN/100g. If you friend me I’ll send you a note. @JustJames – I hear you there, and thanks for the heads up!


So Fauchon was found in the US at TJ Maxx, The HomeStore, and Marshall’s. The Vente Privee link for the online Fauchon sale only works if you’re in the US, sadly.


The tea sounds dreamy and the party sounds FUN!!!

BrewTEAlly Sweet

@ifjuly are you sure?! That would be awesome!!!! Ill PM you! I wish I could find some around me because I am inlove with the tins. It’s just toooooo expensive from the actual website. I hope to find them some day :)
@MissB thank you for the info. I do live in the US idk why it wasn’t working but now it seems to be working :( too late tho


CelebriTEA, yeah! Tea party squee! :D

BTS (do you mind me calling you that? ack), yeah definitely. It’s, yeah, a way to thank you which I’ve wanted to do anyway. I’m sorry the samples can’t be larger sized—I’m guessing 2 or 3 cups each, and I have 6 different kinds—but would love to send you something! This weekend’s kind of nuts but I should be able to send it out by the end of next week if that’s ok.

BrewTEAlly Sweet

Whenever!!!! :) you’re doing ME a favor:) don’t apologize!!! :):):):) I’m sooooo excited! And that’s fine (BTS) it’s better than shortening it to brewtall ha ha brew is fine too or Megan ha ha . Ill PM you!

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I was so impressed with this Earl Grey, maybe because I wasn’t expecting much—it’s very nice indeed. The body’s a bit lighter than many, and the bergamot isn’t heavy but you still get that wonderful bright cleanness all of my favorite EGs have, no funky bottled orange blossom essence smell. I could definitely put this into rotation for when I want the comfort of an Earl but lightened up, a bit breezier than usual. Enjoyed this with post-work afternoon tea—sliced pear, prosciutto, and arugula on toasted mini ciabatta rolls buttered and coated with fruit preserves. Tasty.

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drank Big Red Sun by Harney & Sons
612 tasting notes

Of the Harney blends I tried this week, this was by the far the mellowest; I suppose it’s appropriate it’s the last one. It has a rather thick mouthfeel, but it’s pretty silky. Color in the cup is in fact a brighter red than most. Just a little astringency; I only notice it between sips. This would be a great morning tea for those days you don’t quite want/need to be rocketed out the door but desire a gentler but still full-bodied approach. Bet it’d be quite delicious with a lazy morning fry up. (Not to be all Lydia Rodarte-Quayle—whose tea order is, speaking of tea snobbery on the boards lately, oh-my-gosh ghastly—but why oh why don’t diners have decent tea? I don’t mind the lack so much at fancypants places or pub food-type spots ‘cause there’s tasty beer/wine/cocktails/mocktails/whatever that pair just as well, but for greasy spoon breakfasts tea is the best! Maybe I could bring this with me in T-Sacs and just ask for hot water…)

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Every time I make this I get that Can song “Yoo Doo Right” (“Zhu Rong, you do right!”) in my head (not a complaint, mind). “You made a believer outta me” indeed.

I know it’s too late to be drinking this but darn it it’s cold and today was the usual stress and I want some. :b Sometimes only black tea will do.

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec

Yoo soo right!

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“…you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love.”
-Julia Child on food and cooking, and I think it applies to tea as well!

note: i am currently taking a break from swapping/mail of any kind as money is rather tight. i apologize! i do love to swap but i can’t afford to right now. hopefully in a month things will change.

my cupboard includes any tea i’ve ever owned, including things i’ve sipped down, in order to facilitate swaps with people and keep a record—this way i don’t get redundant samples/order duplicates to try. if you are interested in swapping, i have a separate ever-updated list of teas i actually have on hand i can PM.

i like strong, rich blacks (including some choice old skool CTCs); juicy-fruity flavored green blends; buttery chinese greens; light floral oolongs; flavored oolongs (how sacrilegious!); earl greys; smoky blends; second flush muscatel darjeelings; verdant’s straight oolongs steeped in a gaiwan (mind altering!); anything from laoshan village it seems.

favorite notes include lavender, bergamot, violet, fennel, cardamom, melon, honey, sandalwood, smoke, nuts, roasty/toasty stuff, malt, wood, leather, creamy lemon, steamed rice, artichoke, garden-sweet snap veggies, earth/soil, forest and wet bark, and mushroom.

notes i generally can’t stand (at least in tea) include jasmine, rose (ok in small doses but i often find it overpowering and then everything just smells like musty old lady perfume), astringent apple (and general fruitiness really unless it’s with green tea), and chamomile (unless i’m congested or tired).

my current favorite tea vendors are butiki and harney and sons. i’ve also found some delicious teas and/or had good customer service experiences with the following companies: capital tea ltd., the devotea, verdant, mandala, golden moon, teavivre, lupicia, taiwan tea crafts, yezi tea, den’s tea, the tea merchant, norbu, fauchon paris, tao tea leaf, zen tea, fortnum and mason, townshend’s tea, joy’s teaspoon, new mexico tea company, persimmon tree, teajo teas, whispering pines, della terra, upton imports, mariage freres, samovar, justea, teabox, american tea room, steven smith, steap shoppe, utopia tea, and andrews and dunham damn fine tea. when i’m at the grocery store my “you could do worse” brands include stash, bigelow, tazo, taylors of harrogate, whittard of chelsea, and pg tips. and it’s a fact: you can’t make classic southern sweet tea without luzianne.

top picks, fall 2013

verdant zhu rong yunnan black
verdant laoshan black
thepuriTea hong jing luo (no longer available :( )
thepuriTea red dragon pearl (no longer available :( )
mandala morning sun
golden moon honey orchid
verdant golden fleece
taiwan tea crafts red jade
yezi tea zheng shan xiao zhong “scotch” tea
capital tea borsapori estate assam tgfop1 (spl)
butiki khongea golden tippy assam
butiki giddahapar darjeeling extra special
upton imports fikkal estate
golden moon sinharaja
harney and sons new vithanakande
persimmon tree vintage black
teajo teas black manas
justea kenyan black
harney and sons kangaita op

morning blends:
butiki the black lotus
harney and sons queen catherine
harney and sons eight at the fort
harney and sons big red sun
harney and sons scottish morn
golden moon irish breakfast
harney and sons irish breakfast
utopia tea english breakfast
fortnum and mason breakfast blend (needs milk!)
andrews and dunham double knit blend
steven smith no. 25 morning light
butiki irish cream cheesecake

earl greys and scented afternoon blends:
teajo teas silky earl grey
harney and sons viennese earl grey
upton imports lavender earl grey
american tea room victoria
lupicia earl grey grand classic
harney and sons tower of london
tao tea leaf cream earl grey
zen tea earl grey cream
della terra earl grey creme
upton imports season’s pick earl grey creme vanilla
upton imports baker street afternoon blend
harney and sons russian country
della terra professor grey
verdant earl of anxi

flavored black:
herbal infusions moose tracks
american tea room brioche
steap shoppe cinnamon swirl bread
della terra oatmeal raisin cookie
butiki nutmeg cream
kusmi caramel
david’s tea brazillionaire
lupicia banane chocolat
butiki hello sweetie
fauchon paris raspberry macaron
butiki blueberry purple tea
herbal infusions marshmallow snowflake earl grey
herbal infusions creme brulee chai

pu erh:
mandala loose and luscious lincang 2007 shu/ripe pu erh
mandala special dark 2006 shu/ripe pu erh

verdant shui jin gui wuyi oolong
verdant hand-picked early spring tieguanyin
butiki 2003 reserve four season oolong
harney and sons formosa oolong
tea merchant silk dragon
golden moon coconut pouchong
zen tea coconut oolong
american tea room coconut oolong
teavivre taiwan jin xuan milk oolong
butiki flowery pineapple oolong
butiki lychee oolong
lupicia momo oolong supergrade
butiki strawberry oolong
butiki pumpkin milkshake darjeeling oolong
52teas tiramisu oolong

verdant laoshan bilochun green
verdant autumn harvest laoshan green
tao tea leaf hou kui
harney and sons tencha
harney and sons gyokuro
new mexico casablanca
butiki with open eyes
american tea room nirvana
joy’s teaspoon mahalo
den’s tea pineapple sencha
harney and sons tokyo
butiki potato pancakes and applesauce
butiki holiday eggnog and pralines
den’s tea organic genmaicha with matcha
golden moon hojicha

butiki cantaloupe and cream
butiki champagne and rose cream

no caf:
harney and sons soba buckwheat
butiki birthday cake
della terra lemon chiffon
52teas strawberry pie honeybush
butiki mango lassi
joy’s teaspoon italian dream
butiki coconut cream pie rooibos
butiki peppermint patty
persimmon tree mint chocolate chip rooibos
art of tea velvet tea
fusion teas chocolate cake honeybush
american tea room choco-late
steven smith no. 40 bon bon
townshend’s tea dark forest chai
utopia tea decaffeinated earl grey cream

sleep aid/medicinal/therapeutic:
new mexico extra sleepy bear
stash white christmas
verdant ginger sage winter spa blend
samovar turmeric spice
butiki the killer’s vanilla guayusa

coldsteeped wonders:
whispering pines manistee moonrise
harney and sons fruits d’alsace
utopia tea berkshire apple and fig
culinary teas peaches and cream
butiki peach hoppiTea
butiki ruby pie
whispering pines gingerade

besides tea

born in seoul, raised in new england and upstate new york, went to college in pittsburgh, currently in memphis with an eye toward philadelphia, portland, or asheville eventually.

i like cats, most beverages really (i also like good freshly roasted coffee, craft beer, wine, whiskey and gin-based cocktails, and soda/soft drinks like agua fresca), art (mainly writing but also visual and music) and critical theory, feminism/genderqueer politics, historiography, statistics, children’s literature and librarianship, travel, and food/cooking. also have recently gotten into weightlifting (mark rippetoe and stumptuous!) and sprint training (HIIT, plyometrics) and i love it.


Memphis, TN



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