3 Tasting Notes
A fantastic tea.
The fragrance is mysterious and dark. Unmistakably Pu-Erh, but the bergamot envelops it in an enticing perfume, lending the aroma to be a very, very deep incense of mosswood and citrus. For fans of standard black Earl Greys, this is a must-try if one is looking for a deepening of one’s interest in the interplay between tea and bergamot.
The Pu-Erh fragrance is strong with the initial brewing, but the citrus undertones all but disappear in the water, initially making me fear that the bergamot had been lost (as is the case with many Earl Greys, which smell strongly of bergamot but have nearly no taste of it in the brew). The water turns into a deep, blackened red liquor, but remains perfectly clear.
One sip, however, allayed my fears. This is a true Earl Grey with no pretense. The bergamot does nothing but support the tea—never claiming credit for itself, and always using its scent to enhance its partner. And the Pu-Erh makes this Earl Grey the “wine” equivalent to a black-tea Earl Grey “grape juice”—oh, the complexity of flavor! A true partnership of smell and taste. A deep relationship between tea and scent.
Every sip gets better, less assertive, more artful. Every re-steep a different member of the same family.
Flavors: Anise, Bergamot, Dark Wood, Moss
A medium-bodied green tea that tastes very vegetal, leaning towards steeped laver or seaweed. The savory, grassy notes disappear as soon as they hit your tongue, but are unmistakably there.
For fans of Chinese greens, this is not a disappointing experience. It is homey, almost eerily familiar except for a stronger seaweed-ish pull on the palate. It’s comforting and warm. But it is by no means spectacular or even particularly special.
Brewed correctly, this tea may be served with no fear of embarrassment to guests seeking a plain green to sip on. Even by so-called tea aficionados, this will smooth on the palate and inoffensive.
But it is not particularly complex, and is rather one-dimensional in taste. Therefore it is best to reserve this tea for nights when a comforting green tea is drunk in abundance to pull one through an arduous task such as studying, rather than to drink it for sheer gustatory pleasure.
Flavors: Grass, Seaweed, Umami, Vegetal, Wood
A powerful fragrance fills the air the moment you open the tin, and it gets even more potent once the hot water comes into contact with the leaves. Makes for a very strong first brew—my second steep tasted significantly better once the fragrance learned to “behave” properly and reassess its relationship with the green tea base, which is quite good.
Do not do any more than three re-steeps (I did four at first, experimentally). The scent turns naughty after being re-steeped that many times and becomes reminiscent of fragrant Crayola markers drawing all over wet clay.
I would recommend that you “rinse” the leaves in brewing-temp water for maybe 5-10 seconds to tame the fragrance before brewing. It will mellow out your first cup and allow the scent to dance artfully on your palate instead of trampling all over it.
Overall a very, very good scented tea. Enjoyable—will definitely wow guests as the blend is truly out of this world in terms of uniqueness. Though without rinsing the leaves it might be, for some guests, like a trip down a department store fragrance section located smack dab in the middle of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
If Mariage Freres found a way to tame the fragrance during processing and blending, and bring out the green tea base as more than just a supporting actor in this production, I will consider breaching the 90 mark.
Supplementary first-impression review here:
Flavors: Fruit Tree Flowers, Green Wood, Pineapple, Raspberry