This tea is the reason why I went over budget. This is why I am going to be much more careful with my tea selection. And this tea is important to me. I was just starting to get into Tie Guan Yin’s and oolongs became my new obsession. I wondered if there were any that were Lord of the Rings themed, and low and behold, I find an entire community devoted to all things tea, and the very first review in my sight was Rivendell. This is the tea that introduced me to Steepster, and the oolong that I was determined to try. Like many have said before, it’s named Rivendell, and it has to deliver the promise of a cup from Middle Earth. I waited over a year. I missed some times it was back in stock. Now, I have it.
Does it deliver on the hype? Not quite, but almost. I’m sorry, but it just didn’t. The Tie Guan Yin from Mandala tasted very similar to this, and it is significantly cheaper-cheaper by seven dollars per ounce. It has the same notes, nuances, and aroma in the first steep. I may have gotten lucky with the Mandala sample, being a spring harvest one, and being from a good year. I understand that the majority of the cost is because of the quality of Tie Guan Yin, which can be one of the most expensive teas in the world, and the quality of the Tahitian vanilla bean and cedar leaves. On top of those huge expenses, this product is in very little supply, and there is a tremendous demand for it as clearly apparent on this very site and the frequent times that it is out of stock. Yet the woodsy cedar and vanilla notes are ones that can be found in a high quality Tie Guan Yin-the later steeps are the more complex ones that allow this tea to be different from others. Nevertheless, the price remains as my main point of criticism.
Otherwise, it certainly is a drink that Lord Elrond would offer. It is very Elvish, smelling and tasting like described. The Vanilla and Cedar are the dominant scents and flavors in the tea, with the Tie Guan Yin’s natural orchid, creamy sweetness blending both scent and flavor together. Brenden’s description if pretty accurate. Again, Cedar and Vanilla are immediate. Lilac, or orchid, takes the previous two together and grinds them both with minerals. Caramel is more in the smell. Cherry and chocolate are approximately there, but you really have to search for them. The last three or two steeps really brings out the cherry, and the final one is like pine nut and mint, or menthol. It is a very light tea, and like any Tie Guan Yin, the taste is delicate but distinct. The most impressive aspect of this tea is that it is able to yield the same floral relish of a Gongfu in five western style brewed cups, which partially staves off the price in reusability. I actually let the later steeps soak in for 20-45 seconds more than recommended and got more flavor though this is western.
I thoroughly enjoy this tea. If it weren’t for the incredible price, this tea would have probably been one of the best I’ve had, and one of my favorites. I am very glad that I have it and pretty satisfied that I do, because the quest to have it finally ended in full circle, and it’s a good cup. This is the tea I would have given a 100 to, and this is my tea 100, the hundredth cup I’ve reviewed, the first cup that I saw on this site.
Now, for the audience that this tea aims for. You have to be a fan of Tolkien to fully enjoy this tea, or a huge fan of Tie Guan Yin oolongs and lighter teas. This is the must try tea for you guys, and probably no one else. Because the taste is so delicate, and so specific to Rivendell, a person who prefers stronger teas, someone who has no idea who Tolkien is, or someone who is newer to the over active imagination that is tea tasting would be severely underwhelmed. And if you are in a rush, you cannot possibly savor this tea. You’ll be reminded of the stark reality that you are just drinking a flowery glass of water. You have to slow yourself down, and travel to Middle Earth. You must let go, and allow yourself to escape.
Flavors: Caramel, Cedar, Cherry, Chocolate, Creamy, Floral, Mint, Orchid, Rainforest, Vanilla, Vegetal