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Recent Tasting Notes
Chamomile takes center stage in Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves. An herbal remedy known for alleviating stress-induced aches and indigestion, this flower looks a lot like a daisy thanks to its golden, fuzzy head. Peppermint, the second most common ingredient in Compassion, is also believed to help with upset stomachs. Finely chopped sprigs of this plant are mixed in with the chamomile, along with dashes of pink and purple from the passion flower, rosehips, and lavender. (By the way, Compassion comes with a printed warning that pregnant women should be careful with this tea due to the passion flower.)
One whiff of Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves and – whoa! The fragrance punches its way out of the package with equal parts fresh, zesty peppermint and sweet, mellow chamomile. Maybe there’s a trace of fruit in there… but it’s hard to tell. Either way, the strength of this tea’s aroma shocked me. It’s invigorating enough to perk your eyes open. Which isn’t such a bad thing; it’s just not what I had expected.
For my first cup of Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves, I brew 1 teaspoon with boiling water for 5 minutes. Out comes a honey-colored infusion that oozes the refreshing qualities of its two main herbs. Imagine a river of chamomile with the bite of peppermint flowing over your tongue. That’s pretty much what Compassion is like. This tea also finishes with a medium astringency that catches me by surprise. Each sip leaves a little dryness on my tongue and causes my cheeks to pucker slightly, especially as the liquid goes down my throat. Most herbal teas don’t have this effect on the drinker, and in my opinion it somewhat defeats the purpose of Compassion.
Experimenting with longer brew times and more dry “leaves” (1½ teaspoons) doesn’t change the experience with Compassion. Each cup blooms with bright yet somewhat sharp contrast. For this reason, I’m not sure whether I’d call this a “relaxing” tea. The peppermint acts like a stimulant, overriding any calmness the chamomile would provide. So, instead of feeling relaxed, I feel awake – not in a caffeine- or spice-induced manner, but in a pleasantly natural way. This herbal is therefore a better choice for an afternoon pick-me-up instead of a nighttime wind-down. (EDIT: Maybe my sample had a larger amount of peppermint than usual…?)
My only other comment about Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves is that its clean-up can test a tea drinker’s patience. The wet ingredients clump together and create a thick, fuzzy carpet at the bottom of my infuser. (In case you’re wondering, I use Teavana’s Perfect Tea Maker for a western-method brewing.) I’m not sure whether the chamomile or the lavender causes this, but it takes a thorough wash and rinse to get everything out.
Flavors: Floral, Peppermint
I’ve been happily quaffing this tea since I picked it up at the Philly Coffee & Tea Fest several weeks ago. Actually, that’s not quite true. I’m slowly parceling it out because it is no longer on Bingley’s website and it is so delicious that I want to make it last. Fortunately, I can dole it out a tablespoon at a time in my gaiwan. After 30”, the color is pale straw, but this is deceptive because the flavor is robust, sweet, soft, and creamy. Another 30” gives a continuing rich brew with spinach undertones. It only starts to fade after a few more steeps. Wish I could get my mitts on more of this delightful stuff.
Flavors: Creamy, Spinach, Sweet
Aging has done beautiful things for this oolong. I picked this up at the Philly Coffee & Tea Fest a couple of weeks ago and I am so glad I did. This tea deserves a long, luxurious session with a gaiwan. I got eight good steeps out of it, but the leaves were still glossy and tight, so I suspect I could have had more if I’d increased the water temperature a bit. It started out almost marine (fish? seaweed?), then moved quickly into increasing sweetness with undertones of apricot but with a solid backbone. The oolong floweriness was definitely there, but clearly mellowed with time. This one has been around since 2005; it’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts. I’ll probably run out of it before it runs out of deliciousness.
Flavors: Apricot, Fishy, Seaweed, Sweet, Toasty
Philadelphia Coffee & Tea Festival #6
I knew I had to visit the Bingley’s booth as soon as I saw their name in the vendors list. I have heard such amazing things about their Jane Austen line, and I loved the one StevenBe tea I’ve had the pleasure of drinking – with the wonderful name of ‘Pop Your Cherry Blossom.’
And I am so glad I did! As drawn as I was to some of their blends, I knew I had to try this aged oolong. I love love LOVE oolongs, and I love roasted oolongs. But I have never tried aged. This was so different from other oolongs. It isn’t as smooth as what I’ve come to expect from oolongs, instead having a bit of a bite toward the end of the sip. It’s dark and slightly bitter and just lovely. I really wish I had made it back to the booth before I spent as much as I did.
I tasted this at the Philly Fest too and had to get some. Delicious! Looking forward to sampling it under better conditions than the festival. Also looking forward to aging it a couple more years to see how it changes (if I can keep my hands off it for that long).
Marianne’s Wild Abandon begins its flirtation well before brewing. A sweet, fruity perfume bursts from the packet each time I open it. The scent isn’t cloying, though. It’s just enough to capture my attention and beckon me to breathe it in again. Also, look how pretty this tea is when it’s dry! Yellow, blue, and red-orange flower petals with sprinklings of candied pineapple and papaya against the black and dark green leaves – you can’t help but fall in love with it at first sight, much like how Marianne did for Mr. Willoughby.
The packet for Marianne’s Wild Abandon didn’t come with brewing instructions, so I applied what I knew about brewing green and black tea blends. I steeped about 1 to 1 ¼ teaspoons in boiling water and adjusted the brew time for each cup to see which one appealed to me most. The liquid turns a beautiful amber color that darkens with longer brew times. The fruit aroma mellows out slightly to make way for the tannic black tea scent, but the magic that drew me to Marianne’s Wild Abandon is still very much alive.
Drinking Marianne’s Wild Abandon is no different than smelling it: It wakes up your senses! Pineapple and papaya embrace the grassy notes of green tea with a black-tea bite. No one flavor overpowers the other as they play on my tongue and then in the lingering finish. And with each sip, I feel as though I’m drinking “liquid sunshine.” The tea’s natural sweetness and bright body make it an ideal choice for a rainy day pick-me-up. (Oddly enough, Marianne had a bad habit of getting caught in the rain… )
Because of its range of flavors and variety of tea leaves, Marianne’s Wild Abandon is best enjoyed when steeped between 3 to 4½ minutes. Infusions on the lower end of the scale have a more vegetal backdrop thanks to the green tea, with just enough spark from the black tea. (The shorter brews were my favorite for this reason.) If you prefer your tannins, try the higher end. The black tea’s bitterness starts to kick in then, prevailing over the green tea while creating a pleasantly sharp contrast with the fruit flavors with little compromise. I don’t recommend brewing Marianne’s Wild Abandon for 5 minutes or longer, however; the tannins overpower the rest of tea from that point on.
Marianne’s Wild Abandon also makes a delicious iced tea! For that, I brewed 2 teaspoons in 8 ounces of boiling water for 3½ minutes, then flash-chilled in a small pitcher and refrigerated for a few hours. The cold water brightens the fruitiness while sharpening the black tea flavor. This would be an excellent refreshment for a hot summer afternoon.
Read my full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/10/07/tea-time-at-reverie-mariannes-wild-abandon-bingleys-teas/
Flavors: Fruity, Pineapple, Sweet, Tannic, Vegetal
I received this in a package along with some truly amazing yarn and spinning fiber from somebody on ravelry. I immediately laughed at the name of this tea, and then oohed over the ingredients list because it sounded delicious.
I steeped a cup of this to go with lunch and it is divine. Smooth, slightly sweet and tart and fruity but not overly so. The cherries definitely come out. It smells like it would be very tart (from the cherries, I guess) but it is just the right amount. There’s a full-feeling to the flavor from the roses, a not-quite perfumy taste. I imagine if I had added sugar it would be more fruity but I really like it as-is now.
However, the sadness. I cannot find anywhere to buy more of this amazing tea. StevenBe is a yarn store in Minneapolis and they have an online store where they sell two teas they’ve commissioned from Bingley’s – neither are Pop Your Cherry Blossom. Alas. (However, both those teas sound amazing and I may have to place an order with them.) I have a message out to the raveler but no response yet. I really hope this wasn’t a one-off and I can buy more of this.
I think it would divine iced, as well.
Flavors: Cherry, Rose, Tart
This tea was a gift from my mom, and I’ve been patiently waiting for a calm evening when I could settle down enough to sit back and give this my attention. I used 3g for 200ml at 70C; first steep was 2mins, second was 3mins.
First off, it’s beautiful to look at. Light grey-green silver needles with bright and dark green pai mu tan, with raspberry (I think) leaves and whole rosebuds sprinkled throughout. The steeped tea is also beautiful: sunshine yellow. Dry or wet, it’s very sweet, smelling of white grapes, berries and roses. You can also smell sweet grass in the wet leaf. Did I mention it’s sweet? Back to the liquid, all the scents from the wet leaf are there, just much softer and they really linger.
The second steep is more balanced between the pai mu tan and fruit/floral notes. (I’ve had pai mu tan before, but not silver needles, so that’s what I recognise.) It still feels powdery, maybe even a bit “sparkling”, and that’s nice. It’s also still sweet, but the grassiness of the actual tea seems to be stronger against the others in their staying power.
There aren’t any other tasting notes for this tea, so I don’t know how long it’s been around. Maybe after this there’ll be a flood of others, Jane Austen tragics or not, that will also get to feel like they’re having a delightful, respectable celebration in their teacup.
My “companion” review to this is on my blog: http://hardlysupermom.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/longbourn-wedding-tea-by-bingleys-teas/