251 Tasting Notes


A new Middle Eastern grocery store just opened a few miles from my house. I’m always anxious to check out new restaurants and food stores as they pop up in my booming neck of the woods in South Carolina. While I was perusing the exotic meats and sweets, my wife was excited for me when she saw a rack of teas from abroad.

When I noticed this El Arosa tea on the rack, two things immediately intrigued me:

1. amazingly low price
2. packaging in a vacuum-packed brick, like coffee

I had almost nothing to lose so I brought it home for a trial spin. I made a crucial mistake when I opened the package. I assumed that the brick of tea was solid. It was not. Thirty percent of the contents poured down my sink when I opened the package at a precarious angle. You know what they say about “assume”…

After steadying the remaining contents of the package, I stuck my nose inside to get a whiff. The extremely finely ground tea (hence, the name, Egyptian “Dust” Black Tea) had very little aroma in its unbrewed state.

I brewed the powder-like dark brown tea leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product was also dark brown like coffee. I’m wondering if the six teaspoons of tea I used to brew five cups were overkill. I’ll play with that next time.

The brewed liquid had a little more smell than its dry counterpart. The aroma was definitely black tea but I couldn’t discern its origin.

The flavor was smooth and pleasant, but mild. It had malty characteristics. If I were forced to name the variety of black tea used by taste alone, I would guess Assam.

Personally I prefer more robust flavors, but this taste was engaging enough for me to drink the whole pot and look forward to more. It is allergy season in my region so that might also explain my perceived lack of flavor clout. The aftertaste was also mild without excess astringency.

This tea is a good bargain. I would definitely recommend it for its smoothness and its mild but cordial flavor. And, did I mention price? :-)

Flavors: Malt, Tea

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 6 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

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drank Osmanthus Black Tea by Teavivre
251 tasting notes

I rotated the stock in my tea cabinet a few months ago as I’ve been trying to finish up my older teas before they mummify. Surprisingly, some of my teas that are at least 10 years old still have great flavor.

While completing this tedious task, I found a sample packet of Teavivre Osmanthus Black Tea squooshed in a corner of the shelf. Surprised and excited by my discovery, I immediately ran to my tea maker to brew it .

I opened the five-gram silver sample package and plunged my nose inside. The aroma was sweet like honey with chocolate accents. The leaves were black and long with yellow Osmanthus flowers sprinkled throughout.

I followed the instructions on the packet and steeped the contents for five minutes at 195 degrees. The finished blend had a bright orange color. The aroma was sweet with a faint flowery characteristic in the background.

The flavor of this tea was sweet and mild. I had to really focus my taste buds to identify specific aspects such as chocolate, honey, or Osmanthus. I believe this is the result of the flavor aspects being so well-blended that an essence all its own was created.

As with all Teavivre black teas, this blend was smooth as silk and went down very fast and easy. It was so good that I had to force myself to savor it instead of gulping it down.

The sweet aftertaste lingered gently on my palate for several minutes. At no time did I encounter excess astringency.

This is a very nice tea from the folks at Teavivre. It is mild enough to be enjoyed with meals and robust enough to stand on its own.

Flavors: Osmanthus, Tea

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

Hi, Stoo! Was thinking about you a couple of days when the big storm came. How were things your way? We ended up having a mild day with lots of very late rain.


Hi ashmanra! How are ya? Thanks for thinking of me! We were fortunate here. The storm skirted around us. We had a little rain and wind but nothing major. I’m glad you made it through the storm too!

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For the past nine years, I’ve become a huge fan and very accustomed to Teavivre’s fine Chinese black teas. When I was out on the Teavivre website a few weeks ago, something new and unusual caught my eye. Teavivre was offering an English Earl Grey black tea made with Sri Lanka tea. Since I love Earl Grey, and trust Teavivre to do something unique and special with this blend, I went ahead and ordered it.

The unbrewed long brown leaves had a fruity and slightly flowery aroma. I steeped them for five minutes at 195 degrees.

The brewed color was a bright amber. The aroma was pleasantly fruity and a tad flowery.

From the very first sip, the tea tasted fresh and fruity with the advertised chrysanthemum accent giving the flavor a slightly sweet attribute. No astringency existed and the experience was a pleasure from start to finish of my cup. A very light and fruity aftertaste appeared when I finished. This also was quite amiable.

As I expected, this tea was quite unique from the many other Earl Grey blends I have tried over the years. The bergamot citrus flavor was present, but with a new tasty dimension resulting from the chrysanthemum notes. Although different, I enjoyed it immensely. As the old commercial goes, “This is NOT your father’s Earl Grey!”

I encourage any English Earl Grey lover to give this unusual blend a try. It opens up new horizons for this type of tea.

Flavors: Flowers, Fruity

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

Stoo, how I wish they would make an Earl Grey from their Keemun!


I was thinking the same thing, ashmanra!

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drank Amba Thieves by Harney & Sons
251 tasting notes

Hello, fellow Steepsters! It’s great to be back! I posted my last review 10 months ago. I don’t need to tell you what a crazy year this has been. I hope you all are staying safe and healthy. One of the personal consequences of the pandemic was it pushed me into full retirement when my employer laid off/furloughed 90 percent of the staff in March. I was already semi-retired so I’m enjoying the extra free time and not complaining. Now, onto the reason I am here…

I read about this tea on the Harney & Sons website. I was somewhat fascinated by its history. To quote the Harney folks:

“Amba Thieves Tea is handmade brisk black tea with a storied past. Years ago, all tea had to go to the owners. However some ladies plucked the tea and then made a crude and strong black tea in their hut. They were ‘Thieves.’”

The tea was highly rated on the website and sold at a reasonable price. For these reasons, I was moved to order a one pound bag of the blend.

When I opened up the bag, the aroma was full and rich and obviously a blend of several players. The short brown and black tea leaves were without uniformity and really did resemble leaves “plucked” from an agglomeration of black teas.

I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees. The finished product had a color like dark molasses. The smoking smell was quite pronounced and pleasant, but indiscernible as a specific ceylon black tea.

The flavor of this blend is fabulous, with both sweet and fruity attributes. It is robust and full-bodied. It has everything that I hope for in a black tea. Astringency is little to none. The aftertaste is amiable without lingering bitterness.

This is an excellent tea that I intend to add to my morning black tea rotation. It matters nothing to me that I can’t be blindfolded and identify the origin and composition of this terrific concoction.

Flavors: Fruity, Sweet

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

Welcome back, Stoo!


Thanks, ashmanra! I hope all is well with you.


Welcome back!


Welcome back. Always enjoyed your reviews, hope to see more of your tasting notes!


Thanks, mrmopar and LuckyMe! It’s great to be tasting and noting again!

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drank Earl Grey by RachelMade
251 tasting notes

My wife and I were in Savannah, Georgia, after the Christmas holiday. It’s a beautiful and historic city covering the Savannah River from immediate view. We love walking River Street with its cobblestones, shops, and restaurants, charmingly set facing the river.

Among the ever-changing gems we encountered on the street this time was a kiosk operated by Rachel Nicole, the nice and knowledgeable creator, owner, and purveyor of RachelMade skincare and tea products. Although I purchased her Revitalizing Rosemary Peppermint Dead Sea Salt Soak (after her free sample application DID resuscitate my life-long dry skin), I was primarily interested in her teas.

Rachel very kindly gave me a few free sample packets of her tea to bring home and take for a spin. Rachel currently offers about seven different DRINKING teas. I make the distinction because she also offers several teas for your BATH.

This morning I decided to start with her sample of Earl Grey. I chose this one because I have sampled many teas of this variety and now have a pretty good handle on what I like and don’t like.

I opened the sample package and was greeted with a potent but amiable bergamot aroma. The tea leaves were dark and short.

Following Rachel’s brewing instructions on the packet, I steeped the leaves for five minutes at 212 degrees, my usual brewing temperature for black teas.

The finished liquor had a pleasant bergamot odor with flowery undertones. The color was a deep reddish gold, a shade lighter than molasses.

Rachel does not specify the origin of her black teas on the website, but the flavor seemed to contain the familiar maltiness of Assam. The taste was pleasingly bold, malty, a tad flowery, and lavishly peppered with bergamot. The aftertaste was quite gentle. No astringency whatsoever materialized during the sips or afterwards.

All in all, this is a very nice black tea. I have no complaints about its flavors or drinkability. Although I utilized it to complement my breakfast, it would be a fine afternoon tea too.

Flavors: Bergamot, Flowers, Malt, Tea

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

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I thought I had already reviewed all of Teavivre’s Keemun black tea offerings but somehow I missed this one. I’ve purchased their Grade 1 and Grade 2 Keemun teas in the past and enjoyed them both. I was surprised and happy to find this free sample packet from Teavivre when I opened my tea cabinet this morning.

When I opened the small silver foil container, an earthy and fruity aroma emanated from it. I followed the brewing instructions on the packet and steeped the short black leaves for five minutes at 185 degrees.

The finished brew had a dark gold color similar to motor oil. The odor was faintly sweet and fruity.

The taste of the tea was sweet with honey overtones. There also existed slightly floral and undefined fruity flavor characteristics. All of this merged perfectly together to form a sweet and mildly fruity taste experience with no astringency. The aftertaste continued this theme with gentle sweet and fruity attributes briefly floating on my palate.

The disposition of this tea is incredibly smooth. It is one of those fairly rare teas that I have to restrain myself from gulping down quickly. This is truly a tea that should be savored and enjoyed.

I don’t believe I have ever been disappointed with a Teavivre black tea. But, if I were forced to rank them in order of taste and smoothness, this one would be listed in at least my top three.

Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Honey

185 °F / 85 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I retired three days ago after working for over 50 years. I am optimisitic and hopeful about the rest of my life. I can’t think of a better way to contemplate the future than while sipping a new black tea sample, compliments of Teavivre.

When I opened the two-cup silver sample package and sniffed the rich earthy aroma of the unbrewed golden-tipped leaves, I knew I was in for a treat.

I followed the instructions on the package and brewed the leaves for five minutes at 185 degrees. The resulting liquor was a bright amber color. The odor was sweet with honey-like undertones.

The flavor of this tea was quietly sweet, with well-blended fruity, bread, and sweet potato attributues. The entire experience was remarkably smooth as silk with no astringency in its orbit. This was one of those teas that was so velvety serene that I had to restrain myself from gulping it down. There was zero astringency and the aftertaste was mild and welcoming.

This is an exceptional black tea that would be a pleasing addition to breakfast or afternoon desserts. It is very easy to see why it is an “award winning” selection.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Fruity, Honey, Sweet Potatoes

185 °F / 85 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

Congratulations on retirement! I hope you have an absolute blast! You deserve it after fifty years in the work force for sure.

This is one of my favorite teas from Teavivre. I try to keep it always on shelf. It is a great intro to good tea for guests who are used to cheap bagged tea,


Thanks, Ashmanra! It’s been great so far! Just having three days without an alarm clock ringing in my ears has been wonderful! This is a great tea from Teavivre. It’s a little pricey but probably worth it. Thanks for your comments!


Congrats! I hope to do that in a few years as well.


Thanks, mrmopar! I hope you do it too!

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Thank you, Teavivre, for the sample of this tea! I’m finally ready to try it! Black teas are my favorite, particularly in the morning when I need to shake the cobwebs off of my brain.

I opened the silver rectangular sample package and was greeted with brown and golden brown leaves. The aroma was malty and like bread.

I steeped the leaves for three minutes at approximately 185 degrees as recommended on the package. The brewed color was a bright amber. The aroma was faintly sweet and malty.

The taste of this tea was mild and smooth. There also was a sweetness to malty and bread flavor attributes. The aftertaste was gentle and lingered for a few minutes.

Although I prefer to be jolted with bolder flavors in the morning to defibrillate my brain, I found this selection tasty enough to help me face the workday ahead. I liked it!

Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt, Sweet

185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
El Monstro

A good one for sure

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Because of my restricted tea budget these days, I’m always on the prowl for sales. This month (August 2019) happens to be Teavivre’s 8th anniversary. Coincidentally, it is also my 8th anniversary for entering the scrumptious universe of loose leaf tea. When I saw ads for Teavivre’s anniversary sale, I considered it my destiny to make a purchase at this time.

I had never tried Golden Snail tea before. When I opened up the silver package, the leaves were dark brown and firmly curled with a multitude of golden points. The aroma was moderately rich and earthy.

I steeped the leaves according to Teavivre’s recommendations, eight minutes at 195 degrees. Actually, Teavivre recommends 194 degrees, but who’s counting? The brewed liquor had a deep amber color. The aroma had characteristics of a honey-like sweetness.

The taste of this tea was silky smooth with absolute zero astringency. It was full-flavored, yet mellow. An underlying sweet honey attribute was easily recognized but not disagreeable in any way. There also was an identifiable and quite pleasant Yunnan taste, which is one of my personal favorite tea flavors. The aftertaste was delicate and affable. It sweetly and quickly rolled off my palate.

This is a delicous and sweetly mild Yunnan black tea that I enjoyed at breakfast but could also be well-placed at brunch, lunch, and early supper. I would love to experience it with several Scottish tea biscuits (that I’m not supposed to have).

Flavors: Honey, Tea

195 °F / 90 °C 8 min or more 8 tsp 40 OZ / 1182 ML

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While we were out and about this weekend, we noticed that a new Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Cafe was about to launch in our booming neck of the South Carolina Upstate. We saw through the big glass storefront window that there was life inside. Boldly opening the unlocked door, we walked in. We were immediately greeted inside the new bright, shiny, and spacious store by Ryan, the very cordial owner of the cafe. We knew immediately that this was a place where we wanted to spend some time drinking…or sipping.

Since they weren’t completely open yet and mainly breaking in new employees at the drive-in window that day, we were invited to attend their friends and family opening on the next day. It was great! Besides teas and coffees, we also sampled some delicious pastries and brownies.

I wasn’t familiar with Sweetwaters products so I opted for the Imperial Black, which was labeled their “house” tea. This was a loose leaf selection, freshly scooped inside a wide silky-textured bag for steeping, while partially hanging over the side of the paper cup.

The tea arrived very hot with a brewed aroma similar to Assam. The flavor was initially slightly astringent, again more characteristic of Assam versus the advertised Chinese tea. However, what separated this selection from Assam, was the smooth sweet flavor attribute that grew with each sip. This was a very pleasant taste with sweetness that was not cloying but steady and gentle. At the end of my large cup, I was left with a sweet, mild, and brief aftertaste that was amiable and unassuming.

I will definitely return to the Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Cafe soon to try more Sweetwaters teas. For now, I recommend giving their Imperial Black tea a spin. I believe any tea establishment would be proud to label it their “house” tea.

Flavors: Sweet, Tea

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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)!


South Carolina, USA

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