Mariage FrèresEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
Just like the name says. Even Mariage Freres has only this to say:
“Traditional violet flavoured tea.”
What?! No “tender notes of violet beckon the first precious days of spring. A tea to be savoured while frolicking in a green meadow?” Come on, Mariage Freres. You’re slipping.
That said, the violet is strong over the typically good quality MF black tea base. I also get a note of what seems to be lavender. I suspect natural violet on its own is quite subtle, so it seems a bit of lavender might be used to enhance the floral profile.
MF recommends steeping for 5 minutes (!) but 3-4 seemed plenty to me. It’s good for 2-3 steeps while retaining the nice floral notes.
Flavors: Lavender, Violet
Because my friend’s partner has really gotten into scotch and whisky and is a lover of most things from Japan, I brought this one with me because I thought he would find the fact it’s stored in Japanese whisky barrels really interesting.
I was correct in that he did find that really intriguing, but I don’t think he particularly liked the tea. My friend certainly didn’t. That’s okay though; I think I enjoyed it enough to make up for them both. It’s pretty robustly smokey, though not quite as intense as many Lapsangs that I am a frequent consumer of. I find the smoke note itself very woody yet clean with a slight drying to the finish, and I definitely tasted the advertised notes of tonka/vanilla. I wonder how much of that is the tea itself and how much is from the whisky barrels its stored in? A really good whisky often has very fragrant notes of vanilla and this reminded me of that a lot.
Ah, Mariage Freres… I love you in spite of your overblown descriptions.
Full Moon Party is like Pleine Lune with some extra cinnamon and clove hints, for which you pay an extra 11 Euro. I tried the black tea version, which was almond + cinnamon + cloves. Yup. That’s it.
Certainly it’s a good quality, smooth tea (this rather safe combination is pretty much guaranteed to please most palates). I am noticing an inverse ratio between the uniqueness of the tea and the level of Mariage Freres poetic excess in the description.
“Once upon a time there was a tall, midnight-black canister with a Harlequin figure dancing below a full, silvery moon inhabited by a magical rabbit.
The Harlequin urges us to reinvent our calendar of revels – on every night that a full moon rises we can henceforth dance, sing and promise the stars to whomever we wish.
And the rabbit? He restores a childlike vision to us – the vision of Asian lands where a rabbit is companion to a goddess known for her elixir of long life, peace, and luck, as well as for her mooncakes.”
Translation: It’s Pleine Lune with a hint of cinnamon and cloves but comes in a fancy cani$ter. Apparently, it can prompt some strange affairs with harlequins and childlike magic rabbits. I’ll stick with the Pleine Lune, thanks. It’s half the price and does not involve any sleazy harlequins with questionable motives.
Flavors: Almond, Cinnamon, Clove
Aptly named, a quality black with lots of orange peel, cinnamon and nutty flavour for a zesty but smooth brew. It’s highly flavourful but not dominated by the cinnamon or orange. Definitely a cousin of Mariage Freres Mandalay, but the cinnamon in this amps it up.
Oddly enough, the usually over the top description is waayy toned down:
“A festive tea blended specially for the occasion.
Flavoured with mild Christmas spices, it includes pieces of cinnamon and almonds.”
What’s going on here, Mariage Freres? No mention of “distant lands shrouded in mist evoking the splendor of forgotten ages?” This is one of your better teas and it gets this totally blah description! Thumbs down, needs more mystique.
Anyway… the tea is great if you like cinnamon and orange with a dash of nut. Also makes a great base for hot toddy and hot rum drinks.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Nutty, Orange Zest
A classic Mariage Freres black with a great whack of almond. It’s not at all phony or artificial, but it is powerful. Notes of dried orange peel and the faintest hint of cinnamon balance it out, but this one is all about almond. A really nice accompaniment to a sweet dessert.
As usual, the description is pretty OTT:
“Inspired by that heavenly body and the realm of dreams, this poetic composition combines fragrances evoking the feast of the full moon: fruits, rare spices, and the sweet taste of almonds.”
Translation: This is a black tea with LOTS of almond.
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 25
Another catch-up note. The penultimate day was the blue version of this tea; I noted it would be lovely to try that spicy flavour profile on a black tea base and MF delivered. Memory is foggy now but I recall enjoying it a lot despite having difficulty describing it. It’s spicy, bready, and fruity but not remotely sweet; it’s like a christmas cookie-scented incense, which is apparently something I like. My mom shared a cup with me and thought it was magical, so vague tea.
2022 Advent Summary: MF really surprised me this year. I thought this was a far superior selection to 2021’s hyper focus on “Rhapsody” and “In Love” collections (both are meh imho) – even though it still leaned heavily into green and oolong teas. However, if I wanted to stock up on most of them I’d have to opt for expensive but pretty tins. I’m admittedly more than tempted when it comes to a few; there were some pretty neat teas but also pricey!
Flavors: Bread, Butter, Cinnamon, Citrus, Clove, Cookie, Ginger, Malt, Spices, Vanilla, Woody
Despite the alluring description, “Romantic nights are evoked, a thousand and one Orients – real and imagined – whose sensuality recalls this sensual green tea enlivened with citrus fruits and sweet spices,” all I get is a strong lavender note over a vegetal green tea. Pretty much the opposite of sensual.
If Mariage Freres’ tea was as good as their descriptions, I’d move to Paris and stalk their tea shop daily.
While this is admittedly a very nice quality lavender-infused green, I cannot detect any “citrus fruits and sweet spices,” and it’s more evocative of Great Aunt Gertrude’s sitting room than it is of exotic Indochine adventures. If you like lavender and green tea, this is a nice choice. If you’re looking for anything else, skip this.
ETA: Tried it again at a couple different temperatures and brew times. Nope. Lavender bubble bath in green tea water no matter what I do. For me, this one’s a tosser. Goodbye 11€.
I would be so disappointed to be missing the citrus, even though I enjoy lavender tea, that’s not what you signed up for!
A tasty black tea with warm orange spicy notes. Perfectly balanced, the notes neither overwhelm or get left behind in the blend. Quite similar to Mariage Freres Espirit De Noel. Mandalay is a little smoother and less zesty but the common DNA is obvious. The main difference is that Mandalay has a hint of rose underpinning it, whereas I don’t get that in Noel. Mandalay is a cozy tea for a chilly day without being explicitly “winter holiday.” I usually brew it twice, which makes it surprisingly affordable (or so I tell myself!)
Flavors: Cinnamon, Orange Zest, Rose
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 24
While not particularly sweet, this festively flavoured oolong still tastes a lot like gingerbread! The oolong is green but thick enough to play with the citrus and spices; it does naturally well with the vanilla. Still.. I wish this was on a black tea base! It’s just thick enough to handle the earth and wood-oriented spices – but the floral-veg-butter profile doesn’t lean into the “bread” enough for my liking. I want bread (and the black tea version).
Otherwise, if I ignore my bread fantasies, this is a pretty tasty Christmas Eve tea :)
Steep Count: 2
Flavors: Bread, Butter, Cinnamon, Citrus, Clove, Cookie, Earthy, Floral, Ginger, Mineral, Silky, Smooth, Spices, Vanilla, Vegetal, Woody
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 23
Initially smells and tastes a little like a Christmas potpourri: citrus fruits, vanilla, cinnamon, apple, and possibly a dash of cranberry and rosemary (there’s definitely something herbaceous in here). It’s busy, but it’s also nice to see a holiday-themed blend in this eclectic advent selection.The apple-like flavour is kind of a dry unsweet cider variety that’s actually my thing; the citrus is zest and rind rather than sweet. The blend is creamy, fruity, and spicy but only has the ghost of sweetness- which is a nice change of pace from all these sugarbomb fruit teas. The tea is growing on me a lot as the cup sits a bit! Cream and butter galore. Mmm…
Flavors: Allspice, Apple, Butter, Cinnamon, Citrus Zest, Cranberry, Creamy, Herbaceous, Malt, Spicy, Tart, Vanilla, Woody
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 22
I often struggle with cherry and plum teas – finding them overly sweet, candy-ish, or medicinal. However, a fruit blossom-inspired tea appears to be a good work around for me. The stone fruit flower notes are still on the sweet side but subtler and lighter.
The plum is a deep shade to the cherry’s brighter high note – working in tangent to provide extra scope and depth. The flower hues are a good match for the Japanese sencha base – rich in sweetgrass and umami notes (and more than a little marine air). The addition of chrysanthemum may or may not be influencing the blend; it’s been a while since I had the flower and I don’t know if MF is using it in a way that would impact the blend much, if at all – beyond aesthetics (which are completely lost in a tea satchet). There’s definitely a sweet, almost sunflower nectar-like, floral note though.
The tea makes me think of spring and new beginnings. It also pairs spectacularly with the salami & cheese spread I’m munching on. Like, it’s totally annihilating that special lingering salami aftertaste with its sweet flower power. What a gem.
Steep Count: 2
Flavors: Cherry Blossom, Cherry Wood, Floral, Fruit Tree Flowers, Honeysuckle, Marine, Nectar, Plum, Smooth, Stonefruit, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Umami
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 21
Yay! A smoky black tea! For me, this type of tea is the epitome of the fall and winter seasons – and my favourite cold-weather commuting tea.
This is one of the lightest lapsang offerings I’ve had in a long time; even my mom, who hates smoky teas with a passion, was able to enjoy this one. It would make an excellent beginner Lapsang Souchong (and for 11€ / 100g the price is right).
The tea contains the familiar lapsang notes of wood, sweet smoke, and black tea malt. What surprises me are the vivid flavours of woody cinnamon spice, gold honey, sweet potatoes, and a touch of cream. The spice level is such that I thought that the tea had been contaminated by the advent’s Chai – but the slots where nowhere near each other…
Whether the additional flavours are the result of a “happy accident” or the innate profile of a decent Chinese black tea, the result is delicious and I adore it.
Steep Count: 2
Flavors: Cinnamon, Creamy, Hay, Honey, Malt, Pepper, Smoke, Smooth, Spices, Spicy, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Vanilla, Woody
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 20
More bergamot? I’ve had so much of it this week. So. Much.
White tea base with roses, bergamot, something to dye it red (hibby?), and trademark “red berry” flavouring makes for a particularly perfume-like concoction. The result is tangy, tart, hay-ish, bitter-floral, and vaguely berry-sweet. I like the smell better than the taste.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the “rhapsody” series MF showcased last year, and this is no exception, but I do have a slight weakness for the French “red berry” thing.
Flavors: Bergamot, Citrusy, Floral, Fruity, Hay, Hibiscus, Perfume, Red Fruits, Rose, Strawberry, Tangy, Tart
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 19
Feels like I’m swimming in bergamot and other citrus flavours this advent season. I don’t hate it (in fact, I kind of love it) but I’m also low-key laughing to see even the chai throwing bergamot at me too. Et tu, Brute?
Besides that, I’m all for a chai on this snowy day. The cinnamon, clove, and peppercorn are most forward to me; next in prominence is the cardamom, and then the ginger. The bergamot makes a bright flash of a finish, with flairs of spicy zest, and is also very much there. It all makes for a surprisingly tasty and rounded chai, that doesn’t need a lot (or any) milk. Although, I expected nothing less after thoroughly enjoying most of MF’s past chai offerings.
Flavors: Bergamot, Bright, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Citrus, Clove, Floral, Ginger, Juicy, Malt, Peppercorn, Spices, Spicy, Woody
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 18
Despite being blue-dyed, the first steep had a profile of a delicious red oolong – notes of amber honey, flower nectar, and a hint of roasted sweet malt. The second steep tastes more like a milky green oolong – floral, buttery, silky, and rich. It’s quite lovely and I’m kind of curious about the discrepancy between steep one and two. I want to gongfu steep this one, despite the blue peaflowers, but not enough to pick up more. I have a lot of amazing oolong in my life.
Steep Count: 3
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Fruity, Honey, Malt, Milk, Nectar, Orchid, Silky, Sweet, Toast
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 17
The satchet smells potently like coniferous trees, and not much else. Once it’s steeped up it’s clear that the tree flavour is coming from tree syrup – specifically spruce; it’s rich, sweet, and… tree-ish. It’s hard to discern the actual tea underneath the force of nature known as “tree” but, being a lover of evergreen notes and tree resin, I’m all over this anyways. Probably because of that overlap flavour with citrus fruits.
Also, can’t argue that “spruce tea” isn’t on point for an advent calendar! I wish there were more blatantly frankincense, sandalwood, or conifer-infused teas like this one for the holidays
Steep Count: 3 – the second steep is silky, almost creamy, and perfectly balanced.
Flavors: Bamboo, Bright, Caramelized Sugar, Citrusy, Evergreen, Herbaceous, Incense, Lemon, Pancake Syrup, Resin, Smooth, Sweet, Woody
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 16
It looks like this lavender-heavy blend used to have a black tea base; it appears that MF has since subbed it for a green oolong with blue pea flowers. The first cup I had late last night was maybe too potent – lavender, citrus, and vanilla perfume is soothing but also a lot, especially when the tea broth is so blue…
The second steep this morning is more aligned with my preferences. The lavender is toned down but still dominant – whilst the vanilla and citrus (could be yuzu, grapefruit, bergamot, a mix, or neither) add brightness and and decadence to the cottage flower. The oolong base magnifies the milky, floral, and incense notes. There’s a fresh mouthfeel and a hint of something peppery; it’s a surprisingly round cup and I like it.
Steep Count: 4 good subsequent steeps!
Flavors: Berry, Butter, Citrus, Floral, Fruity, Lavender, Milky, Mineral, Perfume, Smooth, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 15
Oh, this is a lovely green oolong. Initially, I thought it was scented – it has delectable notes of vanilla, milk, woody incense, and subtle gold honey fused with butter to finish. Subsequent steeps are silky and sugarcane sweet.
I’d definitely consider picking up more… except it’s 68€/100g. Err… so the long list, then. I respect MF for including one of their pricier selections – and not colouring the tea with blerghy blue pea flowers!
Steep count: 4 (3min, 3min30, 2 × 4min..)
Wait. They sell this in 50g. That is slightly easier to swallow (still on the longlist).
Flavors: Butter, Cedar, Clover, Coconut, Floral, Honey, Incense, Milk, Mineral, Orchid, Sandalwood, Silky, Smooth, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Wildflowers
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 14
Nice, and the dry leaf in the sachet smells amazing, but probably my least favourite of the citrus teas today – if only because the green tea base is more veggie than I currently want. There’s something a little candy-like about the cup as well – not that this is a terrible thing.
Flavors: Bergamot, Candy, Citrus, Floral, Grassy, Vegetal
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 13
I’ve never tried the original black tea version but, after this, I want to. I’m pleasantly surprised how well the almond and mild spice levels take to a green tea base. The addition of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove provides a satisfying level of heat to the bright pastry-almond finish.
The green tea itself is not intrusive; I think I can pick out some sweet grass notes but the tea blends so seamlessly with fruity, nutty, spicy, floral and buttery ingredients. There’s so much going on here that it’s hard to discern what may be from the tea’s natural notes and what is due flavouring.
The ingredients also list rose, but I mostly pick up on a vague fruity-floral red note; when it combines with the almond and butter notes, the impression is not unlike marzipan, sweet yam, or even a red bean paste. It’s a fancy pastry tea that I want more of – In part because I want to see what green tea MF used. Looking at the price per tin though.. maybe I’ll check out Pleine Lune first!
Flavors: Almond, Butter, Cake, Cinnamon, Clove, Floral, Fruity, Marzipan, Nutmeg, Nutty, Pastries, Red Fruits, Rose, Smooth, Spices, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Vanilla, Yams
Mariage Frères Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 12
Two flavoured Darjeeling blends in one advent! And here I thought flavouring a Darjeeling was against whatever goes for tea propriety (I’m joking but I also can’t recall coming across any tea blender who dared to flavour one).
The deep grape hues are maybe a tricky pairing for peach; the combo leaves the impression of a mulled fruity red wine or a pruned purple plum, rather than peach itself. When the peach is ascendant, the combined sweet, floral, and sour notes of the Darjeeling creates a portrait of a hip Bellini or… Fuzzy Peaches (hurrah). Also, bittersweet children’s grape-flavoured cough syrup (boo.. at least it’s not an overt association). It’s a neat blend but, as a huge fan of violets and a lesser fan of peach-flavoured teas, I think “Aviateur” is the better scented/flavoured Darjeeling of the two.
I’m going to go for a second steep later because, like oolong, I think that’s where a lot of Darjeeling teas hit their stride. Edit second steep was softer, but my Mom actually loved the first steep – which changed beautifully as it cooled.
Flavors: Astringent, Candy, Floral, Fruity, Grapes, Muscatel, Nectar, Peach, Red Wine, Sour, Stonefruit, Sweet, Tangy, Vegetal