Leaf Type: Roiboos
Where to Buy: Mariage Freres
A wonderful secret tea will bring you to mysterious and distant lands. Flowers and fruits coming from China and Tibet give this rooibos a unique velvety taste.
Learn more about this tea here.
This was the first Mariage Freres tea I tried, and it’s still among my favourites today. It’s one of their most well-known and iconic blends, and it’s one I was initially most curious to try, having heard various opinions. I used 1 tsp of leaf for this cup, and gave it approximately 3 minutes in boiling water. No additions. The resulting liquor is a medium red, with little scent except a vauge sweetness. The dry leaf is similarly innocuous in this way, with its scent giving little away. I think that’s why I find it such an intriguing tea in many ways – its secrets are well hidden, and a true impression of this tea comes only through having tried it.
The initial sip is sweet, with the flavour of creamy strawberry. It reminds me initially of strawberry yougurt, only without the texture. The initial intensity soon fades, however, and leaves the woody, almost medicinal tang of rooibos behind. It’s a little jarring after the initial sweetness, but past experience tells me that a dash of milk can help to smooth this transition. I have none with me at the moment, though, so I’m proceeding without! Successive sips add to the creaminess, which seems to build and linger a little longer each time. The strawberry is prominent, if a little artificial, but the rooibos base pulls it back from being cloying. It’s not the gentlest of partnerships, but it does work in this respect. The aftertaste is mildly floral, although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how. If pushed I’d say jasmine, but it doesn’t play a huge role in the overall flavour. Those who are wary of jasmine (myself included) needn’t fear! As the cup cools, the rooibos becomes a little scratchy and drying at the back of the throat.
Mariage Freres descriptions can be maddeningly vague, and this one is no exception. It’s a tea worth trying, though, for the strawberries-and-cream deliciousness if nothing else. It does seem a little heavy-handed in some respects, which is rare for Maraige Freres in my experience. A case in point here is the rooibos base, which can dominate the flavour after the initial sip, and which can become a little scratchy and drying on the palate. It tempers the sweet, syrupy strawberry, though, and for that reason I can’t really complain about it. For me, this is a tea that works best with a reasonably long brew time (4 minutes or more), and a dash of full-fat milk. It’s palatable without, but this is how it really shines in my estimation. It’s a good introduction to the world of Mariage Freres, and definitely worth discovering alongside its black counterpart – Marco Polo.
I still have a deep rooted (and probably life-long) preference for black tea. My all-time favourite is Assam, but Ceylon and Darjeeling also occupy a place in my heart. Flavoured black tea can be a beautiful thing, and I like a good chai latte in the winter.
I also drink a lot of rooibos/honeybush tea, particularly on an evening. Sometimes they're the best dessert replacements, too. White teas are a staple in summer -- their lightness and delicate nature is something I can always appreciate on a hot day.
I'm still warming up to green teas and oolongs. I don't think they'll ever be my favourites, with a few rare exceptions, but I don't hate them anymore. My experience of these teas is still very much a work-in-progress. I'm also beginning to explore pu'erh, both ripened and raw. That's my latest challenge!
I'm still searching for the perfect fruit tea. One without hibiscus. That actually tastes of fruit.
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