Marco Polo Rouge by Mariage Freres

MarcoPoloTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Roiboos

Where to Buy:  Mariage Freres

Tea Description:

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. 

Taster’s Review:

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.

Yuzu Temple Green Tea by Mariage Freres

YuzuTempleTea Information:

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Buy:  Mariage Freres

Tea Description:

This surprising blend, with its evocative name, is based on a fine green tea.  It boasts the pleasantly round acidity of citrus fruit, the aromatic richness and peppery notes of mild spices, plus the rind of real Japanese Yuzu (halfway between lemon and mandarin orange).  Resolutely exotic.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is one of the Mariage Freres teas that I always seem to overlook when I’m choosing a green tea to drink. There’s no reason for it; it just seems to happen. From time to time, I’ll make an effort to pull out those languishing teas and give them another try. I’m usually surprised by what I discover!

I used 1 tsp of leaf for this cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in water cooled to around 180 degrees. The dry leaf is very dark green and folded in appearance – it looks to me like a dragonwell, but there’s no specific indication on the packaging. Some leaves are quite small and fine (almost shredded in appearance), so I suspect it may be a blend of some kind. The scent is mildly grassy and a little bitter. Once brewed, the resulting liquor is a medium yellow, the scent mildly floral.

To taste, this one belies its appearance. I had it pegged as heavy-tasting and possibly bitter, but it’s not like that at all. It’s actually a light, refreshing, spring-like green tea, with initial notes of grass and hay, and a light orchid-like floral in the mid-sip. There’s also a slightly bitter fruitiness that reminds me of orange pith, or perhaps the physalis that sometimes accompany desserts. It’s a pleasant counterpoint to the sweet, mild green base.

The flavours are a little fleeting, and don’t really linger long in the aftertaste, so it’s an excellent palate cleanser. I can see this tea really coming into its own during the warm days of spring and summer ahead. It’s refreshing, sweet and flavourful without being cloying, and wonderfully light on the palate. Although today’s cup is hot, I’m sure I’ll be drinking a lot more of this iced or cold brewed in the coming weeks. Definitely not to be neglected.

Le Grand Bleu Black Tea from Christine Dattner Paris

LeGrandBleuTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Christine Dattner Paris

Tea Description:

An ocean of Flavors. black Tea of china flavored with blackberry blueberry blackcurrant and strewed with blackberries blue dolphins sugar and flowers of cornflowers.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Le Grand Bleu, or the Grand Blue from Christine Dattner Paris is a French tea available one more than one place online. I actually got this tea from a company that sells Christine Dattner’s teas, Flaavor . They sell a few different French company’s teas repackaged under their name. They have a great selection of small scale French tea companies. But if you are looking for a specific tea, I would suggest looking for the direct website.

This tea looks And smells live blueberry heaven. I the main attraction, Dolphin Sprinkles. I mean that really could be the whole article. But! Cutesy sprinkles in tea does not make for a standout tea. Luckily, the tea lives up to it’s sprinkles.

There are other flotsam and jetsam in the loose leaf, and to me, they all look good. Blueberries, blackberries, and little corn flowers for the hell of it. The scent of blueberries is strong and rich. I brewed this tea up western style, 5g of leaf to 16oz. The aroma itself was pretty amazing. The fresh blueberry complimented the raisin and malt notes of the black base tea like cheese on potatoes. The black tea is robust and in your face, but still comforting, like hot chocolate in front of a campfire. The little blue dolphins in this tea dissolve slowly, dissipating into the deep dark brown sea of tea.

I tend to shy away from berry and other fruit flavors in black tea, the combinations are either boring to too contrasting to the nuances of the base black tea. But this tea proved me wrong. I liked the combination so much that it may have changed the way I look at fruity blacks forever. And the dolphin sprinkles certainly don’t hurt.

Cola déthéiné Black from Dammann Freres

the-detheine-colaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Decaffeinated Black

Where to Buy: Dammann Freres

Tea Description:

Coming from the ‘Little Cristal’ collection, Cola is a decaffeinated black tea with a cola flavor that children have so dear.

At tea time, a flavored tea to enjoy the “Five O’clock” like grown people.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Prior to trying this blend, I’ve had exactly three cola flavoured teas: Cola Matcha from Red Leaf Tea, Cherry Cola & Cake from Della Terra Teas, and DAVIDsTEA’s Cherry Cola black tea. I remember that so specifically because all of them were super memorable experiences, and not for a good reason. In fact, DT’s Cherry Cola blend may actually be the worst black tea I’ve ever had. Cola just seems to be something that doesn’t apply well to tea, so I’m going into this tasting with extreme reservation and fairly low expectations.

I probably wouldn’t have purchased this one at all if it weren’t for the fact I got some in a group order, and therefore got to pick up a small size of it. It also helps it’s from Dammann Freres – I’ve yet to really find a “flop” from them, though there have been a few blends that just didn’t click because of personal taste. I have faith that if any company can pull off a cola tea they’re likely to be the ones to do it.

I’m cold brewing this – I just personally think that cola flavor kind of only works cold. I’ve had hot coke before (it was a dare) and it didn’t go over well. I have to say, the dry leaf of this smells pretty wonderful. It definitely conveys the smell of coke without any of the chemical/artificial qualities that I’ve experienced with every other coke tea. I don’t know how they do it! There’s even a whiff of vanilla to the smell as well!

I’ll come right out and say it; this is easily the best cola tea I’ve had. Simply put, it tastes like those shimmery silver cola ball candies that are basically pure sugar – though not as cloying as you’d imagine. There’s a really nice freshness to the tea and more natural notes as well like very mild citrus and possibly also pear. It’s ‘fancy’ cola ball candy! Definitely no sweetened needed with this one though; it’s just barely treading the line between natural sweet and ‘cavity’ sweet. I like that the base is also pretty strong, but not overly brisk. The fact it’s decaffeinated is a huge plus – as a generalization black tea is my favourite type and being limited with how much I can drink at night without the jitters is definitely a concern of mine; this will fit seamlessly into my evening routine.

I can totally see why this is marketed towards children as well; it’s something familiar flavor-wise, definitely sweet enough on its own, obviously healthier than actually giving a child a bottle of Coke, and what parent is going to complain about the lack of caffeine!?

My opinion on cola teas has been completely changed; and I’m already imagining interesting ways to try this one: tea soda, as a latte (because ‘floats’), and possibly even hot…

Caramel au beurre Oolong Tea from Dammann Freres

oolong-caramel-au-beurreTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: Dammann Freres

Tea Description:

Natural velvety notes of an oolong tea here combined with those sweet and savory of a caramel aroma. A subtle balance between vegetal notes and the greedy notes of toffee that many will taste with treat in a delicious and gourmet cup.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Caramel au beurre sale from Dammann Freres is quite a fragrant tea. It smells like a caramel lovers heaven. I count myself as a fanatic of the caramelized sugar crowd, so consider me on cloud nine. The tightly rolled dark green nuggets of oolong goodness looked almost like a dark roast in the package, which got me worried. I am not a huge fan of dark roasted oolongs. But brewing this up in my gaiwan, the hot water turned these nuggets of pure magic into bright green leaves, almost exploding out of the cup.

This tea is, in short, like drinking liquid gold. I am, of course, assuming that gold tastes like the best, creamiest, richest, homemade caramel you have ever tasted. The tea soup is thick and smooth. The oolong base is well-paired with the flavors of the rich caramel. The smooth floral notes of rose and lilac sing out with the sweetness of the caramel. And don’t even get me started about the aroma. It’s so good it would knock the whole town of Werther, Germany off it’s feet. (In case you did not know, Werther is the name of the town in Germany where the Werther’s caramel hard candies were named after.)

The French do a great job with flavored teas. They are gaining quite a following throughout the world. Even countries that have been producing their own classical teas have been exploding with growth in these areas. These tea boutiques provide the aesthetic that looks like wealth. Drinking French tea in an English style teapot is a fashion accessory the same way a Burberry coat and a Coach handbag displays wealth. While I do not own either, I am happy to sip my fancy French tea from my chipped gaiwan. Whenever I feel the need to be fancy, I will put on my pop-bead pearls and sips this tea daintily!