|"One of the better vanilla-flavored teas out there. Ultra-smooth, and bold, lasting flavor well into the second infusion."|
I cannot comment on any other blends but this one, but I suspect the following sentiment rings true with them all. The tea contained within the bag is, as with 99.99% of all bagged tea, found to be in broken shards of leaves. Why can't somebody put whole-leaf loose tea into bags? Ever? When you are paying for a "quality" tea, shouldn't you be able to get the effect of a beautiful full leaf? I'm sure it's partially due to many reasons. So, as with all bagged tea that I encounter, I cut open the bag and poured it into my ingenuiTEA. The volume of tea appears to be generous - perhaps 1.5 times a typical loose-leaf volume that I would typically use. The leaves aren't subject to any relevant inspection due to their fragmentedness, but they appear a typical black tea. Interspersed with the leaves are small nuggets of coconut - an apparently generous amount. The invisible ingredient here is, of course, "flavoring". Tea Forte makes no mention of what kind of flavoring, but given the fact that the word "natural" was not used in conjunction, it may or may not be "natural". A separate description indicates that Madagascar Vanilla may be such flavoring, but perhaps other flavors are also present.
The scent of the dried blend is pretty intoxicating - a definite pleasantness in the strong vanilla aroma. Typically, that scent carries through to the cup in a muted fashion, but here it is potentially stronger, maybe even *sweeter* once it has been brewed, which I find intriguing. I began with a 3 minute steep, with water just below boiling. The results, from start to finish, were downright fantastic. So much can go wrong with vanilla-flavored teas. They either taste chemical, or have a subhuman-grade of tea dust mixed in, that the majority of vanilla tea on the market is just dreck. Which is a shame for someone like me, who really enjoys a nice vanilla flavor. I have also had better vanilla teas out there, but not many. one of the reviews on the Tea Forte site likens this to a liquid sugar cookie. I didn't add anything to my tea, but I could see how just a half teaspoon of raw sugar added to this could make this an incredible cookie-like dessert-in-a-cup. The vanilla is just perfect, from start to finish. The coconut ingredient may put off a lot of people who abhor it, but really, it doesn't play a major role in the flavor here. It's present, but in such a subtle way that you might not even realize it's there, initially. I'm assuming my marginally-cooled temperature and stringent 3-minute brew time had much to do with it, but I was surprised at how smooth this tea was -- absolutely no astringency or bitterness.
A second steeping, with the same parameters as the first cup, reveals a similarly-pleasing beverage. The flavors really aren't noticeably weaker than the first cup. A third infusion is quite weak in aroma and flavor, but not undrinkable. I definitely recommend two infusions out of this tea, thus essentially doubling it's value/cost ratio.
I applaud Tea Forte for offering this tea (and most, if not all, of their teas) in a loose leaf canister. This cuts the cost-per-cup in half, or potentially one-third, as opposed to the bagged form they offer. So the choice is yours - the presentation of the bags is lovely, but the economics of the loose tea (in addition to presumably-higher-quality leaves) makes the canisters an attractive option as well.
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