332 Tasting Notes


There are certain teas that just command your respect when you drink them. They may not be your favorite, favorite teas per se, but you just go, “Wow. That’s quality.” There are two teas that are like that from me, and they’re both from Teavivre. One is their exquisite lapsang souchong, which I can’t seem to drink without raving like a proud parent talking about her honor roll kid who placed first chair in the band and directed an anti-bullying video. The other is this one.

I don’t know if “complex” is the right word, but the flavor evolves. The longer it stays in your mouth, the more it progresses from earthy to malty, like a chameleon changing color. And it’s a pleasant and satisfying taste all the way. It’s one of those teas that’s best enjoyed when you don’t have to put all your concentration on something else. It is just really, really well made.

I wish it wasn’t night. Because I want another cup of this. Actually, screw it. I’m making another cup!


Hahaha. I’ve done that so many times. There’s no proper deadline for me to stop drinking my black teas!


I’m just like, caffeine be dratted! I’m going to drink a tea I really really want to drink!

Terri HarpLady

It’s been awhile since I had this in my cupboard, but it is definitely a tasty tea!

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Did a second steep on this this morning, for a little under 2 minutes because it was a resteep. It’s actually pretty similar to what I tasted last night, except without seeming underleafed. I actually quite like the tea itself, although I think I have to be in the right mood for it. Earthy is a good flavor for foggy gray fall mornings. Still a malty aftertaste, which is unexpected but cool. The smell is something I have to get past.

Next time, I’m rinsing this!

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Uh… 3-4 teaspoons for 8 oz?


This is what happens when they don’t put the leafage on the bag! Grrr!

Ah well. It’s a free sample, so there’s only so much griping I can do. I would try steeping it longer, but I have a bad feeling that would only result in the overwhelmingly flagrant essence of FISH! Like the last pu-erh I had, which is still sitting in a bag in the back corner of my cupboard with absolutely no plans for a sipdown anywhere in this dimension of time and space because it tastes exactly like FISH!

This one is… earthy? It’s got a fair amount of FISH!, especially in the aroma, but the flavor itself is darker and bassier. There is actually a bit of maltiness in the aftertaste too. It’s actually fairly pleasant, at least once I stop smelling it. Next time, I’ll use more cake per water. Also I won’t spill it all over the damn stove as I’m trying to pour it.


some really are that way,though i have no idea why. verdnat’s golden buds puerh isn’t and the mandala puerhs aren’t…. but i’ve discovered that i taste a moss pillow or fish if there isn’t astringency to balance it(but that’s just me). =0)


Yeah. I was wondering about that, since I’d only had one other pu-erh and I figured since I’d heard good things about that kind of tea, they can’t all taste like FISH! In fact, I’m curious to explore the world of pu-erhs simply because I’ve heard so many contradictory and counterintuitive things said about them, I can’t help thinking they must be such an interesting tea, even if not my favorite cuppa.


have you tried steap shoppe’s cinnamon swirl bread? that’s a combination black and puerh with the puerh playing the part of the bread VERY convincingly. so long as you like cinnamon this may be a good way to get into them?

i started with flavoured ones from david’s teas and teavana and then moved into the unflavoured. for myself an astringent (but not acrid or bitter) balance is necessary or i really feel like i’ve been whacked in the tongue with a moss pillow dipped in fish, lol.


I’ve never had this pu’erh, but Teavivre has good quality teas and all the reviews are favorable. I’m just wondering if you didn’t rinse it enough. Sometimes lack of rinse or too long of a first steep with yield some fishiness even in great pu’erhs. I would suggest 2 10 second rinses and then short first steep. Even western brewing a pu’erh I usually only steep 20-30 seconds for the first steep. I’m not sure, just suggesting. Did you resteep it? Was the next steep also fishy? If not then I would look at longer/more rinse for next time.


James, I have yet to try a flavored pu-erh. To be honest, the flavor of pu-erhs is so distinctive I have a hard time imagining them with other flavors! It sounds like at least the cinnamon swirl bread was a success though?

Dexter, it’s definitely a good tea. I have yet to rinse a pu-erh although that’s something I’ve heard you should do, more than anything because I just haven’t had the time/patience to do it yet. :P I would have resteeped, but it was late at night and I was afraid to do more than one cup of a fairly caffeinated type of tea.


Ew. There’s tea that tastes like fish in this world? Even if you rinse it…I just. I can’t imagine why you’d rinse away the fishiness of tea when there’s so much tea that isn’t fishy to begin with?


LOL keychange – I’m not sure if that’s a rhetorical question or if you would like an explanation. My answer would be because great pu’erhs are AMAZING teas. If you look at my tea ratings and change the sort by to highest rated, 5 out of my top 6 are pu’erh. When it’s good it’s amazing, but it’s not for everyone – some can’t get past the fishy, some can’t get past the “earthy”, “barnyard”, “mouldy”, “stinky feet” part of it. There are lots of unflattering words used to describe it. I put some in the travelling tea box. You should at least give it a sniff if you get the chance. :))

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Just poured the rest of my leaves into the strainer and steeped for a little under 4 minutes. a-HA! THIS is the renowned Assam flavor! Bold, sweet, honey-esque, a translucent flavor. Kind of a classic “black tea” taste with little to no astringency.

This is really good. I don’t know how often I’ll drink Assams, but I’m glad I now have more than one reference for the flavor. I recommend this to anyone who’s an Assam fan, or even just a black tea fan.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 45 sec

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Backlog from Thursday night, since my computer was Down With the Sickness.

THIS is the oolong I effed up the first time I tried it! So I attempted it once more the other night after I got home from work. Recently, I found this article that’s actually from Verdant Tea’s website, written by David Duckler. It’s about how to best enjoy tasting a tea, and I found it so enlightening that I’ll leave it here if you haven’t seen it: http://verdanttea.com/how-to-taste-tea/ What hit home the most with me is that, rather than being the Tea Critic who jumps to figure out what I’m tasting, how it compares to what I’m told is in it, and how highly I would rate the tea, the most important thing is just being present in the experience of the tea and enjoying what I’m drinking.

With that article in mind, I took a bit of time to do some gaiwan brewings and tastings of this oolong. This time, I used a thermometer to gauge the water temperature so that I was sure I did not burn it.

I’m not sure I liked the tea itself, it reminds me too much of other oolongs I’m not crazy about, but it was a very enjoyable experience. I did four steepings. The first two had a roasty, slightly “burnt” flavor, but I did find that on the third steeping, the roastiness had subsided and I was getting more of the fruity/floral tone. I’ve rarely had luck with multiple steepings, so I enjoyed finally being able to discern a difference. I also enjoyed smelling the flavor of the wet tea leaves in the nose cup, if that’s what you call it.

But my favorite part about doing gaiwan steepings, honestly, is the auditory experience. Working in a music store, I relish the lack of background noise that I get in a quiet room (we live in what I’d call a rural suburb, so it is possible to achieve complete silence.) There’s something about the sequence of pouring water and the little clacking of the lid on the cup that’s exquisitely soothing, in this way I can’t really describe. I think I would quite enjoy having a whole gongfu set, which I plan on putting on either a birthday or Christmas wish list.

So the tea? Eh. The tasting? Mmm!


Oh, thanks for sharing that link. And I completely agree with you about the auditory experience and how important it is. As someone who’s blind, sound (and smell) matter a great deal to me.

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drank Anastasia by Kusmi Tea
331 tasting notes

Pretty sure this is the last of the untried samples from Nicole – thank you!

For once, I made sure I didn’t underleaf the tea. However, this is still really mild for some reason. I might have understeeped? I’m kind of getting the bergamot flavor but not really (it’s more prominent in the aroma.) It’s more some vague mix of floral/citrus tones. I can’t help thinking it reminds me a bit of soap.

Underwhelmed. I can see how people would find this enjoyable, but its personality isn’t quite pronounced enough for me.

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This is a backlog from Friday because Cup 2 proved my review of Cup 1 to be a boldfaced lie. :P And 1) my computer was Down With the Sickness and 2) I was busy helping my parents last-minute clean the house for a rare visitor. For the longest time, my parents were self-conscious about the house, but since we’ve gotten a lot of things redone, it’s a much nicer-looking place.

You know how I said I couldn’t taste the Dian Hong flavor progression? Lies! Once the tea had the chance to cool and mellow a bit, I realized the brightness I was getting at the beginning of the sip was partly due to that Bailin Bongfu-esque earthiness, which tastes slightly citrusy or something when you have rose flavoring. As it stays on the tongue, it does darken and malten (it’s a real word now!), you just still have that floral overtone. And even that mellows out a bit as it cools. It’s really quite a pleasant cup. I’m considering it for a restock once the sample’s gone.

But my favorite part? The wet leaves with the rosebuds. They really do smell like roses!

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Writing this on my phone because my computer is Down With The Sickness. Oh nooooo…

There are little rose buds in the tea! Not just leaves, but full-on rose buds. It’s precious! I even had to show my mom. Apparently rose hips are a source of Vitamin C?

The dry leaves definitely smell sweet and rose like; the tea smells like a sweet Dian Hong. The flavor of the rose is unexpectedly bright. It’s kind of perfume-like, but there’s also some vegetable it’s reminding me of. There is maltiness late in the sip, but besides that I really don’t get the Dian Hong chameleon-flavor in this tea, although I can tell it’s a black base.

No numbers for now. This may be one to get used to.


Sounds interesting!

I hope your computer recovers! :O /0\


Thanks, me too! :/

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drank Mi Xian Black by Butiki Teas
331 tasting notes

Sipping down my sample from Nicole this morning.

It’s been an odd morning – slept really hard and had weird dreams, woke up tired even though I slept for 8.5 hours, it’s rainy as heck, and I was going to practice my bass but then decided at the last minute that I should probably help get the house ready for my friend coming over tomorrow.

I underleafed it again. Good thing I’ve still got some wet leaves to resteep for work. This flavor is exactly the bold, smooth, comforting thing I need this morning. I’m so glad tomorrow’s Friday.

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drank Earl Grey Cream by Zen Tea
331 tasting notes

Earl Grey Cream? Good LORD it’s Earl Grey Cream! Smell it out of the bag and the first thing I smell is CREAM! Super super sweet CREAM!

I have more of this tea than I originally intended. I was just going to buy a little bit, but then shipping was $5, and I didn’t know/see that other samples would be included, so I bought a bigger bag. I read several reviews on Steepster to find the highest rated EGC, and this one swept them away.

I’m trying to decide how I feel about this tea. The bergamot is pretty punchy, and the vanilla is REALLY REALLY SWEET, and the two flavors put together are kind of like that photo of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon shaking hands:


OK so drinking tea is a little more fun than they look like they’re having. But like, the two flavors both have such distinctive reputations and personalities, but put together with both flavors turned up to the max, it’s a bit of an awkward combo, at least to my tastebuds. I think it’s the vanilla’s fault; it’s a little too sweet for me. Which was what I was afraid would happen. Maybe it’s something I’ll get used to, but I think I prefer Mahamosa’s version.

I feel like I’m the Simon Cowell of Steepster Idol! I keep having cynical things to say about teas everyone else raves about!

That said, however, I have a side question. Pumpkin flavored teas. I want access to pumpkin flavored beverages without always having to go to Starbucks for their pumpkin spice latte, which I find delicious. What are your recommendations? I’ve heard numerous good things about Butiki’s Pumpkin Creme Brulee.


Of the ones I’ve tried, Della Terra Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie was my favorite. Tealux Pumpkin Spice Rooibos is really good but is more cantaloupe than pumpkin. Fusion Tea Pumpkin Mate is good, but the mate isn’t the best base (but I like it better than their rooibos). Sleepy Hollow Pumpkin Chai – Culinary Teas is too spicy, drowns out the pumpkin. Butiki Pumpkin Creme Brulee didn’t taste like anything (but I know others loved it). Davids Pumpkin Chai had candies in it, and I found that made it taste artificial to me – again others really like it. I’ve tried two from 52teas, and thought they were pumpkin pie spice, but without the pumpkin flavor. That’s all I can think of right now. This is just MHO, you will need to try a few to find what works for you. Good Luck :))


The Presley/Nixon thing really cracked me up. I wish I got the Cowell feeling – I tend to mostly get very paranoid when I despise a much beloved tea; ‘Am I wrong? Are they wrong? Is this the right tea? Are these people BOTS?!’.


Also wow, Dexter, that’s a good list!


That really is a great post, Dexter! I found the same with the ones that I have tried, but never bothered with Della Terra’s Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie since I thought it may be too close to David’s Pumpkin Chai. But now you have me thinking otherwise!


Thanks, Dexter! Now, which one to try first? :D

Anna, don’t worry, I feel the exact same way that you do a lot. There are one or two teas in particular that everyone else considers the Nectar of the Gods that I find absolutely disgusting, and I can’t help wondering, "What am I doing wrong?!? Are we even drinking the same tea? "

Terri HarpLady

I love the Simon reference. I’ve been feeling a bit like Simon as I work my way through the Here’s Hoping Traveling Tea Box (HHTTB). I’ve had very few nice things to say about any of the teas I tried, & I keep reminding myself that (with some obvious exceptions), most of the teas in there are people’s rejects.

Terri HarpLady

The love of my life, Tony, doesn’t hardly ever like any of my teas, & I don’t care much for his favorites either. But we are each entitled to our own opinions, & as I pointed out a long time ago, disagreeing doesn’t make anybody wrong! What’s right for me just isn’t right for him, & I can live with that! We can agree to disagree :)


Nixon and Elvis shaking hands. I think this tea will remind me of that now! haha.

For pumpkin, my favorite is Della Terra’s Grandma’s pumpkin pie because they put something like dried canned pumpkin pie filling in it!


Wow, how did I miss the rest of these comments. Thanks guys, I too am questing for the best pumpkin tea. I keep trying them. I’ve ordered more of Della Terra Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie – it’s the current winner, and I added some of the chocolate pumpkin pie. I’ve also arranged a swap for some of Harney & Sons Pumpkin Spice. Will see how those go.
I think it’s AMAZING how different people have different experiences with teas. I agree with Terri that it doesn’t make anyone right or wrong, they just have different opinions. That’s one of the things I LOVE about Steepster is seeing those differences.
My pumpkin tea experience may be different than yours. I might hate a tea because it’s too spicy, but that spiciness might be what makes you love it. Best advice, try as many as you can – don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Enjoy the teas that you love. :))

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The name’s Holly. 27. Work for a small IT company. About to finish a Master’s degree this winter. ISFJ for what it’s worth. I play various instruments (mostly bass guitar right now), attempt to write songs that I’m too scared to play for anyone, and I’m currently taking voice lessons. I also enjoy starting various hobbies, wearing monochromes, writing, cooking, taking walks, and various and sundry other things…

I’ve been a tea drinker since spring of 2013. Tea is a source of happiness, positivity, curiosity, and relaxation (…and caffeine) for me.

I’ve been on and off this site over the years, and I even had a separate tea blog at one point. For now, I’m just working on getting back in the habit of enjoying tea regularly and to its fullest.

Love: Malty Chinese black teas, shu/ripe pu erhs, soft flowery teas (esp. jasmine teas)

Like: Japanese green teas, sheng/ripe pu erhs, white teas

Still trying to get into: Most oolongs, chai teas

Not crazy about: Roasty teas, fruity teas, rooibos, many (not all) herbal teas

90-100: YEAH!
80-89: Nice! This is good stuff.
70-79: Respectable tea.
60-69: Not bad.
50-59: Middling. Not really worth it.
25-49: Eeeeeugh. Not good.
0-24: Did you know you can use tea leaves as odor absorbent?



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