379 Tasting Notes

drank Florence by Harney & Sons
379 tasting notes

Sipdown! (120)

I think I’m just really picky when it comes to chocolate-flavored teas. I’ve only found one so far that I’ve really loved, and that’s Three Friends from Butiki. In all of the others I’ve tried, the chocolate flavoring is weird or it’s just thin and watery, like drinking a really watery hot chocolate. Not a fan.

That being said, the hazelnut is nice in here. Drinking this last cup with hazelnut coffee creamer, yums. :)

200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I bought this from someone’s stash sale (VariaTEA I think?). I’ve been sitting on it for a while now. The first time I tried to make some, it came out inexplicably bitter, and I was sort of afraid to try it again. So I tried it today with the same parameters and it came out with only a tiny bit of bitterness. Go figure. Anyway, the leaves are rather small and dark, and there are rose petals mixed in with them. It smells very strong and perfumey, with a sweet fruit element. I added some sugar to help tone done that little bit of bitterness.

This tea isn’t bad, considering I’m not the biggest fan of rose. The rose is definitely the most present flavor here, unfortunately. There’s some apple there too, and it’s a kind of tart green apple flavor. And there’s a bit of black tea taste, but it’s overall very submissive and mellow in the background. I thought this would be more similar to Fauchon’s apple tea, but this is more of a rose tea with a bit of apple, while that one is all apple.

Not going to rate this since I don’t like rose, but I would definitely recommend it for people who do. Into the rehoming box it goes.

Flavors: Floral, Green Apple, Rose, Sweet

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

I like rose, so this one at three minutes and 200F is great for me. At four minutes I get almost no rose but a lot of sour apple, which a few others have really loved. It amazes me how much the steep time alters this tea. Could the bitterness be the sour apple flavor rather than leaf bitterness? Or is it astringency?

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I ordered a sample of this from TeaVivre during their 3rd Anniversary Sale, just because I was curious. I’ve been experimenting a little bit with oxidized and roasted oolongs lately, mostly due to my love of GTT’s Eastern Beauty. I haven’t really loved them so far, I find that they mostly taste like autumn leaves to me with a little bit of something else mixed in. But still, the curiosity has its way! These leaves are very large and brittle, and quite twisty. They’re very dark in color, and they’re closer to being grey than brown. Dry scent is autumn leaves with hay and some vegetal notes. I did a 2 minute steep at 200 degrees.

Brewed, it still smells quite leafy. There’s definitely a bit of bread there as well, along with some honey sweetness and lovely fruit notes. Hmm… I’m beginning to think these teas may not be for me. This one also tastes like dry autumn leaves, which I guess is because of the roasting done to it. There’s a little bit of bread or grain, along with an earthy wood flavor. I get a tad bit of fruit and some creaminess near the end and in the aftertaste, but I wish these were more present throughout the sip.

I find that this genre of teas tends to bore me a bit, if that makes sense? I’ll probably try this tea gong fu style as well, but I found that it tasted rather the same with the dancong I tried that way. I’ll still try it though, just to give it a chance!

Any recommendations on the best way to brew dancong and da hong pao teas would be lovely. :D

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Baked Bread, Dried Fruit, Earth, Grain, Roasted, Wood

200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

ooooo yes this is such an autumn tea. I like dark oolongs gongfu style because they seem more complex. Maybe it’s even more so with yixing? I’ve only used a ceramic gaiwan. Dunno if that’s helpful…


5g 100ml gaiwan 195F
Rinse/pause/short steeps 10-15sec
See if you like it, increase or decrease steeps, but not 2min for sure;)


I agree with boychik on this one. I just use slightly higher temp. though

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Sipdown! (123)

This is actually a perfectly nice evening tea, even if it is a bit artificial. The almond is nice and the cinnamon really makes it. I wish I could taste more of the papaya or whatever tropical fruit is in here, but oh well. I would have considered keeping this one around but it’s quite similar to Caramel Almond Amaretti (also from Teavana) and since I’m keeping that one I don’t need both. :P Thanks again to Hapatite for sending me this as a freebie bonus sample during her stash sale! Not bad, especially for Teavana…

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

I actually enjoy this one. It is on clearance for $1.95. :)

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Another sample from my lovely Mandala ripe puerh sampler! It definitely sounds tasty from the description. It looks very similar to the Year of the Dragon sample I had. It’s mostly one big chunk from a cake, and the leaves are a variety of browns with a few metallic golden spots on the chunk. Dry scent is very mildly fishy, with cocoa and a vague sweetness. I followed Mandala’s instructions and did a 15s rinse, then 30/45/s steeps. I found that there was a teensy bit of bitterness, so I decided to do another 45s steep instead of 60s. I may keep going, but they’re all tasting pretty similar so I’m writing the note now. :)

The brewed aroma is somewhat sweet with chocolate and woody notes. This tea is actually somewhat similar to Year of the Dragon. It has that same lovely smooth, creamy texture and similar milk chocolatey flavor. However, this tea veers more toward savory instead of being quite as sweet as the other. The wood flavor is quite similar, but this one does seem to have a bit of a fragrant, slight spicy cedar edge to it. There’s a very mild earthy/mineral quality that seemed to fade as I kept steeping. I can definitely taste the nuttiness mentioned in the description, and to me it tastes specifically like pecans or walnuts – slightly earthy, but quite rich and creamy.

Overall, this is a very tasty tea and I love the woody and nutty qualities it has mixed with the chocolate. However, I still like Year of the Dragon better… ;) I’m a sucker for vanilla!

Flavors: Cedar, Chocolate, Creamy, Earth, Leather, Pecan, Sugarcane, Walnut, Wood

Boiling 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

I see you like the shous :)

Cameron B.

This one and Year of the Dragon, yes. :D


I like sensible shous.


The Noble Mark is one of the best.

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drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
379 tasting notes

Sipdown! (124) (Yay I’m halfway to 100!)

Giving this tea a second chance today! I found that I didn’t enjoy it much gong fu style, each steep was bitter to me. Apparently this is unusual? So today, I’m trying it Western-style to see if I find it more agreeable that way. I did two teaspoons in boiling water for 7 minutes.

Meh, I guess this tea is just not for me. I will say that I think I prefer this method to gong fu, because it doesn’t taste as strongly woody as before. However, it’s still quite bitter. To me, it kind of tastes like biting into a bar of baking chocolate, and I do not consider that a pleasant experience. I added some sugar and soy milk to see if that would help temper the bitterness, and it did lessen it slightly. However, I don’t really want to buy a tea that I have to drink with sugar and milk.

I’m really kind of torn on whether or not to rate this, since it seems everyone else loves it. But I’m not really biased here so I don’t see why not… Hmm!

Boiling 7 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

I think you used too much tea for 8 oz of water. I would try again with only 1 tsp. Less tea usually means less bitterness.


Also, I think seven minutes is way too long, try only 2 or 3 minutes.


1 tablespoon is the recommended amount, actually…


I know a lot of people on here like to brew this up Western style. Me? I brought this tea over here to the US cause I dig it gong fu style, very short steepings. I guess for a 5 ounce gaiwan, I use 2 tsp or so, maybe a hair more, but I’m doing a rinse and then steepings that are “touch and go” for the first 3 or 4, slowly increasing time. I’ve enjoyed more than my share of western brews of this, though :)


When you hit 100 are you off hiatus?

Cameron B.

Marz, that was the original plan but we shall see! :P

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Sipdown! (126)

I’m trying the other half of my sample Western-style this morning. The lovely Stephanie was nice enough to answer my questions regarding water volume, steep time, et cetera. Thanks Steph!

It’s pretty delicious this way, but I’m sad to say that I prefer the gong fu preparation. Aww, I wanted the lazy way to be better! Lol. Either way, this is one super delicious shou from Mandala and I will definitely be ordering some once I’m off hiatus! :D

Edit: I just wanted to throw this out there – this is basically the shou version of Golden Orchid. So lovers of that tea should definitely try this one. Just saying! ;)

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 3 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

Yum, I have to get my hands one this one :D

Cameron B.

You and me both, I need more! :D


Oh really? Good to know :)


Golden Orchid you say? runs to get credit card

Cameron B.

It definitely seems very similar to me, with the combination of chocolate and vanilla. :)

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I purchased this one from Ost in her stash sale. The second I saw two of Butiki’s straight blacks on her list, I pounced! They just so happened to be two blacks that I hadn’t purchased but was curious about. Gotta love how that works out sometimes. :P Anyway, I decided to cheat this morning and try this tea instead of drinking one of the black teas I’m supposed to be sipping down. Naughty! The leaves look surprisingly similar to a very tippy Yunnan. There are a ton of fuzzy metallic golden buds mixed with darker leaves. Dry scent is slightly malty and sweet (I confess, I stored this in a tin that used to house a fruity tea and I don’t think I let it air out long enough, so it smells slightly fruity too). I followed the recommended instructions aside from the water temperature.

Brewed, the tea smells very strong and malty/bready with some earth notes and a bit of sweetness. Whoa, I was not ready for the taste. I don’t have any experience with Assam teas, and I’m finding this to be extremely strong and quite earthy. I think I now know what “brisk” means when describing tea. Once I got past the initial taste, I found a fruity sweetness in the second half of the sip. There’s definitely a dark cocoa flavor that almost borders on bitterness, and a little spurt of floral in the aftertaste which was rather unexpected!

Overall, I was really surprised by the strength and intensity of this tea, especially after looking at the dry leaves. But the experience was a pleasant one for me, and I feel like my tongue got more and more used to the strong earthy flavor as I kept drinking. I think in the future, I’ll try this one with sugar or milk and see how that changes it. :)

Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Cocoa, Dried Fruit, Earth, Floral, Malt

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
379 tasting notes

I was really excited to try another ripe puerh after loving Mandala’s Year of the Dragon. So I chose this one to do next, since I know it has a following here on Steepster. This is a loose leaf puerh as opposed to a piece broken off of a cake. The leaves are medium-sized and a slightly metallic golden brown in color. Their dry scent is rather sweet and cocoa-y. I followed the recommended steep again, using half of the sample and doing a 10s rinse this time. Three steeps: 30, 45, and 60s.

The aroma is surprisingly honey-like. It smells strongly of dark raw honey with additional grain and dark cocoa notes. Hmm… I’m not sure what to say regarding this tea. In all three steeps that I did, it came out rather bitter, which I did not enjoy. I realize that super dark chocolate is bitter, and there is a cocoa note here, but I just couldn’t get past that bitter taste. The first steep was a little musty, which I think means I didn’t do a long enough rinse. This tea is also quite woody in a rough way, very different from the Year of the Dragon’s wood note. There’s a bit of hay and grain, but I didn’t really taste them until the end of the sip because of the bitterness.

I feel like I shouldn’t rate this right now. I’m going to try it western-style and see if that helps with the bitterness somehow… :(

Flavors: Bitter, Cocoa, Grain, Hay, Wood

Boiling 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

Cameron – if it’s the chocolate notes that seem bitter to you, then I wouldn’t western steep this as long as I do – the longer western steep brings out MORE of those chocolate notes. I LOVE dark chocolate, but if that’s what you don’t like, I would try adding a touch of sweet?

Cameron B.

I like dark chocolate… It was just bitter to me.


Hmmmmmm dunno – interesting though how different people get different perceptions of something.

Cameron B.

Well, I’ll definitely try the long steep and see if I like it better that way. If not, I guess it’s just not for me. :)


Maybe if you tried adding milk, or almond milk? I think I’ve read of others doing that.


Someone recently reviewed this and said it was too dark for them, so you’re probably not alone. Now I’m curious…gotta try my sample.


I made this one last week with very short steeps and I don’t remember it being overly bitter. You might try 10 or 15 sec steeps.

Cameron B.

I used the parameters recommended by Mandala. I think this one just isn’t for me. :P

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I got my gaiwan in the mail today, hooray! I’ve been waiting on it to try all of my puerh and some oolong samples gong fu style. I chose this one to try first because the flavors sounded the best to me – vanilla, cocoa, dried fruit? Count me in! My sample is pretty much one giant chunk with a few loose pieces. I decided to use half of the sample for my session since my gaiwan is 4 ounces and the instructions said 4-8 ounces. The leaves themselves look small and they are a variety of browns in color, from golden to chocolate. Dry scent is both sweet and savory, with cocoa and that slightly fishy/pond smell. I did a 15 second rinse and I’ve done three steeps so far (30, 45, and 60s) and I plan to continue, but they’ve been very similar so I figured I could write the note now. :)

The brewed aroma is only the teeniest bit fishy. Mostly it smells sweet and haylike, with both chocolate and vanilla. Oh my goodness, I am in love with this tea! I was expecting it to be very strong and heavy, but it’s not like that at all! It almost reminds me of a very delicious white tea in a lot of ways. It’s very creamy and grainy, reminding me of lovely sweet bread, like brioche or challah. It’s also quite woody, but in a mild and pleasant way. I do get both chocolate and vanilla from this one, and the chocolate is more of a sweet milk chocolate than a bitter dark. The bottom notes are mild leather and a slight earthiness, and I do get a little bit of a dried fruitiness. Overall, this tea is amazingly creamy, grainy, and delicious. Love the vanilla!

Thanks so much to Mandala for offering this amazing $5 ripe puerh sampler. I can’t wait to try the others! :D

Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Creamy, Dried Fruit, Earth, Grain, Hay, Honey, Leather, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood

Boiling 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Hello, my name is Cameron. I’m 24 years old and currently living in Saratoga Springs, New York with my lovely boyfriend (a software architect). I am currently not employed, which leaves plenty of time for cooking and tea-drinking! I am a staunch lover of pugs and other squishy-face dogs, although sadly I do not currently have one. :(

I originally got into tea a couple of years ago. My sister introduced me to Teavana (there was a store in the nearby mall) and I was hooked. I have just started to drink tea again and I am very grateful to have found this community where there are so many with experience and wisdom to share!

Currently trying to move out of the flavored tea phase and into those tasty straight teas!

I love swaps! If you see something in my cupboard that you’d like to try, shoot me a private message and we’ll work something out!

My general tea info:

Flavored Black
Light to Medium Yunnan
Mild Sencha/Kabusecha
Genmaicha (traditional or otherwise)

Currently Exploring:
Chinese Black
Oxidized/Roasted Oolong

Not A Fan
Greener Oolong
Overly Floral
Licorice Root
Rose Hips
Strong Bergamot

Rating Scale:

90-100: Spectacular, a staple
80-89: Delicious, might buy again
70-79: Pretty good, won’t repurchase
60-69: Just “okay”
00-59: Undrinkable!


Saratoga Springs, New York

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