67 Tasting Notes


As a part of my resolve to branch out and explore oolong tea, I made a purchase from Yezi for this lovely Dong Ding. (I also ordered their Pouchong as well and made a pot of it at the same time to compare to this—-review coming soon). This tea was absolutely wonderful—made my taste buds dance! I steeped this in my little glass teapot for 4 minutes, and the color of the liquor was a beautiful gold, the aroma sweet and buttery. The taste was phenomenal: sweet, slightly floral (orchid?) slightly buttery—and overall it was lively, lingering, and lovely! It was very faintly reminiscent of the milk oolong I have from Gong Fu Tea, only less creamy/buttery and with the added floral notes. Aaaahhhh truly a delight in every sense!
I steeped the leaves again, this time for 5 minutes, and could definitely taste more of floral aspects. It was also creamy, a little more vegetal, and dry on the tongue, but not at all unpleasant.
This is a definite LOVE. I will have to order this again. It is such a pleasing and complex tea, so fresh and tasty, you can just tell it is of very exceptional quality. This is truly happiness in a cup!

195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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I received a sample of this from Yezi, and it is a very unique tea. As a lover of black teas, I have never experienced any quite like this before. Now, before I go into my review, I must point out that I did not follow the steeping directions Yezi suggests: making brews every 15 seconds or whatever. I usually can never taste much of anything that early on in the steeping process, so I just made the tea the way I normally make all my black teas: boiling water (which actually I found out cools to around 190-195 in most of my tea ware—which includes ceramic and glass teapots, and in this case, a ceramic mug)—and I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes. So perhaps that is why I experienced VERY different flavors than what others report in their reviews.

Anyway, the aroma of the dry leaves consisted of a lovely chocolate scent. The aroma of the liquor was very different: I know it sounds strange but it totally smelled like dry bread. And the tea tasted like slightly burnt bread crusts. Very strange to me. The bready taste was immediately followed by a twinge of bitterness. Other flavors I picked up on was a very strong roasted flavor with hints of coffee. Actually, this tea reminds me of a stout, with roasted malt or roasted barley flavors. Overall, it had a dark, malty, roasted taste, with no sweetness.

I honestly really didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I think this is the first black tea I didn’t care for! (But then again, I probably ruined it due to my lack of adherence to the brewing recommendations for this tea. Shame on me! haha.) Anyway, I’m also surprised I didn’t enjoy it because it does have the dark coffee and beer flavor aspects I tend to like. I seem to gravitate toward a good dark stout, or a cup of black, strong coffee, or a nice piece of bitter dark chocolate…so this tea should be right up my alley! Perhaps it was the thick bready and roasted part that sort of made it too strange for my liking. I will have to try this tea again sometime and actually follow the proper directions to see if that changes my opinion!

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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A yummy flavorful blend of tea and spice. It is not too strongly spicy—just enough for for some added warmth and fragrance. One of my comforting winter favorites.

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I have been meaning to write a note on this for a while. My hubby and I love this peppermint—it makes an absolutely WONDERFUL cup of strong, sweet, fresh, invigorating, and delicious “tea.” I also enjoy mixing it with my real teas (see tasting note on White Peony).

I have a lot I could say about this peppermint, but I would be repeating everything that Dylan Oxford wrote in his very thorough and very excellent tasting note. He pretty much nails it with his detailed description of the powerful scent of the dry leaves, the fresh aroma of the leaves as they are steeping, and finally, the lovely, full minty taste of the brew itself.

Whether you have this by itself or as a mix-in with other herbs or teas, it is definitely a must-have for mint-lovers. I have tried other peppermint teas (mainly the teabag varieties like Stash, Celestial Seasonings, etc.) but this refreshing leaf is the finest, strongest, and freshest tasting tisane I have ever had.

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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This is a new one from Mountain Rose Herbs! I was pretty excited because I love the idea of vanilla and black tea. (That, and because I am a total chocoholic, black teas + chocolate is also a marriage made in heaven in my opinion!) That said, however, I really don’t like super “dessert-y” teas with lots of added flavorings. I’m kind of a purist and generally appreciate when I get notes of those flavors naturally from the tea itself. I know there are many, many variations of vanilla or chocolate or caramel dessert teas that are made by various companies, but I just don’t want all of the flavorings they usually add. But on the off chance I do feel in the mood for an added bit of flavor to complement the tea, I like the minimum amount necessary and the more natural, the better! As in, for example, the use of real fruit bits instead of fruit flavor, or real vanilla bean instead of flavoring. (Speaking of flavorings, I know this is a bit of a tangent but does anyone know what those mysterious “natural flavors” are that many manufacturers add? How do they make them? I’m not saying they are all bad, but I just tend to find them too artificial-tasting. Any good articles out there I could read on the topic? I’d really like to know the chemistry of it all…how these flavor profiles are created, etc.)

Anyway, sorry it’s taking me so long to get to the point. This is supposed to be a tasting note and instead I’m turning it into a long story about flavored teas. Sorry!

So this Vanilla Black is pretty good, a little sharp-tasting sometimes and overall very bold. The vanilla taste is there, but it almost has a slight bitterness to it, and the flavor is not as full and rich as I would have expected given that this tea has vanilla beans as well as vanilla flavoring. I like it, but something feels sort of wanting or out of balance—it’s nothing drastic and obvious, but something just under the surface that is hard to pinpoint. I think it might be lacking more of a smoothness and richness from the vanilla? Or maybe the Assam is just too bold to be blended with vanilla and therefore a different choice of a black tea base would be preferable, like a Yunnan black that is more mellow? Not sure.

I do like this but it’s not my favorite. I’m not sure I would order it again. It is a good accompaniment to dessert though—I had it with a slice of pound cake and that was pretty satisfying! Maybe adding cream and sugar would round it out more, but I’m just not a fan of doing that to my tea!

Oh and a quick extra blurb here: I once tried making my own using a Madagascar vanilla bean and adding bits to a black tea I had (can’t remember which kind) but it didn’t really work. The vanilla failed to blend well with the tea and I could barely taste it, even though I had scraped a good amount of vanilla specks into the tea and added the pieces of pod as well to steep along with the tea. Disappointing. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right. Has anyone else tried making their own vanilla tea this way? Or tried adding their own natural flavors? What did you do that worked?

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec

JacquelineM does it, but she cuts up a pod and leaves it sealed for at least three weeks, I believe. I did it with a boring puerh once, but didn’t really get the vanilla flavor.

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This is my standard English Breakfast tea. I drink it almost every morning (I typically start my day with either this or the MRH Assam). It is a delicious classic I can rely on and enjoy frequently. I love its smooth, well-rounded rich flavor with just the right amount of subtle briskness and a nice, slightly sweet aftertaste. A very tasty tea indeed.

190 °F / 87 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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Oh my, this is such a delightful treat! This would be a perfect black to pair with dessert, although it is so good I think it is dessert in and of itself! These delectable Ceylon black tips have a wonderfully smooth and sweet taste. I especially enjoy the lovely, lovely chocolate notes. The leaves themselves even smell of chocolate before they are steeped! How unusual to find a “chocolatey” tea that is naturally that way and not with added flavor. Yet the chocolate notes are just that: light notes that dance on the tongue in tune with the other flavors. Excellent!

200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec

I need to get back up to Des Moines to hit up Gong Fu Tea Shop again for some of the teas I’m seeing reviewed on here. I was kind of overwhelmed by the wall o’ tins last time and stuck with what I was reasonably sure I’d like. :)


Yes, their monstrous “wall of tea” is a bit daunting! That’s why I have to spend several days before I go there browsing their tea catalog, reading the descriptions of the tea offerings and narrowing it down by marking the ones I’m interested in trying… Then when I’m at the shop I can make my final selection(s). It’s always hard, though, because there are so many I want to try! :-)


What I need to do is go with 3 or 4 other people and we all get a pot of something different. And then another pot of something different. :) I guess I’ll be there for awhile… :)

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drank Nilgiri by Gong Fu Tea Shop
67 tasting notes

Very nice! A light, tasty tea that is faintly reminiscent of Darjeeling but stands apart with its own flavor. Its taste is of a smooth, mellow black tea with notes of pine and a sweet blackberry finish. It leaves a slightly dry lingering taste on the tongue that, for me, is rather pleasant.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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I just received my tea order last week and, after first enjoying some of the delicious Indian black teas I have been craving from Mountain Rose Herbs, decided to have a refreshing cup of my favorite white tea. As soon as I opened the bag, I was disappointed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My precious White Peony, which I have ordered before many times, was no longer whole leaf!! I was so shocked to find all those lovely leaves and buds all chopped up to smithereens, my beautiful baby hacked to oblivion…! Why, why, why??? I can’t believe they would do that to this wonderful tea, which was so perfect when it was whole! Why couldn’t they have left it as it was?

Trying not to panic, I proceeded to make my cup of tea (using less leaf than I used to when it was whole—I used to use a large heaping tablespoon but figured because it’s broken leaf I would need only the standard teaspoonful), hoping against all hope that perhaps it would still taste the same as I remember it: sweet and slightly floral, like honey and flowers… So I held my breath and waited for the infusion to finish steeping.
and poured it into the cup. It was darker in color, like a darker brownish yellow (unlike the lovely golden honey-color I fondly remember). I took a sip. It was not the same. My worse fears had been confirmed. Something in this tea had been lost—the delicate taste was gone, replaced by a stronger, more bold and flat vegetal flavor. I wanted to cry. (And then I somehow managed to keep it together, reminding myself that I am an adult, and that there really are worse things in life than a disappointing cup of tea! Ah, perspective.)

Anyhow, I am now left with an 8 oz bag of the Shredded White Peony. What to do, what to do? I knew I could make this tea for my husband, who is most definitely NOT a tea snob like me and who gasp! thinks all tea “tastes basically the same”, and therefore is my typical go-to person for disposing of sub-par tea so as not to waste it. But I felt I should not give up on my poor peony so easily. It used to be too good of a tea to waste on my husband. So…

As with all things, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I decided that this tea could possibly be blended with something else and produce a decent cup. Fortunately I had also just bought a bunch of MRH’s peppermint leaf (I will have a separate tasting note on that because it is SO good!) and thought the flavor of the white peony would actually work well with some nice crisp, refreshing mint. I resolved to try it and made 3 cups of an infusion from 2 teaspoons white tea + 1 teaspoon peppermint leaf. The result: VERY GOOD! It was light, minty, slightly vegetal but not too strong, the white tea flavor came through and was not overpowered by the mint, and overall I would say it made a fine blend. I call this tea, “Winter’s Breath” as its taste brings to mind that moment when you step outside on a snowy winter day and inhale the crisp clean air. It should provide the perfect drink for Christmas morning, or on any winter day when the snow is falling outside. As I seem to always get in the mood for mint around the holidays, this should be good for all my intents and purposes this year.

As to why MRH decided to cut up their white tea, I have no idea and am curious to find out. I might call the company and just ask about it, because I do miss how it was sold before. I love MRH, they have excellent teas and this is the first time I have ever been disappointed with their product. I’m sure they must have a good reason for not selling it whole leaf. Oh well. Don’t cry over spilt milk. Or in this case, broken leaf.

Because this tea was always good before, and the essential taste is still there (although it is much stronger and less complex than before) I will hold off rating this for now. I am going to experiment a little and try steeping it at different temps, for different times, and see if I can’t get closer to the taste I love and remember before.

Hesper June

Oh, dear! How disappointing:(
I have not ordered from them in last couple of months, however I have never had a “bad” order.
This saddens me and makes me wonder “what’s up MRH?”
If you do call and receive a reason, please share.


Hesper, I did contact MRH via e-mail and have not received a response yet. Will keep you posted if I get any info! (I have never had a bad order either, and I’m really happy with all the other teas I got with this recent shipment so that’s a positive.)


I received a very pleasing response from MRH this afternoon that goes as follows:
“Thank you for contacting us Charissa! Our last lot of white peony tea was indeed milled differently than those in the past, cut into smaller pieces as you observed. After speaking with representatives of the purchasing department, I can assure you that this change was temporary and we will be returning to the old cut after this particular lot runs out. I am sorry that the tea has disappointed you, and I would encourage you to return any product to us that does not meet your standards. I have included our return policy information for your reference…”

Oh good! Thank you Mountain Rose Herbs! :-)

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drank Milk Oolong by Gong Fu Tea Shop
67 tasting notes

My husband and I were in Des Moines this weekend because I was running a 5k, and lo and behold it just so happened that the race was practically right next to my favorite tea shop: Gong Fu Tea! Naturally, as soon as the race was over we headed over there to splurge on some tea (gotta have my post-run “recovery” beverage, of course!)

I ordered a cup of this milk oolong and thoroughly enjoyed it to the last drop. Admittedly I am not a very knowledgeable or experienced oolong drinker so I don’t have much to compare this to, but in my opinion is was very wonderful and unique. My son had fallen asleep in his stroller, the tea shop atmosphere was perfectly relaxed and soothing, and I just sat in their comfy chair and had a peaceful moment all to myself as I savored each sip of this tea, letting its warmth envelop me and its exquisite taste take me away to another world. Every so often I would open my eyes between sips and jot a note on what mouth was experiencing.

This tea’s flavor consisted of pleasing, warm, mellow notes reminiscent of coconut milk. It was rich and buttery with a lovely light sweet lingering finish. It was delicious, like a homemade butter cookie right out of the oven, yet at the same time it was not at all too heavy or rich. Mmmmmmmmm. I REALLY would have liked to purchase more of it in bulk to take home, but I had some other teas I’ve been wanting to try and my budget was limited. Alas, I will just have to wait to get it another time.

4 min, 30 sec

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“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
― C.S. Lewis

I have been enjoying and obsessing over tea since my college days, when a good cup got me through a long night of studying. Later on, tea helped keep me energized and hydrated for my long runs when I was marathon training. I was (and still am) a complete health nut, and researched all of teas’ wonderful benefits and to this day value the beverage not only for its outstanding flavors but for its antioxidant and health-giving properties.

After a torturous nine-month hiatus from tea while I was pregnant (I tried not to drink too much because of the caffeine) I am back to enjoying it without guilt once again! Although I’m nursing my son so I still have to limit my intake (Bummer! Guess my days of downing 4 cups of gunpowder green tea in the morning are long gone…) I’m just savoring the 1-2 cups per day I do allot myself. Now tea has once again come to the rescue at this time in my life, granting me moments of peace and pleasure and helping me keep my sanity after many long sleepless nights with the baby. Oh thank God for tea.

Favorites: Yunnan, Kenyan, and Assam black teas, White Peony (Bai Mu Dan), Pu-erh, and Milk Oolong.

I really need to try other kinds of tea, and not just stick like glue to my favorites! However, it can be hard with a limited budget, and I tend to buy my favorites repeatedly instead of trying something new because I honestly just love what I have!



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