514 Tasting Notes

1
drank Silver Yin Zhen Pearls by Teavana
514 tasting notes

What a disappointment.

This is advertised as one of the rarest teas in the world, a delicacy and imperial reserve. I read a lot about it before heading to Teavana to try it out, so I thought I knew what I was in for.

My past Teavana experiences haven’t been ideal. Overall, I’m not thrilled with their overly spiced blends, unreasonably high prices, and kitschy health benefit claims. But I wanted to give them a second chance and figured to do so with one of their most expensive teas (thinking it must be expensive for a reason and therefore is probably really fantastic).

This tea was so not worth my time. First off, I don’t think my tea barista was very well educated. I went in describing this tea, and she directed me to a Jasmine Dragon Pearl blended with some kind of tropical rooibos. Umm, what?

I picked up one of the tea catalogues next to the register and immediately found the name of the tea I wanted…on the first page…in red font…with a big picture. sigh

Even though this is an expensive tea and I expected her to try to sell it to me, she continued to pull out other “silver” teas for me to smell. I explained yet again that I was there to try the Silver Yen Zhen Pearls, and she finally consented to sell me a cup.

Can’t I just try it without having to pay for an entire cup? Nope! Not an option at the lovely Teavana. So, I spend almost $6 just to try a new tea. I’m already feeling like this was a mistake. But I’m finally getting what I wanted, so I try to keep a smile on my face and let the frustration melt away.

Upon receiving my cup, I knew she had messed up. The tea catalogue I had picked up earlier said very clearly to steep the leaves for 4-5 minutes in 175 degree water. She couldn’t have steeped the leaves for more than two and a half minutes, and this water had to be boiling. I took the top off and tried to smell the tea. I got nothing.

Puzzled, I looked up at another tea barista who was watching me (the one who served me had disappeared into the back). She looked at me like I was weird for wanting to smell the tea’s aroma. So, I smiled and told her which tea I was trying.

She said, “Oh that tea has virtually no flavor or smell. But it can be blended with any of the other teas!” Umm, why bother? I stared at her blankly and she seemed to hear my silent question. “It’s very good for you,” she said with a big smile and a nod. Of course. I should have known they’d try to sell me on its health benefits.

But back to the tea itself, the liquor was a fairly deep shade of brown. Shouldn’t it be lighter, I thought? It almost looked like a weak black tea! Did they use hard water?? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had white teas before. But I’m expecting perfection with a tea that’s $22.00/2 ounces.

After all this build up, I couldn’t wait for the tea to cool off any longer. I tried it a bit early, which just made me burn my tongue. But what did I taste? I’m searching for the words to describe this other than “tastes like water.” I do taste something more than water, but just barely and only when it’s actually on my tongue. There’s no aftertaste of any kind.

Very disappointing. At almost $6 for a cup of burning hot water, I’m convinced yet again that I really hate Teavana. I know white teas can be bland, but this is ridiculous. There’s no flavor at all!

I gave Teavana a second chance, and they failed miserably. Why can’t I try tea before buying it? I thought that was the common practice. That’s the way I’ve been treated in every other tea shop I’ve stumbled into. I thought about buying a package of tea samples, but it’s just as expensive as trying one tea in the shop. Four tea samples for $70?? They’ve got to be kidding! Their only free samples are 2-3 overly sweetened iced teas spread throughout the store. I don’t want sugary juice water! I want tea!

As I’ve always said, Teavana is great for teaware and accessories. But I can’t recommend their tea blends, and I’ll never buy their tea for myself. The rarest tea in the world was nothing more than over priced, tasteless, brown water.
Epic fail.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec
LiberTEAS

Sorry you had a bad experience with this. I don’t like Teavana and your post illustrates one of the reasons why. When I enter another tea shop, I find someone who is knowledgeable about tea. Heck… when I go to Whole Foods, I can even find the person who is working in the tea aisle to be quite knowledgeable about tea. But not so at Teavana. And they not only try to sell me things that I’m not interested in buying, but they treat me like I’m the one who knows nothing about tea. They are interested in their quotas and bottom line at Teavana. The tea is secondary. They aren’t passionate about tea.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve not found really delicious blends from Teavana, I have. But, I only stop in there if I happen to already be in the mall. It is never a “first choice” kind of shop for me.

CHAroma

Part of me is glad I’m not the only one. But then the other part of me says, why am I happy someone else has a bad tea experience too?

I went here again recently and met a fairly pushy tea salesman. He definitely seemed to know more about tea than anyone else in the shop, and I think it’s an improvement that Teavana has started hiring knowledgeable tea salesmen.

But he also didn’t leave me alone. He kept following me around and eavesdropping on the things I said to my boyfriend. It was like, jeez! Can’t I shop in peace? If I said I kind of liked something, he’d say, “Let me wrap that up for you!” Just ‘cause I whisper to my boyfriend that I think a teapot looks cool doesn’t mean I’m ready to drop $400+ on a set.

Seriously, this place could be so good! When I’m in the mall, they always pull me in somehow. But I’ve never walked out with any tea.

noordelijk

Sorry your experience wasn’t great there. I just wanted to note that, although it says steep 4-5 minutes, the tea is actually better at 2-3 minutes. When you buy this tea loose they usually specify this to you. So, the barista didn’t mess up. She was doing it the way she was taught.

CHAroma

She had to mess something up because it was a cup of hot, brown, flavorless water. I’ve had white tea enough times to know that it does have flavor (and probably shouldn’t be brown).

noordelijk

I just meant the steeping time. If it was bad I’m sure yeah she did do something wrong.

Daniel Scott

Reading reviews for this one as I try it, and I had to laugh when I read yours. Yep, definitely sounds to me like the barista botched it. Brewed two minutes, it should be a lighter color than you describe.

From what I’ve heard, American Teavana stores only have one water dispenser. (Unlike Canadian Teavanas, which are all converted Teaopia stores, and thus have both a hotter water dispenser and a cooler water dispenser.) In an American Teavana, they’re supposed to add a certain number of ice cubes to your cup to compensate for the boiling water. Sounds like she forgot the ice cubes!

noordelijk

Daniel Scott – not all Canadian Teavana’s are converted Teaopia stores. They do the ice cube thing in Canada too.

Daniel Scott

My bad, I totally forgot that – there were some locations before the buy-out as well.

Ugh, the ice cube thing just kills me. Admittedly, two dispensers still aren’t perfect, a couple of variable temp dispensers of some sort would be better. But one dispenser, I don’t get that.

noordelijk

@Daniel Scott yeah I’ll admit that’s the worst thing most tea shops are doing these days. At least the ice cube thing is better than nothing. DavidsTea’s water is always WAY too hot.

Brittany Miller

I will agree with what everyone has said. I work at one of the converted Teaopia stores and we do in fact have two dispensers. The Silver Yin Zhen Pearls should be brewed for no more than two minutes and with the lower temperature water.

alightningbug

I suppose it depends on what you like in a white tea, but I definitely think the first steep of this one needs at least 4 minutes. If you’re worried about bitterness, go with a lower temperature. But the pearls have barely started to unfurl before 4 minutes so there isn’t much flavor earlier.

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2
drank Pommier by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

First impression as I inhale the dry leaves: kimyou. This is going to be weird.

I think I can smell the maple in the dry blend. But once brewed, phew! This tea is stinky! :P

I’m pretty sure I’m not going to enjoy this one. I have to make myself try it and not just immediately dump it out. But I’m not holding out hope.

The verdict: it doesn’t taste quite as bad as it smells. I definitely taste apple as soon as it hits my tongue. But the aftertaste is strong, just like the aroma. It’s a very heavy, spice-laden tea.

Overall, it’s gross red rooibos & I’m not a fan. Time to brew something else!

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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90
drank Tsugaru Green by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

I can’t help but take deep breaths of the dry leaves. Mmm, apples!

As it starts to steep, the sweet aroma reminds me of apple cider. I’m already smiling.

Upon tasting it, there’s no bitterness. Definite acidity from the apples. Green apple comes to mind, these can’t be red. But those are all pros.

This tea brings me to an all-apple happy place. Apple pancakes, apple pie, apple picking in early autumn. The more I drink it, the more I notice sweeter notes. This is a really lovely tea. Maybe the best of all the flavored green teas I’ve tasted.

I know lots of people have complained about the bancha base, but I really like it. In my opinion, a fresher sencha would not complement the pairing with San-Tsugaru apples as much. (But I don’t particularly love the grassiness of senchas in the first place).

This is one of those teas where freshness is paramount! I found a few forgotten tea bags in the back of my cupboard, still sealed air tight. But upon brewing, the aroma and flavor was quite bland. It had lost all its apple flavor and acidity, leaving my mouth dry & almost flaky feeling. Make sure to drink all this tea upon receiving it because it won’t keep for long periods of time.

I’m curious to see how it would turn out when brewed at a lower temperature. Lots of people said they like this tea iced, but I’m not sure. It seems best enjoyed piping hot. As my cup cooled off, I couldn’t taste the apple as much.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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78
drank The au Chocolat by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

Mmm! Smells like dark chocolate!

The aroma of the tea leaves amongst the chocolate is almost surprising. It reminds me that I’m about to drink a cup of tea, not sink my teeth into a Godiva chocolate bar.

Even straight, it tastes smooth and chocolaty. Part of me loves it! And part of me says, “This is so weird! I’m drinking chocolate tea!”

Adding milk and sugar makes it very much like hot chocolate, but nowhere near as thick and sweet. It’s really good!

I wonder if I served this as hot chocolate, would anyone guess it’s really tea?

What? My cup is empty already? How did this happen? Who drank my tea?! :)

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 15 sec

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9
drank Keemun Queen's Hope by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

This tea has a distinctive aroma! It’s hard to describe. It almost smells peppery.

Something in the aroma is off putting, but I can’t put my finger on what it reminds me of. Gander described this tea as smoky, and that’s probably it. Smoky is an apt description.

I bought a Lupicia sampler kit for my mom a while back. She said she loved every tea except for one, which she described as tasting like dirty diapers. As soon as I remembered that story, I started laughing. I think this might be the same tea!

Okay, I’ve put off actually tasting it for long enough. I’m not brave enough to try it straight first, so I’m adding milk.

The verdict: the aroma is scarier than the taste. I’m adding a little sugar now.

Yeah, this is not my cup of tea. On subsequent tastings, I’m afraid this one is going down the drain.

If you like smokiness, then this is the tea for you. I just can’t get “dirty diapers” out of my head. Thanks, Mom! ;P

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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48
drank Assam Calcutta Auction by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

This is a strong, fairly bitter tea straight. It definitely needs milk and sugar.

But even with milk, this tea still isn’t the best in my book. I like Assam mixed/blended with other black teas rather than alone. It’s not a very complex tea.

To me, it’s nothing special. There’s no unique, distinctive flavor that stands out. It’s just all right. I don’t see myself craving this one.

If you like strong black teas with milk, I recommend Lupicia’s The au Lait instead.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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83
drank The au Lait by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

Pro: a very pleasant tea experience! “Beautiful golden tips” is a very apt description (although I would favor to say luscious golden tips).

The dry leaves smell really interesting. I wish I could identify the base, but I’m not quite there yet in my current level of tea expertise. The brewed tea aroma was at first slightly disappointing because I felt that it had lost that unique, unidentifiable, interesting smell. It smelled like a normal, average black tea.

But when time came to taste it, I was pleasantly surprised again! (Which was only slightly spoiled since I had just brushed my teeth. Is there mint in here?! face palm).

But this is a very pleasant tea! I drank it with lots of milk and a little sugar, as suggested. It’s a beautiful black tea and a nice change from all the green and oolong currently in my cupboard.

Again, I apologize that I can’t describe the finer details of this tea due to my inexperience as a tea connoisseur. But it’s a good one to keep around for days when you’re not craving any one tea in particular but definitely know you want something flavorful.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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80
drank Earl Grey by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

It’s that time again: TEA TIME!!! Today I’m going with a classic: Earl Grey.

The dry leaves bring back memories of Paris when my friend, Juanita, and I stayed with a French family for a week before going off to the Cannes Film Festival for the first time. Beautiful, luscious earl grey!

The family we stayed with drank this tea out of bowls instead of cups! At the time, we thought it was a French thing. We came to learn it wasn’t, which just led us to believe we had stayed with one weird French family! Now I think they were probably just fine lovers of good tea.

But I digress while impatiently waiting for the tea to cool. The brewed tea’s aroma is heaven! It tastes sweeter than expected, which is a pro for me. I find Twining’s Earl Grey to be a little strong for my tastes.

This tea goes great with a little honey. Just a little though, or it overpowers the core flavor of what makes this tea distinctly Earl Grey.

Simply put: it’s perfect! It’s exactly what I wanted and expected, and I can’t help but be enveloped with memories of a summer exploring Paris with one of my best friends.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 45 sec
LiberTEAS

For the longest time, this was my favorite Earl Grey, until I tried the Earl Grey from thepuriTea. Now this one is neck and neck with thepuriTea’s Earl Grey. Oh… and of course, there’s Lord Bergamot from Steven Smith…

CHAroma

I definitely like this one more than Twinings’ version.

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80
drank Strawberry & Vanilla by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

It smells delicious! This is a yummy green tea.

It’s much less bitter than other flavored teas I’ve had lately (see Sakurambo Vert). But the strawberry & vanilla flavors are less strong than the cherry flavor in Sakurambo Vert.

Still, a good tea on its own without milk. Honestly, I don’t see how you could add milk or sugar to this. But I’m not sure I’m tasting any of those matcha notes in there.

It probably should be brewed with a water temperature less than boiling (even though that’s what the package suggests).

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec
Cofftea

This is one of my favorite flavored teas from Lupicia. I often use it to make matcha.

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60
drank Cinnamon by Lupicia
514 tasting notes

This tea doesn’t just smell like cinnamon, it smells like an Atomic Fireball!

Even though the aroma is ferocious, the tea is pleasant. I added a little milk to it and it’s good. It really does taste just like tea with cinnamon (surprise surprise, right?).

The cinnamon flavor is not overwhelming though. It’s a very good balance.

I’d probably grow bored of it if I drank it on a daily basis. But that might be attributed to my recent vast consumption of cinnamon lattes.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 45 sec

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Bio

Entering the sweet blissful world of tea aromas!

Having discovered this website at the end of July 2011, I’m so excited to share my tea adventures with all of you! I grew up with my grandmother serving Twining’s English Breakfast with cream and sugar.

But on a trip to Seattle in 2010, I stumbled into a Chinese teashop and tried my first oolong tea. I was forever changed! I embarked on a startling new love for green and white teas.

With a world of teas to discover, I was inspired to keep a tea journal to record my thoughts and new favorites. Let’s get brewing!


My ratings are completely subjective and 100% my opinion. All ratings are given in relation to each other (ie. teas are rated in the order of my enjoyment of them). Therefore, my ratings will constantly change as I try more teas.


I love swapping!!! If you see something in my cupboard you’d like to try, just send me a message. If you’d like to trade, anything on my shopping list will do or feel free to send something else entirely. I’m willing to try almost anything (although I’m not really a fan of honeybush, red rooibos, pu’erh, Lapsang Souchong, & banana-flavored teas).

Location

Maryland, USA

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