257 Tasting Notes


This is a very satisfying afternoon tea. The wisp of smoke is very restrained and I am certain that this tea would be perfectly acceptable to those who do not like smoky teas.
Upton offers good teas at decent prices. I think that I’ve tried much more costly Keemuns which have spoiled me a bit for their more pedestrian siblings. This smooth tea is really a delight. After drinking some Hao Ya Keemuns this tea certainly seems like a step down, but I feel a bit churlish writing this.

It might be analogous to eating a lobster dish after you’ve sampled caviar (not that I’ve had a lot of experience there). What might have seemed like a wonderful tea a couple of weeks ago seems a little simple-minded compared with more brilliant teas.

What am I getting at? If I were grading papers I would give this one an “A” even if there were another paper that went miles and miles beyond the outer reaches of what I know to be an A+. Excellent tea, Upton!

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Hao Ya 'B' by Harney & Sons
257 tasting notes

The dry tea has a fragrant and fruity slightly charred aroma. Trust me—when I say “charred” I mean an accolade of the highest order!

I’ve fallen in love with smoky charred teas,
The full-bodied drink that never gets stale.
A Yunnan or Keemun will eternally please
Me and send my soul on a rhapsodic sail.

I don’t think my taste-buds and nose are discerning or well-developed enough to select the gradation between this and a Hao Ya A I recently sampled. I truly love these full-bodied teas. This is not nearly as smoky as a Lapsang Souchong, but it’s a bit seared with notes of chocolate and chestnut and date. I think I’m moving more and more in the direction of teas that are not blended by the tea-makers but that have some natural taste-treats from their surroundings of origin. Very well done! After I’ve sampled my various Keemuns I’ll have to break my “buying diet” and spring for a pound of this Hao Ya goodness.

Boiling 4 min, 45 sec

I am glad that you loved it- I ordered that one so I am looking forward to it….


I’ve been debating about these. Keemun appeals to me quite a bit, and I’m so intrigued by oolongs that I always forget to try new keemuns, so…this is a good reminder! I’m with you, though…the flavor of tea as tea is so varied and amazing that flavored tea is really a completely different experience. I don’t really compare the two — one is good for cravings, perhaps…but nothing, to me, quite compares to the incredible depth of really good leaf, as a tea-drinking experience.


sophistre, I totally agree with your comment. :)

And this is going on my to-buy list right now! mmm

Lainie Petersen

Yeah, this is a really good tea. I may even prefer it to the Hao Ya A. Excellent review!

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Golden Moon Tea Sampler #17 or thereabouts selected at random

I think that this is a fundamentally excellent tea. I did indeed get the orange/date aroma. It drinks up as a bit woodsy and fruity.

It’s something to consider for a full purchase but right now I’m a bit ambivalent. I only used a 1/4 cup of water—two ounces—because I had such a small sample. I’ll report back if a second infusion provides any great insight.

SECOND infusion: Not much joy here. As Randy Jackson says, “It’s a’ight”.

5 min, 15 sec

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What an excellent tea! I’ve been off Earl Grey recently because I’ve had too many pallid, callow, and scantily flavored Earl Greys. I ordered a sample from American Tea Room because it sounded good and they have never disappointed me. They’ve become one of the tea vendors from whom I’ve placed multiple orders and their shipping is speedy.

But I digress. I think that the success of this tea is based on two equally important features: the strong Yunnan base and the fact that they were not skimpy with the Earl Grey bergamot. This tea has some natural sweetness and some natural smoke—not enough smoke to scare away those who dislike smoky teas, in my opinion, but enough to anchor the bergamot into a marriage with the Yunnan.

If you love Yunnan, you’ll want to try this. If you love Earl Grey, you’ll want to try this. This tea successfully balances a few flavors and never loses its grasp on any of them. It’s going to be one of those teas I will need to have on hand.

5 min, 0 sec

Oh I am absolutely intrigued by your description! This goes to the top of companies/teas that I’m trying as soon as June rolls around.


Sounds fantastic!


This sounds lovely! Thanks for the review :)

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drank Cherry Blossom by DAVIDsTEA
257 tasting notes

This is a lovely tea. Thank you David’s for including this free sample with my order. Visually the tea is very lovely. Take a look at the photograph and imagine the colours looking more vivid. The taste is just sensational—delicate but strong enough that the Cherry taste really does come through. This would make a great offering for guests and a real treat for any occasion. I didn’t slurp it down but drank it delicately.

I was also much more careful than usual about heating and cooling the water, which undoubtedly pays off.

3 min, 0 sec

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Sampler Pulled out at random—perhaps #15

I loved the aroma of the dry leaves: it was sweet as if the tea leaved had been infused with honey (although there was not physical evidence of that). It’s a very nice tea; it’s a better than nice tea. But it did not establish a very strong identity with me. I would certainly drink it—it’s a good black tea. But I did not make a note to purchase it. I would, however, recommend that people give this a serious test or consider ordering a sample if you are placing an order with Golden Moon.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

How random is that, we pulled the same samples today!


I was gonna say!

Heh, I remember that a bunch of people tried the coconut pouchong around the same time as well :)

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I love Lapsang Souchongs and sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between them. They all start with a high score for me and then I try to grade them on smaller details such as sweetness and smokiness and whether or not the aroma and taste seem to be closer to tar, bacon, Bar-B-Que sauce, or whether there’s a je ne sais quoi about the tea. My personal morning favorite is Black Dragon by Upton Teas because it’s got a sweetness to it that does not compromise the punch.

LiberTEAS was kind enough to send me a lovely canister of The Jasmine Pearl’s Lapsang Souchong. I would call this a “medium” blend. In my mind, a “medium” blend is one that is not overwhelmingly smoky to the point that you think it’s close to being charred but one that is more like the leavings of a camp-fire and not a house-fire. This tea would make a great tea for those who are testing their LS wings or for those who want to explore the different gradations of the Lapsang Souchong experience.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 45 sec

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drank Casablanca by Mariage Frères
257 tasting notes

LORI thoughtfully sent me three different versions of Casablanca mint to sample and compare. Mariage Frères has added bergamot which I can taste. It’s very nice. Adagio’s version tastes like a full-fledged mint single note tea and I can detect the blend in this one quite easily.

This tea is tasty and flavorful but it does not sing out to me in the unique way that other Mariage Frères blends have done. I would certainly drink this again and I might invest in the iced tea portions, but I don’t think I would get a full-fledged tin or this or even a bag.

I’ve had so many teas in the past many months—I’m approaching my 200th tasting note—and I must add that if I had sampled this only a few months ago it would have knocked my socks off. Right now, the specialness is diluted for me by the many teas I have experienced.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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Golden Moon Tea Sample # 15 or thereabouts, selected at random

I was not surprised to see that other people have not had a fantastic experience with this tea. I thought the aroma of the dry buds, or pearls, was faint. The tea itself was virtually tasteless! I did a second brewing paying excruciatingly careful attention to time and temperature and amount of water, but again came up rather empty. I don’t know if the sample size is too small to match 4 ounces of water or if my tongue, spoiled by the strength of Lapsang Souchongs is just not willing to accept too much subtlety.

I would not buy this but I would try it again.

185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Casablanca Twist by Adagio Teas
257 tasting notes

Thanks to LORI for sending me this sample. I wanted a late-afternoon tea with a strong flavour but not an overwhelming amount of caffeine and this seemed to be the perfect occasion to try Casablanca Twist. The dry aroma is pure mint. Steeped, the strong mint comes through very nicely. The Darjeeling is so subtle that I’m not sure that I would recognize it. I could be drinking a pure single-note mint tisane and would not know the difference.

Mint is among the tastes that I need to have in stock (along with vanilla, almond, chocolate) so I would certainly consider investing in a full load of this next time I order from Adagio. I don’t think it’s an earth-shattering revelation to me (as a tea like Maiden’s Ecstasy from Samovar was or Jackee Muntz) but I do think it would make a great member of the Reliable Dragoons of my teas—you know, those foot-soldiers who are essential back-up for the Admirals and the Generals. Why in the world I am thinking in military metaphor I don’t know unless the word “Casablanca” makes me think automatically of the WWII film with Bergman and Bogart and the wonderful Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Claude Raines—-great cast all around. And Edward Gorey’s stepmother was the lady who burst into singing the French National Anthem! True, true, true!

In any event, I like this tea. I don’t know that Adagio has created a one-of-a-kind blend, but it’s good and it’s nice and it’s minty fresh. My rating reflects the fact that the Darjeeling is not the major player it’s advertised to be. Maybe it went AWOL to take the waters?

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 15 sec

Yep – it is just a reliable old tea…


What a wonderful note for such a basic tea :)

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I really love big, bold, brash teas. Smokiness enthralls me. I don’t seem to do subtle.
I don’t do rooibos.

My rating system:
Never again in a hundred million years

31-55: This tea probably has some redeeming qualities but I won’t would not seek it out again.

Shows some promise but also has a fundamental flaw. I probably owe these a second taste but am unmotivated.

Good with at least one strong quality; I probably would not buy it but would drink it cheerfully.

81-90: Worthy contenders; they might be ranked 100 on somebody’s else’s scale. I like them a lot but have not fallen in love. Will probably buy and use.

91-95: These are the true loves, the chosen ones, the ones I dream about and crave. Unless they are in a limited edition—la! how you tease me!—I will always keep in my cupboard.

96-100: I cannot be separated from these teas and would develop a panic attack if I were to run out.


“She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain.”

Elderly dowager. Quintessential cat lady.

Tea which must be in stock always:

Black Dragon LS by Upton Teas: My choice every morning.

Florence & Lapsang Souchong by Harney & Sons

a good Gen Maicha

Samovar: Russian Blend, Maiden’s Ecstasy, Ryokucha

Mariage Frères: Confucious, Vivaldi, Eros, Aida, Marco Polo

American Tea Room: Brioche

Leland Teas: Bogart

Life in Teacup:
An Xi Tie Guan Yin Grade II modern green style & also Charcoal Style


In the midst of the middle of the heart of nowhere in particular.

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