113 Tasting Notes

80

Today was my day to re-point the bricks on the front steps. Not a fun job, and I was saving this tea to be my reward.

1st steep (60 sec): Powerful, sweet grassy aroma with veggie overtones. Good start! The initial taste as surprisingly weak after the strong nose. It grew in strength a bit as it cooled, but never got all that strong. The flavor is similar to a green tea: heavy on the veggies, which is not my favorite style of oolong. Nevertheless, it is well made and interesting.

2nd steep (60 sec): Similar to first steep. A bit less veggie, with a bit of straw appearing, but also a touch of bitterness in the finish. 3rd steep (~2 min): More grass, less veggie, but also a bit more bitter.

This wasn’t a bad tea, but the veggie style just isn’t for me. Not a very good reward for the brickwork. Better luck tomorrow

Many thanks to Courtney for the sample.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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80
drank Yunnan TGFOP by Upton Tea Imports
113 tasting notes

1.6 grams in 6 oz water
This is another example of how conflicted I am by Yunnan tea. The last time I drank this I rated it a 75, but now I’m thinking mid-80s (my rating here is an average of all my ratings, not just the last).

I absolutely love the nose – so rich and complex I could just smell it for hours. Surprisingly rich smoky aroma. The taste has a bit too much smoke/ash for my taste, but is rich and flavorful. As I drank the tea, I started to like it better; perhaps just getting used to it. The finish is also dominated by smoke, but in a nice way. However, by the end of the cup there was a slight bitterness in the finish.

This was part of an Upton Tea sampler set: Introduction to Fine Tea, which also contains Darjeeling, Assam, and Keemun samples. They are all good, solid teas, and an excellent introduction to their types.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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92
drank ZK80 Hao-Ya B by Upton Tea Imports
113 tasting notes

This is the second time I’ve tried this tea, with very similar tasting notes. Rich smoky nose, with perhaps a touch of cedar. Compared with the Harney Hao Ya B, this tea is less smoky but more refined.

In the mouth, the smoke is less obvious than the tea flavors. It is smooth and not overly powerful. The finish kind of sneaks up on you: doesn’t seem like much at first, but grows, and lasts forever. I want to say there is some chocolate in the taste and finish, but if so it is just barely there.

(5 min re-steep): Weak nose. Good taste and finish, but there is a slight hint of bitterness in the finish.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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86
drank Hao Ya 'B' by Harney & Sons
113 tasting notes

I’ve been putting off a review because I have multiple tasting notes that don’t agree.

Today’s note says:
I love the incredibly rich nose. Wood smoke with hints of chocolate and something else (spice?). The taste is rich and complex with moderate power and depth. The finish is strong, but the smoky flavor tastes a bit more like ashes in the finish and I’m not sure how much I like that.

This tea is all about the smoke and if you don’t like a smoky tea you won’t like it. But, it seems to me to be an excellent example of a keemun: smoky and complex. I reduced my rating a bit because I don’t think the finish lives up to the other two components. Still a high rating because the finish isn’t bad, just not up to the rest of the tea.

On previous occasions, I’ve sometimex thought the smoke was too strong, but on other occasions saw more chocolate than smoke. This may be the result of slightly different steeping methods (one was a gong-fu style) or perhaps just my mood. My overall ratings go from 82 to 90, so this is an average of all my previous tastings.

Re-steep as nearly as good as first pot.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec
JustJames

personally i can’t do smoke, but there’s a very interesting ‘lapsang souchon new style’ by tao tea leaf that is a smoky sweet that is awesome.

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85
drank Decaf Mango by Adagio Teas
113 tasting notes

I have a hard time explaining why I like this tea so much. A big part of it is simply because it is decaffeinated. I normally drink unflavored teas, but the huge difference in quality between regular and decaf makes it difficult to switch to decaffeinated tea in the evening. Also, my favorite tea is Keemun and I’ve never seen a decaf Keemun

My go-to evening tea has been Harney and Son’s vanilla Comoro, which does a great job of blending the flavor of tea with Vanilla. This tea is like that as well. It has a big, fruity aroma, but with tea there as well. The taste is also a good mix of fruit and tea. Lots of body, yet smooth and very little bitterness. Not at all sophisticated or complex (which I usually insist upon) but just enjoyable to drink.

I don’t eat mango enough to say that this smells like mango, but I know that I enjoy it. If this were a caffeinated tea with the same characteristics, I probably wouldn’t score it quite this high, but being able to enjoy it at 9 PM is worth a few points.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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86
drank Butterscotch by Art of Tea
113 tasting notes

With sugar: Very pale color. I really like the aroma, but the taste isn’t quite as compelling. It is nearly all butterscotch; the tea flavor gets a bit lost, though it does poke through. The flavor is remarkably complex, with hints of pineapple and grapefruit. I’m not sure how much is the tea and how much is flavoring, but the overall result is quite nice.

2nd pot: I usually use sugar in my flavored teas, but on a whim I decided to not use sugar, and was surprised by how much better I liked the tea. It had a lot of nuance that I missed before. The butterscotch flavor was still dominant, especially in the nose, but I really enjoyed the white tea flavors as well. The re-steep was nearly as good. Definitely a keeper

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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78
drank Decaf Sencha by Harney & Sons
113 tasting notes

(1.6 grams, 6 oz water): Light nose with straw aroma. The taste is light and crisp with notes of straw and grass. Initial impression: not very strong; Short finish. Developed a bit more flavor as it cooled but still not very powerful. I like this tea because it reminds me of a sauvignon blanc wine (which my doctor has forbidden). Not sure if a green tea afficionado would like it. I tasted this with the Upton decaf china green, and initially the power of the Upton decaf just blew me away, but after a while I began to appreciate the delicate tart flavor of this tea. In fact I bumped my rating a couple of points.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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82

(1.6 grams, 6 oz water): Powerful aroma of a new-mown lawn, with hints of straw. Fairly powerful grassy taste, with hints of something else underneath. The finish lingers. As the tea cooled, the flavor changed from grass to straw, but stayed pleasant and relatively strong. This is my favorite green decaf. I drank it immediately after the Harney’s decaf sencha, and the proximity emphasized how much more powerful this tea is. However, in going back and forth between the two teas, I found that this tea lacks the crispness of the Harney’s, which I really like.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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87

My very first keemun was Teavivre’s Keemun #1, and it is still one of my favorite teas. I have been looking forward to trying its “big brother”. I was curious because it seemed to be quite inexpensive compared to other Hao Ya teas I have recently tried.

This tea’s nose has much less smoke than #1, but there are hints of chocolate. It seems very refined and elegant, but less powerful than I would like. The taste is also a bit on the weak side, but pleasant; without a hint of bitterness.

The tea really comes into its own in the finish. It opens up and shows both power and complexity. There is still a lot of flavor a full minute after I swallow. This long finish seems to help the taste build up: each sip seemed stronger than the first, so that by the end of the cup, I can’t really complain about the lack of power.

I gave this pretty much the same rating as the Keemun #1 but they are very different teas. This one is more subtle but lacks the smoke and power that I’ve come to look for in Keemun teas.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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83
drank Vanilla Comoro by Harney & Sons
113 tasting notes

This is my favorite decaf tea, hands down. The vanilla is not overpowering, and the blend is perfect. A very pleasant warm drink in the evening.

The tea has a beautiful aroma that seems slightly toasty with subtle vanilla aroma. The rich flavor is round and multi-dimensional, easing into a nice finish. The burnt flavor gives a hint of bitterness, but not enough to be unpleasant. I usually add a bit of sugar in which case the slight bitterness totally vanishes. Tasted side-by-side with Upton Vanilla Decaf. This one is more dramatic, but I don’t like it any better. (but it costs 2/3 as much by the pound). I bought a pound.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Profile

Bio

Retired engineer/physicist.
My ratings will usually be based on multiple tastings. Green and oolong teas are generally 3 grams of tea in 6 oz water for 1 minute. Black teas are 1.5 grams of tea in 6 oz water for 3-4 minutes.

My numerical ratings are all based on how much enjoyment I took from the tea. Since I prefer blacks and oolongs, they will receive higher scores. I also give a couple of extra points to decafs, just because I can drink them in the evening without staying up half the night. I don’t dislike flavored teas, but find that they lack the complexity of finer teas.

90-100 = superior, worth a high price
80-89 = Excellent. Will buy again
70-79 = Good tea, but probably won’t buy
60-69 = Nothing really wrong, but…
Below 60 = Wouldn’t drink again

Location

Massachusetts

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