93 Tasting Notes


This is probably one of the best smelling teas I have owned, aside from my Shinchas/Gyokuro (because nothing beats a fresh green). Cinnamon and spices in cider by the fireplace come to mind.

The base is black tea, but it’s absolutely packed with spices, cloves, large bits of citrus peel etc. and it shows through in the end result. It still tastes like tea, but both the taste and the smell strongly reflect that warm cinnamon spiciness. The smooth tea flavor is good, but stays in the background as a base. One could probably write pages dissecting all the flavor notes and the order in which they manifest… but that would miss the point. This blend isn’t about the parts, but about the picture they paint. I’d have liked to see more Lapsang smokiness to go with the feel, but that would be too polarizing for most customers. I will have to blend this with some actual Lapsang and report back.

Be it on a cold winter’s night, or upon getting into the office after standing on a freezing BART station platform at an ungodly early hour, this is the tea equivalent of “Winter Warmer” type beers. Highly recommended if you can find it, at any time it’s cold out, or you just need some comfort tea.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec

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Note: This tea spent five years aging in the tin prior to this post.

I found this to be an especially nice black tea. It blends the smoke of a Lapsang (though obviously much less intense) with a woodsy tobacco sort of flavor – so, it’s a Keemun. If you’re not into smoky woodsy teas, this might well be your least favorite black tea aside from Lapsang Souchong – but if you are, this is pretty good.

A Keemun will generally take being left on the shelf for years pretty well, so in my case the unintentional five year aging served to dramatically mellow out the bite, bringing it down to almost pu-erh levels of not-bitter. I found that to compliment the flavor pretty well – so while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend five years… this is one you can give a few of aging for a mellower profile, and it certainly holds up fine if you’re slow to finish the tin.

I can’t rate it especially highly because it didn’t wow me, but it’s definitely good, and I wouldn’t turn it down. I tend to spoil my palate with super-fancy teas, and I can see this blowing some minds if one is new to loose-leaf brewed right.

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 15 sec

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Somehow, I managed to fall out of being a tea nerd and went without loose-leaf for years. As a result, coming back into it, I found myself with a few tuo-cha left of this pu-erh. After five years in their tin, there is a distinctly different character from when I purchased it, worthy of note.

Even for a pu-erh, the years have mellowed it further, smoothed out the body, and a 45 second 195F first steep leads to coffee-black tea, and the cake completely coming apart to leaves in the basket.

It tastes like dirt, in the best of ways. It has a certain stale, fermented sort of pungency from the excess aging that I think is perhaps too much, but it’s still quite drinkable. I wouldn’t recommend you let this age for 5 years, but 2-3 in I am sure would be quite good. This isn’t a particularly special pu-erh either way, but it’s readily available, decently priced, has a nice tin and comes in single-pot tuo-cha. A good staple pu-erh.

It’s worth noting something many pu-erh newbies miss – this as with almost any is good for not just a second steep, but as many as six, and better pu-erh go even longer. Dumping the leaves after one infusion is a waste of your money. The steep lengths should be roughly 20-25 seconds longer each time, and start at 45 seconds – assuming you’ve rinsed the cake and let it sit as is proper.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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Her Highness Rozen Maiden No.5, Shinku, is my tea-soulmate.

I am a tea nerd. I only brew looseleaf, I keep an instant read thermometer with my stash and never, ever brew a cup without getting the water temperature I want first. I can’t stop buying teas that capture my heart, even if I have more than I could ever finish before they go stale – though I do my best to keep delicate ones sealed until I’m ready to dig in.

I rate things on a different scale than I think most people do. For me, 50 is not a bad grade, 50 is take it or leave it, I probably wouldn’t turn it down but I wouldn’t ask for it. 50 is indifference, sub-50 is dislike.

Also, I live near Lupicia SF, and can get there and back in the span of my lunch break. I’m jealous of myself.

I like just about everything, but my true loves are shincha, gyokuro, pu-erh, and lapsang souchong. Grass clippings, dirt, and campfires, mmm mm.

What I won’t touch is blasphemous grossness like candy-flavored rooibos, fruit-and-vanilla white teas, etc. – don’t even get me started.


SF Bay Area