238 Tasting Notes

drank Houjicha Ichiban by Steepster
238 tasting notes

From the Here’s Hoping TTB.

Dumped the entire thing in a tea pot and brewed Western style. Steeping times: 30 seconds, 30, 60.

It slipped my mind to take a note of the dry/wet leaf aroma…so no word on that. Oopsies.

The only other houjicha I’ve had was the bagged kind (pyramidal and big squares) when I was back in Kyoto a few years ago. Whatever it was, it was inexpensive. So this is my first houjicha of a better quality, and I like it. It has a flavor profile with unexpected notes and it evolves (kinda). The first infusion tastes mostly like barely tea with a hint of chocolate, the second of Raisinettes, and the third – at this point, the leaf has weakened – of plain ol’ houjiacha.

I don’t particularly like Raisinettes but if it’s my tea, sure why not!

8 OZ / 236 ML

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Sample provided in exchange for a review. Thank you very much!

Cold-brewed: 1/2 tsp, 6oz, stirred right away. Chamomile dominates the other ingredients initially, and the infusion tastes unpleasantly bitter. After drinking around half of the cup, the mint comes through, and the bitterness disappears a little.

Hot-brewed: 1/2 tsp, 6oz, 212 temperature. Similar to the cold-brewed infusion, but much better taste. Hardly any bitterness, thanks to the chamomile being sweeter. I’m able to taste the rest of the ingredients.

Chamomile isn’t my favorite herb when it comes to it being used in herbal blends since I find it tends to overpower the other ingredients. Though I definitely prefer the hot-brewed infusion, taste-wise. Additionally, This powder was difficult to mix because the chamomile flowers were not entirely crushed to a powder (it was more like fine bits).

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Sample provided for the review. Thanks so much!

Hot-brewed: 1/2 tsp, 6oz, 212 temperature. This infusion offers an interesting dichotomy. it tastes warm and comforting because the base tea has grassy and buttery notes, but also cool because of the peppermint. The eucalyptus fits snugly in between, enhancing the calming effect.

Cold-brewed: 1/2 tsp, 6oz, stirred right away. This is similar to the hot infusion, except than the mint is stronger than the base tea and the eucalyptus. It tastes chilled even though I (inadvertently) used almost lukewarm filtered tap water. Very refreshing cup!

It’s interesting that the base tea is a Darjeeling. I didn’t think it would work, but I enjoyed drinking both infusions.

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Thank you for the samples, Will!

Cold-brewed (1): 1/2 teaspoon, 6 oz, mixed right away.
Hot-brewed (2): 1/2 teaspoon, 6 ounces, 212 degrees.

1: A balanced combination of hibiscus and rose. The former isn’t at all powerful – it’s on the weak side for me since I drink hibiscus straight, but those who don’t like hibiscus should have no fear. I taste more of the rose.

2: I prefer this method. Overall, it’s a stronger-tasting cup. The hibiscus pops out more in the beginning, but the rose petals take over when I let the infusion sit in my mouth and in the aftertaste.

Lovely magenta/dark pink shade. I had trouble tasting the jasmine, but both cups were nice to drink. Hibiscus and rose make a good pairing.

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Thank you for the sample, Will!

Brewed with hot water and then heated whole milk. Used half a teaspoon of powder for each, 6 ounces for each liquid, boiling.

Hot water: Spicy. Not adding milk allows the spices to fully come through. They compliment the woody note that the rooibos gives. There is a ginger snap cookie aftertaste.

Heated whole milk: The spices are muted somewhat, but the milk adds a cozy and creamy taste, texture, and feeling. This infusion is more like ginger snap cookie in liquid form. Masala chai drinker-Dad said it was “distinctive”, and that it’s “good as cocoa.”

This is for the winter solstice, not the summer solstice. In all aspects. Don’t drink it today. /melts

I really enjoyed this one!

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Thank you for the samples, Will!

Hot-brewed (1): 1/2 teaspoon, 6 ounces, 212 degrees.
Cold-brewed (2): 1/2 teaspoon, 6 oz, mixed right away.

1: The licorice root stands, and it adds a sweetness that dominates the the yerba mate.

2: No one ingredient stands out in this cup. They blend well together. This tastes leafier, and it’s much sweeter than it was hot-brewed, although in leafy way. The texture is much thicker.

The murky beige color isn’t terribly appealing, but it didn’t put me off. I preferred drinking this cold-brewed. Also, I felt an energized after downing all twelve ounces nearly all at once. If you want something to drink before exercising, go for this.

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Brewed with a glass gongfu tea pot . Steeping times: 45, 30, 45, 60, 90.

The dry leaf initially smells buttery and flowery, and when my nose becomes used to the aroma, sweet barn hay (maybe because the sample is almost a year old….). The wet leaf has classic dong ding aroma notes: roasted, much more floral, and chlorophyll-filled.

The liquor is slightly green gold, pale, clear. Full-body. Creamy texture. The first infusion is sweet and floral, an embodiment of mid-spring with a calming effect. Roasted vegetables are dominant in the second, and in the third – the peak of the session – they tone down, and a sugarcane sweetness appears, along with a honeysuckle note. Strawberry aftertaste. After a two and half hour break, I resumed the session. The fourth infusion is light and floral, and the fifth is roughly the same, although a little tangy.

I didn’t want to ingest anymore caffeine for the day, so I cold-brewed the rest for fourteen hours. Not…recommended. The leaf didn’t yield much. Not complex at all.

This dong ding didn’t give me a wow factor, but it was still lovely to drink, especially on a not-too-warm, sunny spring Sunday.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Brewed semi-Western style with a glass test tube steeper. Steeping times: 30, 15, 20, 40, 80.

Overall, this a complex ZSXZ. The dry leaf aroma smells like a small, controlled fire that has died out for a few minutes: a gentle smoke, different evergreens and needles burned together. In contrast, the wet leaf aroma is heavy with gray smoke and charred wood. My favorite: The aroma rising from the steeper after I have poured out the liquor is honey-glazed Christmas ham.

The liquor is dark amber in color, clear, and full-bodied. The first infusion resembles inhaling enough smoke that you can taste it and it sticks to your nostrils. A second, shorter steeping – and the subsequent infusions – are still smoky (of course) but much lighter, with a cedar note and cooked meat aftertaste. I could swear I had finished eating BBQ’d pork. Sweeter and sweeter it becomes. A note of maple syrup emerges. The sessions ends with equal smoke and maple syrup.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Thank you, Glen and Lamu, for providing a sample to review!

Had a gongfu session. Prepared with a ceramic gaiwan. Did two 3-second rinses. Steeping times: 5, 10, 20, 45, 75, 120.

Letting the dry leaf sit in the heated gaiwan really brings out its aroma: a very sweet sugarcane, then sticky rice, and then cedar. The wet leaf aroma smells more like damp earth and wood – an old forest perpetually wet – and like cherries.

When sitting in my makeshift sharing pitcher, the liquor resembles whiskey, having the very dark amber color and the clarity of an alcohol. The texture of the liquor starts off as smooth and then becomes creamier, almost soup-like somewhere in the middle of the session.

The leaf still has yet give away its entirely in the first infusion, which tastes mostly like wet wood, weakly. The second infusion is where it really got started. My first impression is wet wood, again, but allowing the liquor to sit in my mouth, I taste black cherries, finishing with black coffee. Bread aftertaste. The third and fourth infusions are even sweeter, but only initially. Cooked mushrooms take over, followed by a bitter note of baking chocolate. The sweet and the bitter are simultaneous and balanced. Infusions five and six are still sweet but mellower in intensity. Alongside earth and coffee, sugarcane makes its reprise.

This was a pleasnt shou to drink, especially since it matched the weather today – cool, then humid, then stormy, then cool again – and the petrichor-filled smells that came with it. It was definitely the shou influencing the weather and not the other way around!

Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

I love this one ;)

Crimson Lotus Tea

I love the ‘warm aroma’ as I call it. You get a unique perspective into aromas that get washed away once hot water gets added. Let’s you see the larger picture of a puerh. Petrichor is my new favorite word. :-)


Gongfu ceremony really brings out a tea’s aroma, which is actually my favorite part of reviewing a tea.

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Many thanks to Glen and Lamu providing this sample to review!

Gongfu session with a ceramic gaiwan. 3 second rinse. Steeping times: 6, 10, 10, 20, 15, 20, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120.

The dry leaf smells of smoked salmon. Get the bagels and capers! Letting the piece of cake sit in a heated gaiwan also brings out a bit of stonefruit. Following the sixth infusion: apricot!! What I love in sheng aroma.

This sheng yields a darker color than I’m used to – a dark honey – and has consistently smooth and thick texture. Clear at first, the liquor becomes cloudy towards the middle of the session. The first infusion is mellow and tastes like it smells (smoked salmon). The second tastes of tobacco. There is a slight bitterness, and a musty aftertaste that turns into apricot jelly fifteen minutes later. Following this infusion, the sheng really strengthens in flavor. The mustiness continues in infusions three and four, which have a fruity aftertaste. Infusions five through fourteen teeter between bitterness with an underneath fruity note, and fruity flavors with an underneath bitterness. It is around the ninth infusion I’m able to pry the leaves apart with the gaiwan lid. They were fun to play with!

I can’t tell if it’s my lack of experience with sheng in general – hence my untrained palate – or if this sheng is still young. I was expecting it to evolve from the bitterness and become sweeter as the session went on.

The qi made me feel a little loopy after drinking four infusions in relatively quick succession. Also, I have a quiet stomach-ache (meaning “eeeeeeeeeeeeeee but I’ll get better soon no worries”) that I’ve had since infusion three (which was four hours ago).

205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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I began drinking tea because its complexity fascinated me. I love learning about its history, its manufacturing processes, and its place in various cultures.

My favorite teas are shou and Japanese greens, and my favorite herbal tisanes are spear/peppermint, lavender and chrysanthemum. I’m currently exploring shou and sheng pu’erh, and any Chinese and Taiwanese teas. African teas are my babies. I adore masala chai – I share with my dad every Friday (“chai Friday” – hee hee). The only teas I truly dislike are fruity tisanes and the ones that have too much fruit. I do like hisbiscus, especially iced, though. Not much of a fan of milk oolong either.

I’m an MFA graduate who studied nonfiction writing and am now an editorial assistant. I mostly write nature essays. I’m birder as well as a tea enthusiast. I also like exercising, Tolkien, and Ancient Egypt.

How I rate:

96-100 I adore absolutely everything about it. A permanent addition to my stash.

90-95 Superb quality and extremely enjoyable, but not something I’d necessarily like to have in my stash (might have to do with personal tastes, depending on what I say in the tasting note).

80-89 Delicious! Pleased with the overall quality.

70-79 Simply, I like it. There are qualities that I find good, but there also are things that aren’t, hence a lower rating that I would have otherwise like to put.

60-69 Overall “meh”. Not necessarily bad, but not necessarily good.

0-59 No.

If there is no rating: I don’t feel experienced enough to rate the tea, or said tea just goes beyond rating (in a positive way).


Westchester, NY

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