256 Tasting Notes

Cold-brewed then poured on ice.

I’m heading into a direction: flavored teas are losing their appeal, I quickly move toward the threshold of purely drinking the unflavored. But if there are more blends like this I might not be turned off from flavored teas completely. I haven’t tried a cup of this hot, but it was mighty delicious each time I drank it cold.

I thought this would be bitter since the base tea leaves are pretty broken, but that wasn’t the case. The blueberry flavoring is strong yet light. It works very well with the shou mei – whose sweet grassy flavor I taste just a slight – and doesn’t taste at all artificial. Summer is blueberry time (actually blueberries), and after my first sips I could have sworn I’d just eaten some blueberries. The freeze-dried blueberries in the blend are nice touch in the dry leaf appearance.

2 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML

I swing back and forth. I went through several months where I only drank unflavored, then went back to flavored.

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I had bought this nearly three years ago, when I was still a newbie to pure loose tea. To finish it up quickly, I cold-brewed the remainder. Surprisingly, it still held up event though it was a couple years old (???).

As far as an oolong of which I know nothing about – except the fact that it’s rolled and seems to have gone through ~35% oxidation – I found this delicious cold-brewed and then poured on ice. A simple scented oolong suited this brewing method. The flavor profile isn’t complex: sweetly floral and light, very refreshing and hypothetically relieving for the summer heat (I drank it in an icy office the entire time hehe).

7 g 24 OZ / 709 ML

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I cold-brewed this for 22 hours, and then poured on ice. Since I didn’t have it hot, I can’t compare flavor profiles. But it seems that cold-brewing really draws out strong barley notes, with an undertone of brown sugar sweetness. Very nice to drink. I enjoyed each sip.

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Had a gongfu session. Prepared with a ceramic gaiwan. 5 second rinse. Steeping times from Teavivre’s website: 25 sec, 25, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, 180.

I had a odd experience with the dry leaf aroma: it was vegetal like sencha, but after a letting the leaf sit in the bowl for a minute or so, I smelled orange juice. I’m pretty sure of it… It’s not I’ve had orange juice as of late.

Well, the aroma of the leaf – from the rinse – goes back to Taiwanese oolong. Ah, summer flowers. ‘Tis mid-summer, the day of Lughnasadh. You can’t go wrong with an Alishan oolong, for it’s essence is summer. The wet leaf aroma – which follows the first infusions – reflects the fact that these leaves came from a tree called “Jin Xuan tea tree”: the notes are quite milky.

When I read this, while waiting for the water to heat, my insides winced. Jin Xuan makes me feel a little ill. But this tea isn’t called Jin Xuan.

The leaf yields a light green gold liquor, which is clear and full-bodied, and has a thick mouthfeel. The floral notes are consistent and delicate. In the middle of the session, berry notes comet through – strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, and other goodies. Nothing other than flowers and fruits.

I wouldn’t call this everyday per se – in no way it’s so pedestrian. But it is something one can drink every day, to relax with all year around. Agreeable and pleasant, this isn’t something I’d tire of easily.

195 °F / 90 °C 7 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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This tasted like a run-of-the-mill chocolate tea. Nothing stood out as brownie batter. It was alright.

2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Had a gongfu session with a ceramic gaiwan. One 5-second rinse. Steeping times:. 2, 2, 5, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 35, 75.

The dry aroma has delectable notes of lychee and red grapes, and the aroma of the leaf after the rinse smells more intensely of grapes, and of also wet rocks and maybe stonefruit.

The color of white grape juice sits in my cup. The liquor is not completely clear (wouldn’t say foggy or murky, just not clear), but the last couple infusions eventually become so. Full-bodied. Mellow, smooth, easy to drink. The first and second infusions are heavy on the mineral side and leave behind a tingling sensation. After that, the flavors don’t evolve throughout the session. Each infusion is consistently fruity, with notes similar to that of the aromas – grapes, lychee, etc.

Once on the tongue, that is. Seconds later, if I let the liquor sit in my mouth, a heavy roasted quality and bitter taste settle in, and these merge with the juicy flavors. Incongruous. Only the first two and last two infusions had not such bitterness. Could be due to personal taste, or possibly the brewing temp. Still, I decided to keep it consistent rather than lower it partway through the session. I wasn’t completely displeased, and it this does a nice, relaxing effect.

Boiling 7 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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From the Here’s Hoping TTB Round 4.

Brewed in a shudei kyusu. Steeping times: 45 seconds, 60, 90.

All around, a sweet shincha. The leaf has a heavy aroma of cooked and buttered acorn squash. The electric green liquor has a full body, yet is light with a wild grass flavor and bright character.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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I complete forgot I already reviewed this, so when I drank this yesterday – nearly after 7 months I initially reviewed it – I drank it as if it were completely new to me.

Brewed semi-Western style with a gongfu glass tea pot. No Rinse. Steeping times: 15, 10, 20, 20, 30, 45, 60, 75.

Time didn’t seem fair on this at first. Considering it’s been more than half a year, the dry leaf smelled soapy. Got a little worried. But the wet leaf aroma and everything after was just fine: a garden with flowers of numerous varieties of flowers. It only takes two steepings for the leaves to completely unfurl. The liquor is pale yellow, clear, and full-bodied. The texture starts out as thin but becomes thicker as the session goes on. The first infusion tastes like the wet leaf aroma and of summer air. It also has a stonefruit aftertaste. Infusions 3-5 are more basically more flavorful and more leaf-like. The floral note returns in the last infusions.

I still think this isn’t terribly complex – even less so seven months ago (tropical smoothie??) – and that it’s very nice to drink on any given day of the year, especially shortly after the summer solstice to set up a mood. A good beginner oolong, and a beginner Tie Guan Yin. I’m not changing the rating, though if I were to, it would be 80-81.

Boiling 7 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

I couldn’t forget this oolong! It’s my favorite- I definitely get the entire garden of flowers you mention.

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drank Houjicha Ichiban by Steepster
256 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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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 leafhopper oolongs and shou pu’erh, 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 jin xuan either.

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

IMPORTANT NOTE, PLEASE READ: After two and a half years of having an account here, I will no longer will provide numerical ratings as an addition to the review because the American school system has skewed my thoughts on numbers out of a hundred and the colors throw me off. Curses! My words are more than sufficient. If I really like what I have, I will “recommend”, and if I don’t, “not recommended”.

Key for past ratings:

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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