345 Tasting Notes

I hadn’t had mugicha for almost six years until this summer. When I studied abroad in Kyoto, my host mother brewed a large pot every evening (large tea bags from the grocery store) and then let it refrigerate over night in recycled bottles. My host siblings and I each took a bottle to school each day. Sometimes, instead of ryokucha, my host mother would brew a hot cup of mugicha after dinner. I only remember that it tasted like…barley – simply barley.

In comparison, Den’s mugicha is more roasted and even tastes coffee-like. At first these qualities deterred me from liking it, so I diluted the infusion by more than 50%. The roast used to be a tad heavy and bitter for me. Slowly, I started using the directions more strictly. The cool roasted grain taste was very refreshing during the hotter days and evenings. I just finished the last bag (now being late September). Heating up it up after cold-brewing produces a comforting cup akin to houjicha.

Glad I decided to buy this even though I didn’t have a sample beforehand. Another plus is that it’s affordable.

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From the Regional Group Buy.

First brewed in a ceramic infuser mug, then in a glass tumbler with the same infuser.

Himalayan Golden Black looks somewhat like black Bi Luo Chun: small, downy, golden-tipped black curlies. My favorite aspect of this tea by far is the aromas. The packet is filled with the fragrance of bitter dark chocolate. I let the leaf sit in the pre-heated mug, covered, and this brought out cinnamon and cocoa powder. Ready for baking! Made me think of those microwavable cakes in mugs.

At first, I follow the packet instructions: 1 teaspoon per 8oz for 3-4 minutes. I like to get out as much as I can with loose leaf tea in general, so I go with 3 minutes. This produces – in spite of a rich golden color – a weak infusion. The chocolate flavor tastes watered down. I brewed the second infusion for 10 minutes. Even worse.

I couldn’t leave my experience with this tea at that since I didn’t think it’d be fair. I have another go-around with it later. I simply double the leaf amount. And this time, I timed the first infusion for 4 minutes. Much better results. Once I get passed the tannin and malt, the liquor is very flavorful and rich with notes of fudge-frosting brownies, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Liquid dessert. The next and last infusion is timed for 9 minutes and it tastes the same. (I had used a glass instead of the mug this time. Huge difference. I’m not brewing black/red tea in thick ceramic ever again.)

You may want to double the amount of leaf if you acquire this. It’s worth to do so. I’m very glad it worked out. The packet parameters make work for you – no harm in messing around.

Boiling 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Spur of the moment review! Hongcha is evocative of autumn for me. I decided to celebrate the equinox with this one! Merry Mabon to those who celebrate the Wheel of the Year! (sorry, S.G. Sanders, I backed down from shou because it’s sooooo warm today)

I gongfu’d 3g in my new 60ml gaiwan. The dry leaf’s presentation against a white background is just beautiful:


I last wrote a review six months ago (the numerical rating is from the first review). What particularly sticks out this session is that I identify different flavors. Sweet potatoes and orange zest particularly stick out, and then the almonds and cashews when I really concentrate. Not so much malt and no brownies this time – could be the difference in harvest year.

So smoooooooth. The mouth becomes dry after I swallow, but quickly fills again with saliva. Very nutty aftertaste. Returning notes of almonds.

I can’t help but keep sticking my nose into the gaiwan and savoring the wet leaf aroma. It simply won’t let up! Cocoa and caramel, grains and raisins.

There’s no place like hongcha, there’s no place like hongcha, there’s no place like hongcha.


Oooh that sounds good!


I can send you some, if you’d like!


Sure! I’d like that. Should I message you?

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From the Pu’erh Plus TTB.

Brewed in a ceramic gaiwan. The tuocha weight totaled 5.4g. I was going to give it two 10-second rinses and a ten minute rest, but it opened up very quickly, so only one rinse was necessary. Steeping times: 2, 2, 4, 4, 8, 18, 30; 1.5 minutes, 4, 15.

The tuocha smells of cedar wood. Letting it rest in the pre-heated gaiwan brings out an aroma of pulled pork, which gradually changes into honey BBQ sauce, and then to chocolate. The wet leaf smells of tapioca and smoky pine wood.

The soup is deep reddish brown, full-bodied, and creamy. It’s somewhat cloudy at first and takes up to four infusions to finally clear. I may should have kept the tuocha better. Who knows how long it’s been sitting in the little plastic baggie (kept in an open cardboard box). The first two infusions taste funky, which begins to lessen at the third, when I also taste a hint of chocolate. The fourth infusion has that cream of mushroom flavor I haven’t tasted in shou in a while, but it is also sweet (not incongruously so). Fifth infusion and onward, there is flat cedar wood note, almost paper-like at the end.

This might be my tastes since I haven’t had a mini tuocha in more than a year. More likely, this might be a lesson on how I should keep shou mini tuos if I ever stock on any.


Boiling 4 OZ / 120 ML

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Purchased last year, finished just now. Brewed in a ceramic tea pot or in a paper filter bag.

As I’ve previously stated before, I love masala chai and exploring unique blends. I’m a lover of ginger, and I appreciate the fact that the ginger Brenden uses in his blends is stronger than what I’ve encountered in teas from other companies. But the ginger in this case overpowers all of the other ingredients, both the base tea and the spices. Just barely I can taste the vanilla bean and the chocolately goodness from the black Bi Luo Chun (I’m a fan of his Golden Snail). And I did try to shake up the pouch.

It’s hard to fully comment every aspect. Nevertheless, this makes an excellent autumn tea. It is very comforting. I do recommend it for those who are curious or want a different masala chai. You would most likely get something different out of this.

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From the Pu’erh Plus TTB.

Used a ceramic gaiwan. This session was all over the place. Too bad I only had 4.2g to experiment with – I wanted to enjoy this as much as I could. I changed the brewing temperature twice – beginning with boiling, then to 200, lastly to 185 – because I thought an 11-year old sheng would do better with a hotter temperature. But the liquor was dark yellow and the amount of bitterness exceeded my expectations. Dry storage, it is then.

Five second rinse. Three minute resting period (looked pretty compressed, but loosened pretty quickly). Steeping times: 5 seconds, 5, 2, 2, 5, 8, 8, 10, 20, 30, 45; 1 minute, 2, 4, 8, 15.

At first, the dry leaf aroma has a sour note of pickled something (closest, red peppers), then sweetened to honey and cooked brown sugar. The wet leaf aroma is smokey and grassy, becoming lightly fruity later in the session. My tasting cup and the gaiwan lid held onto this fruitiness for much of the session.

212 degrees, infusions 1 through 5. Bitter, herbaceous. Only the first cup has huigan. The soup starts to have a thick texture with the fourth.

200 degrees, infusions 6 through 9. Texture is much thicker. Energetic mouthfeel. Still quite bitter and herbaceous with just a touch of sweetness underneath. Not much huigan.

185 degrees, infusions 10 through 16. The soup goes through the most evolution in this strand. The intensity of flavor has lightened. Tastes bitter but doesn’t feel bitter. The herbaceous note is still present and I also get some tobacco. The aftertaste is citrus zest. Abruptly (beginning with 13), the soup becomes purely sweet with a more noticeable huigan. Strong note of apricot until the end.

(what I have done to this sheng. oh well, still learning.)


2 OZ / 60 ML

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drank Nandi Hills Black by Justea
345 tasting notes

From the Regional Group Buy. I split the sample packet into two sessions.

Gongfu first in a 120ml ceramic gaiwan. Steeping times: 15 seconds, 12, 18, 25, 45; 1 minute, 3, 8. The dry leaf aroma morphs the more I smell it, changing from malt to pipe tobacco to beef jerky. After resting in the pre-heated bowl, the leaf aroma is smokier and more meat-like. The wet leaf aroma is evocative of deciduous tree wood.

The liquor has a full body. It is beautifully golden in the sharing pitcher. 15 seconds might have been too much time for the first infusion, which tastes malty and smokey with just a hint of honey beneath. Thereafter, all the way to the end of the session, I taste a lighter – not that much lighter – sweet potato note. The texture is thick and silky.

Second session was with an infuser mug. Steeping times: 3 minutes, 5, 8. The wet leaf aroma undergoes more change. At first it smells noticeably of tannins, then switches to honey, then to BBQ meat covered with honey BBQ sauce. (I did not have a dish like this recently.) Not surprisingly, this method produces a more intense liquor. It is darker, heartier, and more robust. Very tannic. Also a little astringent. The first cup tastes of smoke and red meat, and has a sweet aftertaste. These notes completely disappear after that, though. Compared to the first, the second and third cups are simple. Simply tannic. I had to finally add milk to the third cup since the temperature really warmed up by this point of the day.

You could go either way with Nandi Hills Black, depending on what you want out of it. If the season were winter, I’d go for the Western method. I did prefer brewing the leaf in the gaiwan. It was the first time I’d gongfu’d an African black tea. That session was more enjoyable all around. Reminded me of certain Dian Hong.

200 °F / 93 °C 5 g 0 OZ / 0 ML

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Acquired through the Regional Group Buy. This is only for my second or third purple-ish tea. Still very new to me. I evaluated this tea as best as I could, and I tried to be as concrete in identifying the flavors I was smelling and tasting. I decided to first brew half the sample in a gaiwan and then then other half in an infuser mug.

120ml. No rinse. Steeping times: 30 seconds, 10, 20, 40, 60, 90; 2 minutes, 3, 5, 8, 12.


I had difficulty discerning specific notes in the dry leaf aroma. I wrote: sweet, cloves, grain-like, Cheerios. I let the leaf rest in the pre-heated bowl and smelled an entirely different aroma: tart berries, particularly blackberries and gooseberries. The wet leaf aroma is combination of the previous, smelling of pies made with tart berries, and of Cheerios.

The gongfu method produces a liquor the color of rose quartz. The body is medium, and the texture creamy, and the aftertaste consistently sweet. The tasting portion starts off sour – literally. At the second and third, the tart berries stay in the front of my mouth while the Cheerios note rests in the back. The fourth and fifth infusions are more grainy than sweet/tart. From the sixth infusion to the end, the liquor tastes sweet with a note of chard, the grain having disappeared entirely.

I found steeping the leaf Western method more favorable. This leaf is meant to be steeped this way. Steeping times: 3 minutes, 5, 10.


Two days later, I had an easier time picking out what I was smelling in the aromas. Dry: rhubarb, gooseberries, gooseberry pie. Wet: same notes, but the sweet- and tartness are stronger. I can’t tell what the liquor color is because the inside of the mug is blue. This time, the body is fuller. The first cup, at first taste, has a bitter grass notes, underneath of which is plum. As I continue to drink, the tea becomes more flavorful. The bitterness disappears, the sweetness completely takes over, and the delightfully fruity aftertaste lasts for minutes. The second and third cups taste lighter and not as flavorful, but are just as sweet, with no bitterness at all.

Additionally, I couldn’t find anything off-putting about this tea. Preparing Purple Leaf Tea the gongfu method draws it out too much. Consequently, its personality doesn’t shine through. I highly recommend to steep the leaf in an infuser mug like me or a larger pot. The leaf gives out so much more.

175 °F / 79 °C 5 g

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Acquired through the Regional Group Buy.

The directions say 195 degrees, but since I don’t have that setting on my kettle, I went with 190 and then lowered it to 185 in the middle of the session. Prepared semi-Western, semi-gongfu method, with a glass tea pot. Steeping times: 2, 3, 4, 6.

I don’t know when the tea was processed, but the dry leaf aroma smells very fresh and interesting. It’s both savory and sweet, with notes of buttered boiled beans, peaches, and sea salt. I let the leaf sit in the pre-heated pot for a bit and smelled a more vegetal aroma, which reminded me of Lu Shan Yun Wu. The wet leaf aroma – still savory – is also sweet, this time in a high mountain oolong way.

Overall, the liquor is light green, clean, and full-bodied, having a bright and crisp personality. The texture is creamy. Infusions one through three taste like the wet leaf aroma – savory with the sweetness of a Taiwanese. Wenshan Baozhong specifically comes to mind. The last sips leave me with a dry mouth, but a long-lasting nectarine aftertaste. A minty note makes an appearance in the aftertaste after I finish the third infusion.

I then took a longer break that lasted a couple hours. The fourth infusion tasted completely different – sweet and grassy like a young sheng.

This kind of green tea doesn’t suit my tastes. I prefer the sweeter varieties over the savory. And after having tried a few Wenshan Baozhongs, I concluded that while I can stomach them and do like how they taste, I don’t particularly go out of my way to experience them over and over. Regardless of these thoughts, I do think that this green tea is good quality. But it has flavors that someone else would appreciate more.

3 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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drank Magnolia Oolong by Tea Ave
345 tasting notes

Purchased for summer cold-brewing purposes. Didn’t sample before.

I had only one Magnolia Oolong prior to Tea Ave’s – from Tea District – and loved it. I immediately declared this floral oolong to be my favorite cold-brewing tea. I looked forward to trying Tea Ave’s. The base is a higher quality Alishan oolong, which is light and sweetly floral, blending very nicely with the magnolia flowers. (I’m not one to pick out specific flowers in floral oolongs, and that’s as detailed as I’ll get.) Neither overpowers the other.

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed. I got exactly what I wanted: an incredibly delicious and refreshing Magnolia Oolong that detracts from the feeling of high humidity suffocating the self.


Magnolias are such beautiful trees with large flowers. Surprisingly, we have a few this far North.


They sure are. They’re a popular yard tree where I live. It’s a joy to see them every spring.

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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.

Japanese greens were my first love and gateway into the world.

My favorite teas are leafhopper oolongs, pu’erh (shou and sheng), and masala chai. My favorite herbal tisanes are spear/peppermint, lavender and chrysanthemum.

I’m currently exploring pu’erh, and any Chinese and Taiwanese teas in general. I’m not much into flavored teas, unlike when I first started. The only teas I truly dislike are fruity tisanes and the ones that have too much fruit. I do like hisbiscus, especially iced.

I like to write nature essays. I’m a birdwatcher as well as a tea enthusiast. The kiwi is one of my favorite birds. I also like Tolkien, Ancient Egypt, and exercising.

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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