243 Tasting Notes

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 3 OZ / 88 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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From my mystery grab bag. Really nice orange flavoring, both in the aroma and the infusion. It’s very delicious, doesn’t seem artificial at all. However, the chocolate is kind of weak aromatically, and I can’t taste it at all. I’m pleased with the orange, but the rating is lower because of the lack of promised chocolate.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Cold-brewed for ten hours, then poured on ice.

I wouldn’t have picked this on my own because this blend sounds like a strange one not to my liking. It’s from a mystery grab bag. I figured I’d prefer it only cold-brewed. This dry leaf smells of pineapple and spices, notably cardamon. Taste-wise, while the spiciness is on the tip of the tongue when I first drink, the pineapple flavor is dominant nearly the entire time. It does taste artificial but not overly so. Pineapple flavoring is difficult to work with me. Still, this was pleasant and refreshing to drink, though I wouldn’t have bought it in larger amounts.

2 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML

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Gongfu session. Brewed with a ceramic gaiwan. Used two 10-second rinses. Steeping times: 2 seconds, 5, 10, 15, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 60, 180.

This shou has a much different aroma than I’m used to in general for shou. I heated the gaiwan for a minute with boiling water, then poured it out and let the dry leaf sit inside for about thirty seconds. Light, very sugary and vanilla-like, followed by tapioca pudding. After the rinses and the first couple infusions, the wet leaf has plain oatmeal and sticky rice. At the middle of the session, a leather note appears and becomes more dominant the more I steep the leaf.

The liquor is creamy and full-bodied with a mellow attitude yet a rich character. Not yet awake, this shou has yet to present itself in the first two infusions, which have faint notes of vanilla, raisins, and homemade baked bread made with molasses. The third infusion is pure cocoa. Sticky rice and bread appear in the fourth. At this point the shou begin to tell me to “woooaaaah there, man, sit down and take it easyyyyyyyyyyyy, yeahhhhhhh.” Infusions five through seven continue to have the stick rice note, but also mixed with damp earth. Cinnamon, creamy aftertaste, as if one is drinking warm milk with powdered cinnamon sprinkled on top. Beginning with the eight infusion, the shou weakens, but still going are the vanilla and sticky rice. So rice, very tapioca.

Have this all year around. Doesn’t matter the weather and the temperature.

Boiling 7 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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Brewed with the Western method. Steeping times: 3 minutes, 6 minutes.

How could I not try this one, on the day before I sent the box on its merry way? It didn’t even occur to me that there would be a monsoon flush.

Leaf: Shorter and darker than those of first flush from this box. Nearly black, charred-looking.
Aroma: I had a cold at the time, and my nose was stuffed, but doing even better. The dry leaf aroma was unexpected – barn hay. The wet leaf aroma smelled of malt and damp wood.
Liquor: This is even darker than autumn flush and definitely reflects monsoon weather, as it feels and tastes like stormy clouds. Full-bodied. At first, tastes of nothing. But the longer I let it sit in my mouth the more the flavor profile comes out. Lovely notes of honey fruit.

Boiling 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Brewed with the Western method. Steeping times: 3 minutes, 6 minutes.

Aroma: I had a cold at the time, and my nose was stuffed, but doing much better. Still didn’t try to smell the dry leaf aroma. Wet aroma for this one is richer than those of #1 and #2, smelling of strawberries and apricot.
Liquor: Amber color. Thick texture. Thick, smooth. Very sweet. First infusion tastes richly of honey. The second infusion is muscatel. It’s not quite so rich as the first but still flavorful.

Boiling 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 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 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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