1320 Tasting Notes


Another Whispering Pines sample! I needed a treat to make this morning at work even remotely bearable, and obviously I turned to tea in my time of need. I used 1.5 tsp of leaf, and gave it three minutes in water just cooled from boiling. No additions. While brewing, the scent is wonderfully savoury – I’m thinking rye bread, in particular.

To taste, it’s just as wonderful as I’d hoped. It reminds me of Butiki’s Taiwanese Wild Mountain Black (which I loved), and even a little of Verdant’s Laoshan Black (although that’s a relatively distant memory now). Initially, it’s quite chocolatey, although it’s an almost bittersweet dark chocolate/cocoa flavour. Then, in the mid-sip, the fruitiness emerges! Plum and blackberry are the descriptors best suited; a little tart, a little sharp, but with a wonderful juiciness that makes this an absolute pleasure to sip. In the aftertaste, I’m picking up mostly bread. It matches the scent almost perfectly, in a savoury, lightly malty way. It’s a wonderful combination of flavours – sitting here, it’s almost got me thinking of summer pudding. Or maybe craving is the right word, if I’m honest.

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but black tea like this makes me wonder why I bother with flavoured tea at all. This tea tastes vibrant and fresh, and is so utterly, perfectly smooth; almost like honey. Definitely one I’ll be needing to repurchase!

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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Another superbly wonderful tea from Whispering Pines. I’m adding my review here as I believe I have the old version. It seems sad to say that, because I’m enjoying this cup immensely. Still, seasons change and all that. Clearly I’ll have to try the new version to compare!

Anyway, the tea. I used 1.5 tsp of leaf, and gave it three minutes in boiling water. I added a splash of milk (just the tiniest one, though!) The scent of the dry leaf is wonderfully chocolatey, like opening a tin of cocoa powder and taking a sniff.

To taste, this is probably the nicest quality black blend I’ve tried in a good long while. The initial flavour is chocolate; quite dark and rich, but with a deliciously smooth, creamy edge. A mild fruitiness emerges in the mid-sip, initially cherry (chocolate covered cherry, anyone?), but ultimately turning more towards apricot. It’s light, fruity, and juicy-tasting, and the perfect counterpoint to the chocolate/cream richness of the initial sip. The end of the sip is heavily malty, with all the sweetness that implies, with a touch of honey. It’s also gloriously smooth. The chocolate flavour lingers in the aftertaste, making this an almost decadent treat. I consider my morning thoroughly brightened! This one is definitely going on my shopping list!

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp
Whispering Pines Tea Company

Do you know when you ordered this? I’d be able to find out if it was an old or new one. :-)


Are the two versions significantly different from each other?

Whispering Pines Tea Company

@Dustin, the old version was, in my opinion, pretty bland. To be honest I didn’t enjoy it at all, haha. I spent about 8 months searching for the right dian hong to replace the one in it with, and when I finally found it, North Winds became my absolute favorite tea. I pretty much drink it daily, which says a lot because I generally drink 3 or less teas each day. :-)


I can see if I still have the invoice…

Whispering Pines Tea Company

I just looked it up! :-) It’s possible that you have the new one, but hard to tell. Around the end of June I started putting the new version in sample packs, so it’s likely you got the new one, but who really knows? :-P


I liked it anyway :)

Whispering Pines Tea Company

:D woot! I’m glad :)

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Finally gave in and used my one-cup sample of this last night. I’ve been holding out for the sake of my wallet, but the temptation finally got too much! I followed the recommended parameters and gave 1/2 tbsp of leaf 3 minutes in water just cooled from boiling. While brewing, it smells amazing, like vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate sauce. I know already that it’s going to be a treat to drink.

It is, of course. From the very first sip, this is almost like drinking a cup of high quality melted chocolate (only less thick, obviously). It tastes wonderfully of dark chocolate, and is almost a little drying in its intensity, like cocoa powder. It’s saved from becoming too dry by the vanilla, which hangs around in the background and contributes a wonderful, rich, creamy-tasting depth of flavour. I wouldn’t say I get fudge, exactly, but definitely chocolate and vanilla, and enough of both to go a long way. After the initial hit of flavour wears off, I can taste a mild fruitiness that could well be the North Winds. It’s cherry, pretty much, and almost syrupy. It’s the perfect end to the perfect sip!

For a blend of black teas only flavoured with vanilla, this is exceptional. Definitely one I’d like to keep around, although for very special days only. If I drank this regularly, I’d probably drink nothing else. Utterly gorgeous stuff.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp
Whispering Pines Tea Company

So glad you enjoyed this one! :-)


Great review, this makes me want to try this tea a lot!

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As I’m on a roll with Whispering Pines teas at the moment, I decided to maintain the momentum. I received this as a sample with my last order, and, as I love Chinese black teas, I was pleased to have the opportunity to give it a try. The dry leaf is a beautiful thing; slightly downy bright golden swirls with brownish black edges, which really do bring to mind snail shells.

I followed the recommended parameters, and gave 1 tsp of leaf 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium red-brown, and the scent while brewing is sweetly malty with an edge of grain.

To taste, this one is a wonderfully smooth delight. The initial flavour is chocolate (I’d say milk, as it’s quite sweet and mild), followed by a lightly bready note. Freshly cooked, warm, yeasty bread. The sweetness is maintained into the mid sip, where there’s a wonderful maltiness, and the almost starchy flavour of sweet potato. The flavour deepens in the aftertaste, and I can detect a slightly darker, bittersweet note that works as the perfect counterpoint to the initial sweetness. Now it’s more like dark chocolate dusted with dry cocoa, but there’s absolutely no astringency.

I’ve come to really appreciate teas like this, which tick all the boxes for me in terms of flavours I enjoy in black tea. There are others I enjoy equally, but this is a strong contender and one I’d be happy to keep around long term.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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I’m wary of smoky teas in general, but I can make an exception for Whispering Pines. I get along with their brand of smoke better than I do any other, and their blends are so gloriously evocative it seems more like part of an experience than just smoke for the sake of smoke. So, although I’ve let this one languish for a while, I’ve finally pulled it out to try on this cold January morning!

I used 1 tsp of leaf, and gave it a cautious 3 minutes in boiling water. While brewing, the scent is strongly smoky. It’s immediately obvious that this is a lapsang blend! After a couple of minutes, the smoke does fade a little, and some of the spice notes start to come out.

To taste, this pretty much encapsulates the experience of sitting around a campfire on a cold night. The smoke is prominent in the initial sip, and is a little resinous and piney, like burning logs. It’s also somehow “soft”…a gentle smoke, rather than being harsh and acrid. Even if you’re not a fan of smoky tea, this one is palatable.

A mild spiciness emerges in the mid sip, primarily characterised by the dank flavour of cloves. This works really well with the campfire/forest evocation, reminiscent of damp leaves or earth after a heavy rain shower. There’s a hint of orange at the very end of the sip, which brightens the flavour a bit, but it’s fleeting and barely there. I can’t really detect the rooibos at all, although I noted the tell tale red leaves when spooning this into my infuser. Perhaps they’re responsible for the “softness” I can taste – I can’t attribute it to anything else!

I’ve tried a few smoky teas, but this has to be one of my favourites. It’s very natural-tasting and by no means overpowering, and I would extend my rather cautious brew time in future now that I know the smoke flavour isn’t too acrid. An evocative wintery delight.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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I’ve a couple of new-to-me Whispering Pines blends with me today at work. After my success with Woodland Chai yesterday, I’m looking forward to trying some more! I chose to start with this one, because I wanted something fresh and clean tasting to chase away my grogginess. I used 1.5 tsp of leaf, and gave it 1.5 minutes. It got boiling water because I was sleepy and not really concentrating, but fortunately it seems none the worse for it.

To taste, I’m primarily picking up a wonderfully sweet, refreshing combination of spearmint and peppermint. I like to see spearmint in mint blends because it adds a sweetness and a lightness that I sometimes find lacking in peppermint. For me, peppermint adds a stronger, cooler mint flavour. The combination here is just right, making this refreshingly minty without being overpoweringly toothpaste like.

I can taste jasmine in the mid sip, and it lingers as a light floral in the aftertaste. I’m a little sensitive when it comes to jasmine teas, but this one isn’t too perfume-like. It adds an extra bit of sweetness, and works better with the mint than I was expecting it to. The green tea base is fairly unobtrusive. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have known this was a green if I’d not read the description. That’s how I realised I should probably have left the water to cool a little – looking at the dry leaf, I think I pretty much assumed this was a herbal. In any case, it’s very smooth with no bitterness or astringency.

While I’m enjoying my cup, this probably isn’t unique enough for me to want to keep it around all of the time. There are other mint blends I prefer, but It’s undisputedly well done, and I’ll certainly have no trouble finishing my sample pouch.

Boiling 1 min, 30 sec 1 tsp

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I’m convinced I’ve written a note for this one before. Utterly convinced. Still…

I have a huge tin of these at home, because they’re such a go-to kind of blend. Easy to drink, easy to brew, no fuss, crowd pleasers. I gave one bag 4 minutes in boiling water, and added milk.

The resulting brew is a pretty solid example of an english breakfast tea. It combines an assam, a ceylon, and an unspecified Chinese black, and (perhaps as you’d expect) it’s sweet and malty, with a hint of citrus brightness. The citrus, to me, is lemon, and it emerges primarily at the end of the sip. For the most part, this has a characteristic sweet potato flavour, with an almost starchy element reminiscent of crispy, roasted white potato which emerges in the mid-sip. It’s hugely malty, with that wonderfully deep, molasses-like flavour that a really good malty black can take on. No sugar required here!

I love this one for indecisive moments, or when I just want a good, solid cup of plain black tea. It’s such a straightforward, no nonsense blend with plenty of flavour – there’s nothing not to love here! Well done, Bluebird!

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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I can’t believe no-one else has tried/reviewed this tea before now! I picked it up a while ago and have been saving it for the winter, and today seemed like the perfect day to finally give it a chance. It’s a cold, crisp, chai day!

The dry leaf is really interesting to look at. The three varieties of tea are easily discernable, from the golden, slightly downy Bi Luo Chun, to the wiry black Fujian, through to the rolled, slightly greenish pearls of Brandy Oolong. Then there are the cloves – so many cloves! – and the red streaks of safflower. It really is a beauty. The scent dry, and while brewing, is very chai-like. Spicy, with hints of ginger and orange, and the slight dankness of clove. I used 2 tsp of leaf, and gave it 5 minutes in boiling water. No additions.

Brewed, the liquor isn’t as dark as I was expecting — it’s actually a red-brown, and the scent is both spicy and chocolatey. It really is reminiscent of spiced hot chocolate! It actually reminds me in scent along of both Bluebird’s Dark Choc Chilli Chai, and 52 Teas Mayan Chocolate Chai. I didn’t really care for either of those, but perhaps this will be an exception. I’ve not had a bad experience with Whispering Pines yet, after all.

The first thing that struck me about this tea is how smooth it is. It tastes almost glossy. It’s also deliciously chocolatey, and it’s pleasant to know that this flavour is a natural aspect of tea varieties used, rather than an artificial addition. It’s a dark chocolate flavour, and slightly dry in the way of cocoa nibs, beautifully complemented by the spice notes (which are actually second to emerge in the flavour). I can pick out cinnamon, ginger, cardamon and clove, with maybe a touch of orange zest right in the background. At the end of the sip, there’s a definite baked apple note, and just a touch of vanilla sweetness. As this one cools, it develops a distinctive barely or grain flavour, but retains a sweet cocoa-tinged maltiness.

This is a perfect cold-weather tea – beautifully warming and comforting! I can imagine taking this one with me on a long walk – it may become a future timolino companion!

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp

That sounds so delicious. I really need to get around to ordering from Whispering Pines. Their teas sound so delicious.

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Final Butiki of the “morning” (even though it is now after 12pm, it’s still before lunch). First thing – this one smells divine while brewing! I used 1.5 tsp of leaf, and gave it 2.5 minutes in boiling water. As soon as the leaves hit the water, I was greeted with a wonderful creamy, caramel-vanilla scent. I stood for a few seconds just inhaling the steam, it was so good – it actually reminds me a little of Butiki’s Caramel Vanilla Assam.

I’ve heard a lot about this tea, so I’m going to go with the recommendation of drinking it hot. The first sip is wonderful – very creamy, tasting strongly of vanilla, with a coffee-like bitterness lurking just underneath the surface. It’s extremely rich, and it does remind me a little of Irish Cream. I’m even getting a bit of biscuitty, cheesecake-esque flavour right at the end of the sip, although it’s rather fleeting.

I can taste the darjeeling base quite prominently – it has that grapey, slightly metallic flavour that I associate with second flush. As my cup cools, I can taste the beginnings of astringency, and the flavour does seem to fade a little. Having said that, I’m not sure I could drink an entire cup at the initial level of rich creaminess. I think it would end up being too cloying. I’m at the stage (about half way through my cup) where the touch of bitterness is actually reasonably welcome, since it’s stopping what’s currently gorgeously tasty become overpowering. I’m also getting more buttery biscuit at this stage as well, and it makes this into a seriously yummy cup.

I’m really happy with this one, although I do appreciate that I drank it with the benefit of other people’s hindsight and advice. I think it captures both the sweet, rich, creamy vanilla, irish cream flavoured aspect AND the buttery biscuit base aspect of cheesecake superbly, IF it’s caught at its peak point. Now that I’m coming to the end of my rapidly cooling cup, I’m mostly just tasting a slightly astringent darjeeling. Although it’s pleasant darjeeling, for all that.

Boiling 2 min, 30 sec 1 tsp

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Second Butiki of the morning! I followed the recommendation again with this one, and gave 1 tsp of leaf 3 minutes in boiling water. While brewing, the scent is distinctively bready. It reminds me of an assam in some ways, although not as sweet or malty.

The bready flavour is retained quite strongly in the initial sip. There’s a cake-like aspect to it also, but it’s more reminiscent of banana loaf than traditional sponge. Flavours of walnut and cinnamon emerge in the mid sip, rounded off with a vanilla sweetness that really does make me think of frosting. The base tea is the perfect choice – it’s not too obtrusive, but I suspect that it’s responsible for the bread/cake flavour, which is such an essential and integral part of the tea as a whole.

I’ve only tried a couple of carrot cake flavoured teas before, but if I’d never tried any I’d still have said that this one is spot on. It’s as close to carrot cake as it should be possible to get in liquid form, and I particularly enjoy the progression between flavours; bread/cake, walnut, cinnamon, vanilla. Just like eating an actual slice, I suppose!

I really admire Stacy’s ability to create flavoured tea like this, and I’ll certainly miss this one when it’s gone. I’d actually like to have tried it with a cream cheese frosting flavour – if any company could pull that off, Butiki could have. Since that’s not going to happen, I’ll content myself with vanilla. Either way, it’s sheer brilliance.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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Hi :) I’m Sarah, 27, and I live in Norfolk in the UK. My tea obsession began when a friend introduced me to Teapigs a good few years ago now. Since then, I’ve been insatiable. Steepster introduced me to a world of tea I never knew existed, and my goal is now to TRY ALL THE TEAS. Or most of them, anyway.

I still have a deep rooted (and probably life-long) preference for black tea. My all-time favourite is Assam, but Ceylon and Darjeeling also occupy a place in my heart. Flavoured black tea can be a beautiful thing, and I like a good chai latte in the winter.

I also drink a lot of rooibos/honeybush tea, particularly on an evening. Sometimes they’re the best dessert replacements, too. White teas are a staple in summer — their lightness and delicate nature is something I can always appreciate on a hot day.

I’m still warming up to green teas and oolongs. I don’t think they’ll ever be my favourites, with a few rare exceptions, but I don’t hate them anymore. My experience of these teas is still very much a work-in-progress. I’m also beginning to explore pu’erh, both ripened and raw. That’s ny latest challenge!

I’m still searching for the perfect fruit tea. One without hibiscus. That actually tastes of fruit.

In addition to Steepster, I also write for the SororiTea Sisters. My reviews there will typically be posted here also, although typically in a shorter format. Any teas I’m sent specifically for review will only appear in full on the SororiTea Sisters website, with only a short introduction and link to my review here.

You’ve probably had enough of me now, so I’m going to shut up. Needless to say, though, I really love tea. Long may the journey continue!

My rating system:

91-100: The Holy Grail. Flawless teas I will never forget.

81-90: Outstanding. Pretty much perfection, and happiness in a cup.

71-80: Amazing. A tea to savour, and one I’ll keep coming back to.

61-70: Very good. The majority of things are as they should be. A pleasing cup.

51-60: Good. Not outstanding, but has merit.

41-50: Average. It’s not horrible, but I’ve definitely had better. There’s probably still something about it I’m not keen on.

31-40: Almost enjoyable, but something about it is not for me.

11-30: Pretty bad. It probably makes me screw my face up when I take a sip, but it’s not completely undrinkable.

0-10: Ugh. No. Never again. To me, undrinkable.


Norfolk, UK

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