173 Tasting Notes

drank Qing Pin Black Tea by Yezi Tea
173 tasting notes

This tea is reminding me a lot of a classic Bailin Gongfu. The flavors are mellow, malty, bready, a little sweet.

This tea lasted far fewer infusions than I’m used to with a red tea. The flavor was enjoyable but not as complex as I’m used to from other high quality reds. I was really impressed by Yezi’s Jin Jun Mei a couple days ago and in comparison to that, this tea is missing the mark for me. There’s nothing wrong with it, but as far as red teas go, I also feel there’s nothing that particularly sets it apart from the crowd. The flavors hang on the woody, roasty, grainy, malty, side of things, and don’t dip down into the darker more fruity or chocolatey tones as much as some of my favorite reds, nor do they rise into the more bright honey sweet and floral tones. At least that is my experience with this sample.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt, Sweet

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Jin Jun Mei Black Tea by Yezi Tea
173 tasting notes

Oh goodness this is softer than I expected, really sweet and creamy. There’s a touch of a floral or evergreen kind of taste that I’m having trouble pinning down, but it’s really familiar to me. There’s a wonderfully smooth honey sweetness, just a touch of smokiness and a hint of lingering bitterness. Perhaps the most wonderful quality of this tea is just how smooth the mouthfeel is. It really coats your mouth with such a velvety thick texture. There is just the slightest hint of smokiness inside my nose causing a little tingling feeling there still several moments after I’ve drank a cup. I think I have become a lion dragon.

On the second infusion, sniffing the underside of the gaiwan lid I get notes of orchid and chocolate. The scent of the brewed liquor has notes of camphor and cinnamon as well as orchid and chocolate. The taste is more dark and caramely, but still smooth, a bit more floral now. There are fruity notes in the background and a lingering chocolate taste.

The third and fourth infusions bring a more dark, malty flavor, less sweet than the first two. The scent is just as sweet though and there is a subtle sweetness in the background of the flavor. By the fifth infusion, it’s backing off into the sweet honey flavors again. I’ll continue to infuse this many more times, but I’ll end my review here.

I really enjoyed this tea. The smoothness and richness of it in the early infusions were remarkable. The only downsides to me are the sort of smoky bitterness that lingers and sort of stings the inside of my nose a little. It’s a little strange and new to me, that sensation, and might take some getting used to!

I could see myself purchasing this tea. It has a really great complexity. I may just do so because I’m curious to see how my red tea seasoned Yixing pot would handle it. It really cuts the edge off of red teas and mellows them out. Could be incredible!

Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Honey, Orchid, Spices

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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I haven’t tried enough white teas. They are arguably my favorite type. Okay, I don’t really have a favorite type… but one of my two favorite teas (tied for the best I’ve had) is a white tea. I love the subtle nature of them. I can drink them often and not get tired of them or feel overwhelmed.

This silver needle by TeaVivre is just about what I’d expect from a Fujian silver needle. My entry point to white teas was through the award-winning white teas of Shang Tea, so I feel a little spoiled in that regard and tend to compare white teas to those ones.

In comparison to the silver needles I’ve had before, this one seems a bit more sugary sweet, but lacks the subtle peach notes I’m used to. The gentle color of the brewed liquor is like cream. The aroma has subtle hints of fallen autumn leaves. The downy buds have a nice coat of silvery white fur.

On the second infusion, my little white porcelain pinming cup looks like a yellow early evening moon is in it. There are subtle notes of spices in the aroma and the tea itself now has a bit of a cucumber taste. There’s more of that mouth-filling sugary flavor, and there’s a bit of a dusty taste in the background, subtle enough not to be unwelcome.

As with most silver needles I’ve tried, the flavor is rather consistent from one Gongfu infusion to the next. The flavor remains delicate and sweet.

This is certainly a good silver needle. It’s not the best one I’ve had, but it’s definitely good. It has a lot of sweetness. I’d say that’s the main distinguishing feature between this silver needle and others I’ve had like it.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cucumber, Dust, Sugarcane

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
173 tasting notes

This is probably the only Shu Puer to really have earned my favor. I like Shu Puer in general, but aside from this one, none have ever really stood out to me as being unique or particularly enjoyable. Admittedly, I’ve probably had less than 10 different ones.

After a rinse this tea smells strongly of cacao and stone fruits. The brewed infusion tastes quite like unsweetened cacao, and in later infusions this is balanced by a dark fruit flavor something like dried fig or bing cherries. The aroma of the brewed liquor is like sugar cookies.

This one lasts plenty of infusions and delivers such a nice, rich flavor, with very little of the mustiness that most shu Puer have. I really like this. Best ripe Puer I’ve had so far!

Flavors: Cacao, Cherry, Cookie, Fig, Stonefruits

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Random Steepings by Various Artists
173 tasting notes

Houjicha of the Autumn Moon
Home-roasted houjicha from Obubu Tea Farms Sencha of the Autumn Moon

This is my second time turning some of my Obubu green tea into houjicha. This one was particularly tantalizing, as it smelled like pumpkins as I was roasting it. It smelled sweet, a bit like yams, and even more like the smell of a freshly carved jack-o-lantern when you’ve got a lit candle in it, perhaps a bit sweeter. I’ve always picked up a pumpkin note in this tea, and roasting it brought it out in the scent even more. It’s great. Definitely autumn, without belonging to the generic “pumpkin spice” persuasion.

The scent of the brewed tea is very caramely and sweet, with a hint of roasty char and cigar tobacco. The taste is mellow and mostly reminds me of cigar tobacco, mildly sweet. It’s really comforting. I tiny hint of the pumpkin taste comes through in the finish.

The second infusion tastes a little more green, with a pistachio like taste and a hint of cucumber, and it has a sweeter lingering aftertaste. I could swim in this cup. It’s so delicious.

The best two houjicha I’ve had now have been the ones I roasted at home from Obubu’s green tea. I may just end up doing that from now on. I’m not sure if houjicha is just better when freshly roasted, or if I’m just using teas that are more to my liking for this type of flavor. Either way, Obubu sells their teas at greatly reduced prices when they aren’t in season, so I’ll be picking up some of these to roast with my next order from their website. Order from them direct. So many people I know order Obubu’s tea from Yunomi, and pay the huge markup that comes with it. I’m not sure why.

Flavors: Cucumber, Nuts, Pumpkin, Roasted, Tobacco

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This is my first time brewing a loose full-leaf Assam (have tried a CTC before). As with all loose teas, I am brewing this gongfu style. Even with the Indian and Sri Lankan teas meant for Western style brewing, I just don’t really find myself enjoying them as much when they are brewed really potent. I prefer to fragment the taste into shorter infusions rather than getting it all in one cup.

This Assam reminds me of something between a Yunnan and a Darjeeling. It’s got a nice floral aroma at first, but with deep, rich flavors like molasses and yeast. In the second infusion it’s got a flavor reminiscent of cranberries, with the bitterness to accompany, and it’s slightly astringent.

By the third infusion, the flavor’s seeming kind of flat to me. It’s tangy and bitter, still reminding me of cranberries.

I understand that many tea drinkers drink these heavier Indian black teas with cream and sugar. This may be the way to go in regard to this kind of tea, for me. I may make this East Frisian style and update with another review in a bit.

Update: Okay… so for the sake of like… science and stuff… I brewed some Western style with cream and sugar. I’m just not really sure what to think. It has a bitter finish even with sugar that really sticks in my mouth and I don’t like it. The taste is sort of pruney and woody. It’s not awful, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to drink this tea again. I’ve had bagged black teas that I enjoyed more.

Flavors: Cranberry, Molasses, Yeast

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

I keep brewing my tea western style for convenience, since I find doing multiple short steeps in a gaiwan requires too much attention, but I find that the more I drink tea, the shorter I’ve been making my western style steeps. I used to steep blacks pretty consistently for 5 minutes, and now I rarely go over 3.

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drank Random Steepings by Various Artists
173 tasting notes

Houjicha of Brightness
Homemade Houjicha from Obubu Tea Farms’ Sencha of Brightness

I wonder what Obubu Tea would call this houjicha if they’d made it themselves? They’ve got Houjicha Amber and Houjicha Gold to refer to some of their Houjicha made from sencha rather than lower grade bancha. Maybe this one would be Houjicha Bronze.

I had some Sencha of Brightness in storage that was getting a little old. It’s January now and it’s a summer harvested tea, so I decided to roast some in a pan and make houjicha. This is my first time making my own houjicha, so I’m excited.

On the nose, there’s a definite scent of cigar tobacco. The taste is milder than most houjicha I’ve had before, and very, very clean, with an almost minty tingle in the finish. The flavor is like a sweet cigar tobacco, with more sweetness and less roasted flavor than most houjicha. The color is a deep copper. Honestly, I can’t stop drinking this quickly. It’s so good and so quenching! I’ve never had houjicha that had such a clean mouthfeel and finish. Wow! And the flavor and scent are so comforting.

The source material, Sencha of Brightness is a partially shade-grown sencha that is definitely a bit on the sweet side. It’s light and delicate and Obubu recommends it being made as iced tea.

On the second infusion, the flavor is even more sweet and creamy with notes of malt and heavy cream.

I’m so happy with how this turned out. This is wonderful. I will be tempted to roast the rest I have left of this tea. Mmm mmm. DIY houjicha may be a new addiction for me.

Flavors: Roasted, Sweet, Tobacco

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

Sounds wonderful!

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This is the last of the Obubu sampler I got around to trying. I have to say this may have been my least favorite of their Houjicha. Despite it is made from a higher quality leaf, in this case their Sencha of the Summer Sun rather than bancha, the flavor did not seem more enjoyable to me. This Houjicha Gold is dominated by top notes. Everything registered really high and light on the patate. The darker tones I am used to enjoying with houjicha weren’t there and the body seemed very thin. I got some of the sunflower seed notes and a bit of other light hay-like flavors, but there was also a very strong ashy flavor like cigar ash that resulted even after brewing for only 1 minute with a 2.5g/100ml ratio. To me this tea tasted overly roasted. It’s strange because one of the teas I like more from Obubu is their Dark Roast Houjicha, which despite being roasted more heavily seems to have more mellow notes with a hint of sweetness among the roasty tastes.

Having glanced at some of the other reviews here, I’m kind of surprised I didn’t experience any of the caramel or floral-like notes. Having had Sencha of the Summer Sun before I would have expected some interesting more fragrant notes, but they weren’t present for me.

UPDATE: I have just learned that houjicha is usually brewed for 30 seconds instead of 1 minute, so I will write another review of this when I have more of this tea and can brew it for less time. I plan to order the Obubu Tea Sampler again soon because I enjoyed so many of the teas in it.

Flavors: Ash, Roasted

185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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drank Mugi Cha (Barley Tea) by TeaSource
173 tasting notes

This is my first time with mugicha, Japanese barley tea. I’ve read it’s a popular iced summer drink. I am drinking it hot and in the winter, so I suppose this’ll be different than the usual.

There’s a cereal this reminds me of… If you’ve been to the USA and have had Honey Smacks or Golden Crisp, I think those cereals are made from popped barley because the flavor and scent is just like this tisane.

The infusion here is a pale gold color, so I’ve definitely brewed this on the lighter side. I only used 3 oz of water, but I had a pretty small sample of it to try. It tastes malty, grain-like, roasted, slightly sweet. It’s very easy to drink. I really could see myself enjoying this more often. It reminds me of houjicha but with more maltiness and grain flavors.

A-OK by my book!

Flavors: Grain, Malt, Roasted Barley

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 3 OZ / 88 ML

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Hmmm, this one is difficult for me to review. I love vanilla rooibos. It has always been my go-to rooibos ever since my old “tea nerd” days where I would buy out the store’s collection of Celestial seasonings and Lipton and call myself a tea nerd.

This rooibos from Upton has natural vanilla flavor and real bourbon vanilla bits (the name for vanilla beans from Madagascar). The problem with this tea is that the authentic vanilla has a really strong, concentrated kind of scent that smells much more like alcohol to me than the creamy vanilla we’re used to in desserts.

After brewing, the vanilla takes on a sort of medicinal… cough syrup kind of smell. I find that I only really like it with a strong dose of sugar. It gets even better with cream (I used heavy whipping cream, because I’m scandalous). At this point, it’s a tolerable enough drink, but I’m not feeling oohed and aahed by it like I usually am with a creamy sweetened cup of vanilla rooibos. I thought that since this one had vanilla bean pieces in it it would have a very authentic and enjoyable vanilla flavor. I’ve enjoyed all vanilla bean desserts and ice creams I’ve had, but those have ground up beans and this has pretty sizable chunks, so maybe there’s the difference in flavor concentration.

I don’t taste or smell the rooibos itself very much. It’s not to say the vanilla flavor is overpowering, because it isn’t very strong compared to others I’ve had. It’s just that the rooibos flavor is either somewhat weak or blends in with the vanilla bean taste quite a bit.

I guess I’m feeling kind of unimpressed with this one because the other rooibos I ordered from Upton was about half the price and 10x as good, and it’s completely unflavored.
With that one tasting so good and being so cheap, I’m struggling to decide the fate of this bag of vanilla rooibos. I really only see myself drinking it to not waste my purchase or to throw off the pattern and let my tastebuds reset instead of drinking my favorite every day. Still, despite that the flavor is different, compared to the Super Grade Rooibos, drinking this one isn’t like… “Mmmm something different today! It’s nice for a change.” It’s more like… “I wish I was drinking that other one.” There are other vanilla rooibos I’ve had that are better than this one, and those ones would be a nice one to switch to from time to time, but this particular one is just not really for me. It may be destined for someone who likes it more than I do… or for sample trades.

I’m giving about as neutral a scoring as possible because while it doesn’t really excite me to drink this tea, it also can taste good with cream and sugar. It really teeters between bad and good for me. I might have a better impression if I hadn’t ordered it along with such an amazing rooibos and only had this one. Hmmm.

Flavors: Alcohol, Medicinal, Vanilla

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 5 OZ / 147 ML

Don’t waste your time drinking teas that you don’t really enjoy – there’s so much really good stuff out there. Swap it or give it away or find some way to pass it on to someone who will enjoy it more, and drink the vanilla rooibos that wows you.

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I’m a dedicated practitioner of Gongfu Cha and you can usually find me brewing my tea in a gaiwan. I tend to stick to straight teas and scented teas most often, though I dabble in tisanes and flavored blends sometimes. I use a Tokoname-ware kyusu for Japanese green teas and a chawan for matcha. I also have a small unglazed kyusu that I use for roasty teas like houjicha and genmaicha. I have a yixing pot seasoned with Yunnan red tea.

My favorite teas are Kenyan Silver Needle, Gui Fei, Da Hong Pao, Shan Lin Xi, Obubu Tea’s Sencha of the Autumn Moon, and Shang Tea’s Special Reserve Green.

To me, tea offers a time of peace and reflection in solitude, or sharing and enjoyment with friends. It has become a huge part of my life lately. I hold monthly tea gatherings at my home and run a Facebook page about tea called Lion Style Gongfu Tea: http://tinyurl.com/teawithlion

Aside from tea, I’m a creative person. I love to cook, create music, write fiction, draw, decorate, and do just about anything creative I can get my paws on. I also enjoy creating food and drink recipes.

I am really interested in Asian cultures and have a much deeper interest than my shameless love for anime and Japanese video games.

I’m a friend to animals of all kinds. I couldn’t live in a world without animals. Conserving and respecting them is very important to me. I’m a lion at heart. :3

But I am mostly here on Steepster to talk tea! Let’s enjoy the world of tea together!

My Tea Ratings:
0 = Terrible
25 = Unenjoyable or harsh
50 = Average, I’m indifferent
75 = Enjoyable
100 = Incredible


Kansas City, USA



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