70 Tasting Notes


This year’s Special Reserve Green Tea from Shang Tea is unlike any I’ve tried before it. While the common basic tastes and aromas that inhabited this tea in earlier years are present, creating a buttery, brothy, sweet and vegetal brew, the nuances have changed quite a bit. This year, rather than more the dark roasted seaweed tones I’ve gotten from other incarnations, there’s an incredible floral tone in the scent that reminds me of lotus. It reminded a friend of mine of anise/licorice, which I’d say is in the same aroma family, but I’d say it’s a little lighter and more floral than that, hence the lotus. The brew itself is as buttery, rich and umami as any other year, but there’s a note that reminds me quite a bit of broccoli and the subtle lotus tones also inhabit the flavor.

I absolutely love this tea. Special Reserve Green from Shang Tea has been my #1 favorite tea for a while. Man, I can’t get enough of this.

Flavors: Broccoli, Flowers, Umami, Vegetal

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 45 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This Tie Guan Yin is the best one I’ve had yet. I will not go into much detail as I think Yezi Tea’s description of it is perfect. To summarize, it is very sweet and vegetal with light floral notes of orchid and a bit of a resinous camphor note. It has undertones of caramel and honey. Very sweet and rich oolong, love it!

Flavors: Camphor, Caramel, Honey, Orchid, Vegetal

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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drank Golden Yunnan by Rishi Tea
70 tasting notes

The leaves of this Yunnan Gold smell strongly of honey and raisins after a quick rinse. The brew itself, however, has a very interesting heady quality to it that smells almost “perfume-like” to me. I would say it smells something like patchouli, and it comes through in the taste. If I’m not careful, it can be perceived as an almost “soapy” flavor so I have to tread lightly with my steepings of this tea. Beyond that there are definite notes of malt, and as the tea cools and I take some more sips, the flavor seems to mellow out some. There is something sort of sharp that kind of lingers on the tongue for a while. It’s got a bit of a peppery aftertaste.

Not my favorite Yunnan Gold. It’s not bad, but that heady aroma is a little bright for me. I prefer slightly darker, richer teas when it comes to this category.

Flavors: Honey, Malt, Pepper, Raisins

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

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These beautiful camellia flowers brew a rather tangy tisane. It reminds me of orange blossoms, but without the bitter intense qualities of those. There are definite notes of hay. The overall flavor is a rather earthy one that is not unlike some white teas I’ve had. It reminds me particularly of a brick-aged white tea I’ve had from Shang Tea.

There’s not a lot to say because this flavor seems unique and I don’t have a great point of comparison. I could see it tasting somewhat persimmon like, as others had said. This is one of those you really have to try yourself!

Flavors: Hay, Orange Blossom

3 min, 0 sec

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This is my second bug-bitten oolong, and since Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong form Eco-Cha is one of my favorite teas, I’m excited to try this. After the rinse I get aromas of toast, apples, and cannabis. The main difference here from the other concubine oolong I had is that this one has been roasted more so I’m getting more toasted notes.

The taste is sweet and mellow, a wonderful honey and apple flavor with notes of toast. This tea is so sweet and tastes like candied apples with a bit of spice. It’s a real treat so far. The second steeping seems to release more spice-like notes of cinnamon to combine with the sweet apple tones. There are subtle woodsy tones in the background, but this tea is much less foresty all-around than the original Shan Lin Xi Oolong from Eco-Cha. The third and fourth steepings are similar and build on the richness of this tea.

Overall this is a very lovely tea. It doesn’t have the bright floral notes of a lot of similar oolongs, so it stays very mellow, rich and sweet. I really love this tea! I think it would make a really wonderful tea to drink in Autumn.

Steeped in a gaiwan: 15 seconds + 15 for repeat infusions, 194F/90C, 4.5g tea per 100ml water

Flavors: Apple, Cannabis, Caramel, Cinnamon, Toast, Wood

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

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drank White Rhino by Butiki Teas
70 tasting notes

This is a unique white tea. It does indeed brew a bit like a red/black tea. The apricot notes are apparent from the start, and the brew comes off with a nice malty caramely kind of tone. It’s subtle, sweet and earthy. Nice and mellow.

I might be fooled by the fact that it is a white tea though and perhaps it would benefit from being steeped more like a black tea (which for me usually involves a longer steeping period and hotter temperature). The flavor was great and I can only wonder if a longer brew would have yielded more richness and complexity. I only brewed it for 45 seconds, gongfu style in a gaiwan. I didn’t check the vendor’s steeping recommendations this time around. Just brewed like I do most whites. Adding 15 seconds to each steeping, it did build in flavor and peaked around the 3rd steeping. Really nice.

Flavors: Apricot, Caramel, Hay, Malt

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 45 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Butiki Teas

This tea does hold up well being steeped like a black tea.

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This is my first time trying a Four Seasons oolong, so yet again, I’m very excited by these samples from Green Terrace Teas. They are vacuum packed in gold foil pouches that are lovely and keep the tea very well stored.

Brewing this Gongfu style in a gaiwan, after an initial rinse, the aroma of the leaves is very rich with scents of honey, custard, cinnamon and apples. It smells a bit like a pecan pie or apple pie or some other delicious pastry. It is heavenly. The taste is mild and sweet with the same qualities.

The second steeping tastes lightly floral with hints of toasted pecans and cream. It has a wonderful warm and mild flavor, quite balanced with the floral and nutty tones on opposing ends of the taste spectrum. By the third steeping, the flavor is more floral, but it is very easy on the tongue and not overly strong. It is still also very creamy and mildly sweet. The lingering aftertaste is very nice. Four steepings in the floral qualities emerge a bit more, still underscored by a caramel-like sweetness. Fifth steeping is less floral and more of the sweet honey and nutty flavors with a bit of caramel apple, becoming once again very mellow. I think this tea is at its best in the early and late steepings when the floral notes are more subdued.

I think this is a wonderful Four Seasons oolong and I recommend it. It has a very clean taste and a sweet and balanced flavor.

I brewed it for 15 seconds in a gaiwan, adding 15 seconds each time at 194F/90C with 4.5g of tea per 100ml of water.

Flavors: Apple, Caramel, Cinnamon, Creamy, Floral, Honey, Pecan

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

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This is the second sample I received from Green Terrace Teas. I chose three oolong, as I feel I haven’t spent enough time with oolong and I do really adore them. This is my third time trying a Jin Xuan, and I already have a personal favorite Jin Xuan so I’m curious to see how this one will sit with me.

The first thing I notice is how subtle the scent of this tea is. After an initial rinse, there’s a very creamy aroma with notes of butter and vanilla. It almost smells like the crust on a creme brulee.

I’ve noticed many of my oolong becoming too flowery and heady a few Gongfu style steepings in, so I’ve cut down my initial start time on them to 15 seconds rather than 30. So far so good. The initial steeping of course is very light now and carries the subtelties of the tea. I’m getting very light notes of cream, toasted sugar, and butter. There’s a very mild floral aroma in the leaves, but it does not come through in the taste (yet).

This tea already differs quite significantly from my favorite Jin Xuan, which is called Jin Xuan Dong Ding because it is grown on Mt. Dong Ding. That variety has fruity notes common to Dong Ding oolong, I am guessing because of the terroir of the region, but the creamy notes of Jin Xuan come through as well since that is the varietal they are growing in that instance. This Jin Xuan from Green Terrace is very creamy, but does not have fruit aromas or flavors. I think it is closer to what Jin Xuan is typically known to be like.

The second steeping is similar to the first and still somewhat light. By the third steeping I am getting a more rich flavor, quite buttery with floral hints and a slightly vanilla aftertaste. Great hui gan. Four steepings in and it’s getting even more rich. I’m expecting at any moment for one of these steepings to fully unleash the creeping floral tones that I keep getting whiffs of, but much to my surprise it stays very creamy and soft while those floral hints stay in the background. It’s nice.

After a full five steepings, this tea is staying flavorful and is not getting particularly stronger or more floral or astringent. In my opinion that is a good thing for a tea that is meant to have a creamy, rich, mellow flavor. The flavor doesn’t really change much from one steeping to the next. It is pretty consistent, but builds on itself in richness.

I will call myself spoiled on the Jin Xuan Dong Ding I mentioned earlier. I really prefer its fruity-creamy blend of flavors. This Jin Xuan from Green Terrace is agreeable though, and I think those looking for a strictly milky, creamy tasting Jin Xuan will not be disappointed.

Flavors: Butter, Cream, Vanilla

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

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This is my first bug-bitten oolong! I’m so excited! I received this as a sample from Green Terrace Teas, a new company based in Taiwan. The samples were vacuum sealed in attractive gold foil packaging and labeled elegantly and clearly in both Chinese and English. I am very impressed by how professional these samples are presented!

After a quick rinse of the leaves, I am totally enamored by the aroma of this oolong. There are notes of apples, cream, butter, warm honey and magnolias. I can’t fully describe what I’m smelling here and those are rough estimates. This is unlike anything I’ve encountered, but the smell is so wonderful I sat and smelled it for a strong minute or two before brewing the first infusion.

Despite an even more floral aroma after a quick 30-second steep, the gold liquor yielded by this tea tastes very sweet and mellow. I primarily taste subtle notes of apples, honey and flowers. There’s a very evident hui gan. The taste is surprisingly mellower than the aroma.

The second steeping has all the same flavors. It is exceptionally mellow and honey-like with crisp notes of apple and floral magnolia tones coming through. The brew is a honey-orange color.

As the brewed leaves unfurl completely, they are gorgeously green with red-brown edges. The tiny holes from leaf hopper bites are quite fun to look at, and the tea has become noticeably more floral. By the third and fourth infusion, it is still sweet but more floral. I can see this tea lasting a good many steepings and I intend to sit and enjoy them without thinking and focusing on describing the tea, so I will end my review here. I’ve become rather tea drunk from this one tea. I feel like I’ve become flowing water.

I brewed this gongfu style in a gaiwan for 30 seconds, adding 15 seconds each time at 194F/90C, using 4.5g of leaf per 100ml water.

The only reason I didn’t rate this tea higher is because I wish some of the wonderful complexities of the aroma came through a little more in the flavor. This really is an incredible tea though and one not to overlook.

Flavors: Apple, Butter, Cream, Flowers, Honey

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 4 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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reviewed Digital Kettle Pro by Pino
70 tasting notes

Wow, no one has reviewed this yet? I’ll indulge.

I had my Pino Digital Kettle Pro for 6 months before the heating element stopped working and it failed to heat up water anymore. The temperature readout and controls still worked, but no heat. Unfortunately, Pino only offers this product with a 90 day warranty so I was screwed and had to toss the thing. I have a friend who has had this same kettle for years with no problem and loves it.

My feelings on it are mixed. The size of the kettle is medium sized. It holds about 1.5 liters.

The pour spout only works well if you pour with confidence, otherwise you’ll get some drips. However, when this thing is full it pours fast and hard if you pour confidently, and it begins to pour with just a slight tipping angle, so you can’t really get it very low over say, a gaiwan, to pour directly into it without making a mess. I often had to pour into a cha hai and then use that to pour into my gaiwan so as to get an even and steady pour.

The temperature setting can be set to any temp and the readout tells you the temperature live, which is ideal for a kettle, but it often overshoots the temperature when heating by about 5 degrees F, and will drop about 5 degrees below the desired temperature before it decides to heat again. If precision is the name of the game, you’ll find yourself waiting on it to get back to the desired temp. You can cheat it when it is too cool (but not cool enough to start reheating on its own) by flipping it off then back on. If you do that it will try to heat to the set temperature (will still overshoot a bit, so you’ll have to wait for it to cool some).

Being that this was my first totally variable temperature kettle I was happy with it while it lasted, but now that I’ve moved on to a smaller kettle with a gooseneck spout from Bonavita, I’m definitely digging the Bonavita a lot better.

The manufacturing feels solid and appears solid, but since mine died after just half a year of use, I can’t speak for the quality.

I’d give this kettle a higher rating if it had a more controlled pour and if the temperature stayed closer to where you set it, also if it had a longer warranty. It does let out a chime when it reaches the desired temperature, so that is nice if you need that kind of thing.

For the price, there are better ones out there, so I wouldn’t recommend this one, especially with only a 90-day warranty.

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I’m a dedicated student and practitioner of Gongfu Cha and you can almost always find me brewing my tea in a gaiwan. I tend to stick to straight teas and scented teas rather than flavored tea blends with lots of non-tea ingredients. I dabble in tisanes and blends from time to time though.

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.

Aside from tea, I’m a novelist and creator of all types. I love to cook, create music, write, draw, decorate, and do just about anything creative I can get my paws on. I’m a sandwich and sushi chef and an aspiring beverage artist.

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.

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


Kansas City, USA

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