91 Tasting Notes


I will keep this short. I bought some of this from a bulk bin at a store nearby as a cheap way to help me learn how to brew Genmaicha.

The plus side is I think I’ve brewed it properly. The downside is I am not too into this tea. The most distinct notes are of toasted seaweed and sesame, along with the obvious toasted rice flavor. A second infusion yielded a slightly more green taste, but drying. I am rating this tea rather low numerically simply because there are such such better genmaichas out there. This one is not indicative of good genmaicha, so if this is your first experience with it, don’t let it fool you.

I leave you with this bit of Keanu Reeves level mind-blowing wisdom from Republic of Tea.

“We’ve named ours “Tea of Inquiry” perhaps because the humble origins of Genmaicha remind us that it is from a position of humility and awareness of our universal desire for more knowledge, that our inquiries may have the greatest chance of success.”

Flavors: Seaweed, Toasted Rice

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Wuyi Oolong by The Republic of Tea
91 tasting notes

There’a a major flaw with the marketing of this tea. It is called “Wuyi Oolong” but the ingredients say it is “Pure Silver- Tip Formosan Oolong leaves made from the WuYi tea varietal.” First, there is the issue that there is not just one varietal used for Wuyi oolongs, so I’m not sure what “the WuYi tea varietal” refers too. It must be a transplanted tea from China’s Wuyi region to Taiwan where it is grown and made into a Formosa style oolong. Okay, fair enough, but that is either some deceptive or uninformed marketing to call this tea “Wuyi Oolong”, as it is not what most tea drinkers know as a Wuyi Oolong, a class of oolong teas produced near Wuyi Rock in Fujian province China. As Wuyi oolongs can fetch a pretty penny, it would seem this tea from Republic of Tea is attempting to imitate that to exploit the wallets of less-informed tea drinkers who have heard the hype about Wuyi but have no idea how to tell a real Wuyi oolong from a Would-Be Wuyi. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not usually one to jump to accusations toward tea companies when the information seems inaccurate or misleading, but when it comes down to these mass-production type companies that sell their wares at overpriced places like Whole Foods, where the target demographic is often less informed than they are affluent and trend-chasing… I’m a bit more skeptical. Oye…. kind of rubs my fur the wrong way, but let’s get to the tea itself.

I had a bit of a dilemma figuring out the way to brew this, as Wuyi oolongs are usually brewed with very short infusions in the Gongfu style, and a lot of leaf, while the Formosa style oolong uses relatively less leaf and longer infusions, from most brewing recommendations I’ve seen. I tried it both ways and it definitely lends itself to the longer infusions, not short ones, so I brewed at 45 seconds, adding 15 each time. The leaves of this tea smell strongly of figs and berries. The scent is deep, dark, and fruity, very pleasant. The first infusion has a honeyed sweetness and the taste of dried fruit, hints of fig and golden raisins. The color is a gorgeous golden yellow and the mouthfeel is syrupy and thick. There is just a light flavor of peach, not nearly a “pure peach” flavor like Republic of Tea describes, but it is certainly fruity and sweet. There’s a hint of astringency, but it fades after a few infusions, and by the 4th or 5th it becomes even more mellow, sweet and fruity.

All things considered, I am surprised how much I enjoy this Would-Be Wuyi. For all the deceptive or inaccurate marketing and the steep price tag (compared to the rest of Republic of Tea’s line, this was the highest priced tea in the bulk bins at the store) it is still a pretty good tasting tea when all is said and done. The price is comparable to some authentic Wuyi oolongs though, so … I’ll let you be the judge on whether or not that’s worth it. At the time I’m writing this, they are charging $20 for 50g (1.75 oz). Sheesh.

Flavors: Dried Fruit, Fig, Honey, Peach, Raisins

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

ouch that price! I remember when I first moved here and didn’t have a source for a good oolong, this was the only non-flavored oolong Whole Foods had, it was ok, but it was no Wuyi. In a way this tea (and Whole Foods lack of teas that I wanted) is what pushed me to start buying all my tea online.

Except when I am in PA and buy tons of tea from Wegmans :P


I really like the flavor of this tea, but yes, definitely no wuyi. It isn’t incredibly complex, just very sweet and honey-like and a lot od dried fruit flavor. It reminds me of Shang Tea’s White Tea Oolong. It tastes like it’s made from the Da Bai Hao varietal. I bought a small sample amount of this in bulk just to see what it was like, but I won’t be buying more. I will enjoy what I have and wait until I can get some real Wuyi oolong later.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

I think that was more or less my opinion, I enjoyed it but not enough to get more. You have a little Wuyi in the box of tea samples you are getting Friday ;)


Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! lion shuffle

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

hehe, we need to settle on a time, does somewhere between 3-5 sound good on Friday? I have plans after 7 so we won’t be able to tea alllll night :P


Works for me. :3

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Cool, just give me a more exact time either today or tomorrow morning so I can have everything ready

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drank Bailin Gongfu Black Tea by Teavivre
91 tasting notes

When the dry leaves sat in the warm gaiwan for a minute, the first thing I smelled was french toast with chocolate chips. There was a distinct egg-like scent with some sweeter pastry-like aromas.

Ah, here’s more like it. After that last incredibly strong black tea, this one is an oasis. The first infusion yields a soft, mellow and sweet tea with a dried-fruit kind of quality and almost no astringency. The aftertaste is a hint drying. The second infusion is pretty similar to the first. Theres a bit of a perfumy quality coming through as well now. The brew is overall soft and rather easy to drink, but yields to a dry mouthfeel. I’m really big on mouthfeel and this is not the clean finish I really enjoy.

The aroma of the third infusion is truly enjoyable, lightly floral and sweet, a tinge of vanilla and dried fruit. The flavor is likewise mellow and sweet but it is picking up in astringency and becoming more and more drying on the mouth as I go on.

Overall, I think the flavor of this tea is wonderful. I just wish it wasn’t so drying. I just reviewed another black tea from TeaVivre which was much more harsh in that regard, so this one is a step up, but I’m not sure why I’m getting so much dryness from these teas. I have a few red and blacks at home that finish very clean, so this is not at all what I am used to.

Flavors: Chocolate, Floral, Honey, Perfume, Raisins

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Golden Monkey Black Tea by Teavivre
91 tasting notes

This is an intensely deep flavored black tea. After an initial Gongfu style infusion, the leaves smell of figs, nuts, and dark molasses. The first infusion was a bit hard on the palate, only steeped for about 15 seconds. It has a nice bitterness to it like a dark chocolate. Coming back for a second infusion it is less bitter and more well-rounded. There are hints of cinnamon, oak, and perfume in the aroma, while the taste is a bit hard to describe to me. Dark tobacco and fig flavors might be an appropriate way to describe it, if anything. It has it’s own flavor, like most teas, and is tricky to describe in other terms. The feeling it leaves in my mouth is very dry. I’m not diggin’ that.

By the third infusion, it’s a little more mellow overall, but there’s a definite astringency and bite in the finish. I’m tempted to call it here, as I’m not finding it suited to my tastes much at all, but Gongfu always pushes me to try another steeping.

The fourth infusion is even more dry (eeeek, this is like red alert dryness levels), the flavor has sort of flattened out and it tastes like … underbrewed coffee.

So, there you have it. This tea is not for me. Not feelin it. If you like your tea to give you (and your palate) quite a jolt, this may be right up your alley, but you might want to bring a bottle of Gatorade to rehydrate afterward. It’s so drying.

Judging by some of the other reviews, I half anticipate this could be the first moment for me on Steepster where a fanwagon crashes into the comments section of my review and passively-aggressively berates me for not sharing the euphoria of their experience, or tells me I brewed it wrong. I hope not.

I brewed 3 grams in 100ml of water for 15 seconds, adding 15 each time (this is more than a gram of tea less than Teavivre recommends for Gongfu style). This is how I typically brew red and black teas and usually it works out pretty well. The color of the liquor was a nice medium orange barely leaning toward red, so it didn’t look or seem overbrewed.

But like I said, some people LOVE these kinds of intense teas, so give it a chance if you’re interested. The flavor was not as complex as the aroma and was very dark. It didn’t really have any sweetness, which for me is an almost necessary component for a red or black tea to keep it from falling off the deep end into bitterness.

Flavors: Drying, Fig, Molasses, Tannin, Tobacco

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Oh wow, I did not get any of the harshness or jolt that you describe, just smooth sweetness. But I do brew it much cooler, so that is probably why.


I brewed it at 203F. From most of my experience and sources I’ve seen, I’ve thought that was pretty safe for most red/black teas. It definitely works well for the few I have here at home. I wonder though if cooler is necessary for some of these.


I just saw that Teavivre recommends it at 196, so I did brew it hotter than they recommend. That might account for the explosion of tannins to some extent. It’s too bad I used up all my sample so I can’t really retry. :P

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

I do 195 or cooler, the Teavivre website recommends 194 for this, and 185 for the Bailin Gongfu, both are exquisite at those temperatures. I tend to follow their brewing parameters for their teas because they have never steered me wrong.


Definitely all sources I have found point to the 196-212 range for red/black teas, so 185 is an odd recommendation to me. If I had known Teavivre had recommendations for each specific tea though I’d have tried it that way. I may start going with 196 or so for red/blacks I haven’t tried though to be on the safe side. Some can be unexpectedly delicate.


And by 196 I totally meant 194. Dang Fahrenheit conversions.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

I never go higher than 195 for my Chinese black teas, which could be the reason I have never not enjoyed one! I certainly suggest checking their brewing recommendations out for all their teas, it is one of the resources I used when I was first making the transition over to gongfu brewing and it has been very helpful.


This is why I am laboring over trying so many different methods to build this Gongfu infusion guide I’ve been working on for over a year. The internet is teeming with conflicting information about how to brew teas in the Gongfu style, but I’ve found that once you hit the magic numbers for a specific type of tea, almost no tea turns out badly. I must find them all and compile them, for the love of tea! D:

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Hehe, I found mine already :P


Several others who reviewed this tea on Steepster reported using even higher temperatures than I did and loved it, so it’s all personal tastes at the end of the day. For some teas, I’ve found there is a fine line between too hot, leading to thin or astringent tea, and too cool, leading to a sort of “flat” and undeveloped taste.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

For instance, Ben really enjoys this tea at a hotter temp, he likes his black teas to have a bite.


I’m trying some of my red teas here at home at slightly lower temps around 194 and finding it is much more my tastes.

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I am writing a new review of this kettle after having owned it for about 3 months now. In my first review, I was a bit hesitant to give positive marks on some aspects due to an abundance of complaints I’d seen in other reviews on Amazon and a fear that some of the complaints might come true for me. I am happy to say this is a great kettle and I am really really happy to have bought it. There are only a few downsides and many positives.

The gooseneck spout is a godsend. It allows for a very precise pour and the speed at which the water comes out is just perfect. It takes about 4-5 seconds to fill it up a gaiwan and gives the tea leaves a nice swirl before leaving them to steep. Alternatively if I am brewing a very delicate tea that should not be agitated, the gooseneck allows for a very slow but steady pour that will not rustle the leaves much. In terms of pouring, this kettle is the best I have tried, hands down. The pistol grip is also very comfortable and the 1-liter size is perfect for what I’m using it for. I need a smaller kettle like this one so I can get a more controlled pour. It’s easier to maneuver since it is less heavy. It allows for more elegant motion of the wrists.

The 1-year warranty was a selling point for me because my last kettle from another company crapped out after 6 months of use and only had a 90 day warranty.

My biggest complaint has to do with the buttons and how they work. On my last kettle you could simply push the – or + keys to change the temperature. On this kettle, you have to press the “Temp Set” button before the – or + keys will do anything. I’m not sure why they added an extra button just for the sake of unlocking the other two. It’s not easy to accidentally press them, and even so doing that would only change your temp by one degree for each press unless you hold it down a while. The other annoyance is that after returning the kettle to the base it will NOT start to reheat back to the set temperature until you push the “hold” button again. It takes a while getting used to this and if you’re like me and had a previous kettle that automatically started to reheat once returned to the base, you’ll find it taking you a few months just to get used to having to push that button again. Otherwise a few minutes later you’ll go to pour another round and realize you’ve got to hit the hold button and wait for it to reheat.

The heating element makes a very noticeable sound, clicking on and off as it tries to reach the set temperature. Sometimes the element will click on and off every few seconds for a while, so the sound can be very frequent. If repetitive clicking sounds annoy you, this could be a bad investment for you. I was put off by this at first but pretty quickly learned to ignore it. A few months later I don’t even notice it at all. I expect some noise from a kettle, and this one roars a lot less as the water heats than previous ones I’ve owned, but the clicking is a trade-off.

I did have a problem very early on with the LED screen flickering when the heating element was on, but this problem seems to have resolved.

The included plastic screen to cover the base is a really nice accessory, though I’m not sure how necessary it is since the base doesn’t really appear to have many seams where water could leak into it anyway. The sticker included did say it is for commercial or frequent use. I guess it is meant to be used in an environment where the potential to spill something on it is high, or where there’s a bit of hustle and bustle or moving around of objects.

The plastic base of the kettle itself (not the control unit it sits on) is a bit wobbly on mine and does not sit flush with the stainless steel. While this doesn’t seem to affect the functionality or cause the kettle to wobble when seated, it feels like cheap manufacturing. Not a big deal really, but something to note.

The timer function is nice, but only operates when the kettle is not seated on the base, so prepare to sit the kettle down elsewhere if you want to run the timer. It counts upward from zero so you don’t have to set it, but you do have to pay attention to it as there is no beeper or anything to alert you when it reaches a certain time.

As for the preset temperatures, I feel somewhat misled by the product description. I thought it was possible to have user-defined presets, but it is not. The wording on that should be a little more clear. You can, however, cycle through the presets to get to a temperature close to where you want it and just dial from there to reach the desired temp. It saves time from having to dial all the way from a low temp to a high one or vice versa.

One other thing. I had this plugged into a power strip with some other appliances and it took substantially longer to heat up than when plugged into the wall outlet directly. It may be beneficial to only use this directly with an outlet. The cord is not as short as some reviews say. It is about 3 feet long and can be wound underneath the base to store it away.

I would not really recommend ordering this kettle for the full price of 95 dollars, as it will occasionally drop in price on Amazon. When I ordered it it was 60 dollars and free shipping, so keep an eye out if you want a good deal on it.

Overall though, I really love this kettle. If there are two things I want in a kettle now they are a gooseneck spout and variable temperature to any degree (and it will do C or F so that is a bonus). The small size makes it really elegant and easy to use for Gongfu tea ceremony, and once you get used to the controls and the clicking sound of the heating element turning on and off, there really is not much to complain about. I have seen no signs of rust on this thing yet and I do not dry it out after each use, so the issues with rust that others have reported may have been in fact fixed in newer versions, as Bonavita has said it has been.

I do recommend this product, but there are some things that could make it better, so just be aware. It’s probably one of the best ones out there you can get if you need precision, but it has a few minor annoyances to come with it.

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Well, this confounded my expectations. I have never had an unroasted Dong Ding, so this is a new experience to me.

The first steeping was light with hints of sweet soft floral. By the second the infusion color is a light yellow-green with a very generous buttery flavor and mouthfeel and a finish of floral and sweet vegetal flavors. A few infusions in I’m reminded a bit of a Tie Guanyin. There are the nice hearty leafy qualities with just hints of floral and spice. In later steepings the tea is more mellow and buttery with just dull sweetness, but it is good for many infusions. I’m on 6 and and though there is a bit of a mineral flavor emerging, it is still overall good to drink. By infusion 8 the bitter/mineral quality seemed to back off again and the cup is mostly sweet, if not a bit weak. I’m doing a 9th infusion before I stop (can you tell yet that I’m brewing Gongfu style?). Wow! On the 9th infusion the flavor changed completely and now it tastes like artichoke! Surprising! There’s a little lingering sweetness, and as it cools I’m getting more of the clove/camphor notes from before. Okay, maybe one more won’t hurt. 10’s a good stopping point. Oh yeah, now that I’m trying it, it’s quite interesting. Really different from where this tea started out. Still buttery with some nice artichoke and cream notes.

While I must confess I find myself more drawn to the roasted type of Dong Ding, this unroasted version is unique and fun to enjoy. It really gives you a peek at what nuances in the tea leaves develop into the qualities you’d find in a roasted Dong Ding when it is roasted.

Flavors: Artichoke, Camphor, Clove, Floral, Honey, Sweet, Vegetal

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Da Yu Ling Oolong Tea by Yezi Tea
91 tasting notes

This is my first time with a Da Yu Ling. The taste was overall reminiscent of a Jin Xuan mixed with maybe an Ali Shan. The flavor was mostly what I’ve come to expect from a high quality Taiwanese oolong, light and floral with notes of mountain greenery. There was a hint of spice like maybe camphor or clove on the first steep as well as a bit of a creamy taste. As the infusions went on, they became more floral and subdued with a honey-like sweetness.

With other Taiwanese oolongs, there is often a quality that sticks out to me and makes it taste unique. Dong Ding has that dried fruit kind of flavor, and Jun Xuan is very milky, while Shan Lin Xi is very foresty and Tie Guanyin is floral and leafy. As for Da Yu Ling, it seems like a balanced tea and nothing particular stands out to me in the flavor, so it is not one I will likely be keeping in my own cupboard, but if you love a nice clean and floral Taiwanese oolong, this is a good pick.

Flavors: Floral, Forest Floor, Honey, Spices

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Well my 75th review should be for something special, and this tea is certainly that. This was certainly an interesting blast from the past. I was 6 when this tea was produced.

I had the honor of sharing this sample with a friend and we both had a very similar impression of the flavor, so I feel confident in relaying our observations.

The first steep yielded a very distinct dill flavor. In fact it was almost briny like pickle brine! Whaaaaat? There were of course the expected roasted and leafy qualities of oolong, but a pickle-like flavor stood out to us the most.

On the second infusion some more nuances emerged, sort of a toasted sesame flavor and a light sweetness. It has been a while since we enjoyed this tea together and I am going off of notes here that I recently found lying around, so I didn’t really log down my reactions to any later steepings, but I remember each infusion getting milder and more on the sweet roasty side while the dill and brine flavors backed off.

It was really interesting to me, also strange seeing how much different people’s impressions of it were here on Steepster. I’d have never described it with some of the notes some others did, but I guess we all taste and remember tastes differently. :3

Flavors: Dill, Roasted, Vinegar

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drank White Peony by Rishi Tea
91 tasting notes

This is my first White Peony experience outside of Shang Tea, owned by Zehua Shang, who specializes in white tea, has won pretty high awards for his White Peony, and farms the tea himself, so his tea is direct from the source to the customer. Thus, beware of my bias.

That said, I’ve never felt compelled to purchase Bai Mudan from any other vendors since Shang’s is top notch, and even better I live near the store so I can go and purchase it firsthand and enjoy some tea with the awesome employees. This Rishi white tea only landed in my cupboard because I was at a local grocer to try samples of some loose teas they had in bulk bins. I saw this and thought I’d give it a try since I could sample it very cheap this way.

After a steep or two, the leaves are very green and smell perfumy. I drank the first steeping before starting my review, so my review will start with the second. I am brewing this Gongfu style. This infusion is more yellow than the last, which was a bit pale.

The aroma of the liquor is lightly floral and I’m picking up hints of camphor, to my surprise. The flavor is smooth and lightly green with just a touch of nectar-like sweetness. There are very subtle green and juicy notes like a fresh cucumber. As it cools more and as I get into the third infusion and beyond, there is a copper-like mineral taste, subtle, but there.

The flavor overall is somewhat soft though, bordering on too soft, even after allowing the tea to cool some. I know not all teas are created equal, but I’m using the same amount of leaf I always have with White Peony. I think perhaps I’ve been spoiled on amazing white tea and now that I’m trying one from a less-specialized vendor (meaning their company doesn’t have a specific specialty for white tea), I am seeing now why so many people claim that white tea “tastes like nothing” to them. Indeed, if this white tea from Rishi is more indicative of what white tea is like outside of the high-end vendors, I can see that white teas can be very subtle. I have had a few silver needle teas from sources other than Shang Tea and some were very lacking in flavor or depth, while others were quite robust, so I guess the amount of flavor in white tea can really vary.

While I don’t think this White Peony from Rishi is particularly complex or thick in flavor, I do think it is good, and I think that for the mid-range loose tea market it is a good offering. If you aren’t looking to pay top dollar for your white tea or are looking for the convenience of being able to purchase it at some grocers nearby (currently I only know of Whole Foods selling this, but there may be others), this tea is worth the money. The flavor is pleasant and mild. It was a pleasant experience to drink it, and biases aside, I feel happy to have drank it.

Flavors: Camphor, Cucumber, Nectar, Perfume

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

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This is a great green tea. It has a bit of a dry mouthfeel, but to be fair, the one I tried was from a little sample my friend gave me and has been in a tiny plastic ziplock for quite some time, so it hasn’t been exactly stored in the most optimal conditions.

The flavor of this green tea is very creamy and soft. There are some light vegetal and nutty tones. The smell is lightly sweet. It’s got a bit of a pecan praline vibe to it and as the tea cools it becomes even more enjoyably sweet. The second steep is even more sweet and mellow than the first, with possibly a hint of unsweetened coconut flavor. This is quite a soft tea and offers some unique qualities from my other experiences with green tea.

Flavors: Cookie, Cream, Nuts, Pecan, Sweet, Vegetal

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

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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!

Tea Ratings:
I use the full scale
0 = Terrible
25 = Uninteresting or harsh
50 = So-So, I’m indifferent
75 = Enjoyable
100 = Incredible!


Kansas City, USA

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