223 Tasting Notes


The dry leaves in a warm gaiwan smell nutty with a hint of cocoa. After the first infusion, the wet leaves smell like flowers and apples, just a touch of cocoa at the end.

The first infusion is really sweet and honey-like. The flavor isn’t really complex. There’s a hint of white grape and maybe orange. It’s subtle and smooth. The second infusion is much more floral tasting than the first, with a hint of the lingering white grape flavor as before. What’s really interesting about this tea is that it doesn’t taste like tea to me… It tastes like water sweetened with honey and infused with fruit. It’s kind of unique in that way. It is very clean and light, quite easy to drink.

I did a few infusions with this, brewing a bit longer each time. Even if I brewed it really long the flavor never became overpowering.. It was always floral, slightly fruity, not bitter at all.

I must admit, this tea has me nonplussed. I’m not sure what to make of it. I have tried a handful of Darjeeling teas now and have never really been wowed, nor have I disliked them. I’m not sure if Darjeeling is for me. There always seems to be a little something missing, as far as complexity goes, and maybe I’m just not that big on grape flavor. I also brew it Gongfu style like a weirdo, though I’ve tried it in the Western fashion, which is the usual method for enjoying Darjeeling, and I didn’t like it as much that way. This tea is good stuff though. It’s light and easy to drink.

What-Cha’s description says it reminds of red wine. I would have to say it reminds me more of a white wine (maybe because I brew it more lightly), something sweet like a Gewurztraminer.

Flavors: Flowers, Honey, Orange, White Grapes

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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The leaves of this tea have a great mix of gold tips to darker leaves. Lots of pretty gold tips. The dry scent of the leaves in a warm Gongfu teapot reminds me of chocolate and french fries… which is awesome because I love french fries. Seriously, they’re like my second favorite food after sushi. After the first infusion, the leaves are bursting with aroma! There are hints of black cherry, plum vinegar, chocolate, raisins, apricot, and maybe even a bit of wood and flowers. It’s complex and intense.

The taste of the first infusion is incredible. It starts with an apricot taste and ends with a really interesting dark chocolate bitterness. There’s a little bit of plum too. Reminds me of one of those chocolate oranges you have to whack to break apart, but better. The mouthfeel and taste of this tea are exceptionally clean. It has a really wet, juicy feel, and the bitterness that lingers at the end is really enjoyable. It’s a unique kind of bitterness that I haven’t experienced before… kind of tingles and stimulates the tongue. It’s more a sensation than a flavor. It doesn’t really taste bitter.

After the second infusion, there’s more apricot flavor, and a bit of malt flavor creeping in. As I steep to a third and fourth infusion, the fruit tastes back off and more malty flavors arise, reminding me of the red and black tea flavors I’m used to, but as it cools, there are still hints of the apricot and even a bit of fresh ginger.

Overall, this is a really nice tea. It shows its best features on the first infusion, and after that it’s a smooth ride. Still, I’m incredibly eager to find out what this will taste like in my red/black tea seasoned yixing pot. It has a great tendency to smooth out the flavors, cut out the bitterness and make things more robust and sweet. That’ll be a fun one.

I was absolutely amazed by the first infusion, but later infusions didn’t quite live up to the standard it set for itself. If they had, I’d have rated this tea near perfect. Still worthy of quite a high score!

Flavors: Apricot, Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Plums

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

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Yellow tea is a rare creature. It’s not a common tea type because it doesn’t differ too greatly from green tea in a lot of cases, and it is more labor intensive and expensive to produce. This one is unique among yellow teas I’ve seen in that the leaves have a pretty dark appearance, sort of yellowish olive green.

The dry leaves smell really roasted and toasty. After a rinse, the scent of the tea leaves is very complex. It smells really roasty like houjicha but with a note of yellow mustard. The scent of the brewed tea is a more mild roast taste with creamy notes.

The taste of this tea is quite smooth and unoffensive. I think this may be the first “true” yellow tea I have had because it achieves the effect most articles on yellow tea mention the purpose of yellow tea being… to make a tea with similar flavors to green tea but curbing the grassy notes for a more mellow flavor. This tea tastes like a smooth, sweet, mildly roasted green tea, and by golly there is the faintest hint of mustard or dill even in the taste. Maybe there’s a bit of toasted sesame in the flavor. It’s hard to describe. It has a subtle cooling sensation after the sip, and a lingering sweetness.

The liquor color of this tea is a pale yellow. I’m brewing it in a small thin-walled porcelain gaiwan. On the second infusion, I’m getting more toasty flavors with the subtle tanginess of dill. The packaging describes this tea’s flavor as “hazelnut with mango notes”. I can definitely see hazelnut, but I’m not getting the mango notes. Maybe that’s what registers as dill to me. I left the room and came back in and it definitely smells like hazelnuts in here.

This tea reminds me of a lot of houjicha in its taste and aroma, so if you like that, you would probably enjoy this. The flavor doesn’t change a whole lot from one infusion to the next, just becomes more rich. There’s no bitterness at all. It’s mellow, a comfort tea. The third infusion is more sweet and lacking the tangy dill-like note from before.

Infusion times were 15 seconds starting out, then 10 or so on the second infusion and increasing on each one by 10 or so as needed.

Flavors: Dill, Nutty, Sweet, Toasty

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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This is my 200th review! Rawr!

So, as with all my other milestone reviews, I want to review something rather special. Here goes.

Okay, so… I love the imagery this tea evokes. I love stags. They are beautiful animals and generally just give me an impression of quiet oneness with nature, of freedom and exploration, and tranquility. I am excited about this tea. Straight out of the bag, the twigs smell like cinnamon and spices, even some fruit. It reminds me of the scent of hardened gingerbread that some of the ornaments on the Christmas tree were made out of when I was a kid. And hey, the twigs do in fact look like antlers. So cool!

I’m a little crazy, so I’m going to be gongfu brewing this similar to how I’d brew silver needle white tea, but with longer infusion times like I use with Ya Bao. Why not? I default to gongfu style even with teas that aren’t particularly made for it.

So, into my gaiwan they go, and I’m not even breaking them up. They barely fit in there with the lid on, they’re so long. They’re in there for 1 minute and back out. This is the longest I ever do an initial infusion with Gongfu style and I only do it with Ya Bao, which are very thick, dense buds, and require a lot of soaking to saturate. I figured since these stems are hard and woody i’d do the same with them. The stems smell a bit fruity and floral after the first infusion. I’m not getting lychee so much like the packaging says, but I can see where that’s coming from, since lychee is both fruity and floral. To me this is more of a plum scent mixed with the scent of a good Japanese sake.

Surprisingly, the infusion is a rich medium yellow after just that short amount of time. The brewed tea smells like sweet cinnamon roll dough, pecan pie, a bit of fig or plum and some other fun decadent things.

Oh wow, the taste comes on really sweet. It’s kind of plum like with a hint of floral and a lingering sweetness. It has hints of cinnamon and spice flavors just like the scent. The sweetness really lingers after drinking, as well as a slight cooling sensation on the tongue. The flavor of this tea has some qualities in common with white peony teas I’ve tried before. There’s a bit of autumn leaf taste and scent that both teas share.

I’m really impressed by the quality of this tea’s flavor and aroma. It’s very delicate but very flavorful, has a really definite presence, and is easy to drink like most white teas are. I could drink this tea daily. I’m feeling a bit of an interesting lightheadedness right now, which could be an effect of this tea, or the effect of this being the third tea I’ve reviewed within a few hours.

Second infusion: okay, lychee. I’m gettin’ it now. The wet twigs definitely have that aroma, but still reminds me of plum wine or a really nice sake as well, and the spice notes are ever-present. The second infusion doesn’t seem to have quite as strong of a taste as the first, but is similar and still really nice. It leans towards a more floral nectar kind of taste, not quite as sweet as before. If you roll it on your tongue there’s a hint of metal in the taste as well. As the tea cools, that note is not detectable anymore and the overall flavor is much more like lychee, with a slight aftertaste of spices. There is no bitterness in this tea at all.

I agree with Alistair of What-Cha, this tea is a game-changer. Who knew that such delicious flavor could come from just the stems of tea? I’ve had Japanese kukicha “stem tea” before, and it was nothing like this, nothing to write home about. This, on the other hand, is something I’ll be after to keep in my collection for years to come. I hope for the continued success of the estate that produces this tea! I’d like to take a moment to say, if you haven’t tried many teas from lesser-known growing regions, you really should give them a chance. What-Cha seems to have a real knack for offering many of those, so it’s a great place to start.

My third infusion of the little tea antlers came out a really deep yellow. This time the flavor tastes a little more green, like young white tea, subtle hints of cucumber in the mix. Overall, the taste is waning a bit, but still nice. Four infusions in, the flavor is still really nice and has gotten more generous again. I could see this one going for many, many infusions before running out of delicious flavor.

For timing, I brewed for 1 minute, adding 15 seconds each time. It worked really well with the amount of tea I used. I ignored the recommendation of 176F water for a slightly hotter 185F, which is what I default to for white teas, and this perfomed just great.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cinnamon, Lychee, Plums, Sake, Spices

185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Congrats on your 200th review! Sounds like you picked a winner for that review.


Way to go. You have great notes, I wish my writing skills were as good.


Thank you. :3

Roswell Strange

Congrats on 200!

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I was immediately drawn to this tea due to the very imaginative description of it as “green sword” tea. Images of the Green Destiny from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon flashed through my mind, along with all the beautiful art and imagery of that movie and its lush, green landscapes, and I felt an instant tingle in my head.

This tea is not from China, however, but from India and was named because the rolled leaves resemble little swords. In fact, I would say they do even more so in person, because what you can’t tell from the photo is that each of those little slightly curved rolled leaves are an inch or two long, really long for green tea leaves. They’re quite beautiful to look at.

The scent of this tea dry is surprisingly fruity, with a tangerine and mango scent, really potent and enjoyable. After a rinse, The leaves have more of a vegetal kind of scent, with the nutty and green bean notes I’m used to in many green teas, and while the fruit aroma is still there, it is not as strong. The scent of the brewed tea is pleasantly nutty, creamy, and green. The taste is surprisingly clean and light, with a slight nutty taste and a bit of a sweet corn taste. There’s a lingering note of mango or orange. It’s mildly sweet, becoming more so as it cools, and it leaves a lingering sweetness in the mouth as well.

I should mention a few things. Firstly, that I’m brewing this tea in the Gongfu style of brewing in a thin walled porcelain gaiwan, secondly that it takes really well to this method, and last that I have gone through many phases in my enjoyment of green tea, from brewing it very strong and robust to brewing it delicate and light, and seem to have settled on a general preference for brewing it light.

The second infusion of this tea offers many of the same creamy, slightly citrusy notes of the first, but I feel the citrus taste comes through more while the vegetal flavors have backed off some.

The first infusions were so light and crisp, I decided to push the third a little longer than normal to see how it might taste if brewed more rich. It has a more similar profile to most Chinese green teas at this point, more vegetal and green bean like overall. The fruit flavors still linger at the end but not as noticably. I diluted it a bit and it came back to a soft flavor with more noticeable hints of orange.

Later infusions unfolded in a more conventional green tea fashion, but the hint of orange flavor never fully receded.

I am really enjoying this green tea. It’s quite different from any others I’ve had, and I enjoy it’s fresh, clean, crisp subtlety and fruity finish. I’m very glad I bought a bag of this. I made a pretty big What-Cha order of teas I haven’t even tried aside from one, so we’ll see how many suit my tastes. So far, this one is fantastic.

Infusion times: 15 seconds, then quick infusions of 10-20 seconds to follow.

Flavors: Creamy, Green Beans, Mango, Nutty, Orange

1 min, 0 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Lishan Oolong by Tea Ave
223 tasting notes

The dry leaves in a warm gaiwan smell like roasted seaweed. Interesting start. The scent after rinsing the leaves is a really bright floral nectar smell, sweet, with notes of honey, little notes of seaweed still in the background.

Really unique flavor. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It’s creamy, tastes a lot like some kind of fruit or flower, like a tropical fruit… maybe little hints of mango or papaya? Maybe even nectarine. It has a bit of toasty flavor, but mild.

Second infusion is a little more floral and overall similar flavors. Not quite as creamy or sweet. A lingering peach aftertaste.

Third infusion is much like the second, but stronger flavor. By the fourth infusion it’s even more floral tasting and less fruity. It’s more the kind of floral that can be kind of borderline offensive to me, hinting at soapy. This is the usual type of floral I experience in taiwanese high mountain oolongs. Sometimes I simply have to brew lighter to avoid them. With other teas, it is just innately overwhelming to me (mostly Alishan… in my experience). With this Lishan though, it’s not too much, but definitely there.

By the fourth infusion the floral has backed off and it is back to the fruity notes. I really liked the first and maybe the later infusions of this tea, but some of the middle infusions with the bright floral taste were borderline harsh for me. It’s hard to decide how I feel on this one because that tropical fruit taste is just really unique and unlike anything else I’ve tried, but the flavor is not consistent throughout infusions, nor does it change in a good way, since the first infusion was the best. Hmmm. Still a good tea though. Worth trying for it’s unique tropical fruit notes, and if you like pretty floral oolong teas, then there is probably nothing to fear here at all.

Flavors: Flowers, Fruity, Mango, Seaweed, Tropical

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

I got the seaweed too, kind of odd for a green oolong though

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drank Dong Ding Oolong by Tea Ave
223 tasting notes

I’m not in the mood to review today, so I will keep this short. I’m mostly writing this review for my own future reference.

Dry leaves in warm gaiwan smell buttery and like toasted sunflower seeds. After a rinse, they smell like a nice blend of roasty notes, herbs, and flowery green mountain plants.

On the first infusion, the infusion is quite pale in color, and the taste is mostly of sweet toasty notes and sunflower seeds.

The second infusion is a lot more floral and less dried-fruit-like than what I’m used to with Dong Ding oolong. It’s reminding me more of the usual high mountain oolong flavors that most have in common.

But then, the third infusion brings a bit of those fruit-like notes I’m used to, a bit creamy, still pretty floral, a bit of roasted taste. The fourth is a little less floral and more sweet. Mellowed a bit.

Overall, while my experience with Dong Ding is not really extensive, I wouldn’t have been able to tell this is a Dong Ding just by drinking it. It was good tea, but not really indicative of some of the flavors I have liked in other Dong Ding teas. It kind of dabbled in generic Taiwan oolong turf, which is neither a good or bad thing.

Flavors: Creamy, Floral, Green, Herbs

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

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drank Rose Oolong by Tea Ave
223 tasting notes

Finally trying the last of Tea Ave’s line up of scented teas, and only now do I stop to ponder… Does the name mean Tea Avenue? Or are we talking “welcome tea” and “goodbye tea”… the latin ave, as in Ave Maria?

I imagine it’s the prior but I have fun imagining it’s the latter, as it sums up my thoughts when drinking tea.

The scent of rose oolong is a bit more mild than the other tea ave teas I’ve tried. Of course there is rose, and a creamy scent from the Jin Xuan cultivar oolong. In a way, this sweet and mild combination reminds me of fruit loops breakfast cereal when smelling the leaves dry in the warm gaiwan.

The rose petals become a gorgeous magenta and float to the top while most of the tea leaves sink as I fill the gaiwan with water. The aroma of the wet leaves is really creamy with subtle rose notes. As with the other more subtle scented teas from Tea Ave, I’m not getting much fragrance from the Taiwanese aroma cup set I’m using to enjoy this tea.

The taste of this tea is very light, and has a nice subtle rose taste. I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. Most times I’ve had roses in tea, they’ve been really strong, and while I love rose, too much can sort of taste cloying. I have a horrendous headache as I’m writing this, so luckily this isn’t too fragrant or I’d be tossing it out the window!

The second infusion has quite a bit more flavor, more rosey, but still not overpowering. I really enjoy it. By the third, I’m mostly tasting the creamy Jin Xuan and not the roses. On the fourth infusion, I’m getting mild notes of high mountain foliage, the kind of taste you’d expect from great Taiwanese oolong.

I would say this tea would be ideal for someone who likes a little bit of flowers but maybe not a lot of them, because you really only taste the rose in this for a couple of infusions, and after that it’s all creamy smooth high mountain oolong. It’s a nice transition and a very subtle, relaxing comfort tea. Has helped my headache a bit.

In fact I’d say that I liked this more than some of the scented teas from Tea Ave I thought I’d love.

Here are my rankings, now that I’ve tried them all. The first two are stellar. The rest are ones I enjoy, but they didn’t leave a strong impression, as they tend to be rather subtle and require a lot of leaf if you want more than subtle.

1. Magnolia
2. Osmanthus
3. Ginger Lily
4. Rose
5. Jasmine
6. Cape Jasmine

Flavors: Milk, Rose

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

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drank Cape Jasmine Oolong by Tea Ave
223 tasting notes

In the warm gaiwan, the dry leaves smell like honey and flowers, a little bit like jasmine, but softer. The wet leaves smell quite similar.

The first infusion of this tea is so light on aroma, quite light in taste as well. I’ve been noticing with some of Tea Ave’s scented oolongs, you can use a little more tea than I’m accustomed to using. It’s hard for me to describe the flavor of this first infusion, other than to say a little similar to jasmine, so I’ll move on.

The second infusion is still a bit subtle to me. It’s a nice floral flavor, somewhat similar to jasmine. Third infusion, more of the same. It’s difficult to describe how this differs from Jasmine. There’s a bit of a flavor that leans it more toward a spice/savory kind of floral taste, sort of like saffron. It’s not as aromatic as I’m used to in most floral teas. It took about four infusions for me to taste the creamy butteryness of the Jin Xuan in this one. Not sure why. I think it’s just a lighter tea and took me a few infusions to brew it more strong. I have been brewing my oolong teas a bit lighter lately in attempt not to overpower them.

Not a bad tea, but so far the least compelling to me of the Tea Ave scented oolongs. I imagine those who have nostalgic memories of gardenias (a.k.a. cape jasmine) may enjoy this more than I did.

I must admit the instructions on the tea said to use substantially more leaf than I did, and to steep it longer than I did. I may have to try it that way and see if it yields more interesting results for me.

On the other hand, I brewed this exactly the same way I did all the other Tea Ave teas I’ve tried, and some of those got perfect 100 scores from me… so hmm.

I brewed this again using more leaf per water and the flavor is much more pronounced. It isn’t particularly different than what I had mentioned, but tastes stronger and is more enjoyable this way. :3

Flavors: Creamy, Flowers, Saffron

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

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drank Ginger Lily Oolong by Tea Ave
223 tasting notes

Alright, I’m excited to try this since this tea seems to be exclusive to Tea Ave… that is I haven’t seen any other companies in America who have tea scented with ginger lilies.

Sticking my nose into the pouch, the dry leaves smell like EGGNOG. Oh man, how I love eggnog. I’m excited. The dry leaves in the warm gaiwan smell like honey and toasted sesame. Yum. The wet leaves after the first infusion have the classic high mountain oolong aroma with a hint of gingerbread in the background. It’s faint.

The first infusion is a pale green-yellow. I’m using Taiwanese aroma cups to drink this. The aroma cup isn’t holding much scent on this infusion, and the aroma coming off the tea is very faint as well. The tea definitely has a soft hint of ginger taste. I’ve been so curious about this tea, wondering, will it just taste like ginger? Will it taste like some kind of flowery ginger? I’d say it tastes like a subtle, creamy ginger, and I do mean subtle. Though, I will say the ginger is the dominant flavor over the oolong leaves. So far the whole thing is subtle. It reminds me of banana bread a little bit, or ginger cookies.

Second infusion, the leaves still smell like high mountain oolong, mostly, with a subtle ginger hint. Again, the aroma is so subtle I’m hardly getting anything from the aroma cup. Just the faintest hint of ginger. This tea seems to be more of a flavor tea than an aromatic one, so I think from here on I’ll do slower pours, aerate it less and try to get a thicker liquor and longer aftertaste.

The second infusion tastes again rather light, but the ginger flavor emerges more, there’s an earthy quality as well, substantially less creamy taste than the other scented oolongs Tea Ave has used this Alishan Jin Xuan cultivar for, making me wonder if a lot of the creamy taste of those were coming from their respective flowers. There’s a subtle warmth to this tea like the warmth of eating ginger, but really diminished.

Alright, third infusion, still not aromatic, and still quite a subdued, delicate taste. I like it, but boy is this tea ever light. I could have probably used a larger amount of tea leaves than I usually do with this one. To be fair though, a subtle tea is not a bad thing. This tea is relaxing and has a very unique character. It’s a comfort tea, for sure.

Compared to tea that has fresh ginger added, the flavor of this is much more mellow and calm. It’s nice in that way, with a warming touch, rather than a spicy and invigorating one.

I won’t shout from the rooftops about this one. It’s good, but not particularly complex, not very dynamic from one infusion to the next. It feels a bit lacking for a high mountain oolong. On the other hand, it has an earthy, herby, very root-like flavor that isn’t terribly common in tea. I can even sense a little similarity between this taste and radish.

Good stuff. I probably won’t buy more from what I have purchased in this order, but I do enjoy it.

Flavors: Earth, Ginger, Herbs

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

I did not get eggnog, but in retrospect I can totally see that!


It was only when I stuck my face in a whole bag of it and inhaled. Didn’t get it s much after that.

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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, WYMM Tea’s Mangnuo “Cane Tea”, 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 in all aspects. I really love Japanese animation and video games as well.

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 = Unpalatable, Awful
25 = Unenjoyable or harsh
50 = Average, I’m indifferent
75 = Enjoyable
100 = Incredible


Kansas City, USA



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