91 Tasting Notes


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
91 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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This is my 50th Steepster review! WOOOO! fireworks

I decided to do something special and be somewhat of a pioneer. I haven’t seen any tea pets here on Steepster but since they’ve begun allowing reviews for teawares I figured I’d introduce one of mine and see if this flies. While it is not essential to making tea, it is definitely a tea accessory and is a product made specifically for use with tea, so hopefully this is acceptable.

I ordered this tiger tea pet from a site called AliExpress. It’s an online marketplace where many vendors from Asia sell their wares. I’ve named him Inaba and he is my third tea pet. For those of you unfamiliar with tea pets, they are more often used in Taiwanese Gongfu Cha than in Chinese. They are little companions that sit at the tea table for use when rinse water is poured out from the gaiwan and tasting cups. The rinse water is poured over the tea pet, and in the case of this type, it causes him to rapidly and dramatically change colors! It’s kind of showy and some find that it distracts from the appreciation of the tea, so it is not used by all Gongfu practitioners.

As for Inaba, he is my favorite tea pet so far for a few reasons. First, the dramatic color change is really wonderful to watch. The color changes instantly as you douse him with hot water, so it looks like you’re rinsing him clean, but the dark color only returns over a period of a minute or two so it slowly grows more dark. Second, he is the smallest tea pet I own now. He’s only about 4.5 inches long and 4 inches tall, so he fits very well on even my small personal sized Gongfu table.

He is climbing on a hill of money, so maybe he can bring you prosperity, fortune and good luck if you offer him some delicious tea! Hehe. ;3

All in all, I find this tea pet to be a charming addition to a Gongfu Tea Table. I like that the initial colors make it appear to be a solid colored statue. If you are serving guests, it may come as a surprise when you rinse him and he shows such vivid colors! Tea pets are definitely a fun conversation piece for tea gatherings and can be a nice icebreaker if you are serving new guests.

I’m going to rate this guy very highly but not perfect. If you look at him up close the detail on the painting can be a little off in some spots. That is the only aesthetic downside to him, but it is not really too noticeable and for the price these usually cost, it is totally acceptable to me.

If you are considering getting a tea pet, I highly recommend him, though there are so many types out there it may be your personal preference to get another type. If you are looking for one with a strong color change, however, this one is awesome, and as mentioned before, he is very compact and unobtrusive to the tea area.

He brings elegance and power to the tea table! Rawr!


He’s pretty cool! Which store did you get him at? I like this one as well, though I haven’t bought it yet. http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Porcelain-green-tea-pet-dragon-arts-gifts-feng-shui-dragon-Chinese-mascot-God-Zeng-with-special/526436_1480622114.html


That one is awesome! I love the color of the glaze. I have a yixing clay one as well that is a little dragon. Maybe I’ll review him here soon too!

I got the tiger here: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Allochroic-Mascot-Allochroic-Tiger-tea-pet-will-change-color-S10-Free-Shipping/484626596.html

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Oh no, I’m the first to review it. Pressure!

Haha. Okay, so this 88th Night Shincha is kind of magical. It’s traditionally picked on the 88th night of spring , 88 nights after the Vernal Equinox (which puts it somewhere around June 17th most years if I counted right).

This shincha smells a lot like a high quality matcha to me. It is very rich. I’m getting lots of green leafy notes, some pistachio and a hint of green bean in the scent. In the taste it is vegetal and nutty like pistachio, mellow and has a nice sweetness to it, not a sugary sweetness mind you, more of a mild sweetness like you might describe some vegetables as having (carrots for example). There are delicate hints of mint. It’s lacking the mineral and ocean qualities I’ve tasted in other senchas, which is a nice parting from what I’m used to. The color is a beautiful green-yellow.

I’m gonna have to say this is the best sencha I have had yet. I have only had maybe 4 or 5 so my experience with them is not too broad, but this one is definitely the most enjoyable to me, for its mellow sweetness and hearty vegetal taste. Oh, and if anyone is curious, shincha is a first flush (first harvest) sencha, so that’s why I am comparing the two. :3

Edit: I served this tea at an event I held at my house where I served night-themed teas and it was a favorite among the guests. They said it tasted like a green smoothie. I can’t argue with that!

Flavors: Mint, Nuts, Sweet, Vegetal

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Fu Shou Shan by Butiki Teas
91 tasting notes

This Fu Shou Shan has a very flowery presence, some light buttery vegetal notes and is rather creamy. There’s also a good deal of foresty, pine like notes.

All around a pretty solid Taiwanese oolong. Nothing surprising, but pretty good.

Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Pine, Vegetal

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

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The scent notes on this one are quite unexpected: rose, perfume, amber, green bean. It reminds me of some shampoos and lotions.

The taste is like… paper, with a hint of hay and malt. Very slight hint of ocean and on later steepings it actually tasted like the smell of amber. Strange.

It’s not bad tasting, but it is kind of bland to me. I feel rather unaffected by it. The perfumey notes are a bit much for me.

Flavors: Hay, Malt, Ocean Air, Paper

185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Okay, so there are times in my tea journey when I encounter a tea that is… for lack of a better term… catnip… to me. In fact, I am surprised this is happening now, because there is only one tea that does that to me up to this point! To elaborate… I am just so intoxicated and shocked by the flavor… it’s like I’m discovering flavors I never knew existed. I can hardly begin to describe the incredible freshness and enjoyability of this tea… and due to not knowing exactly what to think except “WHOA!” I get this giddy cat-on-nip reaction that makes me make vocal noises of pleasure after each of the first few sips. The next several sips all I do is wildly brag to my guests or friends about just how wonderful it is. I preach and yet I feel rather like just flailing around and doing donuts on the carpet. This is only the fourth tea I’ve tried out of hundreds I’ve tried now that I’ve given a perfect 100 score in my review here on Steepster.

Okay, so, where to begin with this? I’ll start with Stacy’s tasting notes from the website because they are spot-on. Fresh cream, churned butter, roasted cashew, grilled corn, banana, and green bean… it’s all there, though if I were to order them by predominance with the most obvious first it’d go like this… Fresh cream, grilled corn, banana, churned butter, green bean, roasted cashew. I will be honest. I ate some roasted cashews about half an hour before I drank this tea… though I had a few palate cleansing foods and drinks in between, so I don’t think that it masked the cashew flavor in this tea necessarily. Rather, having that close of a comparison… I’d say it may be the one tasting note I’m not really getting much of from Stacy’s observations. I wouldn’t describe it as cashew. I will add one though.

Sugar cookie. Oh yes. I wasn’t expecting anything like this. When I poured the first infusion from my gaiwan to the fair cup, nowhere near me, I was met with a whiff of tea steam that made me do a double take. It smelled INCREDIBLE.

I’d say I have a decently sensitive palate. Really light white teas and even some oolong and green can on occasion taste like hot water with a bit of salt or honey or sugar added and not much complexity. I understand that feeling, but I have found that when this occurs I can usually brew the tea a different way and many more flavors emerge (more or less leaf, different time or temp). Also, I can’t stress enough that for brewing very light teas like whites, you really should be using very neutral tasting water. I used spring water for the longest time until I realized a certain evil monolothic chain grocer here in the US has filtration stations in all their stores that use sediment filters, carbon filters, reverse osmosis filters, and uv filters (all 4 together) to give you some very clean tasting and slick feeling local water for substantially cheaper than spring water. Even with home filtration systems, I often taste a lot of mineral and chemical and that can easily overpower light teas. I even did a blind taste test against the spring water I liked with my favorite teas, and the filtered water from the store won out.

Off my pulpit about water quality, just a tip for those who say they are tasting “hot water”, this tea was very full of flavor and is a totally different creature from any of the Chinese Silver Needles I’ve had before. Those tend to have notes of fruits like peach or melon, sweet honey and nectar notes as well. This tea is creamy, light and yet rich… like a chantilly cake. The ending notes of a sip carry the light vegetal quality, which is a bit like a sweet green bean or snap pea. I can see where others say this is like a mellowed down Chinese green tea.

I used 2 grams of needles per 100ml of water (that’s about a heaping tablespoon per 3 oz). Brewed it gongfu style for 1 minute, adding 15 seconds each time at 185F. There was never any dryness at all on any infusion.

Now I need to see how long I can prevent myself from ordering insane quantities of this tea.

Flavors: banana, Butter, Cookie, Corn Husk, Cream, Green Beans

185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Golden Stars by Butiki Teas
91 tasting notes

I’ve begun to feel guilty when I leave poor reviews for a tea. I think because the tea world can be a bit tightly knit and many of our tea vendors are private businesses run by very nice people the relations often feel personal to an extent and I feel like such a bad customer leaving a negative review of a tea. On the other hand, I think the feedback might help vendors decide which teas to continue investing in and which to discontinue, if sales numbers don’t speak for themselves, so I try to just be as straightforward as I can. It’s hard though not to feel a little bad for it sometimes.

As for Golden Stars, there is another review here that mentions the tea having a bit of a “plastic” smell. I am totally getting that. It reminds me of a painted yixing style pot I got recently that was not actual yixing clay, but painted to look more attractive. The paint has a faint plastic aroma to it and when brewing in that vessel you can smell and taste it in the tea. My Golden Stars were brewed in a glazed gaiwan that contributes no aroma or flavor to teas brewed in it and unfortunately they have a similar smell and taste that is sort of… “plastic”.

As best as I can, I will say the notes on this tea are butter, salt and green bean. The buttery flavor comes through most, with the other two backing it.

Rather than dropping a numerical rating bomb on this tea, I’ll just say I would not recommend it. It doesn’t taste clean the way high quality artisan teas should. I have no idea if it’s a part of the processing to due to the materials or process of sewing the leaves into little stars, or improper storage of tea by the manufacturer, or just a flavor present in the tea, but it is unappealing and the other flavors are so subtle they are masked by it. The tea tastes faintly like a salty broth/brine.

Flavors: Butter, Green Beans, Salt

Butiki Teas

Sorry to hear that you noticed a plastic taste. I’ve never noticed a plastic taste before. I will give this a taste today to make sure there is nothing wrong with the tea and report back.

This tea has already been earmarked to be discontinued. It has some similar notes to other teas in our collection but we feel it isn’t as interesting as those teas.

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Ooh! This roasted Dong Ding starts out with this wonderful mild roasted nutty flavor like a Houjicha, but then it opens up to the dried fruit and honey like qualities of Dong Ding, with so much lingering sweetness. For a roasted tea, this one tastes very clean and leaves a nice clean feeling in the mouth and a tingly minty kind of freshness.

On the second steeping the roasted flavor has died off quite a bit revealing more of the sweet, nectar-like qualities of the tea. The more steepings in you go, the more creamy and mellow it gets, and the more it gives way to subtle floral, fruit and honey notes. This is a wonderful oolong for enjoying gongfu style to see how the many infusions change.

Flavors: Dried Fruit, Floral, Honey, Nutty, Raisins, Roasted

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

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The aroma has elements of cedar, peat, and dry grass. The taste is very slightly of honey and flowers, somewhat like chamomile but is mostly masked by the signature aged taste of puer, woody, a bit peppery and smokey, there’s a slight aftertaste of five spice. and lingering peppery quality. There’s also a bit of green bean in there somewhere. It’s slightly astringent. I’d call it more of an intense puer than a mellow one.

Flavors: Flowers, Green Beans, Honey, Peat, Pepper, Spices, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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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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