160 Tasting Notes

drank Houjicha - Amber by Obubu Tea
160 tasting notes

This houjicha has a really noticeable bitterness in the aftertaste, and seeing that it is made from Sencha of the Summer Sun, it’s understandable. That tea also has a bit of bite to it. It’s hard to describe what sets this houjicha apart from others. It has a bit of that bitter green tea taste that you get from more bitter/robust sencha.

To be honest, I don’t really prefer this to the simplicity of the regular houjicha made from bancha. I like my houjicha to be mild, or maybe just slightly robust, but this one is really robust and smokey/bitter in the finish. The scent has notes of cedar and mustard and the tea itself tastes roasty like a houjicha usually does, but maybe with a bit more of a coffee-like bitterness in the finish. The bitterness really lingers a bit, but it also has a cooling sensation and it is a clean kind of bitterness. It is similar to the subtle bitterness of walnuts.

Not bad stuff, but I think I like the simpler kind more.

Flavors: Cedar, Coffee, Roasted, Smoke, Walnut

185 °F / 85 °C 5 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

Houjicha shouldn’t be bitter, IMO. I probably would rebel against that too. If I’m drinking houjicha, I want a sweet, possibly caramelly, roasty, smooth tea. I’d be happy with smokiness, but not bitter. Sad.


Yeah, Obubu even advertises their Sencha of the Summer Sun as having “a bitter taste that is strong at first”, and it comes through in this houjicha version of it. I’ve had the sencha by itself and it definitely is robust. It’s good, but it’s sharp unless you brew it with less tea than you might usually use for sencha. Unfortunately, using less tea didn’t really make the houjicha lose its bitterness, though it wasn’t too bad, just not really my thing when it comes to houjicha.

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drank Houjicha - Dark Roast by Obubu Tea
160 tasting notes

Why do heavily roasted teas always register as having a dill note to me? Does anyone else get that? I’m not complaining, I love dill, but it’s just such an odd note amongst all the others.

So i was expecting something much more deep and coffee-like out of this Houjicha compared to the basic roast. In fact, it is sweeter and more mellow than the basic roast, which is a surprise to me. It is so incredibly mild it is a perfect bedtime tea. I am not really getting any smoky flavor though, despite Obubu’s description of the tea, but that is A-OK with me. I don’t think this sweet roasty cha would benefit from that.

The flavors are the usual houjicha ones, a roasted, toasted, deep nutty taste with hints of grain. This one has a bit of sweet bread flavor as well. Really delicate for a houjicha. I’ve had some that taste like coffee or cigar smoke. This one is much more mild and sweet. Great!

Flavors: Baked Bread, Grain, Nutty, Roasted, Toasty

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

can’t say that i do…but i almost wish i did! haha i love dill

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drank Connoisseur’s Matcha by Red Leaf
160 tasting notes

Yes! This is the good stuff! And at a price that doesn’t break the bank!

The dry powder smelled like toasted sesame seeds and honey (African Benne Cakes?). The infusion produces a sweet wet grass smell. The description on the website is accurate in saying it is like the smell after a summer storm. You know that scent of rainwater mists whipped up off of tree leaves and grasses being ruffled by the rain and wind? That’s the smell!

In the flavor there’s a hint of minerality in the finish reminiscent of rainwater. The taste is mostly grassy and dewy, and there’s a lingering sweet finish.

If you like rock oolongs or just rock flavors in general, this may be the matcha for you. It really has a nice wet stone taste to it.

I dig it. This was one of the more interesting and layered matchas of Red Leaf Teas, and it is evocative of refreshing and cleansing weather. The energy of wind and rain is definitely what I feel from this.

If I could change anything the lingering sweetness could be a tad sweeter, and the flavor could be a little more rich. There’s no bitterness at all though, and for me that is a major plus when it comes to matcha.

Flavors: Grass, Mineral, Rainforest, Wet Rocks

165 °F / 73 °C

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drank Manju Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
160 tasting notes

So I’m about a week or two into my newfound exploration of matcha. I am learning little-by-little, and if someone has a great resource about learning to prepare and drink matcha, please feel free to leave it in a comment or message me. Anyway, what I learned with the last bowl I made is that there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to whisk it for the right foamy texture. Lots of sites give a basic instruction for how to do this but I’ve found a couple of key points that really would have helped me more if only someone had mentioned them. They weren’t pointed out on any sites and I picked them up through observation of videos and through trial and error. More on that later. I will probably make a Youtube video to show the tricks, as it is easier to show than tell. What I learned this time is that the way you drink it is just as important as the way you prepare it.

I tend to close my lips quite a bit when I drink tea, and suck a little stream of it in so as not to dribble or slurp. With whisked usucha matcha, if you do this you are likely to sip at the liquid and leave behind a lot of the foam till after the liquid is gone. This is a mistake. Drink with your mouth open more and suck in the foam and water evenly. Not only will the texture be more silky and velvety, but the flavor will be MUCH less intense/bitter and more sweet and complex.

This was probably my second favorite of the matchas I’ve tried from Red Leaf tea. The dry powder had little hints of sweet lime scent like the one that was my favorite (Tanabata Matcha), but the flavor of this one was more like sweet grass and not much of a fruity taste. In fact, after adding water to the matcha it mostly smelled grassy and the little fruity hints in the scent were pretty much gone. There’s a touch of bitterness in the finish of this matcha, but as I mentioned, if you drink the foam and liquid evenly it really cuts this down to an enjoyable balance.

The more and more I experiment with matcha, the more I think most people who say they’ve tried it and don’t enjoy it just aren’t preparing it right, or haven’t had a good quality one. If you get it right the flavors can be even more sweet and forgiving than a lot of sencha out there, and I’ve met at least a few who like sencha but not matcha.

This was a fun matcha. A little sweet and not overly vegetal or umami-rich. I am finding I prefer my matcha this way. On the other hand, this one wasn’t remarkable. It was sort of an “everyday” kind of tea to me.

Flavors: Lime, Sweet, warm grass

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The dry leaves of this Wuyi Oolong are very different from other Wuyi Oolongs. They are yellow and olivine in color, rather than the heavily roasted leaves that are usually brown or black. From what I can tell, this tea is not heavily roasted like most other Wuyis. The leaves smell fruity like raisins. I’ve decided to brew this tea in my Yixing pot, which is seasoned for lighter Taiwanese oolongs with a fruity/floral/creamy slant. This should add to the flavor of the pot nicely from what I can gather, despite this is not in the same type of teas I usually brew in this yixing pot. The leaves of this oolong came in a tin and were wrapped in a very thin plastic lining inside the tin. They were packed in very well without much room to move, nor had they been crushed and there were practically no broken pieces of leaf whatsoever. These are very well handled leaves.

DO NOT…. I repeat, DO NOT RINSE THIS TEA. Drink the first infusion. It is where almost all of the most amazing flavor of this tea is. Even a single flash infusion discarded will rid this tea of its most incredible qualities. You’ll be missing out on the reason it is so good. Trust me. Drink the first infusion.

The smell of the leaves after sitting for a minute in the warm Yixing pot is heavenly. It mostly smells of toasted almonds and honey, or an almost horchata kind of smell, creamy and mildly spiced. After a 10 second infusion, the leaves smell fruity again, with notes of fig and plum and a strong mineral smell that is to be expected from a Wuyi rock oolong. The tea is a subdued yellow and looks slightly hazy, not cloudy. It isn’t as if there is particulate floating in the tea, it is more like the haze you see from tiny fluffy hairs floating in the liquor of really downy teas.

The tea smells like warm vanilla pudding. The flavor is incredibly complex, with a little more tanginess and mineral quality than i’d expect. It contrasts the aroma so that as you take sips and breathe in between, you get an alternation between the sweet vanilla cream scent and the mildly vegetal corn-like, nutty, creamy, yet slightly tangy tasting tea.

Legend has it that this tea gets its name (which means White Cockscomb) from a moment in time when a monk witnessed a rooster fight an eagle to defend its baby. The rooster, sadly, did not live. In memory of the rooster’s brave sacrifice, the monk buried the rooster’s body in respect and a tea tree sprouted and grew from that spot. This was the first Bai Ji Guan tree, from which all others today are derived.

If ever a tea legend seemed palpable to me, it’s this one. This tea is so complex and graceful, it feels like it could be an expression of a beautiful spirit, a legendary rooster’s swansong. The nature of it is unlike any other food or drink I have experienced. It is otherworldly.

It can be difficult as a tea reviewer to not get caught up in the hype and reputations of a tea, especially when it comes with a serious price tag (shipping costs considered, this tea was close to $1 a gram). It can be hard not to want a tea to be good so badly due to all this that you actually perceive it as something more pristine than it is.

But there are teas that come in huge bags for a few bucks that are incredible, and there are teas that come in small tins for a large sum that are incredible. I try not to consider these things at all when I sit down to have a tea. I clear my mind and focus on the tea alone, not how I got it or what I’ve heard of it. All that considered, this tea is an exceptional work of art on its own.

The second infusion is the same color as the first, with a lot more mineral quality emerging. The brew still smells a bit of vanilla but the flavor of it is more on the tart and tangy side, similar to pineapple or other fruits that are slightly astringent. There’s still a backdrop of cream and nuts, but it is in the background now below the mineral and tangier flavors.

The third infusion is similar to the second, but even more mineral-heavy, tasting more like a roasted oolong, though with the yellow color of the infusion I don’t think this is very heavily roasted tea. The leaves have brewed up a nice green color with red-brown tinged edges.

Over the next few infusions the mineral taste remained strong, but by the sixth or so it died off to a light and fruity taste with a syrupy consistency, like white wine, sharing some of the flavor profile of second flush Darjeeling teas, especially with the hints of grape.

While I think the first infusion is the real show-stealer with this tea, it’s still a nice journey and one I definitely recommend if you can afford it (or rack up some Green Points to spend on it on ESGreen, like I did, or go halfsies with a friend).

Flavors: Almond, Corn Husk, Cream, Green, Honey, Mineral, Tangy, Vanilla

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 6 OZ / 170 ML
Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Hehe, do not rinse indeed, it would be like pouring money away (not that I ever rinse oolongs anyway :P )

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This is my first Gyokuro time! Aaaah!

This review will be broken into three parts because I prepared this as Gyokuro first then read that Kabusecha is meant to be prepared like Sencha, rather, so I tried both ways. Last, I took some tips from online and made a salad from the used leaves.

10g tea per 100ml water at 122F/50C for 2 min

The smell of the dry leaves in the warm kyusu is incredibly sweet and umami. This smells very rich and delicate. After brewing, the wet leaves smell similarly but with more vegetal notes. The brew is very thick, syrupy looking and green-yellow.

Let’s take a sip… and… what… whoa… what the… o___o

Flavors: Broth, Grass, Seaweed, Umami, Vegetal


hmm, I don’t think gyokuro should be bitter!

Steven Cook

See… On all fronts, I think I agree with you, though, the gyokuro I have had is from teavana.
It’s to much for me… Too rich.


Teabrat, it is probably because it is kabusecha, which is only grown under partial shade. Gyokuro is much more heavily shaded. I think the title of this tea is a little bit inaccurate, since from what I can tell in my reading kabusecha is not a type of gyokuro, but since it is shaded during part of the growing it is often considered to be something in between sencha and gyokuro. If I could name this tea myself I would not make any mention of gyokuro because by the strict definition of gyokuro this tea is not gyokuro. I think they include it in their gyokuro sampler as a means of showing the cheaper and more accessible entry point into the more umami rich Japanese green teas. The bitterness wasn’t overwhelming, but it was in the same sense that some sencha have a bit of natural bittnerness even when brewed at the proper (low) temperature. I will try the actual gyokuro very soon. There are 3 in this sampler. Can’t wait to try and review them!

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Oh wow, I had such a different experience with this tea than you, so fascinating! I really loved it :)


I tried a Gyokuro from Yunomis (my first too) and wow, was it ever deep rich. It wasn’t bitter though.


Lion, ok that makes sense. I definitely remember gyokuro being on the sweet side, at least the ones I tried.


I’m curious how you all prepared it though. Did you prepare it the traditional way, which produces an incredibly concentrated, syrupy, tea? I’ve prepared three of the teas from this gyokuro sampler now, and all of them had a natural bitterness when prepared this way, some less than others. However, the very strong savory/umami flavor strongly overpowers the bitterness, so the bitter taste only comes in the end of the sip.

Here is a link of the “proper” way to brew Gyokuro:

Most western drinkers are prone to brew it like a sencha, which produces a completely different result, a lighter green tea that is very liquidy and umami-rich, not nearly as bitter.

Gyokuro is typically said to have mild bitterness compared to sencha, but I think nearly any tea when brewed to this high concentration is going to have some bitterness.


You’ll notice in the traditional method of brewing gyokuro, they use so much leaf to water that you only get about 60% of the water back. It is incredibly syrupy and potent. It is intended to be sipped in such small amounts that there is barely any liquid to go down your throat in the sip. The flavor fills your mouth very strongly. Note how little tea is in the cups at the end in the link I posted above. That’s all the tea it makes with that huge amount of leaf.


I brew mine more like a sencha I am sure. I should try it the potent way someday!


It is out of this world! I think I like it more prepared like sencha because the concentrated way is so insane. But I also love just how unique and different the taste is when you do it the traditional way. My western palate was not prepared for that much umami flavor!


Here’s one more resource about it if anyone is curious.

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drank Houjicha - Basic Roast by Obubu Tea
160 tasting notes

This tea is roasty and comforting. It isn’t as sweet as some houjicha I’ve had but it is really mellow. There’s a bit of sweetness in the aftertaste. The aroma gives hints of burnt cedar… and as usual with me and heavily roasted teas there is a note of dill. The flavor is of toast, a little bit nutty, mild and very relaxing. The wet leaves in the teapot smell like cigar tobacco. Now that I’ve noticed that and the tea has cooled some, I can definitely taste cigar smoke in the taste.

Not a lot to say. This is a really great houjicha.

Flavors: Cedar, Roast nuts, Roasted, Toasty, Tobacco

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

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drank White Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
160 tasting notes

The dry matcha powder smells like autumn leaves and spices, cinnamon primarily.

The taste of the whisked matcha is really interesting. Take a really good white peony and just imagine that flavor stacked upon itself until its no longer a delicate white tea, but a woodsy, earthy, mushroomy brew with a rich, strong flavor. There is not much in the way of bitterness though it is a little astringent on the tongue. The flavor is really intriguing though. It’s like an autumn walk through the woods. The mouth feel is really thick and creamy and there are tiny hints of chrysanthemum flower in the taste.

This is a nice alternative to matcha for those who don’t like the flavor of the traditional green type, and even for those who do, I think this would make a wonderful late summer or autumn seasonal drink.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cinnamon, Earth, Mushrooms, Wet wood

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drank Emperor's Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
160 tasting notes

The dry matcha in my warmed chawan smells fruity and sweet.

After whisking the matcha, the smell is more vegetal and nutty with maybe a little hint of popcorn. The matcha tastes a little roasty and very umami rich like spinach with an accompanying bitterness that lingers on the tongue. It’s got a hint of fruit flavor hiding in the background, but mostly what comes through is a roasted taste. It is rather biting on the tongue.

It also leaves a really gritty feeling in my mouth even though the matcha was put through an extremely fine sieve before whisking. There seem to be pieces that feel scratchy and dry. I’m not enjoying that at all. It kind of makes me choke.

Up to that point I was indifferent about it, but the drying texture of it is rather offputting to me. Nothing bad on Red Leaf Tea, I have rated another of their matchas “100” in another review.

Flavors: Coffee, Roasted, Spinach

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drank Matsuri Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
160 tasting notes

I prepared this traditionally in a chawan with whisk.

The initial smell is very mild and sweet, like sweet bread or a field of wheat. The onset of the taste is bitter but only lightly so compared to most matcha I’ve tried. The taste evolves from grassy at first to mild and grainy like sweet bread or sweet greens (baby butter lettuce?).

This tea was very relaxing. It reminds me of the tall prairie grasses of late summer. I live in the great plains region of the US, and there’s a very distinct sweet smell in the air as the grass reaches its full growth in late summer, a mix between that which is fresh and green and that which is becoming golden and drying out. This matcha seemed to capture that essence for me, so I feel at home and at one with the nature around me when I sip into this tea.

This was easy to drink and had just the right amount of bitterness for those who like a little bitter taste in their tea. I have noticed lots of lower grade matchas can be offensively bitter to me, but this one complimented the flavor and was enjoyable. I wasn’t waiting for the bitterness to pass to actually taste something.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Sweet, warm grass

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I’m a dedicated student and 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 from time to time. I use a Tokoname-ware kyusu for Japanese green teas and a chawan for matcha.

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 also enjoy creating beverage 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.

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

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



Kansas City, USA

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