175 Tasting Notes


Big thanks to TeaBrat for this sample.

This stuff smells like heaven. There’s this wonderful sweet citrus scent to the brewed leaves, or maybe it’s the smell of spiced apples. It’s accompanied by notes of cinnamon stick and pine. This stuff smells like the potpourri smell you catch walking into some quaint little craft shop. It’s nostalgic.

Being made from Ya Bao, the infusion is rather pale, just a hint of yellow. It’s also slightly cloudy, which isn’t uncommon for fermented teas. The flavor is really unique. It has a bit of a smokey and peppery finish, but the main presence in the sip is like a cinnamon-apple peel kind of taste. It’s got a creamy body to it.

The second infusion of this got a little more strong in flavor. It’s got the tangy Sheng Puer vibe now, reminding me less of loose un-aged Ya Bao and more of Sheng. There’s a fizzy quality to this tea. It’s really nifty. In later infusions the smokier qualities emerge more. There’s a lemony tartness to it that I didn’t really think about at first, but after reading other reviews and tasting some more, it’s undeniable.

Flavors: Apple Skins, Bark, Cinnamon, Lemon, Wood

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This Raw puer is really nice, less bitter than some other puer this young. There’s a sweet overtone and the undertone is of wood and white pepper. A little lasting bitterness stays in your mouth, along with the peppery taste.

The funny thing about Puer teas is that there’s so much info out there about how you can steep it 20+ times. Granted, that’s true, the question I find myself asking when drinking a Puer tea is… do I want to?

If I can make it through 5 or 6 steepings and still be interested that’s saying something. I love the Gongfu approach to tea, but for me to really do a lot of extended infusions means it has got to be cream of the crop flavor, or it has got to have some interesting changes from one infusion to the next. Sometimes if I don’t see that really happening over the first 5 or 6 I’ll just stop there because the water I use for tea is expensive relatively speaking… it’s about 35 cents a gallon and I have to walk over a mile with a glass jug weighing over 50 pounds to get more. Thankfully I have a little cart with wheels to help me with this, but pulling it up and down hills can still be tiresome. I’m veering off course a little bit, but these are my thoughts at the moment.

Back to the tea. I like how sheng puer teas tend to mellow out after the first 4 or 5 infusions, and I think this is when I enjoy them the most. Some people rinse them at least twice before drinking to get to this point sooner, and while I don’t do that myself, I can see the appeal. As I move deeper into the infusions on this one, there’s a bit of a sweet floral taste emerging, overtaking the wood notes, but pepper is still the dominant flavor.

This was not a bad puer. It’s not as complex or suited to my tastes as many others I’ve had, but it is also agreeable and nice to drink.

Flavors: Floral, Pepper, Sweet, Wood

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This is a pretty mellow and easy-to-drink Puer. It’s really quite calming in that way.

The first tastes I got from the sip were of leather, earth, and dried fig. The wet leaves also smell of dried fig. The infusion color is a deep, dark brown as with most ripe Puer. There really isn’t much change from one infusion to the next, but it does seem to become even more mellow and with a bit of a dull sweetness to it. It’s a pretty agreeable Puer, despite not being a very complex-tasting one.

This puer may be a bit too much of a smooth-talker, giving me a bit of a cloying feeling. I think I need a little more to ponder on in my shu puer, a little more substance.

Flavors: Dried Fruit, Earth, Fig, Leather

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank 2012 White Tea Wu-Long by Shang Tea
175 tasting notes

This Wu-Long is made from white tea cultivar (Da Bai), the only one of its kind I’ve ever come across. Shang makes two varieties of this, and of the two this one is superior. Out of curiosity I had one of the folks at the shop fix me a sample of this and the other one and not tell me which one was which so I could decide which was better without a bias. I tasted both for a few infusions and compared to see which one I’d like more and this one was the winner for sure.

It’s been about a year since I purchased this tea and it has become even better with age. I have to say I made a major discovery with this tea today that I wish I had made earlier. That is that you should brew it at hotter temperatures like you might with any other oolong. I had always brewed it at 185F, the temperature I brew white teas. Oh foolish me! I tried it at 194F today while pondering on some info I have come across lately that talks about how oolongs get their distinct flavor from polyphenols that require high temperatures to dissolve. What a difference nine degrees makes!

The leaves smell a lot like golden raisins when dry and have a sort of wine-like scent after brewing. It reminds me of a second flush Darjeeling in many ways. The brew is incredibly buttery, sweet like dried fruit and has a splash of saltiness. In the second infusion there is an incredible spritz of floral notes along with it that sort of tingles the tongue and stimulates the saliva glands. The brew color is a beautiful apricot and the scent gives off notes of allspice and autumn forest. The tea is very wet and thick feeling in the mouth, not drying at all. The lingering aftertaste is honeyed floral and just sits in your mouth for a long time.

This is an all-star tea. It had been silently tucked away on my shelves for quite some time after I had gradually come to feel it wasn’t one of my preferred teas, but with age and some hotter water, this produced something absolutely transcendent. Way to go Shang Tea for pulling this off! White tea as oolong is a really unique concept in the tea world.

I’ll be coveting the rest of what I have of this. What a wonderful and appropriate tea for Autumn too. Really suits the atmosphere.

Flavors: Dried Fruit, Flowers, Honey, Salty, Sweet

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Great review Lion! Sounds wonderful. That’s going on my wishlist!

Red Fennekin

Agreed – great review, and the tea sounds amazing! Tbh, most of Shang’s whites look/sound delicious. I think a nice big order may be in order after Christmas…!


There really isn’t anything at Shang you can go wrong with. :)


Definitely, Nicole. My one caveat with Shang Tea is the Orange Blossom White Tea, but it’s not because it isn’t good quality. I think I’m just really sensitive to bitter tastes. It’s wonderfully aromatic but the taste is just too much for me. I’ve tried literally every other tea from Shang Tea and there isn’t a single one that wasn’t great.

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drank Caramel Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
175 tasting notes

This shouldn’t be this good… I didn’t expect it to be this good preparing it the traditional way matcha is prepared in a chawan with hwhisk (say it, HWHISK! haha), two chashaku scoops of matcha and about 2.5 ounces of water.

The caramel flavor is rich and thick, it blends well with the really rich and vegetal matcha. The color looks like greenish mud. The sweet caramel flavor lingers on your tongue long after you’ve finished drinking it. I imagine this stuff is more intended to be used in lattes or the kitchen, but I quite enjoyed it this way. There are some tiny whitish rectangular pieces in the matcha that were left in the sifter, though some made it through. I don’t know what these are. At first I thought they were pieces of stem but there were no coarse pieces in the drink after mixing, so I must assume they were sugar crystals or some other solidified form of flavoring that dissolves in the tea.

While this matcha is definitely not my thing, I can’t help but give it a high rating. It isn’t something I’ll purchase, but I do enjoy the sample I have quite a bit. I would say this might be a good matcha to use if trying to get into preparing matcha with a whisk but you don’t like the taste of matcha much. It could be a good gateway, if it weren’t for the fact that it simply doesn’t hold a froth. The bubbles dissipate very quickly and the foam is very thin and unstable. Ah well. The flavor is what counts with this one, I imagine.

Flavors: Caramel, Green

165 °F / 73 °C 0 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 3 OZ / 88 ML
Tea Pet

You have just intrigued me enough to give my pack of caramel matcha another try!

carol who

I love it as a latte!

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drank Classic Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
175 tasting notes

This matcha whisked up in a jif and smells nice and sweet. The flavor is a nice balance of vegetal, sweet, and bitter. This is a very well-balanced matcha so it is aptly named if it’s considered the “classic”. The color is a deep foresty green. There’s a bit of tanginess or sourness that lingers on the tongue after a sip, similar to lemon juice.

This one is actually pretty good. It has all the qualities I’ve been finding in the different matcha teas from Red Leaf all rolled into one, a good intermediary.

Flavors: Astringent, Grass, Sour, Sweet, Tangy, Vegetal

165 °F / 73 °C 0 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 3 OZ / 88 ML

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drank Imperial Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
175 tasting notes

Whoa! I have to admit I was not at all prepared for this. I almost spit the matcha out after whisking it up and drinking a deep sip of it simply because I did not expect the reaction it had in my mouth. As soon as I felt this very tingly, intense vegetal presence in my mouth I was expecting an intense bitterness to follow. It is definitely astringent, but surprisingly not in the bitter sense. It’s like biting into a grapefruit wedge. It makes your tongue prickle and your mouth pucker, though the flavor is much more akin to seaweed or bok choy.

This one was really shocking. My description probably sounds kind of wonky. As far as matcha goes, this was a close encounter of the Third Kind. Really unexpected. Very intense flavor.

The Anaconda Malt Liquor of matcha teas right here… Gives ya WOOO!

Flavors: Bok Choy, Grapefruit, Seaweed

165 °F / 73 °C 0 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 3 OZ / 88 ML

sounds like fun… :-p

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drank Royal Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
175 tasting notes

This matcha had a very mouth-filling taste and texture. It is bold in a sense, but in a very easy-to-handle kind of way. I really can’t pin down what flavors this has. Mostly it is sort of green and reminds me of tree leaves and fresh tree wood. There’s also a bit of metallic or mineral taste and a very subtle bitterness in the aftertaste that is definitely not too much for me.

This one was interesting. Nothing particularly stood out to me. It all seemed like one big bold mouth-filling flavor. It was a really different experience than I’ve had with Red Leaf’s other matchas, so I liked it. On the other hand, nothing stood out enough to make me particularly enthusiastic about it.

Flavors: Forest Floor, Mineral

165 °F / 73 °C 0 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 3 OZ / 88 ML

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drank Sencha of the Wind by Obubu Tea
175 tasting notes

I couldn’t tell you what went wrong the first time I brewed this. I am brewing it just the same way but with more leaf to water ratio than the last time. Last time I tasted some relatively strong bitterness in the finish but that is not evident at all this time, so I’m leaving a new review with a higher rating.

With the dry leaves in the warm kyusu, after a minute I uncovered them to smell them. They have a really sweet fragrance that is green and light, similar to Obubu’s “Sencha of Brightness”.

The wet leaves have an almost floral aroma, reminding me a bit of a Taiwanese high mountain oolong. The flavor is light with a good deal of sweetness and a slightly astringent finish. Strangely, the sweetness is so abundant up front that it’s difficult for me to describe the flavors, so I’ll say it’s kind of a sweet grass taste. There’s a definite umami richness with a vegetal taste and there’s a subtle honey-like smell in the cup after emptying it. There is no bitterness in the sip, but just a bit of a lasting bitterness after you swallow the tea.

Like some other sencha I’ve tried from Obubu, the second infusion has a bit of a minty hint in the finish. The tiny bitter hints are still there, so is the strong sweetness up front.

If you like a sencha that starts really sweet and finishes with a bit of bitterness, this is the one to go to. It’s the only one in the Obubu sampler that seems to have that kind of quality. It’s dynamic within the sip rather than dynamic from one infusion to the next.

Flavors: Sweet, Sweet, warm grass, Umami

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

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drank Tofuku Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
175 tasting notes

This is one of the more complex tasting matcha from Red Leaf Tea. The flavor starts sweet and then it gets a little roasty tasting, finishing in more sweetness accompanied by a pretty moderate dose of bitterness. There are sweet bready notes to it and notes of fresh sweet grasses and flowers.

This matcha is pretty good overall. It whisks and foams well, the color is a nice deep emerald green, and the flavor is not dull or uninteresting. The one downside of it to me is the bitterness which lingers on your tongue for a while after the sip, but oddly there is a sweetness that lingers there too, so the flavor is two-fold.

I’d say it’s a good brisk wake-me-up matcha for people who like a stronger beverage. I tend to stray from bitter flavors though, so I’ll pass on purchasing this one. I will, however, savor the samples I have left. :3

Flavors: Baked Bread, Bitter, Sweet, Sweet, warm grass

165 °F / 73 °C 0 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 3 OZ / 88 ML

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


Kansas City, USA



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