704 Tasting Notes

I don’t bother logging under random steepings very often but this is for my bad memory:

Stovetop chai last night, best one yet. Heated milk with two scoops assam, 3 pieces broken cinnamon stick, 4 or 5 green cardamom, 5 or 6 cloves and some all spice. Everything crushed a bit with the mortar and pestle. Steeped away, added 2 spoons raspberry honey, a bit extra tea, some water, some ground ginger and ground cinnamon. Stir, stir, stir. Cook, cook, cook. In the end, really good. The cinnamon powder seemed to really make the difference. I wonder if my cinnamon sticks are the rip-off kind. They’re from bulk barn…so probably yes. Anyway, delish!

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Here I go with another sample from Teavivre. I believe I only have one more left to try after this one. It is a happy/sad moment. I like having new possibly delicious teas on the horizon but I also like having sampled them all so I know what is the best for me. The dry leaf on this one is similar to yesterday’s (nonpareil yunnan dian hong chinese red black tea) but has more of a malt and molasses note. Maybe sweet potatoes, but I actually don’t like sweet potatoes so I rarely let my brain smell it in a tea.

I steeped this one about 2 minutes, as it had a shorter recommended steep time on the package. Again, I used nearly boiling water, and half the sample packet. The steeped aroma is very much like a classic bagged tea. It smells strong and bitter, like builder’s tea. I assume this is one of those aroma tricks that tea does.

First sips more closely match the dry leaf aroma. I am getting some molasses type sweetness, some rich cocoa, richer than anticipated. It is also malty, and boldly flavoured but not bitter or astringent. It is really bold, and if it weren’t for the lack of bitterness, I would actually think this wasn’t a Chinese tea!

I do like it well enough, but it isn’t especially remarkable to me. A good Chinese black tea to sip on, but not one that makes me sit up and take notice. If you are considering between this and the the Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Chinese Red Black Tea, I say go with the other. If you’re looking for a generally solid cuppa that you don’t have to think about, go for this one. Still yummy, just not as impressive as some other Teavivre offerings.

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After several weeks of illness, I feel well enough to actually review this tea. It is one of the five that Teavivre sent me for free, and I really wanted to get to it (and the other two I haven’t had yet). Unfortunately, I got back-to-back colds and have not been at peak tasting performance. Even today I still have some symptoms, but I don’t care! I need good tea!

The dry leaf is skinny black wires, not very broken up but maybe 1 to 2 cm long…hard to measure curly things. :) There is the odd leaf that is much lighter, but this isn’t a golden tea. It smells very strongly of chocolate, maybe like a dark hot chocolate or a chocolate cake batter before it hits the oven. There is some sweetness, so it isn’t all dark and bitter in aroma. Really nice smell!

I used water slightly cooled after the boil and steeped half the sample packet for approximately 3 minutes. Hard to say, really. I’m at work, so it’s harder to be sure. The steeped aroma reflects the dry aroma strongly but also has a brisk almost bitter smell. I don’t know if other people get that too, but I sometimes smell that a tea is or will be bitter. It’s not a guarantee but that is what I have found it to most often represent. The Teavivre brewing suggestions were 1 to 5 minutes, so I went with my usual time.

This has cooled for about 15 minutes now as I was called away to actually work. Funny how they ask that. Despite that, it is still warm and drinkable, sipping in more gently than I expected. I do get cocoa right off the bat, and some sweetness on the tongue after the sip. It builds up with every sip, increasing the flavour and the depth. This is definitely a tea that is improved by drinking continuously, and maybe a little consciously. I was definitely typing away all happy and then realized that the sweet and the cocoa linger deliciously. It sort of forced me to pay attention and be friends. I like that in a tea.


I hope you recover fully soon.


Thanks Kitty! Unfortunately it seems I have infected my colleague and she is now miserably sick. This is what happens when you don’t have sick days. Luckily for her, she does, and will be home tomorrow to recover. On the plus side, this tea was really good!


Feel better Uni!

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This is the second of five samples from Teavivre for review. I tend to like keemun so I was excited, but when I came to start my note Steepster informed me I have had this tea before…and ranked it a 49! For me, a 49 is pretty bad. So I am being extra cautious with my steeping parameters, to help confirm my impressions one way or another. My previous note indicated that I found it to be very standard and boring. Let’s see what I get today!

Once again I had the dilemma – I could split the sample in two but it wasn’t quite enough for that (likely because the leaves are a bit smaller than I am used to at this stage in my tea drinking). I decided to use the whole thing, and steeped it for one minute. I am looking at Teavivres site and thinking I need to use another of these samples in my gaiwan at home at some point. I think it will be a totally different tea in that manner, they usually are.

The steeped aroma is….pretty bland. No words come to mind. Taste is better but still I have a heard time distinguishing notes or pulling out any intricacies. I get more after the sip with some honeyed notes. No bitterness or astringency, but not a lot else either. I could make a big list of the things I don’t find here but I have a hard time finding things I DO recognize. I think I am going to have to agree with my earlier assessment. It’s perfectly fine, but not remarkable or even all that different from standard tea. I think I would get more from it if the leaves were larger. As it cools I get more cocoa/chocolate notes which I appreciate. Usually I prefer my tea piping hot but this has been sitting for half an hour and now is becoming more interesting. Bizarre!

Rating increased to reflect that it isn’t a bad tea, it just isn’t impressing me. I do find it interesting that I am so out of sync with the rest of the tasters on this one!

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This is one of the free samples that Teavivre recently sent me and I brewed it up this morning at work. I don’t tend to go for teabags or pyramid bags, but I have heard good things about Teavivre pyramid bags, and I love any chance to try shu, especially in a convenient form. Unfortunately, I seem to be contracting the beaus illness so I am not in peak tasting form. I do think that my sense of taste and smell are both still good at the moment though.

There aren’t any reviews on this one yet (what?!) an the brewing directions were quite lengthy (9-12 minutes) so I am winging it. I used boiling water, and I think it got maybe 2 or 3, MAYBE 4 minutes. That is more than I would typically have done for a shou pu but it looked at first like there wasn’t that much leaf in there. That was deceptive though, as it has expanded to fill about 3/4 of the bag.

Despite the lengthy steep time (IMO) this is not too strong. No bitterness or mustiness. Still bold, earthy, and with a smoke note. I don’t notice any rose, but it does remind me of wood fires. My house is heated by wood furnace, so I’m pretty familiar with that. :) I’ve saved the bag so I can steep it throughout the day and I’ll update if anything new and radical comes about. This is a really nice easy drinking shou, even if it isn’t terribly complex. It gets sweeter as it cools as well, maybe that is the rose.

Flavors: Earth, Smoke

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This is one that Teavivre had sent to me previously for review with some other white teas, but somehow this one got missed! The beau and I were going to brew up one of the new blacks/shou pu for review but I wanted to round out the last batch. We are also both really intrigued by a white tea cake. He has a cold as well, so hot tea sounds lovely.

We’re using the whole sample packet in boiling water in a 24 ounce teapot. This is a really big sample so I am comfortable with those parameters. The dry leaves consist of obvious chunks from a cake in several large pieces and a few smaller broken pieces – possibly from transport and storage. I gave the big infuser a shake and nothing fell through. No crumbs in sight, despite the odd smaller piece.

I am not hugely familiar with white teas, but I did like the ones I tried from Teavivre recently, and I am very interested in how this comes off, since it seems to share similiarities with blacks/shou pu which are more my area. The smell is sweet and honeyed, like hay and fields but also strong. Not very floral in the dry aroma, but very strong. Steeped, the leaves are HUGE. They’ve taken up the entire infuser. If I put them loose in the pot they probably would have filled the whole thing. They are like something from Goosebumps, growing bigger and bigger…

Tastewise, this isn’t what I expected. It reminds me of a lightly roasted oolong, with a hint of smoke and some strong earthiness. But there is also a light floral note which is mixed in really well. I don’t know that I would have guessed this is a white tea if I were presented with it unknowingly. It reminds me of rock oolongs with a bit of a mineral note. I’m really curious to read everyone elses notes on this one!

The beau says it is earthy, but light. Tastes like a white tea but with something more heavy and earthy, like puerh. He also gets a little bit of smokiness.

All in all, this is a really interesting tea experience. I wouldn’t keep it on hand for myself, but that is because my tastes are toward stronger darker teas. I think it would be a really cool introduction to white tea for someone who prefers those stronger flavours though. Really neat!

Flavors: Earth, Floral, Hay, Mineral, Smoke

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The beau and I had 4 or 5 steeps of this last night after a great supper of homemade pad thai. We are anxiously awaiting the opening of a new Thai restaurant in the town near us, but so far no dice. So we took things into our own hands!

This was a great choice afterward for our night tea. This is a habit I picked up from a great friend and her husband of 25 years. They are kindred spirits even if we are 20 years apart in age. For their whole marriage, her husband has prepared coffee for them to take to bed and enjoy before going to sleep. Both of them like whatever is left cold in the morning, and it creates a nighttime ritual for just the two of them, perfect for the parents of four great kids.

After commenting on how brilliant that is, my husband started making night tea for us, usually my choice of tea, as we have no problems sleeping after tea. Or while drinking it. He usually finishes his, and I get halfway through mine, but I love it. We don’t have kids yet, but it is still nice to carve out a ritual for us in the midst of busy lives. Due to my propensity to fall asleep as soon as I am in bed, we usually enjoy this in the living room but it works for me. We also read bedtime stories to each other since I’m just a really big kid. We’re almost done the Philip Pullman collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and I am looking forward to reading the Tales of Trenzalore next. Except whenever hubby reads, I fall asleep. He puts up with a lot. :)

SO! We used half the pack, which I got in the Mandala Shu sampler of a few months back. This is the second one I’ve actually managed to try. Probably should have used all 7 g but I wanted two goes at it, and my cups are small. Gave it a rinse, which was very pale and didn’t open it up very much and then drank the first real steep at 30 seconds (boiling water). It was earthy, with a smoky note. I was reminded of a campfire in the rain, it wasn’t overpowering, but very nice. Through all the steeps, that smoke note remained, and was present with some earthiness, some leather, maybe some mushroom flavours. I increased the time with each steep and the leaves really let go of each other with each steep.

This tea had no bitterness or astringency at all which was really nice. As I got further on, I got more sweetness but it was never a really sweet tea. It was rich and nice, very pleasant but a bit mild because I didn’t use enough leaf, I imagine. I was trying this to see if I should get a cake of it in the mandala order I am considering since they’re having a sale, and I think for an easy drinking, every-day, no-thought-required shu this is fantastic. We both really want a few cakes of shu that we can just have western or gongfu, with no fuss. I want one at work, at home, and the beau wants one at work too. For now, finances and common sense dictate we settle down a bit but if I do this order, I will definitely add a cake of this. Really nice easy drinking shu – if you’re afraid of it, try this.

Flavors: Campfire, Leather, Mushrooms, Smoke, Wet Earth


You sound like an adorable couple.


Oh, we fight plenty and can be very petty but we’ve been together since we were 15 and were fortunate to grow into ourselves, with each other (flaws and all). After ten years, I’ve noticed the less time we are able to spend together, the more we fight, so I’m learning to focus on us even when it doesn’t seem like there is time. He is a video game guy and I am book girl but we share both those interests and many others. Unusual maybe, but works for us. Luckily! :) Neither of us had a great example by way of our parents for relationship happiness either so we try to learn from those who know better to avoid the same mistakes.


What a slew of bonus commas. I love the comma today – I’m keeping it in business.

Also, thank you!


My spouse and I are a book girl and a video game guy. I will read a book on the couch while he plays his game a lot of the time, just to be in the same room together.


I like playing video games well enough, but nothing compared to him. I also read while he plays. It’s great system! When we did our vows (independently) he made a bunch of references to chapters and stories and I agreed to be his player 2. Maybe we’re all on the same wavelengths in the tea drinking world!


That is adorable. :)

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drank '05 Pu-Er by Peony Tea S.
704 tasting notes

I have got to get myself a good inexpensive cake of shu for at work. And home. When I get tired of the same black teas, I tend to refresh my palate with a cuppa shu. However my options are extremely limited to mostly samples and oftentimes things I have not yet reviewed so I don’t want to take them to work where I don’t focus on them. Then I forget what I thought and how to steep and don’t know what to order. I still have three samples from Mandala to try, but I need to have time at home with hubby so we can both get our impressions and decide which (if any) is worth stocking.


I went through the stash Monday night and brought in some samples that I had dupes of so I have options at work. While doing that, I unearthed the remains of this sample which was provided to me for free several years ago. I didn’t really see much from this company but the three samples I had were good quality but a bit pricey, if I remember correctly.

This makes a really nice cup that I don’t have to focus on but can still enjoy. No bitterness, not too dark or roasty which I don’t like. There is a full flavour which reminds me of wood and rain and clean barns. It’s not fishy or dirty, but is earthy and warm. Delish!


I drink new teas at work all the time and feel badly about it that I can’t write good reviews a lot of the time. Sometimes I remember to jot notes down, but a lot of the time I forget.


It bugs me when I can’t remember what I thought of a tea and that happens a lot if I have a new one at work. Then I need to try it again to get real impressions. Thus, favourites or tried and true ones tend to end up at work for me.

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So I still have a couple of these and had brought one to work at one point in case of pu-erh emergency. I decided to make this in my perfect tea mug with a western gongfu hybrid. After my attempt to brew the Chenpi Ripe Tangering pu-erh Western style the other day, I thought I’d better try a rinse. I got the water to a boil then did a ten second rinse. It smelled very earthy and dark (and a little fishy) after this so I did another ten second rinse. Still smells earthy, dark and strong but not offensive. The tuo pretty much collapsed at this point and my infuser is fall of very finely ground leaves, like coffee grinds (I see I had that experience with this the first time as well).

After all this, I gave it a 30 second steep which yields an aroma of earth, barn and mushrooms. Maybe damp hay. Not offensive, just strong. Like a farm, but not unpleasant. I swear! It’s not that it smells like manure, but it does smell like a wooden structure that’s lived in by animals. I think people with a rural sensibility might understand that. Or I’m crazy. :)

So indtead of writing the rest of this note, I accidentally talked with a co-worker for a while. Whoops. Impressions from the past are: it wasn’t very strong in flavour, despite the depth of colour and aroma. I was probably a little skimpy on time given the two rinses BUT leaving it like this kept it fairly fresh and allowed me to sip along mindlessly which was actually perfect in the circumstance. No strong notes really came to the fore, so my assessment of this now (with more pu under my belt) is that it is good for a casual puerh when I want something rich but am not in the mood for black tea. It’s a beginner puerh, which makes sense given that it’s a mini tuocha with tiny leaves. I’m gonna go make more now…


Haha I’m a city person mostly, but I totally get the barn smell. It’s like clean animals and hay and fresh straw and outdoors and all those different scents that combine to make that barn smell.


How many tuochas did you use for your mug? A twelve ounce mug really needs 2 tuochas. You might get better results.


Allan, I’ve had particular tea before with a stronger taste and it was not so pleasant. Surprisingly, this followed the recommendations of Teavivre (at least from two years ago when I first received it). I personally wouldn’t want two.


Wooooow. Just looked at Teavivre’s new recommendations for this tea Western style:
Teapot 8oz Tea:2p 5-8 min 100ºC/212ºF
That would be beyond undrinkable for me. I might try it as an experiment someday as I have been surprised before. But wow.


what, exactly, constitutes a pu-er emergency?

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Sample 4 outof 5 from Teavivre. Thanks! I am spending the day at home catching up on life. Between my two jobs, I have had only a few days off this month and I am rarely home to enjoy them. Evenings are equally busy with visiting family and so on. Today is the last official day of summer and after a massive torrential rain overnight I am enjoying some sun and warm temperatures. It’s just after noon and I’ve already made two loaves of bread and a batch of english muffins which will be gratefully enjoyed throughout the week when I have no time to make dough.

So, here I sit with a cup of this. I was pleasantly surprised to see massive chunks of tangerine peel in with the puerh. I used half the sample in my perfect tea mug for a few minutes with water that (apparently) cooled to 96 before pouring. The result is a deep brown like a stout or dark ale. The aroma is musty and barnlike, but not in the usual pleasant way. It’s overpowering. Shoot. I haven’t made puerh Western style in a while…shoulda done some sort of a rinse first. I’m going try drinking this but if it’s too strong, I can always pour it out and try again with a re-steep. D’oh.

Huh. This has a totally different taste profile than the aroma suggests. I get smoke. No barn or hay. Maybe something musty if that ties into the smoke. It’s strong with a sense of bitterness like a coffee edge but not unpleasant. This is a very potent mug. VERY strong. I am tempted to add a bit of milk to dilute it because I’m not super interesting in drinking it as is. Which sucks, because this is my fault and this is my first tea of the day. I will not rate this currently because I need to try again under better circumstances.

All I can say for sure right now is that it is very bold and strong with a smoky edge. No sweetness. Whew.

Flavors: Musty, Smoke, Wood

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Well, this needed refreshing. I have been drinking loose leaf for many years, and have fairly well nailed down my tastes. I love Chinese blacks and some other unflavoured teas. I occasionally drink flavoured teas, or herbals, but the bulk of my tea is unflavoured with no additives. I stock regularly from Teavivre with the occasional Verdant purchase and the odd re-stock at Davids. I love mint, am learning about the wide world of puerh, and prefer ripe to raw, so far. I don’t like green or green oolongs very much, white is okay and roasted oolongs are pretty good. Coconut and chamomile are awful, and I wish they weren’t in so many blends!

At home, I live with my husband and cat in a house built by my grandfather, which we love. We share many interests – books, tea, video games, board games, tv/movies. On top of that, I love crosswords and recently took up knitting again, so I’m having a hard time balancing all my passions at the moment. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who, as is my entire immediate family. I love spreading the Who love!

We also spend a lot of time with family, when we can. I’ve got a gaggle of younger brothers, and we like to spend time with them. The wonders of the internet allow us to spend time together even though some of them live a few hours away.

As for ratings, I try to only log teas once or twice because I drink a lot of the same ones repeatedly. My rating is based on my perception of the tea at first tasting and is adjusted if anything notable occurs in subsequent cups. I may also factor in the price and customer service but try to note that when I can.

81 – 100: These are great teas, I love them, regularly stock them or savour them as unique treats.
71 – 80: These are solid. I drink them, I like them, I may or may not keep them on hand regularly. This is still good stuff.
61 – 70: Just okay. I can drink it, but it doesn’t stand out to me. Might be lower quality, not to my taste, or outside my comfort zone.
41 – 60: Not likely to keep drinking…hoping hubby will enjoy!
0 – 40: No thank you, please. Take it away and don’t make me finish the cup.



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