709 Tasting Notes


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. <3


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.
709 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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Third of five recent Teavivre samples, and I am saving the unusual ones for last. The beau and I recently drank the regular Silver Needle and I am interested to see if I get nuch difference in the organic. I am going Western again and following the instructions with 75 degree water and the full pouch in the teapot. Around four minutes steeping a light yellow liquor with some serious melon and cucumber aromas.

First sips come in light, a bit melony and sweet. I recently ate some seasoned crackers and the remains of those are overpowering the tea. This is a very light tea, not one that holds up well to this particular pairing. I think this should be enjoyed on its own so you can get the full sense of light sweet hay and honeydew/cucumber flavours. No bitterness or astringency at all, I like this more than the regular Silver Needle from last week. This stands out more and has a bit of a floral note that I appreciate. I think I still preferred the white peony but this hits the spot right now.

I can’t rule out steeping parameters as a factor in my results but this stand on its own much better than it’s non-organic counterpart. A very nice light white that is easy to sip exactly as is.

EDIT: second steep at boiling for a minute is really nice. Similar flavours but even more bold. Nice to sip while I sit in the sun before going to work at the library. We were up later than usual checking out the Northern lights. Amazing!

Flavors: Cucumber, Floral, Hay, Honeydew, Melon

7 g

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This is quite possibly my first “Random Steepings” entry. Tada! The beau and I had Chinese food “in town” tonight and I was curious about the tea. The waitress said there was a loose leaf oolong and we asked for a pot of that. It came loose but was brewing up really dark so we investigated. Turned out, this is definitely shu puerh. She had no more info about it but we told her a bit about puerh and how she might like to brew it if she wants to try it again. It was actually really nice and held up to Western steeping really well. This encouraged me to try more of our pu Western style. Yay!

Also excuse the (many?) Typos. I’m on my phone and Steepster won’t let me see what I am typing so I am just hoping it turns out legible…now it’s letting me. Grr. That was pretty bad. I think I got most of them.


Isn’t that frustrating, that on the phone the text entry field doesn’t like to show everything?!

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First thoughts: Wow, those are big! The leaves are uniformly whole, about 1.5 inches long.

I got some of this in my recent package of samples from Teavivre and now that Steepster seems less broken, I’m finally reviewing it. I don’t often drink white tea but when I do I tend to enjoy it. I steeped this for about two minutes in 75 degree water per the instructions on the sample. I used the whole packet to make a pot for the beau and I since he is a big fan of white teas.

At two minutes western style, this is light tea. Very light. Maybe too light. I poured the tea back into the pot for another minute steeping – and made a mess. Whoops. Then I forgot it, and it went two more minutes. So, a four minute steep it is. The water was only 75 when poured though, so I’m not worried about over-steeping.

Now, we have a lot more flavour. It is still a light-tea but full-bodied and sweet with some notes of hay and melon or cucumber. No bitterness, astringency or dryness. Light but yummy. Sort of unassuming. Another tea that I like when I drink but don’t always think to go for. The beau proclaims it “really good.” He gets a bit of jasmine (which is likely floral in general). He had a sip of scotch before trying it though, so his impressions are now confused.

I don’t think we will have any problem enjoying these samples and I am interested to compare it to the Organic Silver Needle we also received. I think I will try a second steep of this later at higher temps as well to see what we get.

It’s been a little while since I’ve had the white peony, but so far I would say I liked that a little better. It had a little more oomph for me and stood out a bit more. I think it also had different brewing parameters though which can really change the outcome.

Flavors: Cucumber, Melon, Sweet

170 °F / 76 °C 4 min, 0 sec 7 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

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drank Vanilla Comoro by Harney & Sons
709 tasting notes

This is a bit of a revelation. I still have half a pound of this from my hasty mega-purchase a few years ago. I constantly give it away, but it reproduces like gremlins.

Knowing its tendency to become a bit bitter and dry, I steeped it quick (about 2.5 minutes) and added a small splash of milk and a bit of honey. This brings it back to sweet, creamy, vanilla. Not my favourite and I definitely regret buying so much but this will make it really easy to drink some more at work. No re-steeping, dear heaven.

Flavors: Cream, Vanilla

Boiling 2 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML
Cathy Baratheon

I totally get the bitter dryness too! Will also try 2.5 minutes as opposed to the recommended 5


I find it makes a difference. Sometimes you need a bit more leaf to make up for the loss in time. Another option is to use water that has cooled for a minute or so. I think it is the decaf tea that lends the unpleasant bitter/dry aspect and these tricks help defeat it.


Thanks for the tips. I have a sachet of this that I need to try still.

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Sooo, I am finally trying this – the first of my Mandala sampler. This is my first Mandala experience, but not my first puerh. I already know I prefer Shu, so this is a great opportunity. Dry, the leaf smells sweet and reminds me (as usual) of sweet hay, damp earth, wood and sweet clean animals.

I followed the instructions provided with the teas which suggested the whole serving for one session or half that for a lighter brew (or in my case for a small quantity of liquid). I gave a 15 second rinse with boiling water, then 30 second steep with boiling again. The result is not bitter or astringent, though it isn’t as sweet as expected. It has a bit of dryness and some general earthiness but not a lot else. It’s definitely earthy and mushroom-y. The beau gets a fishy smell but I don’t. He says “it’s really strong. It’s not bad though.”

2: 45 seconds, boiling. The leaves are still pretty clumped up, and the liquor is quite dark with an earthy, mushroom aroma. The flavour matches the first, but maybe a bit less dry. Strong, rich, earthy.

3: 1 minutes, boiling. Might as well mention that due to my lack of a sharing pitcher, I am brewing in my small gaiwan, and pouring into the larger one then pouring into our cups with a dribble at the end for my teapet. It’s a messy but equitable system. This steep smells very strong. Like an earthy greenhouse or barn. As always, this isn’t negative. Still no bitterness, but a bit dry. No sweetness, which I had in other shu. I think this is maybe the result of the small leaf?It’s bold, fo shu! (See what I did there?) The beau says the fish is gone (I never got that!) and that it is more earthy. “Best steep so far.”

4: 1 minute 15 seconds, boiling. I can’t imagine how strong this would be with the full sample. I definitely made the right choice for my brewing setup to split this in two. I was looking at other notes and saw some comparisons to coffee which seem accurate but it isn’t unpleasant and bitter like coffee. More an explanation of the depth and richness. This steep gets some sweetness finally. I like it. Much the same, but better. The beau says “now this tastes like a typical pu-erh, the strong taste is gone.” We agree on that for once.

5: 1 minutes 30 seconds, boiling. Whoa sweetness. Something fruity. Appley? This is different. I like it. Best so far. Reading other notes again – man, did my experience contradict EVERYONE else? Oh well!

6: 1 minute 45 seconds, boiling. The problem with this steeping method is that the gaiwan burns my fingers with boiling water, but the water is cool enough to drink by the time it is poured in my cup. I could go through a lot of steeps very quickly if it weren’t for the need to get water boiling again regularly. Taste is similar to 5. Sweet, lighter, a sense of apple or maybe apple peel. I don’t know why I say that, it isn’t strong enough to really explain, but it comes to mind anyway.

From here on, I’m going to just steep and enjoy without reporting. This can get exhausting. I need a bigger sample so I can try it gongfu, and Western-ish as well. For now, this was nice and different from other shu I have tried. I don’t think I need a cake of it, as it doesn’t hit my hot spots (currently). Really nice to experience though. Great education!

Flavors: Apple Skins, Earth


I have this tea and have brewed it. I think you would do better with shorter steeps, no more than 15 sec initially.


That is closer to my usual approach, Allan. When I try the other half (~4g) I will go with my usual and see how that changes my impression. Thanks!

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I’ve been drinking loose tea since 2010 and my tastes have changed a lot over those years. For the last few, I’ve been a fan of unflavoured Chinese blacks and shu puerh. I still drink other things, but that’s where I am.

I live in a rural area with my husband, cat, and soon to be firstborn. I love tea, reading, doctor who, knitting, crosswords, board games, the marvel universe, and lots of other things.

I’m not often rating teas numerically any more but I want to leave this to explain my past 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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