drank Phoenix Oolong by Samovar
953 tasting notes

I’ve been wanting to go to a Samovar tea room for years, and since I live in the Bay Area it’s somewhat astonishing to me that I never made it to one before Friday. We took the kids to the SF Zoo and then went to the Zen Valley location for tea and dinner. It was chilly outside and the tea room was warm and peaceful. A lovely place to sit.

This is one of the two teas I had while there (on the menu it is called “Golden Phoenix”). It was served in a gaiwan, which I’ve never quite mastered, but I did my best. I was reminded of why I love oolongs and why I don’t drink them often. I had this after dinner and the fam was getting restless and wanted to leave, while I kept trying to squeeze in just one more infusion.

This is a richer flavored oolong than the Four Seasons, but still somewhat delicate, not as floral, more “oolongy” with a stone fruit and woodsy flavor. I wasn’t able to control my infusion times what with the distractions of being in company and my somewhat bumbling gaiwan style, but I found that I preferred short infusions to longer ones. The longer ones took a turn toward bitterness, while the shorter ones had a very subtle peachy note with a pleasantly sweet aftertaste. I can’t help but believe my experience would have been improved if I’d ordered this one before dinner when I had more time to savor how this changed from infusion to infustion.


ooh, I’ve been many times!

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ooh, I’ve been many times!

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I’ve updated this bio as it’s been a couple of years since I “started getting into” tea. It’s now more accurate to say that I was obsessed with tea for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it, and I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I’ve recently started writing fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I much prefer to drink tea without additives such as milk and sugar. If a tea needs additives to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’m going to rate it high. The exception is chai, which I make on the stove top using a recipe I found here on Steepster. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs into the harder stuff, but once I learned how to make a decent cup of tea they became far less appealing to me. That said, I’m not entirely a purist, and I enjoy a good flavored tea, particularly flavored blacks.

I like all kinds of tea depending on time of day, mood, and the amount of time I have to pay attention to preparation.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. I’m revising them slightly to make them less granular as I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas against other similar versions. So I rate Earl Greys, for example, against other Earl Greys, rather than against all teas. If something rates very high with me, though, it probably means it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is; will keep this stocked until the cows come home

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; likely to become a favorite, will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again if in the mood for this particular one or a better, similar version not available

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but probably wouldn’t buy again unless craving this particular flavor

50-59 Okay or run of the mill

Below 50 So-so, iffy, would definitely pass
or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.


Bay Area, California



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