drank Yunnan Golden Buds by Samovar
953 tasting notes

I was scared to try this tea. It’s such a big favorite here on Steepster, I felt awed and intimidated by its very existence. It’s like being in the presence of a celebrity.

On the one hand, I’m glad I looked at the notes for it before I tried my sample. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known to give it a try at 175. On the other hand, wow. Such (almost universally) high numbers! Am I worthy?

Pretty leaves with those golden tips punctuating the darkness of the leaves. My smeller is off today, so I don’t get much from smelling the dry leaves. But the aroma of the steeped tea is incredibly complex. Sugary, fruity, buttery and smooth.

The sugar flavor is a very distinctive type of sugar. I know from whence the reference to yams comes. Last Thanksgiving, when the rest of the family was having some sort of goopy yam concoction with marshmallows and pineapple, I, on a restrictive diet, stuck a half yam, sliced longitudinally, in the oven to bake and eat plain. When I checked on it, the sugar in the potato had bubbled up from the orange meat, fallen to the bottom of the oven and carmelized there giving the most amazingly delicious smell. That’s the sugar I taste here.

It marks a return to the preternatural smoothness of Samovar blacks following a slight detour with the Ceylon Super Single.

I understand the high ratings on this. It has depth, body, character, all the things I look for in a tea.

I need to sit with this one for a while, taste it multiple times. On this first tasting when I’m tired and stressed, I fear I’m not in the frame of mind to give it its true due. But oh, how I am looking forward to getting to know this tea.

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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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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