951 Tasting Notes


I’m pretty inexperienced when it comes to pu erh, but now that I’ve tasted this once before, I’m starting to understand why it’s highly rated.

Though the description says that it is leathery, I don’t get leathery, but I think that is because as I mentioned before, what others taste as fishy I often taste as leathery. Which, if I connect the dots, means that this is not a fishy pu erh (despite the smell of the dry leaf). Which, from what I’ve read, means that it is a higher quality one.

(But now I have to figure out why I’m not getting leather when I should get leather according to the description.)

What I get instead is a very smooth, mellow tea. I said in my last note that it tastes deeper than the Dante, but on an absolute scale it doesn’t strike me as overly deep in flavor. By which I mean it isn’t as richly flavored as some of the better non-pu-erh teas I’ve had, which is interesting because the liquor is very dark, like almost espresso dark, but with a reddish tinge. Sort of cabernet colored. I would never expect that color from the dry leaf, which is a medium brown (though the leaves becomes dark chocolate/coffee ground colored after steeping).

There is a definite earthiness to the flavor. I said tree bark/moss before. This time around, having an idea what to expect, I’m getting more mushroom flavor. Not so much raw mushroom as cooked, but without a flavoring agent like butter or wine. Wood flavor? Eh, maybe. Perhaps that’s what I’m getting as the tree bark/moss flavor. Like being in a dense, deciduous forest after a cool rain.

I’m on my third steep as I write this. I’ll be putting it through more as I work on my writing assignment due in (gulp) about two hours. (I hope I won’t regret drinking it this late at night.) Next time I’ll try it in the Yixing pot.

Rating it higher than the Dante, but not prepared to rate it exceptionally high until I know my way around pu erh a bit better.

Sami Kelsh

Mushroomy? My interest is piqued. I’ve been allergic to mushrooms for years, but tea wouldn’t make my face go all numb and swollen! GET IN!


Yeah, it’s an interesting flavor. I was trying to think of something else to compare it to, some root vegetable perhaps, but it really doesn’t strike me as having the spicy flavor of most root vegetables, or the metallic flavor of potato.

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drank Vivaldi by Mariage Frères
951 tasting notes

I had an odd amount left over in the packet after transferring this to a tin, so I thought I’d steep it in the interest of clutter reduction. I suspect that I may have under rated some of the other Mariage Freres blends because I was feeling my way into my system for the teas with the French thing, a/k/a the je ne sais quoi, at the time. I would discount from this the ratings on the Earl Grey and the Breakfast Blends because those I would have rated much more along the lines of others of their ilk rather than the more mysteriously flavored blends.

I went a bit to the opposite extreme with this today. I overleafed and steeped hotter than before.

I think the happy medium is going to be overleafing, but slightly less, and steeping just a little cooler. The first time I had this it was a tad on the thin side, and today it is perhaps just a smidge too strong. However, I can definitely enjoy the flavors today.

What those flavors are is apparently a mystery. Mariage Freres’ description doesn’t say and some folks are getting tropical fruits from this. I’m not, really, though the banana reference makes some sense, because of the creamy interplay with the fruits. To me, it’s mostly dark red fruit. Berry, more raspberry than anything else but maybe a little strawberry, and some plum/prune/currant. Definite red fruit notes. And something along the vanilla/chocolate continuum. I found a seller on the internet who says this is chocolate and cassis. http://www.furansunocafe.com/produits.php?no=400&lg=en&base=salon_de_the That makes sense to me, but it’s not overly important.

With the magical French blends from Mariage Freres, Dammann Freres, etc., the individual flavors concern me less than they do with other blends. I’ve said before that I like to be able to distinguish each flavor even if the tea takes an ensemble cast approach.

But the French blends seem to beg for a more impressionistic tasting experience. I often feel while I’m drinking them that I’m tasting them through the gustatory equivalent of Renoir’s dappled sunlight, or Monet’s reflections off the pond at Giverny. Whether I can distinguish chocolate or black currant, or any other flavor for that matter is about as important to me with this tea as finding a hard edge in a Monet painting.

Which is to say, not at all.


Great note!


I really love the descriptions!


Thanks, ladies. :-). I really love French blends. I should drink them more.


I just realized that I have no idea what what gender OMG is lol. I just assume most people here are female because that seems to be the main demographic. Apologies!


Heh. I didn’t even notice the gender thing. But yeah, I’m a lady. :D


Morgana – I’m the same way. I assume most people on here are female although I didn’t when I started… Actually I think for a while I thought CrowKettle was a guy; no idea why! But I’ve only done a swap with ONE man about 20+. Seems like there’s a lot of ladies here.


Cavo, yeah, I think it’s a majority for sure. But I really shouldn’t make assumptions. It’s the internet, after all. ;-)

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drank Great White by Tavalon Tea
951 tasting notes

It was perhaps a mistake to drink this after the Tropical Peony. I steeped it using the same time and temp I did for that one and avoided any unpleasant plantiness but I also didn’t get a lot of flavor out of it.

I’m also annoyed because I broke one of my glass mugs from Adagio in the process of getting ready to taste this one, and cut my finger trying to get the glass chips out of the sink. I’m also having to deal with a small tantrum on no. 1’s part. He has a piano contest coming up in two weeks and he’d rather watch television than practice. The afternoon isn’t shaping up well.

I should try this in the gaiwan and see if that helps. Not rating for now.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

I feel your pain (both finger and no. 1). Don’t give up


Thanks, boychik. :-)

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drank Tropical Peony by Tavalon Tea
951 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 118 of the year 2014.

It remained one of the better tropical flavored white teas I’ve had and served well as a commuting/toodling around tea. Today it accompanied me to Little League picture day where we accomplished two team photos, two individual photos, and one buddy photo of no. 1 and no. 2 together. Of course, I had to buy the photo package that included the mug. I’m such a sucker for these things. I briefly considered the travel mug option, but the Timolino has spoiled me and I feared that even with a picture of one or the other of my little darlings on it, it would not get enough use to justify the purchase.

And down goes the roller coaster…

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Started the morning with this one, without having had the Irish before. It is indeed “stouter” and more full bodied, but without the Irish precursor, it has it’s own malty sweetness (which shows up as non-sweetness by comparison to the Irish). I also taste something of what I associate with the Yunnan blend flavor that I taste in Earl Greys with Yunnan base. I wish there was a word for this quality. Maybe there is and I just don’t know it. I have had Zinfandels that also have this quality and they are my favorite wines.

In any case, it’s a toss up with regard to rating the Irish vs. the English. I can’t say I like one more than the other as they’re very different. I think the Irish may be more of an every day drinker, because it is generally milder and sweeter. But all of this is moot of course, because LeafSpa is kaput. So it’s really more of a question as to which I’ll feel like drinking more frequently on the journey to inevitable sipdown. Now I’d say the Irish, but as an experiment I’m going to do the English for the next few days and see if I’m still saying that by Wednesday or so.

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drank Peppermint by Teavana
951 tasting notes

I realized tonight that I’m soon to be in a very unbalanced tea situation. I have way more true teas than I do herbals/fruit blends. At the rate I’m going, I predict I’ll run completely out of herbals/fruit blends in a month or six weeks. Maybe two months at the most. So it is looking like I will escape from lockdown (in part).

The problem is, there are decafs and herbals I want from a lot of places, but I also want teas from those places, too. I know that if I order from a place that has teas I want, like Harney & Sons, I’ll be tempted to justify the purchase because I’ll be over the limit for free shipping or whatever. Ugh. File under first world problems.

In any case, Teavana is one of the places that has a lot of selection in terms of herbals and fruit blends. I’m not really interested in any of their true teas at this point, so perhaps they’re a safe bet. I really like this as a peppermint, but I doubt it would be a reorder assuming they still offer it. I’ve decided that Tazo Refresh is my go to mint.

I’m also eyeing a lot of the herbals and rooibos blends at DAVIDSTea.
I would buy rooibos, provided that it sits in the background in the blend. Same with honeybush. I don’t like savory blends that much.

With that in mind, I thought I’d ask—what are your top three decaf or herbal or fruit blends that aren’t savory, aren’t overly tart or egregiously sweet, don’t have pronounced rooibos or honeybush flavors, aren’t lemon myrtle, and can be found at a place that has a healthy selection of decaf options? (Thanks in advance.)


What you described there is pretty much everything I like! :) Zen Tea has a decent selection of fruity teas. The prices are good, they frequently have sales, I don’t really dislike anything they have. Although, the strawberry cream fruit isn’t as good as the goji chokecherry strawberry or juicy blueberry, and the ginger rooibos doesn’t have enough ginger.


Thanks so much! I will look into Zen Teas. I have to ask, when you said what I described was what you liked did you mean my list of nots (savory, too tart, too sweet etc.) were all things you also didn’t like or all things you liked? I am tired and my brain is muddled so I’m not sure. ;-)


Your nots are all things I like! But Zen Tea seems to have a good balance. The Northern Berry rooibos is VERY fruity, leans towards sweet but isn’t too sweet. I love the Cranberry Acai, but it might be too savoury for you due to the nettle. Juicy Blueberry is a surprising fruit tea with hibiscus. Not too tart at all (I guess unless you hate hibiscus) and the Goji Chockcherry has no hibiscus. It’s light and fruity and really really neat.


Ah, got it. These all sound very tempting, thanks so much!


Depending on what you’re into, I was just able to do an herbal binge shop at Camellia Sinensis (http://camellia-sinensis.com/en/tea/herbal-tea) while telling myself I’m waiting for all the new 2014 greens and green oolongs that will come in over the next few months. Bit of a mental trick, but it mostly worked. And I haven’t received them yet, but those herbals look crazy good.


Forever Nuts at David’s Tea is a good one. I have some other fav decaf herbal blends but they don’t fit into what you’re looking for.


I second OMGsrsly for Zen Tea, and their herbals are really on the wellness side. I liked Bamboo Integrity a lot.
Although I haven’t been a fan of their teas in a little while, DAVIDsTEA new spring collection seems to be a hit this time, my sister in law is gushing over Grape Expectations, Blue Lagoon and Cool Cucumber!


Thanks everyone for the suggestions! I have a good head start now. I will check all these out and I’ll probably take a look at some of the Della Terra herbals as well as those seem to have some fans here. TF, the gushing was what made me put DAVID’s on the list, that and the fact that I’ve wanted to try Forever Nuts for … Forever. If/when I order from Zen, I’m gonna have to try that Earl Grey Crème.


Oh, you remembered! Of course Lady Bergamot, you of all people MUST try their Earl Grey Cream :-)
But I think you should add a new one on your list, their Vanilla Black. Did not review it yet and I’m not even a real fan of vanilla tea, but this is different, like pure vanilla bean, so good!

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drank Lemon Grass by Adagio Teas
951 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 117 of the year 2014. Really glad now that I didn’t sip this one down yesterday or I would have had no candidates for today. Either that or I would have had to drink a caffeinated tea after 8 p.m.

Just got back from getting my hair cut and colored and dinner. There’s a place that does really great roast chicken near where I get my hair cut and I’ve been craving their roast chicken for a while now so the fam met me there after my hair appointment. Now I’ve eaten too much, had a couple of glasses of wine, and all I want to do is lie down and zone out for about 10 minutes until I fall asleep. In fact, I am uncomfortably full and I expect that when I do lie down, I’ll do it with a mug of peppermint next to my bed.

But in the interim, I have enough for one small cup of this before I say goodbye. I would not have thought that a plain lemongrass tisane would be something nice to drink, but it was. I love lemon flavor, and this was surprisingly lemony, albeit in an herbally, grassy sort of sense rather than a citrusy, lemonade-y one. But that’s okay. Both have their place in my lemon pantheon. I like this so much better than lemon myrtle, it’s not funny. This, I’ll try more of from other vendors and perhaps keep around for the times when it hits the spot. Not so lemon myrtle. Back, back, I say, hell spawn herb!

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Wow, haven’t had this one in a while. It seems to be among the last of the 52teas flavored blacks I have. Not counting chais, I think I have three left. This, the butter pecan and the Irish cream.

The aroma of the steeped tea today was…. Cracker Jacks! Definitely a caramelly nuttiness, like what I get from caramel corn in movie theatres. The flavor has some light cashew and some undefined sweetness to it. I appear to have got much more complexity from the flavor the last time I tried this. Perhaps part of my problem today is I’m rushing—need to leave the house in about two seconds to get my hair taken care of (grey grey go away)—or it may be general flavor decline as this one I’d opened a while ago. But I don’t think so. I think it’s more likely just a reflection of what showed up in today’s mix. Must remember to shake the packet next time.

Not ready to mark it down yet. I’ll see how it does next time.

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I started the day with a cup of the Irish Breakfast (no notes on that one today because I’ve nothing new to say) and then decided to see how this compared. I see from my previous note that when I drank it way back when, I used boiling water. I’m going to lower the temp this time because LeafSpa recommended it, and also because that’s how I’ve been steeping the Irish Breakfast.

I’m doubling up on the bold breakfast blends today to get the day kick started after spending the morning in bed watching Catching Fire on pay per view. I have wanted to see it for freakin’ ever, and I’d invited every single family member to go with me to see it in the theatre but no one was excited about it except me. So we ended up going to things like the Lego movie instead. The lot of being a parent, I guess. I really enjoyed the movie. Not surprising, because I quite liked the book. In fact, it may have been my favorite of the three because I really liked the arena design aspects. Also, I didn’t know Amanda Plummer was in the movie, which was a pleasant surprise. I am so glad she’s working.

Anyway, there’s a definite difference between the Irish Breakfast and this, it is very apparent when drinking them back to back. Judging from my earlier notes I would have said I preferred the English version but now I’m not so sure. The the Irish is definitely sweeter. It has the natural Ceylon sweetness. The English is maltier, has a fuller body, and is less sweet. I’m definitely getting smokiness this time, particularly compared to the Irish. I’m wondering whether there might be a little Keemun in the English. It has a bold flavor, and while I wouldn’t say it tastes like coffee it announces itself in a similar strong and no nonsense way.

Now I need to try it by itself again to see what I think about it on a clear palate.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

Lego movie:-) my son went w/ hubby. Girls said no. Went shopping instead. I wish i went see movies. Hate shopping and prefer shop online.


I love the Iris Breakfast Tea from Au Bon Pain…
I need to try more of that variety &
Then try the Organic English Breakfast Tea.
I have to admit, I like teas on the sweeter side, generally speaking ;-)


Irish not Iris….ughh…New phone and don’t have all the appropriate
spellings in its dictionary YET…I absolutely hate auto correct.

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drank Sleep Tight by TeaGschwendner
951 tasting notes

I’ve been working this into my rotation every night for the last few nights as I have a ton of it having bought the smallest available TeaG size and I’ve decided it’s something that needs to be sipped down.

Last night I was drinking it while watching Grey’s Anatomy (am I the only person in the world who still watches that show?) and I was actually getting a pretty nice note toward the end of the sip, something that crossed over from savory into sweet right at the end.

Not enough for me to bump the rating, but if it repeats, it’ll make the sipdown somewhat easier than I’d anticipated.


Come to think of it, I don’t really hear anyone talk about that show anymore. But then again, I never got into it myself and maybe I’m just coincidentally hanging around non-GA fans.


It sort of jumped the shark a long time ago, but I still watch it because I need something to amuse me and there aren’t enough shows I like to go around. ;-)


I got suckered back into watching it through a friend of mine (the only other person I know who is still watching). Something about medical dramas/sitcoms always gets me..


I fell behind this season because there is so much good tv lately (Homeland, True Detective, House of Cards, Californication, etc etc) but yes, I still watch.

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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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