1178 Tasting Notes


Sipdown no. 1 of 2016 (and no. 222 total since I started counting down).

I hoarded this one for a long time mostly because I thought it was really cool looking. The tea is twisted into these little unicorn horns that are unlike anything I’d seen before, so that made me want to hold onto it.

While I was going through my stash, I discovered I had another tea that has these twisty leaves and even refers to unicorns in its name: http://steepster.com/teas/shanti-tea/11521-blue-unicorn

So the Shanti is an oolong rather than a green, but now that I remember I have twisty leaf tea of another sort, I find it easier to come to terms with the fact that I really liked how this tea looked more than I liked how it tasted. It’s tasty, but not hoardworthy tasty.

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Well, it seems I did steep this at boiling last time, unless I misrecorded the temperature. Don’t know why I thought I hadn’t.

I know that I definitely steeped it a boiling today and it was very enjoyable. The English Breakfast may be more to my taste, but today, a rainy cold day and the first day back after a mini-vacation, this is hitting the spot.

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Happy New Year! I hope everyone has a happy and healthy 2016. As for 2015, I am glad to see it go. Good riddance.

We decided at the last minute to go away for a few days so I’m getting ready for a short trip and don’t have a lot of time to do a proper note here. Fortunately, I have more of this so can give a more detailed account at another time.

I will say that this was quite yum today. Very smooth, very hearty, sweet yet perky, malty yet clean. Great with scrambled eggs and toast.

I am going to try the Irish version at boiling next time because I think it may need it. This would probably have seemed a bit washed out at a lower temp.

Anyway, I may not be on for a few days as I don’t know what the tea situation will be where I’m going, and I also will only have my phone and tablet which isn’t a fun way to write tea notes.

Have fun and play nice. I’ll see you when I get back. :-)

Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

Have a great trip! :)


Thanks! I just got back from a massage where they offered me http://steepster.com/teas/the-republic-of-tea/793-ginger-peach-green

Jim Marks

Yeah, I’m tired of years I’m glad to see the back of. Let’s make 2016 one worth clinging til the very end.


Me too, Jim!

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drank Royal Garland by Samovar
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 221. A sample.

I am down to my last few Samovar samples. After this there’s another oolong and then a few whites. I should have sipped these down long ago but I was hoarding them.

In any case, this is an interesting oolong. It has finer leaves than I’ve seen in the dry leaf of pretty much any other oolong I’ve had. They didn’t have a lot of fragrance dry (it’s an old sample, so that may be why) but the first steep resulted in a dark, toasty aroma with floral edges.

I steeped hot for the first steep, but in reading others’ notes, it appears that cooler is the way to go so I’m reducing the temp for the rest.

After the first infusion, the leaves have done something I’ve never seen in an oolong. They’ve become a glob of mush? They aren’t quite oatmeal, but close. And they’re sticking to the inside of the gaiwan lid.

Second infusion at 195F gives a fruity aroma, but the tea itself is still quite roasty, with a bitter end note. I get the darjeeling/muscatel comparison. I find that a lot in darker oolongs, and I’m finding it here.

Third infusion at 175 (since others have gone this low and I’m still trying to find the sweet spot that will make me rave like other Steepsterites). It is more floral at a lower temp, but I still haven’t hit the right combination. It remains bitter to my taste, and I’m now wondering whether I should have steeped it in accordance with the package directions instead of attempting to drink it gong fu style. I may be drinking a mixture that is too concentrated. In reading some others’ notes it appears some have had similar experiences where too much leaf for the right water volume results in bitterness and none of the pleasing notes others have found.

Sadly, this is no longer available from Samovar so I’ll never know what a different steeping method would have yielded.

Fourth infusion, I’m increasing the water volume to a full cup per the instructions on the sample packet and increasing the steep time to what is suggested. This takes care of the bitterness. It’s well and truly gone. I’m getting the beer note mentioned in the description, and much more floral than before. Not getting the cream/buttery notes but I do get gardenia in the aftertaste.

I put it through one more infusion using the directions on the packet. I wish I could go back and start over, and just use those directions as I think it would have made a difference. As, most likely, would have drinking this when it was much fresher.

As it is, I’m a bit disappointed but because I can’t tell whether it’s the tea’s fault or my fault, I’m not going to rate it.

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Yesterday wasn’t as mega-productive as earlier in the week, though I did get a few things done (dental appointment, paid some bills, took care of some other personal business). Today started with working out (yay me), followed by some clean up work in my home office that I’ve been meaning to get to forever. I’m in the midst of it now, punctuating it with things like figuring out where I can take my car to get some paint buffed out of it after a close encounter I had with a pole at a gas station (I am not proud of this, but in my defense, I was terribly stressed, and the station was more crowded than I’d ever seen it requiring me to try to squeeze by a pole to get to the pump and I didn’t quite make it), and submitting claims for medical bills I forgot to submit and hope they will get paid.

This is a nice companion to such work. Its a solid, full bodied blend that is almost, but not quite chewy. Yet it’s fairly smooth and not very astringent. No assam throat grab, and a sweet aftertaste. A nice yunnan-y brown sugar and malty aroma that also shows up in the flavor. Dark red-brown, clear liquor. Earthy smelling dry leaf.

It’s one of those breakfast blends that I enjoy drinking but don’t find overly distinctive. There’s nothing that stands out about it. On the other hand, I’m not sure every tea has to stand out. Sometimes you don’t want to think about what you’re drinking, you just want to taste it.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Malt

Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

Ooh, I need to do medical claims too. TY for the reminder. And here’s hoping yours gets paid!


I’m not sure about this one, as I can’t remember whether I have to submit them during the calendar year of service and this one was for a series of things for my son that started in December of last year and ended in January of this year. But what the heck, I’m submitting it. The worst that can happen is they don’t pay it.

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drank Ceylon OP by Sanctuary T
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 220. The second in the Pure Tea Sampler. I hope this one turns out better. I almost steeped it at boiling but at the last minute decided to go with 205. So we’ll see.

It has the black, spidery leaves I associate with Ceylons and an earthy smell to the dry leaf.

The steeped tea is reddish brown and has a light, bready aroma. I didn’t find it moderately strong, as the description says. In fact, I found it rather on the light side, but pleasant in a definition of tea-ness sort of way. It’s got that leafy sweetness to it in the aftertaste that makes me think of how Nestea smells. I can see that this would be good iced. It would taste exactly like what my tastebuds would expect of an iced restaurant tea brewed on site.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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Sipdown no. 219. The rest of the sample. I agree with my original thoughts of yesterday. Not a favorite, but decent.

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Jasmine pearls. One of my absolute favorites.

I thought I’d written a note about this before, but I see I didn’t. I’ve obviously tried it before because the sample was opened. Regardless, the amazing scent of jasmine that comes out of the packet is still quite powerful.

It makes a very pale yellow tea, almost an off-white or cream colored clear liquor. The aroma is one hundred percent floral.

The flavor is lovely. I’m a sucker for jasmine greens in general and pearls in particular, and in going through my stash I’ve found a number of them. And quite a few other jasmines as well, oolongs and whites. This one has a subtle flavor that isn’t as overwhelmingly floral as its fragrance, with a green underlying flavor that leans toward grass rather than vegetables.

I’ll enjoy sipping this one down. It isn’t multi-layered and amazing like the Samovar version, but it’s very yum nevertheless.

Flavors: Grass, Green, Jasmine

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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I had an extremely productive day yesterday. I made a ton of phone calls and sent a ton of emails to try to wrap up a lot of the stuff of daily living that I need to get under control before I start my new job. I also worked out and finally got no. 1 his cell phone, which was supposed to be a Chanukkah present but took a while because of some really awful bait and switch stuff that went on with the provider we originally thought would give us talk and text only and parental controls for him for $15 a month based on their web advertising, none of which turned out to be true. So I bit the bullet and got a more expensive plan added onto my existing one. But at least it is done and he is happy. Plus now he has no excuse for not calling if he’s not going to be where he says he is. :-)

But anyway. I may be getting jaded in my old age, but I haven’t been overly impressed by a lot of the tea I’ve been drinking lately.

Take this one, for example. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a perfectly decent chocolate/coconut tea, on the juicy raw coconut end of the spectrum rather than the toasty toasted coconut end of the spectrum. But I’ve had so many of these over the years, most of which are at least decent, that none of them really stand out anymore.

In the packet it has that cocoa mint smell that coconut teas sometimes give off and I can see the little bits of flavored things in it. White chocolate chips, coconut flakes, cocoa bits and chocolate chips. Small ones. Predictably, given the sugary things in it, it steeps cloudy but otherwise a pretty generic tea color.

Now I want to say something about the aroma of coconut teas in general, not just this one. Do you find they generally don’t smell very good? I mean, I wouldn’t go this far, but the BF thinks coconut teas smell like vomit. I think they smell more like hot plastic, but in general, there’s something about the smell I don’t love.

That said, the aroma of coconut teas doesn’t usually affect the taste for me in a negative way. And it doesn’t here. It’s perfectly decent, and I would drink it if I couldn’t get another perfectly decent one that is perhaps a bit better to my taste, like the Premium Steap.

Flavors: Chocolate, Coconut, Mint

Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

Such a busy little bee!

Have you tried David’s Chocolate Macaroon, and if so, which do you prefer, or how do they compare?


Bzzzzz. :-) Haven’t had the David’s. Is it good?


I personally really like it. It’s sweet but the flavours are nice and strong, and takes milk well. Makes a great latte.


alas, i have never tried a tea with coconut in it :/

lovely review though :D

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drank Watermelon by Sanctuary T
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 218. A sample. The last of the Sanctuary T Sanctuary Sampler.

I have been out and about and haven’t had much tea today, and the tea I did have didn’t provide the best of experiences. Ah well. There are days like this.

This one is pretty funky. The dry mix looks like freeze dried apple to me rather than watermelon, not that I’ve ever seen freeze dried watermelon. It smells like dried fruit mix, with a rather appley note.

The steeped tisane has the most amazing color. It really is the color of a watermelon Jolly Rancher! It has a sweet, fruity aroma, though I’m not sure it’s watermelon I’m smelling.

Amazingly, though, in the flavor, I’m tasting watermelon. It’s more apparent as the brew cools down, mostly, I think, because it’s unusual to taste watermelon hot. And it’s not an in-your-face sort of watermelon or a watermelon candy flavor. It’s a subtle, sneaky flavor that seems like it’s going to be just a generic fruity something or other until the aftertaste kicks in, when that fresh, watery sweetness that’s a bit cooling in the mouth shows up.

I don’t think I’ve had a watermelon blend before and it strikes me as a fairly unusual flavor to attempt. Though I don’t know why I think that, especially since searching for watermelon on Steepster brings up a ton of products. I’ve had some Lupicia teas that do cantaloupe and honey dew pretty well. In any case, I’m pretty impressed that this pulls off the watermelon flavor, especially considering that watermelon is only one of several ingredients.

So I’m rating it pretty high because it lives up to its name.

Flavors: Fruity, Melon, Sweet

Boiling 7 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. 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 write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tea skills and tastes developed they became far less appealing to me. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with 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. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

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

80-89 Excellent; will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

People have sent me tea on occasion, and I was once persuaded to send some Tazo Om to AmazonV. I’ve also done at least one group buy here on Steepster, the famous Doulton-led Dammann Freres experiment years ago. But mostly, I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it, though I don’t put samples in my cupboard and not everything I have at any given time is showing in my cupboard. I do try to remember to remove things from my cupboard once I no longer have them.

I was an early internet adopter and have been online in various environments since around 1990. Steepster is one of the nicest online environments I’ve ever been privileged to participate in and that is saying something. :-)


Bay Area, California



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