953 Tasting Notes


I decided to try this first in the gaiwan so that I could get to know it before trying it in the Yixing, in the hopes of seeing whether and to what extent the Yixing changes the flavor.

I get a leathery, fish oil smell from the dry leaf, which is smoothed out some after rinsing and steeping but is still a bit fishier than the other Adagio shu I’ve had, the Dante. The steeped leaves smell like raw white mushrooms.

I was doing homework with no. 2 while sipping this and he sniffed it and said “smells like salmon.” A few seconds later he said, “I don’t like salmon.”

I do like salmon as it happens, but I am not sure what I think about this tea. Those with far more sophisticated palates when it comes to pu-erh than I, with respect to which I freely admit to being a novice compared to some other tea types, have pretty much unanimously liked this one judging by the notes. But to me it doesn’t have as much flavor as the Dante. It’s smoother, for sure, and earthier where the Dante is more leathery. (This doesn’t taste like salmon, regardless of aroma.)

Perhaps the problem is I expected it to taste more like the Dante than it does, or more like the Emperor’s Pu-erh from Numi, both of which have the more leathery flavor.

This is a deeper flavor, more like mossy tree bark than leather. I put it through about seven steeps starting at 15 seconds and working up to around 50.

I think I need to try it again in the gaiwan now that I’m prepared for it to be different than the others I’ve had and see how it tastes before I graduate to the Yixing with it.

Not rating for now.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

If you like the leather, one of Butiki’s puerh, I think purple buds, is soooooo leathery. An interesting experience for me, but not a favourite. :)


That sounds like an interesting one, for sure. I like leathery okay, but it isn’t something I can do often and I have to be in the mood for it, sort of like really smoky flavors. I’m mostly surprised to taste such a variation between pu-erhs, though I shouldn’t be—I’m just at the beginning stages of learning to appreciate them. I’ve only had the Numi, the Adagio and the Samovar so far, and I have a ton more to try.

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drank Tropical Peony by Tavalon Tea
953 tasting notes

I reread the label on this one and discovered that Tavalon recommends using more leaf than I was. Sort of. They recommend two teaspoons per 8 oz water.

I’m using a spoon that’s a bit larger than a teaspoon and I tend to use heaping (or at least not level) teaspoons so I’m actually using more than a teaspoon. But just for fun, I put in twice as much tea as I’d been using, same amount of water, same temp and same steeping time. Then I threw it in the Timolino and drove to work.

I really didn’t notice a difference. It didn’t seem twice as strong as it was yesterday, although there might have been a bit more of the underlying tea. But the fruit and coconut flavoring wasn’t stronger.

Still liking it as a commuting tea, though.


Popping in to say that I’m a heeper too! a shameless one. More tea!

carol who

Depending on the tea, sometimes you just have to. It can make such a difference. Something that tastes insipid the first time and can really come alive. I find that a lot with the Teavana herbals. I also think that many companies just routinely say 1 tsp/8 oz.


Heapers unite!


I like playing around with quantities but I have to admit I get annoyed when I get home with a tea purchase and only then read that the recommended amount is 2tsp instead of 1tsp. I can be ridiculously scroogey sometimes and it feels like I’m being ripped off?


I started loose leafing with Silk Road, and they commend 1 tsp per 16 oz. Using 2 was a big adjustment to make!


Yay for heaping! Carol, with the Teavana fruit blends you have to put in twice as much as you would ordinarily. I pretty much do that automatically now on the first try. Mem, I would probably feel that way too if I wasn’t up to my ears in tea, but I’m sort of secretly relieved when I find out I could be using more since I’m in sipdown mode. ;-) OMG, did you find 1 tsp per 16 oz enough? I have some Silk Road teas in my collection, I should see what they say.


Haha. I prefer a lot of my Silk Road teas that way. Maybe it’s familiarity, maybe they’re truly good that way! :)

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Sipdown no. 112 of the year 2014. A sample.

A colorful, geometric (because of the lemongrass), attractive mix. The dry leaf smells very minty, with a little citrus.

The liquor is tawny, like a dark lion color. The aroma is herbal—mostly minty.

Mine is a little on the thin side, and as I’ve used my entire sample I can’t go back and adjust leaf/water/time and temp to test whether this was just a one-off result or a general characteristic of this tea. I mostly taste the mint and a little lemon. I don’t taste much black tea, but I do get an undercurrent.

I can see this being a really nice iced tea, and I think I’d quite enjoy it hot as well if I could get it a bit stronger. There’s nothing at all offensive about it—on the contrary, it has a really nice mint flavor that’s mellowed slightly by the lemon and vice versa.

I can’t rate it extremely high based on this one experience, but I like it well enough to put it on the wish list if I ever get out of lockdown and order from Teas Etc. again.

2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

Ahhh, just saw your reference to lockdown. Now your high sipdown count makes sense ;)


Yes, I’m desperately trying to reduce my collection by about 80 percent. It’s going to take a while. ;-)


And I thought mine was bad! =P I’m a novice when it comes to overwhelming tea collections. Steepster makes me feel better…

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drank Red Hot Cinnamon by 52teas
953 tasting notes

Second tea of the morning after the LeafSpa Earl Grey, which is now positioned for sipdown tomorrow. It was a big tin, so that’s a rather major one coming up.

Truly, Red Hot Cinnamon is much better hot, as I’m having it today. I’m enjoying the little pops of sweet cinnamon flavor where the red hot concentration must have been higher in the mix.

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drank Tulsi Dosha Chai by Teavana
953 tasting notes

I am sure this must have come from the Teavana tea of the month club. Sadly, it isn’t at all to my liking, which is ironic because it’s one of the few blends I got as a result of that club that Teavana still makes.

In the packet it smells decent—peppery, cinnamon-y, some weird fruity smell of unclear origin—and it is pretty and colorful like many Teavana blends.

But after steeping there’s something in the aroma that is unpleasantly lotiony smelling. Like cinnamon hand lotion, if there is such a thing.

And even more unfortunately, that lotiony-ness manifests in the flavor, too. Which is too bad, because the spice combination is rather tasty. There’s a very peppery, cinnamon-ginger flavor that every now and then rises briefly above the lotion. And it’s this that I’m still tasting in the aftertaste.

But something else in here is giving me that weird lotion flavor. Is it the tulsi? The rooibos? The coconut? I really don’t know, but there it is.

This is going quickly into the must sip down soon category. Ugh.

Boiling 7 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

Tulsi usually includes a strong dose of basil, which might be what you don’t like. It’s definitely an acquired tasted!


I had some plain holy basil that was ok. At least, it didn’t taste like lotion. ;-)

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In revisiting this, I must first point out that I misread the package, which clearly states that you should use one TABLESPOON of tea to 8 oz of water. I used a teaspoon, but one of those ones from David’s that is really bigger than a regular teaspoon but still not as big as a tablespoon.

So I’m starting from the right amount of tea, or perhaps a bit more, this time.

Second, I’m steeping hotter. I bumped the temp to the recommended 180, only a 5 degree difference, but Rishi’s instructions are very adamant that while one is free to vary the time, one should never vary the temperature. Apparently I was a bad girl on two counts the first time.

Third, I’m steeping a minute longer. Four minutes didn’t turn the tea into a wretched mess of bitterness, and so I’m going to be brave and try the minimum recommended steeping time, 5 minutes.

I spend so much of my time telling my kids to follow directions, you’d think I would have it down myself by now.

Directions are meant to be followed in this case. I get what the other notes mean when they say corn. There’s a hint of corn in the aroma and in the flavor. I get a lot less sweet and a lot less butter steeped at this temperature and time but it’s not bitter. I get the pine nut flavor, too.

It’s still a fairly light, subtle flavor even when steeped according to directions, but it’s got much more character this way.

It’s definitely different among green teas, many of which have lately been very tasty but very much the same to me—either cooked buttery vegetable or cut hay-grass variations.

This one isn’t either of those. It’s in a category by itself, which makes it somewhat hard to rate. I think I still need to do some work to get the best flavor out of it, but I could definitely see drinking this regularly. I give it a solid excellent mark in its own little category. It’s not to the crack level for me, but it has attributes that I admire in teas and particularly green teas, namely that I don’t think it’s something I would get sick of easily.

180 °F / 82 °C 5 min, 0 sec 6 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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drank Decaf Chai by Tazo
953 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 111 of the year 2014. A big one. I started out with a lot of this.

Of my original teabag purchases when I first started exploring tea, I only have left some of each of the following: Tazo Honeybush, Numi Red Rooibos, Tazo Lotus, Tazo Refresh, Bigelow Constant Comment and four different Numi Pu-erhs.

Progress. I enjoyed this one for what it is, and I’ve spoken about what I like about it and how I judged it against its chai peers at length in other notes so I won’t repeat myself.

It’s not something I will buy again, at least not any time soon. I have a ton of loose chai, including some decaf, and I prefer the stovetop version. Having the teabag version isn’t all the convenient where I’d drink it most, i.e., places where I don’t have the loose chai ingredients and a stove top, i.e., at work—because I have to get a hold of milk and sweetener. So that sort of defeats the purpose for me. It was a good introduction, though.


Well done finishing this one!


I don’t blame you for still having Tazo Honeybush on hand. :) That one was essentially my bridge between teabags and the wide world of loose tea.


My kids love the honeybush so I expect I’ll be sharing. :-)

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drank Kuki Yerba Mate by Samovar
953 tasting notes

Second time having this, and it remains an improvement, at least in the view of my palate, over the plain yerba mate.

It also remains not enough to push me into mate fandom.

But it’s a nice greenish tea flavor for the after lunch caffeine boost (though matcha or a black tea would probably do a better job).

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drank Tropical Peony by Tavalon Tea
953 tasting notes

This tea made its debut as a commuting companion today. It did well.

You know how when you eat or drink certain things outside, they taste differently than they do when you eat or drink them inside? That’s certainly true of this tea. Being in the car isn’t really the same as being outside, I guess, but this tea tasted fresher and lighter in the car than it did when I drank it at home. The coconut was also sweeter and nuttier, but in a fresh-tasting way rather than a cloying way.

So, success!

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drank Red Hot Cinnamon by 52teas
953 tasting notes

Second tea after the morning Earl Grey. I got held up on a call and it got rather cool before I finally tasted any. This is one that I find much better on the warmer side than the cooler. It is much more aromatic when hot, though cool it still has a red hot candy flavor that may be even more candy-like because of the coolness. Note to self: drink while hot.

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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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