1178 Tasting Notes

drank Woodland Walk by Todd & Holland
1178 tasting notes

I like the name of this one so I cracked open the sample.

The tea in the packet smells like fruity trail mix. Really. It would sort of look like it as well if not for the dark tea leaves in among the mix.

The aroma of the steeped tea is a malty Yunnan tea smell with a tart hibiscus streak and berries around the edges. It’s a clear, brown, tea-colored tea.

The first thing I taste is hibiscus, but it’s not pucker-worthy hibiscus. Whether because of the fruit or because of the underlying tea, there is a sweetness that makes it not only tolerable, but tasty. I can taste the berries as well. Blueberry more than strawberry, but both are distinguishable. The tea itself isn’t easy to detect, but there’s a subtle, cocoa-like note that I think comes from the tea.

I keep thinking to myself how this would be different if a French company did it. It would be like this, but with a few hard edges filed off. This is a bolder flavor than most French flavored black teas I’ve had, but it is still quite enjoyable for a change of pace in the flavored black tea department.

Flavors: Blueberry, Brown Sugar, Cocoa, Hibiscus, Strawberry

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

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drank Serenity by Sanctuary T
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 211. A sample.

I have three sets of samples from Sanctuary T and I have absolutely no memory of how I got them. I found them when I was doing the quasi-inventory of my stash. This is from something called the Sanctuary Sampler, which contains four other items: a fruit blend, a black flavored tea, and two tea mixes (one black and green with peach flavoring and one white and green with passionfruit flavoring). Should be interesting.

I had planned to have this one a bit earlier, but I settled in to watch Star Wars IV with the kids and didn’t feel like making it. Now I find myself with a touch of insomnia, and thought I’d make some of this and see if the combination of drinking it and reading will make me serene enough to go to sleep.

Its a visually attractive blend, with more color to it than the picture indicates. Yes, there is a fair amount of lemongrass creating a boxy geometry, but there are also some flowers. Chamomile, which I can smell. And I would have thought rose, except rose isn’t on the list of ingredients. It smells rosy to me, though, and there’s something pink in the mix. Perhaps it is the lavender? In any case, I like the gentle floral smell mixed with the lemongrass scent.

It makes an amber colored liquor that smells mostly of chamomile. The flavor is a fairly sweet, fairly unobtrusive mix of chamomile and other floral. Mostly lavender. There’s a fresh note that is probably the peppermint.

It’s very nice. The chamomile isn’t at all straw-like, and none of the flavors overpower the others. I’m not sure whether I’d pick this over Harney’s Yellow and Blue. The main difference is the peppermint, but I remember the Yellow and Blue being a bit creamier in its chamomile, too. It’s hard to say given that it has been a while since I had the Yellow and Blue.

Flavors: Floral, Peppermint

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

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Well, I pulled this out of the stash to have today and then decided to finish the Truffles from Todd & Holland since it wasn’t a favorite. I’m just now getting around to this, and then it will be go directly to non-caffeine for me.

There are hunks of what look liked dried apple in among the very dark leaves. Perhaps that is the orange zest. The tea has a nice smell in the tin, like so many French teas. The French tea houses really seem to pay attention to how their blends smell as well as taste, which I suppose isn’t surprising given the perfume connection. I can detect the orange and vanilla in the dry tea, though I get more of a cinnamon, apple and clove smell in the steeped aroma. The tea is a clear reddish mahogany color.

It has a mild and pleasant orange spice tea flavor. It makes me think of Constant Comment, but the flavor in this one is far less heavy handed and the tea is obviously better quality than what one gets in the Constant Comment bags. The tea base is lovely and smooth. It’s a nice blend.

I read in a description of the tea at the Mariage Freres site that it includes almond, but the most I get of the almond is just a little in the aftertaste. Then again, blends like this tend to differ from steep to steep depending on the mix that shows up in your teaspoon each time, so maybe next time I’ll get more almond. And then again, there is no indication that this contains apple, and yet I get an apple-like aroma and flavor from it, so go figure.

Flavors: Apple, Cinnamon, Clove, Orange, Vanilla

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

I just opened my tin of this today… it really does smell so good!


Hope you enjoy!


I will. :) I think it’s my favourite French Christmas Tea yet.

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drank Truffles by Todd & Holland
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 210. The rest of the sample. Merry Christmas to those celebrating!


Merry Christmas, Morgana!

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drank Pina Colada Honeybush by 52teas
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 209. It appears there was a recent reblend of this. But that’s not what I’m sipping down. I’m sipping down the original.

That said, if the reblend is like the original, and you’re in the market for a tasty tropical honeybush, you might want to give this a try. It was among my favorites of the 52Teas herbals I have had. A nice balance of pineapple and coconut, with just a hint of rum and a honeybush that provides the canvas for this tisane to paint on without taking a hold of the brush.

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drank Wuyi Da Hong Pao by Adagio Teas
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 208. I dumped what was left of this sample in the dark oolong yixing.

I’m steeping it at the same intervals starting with 15 seconds and moving up 5 each time, but with a bit hotter water than I’ve been using, 208F.

This is definitely a better temp for this tea than what I used the first time. Even after steeping in the hardly used yixing, which I expected to leach pretty much all of the flavor out of anything I drink in it for the near term, the tea is far more interesting than it was when I tried it at a lower temp.

I’d be interested to hear what experienced yixing users have to say about the effect of the yixing on their tea. For me, it is pretty much consistently adding a mellowness and roundness to the flavor that I think will be excellent once the initial leaching part is over. For the nonce, I’m trying to correct in my mind for some degree of flavor-sapping.

How would you describe how your yixing affects your tea?

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drank Truffles by Todd & Holland
1178 tasting notes

I just opened a sample of this I’ve had for a while. (This is no longer available at the Todd & Holland web site).

In the packet it smells like some sort of confection. Not candy really. Not cookies… well, maybe cookies? Or a flourless cake?

Steeped, it smells more like candy truffles. Or chocolate covered cherries, which is sort of strange because there’s not anything that would ordinarily be expected to generate a cherry aroma in this. And yet, there it is. A dark, candy sort of cherry. There’s a slight cocoa note as well. The tea is a cherry red-brown and is surprisingly clear given the chocolate chips as ingredients.

The tea tastes pretty much like it smells, except that it has a strange bitter note to it on the back end. Not so much a bitter tea note as a bitter other note, like baking chocolate bitter perhaps.

It’s not horrible, but it’s not as good as some of the other Todd and Holland flavored black teas. Which may explain why it is no longer available.

But the important thing about today is — I have news!

I accepted a job offer, so I will be employed again as of the end of January! It seems like a great group of people, and a fun company, and it is about a 10 minute commute from my house (I am planning to time a bike commute and see if that would make sense since it is so close).

Happy dance!

Flavors: Cherry, Cocoa

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

Congrats on the job!


Congrats on the new job!


Yay, congratulations!


Yay! Congratulations! :)


Congrats and Merry Christmas!


Thanks so much, everyone!


Congrats !!!

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drank Indian Spice by Harney & Sons
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 207. A sample, and a mystery.

Apparently, I tasted this sample of this a while back but did not write about it under Indian Spice. It also appears no one else on Steepster has ever written about it under Indian Spice, which I find hard to believe, but I did search on several terms and nothing came up.

So I went and created this entry. Then I did yet another internet search and discovered that Steepster refers to the Harney Chai as “previously known as” this. Well crap. I am now guilty of creating a duplicate entry. Sigh.

The Harney Chai is described on their site as similar to this but spicier and with a hint of vanilla. It seems I did taste and write about Harney’s Chai. I described that as not very spicy. So if that is a spicier version of this…

In any case, I decided to drink it without making a chai production out of it, which it appears I did the first time around. Though I can’t be 100 percent sure that what I drank then was Indian Spice rather than Chai and was just smarter about where I put the entry than I was today. Here’s where that note is, just for completeness.


Note that to complicate things, the entry is called Chai, but the picture is of Indian Spice.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect here — whether this is in fact the same tea as described in the previous note, but I suspect it is. It’s a pretty mild spiced black tea. Milk and sweetener brings out the spices a bit more. Unfortunately, mine today is still wearing some of the lapsang I made in the Breville yesterday (that’s the other thing about lapsang, it clings on for dear life to tea making implements and so tends to flavor the next thing made with the implement), which I am trying to ignore. Even if this isn’t the same tea, my assessment from the initial note remains the same.

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drank Chocolate Chai by Adagio Teas
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 206. The rest of the sample.

Stovetop method, using Teafrog Chocolate and Cream as the extra black tea.

It’s pretty much a hot cocoa substitute. :-) A good choice for right now. Bumping the rating a bit because it’s so pleasant at the moment.

And with that, I am at the end of all the Adagio chai samples. Remaining Adagio sample tins: 7, the majority of which are oolongs.


Teafrog Chocolate and Cream is sooooo awesome.


It really is. I remember when Teafrog was really hot here because of a Steepster Select, I think. I looked them up recently to make sure they’re still around and was glad to find they are. Don’t see much in the way of tasting notes about their stuff these days.

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In going through my recent tea inventory/cupboarding project, I made a discovery.

I have way too much lapsang souchong.

I seem to have made a habit of dropping in a lapsang sample or tin in pretty much every order I ever made. This despite the fact that while I do enjoy lapsang from time to time, it is very much a sometime thing for me. I can’t see myself drinking it daily, and I have enough to be able to do that for a number of months.

One of the reasons it is so much a sometime thing for me is that I’ve had widely varying experiences of it. Some versions have been so incredibly smoky, I felt I was going to die of smoke inhalation, and I continued to smell the tea in my nostrils for hours afterwards (or until my next shower). I’m always a little worried before trying a new lapsang that it is going to be like that, so I have some apprehension of them as well, which leads to a lower rate of consumption than I might perhaps otherwise have.

When I smelled the dry leaf of this, I thought I was going to get a mouth full of ashes, but as it turns out, this one is one of the good guys. Smoky, but not ash try tasting, and not stomach turning.

There’s a sweetness to it as well, in both the aroma and the flavor. The smoke isn’t so much that it completely obliterates all other flavors in the tea. It’s not particularly resiny either, but it does have a suggestion of pine, particularly in the aroma.

It’s nice on a cool day that started out rainy and is still overcast. It’s like sitting by a fireplace. Come to think of it, it would be really nice to drink by a fireplace.

Flavors: Malt, Pine, Smoke, Sweet, Wood

200 °F / 93 °C 3 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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