1178 Tasting Notes


Sipdown no. 197. A sample.

I am slowly but surely making headway in the oolong sample department, aided by the fact that many of these are single-serving size samples. (Say that 5 times fast.)

This has the tightly rolled medium to lighter green look I expect from this type of tea, but what’s interesting is the aroma of the dry leaves. A really gorgeous floral note in there. Again, it makes me want to say lilac, though I am not great at identifying individual floral notes except for rose, gardenia, and jasmine. I rinsed it and steeped in the gaiwan at 195 beginning at 15 seconds and adding 5 seconds each time.

1. Light, greenish yellow, clear color. Milky, light floral aroma. Mild, light, green taste with a hint of butter and a floral aftertaste.

2. Yellower in color. More milky than floral, and there is a vegetal note. Folks have found asparagus and cabbage notes in this. For me it’s more cabbage than asparagus. Come to think of it, cabbage can have a note that straddles vegetable and dairy. There’s a slight green piquancy to it, as with cabbage so I think that’s what I’m tasting here. But I love cabbage, so to me that’s a good thing.

3. Color is more golden and less green this steep. The aroma has turned quite buttery. The dairy/vegetable straddle note is there and more intense this time, with flowers in the finish.

4. A straight up yellow color. Definitely cabbage in the aroma, more on the green side than the dairy side with that sort of nutty flavor quality that cabbage can have. It’s pretty complex, though. The flavors seem to change from sip to sip, sometimes they’re more heavily floral than others.

5. Brighter straight yellow, smell like buttery cabbage.

The leaves expanded nicely between steeps 1 and 2, and had pretty much completely unfurled by steep four. They steeped leaves are olive green in color and have a bitter green smell, a bit like collard greens.

This is an interesting one. It’s not as sweet and creamy as some I’ve had, more vegetal with that interesting cabbage note. I enjoyed it and its differences. I don’t like it better than some of the tie guan yins I’ve had, but it’s very good and I’d drink it again.

I would love to do oolongs all afternoon, but my taster needs a break as does my bladder. I think I might read for a while.

Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Milk, Vegetables

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Sipdown no. 196. A large tin.

I thought about giving this another shot in the gaiwan or yixing, but decided I didn’t have the patience as it hadn’t been a stellar performer in either in the past. Too much tea, too little time. I’d rather just move on. There are other shous.

So I rinsed it and then steeped it in the Breville. Not a lot to report other than it is warm and inoffensive.

But the best news: I found my Timolino! Yay!

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Happy The Force Awakens day! I’m thinking about going to see it tomorrow morning. Astonishingly, there are tickets available for a 10:40 a.m. showing near me. Then I’ll have to see it again with the kids, obv. Ah, the only benefit of unemployment. Movies at odd times of day during the week. I am hopeful I will remedy this situation soon. I have another interview next week at a place where I’ve been onsite for interviews twice already, so wish me luck.

I found an unopened packet of this in one of my tea drawers and thought that since I’d sipped down a large tin today (with another in the offing) I deserved to break open something new.

It has been a while since I had a straight ceylon. This has those dark, bird nesty leaves that are so fun to look at and in the packet there’s an earthy smell with some notes that are cocoa-like.

The steeped tea is clear and toward the red end of the reddish brown spectrum, and the aroma has a sweet baked bread note. Yum.

The flavor has a middle of the road sweetness to it, like a touch of honey or maybe date sugar, and the “tea” flavor that makes you wonder how it would be iced. As it happens, Kenilworth is apparently a favorite for icing (I just looked it up).

The tea is quite smooth. Not grabby in the throat, not harsh on the stomach. I sort of just want to sit back and enjoy without thinking about it too much, which I suppose is a great compliment to the tea.

I’m finding my tastebuds have a rather short memory and I can’t remember the taste of other Ceylons to compare this to, so I’ll just assign it a number for now based on overall experience and worry about how it fits in with the others later.

On a sad note, I seem to have lost my Timolino! I can’t find it anywhere, and I don’t remember where I had it last. We had a bag with swimming gear in it go missing a while back and I wonder whether my poor Timolino might have been in it. I’m so sad. I loved that thing, and I loved the color which was a sort of deep green. I looked at David’s online and I don’t see that color anymore (they seem to be selling their own brand now anyway, not so much Timolino). I think I will go cry for a while now.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Dates, Honey, Tea

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

Hope you get it !


Thanks! :-)

Rumpus Parable

I’m a huge fan of the Kenilworth Ceylon. A fave of mine.


Rumpus, I can certainly see why. :-)


Fingers crossed about the job!

And the tea centre in Courtenay sells real Timolinos, and they will ship. Not sure if it’s helpful though…


Thanks, OMG, but I found my beloved Timolino!


Beat of luck, Morgana!


Thanks Fjellrev!


Best* Wow, so sad haha.

And you have a good plan about using unemployment to your advantage by seeing SW during the day. I should try to do the same!


Yay for finding it!

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drank Bourbon Vanilla by Kusmi Tea
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 195. A full sized tin.

I had just enough for hot tea this morning. I’ve mostly been using it to make cold tea since it isn’t a favorite. It’s decent cold, though the vanilla flavor in the cold version takes some getting used to.

I’m bumping down the rating some. I find that I sometimes rate things based on my mood at the time and I am not an overly harsh grader. This is objectively a good tea because it’s Kusmi. But in the end my ratings have to reflect my tastes, and I’ve had vanilla teas that truly knocked my socks off. This is not one of them.

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The BF is coming down with something that is doing a number on his throat and asked me to make some tea. He also discovered recently that he can’t drink black tea first thing in the morning without puking unless he’s eaten first. Apparently, that is a thing. I never knew until it happened to him. Then I googled it, and yes, it’s a thing.

Having tons of this and thinking it would be a good alternative, I made some in the Breville. In looking back at my original notes, I seemed to have had trouble getting flavor out of it until I steeped it in the gaiwan.

So I laughed when I handed a cup to the BF and he said, “There’s no flavor in this at all and that’s perfect for how I feel right now.” He later amended his statement to say that despite not having flavor, it was very soothing on the throat.

On the heels of the oolong I just had, this doesn’t make a huge impression on me though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is flavorless. It’s just leaning much more toward the “mouth full of snow” flavor I thought silver needles had until I had one that wasn’t that way.

Resteeped 10 degrees hotter and 30 seconds longer. Sweeter and stronger, but still extremely subtle. Some bread in the aftertaste, to make things interesting.

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Just because my oolong samples from Life In Teacup have now all been enjoyed does not mean I lack for other oolong samples.

I am pretty sure that the one I have from JK Tea is this one. The sample packet (never opened until today) says 2009 Spring Da Hong Pao Ban Yan. I know I’ve had Da Hong Pao before but it has been a while. JK Tea was very kind and included this sample when they sent me the purple chrysanthemum tea they gave away a while ago, and which, unfortunately, did not mix well with me.

I’ve steeped in accordance with the directions on this page, which means hotter water than I typically use for oolongs (over 209F, it says here). There’s a lot in this sample so I have enough to try it at a lower temp later. Going for my usual 15 seconds + 5 seconds in subsequent steeps in the gaiwan.

1. Tea is golden yellow. Smells a little roasty, but there’s no pungent note like some dark oolongs have (and that reminds me of darjeeling). It’s surprisingly sweet smelling and the taste is mild, sweet and not particularly toasty. The empty cup smells like caramel. :-)

2. Dark gold. There’s a note in the aroma that is like toasted rice? Otherwise, the floral notes are coming out this time. Taste is again, not toasty. A little perkier and less sweet, but still very smooth with no bitterness.

3. Dark gold again and a light floral aroma. Continues to be medium sweet and smooth, with a floral taste, and a lovely sugary note that lingers in the cup and in the aftertaste.

4. Lighter golden in color. Honey note in aroma! It makes me think of bees and pollen. :-) Some of the toastiness is coming out in the flavor this steep, but the tea is still very smooth and sweet.

5. Similar color to 4, aroma is less sweet. Flavor has begun to fade but still has a nice, floral smoothness.

I enjoyed this!

The only reason I’m not rating this higher is that there is a sort of a funky note to the tea, a weird sort of plastic-y note, which fortunately isn’t always present and isn’t strong with this tea. I recall having a similar issue with the purple chrysanthemum, though there it was much more pronounced. I’m wondering whether it has something to do with the plastic bags used for the samples? It will be interesting to try this at a lower temperature and see what difference that makes.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Floral, Honey, Sugar, Toasted Rice

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drank Yunnan Gold by Adagio Teas
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown 194. The rest of the sample.

Look at me, sipping down teas I like, not just the ones I need to get out of my life asap! I feel ridiculously courageous.

I shall miss this one’s beautiful leaves. They are, I think, the most golden of any “gold” tea I’ve had. And it’s still tasty after all these years (cue Paul Simon), though I’m sure it was better back when I wrote my first note.

I have a total of nine Adagio sample tins left with varying degrees of tea still in them. I’m going to say that when I started, I had something on the order of 50. And if I were to order from Adagio, I’d probably have distilled the shopping list to 15 or so teas from the 50 samples. I record this for posterity mostly because I think it shows that sample tasting is working the way it is supposed to for me. I’m finding what I like and enjoying the process along the way.

ETA: I have to go grocery shopping immediately because the cupboard is pretty bare. No bread, no cereal, no yogurt, so breakfast was peanut butter on matzoh left over from last Passover. Here’s the weird part. This tea goes wonderfully with peanut butter! Something about it really brings out that ale-maltiness and the choco notes. Wow! Who would have thunk it?

Roswell Strange

Totally makes sense that the peanut butter matched well with the tea; you’re tasting the complimenting sweetness of the Yunnan (which is very sweet) and the natural sweetness of the peanuts. However, the nutty quality still provides some contrast in flavour too so you’re not just pairing two alike things. As well, peanut butter is totally a fatty/buttery thing and the two main flavour carriers are acid and fat so that only aids the amount of flavour that the PB would bring out of the tea.

Acid probably wouldn’t work well with Yunnan blacks ‘cause they tend to be more confectionery (malt/cocoa notes) in nature which doesn’t pair as nicely (though food pairing is totally subjective). But something sweeter in a more jammy/fruity quality (like a Keemun) would work better.

Something you would pair with an acid would be most green teas though or something with lots of astringency or briskness since salt chemically neutralizes those qualities. Of course, too much acid/salt will make those teas taste flat/dull.

Sorry; just finished the food pairing portion of my tea sommelier course.


Excellent info, RS! Explains why my taster was so happy…

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drank St. Petersburg by Kusmi Tea
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 193. But only a sample tin. Yay, so glad I have more of this!

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drank Hubei Spring Needle by Samovar
1178 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 192. A sample.

I think this is the last Samovar green tea sample I have, and one I have certainly kept too long. Be that as it may, this is yum.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t drink even this much caffeine this late in the day but I just got back from no. 1’s school holiday band concert and we still have homework to check…

The leaves don’t look or smell all that different to me from many Chinese green teas I’ve had. The tea looks no different than others I’ve had, with a pale yellow liquor with a bit of particulate in it but otherwise clear. It smells sweetly vegetal.

And that’s how it tastes, too. It’s just a very nice cup of green tea without any bitterness, with a tiny bit of butteryness. Perhaps a little more grassy than some Chinese greens, but not as much as Japanese greens. I’m trying to place the vegetal flavor. It’s not sweet enough to be peas, and too sweet to be green beans. I’m thinking maybe snow peas is a good approximation.

In any case, very enjoyable all around, and unfortunately not available on the Samovar web site. Sigh.

Flavors: Grass, Vegetal

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Sipdown no. 191. A sample, and the last Life in Teacup oolong sample. (Sniff.)

At least they went out with a bang. The leaves smelled grassy green in the packet but did some amazing things after steeping. I steeped this in the gaiwan starting with 15 seconds and increasing in 5 second increments.

1. Pale yellow tea with a milky, floral scent. Flavor is light, more floral/grassy than vegetal, something that initially presents with a slightly bitter edge but quickly smooths into a sort of green nutty flavor like chestnuts.

The cup smells very fragrant, a distinctive floral smell. I’m guessing this is why it is called osmanthus.

2. Same color, similar aroma but deeper. Flavor is fascinating. Starts as green floral and ends as green nuts. Along the way it morphs into various things too fleeting to pin down and describe. Really wonderful and, dare I say, fun.

By the end of the second steep, the leaves have almost tripled in volume.

3. Greener color. Nectar in the aroma! Nuttiness is forefront in the flavor now with floral afterwards, but the nuttiness returns in the aftertaste, light and raw and reminds me of Brazil nuts.

4. Greener again, nectar has become milder. Flavor similar to 3.

5. Similar to 4 but the nuttiness is now milder and the floral aroma/flavor is much more noticeable.

Aftertaste is sweet and fresh for a while after drinking.

Just delicious.

Flavors: Chestnut, Floral, Green, Milk, Nectar, Nutty, Osmanthus

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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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