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939 Tasting Notes


Sipdown no. 84 of the year 2014. Holy basil, Batman!

Apparently, I never wrote an initial note on this, though I’m now sipping down the end of this sample packet. It was opened, so I know I tried it once. I also have a memory of having a mishap and spilling a bunch of it all over the counter. Perhaps I got distracted and never made it to the note.

Upton is a class act. I love how they personalize what they send with your name and the date on which it was packed. The date on this is 3/29/10, which is shortly after I joined Steepster. However, there wasn’t a ziplock on the sample packet and I neglected to treat this sample well. I may have been mad at it for spilling. ;-) And since I don’t have an original note, I have nothing to compare the taste of this aged sample with from when it was fresh.

On top of that, it seems I only have enough for 3/4 of a cup. Here goes.

It has a spicy savory scent that is reminiscent of cooking spices. I smelled it against some dry basil and it’s similar, but not anywhere close to identical in fragrance.

The steeped tisane has a slight anise-like scent along with the savory spice. It makes a light brownish orange liquid with particles suspended in it.

The flavor is also somewhat savory. I get a cooling note, which is the anise-like one. It has a vaguely medicinal taste, but not in a bad way. It’s the cooling aspect, which is sort of a menthol/eucalyptus sensation. Rather like one of those fancy cough drops though not as sweet.

Supposedly this can do all sorts of great things for you from lowering blood sugar to inhibiting cancer. If I knew that was true for a fact, I’d happily drink it every day as a sort of tonic.

But as a flavored beverage for pleasure, I’m not so sure. I have some Tulsi blends I’m more eager to try now, but plain it’s sort of plain.

Boiling 8 min or more

Wow, 84 of the year is awesome!


Thanks :-)

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drank Sweet Cinnamon Spice by Tazo
939 tasting notes

This isn’t a full sipdown, though I’ve reached the end of my home supply as of tonight. I have something on the order of 14 bags of this still at the office.

I remain somewhat conflicted about this. When it’s good it’s not terrific,but when it’s bad it’s horrid. I’ve been making a big cup of it to take to bed while I watch the Olympics (2 bags a shot) and there are times when I don’t notice the syrupy, licorice/sarsaparilla flavor and feel it fade to the background and the cinnamon take over into a lighter spiced tisane. There are times when it seems more buoyant. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

Bumping it down even further. If you like licorice and sarsaparilla, this is your match made in heaven, but if you’re so-so toward them at best, as I am, it’s an uphill battle to get past the sensation that there’s a large lump of rubber sitting in your belly after drinking this.

It’s not undrinkable, just not all that pleasurable most of the time.

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Sipdown no. 83 of the year 2014. A teabag from the work stash.

I definitely over caffeinated myself yesterday so I’m trying not to drink caffeine today after 2 p.m. My line up for the rest of the afternoon at work is all decaf options, starting with this.

This is nothing but camomile, and the only other nothing but camomile I have to compare this to is the Samovar. I rated that at a 70 not because it was a bad camomile but because I don’t see myself drinking straight camomile by choice. If I was going to drink straight camomile by choice, I’d pick the Samovar (if it was still available).

This isn’t bad, though. It’s best described by what it isn’t: musty, papery, straw-like, dried flowery, pencil shavings, etc.

It’s rather sweet, and it doesn’t have the sharp, pungent note that camomile sometimes has.

It doesn’t have the deep, creamy flavor of the Samovar nor does it taste as fresh (the samples were about the same age, and the Samovar may have been slightly older). It’s a lighter, sweet floral with the definite distinctive camomile notes. On the other hand, as I’ve said, it doesn’t taste old and dusty either.

Not a bad choice if one is in the market for a straight camomile. I, at this point, am not.

Boiling 8 min or more

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drank Yerba Mate by Samovar
939 tasting notes

This is my third try of straight yerba mate, the try by which I’m supposed to become used to the taste.

However, today, I am drinking this on the heels of eating a turkey wrap for lunch and perhaps because of the influence of the food, I’m getting a much more of a bitterness in the initial sip than I got the first couple of times. This quickly smooths out into the usual grassy, earthy, sweet dirt flavor, which is what I was expecting.

I do see that one could get used to this flavor, however, I don’t think it’s something I’m ever going to find appealing. I’ve seen mate described as having a flavor similar to green tea. I haven’t tasted a green tea with a flavor like this. I’ve also seen that this one is described as having a licorice flavor (in the product description). I really don’t taste licorice, though I’m not sure it would improve the flavor to my tastebuds. Perhaps it is what is keeping this from being overly bitter though.

On the upside, I’m now about halfway through the tin…

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Second to last SpecialTeas sample. Since I started today with an Earl Grey crème, I thought I’d continue with the vanilla theme.

There’s not a strong vanilla scent in the packet. In fact, it’s almost chocolaty (there’s that vanilla-chocolate continuum thing again). I can see the little pieces of vanilla bean in the tea. The liquor is a pretty russet color. I get mostly tea in the steeped aroma, and it’s a hearty smell, deep, a little woody, a little fruity.

I used a lot of leaf as directed on the packet. It said 2 level tsps. for 6 oz of water, and I used a little less than that but still more than I’d use ordinarily. The result is a very strong tea with a beany (as opposed to creamy) vanilla flavor around the edges. I think it would be better without so much leaf, and I intend to try it with a normal amount next time.

There’s a definite beany vanilla in the aftertaste, but it doesn’t envelope the tea the way I wish it would. It’s a fine line between overpowering the tea and underpowering it. This one seems underpowered in the vanilla department. It’s still tasty, but it’s not a top vanilla pick.

Maybe that will change with a different amount of leaf. We’ll see. As with all of these SpecialTeas samples, I’m mildly relieved that I didn’t fall in love, given that the company no longer exists.

Flavors: Vanilla

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 25 OZ / 750 ML

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drank Earl Grey Creme by Art of Tea
939 tasting notes

Another Earl from the stash. I reread my earlier note on this—there I said that the crème was the dominant flavor I tasted and that is still true. The bergamot is not strong at all, but it is clearly there because this doesn’t taste like a single flavor vanilla tea. I like Earl Grey crèmes in general because of the mildness the vanilla flavor adds, and this is a very enjoyable wake-up tea. Sort of like a gentle shake rather than a klaxon blaring in my ear.

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I’ve had other lemon-ginger combinations that I didn’t care for, but I was prepared to have a different experience as soon as I opened this up. The smell from the packet of combined lemon and ginger made me think of….. ginger ale! I got the same note from the steeped infusion, which yields a deep orange colored liquor.

I have family in Birmingham, Alabama, and in Birmingham they have a local ginger ale called Buffalo Rock. It’s really yummy, and what makes it so good is that it has a much more intense ginger flavor than standard ginger ales like Canada Dry. Here’s more info about it: http://www.buffalorock.com/golden-ginger-ale/

Drinking this, I was reminded of Buffalo Rock ginger ale, minus the carbonation. The ginger flavor is deep but not to the point of pain and it has a spicy kick in the aftertaste. The lemon is taste-able as well and is what lifts the flavor up and gives it an impression of effervescence. I really do feel like I’m drinking a good ginger ale without carbonation, but not flat.

I may be the only person who wrote a note about this that found the ginger more prominent than the lemon and I wonder whether this is either because of what ended up in my measuring spoon or the age of this tisane (which was in a sealed packet but still rather old). I hope that’s not the case though because I would drink this for the ginger flavor more than the lemon. I could see it being an excellent tummy settler, too.

The thing is, I don’t drink ginger ale that often. Mostly on airplanes or when traveling. I drink it about as often as I drink root beer, though I like it more. So I wonder whether I’d really drink this often enough to justify keeping it around. On the other hand, I’m regretting not ordering The Necessiteas Rootbeer Float so as to have that around.

Boiling 7 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 34 OZ / 1000 ML

It sounds interesting!


I’m interested to see whether it’s the same the next time or whether the lemon comes out more.

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Sipdown no. 82 of the year 2014. Two sipdowns today and neither were samples. Yay!

If I needed an easily portable jasmine green with a Chinese green tea base, I might consider buying this again. I am, however, slowly perfecting the balancing act of steeping loose leaf at work which is where I find myself in the most difficult conditions. Travel isn’t hard compared to work, though of course I don’t do any traveling that is too rustic.

Because I don’t really have the need of a bagged jasmine green I suspect I won’t buy this again. But I’m nostalgic about the sipdown because this was from my original “getting into tea” purchase and it’s tasty enough. More sipdowns of the original group on the horizon, which can only be a good thing…

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Another of the samples I have from the now-defunct SpecialTeas. Looks like there might be two more after this, a caramel one and a vanilla one.

The smell in the sample packet is a greenish coconut rather than a toasty one, but a nice greenish coconut—not overpowering, not artificial-smelling, not cloying. The liquor is a beautiful dark, cherry red with just a hint of brown. The aroma doesn’t have a lot of what I’d recognize as coconut—it’s sort of a generic flat sweetness over the tea base.

I may have overleafed slightly as I tend to use heaping teaspoons and now that I look at the instructions, this one suggests level teaspoons. But the result isn’t bitter or in any way unpleasant. There’s no harshness or bite to it. I will try with less leaf next time, though.

The flavor is definitely coconut. I usually prefer toasty coconut if given a choice, but I can also appreciate a greener, rawer coconut flavor. This is a good rawer coconut with a fruity note. It’s not too heavy or too sweet. The aftertaste has a bit of a cocoa or perhaps coffee quality to it, not too rich and not too light.

It has been a while since I’ve had a coconut flavored black of any stripe. I remember quite liking the ATR and the Premium Steap versions. Looking back at my notes, the Premium Steap is a toasty coconut while the ATR is more of the type in this blend. It has been so long since I had the ATR (and I had the foresight to finish up that sample rather than let it sit for years) that I can’t compare this to it. Interestingly, when I went to rate this, I decided on an 81. Then I looked at what I gave the ATR: also 81. As I sit here I can’t say whether these two compare that closely, but it’s almost an irrelevancy now since I couldn’t get more of this even if I wanted to. The good news then is that there is an alternative.

Flavors: Coconut

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 25 OZ / 750 ML

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drank Shanghai Orchid by Teavana
939 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 81 of the year 2014.

The BF really likes this one. It’s amusing how our tastes are almost never exactly aligned on tea. Then again, it pretty much reflects our tastes generally. When given a choice of dessert I will almost always pick chocolate and he’ll almost always pick fruit. Jack sprat and all that jazz.

In any case, I am not sorry to see it go, as is probably evident from my concerted effort to sip it down over the last few days. I can see how others would like it, though. And I’m glad I got the chance to try it as it allowed me to experiment with different time and temperature settings and also helped solidify some things about my personal taste when it comes to flavored white tea.

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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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