1116 Tasting Notes

drank Japanese Gyokuro by Sanctuary T
1116 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 19 of 2016 (no. 230 total). The fourth sample in the pure tea sampler.

I haven’t had that many gyokuros. They sort of intimidate me because they’re so delicate and expensive, and because they have such individuated preparation instructions. I’m not entirely sure I did this correctly as there were not instructions included with my sample, but I got the water temperature and steeping time instructions from the internet, and I steeped it in the gaiwan since it seems you’re supposed to watch the leaves unfurl. The main parameter I’m not sure about is the ratio of tea to water. I used the entire sample, which was about 6.5 grams, in 100ml. The instructions I’d read on the internet said you could do 1-2 grams per 30ml, so I think this worked out about right. I steeped uncovered.

But gee, I expected to see that neon green radioactive color I’d seen with other gyokuros and I didn’t get that at all. I just got a generic yellow green tea color. The aroma is sweetly vegetal as I expected, and the flavor is similar to the aroma.

Frankly, though, the flavor I’m getting isn’t all that different from what I get from sencha. I wonder whether it’s the age of the tea that’s the issue, or whether I just didn’t make it correctly. I will say that the last sip, after becoming quite cool, had a distinct seaweedy flavor that I am guessing is umami.

Not sure how to rate this so I’m not going to.

Flavors: Seaweed, Vegetal

140 °F / 60 °C 2 min, 0 sec

i might not try this tea then… thanks though for the heads up :)


I have only had the Teavana gyokuro, but I love it. I usually steep it for 2 minutes at 140-150 degree Fahrenheit, like you did with this one, and get what tastes like a vegetal sencha, only sweeter and smoother. This one wasn’t sweet?


It was, just not noticeably more than a sweet sencha.


Cool. I’ll have to branch out into other gyokuros (if I can find some at a reasonable price, haha). It would be interesting to see how much they vary from one company to the next.

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Sipdown no. 18 of 2016 (no. 229 total).

I tried this at a lower temperature today, 195F, in the gaiwan using my usual 15 seconds first steep with an additional 5 seconds for each subsequent one. It makes a subtle difference in the first steep, bringing out more of the toffee note, which is quite nice. It’s an interesting tea, not what I have come to expect from a tieguanyin, but tasty nevertheless.

The empty cup smells strongly of toffee. Yum.


ooooh! toffee! :D

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drank Earl Grey Black by Teavana
1116 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 17. of 2016 (no. 228 total).

It remains a solid Earl Grey in my estimation, and one I’d be happy to drink again. I may end up with a small Teavana order when I run out of tisanes as I really like their Rooibos Tropica and Strawberry Lemonade and I could see including this, though there’s not all that much else among their current offerings (that hasn’t been discontinued) that I like enough to order.

And somewhere along the line, I hit the 600 mark for individual teas rated. I meant to call it out when it happened, but I forgot about it, and it’s tricky because I have some things in my log that put the count off that I can’t get rid of.

I’ve also finished binge watching Veronica Mars. Whatever will I do? (Answer: watch it again. It’s amazing what you notice the second time around that you didn’t notice the first. Like that every time you see Aaron Echolls in his car, he’s listening to seventies crap pablum, which cracks me up. Ventura Highway, Me and You and a Dog Named Boo. ROF,L.)

It was great to watch while going through papers from the last two years in the straighten the home office project. Which I’m also happy to announce is done, except for the few straggling pieces of paper I’m finding as I move on to other rooms in the house. Almost done with the garage. Next stop, the family room and then the kids’ room. I may be able to get to all of that before I start working a week from next Monday.
Evol Ving Ness

I love this paper project of yours. I think I may join you. And yay you!

By the by, you might want to take a look at Zen Tea Life and their tisanes. I have become a big fan.


I feel so much better just from the clean up I’ve completed so far, so I highly recommend it!

Evol Ving Ness

Today I will begin. Thank you for getting me started.


Have you tried the limeade twist from Teavana? I like it as well as the strawberry lemonade.


Nope, don’t think I’ve tried that one. I did try a lime tea at one point, a Numi one, and it was so tart/sour it sort of put me off of lime flavored teas. Is the limeade very tart/sour?


be sure to see my review of hysons earl grey… did not taste like earl grey at all :/


The limeade twist is very citrus, but there’s a lot of candied fruit in it like many Teavana blends, so it’s not super sour imo. The Numi one is just dried lime, and omg. I agree. So sour.

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Sipdown no. 16 of 2016 (no. 227 total).

So this not so happy thing happened.

I was looking forward to trying this sample, which I got when I got my yixing, for days. I even remembered that I’d had peppermint in the Breville last night and did an extra long rinse to get rid of the peppermint aroma so as to be sure it wouldn’t affect the flavor of this sample.

Alas, despite my efforts, I taste peppermint in this. Ugh.

The leaves were so pretty, dark and golden, “superfine” in texture (they weren’t kidding), and smelled so sweet. But I taste peppermint.

I can sort of make out a sweet honey note and a bready note, but mostly I taste peppermint.

And I didn’t win the powerball. Dammit. When I bought my ticket, I asked the woman to sell me the winning ticket, but she didn’t. Fraud!

And then there is the double whammy of David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

Not rating this, because peppermint.

I think I may go back to bed now.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML
Christina / BooksandTea

Ah, that’s sad. This is one of my favourites. It’s definitely a keeper.

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drank Sweet Dreams by Todd & Holland
1116 tasting notes

Backlogging from last night. Another tisane sample cracked open.

The BF’s tummy was upset and this looked like a promising tummy soother. It seemed to work for him.

Flavor wise, it’s mostly peppermint. The ginger and lemon are discernible, more ginger than lemon, but it’s more about the mint than anything else.

It was nothing special flavorwise, but gets big points for being soothing in a medicinal sort of way.

Flavors: Ginger, Lemon, Peppermint

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

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drank Hojicha by Kusmi Tea
1116 tasting notes

I didn’t recall that I had a couple of Kusmi green teas. I found them when I did the “inventory.” This is the first time I’ve tasted this one.

The brown roasty leaves smelled like fried rice in the tin. The tea has a ricey, roasty aroma that runs right up to nutty.

The liquor is clear and a light yellow with a coppery tinge.

It’s been a while since I had a hojicha that didn’t seem to taste like dust because it was past its prime, but this one, fortunately, kept well in its multiple layers of sealant (interior cellophane, tin, exterior cellophane). It’s tasty; less ricey than its aroma and nuttier, with a caramel note that is subtle but pleasant.

I’ll be sad when I’ve sipped down my Japanese teas. I’m still hesitant to eat sushi or buy any food products from Japan. No one is talking about the nuclear reactor anymore but the last I heard, it was still giving radiation off into the ocean. I haven’t googled it recently, though.

Flavors: Caramel, Nutty, Rice, Roasted

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 500 OZ / 14786 ML

Much as I hate to give up Japanese sencha, I worry about this too, especially since there’s been no word of an actual solution to the problem, and it appears that there’s little news coverage simply because no one knows what to do about it. Also, some of the actions of the Japanese government seem pretty shady, I know they raised the limit of what they considered “acceptable” radiation levels.


Yunomi is safe. They don’t sell products grown in affected areas. Or, well… At least, I trust them if they say that. They’re a reputable company.

I mean, if you drink tea from China, you might be consuming lead. It’s sort of a…pick your poison if you’re a regular tea drinker — and then don’t worry too much about it. Just enjoy the tea.


(And I say this as someone with a compromised immune system, stage III chronic kidney failure and a neuromuscular degenerative disaese affecting my mobility. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t give medical advice… But I’ve sort of taken an attitude that I don’t worry about something unless solid scientific research tells me I must.)


Yeah, I’ve had this discussion before about pesticides, etc. Of course, there are all kinds of things that could be in tea. I just have a phobia about radiation but not about those other things. :-)


Ah, understandable. I think my main phobia with tea is things I can see. So after hearing about someone finding a tooth pick in their shou, I’m sort of terrified of…rodent remains or something. Which wouldn’t hurt me. I just wouldn’t drink the tea. It’s just… Some things kind of ruin a thing forever for me, you know?

I don’t worry as much about pesticides, I think…probably because I’d rather drink chemicals than animal manure when it’s used on organic tea.

Are there this many possible concerns with coffee, I wonder?

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drank Classic Black by Art of Tea
1116 tasting notes

Trying this hot today. Nice earthy smell to the dry leaves. Dark reddish mahogany liquor, and an amazing aroma. At first, it was deep and chocolately, and then became something fruity, plums I think. But such a strong, fruity aroma, almost as strong as I’ve smelled in some flavored blacks. Pretty wild.

The flavor is smooth, and fruity/chocolatey. Almost reminiscent of chocolate covered cherries, but not fakey or overly sweet in the way those cherries are. There is some sweetness in the aftertaste, though. An almost brown sugary one.

The only negative to my palate is a tiny bit of bitterness at the finish, but it’s not a huge downside. Just enough to keep this out of the mid-90s.

I like this one a lot. Tasty and also versatile as a cold brew. I expect it would be awesome in chai as well.

Flavors: Cherry, Chocolate, Plums, Sugar

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

Mmm. Sounds nice.

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Breaking open a new tisane sample. I’m getting close to the end of my tisanes, which will open up all sorts of buying opportunities. LOL

This is a chunky fruit blend. The orange “edges” are the biggest chunks, followed by the strawberries. I can see the lemongrass as well.

It has a pretty decent orange smell in the packet. Not medicinal, not tang-like. The hibiscus gives it a gorgeous garnet color. The aroma is orange, and pretty tempting.

The taste is pretty interesting. There’s a slight bitterness, but it doesn’t taste like it’s from the hibiscus. It tastes like it’s from the orange peel. I wouldn’t call it particularly sour, or particularly sweet, but it’s actually pretty pleasant. The orange flavor isn’t as strong as I’d like. I taste the strawberry in there, and I wish that I didn’t, or alternatively that it was billed as orange-strawberry. If there was more orange, I’d be totally sold on this.

I’m weird in that one of my favorite flavors for things is orange. Since I don’t often see orange flavored tisanes, this might be one for the buy pile.

Flavors: Hibiscus, Orange, Strawberry

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

I really like orange flavored things as well. A strawberry-orange tea sounds tasty.

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drank Pharoah's Dream by Sanctuary T
1116 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 15 of 2016 (no. 226 total). The last of the green tea sampler.

The dry leaves looked like the gunpowder of yesterday with some mint leaves among them and smelled quite minty. The steeped tea is a clear golden yellow and smells minty and grassy. It actually has a pretty interesting note, like very fresh water from a glacier or stream. I think that’s the mint at work as well.

It’s a nice Moroccan mint tea, refreshing, light and tasty. Good on a throat that isn’t yet back to where it should be.

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Mint, Vegetal

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

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drank Classic Black by Art of Tea
1116 tasting notes

A name like Classic Black sort of begged for being made into a cold brew, so my first encounter with this puppy is in icy mode. And it is, in fact, an excellent cold tea. There’s a softness and smoothness to the mouthfeel that is quite nice and though the flavor doesn’t call attention to itself, there’s some complexity. A touch of sweetness, a touch of fruitiness, and much “essence of teaness.”

I am looking forward to trying this one hot.

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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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