1120 Tasting Notes


Sipdown no. 50 for the year 2014. I wanted something special for the 50-mark, and I don’t believe I’ve written any notes on Red Blossom teas before.

I should mention that I can’t be absolutely certain that this note is about this tea. The sample is in a silver packet, and it says “Gold Thread” on it, with some characters on the next line, and then the words “Black Tea.” But there is no company name. I did order from Red Blossom, though, and theirs are the only teas named Gold Thread in the Steepster database. A cursory Google search brings up only the Red Blossom products in the first couple of pages. So I’m 99% sure this is theirs.

When I poured the leaves from the sample packet, I could already tell I was likely to enjoy this. The twisty, golden leaves are lovely and the smell of the dry leaf is that malty Yunnan smell I love so much.

I checked the Red Blossom web site and used their steeping suggestions for time and temp, albeit for the Gold Thread Reserve. This was a bit of a challenge because the sample is only enough for 1.5 cups and the Breville makes a minimum of 2. I used less water than the minimum but the measurement wasn’t overly precise.

This yielded a peachy yellow liquor, very light in color. The aroma is tantalizingly malty. I am wondering whether I should have steeped this longer just because I’m used to longer steeping for black teas. I’m getting an interesting, sort of salty marine note with an undercurrent of malt. I am not tasting the orange or yam notes in the description, but there’s a really pleasant mouth feel-soft and silky, and the brown sugar comes out some as the tea cools.

I steeped it again at a full four minutes just for contrast. And yes, this is more like what I expected. A darker liquor, reddish-orange, and a deeper flavor. Here is where I start to get something like yam, a hint of starchy vegetable. And if I cross my eyes and squint, I can almost get to orange. In any case, I taste what I think is what they mean by orange. A medium note on the front end the ends as a high note on the back end.

The wet leaves have a fascinating, spicy aroma-I’m reminded of caraway seeds and pepper. Mine don’t look as blond as the picture, they’re more of a light olive green (no. 2 says “brown”), but long and pretty.

I wish I’d gone with a longer steep the first time as now I’ll never know what that would have been like. Red Blossom does not have this listed on their web site at present, though they have the reserve version. I’ll stick it on the shopping list just in case it ever comes back. I’d love to experiment with this one some more.

ETA: No. 2 says, “I love it. I think it’s better than the flavored ones.” (He tried the American Tea Room Caramel this morning, too.)

Also, after comparing the sample packaging of other samples to the database here, I’m now sure this is from Red Blossom.

200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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drank Caramel by American Tea Room
1120 tasting notes

Against my better judgment, I am steeping according to the directions on the sample packet. Five minutes. I suspect in subsequent tastings I’ll back down to four.

I like the addition of the little caramel bits to the mix. Gives it some visual interest. As I’m reading about this tea in the description here on Steepster, I realize I’ve already had a preparation fail. I did not shake the packet to assure consistent flavor across infusions. I suppose that may mean I’ll be writing an entirely different note in the days to come…

There’s definitely a caramel aroma coming from the dry leaves in the packet. Not so much after steeping, though. I mostly smell a sweet “tea” smell. The liquor does have a bit of cloud to it. I didn’t quite get garnet in color, more like a chestnut.

I’ve had other caramel teas and I tend to like caramel flavored teas as a category in general-even in teas such as oolong. I haven’t had another recently to compare this to, but it has an interesting quality that I’m not sure I’ve experienced in other caramels. There’s sort of a milky flavor to the caramel, like milk chocolate, only milk caramel if that makes sense. I get little pops of caramel flavor from time to time which must be from the little caramel bits saturating their immediate vicinity in the tea with their flavor.

I agree with others that this is a rather gentle caramel as they go. It doesn’t have that roasty carmelized sugar flavor that I expect in a caramel flavored tea; it’s more of a plain white sugar sweetness with flashes of caramel intensity from the caramel bits. It has a nice, sweet aftertaste with a hint of caramel to it.

I have to try it after shaking the packet though, before I reach any firm conclusions. Not rating for now.

200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec

i LOVE caramel flavor in tea!! this sounds amazing… even if it’s a gentle caramel, that still sounds exciting lol…granted, something packed with caramel punch would also be welcome by me, i’m such a gourmand tea lover! u are single-handedly responsible for me putting this on my shopping list.

also: preparation fail…lol


Two caramels I really love are the Kusmi and the Dammann Freres caramel toffee.

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drank Honey Pear by Golden Moon Tea
1120 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 49 for the year 2014. A sample. Pear!

I must say that this sipdown business is quite enjoyable. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Okay, a small one. But I can use all the feelings of accomplishment I can get. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to be making a huge dent in my collection yet, but that’s just because for every sample I sip down I find another one I add to the pile. LOL.

In looking back at my first note about this, I see that I said I was confused about this one enough that I wanted to buy another sample when I placed my order. Indeed, that is what came to pass. I placed a mega-order with Golden Moon after doing my initial sample taste-through. Of the 31 samples, I think I bought close to 20 of them in a full size. There were only a couple of GM teas I completely scratched off the list. I can’t remember what those were but think the licorice was one. The rest were in this category-not sure, try again.

So here I go, trying again. Last time around I steeped this in boiling water for 3 minutes. This time I’m going to try it at a slightly lower temperature and a little longer. Teabird quite liked this one judging from her note and she steeped at 205 for 3:15 (she also suggested steeping more than once, which I will try). ifjuly also liked this and used boiling water but went to 4 minutes. The sample packet suggests boiling at 4-5 minutes, but I generally find going more than 4 minutes for black teas is suboptimal. I’m going to try 205 for 4 minutes.

This time around, I am getting much more fruit aroma from the dry leaves. It’s pear-like, in an apply sense. There’s also a fair amount of honey-pollen to the fragrance. I’m getting less floral and more fruit/honey this time around.

The steeped tea’s aroma definitely has a pear scent. I also smell honey, and I note that the first time, I thought the honey dominated. Not so here. The liquor color is, again, a honey color.

The flavor is again, very interesting. Yes, it’s definitely honey pear. But not consistently. Sometimes it’s a little more like apple, sometimes it’s a little more like pollen, and in some sips it is none of the above. I’m getting a little bit of bite in my throat from the tea base, too, which isn’t my favorite sensation.

Second steep: In general, mellower. The flavors do seem to blend together somewhat better this time. I’m getting that waxy mouthfeel I got during my original tasting.

I think what I’m looking for in a pear tea is more an essence of fresh, ripe pears, unmitigated by any other flavors, such as honey.

After giving this a good second run, I’m ready to conclude it isn’t for me. If someone served it to me, I’d drink it and enjoy it, but I don’t see it being something I’d reach for if I kept it in the house. Bumping the rating down a tad to remind me it’s not a reorder for me.

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Having said goodbye to the triple yesterday, I’ve moved to Mr. (Ms.?) double for this morning.

The first thing I wanted to check was the color, because I had this weird experience where the tea liquor seemed to get darker from triple to single bergamot versions, but then I decided it was probably either a fluke or just an inability to remember exactly since I didn’t put them side by side. The liquor in this one, today, looks the same color as in the triple version yesterday, or close enough to same to make me think that really was just a weird one-off color thing.

The tea base in this one tastes to me a bit richer and sweeter than I’d remembered it, more like the base in the single version. I don’t know whether all three versions share a base. I assumed they did at first, but there’s no reason that should be true.

However, it does make sense that the “lighter” the bergamot, the more the base would shine through regardless of whether it’s the same. That’s what I’m getting here.

Conclusion: the triple bergamot’s bergamot isn’t so much stronger as generally “more” in terms of balance between bergamot flavor and tea flavor, while the double lets the tea flavor through a medium amount and the single lets it through the most.

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drank King of Fruits by Lupicia
1120 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 48 for the year 2014. A sample of loose tea in a single serving packet rather than a teabag. Guessing at water temp, and I also think I slightly oversteeped though I was shooting for 1.5 minutes.

Sometimes I wonder how I managed to live as long as I have on this planet, have been reasonably well-educated, etc. and not have knowingly eaten certain things. One of these is durian. I’ve heard of it, but never tried it. I looked it up and found a lot of references to “the world’s stinkiest fruit.”

The dry leaf smells like a forest—like pine or fir trees. Steeped, there’s more of a melon-y aroma, sort of like… mango? Not a lot of aroma attributable to the green tea base. The liquor is orangish-yellow.

The flavor is not tart so much as a tad bitter; to carry on with the tree description, it rather reminds me of the bitterness in the flavor of pine needles when I crunched them between my teeth as a kid. There’s a sort of mellowness underneath the bitterness, though that isn’t entirely unpleasant.

Not really for me, but I’m glad I got a chance to try it and I’d also now like to try an actual durian.

1 min, 30 sec

i should try it someday :P about the pine needle taste, have you ever tried pine needle tea?


Nope. Is it good?


i wouldn’t know either. :( but we should try it someday. :D the natives drank a lot of pine needle tea

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I had a cup of this next to my bed when I fell asleep last night. This morning, I took a sip of it cold and it was surprisingly good so I poured it into a tumbler and brought it with me on my way down to work.

Not that this matters much since SpecialTeas is no more, but cold this has a really nice, light, lemon vanilla flavor with no rooibos woodiness, at least not until the very last few sips (little fragments of rooibos made it through the Breville filter and collected at the bottom of the tumbler, resulting in more noticeable rooibos flavor right at the end).

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Sipdown no. 47 for the year 2014. 50 is in sight! I should definitely make it over the weekend, maybe even by the end of the day.

Under the light of my desk lamp, where I ordinarily sit when on the computer, the liquor today is redder than it looked in sunlight yesterday, closer to the way I described the liquor of the Double Bergamot. I think there must have been a steeping fluke on my first tasting that resulted in a lighter, yellower liquor.

In any case, though my Earl Grey pantheon is full, I will enjoy this while it lasts.


You have a pantheon? Is there a single favorite or maybe a top three? I’d love to be an Earl Grey monogamist but haven’t started looking for ‘the one’ just yet.


Haha. Yeah. My top EGs are Samovar’s EG and EG Lavender (which I don’t think they make anymore so I will be substituting the American Tea Room lavender) and then I have a vanilla, a rose, a chocolate, etc. and some runners up as well in those categories. Also like the ATR Lady Grey. The one thing I don’t have is a decaf but I’m not sure I need one. I don’t ever feel like drinking EG except in the morning.


what’s your favourite vanilla EG/EGC?


Thank you! Those are vanilla, rose, and chocolate EGs? That sounds terrific too. So much for monogamy.


I’ll jump in with a suggestion too, since I have found “the one” for me: Zen Tea Earl Grey Cream. So good. But then again, I’ve never had a pantheon of Earls in the house, so what do I know, lol!


I see that my current favorite by rating is the Upton Vanilla.


But now I want to try the Zen!


But of course you do…


Jumping in to second the Zen Tea EGC! Two of my favorite blends are Harney & Sons’ Tower of London and Diamond Jubilee as far as fruit EGs go, but Zen’s is my favorite cream that I’ve tried. I’m still looking for “the one” myself, though, so I’m taking notes on these suggestions!

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Sipdown no. 46 for the year 2014, with a caveat. This is the only teabag I have of this. It’s from my work stash. But I may have some Maeda-en Sencha in loose form at home.

This is a solid sencha. It’s everything I have come to expect from sencha plus a little more. The flavor isn’t bitter, except for a bit of grassiness that seems to be a characteristic of sencha. On the contrary, I find it to have a bit of sweetness. There is some roastiness as others have said, but to my tastebuds it’s only enough to make the suggestion and not nearly as prevalent as in the genmaicha or the houijicha. It gives this a unique character. I find it quite tasty.

1 min, 30 sec

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drank After 5 by Lupicia
1120 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 45 for the year 2014. Another teabag from the work stash. Despite the temperature given on the slider, I really can’t say that’s the steeping temperature because yet again I forgot the thermometer.

The teabag has a gentle minty fragrance, and the steeped tea has a hint of mint to it as well. There’s something sweet and green tea buttery underneath the mint. Tea liquor is the color of melted butter with a slight green tinge.

The mint is clearly present but not overpowering in the flavor and is a nice blend that reminds me of why I like the blend of spearmint and peppermint in Tazo Refresh. The spearmint mellows the peppermint to keep it from being too much like an Altoid. It does have something reminiscent of a Double Mint gum, which may be because there’s no mediating influence of tarragon as in the Refresh. The green tea’s flavor is not something I can easily separate out, but I do get a buttery, soft flavor to the overall tea that I attribute to the green tea.

It’s tasty enough, but for a green mint, my heart belongs to Samovar’s Moorish Mint.

180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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I brought this with me on the drive down to work today. It’s pretty much the same as my assessment in my initial note, with the exception of the description of the liquor. I described that as dark amber. It’s really darker than that, more like a medium maple syrup color. I’m looking at it through glass as I was in the original note but under different light, and I think it is in fact a somewhat different color than the double and single versions, which looked darker to me.


morgana, i would like your help :) the smell of earl grey tea, is the main aroma of it (or the most powerful smell), lavender?


Not usually. There are Earl Grey Lavenders that are scented with lavender, but the basic Earl Grey is black tea plus bergamot which is an orangy citrus fruit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergamot_orange


That’s it?? I thought earl grey’s were perfumed with potent doses of lavender after my nightmarish experience with the Earl of Tazo!

well that’s a relief..

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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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