951 Tasting Notes


I was sick for a couple of weeks starting about three weeks ago, and guess what. The 4 year old now has what I had. He’s getting better; today’s the first time in four days he hasn’t had fever. But as a result of his being home sick, and me just now being well after a pretty nasty bug, I’m pretty emotionally spent. I’ve been trying to work from home while attending to him, but I haven’t been exercising or paying attention to what I eat and I feel bloated and my energy level is like, nowhere, man. I haven’t even felt like making tea. Though if someone made some for me I’d drink it.

I thought this might be a good choice to break me back in since Kusmi tends to be fairly mild. I have a little sample tin of this, and they fill these to the brim. When I stick the spoon into these little tins I always feel somehow like I’m loading a pipe with tobacco. I have to use the fingers of the non-spoon hand to keep the tea in the spoon while I’m trying to get it out of the tin without boosting tea over the edge and onto the counter.

In the tin, the leaves have that spidery, Ceylon look to them. They smell slightly smoky, and mysteriously, slightly sharp like an oolong or a darjeeling. There’s no maltiness that I can detect.

The tea’s aroma, though, does have some maltiness. I’m guessing there’s some Assam in here. It also has a fruity smell, slightly berry-ish. But also some stone fruit notes? It doesn’t quite steep to the Ceylon red/orange color that’s so gorgeous, but it just needs a drop or too more red to get there.

The flavor is fairly mild, fairly smooth, and fairly evenly distributed between a sweet-ish malty note, a smoky note and a sharp fruity note. I wonder if there is oolong in this? This isn’t called “Russian Caravan” but the Russian nomenclature makes me wonder if that is where the sharp fruity note is coming from. The smokiness isn’t enough to seem like it comes from lapsang. It might be from Keemun instead.

The tea is medium-light bodied with a clean feel to it. I’m liking this just fine as a late breakfast blend. I really don’t know what to do about the breakfast blend problem, though. I like so many of them, I really no longer have any excuse to keep adding to the list. I have to come up with some way to differentiate between them and zero in on a few true favorites. Sigh.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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Decupboarding, with no plans to restock. I was glad for the experience, but I’m even gladder that the tin is finally kaput. I think I’m pretty close to settling on some staple Earl Greys. I’m not quite finished playing the field, but I have a feeling the end, for the most part is near, with the occasional new thing to try now and then. In any case, this won’t be a staple.

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Pretty sure this is the last fruit mix in my herbal sampler. I think the only sample left after this is lemongrass. It’s pretty much indistinguishable from the other mixes in what it looks like dry, but it does have a rather distinctive sweet, berry smell to the dry mix.

It steeps to the dark magenta I associate with hibiscus. It’s aroma is not strong, and not very distinctive. Apple may be the main component, with some hibiscus earthiness.

It’s tart, but not too tart and it has a countervailing sweetness that must be from the apples and berries. My main complaint with it is that I expected a stronger raspberry flavor given the name.

There is a little raspberry, most noticeable in the aftertaste, but it isn’t nearly as strong as I’d want in a mix that has raspberry in the name. Though this has a pleasant taste, it’s not very distinctive, and I wouldn’t say it’s better than the first two fruit mixes in the sampler. It also doesn’t surpass the Blood Orange, which I found disappointing for essentially the same reason — not enough orange. This has an even bigger not enough raspberry problem, so I can’t rate it as high as the Blood Orange.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Violet by Kusmi Tea
951 tasting notes

This is the first violet tea I’ve had. I don’t ordinarily think of violet as something edible, and I don’t think I’ve tasted it before though I’ve seen those violet candies in the little tin. I like the fragrance of violet in soap, but I tend to associate it with bath products rather than food. I haven’t tasted the violet candies precisely because I expect them to taste soapy, and that’s my primary concern going in to tasting this tea.

I also have to confess that I get confused between violet and lavender because they’re both purple and both flowers. I know this doesn’t make much more sense than getting confused between a peach and a plum, but there you have it. The way I get confused is that when I sit and try to conjure the smell of lavender, I’m pretty sure I can do it, but I conjure the same thing for violet. But of course, when I actually smell something scented violet, it clearly is different from lavender.

In the tin, the primary scent is floral. I don’t smell tea, I smell violet. Fortunately, it’s not soapy in the least. It’s like a little bouquet.

The tea’s aroma is violet around the edges, also not soapy, with a warm, slightly sweet tea in the middle.

The flavor is much more floral all around than the aroma. It’s like biting the heads off the flowers that made up the little bouquet. ;-) But it’s surprisingly nice. It’s a little frou frou but, I think, less than rose can be. Violets in general are less intense smelling than roses to me, and this is less intense as well without any of the oily quality that rose flavors can have sometimes. As it cools, the floral aspect becomes deeper and richer, and though I don’t think it crosses the line, I could see it becoming soapy if it were allowed to become room temperature. I’d advise drinking before allowing it to cool too much.

I’m torn on this one. I like it, but I have lavender teas and rose teas and jasmine teas and osmanthus teas and lychee teas and I wonder whether I really need another floral tea. But since when has reason prevailed in the decision to acquire tea?

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec

Ooo – I want to try this one! I love violets!


oooooooohhhhh :)


I love the imagery of biting the heads of a bouquet or violets :P

This is a Must Try tea for me!

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I’m more than three quarters through this tin now and I’m lowering the rating because it hasn’t grown on me during that time. Not only has it not grown on me, it’s actually something I don’t particularly look forward to drinking. It’s not a drastic thing, it’s just a sort of internal monologue that goes something like: oh, ok, guess I’ll have that and finish it up… when’s it going to be gone again? A couple more pots maybe? What can I have afterwards that’s better?

Seriously, I think it may be that I’m just not getting into the darjeeling aspect. I may be too much of a purist to appreciate an Earl Grey that is made of anything other than a fully oxidized black tea base. I suspect that were that the base, the amount of bergamot I’m tasting would seem significantly less and that would put it right about where I want it.


I know that feeling exactly!!—the need to just “finish up” tea.

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drank Earl Grey by Kusmi Tea
951 tasting notes

On the heels of the Mariage Freres Earl Grey Imperial, which I’m pretty close now to drinking my way through, the Kusmi seemed at first a welcome respite. In the sample tin, the fragrance is of bergamot, but also of a strong spicey smell I can’t identify. Pepper maybe. Yeah, I think that’s it. The spicy smell is more prominent than the bergamot in the smell of the dry leaves.

Steeping brings out the aroma of the tea more than the spice or the bergamot. The pepperiness would suggest Yunnan, but apart from that it smells quite like the aroma I associate with Keemuns (no smoke, but there’s a baked goods quality to it). Liquor is a dark amber, sort of a brandy color. I had high hopes that this would be a nice, mildly bergamot flavored, Earl Grey.

But alas. The flavor is pretty interesting. But it’s not what I’d expect from an Earl Grey, even one that is relatively easy on the bergamot. To my tastebuds it has a stronger flavor of pepper than of bergamot. I do get a shadow of citrus, but it’s not readily identifiable as bergamot.

It’s not bad, it’s just not what I am looking for in an Earl Grey. If I stand back and judge it without the Earl Grey label, it’s still not something I could see myself picking to drink over other blends. In the end, I’m having to rate it lower than the Mariage Freres because at least the Mariage Freres, as much as it is not a favorite, is definitely an Earl Grey.

Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

Pepper? Have you tried any of their other russian blends that seem to be more or less based on EGs? If yes, did you find those pepper-y too?
I’m rather intrigued by this pepper aspect, even though I’m not at all an EG fan. I think I’ll have to get me a sample tin of this. That shouldn’t be difficult to find around these parts.


The only other ones I’ve had so far have not seemed peppery enough for me to notice (Anastasia and St. Petersburg). Yeah, I thought the peppery thing was pretty weird. It took me a while to figure out what I was tasting!

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drank Tangerine by Adagio Teas
951 tasting notes

Finishing up this sample tonight. I am not sorry to see it go.

I never got over the sort of “essence of rodent cage” aspect, which was unfortunate. Tangerine is a really great flavor and it would be excellent to have a really good tangerine flavored tea. It’s just that this wasn’t that.

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drank Samovar by Kusmi Tea
951 tasting notes

It’s more than slightly smoky. But that’s a good thing.

The leaves have a lapsangy smell to them, but the aroma is milder. It isn’t tarry or resiny. It’s smoky but on the gentler side of smoky.

It’s a surprisingly chewy feeling tea. Pretty thick on the mouthfeel. A nice smokiness in the flavor, but also has a shining tea note coming through. Like a light at the bottom of a dark well. And some degree of sweetness, though not as much as some other smokies.

I’m liking the aftertaste. I was a little worried after reading Angrboda’s note that I’d taste ashtray, but fortunately I’m not experiencing ashtray here. The thickness of the mouthfeel translates into a coated feeling in the mouth, but not in a clingy way. It’s kind of interesting and not unpleasant. The aftertaste is surprising. I wouldn’t expect anything fresh about it, but somehow that’s what I get. Like the taste of cool air on an autumn night when fires are going in neighborhood fireplaces. And a little sweet burst at the end.

Smoky teas, like black teas in general, are another area I’m having a hard time narrowing down to a stable of staples. I haven’t yet met one I detested, which makes it hard. I think in general I tend to prefer the softer smokies rather than the straight lapsangs, though there are times when I can go for the resiny, tarry, pineyness as well.

I can’t rightly remember how this compares to other Russians, though I know it isn’t up there with the A&D Caravan. It’s probably about on a par with the H&S. I must try that again to see.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

I’ve changed my mind about the ashes, actually. Or maybe I’ve learned to brew it better. Or maybe I’ve got used to it. Acquired taste and what not. At any rate, I don’t find the aftertaste as annoying as I did at first, although it’s still enough to make me not sure I’d get a replacement tin.


I’m getting ready to try H&S Russian Caravan, don’t know what to expect in terms of smokiness. For light smoky flavor I do like their Queen Catherine and Supreme Breakfast. If you want, I could send you some. I also like Wuyi Shan Lapsang, which is only lightly smoky.


Aww, thanks for the offer. I already have some QC and SB though!


No problem!

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drank Blood Orange by Adagio Teas
951 tasting notes

The fragrance out of the sample tin (another Adagio Herbal Sampler sample) is of sweet orange. Borderline baby asperiny, but not really quite crossing the line, which is nice. I like, v. much. Big pieces of orange peel in the chunky fruit mix.

Garnet colored liquor. Hibiscusy aroma with an orange overtone.

Flavor is tarter than anticipated (and I brewed at double strength). There’s a very big rose hip constituency here. Second flavor is probably the orange, but for a tisane with this name I’d want it in first position. Third, a hibiscus/apple tie.

Jaded me, not overly excited by fruit blends these days, is willing to give it another try but as much as I hoped it would surpass the Berry Blast, it’s lack of orange pow is holding it back.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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The last time I had this, I liked it. But in the days after I had it I wondered whether I thought I liked it more than I actually did. It was so very different from most other things I’ve tried in tea land that when I stood back from the experience I wondered whether it was infatuation rather than true love.

Furthermore, it was abundantly clear from my last foray that I had overdone the amount of chai given the spiciness quotient of this tea. I like spicy, but as I said in a previous note, this isn’t just spicy. It is way way way way spicy. In retrospect, the degree of spiciness was probably more than I could reasonably stand on an ongoing basis. I liked the first experience but on second thought I had no real desire to repeat it.

This time around I’ve gotten closer to an optimum mix. In fact, this would probably serve if i can’t optimize it any further. Two cups of water, 2 tablespoons of sweetener, one tablespoon chai, three tablespoons Kusmi Chocolate (not the spicy, the regular). Boil until water mostly gone, then add two cups milk. Bring to boil, immediately turn off heat, let steep for 10 minutes or more. Strain and serve.

This is still at least one “way’s” worth of spicy, but it isn’t burning my mucous membranes and making my eyes water as I recall it doing last time. It’s really much more enjoyable to me this way. The chocolate in the Kusmi seems to enhance the chocolate in the chai, too. It smelled incredibly chocolatey while it was bubbling on the stove, and it’s a really delicious, creamy consistency with a lot more chocolate flavor than I recall it having last time. Which, seeing as that was what I found the major drawback of this tea at the time, is a particularly awesome discovery.

Excuse me, I must go now and enjoy my very chocolatey version of Mayan Chocolate Chai.


I do the more basic version of steeping so I can’t compare exactly, but could also have been an exceptionally spicy or ill blended pouch. Don’t get me wrong, this is spicy lol- but last nite I had a cup that almost knocked me on my face which is saying a lot. It was right before bed and the cayenne, not the caffeine, was to blame for keeping me awake lol. I found your 2nd sentence funny- that’s the whole point of 52 teas lol:)

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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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