954 Tasting Notes

drank Samovar by Kusmi Tea
954 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
954 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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drank Lychee Black by Samovar
954 tasting notes

Second Samovar sample of the day. I’m now out of Samovar black tea samples to try until I come out of lockdown and can order again. It looks like there are only two that I haven’t tasted yet.

Does anyone else occasionally look at their tea log and go “wow, I can’t believe there are even that many teas in the world, let alone that I’ve tasted X number of them, let alone that I’ve written about Y number of them?” It’s a little mind boggling to me sometimes.

Wow, love the smell of the dry leaves. Floral. My first thought was lavender for some reason. Maybe my smeller is still off from being sick. It’s really rose.

The tea is a little too red to be called mahogany, but otherwise pretty close. And it has a sweet, fruity, floral aroma that is difficult to pin down. I’ve only had lychees in restaurants and I don’t really care for them as dessert offerings, but I like what their flavor does in this tea. It gives a sweetness to the tea that is a departure from the usual malty sweetness I get in Samovar black teas as it is lighter and fruitier. Nectar-like, really. There’s a slight nuttiness to it too, which is consistent with my experience of lychee in general.

This is one I’d like to drink next to some other rosy florals for comparison purposes. It seems to be a bit more subtle in its floral qualities than some others, which I like, and though I’m not an overly enthusiastic fan of the lychee by itself, at the risk of repeating myself, I will say I do like what it does in this tea.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

That is exactly what I think every time I look at TEB’s tea log! Truly she is an example to us all.


“wow, I can’t believe there are even that many teas in the world, let alone that I’ve tasted X number of them, let alone that I’ve written about Y number of them?”

Yep. Gotta try em all!


You have no idea how many times I have promised myself, " I will not buy more tea. Not for a long time." And then…something happens. A Harney special, a sale at Southern Season. I mean well! My hubby says I need an intervention…but I don’t want one! I looked over my list of teas in the house at present and couodn’t find a single one I wanted to get rid of! Even the ones I didn’t like as well, I keep thinking that maybe I should prepare it a little differently and then I will LOVE it!

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drank Lemon Yunnan by Samovar
954 tasting notes

Time to break out a few more Samovar samples. Since it’s still early, I’m going with a black tea to start.

Green and black are one of my favorite color combinations ever. It was the color combo for my bridesmaids’ dresses back in the married era, though the green in those was more of an emerald. In any case, I love the contrast, both in the color and in the texture of the lemongrass and the black tea leaves.

The smell I get from the dry mixture is not so Pledgy as it is a fairly sharp, high lemon note. It has a sort of powdery feel in my nasal passages, and between the sharpness and the feel I’m thinking dry lemon drink mix, minus sweetener. Crystal Light maybe.

This tones down and mellows quite a bit during steeping, and the tea’s aroma ends up being a wonderful combination of that Samovar black tea smell I love so much and lemon. The sweet maltiness of the tea combines with the lemon to give it an almost lemon drop smell. Wow.

The liquor is interestingly cloudy, which must be from the lemongrass as I haven’t seen this in a Samovar black tea before. It’s on the lighter side of tea colored. I may be drinking this before optimum steeping time and I am going to resteep longer (Samovar black teas are the only ones I’ve found that resteep reasonably well).

Hmm. This wasn’t at all what I expected this to taste like from the aroma. It seems to me to be balanced more toward lemon than toward tea. The tea flavor comes through mostly as a dip toward the tail end of the sip, kind of like that finger game I play with my kids… Johnny Johnny Johhny Johhny Whoops Johnny Whoops Johnny… it’s the Whoops slide down the tip of the kid’s pointer with the mom’s finger and back up to the tip of the kid’s thumb. Except for the Whoops, all the Johnnys are pretty heavily lemon-weighted over an undercurrent of a sort of dusky tea, which would probably taste a lot sweeter than it does if not for the lemon.

Now. You might think from what I just said that I’m disappointed in this tea. Maybe I am, just a teensy bit, because I had hoped for more of that black tea flavor that I love so much with the lemon as an accent rather than a main flavor. But it’s really not disappointment so much as that I’m a little taken aback and not sure what to make of this because it’s so different from what I’d expected.

I also wonder whether my sample was skewed a little more heavily toward lemon than would normally be true. I just took a look at what others have said about this and I seem to be in a minority in thinking this is heavily weighted toward lemon, though it seems Ricky’s experience of this came close to mine.

So now I’m faced with a big question mark about whether I like this enough to add it to a future order. I think the answer might be yes, but a cautious yes. I need to taste this again a few times now that I know what to expect. Knowing what to expect, I’d be able to analyze the flavor in context a bit better and see how I think I’d feel about multiple drinkings.

I really need about three more sample tries to be sure, but by that time I might as well bite the bullet and order a small tin, no?

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

I’m thinking this may be good in a marinade for lemon pepper chicken…

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drank Berry Blast by Adagio Teas
954 tasting notes

The second fruit mix of my herbal sampler.

Interesting. The Fruit Medley has one more type of berry in it than the Berry Blast, otherwise they have the same berries. But the first ingredient in the Berry Blast is black currants. Are those considered berries? In the sample tin I smell hibiscus, and something winey, which is likely the currants. The mixture is similar in consistency to the Fruit Medley but more monochromatic. It’s all variations on a theme of dark red/purple.

This one does give me the dark magenta liquor of hibiscus mixtures, and a very hibiscusy aroma along with the wine I got from the dry mix and a sweet berry note.

The flavor is a little disappointing compared to the aroma. (I must confess, though, to having had to drop a couple of Ricolas to ward off a coughing frenzy, and I am still getting a residual Ricola head-butt in the back of my mouth. No worries, though. I have enough for at least one more sampling and can revise if necessary after tasting with a purer palate.) Mostly, there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it. I used about twice as much of the mix as I would tea per cup, and it still isn’t delivering a deep flavor.

It’s not overly tart despite the presence of hibiscus (after two samples I’m coming to think that Adagio, at least, has got the proportionality of hibiscus to other flavors right in fruit tisanes), but it’s not quite as sweet as the Fruit Medley. I’m guessing because Berry Blast, mysteriously, has no strawberry where the Fruit Medley does. Dried strawberries should be granulated and sold as sweeteners. Really.

I was hoping for a pronounced wine-like flavor from the currant. I remember really liking the Teas Etc. currant black tea because of it’s red wine without the alcohol flavor. But though I get a wine fragrance here, I’m getting only a slight bit of wine taste, mostly right at the beginning of the sip.

Will have to taste minus the Ricola and see how that changes my current impression, which is that this is good but given that I seem to be off fruit tisanes, not destined for an order any time soon. I’d put the Fruit Medley ahead of this, most likely, and I’m not rushing out to get that one either.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

Yep it’s a species of Ribes berry native to central and northern Europe and northern Asia and is a perennial. That’s one of the things I don’t like about Adagio- too many duplicates/near duplicates- this and fruit medley, green chai and spiced green, and masala chai and oriental spice.

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drank Fruit Medley by Adagio Teas
954 tasting notes

Trying this with more of the fruit mixture to see how it compares with last night’s endeavor.

As expected, the liquor is a darker red. But it doesn’t approach the magenta of most hibiscus blends I’ve tried.

It’s tastier with more of the mixture, but the overall tenor of the flavor is pretty much the same. The berry keeps the mix from being too tart, and the hibiscus isn’t strong. It’s really not at all bad.

Though I’d drink it again, it’s not going to be on the top of my order list. I’m just more into true teas these days, I guess. There are a few fruit mixtures that I’ll probably keep in stock, but others will likely be a somewhat impulsive occasional buy. I’d guess that would be true of this one.

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drank Peppermint by Teavana
954 tasting notes

This is a July tea of the month on the classic plan.

This is my fourth peppermint (in my official tasting memory) though I’m sure I must have had others along the way. I’ve lived too long for that not to be the case.

I’ve had Bigelow Peppermint, Upton and Adagio. The Bigelow was pre-Steepster, but I’ve written notes on the others. (By the way, does anyone know why Bigelow sells almost no loose leaf tea? Seems like an odd choice. They have 10 or so kinds in tins on their web site, but mostly they seem just to have bags. Hmm.)

I’m trying this one straight up tonight, and it’s quite nice. Very minty, but not in that mouth full of dirt way I got from the Upton. There’s a turn to the sip that makes it seem it’s heading into bitterness, but it bounces back up before ever dipping that far, buoyed by a very refreshing, intense and volatile peppermint.

One thing it doesn’t seem to have that I’d like it to: a natural sweetness. The Adagio had that and I quite liked it. Instead, this one has a tiny bit of plantiness and a very long lasting mint echo, rather like the aftermath of an Altoid or a mouthwash or something very strongly minty. Not to be confused with fake. I don’t get fake at all.

On balance I’d probably seek out the Adagio were I to choose, because I really did like the sweetness of that one. But this is much nicer than the Upton. Which I’m now wondering more than ever whether I got a bad batch of.

Boiling 5 min, 15 sec

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drank Cucumber White by Tazo
954 tasting notes

Well, there’s good news, and there’s bad news. Which do you want first? (Say the good news. You should always get good news first. Much better that way, no risk of the news giver dropping dead before they have the chance to give you the good news.)

The good news? I knew you’d ask for the good news first, it’s the sensible thing to do.

Here it is. I have almost reached the end of this tea. That is excellent, excellent news. I very stupidly bought a case of it through Amazon back when I thought I liked it figuring I’d save money that way. That’s 6 boxes of tea bags, and I’ve been suffering through the last four boxes trying to rediscover what I thought I liked about this originally.

Ok, the bad news? The bad news is that I never did rediscover what I thought I liked about this originally. Frankly, it has been a steady downhill ride. Every now and then there’s a glimmer. Like this evening, when I had some that had cooled and was actually approximating an iced version, to wash down one of those Amy’s frozen roasted vegetable pizzas with no cheese (back in the saddle on the diet and exercise as of today, I hope). That wasn’t bad, for a few swallows. But probably because with food, it’s disguised enough so that that Om-pickle memory doesn’t penetrate, so the flavor of the cucumber is relatively pristine.

I think I figured out what is causing the pickle memory. I think it’s the lime. The sourness of the lime.

In any case, I am now hard pressed to let this stay at a rating of 51 (down from the original of 63).


You have much more patience than I have. I could never struggle through 6 boxes of tea I didn’t care for.

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drank Fruit Medley by Adagio Teas
954 tasting notes

This [was] one of the Adagio herbal sampler samples back when I ordered my sampler. It appears they switch various samples out from time to time, as the Adagio web site no longer lists this among the herbal sampler offerings. It’s one of those chunky fruit mixtures that looks vaguely like trail mix, but significantly smaller in chunk size than the average Teavana fruit mixture.

I went easy on the amount of fruit this first time and I suspect I’ll need to up the quantity to get the depth of flavor I’m looking for. Not really this tisane’s fault, it seems to be true of all such mixtures. I can tell it’s not enough, though, because the liquor has that watermelony color that hibiscus mixtures have if they’re too dilute for me. I predict that a more concentrated version of this will be a dark magenta from the hibiscus.

The flavor, even in a somewhat more dilute form than I think I’ll prefer ultimately, isn’t bad. It did have a tartness to it as I started to sip it, but it wasn’t nearly as tart after a few sips as the initial impression led me to believe it would be. The strawberry, as seems to be typical with these, adds a sweetness that tamps down the rose hips and keeps this from being too tart for me. The hibiscus is, surprisingly, mostly MIA. I can taste a slight earthiness, but nothing on the order of, oh say, Tazo’s Passion. I can get some other berry, mostly raspberry I’d say. Not sure I know what elderberry and bilberry taste like, so I can’t vouch for those. I’m not getting a lot of blackberry, but it could be pumping up the other berries in the background.

Will be interested to give this a try in a stronger version, but I’m not finding fruit mixes overly interesting these days. Getting jaded, I guess. I’d have to have a really spectacular one these days to make my head turn.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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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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