953 Tasting Notes


Finishing this up and decupboarding.

There’s not a lot to say about it except that it’s a really nice spearmint, if you are looking for plain spearmint. I had fun tasting a hot cup of plain spearmint tisane a few times, but mostly I found myself adding peppermint and tarragon to this and trying to hit the combination that would mimic Tazo’s Refresh. I never quite found it and frankly, I think I’d be much more likely to buy Refresh as a “plain” mint tisane even though it’s a blend of three flavors, just because I like how they play off of each other. I’m not likely to buy this again, just because if I were going to have a single mint tisane I’d pick peppermint.

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drank Pu Erh Dante by Adagio Teas
953 tasting notes

The last of the Black Savant sampler samples.

I followed the directions in Cofftea’s post, as it has been quite a while since I’ve tasted a pu erh. Not sure why exactly, since I do like them, but such is life.

The sample tin smells of the leathery earth smell that I found in some of the unflavored Numi pu erhs. It’s not as complex a fragrance as I recall the Samovar pu erhs having, but it’s been a while since I had any of those, my other pu erh benchmark for now.

The liquor is really interesting on the first short steep after the rinse. Dark red, almost wine like. It has the earthy, mossy smell I associate with pu erhs.

The flavor is surprisingly mild, and I’m wondering if maybe a little longer steep would have made it more interesting even, but I’ll have time to try that later. It strikes me as a very basic, very likely shu pu erh (I’m no expert but this is my guess from what I’ve read) that is similar in flavor to the Numi Emperor’s Pu Erh.

I don’t find anything objectionable here, though those with a predisposition against the earthy, “fishy” flavor may not like this. It’s not fishy to me, but that’s because I tend to taste leather where others seem to taste fish.

That said, it’s not as exciting as the Samovar Pu Erhs, all of which were outstanding in my view. It isn’t a model of complexity as they were, and for something as mysterious as pu erh is to me, complexity seems rather a requirement.

It seems milder and a bit more interesting than the Emperor’s so I’m rating accordingly.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

Absolutely a shu. All of Adagio’s Pu Erh are. Their amber Pu Erh from their Maestro collection is still a shu, but a bit lighter and w/ a peppery note. It’s probably my most liked of the 3, but I won’t be buying it again. That one sadly got lost in the 1st TTB- too bad cuz a sample is $9.

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drank Cinnamon by Kusmi Tea
953 tasting notes

Not sure what possessed me to buy this one. I do like cinnamon but it’s a sort of a second or even third tier flavor for me behind chocolate, nuts, fruits and vanilla. I think I probably thought it would be interesting to taste a tea where the primary flavor was cinnamon (without any others in the mix) and also to see how Kusmi managed this one.

Since I originally put this into my shopping cart, though, I’ve had two cinnamon black teas, so curiosity 1 has been satisfied. That leaves me with curiosity 2.

In the tin, the cinnamon smell is rather subdued. It isn’t red hot strong like the H&S, and it isn’t cinnamon stick strong like the Adagio. It’s really just a hint, but a nice one. The tea’s aroma is a similar, subdued cinnamon.

Interestingly, this seems to me to be one flavored black tea where less really is more. Though I found the various Kusmi chocolates and the bourbon vanilla too quiet and disappointing, I prefer the less in-your-face cinnamon flavor of this to the Adagio by quite a margin.

Like the Adagio, it’s a more herbal version of a cinnamon than the H&S, and it doesn’t have a candy sweetness. Unlike the Adagio, the tea seems to be steeped in a cinnamon fragrance, rather than to be a base to which cinnamon has been glommed on heavy handedly. It works.

It may even work, for some purposes, as well or better than the H&S (a much stronger flavor, a much sweeter flavor, a much candier flavor). It really depends, I suppose, on what you are looking for in a cinnamon black tea and since I tend to like stronger flavors I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

Still not sure I’d buy more than one cinnamon tea for the permanent collection, but if I did, this would be a contender.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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Still suffering from some cough thing that is now, fortunately, fairly intermittent rather than pretty much all the time. My body feels like it’s been through a war. I need to exercise, but haven’t gotten back in the saddle yet.

So, the second to last of the samples in the Harney & Sons green tea sampler. Really the last, I guess, as the fourth is a yellow tea. Kind of excited about that one as I haven’t had a yellow tea before.

But first, this one. OMG. What an amazing smell in the sample tin. I’ve smelled butter in green tea before, but this is beyond butter. It’s like that melted butter they bring for you to dip crab or lobster in. And a vegetal smell, too, which is what the butter is drenching. There’s a really interesting additional note that smells a little like a baking spice to me. A weird sort of very vague ginger or allspice sort of smell. Hmm.

The leaves are incredibly fine. They remind me of those iron shavings that they used to put behind plastic on a card when I was a kid, and you were supposed to take a magnet and draw on the plastic, which would distribute them over a picture on the card and enable you to make a beard on a face or something of that nature. It occurred to me that it could feel really nice to jump naked into a swimming pool filled with these leaves (and no water). No idea where that thought came from.

The aroma is still a bit buttery, though much more dilute, and there’s a plantiness to the aroma that is a bit like water chestnuts. The liquor is pale green.

It has a sweet, green taste that’s a little surprising in its lack of overly vegetal flavor given the smell of the dry leaves. Mild, smooth, no bitterness. Some butter, a little nuttiness.

It’s been a few days since I had the Kagoshima Sencha which I quite liked, and I like this one at least as well, though I thought it had… hmmm… dare I say more flavor? Or at least stronger flavor. It may also be that given the fine-ness of the leaves I should use a bit more tea than I did? Because I’m getting a really peaceful, sleepy tea here. Which is fine, though given the price differential I’m not sure I’d choose this over the Kagoshima.

It could also be that my palate hasn’t yet fully awakened to the nuances of green teas, and that months from now I’ll look back on this and wonder how I could have come to this conclusion.

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec

Glad that you’re on the road to recovery (but yuck, I hate lingering coughs).


Thanks! Me too, and this one has been especially awful…

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Having this again this morning after the Mariage Freres Earl Grey Imperial (which is not a favorite, and isn’t really growing on me either). I felt like I wanted to give this Keemun a proper tasting note because it was so delicious yesterday.

In the sample tin the leaves have a lovely fragrance; I get a tiny bit of smoke, but mostly I get something with the character of chocolate without especially smelling of cocoa. It’s a rich, fudge-like quality that has more to do with perceived consistency than anything else.

In the tea’s aroma, this quailty smooths out into a pastry-like quality, again having more to do with perceived consistency than actual fragrance. The taste is smooth, slightly sweet, slightly smoky, but mostly just really solid and deep. I’ve had Keemuns where the pastry-quality seems more harsh, like it was too heavy on the baking powder. This one isn’t like that at all.

Yep, it’s definitely going on the list for when I come out of lockdown.

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Yesterday I was home sick, but still working. I went to bed at 8:30 p.m.

Today I felt a lot better, as I managed to get some sleep last night. I slept a good bit of today, too. I’m hoping this horrible cough is going away, finally.

I haven’t had much tea. Mostly just not doing anything except lying down, drifting in and out of sleep. Haven’t worked out, haven’t been eating anything but junk as my body is craving sugar.

This is my welcome back to the living tea. And it’s a good one.

So far, I’m 3 for 3 with the Adagio Black Savant sampler. The next is a pu erh (odd choice for this sampler), but I’m definitely going to have to put in an Adagio order when i come out of lock down if for no other reason than this, the Yunnan Gold, and the Golden Spring.

This has all the qualities I like in Keemuns and none of the ones I’ve not liked. A little sweetness, a little smokiness, some breadlike or baked goods quality. Very smooth, very rich.

I’ll write more when I’m feeling better, but wanted to put down some initial impressions because this was very tasty indeed.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

This is one of my favorite Keemuns. I need to order more!

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This is part of the Harney & Sons green tea sampler. I am now seven teas away, including this one, from trying all my H&S samples.

Having had the plain sencha earlier today, I’m finding this one interesting. I understand the descriptor “high pitched.” It seems lighter than the regular sencha, though by no means weaker. If it was a sound, it would be higher on the scale is all.

Like the regular sencha, it has a lovely fresh, buttery smell in the sample tin. The leaves of this one are very fine, almost powdery (though not all of the leaves are this way, some longer ones stick out). I also understand the nut comparison. The buttery fragrance has a nutty quality to it, like the butteriness of the meat of a nut, with a slight bitterness (also nutlike in quality).

The flavor is very similar to the aroma. It’s a very tasty tea, without a very strongly vegetal flavor, but without grassiness either. I’m not really getting lemon, but that’s ok. I don’t need it.

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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drank Sencha by Harney & Sons
953 tasting notes

Very sweet, buttery, vegetal fragrance in the sample packet. Leaves are a vibrant, shiny, jade green color.

Made in the Breville. The liquor is a pale, greenish yellow with particles afloat in it.

Wow, this has a surprising amount of flavor for not having a very strong aroma. It’s sweet, with a very mellow, mild vegetal flavor, that, while it is mild in taste is rich in flavor if that makes sense. It’s got a freshness and a juiciness to it. No bitterness that I can detect, and gentle on the throat and stomach.

Very nice for a sore-ish throat and a sinus headache. I’m liking it quite a bit. It’s been a while since I had the Den’s organic but I’m moved to rate this the same. I may find myself adjusting later, though.

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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drank Chocolate by Kusmi Tea
953 tasting notes

Third attempt, this time plain but at 195F for 3:30 minutes after discovering that Kusmi advocates a lower temperature for this. They go so far as to suggest 185-195 as a range, so I guess I still have more possible attempts.

It’s hard to know whether the chocolate flavor is any richer because I’m not comparing this back to back with the cup made at boiling, but I’m going to say I think it may be, slightly. Not enough to put it into an exceptionally chocolately realm, but better than before.

I’m also tasting for more flavor in the intervals between sips, as I’ve noticed that other Kusmis tend to have a little flavor kick when the sip is done. This one sort of does. It’s not a powerful kick, but it’s definitely there, and there’s a stronger, more chocolately taste in the kick.

Not enough of a difference to change my opinion significantly, but worth a few points. Next time I’ll bump the temp down even more just for laughs.

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drank Bourbon Vanilla by Kusmi Tea
953 tasting notes

I read Lauren’s note after I’d already made this and discovered that I, too, made it too hot. Makes me want to go back to all the Kusmis I didn’t find very successful and try them at lower temps to see what happens.

In the tin, there’s a fairly mild scent of vanilla over earthy black tea. The vanilla is not strong in the aroma. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it isn’t present though because I’m under the weather, and my smeller and taster could be somewhat off today.

The vanilla in the flavor is kind of sneaky. I don’t taste it much until the after-sip, when it kicks in, sort of like the tail on the Caramel. Just sort of pops up and sweeps over the tongue, like a wave of flavor. And, like real ocean waves, some are bigger sweeps than others.

I do want to give it a shot at a lower water temp and see what difference that may make. It’s not as disappointing as the chocolates were to me, but except for those sweeps when the flavor really pops out, it’s not a stand out vanilla. I’m still liking Black Orchid and Vanilla Dian Hong for stand out vanillas.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 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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