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933 Tasting Notes


I refuse to view this as chai, despite the cardamom. No ginger, no black pepper. French name. I’m not putting in the chai category. I’m calling it a chocolate spice flavored tea.

So I’m drinking it straight up as my first morning tea, because I felt like something mixed up and flavored with a chance of being sweet after my epic green tea experience last night. I feel much too healthy and clean for my own good. Time to get some approximation of candy into my bloodstream.

This does just fine, and it doesn’t require milk or sugar to get there. It’s got a very chocolate fragrance in the tin, and I can see the green cardamom pods in there. Pretty.

The tea’s aroma smells like baked goods, like something that would go into a tart or pie. It’s a blend of chocolate and cinnamon mostly and a touch of cardamom.

The taste is mild with a minor kick that doesn’t take it out of the mild category, in my view. Just a little love pat on the tongue to remind you it has spices in it. It’s terrifically drinkable without milk. The chocolate succeeds in giving it a little sweetness, which is what I was hoping for this morning. There’s no bitterness, and no sense that you’re drinking something other than the way it was meant to be had (which I’ve sometimes felt trying to drink chais straight).

A nice not-chai for the collection.

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I agree- it does sound good for what it is though:)


Your assessment of this one is spot-on. I think I like Kusmi’s Spicy CHocolate better….(which is similar as Upton’s- mild, only lightly spicy, but as usual, the French teas just do a better job as the Kusmi version has a subtle vanilla flavorJ)….


I’m looking forward to tasting the Kusmi Spicy Chocolate, after my rather disappointing tasting of their plain Chocolate today.

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drank Gyokuro by Harney & Sons
933 tasting notes

My second Gyokuro, and I’m closing in on the last of the Harney samples from my two Harney orders so far. After this I have 4 greens and 4 oolongs left. Then order time!

Trying this the same way I did the Adagio earlier. 140F for 2 minutes to start, 30 seconds thereafter.

The smell inside the sample packet is incredibly, vividly, of chlorophyll saturated fields. Green teas don’t ordinarily evoke the descriptor “rich” for me, but this fragrance is, in fact, extremely rich.

The leaves are gorgeous. Darker-than-emerald-green, fine, flecked with silver, and shiny.

The liquor. Best described with a bit of dialogue:

Me to BF: What do you think of the color of this tea? [holds up glass cup]

BF: [Sniggery snort.] Terrible. Looks like Gatorade tea.

I must admit it does have that lime green Gatorade look to it. At least it isn’t quite glowing like nuclear waste, like the extra green Genmaicha.

And at least it smells and tastes nothing like Gatorade. The aroma and the taste are both of sweet-butter-mediated-slightly-bitter-vegetables, somewhere on the green continuum between spinach and cabbage. The mouthfeel is heavy, oddly suggestive of gelatin but fortunately not gelatinous. (I’m not a gelatin fan, ever since my friend Karen in the 4th grade told me Jello was made of horse hooves which turned out not to be true, but I can never get that thought out of my mind. I can think of nothing grosser than vegetable Jello. I stay far, far away from aspic.)

I’m liking this a little better than the Adagio and I wonder if it has to do with the freshness? This was in the sealed packet until right before preparation, whereas the Adagio was in the little sample tin that had previously been opened, though carefully resealed and stored in proper tea storage conditions. Is Gyokuro particularly susceptible to the effects of air? To the extent there’s anything negative to say about this tea, I would chalk it up to user error in preparation. I’m sure there are all kinds of ways in which I could be getting the preparation wrong. But I’m still generally liking it, so that must be saying something.

In any case, another fun trip to Gyokuro land. I have some from Den’s to try, too.

140 °F / 60 °C 2 min, 0 sec

hee hee gatorade tea


Is Gyokuro particularly susceptible to the effects of air?
Pretty much any Japanese green is better when it is super-fresh. The older it gets, the less vibrant it seems to be. I think one month after opening is the cut-off for freshness.


Unfortunately, I have read, that gyokuro is supposed to get better with age. Before Japanese tea processing was modernized, all Japanese teas aged well. There is still one kind of gyokuro that ages well, called kuradashi gyokuro. I’ve never had it, but I’ve read about it/seen it on offer at Hibiki-an (google them).

It really is a shame that Japanese teas loose their freshness so quickly, as (based on what I’ve read) that’s not the way it used to be.

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drank Gyokuro by Adagio Teas
933 tasting notes

I’m looking back on what I wrote about this the first time I tasted it, and honestly, my impression hasn’t changed in the slightest from the original tasting on a second try.

This time I used even more tea, following instructions I found somewhere on the net. There is a lot of conflicting information about Gyokuro steeping out there. Some sites say you should brew this at temps as low as 100-120F, some say no lower than around 155F. It’s really confusing. In any case, I read something that made sense to me, which was that you should use more leaf (about 10g for 500ml), steep at a lower temperature (140F) and steep longer on the first infusion (2:00) and shorter on subsequent infusions (:30) to coax out the flavor.

So that’s what I did, and I got a taste very similar to my description from the first mode of preparation. Now that I’ve had matcha, I can say that the slight bitterness of this reminds me of that of matcha.

I didn’t feel prepared to rate this the first time I tasted it and I’m hesitant even now, but the fact I have unrated notes is sort of bugging me for some unfathomable reason. So I’m giving this a provisional very good rating, to be adjusted as subsequent Gyokuro encounters may require.

140 °F / 60 °C 2 min, 0 sec

Different grades of Gyokuro have different parameters. I’m thinking this would be regular grade. In that case I suggest 2tsp of leaf in 4oz of purified water heated to 160 degrees for 2 min. If you want to try parameters for premium grade, I suggest only using 2-3oz of water at 140 degree water and steeping the same amount of leaf for 2.5 min. Hope one of these work for you!:)

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drank Green Anji by Adagio Teas
933 tasting notes

Tea note #400. Happy 4th of July!

Another in the Green Savant sampler.

In the sample tin it has a very green, grassy fragrance, which swings between fresh and dusky. Interesting. It has twisty, twiggy, bird nesty leaves that are darker than the Dragon Well leaves (which I sampled earlier today).

It’s a fairly solid yellow liquor, more intense in color than the Dragon Well. And its aroma is solidly vegetal, too, though not overly strong.

In taste, it’s an ok, but not very remarkable vegetal green tea. Tastier than most bagged greens, but not the rich, multilayered, depth of character laden taste of some greens I’ve had. It does seem to have a deeper flavor than the Adagio Dragon Well, but unlike the Dragon Well, it has a hint of bitterness at the tail. It’s the sort of thing I’ll keep drinking to see if it grows on me but doesn’t hit it out of the park on the first tasting.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

Happy 400!!!!


(you know that all the fireworks were in honor of your 400th, right?) ;)


Wow, 400!! You are definitely in the realms of connoisseurship now! :)


Aww, thanks! Stephanie, not sure about connoisseurship, but I have to say I think that my inveterate tea drinking is responsible for my last essentially perfect (scarily healthy, I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying this) routine blood test. My doctor was like, “wow, nothing to say about this, but really excellent labs. Your sugar and cholesterol are terrific.” At my age, that is like being told you just got nominated for prom queen, particularly when I’ve had a few blips that worried me in the past. I think I actually went “squee”!

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drank Lung Ching by Harney & Sons
933 tasting notes

Walnuts! In the aftertaste, long after the tea is gone. Yes, I do taste them; it’s that slight nutlike bitterness they have. Ta dah!

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drank Lung Ching by Harney & Sons
933 tasting notes

My third Dragon Well of the day. This is part of the Harney & Sons green tea sampler, a set of four teas in cute little black tins.

I’m concluding that though I love the name, Dragon Well probably isn’t my thing. At least I don’t think I appreciate it the way it should be appreciated. It seems rather bland to me. This is probably the tastiest of the three versions I’ve tried, and seems to have a bit more depth to it, but it is still very, very mild. I’m interested enough in this version to spend some more time with it, though, and see if I can develop an appreciation for it.

It has a pale yellow liquor with the tiniest suggestion of green and the aroma is sweet, dewy and has a hint of milkiness. There’s a vegetal quality to the aroma, but the taste isn’t deeply vegetal like many other green teas. Nor is it grassy.

I suppose that’s its distinguishing characteristic, that it’s just not like other green teas. Instead of tasting like the run off from steamed broccoli, or like the air smells after you’ve just mowed the lawn, it seems more like the aftertaste of yellow squash sauteed in a little bit of butter. The vegetal quality in this one suggests to me more of the sweet interior of the vegetable than the slightly bitter outer leaves. I still don’t really taste nuttiness so much as a lighter quality. I keep coming back to the aftertaste of pumpkin seeds.

As I write this I’m talking myself into liking this more than I thought I did. Maybe it’s time for a nap. ;-)

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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drank Dragonwell by Adagio Teas
933 tasting notes

I have to add myself to the list of this tea’s detractors. This is part of the Green Savant sampler.

It was my second Dragon Well, and very similar to the TeaFrog only with less sweetness, and more vegetalness, though this didn’t result in a tastier tea.

It has a similar buttery/milky and vegetal aroma and a light yellow/green liquor.

When I first heard about Dragon Well I thought it sounded like something I’d like quite a bit. After two tries, I’m not so sure. I do have some samples from other companies to try so I’m not ready to give up quite yet.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

Sad day! I’m sorry you don’t love this one as much as I do. I even steep it to death (12-22 infusions). It’s really cool that everyone likes something different when it comes to tea… til you find one you don’t like.


Mostly I just think I’m not really into Dragon Well. Of the three I tasted today, this seemed to have the least amount of flavor but it could also be that my taster is a little off today. I’m feeling kind of blah. I am also open to the idea that this will grow on me, or if not this particular one some Dragon Well somewhere.


Tastes definitely change (which of course you’ll probably be disappointed at some point when something you now love you don’t anymore).

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Hey, look what I found! I thought I’d tried all my TeaFrog samples, but this was buried in the “green tea” box. I really do think this is the last one, though.

As with my other TeaFrog samples, I can’t get aroma other than the fruit of another blend that was packed with this bag, but the leaves are pretty; medium green, fairly long, flat and shiny.

The first time I tried this, I fear I did not use enough tea and may not have steeped long enough. I steeped for 1:30, which is what I usually do with greens unless they ask to be steeped for a shorter time. The flavor was pleasant but not very strong.

More leaf and longer does seem to be an improvement, though I’m still finding this a subtle one. I get a light yellow liquor, and an aroma that is buttery, almost milky, a little salty, with a vegetal echo.

The flavor isn’t particularly buttery or vegetal, though. I’m not really sure how to describe it, other than to say it is “green” tasting, which isn’t very helpful. There’s a slight toastiness, but it’s very slight. There’s an interesting dryness on the tongue after drinking that’s almost like the feel of the grab you get from putting certain dried, chip-like treats on your tongue and letting them sit there. After they get moist, they start to feel like they’re grabbing onto your tongue. That’s the feeling I’m getting here. I’m not getting nuttiness, at least not strongly. Maybe more like the aftertaste of pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

Even on the second try with more leaf and more time, I’m not finding this to have much depth in terms of flavor. I have had greens that were more flavorful. Perhaps I’m not a Dragon Well fan, but since this is really my first, I can’t conclude that just yet.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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drank Golden Spring by Adagio Teas
933 tasting notes

After my disappointing Mariage Freres English Breakfast experience, I’m going to do one more black tea before trying to reestablish my interest in greens.

As I’ve committed to tasting my Adagio samplers without further ado, this is from the Adagio Black Savant sampler. (Which makes me feel like I should start rapidly adding numbers out loud or reciting the World Atlas or something. Surely they could have picked a better name?)

This is a very visually attractive tea, and in the sample tin its fragrance has a sort of fruity, or perhaps tobaccoey sweetness. There’s a breadiness, too. It’s a sort of toast with jam signal. And something along the chocolate vanilla continuum perhaps. In any case, it seems like there’s a fair amount going on here.

The same is true of the tea’s aroma. Sweet. Sort of reminds me of what I like about Yunnans. And yet, it’s not entirely sweet. The liquor is lighter than I’d expected but now that I think about it, with about half the leaves being a golden color it wasn’t really reasonable to expect a very dark liquor. It’s darker than darjeeling, say, but lighter than most black tea liquors.

Tasty! For some reason after reading the description, I’d expect this to be somewhat heavy. It’s not. It’s substantial without being weighty. And very, very smooth. Easy on the stomach, too (mine is a little annoyed with me after the Blue Knight Earl Grey and the Mariage Freres English Breakfast, but this is helping to make amends).

I get the “meaty” description, but I find the aftertaste mildly sweet, not really savory.

I’m glad I have more in the sample tin so I can taste this over time but on first impression this is a keeper!

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Wooo! I’m so glad somebody else is drinking this. I’ve been baffled for a long time about how this one seems to have slipped under everybody’s radar…it’s one of my favorites. I could live without buying any other Adagio tea for the rest of my life, probably, but this one is a must-have.


Hmmm…. I am now curious about this one….


I am backtracking to my Adagio samples which sort of got lost in the shuffle of all the teas I have been ordering, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one. So far it is the front runner of my Adagio experience along with the peppermint tisane which I like much better than the Upton.

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And now for something completely different. I’m about to find out how a venerable French tea house does English Breakfast. On the fourth of July, no less.

I can’t find anything to indicate what’s in this, but whatever it is, it looks like CTC. Like coarse coffee grounds. It has a kind of sweet, baked fragrance. Like pastry.

If I were to guess, I’d say Assam and Keemun. Keemun because in the aroma there’s a suggestion (a mere suggestion, really) of smoke. Assam because… well, it’s English Breakfast. And there’s a suggestion (a mere suggestion, really) of malty sweetness.

I made a mistake in tasting this after Earl Grey without much time between the two. At first I really couldn’t get much flavor at all. Now I’m getting some flavor, but the tea is verging on lukewarm. Must try again. Steeping 3:30 this time too, just in case that was part of the problem. BRB.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find this very flavorful at all. Could it be a bad batch? It can’t be stale, I just opened the vacuum sealed tin which was well within its sell by date. Seriously, I’m reaching for something to describe this as. Even the mere suggestions of smoke and malt in the aroma aren’t coming through in the flavor for me. How terribly disappointing, as I generally quite like Mariage Freres.

Let me try a little milk, see if that changes things.

No. :-( It’s not undrinkable, it just doesn’t taste like much, unfortunately.


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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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