948 Tasting Notes

84
drank Palm Court by Harney & Sons
948 tasting notes

On the one hand, how can I not drink something that is served at the Plaza? I spend a lot of my time homesick for New York, so anything that invokes NYC is going to call to me. On the other, I do have this thing about multiple kinds of tea in the same blend. I suppose I can make a distinction here though as there’s no green tea in this. Technically, the green/black moratorium doesn’t apply to black/oolong. I’ve had another black/oolong blend recently that worked fairly well, can’t now remember what it was.

The smell from the sample packet is Assam and Keemun. There’s a teensy smokiness, and a general impression of hearty earthiness.

The liquor on first glance appears to be heavily influenced by the Ceylon as it does have a twinge of red in the burnt orange, but it’s got more orange in it than I’d want in that sweater I’m looking for. The aroma is interesting. It gives the impression of being somewhat simple, but if I sit with it a while, that seems deceptive. There’s more complexity here than meets the initial sniff. I’m getting some smoke around the edges, some malty sweetness, and something sort of vaguely buttery that may be from the oolong. It’s generally smooth but there are little sharp peaks to it that make me think of the crests of waves.

It’s flavor is deceptive as well. Initially it seems fairly one-dimensional, but it’s a nice dimension. It’s somewhat astringent, and feels medium bodied to me. As I drink it more, though, I’m getting some stone fruit notes, some smoke, a tad of sweetness, and something that is almost biscuity.

I know I’m predisposed to liking this because of the name (I can be pretty gullible sometimes) but I do think it’s worth more than just a second look.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec
ashmanra

Just received this one myself….it’s almost as if you saw my wish list! I ordered this one and I think I got a sample of Elyse’s blend as well, though I need to double check that! I like this one pretty well – I agree with the seemed simple, grew complex impression. My youngest wanted this one after reading the description.

__Morgana__

H&S has so many awesome looking teas, and I can’t resist dumping samples into my orders. I’m almost through all of my samples and then I have to suck it up to the enormity of the order I’m likely to place since I liked so many things from this last go around. And of course, more samples! What a cycle. Lol.

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82

Surprised I’m the first to write a note about this one as well. (I see I’m coming up on 400 notes. Wow. It’s a long weekend ahead, wonder if I can get there by the end of Monday? Any bets?) I really need to get to my Maeda-en Sincha notes as I’m feeling guilty about being granted free tea on the promise I’d write a three part note and haven’t done it yet. (Hanging head in shame.) I just haven’t been in a green tea mood that much and I didn’t want to force it. I figured forcing it would make me harsher in my opinions.

This is the first time I’ve knowingly had anything with Kenyan tea in it, so that will be interesting. You may wonder what business I have drinking black tea this late in the afternoon, but I have to clear the cobwebs. The entire household took a nap, something rather unprecedented these days. The 6 year old is still sleeping, which is astounding. He was bribed with the promise that he could play Wii tonight if he took a nap, which he needed as he was up a good bit of the night crying with growing pains.

When I first took a whiff out of the sample packet, I thought, “that’s interesting, there’s nothing in here that looks like flowers.” There’s a sweet, floral smell to the blend. Then I read the description again. Ah! It’s the honey! Yes, it’s got that polleny, flowery, sweet honey smell. Underneath that is the earthiness of Assam.

The liquor is a lovely color, which I am seeing frequently in Ceylons. I’m going with the theory that it’s the Ceylon giving this its reddish orangy color. Still looking for a sweater this color. It’s not quite as red as some others, but still very pretty. There’s a gentle, honey aroma.

And basically, that’s what this tastes like as well. Gentle, smooth, honeyed. It’s medium to light bodied, and somewhat brisk, a really nice perker upper after a weekend nap. I wish I could unravel the flavors to say what the Kenyan tastes like, but I can’t. The black tea blend is pretty seamless.

Nice.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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80

Having now had a number of chocolate teas, I’m returning to the first one I tried with the express purpose of seeing where it fits among the others I’ve tried over the past few months. Ok, that and the fact that my compulsiveness is kicking in and it’s starting to bug me that I have some notes without ratings. I’ll be fixing that for all of them sooner rather than later.

This one is fitting quite nicely into my afternoon. It’s got a rather mild chocolate flavor, not the baking chocolate I’ve tasted in a number of teas, nor a sweet milk chocolate, but somewhere in between. I’m thinking dark chocolate, sort of semi-sweet. It does chocolate well. That is definitely the flavor that is front and center.

Sometimes I think I’m getting a rose note, other times it seems like one of those things where you think you saw something then decide you didn’t really, it was a brain blip of some kind. I get that feeling mostly mid sip, when the tea is right up against my soft palate, and I’m guessing some of the rose heads straight up into my nasal cavity. Then again, not sure it needs a lot more rose. The petals are pretty and add romance, but I’m not sure the tea is trying to be a rose flavored tea. (Maybe LiberTEAs can answer that?) I understand the reference to vanilla, it’s that chocolate/vanilla continnum I’m finding to hold true with a lot of flavors. Seems like there’s a place where they merge and become virtually indistinguishable.

The tea base is smooth and I get some sweetness from it. After tasting a number of chocolate teas, I feel I can say this is a very nice one.

LiberTEAS

Morgana: no, this is not trying to be a rose tea, the roses are added for appearance sake only. You might taste just a hint of rose occasionally, which is to be expected with the addition of rose petals to any blend because they do have a distinct flavor that translates. But, a true rose tea is one that is scented at the source (usually where it’s been harvested and oxidized) because it is only at that young stage of the tea leaf that it can fully absorb the rose essence. The same is true with Jasmine. The young tea leaves are layered with the flower petals and they absorb the essence.

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96
drank Earl Grey by Samovar
948 tasting notes

I should have known better than to drink the Samovar sample. It’s a serious problem in that they seem to do black tea exactly the way I like it, so they set the bar so high I want to stop trying other stuff and just go immediately to their online store, do not pass go.

I loved the Samovar Earl Lavender, and this is pretty much the Earl Lavender (as I remember it, it’s been a while though) without the lavender. It has the same brown sugary taste to the base as the Earl Lavender, and the same citrus presence without oiliness or too much perfume. The citrus is definitely there, but it isn’t overpowering.

I don’t recall noticing with the Earl Lavender that the bergamot had a lemony note to it. I usually get an orangey note from bergamot. But I get a sort of lemon/orange from this that is really nice.

Now that I’ve had a lot of loose leaf Earl Greys, I feel confident in saying this one is very special indeed. It’s a little nouveau in flavor owing to the tea base, with depth that more traditional versions don’t have however good they may be. I may need another category of Earl Grey in my harem, just for this. I can see it coexisting with a more traditional two dimensional Earl Grey for the times that’s what I’m wanting.

I’m boosting the rating of the Earl Lavender, too.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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60

Hard to believe I’m the first to write about this one. But here goes.

I’m starting to get to what feels like the mid-point in my Earl Grey exploration before I settle down with some favorites. I’m thinking a regular, a creme/vanilla, a lavendar, a rose, and maybe one or two others for the Earl Grey harem. I may have to reconsider the Upton chocolate since I haven’t seen any other chocolate Earl Greys. Hmm.

I remember liking another French Earl Grey, the one from The O Dor, quite a bit. I’m interested to see how this will compare.

The dry leaves smell very strongly of bergamot, but I’ve learned that isn’t necessarily indicative of how that agent will show up in the flavor. I noticed from the note here that the tea base is Darjeeling, which I suppose is why the tea doesn’t look overly dark in color. It even has some green to it.

The liquor is a light amber, almost a bronzed golden color. Much lighter than the typical Earl, and explained by the Darjeeling base. The aroma is not at all strong on the bergamot, but it does have a sharpness to it, which I associate with Darjeeling.

The bergamot returns in the flavor, where it takes center stage. This is not what I am looking for in an Earl Grey. I like more of an essence of bergamot, a suggestion around the edges, enough to make it obviously and distinctively an Earl Grey (as I’ve also had teas that didn’t have enough bergamot to seem to me allowed to claim to be Earl Greys) but not enough to scream at me. I’m worried this one is going to sit heavily in my stomach. Which is a shame because the little glimpses of the Darjeeling that I get are quite nice. It has a sort of butteriness to it, which if the balance were struck differently enough to make it assert itself more, could be quite lovely.

It should be noted that this tea is very honest. Its notes say that it is “heavily perfumed” so the centrality of the bergamot shouldn’t be surprising.

I suppose I must be something of an Earl Grey purist, as I didn’t care for the only green Earl Grey I tried, either. Bergamot is such a strong flavor to me that it needs something equally sturdy to stand up to it. But those who love strongly bergamot flavored teas (Miss Sweet?) :-) might really like this.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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99

So here’s what happened.

I put this into the Breville to steep, and then forgot about it and took my 4 year old to pre-K. When I came home I remembered, and the timer on the Breville indicated it had been available for drinking for approximately 54 minutes.

I figured it would be cold and probably not very good, but I tasted it anyway.

WOW.

It was lukewarm. But the first thing I noticed was the mouthfeel. Thick. Not really chewy, but thick and textured, somewhere between broth and syrup. And then, unexpectedly, the most wonderful flavor. Gently smoky, with a naturally sweet, smooth undercurrent of tea that tastes like… bread on the initial sip, and as it rounds out in the mouth, plums?

Enough. I have to go make more of this and see how it is hot.

While it’s making, I’m backtracking to the dry tea. Fairly large, brown tippy leaves. A very smoky smell, that has the salty, meaty smoke thing going on.

And yes, it’s even better hot! The thickness of the mouthfeel isn’t as apparent, but there’s a carby sweetness, sort of yam-like, to both the aroma and the flavor. The smoke is an accent, not the main event, but a noticeable one. There’s a lot of depth and character here, something that reminds me of what I like about Samovar’s black teas. That particular quality is more apparent as the tea cools. Too cold, as my first cup has now become, and the magic goes poof. Would not recommend this as an iced tea. But any range between right out of the pot and lukewarm is delicious. Like a nice wine that’s left to breathe, it changes with time. One flavor may not be better than the others, just different and equally wonderful.

I was moved to give this a 100, but I can’t bring myself to do it on a limited edition. It would just be too sad to have decided on a perfect tea, and then have it be unavailable.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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34

While I’m on a flavored oolong bender, I thought I’d give this a try. It’s my last sample from The NecessiTeas. With this I’ll have tried everything they currently offer in a sample size, and I suspect I will have ordered everything of theirs I am interested in tasting again with the exception of Coco La Ven. They are still out of that. Sigh.

So, as you can see, I’m coming into this with a prejudice against this tea. I just haven’t had great luck with The NecessiTeas with the exception of some of their rooibos and black blends.

In the sample packet, this tea smells pungently fruity, but I wouldn’t describe what I smell as pomegranate so much as a cherry/strawberry fragrance. The tea’s aroma is buttery and in general green oolongy with a sweet fruit note. I would not recognize it as pomegranate in a blindfolded sniff test. But then, I’m not sure I’d recognize even the most pomegranatey pomegranate so that isn’t saying much.

Unfortunately, my prejudices appear to have been well-founded in this case. The underlying tea seems decent enough, though perhaps a little on the thin and weak side in terms of flavor, but the “pomegranate” flavoring is a decidedly fictitious fruit taste. It has a sort of cherry candy/cough drop note to it.

Second steep. 3 min. Pretty much the same.

Third steep.

Nah.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec
ashmanra

Just tried Harney and Sons Pomegranate Oolong for the first time. I couldn’t believe how light the color was! I did enjoy the flavor, though. I didn’t think to try re-infusing since they are sachets but I think I will give it a try!

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86

This smells awesome in the sample packet. It has that planty, earthy smell I get from good Assams with something else as well. It’s not really chocolate, not really vanilla, but it might be a hint of either of those. Not really smoke but could be a hint of that as well. The leaves are really pretty and bird nesty looking like some Ceylons (which is interesting since this doesn’t have Ceylon in it according to the picture at the top of this page).

It makes a dark, mahogany colored tea, with a sweet, smooth and malty aroma. The flavor is really yummy. It is a hearty flavor without a heaviness to it like some of the stouter breakfast teas (e.g., Queen Catherine). I’d describe it as medium bodied leaning toward full. It isn’t overly complex or deep, but it is full flavored, fairly smooth (a got tiny nip at the back of the throat, but it’s not consistent), and not overly sweet despite its malty aroma.

My main problem now is that I’m liking so many black teas, I’m not being very successful at narrowing down what I buy after sampling. With the exception of a few real stand outs, I’m getting a cluster of very goods and excellents and I’m having a hard time cutting them more finely. I also can’t keep them all in my head each time I taste a new one.

Does anyone have a systematic way of doing this successfully?

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Angrboda

I try to pay attention to which area they come from. This sampler box from Nothing But Tea that I’ve been playing with has really helped there. For example it has confirmed to me what I already suspected of not really being a Ceylon fan. For a long time now it has seemed to me that I have a tendency to prefer Chinese, it’s just a shame that my box only had three Chinese ones in it, but I might be able to confirm some things depending on what I think of all the Indian ones. So, country first, then region.

JacquelineM

I’m horribly old fashioned and have a molskine in my purse. This is sort of goofy, but I’ll tell you anyway :) Each page has a shop I frequent (whether online or bricks ‘n mortar) and what I’d like to get from it. When I have money, I then have a list of what I’m dreaming of, and then can make decisions based on my budget and needs.

When it comes to teas, I have about 10 pages devoted to shops. I write the shop at the top, and then list all of the teas that I think are good as I taste them (these would be your “cluster of very goods and excellents”) over time. Then when I am ready to order from/go visit a particular shop I have everything that I like/want in a convenient place, and can make decisions. You’ll have the list, and can go back over your tasting notes on Steepster if need be to help you – and you can then get your budget and what holes you have in your collection involved :)

I do this with everything. I have some pages related to clothing, I have a few for bookstores, certain art and craft related shops, etc. Because it’s in my purse at all times, I never get the OMG not WHAT was the book that I wanted or HOW many yards of elastic did I need or wind up buying a pair of shoes when I really, really, really need a blouse.

I imagine this would work in some kind of iPhone type thing too that you always have with you, but like I said, I’m horribly old fashioned. :)

__Morgana__

Thanks for the ideas, keep em coming.

Jacqueline, that is a much better system than I have (I don’t have much of one). Here’s what I’ve been doing. I had been intending to “weed” in layers. I pretty much discount anything that I rate below a 70 as something I’d order again, so that’s the initial cut. Then if it’s a specialty sort of item, like a decaf or a tisane, I ask myself would I really drink it much or would I prefer one I already have. If the answer is no, I don’t put it on the list. For everything else, I’ve been collecting full tins that I have been intending to go back and do a second round on. A good example is chai, because I’m pretty much narrowed down on that one already. I have 4 or 5 front runners and I measure against those. So I have the Samovar which is my all time favorite, then I have a spicy one that I like (Rishi) and a mild one (GM), and a decaf one (LeafSpa), and an unusual one (like the GM pu erh chai). And I measure all new ones that I taste against those. If any of them is close, I’d order more and try to do a run off between them.

The problem with the blacks is that there are so many of them, and they’re blended so many different ways and in so many variations. You can’t even really compare an English breakfast to an English breakfast because their ingredients aren’t standard. I think at some point I’ll have to do what Angrboda suggested and just line them all up by ingredient and do a run off.

ashmanra

Jacqueline, I am with you on the moleskine! I keep one with tea quotes, a list of the tea I have sent to friends via mail, a list of tea currently in the house, and a list of teas I have given people when they come over, indicating their preferences and favorites! At the back is also a wish list based on tea reviews I have read that intrigued me and teas I have seen in shops.

Morgana, I am also trying to “keep things straight” and right now I am trying to rank some of my breakfast teas by smokiness. The difficulty is that sometimes the perception of the taste changes based on whether I measures the leaves and time carefully, how much milk and sugar did I add, what was the temperature of the tea while I was drinking it, etc. So I just shrug and realize I will have to keep trying more tea! :)

Also, sometimes I go through a “mood” where I want a certain tea of type, and then that phase passes and I don’t want it for a while. Fortunately it keeps a long time! But keep those beloved forerunners on the shelf, and then add some that you liked very well for variety!

teabird

Commenting on an old post because 1) Carolyn made this sound delicious so I wanted to read the other reviews and 2) I think that’s an interesting question (organizing and deciding what to buy)

I’ve only been at this for a couple years, so I can’t speak to the long-term effectiveness, but basically I decide based on the tea shop. I use Steepster to keep track of the ones I like well enough to buy a full tin of (that’s what my “shopping list” is for, and my tasting notes really), and I plan to make my next order from whichever company has the most teas I’ve been meaning to buy. I make the order either when there’s space in the cupboard and spending money, or I see they’re running a sale.

It does mean that I sometimes run out of favorites for awhile, but then I usually appreciate them more when I get them back :) I do also add teas I’d like to try to my shopping list, but it’s not hard to figure out which is which – if I haven’t tried it, there’s no tasting note!

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86

I haven’t had a great deal of success finding something I love in the flavored oolong category. The GM Sugar Caramel Oolong was a winner, but the others I’ve tried have ranged from meh to ok.

This one creates a worthy first impression. It’s visually enchanting, with the colorful flower petals among the curly or balled up oolong leaves. It smells wonderful. I get the coconut, the chocolate and some pineapple fragrance. And something that smells a little like tomato. The cereal is even there, though exactly what it is is lost on me.

The tea is a light yellow color and clear, very much what I’d expect from a green oolong. It has that flowery, buttery, green oolong smell, too. The flavoring agents don’t present themselves much in the aroma of the steeped tea, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing.

I think it is turning out to be a good thing. And I think I may be turning into a bit of an oolong purist, as I am finding myself to be with green tea with a few exceptions. This may be one of them. I can taste chocolate and coconut in the oolong, which is actually going pretty well with the butter. I get a hint of pineapple, but it’s only a hint, which I think is a good thing.

Compared to my Toasted Nut Brulee experience of last night, this is a nice performance by a flavored oolong. The flavors work with the tea, rather than against it. They don’t fight with it, trying to cover it up.

I’m thinking the Sugar Caramel is still in the front position, but this is up there.

I’m not following the Dammann Freres steeping instructions, by the way. I’m doing my usual oolong in a cup steeping method. First steep 2 minutes, add a minute per additional steep.

Second steep: 3 minutes. Not surprisingly, given what I’ve come to experience with Dammann Freres teas, the blend does what it’s supposed to do (at least what I think it’s supposed to do). The flavor doesn’t all wash away with the first steep. The second has a nice chocolate/coconut note and I do still get a suggestion of pineapple in the aftertaste. And through this, there is also a buttery, sweet, floral tea flavor.

Third steep. 4 minutes. Still doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s as though the tea has been impregnated with the flavor; it’s actually part of the tea, rather than something added to it on the surface that washes away with multiple steeps.

Fourth steep. 5 minutes. The non-tea flavorings finally faded here, and the oolong itself is starting to as well, but a very good run! And the leaves have gone from something reminiscent of ball bearings to a rather amazing length. I’m eyeballing it rather than measuring it, but I’d say one of them is close to 3 inches long.

Another success story from the Dammann Freres sample-fest organized by Doulton.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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62

Another June tea of the month on the classic plan.

It smells terrific in the bag. A sort of nutty, gingery, cinnamony mix. It looks like a typical Teavana mixture with stuff other than tea in it. Big chunky trail mix-like pieces. Not quite as big as some of the other Teavana fruit mixtures that featured almost entire slices of citrus, but chunky nevertheless.

The tea is yellow in color with some orange in it as well. Darkish yellow, and though not entirely opaque, it isn’t clear either. There are little rooibos kitties down at the bottom of the glass. The aroma is fruitier than the dry mix. I can smell the apple (second ingredient) and some other fruit that smells like citrus ( oddly, as there is no citrus listed in the ingredients). I can also detect a faint cinnamon smell.

The taste is, in fact, much better than the aroma at least at first. Interestingly, it’s a third thing altogether. It doesn’t have a lot in common with either the dry aroma or the steeped one. Here I really taste the toasted nutty flavor I was expecting from the name (since oolongs often have a toasted nutty flavor, it seemed a natural fit for this type of flavoring). It’s got a sweetness to it, and some gingery spiciness as well. There’s a strange orangey note that has no real explanation. It seems to be tied to the cinnamon, somehow. Maybe it’s a result of the combination of the various fruit pieces. I can’t say I taste pineapple or papaya.

It’s true, as someone else said, that the initial sips are the best. After the initial nuttiness and toasty flavor, the cinnamon and apple/weird orange note take over. It’s not bad, it’s just not as good as the first sips, and starts to seem more like a Constant Comment echo.

Second steep, three minutes. Pretty much all the flavoring agents were washed away in the first steep it seems, except for a slight apply/cinnamony flavor. Usually at this point at least I’d get an oolong flavor, but unfortunately, the apple/cinnamon flavor is so distracting I can’t even tell whether the tea is bringing anything to the party.

I should disclose that I put about twice as much of the mix in as would ordinarily be recommended, as I find that otherwise the size of the pieces in these mixtures makes for a weak steep.

Not the worst flavored oolong by any stretch, but doesn’t live up to the promise of its name.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec
Lori

This tea is more of a winter blend….way too spicy for summer…

Angrboda

Could the orange-y note be an oolong note? I can’t recall having identified a citrus note in oolong before, but the thought of it being naturally occuring isn’t a million miles away for me.

__Morgana__

Hmmm… interesting. I suppose it could be an oolong note. I thought it was something having to do with the combo of apple and the other fruit flavors, but you could be right!

Angrboda

It’s a theory, anyway. :)

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Bio

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.

Location

Bay Area, California

Website

http://www.jjroth.net

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