1118 Tasting Notes

drank Berryblossom White by Tazo
1118 tasting notes

Wow. You never know what you’ll find in the back of a cabinet at my house.

Both the BF and I are sick and are on something of a tea-drinking marathon today. He loves berries (mostly raspberries, but you take what you can get) so I made some of this. I also think it’s high time we finished this up as it’s pretty long in the tooth.

It has held its flavor well, though. My original notes seem to have captured the flavor I’m now tasting. One thing I’m noticing that I didn’t notice so much before is the astringency of this one. It has a rather pronounced drying effect in my mouth, which may not be the best thing to consume while one has a virus that has caused a cold sore. Or is it a fever blister? Not sure I know the difference.

In any case, I’ll end by saying something that’s been on my mind about white tea in general. I really love the idea of white tea, but for some reason it’s always the last thing I think of choosing when I go to my stash. This may be because I’m not entirely sure I’ve perfected the best way to steep it yet, but it could also be because I find the flavor somewhat tricky. You’d think I’d have learned by now, but I always expect something lighter than I get. Many white teas remind me of nothing so much as black tea, which is usually not what I am looking for when I choose a white. Maybe that’s why it tends to get overlooked in my cupboard.

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I had just a couple of teaspoons left this sample so I steeped it this morning. I’m a little sad to see it go, not only because the tea is nice but also because the sample tin was so lovely. If I wasn’t engaging in a war on clutter, I would have kept it, but I made myself let it go. A savory balm to a flaming throat.

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If it seems like I’m only writing tasting notes when I’m sick, that’s probably because I’m only writing tasting notes when I’m sick. Because that’s when I’m mostly drinking tea these days. Though with the new year comes the resolutions, and one of them is to wean myself back off of Diet Coke and back onto tea as part of the diet improvement plan of 2014.

This was given to me as a gift from a colleague in Texas as part of a larger gift box that contained cocoa mix, steak rub, some coffee products, etc. and its gift box name is, cutely, “Tea is for Texas.” However, the company just lists it as Chamomile/Peppermint Plus. Chamomile is one of those herbal flavors that I wish I liked better than I do. Sometimes it sounds really good to me but more often than not, it’s disappointing when I drink it. There’s something going on with the flowers that hits me the wrong way most of the time. I think it’s that good chamomile has such a creamy consistency I expect it to be sweet but it often has an almost bitter note that messes my tasters up. Or maybe it’s just psychological because I associate it with being sick.

In any case, the good thing about this one is that the peppermint takes the edge off the chamomile leaving it more as an undercurrent than the main event. The aftertaste is minty rather than flowery, too. There’s still the occasional high flowery chamomile note, but it’s less problematic for me when it isn’t the only flavor.

It’s a good herbal for a sore throat. Not sure I’d seek out the flavor it I wasn’t feeling under the weather, though.

Boiling 7 min, 0 sec

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I’m under the weather — scratchy throat, stuffy head, achy, everything but the fever, cough and sniffles — and so I’m making therapeutic use of this one today and it is really hitting the spot. I took a quick look at my last tasting note quite a while ago and mentioned that I wasn’t getting lemon, which I think must have been mentioned in the official description. I’m still not getting it, really, but my out of practice palate is noticing something that could be confused with lemon. Just a touch of a fresh tartness. If the taste had a color, it would be yellow.


feel better!

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drank Honeybush Mango by Adagio Teas
1118 tasting notes

Finished up and decupboarded this little sample tonight. The evenings are getting colder and more inviting to the consumption of warm beverages, but I really can’t do caffeine in the evenings these days. It’s very much the same as my original note reflected on this tasting but as I have a touch of something that’s affecting my throat and mouth my taster isn’t dwelling on the woodiness tonight, which is a good thing.

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drank Honeybush by Adagio Teas
1118 tasting notes

Hmmm. I thought I’d written a note on this one, but maybe not. Anyway, I’m drinking the last of the tiny tin sampler tonight because… I don’t have a good reason. Turning over a new health leaf perhaps? (How many times have I said that?) I did work out today and had some tilapia and couscous for dinner, and there’s no Diet Coke within reach so it seem like the right thing to do.

In any case, as is probably obvious from some of my more recent tasting notes, I have become an unfan of untea. I’m drinking this one only because some of the fruity flavor samples were better as honeybush goes, and there wasn’t much left in the tin so I could wave goodbye to another tiny bit of house clutter.

Honeybush is somewhat more tolerable to me than rooibos because of the (duh) honey aspect, but it still has that woody thing going on that makes me feel like I’m inhaling the cedar chips from the bottom of a hamster cage. It’s best and highest use, as far as I am concerned, is to temper the sour and bitter in blends that have a high citrus or hibiscus quotient.

Tonight, however, it is serving another purpose. It’s making me feel virtuous, which can only be a good thing. It’s not a bad honeybush if you like honeybush, but as I don’t, for me it was just part of a misplaced buying frenzy a while back and I’m not sorry to see it go.

Boiling 8 min or more

‘untea’. I like that. :)

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This was the first tea I had upon arriving at the Samovar Tea Lounge in Zen Valley last Friday following our excursion to the SF Zoo. To round out the picture, my older son, 8, had Tea Lemonade (it was awesome! Not sure what was in it but it tasted like green tea and lemonade), my younger son had Moorish Mint, which I adore and he liked at first but grew weary of after a few cups, and my BF had Tart Peach which was lovely as well.

This was served in a little pitcher with a built in strainer, and an accompanying cup.

I have quite enjoyed many of the Samovar Pu-Erhs, but this was not my fave, for a reason that is extremely subjective. I thought I might get a chocolate flavor out of it, and I did get some around the edges, but it was secondary to a somewhat alcoholic flavor that predominated. To be precise, the main flavor I got from it was brandy, cognac perhaps, and I am not a fan of either of those flavors. Like most pu-erhs I have tasted it is overly simplistic to reduce this one to a single flavor, and I could discern as well the earth, bark and barnyard components. But the overwhelming note was the brandy. If you like that flavor, you will love this.

I give it points for obvious quality, though.


Tart Peach? I don’t recall seeing this on their website! Sounds yummy!


I wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint brandy. Nice callout…


Did you taste that as well, byronicle?


I’m not really a brandy drinker, but I can definitely see where you were coming from on that one.


I drank this recently and had a very strong (negative) reaction to it. I was clearly detecting something unexpected, but couldn’t put my finger on it… it just tasted off. By the end of the tasting, all I could identify was a general “boozy” quality. But it wasn’t till I read your review that I could place the flavor – it’s brandy! Thank you for giving me that much needed “ah-ha” moment!

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drank Phoenix Oolong by Samovar
1118 tasting notes

I’ve been wanting to go to a Samovar tea room for years, and since I live in the Bay Area it’s somewhat astonishing to me that I never made it to one before Friday. We took the kids to the SF Zoo and then went to the Zen Valley location for tea and dinner. It was chilly outside and the tea room was warm and peaceful. A lovely place to sit.

This is one of the two teas I had while there (on the menu it is called “Golden Phoenix”). It was served in a gaiwan, which I’ve never quite mastered, but I did my best. I was reminded of why I love oolongs and why I don’t drink them often. I had this after dinner and the fam was getting restless and wanted to leave, while I kept trying to squeeze in just one more infusion.

This is a richer flavored oolong than the Four Seasons, but still somewhat delicate, not as floral, more “oolongy” with a stone fruit and woodsy flavor. I wasn’t able to control my infusion times what with the distractions of being in company and my somewhat bumbling gaiwan style, but I found that I preferred short infusions to longer ones. The longer ones took a turn toward bitterness, while the shorter ones had a very subtle peachy note with a pleasantly sweet aftertaste. I can’t help but believe my experience would have been improved if I’d ordered this one before dinner when I had more time to savor how this changed from infusion to infustion.


ooh, I’ve been many times!

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drank Spicy Chocolate by Kusmi Tea
1118 tasting notes

Finishing and decupboarding this one today. It remains my favorite among the Kusmi chocolates, but the Kusmi chocolates remain not my favorite Kusmis as subtlety and chocolate do not go together in my book. Still, the spice blend is nice on a chilly day and it’s not that the chocolate isn’t there, it’s just a second-seat to the spices and too much of a second seat to be what I’m looking for in a chocolate tea.

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I meant to record a tasting note for this a while back and I see I never did. I must have been distracted. Probably had some rejection slips pop into my mail box which sent me scurrying to find another market to send a story to. ;-)

I’ll have to go back to it and write a more in-the-moment reflection, but the good news is this is a memorable tea. Even without having tasted it in three months I remember a thick mouth feel and a really nice currenty raisiny flavor over a mild and tasty black tea base. More later, but I didn’t want to leave this one naked. It’s cold out there.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. 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 write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tea skills and tastes developed they became far less appealing to me. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with 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. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

People have sent me tea on occasion, and I was once persuaded to send some Tazo Om to AmazonV. I’ve also done at least one group buy here on Steepster, the famous Doulton-led Dammann Freres experiment years ago. But mostly, I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it, though I don’t put samples in my cupboard and not everything I have at any given time is showing in my cupboard. I do try to remember to remove things from my cupboard once I no longer have them.

I was an early internet adopter and have been online in various environments since around 1990. Steepster is one of the nicest online environments I’ve ever been privileged to participate in and that is saying something. :-)


Bay Area, California



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