953 Tasting Notes


I thought it would be interesting to try this side by side with the Numi Chinese Breakfast. And it was.

I like black tea, this much I know. But I haven’t yet spent a lot of time analyzing whether I like some black teas better than others. I do like the malty, sugary flavor of some blacks but I’m still too early in my journey toward (what I hope will be) eventual sophistication to be able to tell a Yunnan from an Assam from a Ceylon from a Keemun without reading what I’m drinking on the container it came in. I can sort of tell Darjeeling most of the time, but found it interesting when I was reading about Darjeelings that they’re sort of in their own category as they generally aren’t fully oxidized though they are considered blacks. Hmm.

Anyway, this is a blend of Assam, Ceylon, Keemun and Darjeeling, while the Chinese Breakfast is pure Yunnan. The Chinese Breakfast steeps up the more aromatic of the two, with a sweet, brown sugary smell. The Breakfast Blend has some sweetness too, but it is a paler, and less sweet aroma.

Compared to the Chinese Breakfast, this has a less robust flavor, which wasn’t at all what I expected. I was expecting that between the Assam and the Darjeeling, the Morning Rise would be more intense. Morning Rise is pretty ordinary and so there’s not a lot to say about it. It doesn’t stand out, even among other bagged black teas. I didn’t love Awake, but it had more flavor than this even though it wasn’t as smooth and well-blended. I’d pick Chinese Breakfast over this given the choice.

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drank Lapsang Souchong by Samovar
953 tasting notes

Lap three. The self-talk, or more like self-prattle, that is going on right now is along the lines of “you can do it, do another one! Do Lupicia! Do American Tea Room!” While this may be appropriate while running actual laps, it seems clearly obsessive and possibly gastro-intestinal suicide when talking about a comparison tasting of a tea with this flavor profile.

The Samovar offering looks much like the Life in Teacup in color and leaf size. The dry leaves smell of smoke (quelle surprise!), more smoke than ash, but also have a salty meaty tang. Beef jerky more than bacon. It gives the impression of heartiness.

It steeps deep, dark and clear. Brandy, or maybe single malt scotch in color. It’s been so long since I had either that I can’t remember which is darker. :-P It’s the darker one.

The aroma is where it starts to get really interesting for comparison purposes. Underneath the smoke is the signature Samovar malty sweetness, with the beef jerky note roller skating figure eights through the rest of the aroma.

What an interesting flavor this is. It’s literally beefy. It’s smoky bouillon. It’s smooth smoky boullion with a sweet, almost wine-like, sugary undertone. I’m thinking of beef bourguignon now for some reason, though it really doesn’t taste that grapey. It has a very nice aftertaste. Sweet, smoky, and cooling to the mouth. It is, I’d say, full-bodied.

So now I have a dilemma. I don’t know where to rate this, comparatively. I like it quite a bit. But I also like the GM and I may have used too much water there. I’m not sure which I like better and maybe I’d like the GM better if I’d steeped it better. I have a feeling the Life in Teacup version is closer to the accepted lapsang souchong standard, just from what I’ve read about it in books. But these others are nice, too, and who says there isn’t room for interpretation. And I’ve only tasted three. I’m starting to work myself up into anxiety over this. Takes deep breath and exhales smoke. Maybe I should have a cup of tea and relax.

Final result, I’m calling it a tie with the LIT.

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“lap three” – lol


I love the part about you taking a deep breath and exhaling smoke! :))


Love these LS reviews today! I tried my first LS (which happens to be Samovar’s) this morning. So now I can get a good comparison of the differences…


Good thing you girls like LS. Now when your husbands/boyfriend take you camping, they can rest assured you’ll probably like it.


Thanks! Lori, will be interested to hear your take on this one.


you’re a baby dragon? ;)
i love the 3-lap review!


Lol, AmazonV. Cough cough… fire!


I’m so proud of you! Another brilliant (and very funny) side-by-side epic comparison :) I shall be digging through my GM sampler tomorrow morning for their LS. Thanks for the reviews!


lol to the post and comments =]


Loving the baby dragon cough cough … fire! thing! Now, I won’t be able to drink LS without that association making me smile!


Glad I could brighten a Friday, and provide some info as well. I had fun doing this and writing about it! Next stop… maybe cookies. Lol.

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Second lap of the day. My earlier note gives the detail of my impression of this tea, and I won’t repeat the basics here, but I will note a couple of things for comparison’s sake with the Golden Moon version. First, even with the reduced amount of leaf available for this tasting (which made this somewhat difficult to steep as the amount of water in the cup barely covered the top of the leaves) the liquor is brandy-colored, deeper than the GM’s color. And there is much more smoke. Smoke through and through. Smoke, smoke and more smoke. And some pine resin as well. There’s also an interesting grabbing sensation on the first third of the tongue in the moments after swallowing. Camphor?

This is what I’d call full-bodied. It tastes like it can’t possibly be good for you, and it also seems like the sort of thing one could become addicted to quite easily. I may revisit the rating after trying the last in the lapsang sampling, but for now it’s getting high praise.

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Golden Moon Sampler No. 2 of 31. Eyes wide shut random drawing.

I’m gonna run a few laps today, I think. Maybe three. This one, the remaining bit of my Life in Teacup sample, and the Samovar sample.

As I think about it, this may end up being a mistake. I may not be able to get the smell of smoke out of my pores and nose hairs for a few days. (So I’m going to stop thinking about that for fear I might chicken out.)

Before I begin, a disclaimer about sample size. My Samovar is the biggest (about 1.8 cups worth) and its steeping instructions call for a cup of water. According to my scale, this is too much water for this sample. Of course, according to my scale, the GM sample is enough for 1.4 cups. So I’m going to steep the GM and the Samovar in the same amount of water in my 12 or so ounce cup and hope that evens things out a bit, even though there will have been more water in the GM than the Samovar (as the GM had no instructions as to the amount of water). The Life in Teacup sample is the last little bit, about enough for .4 cups. So I’ll adjust water volume accordingly, but the memory of its taste is still quite fresh from my last tasting so that ought to balance things out a bit as well.

On to this one. The dry leaves are dark, brown/green. Greener than, and slightly shorter than the others, but not shorter by much. Their dominant scent is ash, but there’s an interesting chocolate note in there. It’s the smell of the air in a calm residential neighborhood on a fall evening when many houses have lit up their fireplaces for the first fire of the season.

The steeped aroma is gently smoky. There is pine, and a tobacco note as well. The liquor color is medium amber. I expected darker, but it’s a very appealing color.

Now here’s where I scratch my head a bit and wonder if I used too much water (though I think I used the right amount). Full-bodied, this is not. At least not in my view of full-bodied. I would call this medium-bodied. It has a high coffee note, and of course, it’s smoky. But unlike my last lapsang experience, it’s not entirely about the smoke. There’s a strong woody flavor; it’s almost as woody as it is smoky. And by woody, I don’t mean woodsy/piney/sap/evergreen/conifer stuff. I mean it evokes an unfinished furniture store or a lumberyard. (Not to be confused with sawdust. It’s far deeper and more appealing than that.) It’s a pleasant taste and endearing to me, as it reminds me of my long dead grandfather whose trade in the old country was cabinetmaker.

It’s only my second lapsang souchong, and I’m looking forward to exploring more. I may change my mind as I sample more but for now I’d definitely drink this again as an alternative to the deep, almost tarry, pervasive smokiness of a more full-bodied lapsang.

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I am simply mad about the LS. Maybe I’m accustomed to stronger teas, but I’m taking my entire Golden Moon samples and using them with 4-6 ounces of water maximum.


I usually do a full packet of a Samovar sample in a cup of water, which is what they recommend, but I was trying to calibrate for fairness here and perhaps my attempt backfired. I’m likely to order more of this so I’ll give it a try as you suggested.

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drank Ryokucha by Samovar
953 tasting notes

While I was waiting for the water to heat up to black tea temp this morning I thought I’d give this a try, since I’d seen a flurry of notes and comments about it recently.

Interesting. The dry mixture looked and smelled identical to the Den’s Genmaicha Extra Green. Seriously, I couldn’t find a difference, except perhaps that the Den’s leaves were a bit longer. I liked that one pretty well, so I expected to like this about as much.

The first departure was in the steeping instructions and in fairness, I really should do a side by side comparison of the Den’s using the same steeping parameters. That one called for 30 seconds/boiling, but I followed the instructions on the Samovar sample packet and used cooler water for a longer time with the Ryokucha. The liquor of the Ryokucha was reminiscent of the Den’s but not as atomic-green. More of a chartreuse.

The nose was toasty rice, as expected. But the defining characteristic for me is something Ricky mentioned and that I echo. The sweetness. There’s a green, juicy sweetness to this that dances with the rice flavor in a really interesting way. It’s almost like a very very light soy sauce. Or the aftertaste of edamame. In any case, I’m not sure it’s crack (I guess that’s what they all say the first time) but it’s worth getting to know. I do like it a bit better than the Den’s on this try, but I will go back when I get more of this and do a side by side to be sure it’s not just the Olympic effect (i.e., that the last to go tend to get the higher marks).

175 °F / 79 °C

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drank Lemon Youkou by Teavana
953 tasting notes

The ol’ two-bags-of-Tazo-honeybush-steeped-along-with trick works with this one too, though perhaps not quite as well as I’d hoped. It takes the edge off the tartness but isn’t quite enough to sweeten it up to my “perfect lemon” standard. (I know, I know, my expectations are unrealistic perhaps.) It’s still worth tasting, for the reasons I mentioned in my previous note. And I’ll give the honeybush another go as well. It could have a completely different effect next time, since the ingredients in this tisane are so unusually unbalanced — really big pieces of lemon and normal sized pieces of other things.

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I had high hopes for tea notes this evening but they were dashed. My kindergartener’s homework (!) was to write a story about his week with the class mascot (a stuffed Clifford the big red dog) and illustrate it with photographs of the two of them, and of course we left it till the last night. Partly this was because we barely have time to do his other homework as it is, what with both parents working and all, but mostly it was because I got a new camera and couldn’t get the printer to work with it. Ugh. Anyway, I finally figured it out, story is now done and child is in bed. Whew.

So I’m backtracking to another bagged hanger on that I haven’t yet written about.

This is a serviceable spiced rooibos, but I’m not sure it’s a very good chai. I haven’t had a lot of chai, so what do I know. All I can say is I’ve had a really good one. Part of what made it so good was the richness the milk imparted. This doesn’t stand up to milk. Another thing that made it really good was the black pepper kick. There’s no black pepper in this. And another thing that made it really good was a really luscious blend of spices that gave it a lot of character and depth. This has a sort of generic cinnamon-spicy thing going on.

I would have the Tazo Decaf Chai over this if I was looking for a caffeine free chai in a teabag. It stands up to milk, it has black pepper. Two out of three ain’t all bad.

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drank Rooibos Tropica by Teavana
953 tasting notes

Another Teavana tea of the month for March. (Hmm. Wonder when April’s teas will show up?)

And another I would not have selected were it not a tea of the month club offering. Confession time: I am no longer sure how I feel about rooibos (but don’t let rooibos know, k?).

When I first started trying to become a tea drinker, I liked it quite a bit. I think I liked it because it was (a) different from other drinks I’d had, and therefore novel, and (b) such a good flavor enabler. It may be particularly attractive to recent converts because it forms the backbone of so many interesting sounding drinks that, when you’re first getting your feet wet after less than stellar experiences, sound appealing because it’s almost like not drinking a tea-like beverage. Like Rootbeer Float and Tiramisu. The more excellent loose leaf Camellia Sinensis I drink, the less appeal these frou-frou approximations of existing beverages or foods have, though I remain a sucker for a good flavored black tea.

So say what you will about it, rooibos does have the very endearing quality of being an excellent backdrop. It’s the tofu of the tea world. It doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own, and the flavor that it has is mild and neutral. So it basically takes on the flavor of whatever is next to it. It loves the one it’s with.

Mostly, successful rooibos blends seem to be about the proportion of whatever the other flavor is to the rooibos. At least, I find the more successful ones to be those that sit the rooibos in the corner and don’t let it talk too much.

And that is why I find Rooibos Tropica to be a successful blend. It has a wonderful strawberry/peach smell when dry and is pretty to look at. It looks like dried rosemary dotted with blue, white and reddish-purple flower petals. (I agree with the quiet life, I don’t think there is any red rooibos in there. The ingredients on the bag don’t list it. Maybe they did change the blend.) When infused, the aroma is strawberry, peach, and a somewhat green note which could be from the rooibos, or the flower petals, or both.

It doesn’t seem that sweet to me, though strawberry is definitely present in the flavor and I’m finding Teavana’s strawberry to provide some degree of sweetness to their blends. Without the strawberry, I don’t think it would be at all sweet. If I try really hard I can taste something that seems like peach, and something that seems like orange. But what I find interesting about the flavor is that the ingredients together have some sort of synergy going on, where the sum of the individual parts is greater and different than the whole. As a whole, it’s a tutti-frutti mixture that suggests mango, pineapple, even banana — basically all the fruits you’d find on Carmen Miranda’s hats — even though none of those are identified as ingredients. And the rooibos is sitting in the corner, quietly, exactly as it should be.

So this gets a high rating for being an excellent example of its genre. Tied with the SpecialTeas Rooibos Lemon Chiffon, which I have not had in a while and need to revisit to see if recalibration is in order. However, whether I buy more is still an open question given my current doubts about my relationship with rooibos.

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Brilliant insights on rooibos! My favorite is that it’s “the tofu of the tea world” – LOL!


the caffeine-free aspect is a plus for me in my nightly search for a tea that won’t keep me from sleeping!


Agreed, Lauren (she says, having just finished drinking this at around 10:30 p.m.) :-)


I enjoy Rooibos but I get what your saying. I find that if your looking for some extravagant flavors your going to find them in Rooibos mixes. This particular one looks pretty interesting! I will put it on my must try list :)

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The rapturous tasting notes about this made me want to try it and, on the offchance I’d get lucky, I sifted through my last batch of Life in Teacup samples and voila! Lucky, lucky me. I am all for instant gratification. In this case it was so instant I placed my order right before writing this.

Let me add my own effusive praise to this lovely tea.

Yellow flecked, deep green, twisty, curvy leaves. Not the biggest I’ve seen in an oolong, not the smallest either. They really do have an amazing fragrance. I often have difficulty detecting floral notes even in teas that are scented. I think it was Shanti who said this smells like a garden and she’s absolutely right; it’s like sticking your nose into a gardenia. There may be other floral scents in there as well but I’m notoriously bad at placing floral scents. Lily of the valley maybe?

The brew is a light yellow with a tinge of green and smells like someone poured melted butter over the aforementioned flowers. The leaves unfurl to increase dramatically in size after multiple steeps.

And in honor of laurenpressley’s impending addition, let me tell you what the taste reminds me of.

There’s a little white flower called “baby’s breath,” which is often used as an accent in bouquets. It doesn’t have much of a scent on its own, so until I became a mother I thought the reference was to the milky white color of the flower. Because after all, babies drink milk.

Then my first son was born. And in those first few days of holding him and nursing him, I noticed an amazing thing. His breath smelled divine. Sweet, warm, milky, buttery. Pure. He took nothing into his body other than mother’s milk. There were no teeth yet, to collect what the mouthwash commercials refer to as “odor causing bacteria.” Just this sweet, lovely baby milky smell.

That’s what this tea tastes like. That, and flowers. What’s not to like?

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

Beautiful note!! :)


Awwwww! :)


I’m such a sap. ;-)


Such a sweet description…butter, flowers, and literal baby’s breath. Aww. :)

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Methinks it is time to start on my sampler. Here goes nothing: No. 1 of 31

Took a page from Ewa’s book: closed my eyes, thrust my hand into the basket, diddled it around and grabbed. This is what came out. (That was really fun, by the way. I intend to go through the whole thing entirely at random.)

Pretty, pretty dry leaves. Long, twisted, pointy; a cross between olive green and chocolate brown. And the smell! First, chocolate. Then, tobacco. Then, coffee. Then, something green and toasty. All mixing together and swirling around. Bizarrely, the image that came to mind was of tiny, silver, schooling fish swimming this way and that.

I used the whole packet. According to my scale it is enough for 1.5 cups, but my favorite cup for tasting teas holds 12 oz of water, rather than 8. So six of one, half a dozen of the other as my mother would say.

A golden brown, “tea colored” liquor. Lighter in color than I expected. Sweet, chocolate/malt/brown sugar aroma.

How to describe the taste? It’s smooth and gentle, completely without sharp edges. It isn’t full-bodied like the Samovar Breakfast Blend; on the other hand, it is refreshing without being thin. This seems to be the influence of the darjeeling.

It has a taste I can only describe as leafy. It isn’t particularly sweet, though it does have a hint of malt. It makes me think of fall in the Northeast US, when the leaves are falling from the trees, fresh and fragrant. This is what I’m getting more than “floral” but perhaps it’s all part of a Kingdom Plantae continuum. There’s a nice, lingering, quintessentially tea taste. It’s what tea-flavored candy tastes like without the sugar overload.

It’s lovely. I’ll definitely order it. I like Samovar’s Breakfast Blend better, but who says you can only have one breakfast blend? It would be like only having one pair of black shoes.

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Tea colored liquor:) Sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade.

Miss Sweet

Love this tasting note! I have 4 breakfast teas and at least double that of black shoes haha


Hahaha, glad you liked it. :-)


It’s strange, but I love this one with milk and sugar. I should really have it plain to see if it has the same effect on me. Breakfast blend was okay to me, but I’ve never tried it with milk and sugar. Hmm, I should give that a try.


Hmm. I haven’t tried either one that way. The only tea I’ve been converted to drinking with milk/sweetener every time is chai. Let me know how it turns out!

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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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