957 Tasting Notes


Golden Moon Sampler No. 5 of 31, selected at random.

Wow, back to back selection of the teas Ewa said she was dreading. [Twilight Zone Music]

I’m also dreading this one, not because I don’t like coconut, but because when I looked up Pouchong I learned that it is between a green tea and an oolong. I’ve only had one flavored oolong which was good, but I’ve never met a flavored green tea that I really really liked, with the exception of the Samovar Moorish Mint. I really wanted to like this one. It seems as though it has many fans, so I was hopeful as I started out.

The dry leaves are medium length, twisty, a dark to medium green with yellow highlights and smell like toasted coconut. It’s like someone put a maccaroon in this tea! (I heart maccaroons, so now I’m even more hopeful.) There is also a pronounced floral note. I looked at the ingredients to make sure there wasn’t a flower scent in there as well, but if there is it isn’t listed.

My first steep didn’t go particularly well. I decided to make this in a small teapot, and I thought I’d use just the amount of water that I’ve been using in my tastings of these samples — but that amount of water wasn’t sufficient to cover the leaves. So I had to add a bit more. I am concerned that it was too much. The liquor was a very pale yellowish color, almost colorless, and the aroma and flavor were buttery with a hint of coconut but not a great deal of depth to the flavor.

For the second steep, I used a Finum filter and steeped in the glass. This definitely made a difference in strength. The color was deeper; still pale, but very definitely yellow. The aroma was milky/buttery, floral and toasty/maccaroony.

The first, too-watery tasting made the buttery note primary, and a little on the weak side. But the second is much more satisfactory. Yes! I can taste coconut! It’s a mild, mellow flavor, but it is there. And now I’m kicking myself for not getting this right on the first steep as I can only imagine it should have been a far more accessible flavor the first time through.

I’m thinking I have to order more of this and keep working at it until I find the steeping sweet spot. If and when I do, I expect this will be extraordinary and deserve additional points.

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Lemon Youkou by Teavana
957 tasting notes

Another steeping discovery. In addition to the honeybush, which I am now adding as a matter of course, I should abandon all rationality when it comes to measuring this mixture and go way overboard. Tonight I had a slice of lemon come out of the bag that was two inches long and weighed enough for a half cup measurement all by itself. Since I was steeping in a mug that holds enough liquid for two rather large normal-sized cups, I put in enough for five cups according to my scale. The result was a sweeter, more flavorful cup than I’ve had from this previously. More is better in this case!

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Golden Moon sample No. 4 of 31, randomly selected. Patience isn’t my strong suit and every drop I have of it goes to my small kids, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I do things like pick the next random sample even if I may not drink it right away, just so I know what it’s going to be. I was lucky tonight, I picked back to back whites — so I can get away with trying another one before I go to bed. (I hope.)

I’m guessing the same white tea is the base for this as was for the Persian Melon. Looks the same in any case — I won’t repeat the visual description here. These do have that anise/fennel smell of licorice, but it is far more mellow and earthy than I’d thought it would be. I’m finding that in flavored teas, the smell of the dry mixture is often much more intense and concentrated than the smell of the steeped tea, which I suppose makes total sense. I am visualizing a textbook style diagram showing little bubbles of aroma-containing particles wafting upward as the tea evaporates and having more and more space coming between them the farther away from the liquid they go. Here, I’m wondering how much flavor there will be in the steeped tea since the licorice fragrance in the dry leaves doesn’t seem strong enough to sustain infusion, but then, licorice is a pretty strong flavor and I should give GM the benefit of the doubt for knowing what they’re doing.

Color-wise, the liquor is very similar to the Persian Melon as well, pale golden yellow. The licorice component of the steeped tea’s aroma is mild and mellow.

Taste-wise, it is as well. It’s definitely licorice, but soft, smooth, gentle. Which is great, because if it were stronger it could get scary and become Tazo Cinnamon Spice minus the cinnamon. Where in the Persion Melon the white tea seemed to add a fermented note, here it lends more of a earthy note. Together with the anise, the earthy note brings to mind tarragon. And now all of a sudden I’m thinking of Samuel Beckett. I wish that hadn’t happened right before bed. I enjoy thinking about Samuel Beckett, so now I’ll probably want to stay up and read.

But back to this tea. As a licorice tea, this is v. nice, but do I want/need licorice tea? It’s not my favorite flavor, I never crave it. I enjoy it if I’m in the mood and it’s presented to me but I wouldn’t ordinarily seek it out. I think that sums up how I feel about this tea. Unlikely to crave it, unlikely to seek it out, but if it was presented to me most likely I’d drink it and enjoy it.

Unfortunately there isn’t tea-on-demand capability, where you can open your magic beam me up Scotty fax machine and pull out just the right amount of leaves so that you don’t have to order a #*^!load of something you’ll want only once in a while. If I had one of those, I could see requesting small samples of this from time to time.

So who is going to invent that, please?

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

LOVE the visualized diagram-o-smell! I really dislike licorice – so it’s good to know that I shouldn’t be going “patooie” when this sample comes up for me. And I’m thinking that Ewa might be able to salvage the time machine and focus on your brilliant idea instead ;)


Because all the chronal resonance frequency of all the time machine parts has to be tweaked in order to ensure that a cascading oscillation failure doesn’t tear a hole in space-time, they really become kind of useless for any other purpose. If only I had called a halt to construction before we’d gotten to that step…but alas!

On another topic, I’ve been kind of dreading both this tea and coconut pouchong, since I haven’t been a huge fan of either flavor, historically. So, I too, am somewhat relieved :D

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Golden Moon Sample No. 3 of 31. Another random pick.

There was an amusing, crazy, humongous open leaf among the dry leaves, that looked something like a bay leaf. Never seen that before in the teas I’ve tried. Other than that they looked greenish grey with flecks of white. Not sure what kind they are, maybe white peony? They smell sweet and, I guess, melony, but it’s really too pungent to be just melon. The smell reminds me of something I can’t place. Maybe jelly beans? Candy corn? Cotton candy? A tiny bit like caramel? This worried me a little at first. I was afraid this would be gag-me-with-a-spoon sweet. But it turns out I didn’t have to worry.

When steeped, the melon scent becomes evident, and the candy smell recedes greatly. Sometimes the aroma smells a bit like honeydew, sometimes like cantaloupe, sometimes like a mix. It’s a juicy and mildy fermented smell, with a high white wine-like note. The liquor is a clear, pale golden-yellow.

Wow. I’m tasting this as I type and it does taste just like a melon! It’s like drinking a slightly watered-down version of the juice left on the empty plate where the honeydew was at a breakfast buffet, but there’s more to it than that. It’s mildly sweet, but with that same slightly fermented note to it, which must be the underlying tea. Winey. Almost yeasty. It’s very nice indeed. It is the best flavored white tea I have tried so far, not that I’ve tried that many.

I’m giving it a provisional rating that puts it above the other flavored whites I’ve had but isn’t out the roof as I don’t yet have enough of a comparison base in flavored whites to feel comfortable saying this is the best of the best. It may change as my experience changes, but for now I’m calling it a smashing success as a white melon tea.

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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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.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Lapsang Souchong by Samovar
957 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.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

“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.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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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.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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
957 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
957 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’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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