1178 Tasting Notes


My tin was full to the brim as well, and the top of the tin is very tight — which is good for the tea, but not so good for my newly cleaned countertop. At least it was the countertop, not the floor, so I could salvage…

It’s very tippy, giving it that (brown) salt and pepper look that I find so appealing. The dry leaves have the soil-like smell of some Assams, but with something stronger, sweeter and vaguely bready (as opposed to yeasty) about it. Bready good. Yeasty (unless winey or beery or bready) bad.

It makes a medium-dark amber liquor with a bready aroma. I totally get what Stephanie mentioned in her note — warm, sweet bread. It leans toward, but doesn’t completely reach maltiness of the type I recall from the Numi Chinese Breakfast. It isn’t the sugary, yam-like orgy of complexity that was the Samovar Yunnan Golden Buds. But it is quite nice.

It has a thick, substantial mouthfeel which adds to the perception of breadiness. I would not have identified the pepper note without reading about it here, but now that I do, yes, that makes sense. It’s not a spicy pepper though. It’s like the flavor of pepper without the spiciness.

A nice, all-purpose, Yunnan black tea.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

Yeah, totally wish I had caved when this was the SS. Maybe they’ll have it again! (Hint to the Overlords?)


I feel on this Auggy (I didn’t cave either).

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drank Chai With Chocolate by 52teas
1178 tasting notes

Made on the stovetop using the Samovar extra black tea method. Extra black tea today was LeafSpa Yunan Gold. I love those sorts of names for teas. Makes me think of action movies involving drug cartels.

The Yunan Gold has a very thick mouthfeel, which I thought would make it a particularly good candidate to add to chai to help along the chewiness.

Yum. I can definitely taste the chocolate in this. It’s like someone mixed brownie and gingerbread batter together and liquified it. Or put another way, it’s like the Mayan Chocolate Chai but more chocolatey and less spicy (the ingredients are the same except for the cayenne pepper). It’s still nicely spiced, though. Although I do miss my black pepper. I wonder what adding a bit of black pepper would have done to it?

Definitely yum for a sleepy Wednesday afternoon pick me up.

Boiling 8 min or more

Whoa how can a chai get more chocolatey?! =P


I know some traditional chai blends have black pepper in them – but it’s something I’d add sparingly, personally. :D

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drank Mandarin Orange by Teas Etc
1178 tasting notes

This is embarrassing, but I bought this by mistake. Am I the only one who has ever done that? I meant to buy the Mandarin Orange green tea from Teas Etc. But this is what showed up. I’m sure it was because of user error, i.e. mine, and it seemed like a hassle to send it back so I just kept it and decided to give it a shot.

There’s an intense, juicy orange smell upon opening the tin. The rooibos is noticeable, mostly as a sort of woody back-note, but not strong.

The aroma from the rooibos after steeping is — get this — very much like Fanta orange soda without the addition of the carbonated quality. There is also an appley smell underneath from the rooibos.

The taste is not bad. It’s not exactly sweet orange, but it’s not bitter either. I wish the orange flavor was stronger. It’s almost enough to make me unaware I’m drinking red rooibos, but not quite.

It started out a mistake, and it’s not something I’d order again, mostly because I just don’t think I’d ever really want to drink orange rooibos (unless I’d ordered it by mistake, in which case I’d happily drink it to have an additional option at night when I don’t want to take in too much caffeine). But it’s decent, by the standard I apply which is unobtrusiveness in the rooibos flavor.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

Me me me! I’ve done that! Bought vanilla black tea instead of an herbal one.


Oh thank goodness I’m not the only one!

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In the sample packet, the smell is to die for. Chocolate. Nom. Chocolate. Nom nom. Chocolate. Nom nom nom. Not really much else, just sweet, creamy smelling chocolate.

You can’t really see it in the picture, but the red rooibos is interspersed with long yellow dried petals. They’re pretty. They look sort of like fragments of crepe paper.

I had very high hopes that this would be some sort of caffeine free chocolate dream concoction that I could drink at night while watching The Biggest Loser. Just the illusion of calories.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. In the cup, the aroma is rooibos first, chocolate illusion after. As is the flavor. The chocolate isn’t bad as far as it goes. The rooibos isn’t a bad rooibos. It’s the balance that’s the issue for me. As with some other recent rooibos trials, the problem here is that the rooibos won’t shut up.

For me, if a rooibos is good, it’s a lot like a good waiter. You barely notice they’re there, you just notice that you’re not left wanting anything. They don’t barge in, they don’t totally ignore you. They’re just a very quiet presence that miraculously gets the job done.

This one isn’t quite there. Dang. Now what can I have while watching The Biggest Loser. Quick, before I head for the cookies!

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

Man, finding a good chocolatey tea is hard!


I watched it too! Was REALLY disappointed Koli won the $100,000 he went from looking like he was gonna murder someone to almost looking like he didn’t think he was gonna win… and those pants… I had a blended iced chai while watching it.

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drank Earl Grey Special by TeaFrog
1178 tasting notes

Getting close to the end of my TeaFrog samples. I think I have three more. This is one of them.

The dry mix is very pretty, the lemongrass is very green against the backdrop of the Ceylon and there are little flecks of blue where the cornflowers show through. There’s a light neutral color as well that looks like the lemon peel. I’m not really seeing jasmine, though it could be that some of the flecks that look like lemon peel are actually jasmine petals. It doesn’t have a strong scent of bergamot (or otherwise) in the packet.

The tea has a lemony aroma with a bergamot undercurrent. It has a lemony taste as well. A bright taste. The bergamot is pretty subdued, secondary to the lemon. I am not getting much in the way of jasmine.

It’s hard to say whether it’s tastes like an Earl Grey so much as a lemon black tea with bergamot? It does seem to me the lemon is the stronger taste of the two. It’s actually very nice; it’s different. I don’t think I’d buy it to fill an Earl Grey need. If I order some, it will simply be because I like it.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

Ooooo — I’ve got this one coming as one of my samples from the Select. Now my curiosity has ratcheted up a few notches :)


Okay, so just had my first cup and then I reread your note after posting mine. I wonder if our slightly different experiences is due to water temp. I’ve discovered that 205 is perfect for many flavored black teas — especially EGs. My favorite Rosy Early Grey has a harsh citrus-almost-lime bite to it when I tried it at boiling the first time. But once I lowered it to 205 it was super-yummy.


Hmmm. Interesting. I really only had enough sample for one shot in the Breville so I won’t be finding out whether that’s the issue unless I decide to order more. But I like the theory!


D’oh! And mmmm…Breville…::drools:: ;)

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drank Caribbean Breeze by Teavana
1178 tasting notes

Had the last little bit of this last night and decupboarding now.

It was enjoyable enough to put on a possible reorder list, though I’m not rushing out to buy more — particularly while I still have some Tazo Passion, which is similar.

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This sample packet contained a really interesting mixture. Bit chunky pieces of roasted chicory that looked like tree bark or mulch, red peppercorns, and what looked like little chocolate chips among a tan colored substance that must be the ginger. The dry mix smells like spicy mocha. It makes a thick looking brown liquor.

The aroma of the tisane smells like chocolate, coffee and pepper. I’m not really picking up on much ginger here. The taste is similar to the aroma. Lightly chocolately, lightly coffee-like, with a zing of pepper that stands out most of all. The ginger hangs on to the chicory and mellows it into a sweet coffee-like flavor with a ginger overtone.

It’s a really interesting flavor, one I haven’t come across in a tisane before. I could see wanting it every now and then, especially during colder months. It’s a little too unusual and slyly intense for more than occasional drinking, at least for me.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

Still in my sample basket, hopefully I’ll crack this one open soon…

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drank Chocolate Mint by TeaFrog
1178 tasting notes

Another TeaFrog sample from a prior Steepster Select. This was back before I started to shun rooibos. ;-) Actually, I don’t really shun it even now, I just have a lot more understanding of my own taste preferences with respect to it now than I used to.

This has the same basic flavor profile as The Necessiteas’ Peppermint Pattie, and yet, its rooibos is far more present. It’s more present in the nose of the dry mixture, in the aroma of the steeped tisane, and in the taste. It’s in the first position in all of those, followed by mint and then by chocolate.

The rooibos isn’t bad tasting as rooibos goes — it doesn’t have a lot of sawdust or pencil shaving qualities, but I can’t get away from the fact that it is the number one flavor. This is pretty much the exact opposite of what I am looking for in a rooibos blend, though I know I’m not typical.

So I prefer the Peppermint Pattie for this flavor combo in a rooibos. I didn’t think that one was perfect either, as the rooibos flavor played a little bit of hide and seek. But it was pretty good at the hiding part and gave the number one taste spot to the chocolate for the most part, followed by the mint.

This one isn’t really attempting to hide, which I’m sure is the preference of the true rooibos fan. It just isn’t mine.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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I ended up with another sample of this.

This time I cold brewed it for more like 36 hours and it made quite a difference. Much more flavorful and round.

It’s also really nice with food. Better, I think, with food than as a stand alone drink. I had it with pasta and marinara sauce and it went very nicely.

Bumping up a few points as I enjoyed it more this time around.

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The second in the British Blend Sampler. The web site’s description for the plain Russian Caravan says it has teas from India, China, and Formosa, so this must as well. There is some tippiness to the leaves. Also some twigginess. I wish my senses were sophisticated enough to be able to tell what’s what from the sight and smell of the leaves. I looked up Russian Caravan and Wikipedia says it is a blend of Oolong, Keemun and Lapsang Souchong.

Which is fascinating because after it steeps, it smells like Darjeeling to me. Doesn’t taste so much like it, though. There could well be oolong in this. The mouth feel is soft and silky, and there’s a nutty/stone fruit butteriness to the flavor. I don’t taste smoke except maybe barely in the finish, so if there is lapsang in this it’s a very small amount. I am thinking that what I smelled as Darjeeling is probably Keemun. It has a sort of grapey fruitiness.

The aftertaste is sweet and slightly buttery. I’m in yumsville, liking this one quite a bit.

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

I’m having one of those “wah?” moments: there’s oolong in Russian Caravans? Wah?!?!? I guess that I’ve noticed some green leaves amongst many-a-Caravan, but never gave them much thought. I’m now really wanting to try a Caravan looking for the oolong!


This one was my fave in this collection- the smoke like a whisper-

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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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