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211 Tasting Notes


I know it’s poor form to have one’s initial taste of a pricey, long-awaited leaf alongside a bowl of smelly, peppery tuna salad, but the steaming cup imparted a glorious incense to my fishy repast. It was alchemical bliss to the palate, and besides, I was hungry.

The only other bohea I’ve experienced was about a year ago, from Teas Etc. This marvel, I think, surpasses that. The dry tea consists of tiny, even-sized black twists. Be careful with the leaf amount. It is denser than you might think. I used a scant 1.5 tsp in a 12oz mug to get two steeps. If you have the right mug, the large size teeli/bodum mesh-and-plastic steeping basket will reach all the way from the bottom to the top edge, giving the leaf lots of room to boogie … and good leaves deserve this.

The liquor possesses more flavor than is announced by its pale amber hue. The smoke merely accents its depth and complexity. It has an herbal freshness like lightly roasted roots rather than a green flush. While lapsang souchong can shove some extremely distracting smoke up your nose, this bohea wraps its toasty wood mist gently around the notes of the excellent tea. No wonder the bohea is more costly.

Afterward, I put the wet leaf on a little white porcelain saucer and dripped water on it until it was suspended in liquid. This is the best way I’ve found for getting a really good look at steeped leaf. Lo and behold, this leaf has been chopped or broken into quite evenly-sized bits. Was this machine-harvested or was it broken during finishing? I cannot tell. In any case, the fineness of this bohea does not depend on preserving the whole leaf. Rather, it is the quality of growth, the selectiveness of picking, and the skill of processing which makes such a good thing.

4 min, 6min at 205F.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Cup is, as stated, a light copper color. I forgot about this description and over-steeped my first cup, thinking I’d used too little leaf. Aroma is sweet, with brief floral notes as the cup cools. Flavor reminds of mint, marjoram perhaps, with a bitter bite at the swallow … due to the oversteep, I think. Little astringency in the hot cup, but increased with cooling. This calls for a new cup, with better steeping parameters.

205 °F / 96 °C 6 min, 0 sec

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The package instructions say: 180F for 5-8 min ?! Surely this is too long to steep a green tea! On the contrary, I found that a 5 min steep gave a sweet and smooth cup. This is an exquisite, delicious green tea. Rich, fruity flavor. The leaves are so tender, I wanted to gobble them up afterwards.

180 °F / 82 °C 5 min, 0 sec

Congrats on 200th tasting note! : )

Pamela Dean

Gee, i hadnt noticed … now, thanks to you, i can celebrate 200! :))


Yay! : )

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drank Ya Bao by TeaSpring
211 tasting notes

Thanks to the Steepster TTB, I’m sampling this interesting tea today. TeaSpring sells this as a pricey loose-leaf puerh tea. My (other) Ya Bao leaves from Norbu Tea are sold as a moderately priced wild-type white tea. I think the leaf, as picked, is the same for both: the growing tips of a wild-type varietal (or wild arbor) of tea plant which were picked in the early Spring season. The difference is that these Ya Bao leaves from TeaSpring have been fermented in the manner of puerh mao cha. The mao cha are the “makings” of puerh tea … they’re piled up and allowed to age in a controlled amount of humidity. Later, this mao cha may be blended with other mao cha and made into a pressed cake of puerh, to be aged further in cake form.

This Ya Bao puerh is mao cha which has neither been blended with other tea types nor pressed into a cake. It is presented to us by TeaSpring as drinkable now, and I agree. The scent and flavor also differ from the unfermented Ya Bao from Norbu. They are a bit funkier, as you’d imagine, and the leaf has more brownish tones to it. The liquor is still quite light colored, but has earthier flavors, more wood, peat, nut, and pine. I couldn’t identify the vanilla noted by others, but there’s a slight sweetness. The wet leaves smell like sour wet cardboard, which seems to translate, oh-so-fortunately, into a lemony note in the liquid brew.

I followed TeaSpring’s steeping recommendations, right down to the purple clay pot, except my first steep was cooler than boiling. After that, I upped the temp. By the time I got to the 4th steep, at 5 min, I wasn’t getting much except the sourness, and gave up the effort. For flavor, the first steep was my favorite. But for cha qi (that subtle energy of the tea which can be labeled and measured as caffeine, theanine, and a host of other constituents of the leaf), the later brewing delivered a kick that I’ve come to identify with a distinct, hard-to-describe feeling in the throat. Like a young sheng (raw) puerh, these mao cha can be uniquely engaging.

I’m glad I got to try this. It was a good educational experience and likely a healthful drink, but not something I’d seek out again or keep on hand. I’ll send the small (about 2 servings) remainder of this along with the TTB from whence it came. For seekers of new and/or unique experiences (like myself), tea samples, swaps, or a TTB are a great way to go!

190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Big, fluffy leaf, so used 2 heaping tsp in 8oz water. Nutty, herbaceous, medium body, smooth, sweet aftertaste. 2nd steep, 2 min, not as sweet, more lemony, lighter body, slight asparagus vegetal aroma and flavor, dried grasses. Earthier, rounder flavors than white tea made entirely from buds. I enjoyed this a lot.

180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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Pot of Many Uses! This is a unique design, and really does pour well, even one-handed! The glass is sturdy and the shape is pleasing to the eyes. Makes great tea in the roomy infuser, and works well for a bloom of flowering tea (without infuser). It’s large enough for a blooming tea to expand fully, while being small enough (and the right shape) for good viewing of the display. Without the infuser, the lid fits rather loosely, but it does its job and stays on when I pour with my thumb over its stem. A cork trivet comes with the purchase … nice for protecting surfaces and the underside of the glass pot. And one more thing … without the lid and infuser the pot becomes a giant “fair cup” for large-group gongfu adventures, when I want to mix more than one steeping together before pouring. I think I’m going to get a lot of use from this sweet little pot!

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I got the unscented version of this flowering tea, and I consider it a good choice, because the flavor is very enjoyable, like a quality tea, and scenting would have changed it. I think the long buds used in this flower are white tea, judging from the taste, liquor color, and steeping performance. Not a hint of astringency or bitterness, and the golden liquor is thick and rich in mouthfeel, aka body. I love a heavy-bodied tea, when the flavor is light.

The pink blossom looks similar to an amaranth flower, but the seller says it’s lychee flower. The pink flower hasn’t risen to the top yet, and watching for it to release is kind of intriguing. Flavor and body maintained through multiple steeps, trailing off at the fourth one. Be sure to use cool enough water for this tea. I poured the water into a 16oz glass pot and waited until it cooled to 175F. I gave the tea flower ball a quick rinse under the faucet and gently placed it on the water. The bloom didn’t sink to the bottom until it had been open a while, but it was worth the wait of a few minutes. I refilled the pot when it was 2/3 empty, letting the hot water run down the side of the pot, so the bloom would be less disturbed. I watched and sipped from this bloom for hours.

It made a good-sized bloom, 3in across. I think this is the best-tasting, sweetest tea I’ve had from a flowering type. I would actually feel good about serving it to a guest. Little to no aroma, but that’s okay in my book, even though I love a good jasmine. It’s just that the scented flowering teas I’ve had didn’t taste so good. I haven’t tried the jasmine-scented version of this bloom which is sold by the same seller. Maybe it could combine the best of all worlds?!

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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A classic Russian Caravan … black and strong with smoky accents. For those who love a smoky tea, but for whom the blast of smoke of a Lapsang Souchong is too, too much. I love the way the tea taste and the smoky notes arise from the mug, sifting up through the milk and sweetener, lingering on my breath and lifting my spirits. Thanks again to PeteG for this delicious tea!

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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Thanks to PeteG, who added this to the Traveling Tea Box. So much like a sweet red wine … that’s what i kept thinking as i drank the Sawadee Lychee Black tea. It’s been cold here in Texas, and this wasn’t a wine cooler … it was a wine warmer! The dry tea smelled nice and fruity, just like lychee fruit, in fact. I’ve had 3 other lychee blacks in the past, and none of them had the full-fledged fruitiness of this tea. I drank the whole cup, straight up, as i couldn’t bear to muddle it with milk, and it was sweet enough on its own. This tea got cloudy as it cooled, so that’s something to consider if you’re making iced tea, but i bet it would taste pretty darned good anyway.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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This is the best black tea chai I’ve ever tasted. It’s evident in the dry tea that the freshest, highest-quality ingredients have been used. The photo in the listing does not do this tea justice. The spices, of which there are plenty, have been chopped to just the right size to blend in, and the black tea is full-bodied and bold. The blend has significant presence of ginger and black pepper, which is just how I like my chai. Both the fine black tea and the spices shone through the creaminess and sweetness after the addition of soy milk and agave nectar. Thank you, PeteG and Sawadee Tea House, for the deepest-flavored, most stimulating black chai I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.

Boiling 5 min, 30 sec

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Note: I’m open to offers to swap tea samples. If you can’t message me, just comment on one of my tea notes, and I’ll respond.

I am fascinated and deeply impressed by the artistry and skill which coaxes such an array of qualities from one species of leaf. In 2009, I founded San Antonio Tea & Herb Enthusiasts. For intimate tastings with a small gathering, I’m practicing Asian-style tea service along the lines of Chinese gongfu cha yi. It’s a joy, turning people on to good tea! http://www.meetup.com/SA-Tea-Herb/

The most recent sign of my conversion to the deeply-steeped side: I’ve turned three large file boxes into “tea humidors” for aging pu-erh cakes and bricks at 65% humidity. Remote sensors within the “pumidors” relay the temperature and humidity readings to a base station on my desk.

I write about tea culture for the Examiner online newspaper: http://www.examiner.com/x-49007-San-Antonio-Tea-Examiner

My tea rating system:

0 – 10 … Ugh, throw it out
11 – 20 … Barely drinkable
21 – 40 … Passes for decent tea
41 – 60 … Good but unremarkable
61 – 80 … Delicious cuppa
81 – 90 … Wonder-full !
91 – 100 … The Stuff of Legends !


San Antonio TX USA



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