117 Tasting Notes

74

Second steep. Longer steep time, plus milk and agave. Verdict?

Aroma: The steeped tea has a much fuller, mellower fragrance with the addition of (vanilla soy) milk. It’s still mostly pumpkin pie spice, but now I think I might be able to guess that it’s supposed to be pumpkin pie, if I didn’t already know.

Flavour: Milk + sweetener definitely made a huge difference for me. The improvements in the fragrance translated to the flavour, as well: the end result was a much creamier concoction. Surprising to me was the fact that agave somehow worked much better than sugar. I added it on a whim because the box of agave straw things was getting in my way and I wanted to (start to) finish them.

Aftertaste: Out of nowhere, coconut. There’s no coconut anywhere. I don’t have coconut milk, there’s no coconut in the tea, but there you have it. Coconut. So weird! Good weird, but weird.

It’s a pretty weak second steep, so I’m glad I took the time to play around with it. Now that I know milk and sweetener improve the blend, I’ll give it a proper go with fresh leaves next time. In the meantime, I’m increasing the rating a bit to account for the improvements I was able to discover during this experiment.

Tea amount: 1 level tsp
Water amount: 6oz/~175mL
Additives: 2 agave straw thingies and some vanilla soy milk
Dry mouth factor: 0/10 (because milk)

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

So NIK…you made it and have power too?!

Nik

Hi, Bonnie! Yes, everything is fine here. The power flickered once or twice, but didn’t even really blink, much less go out completely. We were very lucky, especially for being so (relatively) close to where Sandy made landfall.

Dixie_Amazon

Glad to hear it. Never can tell much from national coverage, it just talks about the flashy stuff.

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67
drank Autumn Leaves by Della Terra Teas
117 tasting notes

Maple and rooibos are two of my favourite flavours, so I expected this blend to transport me immediately to my happy place. My first impression, unfortunately, is that something is a little off in both its fragrance and flavour.

Upon opening the little ziplock baggie, I detected something vaguely medicinal photobombing the maple. The brew also had the same smell. I’m now sitting here with a cold, empty teacup, sniffing madly and trying to figure out what’s bugging me. My current theory is that maple is sweet and rooibos has its own sweetness, and possibly the two sweets aren’t meshing together very well for me. I really thought this was the perfect blend, but my nose and tastebuds are telling me I might be wrong.

The flavour is more harmonious than the fragrance, but still not quite amazing. Next time, I want to try sweetening my cup with a bit of maple syrup.

Tea amount: 1 level tsp
Water amount: 6oz/~175mL
Additives: None at first, then about ¾ tsp demerara sugar.
Dry mouth factor: 1/10

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 30 sec
Sil

doh. sorry to hear it wasn’t what you hoped for :(

Nik

It might still be after I’m done playing around with it. :D

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74

In the aftermath of tropical cyclone Sandy (no problems here, thank you for all your kind thoughts and prayers), what could be more comforting than Grandma’s pumpkin pie? Okay so my grandmother never made pumpkin pie, but it sure sounds good. =)

The little pumpkin candies in this tea are very cute. I was tempted to try one, but then I forgot about it. It smells very, very autumnal, a combination of all the warmth and spices that generally go into pumpkin pie and other seasonal desserts. I didn’t get a pumpkin feel from it, but to be honest, I’d have to open a can of pumpkin pie filling and stick my nose in it to remember the fragrance. The brew is a little lighter in colour than I anticipated for a black tea, but it does kind of look like liquified pumpkin pie.

I’m torn on the taste (and therefore the rating). This is a really nice pumpkin pie spice tea. A pumpkin pie tea, not so much. It’s warm and yummy and comforting and smells really great, but I’m still not getting any pumpkin from it. Next time, I think I’m going to try sweetening it with just a touch of condensed milk.

Tea amount: 1 level tsp
Water amount: 6oz/~175mL
Additives: None at first, then about ½ tsp demerara sugar.
Dry mouth factor: 2/10 (really low for a black tea, in my experience—awesome)

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Terri HarpLady

Glad to hear you’re ok! I was sending good vibes to all the people I know in that part of the country, along with everyone else, & smiled to myself because almost everyone I ‘know’ over there is on Steepster! LOL!

Nik

Thank you for the good vibes, Terri! =)

Bonnie

NIK’S ALIVE! Glad you have power too! Sounds like this tea really does need condensed milk to make it like pie. What are you going to do with the open filling?! If you hate making crust you can just bake filling you know and it tastes good too or make pumpkin cookies. Those would be nice with tea.
Glad you’re well!

Nik

Thank you, Bonnie, for the warm wishes. =) As for the filling, I guess it’s confession time: all I really need is a spoon. :D

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55

This is the sample I chose for virtual teasting #21. My experience with sTEAp Shoppe thus far has been that the blends are not flavourful enough for me, and I have to work to discern the flavours that are supposed to be present. Thus, I thought that choosing naturally strong flavours like lemon and ginger would work better for me. It turns out, I was half right.

This blend’s fragrance is very lemony. I could not really detect any ginger. To be fair, I didn’t smell the entire sample packet, just the bit that I spooned into my infuser. I have to remember not to smell the tea at the beginning of the steep: there’s the lemon scent, but there’s also something else, something a bit acrid. At the end of the steep, this unpleasantness was gone, and the tea smelled like hot lemonade.

I found the taste true to the fragrance: a perfectly balanced lemon herbal blend. Except it’s supposed to be a ginger blend, and I couldn’t taste any ginger at all. No bite, no mild burn at the back of my throat, no tickle in my nose, nothing. My relatively low rating is purely because I didn’t feel that the flavour was true to the tea’s name. If its name were something like “Lemon Fresh,” my rating would’ve been somewhere in the mid- to high 70s.

Tea amount: 1 slightly-above-level tsp
Water amount: 6ish oz
Additives: None, at first, then about ½ tsp demerara sugar. The sugar really went well with the lemon, making the tea taste like candy. Yummy.

1 http://steepster.com/discuss/3620-new-virtual-tea-tastings-free-number-2

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 6 min, 0 sec
Bonnie

All the best to you! Keep us posted on the What tea to drink during the hurricane thread discussion!

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66

It was suggested that I might be able to pull more flavour out of this blend with a second steep, so I figured I’d give it a try. (Giving it a try on the same day was a terrible idea, when the first steep’s caffeine nearly did me in, but that’s a different story.)

Aroma: Much like the first steep, there’s a nice caramel fragrance, but I’m still not getting any chocolate at all.

Visuals: In spite of the longer steep, the tea was lighter in colour than after the first steep. Although this makes sense, it still worried me a bit: how could I get more flavour out of what appeared to be a weaker tea?

Taste: I needn’t have worried. The tea tasted much like the first steep, but yes, the caramel was very slightly more prominent. I then added some milk and honey, and quickly decided that it’s my preferred preparation. The milk made the tea creamier and brought it closer to justifying its name, and the honey brought forth the caramel like a blue shirt can deepen the blue of its wearer’s eyes. Still no chocolate, though.

Because I found a preparation method that lets me enjoy this tea without working for it, I have raised its rating a bit. Because I had to work this hard to find a preparation method that works for me, I lowered the rating a bit (but it’s still higher than it was before). =) Since I still have the rest of the sample, I’m thinking I might try this cold at some point and see how I like that.

Tea amount: 1 level tsp
Water amount: 5ish oz
Additives: A dash of vanilla soy milk and a smidgen (⅓ tsp, maybe) of orange blossom honey

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 7 min, 0 sec

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66

Thank you, steapshoppe for this sample, and for including me in your virtual taste testing (teasting)1. I really love participating in these events and hope that I get the opportunity to do so again in the future.

These dry leaves have a really nice aroma. I didn’t really get “chocolate” from them, but the milk and the caramel were definitely there. The wet leaves didn’t retain the layered, complex fragrance, however; I’m afraid I didn’t really smell much of anything at all, except for kind of a wet mulchyness.

I have a lot of respect for sTEAp Shoppe. They are really strict about the ingredients they use and flavour their teas naturally. Sadly, I think that this approach, while most admirable, doesn’t work well for those of us who like our teas really bold and flavourful. I mostly tasted black tea in this blend, and had to work really hard to get the caramel notes from it. Don’t get me wrong, they are there, they’re just not in your face, like I like my flavoured teas. There was a bit of astringency at the end of the sip, a very slight bitterness hitting the back of my throat, and a bit of sediment in my teacup. I added some sugar, thinking that would pull the caramel flavour out more easily, but it actually made things worse in that regard (a new experience for me). It did, however, eliminate the slight bitterness I tasted, which was nice.

[Edit] Azzrian said in the virtual teasting thread that she finds that the caramel notes come out more in the aftertaste, and I’m finding this to be true as well. It’s really interesting: while drinking my little cup of tea, I tasted mostly black tea, but after having finished it it (and it’s now several minutes later), I’m still getting a bit of the caramel taste, even more so than the black tea. I actually really like this aspect and am raising my rating a little bit in appreciation.

Because of the tea’s caffeine content, I only had a little bit, so I still have some of the sample left. This means I get to play with it for another small cup or so. I love being able to try different things to see if I can improve the experience for myself, and I look forward to giving this another shot (on another day, as I’m already buzzed and any more caffeine will make me ill).

Tea amount: 1 level tsp
Water amount: 5-6oz
Additives: None for a few sips, and then about ½ tsp demerara sugar
Dry mouth factor: 7/10

1 http://steepster.com/discuss/3620-new-virtual-tea-tastings-free-number-2

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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100
drank Ocean of Wisdom by Samovar
117 tasting notes

By the gods, I love this stuff1. Yesterday, I had to collect Mum from JFK at around 7:30 in the morning. That’s around the time I usually go to sleep, so I ended up staying up the night before, afraid I’d sleep through. So there I am, 4:30 in the morning, slightly bleary-eyed and more than slightly frazzled, packing a bottle of water and a fuzzy throw for Mum. All that remained was the tea.

Once upon a time, I had only one loose tea—Ocean of Wisdom—and that’s the tea I would’ve made and taken with me. Now I have so many loose teas to consider, so many yummy (and untried) options, and the very thought of having to guess (at that hour) what Mum might like and what I should try was doing my head in, so I ended up selecting the same one: Ocean of Wisdom. It’s just so good. And the fragrance is just so heavenly.

This note, though, is about the second infusion I prepared when I got home. I have to admit that I rarely bother with second steeps, never mind multiple ones. I’d be a horrible oolong taster, given that many times, the best flavour of an oolong emerges in the third steep (and beyond). That said, I gave the second steep a try because this tea can get really expensive, compared to the others in my cupboard: my 4.4oz packet was USD$19, and Samovar recommend using 2-3 tbsp per 16oz/473mL. That’s only about 8 servings! Since it’s rooibos (and therefore naturally caffeine-free) and my favourite blend, I could go through that in a couple of days. Eep! So I was thinking I’d try and stretch it out a bit by steeping again or using less tea next time.

Anyway. The interesting thing about this is that the second steep is a completely different tea. Gone was the warm, sweet, woodsy rooibos flavour I love, and I couldn’t detect most of the other ingredients, either. Really, it just tasted like cloves and ginger. And it was awesome. It was this potent, spicy brew that felt so great hitting my throat, which is a bit vexed with me for taking it to the petri dish we call an airport. I was really surprised by the level of gingery spice, a level that I hope for in my ginger tea blends but rarely get. (To be clear, it’s surprising because the first steep isn’t at all piquant.) The second steep is also slightly astringent, but only on occasion, not throughout the cup.

From now on, this will be a two-steep tea for me.

Tea amount: 2.5 tbsp
Water amount: 16oz/~475mL
Additives: 2 tsp demerara sugar
Dry mouth factor: 4/10 (second steep only, first steep is 1/10)

1 http://steepster.com/bleepnik/posts/57991

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more
Sil

hmmmmm I might need to try this one. That sounds really interesting :)

Nik

I have a feeling that I’ll be lowering my rating as I find new favourites and try all the tea samples I’ve accumulated, but I can’t imagine it’d ever dip below 95.

Terri HarpLady

What a great name for a tea!

Nik

Agreed! I love the story behind it, too: blended especially for the Dalai Lama. I think that gives it extra superpowers to spread peace and calm. :D

Terri HarpLady

well, yeah! :)

Bonnie

Enjoyed the story and the ‘airport petri dish’! Goes to show you though, further steepings can turn up wonders that you had no idea were contained in our delightful friend ‘tea’!

Nik

True dat, Bonnie. Thanks for the kind words! =)

TeaBrat

Since I live in San Francisco, I will need to try this one again soon!

JasonCT

Namaste Nik – man this looks like an interesting blend. I’ll be honest, I’ve never had rooibos so this might be a fun one to try.

My girlfriend is north Indian, and we make our chai with a healthy amount of fresh ginger so I was excited to hear about the ginger punch.

Good review!

Nik

Amy, you live in San Francisco, too? Now I’m jealous of both you and Claire. I love the city, but have only been there for conferences, which means I’ve never had enough time to just hang out and explore and enjoy it! Ah well, one day… =)

Namaste, Jason! In my limited experience, the rooibos flavour is very present in most rooibos blends. If you don’t like that flavour, it could ruin the experience for you. For a very inexpensive taste test, I’d look for Numi’s bushmen’s brew in your local supermarket (http://steepster.com/teas/numi-organic-tea/2458-bushmens-brew-honeybush). They’re tea bags, and it’s just plain old honeybush, which has a flavour very similar to rooibos’s (http://tinroofteas.com/news/rooibos-the-red-powerhouse/). If you see a plain rooibos on the shelf, you can grab that, instead. That way, you can see if you like the base flavour before trying a (pretty costly!) blend, and if you don’t, you’re just out a few bucks. If you do, and since you like chai masala, it’s a good bet you’d enjoy this blend. Thanks, glad you enjoyed the tasting note. =)

Claire

I do have to say that Samovar is pretty awesome! I’ve been to the one by MOMA and while it was pricey, both the tea and the food were great.

Nik

Claire, I’ve frequented the Yerba Buena location by Moscone and love it. The service has deteriorated a bit over the years, but the tea and food remain lovely. I introduced many fellow conference attendees to loose tea and the brand, there, and in the process created lots of lovely memories.

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73

It’s a bagged tea and I love it. There, I said it. =)

I also have to say that the dry leaves don’t have the most pleasant fragrance. I don’t know what it is, maybe a bit chemical in nature(?), but it’s pretty off-putting. Thankfully, the brew itself has the most lovely, warm, woodsy fragrance I associate with rooibos (I don’t really know the difference between honeybush and rooibos; I’ll have to look it up at some point). Reading Steepster reviews, it seems like that’s a fragrance people either love or hate, and I love it.

The brew is so good. It’s a totally unassuming, straight-up, woodsy tea. It’s honeybush, like it says on the packet. It’s exactly the kind of “comfort food” cuppa I needed on this lovely autumn day. There’s nothing complex or fancy about it, but it’s an accessible bagged tea that doesn’t disappoint, which is no small feat now that I’m used to loose tea blends.

Tea amount: 1 bag
Water amount: 8oz/~237mL
Additives: 1 rounded tsp Demerara sugar
Dry mouth factor: 0/10

There’s a thread floating around the discussion forums here about how many cups of tea people drink in a day1. It surprises me to read that some folks get through 10+ glorious cups a day, when I drink maybe 1-2. I have this travel mug2 that I use all the time. It keeps my tea hot for several hours, drinkably warm for over 12. I happily sip away throughout the day, but since I’m not in a rush to finish it before it goes cold, I don’t go through it very quickly. Well, my mug’s in the sink and I wanted tea now, so I used a regular teacup. Okay, so now I get it! By the time the steep timer rang, the tea was cool enough to sip. By the time I got to the couch from the kitchen, it was half gone. By the time I sat down and got comfortable, it was all gone. I had to get right up again to make another cup! I’d be hopping up and down like a jack-in-the-box if I had to keep this up all day, and get nothing else done. I’d better get that mug washed. =)

Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering… I tried getting a second steep out of the bag (only because I was feeling extra lazy) and that’s as much of a “silly rabbit, Trix are for kids” thing as you’d think it’d be: the second cup was basically sweetened hot water, with a bit of colour and a very light tea flavour to it. =)

1 http://steepster.com/discuss/3583-how-many-cups-of-tea-do-you-drink-a-day

2 http://amzn.com/B002PY7AYS

Preparation
Boiling 6 min, 0 sec
Claire

I think I tend to just drink a lot of liquid every day, period! At my library job drinks and food are not allowed inside our department due to the age of the materials. At least once an hour I have to sneak out and chug some water or tea or I feel so parched.

As for bagged teas, there are still some that I enjoy, just not as much as loose leaf!

Nik

I agree, Claire. I drink half to one gallon of water a day. I just can’t get through that much tea because my mug keeps it hot for so long. =)

As for bagged tea, I haven’t had the best of luck of late, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. I’ll try pretty much any tea at least once. =)

Terri HarpLady

Re Honeybush: I’m no expert. For awhile I thought Rooibos & honeybush were the same thing, but somewhere I read that they are related, & taste pretty much the same, except honeybush is a little sweeter. Having said all that, I’m still working on my relationship with both. At first I liked them, then I didn’t (really because their in EVERY herbal blend now), now I’m sort of yes & no, depending on the combo.

Re bagged tea: I always carry a few bags with me, so there are a few things I stock. Right now I have Numi’s Emperor Puerh & a few other things.

Re H2O: I always start the day by drinking a quart of water, not all in one gulp, of course, but over the course of 1/2 hour or so. After that, “let the daily tea drinking extravaganza begin!” :D

Nik

A little sweeter, eh? I’ll have to try a couple of unsweetened samples and see if I can tell the difference. Thanks, Terri! Numi makes puerh bags? That might be a simple way for me to try some more puerh. I’ve only tried one (and one puerh chai) from the Golden Moon sampler box and I think I’d like to try some more.

Terri HarpLady

Yeah, Nik, I’ve tried the Emperor’s Blend, Magnolia Puerh, & chocolate Puerh. But there are others:
http://shop.numitea.com/Puerh-Tea/c/NumiTeaStore@Teabag@Puerh

Nik

Thanks for the link, Terri. I’ll have a look when I’m allowed to buy tea again. =)

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58

In spite of the “limited edition” claim on the tin, I was surprised when I couldn’t find this on the TCB&TL web site. I guess it really is gone. Hunh, go figure.

Upon opening the tin for the first time, I was naturally knocked out by the powerful cherry fragrance. It smelled natural, for the most part, like smelling a bottle of cherry extract/concentrate/whatever, but there was still a very slight medicinal tinge to it. I’m learning, with experience, that I shouldn’t judge fragrance and flavour immediately, especially fragrance. It’s concentrated and not true to reality. So I gave it a minute, and slowly the strong cherry started to subside and the black tea fragrance began to come through, until the two struck a decent balance. I didn’t smell any mango or lily blossom, but I did discern a vaguely floral aspect to the black tea part of the fragrance, which I don’t usually associate with black tea (and which actually reminded me a bit of green tea).

I haven’t drunk tea in a while, and it’s because my new tea tasting adventures have been more unsuccessful than not. I was thinking about it, and I was thinking that possibly, irrationally, my disappointment with specific teas turned me off to tea in general. I’m sure you’ve all experienced this disappointment: you look forward to holding that warm cup or mug in your hands, inhaling the fragrance, sipping the yumminess, immersing yourself in the ritual and experience, only to be betrayed by a tea that’s not really up your alley. I’ve had too many of those, lately. One of the things that I’ve begun doing is drinking 8oz at a time1 instead of my usual 16oz, so that if I’m sipping a tea I don’t love, at least it’s not 16oz of it. Another thing I realise I need to do start doing is having a cup of one of my favourite teas after every few new tastings so that when I think of drinking tea, I think of my favourites and not the disappointments.

This tea isn’t wonderful, but it’s not terrible. To its credit, the tin does not say “naturally and artificially flavored,” just “naturally.” To its credit, the tea does not taste like cough syrup or maraschino cherries, but more like cherry Jolly Rancher and black tea. Given this, in theory I should love this tea. But I dunno, there’s something about it that—sweetened or unsweetened—misses the spot.

For now, this is the type of tea that I’d stick in the back of the cupboard, the type I’d pretend didn’t win the “eenie meenie minie moe” lottery. But like many of the fruity blends I’ve tried in recent weeks, I’d really like to try this one iced, and possibly that will improve its rating. In the meantime, I need one of my security blanket teas to make me feel better.

Tea amount: 1 sachet
Water amount: 8oz/~237mL
Additives: 2 tsp Demerara sugar (note to future Nik: um…that was too much)
Dry mouth factor: 6/10

1 Halp. I use a 16oz travel mug that is awesome. It keeps my tea hot for like 12 hours. Now that I want to drink 8oz at a time, though, I haven’t been successful in finding something like it in that size. I don’t like teacups or mugs because I tend to drink my tea slowly and it just gets cold way too quickly. So basically I want an 8oz sippy cup for hot beverages. If you have any suggestions or recommendations, I’m all ears. Thanks!

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Terri HarpLady

Thanks for sharing this, Nik. For years I’ve mostly just drank unflavored teas: greens, blacks, etc. Recently I’ve been inspired by various glowing reviews on steepster to try some flavored teas again. For the most part, I’ve been disappointed.
I like to start each day with something I know I like. Then I pick a tea or 2 to experiment with. I’ve also decided that if I don’t like something, I don’t have to drink 15 infusions of it.

Ellyn

DELETEless than a minute ago
Nik – starbucks sometimes has mini-travel mugs.
For example http://www.starbucksstore.com/starbucks-ceramic-traveler-8-fl-oz/011020547,default,pd.html?prefn1=size&cgid=tumblers-and-travel-mugs&prefv1=Short

or

http://www.starbucksstore.com/create-your-own-scratch-tumbler-8-fl-oz/011010442,default,pd.html?prefn1=size&cgid=tumblers-and-travel-mugs&prefv1=Short

I linked you to the smaller mugs that are 8 oz but they also have mugs that are 10oz, etc.

I have quite a few travel mugs from starbucks (travel mugs and tea being my weaknesses, weird I know) and always wait to they go on sale. However, I think the sale is only usually at the stores and not online.

Nik

Thanks, Ellyn, I appreciate the links!

Nik

Terri: Ha! Yes, I don’t think I have the stamina to go for 15 infusions, even if I love the tea; after a cup or two, I’m itching to try something different. (I suppose to could keep the leaves around, since I have several infusers, and I’ve tried that, but I never end up going back to them.)

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9

I gave this one another try, but now I’m giving up on it. It smells like potpourri and tastes like cinnamon something. There are soooo many amazing teas out there for me to try and love, that I’m not going to waste any more time working to like something I just don’t. At some point, I’ll put together a swap list, and at that time I’ll add this to it. I think someone who likes cinnamon and rooibos might actually like this, and every tea deserves to be adopted by someone who will appreciate it.

Tea amount: 2 sachets
Water amount: 16oz./~475mL
Additives: omglotsofsugar. In reality, about 1 tbsp Demerara sugar.
Dry mouth factor: 0/10 (The only good thing I can say about it, really.)

Preparation
Boiling 7 min, 0 sec

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Profile

Bio

2012.10.07: I hear people like to understand other people’s ratings, so here’s a loose guide:

01-29: Dear God, why.
30-49: I’ll finish this cup, I guess, but no more.
50-59: Meh.
60-69: Decent. Maybe I can blend it with something else and make it better.
70-79: Heeey, this is quite good!
80-89: I love it, but I’m not in love with it.
90-100: Permanently resident in my Happy Place.


Update: I have steeped, and it was good. =] Still a tea-ophyte, though.


This is a tea site, so I feel like “well, I’m Indian” should be enough of an introduction. Because, I mean, it’s kind of in my genes, right? But the fact of the matter is that I’m an absolute tea-ophyte.

I’ve just discovered a world beyond Celestial Seasonings. I’ve just discovered “sachets” instead of “normal” tea bags and bought my first loose tea sampler. I don’t get the whole water temperature and steep time thing yet, nor that if I want to get a yixiang tea pot, I’d need one for each type of tea. I have this infuser ball thing, but I haven’t used it yet.

Don’t cringe, but right now I’m still just boiling water and pouring it over a teabag, adding some sugar, and drinking a nice, hot cuppa. I’d like to learn more, I think, and I’d like to train my palate. I figure participating in this community is the best way to do that.

So ya. Hi!

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