Chicago Tea Garden

Recent Tasting Notes

I have already had a couple of Zealong teas and enjoyed them very much. I was going through a samples basket and saw this package still sealed, and it must be ancient! I think it came from Quiltguppy, and I really miss her! She introduced me to some amazing teas.

I had this as an “after Sunday-brekkie” tea. I was up at 5:30 cooking for the chickens and tending them, then took their eggs and made a nice breakfast to share with hubby, and afterward we sat on the sofa drinking this. It is cloudy, drizzly, and chilly, so it was an especially welcome cup today!

Even though this is an old sample, the tea tastes quite good. I think it must have been an eleven on a scale of one to ten when it was fresh. There is a lot of that rock or mineral flavor that oolongs often have, a wonderful floral/fruity aroma, and smooth smooth smooth! We did about five or six steeps.

Tea friend Sandy here on Steepster actually went to tea at the plantation where this was grown! Maybe she will chime in with that experience for us!

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Sipdown, 199. This was a very tasty tea so it is kind of sad to see it go because it’s never coming back! CTG being closed and all. I’m also sad that I wasn’t as into tea when I lived in Chicago because it would have been great to visit this place while it was still open.

For whatever reason this cup isn’t quite so buttery as the last one; I think it is possibly that the last one I had was more concentrated that I originally intended, although it turned out very well. Still, it’s fresh and green and floral with light buttery notes, so it’s making me a happy camper anyway.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Thanks to Ellen for sending me some of this tea in our recent swap! It’s sad that Chicago Tea Garden is no more because they had a lot of nice teas.

Upon steeping, this tea smelled amazingly buttery and floral and delicious. I tell you, I’ve been tasting a lot of teas this weekend that are not quite up my alley, but this is a return to form. This is a green green TGY, and I love it. Lots of warm, thick buttery notes, a certain creaminess, and a bunch of florals. Mmmm. Almost makes up for the fact that it is snowing heavily today (and is supposed to continue into tomorrow!)

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Alright so I’ve given this tea a shot in my yixing the other day, and I was underwhelmed.
I could hardly taste anything! I didn’t understand what was happening…

I really can’t rate it simply because the ‘tea’ tasted like water basically, though it was colored. Ah well.. I am going to try again soon.

Holding off rating for now

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It’s been ages since I’ve had this tea and all I have been wanting to drink lately is black tea.
Possibly because of the weather? Usually oolongs are my favourite, but I am finding myself disinterested in green oolongs. Perhaps the summer will turn this around. I’m still stalking the Verdant tea website waiting for the Laoshan Black to come back in stock ;( Hmph.

Quick smell of the dry leaves gives a nice sweet malty note.
First steep I get sweetish caramel notes with smoke. Definite smoke. Delicious. A little bit of a harsh edge mid-sip, but it is very lovely still. The smell is delicious. The lingering taste is malty raisin.

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drank Zealong Dark by Chicago Tea Garden
963 tasting notes

Goooone! I bought this like over a year ago from Rachel on It looks like it might be being sold at another vendor since CTG closed. It only got through about 5-6 steeps before it lost its zazz.

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Another sample to finish and use for my post dinner tea with my husband. He doesn’t mind Oolong so hopefully this will be a hit with him, I notice other Steepsterites have rated it highly.

I love the little hand rolled balls that Oolong come in with each one unique in shape and colours. This Oolong is a mixture of dark green, brown and dark brown but I also want to note that I can also see what looks like stem in a few places. The scent is buttery and floral and there is also a delicacy to it.

Once steeped my tea is golden yellow in colour with a sweet floral toasted aroma. Very refreshing and warming at the same time. In taste the toasted flavour is the first element before it changes to a floral rather buttery affair that vanishes very quickly. There is also a little buttery hint at the end whilst it’s mellowed and the flavours truly are spot on. It does pick up in strength but remains smooth.

Delicious. It’s a hit for my husband too and is a very nice introduction to our pudding (home made orange sponge cake with vanilla custard..hubbies favourite).

200 °F / 93 °C

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Today I decided to finish some samples that are taking up space and I really should aim to remove the samples from my cupboards (both real and virtual). This morning I received my Adagio order which included their personaliTEA so I may as well test the teapot with my samples. :)

This tea is dark green/brown in colour and consists of thin and fairly long curly shapes. There is a sweet nutty scent with woody yet floral and fruity tones. A lot going on there but it’s pleasant.

Once steeped the tea is light yellow in colour with an uplifting floral earthy scent. For my first cup I waited roughly 1 minute from when the water was poured from my new teapot into my cup.

In flavour this green tea has grassy, nutty, floral, sweet, freshly woody and fruity. In essence this tastes like you would expect and imagine from a green tea but this particular blend is magical. The more I drink this tea the more I can taste all of these different flavours. There are many different layers to taste and each one works well with the other.

Now let me explain my flavours and descriptions. The nutty factor is similar to almond crossed with a peanut or sesame seeds, it has that dry slightly salty and rich flavour that is not overly strong but very noticeable. Amongst the nuts are sweet grassy tones (like fresh cut grass) with a kick of floral hues that remind me of peony blended with a crisp almost pear like fruitiness.

I was honestly not expecting much after my first experience with Chicago Tea Garden which was not a happy one when I sampled their Sticky Rice Pu-erh Tuocha (which was really not to my personal taste). This tea however has impressed me with it’s combination of flavours and as a whole it’s character.

I’m happy to drink this and watch the world go by while I’m looking for a nice orange cake recipe. Bliss.

180 °F / 82 °C

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Instead of reading an article and writing a paper on it, I’ve been gawking at tea sites, listening to music, and now, finishing off my last piece of Chocolate Bourbon Walnut pie. What am I doing with my life?!

This is quite mellow this time around, maybe because I gave it a really good rinsing.


I don’t know what you’re doing with your life but it sounds strangely similar to what I’m doing with mine. Only the cake is different.


Instead of drinking tea I’m drinking wine and crashing excel with data. I also don’t have cake.
FML =[


Geez, reading week is sure something else, isn’t it.


Haha pretty much not a break unless you’re in a few select majors… they get to have all the fun!


I never understood how people can just up and go to the Dominican Republic for a week. Every year, I’ve been swamped with papers. I’m writing three over the week plus doing other research. Even had to cancel my two-day trip to Vancouver. I just don’t get it!

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drank Bi Luo Chun by Chicago Tea Garden
963 tasting notes

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tu– cha

Appearance: hints of green, woody bits
Aroma when Dry: sweet, nutty, sticky rice
After water is first poured: buttered wild rice
At end of first steep: same notes
Tea liquor:
At end of first steep: clear
Preferred time of day: any
At first?: buttery rice
As it cools?: notes get warmer, earthier, slight honey notes surface, then starts to get brothy
Additives used (milk, honey, sugar etc)? No
Lingers? yes, with a creamy, earthy texture

Second steep (5 min)
Aroma: same, warmer
same notes, hints of metallic notes

Third Steep (5 min):
Taste: getting a bit creamier, honeyed in the butter notes
As it cools: starts to get salty, brothy notes

Fourth Steep (3 min):
Taste: Buttery Ricewater broth

Fifth Steep(8 min):
Taste: Buttery Ricewater, hints of brothiness

Sixth Steep:
brothy ricewater

Seventh Steep:
Light brothy ricewater

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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My fifth flavoured Pu Erh of the day :) I’m on a roll!

The little tuocha’s are so cute, I love using them. The tuocha’s are dark green in colour with a slight sweet ricey fragrance. Sort of like rice pudding without the cream.

After a 10 second rinse the tea smells much more like cooked rice but not as thickly so as Genmaicha. I haven’t cooked rice in a while and this smell is making me crave it.

Ooh I forgot to mention I am using my gongfu with two of these tuocha’s. Copying other peoples steeping time of 30 seconds (as that seems about right).

Steep 1 – The same sticky rice smell with a light yellow colour. The Pu Erh is mellow and a little floral with a light rice flavour. The smell is thicker than the taste which is good because stodgy rice would not be nice. It’s also still sweet but naturally so and not overpowering.

Steep 2 – A little darker in colour and thicker in smell. The taste is also much stronger now with a thick floral perfume flavour taking over the light rice which is now mostly in the after taste. It’s also picked up more of a toasted flavour.

Steep 3 – Now it’s a light gold colour rather than yellow. Now it’s twice the strength it was before and a little bitterness is noticeable along with a fairly harsh and dry perfume taste. The sweetness has almost gone but the rice remains at the back of the throat as the after taste. Not as pleasant as the first steep.

Steep 4 – Same gold colour but more toasty in smell. Not as strong as the previous steep (thankfully) but that wonderful rice flavour has still been over taken by this perfumey one.

I’m leaving my steeps there, it started off well but ended abruptly shortly after. I have never had a Pu Erh that has changed so much between first and second steeps. The first steep was pleasant where as the second and third were much too strong for my personal liking. It’s low score comes down to this tea’s problems with re steeping which is mandatory for most Pu Erh.


2 tuo cha’s for one gongfu infusion? is one tuo cha normaly not one portion?


I follow steeping instructions quite a lot from Teavivre and have found them to be to my particular taste. They say to use either 7g or 10g per gongfu infusion. I can’t check at the moment as their website seems to be down :(
But two has always been used. One tuocha would be enough for possibly 3 re steepable infusions and 2 tuocha could get around 8 or 10 re steeps.
Everything else has worked perfectly when using two but it would appear that I am not the only one who had a problem with this tea.


oh, well the only tuo cha i had before was a 2008 cooked puerth from jing and i used one tuo for up to 6 or so cups without loosing taste (i think). That was my first tuo and puerth ever (no review yet).

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Thank you, BoxerMama, for this sample. I think these tuocha pieces found a good end, although they definitely aren’t something I would find myself drinking regularly!

To me they have a musky odour. They taste exactly like moist clumpy rice ,that has been wrapped in vegetal bamboo leaves, once steeped. I went with a rinse and 30 second steeps.

I have two cups of this beside me right now (first and second steep). First is more oily and buttery and makes me think that there might be egg in the middle of this rice ball. Second steep comes off more green, although equally buttery. Mild astringency but no bitterness. Picking up salty and sweet notes.

Third steep is more astringent and bold; the tuocha disintegrated completely (so cool!). Almost have to reduce the steep time when it falls apart to reduce the briskness.

Pros for me: not fishy, coffee-like, or bitter. Flavours of buttery steamed rice with a pinch of green. Savory and filling profile.
Questionable qualities: light musky body that may rub people the wrong way if noticed (like eggs, mushrooms, or fat). Also picking up a note very similar to cilantro. I like cilantro but it’s a wild card.

I think this may be very good alongside certain dishes.

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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okay I KNOW I logged this one atleast once. Not fair, now that it’s gone weak and stale… I can’t accurately describe what it tastes like. Vegetal, sweet, very light. That’s about it!
Too bad this is another sipdown. Thanks QuiltGuppy for the sample. I miss you!!

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This is at the top of the chart for puerh, for me. Drinking it, I feel as if I’m descending into my own private cavern of meditative bliss. I wish I had more of this tea! If anyone would like to trade, please pm me!

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Back Log from last weekend.
How can a tea that smells so good, taste so bad?
How can a tea that tastes so bad have such a high rating? I LOVE Puerh, this one turned my stomach. I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth or the smell out of my timolino for hours! I feel like rotting leaves steeped in boiling water would be the equivalent. I’m feeling like I must have meesed something up seeing as how everyone seems to love it. I’m not sure I’ll give it a seond chance even though I have some left. :(

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 45 sec

I despise this. The herb used to give it the sticky rice flavor and I do not get along. It and cilantro are my mortal enemies.


I have this in my collection and now I’m not looking forward to drinking it. :( Good thing it’s only 3 samples.

Will Work For Tea

I’m with you on your thoughts “How can a tea that smells so good, taste so bad?
How can a tea that tastes so bad have such a high rating?” Still puzzles me and is taking up precious cupboard space…


I felt like it was rotten. I need to get rid of it and I can’t just throw it away, I can’t throw away tea.


Hmmm….if this tea smells nice yet is undrinkable then perhaps it would be suitable to make incense with?

Will Work For Tea

@ BoxerMama: I feel the same way, which is why I’m housing the small amount that I have… If just smelling it would be enough. :)


I have no idea how to make incense. If it tasted how it smelled it would probably be one of my favourites. If you would like to try it, I would be happy to send some your way.


I love this one, and cilantro… Maybe it’s related?


I was thinking it was related. But there isn’t too much info out there on the herb in here, to the point I can never remember its name.


There is a tea company, perhaps or someone?, who sells tea fragrancers. It is like a Scentsy light or something, Yankee Candle makes and sells them, too, and you usually burn wax tarts in them, but they sell theirs for putting your favorite tea leaves and a bit of water in, and as the candle warms it the tea scents your house. I was surprised to see it because I didn’t think the aroma would be strong enough to warrant a warmer.


I’d be more than willing to take this off your hand if it has any connection to cilantro ;)


Crow, pm me your address! It’s all yours!

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It’s good, and nothing super special. I had good success putting one tuocha in a pot with boiling water and steeping it until I remember that I have tea steeping (as I often forget). The jasmine is not overpowering at all, which is what I like most. I would recommend it, however CTG is no more…and that’s sad.

Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

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When brewed right, these tiny, fuzzy, tender leaves work wonders. When brewed wrong, you’ll be lucky if the liquor merely turned out insipid: oversteeped biluochun takes on the taste and feeling of rubber bands. I got through the majority of my bag making it various degrees of Wrong before the tea gods blessed me with a ~20oz pot of ambrosia. I was completely winging it, turning off the kettle when it felt right and counting off 40 sec before starting the pour from the pot, which I’d left unlidded this time. I have a kyusu, a gaiwan and a Korean infuser mug—which can all pour much faster than this ungainly 32oz pot that drains slower than glaciers do—but past attempts to strictly control all the parameters ended up failing anyways. So imagine my surprise when the mug touched my lips and the liquid poured in as a sweet, gentle caress. It had an amiable sweetness and an airy lightness. The fragrance was fruity (specifically like honeydew, if you want my subjective, unreliable observation), which is a quality I find a lot more pleasant than the grassy or floral notes from other greens or green oolongs.

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This was sent to me by Autumn Aelwyd. Thanks!

I do love TGYs. They’re so floral and buttery and creamy and sweet. Green oolongs are definitely my favorite oolong. Maybe my favorite tea variety.

For some reason, oolong has become the category of tea for weekend night Doctor Who marathons. It just feels right. I brewed a big 20oz TARDIS mug full of this, and resteeped the leaves halfway through. Delicious.

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Before steeping this tea it seems to have a sweet earthy smell. Visually, it is made up of tight clusters of leaves and contains no stems upon brief inspection. I am drinking the last of my ‘monkey picked’ and have plenty of experience steeping this particular tea now that I am finishing up the last of this .25 lb bag. I personally prefer steepings between 1 and 2 minutes for this tea.

The tightly packed leaf clusters slightly unfurl after the first steep. The smell is sweet with floral grass like undertones. The colour is a pale yellow. The taste is excellent and lingers after sipping to the point that I can still smell it as I breath through my nose. This tea’s flavour is extremely deep, the initial sip will produce one flavour while the aftertaste produces another. This took some time for me to note as the favour is so well composed that it blends into itself. The texture seems creamy simply because of how the flavour changes so smoothly from that initial sip to swallow to wonderful aftertaste.

Since I enjoy this tea so much it was excellent to experiment with. Varying temperate, steeping vessels and length of steep has allowed me to get the most out of this amazing leaf. As I re-steep the flavour intensifies and opens up more to the point where I am getting maximum enjoyment from the third steep. If you like Oolongs and have a taste for them I would strongly recommend investing in this tea. It allows for forgiving steeps that never disappoint and a quality of leaf that is hard to find…

190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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I’ve been popping Yin Chiao like mad trying to get rid of this cold but it seems to have frozen it in the initial stage. So I’ve had an on-and-off fever for days now, sore throat, fatigue, etc, yet it’s not a full-blown cold. Makes me want to just stop taking that stuff and let it run its course. Ugh, just feel like sleeping.

So that said, I wanted an unflavoured tea, something that wouldn’t upset my already nauseated tummy. This was quite salty last time I drank it, like salty popcorn, but this time, it was mellower. I gave it a really good rinse this time so maybe that’s why.

Still no rating. I’d probably place this somewhere in the 70-80 range but don’t want to commit to that yet. First world problems.


Get well soon!


Thanks, Daisy! I feel bad about being so whiny. :/

Invader Zim

I hope you feel better soon.


I hope you start to feel better soon! Feeling crappy sucks.


Thank you all. :)

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Thank you QueenofTarts for sharing this with me. After having read so many good reviews of this I needed to try it. When I first opened the bag I was reminded of the Cornfield Shu Tuocha but once I unwrapped the little guy it was definitely rice aroma.

After rinsing it, I brewed this gaiwan style (5 oz) with a 5 second steep with boiling water. The color was really light, and the leaves were green. I tasted of rice, kind of reminded of genmaicha, but that may only be because of the rice and nothing more. The taste was really light, closer to watered down actually.

I handed it over to my husband and asked him if he wanted to try it. The look he gives me says that he doesn’t want to but he does anyway, he knows I’ll quite pestering him once he tries it. I didn’t tell him what kind it was or what to expect, just handed him a cup of tea. The first thing he said was “meh” but that’s what he always says. Then he said it tasted like rice, the kind you get at an Asian restaurant. I was impressed and told him that was indeed what it was supposed to taste like!

So, since the first steep was watered down, the second steep I kept at boiling but upped the steep to 12 seconds. Too much time, it was bitter and I ended up tossing the cup, way to bitter. The whole tuocha feel apart on this steep and may have been factor to why it was so bitter.

Third steep. I went back down to a 5 second steep, this time I didn’t preheat the gaiwan and left the water at 200*F instead of boiling. Still to bitter, metallic tasting even. Again I dumped this cup.

Fourth steep. I didn’t preheat the gaiwan and steeped for 5 seconds with water temp at 176*F. Since there’s so much leaf and the leaves are green and all my cups have been bitter I thought treating it as a green tea would help. The verdict? I need to wash out my mouth. I think the bitterness and metallic flavor is having adverse side effects and skewing my taste at the moment. Not quite as bitter and metallic but it’s still there.

I’m going to stop with this one for now since it’s frustrating me and give it another try later. I’m going to leave the rating off it for now since I’m fairly certain that it’s due to my error that this tea is not tasting as it should.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

Enjoyed your adventure with this tea. I love it when people take the time to explore instead of just tossing it in a cup and that’s it.

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