Steven Smith Teamaker

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Recent Tasting Notes

80

Uh oh. I woke up with that slightly sore throat that indicates post-nasal drip. Drat, I’m getting the illness that the boyfriend had last week!
Grumble.
So I’m packing tea today. I’ve got tons of the stuff, to get me through this working day, and then when I get home, I will have even more, probably with some honey while curled up under a blanket.
Its a busy week. I gotta get it under control. And tea is the only home remedy I really know.

Evol Ving Ness

Hope this passes quickly and easily.

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80

Ooof, what a day. I’m running around like some sort of madwoman today, and need tea.
So I’ve brewed one of the sachets of this I’ve brought with me. Delicious and smooth!
Help me, Portland Breakfast!

Evol Ving Ness

It didn’t take long for the moment to appreciate teabags to arrive.

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80

I’m really pleased with my current progress in my sipdown/try the untried teas goals. Its working really well, and now more of my cupboard is tried than not tried. Progress! Though now we’re getting into the section where the sipdowns will be a little further apart, as I’m almost out of samples, and now will be working on the higher quantities.
But I can still try new blends, and that’s where I’ve come with this.
When I ordered Silent Night from Smith (I pounced on that sucker), I decided not to let the tea fly alone, and tossed this in my cart with it. Hey, why not? I love black tea, and while I’m a novice with breakfast blends, why not give it a shot? Its in sachets, not loose leaf, but hey. There are days I need a sachet.
So, on to brewing.This brewed up really well! Its strong, but very, very smooth, with lots of layers of rich flavor. I get nothing too heavy or earthy, but a lot of almost wood-y flavors, and hints of baked bread or toasted grains, lurking under that polished surface.
I’m glad I got this, as there are going to be mornings where this is exactly the thing.

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92

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Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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87

It’s time for me to celebrate another sipdown. I finished the last sachet of this tea shortly after I got up this morning. At this point, it doesn’t look like I will be able to completely clean out my hoard of stuff from Steven Smith Teamaker by the end of November, but I should be able to finish everything before the end of January.

I prepared this tea using a two step Western infusion process. I steeped 1 sachet of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 175 F water for 2 minutes. I then followed this infusion with a second infusion at 3 minutes. Note that this preparation method is a significant deviation from Steven Smith Teamaker’s recommended method (one infusion at 3 minutes in 190 F water).

Prior to infusion, the dry leaves produced a subtly sweet, mildly vegetal scent. After infusion, I picked up on aromas of oatmeal, toasted rice, corn husk, bamboo, asparagus, soybean, and snap peas. In the mouth, I detected the expected notes of oatmeal, toasted rice, corn husk, bamboo shoots, asparagus, soybean, and snap peas, though I also detected fleeting impressions of vanilla creme, malt, honey, hazelnut, and chestnut. The second infusion was very smooth and savory on the nose and in the mouth. I detected more pronounced aromas of corn husk and bamboo, as well as vanilla creme, oatmeal, toasted rice, malt, and nuts. Oddly, the vegetal scent was somewhat lacking. In the mouth, I got robust notes of vanilla creme, malt, toasted rice, oatmeal, honey, chestnut, and hazelnut up front. There was also a hint of minerality that was most noticeable toward the finish. I was just barely able to pick up on faint notes of bamboo and corn husk in the background.

This was an interesting Dragonwell. It was much sweeter, creamier, and maltier than expected. To me, it was a very savory green tea, though it lacked some of the more pronounced vegetal qualities I typically look for in a tea of this style. Still, I thought this was very good and very approachable. I do not think I would have much difficulty recommending it to fans of Dragonwell or newcomers to this type of green tea.

Flavors: Asparagus, Bamboo, Chestnut, Corn Husk, Cream, Hazelnut, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Oats, Peas, Soybean, Toasted Rice, Vanilla

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML
Mookit

Just out of curiosity, how are you able to pick out so many different flavour/aroma notes in the teas you try? I usually have a hard time identifying most of the ingredients that are actually in the tea!

eastkyteaguy

Mookit, a lot of it really comes down to practice. A couple of my college roommates were huge foodies and used to review restaurants and they got me into thinking about things that I consume on a deeper level. I also became involved in the craft brewing scene in the Midwest and Upper South here in the U.S. A former associate of mine went through the Cicerone program and conducted classes out of the bottle shop/bar that he owns and manages. He was a huge help in assisting me with identifying and describing aroma and flavor impressions in more personal terms. There were others who helped with that too. Another former roommate was a professional brewer and beer critic, my best friend’s wife is a professional brewer, and then a former family friend with whom I used to stay was a chef. I guess I’ve just spent a good deal of my adult life around people who engage in analyzing food and drink, so that has influenced me to be as descriptive as possible when I evaluate anything consumable.

eastkyteaguy

I’d like to say it has something to do with having a sensitive nose and palate (I’ve been told that I have both a sensitive nose and palate), but I think it has more to do with just spending a lot of time around people who discussed food and drink on a really deep level and feeling the need to be able to discuss my own impressions of such things in order to be included.

eastkyteaguy

So, now that I’ve explained why I approach describing things the way I do and what influenced me to take the approach I take, I would like to answer your question a little more specifically. I take a lot of time in smelling and tasting the tea. With each sniff and each taste, I ask myself “what does this remind me of?” Then I challenge myself to make as many associations as possible. Believe it or not, I don’t try to be overly precise. If I can’t quite place a specific smell or flavor, I just try to get as close as possible in my description. As I drink too, I also try to keep previous infusions in mind and think of how the tea changes over the course of the session. Then when I write a review, I try to convey what I experienced throughout and make an effort to detail how I felt the tea changed and developed. To be clear, I don’t always feel that I am wholly successful in accurately describing what I experience, but I do try to get as close as possible. In the end, I feel that as long as I can be at least semi-satisfied with my description of what I experienced when drinking a tea, I have succeeded in doing what I set out to do.

Mookit

Wow thanks for the thorough explanation! I feel like I’d have to get familiar with a lot more different foods and tastes in general in order to be associate in the way that you described. Sounds like a fun journey to expand my knowledge though. :)

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91

This might sound crazy, but I always kind of forget about Japanese green teas. It’s not that I dislike them or anything, I just don’t drink them as often as I probably should. When I’m in the mood for green tea, which, to be honest, is pretty frequently, I usually reach for Chinese green teas. I like bancha, sencha, and gyokuro quite a bit, but it seems that I am always finding excuses to reach for something else. Teas like this one make me really wish I would stop doing that.

I played around with my preparation method quite a bit with this tea. I just could not seem to settle on one way of preparing it that I liked more than the others. Normally, I do three infusions with sencha, and that is mostly what I did here. I primarily resorted to steeping one sachet of loose tea in 8 ounces of 165 F water for 1 minute 30 seconds, then following this infusion with 1 minute and 1 minute 15 second infusions at the same temperature. I also tried a three step infusion with slightly shorter steep times. Finally, I tried the vendor’s recommended preparation method, which was steeping each sachet one time in 8 ounces of 190 F water for 3 minutes. Oddly, each method kind of worked. I’ll make an effort to comment on each.

Prior to infusion, the dry leaves produced a grassy, vegetal aroma. After infusion, the grassy, vegetal aroma became far more intense. In the mouth, I picked up on pronounced notes of grass, hay, straw, and seaweed underscored by radish and toasted rice. The second infusion was slightly milder on the nose and more focused in the mouth. The toasted rice character was a bit stronger. The third infusion was mild and smooth on the nose and on the palate. It also introduced a slight mineral tinge on the back of the throat. Using the same three step process with shorter steep times produced a tea that was milder and smoother all around. Increasing the temperature and increasing the steep time to 3 minutes produced an intensely grassy, vegetal liquor.

I found this to be an enjoyable sencha. Despite the fact that I could not force myself to stick with a single approach to preparing it, I found it to be very forgiving. Just for that I have bumped my score up by a point or two. Due to its approachability and resilience, I could see this being a great introduction to Japanese green teas or a good everyday green tea for established Japanese tea aficionados.

Flavors: Grass, Hay, Mineral, Rice, Seaweed, Straw

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 1 min, 30 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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57

Before I start this review, allow me to state that I am exceptionally picky when it comes to mint teas. I either like them or I don’t. There is usually little, if any middle ground. Oddly, this one fell into that precious little space in the middle for me. I didn’t really care for it, but at the same time, I have had worse. I will explain why I felt this way in a moment, but before I do that, I would like to backtrack a bit.

My on-again, off-again relationship with Maghrebi mint teas started with a spur-of-the-moment trip with a now ex-girlfriend to Bloomington, IN while still an undergraduate. In between visiting local shops and the beautiful campus of IU-Bloomington, we stopped at a small Mediterranean restaurant. It was a cool early spring afternoon and we agreed to split a pot of Moroccan mint tea to help us warm up as quickly as possible. It was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the waiter was unwilling to divulge any information about the tea. All he offered was that it was the owner’s favorite blend and that the owner was very secretive about it. I still have no clue what the tea was. I have tried several Moroccan mint blends in the years since, but have yet to find anything remotely resembling that tea.

I had high hopes when I received a sample sachet of this tea with a recent Steven Smith order. I normally like the teas offered by Steven Smith and figured that there was a good chance I would enjoy this one. Maybe it would even be similar to that beloved mint tea from long ago. Sadly, it wasn’t. First, this is not exactly a traditional Moroccan blend. Rather than using a base of Chinese or Ceylonese gunpowder green tea blended with fresh spearmint leaves, this is a blend of Zhejiang Mao Feng (the same tea Steven Smith Teamaker offers as No. 8 Mao Feng Shui), Australian Lemon Myrtle, and American spearmint. They may have been taking liberties with the traditional Moroccan formula, but whatever, I was still game.

I followed the merchant’s suggested brewing method for this tea. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose leaf material (I’m assuming that is about how much they put in those sachets) in 8 ounces of 190 F water for 3 minutes. I did not attempt any additional infusions. I just didn’t feel like it.

After infusion, the delicate yellow-green liquor produced mild aromas of spearmint, lemon myrtle, grass, hay, and flowers. In the mouth, I noticed a somewhat turbulent blend of lemon, grass, hay, vegetable, spearmint, and floral, nectar-like notes. The finish was slightly muddy, with a lingering blend of spearmint, grass, hay, and lemon myrtle.

Okay, so I didn’t hate this tea, but I didn’t really like it either. The best Moroccan mint teas I have had have hewed fairly closely to the traditional Moroccan formula. I can give Steven Smith Teamaker a few extra points for attempting something unique, but this really did not work for me. First, I think their No. 8 Mao Feng Shui is a more or less great Mao Feng. In my opinion, it is one of their best and most consistent green teas. Blending it with both lemon myrtle and spearmint obscured some of the more intriguing vegetal and floral aromas and flavors that I enjoyed so much. Second, one of the reasons that Maghrebi mint teas work so well is that the savory, vegetal gunpowder green base creates a really unique contrast with the sweetness of the spearmint. Here, the teamakers started with a green tea that I found to be slightly floral, sweet, and smooth and blended it with both spearmint and lemon myrtle. This added additional layers of sweetness and vegetal, herbal character on top of an already somewhat sweet and mildly vegetal base. So, rather than having two distinct components that ended up melding and working together, you ended up with three components with one or more similarities that fought one another for dominance and then merged together all at once. In my opinion, it just came off as sloppy and muddled with too many loose ends, and that is not what I typically look for in a blend of any kind.

Flavors: Floral, Grass, Hay, Herbs, Lemon, Spearmint, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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94

It seems that I have been really slowing down on my reviews lately. A lot of that has been due to me starting way too many new teas and now having to take time to complete a bunch of sipdowns in a fairly short span of time. I have been plowing through a two ounce bag of this Assam for the better part of the last five days and expect to finish it by Wednesday or thereabouts. I know I’ll be sad when this is gone. It’s an excellent Assam.

For the purposes of this review, I prepared this tea using a one step Western infusion. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 212 F water. Obviously, I did not attempt additional infusions.

After infusion, the liquor showed a dark, clear amber in the cup. I noted aromas of caramel, malt, molasses, and cream. In the mouth, I picked up on robust, well-integrated notes of roasted almonds, malt, cream, leather, molasses, and caramel. I also noted undercurrents of cocoa, raisins, and stone fruits, namely ripe plum, apricot, and perhaps black cherry. The finish was smooth, offering lingering impressions of malt, cream, caramel, and roasted almonds, though I thought I could still detect faint chocolaty, fruity underpinnings.

Again, I found this to be an exceptional Assam. I normally enjoy the teas offered by Steven Smith Teamaker, so my enjoyment of this one should not come as a surprise. If you are looking for a tasty full-leaf Assam with some complexity, then look no further. I recommend this one very highly.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Caramel, Cherry, Cocoa, Cream, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Plums, Raisins

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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61

When I saw that Smith had their Silent Night, one of my favorite mint blend, back on the market, I hit “add to cart” so fast that my computer probably felt it. And it has arrived!
It has also come with a packet of this, which they’ve sent me samples of before. They really want me to like it!
And I generally do. Its a very light and refreshing green tea, with hints of mint and citrus, which always makes an enjoyable sipping experience.
I am glad to have had another sample of this, but also glad that it was just a sample. And now I can say Sipdown again!

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61

This was my cup of the afternoon.
I’m really getting the lemony flavor out of this, with a hint of the mint chasing it around. Its very fresh, very “green” tasting, and I enjoyed it as an afternoon cup.

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The weather here has finally started to get a little bit cooler and I’m really starting to crave some good fall weather so I can start drinking down my tea stash again without overheating myself. I’ve been hearing thunder on and off all afternoon today and the dark clouds have been ominously threatening but have yet to release a single drop of rain although I think that may change in the next hour or so. Its the perfect afternoon for a book and a cup of tea and I decided to give this a try. It came as a free sample with my order of Smith’s latest Makers Series and since it was sitting my my kitchen counter it wins the sip down lottery this afternoon. Its a decent tea, I could see myself drinking it in the morning with milk and sugar but its nothing so special that I’m going to run out to buy a box of it… If your looking for a good breakfast tea give this a try… it hits the spot.

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69

I’m backlogging just a bit with this one. I received a free sample of this tisane back in July and drank it three nights ago when I needed a sleep aid. I then promptly forgot about it. Since I have a little time, however, I figured I would go ahead and post a formal rating and review.

I prepared this tea using a one step Western infusion. I steeped the silken sachet (approximately 1 teaspoon of material or so I’m guessing) in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 5 minutes. As usual, I did not attempt a second infusion.

First off, I have to say that this smelled absolutely wonderful. Floral, herbal, straw-like aromas from the chamomile blossoms mingled with zesty, lemony hyssop, woody, floral linden blossoms, rose, and a mild toastiness and woodiness from the rooibos. In the mouth, I noted dominant notes of hyssop, linden, and chamomile. I also noted subtle notes of toast, malt, and cream undoubtedly provided by the rooibos, though I failed to note any rose presence. The aftertaste was very lemony, floral, and minty, perpetuating the dominance of the hyssop, chamomile, and linden in this blend.

I’m kind of torn on this one. I love the way it smelled, and the combination of herbs and flowers used was rather novel to say the least. Still, I found it to be rather unbalanced in the mouth. There was way too much chamomile, hyssop, and linden for my taste. If the individual presences of the rooibos and rose petals were a bit more pronounced, I may have liked this blend considerably more. As is, however, I found this to be just decent and nothing more.

Flavors: Cream, Floral, Herbs, Lemon, Malt, Mint, Rose, Straw, Toast, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Daylon R Thomas

Have you tried it with honey?

eastkyteaguy

Daylon, I have not had the opportunity to try this with honey. I just had the one sample sachet.

Evol Ving Ness

This sounds like something I might like. I will keep it in mind for future.

eastkyteaguy

Evol, I found it to be a more or less okay tisane. I will say, however, that I am serious when I claim that the smell is wonderful. The rose petals, hyssop, lemon myrtle, and linden really give this tisane some depth on the nose. I think there may be some kind of natural flavoring in this one too (they do list natural flavors in the ingredient list on their website), but it is not obvious. Even though this is not my favorite of theirs, Steven Smith Teamaker produces some excellent tisanes. Their No. 45 Peppermint Leaves may be the best peppermint tea I have tried to this point. I even like their hibiscus teas and their straight chamomile, which is saying something as I am normally indifferent to chamomile and openly hostile to hibiscus.

Evol Ving Ness

A wonderful smell accounts for a lot. One of my very favourite tisanes is this one: http://www.mightyleaf.com/loose-tea/chamomile-citrus-loose.html

Isn’t that interesting! Peppermint is near the bottom in terms of herbals that I reach for. Or non-herbals, for that matter. There are a few minty teas that I like, but they are rarities.

On the other hand, send me all the hibiscus! Not only do I like it, but recently my naturopath has suggested that I include a cup or two in my day. Each day. So not only do I like it, but I have been actively seeking it out. I’ve been purchasing straight up organic hibiscus and blends with rose hips, but now I am looking for good blends with hibiscus so that I can change things up.

I will take a look at what they offer. There is no mention of whether they ship to Canada though, or I haven’t come across it, or what their shipping costs might be. Always a factor when dealing with American companies, especially now that our dollar is suffering so.

If they do ship here, Black Friday is coming soon. :)

Daylon R Thomas

I second the smell. Honey was able to diffuse the herby taste of the tea with sweetness.

Evol Ving Ness

How would you rate this one, Daylon?

Daylon R Thomas

I think I did rate it, though mine now is totally different. Between a 70-75. It’s a solid tea for calming you down with good ingredients, and with the added bonus of the bag having whole chamomile flowers and rose petals. You can brew it at least twice, and the only criticism is the price. In U.S. dollars, the average I’m seeing is over $12 bucks for 15 bags. The taste is closer to a 75-80, but because of the price, you could get more of the same quality herbal for cheaper.

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81

So, I am slowly accomplishing my goal of finishing off the teas I have accumulated from Steven Smith Teamaker by November. I have 7 to go at this point, and should be able to finish at least 1 more before the end of the month. This blend of Ceylonese and Chinese black teas was the most recent sipdown.

I prepared this tea using the one step Western infusion I tend to favor for many black teas. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 5 minutes. Obviously, no additional infusions were attempted.

After infusion, the liquor showed a dark, rich amber in the cup. On the nose, I detected a mixture of roasted nuts (black walnut, chestnut, hickory, and almond), leather, caramel, toast, malt, and cream. In the mouth, I detected complex notes of caramel, toast, malt, cream, roasted nuts, molasses, leather, smoke, and orange peel. I also noted a slight floral undertone that I could not quite place, as well as a hint of cocoa.

This tea is a blend of Steven Smith Teamaker’s Keemun Hao Ya B, Ceylon Uva, and Ceylon Dimbulla. All were teas that I rather enjoyed, and here they combined to produce a good, solid, respectable blend. Unfortunately, I feel that the combination of Ceylonese teas overpowers the admittedly small amount of Keemun used. I think I would have enjoyed this blend more if there were slightly more Keemun in it. The Keemun could have provided a little more fruitiness and richness to balance out the natural briskness and astringency of the Ceylonese teas. Though I still rather enjoyed this blend, I think people who are maybe a little more interested in Ceylonese teas would enjoy it more than someone like me.

Flavors: Astringent, Caramel, Cocoa, Cream, Floral, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Orange, Roasted nuts, Smoke, Toast

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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94

This is the other jasmine tea I have been drinking lately. It is yet another one that I like. I am beginning to find that floral teas don’t bother me as much as they once did.

I prepared this tea using the two step Western infusion I tend to use for many Chinese green teas. I first steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 190 F water for 3 minutes, and then followed up this initial infusion with a second infusion of 4 minutes. I can also say from experience that you can use a slightly shorter second infusion and this will still come out good. I have yet to try this tea gongfu, but I am assuming that it would do well.

After infusion, the liquor showed a delicate, pale gold in the cup. On the nose, I picked up a strong scent of jasmine, as well as subtle scents of straw, grass, and squash blossom. In the mouth, the jasmine flavor was strong, but was capably balanced by notes of squash blossom, peach, nectar, honeysuckle, gardenia, bamboo, straw, grass, soybean, and green beans. The finish provided a delicate swirl of floral and vegetal flavors with a hint of pleasant minerality on the back of the throat. The second infusion dialed the floral and fruity tones down a few notches and really emphasized the underlying grassy, vegetal, and mineral aromas and flavors. I still noted, however, that there was just enough lingering jasmine to provide a semblance of balance and depth.

This is yet another impressive tea from Steven Smith Teamaker. It makes an extremely effective contrast with their No. 99 Jasmine Pearls. To me, this Jasmine Silver Tip has a stronger floral aroma, but a more defined and complex green tea taste, while the Jasmine Pearls had a more balanced nose, yet a more robustly floral flavor. To be frank, I really like both, though I think I still like the Jasmine Pearls slightly more. Again, I’m seriously impressed. I would have no problem recommending this tea to any fan of floral teas.

Flavors: Bamboo, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Green Beans, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Mineral, Nectar, Peach, Soybean, Squash Blossom, Straw

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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96

So, it has been quite some time since I have reviewed a jasmine tea. There is a reason for that. I really don’t tend to like them. It’s not that I dislike the aroma or flavor of jasmine, it’s just that many of the jasmine teas I have tried have gone too heavy on the jasmine for me. I tend to dislike one-dimensional teas, so when all I get out of a tea is one specific thing, it tends to be a huge turnoff for me. Well, I have recently found a couple of jasmine teas I really love and figured I would go about providing the world with reviews for each of them. It should come as no surprise that both come from a vendor I tend to rate highly. This is the first of the two.

I prepared this tea using a Western infusion and I actually tried several different variations on my usual method. Keep in mind that on the rare occasions I choose to drink floral teas, I don’t normally perform additional infusions. That is not always the case, but I usually just limit myself to one. It is a personal choice based on my previous experiences with floral teas. Usually, the floral aromas and flavors are so overwhelming to me that I have no desire to press on with additional infusions, or when I do, there is not much else left to discover, so I tend to be let down when I attempt additional infusions. That was not the case here. For my first preparation, I steeped 1 teaspoon of pearls in 8 ounces of 190 F water for 3 minutes. I have also attempted a longer infusion of around 4 minutes and two step infusions going from 3 to 3.5 minutes and 3 to 4 minutes respectively. All have been very good. This review primarily concerns itself with the initial preparation, though I will briefly comment on the others.

The first thing I have to say about this tea is that the uninfused pearls smelled lovely. The smell of jasmine was clear, distinct, delicate, and natural. I also picked up very subtle aromas of ripe peach, grass, and straw. Following the infusion, the liquor showed a pale gold in the cup. Soft aromas of jasmine, grass, straw, and peach were very obvious on the nose. In the mouth, the jasmine was immediately evident, though it soon allowed traces of squash blossom, ripe peach, nectar, straw, and grass to show themselves. The finish presented a delicate integration of peach, grass, and jasmine notes with the slightest hint of minerality. If one were to choose to attempt a longer infusion, then one would be rewarded with stronger, more distinctive peach and jasmine aromas and flavors. If one were to attempt a second infusion, one would be greeted by more pronounced grass, straw, squash blossom, and mineral notes, though the jasmine would still be evident as a balancing factor.

This is a truly fantastic jasmine tea. I have had jasmine pearls from other vendors in the past, and I have usually been let down on some level, even if I know the vendor is at least semi-reputable and even if the particular tea I am trying has a good reputation. This tea, however, is delicate and poised. There is more to it than the jasmine. It has just enough depth to remain intriguing, but is just simple enough to remain approachable and drinkable. That is a tough balancing act to pull off, but this tea manages with ease. If you are a fan of jasmine pearls or any sort of jasmine green tea, then you owe it to yourself to try this one. I highly doubt you will be disappointed, and even if you are for whatever reason, I can’t say that I would care. There would just be more of this lovely tea for me.

Flavors: Floral, Grass, Jasmine, Mineral, Nectar, Peach, Squash Blossom, Straw

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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85

It’s time to celebrate another sipdown with a review. Honestly, I’m having trouble believing that I am only the second person to review this tea. Considering that this one has been around awhile and that Steven Smith Teamaker is an established name in the tea world, it is kind of hard for me to accept that this one has been passed over this much on Steepster. Anyway, this is a good, solid black tea.

I prepared this tea using the one step Western infusion I favor for non-Chinese black teas. I steeped approximately 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 5 minutes. I did not attempt additional infusions with this tea.

In the cup, the infused liquor showed a dark, somewhat brownish amber. On the nose, I picked up aromas of roasted nuts, leather, molasses, caramel, toffee, brown toast, flowers, and malt. In the mouth, this tea presented a rush of roasted nut, leather, molasses, caramel, toffee, brown toast, malt, stewed fruit (raisin, prune), and indistinct floral notes. The finish was heavy on caramel, nut, toast, and malt flavors, with just a hint of fruit and flowers lurking in the background. I also got that pronounced leafiness I get from many black teas from Sri Lanka.

All in all, this is a rock solid black tea. I wish the aromas and flavors were a little clearer at times, but still, this is good. I will mention that this tea comes off as being both strong and brisk, so if you are not a fan of those two qualities, this tea may be just a little too much for you. Even though I am not a huge fan of Ceylon black teas, I can appreciate this one with little effort. It would not be a tea I would pick for everyday drinking purposes, but as a strong and flavorful breakfast or afternoon tea, I could see this really hitting the spot. I think I would recommend this one to fans of stronger, brisker teas and/or to fans of Ceylon teas in general.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Brown Toast, Caramel, Floral, Fruity, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Raisins, Roasted nuts, Toffee

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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87

I’m slowly, but steadily catching up on my reviews. This past week was an absolute killer for me. I have been put in a position where I am forced to put in extra hours at work, and to top it off, I have been dealing with an absolutely brutal heat wave that has rocked this area. It wouldn’t be such a big deal for me if I weren’t very sensitive to both light and heat, or if I worked a job where I did not have to spend so much time outside. I spent Friday on a mandatory outing with my vocational rehabilitation clients that required me to spend more than four consecutive hours outdoors in direct sunlight. The temperature was a little over 90 F, but with a high UV index and high humidity, it felt more like 111 F. Needless to say, I came home sick and exhausted. Saturday was about as bad. I already wasn’t in the best shape from the day before, but when I went out into 89 F heat that felt like 108 F to do my weekend errands, my body decided it had enough after only a couple of hours. I spent the rest of my Saturday curled up in bed, fighting off persistent nausea, stomach cramps, and an unbearable headache. Times like these make me wish I could move back to Canada, or at least a little farther north in the U.S.

Okay, so I got all of that out of the way. The conditions above have kept me from drinking much tea lately, and on the occasions I do allow myself the opportunity, I haven’t had much time or energy to write reviews. Just one more to go after this one though, and I will be caught up for the past week. I prepared this tea using a one step Western infusion. I steeped 1 teaspoon of this tea in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 5 minutes.

In the glass, this tea showed a brilliant gold. Mild aromas of straw, herbs, toast, malt, lemon zest, and Muscat grape were present on the nose. In the mouth, I detected well-integrated notes of honey, malt, cream, toast, herbs, straw, lemon zest, and Muscat grape. The finish was delicate and mildly astringent, offering lingering impressions of herbs, malt, lemon zest, and Muscat grape.

This is a nice, straight-forward Darjeeling. It is a little fruitier and maltier than I was expecting. I typically tend to associate first flush Darjeelings with grassy, spicy, herbal, and straw-like aromas and flavors, but this one is balanced and offers a somewhat greater Muscat presence than I was anticipating. As far as I’m concerned, this is another respectable offering from Steven Smith Teamaker.

Flavors: Herbs, Honey, Lemon Zest, Malt, Muscatel, Straw, Toast

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Evol Ving Ness

The humidity here in Toronto has been so oppressive this summer that I think you need to rethink your escape to Canada plans. Truly relentless.

eastkyteaguy

I’ve heard it’s been awful up there this summer. Perhaps Yellowknife is nice this time of year? I would honestly go anywhere to escape the feeling of being cooked every time I step outside.

eastkyteaguy

To be fair though, the heat and humidity you guys are experiencing now is like an average day from May-October here.

Evol Ving Ness

We have had the humidex of over 40 degrees Centigrade.

Evol Ving Ness

Edmonton is nice this time of year. Little or no humidity.

eastkyteaguy

That is truly disgusting. I lived in Quebec briefly as a teenager and can only recall maybe 5 or 6 days like what we are both experiencing now.

Evol Ving Ness

Toronto tends to be far more humid than Quebec and far more often. The humidity here appears to be getting worse and staying for longer. Global warming is no serving us well.

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This was my breakfast tea today and it was kindly supplied by another steepster (thanks!).

This had a sweet smell though it didn’t translate into the taste. Like most of the black teas I’ve tried I ended up needing to add a bit of sugar, though not too much. Wit the sugar is was very nice and quite warming. Overall, very enjoyable!

Flavors: Malt, Sweet, Tannin

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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76

Earlier in the year, I was both surprised and delighted that Steven Smith Teamaker was again dabbling in oolong and pu-erh teas. Normally, I think of this particular vendor when I think of high quality black teas and black tea blends, although I also have a soft spot for some of the tisanes, green teas, and white teas they offer. This year, they have three oolongs and one pu-erh available. This Taiwanese high mountain oolong is the only one of the bunch to come from anywhere outside of mainland China. It is produced from the Golden Lily tea cultivar, which I tend to associate with the creamy, buttery Jin Xuan oolongs I tend to love.

I prepared this tea using a slight variation of the gongfu method I used to prepare the Jade Oolong from Tealyra. I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 190 F water for 20 seconds following a quick rinse. I kept this session short. I only performed 5 additional infusions at 22, 24, 26, 28, and 30 seconds.

The first thing I noticed about this tea was that the aroma of the wet leaves really betrayed that this oolong was prepared from the Golden Lily cultivar. The aroma was very light, but emphasized a combination of cream and butter underscored by sweetgrass and a melange of fruits. In the mouth, the first couple of infusions offered light, airy notes of white peach, papaya, mango, apricot, cantaloupe, honeydew, honey, cream, custard, sweetgrass, and something very much resembling flower nectar. The middle infusions offered a more balanced array of aromas and flavors. On the nose, I picked up a slightly heavier fruit presence to balance out the cream and custard aromas. I also noted a slightly more pronounced vegetal scent, as well as a hint of very light minerality. In the mouth, I noted light notes of cream and custard balanced by fruit, nectar, and honey with more pronounced notes of sweetgrass, as well as leaf lettuce and minerals toward the finish. The last two infusions offered a milder and more vegetal nose with a more pronounced mineral aroma. In the mouth, I picked up on extremely delicate, fragile notes of sweetgrass, lettuce, and minerals underpinned by incredibly light floral, nectar, melon, peach, and honey notes.

I kind of liked this oolong, but I do have to say that I have had better. For me, the aromas and flavors were a bit too timid and delicate. I enjoyed the range of aromas and flavors displayed by this tea, but I would have liked to see greater depth. I was also slightly disappointed that the aromas and flavors faded so quickly, as I was kind of hoping for (but not entirely expecting) a slightly longer session. Still, I could see this being a good introduction to contemporary Taiwanese high mountain oolongs and would not really hesitate to recommend this tea to someone looking to get into them.

Flavors: Apricot, Cantaloupe, Cream, Custard, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Honey, Honeydew, Lettuce, Mango, Mineral, Nectar, Peach, Sweet

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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90

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91

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77

An interesting mix of Dimbulla, Uva, and Nuwara Eliya black teas, this is a versatile, flavorful blend that I could see going over well with those who enjoy teas that are lighter in body. I brewed this one a couple ways. I first prepared this tea using a one step Western infusion. I then made a big jug of iced tea with this blend using a very simple overnight infusion in the refrigerator.

In the glass, the infused liquor showed a dark amber. Aromas of honey, malt, toast, flowers, orange, molasses, and sweet potato were heavy on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up notes of spice, honey, malt, toast, brown sugar, caramel, tobacco, leather, molasses, sweet potato, orange, flowers, and walnut. The finish offered notes of sweet potato, brown sugar, molasses, orange, leather, and spice before displaying a touch of astringency on the fade. Cold steeping this blend resulted in a lighter golden liquor that offered less spice, nut, and leather and more honey, malt, flowers, and orange.

Overall, I rather enjoyed this blend, but I do not think that I will rush to reacquire it. The more Ceylon black teas I drink, the more I am finding that no matter how much I enjoy the flavor, I really do not care for the astringency and the lack of body. You see, to me, so many Ceylon black teas, and especially blends, seem so slight in terms of body. I can certainly say that I found that to be true of this blend as well. And it is not just me. As at least one other reviewer has noted, this blend does not seem to have much of a body; it is very light in the mouth. In my mind, the light body undercuts the complexity of flavor in such a way as to make this tea seem lacking in depth. So, while I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid this blend and think that the type of people who generally enjoy Ceylon teas might very well appreciate it, I doubt that I will push myself to spend much more time with it.

[To be clear, I think this blend is pretty good for what it is. It just really isn’t my thing.]

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Flowers, Honey, Leather, Malt, Orange, Spices, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Tobacco, Walnut

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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86

Yesterday, I finally finished my sipdown of the exquisite No. 9 Yunnan Full Leaf Black Tea from Steven Smith Teamaker. That tidbit has no real bearing on the present review, but I felt like sharing that nonetheless. Possibly due to my recent drinking preferences, I decided to keep the Steven Smith train rolling. This morning I cracked open the Keemun.

The dry leaves show a jet black prior to infusion and produce delicate aromas of toast, smoke, leather, molasses, and tobacco. After infusion, the resulting liquor is a dark, coppery amber and offers aromas of caramel, molasses, leather, toast, wildflower honey, tobacco, pipe smoke, and grain. In the mouth, I am picking up rather well-integrated notes of wildflower honey, leather, grain, toast, tobacco, smoke, caramel, molasses, and especially leather. The finish is surprisingly smooth and a bit rich, playing up notes of leather, molasses, toast, tobacco, and smoke.

All in all, I like this tea. Keemun has never really been one of my primary things (I really enjoy it, but I don’t tend to have it very often), but this one is approachable and well-rounded. Most importantly, it displays just enough complexity for me to savor. Still, I am grading somewhat cautiously because I still cannot really see myself reaching for this one very frequently. As a change of pace though, this is quite good.

Flavors: Caramel, Grain, Honey, Leather, Molasses, Smoke, Toast, Tobacco

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93

Prior to last night, it had been quite awhile since I had enjoyed a Yunnan tea. I used to adore them when I was younger, and not being in the mood to continue my Earl Grey and Darjeeling binge, I decided to crack open this container of Yunnan. I needed the change of pace, and as it turned out, this was exactly what I had been missing for years.

Prior to infusion the dry tea leaves showed a mixture of dark green and black with pretty gold tips. The aroma was a mixture of must, leather, and cocoa powder with just a hint of an almost mildewy, grassy aroma. After proper steeping, the liquor showed a beautiful dark amber with an aroma of caramel, malt, leather, must, cocoa, and grass.

In the mouth, I detected distinct notes of cocoa, caramel, molasses, tobacco, leather, malt, must, wood, grass, wildflower honey, and slight floral, herbal notes (perhaps similar to a mixture of anise, licorice, and ginseng, but I could not quite put my finger on it). This tea was distinctly smooth and rich in texture with a satisfying body and a finish of cocoa, caramel, malt, honey, leather, and wood.

Overall, I was very impressed with this tea. It reminded me of why I used to love Yunnan black teas so much and how much more frequently I need to revisit them. I think fans of Chinese black teas will be satisfied and perhaps even pleasantly surprised with this one.

Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Herbs, Honey, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Musty, Tobacco, Wood

Teatotaler

Steven Smith has some amazing tea. No. 9 Yunnan is definitely on my wish list!

eastkyteaguy

Obviously my review is evidence to the fact that I think this is a really good tea, but I really stand by my judgment of this one. I spent a lot of time playing around with steeping methods and temperatures, and I got fairly consistent results across the board. For the record, I think I settled on a Western one step infusion at a temperature of 208 F and Steven Smith’s recommended steep time of 5 minutes, but this is one of those teas that really seems to stand up no matter how you prepare it.

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