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Recent Tasting Notes
Well, I found this amazing little café in one of the buildings on campus. It’s about 2/3 of the way between two of my classes on Friday, so I know where I’ll be going every week. Their tea is great, too (loose leaf? on my campus?!). Sadly, I have no idea what brand it is. The shop itself is an offshoot of Lavazza but their tea looks nothing like what I had. What a mystery! Maybe I’ll ask if I ever catch them at a slow time.
On to the tea: this jasmine green is really good in a subtle way. The jasmine flavor sneaks up on you. It’s a little bit fruity at first, then sweet, with a beautiful floral aftertaste. The green flavor is a steadying presence in the background but never overwhelms; the whole cup is subtle. Utterly delicious (and even better with a lemon bear claw)!
Houjicha of the Autumn Moon
Home-roasted houjicha from Obubu Tea Farms Sencha of the Autumn Moon
This is my second time turning some of my Obubu green tea into houjicha. This one was particularly tantalizing, as it smelled like pumpkins as I was roasting it. It smelled sweet, a bit like yams, and even more like the smell of a freshly carved jack-o-lantern when you’ve got a lit candle in it, perhaps a bit sweeter. I’ve always picked up a pumpkin note in this tea, and roasting it brought it out in the scent even more. It’s great. Definitely autumn, without belonging to the generic “pumpkin spice” persuasion.
The scent of the brewed tea is very caramely and sweet, with a hint of roasty char and cigar tobacco. The taste is mellow and mostly reminds me of cigar tobacco, mildly sweet. It’s really comforting. I tiny hint of the pumpkin taste comes through in the finish.
The second infusion tastes a little more green, with a pistachio like taste and a hint of cucumber, and it has a sweeter lingering aftertaste. I could swim in this cup. It’s so delicious.
The best two houjicha I’ve had now have been the ones I roasted at home from Obubu’s green tea. I may just end up doing that from now on. I’m not sure if houjicha is just better when freshly roasted, or if I’m just using teas that are more to my liking for this type of flavor. Either way, Obubu sells their teas at greatly reduced prices when they aren’t in season, so I’ll be picking up some of these to roast with my next order from their website. Order from them direct. So many people I know order Obubu’s tea from Yunomi, and pay the huge markup that comes with it. I’m not sure why.
Flavors: Cucumber, Nuts, Pumpkin, Roasted, Tobacco
Houjicha of Brightness
Homemade Houjicha from Obubu Tea Farms’ Sencha of Brightness
I wonder what Obubu Tea would call this houjicha if they’d made it themselves? They’ve got Houjicha Amber and Houjicha Gold to refer to some of their Houjicha made from sencha rather than lower grade bancha. Maybe this one would be Houjicha Bronze.
I had some Sencha of Brightness in storage that was getting a little old. It’s January now and it’s a summer harvested tea, so I decided to roast some in a pan and make houjicha. This is my first time making my own houjicha, so I’m excited.
On the nose, there’s a definite scent of cigar tobacco. The taste is milder than most houjicha I’ve had before, and very, very clean, with an almost minty tingle in the finish. The flavor is like a sweet cigar tobacco, with more sweetness and less roasted flavor than most houjicha. The color is a deep copper. Honestly, I can’t stop drinking this quickly. It’s so good and so quenching! I’ve never had houjicha that had such a clean mouthfeel and finish. Wow! And the flavor and scent are so comforting.
The source material, Sencha of Brightness is a partially shade-grown sencha that is definitely a bit on the sweet side. It’s light and delicate and Obubu recommends it being made as iced tea.
On the second infusion, the flavor is even more sweet and creamy with notes of malt and heavy cream.
I’m so happy with how this turned out. This is wonderful. I will be tempted to roast the rest I have left of this tea. Mmm mmm. DIY houjicha may be a new addiction for me.
Flavors: Roasted, Sweet, Tobacco
Tonight I am drinking a caffeine free tea purely for the benefit of my stomach, peppermint tea. A lot of people don’t realize this, but a strong cup of peppermint tea, as long as it is high in peppermint oils, is excellent for certain gastrointestinal problems. Tastes pretty potent though, not one I drink for the taste. You have to brew it really strong to benefit your stomach.
I brewed this once in a 14oz mug with 5 tsp leaf and boiling water for 8 min.
This morning I am drinking an Oolong I picked up at Fairway, a local and gourmet supermarket. The have a really good gourmet coffee selection and a reasonably good loose tea selection. This one is called Oolong Roasted Twig. The dry leaves smell incredible and have the appearance of, well, twigs. They don’t quite look like stems. There is a mild roasted flavor to this tea and a sweet aftertaste. It is sort of a cross between a Wuyi Oolong and something else, don’t know what.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and 190 degree water for 3 min.
Today I picked up a black tea from a local coffee roaster. I was there primarily to buy coffee. Their coffee is, luckily, better than their tea. That being said the tea is not bad. I don’t know what type of black tea it is, it wasn’t marked except as black tea from china. The man at the store said “it was the finest tea in the world”. I didn’t believe him but thought I would try it anyway. This tea is actually better than I was expecting. There are strong citrus notes and I suspect from the leaf size that it is a broken leaf tea. I just couldn’t leave the place without at least one of their teas. This tea reminds me of an Indian Orange Pekoe even though it is from China.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 2.5 tsp leaf and boiling water for 2 min.
I am drinking the Margaret’s Hope Estate tea from Little Leaf Tea this morning, another part of my Secret Santa gift from TraceyC. I decided to brew this one at 190 degrees to start and it came out good. It is very tasty with a mix of notes hard for me to describe but include grapes, malt, and baked bread.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 190 degree water and 3 tsp leaf for 3 min.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Grapes, Malt
I received my Secret Santa package from TraceyC yesterday afternoon. As the teas are not in the catalog I thought I would review the first of them here. This morning I am drinking Borengajuli Black tea from Little Leaf Tea. It is a tasty tea. I am detecting notes of malt and baked bread. The malt is not overpowering. There is some sweetness there too.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 3 min. Next time I think I will lower the water temperature by 20 degrees for a better result.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt
THis moring I am drinking a weird tea, organic chrysanthemum silver needle tea from the Clipper Ship Tea Company. The flavors of the chrysanthemum and white tea do not mix as well as they do with that and puerh. It is earthy from the chrysanthemum (a different earthy than ripe puerh) and somewhat sweet from the white tea, weird.
I brewed this tea once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and 185 degree water for 3 min.
Tonight I am drinking a flowering green tea from the Clipper Ship Tea Co. It is nice, sweet and vegetal, not bitter. It also doesn’t have that sour taste I was tasting in everything I drank for days due to my taste buds (I think anyway). I broke in a new glass teapot from China for the purpose of this tea, although I didn’t buy it for flowering teas specifically. This tea was called Awakening Spirit on the package. I only bought one flower of this type so this was a one shot deal.
I brewed this once in a 200ml teapot with one flower tea and 175 degree water for about 5 min.
1 more steeping left of my no-name assam (I’m sure it had a name but I lost it) then I can replace it with a new assam. This one is rather flat only a little malt note in the front if I add condensed milk. I prefer a really strongly malty assam so next time I’ll be looking for the malt. This one does the trick of clearing the fog and waking me up. Steepster ate a lot of my notes lately, lets see if this rather inane one “sticks”
Blou (black/shou) combos of the day:
- 2014 Verdant Zhu Rong and Tangerine Shou (shou aged in a little tangerine): Super good. This had a refreshing, cooling, citrusy feel. It would actually be a nice springy tea. Perfect for when everything around is waking up!
- 2013 Mandala Temple Stairs and WP Ailaoshan Black: Deeeelish! Another good combo. :)
Received some samples from an awesome tea friend! All were lovely shous :)
Golden Memory – smooth and lovely. I would drink again.
Trinity Blend – oh boy. I wanted to love it… cool name. But the fermentation flavor was out of control LOL. I even did extra rinses and couldn’t get past it.
7572 – This is perfect for an after dinner sip. Very mild, no excessive earthiness, just pleasant and yum.
Hey, my first Random Steepings note!
I received two samples from a friend and know little about their origin. Both are ripe pu’erhs and both were delicious. I am leaving a note more for myself.
2000 Langhe Menghai Ripe – Total yums. No fermentation flavors. Very smooth and wow… SWEET.
2000 Lancang Ripe – Very similar. If all shous turn out like this, I will be a happy girl. The sweetness is so pronounced and lovely. This tastes like a sugar cave. There’s a whisper of earthiness under all the brown sugar. Lovely.
I’m hanging out with my pups and Chairman Meow, enjoying my tea happy!
P.S. Before I hit save, I did google to see if “sugar cave” was some sort of pervy term. Because doesn’t it seem like it would be?
Bunny tea pet loves this shou!
Mixed Saffron Chamomile by Taja Tea with Classic Sleepytime by Celestial Seasonings.
It made two relatively unexciting chamomile-based teas taste really good. The spearmint from the Sleepytime is especially prevalent, and the saffron adds a certain richness that wouldn’t otherwise be noticeable. It’s kind of like a chamomile bouquet of gentle goodness that makes me feel much better about life.
Mmmmmmm, perfect bedtime mix!
This is quite possibly my first “Random Steepings” entry. Tada! The beau and I had Chinese food “in town” tonight and I was curious about the tea. The waitress said there was a loose leaf oolong and we asked for a pot of that. It came loose but was brewing up really dark so we investigated. Turned out, this is definitely shu puerh. She had no more info about it but we told her a bit about puerh and how she might like to brew it if she wants to try it again. It was actually really nice and held up to Western steeping really well. This encouraged me to try more of our pu Western style. Yay!
Also excuse the (many?) Typos. I’m on my phone and Steepster won’t let me see what I am typing so I am just hoping it turns out legible…now it’s letting me. Grr. That was pretty bad. I think I got most of them.
Time for my very last Design a Tea custom sample. This one is Mango Amaretto Rooibos. Visually, just red rooibos with a few flower petals. Dry scent is kind of vaguely tart-sweet fruity with heavy marzipan notes.
Hmm, this one is actually pretty good. It doesn’t actually taste like marzipan, it’s actually spot-on for those amazing amaretti cookies (you know the ones I mean, they’re Italian, small and dome-shaped, and a pale pink-tan in color). So hooray for accurate amaretto flavor! The mango is there as a sort of fruity note, but it pokes its tart little head out near the end and gives the sip a nice fresh finish. Yum! :)
Flavors: Almond, Cookie, Fruity, Mango, Sweet, Tart
Next Design a Tea sample is Blueberry Chestnut with a black base. The black leaves are very small, and there are pieces of some kind of dried fruit-like thing along with decorative flower petals. Dry scent is very sweet and nutty, I don’t get much blueberry but it still smells really good! Once I poured the water over the leaves, I got a nice whiff of blueberry aroma. Steeped for 3 minutes at 200 degrees.
Brewed aroma is still very sweet and rich with lots of nutty scent. I do get a bit of blueberry jam, but it’s in the background. Hmm… I get a lot of the black base (malty, generic) with some nuttiness mixed in. The blueberry mostly shows up at the end of the sip. Tried it with a bit of sugar added, and while it definitely helped to bring out the blueberry flavor, I think I’m just not a fan of white sugar in my tea anymore. It adds a weird aftertaste that reminds me of artificial sweeteners… Maybe next time I’ll try brown sugar. Overall, a decent tea, and I imagine it would be good with milk. Rating would be mid-70s.
Flavors: Astringent, Blueberry, Chestnut, Jam, Malt, Nutty, Sweet
Time for another Design a Tea sample! This time, I’m trying Apricot Caramel with a green tea base. The green tea leaves are smallish and steamed flat. For some unknown reason, there are rosehips mixed in (and flower petals). I must say, I am getting pretty annoyed with the unnecessary added ingredients (that I didn’t ask for) in these blends. I do not enjoy rose hips, I find them tart and not much else, similar to hibiscus. So please don’t put them in my sample when I didn’t ask for them… Grumble. Anyway… Dry scent is tart apricot with something else I can’t place. I steeped for 3 minutes at 175.
Brewed aroma is apricot with a strange powdered sugary scent. Meh the green tea base is pretty much just grassy and kind of tastes like leaves (imagine that, lol). There’s not enough flavoring here for me, and I mostly just taste the base. Tried adding sugar, and while it did help it taste more like caramel, it muted the apricot. It’s now only present as a sort of apricot jam aftertaste. Meh! Rating would be in the high 60s.
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Caramel, Grass, Jam
Next sample up from Design a Tea is Vanilla Nutmeg Black! This one was kind of a safe bet for me, as I love vanilla black teas in general and nutmeg is amazing. Visually, this one looks similar to Butiki’s Nutmeg Cream but with smaller leaf pieces (they’re small but not quite fannings like the last one…). It also smells pretty similar – strong nutmeg with lovely vanilla/cream undertones. I’m steeping this one for 4 minutes at 200 degrees.
Once brewed, the vanilla/cream and nutmeg scents are more equal. It smells like some kind of amazing nutmeg vanilla custard pie! Okay, now I need to make one of those… Happily, this cup did not come out bitter at all. The beginning of the sip is mostly nutmeg, and then the vanilla shows up near the middle and continues to the end, which reminds me of creamy vanilla pudding. I actually dared to add some vanilla almond milk to this, which just pushed it over the top. I think I prefer soy milk, but I bought a carton of almond this time to compare. Overall, I’m pleased with this blend! Rating would be in the low 80s. :)
Flavors: Creamy, Custard, Nutmeg, Vanilla
I ordered 5 samples for $5 from Design a Tea, and I feel like it would be silly to add them all into the database, as they’re custom and I will probably only drink them once. So I’m going to log them all under “Random Steepings” and just list the rating at the bottom of the note instead.
First up is “Maple Cider Oolong”. The oolong itself is an oxidized variety. I must say, I’m pretty disappointed by the leaf quality here, my sample is almost all tiny pieces and fannings. These samples come prepackaged in a tea bag, but I cut mine open and used my infuser instead. Well, I definitely regret it now… For some unknown reason, they decided to add chamomile to this blend, and if I had known that, I would have left it in the bag. Chamomile pollen likes to stick in my infuser, even though it’s super fine, and it’s a giant pain in the ass to clean it out. Not off to a good start here, Design a Tea…
Anyway, dry it smells nice enough, sweet and apple-y with maple undertones. I let mine steep for 3 minutes at 200 degrees (the instructions said 3-4 minutes but I didn’t want to go longer with such tiny leaf pieces). Brewed aroma has a lot of chamomile… Now I’m grumpy. I can smell apple and sweet maple too, but the chamomile is strongest.
Even though I only steeped for 3 minutes, it’s a little bit bitter. I do taste some chamomile, but at least it’s not as strong as the smell… The cider flavor is nice, but I don’t really taste maple. I even tried adding a little sugar to see if that would bring it out, but it didn’t seem to help.
Overall, the cider flavor is good in this one, but I don’t taste maple and I’m somewhat upset by the chamomile… Rating would be somewhere in the 65-70 range probably.
Flavors: Apple, Autumn Leaf Pile, Flowers, Roasted
This is from a swap a couple months ago with Steven Cook. He sent me his own blend of Teavana’s Monkey Picked Oolong and Four Seasons Oolong.
The dry leaf and steeping aroma is slightly floral, but not very strong.
The actual taste is kinda the same. Maybe it lost its flavor in the zip lock bag in came in, or maybe it’s old? I’m not sure. :( Bummer about this one though.