489 Tasting Notes

Sunday Tea and Books time!

The Tea

Many thanks to Angel of Teavivre for sending me a sample of this. I haven’t tried many pu’erhs, so it’s lovely to get some more exposure to them.

Upon opening the packet, the leaf smelled of tobacco, leather, cedar wood, raisins, and earth. There were some broken up leaves in the packet, but instead I took a large unbroken chunk that was probably about 1/2 the packet’s worth and put that in a 100mL gaiwan. I did a rinse for 15-20 seconds, then let it rest for about 2 minutes in the hot gaiwan before steeping.

I brewed up a big pot of hot water – about 1.25 L – and put a tea cozy on it to stay warm. Over the next 1.5 hours, I steeped the leaf a whopping 13 times to see how far it would go.

The first 3 or 4 steeps were all a dark amber colour, and tasted smoky and bitter. Not the bitterness of beer, but a bit thinner and sharper, like it was coating my tongue. The tobacco impression lingered all throughout. I also got hints of cedar wood and birch bark. However, as the steeps progressed, the tea became more fruity. These steeps ranged from 10-20 seconds.

After the first few steeps, my mouth felt coated, but it wasn’t tongue-curling astringency so much as a fuzzy feeling all throughout.

I have to say that I think steeps 5-8 were the best, as the smokiness remained but the bitterness faded away. Instead, that stonefruit note came increasingly to the fore. These steeps ranged from 20-25 seconds.

However, steeps 9 and onwards were quite weak, with a significant drop-off in flavour from 11-13. At this stage, I had progressed from 30 second steeps to 3 minute steeps, without much appreciable increase in flavour.

The Book

This was a hard one to try and compare. The smokiness and bitterness and tobacco scent/flavour all had me stumped. I’m still not sure I can think of a character that fits this tea, but my husband and I were rolling the words around, and we both felt pretty comfortable that if we could think of a fictional character, it would have been someone from a Western/cowboy novel. Maybe one of these days I should pick up Lonesome Dove or something.

Did you know that Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns before he moved on to crime fiction? I’ve only read one of his novels – Out of Sight – but I’d love to read more.

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Backlog from last night.

This note isn’t going to be so much about this tea as what happened to me before I drank it.

Last night, I finally sent out my swap package to Ost (~hi there, Ost!~). I brought the baggies of tea with me to the post office and then chose a padded envelope for everything.

I’ve been to this post office before, and the person behind the counter is almost always this sweet old woman with grey hair. She looks like she’s a nice person, you know? Competent, knowledgeable, demure – just someone who projects an air of comfort. She doesn’t raise a fit if I don’t know how much the package weighs beforehand, for example.

So, I’m stuffing the bags into the envelope and writing the mailing address on the front, and I’ve got the envelope all sealed up. She’s putting in the destination zip code and measuring the weight to see how much the postage will be, and she asks me if I’m doing something more with tea.

Nine times out of ten, now, if I go to the post office, it’s because it’s got something to do with a tea package. She’s noticed this by now, obviously. So I say “yes” and tell her all about Steepster. The conversation below is heavily paraphrased:

“Oh, I’m part of this site, and we review tea, and we talk about what tea we’re drinking. We share tea, too – so I might try something and then we arrange swaps so other people can try the same teas.”

“That sounds nice!”

“It’s fun! I’m sending out a swap right now, that’s why I’m here.”

“So what did you send out this time?”

“Oh, I sent out a black tea with [flavour redacted, because I want it to be a surprise for Ost], black tea with chestnut flavour, black tea with caramel, some green tea with [flavour redacted so it will be a surprise for Ost].”

Meanwhile, all the while, she sounds so excited, saying things like “that sounds delicious!” and “wow, that’s so neat”. I sense I’ve got a budding tea convert here.

“So what sort of teas do you like?”

And then we spend the next 5 or so minutes talking about different tea flavours, where I buy all these different kinds of tea from, and even fancy/novelty-shaped infusers.

The long story short, ladies and gentlemen, is that the next time I go to the post office, I’m going to give that nice old lady some of the teas in my cupboard to try. Baby steps, though: she likes sweet things and herbals; I’m sure that if I even tried to tell her about pu’erh it would blow her mind.

I’m reminded of a comment that ashmanra made in one of her tasting notes a few weeks ago: “Tea makes friends. Friends make tea.”

Well, it looks like I’ve made a new friend! :-D

By the way, this lemon meringue tea was ok. I just needed something without caffeine, and I also got to break in my new Mr. Tea steeper.


Hi Christina! :P That’s such an awesome story! :D Yah for tea converts! :D


Oh that’s so nice. Loved your story. Maybe we will see your friend here on Steepster eventually.


Nice story. :-)


Great story!


Of course, I’m feeling a little diabolical and considering giving her samples of tea I’m not too keen about. Not that I want to give her bad tea, but I get the sense that these might be more appreciated by someone who is still learning about it.


I love it! And it is just the beginning!

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Backlog from yesterday.

First note for this tea. Woo!

I’ve only ever had 1 or 2 Ceylons before this – in particular, I really liked the Kenilworth Ceylon that I got through Simple Loose Leaf back in August. When I bought this tea I hoped it would be more of the same.

However, the flavour in this upon first scent and sip is that it’s quite non-descript. It doesn’t have the blanket-warmth of the Kenilworth Ceylon, or even the lemony/rosy body of some bagged Ceylons.

I’m going to hold off judgement until now, as I remember I wasn’t too impressed by RiverTea’s Golden Yunnan when I tried it, but it’s grown on me a lot since then. I’m hoping that this Ceylon will also grow on me.

Boiling 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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drank Ocean Breeze by RiverTea
489 tasting notes

Backlog from a few days ago:

I’ve had this twice since I bought it, and I quite like it. The ginger flavour is really strong here and melds well with the lime and lemongrass – the whole thing smells like ginger ale when I open it up, which I love.

The base here is not too strong, but not too weak, either. I’m really happy I got this blend, as I’ve been looking for a good ginger/citrus green for a while.

I have to say it: I really like RiverTea’s blends. Not all of them work, but when they work, they work.

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I’m a sucker for Bi Lo Chun teas, and the fragrance when I opened this sample packet from Teasenz was heavenly – buttery, vegetal, savoury…

I steeped it at 80C water for 3 mintes as per the recommended instructions. When I pulled the infuser out from the teapot, the leaf smelled vegetal and heavenly.

However, the tea was quite bitter at first sip – when it hits the tongue, there’s a chemical tang that I’m not very happy with. Mid-sip it’s nice and vegetal, and there’s a surprisingly delightful grassy note in the aftertaste, but the initial bitter jolt when it hits the tongue is unpleasant.

I suspect that I will really need a scale to serve this tea properly, as Teasenz’s instructions specify gram weight per cup rather than volume (teaspoons) per cup. Considering I wasn’t too thrilled with their Lychee Black yesterday, I’m chalking the whole thing up to user error on my end.

Now… what do you guys recommend in terms of cheap, user-friendly digital scales?

180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML
drank Lychee Black by teasenz
489 tasting notes

First note for this tea!

I have to admit that I didn’t watch the clock carefully on this tea, so it’s entirely possible that I messed up the steeping parameters on this.


Um… I’m not sure if I like this tea. I can definitely taste the lychee flavour, but it was really bitter and floral. I’ve had fresh lychees, and know they have a floral undertone to them, but I also know they can be quite sweet and juicy – I was expecting more of that juicy flavour to come forward.

Put it this way: I finished only half the pot before I had to leave the house in the afternoon, and then dumped the remainder down the drain.

I’ll need to experiment with this, as the sample from Teasenz was quite generous. But I really hope that my subsequent brews are more enjoyable than this.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML

hmm. how long did u steep it for?


I think it was somewhere around 4 minutes. I really need to get an egg timer one of these days…


maybe try for 3 mins next time?

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drank Ruby Red by RiverTea
489 tasting notes

Backlog from last night.

I had this while watching “Catching Fire” and it was okay. Still medicinal-tasting, but at least I have less of this to go through since I put a bunch into the GCTTB3 a while back. A little bit of agave nectar helps round this tea out.

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Not much to say about this tea here. It’s bold, its bergamotty, and I just didn’t want to have to deal with loose-leaf yesterday afternoon, as this is one of the only bagged teas in my cupboard. I was lazy, what can I say?

I probably oversteeped it a bit though.


I like lazy.

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Backlog from a few evenings ago.

My sister came over on Sunday so we could all celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday, and after a stupendously large meal, I asked if anyone wanted tea. My sister asked if I had green tea.

Of course, incredulous, I said “yeah, yeah, what kind?”

She said she wanted jasmine. Now, I love my sister. So of course, I give her this jasmine tea, the good stuff. I’m not gonna fob off any sub-par jasmine tea on the woman who taught me how to read when I was an itty-bitty kid, am I? Of course not!

I don’t think she enjoyed it much, though. She waited a long time for it to cool, and by the time she left I don’t think she finished the 12 oz mug I poured her. I probably should have given us all 8 oz mugs and then shared some with a third person.

I stored the leaves in the fridge overnight and then steeped them a second time yesterday morning (I don’t often resteep, but this is one of the ones I do) but it ended up tasting a bit tinny. Ah well.

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML

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I felt like having a green tea this morning, and for some reason this one jumped out at me. It turns out that a 2.5 minute steep works out well for this one. There’s still some smokiness and astringency, but the green tea flavour comes to the fore more.

As a bonus, I now have only about 1 teapot’s worth of dry leaf left after this particular brewing, which means that it’s now firmly in sipdown status. Yay!

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML

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I’m a writer and editor who, after years of bagged-tea purgatory, has finally seen the light and glory of loose-leaf teas. I’m still just starting my journey, as it’s been only in the last 2 years that I’ve started drinking loose-leaf tea, and only in the past few months that I’ve been trying different varieties in earnest.

Likes: Green tea, sobacha, fruit flavours, masala chais, jasmine, mint, citrus, ginger.

Dislikes (or at least generally disinclined towards): Hibiscus, rosehip, chamomile, licorice, lavender.

Things I’m on the fence about: Oolong, vanilla (I prefer it mixed with black teas or rooibos rather than green tea), white teas.

Still need to do my research on: unflavoured black teas, pu’er teas.

For those interested, here’s my scoring system, though I don’t score teas as often as I used to:

100-85: A winner!
84-70: Pretty good. This is a nice, everyday kind of tea.
69-60: Decent, but not up to snuff.
59-50: Not great. Better treated as an experiment.
49-0: I didn’t like this, and I’m going to avoid it in the future. Blech.


Toronto, ON, Canada



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