55 Tasting Notes


Notes on the 2nd through 4th gaiwan steepings, after refrigerating overnight for iced tea: I don’t know that I’d waste this on iced tea in the future. The floweriness becomes kind of cloying and perfumey, and the clean depth goes away and is replaced with kind of a run-of-the-mill chinese green taste. If this were a tea I got for $6.99 for a box of 20 tea bags, sure, it’d be a nice one to have iced, but this is a much more special tea than that, and it sounds from the website like when it’s gone, it’s gone. I’ll drink the rest of the pitcher, but won’t ice this in the future unless I find myself with more steepings to go and do not want to drink any more hot; then, icing it would seem to be a way to avoid wasting it!

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec

Rare teas are better used in a more immediate way than ice tea.


I would agree, given my experience with this one.

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Oh dear…maybe the water for the first steeping was too hot? The result is that the fifth steeping is the same lovely color, with a lot less flavor. I don’t mean less floral flavor—I mean less flavor, period. Still tasty, but much more watery, to the point where I don’t know if it’s still worth drinking. The predominant taste is now: hot water.

Or is that supposed to happen? Would steeping it longer (longer than the directions, which say to add three extra seconds to each steep after the first three steeps) bring back some of the flavor, or would I risk bitterness? Oh, woe…at least I have three more servings of this to get it right, but I’m still sad that I seem to have messed it up. Sigh…

David Duckler

Hi Gillyflower,
The fifth steeping in a Gaiwan should just be peaking towards the strongest flavor. This one fades around steeping 12 towards lighter sweet notes. The directions with the tea do assume a pretty small Gaiwan, and water draws different amounts of flavor out of a tea depending on the water chemistry. Kind of mysterious though since this is pretty durable as far as teas go. Here are a few tips for your next tries: 1. This one won’t go bitter, so don’t be afraid to steep up to even 45 seconds in later steepings. You might try increasing the time to 30 sec after four steepings to see what happens. 2. Try pouring hot water on the saucer of the gaiwan to insulate it and keep constant temperature. 3. If you suspect too hot of water, boil it and let it cool for about 20 seconds, or pour into a pitcher and then a gaiwan. 4. If it is still light in flavor, try to flip the leaves, so that the ones that were on the bottom are on the top. You can do this with a spoon, or by turning the gaiwan over, balancing the leaves on the lid and putting them back.

I am glad that you had some great first steepings, and hope that playing around a bit yields you something wonderful through 15 or more steepings. This oneshold linger in your mouth even after you are finishes drinking it.

Have fun!


Thanks Davis—I’m definitely having fun! I will try your tips next time. My gaiwan is small-sized, at least, so it’s good to know that I got that right…!

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I have never had a tea give me such a strong sense of deja vu. I don’t mean “oh wait, I think I’ve had this before” deja vu. I mean, “What is that smell? What is that incredibly floral smell? I’ve smelled it before…in the evening…in happier times…” After one cup I’ve got it narrowed down to either summer camp, or sometime in college. But I’m not pushing my brain to really remember. I’m happy to just smell this tea, and linger on the verge of remembering something happy.

This is my first gongfu brewing and I don’t know if I’m doing it right. I’m using the instructions Dave from Verdant Tea sent with the shipment (wow, this is the first tea I’ve ordered that comes with full documentation!) but my gaiwan, which JUST came in the mail today from China, doesn’t have a little pouring spot on the edge, so I’m still very amateurish in my handling of the pouring process. I’m steeping for the correct number of seconds—and then I’m taking a minute and a half to pour! So I’m sure I’m oversteeping.

But this tea shows no signs of bitterness. It is relentlessly floral thus far (rinse, 1 brew which I’m finishing drinking, four brews that went into a pitcher for tomorrow’s iced tea), a light yellowy-green color, with a lovely, almost minty undertone. I’m still learning what people mean when they call a tea “sweet” (besides actual sugar); I think this is a type of sweetness, one I could get used to! Not the slightly cloying sweetness of teas with actual flower flavors added, but the sweetness of really good mineral or spring water, light and cool on the tongue. So tasty and refreshing.

This is becoming hard to describe…I’m going to go get another infusion and add that note later.

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 45 sec

I know exactly what you’re talking about when you say you’ve smelled this before, in the evening.

Earlier this year, towards the end of spring, I stepped out the back of my apartment. It’s was cool but the air was thick. Down the street, there are some huge lilac bushes, and they were blooming. The grass had just been cut, and it had rained a few hours earlier (water still on the ground).
I inhaled, and the smell was this Tieguanyin. It didn’t remind me of the tea; it actually was the smell of the tea.
This experience probably happened to me four more times. Were there lilac bushes near summer camp or college?

As for the gaiwan: I have really small hands (seriously.. my pinky nail looks like it belongs to a toddler with thin fingers), so I also often have trouble pouring. I practiced with just plain cool water until I was confident with tilting the lid in just the right way and mastering the pouring motion without dropping the gaiwan. I also used a much thicker one to start off with than I use now.
Then I burned my fingers a few times… which helps, actually. Generally, I’ve found that the faster I pour, the easier it is. If I let the water sit in the gaiwan too long, it’s actually heating the ceramic of the gaiwan towards 201degrees! Definitely not fun to handle.

Hope you keep having fun with your gaiwan!


Thanks Spoonvonstup, I just found your comment. It’s entirely possible there were lilacs at college (it was a small campus in a residential neighborhood, and I was still there in early June every year) but not at camp, as I was only there after the lilacs had bloomed and gone!

Thanks also for your ideas of how to get more used to the gaiwan. I haven’t done any substantial gaiwan activity since the first time I tried this tea. Sounds to me like if you can do it, I can too! I will take your advice and practice with cool water until I’m more confident with pouring. My gaiwan is glass, which may even heat up quicker than your ceramic one, so I don’t know if the fast pour will help, but it’s worth a try.

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drank Jasmine Tea by Fujian Tea
55 tasting notes

For $2.99 at the local Hmong grocery store (and in a lovely blue cylindrical tin no less), I figured, like many who’ve commented, that if I hated this tea it wouldn’t be much of a loss. After one cup, the verdict is: no hate whatsoever, but no special love. To me this is not as sweet or smooth a jasmine flavor as others I have had, even other jasmine greens. The scent in the leaf is mildly artificial-smelling to me. It improves when brewed, but not to the really intoxicating level of, say, Samovar’s Silver Needle Jasmine. (But then…not much rises to that level.) This brews up medium reddish-brown, with tea dust in the bottom. The bitterness isn’t bad at first (I was really careful to brew for no more than two minutes), but does get worse as you get to the bottom of the mug, as others have noticed. (The fault of the small amount of tea dust? I dunno.) The jasmine doesn’t taste artificial in the brewed tea—sigh of relief—but the green tea base is not particularly good or bad, just a basic Chinese green tea base. I personally like Chinese greens in general, so I’m glad I gave this a try, and will drink more of it. And of course I’ll keep the gorgeous tin it came in, for future teas! But probably will not buy this again. The world is too full of better-quality jasmine teas than this one!

200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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I tried this iced via the cold steep method. After 20 hours of steeping in the fridge, it produces a medium yellow brew (no, this is not my urine sample) with a light grassy, wheat-y smell, and an equally delicate, similar taste. I didn’t add ice because a) it was cold enough from the fridge, and b) I thought diluting it would remove the taste. This is quite drinkable and tasty. I’m planning on bringing the rest of the pitcher to work to serve for breakfast for my co-workers, with some banana bread I made last night. I hope they’ll like it. 95 degrees in the shade here, heat indexes up to 105—keep hydrated, I plan to with more of this iced tea!

Iced 8 min or more

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I got this as a free sample from The Tea Table, and I’m glad it was free, because I still don’t know what I think of it…! When I prepared it, I didn’t know anything about it (except that it was loose tea), not even that it was a green tea. Reading on this page that it’s green, I don’t totally see it. The brew in the mug is a medium-to-light golden brown. Except for a certain grassy element to it, it doesn’t taste like green teas I’ve had. The predominant flavor is a nearly metallic base—call it “oxidized”. Not a deep or bitter flavor, just a sort of round, baked kind of flavor. I’m not tasting sweetness, and if this is “toasty” apparently I’ve been making toast wrong for years. It’s almost bread-y. This is also the only smell you can get from the brewed tea.

Not that this is necessarily bad. I am drinking the whole mug and will probably finish the sample. But I probably wouldn’t buy more of this, and if this is Lung Ching, now I know that Lung Ching is missing some of what I look for in tea: brightness, and a variety of flavor notes.

185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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This is as close to a standard item as my work tea collection has. I believe I’ve gone through three tins over the course of two jobs. Admittedly it’s gotten to be an emotional thing as much as a taste thing: I started drinking it soon after moving back to my hometown, someplace I’d wanted to be for a long time, and it has a connotation of civilized enjoyment, happiness, and health for me. When something has such a nice feeling associated with it, you’ll drink it no matter how much more you learn about tea over time…!

I do a particularly quick steep on this, sometimes as little as a ten-second dip, which yields a brew with only a pale brown color; today I did a full minute, which is slow for me with this tea (and in a brown mug, so I couldn’t tell you the color of the brew). With a quick steep, you avoid any bitterness or tannins. All you get is the vegetal flavor that I really like in this. The fruit, on the other hand, gets short shrift—but even with a much longer steep, it is never that strong in this tea. Although I normally love fruity teas and tend to bring the fruit out with lots of sugar, I drink this one plain, preferring the mere suggestion of fruit. I think it’s just that I like the Chinese green base so much. To me it tastes like grass, vegetables, freshness, and healthiness. And, of course, it tastes like happy feelings!

Example of how much my mom hates tea: she sipped some of this and said it tasted like dirty water. eye roll Thanks, Mom! (She does love bubble tea, but only because of the tapioca at the bottom, I think!)

200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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drank Lemon Lime Kampai by Teavana
55 tasting notes

I tried this iced tonight (in a blend with Blueberry Bliss), using the hot brew method. (I have some Jasmine Oolong cold-brewing in the fridge, but I got thirsty!) This was really good iced, with a bunch of rock sugar thrown in during steeping. It’s tasty as ever, fruity, light, and refreshing, and still not very rooibos-tasting. I still prefer cold-brewing my iced teas because a) I think the flavor is usually better and smoother, and b) I hate how the hot tea melts all the ice but somehow the whole thing never totally cools down, it just gets mostly cool. But for near-instant gratification, this was a lovely drink!

200 °F / 93 °C 7 min, 0 sec

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On a second try: I let this steep for 7.5 minutes, since the label says to steep for 5-10 min. I actually think this was a mistake because now I can’t taste anything but peppermint. Don’t get me wrong, I love peppermint, but if I want peppermint tea that’s what I’ll drink. This has lots of other ingredients and none of them are in evidence after this long a steep. There is probably one more large cup in the sample, and I will steep that one for less time to see if I can re-experience some of the other ingredients in the cup.

Boiling 7 min, 30 sec

Thanks for the note about steeping. I found a similar tea combination which says to steep it for 10 – 15 minutes which seems way too long to me, so I think I’ll go with a much shorter time per your experience.

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drank Snow Geisha by Teavana
55 tasting notes

Having had a few really lovely white teas lately, I can tell you: this is white tea beaten into submission by artificial flavor. It is white tea only in that it is tea and it is not black or green; the tea base doesn’t have its own personality at all. That having been said, for something artificially flavored, this isn’t bad. I don’t agree that it tastes like cough drops or codeine syrup. The smell in the bag and in the cup is of a pleasant artificial cherry flavor. I overbrewed and had to throw the first cup out (the old bitterness problem—my fault for not setting the timer correctly), but the second cup is still very cherry-flavored , flowery, and rather pleasant with some rock sugar. The color of both brews was a nice medium golden yellow/brown, only a bit less bright in the second cup. I am not tasting the sourness others did—maybe it was hiding behind the bitterness of the first cup so I missed it, then went away by the second? Or maybe there just didn’t happen to be any sour cherry in the spoonfuls of tea I used!

I’m not saying I’m a HUGE fan (and it is admittedly overpriced, but when I walk into Teavana I’m not bargain-hunting). Just that this is drinkable and pleasant, and pushes my “fruity” button. I would really like to try this iced—that’s the next plan.

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Hi, I’m a librarian, SCA member, and tea lover from Madison, WI. I’ve been drinking tea all my life, but have recently become more of a fanatic about it. Single, straight, and looking. Would love to take a date to one of the great tea places here in Madison!


Madison, WI

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