12 Tasting Notes

90

This tea is…whoa…it’s, wow, um, just really remarkable stuff. From the first sip it… no wait, first I sniffed the wet leaves and, what IS that lovely scent? I can’t quite place it. Wait, is that…miso? Whooooa, what’s THAT doing in my cup of tea?

I followed Whispering Pines’ suggested brew: 1 tbsp/8 ounces/190ºF for 3 minutes/5 minutes/8 minutes. There was cedar, there was honey, there was nut of some kind (cashews? pecans?). And I gotta tell you, this gave me quite a lift (which is just what I needed coming home from a long day of work). I didn’t notice additional tastes coming out at each steep, but they didn’t really go away either. Good, as they say, to the last drop. Yup, glad I got an ounce of this. It’s going to be a regular brew.

Flavors: Cedar, Honey

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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88

SUCH a good example of the goddess of teas. The dry leaves are tightly curled and wrinkly, with a lovely combination of dark to almost fluorescent green hues. I followed Teavivre’s steeping recommendations in a gaiwan: 7 gm, 5 sec rinse, then 25/35/45/55 sec steeps. The wet leaves smelled of seaweed and the pale yellow liquor was smooth and slightly sweet (honeysuckle?) at the first steep, getting a bit sweeter for the next several steeps. It seemed to level off in flavor and sweetness after the first three steeps, which means it continued yummy all the way through. A lovely tea.

Flavors: Honeysuckle, Seaweed

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 7 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML
Sarsonator

Very nice!

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50

I got this as a freebie with a Tea Trekker order and was looking forward to it since Golden Monkey is one of my favorite varieties. I was kind of disappointed. It was a rather thin brew with none of the nuttiness or slight fruit sweetness that I have come to expect from the monkey. I’ll try the rest in a gaiwan and see if that helps focus the flavors, but I’m not optimistic.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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75
drank hao ya 'A' select by Upton Tea
12 tasting notes

Wow, I LIKE this. I’m a big fan of keemuns and this one is so nice. It seemed to change character a lot as it cooled in the cup. The first sip was surprisingly astringent, but that quickly gave way to lovely maltiness with a subtle sweet note. Subsequent tastes got almost chocolate-like, and through to the bottom, it has a wonderfully full and soft mouth feel.

Now, here’s the thing: the second steep was almost completely flat. Maybe a tiny bit of malt, but really, it was almost like drinking hot colored water. Weird. This is a keeper for me, but I’ll have to remember that it’s a one-cup wonder.

Flavors: Chocolate, Malt

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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75
drank hao ya 'A' select by Upton Tea
12 tasting notes

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33

This came as a free sample in my last order from Upton. I needed a strong cuppa when I got home from work yesterday and thought, sure, I’ll give this a try. “Strong cuppa” indeed! The dry nose was somewhat smoky with maybe a touch of malt, but the wet aroma (I like to stick my nose way down deep in the leaves) was strangely flat. The brew was very smooth and full, with a somewhat coffee-y touch and minimal tannins. I found no hidden flavors or much aftertaste. It just is what it is: strong black tea. Note to the caffeine-conscious: this one packs a wallop. Perhaps next time, if there is a next time, I’ll add a spot of milk to see if that brings out some of the malt. I’m in no rush to try this one again.

Flavors: Malt, Smoke

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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30

This, like most Ceylon teas, just doesn’t do it for me. I carefully followed Upton’s brewing directions (1 tsp/3 min/212°) and came out with a tea that was mildly tannic, mild all around, and with no aftertaste to keep me interested. Even sticking my nose deep into the gloopy mass of freshly steeped leaves didn’t give me much of an impression. Nope, I’ll pass on this one. Perhaps it has redeeming qualities, but I’m not finding them. Might a bit of milk help?

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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50

I lean toward bolder black teas, so perhaps my tasting of this dainty green is somewhat skewed. I saw what I was in for when the dry nose was dusty and smelled of hay. After a three-minute steep at 180° (per Upton’s instructions), the leaves were now bright green and smelled somewhat of bread dough (that’s a compliment – I bake a lot of challah and other breads and I love the smell of the dough). The pale yellow liquor still had a bit of hay, plus some citrus. It had very little finish and overall did not excite me much. Then again, perhaps my palate is not refined enough for this delicate brew.

Flavors: Citrus, Hay

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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75

I was surprised at the number of sticks that were mixed in with the leaves. Is this typical of this style? It made it hard to measure, so I had to make my best guess (I really need to get a scale).

I did three 2-minute gaiwan steeps of this tea. The first was almost too subtle. Sort of herby with a clean finish, but nothing really jumped out at me. The second had a darker liquor, with less herb flavor. The final steep seemed slightly more astringent (though not much) and had a bit more forest-floor-dry-sticks flavor.

Overall, I liked this but was not wowed. I’d recommend it for when you’re in the mood for something subtly warming and comforting.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Profile

Bio

I grew up drinking Lipton with lots of sugar and lemon. It’s only over the last few years that I’ve come to discover and appreciate real tea. Now I’m on a mission to expose as many of my friends as possible to the delights of Camellia sinensis. I dream of opening a tea shop someday where people can sit, slow down, and enjoy a proper cup properly steeped. I have so much to learn to make that happen, so I’m eager to chat, meet, and sip with those who know more than I.

I can’t say that I’ve discovered a favorite tea yet. I lean toward the bolder black teas (I don’t think I’ve tried a keemun I didn’t like), but those with lots of golden tips spark my taste buds too (Golden Monkey, dubbed “Monkey Butt” by my then-teenage son, is always popular in my house).

I love the pu-ehrs I’ve tried, but I know that that is a whole world of flavors that could take me years to explore. I keep sampling subtler white, green, and yellow teas, and I’m learning as I go. Let’s face it, I’m sampling everything I can and having a ball doing it.

Speaking of sampling, I’m eager to swap, so feel free to peruse my cupboard (I’m making a concerted effort to record what I have) and ask me for any of it.

When I’m not steeping, I write, bike, raise kids, love my wife, and cook fine vegetarian fare.

That picture is of me at a rest stop on a long bike ride. I’m still working on how to combine long-distance cycling with tea drinking. Hmmm . . .

Location

Newton, Massachusetts

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