350 Tasting Notes

(loose leaf, not bag, bought from the bulk dry goods canisters, not in a retail tin)

Usually I keep this around for hot toddies, iced tea with lemon and sugar, or head colds that need lemon and honey.

But, I’ve been helping a friend shop for ceramic tea storage and when one has spent the morning drooling over hand made, artisan pottery, one needs a reality check. Also, I’m trying to empty my cupboard as much as I can in order to justify a few orders of extremely fine teas from some unusual vendors (and probably also VT which isn’t all that unusual, especially for the Steepster crowd) and I need to use this up along with everything else.

Why are all the gaiwan I see in China low and wide and all the gaiwan I see for sale in the USA (even online) tall and narrow? I have big hands. Really big hands. I want a low, wide gaiwan that will fit my hand better. Any suggestions would be welcome on this front. Plus, I just think the aesthetic works better with those proportions.

Anyway, this tea. What is there to say, really? Assam based, blended, RTC processing, industrialized brand name, it isn’t going to be a religious experience now, is it?

But let’s face it. We’re not always in the mood for the gentle caress of tiguanyin or the exotic breezes of an aged sheng. Sometimes you want a tea that’s going to use your epiglottis as a speed bag and will simply WAKE YOU UP. Those mornings you wake up and you realize you could actually sing Barry White in the correct octave.This is the tea for those occasions.

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Hmm- good question on the gaiwan. I will keep my eyes open for something for large hands (mine are ridiculously small, so I’m used to searching in vain for the other end of the spectrum).
Did your ceramic tea storage search turn up anything nice? I’ve been looking for quite some time, not very seriously, without much success.

Alos :) Barry White!


I think Butiki’s might be bigger…take a look. I think they are 12 ouncers too. The thought of a Chanter sounding like Barry White is a crack-up! I did hear an Antiochian Priest who was serving in Russia for so many years that he had learned to sing ina beautiful Basso Profundo voice that was amazing.

Jim Marks

I don’t mean bigger as in more volume, only bigger in terms of proportions. If you look at David’s youtube videos where he uses a gaiwan, his is wide and low, but still only 4 or 5 ounces in volume. But everything I see in the USA looks like this:


same volume, but totally different shape — which I find hard to hold.

Isn’t a Butiki a kind of lizard? What am I looking for?

As for ceramic storage, there are good choices at Camellia Sinensis (Canadian shop), Red Blossom and Tao of Tea.


Thanks for the recommendations.

Butiki = Butiki Teas, I think.

David’s gaiwan are much bigger than most you see for sale- he even had some of similar size available at the end of last year when Verdant was selling teaware (I picked up one of the teeny small ones).

A quick search didn’t turn up much that was definitely wide. Have you seen this?
Not a gaiwan, but definitely a wide, flat size, that would work like a gaiwan.

I’ll keep looking around. Other options might be to e-mail Verdant or even Mandala Tea. Verdant could theoretically have a gaiwan left in stock?… Garret at Mandala doesn’t always put all of his teawares up on his website, and if he doesn’t have anything that fits your needs, he might be able to bring one in. From what I remember, both Garret also has large hands.

Jim Marks

I’ve spoken to David about his. They aren’t as big as you might think — or rather, the ones you see for sale here aren’t as small as you’d think by comparison, in terms of interior volume. From what I could gather, he neither had any more to sell nor knew of an “obvious” place to get the low, wide style.

There’s another site that sells extremely high end artisan ceramics that has devices like the one to which you’ve linked here, they had a long word to name them which doesn’t even have a Wiki entry 0_o !

A nice idea, but I like the gaiwan for drinking out of more than steeping in. I could, I suppose, drink from something with a spout, but that seems a bit uncivilized, somehow.

If I’m buying fine ceramics, it is more for the aesthetic than anything else. I have highly functional, ugly steeping gear. :-)


Uh I thought Butiki’s were wider too not just larger. Sorry.
I’d ask David where he got it. He’s very good at sharing information and will let you know within a day or two. He never see’s these requests as a bother at all.

Jim Marks

Yeah, 12 ounces is a lot to brew at once. The more serious I get with all this, the smaller and smaller I find myself brewing.

Maybe I’ll just pinch pennies and get a yixing or four over the next six months and give up the gaiwan altogether.


:D I totally agree with you re: aesthetics (and regarding the spout, if you’re using it as a drinking vessel).

If I ever fin something nice, I will be sure to send you a PM.

Jim Marks

Sweet. Thanks.

Charles Thomas Draper

Another great review! What extremely fine teas are you buying and who are the unusual vendors? Have you tried EBay for gaiwans? I have purchased some very cool antique tea cups.

Jim Marks

No, I haven’t looked at eBay. I suppose I should.

I’ll probably order from Verdant (the not so unusual to us), Camellia Sinensis (Canada), and maybe also Red Blossom, Tao of Tea, Jas-etea and… there are more. I’m on my work machine because I’m at the Mini dealership finding out what the heat heave on Gasmer Blvd did to may car so I don’t have all my bookmarks. I’ll try to remember to put up the full list later.

Charles Thomas Draper

I highly recommend Red Blossom and JasE Tea. You recommended Camellia Sinenis to me before and they have some very unique teas….

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I really am glad I found this tea.

Know that an “entry level” sheng exists that I can point newbies towards without scaring them with either big price tags or overwhelming flavor profiles is comforting.

And let’s face it, you can’t drink “blow my mind” tea all day every day. If nothing else, the wallet won’t allow it.

So having a sheng you can consider a “daily drinker” is pretty excellent.

With modest leaf in a small gaiwan, this tea is mellow and almost sweet. It makes me wish I had a yixing for it. I have found the yixing I want to invest in, but this will take time. And money.

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I appreciate it when wise people like you who have experience with Pu-erh give advice on what is a good starter and what is a good daily Pu-erh. Thanks Jim!

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I did long steepings with this for the first time, yesterday.

I freely admit that at this point I am extremely spoiled by my semi-gongfu double gaiwan style of steeping most tea most of the time. Working from home, and so having access to the kettle, all the hardware, towels, etc. means I can make great cups of tea all day every day.

So, on those occasions I make larger batches and do longer steepings, I have to remind myself that of course the results aren’t going to be as dramatic.

The balance in this tea just amazes me. Whether steeped long or short, the roasted notes one expects in da hong pao are always playing this complex game of tag with the more lady orchid type notes.

I was pleased to discover that while a Western steep doesn’t sparkle the way a gongfu steep does, the result is still a well balanced, excellent cup of extremely refreshing oolong tea.

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Doing this one up today using my heretical multiple steepings into a single pot method. I have found that this is an especially effective way to create very complex pots of shou. Somehow the lighter notes of the very early and very late steepings remain distinct from the black tar of the middle steepings.

Think of it as breakfast blend, Yunnan style.

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Do as you wish. Why not?!

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I’m into the last of this first order, today. The good news is I’m going to the Path of Tea tonight, so I can pick up another bag.

Although, I’m tempted to pick up the black pearl or the black spiral and see if I find myself relishing them the way I relish this qu hao.

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I finally put my finger on what this tea reminds me of.

Lady Orchid (Lan Gui Ren).

That ginseng coating sweetness, and the floral hints with the roasted oolong beneath it.

This is far more subtle, of course, since it is the natural flavor of the tea itself, but that’s what it is like.

Considering lady orchid is something I more or less never drink, I feel rather chuffed that I was able to make that connection. It only took, what, four tastings? ;-)

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Old school, lazy Western style, today.

Enough leaf for 4 cups of water, three minute steep. I’ll probably only get two, maybe three steeps this way, but that’s still anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4 of a gallon from two tablespoons.

This tea is the precise opposite of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

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Another fine tea sent from Tokyo by Liz. We had a bit of an adventure getting details to log this one.

I’m always amazed at how different gyokuro is from other sencha. A bad metaphor I always think of is the difference (and similarity) of lard to bacon grease.

Perhaps more apt in this case is a plate of steamed spinach leaves versus a plate of steamed spinach leaves drenched in melted butter and salt.

The key word here of course is umami.

This tea produces a downright frothy, brothy cup. Bright, pale green, deeply vegetal and coating the mouth throughout. The texture lingers in the mouth long after one has swallowed.

I believe I will save the rest of this leaf for when I have guests to whom I can serve an informal senchadō.

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I love this flavor…you can almost chew the tea.



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Shortened the steep time and all that powerful bitterness is gone.

I quaffed the gaiwan in two great swallows after an initial tentative sip and the flavor is just rolling around my mouth, tingling and sliding from here to there.

I’m so grateful for what I have learned through Steepster that has allowed me to treat each tea so much more precisely to the needs it has and to look past flavor profile to all the other ways that a leaf proves its value.

Harmony is a good name for this tea.

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