152 Tasting Notes

My Whispering Pines order came in yesterday! It was a happy day. The past few weeks, I’ve been sipping down some of my favorites in anticipation of this order coming in. I was at work all day and I didn’t get home until late, so unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to try any of my new teas last night. But today! Today is a good day for tasting. Let’s do this.

In the bag, the dry leaf smells intense and sweet like maple candies. The sweetness is offset by the deep, resounding aroma of mushroom, earth, bread, and wood—much like a shu. This makes me think it might do really well blended with a shu puerh. Followed the western brewing instructions, though I would like to gong fu this later. This tea tastes like maple syrup, brown sugar, mushrooms, wet wood, and cocoa. There’s a bready note that makes me think of sourdough rolls or pancakes. It’s also slightly tart, like stone fruits—plums, raisins, cherries. The finish is oaky and a little drying. It leaves a malty coating on my tongue along with the taste of maple. I didn’t find the blend overly sweet. The maple flavors are balanced nicely with earthy, woodsy qualities that keep it grounded. The base tea notes come through MUCH more strongly in the second steep. Maple is ever present in the background, but at the forefront you have grain, malt, dark chocolate, and cherries. The natural sweetness of the tea makes itself known. It’s clearly identifiable as the base tea for GO. It’s almost like fudge, and it’s so delicious. The finish here is juicy and sweet. Still slightly drying, with a taste like wood, but it’s drying in a way that makes your mouth water.

Gosh. I’m so glad I was able to pick some of this up. I don’t think it’s something I could drink all day, but it’s definitely good. Like many of Brenden’s teas it makes me want to take it hiking.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cherry, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Grain, Malt, Maple Syrup, Oak wood, Stonefruits, Wet Wood

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This was a pleasant enough black tea. It reminded me both of Laoshan Black and VT’s Yu Lu Yan Cha. It tastes of cocoa powder and peanuts, malt and wood. Despite having flavors you would consider “heavy” it’s relatively light in body. It’s thin, and doesn’t leave a full taste in your mouth or a coating behind. There’s the light taste of nuts and that’s about it. It seems to fall flat, but it could be the age of the tea. I’ve been holding on to it for over a year. Yeah, I know. ): It’s decent but it’s not for me. It doesn’t fit my preferred flavor profile.

Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Nuts, Peanut, Wood

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(I believe this is from the Marco Polo TTB.)

This could be described as tasting like caramel, marshmallow, toasted rice, and earth. The rooibos imparts a woodsy flavor and there’s also something like damp leaves in the background. Not as unpleasant as it sounds. The green tea base, however, is atrocious. It’s like stewed grass. It’s like vegetables that have been left moist and out of the fridge for too long. I don’t know how else to describe it. It has a funk to it that’s just intolerable. If this blend had used a black tea base, or even oolong, I could probably get behind it. Unfortunately this is blended with a very rough, low grade green tea.

I was hoping this would be my last cup before bed, but now I’m going to make something else to get the taste (and the memory of the taste) out of my mouth.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Caramel, Earth, Grass, Marshmallow, Toasted Rice, Vegetal, Wet Earth

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This is such a delightful tea. It opens with notes of smooth, silky cream, caramel, honey and baked bread. There are whispers of cocoa along with an almond nuttiness that makes me think of marzipan. There’s a hint of dried apricot. It’s decadent and sweet like cake batter; it’s thick and full, like pudding. I wouldn’t call it a “heavy” tea. Body falls somewhere between medium and full. Gosh, it’s so creamy! I don’t think I’ve ever had a Bai Lin that was so creamy.

I prepare a second steep. As the timer is about to ring, I lean over my cup to smell it…I sigh, and let out an audible “oh my god”. It smells like lightly toasted cinnamon bread, with buttercream frosting, and honey. It smells like French toast without syrup. It smells like a whole slew of delicious, mouth-watering pastries. The taste? It’s like apricot jam on buttered toast with a light dusting of cinnamon, paired with a tall glass of milk. It’s good. I’m still catching notes of honey, cream, and a tiny bit of malt. It’s soft, gentle, and buttery but it has so much flavor. I’m in awe. There are some brighter tones in this steep that are like white raisins or citrus, but they’re not intense enough for me to pin down. The citrusy notes are again in the third steep, along with honey and milk foam. Overall the last steep is much lighter than the first two. The leaves are nearly spent.

This was only a small sample in my last order, but it definitely goes on my reorder list. I’ll miss this too much when it’s gone.

First steep: 1min 30sec
Second steep: 2min
Third steep: 3min

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Baked Bread, Butter, Caramel, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Cream, Dried Fruit, Frosting, Honey, Malt, Marzipan, Pastries, Toast

Joseph Wesley Black Tea

happy to read that you enjoyed the bai lin hong cha. Cheers – joe

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Despite being the last spoon at the bottom of the bag, the spice in this blend isn’t overwhelming. The notes of the base tea come through strongly: chocolate, caramel, sweet potato, stone fruit, and pudding. There is a resonant, malty aftertaste and the spice leaves a tingling sensation in my mouth.

Brenden has hinted that this chai will be returning soon, and I know I’m going to stock up whenever it’s back. Damn if he doesn’t make the best chai I’ve ever had.

First steep: 5min
Second steep: 7min

(For a more thorough description, see previous note.)

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It’s loud, brassy, and heavily spiced. Too much punch from the base tea; not enough balance. Lot of clove. Bitter. So bitter, and I didn’t even use boiling water. I wish I could provide a more thorough note, but I dumped this after the first few sips.

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drank Qing Pin Black Tea by Yezi Tea
152 tasting notes

First steep: 1min 30sec
Second steep: 2min 05sec
Third steep: 3min

The first steep tastes of cocoa and malt, along with a grapey fruitiness. There is a nuttiness and a roasted component as well. The body is medium-full with a savory, chewy flavor and texture. The finish is surprisingly clean: it has no particular overwhelming flavor, and there is no flavor or mouth coating left behind. The second steep is very much like the first. There is a light honey sweetness that I couldn’t detect before. It’s brisk and breakfast-y without being astringent or bitter. It vaguely reminds me of a Keemun but without the smoke. There are notes of toasted grain, too. This steep leaves a malty, nutty fruit taste in my mouth after sipping. Third steep has barely any cocoa, but it does have more fruit, more honey, and baked bread flavors. It’s very light compared to the first two steeps. (…it does, however, remind me of light and fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Maybe I’m just craving pancakes.)


Good, but not a keeper. It’s definitely high quality. I kept a small sample in a folded, unsealed pouch for over a year in my cupboard, and it still retained a lot of flavor. I need to stop being so negligent. I bought A LOT of teas when I first started drinking loose leaf, and I haven’t gotten close to drinking them all.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa, Fruity, Grain, Grapes, Honey, Malt, Nuts, Roasted

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Could have sworn that I had a tasting note for this one. This is one of the teas that has been in my cupboard for too long, so I’m making efforts to drink all of it down before new orders come in. It’s a pleasant enough green tea. Light, mellow, and vegetal without being overly grassy. The tea base is slightly buttery. The flavors of gently roasted nuts and cream are light and accompany the natural flavors of the tea nicely. There’s vanilla at the end of every sip. It tastes more like whipped cream than ice cream. Perhaps because ice cream is a heavy, dairy/buttermilk flavor, and whipped cream is more light and airy.

I’ll get through the rest of this bag because it’s blended very nicely, but it’s definitely not something I’ll crave. (Green tea. Eh.)

Flavors: Butter, Cream, Nutty, Roasted nuts, Vanilla, Vegetal

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drank Dark Beauty by Mandala Tea
152 tasting notes

Since I found Black Beauty hiding among my samples, I wanted to try MzPriss’s intriguing blend of Black Beauty and Special Dark. I have mixed feelings about SD. It’s a little too intense for me, which means I usually add cream and sugar to it—a TON of sugar by my standards, or else I’m left with a charred taste in my mouth. SD has excellent qi, though, so I drink it to keep my bones warm during the winter. I never feel cold when I leave the house with a tea buzz!

For this blend I used 13-14oz of water. I combined about 3/4 of a tablespoon of SD and 2 teaspoons of BB in my infuser basket, then rinsed for 5 seconds. I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes. You guys. You guys!! This really good. It’s thick and decadent like chocolate cake. There’s an earthiness to it and the mild taste of stone fruits—presumably from the BB. The deep, resonant dark chocolate notes are backed by a syrupy honey-caramel sweetness. It’s not at all bitter, though the brew is very intense. (I mean VERY.) It leaves the taste of chocolate cake in my mouth with rich, roasted overtones. The first thing I thought when I took a sip was “…coffee?!” No, it doesn’t quite taste like coffee. It’s better than coffee. It’s the deep intensity and the roasted qualities of the tea that bring it to mind. As expected, my entire body is warm. Even my feet—and my feet are always cold. I feel like I could walk out in 40 degree weather with a t-shirt and stay warm for at least five or ten minutes. At least until the tea buzz wore off! I definitely need to brew some of this for my boyfriend. I’m desperately trying to convert him from coffee to tea, and I think this might help my case. Fingers crossed. Mua ha ha ha ha.

Flavors: Cake, Caramel, Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Stonefruits, Sweet, Thick


Thank you for reminding me of this amazing combination – I’m taking inspiration from this and making myself a cup (or three…)


Welcome to the VERY dark side :)

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drank Black Beauty by Mandala Tea
152 tasting notes

This was a sample in my last Mandala order! I can’t believe it took me this long to try it.

Rinse: 5sec
First steep: 1min 30sec
Second steep: 1min 45sec
Third steep: 2min

Wow, this tea is intensely sweet! I usually add a smidge of sugar to my cup but the first steep was almost too sweet to drink. It has a very soft, smooth texture. It’s silky without a hint of astringency. The tea is gently floral, medium bodied, and has the taste of both honey and dark chocolate. There is also the suggestion of fruit but it isn’t fully developed yet. It really emerges in the second steep as a thick, jammy sort of flavor that’s like stone fruit and apricot. Cocoa and roast are the notes that follow. This tea is also earthy in a way that’s herbaceous—not like wood, or leaves, or mushrooms. It leaves a mineral note on my tongue after sipping. There are similarities between this tea and a high quality Keemun, but it lacks the characteristic smoky notes and is more honey/caramel than sweet potato. In my final steep cocoa, roast, and apricot are the dominant notes. There is a delicious syrupy caramel-honey finish that makes my tongue tingle like I’m sipping something carbonated. That completely caught me off guard. I’ve only experienced it maybe once, or twice with different teas. It has an indescribable “bubbliness” to it. Mineral and stone fruits remain in the aftertaste, though my tongue is still tingling. This tea was absolutely delightful! I’ll have to pick some up in my next order.

Flavors: Apricot, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Floral, Grain, Herbaceous, Honey, Jam, Mineral, Roasted, Smooth, Stonefruits

Terri HarpLady

I’m missing this tea from my collection, having polished off the last of it a few weeks ago. I think I feel a Mandala order coming soon, because this is a black tea to truly love!


i REALLY want another mandala order aslong with a few others but i’m REALLY trying to wait…not to mention i have my most recent mandala order waiting to be opened for when i gt get a few more teas cleared…though i’m sharing a bunch of mandala with courtney this week so that will mean an order sooner mwahahahaha

Terri HarpLady


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I am still relatively new to loose leaf, as I have only been drinking it since 2013. I’m amazed at how much my tastes have changed just over the past year. I have met such lovely, kind individuals on Steepster and am so glad to have become a part of this community.

Pure black teas are my favorite. I drink black tea daily and I try to keep a variety on hand. I also enjoy white tea, puerh, and the occasional oolong. Matcha is something that I love though I haven’t tried a large variety. The very good matcha that I’ve had is quite expensive. In general I try to stay away from flavored teas—especially those with artificial flavorings—but I will make rare exceptions, and I do enjoy a well crafted blend of straight teas. Things I (usually) don’t like: green oolongs, rooibos, straight green teas.

Rating System
90+ The very best! Teas that I always need in my cupboard!
85-89 Teas that I enjoy immensely and will try to keep around.
80-84 Makes a very pleasing cup. I will enjoy drinking them, but won’t necessarily try to keep around. (There are exceptions.)
70-79 Decent, but could be better.
60-69 Mediocre.
40-59 Gross. I might still try to finish the cup.
39 & under Undrinkable. I probably dumped this cup. Depending on the specific rating, I probably threw the rest of the tea out as well.

Some of my favorite tea companies are:
-Whispering Pines Tea Co.
-Verdant Tea
-Mandala Tea

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