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19 Tasting Notes

97
drank Gyokuro Superior by Hibiki-an
19 tasting notes

One thing I’ve learned is that gyokuro is very sensitive to brewing temperature. If water is too hot, the flavour is very pungeant and over-powering. If done right, you will have a very smooth flavour.

In my experience, no higher than 50 degrees Celsius is the perfect temperature for this tea. One minute for the 1st infusion, and 40 seconds for the 2nd. For the last infusion, I use 60 degree Celsius and 1 min, 20 seconds. I find that a small, fast pouring vessel is best, such as a gaiwan or a houhin (I prefer the gaiwan due to the control I have over the amount of sediment/leaves in my cup). When I use a slow pouring vessel like a small traditional-shaped teapot, I find the flavour is off and not nearly as enjoyable.

The dry leaves are dark green and almost needle-shaped. The colour is reminiscent of seaweed and so is the scent. There is a buttery note, along with an aroma akin to the ocean. When the leaves are wet, they remind me of chopped cilantro and parsley and smell like yummy buttered greens.

The liquid is the most beautiful part of this tea. It is a very bright yellow-green that reminds me of one of those fancy drinks you see on television (or in person if you actually go out, I suppose).

When brewed properly, the flavour is vegetal and smooth, like dark greens with a hint of butter. There is a subtle astringency that disappears into an almost sweet flavour that lingers afterwards. It seems to have a refreshing effect on the palette and awakens the taste buds. It would go good with a light meal since it would bring out the subtle flavours.

This tea has a bit of an acquired taste, particularly if you’ve never tried Japanese tea before. There is an ocean flavour hidden somewhere within. I’m not sure if it’s because there is a high salt content in their soil, or if it has something to do with the salt-water breeze, since they’re on an island. Either way, I enjoy the unique flavour and recommend that any adventurous tea drinker should try it at least once in their lifetime. Just make sure that you brew it properly

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97
drank Gyokuro Superior by Hibiki-an
19 tasting notes

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98

I’ve experimented with this tea to find out where its best flavour is and I think I’ve found why there are so many varying reviews on it. This is a very delicate tea and it must be treated as thus. If the temperature, handling, and/or timing is off, the flavour is too potent with a buttery, sea-like flavour. When brewed properly, this is quite possibly the loveliest tea I’ve tasted. It’s very delicate, floral, and refreshing. As a result, I thought I would share my experiences with some insight as to what it is that probably shouldn’t be done with this tea.

The wrong ways to brew this tea

Hot:
#1. The first time I tried it. I didn’t like it at all. The only temperature our kettle at work has is boiling and that was what I used. I used the minimum 2 minutes to steep and discovered that I almost couldn’t stand this tea. As someone else mentioned, ‘buttered scallops,’ I wound up with something I felt was more akin to buttered seaweed because to think of scallops would have made my stomach turn. It was potent, heavily buttered, with a bitter aftertaste that left a strange coating on my tongue. Yuck!

Cold:
#2. Determined to like this tea for what I paid for it and because I bought a lot of it on faith, I decided my next step would be a cold brew. In my overzealous frenzy and impatience, I thought that a good ‘shaken’ cold brew would work best to bring out the flavour and to help it brew faster. I shook it vigorously to bring out all the ‘good-for-you goodness’ and then left it for 4.5 hours in the fridge. That was a mistake. The liquid was foggy and the flavour was but-ter-y… Maybe some sweetener would do the trick. We were out of stevia so I used just the smallest splash of honey. It made it more palatable, but it led me to believe that honey was too heavy for a white tea.

#3. I thought if I boiled hot water and then poured it over the leaves before cold brewing, it would tone it down a bit. That was when I finally realized it was seaweed I was smelling. Wow. Did it ever smell like seaweed when I was pouring that hot water over it. Interesting. With a shrug, I put it in the fridge and cold-brewed it for 6 hours, brought it to work with a few packets of stevia and had my co-worker sample it with me. It was better this time, but I thought it could be better still. The buttery flavour was nowhere to be found and it tasted a little bit more like a green tea, along with its subtle pungency. I’m not really a big fan of green tea.

So, we brainstormed together and she said to leave it alone. “Just cold-brew the dang thing and put it in the fridge overnight so that we can have some in the morning…! Oh! And bring a lemon!” She’s always yelling at me. I thought the idea was crazy. Overnight seemed like a bit of a long stretch to me, but I’m always up for an experiment. As a result, I went home and decided to try the tea hot again. Only this time I would do it correctly. Don’t worry, I did the cold brew too.

The right ways to brew this tea

Hot:
#1. Definitely follow instructions for this tea. The temperature is the most important factor. I have a variable kettle so I set it to White Tea and put only 1 tsp of the leaves in my cup. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I was a little afraid of this tea by that time. I just didn’t want to give up. I brewed it for 1.5 minutes and took my first sip. Damn, this tea is good! I never would have guessed it could be so pungent if it weren’t for my first mistakes. The flavour was light and floral. The aroma was delicate, and the liquor was beautiful and clear.

Cold:
#2. I put 2 tsp into my cup-sized French press and poured cold water over it, put it in the fridge and left it for 11 hours. When I walked into work, I put it on my co-worker’s desk, ran upstairs, grabbed my cute little cups, and a packet of stevia. I also grabbed the slices of lemon I prepared the night before. By the time I returned, she had already pressed it. She has no patience. We tried the first sip plain. I was surprised by the light flavour and the cool aroma. It really didn’t need anything else in it. There was no bitterness or buttery note. The second sip was with stevia. It was still good, more of a spring/summer drink. We added the lemon for the third sip and discovered a whole new flavour. This was an amazing summer ‘patio’ drink. The notes of the white tea persisted with a beautiful fresh lemon accent in it. The stevia just stirred things together. Though, I’m not entirely convinced that this tea needs any stevia at all.

Conclusion
Be very careful with how you brew this tea if you want to enjoy it. It could mean a world of difference.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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68

The appearance is surprisingly lively for a pu’erh. The mixture of the green leaves and the splash of deep rose from the strawberry and hibiscus add a beautiful contrast to the deep woodsy pu’erh. The dry aroma is mostly like a candied strawberry with not much else to detect.

When wet, the tea and most of the leaves sink to the bottom. There are a few berry and hibiscus pieces that float near the top with what looks like a very small amount of twigs and leaves. It looks very dark and earthy at this point, almost foreboding.

The liquor is a dark coffee brown with subtle umber highlights and sienna undertones. It’s clear with no foggy appearance. Very nice and rich to look at. Very warm. Since I’m not much of a pu’erh drinker and this is only the second one I’ve ever tried, it is hard to pick out any flavour other than the strawberry and blackberry leaves and berries. There is a richness that I’m guessing is the pu’erh. It’s very deep, woodsy, and subtly spiced with a slight age to it.

I like this. It’s very comforting. I wish I could try the others in my pu’erh collection without having to wait until the next day to try it.

Preparation
Boiling 7 min, 30 sec

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97

This is my favourite by far. I have a cup of it every morning when I’m not trying to fight a cold. On the days I can’t have it, I think about how much I’d love to have it.

The dry leaves look like they were freshly picked. They’re soft to touch and have a fuzzy down that causes its silver appearance. The colour of the leaves is pale green that is sage-like in appearance, and the initial aroma is grassy. There is a faint scent that is reminiscent of seaweed. It’s not too prominent but there nonetheless. Luckily, it is soon forgotten by the soft floral notes dancing about. It’s almost like dandelions.

This tea is a little tricky to scoop because it doesn’t like to be separated. The downy texture causes the leaves to grab onto each other and unless you use your fingers or a pick to control what goes into your scoop, you can wind up with half a tin in your cup. There’s so much love here.

When the tea is first steeped, the little furs disappear and the scent becomes floral. I always feel like I’m in a meadow on a fresh day when I make this tea. There is so much Zen in this cup. The colour of the leaves becomes less silvery and takes on a darker green with some browning that resembles a little bruising.

The liquor is clear. It’s a pale greenish umber with soft yellow highlights, and the flavour is very light and delicate. There are subtle grass and floral notes that don’t overpower each other. The aftertaste is clean and its lingering effect is very subtle and refreshing.

I like the delicate flavour and aroma of this tea. It’s never bitter and it always tastes clean. I can brew it at high or low temperatures and for a short or long duration. It always tastes right. It might be too light for people who prefer their tea strong, but it’s just perfect for me.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

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86
drank Cold 911 (organic) by DAVIDsTEA
19 tasting notes

This is step three of my cold regiment. After toughing it out with the immune boosters that were my first two cups, I sigh with relief and sit back with a cup of something that makes me feel better. I like this tisane.

The appearance of the dry leaves is fresh and inviting. The green looks healthy and the brown is a complimenting contrast. There are scattered pieces of dried orange peel that reminds me of tiny croutons, and the juniper berries are whole. They’re firm looking and round, like tiny little bullets that will kick this cold where it’s needed. The scent is refreshing. The peppermint and eucalyptus are just what I need right now, but what’s nice is the scent of orange. It’s surprisingly noticeable in a very pleasant way. I should sprinkle some of this on my pillow.

When first steeped, the eucalyptus is the dominant and most welcome aroma. There are other scents, but they’re not discernible at this point. It’s a little bit woody and musty, but nothing I can point out. After a minute, the peppermint starts to take over where the eucalyptus left off. Though, the welcoming effect of eucalyptus is still lingering. Near the end of the steep, there’s a slight hint of the orange oil, but not the peels.

The liquor is not much to look at. It’s a subtle bronze with amber highlights and an earthy green that floats atop it. That first sip is a sip of relief though. The woodsy notes are underplayed by the eucalyptus that offers the comfort I’m seeking. The dominant flavour is peppermint, followed by the sharper eucalyptus and a hint of orange. There is a subtle tartness that I’m guessing is from the juniper berries, but it is overshadowed by the smooth peppermint. I’m also not really sure what a juniper berry tastes like. Either way, it’s soothing going down. My scratchy throat and sinuses are relieved and I feel a little better even though I know the moment is fleeting.

This is a tisane I am thankful for. It’s made my day a little more tolerable and my alertness is coming back. It’s a great feeling.

Preparation
Boiling 7 min, 0 sec

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97

This is step four of my cold regiment. It’s newly added and it seems to help. Plus, I love ginger, I love pepper, and I’ve always added them to my own cold remedy to reap their benefits. It’s possible I’ve only added this as an excuse to drink it, but it’s nice to know that I don’t feel like I have to prepare my own concoction anymore.

I like the look of this tisane. In its dry state, it has a light appearance from the dried ginger with a bold plash of red from the red peppercorns. It’s a complimenting contrast that leaves the black peppercorns barely noticeable; along with the rooibos that I know is hiding in there somewhere. It smells strongly of ginger and pepper, giving it that clean lemony smell that I love so much about ginger.

When steeped, the colours of red and green rooibos dominate and I’m reminded of Christmas time. The ginger darkens and the peppercorns merrily float at the top in a desperate attempt not to be forgotten. It’s kind of cute the way the rooibos goes back into hiding after removing the strainer from my cup, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The peppered aroma takes a back seat as the scent of ginger gains its strength and my mouth begins to water, knowing that pepper will help to suppress my cough and the ginger will do its best to soothe my throat and lighten my spirit. The crisp, lemony smell is doing the trick, and already, I feel more alert.

The liquor is cloudy, throwing around hints of umber and sienna in a golden honey appearance. Atop, lies a faint sunny glow. The flavour is mild, like peppered water with a ginger heat that creeps up after the first swallow. It’s not bad. The lemon flavour is there and I can sense the ginger cleansing my palette. Each sip becomes fresher and cleaner. Each flavour stands out more, and for some odd reason, I think of chicken soup—it must be the pepper.

I really like this tea. My only qualm is that it doesn’t have enough ginger. I’m not even sure if it has enough pepper. I’m sure it was kept at a globally acceptable level, and there is no reason why I can’t add extra pieces of my own fresh ginger and pepper, maybe even a squeeze of lemon for this one. Mmm…

Preparation
Boiling 7 min, 0 sec

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54
drank The Immunizer by DAVIDsTEA
19 tasting notes

The immunizer and I share a love-hate relationship and I am torn over whether I’m sad or happy to see it go. I am down to half a tin and 3/4 of the tiny tin that I keep at work. I suppose I could try and stock up on what’s left in the ‘Last Chance’ section of David’s Tea, but at the same time, perhaps there comes a time when one must let go. It has been step two of my cold regiment for a while now, and I drink it because I believe in it. Though, it will soon be no more.

The dry tisane is nothing to look at. It resembles an Italian seasoning mixture that I once had in my cupboard, or something I’ve seen on the ground during a walk through the woods on a dry day. The scent is reminiscent of the musty aroma of fall. Though, there is a subtle life that is saved by the hint of spearmint and a wafting air of lemongrass and orange peel, and maybe a hint of ginger if I’m not imagining it. Mostly, I just smell Echinacea.

When the tea is first steeped, I smell mostly spearmint. That’s okay, because I like spearmint, but as the steeping goes on, the scent of Echinacea becomes dominant and I think of hard liquor. I can’t say which liquor though, mostly because I’m not a hard liquor drinker. I’m just sure I’ve smelled it somewhere before. The second scent is lemongrass. Though, I strain to detect it. As time goes on, the orange peel comes into play and I think there’s a hint of ginger screaming for attention from somewhere far in the distance.

The liquor is frightening to look at. It looks mean and swampy—not to be mistaken with muddy. It is a clear brown liquid with a hint of green that reminds me of mildew or algae. At this point, all I can smell is Echinacea. I strain to find other scents and imagine that there’s a small hint of ginger and orange peel as the scent travels further into the depths of my senses, but I’m not sure if it’s only wishful thinking.

The first sip tastes mildly of ginger and mullein leaf, masked by Echinacea and followed with a splash of spearmint and the subtle notes of lemongrass. I do not believe these flavours were meant to coexist. They have a purpose though, so I tolerate it as best as I can. As the tea cools, the antiseptic flavour of Echinacea dominates, resulting in less enjoyment and faster, more frequent sips to finish it while it’s still warm.

Okay, so Echinacea is not my favourite scent or flavour and this is not my favourite tea. I only drink it for remedial purposes and that’s where the rating is saved. It is for this reason that I am sad to see it go. As far as the taste and the smell, I’m sure I can live without it. I’m a little disheartened though. I can only hope that David will find a way to re-create this concoction without Echinacea. Most of the ingredients in this tisane are proven immune boosters and some are equal to or even better than Echinacea. I would like to find something similar to replace it with, preferably a loose-leaf tea.

It also wouldn’t hurt to make it taste a little better.

Preparation
Boiling 7 min, 0 sec

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67
drank Secret Weapon by DAVIDsTEA
19 tasting notes

I’ve had this tea for a while. It’s part of my regiment and I keep a tin nearby for emergencies. This is the tea I start the day with once I feel the sniffles coming or someone sneezes near me. It’s worked so far and it may have something to do with the following teas I drink when trying to fight a cold. It could also just be a placebo effect.

Dry, it looks boring and dull. The leaves are shades of brown and bronze with some sporting greenish oxidized copper accents—those ones are kind of pretty. There’s not much to say about the almond slices, except to say that there are plenty to go around. There is a moderate amount of orange peel and goji berries, but the real attention grabbers are the cornflowers. There are so few of them. Yet they add a bold contrast to the overall tone of the tea. I wish there were more.

The smell is slightly different dry or wet. Dry, it has more of a cocoa and corn flower scent to me. There is a hint of almond and orange. Not picking up much goji. Wet, the white tea and almonds stand out a touch more, but I still get a dominant cocoa scent.

The liquor is typical of most flavoured white teas. It’s slightly foggy and golden with hints of amber and clear green. The initial flavour is always dominantly almond with cocoa following closely behind. As the tea cools, I can taste more of the orange, subtle as it is. As for the goji and the licorice, I tend to feel like they’re more in my imagination than they are in my cup. I think I try too hard to detect them that I make myself believe I can taste them. They’re too subtle and about as lost as the forgotten cornflowers.

If this tea didn’t have any purpose in my life, it wouldn’t have made its way into my cupboard. I can’t say it’s something I crave for or would go out of my way for. It’s a wet almond. But since I like to start my day off with one cup of white tea, it fits the bill for the mornings I feel under the weather. Somewhere in my mind, I want to believe that it’s the superfruit-tea.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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Bio

Always been a tea drinker. My cat and I used to enjoy a nice cup of orange pekoe when I was younger. From there, earl grey became a favourite. Today, I have a caffeine intolerance and have had to ration my favourite hot beverages to mostly tisane. I still cheat from time to time and am slowly discovering some new favourites.

As a general rule, I rarely sweeten my tea. But as a die-hard determined to enjoy a cup, I may add a small splash of stevia, honey, or lemon if I think it will help to make a tea I dislike tolerable.

Other than my interest in tea, my hobbies and interests change with the seasons. I’m always a sucker for electronics, but the domestic inside likes to take on the challenges of crafting. There are plenty of useful items around the home that I am proud to say I made (along with several unfished products stashed away in the corners).

Location

Canada

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