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67
drank Four Seasons by Samovar
92 tasting notes

Four Seasons pisses me off.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t a bad tea. It’s actually quite tasty. But it’s just not that special. It tastes, to me, like an average Tie Guan Yin, but missing the delicious heaviness I associate with TGY. It’s delicious, but no more delicious than some of the other TGYs I’ve tried.

But here’s the biggest kicker for me—you have to use a lot of leaf, and it does not produce that many infusions—certainly not 10-15, unless you’re thinking 2 ounce cups in 2 tablespoons of leaf. This is kind of infuriating, since the whole selling point on the Samovar website is that it lasts forever, so you’re getting a good value even if it’s $25 for a small, half-filled tin. I don’t like being lied to or misled. And there sure as hell aren’t 40 servings in the tin I received. Hell, there aren’t more than 15 teaspoons in there. And this tea requires, at the very least, 1.5 teaspoons for 6 ounces of water.

The tasting note descriptions intrigue me…I’ve done a little research, and I’ve never heard of Four Seasons/Si Jie Chun being described as bread and milk. The description I’ve come upon most is flowers, fruit, honey and pineapple. Hm. I’m tasting less milk or lactose or bakey-bready-ness, and more gardenias and sweet floral perfumes. [And yes, I have tried this at a number of different temperatures, and have gotten mostly the same results. No increase in dairy/lactose/bread at a lower temperature, for me.] I wonder how much of the (omg milk! bread!) love for this can be attributed to the power of suggestion…makes me want to experiment by writing up a tasting note for a random tea that’s like “OMG THIS TASTES LIKE CHERRIES!” and then see if anyone else says the same thing :)

So what do I taste? Gardenias, mostly; honey, certainly; and butter from my cooled down second infusion. The proportions of the flavors changes slightly from infusion to infusion, but the leaves don’t last very long either. Something I’m noticing this time around—it’s pretty bitter. I’m not sure if it’s because my water is too hot, or if I’m oversteeping it. A warning: do not try to brew this with 8 ounces and 1 teaspoon. I’ve brewed other TGYs this way and it’s been fine, but Four Seasons is not like other TGYs :) I ended up with one okay-but-light first infusion, and then almost tasteless 2nd and 3rd infusions. It’s so difficult to rate this one…on the one hand, it’s yummy when you do everything right. On the other hand, it’s extremely expensive and you have to use a lot of it to make a decent cup of tea, plus all the reservations I mentioned above.

I know I’m blaspheming, writing a negative review for a Samovar creation…please don’t hurt me!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 0 sec
Dan

You have to call em as you see em.

teabird

I appreciate honestly negative reviews (and discussions of price and value), even though I feel guilty when I write them myself! Constant gushing isn’t really… informative.

__Morgana__

I only had it from the sample so far, but I notice they tend to have pretty big samples compared to those of other companies.

I find personal tastes fascinating — you and I both love the Life In Teacup modern oolong and yet we diverge on the Samovar Four Seasons.

One thing I have noticed is that certain companies just seem to strike a chord with my tastes. I’ve liked everything I’ve tried from Life in Teacup and everything I’ve tried from Samovar, and there are some companies whose offerings consistently miss with me, too. But even among these there are outliers to the high and to the low end of the spectrum.

S

Yeah…I’m kind of kicking myself for not ordering samples instead. But the website said 40 servings with multiple infusions each, and yet my tin is so empty…cry

SoccerMom

Morgana, I totally agree with you in that some companies are hit and miss depending on the person/taste buds. I am with you Shanti in that I didn’t find this one remarkable but I think Samovar is a altogether miss for me anyway. :(

S

Yeah, I don’t know…I guess I’m kind of suspicious of Samovar. It’s easy for a company to jack up the price of a tea and add a bunch of made-up flavors to the description, in order to push tea. (I mean, look at all the reviews for any tea, where they’re like “I didn’t know what this stated like until I read the description, and then I was like duh!” etc….I mean, if the company says you’re supposed to taste mango, then you will probably taste mango even if it’s not truly there. But I digress.

I guess I’m sick of the way people have to be afraid of offending others now on Steepster when they write a review. I have seen numerous reviews where people are like “Oh, I don’t like this tea, but important Steepsterite said it’s omfg amazing, so I’m not going to put a rating on this/am going to raise my rating.” I don’t think people should feel coerced to either write a positive rating or not leave a rating at all.

Erin

Shanti – Did you try letting Samovar know that your tin was only half full?

S

No, but I’m guessing it’s probably the right amount (by weight…I hope the tared the weight of the copper tin out)…but it’s still not 40 servings worth.

Rabs

I guess I catch myself at times hesitating to knock a tea really hard because, well, I’m a libra, and teas are such a subjective thing. But, I hope that I never end up basing what I taste/how I feel about a tea (and almost everything else in life) on what others say. However, I do try to be respectful in what I say when I dislike something like tea because I don’t want it to come off like I’m saying that others have bad taste.

Shanti – thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. :) I know that they really made me think seriously about staying true to myself. Rock on lady!

LENA

Thanks for this review, Shanti. I have to say, I agree with you on this tea. I’m an avid oolong lover, but the description on this one seems way off. I haven’t written my tasting note yet, because like you, I’ve been trying to figure this one out. It is very FLORAL and very GREEN tasting to me. I’m not a huge fan of green oolongs, so I probably would not have bought this if I would have known that the bake-y/bready notes were BS.

Also, my tin of Downy Sprout was not very full. Very sad. :(

S

I know, right…I ordered small tins of Downy Sprout, Royal Garland, and Osmanthus White, and they were filled to varying amounts…but seriously? The Downy Sprout and Osmanthus look very similar in size, weight, yet the amount of tea in the tins varies widely. I wish I had a scale to weight how much I was sent…le sigh. One thing is for sure—Samovar will probably never get my business again.

[And as an example of a good company that does not do this, see The Simple Leaf. Their one ounce “samples” seem the same size or larger than Samovar’s half-empty tins. Sigh.]

S

Okay, sorry guys, this is my last comment, but here’s a little comparison for you:

Competition Grade Four Seasons (Si Jie Chun), zen8tea – $12 for 150g
there are cheaper versions that are lower grades available as well
Samovar Four Seasons, ambiguous grade – $24 for 56.6g

Now, of course you have to account for the fact that Samovar relies on more middlemen than the other example I cited (I assume), but still: Samovar is charging $0.42 per gram, whereas zen8tea is charging $0.08 per gram of competition grade tea. That’s a little over 5 times the price.

sophistre

Gotta say, I think Rabs really nailed it. Part of the issue with the steepster system of rating is that we’re all grading our teas subjectively, as each of us wants something different and, of course, there are peripheral concerns aside from taste that matter to us individually as well, such as price and ability to resteep, as aforementioned here.

I tend to disregard the numbers as anything but a rough guideline (so-and-so liked it, or did not) and focus more on what they had to say about it. Some of us rate based on taste alone — subjective enough to begin with, even disregarding things like price — and some of us rate based on the taste as compares to what was promised, which is not always the same (I’ve seen plenty of reviews that say ‘this tea was very enjoyable, but didn’t taste as advertised’ with a low number OR a high number)…

In the end, it’s important to remember that the numbers people assign are meaningful to them based on criteria that may have nothing to do with our own. All we can do is just try stuff, see if we like it for what it is, and rate accordingly, as consistently as we can with the stuff we’ve already rated (and I dunno about you, but that’s hard enough for me already!).

sophistre

Also…just a side note, but you might want to try the rest of what leaf you have at 175. That’s how I take mine, and I prefer it by a wide margin! I suppose that won’t make up for the disappointment of your experience, but it might produce a cup of tea you like a little bit more, at least. :)

MattHBomb

I’ve tried it at 160, 175, 185, 200, and boiling. I didn’t notice any increase in breadiness or milkiness at the lower temps, but it was a little less bitter. I prefer it that way, too :)

S

Thanks sophistre and MattHBomb for the suggestions. I’ve tried it at around 160, 185, and near boiling, but not 175…I’ll try that next time. :D

__Morgana__

195 is what I usually steep oolongs at and it got me a lot of milky/creamy/buttery flavor out of this. To get anything near bready, I had to “throw my mind out of focus.”

I take these notes by companies (perhaps naively or incorrectly) not to be random, but to mean that a more cultivated palate than mine has identified these tastes or aromas and that I can train my palate to be better by searching for the notes. Sometimes I come up dry, but sometimes I really can find them, or something that I think might be them, if I try hard enough and if the stars otherwise align in terms of steeping temps/times, mood, amount of leaf and other things I’m sure are intangible. In this one, I didn’t get what I normally would think of as bread, which is a yeasty flavor, or a dark malty flavor like a thick slice of dark bread. What I got was the white inside of hot french or Italian bread, which when I think about it has a lot in common with, and isn’t that much different from, a creamy/butter flavor anyway, which I definitely tasted.

S

I’ve always been told that a good quality oolong like a green TGY is best at boiling.

I think I mentioned this already, but Four Seasons from Nantou is usually described not as particularly buttery, but as fruity and honey-like. The main fruit flavor is supposed to be osmanthus…I’ve read pineapple at some places too, which makes sense because osmanthus is kind of pineappley-peachy-apricotty. But it’s not bready, it’s not bakey, it’s not starchy, and it’s not particularly lactose-y to me.

Auggy

It might not make a difference at this point, but out of curiosity, what size cups are you making? Takgoti sent me a sample of this a while ago and honestly, I never really got it – it just seemed kind of flat to me – until my last cup where I made a big 14oz mug instead of the 6-8oz cups I had been doing. Of course, I’m not sure if that is what made it taste so much better or what but that last cup I had was really delicious. The other cups before? Not so much.
(Though I never got bread – looking over my notes I got flowers, nectar and cattails.)

S

Ah, I’ve been doing between 6 and 8 ounces…I’ll try the bigger size one of these days :)

And flowers and nectar are what I tasted too. :)

Stephanie

I love this note! The Samovar spell has broken! :)

wombatgirl

I just wanted to ask about your label on your container. My label said to use 1 tbsp per 16 oz of water. When I went to the web site, it said 1 tsp per 10-16 oz of water.

My Royal Garland label was even worse. It said 2 tbsp per 6 oz. Which resulted in this horrid, bitter icky brew.

S

Yeah, my labels were like that, too. I’m still pissed—there’s no way in hell there’s 40 servings in my tin of a teaspoon each, let alone a tablespoon or 2.

Rabs

Shanti — just placed my first Samovar order 13 days ago and I’m already getting pissed. Not that they have a lot of control over shipping, but I was told I’d get my package on the 20th. I watched the package tracker start off in NV (?) head toward me, and now it’s in CA and heading to NV again. What the heck?!? The little “estimated delivery” when from 20th for sure to the 22nd, and now it’s saying the 25th. I’ve spent 1/4 of the money at other online tea stores and have had prompter deliveries than this. Going in a circle, really? This isn’t making a good impression on me. :P

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Comments

Dan

You have to call em as you see em.

teabird

I appreciate honestly negative reviews (and discussions of price and value), even though I feel guilty when I write them myself! Constant gushing isn’t really… informative.

__Morgana__

I only had it from the sample so far, but I notice they tend to have pretty big samples compared to those of other companies.

I find personal tastes fascinating — you and I both love the Life In Teacup modern oolong and yet we diverge on the Samovar Four Seasons.

One thing I have noticed is that certain companies just seem to strike a chord with my tastes. I’ve liked everything I’ve tried from Life in Teacup and everything I’ve tried from Samovar, and there are some companies whose offerings consistently miss with me, too. But even among these there are outliers to the high and to the low end of the spectrum.

S

Yeah…I’m kind of kicking myself for not ordering samples instead. But the website said 40 servings with multiple infusions each, and yet my tin is so empty…cry

SoccerMom

Morgana, I totally agree with you in that some companies are hit and miss depending on the person/taste buds. I am with you Shanti in that I didn’t find this one remarkable but I think Samovar is a altogether miss for me anyway. :(

S

Yeah, I don’t know…I guess I’m kind of suspicious of Samovar. It’s easy for a company to jack up the price of a tea and add a bunch of made-up flavors to the description, in order to push tea. (I mean, look at all the reviews for any tea, where they’re like “I didn’t know what this stated like until I read the description, and then I was like duh!” etc….I mean, if the company says you’re supposed to taste mango, then you will probably taste mango even if it’s not truly there. But I digress.

I guess I’m sick of the way people have to be afraid of offending others now on Steepster when they write a review. I have seen numerous reviews where people are like “Oh, I don’t like this tea, but important Steepsterite said it’s omfg amazing, so I’m not going to put a rating on this/am going to raise my rating.” I don’t think people should feel coerced to either write a positive rating or not leave a rating at all.

Erin

Shanti – Did you try letting Samovar know that your tin was only half full?

S

No, but I’m guessing it’s probably the right amount (by weight…I hope the tared the weight of the copper tin out)…but it’s still not 40 servings worth.

Rabs

I guess I catch myself at times hesitating to knock a tea really hard because, well, I’m a libra, and teas are such a subjective thing. But, I hope that I never end up basing what I taste/how I feel about a tea (and almost everything else in life) on what others say. However, I do try to be respectful in what I say when I dislike something like tea because I don’t want it to come off like I’m saying that others have bad taste.

Shanti – thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. :) I know that they really made me think seriously about staying true to myself. Rock on lady!

LENA

Thanks for this review, Shanti. I have to say, I agree with you on this tea. I’m an avid oolong lover, but the description on this one seems way off. I haven’t written my tasting note yet, because like you, I’ve been trying to figure this one out. It is very FLORAL and very GREEN tasting to me. I’m not a huge fan of green oolongs, so I probably would not have bought this if I would have known that the bake-y/bready notes were BS.

Also, my tin of Downy Sprout was not very full. Very sad. :(

S

I know, right…I ordered small tins of Downy Sprout, Royal Garland, and Osmanthus White, and they were filled to varying amounts…but seriously? The Downy Sprout and Osmanthus look very similar in size, weight, yet the amount of tea in the tins varies widely. I wish I had a scale to weight how much I was sent…le sigh. One thing is for sure—Samovar will probably never get my business again.

[And as an example of a good company that does not do this, see The Simple Leaf. Their one ounce “samples” seem the same size or larger than Samovar’s half-empty tins. Sigh.]

S

Okay, sorry guys, this is my last comment, but here’s a little comparison for you:

Competition Grade Four Seasons (Si Jie Chun), zen8tea – $12 for 150g
there are cheaper versions that are lower grades available as well
Samovar Four Seasons, ambiguous grade – $24 for 56.6g

Now, of course you have to account for the fact that Samovar relies on more middlemen than the other example I cited (I assume), but still: Samovar is charging $0.42 per gram, whereas zen8tea is charging $0.08 per gram of competition grade tea. That’s a little over 5 times the price.

sophistre

Gotta say, I think Rabs really nailed it. Part of the issue with the steepster system of rating is that we’re all grading our teas subjectively, as each of us wants something different and, of course, there are peripheral concerns aside from taste that matter to us individually as well, such as price and ability to resteep, as aforementioned here.

I tend to disregard the numbers as anything but a rough guideline (so-and-so liked it, or did not) and focus more on what they had to say about it. Some of us rate based on taste alone — subjective enough to begin with, even disregarding things like price — and some of us rate based on the taste as compares to what was promised, which is not always the same (I’ve seen plenty of reviews that say ‘this tea was very enjoyable, but didn’t taste as advertised’ with a low number OR a high number)…

In the end, it’s important to remember that the numbers people assign are meaningful to them based on criteria that may have nothing to do with our own. All we can do is just try stuff, see if we like it for what it is, and rate accordingly, as consistently as we can with the stuff we’ve already rated (and I dunno about you, but that’s hard enough for me already!).

sophistre

Also…just a side note, but you might want to try the rest of what leaf you have at 175. That’s how I take mine, and I prefer it by a wide margin! I suppose that won’t make up for the disappointment of your experience, but it might produce a cup of tea you like a little bit more, at least. :)

MattHBomb

I’ve tried it at 160, 175, 185, 200, and boiling. I didn’t notice any increase in breadiness or milkiness at the lower temps, but it was a little less bitter. I prefer it that way, too :)

S

Thanks sophistre and MattHBomb for the suggestions. I’ve tried it at around 160, 185, and near boiling, but not 175…I’ll try that next time. :D

__Morgana__

195 is what I usually steep oolongs at and it got me a lot of milky/creamy/buttery flavor out of this. To get anything near bready, I had to “throw my mind out of focus.”

I take these notes by companies (perhaps naively or incorrectly) not to be random, but to mean that a more cultivated palate than mine has identified these tastes or aromas and that I can train my palate to be better by searching for the notes. Sometimes I come up dry, but sometimes I really can find them, or something that I think might be them, if I try hard enough and if the stars otherwise align in terms of steeping temps/times, mood, amount of leaf and other things I’m sure are intangible. In this one, I didn’t get what I normally would think of as bread, which is a yeasty flavor, or a dark malty flavor like a thick slice of dark bread. What I got was the white inside of hot french or Italian bread, which when I think about it has a lot in common with, and isn’t that much different from, a creamy/butter flavor anyway, which I definitely tasted.

S

I’ve always been told that a good quality oolong like a green TGY is best at boiling.

I think I mentioned this already, but Four Seasons from Nantou is usually described not as particularly buttery, but as fruity and honey-like. The main fruit flavor is supposed to be osmanthus…I’ve read pineapple at some places too, which makes sense because osmanthus is kind of pineappley-peachy-apricotty. But it’s not bready, it’s not bakey, it’s not starchy, and it’s not particularly lactose-y to me.

Auggy

It might not make a difference at this point, but out of curiosity, what size cups are you making? Takgoti sent me a sample of this a while ago and honestly, I never really got it – it just seemed kind of flat to me – until my last cup where I made a big 14oz mug instead of the 6-8oz cups I had been doing. Of course, I’m not sure if that is what made it taste so much better or what but that last cup I had was really delicious. The other cups before? Not so much.
(Though I never got bread – looking over my notes I got flowers, nectar and cattails.)

S

Ah, I’ve been doing between 6 and 8 ounces…I’ll try the bigger size one of these days :)

And flowers and nectar are what I tasted too. :)

Stephanie

I love this note! The Samovar spell has broken! :)

wombatgirl

I just wanted to ask about your label on your container. My label said to use 1 tbsp per 16 oz of water. When I went to the web site, it said 1 tsp per 10-16 oz of water.

My Royal Garland label was even worse. It said 2 tbsp per 6 oz. Which resulted in this horrid, bitter icky brew.

S

Yeah, my labels were like that, too. I’m still pissed—there’s no way in hell there’s 40 servings in my tin of a teaspoon each, let alone a tablespoon or 2.

Rabs

Shanti — just placed my first Samovar order 13 days ago and I’m already getting pissed. Not that they have a lot of control over shipping, but I was told I’d get my package on the 20th. I watched the package tracker start off in NV (?) head toward me, and now it’s in CA and heading to NV again. What the heck?!? The little “estimated delivery” when from 20th for sure to the 22nd, and now it’s saying the 25th. I’ve spent 1/4 of the money at other online tea stores and have had prompter deliveries than this. Going in a circle, really? This isn’t making a good impression on me. :P

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Busy college student; 20 years old; tea-novice. Grew up on homemade chai and black tea with milk and sugar.

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