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109 Tasting Notes

84
drank Keemun Royal by Rishi Tea
109 tasting notes

I discovered Keemun tea by accident-just browsing TeaGschwendner’s site and seeing that it looked different. Liked it a lot-very unique taste compare to Assams, Ceylons, Darjeelings, etc. Tried RoT’s (which won 2nd place last year at NATC) and Teavana’s. Rishi’s won an award this year, and I couldn’t pass up this reserve-even though it was much more expensive than the previously mentioned Keemuns. Rishi promises 5-7 steeps out of 2 tablespoons-which is good, because that’s A LOT of tea.

My first experience brewing this tea was a disaster. I was just recovering from a cold, but didn’t realize I had lost my sense of taste or smell until I drank this and tasted nothing but brown water-ugh. Put it away for a week or so until my senses recovered. I have brewed this tea on two different days since my recovery.

I was concerned that being harvested in April instead of Autumn that the tea would taste radically different-as I found out to my dismay on 2nd flush darjeeling. The first brew was REALLY strong and bitter-think I went 5 minutes. Subsequent steeps were much shorter and better. Today, I started out at 3 minutes. Still, the first steep was really bitter. 2nd and 3rd steeps were much better. 4th had a little bitterness return-but it was gone by the 5th steep. I didn’t want to stay up all night so I had to stop there-but I thought it could have gone for one more steep.

I have to admit being a little irritated learning that Rishi has been saying “it is sure to be the very best Keemun of the year” for three years now. However, that has no bearing on my review or enjoyment of the tea.

I did enjoy this tea quite a bit, though I think it had less of the chocolate notes other Keemuns have had (because of the Spring harvest?). However, this is so expensive even with 5-7 steeps-it’s just not that much better than other Keemuns I have had to justify the price. I probably won’t buy it again.

Some details:

Packaging-Comes in a sealed foil pouch placed inside Rishi’s traditional zip-lock type resealable pouch. I think it’s a tight squeeze to put the inner foil pouch back inside the Rishi outer pouch-so consider whether you need alternative storage for the inner foil pouch.

Dry leaf-short (about 1/4 inch long) needle-like. mostly very dark brown

1st steep- 3min/200
Liquor color-mahogany
Body-Heavy
Notes-a little leathery and a touch of smoke
Taste-bitter with lingering bitter aftertaste
Aroma-not much, but traditional Keemun smoke, woodsy

2nd steep 3:15/195
Aroma-stronger. smells like keemun-smoky, woodsy
Body-medium heavy
Liquor-mahogany
Taste-Much smoother. most of bitterness gone. tastes like traditional keemun-slightly smoky and faint chocolate notes.

3rd steep-2:30/195
Aroma-about the same as 2nd steep
Liquor-is now coppery in color. Zero bitterness.
Body-medium
Taste-Smooth. Notes are woodsy/piney, smoky

4th steep 2:15/195
Liquor-between amber and copper.
Body is light-medium.
Taste-milder/weaker flavors but now some bitterness returns. Notes same as 3rd steep
Aroma-same, but milder

5th steep 1:40/195
Liquor is amber-looks like a 1st flush darjeeling.
Body-Light
Taste-Notes the same. Still there, but milder again. A tiny bitterness in the aftertaste.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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80

Easily the best Jasmine I have ever tasted-but only about the 3rd or 4th. The others seemed as if jasmine scent had been sprayed on them. The jasmine infusion in this is just right-pronounced, but not overpowering. Pearls used to fully unfurl after two infusions, but now they seem to unfurl after one-I have had the tea for 6 months now, so perhaps that might be a reason. The liquor is pale, color of light straw. I get 2-3 infusions out of the pearls. I enjoy this a lot, but it’s not an every day tea for me-maybe once a week or so. I always drink this straight.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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96

This was the first tea I ever loved. I didn’t know anything about loose tea and how bagged tea just uses tea dust and such-it just tasted great. I’m a little picky about green teas-not much I like, so this was a revelation. And caffeine-free! The other ingredients really moderate the peppermint and just bring out its best notes. Despite the name or the artwork on the box, it does not really taste like a candy cane. If it did, I would have had one cup a year and been done with it like I do with candy canes. No, it’s subtle, complex, sweet and very festive. I’ve probably had over 100 cups. I haven’t bought this the last two years since they stopped carrying it in my area-just couldn’t bring myself to mail order Celestial Seasonings. But, I miss it, and after drinking 250 grams of TeaGschwendner’s Sencha Claus, I think I’ll have to order some of this instead for the holidays later this year.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec
SimpliciTEA

I believe this is the same tea as Trader Joe’s Candy Cane tea. So if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you may want to check that out.

Scott B

Thanks for the tip, SimpliciTEA. Alas, no Trader Joe’s , Whole Foods, or tea shops anywhere near me. Candy Cane Lane was the only tea I bought here in town.

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I bought this because I needed a Moroccan Mint fast with the very early summer in the States. It had no flavoring, which is the way I prefer my teas. However, my previous experiences with Moroccan Mint have been with spearmint-this tea is blended with peppermint. I have never been a fan of straight peppermint-I prefer it with chocolate or with other flavors such as in Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane, but I thought I’d give it a try.

RoT instructs you to brew at water temperatures just before boiling. I steeped at 195 as little as 2 minutes and as long as 4. The peppermint in this tea is just not to my liking. It’s not overpowering, but the peppermint still tastes like a lifesaver candy. I cannot imagine enjoying this iced-which was the way I had planned to drink much of it. Mostly, I would say this is just my personal preference and not an indictment of the tea, therefore I am not giving a number rating to it. I would rather just give in and have flavored spearmint Moroccan than buy it with peppermint again. No way I am finishing this-I’ll give it to my mom the next time I see her.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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74

Packaging-Comes in a sealed foil pouch placed inside Rishi’s traditional zip-lock type resealable pouch. I think it’s a tight squeeze to put the inner foil pouch back inside the Rishi outer pouch-so consider whether you need alternative storage for the inner foil pouch.

Dry buds-are about 2/3 golden, remaining dark green to dark brown. Buds are thin and fairly straight with small curves on some-but not curls.

Dry leaf Aroma-sweet potato is prominent, faint notes of orange citrus, malt can sometimes be detected.

Brewed leaves- turn dark brown and straighten the curves a touch.

Liquor-is a beautiful coppery color.

Steep info-I steeped this at as low as 195/3min to as much as 205/4min on first infusion (and various combos in between). I have steeped as many as 4 times, but for me, it gives me 2 satisfying steeps. Because it’s so expensive, I generally take a third steep out if it, but I think it’s losing its delicate flavor by then.

I was very excited to try this tea. It won first place in the Yunnan category at the North American Tea Championship last month. A Rishi rep told me it was “kind of an upgrade” over their Organic Fair Trade Golden Needle-which won the same category in 2010. I loved that tea, so needless to say, I was anxious about tasting something similar, but even better.

I have brewed this about 5 times in the last 10 days. My first cup was really delicious. I noticed the sweet potato notes very distinctly. but the rest of the flavor was nondescript to me (however, I feel am generally not capable of detecting many of the more subtle and complex notes others detect in teas). I did not notice that faint orange and malt notes that I detected a bit in the dry leaves. That was a disappointment because I loved those notes in their 2010 Golden Needle. I steeped 4 times to see how many it would hold. For me, two is probably the most I would prefer, but 3 is definitely doable.

A day or two later, I brewed again and the tea seemed a little weaker, less flavorful. I thought it was me. I played around with the steep times and temps a bit, but I could never recreate the first cup. The sweet potato flavor had weakened a little bit. On occasion I did notice a bit of a sugary note (palm sugar?). But not much.

Then I read somewhere about certain teas losing their flavor really fast and I wondered if this is one of those teas. For about 3-4 days, I just rolled up the inner foil (but not sealing it) and putting it inside a standard tea tin. After that, I put a clamp to seal the inner foil while it’s inside the tea tin.

I don’t know that was a problem or not. Anyhow, I like this tea, but it’s just missing something. Just not a lot of flavor for what is to me a medium-bodied tea. Maybe an all bud tea is more delicate in flavor-I would not know. I’ll definitely finish this, but it’s expensive, so I won’t buy it again and it won’t make me forget their Fall 2010 Golden Needles.

The rating number? Oh, I’m not sure. I may play around with that a bit until I think I get it right.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Scott B

To clarify-this tea won the 2011 Fall Tea Championship (Fall 2011 being when the tea was harvested-the contest was judged in March 2012). The Golden Needle tea I mentioned won the 2010 Fall award which was judged in the Spring of 2011.

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84
drank Coconut Masala Chai by Yogic Chai
109 tasting notes

I enjoy this as a nice change of pace from Yogic’s award-winning Original Masala. In fact, I like it better than that. The coconut is just right-doesn’t reach out and smack you, but you don’t need to struggle to taste it either. Yogic’s brewing instructions are to boil the tea with water and milk together in a pot. It tastes best that way with soy and coconut milk. However, it still tastes great when steeped in a warm cup for 5 minutes with boiling water from my Zojirushi and soymilk and sugar added after. I will buy this again at some point.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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42
drank Yellow Peach by TeaGschwendner
109 tasting notes

This was the first yellow tea I ever tried-and I think it’s STILL the only one. This was such a strange tea-it was like the peach flavor was divorced from the tea. Maybe they flavored only the sunflower blossoms? Whatever they did it was like drinking two different things that were not fused into one. I’ve had other teas from TG that included dried fruit-why they didn’t use dried peaches here is beyond me. The tea itself tasted kinda like a harsh, cheap black or dark oolong. It took me a long time to finish this bag-and that was when TG still sold teas in 50 gram bags. I guess it’s discontinued now-I will not miss it.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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78
drank Copper Knot Hongcha by Teavana
109 tasting notes

So, I bought this because I needed a new regular black and this sounded different and it got good reviews. I opened this up and the aroma was familiar-it instantly called to mind the Rishi Organic Yunnan Golden Needles I drank in 2011. The taste was similar too-malty, with a faint orange note. It’s not astringent at all-very smooth. Looks beautifully copper in a glass cup. I get two steeps out of this. Have been altering it with Keemun every other day. Not a first cup in the morning for me though-need a good stiff Irish Breakfast for that. Will buy again at some point. Price is okay with free shipping-don’t have the luxury of bulk loose teas anywhere around here.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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73
drank Cacao Mint Black by Teavana
109 tasting notes

Bought this as an extra dessert tea as I was getting tired of Masala Chai every single night. Tastes very natural considering it uses flavoring. It is what it claims-cacao and mint in black tea. The flavors are very well-balanced. Normally, I drink it straight, but it does taste better with a teaspoon of sugar. I love to dip a mint chocolate oreo into this tea-delicious.
Good stuff. Still, not a tea that I would always have around. I’m sure that I will buy it again someday-but probably not right when I run out.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Bio

Started drinking tea for health benefits maybe 5 years ago-exclusively bagged tea. Usually went for various Celestial Seasonings type of stuff. I bought a tea infuser at a gourmet shop once and then I realized there was almost no loose tea available. Eventually tiring of bags, I started ordering loose tea online and I have never gone back. Initially, I was exploring all the wild and exotic flavor combinations, but now I mostly drink straight teas. I still enjoy blended teas-but prefer those without “flavoring”. Hope to learn here and find some new teas I might not otherwise find. Am a vegan, so “milk” generally means “soymilk” to me. If it’s almond, rice, or coconut, I will mention that fact.

I am new here, and new to reviewing tea. Many of my initial reviews will be from memory and may not be very detailed at all. I hope to write more informative reviews on current and future teas.

I won’t let external factors affect my rating of the tea-such as slow shipping, too expensive, etc. I’ll mention any customer service problems in my reviews. I also won’t let my mistakes in not following the seller’s recommended parameters affect a rating. I can’t believe people who say “I forgot about it and oversteeped it” and then give it a rating. If I brew outside the parameters, I will wait until I brew it right before I give it a rating.

TEMPORARY RATING SYSTEM- Don’t hold me to these numbers and descriptions-like George Bluth, I like to tweak.

90+ It’s awesome, right?? I’ll probably try to keep it on hand.

80-89 – I really like this and will buy it again at some point, but there are so many teas to try!

70-79 – This is a pretty good tea and I may buy it again based on my mood, what tea store I am buying from, and what kind of deal I can get.

60-69 – This is okay. I finished the bag. I would drink it again if offered, but would not buy it again.

40-59 – IF I finished the bag, I recall this tea thinking “Why in the hell did I finish the bag?”

1-39 – Did not finish the bag. Maybe not even the cup. Tea was given away or discarded.

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