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158 Tasting Notes

85

This is the first time I can remember that the flavors described on a tea have represented almost perfectly the flavors that I get when I sip it. I know that the gap between what’s suggested and what I sense comes, probably most of the time, from my uneducated palate…and let’s face it, I love, love, love spicy food, and am pretty unwilling to give it up to create a palate that’s fine-tuned, the way food tasters do.

I haven’t had even a moment’s trouble with this one. Everything they describe is there. The hardest thing for me to locate was the orange blossom, but it IS there…and that much to my delight; having lived in Florida (and even spent some time in working groves, long story), that smell is among my favorites of all time. I had some guacamole earlier, and I suspect that the garlic and onion in the guac sort of battered my taste buds, and that the floral note would be easier to pick out than the nutty note (rather than vice versa) had I not been snacking a little while ago.

The more oolong I have, the more I love it. So many flavors. So full-bodied. This one is pretty tasty.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec
Cinoi

Actually drinking this right now, sounds like it will be delicious.

Ricky

Can’t wait to have it. I’ve been holding off on this because I don’t know what to expect.

Robert Godden

I had a se chung oolong yesterday, but was little disappointed. About to write it up. This one sounds great

sophistre

It is great! And it was even good when I finished off the cooled last legs of the cup, after getting caught up with some stuff for a bit and coming back to it. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I hope you like it, Cinoi and Ricky!

teaplz

I really liked this one as well! There was such a yummy, peach and date flavor to it, with nice floral notes. The tasting notes here are really great, and if I knew orange blossom a bit more, I’m sure I’d be able to pick it out!

Hopefully the more oolong I have, the more a fan of it I’ll become. Don’t make the other oolong in the sampler with boiling water! I learned that the hard way.

sophistre

Thanks for the heads-up about that. I had forgotten about your oolong incident…I’ll probably have it tonight, so I’ll be sure to turn the Zojirushi down.

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84

This tea reminds me of the Golden Spring from Adagio that I like so much, with a slightly darker, slightly less savory flavor profile, but definitely more fruit, and a lot of depth to the fruit flavors you can detect. It has a lovely aroma. In terms of taste the ‘ripe cherry’ quality they tout is not difficult to find at all. Neither is the prune, though there isn’t as much here of that flavor as I’ve noticed in other blacks, perhaps because the malt quotient here is slightly less. There’s something else here in the flavor that I’m trying to identify and having a difficult time placing a name too. It isn’t bread…oh, what is it? It drives me a little bit nuts when I can’t place a subtle flavor with its analogue! Something roasty.

I like it quite a bit. There’s enough savory sweetness to the cup that I could easily drink this all of the time. In fact, if I hadn’t ordered quite a bit of Golden Spring, I would probably be content to consider making this my default Easy Drinking Black for a while.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Harfatum

Bready and roasty? I might have to try this one, even though Irish Breakfast teas are often too harsh for me.

sophistre

I think I might modify ‘roasty’ to ‘bake-y’, after discovering that Auggy found the same note in her cup that I did. It’s definitely behind the fruit, but it kept popping up as I worked through it…subtle enough to make me wonder if I was going crazy, but there! Everybody has been saying it’s an exceptionally mild Irish Breakfast (I don’t have much experience with Irish Breakfast generally, so I’m taking them at their word), so you might find it a good option. :)

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75

I’m not sure how I feel about this one, which is in all probability unsurprising as I have a long, long history of disliking licorice. I suspect that this probably deserves a much better rating than I’m giving it, in fact, but I’m having trouble hopping over the mental hurdle of ‘oh no, licorice’.

I was more worried before I opened the packet than I was afterward, actually. The smell wasn’t so strong that it punched me in the face, but it was still strong enough to leave me wondering why I was going to pour hot water on top of it at all. I sort of dumped the entire packet into my glass infuser cup, and watching it brew I realized that there are a ton of twigs in this blend. It’s not a very pretty blend at all, and there are more than a few fannings drifting around the bottom of my cup right now. Assuming that’s the non-tea stuff, though.

I was pretty gratified to find that the tea, once brewed, stayed soft and unassuming on the licorice front. The taste of the white tea — which brews to a pretty silvery-gold — reminds me of the silver needle I have from Adagio. Every sip has a little bit of licorice, but it’s…very mellow, and reminds me more of the background note of licorice you can sometimes get from bagged ‘medicinal’ teas, like the Yogi teas, for instance…it’s drinkable even for someone who viscerally rejects the strong scent of licorice. It does create a sort of weird feeling on my tongue and soft palate, though; not numbness, per se, and not a coolness like mint, but something that makes me think of both of those things on a much smaller scale.

I confess that I’m sort of baffled as to where to rate this. The rating should probably be considered very soft.

Sadly, there’s not any better place for this, so I’m just going to write about it here.
This cup is so win: http://www.teavana.com/Tea-Products/Tea-Cups-Mugs/Glass-Tea-Cups/Yves-Glass-Tea-Infuser-Mug.axd
There are only two points of potential annoyance: the first is that stuff sometimes gets stuck in the little glass vents. I find that a toothbrush and about a second-and-a-half of effort are enough to take care of that…I never spend any time standing around struggling to get them cleared out. The second is that occasionally you have to pause your pour to allow the water to vent through when the tea is small enough to clump against said vents, but again…10 extra seconds doesn’t really bother me. Your mileage may vary. I use this thing constantly. I definitely use it more often than my iron teapot; almost every cup of tea I make is a new flavor, so I feel like there’s less fussing, and it means I get to see the tea brew…and they get nearly the whole cup to unfurl in. The lid that comes with it flips over to make a pretty good infuser-saucer between steeps. Plus, it’s all glass, so it doesn’t retain any smells or flavors and I don’t have to worry about chemicals leeching out of plastic bits into my hot water. Not a bad deal for 15 bucks. I like it so much that I ordered two more.

True, it ain’t no sorapot (where the heck is my sorapot, btw? It still hasn’t come in!), but for 16 oz. of tea brewed for a steep-voyeurist and a minimum of effort it’s a good choice.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 0 sec
fcmonroe

I have a couple of glass mugs similar to the one you spoke of. The toothbrush is a great tip for getting stuff out of the glass slits of the infuser! I’ll have to give that a try.

Ricky

I’ve been using my infusing basket instead of my ingenuiTea. It’s less work and I don’t have to worry about the stupid filter flipping over. Now when the sorapot comes are you going to use it to brew a daily batch or tea or just when friends / family come over?

sophistre

I suppose it depends on how functional it is. I’m a big believer in using beautiful things on a daily basis and not just saving them…it’s the little things in life that are often the most celebratory. ;) That said, if it’s a pain in the neck to clean or makes brewing tea more of a production than it needs to be, then I suppose I’ll stick to my little infuser cups until I’m feeling fancy. ^^

teaplz

I had SUCH a similar experience with this one! Since I really dislike licorice, it was kind of hard to rate, but I bet that someone who loves it would absolutely adore this tea. But I agree that the licorice here is soft enough even for people who hate it!

Also, LOVE the mug! So cute. I’m thinking of getting one of this Finum baskets myself for infusing, since they look pretty sturdy.

sophistre

Finum stuff is pretty good. The gold mesh is great. The only thing I don’t dig about it is the plastic, with all of this muttering about hot water leeching BPA out of plastics and into the liquids (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130092108.htm). This is one of those issues that’s pretty inconclusive overall, but nevertheless I’ve gotten to where I’m trying to get around heating plastic near my consumables (no more microwaving tupperware for sure!).

Ricky

The finum is exactly what I have and it works really well. I mean I’m using the ingenuiTea pot so that’s honestly no better. I’m tempted to get a Sorapot, but then I was thinking… how often will I really use it? I mean it’s more of a hassle compared to my finum and my ingenuiTea.

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95

So…RELIEVED.

I was so afraid that brewing this was going to make my house smell like cigarette ashes. I don’t smoke. I can’t stand the smell of it. More than that, I’m actually allergic to nicotine, so it weirds me out on a totally different level than I think just finding the smell unpleasant would weird me out. Thank HEAVENS that isn’t what this brewing produced. To me, this is campfire. Campfire and the pungent, tart scent and flavor of pine sap. I don’t have any trouble whatsoever locating the pine in this, which is…really quite the unusual sensory experience. It’s a completely independent flavor from the smoke. I can even taste the tea after I swallow each sip.

This is another one of those teas that brings to mind instantaneous memories for me, all of them connected to cabins and wood stoves, most of these enjoyed alongside a feeling of utter boneless exhaustion at the tail end of long day of snowboarding. It makes me think offhandedly of the trips I took to Mesa Verde when I was living in Colorado; some of the old Anasazi cliff-dwelling areas still have fire pits that seem as though they’re going to be stained forever with this sort of scent, where the red rocks have been blackened for all time.

I didn’t expect to like this, but I hoped that I would. I definitely do. I don’t know how much of it I would find myself wanting, but I could easily see myself adding this to my order. It’s so…cozy. So curl-up-on-a-futon-in-front-of-a-fire cozy.

Now that I’m getting halfway through the mug and it’s cooling slightly, it’s becoming surprisingly sweet on the finish! I really didn’t expect that. I thought I was going to have to add milk and sugar to this at the very least, and I haven’t added either, because I’ve been too interested in the flavors to risk covering them up. That’s a good sign.

Yeah. Yummy. Quite believably not for everyone, but I think most tea-ites recognize that lapsang souchong is a love it or hate it affair. I can’t even say that I like it broadly yet; for all I know I might just like this one…but I do like this one. Hallelujah.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Harney & Sons The Store

Lapsang Souchong is one of the best black teas ever! It’s easily accessible and the flavor is just amazing. We refer to it as standing next to a bonfire, so we’re all on the same page. If possible, I’d recommend looking for the other kinds of Lapsangs and Souchongs, like Maocha Souchong and Wuyi Shan Lapsang, both high end smokey teas from the Wuyi region in Eastern China.

sophistre

Oh, wow. I didn’t realize there were different kinds. And so…Lapsang and Souchong are two different things? Is the Wuyi Shan Lapsang an oolong? O.o

Robert Godden

Once you get bitten by the LS bug, you’ll drink it all the time

Harney & Sons The Store

Lapsang Souchong actually originated in the Wuyi area, but of course can be produced elsewhere. The Wuyi Shan Lapsang is another Chinese black tea, of higher quality, dried over the same types of smoking pines. Wuyi refers to the region of growth, processing and production.

Maocha roughly translates to “rough tea” or rather tea that has been plucked, and immediately put through the wilting, bruising and then drying process. Many raw Pu-Erhs are Maocha. Maocha Souchong simply meant that it was a rough tea that was not specifically dried over the smoked pines, but rather.. infused with the smoky flavor during the processing, giving it a much milder smoky flavor, allowing the brute of the flavor to be the raw tea.

Both these other options will sport the same great smoky flavor that we love, putting a stronger emphasis on the tea flavor itself, using the smoke as a backdrop.

I hope this helped, cause I feel slightly more confused after writing it!

sophistre

It did help! I’ve got a lot to learn, and every little bit helps. Thanks for the information. :) I’ll have to track them down to give them a try. This morning my kitchen still smells like a campfire…thinking I should’ve thrown the sample packet away, whoops. Good thing I like this stuff! Kind of sad I don’t have any left, actually…

teaplz

I find it HILARIOUS how divisive this one is! Part of me is really disappointed that I didn’t like it. I really wanted to like it! takgoti sent me some of Samovar’s, so maybe I’ll like that better… or maybe I just need time to “acquire” the taste for this one and get over the fact that it’s savory and smokey. Because I tend to like smoke in other things! And I liked Scarlet Sable… hrm.

sophistre

Everybody’s palate is a little different. It’s definitely not a subtle cup. Maybe you’d dig on the Russian caravan tea? That’s like…lapsang, keemun, and…one other tea, isn’t it? …Now I’m not sure. I wish like heck that Andrews & Dunham accepted AmEx. x.x I’m really interested in trying their Caravan from series 3.

Harney & Sons The Store

I think sometimes the 3rd part of RC is Formosa, though ours is just Keemun and LS.

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80

Chai remains one of the most delicious parts of my morning routine. I had wanted to save the chai that came in my sampler order for a moment when I wouldn’t just be relying on it to function properly, but I’m still wrestling with my sleep schedule, and a premature waking-up at 3am this morning necessitated breaking from that plan for the sake of something soothing and bracing at the same time.

Cardamom is the star in this blend. Opening the packet to take a sniff it was the first spice that coasted out to meet my nose, and a glance inside explained why: there were two fat cardamom pods sitting right on the top. Paired with milk and made into a latte, it immediately put me in mind of various Indian desserts. Cloves are the second note, with cinnamon trailing a distant third. The tea, needless to say, is little more than a backdrop for so many forceful flavors…which is alright, in a latte. I’m not certain I would enjoy this as a straight tea, but then I’m not certain about that when it comes to virtually any chai.

It’s good. Basic. Probably very forgiving of being blended with other things. Cozy. It’s doing what I needed it to do this morning.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec
Ricky

Now I’m scared! I was just going to make a cup of this to start my day. Cardamon, cloves, ahhhhh.

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60
drank Rose Tea by Golden Moon Tea
158 tasting notes

To me, the very idea of a rose tea is slightly strange, and yet I really don’t have any good reasons for why that should be so. I don’t eat rose petals, therefore I shouldn’t be drinking them in liquid form, perhaps? Even that reason doesn’t hold up, ultimately; some of my favorite black teas are my favorites because they remind me of hay in a hot barn. It isn’t as though I’ve ever sat down to have a big heaping helping of alfalfa.

Anyway, the scent is delightfully, definitely ‘rose’. That does not change over the course of the brewing. It still struck me as strange. Like…sipping on potpourri or those little sachets of dried roses that mothers and grandmothers seem to like tucking away in various drawers of clothing, irrevoccably tying the scent of dried rose petals to the little private and forgotten places within spaces belonging to the older women in my life. (And this is not wholly true; I think my mother has preferred lavender and cedar over time, but I smell the aroma of roses emanating from this cup and my memory still jingles to the tune of sachets and drawers).

I suppose I had forgotten about Turkish delight. One sip and I remember; that beautiful pink jelly that I seem to only ever eat dressed in chocolate, wrapped in shiny pink wrappers and made by Fry’s (though I can’t for the life of me remember ever eating anything else made by that company). The quality of the rose flavor is approximate, occasionally providing a flash of something sweet on the parting of the sip. I have a very minor astringency in the back of my throat, but it’s pretty mild.

Definitely not a tea that I see myself craving, but I wouldn’t send it back to the kitchen, either. If rose tickles your fancy or you happen to be a rabid fan of Turkish delight, I suppose this might be right up your alley.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec
wombatgirl

I actually have done a lot of cooking with rose water, I love the flavor it can add…. :) Might like this tea too!

Robert Godden

I like to use rosewater all the time, it’s a real favourite. I also like to pick rose petals and float them in this tea when I serve it. Also, you can wash the petals, roll them about in icing sugar, dry in the oven, cool and then attach one petal to the top of a shortbread biscuit with a dab of icing. I make that for high teas.

S

Ah, second reference to Turkish delight in one day. I had never heard of it before, so I wikipedia’d it as well. I don’t know where I’m supposed to get some to try…

Robert Godden

Any greek, turkish or middle eastern deli should have it. Most supermatket delis have it here (Australia)

Keemun

…my mum used lavender.
I wrote a review of Harrod’s rose tea. Maybe you want to check that out and compare it with what your impressions were…I felt quite strange in the beginning too…but, oh boy…once you drink it…!!!

sophistre

@wombatgirl: I’m guessing this is perfect for you, then. Cooking with rose tea isn’t something I’d considered.

@Robert: That sounds absolutely gorgeous! If wombatgirl’s comment hadn’t made me curious about using this stuff for cooking, this certainly would’ve done the trick.

@Shanti: Strangely, I think the first place that I ever recall hearing about Turkish delight was…in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It’s what the queen feeds the one brother to bribe him over to the dark side, and now I suppose I can see why it worked.

@Keemun: I really enjoy Turkish delight, so I suspect the strangeness is really a mental bias more than anything. I did finish my cup! I read your review and laughed a little…I tried to avoid using the phrase ‘grandma tea’ in mine, but that’s definitely part of the block, I think…liquid-grandmother-memory, so strange! I’d be curious to try Harrod’s, it sounds more subtle and maybe more to my tastes? Then again, I’d probably be curious to try this one iced, too.

…with a pastry topped off with a blip of icing and a sugar-dusted rose petal!

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65

I chose this tea to be my reward for staying on track with this Couch to 5k program, whee. I wanted something sweet. I may have to go and paw through the other samples for more sweet teas after this. As for this one?

Fruity!

Seriously, where am I getting that from? Of all of the things that I expected when I lifted my steeped cup of light, yellow-amber, canary-colored tea up to my nose, fruit was seriously not on the list. And yet, that’s sort of what it smells like, to me — like someone caramelized some sugar and added it to some kind of fruit. My cup is still pretty hot. Maybe that’s going to lessen as I sit here and sip on it. I’m not even sure how to describe what kind of fruit I’m smelling. The more I sit and sniff, the more I think it’s reminding me of the bananas-in-bananas-foster smell…which I guess makes sense, given all of the ingredients in a bananas foster and the sauce…all of that hot sugar. In fact, now that I’ve said that, ‘bananas foster’ is definitely sticking around.

It’s not a very punchy flavor in the cup. Not nearly the strength of the coconut pouchong. I don’t know if I’m pleased or disappointed by that. I’m also not sure that I know enough about oolongs yet to properly evaluate the one they used here; all I know is that it isn’t the kind of oolong that makes me salivate from the rich, nutty, buttery smell. This is merely an echo of that flavor profile, a ghostly reference to those stronger qualities, lacking the brothy fullness in the mouth.

There is a temperature somewhere between ‘just shy of boiling’ and ‘tepid’ when the cup is hot but no longer needs as much caution in the sipping, and I’m starting to believe that this magical temperature window is where amazing things happen to the flavor of certain teas. Since hitting that mark, the tea seems to better represent the scent it throws off. It’s still not nearly as intense, but it’s stronger. Somehow I feel as though a little bit of sweetener in here to bring the sweetness you can smell up to the level of the sweetness your tongue gets might help to round out and smooth the flavor. It doesn’t need the sugar, but it might make the sweet-tooth itch the cup aims to scratch a little bit easier to satisfy.

Not a bad tea. Pretty drinkable. Not sure I can see myself craving it, though, so I probably won’t buy any, but it was interesting to try.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec
Cofftea

I was seriously craving blending this one w/ Mayan Chocolate Chai til I saw “fruity”…

sophistre

It’s the strangest thing! I really didn’t expect it. I have no explanation. Is my palate silly? It seriously might be. Have you tried this one? They do say that it has floral notes. Perhaps my brain is just attaching the floral bit to the caramelized sugar bit and producing ‘bananas foster’, since I, like all good New Orleans-ites, have eaten my fair share of that oh-so-delicious dessert in my lifetime.

The impression that that’s what I was smelling did not go away by the end of the cup, though.

Cofftea

No. The only GM tea I’ve tried is Moroccan Mint. I have yet to have the room or cupboard space for the entire sampler.

Auggy

I don’t think you are nuts – I got a kind of cigar sweet from it which I think would qualify as a banana-foster-esque fruity smell. I’m assuming it is because they use a darker oolong since I tend to get the cigar sweetness from the dark ones.

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51
drank Honey Pear by Golden Moon Tea
158 tasting notes

Reading the reviews about this had me pretty excited to try it, despite my trepidation — the last pear-flavored tea I tried was Teavana’s white pear tea, and it sort of chased me off.

I think the strong smell coming out of the brewed cup was a little bit frightening. It was cloying and heavy and dark, more like honey-stewed fruit than fresh pear. The taste is better than that, thankfully; it reminds me of the flavor of those straw-like plastic tubes of honey you can buy at certain candy stores, combined with an obvious pear flavor. That shouldn’t really be too daunting, but somehow it is. I’ll finish the cup, but I can’t picture myself craving this, out of all of the teas that I could select.

I do like pears and I certainly love honey, but maybe the pair of them together and hot are just not my bag of tea, so to speak. Maybe it’s just ‘hot pear’ that gets overwhelming. This one might redeem itself for me over ice, where the perfumey honey-sweetness is more expected. In fact, I’m guessing that’s almost true for a certainty, as the more the cup cools the sweeter the flavor gets, balancing out the stewed-fruit taste to replace it with a more alluring sugary aftertaste. I’m curious enough that I might try it that way. Maybe I should try Teavana’s white pear that way, too, since I haven’t even touched the stuff since that first ill-fated cup.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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35
drank Sencha by Golden Moon Tea
158 tasting notes

It’s alright. It’s very basic. It is rather broken, and a lot of small slivers wanted to escape my glass infuser and get into my cup. The actual tea is greenish-yellow and fairly light. I’m not having as much trouble getting flavor out of this as some other people did, but what I’m getting is basic green tea. It smells better than it delivers — the same problem I had with Adagio’s, honestly. It smells like green veggies cooked in butter, and it tastes like the kind of green tea I could get literally anywhere, without quality control.

In short, it’s not undrinkable but it’s not exciting.

Edit: The more it cooled, the more astringent it became. I don’t know whether to blame this on the pieces that escaped into the cup and were languishing on the bottom or the tea itself, but either way…not so appetizing.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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99

Heavenly.

Unfortunately, I can’t really write a full tasting note here, because I don’t have ANY CLUE what temperature I brewed this to. I was too impatient to cool my Zojirushi and too wary of overheating the leaves to chance it, so I added room-temperature water to water I had cooled slightly in a glass…goodness only knows what temperature it was. It sort of breaks my heart that I may have under-done it, but I’m hoping that just means I can get another really good steep out of it.

I’ve mentioned before that I really dislike overdone flavored teas. They frighten me. They tend toward artificiality. Strong flavors in tea make me wary.

Nevertheless, I spent a good minute and a half standing in my kitchen, huffing the smell that came out of the sampler bag and thinking…oh my god, it’s like someone vaporized macaroons. It really is. The buttery quality of the oolong and the coconut make me feel like I’m sipping on subtle macaroons, without the heaviness in the mouth that would come from all of that sugar (and without the heaviness in my a** that would come from the same thing, heh).

I’ve never had pouchong before, but I’ve already mentioned this week that I think I’m a huge fan of oolongs, generally — the bready, starchy, buttery, chewy and delicious sort — and this tea is managing to combine that allure with coconut. It’s oolong and coconut, but it’s also macaroons and buttered kettlecorn.

This one is going on my shopping list. I’ll grant you it’s probably not the sort of thing I could drink 24/7, but I could see myself drinking it often. It’s the kind of tea that makes me want to plan a menu and throw a dinner party.

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Profile

Bio

Ohhh, I dunno. I like tea but I’m kind of a tea newbie. At this point I can say with authority that I may never be anything else, no matter how many teas I try…there is always something new out there.

I write a lot.

I also play way too many video games.


Ratings! (Bout time, wot?) This is a new arrangement, so…subject to change!

1-10: Not potable. First-sip disasters.

11-30: Intensely unpleasant…won’t catch me finishing the cup.

31-50: I really don’t like it…but maybe somebody else out there would.

51-70: Drinkable, but probably not the first thing I’m going to reach for.

71-90: Pretty good tea, and stuff that there’s a good chance I’ll have on-hand. Will do in a pinch at the low end, all the way up to regular visitors to my infuser on the high end.

91-100: Teas I really do not want to be without.

Location

Boston/Cambridge

Website

http://sophistre.tumblr.com/

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