131 Tasting Notes

92

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74

Wow, my husband was not joking when he said this smells just like blueberry muffins! It definitely reminds me of a blueberry baked good like pancakes or muffins or maybe even a blueberry jam. The color is a deep berry red and the flavor is tart, but with some added honey it’s quite good. I have to admit, it’s nice to be able to get back to a simple flavored tea after drinking straight unflavored teas for the last week or so.

Flavors: Blueberry, Jam, Tart

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Yin Zhen by Nannuoshan
131 tasting notes

This is my eighth, and final, sample from nannuoshan. Thanks so much to Gabriele and nannuoshan for sending this my way! I should mention that one reason I asked to sample this tea is that I have yet to find a white tea that I really like. I’m hoping this one will change my mind.

This tea is beautiful. The leaves are a mint green color and are covered in what looks like white down. The ends are darker, especially the stem ends which look as though they’ve been scorched. Such a wide array of colors in each leaf. This is really something special.

Side note: I think I must be having some trouble with my digital kitchen scale because it never gives me consistent readings. I thought at first that I must be doing something wrong, but now I’m pretty sure it’s just not that great. With that said, I think I used about 3 grams of tea leaves here.

I did a quick rinse with the leaves though I’m not entirely sure this is necessary with a white tea. Gabriele mentioned in his note that this would work for all but green teas so I did it here just in case. The first infusion is very light in color and in flavor. I was worried that this would be bitter which has been my experience with other white teas but it really isn’t. I’m not picking up any specific flavors though.

The leaves on the second infusion smell stronger, almost malty like a dark rye bread. It doesn’t necessarily taste like rye, just like a dark wheat bread. Maybe something like pumpernickel. This surprises me because I don’t think of white tea as having a bold flavor. It’s not quite as strong as a darker tea, but the flavor is definitely there.

By the third steep, the tea is starting to calm down. It’s still very flavorful, but it’s nothing like the punch of the second infusion. I might otherwise try to steep this one again, but it’s getting late so I’m going to end here.

Infusions
4 ounces water + 195 degrees + 45 sec, 45 sec, 60 sec

Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt, Wheat

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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drank Anxi Tie Guan Yin by Nannuoshan
131 tasting notes

Thank you to Gabriele and nannuoshan for this sample!

I’m excited to try this one since my favorite of nannuoshan’s samples so far has been the roasted Anxi Tie Guan Yin. The color of this version is a strikingly vivid and vibrant green (much like fresh spinach leaves) and the fragrance is just as flowery as I had hoped.

After a quick rinse, the aroma of the leaves is much more vegetal than floral. The first steep brings out a certain freshness, and I can taste both the floral and the vegetable flavors in this infusion. The liquid is a pale yellow and the flavor is very light.

It’s interesting, the taste in this second infusion is more vegetal while the aroma is more floral. It’s also a little bitter. I probably shouldn’t make comparisons here, but I much prefer the roasted variety. I’m just not sure I’m enjoying this one as much as I should be.

The third steep went a little longer because I got distracted after setting my timer, but I don’t think the flavor suffers too much for it. It’s still a touch bitter, but it’s starting to feel a little watered down as well. I have to say that this isn’t my favorite of the nannuoshan teas that I’ve tried, but I would like to come back to this one after trying other varieties to see if my opinion has changed at all.

Infusions
4 ounces water + 195 degrees + 30 sec, 30 sec, 60 sec

Flavors: Floral, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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drank Qi Lan by Nannuoshan
131 tasting notes

A big thank you to Gabriele and nannuoshan for this sample!

I requested a sample of this thinking it was something I had never tried before and didn’t put it together until today that I actually have some Qi Lan oolong in my cupboard already. I ordered this same type of oolong from Teavana back in October. It would be interesting to compare them side by side to see the difference between the two. Perhaps I’ll do that with the rest of my sample.

I had a black tea earlier today and it’s so interesting to see how different the leaves look when comparing the two. The black tea had leaves so small that some were almost twig-like. The oolong leaves are plump and curvaceous, a shade of green so deep it might pass for black. It has a sweet scent, but I don’t detect anything floral just yet. I’m hopeful that it will live up to its description of “unusually sweet and flowery”.

Oops, I forgot about the rinse on this one until it was too late. I let it steep for about 60 seconds and poured the wash over the cup, pitcher, and saucer. Hopefully this won’t affect the taste too much. I’m waiting on my first “real” steep to finish now.

I’m sure this is because of my inexperience with different types of teas, and oolong specifically, but the aroma reminds me of nannuoshan’s roasted Tie Guan Yin oolong that I had earlier in the week. It has that aroma that reminds me of dense, hearty bread pulled right from the oven. The taste is very bitter so I’m thinking I must have let it steep too long or at too high a temperature. It’s also a touch astringent, but I’m sure this is due to over-steeping as well. This might be a little bit strange but I can detect a hint of spice. It seems like there was something like cinnamon in that last cup.

The second cup is much less bitter and much more enjoyable. It still has that baked bread quality to it which I’m enjoying, and I’m still tasting the tiniest bit of cinnamon. By the third steep, the tea has opened up and is beginning to resemble torn grape leaves. Its aroma is starting to fade in both the leaves and the liquid. This may be due to my forgetfulness with that first steep/rinse. I’m sure it pulled out quite a bit of the flavor that was meant for the first cup. This tastes very watered down, more hot water than tea flavor here though the color is still a golden yellow. The fourth, and final, steep is barely flavored at all. I’m sure it’s because I messed this one up in the beginning. Next time I’ll know to do things a little differently.

Infusions
4 ounces water + 195 degrees + 60 sec, 60 sec, 60 sec, 90 sec

Flavors: Baked Bread, Cinnamon, Spices, Sweet

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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drank Tanyang Gongfu by Nannuoshan
131 tasting notes

A big thank you to Gabriele and nannuoshan for this generous sample!

I feel as though I’ve dropped off the face of the earth these last few days. My husband and I hosted a wedding shower for his sister yesterday, and every last minute leading up to it was spent cooking and decorating. I tried so many times to make a quick pot of tea but each time I was pulled away to do something else. Needless to say, I’ve really been missing my daily cuppa.

I’m being lazy today so this is going right into a little glass teapot for a quick and easy, but sure to be extremely delicious, cup of tea. I read through some of the reviews here and saw that tea-sipper used about 1.5 teaspoons to make a nice-sized mug so I’m going to try that here.

The dark leaves are small and spindly and smell like a good, solid black tea. I’m thinking this would probably be really good made either iced or hot. The brewed tea has a malty smell, very strong, and the tea leaves themselves have taken on a burnt aroma not unlike the charred bits of a toasty piece of artisan bread. It’s hard to describe, but the flavor here is different than most other black teas I’ve had. It’s simultaneously lighter on the tongue and stronger in flavor. I stand behind my previous comment – this would make the perfect iced tea.

Second Steep
9 ounces water + 195 degrees + 5 minutes

This second cup seems to be even more flavorful. I’m tasting more of that black tea flavor I might normally experience – it seems more rounded and full.

Third Steep
8 ounces water + 195 degrees + 6 minutes

I decided to take a break for some lunch (leftover party food!) but I had to come back to this for a third steep. This cup is much lighter in color and in flavor so I think I’ll stop here, but it’s still very enjoyable on the third cup.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Burnt, Malt, Toasty

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 9 OZ / 266 ML

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45
drank Winter Spice by Twinings
131 tasting notes

This is my third and final sample from Twinings. This smelled cloyingly sweet coming out of the package but has tamed a bit after steeping. The aroma is somewhat like cider but much softer. There is also a hint of citrus. I can taste the chamomile which is nice, but it’s also a touch bitter at the end of each sip. Overall it’s not great and, if lacking fresh cider, I would more readily grab a box of powdered cider mix than a box of this tea.

Flavors: Bitter, Citrus, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Thank you to Gabriele and nannuoshan for this sample!

I left it to my husband to pick our tea for the night and this was the one he enjoyed the most when he opened each to smell. He’s been wanting to try this type of tea for a while now, ever since he had a conversation with a friend at work about monkey-picked oolong. I didn’t know at the time that monkey-picked oolong is another name for Tie Guan Yin, not until I started asking around here on Steepster. I was happy that nannuoshan had this tea to sample and even happier still that my husband picked this one from the batch without even realizing what it was. I really hope he likes it.

The leaves are brown and came tumbling out of the bag in clusters to hit the inside of my gaiwan with a bright, tinkling sound. Each is a different shape – no two seem alike. Some look like tiny parcels, others like flower bulb shoots. A few have opened more fully, as if they’re stretching upward toward the blue. The color is dark – black and tan and a bit of green.

After rinsing the leaves, this incredible aroma floats out of the cup. I could be wrong about this, but it seems like the perfect cup to wake up to in the morning. The fragrance is roasted and almost sweet. For some reason, I think of oolong as a darker tea (like a step down from black tea), but I must be wrong because this is very light in color. The flavor is outstanding – it tastes just as it smells. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is. It may be bread. It may be brown sugar. My husband even said he tasted something like roses.

We steeped this four times and finally decided it was time for bed. Not wanting to waste any remaining flavor, I put the leaves in the fridge with two cups of water for a cold brew and left it for almost a full 24 hours. The color is very pale, almost golden. I expected it to be lighter since I’ve already steeped it a few times, but it’s even paler than I thought. The leaves have unrolled, but instead of being silky like I expected they look as crunchy as a piece of fresh kale. Lightly sweetened, this is very enjoyable and certainly isn’t lacking in flavor.

I’m enjoying each of my samples from nannuoshan better than the last – this one is my favorite so far!

Infusions
4 ounces water + 212 degrees + 60 sec each
16 ounces water + iced + approx. 24 hours

Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Roasted, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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40
drank China Oolong by Twinings
131 tasting notes

This is the second of three samples I received from Twinings a couple of weeks ago. I followed the steeping parameters listed on their website and, while the dry tea smelled nice, the brewed tea is quite bitter. I added a good bit of honey to it, but it’s not really helping. This is better once it cools though still too bitter for my taste. Perhaps a lower temperature might help, but I don’t plan on buying more any time soon to find out.

Flavors: Bitter

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Yixing Hong Cha by Nannuoshan
131 tasting notes

Thank you to Gabriele and nannuoshan for this sample!

Of all the teas I requested, the black teas are the ones I’m most looking forward to trying. Black teas are my favorite and I’m sure these will be no exception. I may try one of the two in a teapot, just for something different, but this one I’ll make tonight in the gaiwan.

The leaves are short in length and most have a crook in the end though some are bent nearly in half and look like a hastily-scribbled letter “U”. There are a few pieces of leaf that haven’t been twisted but look more broken and a fine beige powder along the inside of the bag. The color is black but with the slightest tint of dark green.

A quick rinse first according to Gabriele’s instructions and then on to the first infusion. The color of the tea liquid is a beautiful burnt orange with an added luster that makes it shine in the kitchen light. The liquid almost seems thicker than it should be, and the aroma reminds me of cooked turnip greens (though not excessively so). I think I must be unaccustomed to drinking straight teas (either that or I’m doing something wrong here), but this one too seems bitter to me. My husband says it’s not really bitter, just strong, but I’m going to try cutting down the time on the next steep to see if that helps.

I steeped this a total of six times. The third, fourth, and fifth infusions were the best in my opinion; the tea was no longer bitter and started to take on a fruity note. By the sixth infusion, the tea was starting to become weak so I ended it there. Overall, this was an enjoyable tea. I would be interested to try this in a teapot with some cream and honey to see how it tastes that way.

Infusions
5 ounces water + 195 degrees + 45 sec, 35 sec, 35 sec, 45 sec, 60 sec, 75 sec

Flavors: Fruity, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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Bio

Lifetime student. Lover of books and paper and ink. Kitchen dweller. Aspiring tea fanatic.

I should start by saying that I’m still quite new to this great, big world of tea. Until a couple of years ago, my experience was limited to Twinings Earl Grey and tea lattes at Starbucks. One weekend, my husband and I happened upon a Teavana at our local mall and there discovered loose leaf teas. He jumped in with both feet, but it admittedly took me a while longer before I fully embraced tea the way that he had. Now that I’ve found Steepster, I’m amazed at the vast variety of teas. It’s an exciting place to be and I cannot wait to learn from each of you the ins and outs of this limitless brew.

I enjoy all different types of tea though I admit I haven’t tried a great deal. I love flavored black teas most of all, often with cream and always with honey. I prefer to sweeten my tea as it seems to bring out the flavor, much the way salt enhances certain foods. I enjoy floral and fruity teas, as well as flavored or scented ones. I’m not overly fond of mint or white teas, but I’ve found a few that I enjoy. I would like to branch out and try straight teas at some point as well.

Regarding tasting notes – I’m not always able to complete my reviews the moment I drink a tea (if I’m at work, for example) so I keep a written log in a little Moleskin notebook to be added to Steepster later. This way, I’m able to write a review while the tea is still fresh in my mind and still make note of the exact time I had my cup. If you notice that I’ve logged a tea without writing a note, I will likely add it later.

After seeing others on Steepster with a rating scale, I thought it would be best to create my own so that others can see how I feel about my personal ratings. It may change at some point, but this is how I’ve been rating my teas as of late.

Rating Scale

1-20: By far, one of the worst teas I’ve tasted. I most certainly will not finish my cup and will likely “gift” the rest to my sweet husband who almost always enjoys the teas I dislike (and vice versa).

21-40: This tea is not good but if I mix it with another tea or find another steeping method I might be able to finish it.

41-60: This one is just okay. I might drink it again if someone were to give it to me, but I probably won’t be buying more for myself.

61-75: This is a consistently good tea. It’s reliable but not necessarily special.

76-90: This one is a notch above the rest and I would gladly enjoy a cup of it any day of the week. I’ll likely be keeping this in my cupboard, but it isn’t one of my all-time favorites.

91-95: One small change and this tea would be perfect. I’ll definitely have a stash of this in my kitchen if you come over for tea.

96-100: No words can describe this tea. It’s an experience, an aha moment. Closed eyes, wide smile, encompassing warmth. Absolutely incredible. Perfect.

Currently reading:
A Dance with Dragons
George R. R. Martin

Updated February 2015.

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