408 Tasting Notes

drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
408 tasting notes

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drank Cheesecake Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
408 tasting notes

Mmmm, this smelled like cheesecake as soon as I opened the package. This is the first matcha I ever bought to prepare at home – I’ve had it in lattes and ice cream, but that’s all – so I’m kind of excited.

I used 1 chashaku scoop to about 4oz water. My scoop seemed pretty big? Next time I’ll just measure by weight to see how much 1 gram is on the chashaku. I added water a little at a time, starting with the matcha as a paste to get rid of any lumps since I wasn’t using a strainer – this worked quite well! I had a nice froth going for awhile too, but then I added more water and it never really came back, so I might have had my proportions off.

My first impression on sipping was “oof, bitter” frankly, but then… the bitterness never really materialized? It’s more like it tastes like it ought to be bitter, but it’s only a flavor not actually the mouth-scrunching sensation. (Keep in mind, I’ve never had matcha straight before – I have no idea how normal this is). And then the aftertaste is pure cheesecake.

And now I’ve finished the whole bowl. That didn’t take long! And I kind of want more, so I think this stuff must be growing on me. My stomach is not as happy as my mouth though, so matcha may not become a regular first-thing-in-the-morning ritual for me.

I was still excited about the new tea though, so I decided to make some cold to take to work with me. This was a fantastic decision. I used the method described here (http://blog.mellowmonk.com/2010/07/cold-brewing-matcha-in-bottle.html), and accordingly used much less matcha than I would have tried without instruction – about 1/2 teaspoon to 16oz cold water. It worked out perfectly though – cold, mild, and refreshing, yet sweet and rich from the cheesecake flavor. The cheesecake flavor itself is pretty good, too. Cream, sugar, a slight tang from the cheese, a hint of graham cracker crust are all distinguishable. At this rate, I should get 15-30 servings out of the 30g packet, which is more than I would have guessed – a little bit of tasty cheesecake matcha goes a long way!

I think I liked this better cold than hot, and it was easier to prepare and drink through the day. I suspect it will do very well blended with other things, like milk, or ice cream. Maybe even my herbal coffee substitute? Clearly I’m not cut out to be a traditionalist with my matcha, but with flavors like cheesecake, cotton candy, and English toffee to try, who cares?!

You can buy this from Red Leaf Tea at: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/cheesecake-matcha.html

I got the small packet, starter quality green matcha (I do want to try the higher grades now), and distinctive flavoring (will definitely play with this).

175 °F / 79 °C

Matcha can be quite potent in flavor and caffeine content. I suspect that this is why so many Steepsterites prefer their matchas with milk. The milk smooths out the flavors. I find that food in my stomach will slow the caffeine punch so matcha might work for you in the morning if you’re having breakfast. :)
Glad you’re liking matcha so far!


Cold brewing matcha hey, I will definitely do this, thanks for the suggestion!


Yeah, I had been a little confused by all the matcha lattes (green tea with milk? really?)but matcha is clearly a category of its own. I usually have black tea with milk before or with breakfast and my stomach’s fine with that, so I’ll probably try the latte tactic myself next.

The cold brewing was super easy, especially in a water bottle – just shake it before drinking to keep the matcha in suspension!


I did the cold water bottle and matcha thing when I was traveling for work. convenient! I prefer matcha hot, but cold is better than none. Next time, try shaking with milk and sugar instead of water and you’ll have instant cold brewed matcha latte! I imagine it will get REALLY frothy.

Also, you gotta try the caramel matcha. Still my favorite!

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Oooooh these rose petals are gorgeous! They were pretty enough in the dry leaf, but by the time it finished steeping they had unfurled across the surface of the tea. There’s a lovely true rose scent to the aroma too – no fake flavoring here. I keep inhaling the hot mug because it’s not cool enough to drink yet! Which makes me notice htat there’s a dark chocolatey note too. Yum yum yum.

I didn’t really notice the bergamot in the smell, but I do when tasting. And now I’ve just got the words “Oh wow, this is so delicious” running on loop through my head.

Sorry, back.

This is intensely well balanced: rose and bergamot/citrus bringing out the dark chocolatey tea. I noticed the rose and chocolate most at first, but getting through the mug I note that there’s lot of sharp citrus on the front end (when I first sip), then the bergamot lingers a bit as the chocolate comes in more on the aftertaste.

Can you tell that I love the chocolate in this Laoshan Black?

A++, might buy more, except that this is so distinctive I don’t know how often I’ll be in the mood to drink it! It’ll be interesting to see how quickly I go through the half ounce sample.

Saving the 2nd and 3rd steeps in the frige for tomorrow!

Oh yum, the chilled later steeps are light light and citrusy and rosy; much less chocolate, but you can still tell that there’s black tea in there. This would probably be even more delightful with honey, but certainly doesn’t need it.

2tsp, slightly rounded, 6-8oz water, added 1 minute for each steep

205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Brought this in to the office to try Western style today. I didn’t mention this in my last note, but the dry leaves are really pretty. Big and twisty and dark, but then there are a few silver needles scattered throughout – it’s a beautiful contrast.
The brew is a little harsher with this style, but also heartier and tastes more like a black tea to me. The aftertaste is slightly smoky.
The third steep (1.5 minutes) was pretty weak, so for the fourth I upped the time to 3 minutes, and the fifth was 5+ minutes

4th steep was still weak for my taste, 5th was quite nice

Overall, an interesting change for a breakfast tea, but probably not one I’d buy a stock of, personally

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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Oh wow… from the aroma of the dry leaves I was expecting this to taste a lot like the Laoshan black, but it’s much richer and smokier – maybe that’s the pu’er, or the Big Red Robe? I don’t know, but I like it. I can taste the oolong for sure, but not a lot of caramel or vanilla on the first steep; on the second the caramel started coming out, and the oolong is still prominent. I don’t know my pu’ers well enough to pull out either of those flavors. There is a solid cocoa flavor, thanks to the Laoshan.

This has a stronger flavor than the two straight black teas I’ve had from Verdant (Laoshan and Golden Fleece), which I like. As a breakfast tea, it certainly makes me more willing to face the day, if it means getting more tea like this!

On steep 10 or so, I found this getting unexpectedly creamy. I hadn’t noticed any cinnamon in the flavor, but my mouth is convinced I’m drinking a light chai. Nifty!

gongfu style, 3g leaf to 3.5oz water, steeps starting ~5 seconds

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
408 tasting notes

This is such a treat. So silky smooth I’d hardly recognize it as a Yunnan black. I don’t think I can describe it better than anyone already has, but I’m on steep 12(?) and it’s still going strong. I’ve just been enjoying all day. This doesn’t have the kick I usually get (and enjoy) from Yunnan blacks, but it is a great way to delve into the flavor.

Between how much of Rishi’s China Black I’ve been drinking, and the deliciousness of this one, I decided to rechristen my one (barely used) yixing pot – I got it from Samovar, and made Maiden’s Ecstasy in it once or twice, but I’m just not that into puerh (yet), so it’s been sitting unused in my cupboard for awhile now. Sad :( So today, I boiled it in fresh water for a while, then let it soak in a pot with a couple steeps of the Golden Fleece and some China Breakfast. I’m excited about this change!

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec

Rishi’s china black is my favorite black. :) I really want to try this one!

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drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
408 tasting notes

I brought this to work, which means brewing Western style, which always makes me feel guilty with really nice teas. So, I decided to at least follow David’s direction on how much leaf to use. But then, the steeping time seemed… long, compared to the tea water ratio, so I stopped it a bit early (when there was already a deep coppery-red color to the tea).

That’s probably more than you all needed to know, but it’ll be good for my reference :P Compared to the gongfu style, this tastes much stronger and sharper. As it cools, it tastes more like a dark oolong than a black tea, with a very bake-y flavor.

Still sweet and chocolatey, very little bitterness (but more than there was gongfu style), very drinkable plain. I’m optimistic about later steeps evening out the strength.

1 tbsp leaf, 8oz water

ETA: Steeped this 4 times – the strength was more in balance on the later steeps, but it continued to taste more like a dark oolong than a light black to me. It was good, but I definitely prefer the gongfu method for bringing out all the flavor details.

Boiling 2 min, 30 sec

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I picked up a tin of this on sale at Cardullo’s a few weeks back and have been going through it at a good clip. I’m not a big fan of melons in fruit form, but as a gentle flavoring on white tea it works quite well. This is no candied watermelon either, more like a squeeze of fresh honeydew into the mug.

I haven’t been drinking a lot of white tea lately, so I don’t have anything nuanced to say there. This is, in fact, why I keep this one at the office – the fact that it’s flavored means I don’t feel as guilty when I can’t brew it just so and give it my full attention (which for white tea I normally would). Every tea has its place!

180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 15 sec

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Some notes on ratings:

I’d have separate rating scales for tea types if that were possible (probably Black, Flavored Black, Darjeeling/Dark Oolong, White/Green/Light Oolong, and Herbal) because the flavors and quality markers are just too different. A flavored black rated 100 isn’t better than every oolong I’ve ever drunk, just delicious for a flavored black.

Ratings are a combination of my enjoyment and the perceived quality – I do often demote teas a few points for artificial flavorings, small quantity of steeps supported, or weakness of flavor (requiring extra leaf).

I pay less attention to the number than the order of my ratings; I don’t necessarily keep a stock of everything rated 80+, but if two breakfast blends are rated 82 and 84 I consistently enjoy the 84 more.

And in case it’s not obvious? I am not an expert. I don’t even know what I like until I taste it sometimes, but I’m ok with that :) I like learning to like new teas, as well as enjoying the comfort of familiar ones.


Boston, MA



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