155 Tasting Notes
Experience buying from Harney & Son’s http://steepster.com/places/2779-harney-and-sons-online-millerton-new-york
Date of Purchase/Age of Leaf/Amount of Leaf/Date of Steeping: Bought a sample (I am guessing it is a little less than half an ounce) in late 2011, lot # 11298, brewed up late March 2012.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Standard Darjeeling appearance; See Overall for aroma.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; their website said to brew it at 175F. Really? So I checked the other Darjeelings to see what they said. They were all different, but none were as low as 175. Well, OK, maybe that’s what they meant, but I’m not going that low. I shot for 185F, and hit 190F:
……….1st: 190F, 2’
……….2nd: just under 190⁰F, 3.5’
……….3rd: just over 190⁰F; 5’
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: Pretty standard for a Darjeeling.
Flavor of tea liquor: Fruity and complex, with that characteristic Muscatel flavor; still had some flavor on the third (I did a forth and, although it was mild, it still had flavor).
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: A little better quality leaf than I have seen in other Darjeelings, with a malty aroma that was almost acidic (That’s what came to me, anyway).
Value: $2 for a sample, and not bad for the tin @$15 for 3 OZ.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, knowledgeable of what exactly to expect from a Darjeeling, as I have had only three others, and I don’t drink those very often. Still, in a desire to broaden my knowledge of them I bought this sample with my last H&S order. I’ll get to the aroma of the dry leaf in a moment, but in general this Darjeeling looked like any other I’ve seen, and the tea liquor had a pleasant distinctive taste, good color, and a nice aroma. I can’t remember if my wife has had any of the other Darjeelings I own, but she liked this one, so now I am hopeful I will have someone to drink the others with (other than on special occasions when I have brought them to a guest’s house to brew up).
What really stood out about this Tea was the aroma of the dry leaf. Never, since I have started really sticking my nose in the dry leaf (and I mean, really stick it in there, as in, when I breath in and out I imagine I am practically doing a mini-steeping with all of that moist, hot air that I seem to have lots of), have I got three very distinctive aromas. I usually take a few sniffs to make certain I am giving myself (and the Tea) enough of a chance to take it all in; in this case, on the third ‘sniff’, I got a completely different smell. So, of course, I had to have another go. And then I got another completely different smell (different than either the first or second aroma). THAT BLEW ME AWAY! Three different aromas?! Seriously!? This is the sad part: I can’t even begin to describe what they were (At the time I was thinking of how many of you are so good at describing aromas and flavors, and here I am with THREE distinctive ones in ONE tea and I can’t begin to describe them? Cooooooooome ooooon! It’s embarrassing). Well, the closest description of one of the aromas I could come up with (after racking my brain) was that it was almost like a very fresh green tea (but to me that doesn’t make sense to get that from a Darjeeling), and another one may have been oak-y?
Honestly, I simply wanted to drink the tea, I didn’t want to stand in my kitchen with my nose buried in this black and gold H&S sample zip-lock bag filled with loose tea, muttering between sniffs in my perplexity, for 10 or 20 or whatever minutes trying to figure out the aromas. I just want to DRINK SOME TEA! So, I brewed it up, and have been enjoying it ever since (still with the nagging realization that I could not put words to those aromas; maybe it will haunt me forever, eh?).
So all that to say, although the taste doesn’t particularly stand out in my mind, I will NEVER forget the dry leaf of this second flush Darjeeling. All hail the dry leaf!
Experience buying from Art of Tea http://steepster.com/places/3023-art-of-tea-online-santa-cruz-california
Date of Purchase/Amount of Leaf/Date of Steeping: Bought in late 2011, sample of roughly a little over an ounce, steeped up March 2012.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Standard characteristic silver-needle-looking downy-haired, light green buds; smells almost moldy, but really more like hay (I do not think they are moldy, btw).
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; 3 tsp tea = three 8-OZ cups water:
……….1st: Boiling, 2’; good color, aroma, flavor; it had a very slight bite—or edge to it—which seemed astringent, but I wasn’t for certain; I wasn’t expecting that, but I was OK with it.
……….2nd: 170F, 3’; tasted sweeter and didn’t have that bite I experienced in the First.
……….3rd: 175F, 4’; decent amount of flavor which was similar to the second; good up-front flavor that faded away quickly.
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: a clear light yellow; very mild aroma.
Flavor of tea liquor: I really struggled with how to describe the flavor. It wasn’t vegetal, or floral, or fruity; I was thinking of something like, straw, or barley, maybe even grain-y or malt-y. But none of those descriptors seemed to fit. And then I read Jillian’s review of Adagio’s Silver Needle, “… delicate sweet hay …”. That seemed to be the closest.
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: Lots of good-looking green, plump buds; I think they smelled slightly malt-y.
Value: I got this as one of four teas in their white tea sampler, which is still on sale for $19 (I haven’t used the bamboo strainer that came with the sampler, but it’s very cool looking and is proudly displayed in my cupboard); their version of silver needles, on it’s own, is currently $31 / 4 OZ, which is a very reasonable price as these silver needles are organic and Fair Trade Certified.
Overall: After reading on Gignko’s Life in Teacup website that you can steep silver needles at boiling I thought I would give it a whorl. Overall, starting at boiling seemed to yield success, and I don’t think it ‘scorched’ the leaves (quite honestly, I don’t know exactly what ‘scorched’ means, anyway). I stepped the temperature down for the Second and Third per a suggestion I thought I read somewhere (now I am thinking I am mistaken, though). After the Third it was too ‘late’ to do any more steepings. I enjoyed watching most of the buds stand straight up-and-down during the second and third steepings. Silver Needles is not a Tea I would chose to drink very often, but—as I have read in many books on Tea—it certainly is one to be experienced at least once.
Experience buying from Adagio http://steepster.com/places/2897-adagio-teas-online-naperville-illinois
Date of Purchase/Amount of Leaf: Bought a sample (11 grams) in late 2011, brewed up March 2012.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Similar to a H&S sample I had of Anji Baicha, but overall not as impressive looking: dark, pale-green color, otherwise somewhat standard looking (like pine needles); vegetal and somewhat spicy aroma, and not too fresh.
Brewing guidelines:Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; my standard Chinese-green tea steeping times and temperatures.
Aroma of tea liquor: very little.
Flavor of tea liquor: Pretty good for a green tea. To me, this style of tea tends to have somewhat of a white tea flavor profile, in that it is light, sweet, and pleasant (with a mild spicy note).
Appearance of leaf during and after steeping: The leaf basically stayed on top during the first steeping, then some of the leaves floated from bottom to top in the later steepings; it was fun to watch the animated-like forest scene. The wet leaf was somewhat pale looking, with a number of tiny pieces here and there, but it was mostly composed of whole leaves and bud sets; it may be a little old, but it’s clearly a quality pluck.
Aroma of wet leaf: good aroma.
Value: From what I have seen, Anji Baicha typically goes for anywhere from about $8/OZ – $20/OZ, and is one of the most expensive ‘recognizably named’ teas I have seen on the market (other than very high end Long Jing). This tea is $6 for 1 OZ, or $24 for 6 OZ ($4/OZ). Not bad for what this tea delivers: you get what you pay for.
Overall: I assume this is their version of Anji Baicha, a version of which was one of the best teas I have ever experienced (H&S version). The first three steepings of this one had reasonable flavor, but there wasn’t much flavor on the forth; as I expect at least four flavorful steepings out of a tea at this price range I was somewhat disappointed in that. Although Adagio’s version doesn’t measure up in appearance, aroma, or taste to the H&S version, at least it is affordable. Still, having had the real stuff, I think I’d rather wait until I can get my hands on something that has real merit.
Experience buying from Den’s Tea http://steepster.com/places/2923-dens-tea-online-torrance-california
Date of Purchase/Age of Leaf: I got this as a sample with my last order (made in January); I believe it is from the 2011 spring harvest.
Size, Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: This 10 gram sample looked like Gyokuro, but with a little finer cut pieces; it smelled strongly vegetal, fresh, good!
Brewing guidelines: 10 grams of dry tea, 5 cups of water; Glass Bodum pot with metal infuser/plunger; stevia added; I more-or-less stuck to Den’s recommendations.
……….1st: 170⁰F; 40"
……….2nd: 180⁰F; 30"
……….3rd: 190⁰F; 20"
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: Bright green and thick (as mentioned in their description); strong grassy aroma, which I found to be very pleasant.
Flavor of tea liquor: The first was not much different to any quality sencha I have had (I’ve only had a few). The second and third were different than the first though, and pleasantly so. ( more details in overall )
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: There was not much of a smell to it, and it was the finest leaf I have EVER seen; it clogged up my stainless-steel Bodum filter more than any other tea; sitting in my filter was a large glob of green stuff, like cut, lumped grass; there were a few larger light-green pieces poking through here and there.
Value: Great as a free sample, but pricy otherwise. ($10.50 / 2 OZ)
During my Yoga this morning I was moved to seek out a Japanese Tea for our morning green (we usually drink Chinese). I wanted something that I hadn’t had before, so what better time to try a sample! I didn’t know what to expect from a tea that is steamed 2 to 3 times as long as a regular sencha. The website said the extra steaming would cause the tea to yield flavor faster during brewing, so I made sure to keep the steep times relatively short per their recommendations (short for green tea, anyway).
This seemed to be the right thing to do, as I was reasonably happy with the flavor, and I really liked the aroma. The first steeping was pretty standard tasting: grassy, a little sweet. The second and third steepings though tasted unlike any other tea I have had. It’s hard to explain, but the words that came to me first while drinking it were: mild and clean; then, refreshing. That was not what I was expecting. The third was certainly had lighter flavor than the second, but it also had what seemed to be a very mild spicy note (I am learning to put down whatever I find/experience in/with the tea, even if it doesn’t make sense to me at the time). So, although I didn’t get what I was expecting, which was more flavor, I did get something that is possibly better. Still, it seems odd to me but I think it’s better because I have never experienced that clean, crisp feeling in my mouth when drinking tea before. It seems like a great way to clean your palette, for example, in-between eating different tasty tidbits. And, that taste, or feeling, was almost, uplifting. Is this Umami?
Well (I’ve checked my empty cup at least twice now while writing this, hoping for more), it’s all gone now. I wish there was more so I could contemplate all of the gifts hiding in this new, taste, flavor, or whatever it’s called. Oh well. Boo hoo for empty cups of tea, and hurray for new experiences!
Experience buying from The Puritea: Overall, positive (I hope to write a review of them, later).
Date of Purchase: Bought in the end of November, 2011; brewed up about three months later.
Packaging: Sample came in a simple silver bag, sealed, with a simple label.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Beautiful tightly curled, light-and-dark-brown chick-pea-sized tea ‘balls’; rich quality Yunnan Red tea aroma: sweet and carmel-y.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam (I normally steep Chinese Red tea in one of our ceramic pots, but I wanted to watch the leaves unfold as they steeped); stevia added; used my standard Chinese Red tea steeping times and temperatures; measured about 3.5 tsp of dry tea; used just under four cups of water.
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: What I judge to be standard Yunnan red tea color and aroma: dark and sweet.
Flavor of tea liquor: Good flavor up through four steepings. I tried a fifth with much less water, and was able to coax a little flavor from it.
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: Beautiful full leaves and buds (almost no pieces); roasted and malty aroma.
Value: Very expensive for a sample ($3 for a quarter-ounce), still pricy at the four oz. price ($19), but not too bad at the eight oz. price ($32). I think there are a few places you could get a good Chinese red like this for less (possibly Jing Tea Shop, or Tea Trekker).
Overall: I was in the mood for a Chinese red to have during dinner, so I spontaneously brewed up this sample. My wife and I both enjoyed it’s rich, sweet, carmel-y flavor. I enjoyed watching the little ‘balls’ unfold over each steeping. I was disappointed that there seemed to be only a quarter ounce in this sample, but overall this was a tea worth drinking. Still, I would look elsewhere before buying this tea again.
Backlogging, and based on my memory
Experience buying from Ovation Teas: Overall, positive. < more details later >
Date of Purchase: Summer 2011, in response to a promotion on Steepster.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: a little odd smelling, but sweet and fruity; I don’t think the flavors I chose quite go together (see Overall for the ingredients). It has these largish, dark, odd shaped nodules that I believe are the nomi fruit, bits of what I believe are dried pear, and stevia leaves (which must be hiding in there somewhere) mixed in with the green tea leaves; I like that it’s mostly comprised of green tea leaves.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot with metal infuser/plunger; sometimes I forget there are stevia leaves in the tea and still add my stevia extract (doooooh-a! how exactly do you spell the sound Bart Simpson’s dad makes when he goofs up, anyway?), my standard Chinese-green tea steeping times and temperatures.
Flavor of tea liquor: Unusual, but good! It’s sweet and strangely fruity. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this particular mixture to anyone else, but I am glad I tried it (I am certainly no expert when it comes to blending tea).
Blends well with: I have used this successfully to help flavor a number of my unflavored greens.
Value: Through a promotion Ovation Teas was running, I got four ounces of this for only the cost of shipping. Thank you Ovation teas! It was worth it!! Otherwise, I think a custom blended tea is about $13 for 4 ounces (depending on the base tea you choose).
Overall: My custom green tea blend included nomi fruit, diced pears, and stevia leaves with strawberry flavoring (in an attempt to keep it simple I choose only four ingredients, but Ovation allows you to choose up to six). I normally use my flavored greens to enhance the flavor of the later steepings of my unflavored greens, but I like this tea enough that I sometimes brew this one up in the evenings by itself. It certainly is fun getting to choose what you put to help flavor the base tea. I don’t know if I would pay full price for a different blended tea of my choice, but I will keep it in mind (I don’t have much confidence in my ability to pick the best combination). It certainly is a great idea of those of us who want something different and don’t have access to all of those wonderful and different flavoring ingredients!
Experience buying from Ovation Teas: Overall, positive. < more details later >
Date of Purchase: Summer 2011, in response to a promotion on Steepster.
Appearance and aroma of dry leaf: attractive looking: lots of light-brown colored bits of flowers and full cardamon seeds mixed in with the darker colored tea leaves and cacao nibs; smells spicy, with chocolate overtones.
Brewing guidelines: Ceramic sixteen-oz cup and lid, tea in metal basket strainer; heated unsweetened soy milk added before steeping; stevia added; my standard black tea steeping times and temperatures (see my profile for details).
Blends well with: I blended this successfully with the Laoshan Chai and with the Java OP I have.
Value: Not bad, especially when you buy it by the pound (I think it is ~ $30/pound).
Overall: I am not a big chai drinker, but my wife is, and we both like this chocolate flavored chai; the chocolate notes this tea brings compliments the traditional chai flavor. For some reason some chai’s give me a dry mouth feeling that I don’t really care for (as with this one). Still, this is a tea my wife drinks often, and sometimes I join her.
It has been taking me entirely too long to do my reviews, so from now on I plan to only mention those things that are noteworthy; why did it take me this long to finally come to this decision?! I don’t know! I admit I judge I’m sometimes a little slow on the uptake. : – }
Experience buying from Seven Cups http://steepster.com/places/2824-seven-cups-online-tucson-arizona
Date of Purchase/Frequency of drinking: I bought this in spring 2011 and have been drinking it off-and-on since then.
Aroma of dry leaf: unbelievably strong smell of smoke!
Brewing guidelines: Ceramic six-cup teapot, with large metallic tea-ball; stevia added; I always use my standard black tea guidelines with this tea.
Aroma of tea liquor: unbelievable smell: I absolutely love that smoky aroma!
Flavor of tea liquor: Incredible! It makes me think of times when I have sat around a campfire on a cold evening while enjoying a warm beverage with friends!
Aroma of wet leaf: Smoky, wonderful!
Blends well with: I would think it wouldn’t take much of this to add a little smoky flavor to any tea.
Value: $4.31 / 50 grams (I think it was 25% off). Not a bad price for the quality (considering it wasn’t a ‘fresh’ tea).
Overall: When I read in Heiss and Heiss’s Tea Enthusiast’s handbook that Lapsang Souchong is a ‘love it or hate it tea ’ I just had to try it. And, fitting with what they said, this tea absolutely blew me away when I first tried it (astonishingly enough, even my wife liked it initially, but she has sense changed her mind). I will never forget that drinking this tea gives me a sense of sitting around a campfire, which still amazes me, as I truly enjoy recalling that image every time I drink it. I have been drinking this tea here-and-there since I bought it, and I spontaneously decided to brew up the last of it today (which inspired me to finally write this review). I am sad that it’s gone (but the reality is it’s time to make room for new teas, although this one’s going to be hard to replace). A minor note: when drinking the first steeping after it sat and cooled quite a bit I noticed that I don’t like the taste as much as when it hot (unlike some teas which can be just as good). Still, I really enjoy both the taste and the aroma of this tea. I recently purchased a Lapsang from Culinary Teas, so I’ll have to see how good that one is. I think Lapsang Souchong is a tea I have to have in my cupboard at all times (it may even have to be Seven Cups Strong Smoke version, we’ll see). I can believe that this is a love it or hate it tea, and I am definitely in the ‘love it’ camp (of course, with the ones sitting around that campfire!). I think of the legend many years ago when some oppressive overlord decided to pay a visit to a tea plantation in China. This visit forced the tea farmers to inadvertently hide their unprocessed tea leaf stash in a place where the leaves took on a smoky flavor. That unusual happenstance allows me to reap the benefits! Thank you to all of the people and the unusual circumstances who/which made this wonderful smokey tea possible!
Experience buying from @Ashley: I bought this tea from Ashley when she was selling all of her tea. I received the tea quickly through the mail and my package was filled with many surprises. Thank you Ashley!
Packaging: 52Teas packaging is very professional: the iced tea comes loose in a small, sturdy brown paper almost-envelope-like looking package, with the label on the front.
Appearance and aroma of dry leaf: Very fine tea leaves, with a strong smell, of Papaya!
Brewing guidelines: I used a fine mesh Teavana metal basket strainer inside a ceramic six-cup pot (yes, it was a little awkward in how it fit); stevia added.
…………….1st: near boiling, 3’
…………….2nd: boiling, 5’
…………….3rd: boiling, 8’
Color of tea liquor: Can’t remember for certain, but think it was an attractive dark reddish-brown color.
Flavor of tea liquor: Good! Iced, it tastes sweet and fruity. Although the last steeping was fairly weak, we still got three good steepings out of it.
Overall: Our first go around with one of Frank’s iced teas, and we liked it. I used my new metal basket strainer I just bought from Teavana, and while I like that the mesh is very fine, it was so fine it quickly got clogged up and I had to pour the water very slowly (I was hoping the fine mesh would help keep the tea in the strainer without the smaller bits sneaking out; it did it’s job, it just took f o r e v e r to pour that water). It was a little agonizing, but it’s really just a consequence of my choosing to use that particular filter for this very finely cut tea. I’ll make sure to choose a different filter next time. All that to say, I tried this tea from one of those ubiquitous cups of forgotten tea after drinking a glass of H&S passion fruit tea (which I often brew up and drink iced) and found that this Papaya tea was better tasting.
Backlogging, and based almost entirely on relatively recent memory
Experience buying from Village Tea Company Online: Overall, positive (I hope to write a more formal review later)
Packaging: I love the packaging: very stylish looking sturdy paper cylinders, with a very tightly fitting lid. The 110 grams of tea comes in two beige colored cloth bags (almost like a bag of gold dust a prospector might keep stashed away!), and there are about 10 of those little paper teabags to put the ‘gold’ in. This is probably the most ingenious packing for tea that I have ever seen. It really makes the experience brewing it up a little more fun.
Appearance and aroma of dry leaf: Looks just like plain rooibus; but the aroma, ahh, the aroma, it is possibly my favorite smelling tea (that, and Harney’s Vanilla Comoro): it reminds me of walking into one of those climate controlled cigar rooms and taking a deep breath (I used to smoke a cigar on rare occasions, but it’s been a long time).
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, with metal infuser/plunger; stevia added. I should probably use a pot that retains the heat better, but I love seeing the color of this tea.
……….1st: Near boiling; 2’…….Awesome!
……….2nd: Nearer boiling; 3’…Good.
……….3rd: Boiling; 5’……………Decent enough.
Color and aroma of tea liquor: a beautiful dark, rosy-red color; a wonderful vanilla smell.
Flavor of tea liquor: Awesome! It’s sweet, with strong notes of vanilla and possibly milder notes of tobacco. I can usually get three decent steeping out of this, even if it means steeping it for ten minutes for the third (I love that you can’t over-steep an herbal tea).
Blends well with: I blended it with one plain rooibus with success.
Value: Although I was fortunate enough to buy this on a promotional deal, it’s on the pricy side for a flavored rooibos at their standard price ($13.95/110 grams).
Overall: Although I am a green tea fanatic, I absolutely love this tea! I think I must really like vanilla, for I seem to love anything with vanilla in it (now that I think of it, in regards to ice cream I do prefer vanilla over chocolate). To me, in many ways, this tea smells like fresh, quality tobacco, and although I don’t smoke, I love the smell of good tobacco. I sometimes make this as a treat in the evening. This is a tea I will seriously consider buying again when I run out. It ROCKS!