111 Tasting Notes

84

A fruity black tea that I can find no fault with? Could it be?

I received this as the “extra” in my order of 5 samples from Design a Tea. The aroma is quite lovely—rich caramel and strawberry, not cloying or artificial as these flavors can sometimes be. The caramel isn’t too strong in the brewed tea; while overall it reminds me of Lupicia’s caramel tea, I think this one is more balanced and less overwhelming.

While I only had one sachet, I divided the brew and iced half of it. The iced version is more impressive—the tea base is very good and crisp, and seems like Ceylon. Perfect for summer with just that touch of fresh strawberry (and it still feels like summer here!) The hot version is more creamy and sweet, less distinguished than the cold but still enjoyable. Too often the tea itself is not great in these types of blends, and tastes downright messy when the other ingredients are blended out of proportion. This one is an exception to the rule, and even defies my expectation that appetizing aroma is inversely proportional to taste. I hope the rest of the samples are of this quality as well!

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An update on the mysterious, unidentified, probably-Longjing green tea:

I took a small amount out of the original tin and stored it in a small plastic container for bringing to work. I didn’t end up drinking it at work, and it remained in the cupboard. After about a week, I noticed that the container didn’t completely snap shut at one corner, so while there wasn’t a gap that could have allowed any objects to get in or fall out, the tea had probably been exposed to outside air to some extent. Seeing as it was probably perfectly fine and hadn’t been exposed to moisture or other strongly-scented teas, I thought I would still give it a try. And it was…a lot better?

The aroma and taste now have a very subtle, smooth sweetness I usually associate with good quality white teas. It’s nothing artificial or external. There’s something reminiscent of malt sugar and candied plums. Furthermore, this tea used to have a strong, lingering note that I couldn’t identify, which I did not really like—something like burnt bamboo, if I really had to stretch my imagination. Now, after storage, that note is completely gone. If I were giving ratings (a somewhat futile endeavor for the “random steepings” category), this one would have just jumped up by 20 points. Anyone have any input on what might have happened here? The container had not previously housed any flavored or scented items. Everything is clean and the tea definitely hasn’t spoiled.

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70
drank White Goji Blossom by Art of Tea
111 tasting notes

I happened across a cafe serving various Art of Tea teas while running errands, and decided to try this one since the description sounded nice and inviting. I didn’t get a look at the dry tea leaf blend. The brewed tea is a light amber orange color, with a pleasant floral aroma. As with many white teas, any addition of other flavors overpowers the tea base, even if, in this case, the flavors themselves are quite subtle. The most prominent note is lemon myrtle, which is quite gentle and not sharply citrusy as it can be in some blends. While I’m familiar with goji berry from its use in family recipes (it’s a very nice addition to Chinese-styled porridges), its presence here is very faint, and I would not have been able to identify it without knowing it was there. Overall, this is a mellow tea, floral and slightly sweet, but not interesting enough to warrant being a premium product with matching price tag. I have still yet to find a really impressive flavored white tea blend.

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80
drank Yanagi Premium by Harney & Sons
111 tasting notes

Another sample I ordered recently. The leaves are dark green and flat, and the dry aroma is similar to sencha as well as powdered matcha. The brewed tea is a vivid light green. The taste is vegetal, with a very identifiable spinach broth quality, as well as the nori seaweed taste common to sencha. It can have a slight bitterness which is absent in cold brew, and is overall quite mild, yet rich flavor-wise.

The official page for this tea says that it is considered not good enough to be sencha, but I found it quite enjoyable as a light green tea. It has been a while since I tried the H&S sencha, so I am not sure how they compare, but this one seems a touch less strong.

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62
drank Florence by Harney & Sons
111 tasting notes

I ordered a sample of this since it seemed to be one of the more popular H&S teas. The dry leaf has a very strong, bitter chocolate scent, which lingers on in the brewed cup. While this tea definitely tastes like chocolate, it’s not exactly rich—like a bar of chocolate that is mostly cocoa solids and has been sitting on the shelf for a while. The tea base doesn’t have much of a presence, and I tasted neither astringency nor “tea fragrance” in spite of steeping for a while. There is a hazlenut note in the background, which is quite mellow, but almost makes the tea profile seem weaker—not sure how to explain this, but it’s something that doesn’t even register as “a flavor” unless I pay attention to it. The whole cup tastes more like what I would have expected a second steep to be. Overall, it’s inoffensive but not particularly appealing to me. I’ve probably been spoiled on certain other teas that naturally have a chocolate-like taste…

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94

Cold brewing this one for the last days of summer. Clear honey sweetness, a touch of malt and baked-goods flavor, and a rich buttery finish that lingers on, clearing up to just a hint of something floral. The previous time I cold brewed this tea for a long time (8+ hours instead of 6 like this time), I also got a distinct note of fresh, fibrous stone fruit. As expected, this is a very wonderful iced tea, rich but crisp.

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One part Laoshan Black first picking + one part Lily Chai Tea Snow Flake = magic. The chocolate, almond and coconut all come through evenly in this one. I picked these two teas to blend not only because of the flavors, but because both are black teas that brew up to a relatively light color and low astringency. The result is a cup with rich aroma and taste, without a heavy mouthfeel.

By the way, I’ve narrowed down the possible contents of my mystery can of green tea to two choices: Longjing or Laoshan green tea (very different from the type acquired through Verdant). I don’t have enough experience with Longjing to definitively say it’s one or the other yet. Pictures of both kinds of tea that come in this packaging look rather similar to what I have.

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90

A very lovely dancong! The dry leaves are dark and spindly, with a fragrance similar to other dancongs I had tried—citrus, honey, and incense, but with more of a floral perfume that was unique to this one. The brewed tea is intoxicatingly fragrant. In terms of flavor, in addition to the very clear honeyed citrus sweetness, there’s also a hint of roasted nuts, and a different sort of quality that I associate with other oolongs like shui xian—a kind of sweet, aromatic roastiness. It’s not a “heavy” tea, but somehow an intense one.

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88

In the spirit of trying everything once, I cold brewed this. Don’t.

(It still makes a very lovely regular cup of tea, though!)

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84

This tea has grown on me a lot. I’d said a while back that I couldn’t get an enjoyable Western-styled brew out of it, but that has changed since then, and it’s become a very nice tea to have on hand at work. Love the cocoa, malt, and the overall “texture” of it—it’s rich without being sweet, complex without being challenging. It’s taken me a while to love, but it’s a really lovely cozy tea as the weather is slowly getting cooler.

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Profile

Bio

Biologist, aspiring writer, and a cat that learned to type.

A former, or rather reformed, purist.

I grew up in a very Asian family of academics with more teapots than friends (and they weren’t lacking in friends). For the first part of my life my experience with tea was limited to traditional Chinese styles, and while it made me appreciate tea as a part of daily life, there were many other styles and varieties of tea I didn’t know anything about. (And I admit I didn’t understand everything my family was saying about tea either…) Since then I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons and explore teas unusual or unfamiliar to me. But a good oolong is still the surest way to make for a perfect afternoon.

I usually won’t log teas I’ve reviewed before unless I have something to add, have changed the preparation, or if it’s a sipdown.

Ratings:
90-100: definite repurchase if possible, recommended
80-90: enjoyed, might repurchase
70-80: fair to good, wouldn’t mind a cup now and then
60-70: not great, won’t actively warn people away from it
50-60: there’s still a chance I’d take this if it were free
under 50: didn’t like it

Location

Southern California

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