166 Tasting Notes


This is one very good tea (that I almost burned myself preparing, as the lid to the kettle fell off when I picked it up, but it was worth the danger)

The dry blend consists of tightly rolled oolong tea, raspberry bits, and cashew pieces. The aroma is rich, buttery cashew. Brewed up, there’s an entirely different dimension to the aroma, floral, complicated, and a little mysterious. The oolong in this blend is not as green as Tie Guan Yin, and has a richer and darker feel overall, though with some similarity in floral notes. In terms of flavor, there’s a light touch of raspberry sweetness, and the cashew note is still quite strong, but the tea itself is dominant. Having grown up in a region more known for greens and oolongs than black teas, and with a family that favors them more, the taste of this brew is what I immediately recognize as what “tea from back home” should be like. It’s very distinct and almost indefinable, and the addition of raspberry and cashew, in this case, balances it quite well in a way I would never have imagined. I also sense that the caffeine content of this one is fairly high, it definitely wakes me up a little bit while having a calming effect as well. Overall, very glad I tried it, and sad that there’s only a little bit.

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[This note was originally posted to the older version of North Winds but is intended for this version.]

I’ve been interested in trying more black tea blends lately, so this is one of the ones I ordered. The blend is composed of two kinds of tea leaves, both spindly and dark but one with golden undersides—this is probably the dian hong. The aroma is an intense, pleasant waft of chocolate and malt. The taste is just what you’d expect from that too, a very welcoming combination of chocolate, malt, and nutty notes, and plus there’s that full-bodied, bready richness from the dian hong. The finish is clear and sweet, and reminiscent of apricot. It’s a wonderfully cozy tea for breakfast or any other time of day!

Brendan’s inspiration behind this tea is also great to read. Maybe we’ll see some lovely teas inspired by the Oregon wilderness in the future :)

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Having this on a cold evening, I think I have to increase the rating because it’s just that scrumptious. It really has the wintry sweetness of a liqueur-soaked plum just right, and isn’t overwhelming in spite of the multitude of rich flavors. A perfect little dessert tea!

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I was very excited to try this one after I heard about it! The dry blend has leaves of varying sizes, nice and fresh green-colored, with some flower petals. The aroma is definitely creamy, with a bit of liqueur and caramel undertones. The overall effect is quite rich and intoxicating. Brewed up, the tea has a light clean green color (devoid of yellow undertone) that I’ve only seen with white teas so far. The overall mouthfeel of the tea is light, and the creaminess is nicely mellowed out, with a bit of savory quality that is reminiscent of baked goods. There is a light floral-vegetal sweetness that I’ve encountered in other white blends from Butiki in the past, which brightens the effect somewhat. Overall, one of the most unique dessert-like blends I’ve tried so far!

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I’ve tried this one a few more times since the somewhat rushed initial tasting note, so I feel that I can give it a rating now. Overall, it’s very enjoyable, if lighter than I expected, with just a touch less presence than the original Laoshan Black. The cocoa notes are highly delectable, though I’m not getting much of the toasted rice in it. There is a lingering smoky, roasty quality in the finish, which becomes more dominant on the second infusion. I was surprised to find that Shui Jin Gui oolong was in this blend, which explains that smokiness! As it happens, Shui Jin Gui is one of my favorites from Verdant, and I was sad to see it on the archived, “no plans to offer it again” page. It’s nice to encounter it here again.

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drank Queen Catherine by Harney & Sons
166 tasting notes

A while ago, I asked for recommendations on everyone’s favorite black tea blends, and this one was mentioned quite a few times. I’m quite happy to be finally trying it now!

The dry tea is a blend of different types of black tea leaves, some looking distinctively golden. There’s a rich malt aroma even with the dry leaf, which I don’t often find in Chinese black teas—outside of, say, Lapsang or very cocoa-note-heavy teas, even the best-tasting black teas often have very little dry aroma to me. The tea brews to an amber golden color, and is surprisingly light in body. The taste is malty, but not too rich, without the “buttery” or heavy mouthfeel found in some similar teas. There’s a touch of roasty, or smoky flavor to it, almost like a Shuixian, and just a hint of sweetness. It’s a very well-balanced tea that is a great—and not too strong—start to the day.

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drank Zen by Tazo
166 tasting notes

I received a few bags of this as part of a holiday gift at work. While I haven’t always been impressed by Tazo’s filter bags in the past, today this brewed up to a light, smooth green tea that was fairly enjoyable. The light notes of lemongrass and mint are also quite nice. I think with increased experience in trying many different kinds of tea over the last year, I’ve come to be more careful in brewing bagged tea as well, so that the end result can be better than the “bad grocery store tea” reputation that sometimes precedes them.


And there is the secret to enjoyable bagged tea – give it the same effort you give your loose tea. More often than not you will be rewarded.


Good advice to live by, and it applies to many other seemingly low-effort things as well!

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I’ve gone through some ups and downs with this one—from really enjoying it at first taste, to falling dramatically out of love with it, to liking it again. And all over the course of one tagalong container, which is only 5 sachets! It is a tea that is easy to make astringent if the water is too hot, and there’s a bite from the bergamot or other flavoring that is almost peppery at times. But with more careful treatment this is still a light, enjoyable blend, and also takes a little bit of sugar nicely.

Miss Starfish

I found this one rather finicky as well. Enjoyable though :)


I have one sachet left so I’m hoping it will behave!

Miss Starfish

Fingers crossed! Haha, moody little thing.

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drank Silver Buds Yabao by Verdant Tea
166 tasting notes

This is the second yabao that I’ve tried, the first being from Whispering Pines. These buds from Verdant are thinner and sharper, looking more like wild bamboo shoots, though the dry aroma of pine, rosemary, and dried grass is much the same and quite inviting. The difference that comes through when brewed is an additional, cinnamon-sugar aroma that is just a little spicy and sweet. It’s very unique, though the overall impression of the brew is still quite subtle, even more so than the WP version. Now I finally understand why Verdant had a blend called Yabao Snickerdoodle, because that’s exactly what this reminds me of!

Will play more with multiple infusions some other time, I feel like there’s more I could be getting out of it. I do find the part in the description about yabao being relatively obscure in China to be true, it’s a tea I have never seen in China or mentioned by anyone I know there, and there is relatively little information about it even online. It is something that I hope people will appreciate more in the coming years.

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I ordered just a sample size of this, because on the one hand, it sounds amazing, but on the other hand, my love for green teas and green blends has been flagging lately, and I wasn’t sure if I would love it.

The blend looks lovely—Laoshan Green tea in those familiar curls, with yellow safflowers, long rice grains, and juniper berries. The brew comes out very harmonious, with a vegetal green base that isn’t distracting or too heady, and a rich, buttery finish with hints of vanilla and toasted rice, the rice being less evident than in the Laoshan Chocolate Genmaicha. I’m not sure if I’m getting anything from the juniper or safflowers, but then again, the berries might just be there for decoration. Overall, it’s a comforting and enjoyable blend, and worth trying, though I’m not sure I’ll get more as it’s not often available, and didn’t amaze me so much that I would search far and wide for it.

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

I grew up in a tea-loving family, and tea has always been a part of the daily life. I’m still astounded by the amount of tea and teaware back home every time I visit! While I’m most familiar with straight Chinese teas, I’m growing to explore and appreciate other types of tea, including blended and flavored ones. A good blend can reflect the thought and creativity that was put into making it, instead of being too sweet or busy in a way that gives the “genre” a bad rap.

-most black teas (even lapsang)
-most oolongs, especially Fujian teas, baozhong and dancong
-straight white teas

Variable (some are great, some not so):
-most green teas
-tie guan yin
-flavored white teas

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


Southern California

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