117 Tasting Notes

I did a little alchemy with some teas I had on hand that I thought would blend nicely—the unknown green tea I’ve spent a few notes on figuring out, an unknown white tea that was quite subtle with a light stonefruit note, and a few buds of Yabao from Whispering Pines. It turns out that the Yabao dominates, even though I only put two buds in this cup. The tea has that very fresh, light pine quality, with a bit of juicy vegetal sweetness. The green tea adds a very faint bitterness to the background, actually a good thing in this case. Overall it was fairly interesting, more full-bodied than Yabao by itself, with the fruitiness of the other teas somewhat tempered.

I also tried a sample that was Whittard English Rose Black Tea, but it was unlike the ones listed on Steepster—it specifically was stated to contain no petals. The tea was not marketed on the main Whittard site but sold by an authorized distributor overseas. This was a mellow black tea with a light floral note, but it did not smell or taste sharply of rose. There was also a touch of fresh apple in the aroma. It was a pretty enjoyable, gentle blend that was not overly perfumed, something I appreciate.

In conclusion…I need to get more teas soon.

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As far as bagged Earl Grey goes, this is a very good one. The bergamot is subtle but enjoyable, with no oils floating to the top as there may be in stronger blends—I think this is due to the aging process they describe. The tea base itself is quite mellow and smooth, not knock-your-socks-off as others of this kind can be. I only had a sample of this, but I would be happy to have it on hand for busy days, it’s definitely above average in the bagged black tea department.

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drank Amaretto Cherry by Design a Tea
117 tasting notes

Looks like there’s an entry for the oolong version of this tea, but not the black one yet. Anyway, this was pretty good. The cherry flavor was fresh and natural-seeming, and the amaretto was definitely authentic, though more subtle. There is just enough tartness to be interesting. It’s one of these combinations that can never go wrong. The tea base was also nicely smooth in this one, and more like how I had remembered the first sample being. The finish was slightly acerbic/dry, but not enough to be offputting.

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drank Pear Cider Green by Design a Tea
117 tasting notes

Okay, so this one is a bit of a conundrum. I ordered pear cider, the invoice I received says pear cider, but the handwritten slip says rum cider. However, it tastes more pear than rum, so I’ll say that they got the order right. :)

This one is a very gentle tea, with a mellow, Japanese-styled green tea base. The fruit flavors are quite juicy without being too sweet. What impresses me is that there’s an almost effervescent quality to it, that touch of bubbly sugary spice that really does remind me of cider. I’m a little conflicted on the best preparation for this—it seems like a good cozy tea to serve warm, but in my experience fruity greens are best enjoyed cold. Regardless, it was a rather unique and fun tea.

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Looks like I designed a tea that was already in the system for once! This one smelled a little confusing—sweet, but hard to differentiate the ingredients. The tea itself is quite robust. I’m probably imagining things, but the black tea base seems different this time; maybe this one came from a stronger batch, or I had oversteeped it. In any case, it wasn’t as crisp as the previous black tea I had tried from them.

The pomegranate flavor is quite nice, just a little tart without being overly so. The vanilla is not prominent, but adds some sweetness. The lingering taste of these flavors is very delicate, much more so than the brew itself. Overall, it was fairly enjoyable, but probably not a reorder.

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Another custom sample from Design-a-Tea. Unfortunately I don’t have as much of a rave review for this one as I did for the previous, the reason being that it’s way too tart. The tartness made it seem as if there was hibiscus in the mix, and I did find a magenta-red piece of something in the tea sachet that ended up bleeding a lot of bright color into the cup toward the end. Not really what I was looking for in this blend. The oolong tea base is just ok, slightly bitter at first, but without any real presence or oolong-like qualities.

On the plus side, the peach and apricot flavors aren’t bad, and are quite fresh. The apricot is stronger, while the peach is mellow and rather creamy. Most of my other samples are black teas, so hopefully they will be better.

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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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drank White Goji Blossom by Art of Tea
117 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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drank Yanagi Premium by Harney & Sons
117 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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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.

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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