336 Tasting Notes

drank UVA Highlands by Harney & Sons
335 tasting notes

This is literally the THIRD Saturday I’ve had off since early August. And this is the first one of them I haven’t been traveling. I don’t know what to do with myself! (Oh, wait… yes I do. Homework.)

Normally, I shy away from this kind of tea; I have to be in the right mood for something “minty” like the packaging describes. Today, I wanted to try something different, and this fit the bill.

The leaves are small and dark brown. The aroma is pretty faint, but a little odd… it’s not quite smoky, it’s more rubbery.

The water wasn’t quite boiling when I took it off the stove, but I steeped for about four minutes. It might be partly my fault, but this tea is quite brisk. I can see where they get “mint,” but it’s more of a vaguely “cool” note than true “mint.” Not really a flavor I enjoy, but definitely a good pick-up.

I may have to try this on a shorter steep time before I pass my final judgment, but my first impression: not bad. Nothing to write home about, unlike some of the other teas in H&S’s same sample pack, but not bad.

EDIT: Almost forgot – I have a tea blog! http://steepinclined.wordpress.com/

This is my first blog, so I’m still learning a lot of the ropes. It’s a beginner’s guide to loose-leaf tea, and while it’s basic at this point, it will eventually become a “tea guide” so that if you’re curious about something particular about tea – say, Earl Greys, Da Hong Paos, variable-temperature kettles, or shopping for matcha ware – it’ll give you a starting point.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

Congratulations on the new blog!

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drank UVA Highlands by Harney & Sons
335 tasting notes

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drank Panyang Congou by Harney & Sons
335 tasting notes

So I asked for some teas from the Harney & Sons print catalogue for my birthday, since grandparents are old, have a hard time getting out of the house, and really only order things from print catalogs. Among other things, I asked for a black tea sampler that had this and three other teas.

Well, I got everything I asked for. Plus a POUND of this. I have no idea how I wound up with a POUND, but I’m not about to complain.

Fortunately, I like this tea. Small, thin black leaves and a warm dry leaf smell. The scent of the liquor itself is roastier, with some barky/mossy notes. The taste I got, which matches the scent, is a little on the bright side without being astringent or citrus-y. It’s a very pleasant tea, it reminds me a bit of a bailin gongfu. I love the barkiness as I swallow.

I would put it higher than a 78, which was its Steepster score at the time I wrote this. I don’t think the flavor is quite full enough to put it in the 90’s – may need a few more leaves – but it’s very enjoyable. I could easily see this becoming a staple tea. Especially since I have a pound of it.

Also! I’m about to start a tea blog! I’ll post the link for it once I’ve got it set up, but I plan to write a tea blog that’s a resource to beginning, casual, or just generally inexperienced loose-leaf tea drinkers who wish to broaden their horizons. There’s definitely going to be a little of “learning alongside my readers,” but I’ve wanted to start a tea blog for some time… and now that creating a blog is one of the long-term projects for my Writing in Digital Media class (I’m going for my Master’s in Professional Writing), what better opportunity?

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Pu Erh Tahiti by Adagio Teas
335 tasting notes

Upon hearing me talk about how much I like pu erhs, my boss recently gave me a handful of her flavored pu erh teas from Adagio. Among such selections as Pu Erh Chorange (which I really like) and Pu Erh Spice was this little gem, Pu Erh Tahiti. Which is apparently a pu erh with tropical fruit flavors.

Uh huh, this tea is every bit as weird as it sounds. When I smelled the bag, I thought, “Well, maybe it’ll taste better in liquid form.” Aaaaaand it doesn’t. I don’t know how to describe it. Let’s just say that earthy/fishy and mango/pineapple/citrus/tropical do not go well together – the final result is somewhere between burnt rubber and something going bad. It’s even worse when it cools. (…Which I accidentally let it do. Whoops.) I’ll try to finish the cup, but I make no guarantees.

Actually, this is part of what I love about talking tea. I love telling stories about the weird-ass, disgusting teas almost as much as I love spouting poetry about the really good ones. Another weird-ass tea tasting for the win!

(Side note: speaking of coworkers and weird teas, I offered to let one of our part-timers – who is not a tea drinker at all – try one of my favorite shus recently, just for the experience of having a tea that I kept describing as tasting like dirt. He was like, “This does taste like dirt. … It’s really good. Like, I would drink a whole pot of this!” I have created a new convert! SCORE!)

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How have I not put up a review of this yet?

The key between c & e is broken on my computer, so there’s gonna be some creative phrasing up in here.

I’m having this tea partly to help me stay awake & partly as a comfort. My anxiety has been piquing a bit since I have a relatively minor situation that has been stressing me out because it sets off my guilt complex along with some other fears. I’m just trying to tell myself that it’s not necessary for me to react with stress & fear, even though that’s my normal habit.

ANYWHO. I really, really like this tea. It’s just so smooth. It’s ever so slightly astringent in the way that breakfast teas normally are, & the smokiness is artfully warm, not brash. Even just sniffing the aroma is a comfort. Nice aftertaste, too. It seems like a great first-thing-in-the-morning tea when it’s freezing & snowy out. Calmly assertive.

Christina / BooksandTea

I hope your keyboard gets fixed soon. Gotta be tough finding ways around using the letter D.


I think this would make an awesome writing exercise. Pick a letter to be off limits and phrase everything around it? Ha ha! My daughter is going to enjoy this when school starts back…

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…Uh, so confession: I’m not actually sure this is the tea I’m drinking. I took one of my Teavivre pu-erh samples, put it into a tin, didn’t label the tin, and then forgot about it until I randomly opened it up one day while I was looking for something else. Occam’s razor says this is the shu that fits.

I don’t really have anything to say about this that I haven’t said before. I just really, really like it. I always think of fresh, dark spring dirt and moss. I also like how the flavor is so thick. I was strongly considering coffee this morning, but I decided I needed tea instead, and the thickness makes me feel like I’m drinking a wake-up beverage.

So overall, this tea – like any of my favorite shus – is a combination of caffeine, imagery, and the placebo effect!

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

LOL! The shu that fits…love it!

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Oh LORD this tea is old! I think I got it sometime during the summer last year? So it’s right about a year old. Haha whoops. I only drink white teas once in a blue moon, and I was on a jasmine hiatus for a long time because I just got so sick of it. So not a quick demise for this poor tea.

This one went in the gaiwan tonight. Originally, the tea of the night was going to be my Laoshan Green, but I burned it. (Laoshan Green and I… I just don’t think it was meant to be.) I remember very little from the last time I tried this, just that it tasted like a white tea with jasmine.

Dry leaves look like they do in the picture; very long and soft.

Water is in the 170-180 degree range? The teapot had just started hissing.

Steep 1: 10 s. We – e – ell! This is unexpected! Floating atop the jasmine flavor of this gently pale liquor is a ringing overtone of… citrus? What in the world. I am seriously getting, like, quasi-lemon something. No, not lemon, lemon’s too “dark” a flavor, but it’s legit kind of citrusy. I am so surprised that I am paying more attention to that than the jasmine flavor. Not a complaint, though. And I just spilled a bit on my pants.

The jasmine is more pronounced, almost to the point of being husky, in the aroma of the wet leaves.

Steep 2: 15 s. They dry leaves smell almost woody now. (This tasting is certainly full of curveballs.) Honestly, I don’t get a ton of difference between this steep and the last, just maybe that the “husky” jasmine is a little stronger. Now, it’s not husky as in overpowering or anything even close; that word is just what came to mind when I tried to think of how to describe the texture.

… Are my tastebuds being influenced by my burnt Laoshan Green debacle?

Steep 3: …whoops. I had just enough for one mouthful, so I did about 15-20 s. Again, flavor is still about the same.

So overall, this is a really nice little white tea that’s got some surprises in it. It’s a good sleepytime beverage, too.


Jasmine works wonders for me when I can’t sleep too.

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Morning tea for the day, as I peruse YouTube and try to figure out the bass line of a song by one of my favorite bands, a Japanese group by the name of Luna Sea. And, of course, finding that I got said bass line wrong. _

I don’t think I’ve reviewed this tea on here yet, but I’ve come to quite like it. It reminds me of a bailin gongfu tea or something. Brisk and misty. There’s a woodsy quality in the back of the mouth too, almost like fresh mulch. Because it’s Nepalese, I think I automatically think “mountains” every time I drink it. I think I got it a sliver on the bitter side this morning, but no worry. That could also be just some natural astringency.

EDIT: So of course when I post this, up pops my WAY more detailed review from a month ago! Ha.

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Gunpowder from Soma

This was one I basically picked up on a whim when I visited my friend in Bloomington. There was a coffee shop that sold loose leaf tea, so I got some of this and some Assam.

This is kinda nice. It’s got a grassy minty thing going on in a way that’s nice and cooling, not overpowering and antiseptic. An especially nice thing after having had fast food for dinner earlier, and Big Cheez-Its for a snack (the best junk snack in the world, but I always feel like I need to wash my mouth after I eat them.) This shall be my cleansing tea.


Bloomington? Indiana? Do you know the name of the coffee shop? That’s pretty close to my stomping grounds.


I want to say it’s Soma? Unfortunately I’m worthless with street names and intersections. When I heard they had loose leaf tea for sale, I was expecting them to have pre-packaged things ready to sell, but they wound up taking tea out of their stock, which made me feel a little guilty, but they were willing to do it and said they had a lot of it. I got a gunpowder and Assam relatively inexpensively. I also got an iced sencha tea that day that was quite tasty (maybe because it was so hot outside!)


It just occurred to me – unless I’m confusing it with something else, there may be two different versions of that shop. After leaving the one we went to, we walked a couple of blocks down to a place called Baked (which bakes cookies to order.)


Looked it up. You are correct, there are two shops. I’ll attempt to hit the other one – they have a parking lot. Being a college town full of little shops, I was sure there had to be some one with loose tea.

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I went on a small Mahamosa spree recently (I LOVE their EG Cream), and I decided to try some teas of nationalities with which I was not familiar. I got a Russian tea, a Kenyan tea, and this Nepalese tea.

I prepared this in the gaiwan tonight. I started reading a guidebook-type thing to tea yesterday, and it makes me want to be more precise and refined with my tea brewing.

So of course I completely did not measure the amount of time on the first steep at all. It’s somewhere between 30-45 s.

The dry leaves are mostly small and dark brown-black with some lighter flecks. There are longer leaves among the short ones. Wet leaves lighten in color, and have a fairly full-bodied wood/mud aroma. Liquor is on the lighter side of amber.

The word that comes to mind when tasting it is “mulch.” I’m not sure why. It’s almost a woodsy flavor, but it’s just on this side of earthy-astringent. It’s actually fairly brisk.

The flavor grows another angle on the second steep. It’s a flavor whose angle goes “down,” goes deeper. It’s a flavor that I’d normally find kind of weird in other things, but here it’s just part of the experience. It’s hard to describe, but I keep wanting to say mud? There’s something almost mossy about it. An edge of something resembling sweetness.

On the third steep, the highs and lows of the tea have evened out, but the woodsiness is more defined. Now I really imagine gnawing on mulch, or even wood products. It’s a pleasantly rounded flavor.

Had I not taken the time to do the very involved tasting with this – complete with gaiwan and slurps – I would have probably drank it and thought, “Eh, that’s alright.” Honestly, it doesn’t jump out and grab me, but I find it enjoyable, especially during this third sip in which the woodsiness comes out.

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The name’s Holly. 27. Work for a small IT company. About to finish a Master’s degree this winter. ISFJ for what it’s worth. I play various instruments (mostly bass guitar right now), attempt to write songs that I’m too scared to play for anyone, and I’m currently taking voice lessons. I also enjoy starting various hobbies, wearing monochromes, writing, cooking, taking walks, and various and sundry other things…

I’ve been a tea drinker since spring of 2013. Tea is a source of happiness, positivity, curiosity, and relaxation (…and caffeine) for me.

I’ve been on and off this site over the years, and I even had a separate tea blog at one point. For now, I’m just working on getting back in the habit of enjoying tea regularly and to its fullest.

Love: Malty Chinese black teas, shu/ripe pu erhs, soft flowery teas (esp. jasmine teas)

Like: Japanese green teas, sheng/ripe pu erhs, white teas

Still trying to get into: Most oolongs, chai teas

Not crazy about: Roasty teas, fruity teas, rooibos, many (not all) herbal teas

90-100: YEAH!
80-89: Nice! This is good stuff.
70-79: Respectable tea.
60-69: Not bad.
50-59: Middling. Not really worth it.
25-49: Eeeeeugh. Not good.
0-24: Did you know you can use tea leaves as odor absorbent?



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