122 Tasting Notes


Backlog from this crazy week…
I’m not going to rate this just yet, because I’m not confident yet in my home brewing setup, even though I have already had this twice.
First time:
Brewed gong fu style in my new lotus themed ru kiln travel set (which I absolutely adore, by the way). I used about two heaping teaspoons (around 3 g, maybe, my scale is for big things!), and I measure the gaiwan at 120 ml (4 oz) full up to the brim, but the cup only has 60 ml, and all but the first two steeps usually fit in it. The rinse tasted like minerally water, I think I steeped a total of 4 times starting with 10 seconds and going up 5 seconds each steep. The set keeps the tea really hot, so I had to wait a while to get any flavors out, but even then they were light. It was like very faintly floral hot water with unfiltered honey in it. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for plain sweet teas, but this one and the milk oolong I had last week just struck me a purely sweet, with not much else going on. I think I may actually be getting tired of unflavored oolongs, because that is like 90% of what I’ve been drinking lately.
Second time:
Western style in my new tiny 6 oz yellow teacup that I got a goodwill (and there were two, so one for home and one for the office!). Two 3 minute steeps, the first of which was more honey and the second of which had a slightly stronger floral and less sweet flavor than when I brewed this tea gong fu.
I still think I’m doing something wrong with this tea. It may just be that I’m not in the mood?

Flavors: Honey

195 °F / 90 °C 1 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Oh goodness… As it’s steeping, this tea smells like the fresh green and floral breeze on an early summer evening. So lovely!
First steep 2 min: The first sip has that sweet flower stems flavor I have previously described for the Tea Ave flavored oolong based. It’s so sweet, but not the in your face kind like the Quangzhou Milk Oolong, but deeper. Sounds strange, but I keep thinking of how I drink iced tea in cafeterias, 90% unsweetened, topped off with just a splash of the sweetened. That faint sweetness, sugary, is what I’m getting from this steep. Also, a decent body that lingers in your mouth, like a milk oolong should!
Second steep 2 minutes: Somehow the sweetness was stronger and almost too sweet; it kinda reminded me of stevia in the way it stuck on my tongue and built. The aroma is more floral this steep. It reminds me of the veggie-sweet-creamy flavoring of the corn ice cream I had in China. A friend walked into my office and remarked that it smelled like those really high class Asian restaurants!
Third steep 2 minutes: The oolong lingering minerality is starting to come out this steep with the ever present sweetness, transforming the flavor into that of those young ears of corn you can get in mid summer, the ones where you can just snack on the whole thing like a carrot, husk, cob, and all. I’m a little suspicious that my new brita filter is making everything taste like sweet bottled mineral water… So I’m not going to add that the flavors. Dang, I bet this would be good cold brewed!

Flavors: Corn Husk, Sugarcane, Sweet

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Yum! So smooth and green!
I’m thoroughly enjoying this cloudy cup from my Den’s tea sampler pack. I’m using the looseleaf version for this review.
First impression: so, so, so smooth! Maybe I’m just not used to good green tea, but even the brewed leaves are super soft! It tastes like spinach, fresh from my garden like I was munching on yesterday, minus the drying effect that spinach has. As it cools, it gets a little nutty, with a veggie-sweet aftertaste. When it was really hot, my first sip had a bit of a seaweed quality to it, but I couldn’t confirm on my second sip. Not near as roasty as I was expecting it to be. I guess the matcha is what is contributing to the thick mouthfeel, as well.
Seconds steep 15 seconds: Obviously a much clearer cup, without the matcha. I again got seaweed on the very first sip, but now with it is just slightly sweet veggies with a vague nuttiness. Still really nice!

Flavors: Spinach

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 5 OZ / 147 ML

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Yay! My sampler pack is here!
I thought that my first introduction to Japanese green teas should be the classic, so I chose this sencha in a teabag for a first try. I chose the teabag version over the loose leaf because I wanted the save the latter since my tastes may be off from my particularly oniony lunch.
The smell of fresh green leaves, with an edge of sweetness, hit me the moment I opened the bag. The first steep of 60 seconds was a pleasant pea green, with a fresh veggie smell. It tasted slightly astringent, like raw collards, especially when hot. It definitely got sweeter once it cooled down, but the astringency never left, just got less dry. It’s a unique kind of astringency that I haven’t experienced in tea before. It makes your mouth water, like sucking on a penny does. The feeling and flavor of this aftertaste reminded me of the feeling in my mouth after I have just finished eating an artichoke.
The second steep (15 seconds, as per the directions in the nice booklet included with the sampler) is a touch fishy! I had heard that many Japanese greens have umami notes, but it is strange to experience it! There is little sweetness and no astringency. In fact, most of the flavors and scents from the previous steep are absent entirely! It reminds me quite a bit of my seaweed crisp snacks, minus the salt. I’m getting sesame, seaweed, and a hint of bok choy (cooked in broth). Interesting!

180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

Thanks for the lovely review. I was just thinking about ordering the Den’s sampler and this really pushing me to do it now. :-).


Thank you! You should definitely order it! It’s only 3 bucks and no shipping! May I also suggest Verdant Tea’s 5 for 5 sampler? Great stuff in there and also free shipping!


I ordered Verdant Teas 5 for 5 sampler on Sunday :-D.

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drank Milk Oolong by Mandala Tea
122 tasting notes

This is a backlog note from tea time yesterday afternoon.
I brewed this up for a friend of mine and myself, filling our two 16 oz mugs by doing many 6-8 oz steeps of a single teaspoon of this tea, starting with 30 seconds and going up 10 with each steep. She had asked for something sweet, and also buttery, so I shoved her nose in this bag and she lit up at the smell.
The compounded steeps were incredible! Intensely sweet; buttery, thick, and a touch vegetal (granted, my last steep was over 2 minutes). What a way to drink this tea! Honestly, 16 oz was a little too much, especially because thee sweetness keeps building up layers on your tongue, it was quite pungent by the end.

Flavors: Butter, Sweet

195 °F / 90 °C 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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The smells of Spring are all around me, and I’m inside! Fooey! To combat the doldrums, I thought I would drink a little Spring instead, since I no longer feel the need to horde this sample, since my preorder is on the way!
First steep 30 sec: The smell is much sweeter than the first time I had this tea! Probably about 60% of the sweetness in the smell of Quanzhou Milk Oolong from David’s Tea. The flavor is much fuller, and the liquid actually has a mouth-filling and smooth texture to it. The taste is very slightly floral, kind of like the general breeze during this incredible Spring we are having here in Ohio! I could finally taste the sweetness once the tea cooled a bit. A vast improvement over the last time I brewed this!
Second steep 40 sec: The floral nature of this tea has burst into the scent of it. It is now a full bouquet of lilacs and fruit tree flowers (not the spicy kind of floral, or the sweet, but the stately!). The flavor is also much more floral and a sweet aftertaste lingers. I’m having a hard time not gulping this down. It is good! A touch of minerality is beginning to creep in as it cools, along with a more ‘green’ depth to the flavor. This cup is so good, how did I miss it before?
Third steep 50 sec: Way more minerally, but the sweetness is deeper and lingers longer. Starting to taste the ‘leafiness’ of a steeped-out tea. I think only one more steep, this one isn’t nearly as nice as the first two.
Fourth steep 1 min: Yup, steeped out. Pretty much just leafy-tasting with a bit of sweetness left over.
Still, this experience was phenomenally better than the last time I brewed this tea. I think my cheap-skate-ness causes me to chronically under-leaf. Didn’t even know what I was missing!
Bumping this score up some!

Flavors: Flowers, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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(In a case of mistaken identity, this review was posted under the alishan oolong of the same company, but I realized today that it belonged here…)
Gong fu # 3 of Sunday’s extravaganza!
First steep 15 sec: some sweetness and butteriness, smells somewhat like an alishan should.
Second steep 30 sec: Flower power hits you in the nose with this steep! Sweet flowers in the aroma cup. Taste is buttery, a light floral. Like a good alishan! Minerals starting to come through, staying on the tongue.
Third steep 45 sec: We’ve hit the beaniness and slight bitter minerality. The scent in the aroma cup is still a lovely floral bouquet.
Fourth steep 1 min: The aroma is even sweeter florals! Flavor is really raw beans, or maybe cucumber skin, nearly bitter. But something keeps me drinking it, like gulping… so refreshing!
Fifth steep 1 min: Bean is coming into the aroma. More of a green pea flavor, less bitter, sweeter an smoothed out.
Sixth steep 1 min 15 sec: Aroma is floral again, though more stately this time. Flavor is getting steeped out- now a blend between beany and floral, but overall much lighter, but still a full, buttery mouthfeel.
Overall a nice oolong. I’m a fan.

Flavors: Beany, Butter, Floral, Peas, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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The smell of this dry leaf is overwhelmingly sweet. Trying to identify the smell chewed my office mate and I up for a few days until we realized that it smells exactly like original flavored skittles! Which may sound awesome to some, but is a little overpowering to me. Hopefully the taste is also overpowering, because I have to get the taste of my newest snack experiment (nori flakes) out of my mouth!
Egads! I brewed it for 3 minutes like all the other reviews and it was far too long! It’s so bitter! Like cucumber skin! It’s literally making my mouth water (I think to get rid of the sensation). I get a bit of cantaloupe/bubblegum on the intake of the sip, but then that bitterness takes over!
I may have to toss this and try again… No rating for now…

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Random chance sample from Dinosara. I’m a fan of mint, so I thought I would give it a shot.
The dry leaves are very fluffy, so I chose two (actual) teaspoons for my 8 oz up at home. The smell of the brewed tea contains definite mint an rose notes, but also something…. like a light meat flavor? The leaves smell very faintly like tuna! Not fishy tuna, either, more oily, meaty tuna! So bizarre… Luckily that flavor doesn’t translate into the brew. There is a faint minty tingle at the end of the sip, but I think it just contributes to the slight sweetness of the sarsaparilla and rose flavors. The rose really saves this tea, it makes it a nice, complicated cup; otherwise I think it would be too muddy.
I think the cardamom is giving me that meaty undertone. In overall profile, this tea is more sweet than savory, though. It almost reminds me of a good, floral soda (that I think has a touch of sarsaparilla flavor in it) from Kentucky called Ale81. Definitely intriguing.
I added a touch of sugar to see what it would do, and WOW did it bump up the sarsaparilla/floral soda analogy! Thankfully, the sugar forced the meatiness out of the flavor profile, as well. Now I’m really enjoying this cup with some sugar!
Unfortunately, if I gulp it too quickly all I get is the muddiness of the mint… This is definitely a sipping tea.

Flavors: Meat, Mint, Rose, Sarsaparilla, Sweet

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

LOL meat as a flavor is just hilarious to me.

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10 sec rinse
First: Smells like fish jerky in a leather jacket . From Jacob, who was overhearing our discussion of the notes for this steep: “Disappointment in the 50’s”. Tastes like old autumn leaves and earth. Jacob played us a song to go with our experience of this tea: “Dead leaves in the dirty ground- The White Stripes”. The theme song for shou puerh!
Second: Scent-Smokey, like old campfire on your clothes; Taste- sweet dirt on wet granite (like the base of a batholith in a Montana spring after you scraped away the rotting pine needles and leaves). Leaving a meaty aftertaste in my mouth.
Third: Smell- Lost a lot of the smoke. Fresher autumn leaves. Flavor like dried fruits that have been cooked in something savory; distinct minerally-ness; sweeter. Like a completely different tea! Rock dust aftertaste. Still smoke on the lid of gaiwan.
Fourth: Smell reminds me of Jones boot shop on the side of the highway in Kansas. Old leather goods, dusty display cases filled with buckles and spurs, flat carpet with a generation of ranch dust ground in. Taste of limestone rock dust, sweeter cherry-wood-smoke-like flavor on the back of the tongue.
Fifth: Cherry wood smoke dominating the flavor, scent as well, fruitier.
Sixth: Smoke is coming out strongly again. Flavor is a generic mix of previous steeps.
Seventh: Leather smell back. Flavor is thin and minerally.
Eighth: We got talking and forgot about it for two minutes! Much more minerally! The smokey flavors are taking a back seat in this steep, but I’m still getting a campfire-like aftertaste.
Overall an interesting experience! Not sure I need puerh in my life right now, but I can see why it is appreciated!

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cherry Wood, Dirt, Leather

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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I started drinking something other than Sleepytime in my first year of grad school, 2011. Enabled by a few decent local tea shops in a big city, I amassed a small cupboard of teas that I now find harsh and bad (haha, I’m getting in too deep!). With my move back to the US and subsequent geographic isolation from tea shops, I recently discovered the world of online tea vendors.
My cupboard is slowly growing but still small. Regardless I am interested in swaps, if you find something in my collection that you would like to try, ask away! I just can’t guarantee yet that I have a lot of it!
I’m very into Jade oolongs and anything that has a floral character (especially jasmine, rose, violet, and lychee scented things!). Most green teas, excepting the extremely bitter, are good in my book, and again I seek sweeter, fresher, greener types, though nutty/savory teas have their place (as long as they don’t tip over into salty!). I then to shy away from smokey or overly roasted teas and for this reason and the fact that I am not a fan of chocolate, everyone’s favorite blacks and wuyi oolongs tend to fall flat for me. White teas are alright but I don’t tend to reach for them unless they are floral scented. I rarely drink herbals, chamomile and I do not get along, but a basic vanilla rooibos, or some flavored green rooibos’ can be interesting.
In general, it could be said that I tend toward floral and sweet oolong, sheng (as well as moonlight whites and yabaos), matcha, and green teas.

As of now my rating system follows the school grading scale in terms of how well the tea performs and how well I like it (100-90 A, 89-80 B, etc.). Anything above 90 will eventually end up in my cupboard, though it’s fine to keep a B student around for daily drinkers!


Athens, Ohio

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