186 Tasting Notes

85
drank Lavender Flowers by Tealyra
186 tasting notes

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, so I bought a bunch of tisanes from Tealyra to avoid having caffeine in the evenings. Finding things I actually want to drink has been difficult, as I’m generally not a fan of licorice or hibiscus and don’t enjoy anything that’s overly sweet. Any tisanes that don’t fall into the above categories seem to contain peppermint, and while I like minty teas, they can get a bit monotonous.

I do, however, love lavender things, and while this tea can be a bit soapy, it definitely delivers on that front. It has a pronounced lavender flavour with some earthy and herbaceous undertones. The fluffy leaves are pretty and I get four to five good steeps.

Judging from my experience with this company so far, Tealyra is a decent place to get herbal tisanes. Where do you buy your herbal and/or decaf teas in Canada?

Flavors: Earth, Herbaceous, Lavender

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 355 ML

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87

Since I have a fraught relationship with teapots at the moment (a newly purchased and expensive one cracked and I can’t replace it), I’m steeping Western style for a while. (My little porcelain teapot is in fine working order; I’m just bitter that my dream teapot isn’t.) It’s annoying how few teas I own that can be steeped Western, and most of them are Darjeelings. Western kind of seems like a waste for nicer teas anyway.

I steeped 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 5 and 7 minutes.

The dry aroma is of sweet muscatel, orange blossoms, chocolate, and green plants. The first steep has notes of heady muscatel, plums, stonefruit, orange blossoms, sap, faint cocoa, and tannins. Maybe five minutes was too long for this tea, as it’s a bit drying. Those tannins and the sweet muscatel fight with each other in the aftertaste. Honey and apricot become apparent as the tea cools. I made the second steep at 190F to try and reduce the tannin punch, with limited success. The fruitiness is still very much there, but so is the assertive black tea backbone of tannins, minerality, malt, and wood.

This is an excellent Darjeeling that would have been even better if the tannins had been toned down. I’ll keep changing the brewing parameters to see if it will help, but for now, it’s an 87.

Flavors: Apricot, Cocoa, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Muscatel, Orange Blossom, Plums, Sap, Stonefruits, Tannin, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML

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80

For Christmas, I was given a wood-fired clay teapot, which I picked out myself because my family aren’t big tea people. Well, this was the first time I tried it and possibly the last. The tea seemed slightly different, with more florals and sweetness and less grassiness than in the porcelain pot. But sometime during the session, a long crack appeared that went right through the body of the pot and leaks slightly.

I did manage to preheat the pot before putting in the leaves, but am wondering if waiting too long between steeps caused the pot to cool too much. At any rate, I bought this pot in late November, got it on December 7, kept it in the box to open on Christmas Day, then threw away the packaging in the post-holiday cleanup, and only tried it yesterday, January 9. All this is to say that I’m probably stuck with it. I’m incredibly bummed out, to the point that I’m considering giving up this hobby altogether. I could only afford this thing because it was half price, and what’s the point in getting another if I’ll just ruin it again?

Flavours: Honeysuckle, orchids, minerals, grass, crushed dreams

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Martin Bednář

I would siggest maybe returing it to the shop? Warranty claim? I think it should survive, unless it is stated it is not for hot water – but clay teapot like that?

Leafhopper

I’ve contacted the vendor, so we’ll see what happens. But it’s been over 30 days since the sale and I threw out all the packaging, making it hard to prove my case. All I have is a slightly-more-than-30-day-old delivery confirmation and a cracked teapot.

Leafhopper

It’s also made from Japanese clay and isn’t as thin walled as zhuni or Taiwanese clay pots, which does suggest that it should have been able to handle temperature fluctuations and even boiling water. My Japanese mini kyusu has done this successfully, though I admittedly didn’t use water at 195F. I don’t think the crack was there when I got it, though, so the session must be to blame. Whether it was my fault or the fault of the potter is something else.

Martin Bednář

Here, you have 2 years warranty after sale date. And it includes almost everything. If it was intented for hot water, it should survive. If not, it must be stated on packaging or pot itself. Packaging is not needed at all.
But that’s Europe. They should return you money or give you a new one. I hope everything goes well and you won’t give up the hobby because of one pot. But I understand your are bummed.

Leafhopper

Your European warranty system sounds great! Do you need to buy the warranty separately, or is it applied automatically whenever you purchase something?

I bought the teapot from an American company, and didn’t ask about their return policy because I had no intention of returning it (mistake number one, I guess). I hope the vendor will respond later today with good news.

I probably won’t quit the hobby over a single pot, but I now know that I do like high mountain oolongs in clay, which, given how pricy clay pots are and that I almost had one I loved, has made me rather depressed. I’m also bummed that possible user error could have put me in this mess.

mrmopar

Shame about the pot. I have a few around here not the real Yixing but I will send you one if you need a pot.

Leafhopper

Thanks for the offer! I need to talk to the vendor to see if they’ll provide a replacement, or at least a refund. I bought this wood-fired Japanese clay pot at half price for US$80, and honestly, I’m not sure how to get a hold of a similar pot at this price point. I actually thought I was pretty lucky. They’re usually several hundred dollars, and if the maker is responsible for the flaw, I guess I know why this pot was comparatively cheap. I also don’t want to ruin another perfectly good pot by being careless about the temperature. I’ll let you know if I hear back from the vendor.

Martin Bednář

Leafhopper: it’s in the cost. No need to buy it separately. You can buy “longer” warranty, if it is offered at all. But at least two years you have chance to ask money back or new item if it broke because it doesn’t have stated quality. For example if it breaks, clothes start to tear or water proof and shock resistant mobile phone stop working after hit of ground.
In 30 days they have to say you their statement (return/new item). They have to check on their costs how it was damaged. Of course, you don’t get money back if you are using it against operational manual or using it wrongly (bad size, overheating et cetera)

Leafhopper

That seems fair. However, I’m not sure it works this way in North America. Hopefully the vendor will be understanding. :)

Leafhopper

The vendor offered to exchange the teapot or refund the cost if I ship the old pot back. Hopefully the new pot will be better.

Martin Bednář

Great news! Be caruful though, what if is actually your fault :), just little teasing you.
But I am happy that it worked out very well for you!

Leafhopper

I hope it will! I don’t like the potential replacement pot as much—it was my third choice instead of my first during the Black Friday sale—but as long as it works, that’s okay.

I’m actually still worried that I was responsible for this pot’s very early demise, and have been constantly googling how to use a clay teapot properly. Anyone with uncracked clay pots want to give me some tips?

LuckyMe

Glad the vendor was able to resolve it for you. It doesn’t sound like the pot cracked from anything you did. It would have to suffer extreme thermal shock for it to crack the way it did. My guess is you got unlucky and received a defective teapot. Hope you have better luck with the next one,

Leafhopper

Yes, that’s probably what happened. I may have let it cool to room temperature a couple times during my long tea session, but I can’t see how that alone could have caused the damage. Could storing it above the counter where I boil my kettle have done it? Again, probably not. Pots would break all the time if they were that temperamental.

LuckyMe

I wouldn’t fret too much about it. My pots cool to room temperature all the team during sessions and they’re fine. I have both Japanese and Taiwanese clay pots. Mine are fairly inexpensive so there’s no way a high quality one should crack like that. Really, these clay teapots are designed to last a long time as long as they aren’t abused.

Leafhopper

Thanks for your input. Glad to know it’s almost definitely the pot. The vendor actually did an about-face and refunded my money instead of sending the replacement, saying that international shipping is too expensive. I said I would pay to ship the defective pot back and he would just need to pay to ship the new one, but haven’t received an answer. So basically, I lost.

eastkyteaguy

Leafhopper, I thought I’d commented on this note days ago, but I guess I didn’t. I’m not good with teapots either, but unlike your situation, it’s because I accidentally murder them. Really, anything made out of clay is kind of a waste with me because I’m clumsy. I have rather big, wide hands, so getting a grip on small objects is difficult for me. I’m also a very near-sighted and physically awkward human being. I slip and bump into things a lot when I brew gongfu because I can’t sit still and just have to ramble around the house while I sip my tea. Early on, I decided that it would be best for me to just lay in a steady supply of cheap gaiwans and ru yao pots. Now when I break or crack things, I don’t even worry about it. Oh, and I get the added benefit of not having to dedicate my brewing vessel to just one type of tea. As a matter of fact, the gaiwan I use most frequently only cost me like $11 or $12. My favorite, which I only use for Wuyi rock teas, cost me like $5. While it sucks that you had a problem with a pot you were clearly attached to, you don’t have to go all out with your brewing setup either. It can be as cheap and simple as you want, because the only consideration that should matter is how well the tools you have work for you. I’ve been there. I used to try to put together fancy, expensive setups, but I very quickly figured out that things like nice clay teapots were wasted on someone like me. Things can easily go wrong with clay (had one or two issues myself), and I’m just gonna break fancy things anyway, so I stopped bothering with them. TL;DR if you are operating on a really tight budget, it might be advisable to go with the cheapest, most reliable option that provides the most versatility. Oh, and also, don’t give up your hobby. One misfortune should not ruin something you enjoy. This place would feel colder and emptier without you.

Leafhopper

Eastkyteaguy, thanks for your response. I also struggle with clumsy hands, spilling the contents of my gaiwan on the counter and sometimes on myself! I’ve found teapots to be a reasonable solution for this problem. (I’d love to know of a decent ru yao pot under 120 ml.) I also liked porcelain teapots because I didn’t have to dedicate them to one type of tea. My clumsiness was the main reason I thought I might have been responsible for the breakage of my expensive clay pot, although that probably wasn’t the case.

I have to confess that my desire for a nice clay pot might have been partly based on aesthetics and vanity, but when I realized that it actually made a difference for high mountain oolongs, I was hooked. Maybe a $35 pot from TTC could provide the same experience. While I’m on a somewhat tight budget, I’m willing to spend slightly more for a teapot that provides a better drinking experience, and therein lies the problem. I know nothing about clay teapots, and they seem to be either very reasonable (TTC) or stratospherically expensive ($150 or more).

I’m probably not going to give up my hobby because of my defective teapot, although I do notice that I’m shying away from high mountain oolongs with a sense of regret. I hope I can find a replacement for this thing under $100. Or if not, I’ll probably go back to brewing everything in my 120 ml porcelain pot.

eastkyteaguy

I found a good white ru yao pot that was under 120 ml last year at teaware.house. It wasn’t much under 120 ml (about 100 ml), but it serves as proof that one can occasionally find such pots in smaller sizes. I’m a clay noob/rube, so unfortunately, I know virtually nothing about higher end clay vessels. The few experiences I have had were mostly with newer vessels that were not yet seasoned and never made it that far. Even then, I’ve been limited to working with Chao Zhou clay (bizarelly never had a good Dancong in a Chao Zhou clay vessel). Anything else is beyond me. I’d love to get a silver tea set. I know a number od people who love silver vessels, especially for Wuyi teas, ripe pu-erh, and Yunnan Dian Hong, but such things will be out of my price range for some time.

Leafhopper

I might have to look that ru yao pot up. Regarding your use of Chao Zhou, were the breakages your fault or just due to flimsy teaware? And yes, while I’m tempted by silver teaware, it’s decidedly out of my price range.

eastkyteaguy

A few of the breakages were due to the flimsiness of the teaware. I had a couple pots that developed cracks shortly after I started using them. I did, however, manage to break both of them at a later date. One I dropped, and the other I accidentally banged into a countertop and broke off the spout. I’ve also had a couple other pots that didn’t survive very long due to me dropping them. Like I said, I’m clumsy.

Leafhopper

Your teapots seem to be a bit tougher than mine. Still, I’d love to know where you got your inexpensive teapots from. Right now, I just want a clay pot that will give its unique quality to brewing without breaking.

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80

My first gongfu session of 2020! My eyes seem to be too big for my stomach when it comes to tea; I have things in my stash that I don’t remember buying. This oolong is less than a year old, which is good, right? I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of cookies and heady flowers. The first steep has lovely notes of lilac, orchid, honeysuckle, cookies, cream, and spinach. The second steep is creamier, with corn, herbaceous, coriander, faint peach, and grassy flavours. (Why do so many high mountain oolongs remind me of cream corn?) It’s a bit drying in the mouth with a sweet, grassy aftertaste. The next couple steeps have a nice balance of floral, sweet, herbaceous, and vegetal flavours. By steep five, the liquor becomes vegetal and herbaceous, and fades quickly after that.

This is a pretty standard Alishan, although for what it’s worth, the leaf sets are nice. I’ll have no trouble finishing it, but won’t rush to buy more.

Flavors: Cookie, Coriander, Corn Husk, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Orchid, Peach, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Martin Bednář

Looks nice though :) Flowers and cookies sounds good.

Leafhopper

It was definitely an enjoyable tea, especially if you like floral oolongs, which I do.

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77
drank Organic Gold by teakruthi
187 tasting notes

I caved and bought a few of my favourite teas from Teakruthi during their Black Friday sale, and also got a couple more samples to review. I was in the mood for a breakfast tea this morning, and this broken orange pekoe did the job. I steeped 2 teaspoons of tea in a 355 ml mug at 205F for 3.5, 5, and 10 minutes.

The dry aroma of these very broken-up leaves is of malt, honey, and green grapes. The first steep has notes of malt, honey, tannin, baked bread, wood, grass, and green grapes. I get a coppery, malty aftertaste. The second steep focuses on the malt, baked bread, and honey, and is actually a bit weaker despite its longer time. The final steep is surprisingly gentle for this type of tea and echoes the malt and honey in the second steep.

This is a nice breakfast tea with some distinctive Sri Lankan components (i.e., the flavour I identify as green grapes and that coppery aftertaste). It never gets too bitter, which is a plus for a BOP. I recommend it for mornings when you want something solid and uncomplicated.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Grapes, Grass, Honey, Malt, Tannin, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 355 ML

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80

Even though this is a Jin Xuan, which is a varietal I don’t usually go for, the notes on the vendor’s website and Steepster convinced me to give it a chance. Flavours of berries and caramel? Tastes like a Dan Cong? Count me in! Thanks to Tea Side for the sample.

I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma of these fairly large, loosely rolled nuggets is of berries, grass, and orchids. The first steep has notes of cream, caramel, grass, orchid, and raspberry. It’s quite silky, although it’s not quite in heady Dan Cong territory. All these notes intensify in the next steep, especially the berries. There’s also some indistinct tropical fruit in the aftertaste. The third steep has notes of raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, sour cherries, grapefruit, cream, caramel, grass, and faint florals; it’s a bit perfumey, with a big aftertaste. The berries start getting more tart in the next couple steeps; it kind of tastes like chokecherries. Subsequent steeps have fainter notes of sour berries, grass, cream, spinach, and other veggies.

True to what other reviewers are saying, this is not your typical Jin Xuan. It has the usual creamy, caramel flavours, but is much more fruity and perfumey than most other Jin Xuans. Is it like a Dan Cong? Sort of. It has a similar heady, fruit-forward profile with a grassy and floral background and a nice mouthfeel, but it’s missing the stonefruit and tropical flavours that I generally associate with Dan Congs. The sourness and grassiness also get out of control in the later steeps. Nonetheless, this is a very enjoyable oolong.

Flavors: Berries, Blackberry, Caramel, Cherry, Cranberry, Creamy, Floral, Grapefruit, Grass, Orchid, Perfume, Raspberry, Spinach, Tart, Tropical, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
eastkyteaguy

Wow! This is crazy! I had a Dancong today that veered into Jin Xuan territory.

Leafhopper

LOL! What a coincidence! How was it? I’ve heard that milky Dan Congs exist, but have never tried one.

eastkyteaguy

I enjoyed it a lot. It was the spring 2017 Middle Mountain Yang Mei Shu from Yunnan Sourcing.

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71

My goodness, this is an old tea. I remember thinking it was very fancy when my experience was limited to Teavana, but now, either due to its age or to my broader knowledge, it’s a generic jasmine tea. It has some sweetness from the white tea and some vegetal notes from the green, but that’s all I can taste. I got four Western steeps out of it, so it has decent longevity. At 175F, there’s no astringency, and if you like jasmine and somehow still have this, it’s a perfectly acceptable cup.

Flavors: Grass, Jasmine, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 355 ML

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80
drank Ceylon Gold by teakruthi
187 tasting notes

I usually enjoy white tea, but don’t drink it often for some reason. True to this pattern, I was eager to try a Sri Lankan white, but I’m posting this as my penultimate review for this company. Thanks to Teakruthi for the sample. I steeped two teaspoons of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 190F for 4.5, 6, and 10 minutes.

The dry aroma of these small, dark, not very typical white tea leaves is of autumn leaf pile and something tart. The first steep has notes of tart rhubarb, herbs, malt, autumn leaf pile, honey, and florals. The liquor is quite drying. The second steep is less tart and has a hint of rose, in accordance with Teakruthi’s description. The final steep is tart, floral, drying, and malty.

This is a pleasant if unusual white tea that’s more assertive than many similar teas from other countries. I can see people who don’t usually opt for white tea really liking this, as the malt and honey make it more akin to a black tea. While I can’t see myself drinking this regularly, I think its divergence from other white teas is fascinating.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Drying, Floral, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Rhubarb, Rose, Tart

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 4 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 355 ML
LuckyMe

Same here…I enjoy white tea but don’t drink it that much. Good thing it ages well.

Leafhopper

Exactly! Unlike green tea, which I also don’t tend to drink.

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82

I don’t have a lot of experience with Yashi Dan Congs, aside from a greener one from Yunnan Sourcing, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. But since it was around $13 for 50 grams, I decided to give it a shot. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 9, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry leaves smell overwhelmingly of roasted almonds, with some florals and stonefruit at the edges. Roasted almond dominates the first steep, with hay, cream, orchid, and peach in the background. (The peachy aftertaste is the best part of the steep.) The next couple steeps add notes of honey, grain, apricot, roast, grass, butter, and florals I can’t identify (gardenia?). Steeps four and five are a bit fruitier, with more apricot, peach, and peach pit flavours along with the almond. The next few steeps emphasize the roast and almond, and the tea becomes a bit drying in the mouth. The session ends with almonds, roast, and minerals.

This is a pleasant Dan Cong, especially for the price. I gave it extra points for the lovely peachy aftertaste in the first few steeps. However, I tend to enjoy greener Dan Congs and this just didn’t bowl me over like some previous What-Cha teas I’ve had. I still recommend it for those who like this type of tea and want an affordable option.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Butter, Cream, Floral, Gardenias, Grain, Grass, Hay, Honey, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Roasted

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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85
drank Cinnamon Chai by teakruthi
186 tasting notes

I like chai teas on occasion, and was glad to get this cinnamon version to review. Thanks to Teakruthi for the sample. I steeped around 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 203F for 4, 6, and 10 minutes.

The dry aroma is of strong, woody cinnamon. In the first steep, the cinnamon is the star, and is strong but not too sweet. It’s the kind of cinnamon that gets put into baked goods, and it’s making me hungry! The black tea is malty, woody, and not astringent. The next two steeps continue the nice balance between cinnamon and black tea, and even brewed for ten minutes, the astringency is minimal.

This is a simple, well-executed cinnamon tea that I really enjoyed. It’s not particularly spicy and calling it a chai might be a stretch, but I guess it fulfills the same warm, cozy niche.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Malt, Wood

Preparation
4 min, 0 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML

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Bio

Since I discovered Teavana’s Monkey Picked Oolong four years ago, I’ve been fascinated by loose-leaf tea. I’m glad to say that my oolong tastes have evolved, and that I now like nearly every tea that comes from Taiwan, oolong or not, particularly the bug-bitten varieties. I also find myself drinking Yunnan blacks and Darjeelings from time to time, as well as a few other curiosities.

However, while online reviews might make me feel like an expert, I know that I still have some work to do to actually pick up those flavours myself. I hope that by making me describe what I’m tasting, Steepster can improve my appreciation of teas I already enjoy and make me more open to new possibilities (maybe even puerh!).

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