709 Tasting Notes


Now that my Teavivre order has arrived (huzzah!) I feel I can safely finish the samples that I have had for ages. Scarily, I ordered 100 grams of the Bailin Gongfu and Also the Black Pearls… despite only having tried them once! What?! My memory is so faulty at the best of times.

This poor sample was a bit crushed from kicking around so long so I expect a bit more malt and bitterness from the broken leaves. The steeped aroma is powerful. It is malty and yeasty and rich, it embodies dark cocoa and rich rye bread. Wow, rye bread is perfect actually. I should get myself some rye flour and make a loaf.

Anyway, the taste of this steeping is just as powerful as the smell. I used the full 7 g sample in my 12 oz Perfect Tea Mug, steeped about 3 minutes and it is intense. The liquor is dark and the tea is delicious. I’m not quite as taken with it as I was that first time (probably because I have had a tea like this a few times now) but this is just so brazen. This tea does not hide itself, flaws or otherwise. It is the “look at me, I’m GORGEOUS!” of teas. (Please picture John Lithgow saying that from his role as Dock Solomon on 3rd Rock from the Sun!)

For me, this has an earthiness and intensity that I don’t frequently find in tea, it actually does a good job of mimicking a roasted oolong, sort of like a couple Big Red Robe’s I’ve enjoyed. Perhaps it would be better to say that they mimic this tea, but that’s semantics.

This is tremendous and very special. Not a mindless tea, but one to be savoured. I think I could win over some non-tea drinkers with this baby. Mwah!


I’ve been trying for two days to do a tasting note on this tea and it just won’t work, so I’ll add a comment to say that this is the first of my teas to have my grandmother’s seal of approval. Most of them are ‘too fancy’ and ‘undrinkable’ but she liked this so much that she had two steeps and commented on it several times. Bailin wiN!

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drank Caramel Vanilla Chai by 52teas
709 tasting notes

Finished my sample today – I had forgotten that it is basically ground tea and spices. Ugh. Threw some in my T-Sac and steeped as long as I dared (2 or 3 minutes). The smell is kind of yucky, very much like an old bagged chai, which it essentially is so that makes sense. Still no caramel or vanilla and boy would I like it if they appeared. There is a smell, almost like melted marshmallows roasting over a fire. The marshmallow business actually smells kinds good, but it’s lost in what smells like very bitter tea.

I just had some grapes so the first few sips aren’t necessarily accurate but they aren’t as bad as I expected either. I just get spice. Cinnamon at the end of the sip, like I ate powdered cinnamon. I also get ginger and nutmeg, but probably because those are the only spices I am very familiar with. It is bold and in your face, and definitely lacking vanilla or caramel. This is not a favourite and I don’t understand why my tastes are SO different from everyone else on this one. Even when I first tried it last December I hated it. Maybe my sample was a joke?

The only reason I’m drinking this cup is to warm up – and the only reason I can stand to keep drinking it is because of the T-Sac and short steep. Blech.


Uh oh, I also have some of this from the 12 days last year haha! One day I’ll brave it ;)


I wasn’t a fan of it in the first place, but for me it didn’t improve with age!

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I am the worst swap partner ever. While I always send out my parcels and delight in receiving something in return, I rarely get to actually drinking the tea. That said, I extend endless apologies to Mercuryhime who sent me some of this as well as a handful of oolongs to try…a year ago. Oy. It all ended up in an envelope in a basket in my cupboard underneath 50 or 60 other samples. I hope to remedy my tardiness though!

Opening the bag, I’m hit by an intense citrus aroma, one I am calling lime. The lime is fab. There is something behind that though that is dusty and musty – that’s probably the bergamot. I’m not getting any creme but neither does this smell like a typical earl grey. I’m not a huge Earl fan, but I like Lady Greys and Cream Greys, so this could be great.

Steeped, I get lime and orange with a sweet creme beneath, I am reminded of those popsicles with vanilla ice cream on the inside. Creamsicles, maybe? Anyway, the steeped aroma is delish and decadent, I’m loving the vibe I get now. The first sips are mild, sweet with some light citrus in the background. The taste still holds with the steeped aroma, popsicles and ice cream! There is no dustiness from the bergamot and no bitterness from the black tea, so I’m gonna call this blend a win. I get the sense that it could become bitter as the cup cools but I’m off to enjoy it quickly. Yum, and many thanks to Mercuryhime for sending it to me!


I was trying to remember who I sent this to! Glad you enjoyed it! I had some earl today too. :)


If you swap like I swap, it’s almost impossible to get to all your tea samples in a reasonable manner :)


I reckon as long as they get drunk and enjoyed, no harm done. The only time I feel guilty is when I get free samples from arteasans, with the expectation that I’ll say a few words about what I’m tasting. I always do, just not necessarily in the most timely manner. Oops.

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drank Rainbow Sherbet by 52teas
709 tasting notes

You guessed it, another from last year’s 12 Teas of Christmas. Dry leaf is overwhelmingly citrus, though it turns funky once steeped. I get dry old flowers, like potpourri. THis smell is really off-putting, I’m working up the guts to try it. It may also be slightly oversteeped for the bitter black tea base. Whoops.

Luckily this tastes way different than it smells. There is a sweetness reminiscent of candy and an aftertaste that really does spell out the lime, orange and raspberry of sorbet. It’s more like I had some a while ago and then had a sip of tea, but it’s there. The black base is a bit too bold but I think that is probably my fault with the slight over-steeping. With a bit of sugar this could be really good but I dont like sweetening my teas so I think I shall just leave it as is. Passable but not my fave. Interesting tea though!

EDIT to add: This is getting really bitter. I wish I had done this one in a T-Sac. Definitely not my favourite. Bitter blegh!

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drank Cashew Turtle by 52teas
709 tasting notes

Could have sworn I did a tasting note for this one when the 12Tas of Christmas came out, but maybe I just tried it. This is yet another sample from the 12Teas that I am trying to finally finish up. I recall the aroma not being very recognizable at the time, but it is much more powerful now, with chocolate and caramel dominating. For me, that’s good news. I am always on the lookout for a good caramel tea, though most let me down.

Steeped this for 2 to 3 minutes in a T-Sac to avoid the harsh taste of the bitter black base that Frank used to use and this yields an aromatic and orangey-brown brew. I find that using a T-Sac can help cut the bitterness as there is less room for particles to escape so I expect this will be a bit smoother than if I brewed it in a strainer.

Finishing up my chocolate chip granola bar (a moment of temptation – usually I go for the fruit and nut ones, but everyone needs a little chocolate, right?) this tea does smell delicious. Hopefully it will compare to the “real” chocolate I just had. OH man, it does. Wow. Typically I don’t like Frank’s blends, but this one is really hitting the spot. The chocolate is building on the aftertaste from my bar and I get the sense of caramel behind all that. It is, in fact, shockingly like a caramel turtle. Two thumbs up on this blend – I’m glad I have enough left for a small cup to enjoy another time. As the cup cools the bitter black tea is creeping up on me, but that’s to be expected. I’ll just have to slurp it quickly! : )


Ha! Someone else who likes this as much as I do! :D


I had my second cup yesterday and though I didn’t have quite enough leaf it was pretty awesome too. I usually don’t like Frank’s blends but that one was delicious!


mm this one is my fave!

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Dry aroma puts me in mind of an Iron Goddess, it smells very much like a green oolong. There is a bold aroma, distinct sweetness with some hay and grass underneath it. I’m not much for greener oolongs typically, but this smells pretty nice.

Steeped at 90 degrees for about 2 minutes, the beau thinks we under-steeped it a bit and I tend to agree. There is a very slight oolong aroma and taste, more sweet than vegetal but it was barely there.

The second steep (of 5ish minutes) shows more strength of flavour, with a fairly strong floral aroma and taste. Still fairly unassuming, but nice. Green oolongs aren’t really my forte and this doesn’t really change that but it was a perfectly palatable cup of tea.

I think this is one of those times where I should have followed the instructions and used boiling water, but boiling water doesn’t work with oolongs for me very frequently. I still have three more little pouches, will try again at some point. Thanks Teavivre for this sample! (From ages ago, whoops!)

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Trying these bad boys tonight. I bought a sample of them in October when I learned that the DT closest to me actually got a stock of them. I had resisted before based on not knowing how I feel about jasmine, but the smell is just hypnotic. I have had jasmine in other teas but always have this fear in the back of my mind that it will be too strong and perfumey – despite that never having happened!

The dry smell of these pearls (really, like the Teavivre pearls, they are about the size of marbles. SO beautiful!) is sweet jasmine with a hint of bitter black tea underneath. I’m thinking the sweetness of the jasmine is so striking that it makes the black tea seem bitter in contrast, hopefully I don’t get any of that once steeped.

The beau and I did 4 pearls to our medium pot, steeped at 95 degrees for about three minutes. The first cup was basic black tea, a bit mild with a hint of sweet. Thre was a hint of jasmine at the back of the sip, but it was so unassuming that I almost thought it was just part of the tea itself. The second cup has quite a bit of astringency, but no bitterness. I’m thinking some crumbs may have been in the pot and continued steeping. The jasmine is stronger here too, it rounds out the tea quite nicely, but the tea itself is a bit too one-dimensional. I would like to get some malt or chocolate here, something with a bit of depth to balance the jasmine.

All that said, this is a nice tea. This is a special tea. I get that. This is NOT an amazing tea. For the price ($14 for 50 grams) I was pretty disappointed. I would much rather have Teavivre’s black pearls or Davids Yunnan Black. While I will definitely re-steep this and enjoy the remains of my 20 gram sample (about 20 pearls) I won’t be buying more. Hopefully I remember to try to steep it a little differently next time and see if I can improve it. If it cost less, it would get higher rating but at that price point I expect my tea to be more interesting. I think a better base tea could have made a big difference here.


The beau “really likes it” and would give it a 90. He says he gets some peppery notes from the dregs of the pot. I really hope I can improve my opinion of this one.


This one intrigues me because it’s a black JASMINE pearl … and I love me some jasmine, so long as it’s done right.


Good point about the price point! This is one I enjoyed getting in store to-go, just because I could get 4 pearls that way to one cup and not feel guilty about it. haha!


I will say that the second steep was much better than the first – I may have under-steeped initially. I still think it’s way too pricey, but it’s definitely nice. Drinkable, but not the liquid gold I would expect at that price. : )

Tina S.

I’m not a jasmine girl but this one was tempting. I got to try it in the store when the staff had brewed up a tasting mini-pot for themselves. My store wasn’t supposed to get it so the girls were grabbing it while they could. It wasn’t a bad tea, but I definitely agree that I don’t think it is quite worth the price point.


It seems like every store had it – though many of them had to send it back. I wonder what was up with that! : )

Tina S.

I was just sad they didn’t get the two I actually wanted to try and have to travel into Toronto to get. :(


I was super interested in the Gyokuro Black (I didn’t even know such a thing existed!) but nowhere near here got that one.


Awesome review, thank you!


Thanks Nik!

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drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
709 tasting notes

So I bought this one (and my tea pet and a few others) a year ago. Because my stash is so ridiculous and I tend to keep my favourites eternally, I still have almost all of it left. I booked today off to indulge myself in bad wedding movies, tea and bread-making, so I enjoyed a few gong-fu infusions of this while watching Made of Honour. I’ve gotta say, I don’t know how I am going to make it 6 more months waiting for my wedding. I already live with my fiancee and we’ve been together for going on nine years but I am just so excited to have a big party with everyone we love to celebrate us. Plus, I adore my dress and just want to wear it all the time! : )

Anyway. This tea. So yummy. Despite the aging, it is lovely and rich, there is smoothness and some definite malt, but no bitterness to be found. There is a lot of cocoa and earthy tea flavour, but as I say it is just all so smooth! I’ve done three infusions so far in my gaiwan and this afternoon I will do a few more, I think. This is a sensational tea, and I have even more respect for it now than I did a year ago. Now I just need to enjoy it all before it gets too old!


Ooooh!!! Can you post a picture of your dress??


Unfortunately, the dress is in lockdown for the next six months, my fiancee also checks Steepster, though very infrequently. I keep having to watch out that I don’t accidentally mention details. Surprisingly difficult – we share everything!


I hear you. Very exciting though!!

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drank Milk & Cookies by 52teas
709 tasting notes

Here’s another improperly stored sample from last year’s 12 Teas of Christmas that I didn’t quite get to. I should never have opened the parcels unless I intended to make a cup that day, since the little envelopes weren’t resealable. Oh well, too late for “should have done”s!

The aroma is interesting, though it doesn’t put me in mind of cookies. I actually get a bit of spicy chocolatey something. I’m having trouble pinning it down. Keeping in mind that the old 52Teas black tea base gets way bitter, I steeped it just about 3 minutes. Steeped aroma is very accurate to the dry leaf – something spicy (nutmeg?) and a strange cocoa. Not necessarily appealing cocoa, but it’s there. I’m more of a milk chocolate girl, sadly. Also, I HATE milk, so I’m hoping the milk part of milk and cookies doesn’t really happen. I almost never add anything to me tea as I feel that a good tea (flavoured or otherwise) shouldn’t require any help, so it’ll be interesting to see how this fares on it’s own two feet.

The initial flavour is mostly black tea, something sweet in the background (identified as brown sugar after reading the description!) and something off to the side that isn’t quite materializing. I just had pineapple for a snack so that may be amplifying the sweetness, but the brown sugar seems SO distinct to me now. I think that is probably the aroma I am mixing up with the cocoa too. The black tea is a bit too present for my liking, I wish the rest of the cookie would materialize.

I’m loving the brown sugar, though. Not getting anything in terms of cocoa, and nothing that makes me think of cookies or milk, but as a brown sugar flavoured black tea, this is solidly okay. As I sip, I am getting more hints of that black base bitterness. Perhaps a bit less leaf might have been in order. I am pretty certain this is the “old” black tea base that I wasn’t fond of, I don’t think I’m had any encounters with the new one, though I hear it’s a lot smoother.

This is one of those teas that works better hot for me, so rather than continue to type I think I shall enjoy the remainder of this as quickly as I can. This is a decent offering, though not true to it’s title. Of course, as always, this sample has been kicking around for a year so degradation of quality could always be a factor.

EDIT to add: It gets much more bitter the further I get in the cup. I gave in and added a few granules of raw sugar to make it palatable to the bottom. I wish the base weren’t overtaking everything with it’s bitterness. I had a hard enough time finding the flavours without that horning in! : )


I just found the sample of Buttered Popcorn from the box last night….it did not keep well.


I still haven’t braved Buttered Popcorn. It’s such a yucky sounding idea to me!

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Seeing all the hubbub about the 12 Teas of Christmas has reminded me that I never finished mine from last year – in fact, I don’t think I even tried half of them! I found Christmas far too busy with family and food to have time to deal with the 12teas, and then they were forgotten at the back of the tea shelf until now. Luckily, only one last year contained an ingredient I loathe (coconut) so there were still 11 others to try. I am excited that Frank is doing bigger sample sizes this year as I thought it was a bit of a ripoff last year (2 cups per sample, so $30 for 24 cups), but I will not be partaking this time. Unfortunately, 52Teas don’t tend to be to my liking, with a few notable exceptions.

All that aside, I’m brewing up some cinnamon roll honeybush – the cinnamon is certainly there in aroma, though I’m not getting anything pastry or bakey. 5 – 6 minute steep yields cinnamon flavoured water, with a hint of something honeybush at the end. I am not a huge fan of cinnamon and I find it to be very overwhelming in most teas, but when it’s done well it can be really nice. It may just be because of the age of my sample (obviously it’s a year old) but this one isn’t yielding anything beyond the two notes of cinnamon and honeybush. I would like to see something in the middle there filling it out, a bit of sweetness to represent the icing, or something bakey. I love cinnamon rolls, but this is just cinnamon tea, to me. : (


Ah, that’s too bad. Don’t think I’ll ever bother with this one due to the honeybush anyway. My favourite cinnamon bun tea is Tea Desire’s Cinnamon Star. Truly has the bakery notes in it. :)


I really like my pouch of this one, but a small sample sitting for nearly a year could definitely have affected the flavour, I’m thinking. :(

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I’ve been drinking loose tea since 2010 and my tastes have changed a lot over those years. For the last few, I’ve been a fan of unflavoured Chinese blacks and shu puerh. I still drink other things, but that’s where I am.

I live in a rural area with my husband, cat, and soon to be firstborn. I love tea, reading, doctor who, knitting, crosswords, board games, the marvel universe, and lots of other things.

I’m not often rating teas numerically any more but I want to leave this to explain my past ratings:
I try to only log teas once or twice because I drink a lot of the same ones repeatedly. My rating is based on my perception of the tea at first tasting and is adjusted if anything notable occurs in subsequent cups. I may also factor in the price and customer service but try to note that when I can.

81 – 100: These are great teas, I love them, regularly stock them or savour them as unique treats.
71 – 80: These are solid. I drink them, I like them, I may or may not keep them on hand regularly. This is still good stuff.
61 – 70: Just okay. I can drink it, but it doesn’t stand out to me. Might be lower quality, not to my taste, or outside my comfort zone.
41 – 60: Not likely to keep drinking…hoping hubby will enjoy!
0 – 40: No thank you, please. Take it away and don’t make me finish the cup.



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