1622 Tasting Notes


Sipdown no. 110 of 2018 (no. 466 total). A sample.

The sample packet contained just enough to both try this and sip it down. Made in the gaiwan at 195F.

I accidentally knocked the gaiwan over and a lot of the leaves spilled out right after the rinse. I got discombobulated and started the steeps at 30 sec. instead of my usual 15.

I’m deeply disappointed to note that Red Blossom no longer has this on their web site because this was awesome!

The aroma of the steeped tea is almost equal parts delicate floral and roasted, sweet depth. The flavor is reminiscent of caramelized sugar and raw, dark honey. The tea is light amber in color and clear.

The second steep, a bit longer (45 sec) , highlighted the roastiness. The tea has a soft mouthfeel and leaves a bit of freshness in the mouth as well. Someone else mentioned pine, and I think it is more that than menthol or camphor — the freshness is like what comes out of a broken pine needle.

Steep 3 (1 minute) is similar to steep 2, and at this point I’ve decided to just savor and enjoy through another steep or two rather than interrupt the enjoyment to take notes.

This tea has a lot of character, and a smoothness and lingering sweetness that makes it extremely easy to drink.

I want more, and alas, it appears that isn’t in the cards.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Floral, Honey, Roasted

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Since I had a not very successful steep of a different gyokuro earlier, I thought I’d give another one a try with, I hope, a more successful steep.

This time I’m steeping at the high end of the range recommended on the tin. 160F, the lowest temperature available on the Breville.

This has both a fresh cut grass smell and an edamame-like undercurrent in the dry leaf. The steeped tea is pale yellow-green with leaf particles floating in it and a fine green residue at the bottom of the cup.

The tea’s aroma does smell like a sea breeze, fresh and a bit salty, with a hint of seaweed. Not heavily marine (no fishiness).

At this temperature, there is no “wateriness” as with the Lupicia I had earlier. I think I might try the Lupicia Pine Breeze at 160F.

This tea, too, is a bit drying to the mouth, but otherwise has a soft mouthfeel. It has a savory aftertaste that hints of saltiness without actually being salty.

I may never be sure I’m making gyokuro correctly, but I think the slightly higher temperature may be the way to go for me, anyway, as it seems to pull a richer flavor from the leaves without bitterness or a scalded aspect.

I have not had that many gyokuros, but this one, for me, seems to stand up to the textbook definition.

Flavors: Cut grass, Ocean Breeze, Salty, Seaweed, Soybean

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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drank Gyokuro Pine Breeze by Lupicia
1622 tasting notes

This was rather a messy steep. I originally planned to do this in the Breville, but I forgot that the lowest water temp on the Breville is 160 and I needed 140 for this. Which meant using the Zojirushi, which does have a 140 temperature setting. I ended up filling the Breville from the Zo and pushing the basket down into the water, then timing it manually — otherwise I would have lost a ton of leaf in the Breville as it stuck to basket which was damp from use earlier this morning.

So I’m not sure this is really the best steep possible of this tea.

The smell of the leaves is softly, jucily, vegetal. How can a smell be soft? If you know what I mean, you know what I mean.

The tea is a light yellowish green color with a ton of particular matter floating in it. It smells like edamame to me.

The flavor is more watery and less intense that I was expecting. I’m not sure whether that is because of how I made the tea, or whether that’s what people mean when they call this mild. I taste the water in the tea, which I find distracting. The flavor that comes through, once I get past the water, is a bit like soy beans, but also a bit like snow peas.
I also find the tea drying to the mouth.

After this tasting, I find it ok but not a favorite. I’ll jigger the temperature and time some and see if that makes it better.

Flavors: Peas, Soybean, Vegetal

140 °F / 60 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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drank Cocotte by THE O DOR
1622 tasting notes

I’m finally getting around to trying this one and I hope I don’t like it. I say that because it is no longer on the The O Dor web site and I haven’t heard of anyone else trying to do a tomato tea.

If I do like it, it will be the sort of thing I hoard until the end of time. Or at least until The O Dor brings it back.

I would not necessarily have identified this as a darjeeling without reading the existing notes because the leaves in the tin smell fairly strongly of tomato and lemon. I really can’t smell the tea itself.

Various notes mention a tendency toward bitterness, which must be a function of the tomato and citrus rather than the underlying tea — I’ve never had a bitterness issue steeping darjeeling for 3 minutes. Since this is apparently not the most forgiving tea, and because I can find no recommended steeping instructions for it from The O Dor on the tin or elsewhere, I’m going to follow Ysaurella’s recommendation and steep it at 190F for only 2 minutes as a starting point.

The steeped tea is a coppery amber color, darker than I expected. And it definitely smells like tomatoes!

But what’s great about this, at least for me, is that it’s the essence of tomato without the acidity, or the pulpiness, or any of the other things that can be unpleasant about tomatoes if they aren’t gorgeously ripe, sweet, and juicy. Not that this really tastes like gorgeous, ripe, sweet, juicy tomatoes either. I am not sure how they managed this, but it’s kind of like they added the smallest amount of tomato possible that could provide enough flavor so that it’s recognizable, but not so much that it tastes like spaghetti sauce. There’s a floral essence as well, which keeps the tomato from being too heavy.

Fascinating and unique. I can’t say it’s my favorite thing ever, but it’s pretty amazing in how it accomplishes what it sets out to do.

190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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The dry leaves are short, small, and dark green with white tips. Their smell is not very intense; it’s earthy, almost piny, with a sharp note that is more like what I tend to find in second flush darjeelings.

The steeped tea is a clear, amber color and smells, remarkably, like baked goods. It has a floral upswing to it as well.

In flavor, it’s rather mellow. The sharp note in the dry leaves is noticeable but much less intense in the flavor. I do get caramel, remarkably, and something that is rather coffee-like, too. Pomegranate and lemon balm, not so much. Though if I squint, I can understand the lemon balm which is more like an aura of generic citrus to me.

It’s a delightful darjeeling.

Flavors: Caramel, Citrus, Coffee, Earth, Floral, Pastries, Pine

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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Mostly what I smell upon opening the bag is mint. Very, very strong peppermint. If there is sage, spearmint, and lavender in there, I can’t smell it.

This herbal is a deep golden color, verging on rose gold and is clear. The aroma is minty, but also somewhat earthy which is the sage, I think. In the flavor, the sage is there around the edges, too — not overly strong, which is good because it would have been too savory for me.

I am puzzled as to why this is named spearmint sage instead of peppermint sage, though. I taste more peppermint than spearmint, though the aftertaste is more spearmint.

Like virtually every Samovar blend, this has a lot of complexity, but doesn’t come across as busy. It’s definitely got more and better flavor than many mint blends I have had. The mint isn’t too herby, and it isn’t fake tasting — the other ingredients keep it from being that way.

This also has a very refreshing coolness in the mouth that Samovar describes as menthol. I’d say the feel is menthol, but I don’t get the medicinal Vapor Rub-ness I get from methol, which is pretty remarkable.

I’d definitely keep this around for as long as they blend it. It’s the best mint I’ve had since Refresh, and while I adore Refresh, you can definitely taste the quality in this. Refresh makes an excellent every day choice, but this is something special.

Flavors: Earth, Peppermint, Sage, Spearmint

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

Did you taste much lemongrass? I see it’s listed in the ingredients but I’m really not a fan of lemongrass in teas. Otherwise, it sounds really good and I’m always looking for a good sage blend.


Hm, bonus is it’s local so I can pick it up here! I’m centrally located between the three in the city. Which one to go to??


I don’t taste lemongrass, but I don’t taste a ton of sage either. Everything other than the mint is more of a synergistic effect that adds depth and interest to the mint. Refresh has tarragon in it, but it’s the same thing there —the tarragon is there if I squint but mostly it keeps the mint from being boring or overwhelmingly a one trick pony.


There used to be a lot more locations than there are now. Pretty sure the one in Yerba Burns is gone. I used to go to one in Hayes Valley, but not sure that’s still around.


The one in Hayes Valley was still there when I lived that way. I remember being baffled that they didn’t use samovars… And they had a killer tea broth soup with duck. Looks like Yerba Buena is still open for business fyi.


Really? Wow. I almost never get to the city these days but that’s good to know about Yerba Buena.

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drank Weight To Go! by Teavana
1622 tasting notes

I know I’ve had this before, but for whatever reason I don’t have a note on it.

I take any sort of weight loss claims from tea with a mine full of salt grains. Yes, caffeine can make your metabolism run a tad faster and yes, drinking a lot of fluids, including tea, can help curb appetite given that many times the body interprets thirst as hunger. But beyond that, I haven’t seen enough proof to convince me that tea does much of anything to help one lose weight.

Oh and it does, sometimes, enable me to have a tasty after meal treat that makes it less likely I’ll want a dessert.

So for me, the reason to drink this isn’t because of the name. It’s because of how it tastes, which isn’t half bad.

Next time I’ll overleaf more — like all Teavana and other chunky fruit blends, more is better. The blend has a fruity, minty, slightly musky smell in the tin. It’s a bright red color and clear after steeping (thanks beetroot!) and it smells tartly fruity with an undercurrent of mint and a depth that I think comes from the pu-erh.

It tastes more like a fruit/herbal blend than a tea. I do taste an underlying leathery note that I think is from the pu-erh. It’s not overly tart despite the hibiscus — the tartness it does have is tempered by the fruit’s sweetness and blunted by the mint to some extent.

It’s quite tasty and I can’t help but wondering how it would be as a cold tea. I’m torn about going there, though, given that Teavana is kaput and that would use up most of my tin.

Flavors: Fruity, Hibiscus, Leather, Mint, Peppermint, Spearmint, Strawberry

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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Sipdown no. 109 of 2018 (no. 465 total).

On its way out of my cupboard for now, I’ve decided to up the rating on this one fairly significantly.

As compared to other green teas, gunpowder is a sometime thing for me. The dark, smoky flavor is a bit too much for me on a daily basis, as lapsang souchong is for me on the black tea side. It isn’t to say I don’t like it, just that I can’t drink it daily.

And yet, I did drink this one daily for a while and it wasn’t too difficult. I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to do so if I wasn’t engaged in a massive sipdown effort, though.

Which made me realize that I had unfairly graded this tea. I graded it on an absolute scale of all green teas, rather than a gunpowder among gunpowers. And that’s not how I’ve said I’m doing my ratings.

As a gunpowder, this is quite solid — at least as far as those I’ve tasted go. When I am sufficiently close to the end of my green teas to order more, I’ll be adding at least one gunpowder to the mix. But I’m not yet to the point where I’m ready to standardize on a single company’s offering.

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In the tin, this has a naturally sweet smell and a darkly vegetal one as well that is quite rich and appetizing. A bit like spinach, but with an interesting spicy note.

At my standard green tea temp, this yields a pale yellow colored tea, with a sweet green pea smell. I might try this a tad hotter — the label suggests 185F instead of 175F. Next time.

The flavor is lovely. A general sweet, vegetal flavor without tasting like cooked vegetable run off. It has a nuttiness that tends toward almond.

Looking forward to trying this again slightly hotter to see what that does.

Flavors: Almond, Nutty, Peas, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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drank Forest White by Tea Hawaii
1622 tasting notes

I want to point out, first, that the directions for steeping this tea call for 4 minutes and 208F water. This seems to me a good sign, since hotter water and longer steep times work way better for me with white teas than the reverse. I did fudge the temp slightly because I was making it in the Breville which doesn’t have a 208 setting. So I’m steeping at 205.

I have to agree with some of the other notes — this is an unusual tea. The dry leaf has a completely different fragrance than that of other white teas. No woodiness or plantiness, no sharp notes. It’s a rich and round aroma that I can only guess comes from the volcanic soil. Yes, I do smell cocoa. And yes, I do smell raisins. I smell one other thing, which is almost ash — but not in a bad way. Freakin’ weird, but marvelous. Like with the black tea from this vendor, the leaves are extraordinarily long and beautiful.

After steeping, the tea is a rich, golden color and clear. It smells like raisins still, maybe with a bit of plum in there as well. It is not as cocoa-y but there’s still a suggestion around the edges.

The one thing I for sure am not getting that others are tasting and smelling is rose. That, I just don’t get, though there is a more generic floral flavor at the beginning of the sip. The tea has a distinctive raisin-like taste, that smooths out into a more hay-like note later in the sip.

If I buy one white tea, this will be it.

I’m pretty sure there’s still a silver needle out there for me somewhere. I may need to try Samovar’s again if they still have it, or try one from a new company I have yet to discover.

Flavors: Ash, Cocoa, Floral, Hay, Plums, Raisins

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tea skills and tastes developed they became less appealing to me — but I still enjoy nicely done blends where the base doesn’t taste like hamster cage chips. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with me. That said, I’m not entirely a purist and I enjoy a good flavored tea, particularly flavored blacks.

I like all kinds of tea depending on time of day, mood, and the amount of time I have to pay attention to preparation. These days, I’ve been drinking primarily green tea during weekdays after my first cup of coffee. On weekends, I’ve been drinking only tea.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

People have sent me tea on occasion, and I was once persuaded to send some Tazo Om to AmazonV. I’ve also done at least one group buy here on Steepster, the famous Doulton-led Dammann Freres experiment years ago. But mostly, I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it, though I don’t put samples in my cupboard and not everything I have at any given time is showing in my cupboard. I do try to remember to remove things from my cupboard once I no longer have them.

My current process for tea note generation is described in my note on this tea: https://steepster.com/teas/mariage-freres/6990-the-des-impressionnistes

I was an early internet adopter and have been online in various environments since around 1990. Steepster is one of the nicest online environments I’ve ever been privileged to participate in and that is saying something. :-)


Bay Area, California



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