1280 Tasting Notes


An unopened sample from back in the day. I steeped according to package directions.

The dry leaves range in color from almost forest green to silvery green and smell of earth. The tea is a light color, almost a peachy yellow, and clear.

The flavor comports with my impression of other first flush darjeelings in that it is rounder and mellower than second flush teas in general, without any extremely sharp notes though there’s an undercurrent of wine. I’m also getting stone fruit notes, apricot mostly, and a slight floral note. It’s tasty and gentle.

Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Muscatel

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

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drank Decaf Assam by Todd & Holland
1280 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 45 of 2017 (no. 326 total). A sample.

Hint: drinking with food reduces the papery aspect.

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drank Decaf Assam by Todd & Holland
1280 tasting notes

I must have tried this a while back and never written about it. It’s a sample that I’d opened but can’t find a note about.

It’s actually really nice to be able to drink a black tea on a dark, chilly evening and not have to worry about the caffeine. I have given decafs short shrift in the past, but I suspect that’s about to change.

There’s no denying that decaf anything tastes “less than” the caffeinated equivalents. There’s a shallowness to this that I wouldn’t excuse were it caffeinated. The aroma is nice and full, leafy and malty, but the taste feels squeezed of its oomph with a sort of a papery note that I find in a lot of decafs, whether they be coffee or tea.

That said, I can almost forgive it just because it means black tea after dinner without the wakefulness. And there’s no Assam throat grab.

Flavors: Malt, Paper

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

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Sipdown no. 44 of 2017 (no. 325 total). A sample.

I just had the first bit of this yesterday, and my perspective on it hasn’t changed — so I don’t have anything to add to my first note. Just recording the sipdown.

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Sipdown no. 43 of 2017 (no. 324 total). A sample.

My note from the last time I tried this said to try it with a lower temp, so I’m trying it at 195 today in the gaiwan.

It’s a rainy day today. I went for a run in the rain, which is the first time I’ve done that in forever. I enjoyed it, but not the returning home wet to have to peel off clothes part. No. 1 is supposed to be my personal trainer but he was whining the entire time about his shoes getting wet. This is California, folks. It doesn’t rain here, and everyone might as well be made of spun sugar, including my kids.

This time around, the toastiness I was missing last time is prevalent. It’s almost like I’m tasting a completely different tea than the one I described before. There’s no plastic-y note that I complained about last time, but there’s still something that is floral-like about it, and a sweetness with the sugary note I described before.

I decided to have the last couple of steeps as an accompaniment to the Kung Pao Noodles I heated up for lunch. Great pairing!

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I’m up earlier than I would have thought on the last day of a long weekend. I was debating whether to just sleep in and forget sending in my exercise for my writing class, which is due in an hour and a half, or to get up and do it. I decided in the end to get up and do it.

I am in a period where writing is a chore, not very enjoyable at all. And since I don’t have to do it, it’s tempting not to. I’m pushing myself through as a character building exercise.

As a warm up, I’m writing about this tea. Another ATR sample.

I haven’t had a darjeeling in a while. I usually like them, but in general Indian teas have a quality that makes me think of them as needing to be spaced out with other things in between. I don’t feel the same about Chinese black teas, and I think it has to do with the intensity and the astringency. Indian teas often have a sharp, penetrating note rather than a round, easy drinking quality — at least for me.

This one has medium sized green-black leaves that smell earthly in the packet. The tea liquor is gorgeous — the sort of red-orange that I used to joke would make a nice color for a sweater. It has a winey aroma, but not too sharp.

The tea is the same. It isn’t as sharp as I’d expected and while I’d hesitate to call it smooth, it is moreso than other darjeelings I’ve had. It has a coffee-like note to it and a medium astringency.

It’s quite enjoyable and I think it would make a lovely iced tea as well. Too bad they no longer have it at ATR.

Flavors: Coffee, Muscatel

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML
Evol Ving Ness

I find the same with writing. Truly, I am working on the discipline to write every single day. No matter what.

(But it’s hard.)


I know. I never actually write every day, except in my head. I often think about what I’ll write the next time I sit down to do it. But these days I’m just not into it as much because I’m very busy at my day job. I’m coming up on a couple of years there and they’re about to give me significantly more responsibility — I’ve been focusing on that and fiction has fallen more to the wayside than I’d thought it would. I do have a new story in progress, though.

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A sample I’ve been eyeing for a while. My fail yesterday made me want to try another white. I’m a bit of a masochist that way.

This makes a pale yellow clear tea that smells sweet, like nectar. It also has a definite flavor, though I’m at a loss to describe it because it is, to me, anyway, extremely subtle. It tastes a lot like it smells. “Delicate and sweet” is about right — I’m not getting the complexity others who tasted this have, but then again my sample is quite old.

It’s pleasant enough, though I think white teas may just not be my thing — which is somewhat unfortunate as I have an awful lot of them in my stash.

I give it points for having a definite flavor. If I was going to drink white tea, I wouldn’t mind drinking this one.

180 °F / 82 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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Sipdown no. 42 of 2017 (no. 323 total). A sample.

More of this is winging its way to me even as we speak, so time to say goodbye to the sample packet I’ve been hoarding.

The name makes me think of my best friend who died a few years ago. It’s nice to think of her while sipping.

I reduced the steep time to 3 minutes because my last note suggested that I try that.

It’s interesting having this right after the ATR Qimen Imperial. It has many of the same qualities of roundness, heft, maltiness — but there’s something more. My guess is it’s the Yunnan — it softens the edges even more and makes this one of the more awesome tea experiences I’ve had lately. I think the reduction in steeping time to 3 minutes may have made all the difference with this one, at least for me.

I originally rated this 85. What was I thinking?

Evol Ving Ness

It’s a lovely thing when people who have enriched our lives and are now gone have a chance to come stay a while in our thoughts.

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Another ATR sample that’s never been opened and apparently no longer available on the web site. I steeped according to the package directions.

The chocolate notes in the dry leaf are even more pronounced in this one than in yesterday’s Qimen Mao Feng, as they are in the aroma of the steeped tea. The color is about the same, perhaps a little less red and a little darker brown-orange.

The flavor is smooth and round, with a depth that wasn’t present in yesterday’s. There’s a more pronounced maltiness to the tea, a bready note to the aroma and flavor. The finish isn’t sugary sweet, but it’s not bitter.

I like the body of this. It has heft to it but isn’t so heavy that it gets dragged down.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Malt

190 °F / 87 °C 4 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 500 OZ / 14786 ML

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Sipdown no. 41 of 2017 (no. 322 total). A sample that I’ve been eyeing and meaning to try for a while. And the last caffeine of the day.

Stupidly, I viewed the preparation notes for the wrong tea, so I steeped in what seemed like the sweet spot, but it was for the Bai Mu Dan. Fortunately, it wasn’t that far off from what the only note that gave a temp and time had for the Bai Hao.

White tea continues to be mostly a puzzlement to me. Preparation instructions on the internet are wildly divergent, some sources advocating long steeping times and some advocating multiple short steeps. Some say use hot water, some say use cooler.

I’ve basically given up trying to figure out how to steep it. If I get lucky and it comes out tasty, that’s a win.

Same with the taste. Sometimes I feel as though it’s basically a cousin to black tea. Sometimes I have no idea what it is — it’s a sort of very light, dewy or hay flavored hot water.

But I keep trying to hit on some unifying principle that can help me understand it better. And I keep failing.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to say about this one. I don’t get much flavor out of it at all. Maybe it’s an age thing (but white tea is supposed to age well), but I think it’s more likely a preparation thing. There’s a bit of sweetness but honestly, I’m getting mostly hot water here.

Not rating it.

180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML
Evol Ving Ness

Totally get you on this front. White tea is a mystery. At times, it has been flavourful floral pillows of delight and then, other experiences have been mostly hot water. So yeah.
Still on it though.


I keep hoping that I’ll crack the code some day and white teas will make sense to me.

Evol Ving Ness

I am sure that we will both get there one day, or at least have a better idea of which ones work for us and which don’t.

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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.

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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