1734 Tasting Notes


Sipdown no. 129 of 2018 (no. 485 total). A sample.

This sample packet contained only enough for a single tasting in the gaiwan. Dry, the leaves are green and rolled into the typical balls. The dry tea has a green, floral fragrance, that is pleasant but not exceptional.

Rinsed, steeped at 195F starting at 15 seconds and adding 5 seconds each subsequent steep.

The tea has the expected pale yellow liquor that develops a tinge of green with longer steeps. It smells of milk, butter, and flowers. It doesn’t smell as sweet as some others I have had, and the smells don’t blend seamlessly, but it smells appetizing.

It tastes a lot like it smells, and I don’t notice much change from steep to steep (I went for five) — which really does make me wonder whether my taster is off today. There’s a sharp note as well that I’m not loving, though it seems to mellow out around the third steep.

There’s a slightly sugary character to smell in the cup once the tea is gone, but not as sweet or floral as that of some others.

Good, but not a favorite tie guan yin.

Flavors: Butter, Floral, Milk

195 °F / 90 °C

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drank Wuyi Rock Oolong by Shanti Tea
1734 tasting notes

Very dark brown, long, twisty leaves. In the tin, they smell so roasty as to smell burnt.

I steeped in the gaiwan at 195F after a rinse, starting at 15 seconds and adding 5 seconds in each subsequent steep.

The tea is dark, a sort of copper-dark amber. It smells smoky, with a curious and elusive floral note that swims in and out. Flavor-wise it is also quite smoky, with a mineral/stonefruit pit flavor.

I took this through five steeps and didn’t notice much change from steep to steep.

Maybe I don’t have my tea tasting legs back quite yet. I like this, but I don’t love it. Maybe because the smoke is a bit heavier than I was expecting to start my morning with.

Flavors: Burnt, Floral, Mineral, Roasted, Smoke, Stonefruits, Toasty

195 °F / 90 °C

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Sipdown no. 128 of 2018 (no. 484 total).

I’m back from my business and pleasure trip to Sweden, which was both very interesting and very dark this time of year.

This tea had the distinction of being the lowest rated cold brew eligible tea in my cupboard (I can’t face the idea of cold chamomile), and so that is how I enjoyed it until it was gone.

Greener oolongs make unexpectedly good, unusual, cold brews in my experience. I enjoyed this as a cold tea.


I have dreams of traveling to that region. The envy! What was most interesting to you?


I was only in Stockholm, but I would have liked to go to the archipelago. Most interesting: everyone drinks lots and lots of coffee, the city is basically cashless (so you don’t need to change much money which I didn’t know before I did that at the airport, so I have a ton of krona left), it’s not as cold in Stockholm in December as you might think — it’s a city kind of cold, like in NYC, not a bitter cold, and it gets dark at 2:30 and light at 9 a.m. this time of year. Not kidding. Oh, and the subway is excellent — very easy to get around on and the trains come every five seconds. The ABBA Museum sounds corny and it is, but it was also fun, as was the Vasa Museum - big warship from the 1600s sank on its maiden voyage when a gust of wind blew it over in the harbor. It sat at the bottom of the harbor until the 1950s when they pulled it up, restored it, and built an entire museum around it. Beware of the licorice. It isn’t sweet, it’s salty and smoky, so be prepared. :)

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Sipdown no. 127 of 2018 (no. 483 total).

This one found itself at the bottom of the ratings and so became my take it to work tea until it was no more.

I feel like I just wrote the initial note on this the other day so I don’t really have anything to add, except that because its problem (at least for me) was that it was neither fish nor fowl — it wasn’t really fruit and it wasn’t really floral, but was trying to do both — I noticed that when I was taking it to work and not focusing on the warring fruit v. floral or indeed anything else really, I enjoyed it a lot more.


Tell me who are you?
Who are you, who who who who
Cuz I really wanna know
Who are you, fruit or flor-al

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Sipdown no. 126 of 2018 (no. 482 total). A sample.

I need to keep plugging away at the sipdown efforts, so for the last caffeine of the day I picked this to sip down. It’s the lowest rated of my remaining black tea samples, all of which are fairly high rated. So that’s sort of sad.

When it is gone, there won’t be more at least from American Tea Room. So I’m even sadder about having to say goodbye. But I need to be somewhat ruthless if I’m ever to get my stash under control.

It’s a really nice Assam. I must remember to look for others from this estate when I come out of lockdown.

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I bought this more for the novelty than anything else, and I am not sure I have the guts to steep for a full 3 minutes — I’ve never steeped a green tea that long and been happy with how it tasted.

In the tin, it smells subtly of jasmine — a nice fragrance, not overpowering, not artificial.

At 1:30, the liquor is almost the color of water, that is to say, virtually colorless. The jasmine flavor, though, is delicate and enjoyable.

I’ll try another steep at 3 minutes and see what happens.

After 3 minutes, the tea is a little darker, but barely. The jasmine aroma and flavor is no more intense than it was after the first steep. Fortunately, the tea isn’t bitter after this length.

I suspect I’ll hang on to these flowers longer than most teas of this rating mostly because the flowers are visually pretty.

Now for some exciting news: I counted wrong with regard to the green teas I have left to write notes about. I had a Den’s kukicha in my cupboard, but I looked through my entire stash twice and can’t find it. So I conclude I sipped it down and failed to record the sipdown.

After removing that from the cupboard and discovering that one of the jasmine teas I thought was a green was a white, I have the following left to taste and write an initial note about:

Matcha: 2
Green tea: 3
White tea: 3


Flavors: Jasmine

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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drank Organic Matcha by Den's Tea
1734 tasting notes

4 oz water at 175F, 2 spoons matcha, whisk.

I’ve gotten my mojo back for sure. I’m getting a nice froth even in a matcha bowl that I’d thought might have become jinxed.

This tastes a lot like what I think of when I think of matcha. It’s mostly seaweed, umami, not particularly sweet or vegetal, note even very grassy. The mouthfeel is full but not overly thick, and a little effervescent because of the froth.

I just really like Den’s matcha. I don’t know whether it is qualitatively better than others, in fact it’s possible it isn’t and it just appeals to me.

Also, I’m very excited to be drinking this before noon. I thought I would never get to sleep last night. I have a ton of shopping to do this afternoon, so I’m excited to have gotten my tea notes done (for the most part) early. One more new tea after this, and then a surprise!

BTW, the only other person to write a note about this was Cofftea. Anyone know how she is doing?

Flavors: Seaweed, Umami

175 °F / 79 °C

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This is a sample I’ve had for a really long time, but never opened. I am really pleased that I finally did.

This is unlike any pu-erh I have had to date, and in a very good way. I rinsed twice and then steeped in the gaiwan with boiling water for 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 60, 120, 240, 260 and 480 seconds. And for once, I didn’t feel in a rush to get through the steeps.

Because this tastes more like a Yunnan black to me than a pu erh. Yes, it has something of an earthiness to it that makes me know it is pu erh. But unlike other shus I have had recently, this one’s primary flavor profile isn’t earth, leather, and mushrooms.

Instead, this has a sugary sweetness to it. The note starts as a dark and heavy one, like molasses and evolves into brown sugar by around the sixth steep. Around the second steep, I even got something a little like cocoa. I hesitate to call this malty, because it doesn’t have the sort of depth I associate with maltiness, but it is mild and smooth.

There was a slight fishiness coming from the packet, but it washed completely away in the rinse. The liquor started very dark, like bourbon, and over time lightened up to a more medium amber.

While the tea didn’t undergo a dramatic transformation, it was sweetly delicious throughout.

I’m a little afraid I liked it because it wasn’t like pu erh. But who’s counting?

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Earth, Molasses


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Adventures in pu-erh, day 2.

This one came loose. It has big, coarse, dark leaves that look rather like the leaves of a Big Red Robe oolong. They don’t smell at all fishy, for once. They smell of earth, soil, and something aromatically volatile, like resin.

I rinsed twice and steeped in the gaiwan with boiling water. I went 10, 10, 20, 40 (an accident, I meant to do 30), 40, 60, 120, 240, 360, and 480. My attention span being what it is, I wanted to stop around steep four. But nevertheless, I persisted.

And I’m glad I did because somewhere around the four minute steep, the tea changed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The tea started with a medium copper liquor (the run off looks pink, as I’ve experienced before and find interesting), which got darker through the first four or so steeps to a cognac color and then lightened up again.

Through the entire experience, I was very conscious of drinking something that came from plants. The early steeps were heavy on the leather, earth, and mushroom notes, but then became more woody. Like sticks. The leather notes faded away as did the mushroom ones. The tea became milder and almost sweet.

Around steep four, it became something different, very mild, with a flavor of its own that I’m having trouble defining. The character was like cocoa to me, but the flavor wasn’t quite that. I also want to say it reminded me of whisky, but not in an alcohol sense if that makes sense — there wasn’t anything chemical about the flavor. Maybe it’s tobacco and I’m getting it confused with those other smells that come out of mens’ clubs with heavy wood furniture and red leather upholstery.

Yeah, I’m going with tobacco.

Anyway, it’s a really interesting tea that is worth hanging with. If I’d continued, so would it have.

Flavors: Earth, Forest Floor, Leather, Mushrooms, Resin, Tobacco, Wood

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This is a never before opened sample that I got when I bought some yixing pots from Essence of Tea.

The leaves are big and dark and twisty. On first sniff, I didn’t get much out of them at all, but sitting with my nose in the packet for a while, I get a mild smell of earth and trees. Not toasty roasty or sharp at all.

Four steeps in gaiwan after rinsing, in 5 second increments starting with 15.

The tea is golden yellow, maybe a bit darker than that. I want to say bronze yellow. The color got a bit lighter by the fourth steep.

As with the scent of the dry leaf, I didn’t get a ton of aroma out of this on the initial steep. As I got more attuned to the tea, I started to get a smell reminiscent of walnuts. Sometimes it is more the bitter, shell scent. Sometimes and more often, the meaty mild nutty scent. I could go so far as to liken it to stonefruit pits.

By the second steep, a sweetness started to emerge. Again, nothing roasty or toasty or smoky, but a sort of raisin or honey smell and flavor.

It doesn’t do a lot for me, unfortunately. It is tasty enough, and it gets high marks for not being overly roasty. But It’s not bowling me over.

Flavors: Earth, Honey, Raisins, Stonefruits, Walnut

195 °F / 90 °C

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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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