1280 Tasting Notes


Another mystery Adagio oolong from my sample set of years ago. There’s a green tea with the same name on Steepster, but I had to scour the internet to find Adagio’s description of the oolong (which I found on Amazon). It’s confusing, made worse by the fact that the pearls look just like the picture given for the green tea version.

I tried it in the gaiwan with short steeps after rinsing.

If you’ve read my notes in the past, you know I love jasmine in tea, and so I was fully expecting to love this one, too.

Steep 1, 15 sec. Pearls are still tightly wound. Aroma is a light jasmine, tea a pale yellow and clear. Aromatic tea, with a cooling sensation on the upper palate and a silky mouthfeel that becomes clean in the aftertaste.

Steep 2, 20 sec. Pearls are beginning to unfurl. Aroma about the same, tea a deeper yellow with a pink tinge. Aroma is a single floral note this time; in the first steep it was harder to pin down. I’m not noticing the silk in the mouthfeel this time, but the cooling remains. The flavor is jasmine, jasmine, jasmine. I’m trying to taste the tea.There’s a sugary, floral smell in the cup once the tea is gone.

Steep 3, 25 sec. Leaves have completely unfurled, filling the gaiwan. They’re a sort of olive green. The aroma is not as strong this time, though the floral note is still paramount. Same with the flavor. The cooling quality is barely there, and the silk is gone from the mouthfeel. There’s a sort of drying effect happening now.

Steep 4, 30 sec. Still floral, but not really evolving in aroma and flavor. More drying. A tiny bit of bitterness in the finish.

Steep 5, 35 sec. It’s done. It was probably done on steep 3.

If it wasn’t for the fact this is jasmine and I love jasmine, I’d consider this average at best. I enjoyed the jasmine, though. Since I didn’t feel the tea gained much through multiple steeps, I expect I’ll sip this down western style — perhaps as a take it to work tea to mix up the greens.

Flavors: Jasmine

195 °F / 90 °C

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Sipdown no. 40 of 2017 (no. 321 total).

My complaint about this originally was that it wasn’t chocolaty enough or minty enough. That may have been true at the time. It’s not really striking me as too subtle now, but instead I think the mint may be a bit too heavy for the chocolate.

In any case, I chose it as a sipdown candidate because I’d given it the lowest rating of any of the S&V teas in my stash. I thought about whether it deserved a rating change, but on balance, I think it’s about where it needs to be — good, but not spectacular.

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drank Palm Court by Harney & Sons
1280 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 39 of 2017 (no. 320 total). A sample.

More of this is on the way in my order, so time to finish this one up. I only have one Harney sample left after this (I think), which is pretty amazing. I thought I had more, but oh well.

One of the things that endears Harney and Sons to me is their consistency, not just within their blends but with their offerings. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but I know for sure that my attention span, weak though it can be at times, is generally more than that of a goldfish — which means that the constant changing of what’s available from various tea companies drives me bonkers.

Sometimes I get it. A year isn’t great for a certain type of crop, or demand forces prices too high, or a certain blend just isn’t selling. But sometimes I don’t get it a at all. Teavana is one of the worst offenders, generally getting rid of every blend after a season (the only one they still have that I liked enough to reorder was Strawberry Lemonade) — but even the old standby Upton is guilty. I tried to get more Turkish Apple from them the other day as part of my tisane acquisition project, and they no longer have it. I wrote to ask them why and they said it’s because it has artificial flavors. Not that this would have bothered me, though it might bother some folks. At this point, I think I’ve consumed enough artificial flavors over the years that a few more aren’t going to make a difference. But certainly, there must be a company that can make Turkish Apple with natural flavors from which Upton could source? In the end, I had to buy some off Amazon from a company in Germany — which I’m guessing was the supplier to Upton since the label says that their Turkish Apple came from Germany.

But I digress.

The point was that Harney makes a blend, gets it right, and keeps making it year after year so that you don’t have to worry that your favorites will disappear over the long haul.
I really appreciate that about the company.

I’m loving this one this morning. The flavor is just as it was when I wrote the first note on this years ago, and it’s just as enjoyable.

Evol Ving Ness

Nice rant. I love a good rant.


Heh. I guess it was a rant. Oops! I just get so frustrated when I go to order something and it’s been discontinued. It’s always the ones I really like, too.

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drank Masala Chai by Teavana
1280 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 38 of 2017 (no. 319 total).

Continuing with the project to winnow my chai selection, largely by cold brewing. I finished the pitcher of this, the cold brew version, just now and put the last two spoons into the pitcher again along with some Golden Moon Pu-erh Chai. That will be interesting…

My note on this when I tried it hot through the stove top method indicated that it wasn’t among my favorites because there was no black pepper listed in the ingredients. That is actually a plus for cold brew, in my book — the pepper doesn’t translate well for me. But a lot of the rest of this didn’t translate well either. It was a shade of its former self when done cold, although who knows how much of that has to do with age. Most of my elderly teas don’t give up that much flavor, but this one did.

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This is a never opened ATR sample from way back when. The tea no longer appears to be available on the ATR web site. I steeped for the time and at the temp stated on the packet.

I think Qimen is a variant spelling of Keemun. In any case, the dry leaf looks like Keemun and smell chocolatey with the tiniest hint of smoke.

The tea is on the darker side of medium red-brown and has an arboreal scent that reminds of pine but isn’t pine. The chocolate notes persist in the aroma, but not the smoke.

The tea is brisk and perky, but isn’t light — I think the marketing statement that it’s medium body is right on. It’s not what I think of as malty, which is a bit deeper in flavor and body, but there’s a definite bread note in there. I don’t get much more than a slight hint of smoke.

A pleasant tea that would probably be equally good iced, but alas, I don’t have enough to cold brew and as mentioned, this is no longer available from ATR.

It’s been so long, I can’t remember the Keemuns that knocked my socks off, so I’m rating this a bit in a vacuum as a solid good but not spectacular.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Smoke

190 °F / 87 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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drank Caramelized Pear by Art of Tea
1280 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 37 of 2017 (no. 318 total).

From the time I found this in my stash (I’d forgotten about it) to sipdown was exactly 8 days. I’m trying to clear out the old before all the new tisanes arrive so I’m not completely overwhelmed.

I went back and forth on this one over the course of those 8 days. Sometimes I liked it more than others. At times it was a bit too woody. It was basically the luck of the draw with what showed up in the spoons — if there was sufficient caramelized pear flavor it rated an 85. If not, it was 15 or so points below that.

Lexie Aleah

If you ever need any help clearing out your old tea I’m your girl. :P


Heh. Thanks for the offer, but my old tea is for the most party REALLY old and even if I swapped (which I generally don’t) I wouldn’t send out anything more than a couple of months old.

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drank Vanilla Comoro by Harney & Sons
1280 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 36 of 2017 (no. 317 total). A sample.

Another in my push to sipdown the hoarded Harney samples before the new order arrives. This was as nice as I remembered it, which is why it was on the wish list.

Also, it was quite good with my Thanksgiving dessert - mixed berry pie. :)

Lexie Aleah

Do you only get free samples when you order? or can you buy samples? There are a lot of their teas that I would love to try but do not want to pay for a giant tin and end up not liking it.


You can buy sample sizes for most Harney teas from their web site for a couple of bucks. They make about four cups worth depending on the size of your cup. That’s what I did the first time I ordered from them to get an idea of what I might like. Also, there are plenty of folks here who would be willing to swap for things that don’t send you (I don’t swap, but tons of folks here do).

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drank Fujian Ali Shan by Adagio
1280 tasting notes

Pretty sure I tried this once before and accidentally logged it under Formosa Ali Shan. But maybe not. It’s possible I had two different Ali Shans from Adagio. I went through a period where I tried a bunch of their samplers, including two or three oolong ones.

In any case, I can’t find any evidence that this one ever existed on the internet — except that I’m holding the tiny tin in my hand.

The only samples I have left now are oolongs, with the exception of one black tea. I thought I’d give this one a try today in the gaiwan.

It’s a green looking and smelling, a sort of buttery, floral smell in the tin. The tea is rolled into irregularly shaped balls with stems visible. It looks a lot like the picture of the Formosa Ali Shan, here: https://steepster.com/teas/adagio-teas/11434-formosa-ali-shan

I rinsed and took it through a number of steeps starting at 15 seconds.

The first steep smelled lovely — milky/buttery, lilac — captured subtly in the flavor. The flavor wasn’t a deep one, but was refreshing. The tea was pale yellow.

Second steep, 20 seconds. Darker color (medium yellow) more floral, less butter in the aroma. Flavor was similar to first steep but slightly more robust.

Third steep, 25 seconds. Even darker (golden yellow). Still heavily floral in the aroma. By now the leaves had fully unfurled and doubled the volume of leaf in the gaiwan. I started to suspect that I had in fact written a note about this one before but put it in the wrong place because my experience of all three steeps so far was quite similar to what I wrote under the Formosa Ali Shan. The flavor didn’t change in any discernible way from steep to steep.

Fourth steep, 30 seconds. The color held steady at a golden yellow, as did the aroma. Before this steep, I noticed that the cup had a sugary, pastry-like smell to it, which was very appealing.

It’s a pleasant green oolong but doesn’t evolve a lot from steep to steep, which is another quality that makes me think I tasted this once before and wrote a note under a different name. Then, I called the tea I was drinking a Johnny One Note — this is pretty much that.

I considered taking it through more steeps just to see when it reached exhaustion, but by the fourth it was getting a bit of a bitter note in the finish and didn’t have that swell of flavor in the sip. I will probably drink the rest of this Western style since it doesn’t seem to pay to go through multiple steeps.

Flavors: Butter, Floral, Milk

195 °F / 90 °C

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Sipdown no. 35 of 2017 (no. 316 total). A sample.

Time to sip down all the Harney samples I’ve been hoarding because I liked them so much because (drum roll): when I ordered the herbals from Harney I went ahead and ordered my whole wish list. So more of this in a non-sample size is on the way!

Even though this sample is old, it’s flavorful and still has that hard to pin down quality I wrote about in my first note about this a while back. It’s rating was deserved then, and is deserved now.

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This is a sample of a tea no longer available at the Todd & Holland site.

There’s been a method to my tea selection madness of late. On weekends, I’ve been cracking open a couple of untried green teas to taste and write notes about, so that I can have green tea available to take to work during the week without the pressure of writing notes other than sipdown recordings.

But right now I have enough green tea recorded to last for a while and it’s a short week because of the holiday, so I decided that this Thanksgiving holiday I’d do black tea instead of coffee in the morning and I’d crack open some new ones to write about (as well as try to get some sipped down).

This is a one of those “new ones” — a sample I’ve had for a while but that’s never been opened, is vacuum sealed and has been stored in a cool, dry, place out of direct sunlight.

It has been a while since I had a Ceylon and I forgot how much I like them. This one is right out of the dictionary definition. The earthy smell to the small dark leaves before steeping, the clear, cherry wood red liquor, the sweet, malty aroma that reminds me of Nestea dry mix — only obviously so much richer and much better.

The flavor, too, is quintessentially tea-like. Nestea again comes to mind, as does Lipton, but only as a benchmark of teaness for a person raised in a culture where coffee is the national hot beverage. There’s an astringency to the tea, a briskness to the mouthfeel, with that slightly bitter edge that sits on the tip of the tongue after the tea has been swallowed. The aftertaste mellows out into a sweet one that paradoxically has a cooling and freshening effect. There’s a tiny bit of throat grab, but it isn’t so severe as to mar the experience. There are some chocolate notes and a general impression of trees in the sip.

It has been so long that I can’t honestly compare this to other Ceylons I’ve had without making shit up. I think I’ve probably had others that were a bit smoother and not so astringent, which knowing me, I would probably have preferred.

But this is quite enjoyable as the first tea on a Thanksgiving morning.

Flavors: Chocolate, Malt, Tea

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 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.

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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