drank Phoenix Oolong by Samovar
1283 tasting notes

I’ve been wanting to go to a Samovar tea room for years, and since I live in the Bay Area it’s somewhat astonishing to me that I never made it to one before Friday. We took the kids to the SF Zoo and then went to the Zen Valley location for tea and dinner. It was chilly outside and the tea room was warm and peaceful. A lovely place to sit.

This is one of the two teas I had while there (on the menu it is called “Golden Phoenix”). It was served in a gaiwan, which I’ve never quite mastered, but I did my best. I was reminded of why I love oolongs and why I don’t drink them often. I had this after dinner and the fam was getting restless and wanted to leave, while I kept trying to squeeze in just one more infusion.

This is a richer flavored oolong than the Four Seasons, but still somewhat delicate, not as floral, more “oolongy” with a stone fruit and woodsy flavor. I wasn’t able to control my infusion times what with the distractions of being in company and my somewhat bumbling gaiwan style, but I found that I preferred short infusions to longer ones. The longer ones took a turn toward bitterness, while the shorter ones had a very subtle peachy note with a pleasantly sweet aftertaste. I can’t help but believe my experience would have been improved if I’d ordered this one before dinner when I had more time to savor how this changed from infusion to infustion.


ooh, I’ve been many times!

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ooh, I’ve been many times!

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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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