1187 Tasting Notes

drank Breakfast Blend by Samovar
1187 tasting notes

I wanted something this morning that I knew I liked. Something I knew was among the things I liked best in the black tea department, without being an Earl Grey, but still being breakfasty.

It seems I have multiple canisters of this that have never been opened. I was clearly hoarding this tea. I have at least two of the 4 oz size and one that is in a smaller copper colored tin. I think I bought the small one when the large ones weren’t available. And I bought two of the large ones when they were available because I was afraid they wouldn’t be available again.

Anyway, I should drink this tea. Carpe diem and all that. So I cracked opened the small copper tin. Cute tin, but so small I can’t see reusing it for tea. Paperclips maybe.

I am also hoping that this is the same thing Samovar is still selling now under the name English Breakfast Black.

Having now had many, many more breakfast blends than when I first tasted this, I feel comfortable bumping up the rating. It’s definitely among my favorites. The caramel-like aftertaste is pretty special.

The Samovar Yunnan blends in particular (though some others have this quality as well) have a quality that I adore, and that I also find in certain Zinfandels that I adore (one from Sobon Estates, one from Cline) which is what I call malty, a full bodied sweet and multi-layered note. In the wines, its grape-y sweet and in the teas it’s more brown sugary sweet, but it’s a common thread and pretty much assures I’ll like whatever it is.

I may bump this up further over time. I have a hard time rating once I get over 90, but it’s definitely over 90.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Malt, Molasses

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Sipdown no. 205. The rest of the sample. In the vein of sipping down things I like.

I steeped this a little shorter than last time, and I didn’t have enough leaf left for a full cup, but it’s still quite nice and peachy. And it’s still available at ATR!

Flavors: Peach

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This is the current cold brew, and I suspect it will live out its existence in my cupboard that way for the most part. It makes a perfectly decent, if not particularly distinctive, iced tea. No. 2, however, voted that it needed sweetening. I personally don’t think it does, but then I don’t take sweetener in my iced tea evah.

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drank Jasmine Pearl by Samovar
1187 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 204. A sample. I thought I had tried all the Samovar green tea samples, but when I did my number on the tea collection I found this. Now, unless something got trapped under the drawer, I am sure this is the last of the green samples. I do have a few white tea samples, a couple of oolongs, and a masala chai, but all the blacks, greens, herbals and pu-erhs have been sipped down.

And oh joy! This is a tea that Samovar still carries!

I so love jasmine teas, and pearls are particularly awesome. So I’m excited by the prospect of this on a rainy evening, though this was another sample I saved well past what I’m sure was its prime.

The pearls smell richly jasmine and greenly tea, and they barely unfurled during steeping (I will steep them again, for sure). The tea is lightly yellow and very clear. The fragrance is a divine mix of jasmine floral and gently vegetal, sweet green tea.

Why did I wait so long to try Samovar’s jasmine? For shame. It is nigh on perfect, in my view. There is nothing heavy handed about this. It’s perfectly balanced between floral and tea, and for a type of tea that can be a very pleasant johnny one note, it has an amazing depth. I can only imagine how it would have been when fresh. It might have been my first 100 score.

Now I must sip down all of my lesser jasmines so I can justify ordering this in the convenient economy size.

Flavors: Hay, Jasmine, Nectar, Vegetal

180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

Hehe, your last sentence made me laugh :D

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Sipdown no. 203. The rest of the sample, and another in the line of sipping down teas I like.

I steeped this as I did the Teavivre sample just for fun (185F @3:30) using a bit less leaf than last time and that did some interesting things. Mainly, it brought out a really wonderful honey note in the aroma and flavor.

I suspect this won’t be the last I have of Yunnan curls, even if I get them from a different vendor.

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Thank you, Fjellrev, for reminding me about this when I was bemoaning the no-moreness of the ATR Apricot Black. Fortunately, I had this in the little file-like storage box where I keep my samples, as yet unopened.

There’s a lot of apricot in the scent right out of the sample packet, though it’s a little different than the Apricot. A bit less focused, for lack of a better term? Like there is more to it than apricot, maybe. It has to be the saffron.

I steeped a little shorter than recommended but at the temp recommended on the packet and got a cherry-wood colored liquor (not surprising since the base is Ceylon) that is clear and quite attractive. I smell a higher pitched version of the leaves in the steeped tea.

The flavor is really nice. Certainly better than the Adagio apricot, but not as apricot-ty to my taste buds as the Apricot Black. Still, there’s a fruity rather than jammy apricot flavor that is noticeable particularly in the finish and lingers in the aftertaste. I’m trying to figure out what the saffron is doing flavor-wise, if anything. I think of it as a savory flavor though with some sweetness. I don’t really taste something I can identify as saffron, but the effect is to mellow the apricot and tea flavors and knit them together.

I will miss my Apricot Black, but this is delicious.

It’s raining here for another day in a fairly long string of rainy mornings. I’m trying to be a sport about it because we need the rain, but it helped the day get away from me. The kids are off school for the winter break and no. 1 had a friend sleep over last night. I awoke before seven to the sound of shouting and crying. The boys apparently decided wrestling would be a good idea, and as usually happens, no. 1 got hurt and took it out on no. 2. You’d think after the 800,000th time, someone would learn something? But no. (At what age does this stop? I’m almost afraid to ask). After that settled down, the sound of remote control cars whirring loudly and crashing into (I am guessing) table legs or each other. Until the BF got up to go to his doctors’ appointment and took all of them away to breakfast and the youth center and I went back to bed. I am trying to kick start my exercise program and I worked out yesterday and the day before. Today I woke up feeling like a truck had run over me, and since it’s raining I used the soreness as an excuse not to go out for day three, at least not just yet. Anyway, at some point I rolled over and fell asleep and when I woke up it was noon.


Flavors: Apricot

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

I haven’t gotten out of bed until noon, or even past noon, a few times this past week so don’t beat yourself up!

And now I wish they carried Apricot Black still too just so I could try it.


I will go easy on myself. :-)

I just got tickets for the entire family to go see The Force Awakens in reserved reclining seats. We have to go at 9 a.m., but it’s not like we have lots of plans this week. ;-)


Epic! I still need to see it. Your family’s way of doing it is simply the best.

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drank Cocoa Praline Tart by Teavana
1187 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 202. Another Teavana product with multiple Steepster entries. I feel the urge to merge…

This tisane has gone to Teavana’s tea heaven and is no longer available. That’s okay, because it’s another one of those dessert-y tisanes that I’m not really into these days, favoring fruity blends instead.

It’s actually pretty amazing how this tastes like pralines. In my original note on this I was hung up on the tart part of the description, and I still haven’t, to my knowledge, had a praline tart. But this does evoke the praline candy, down to the nuttiness (which I apparently didn’t taste last time I wrote about this).

One weird thing is I get a sort of pineapple note, though I don’t think there’s any pineapple in this. It’s pear, I think, but for whatever reason it is registering with me as pineapple tonight.

In any case, it’s pretty enjoyable, and so of course, Teavana discontinued it. ;-)

Flavors: Candy, Fig, Nuts, Pineapple

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drank Wuyi Da Hong Pao by Adagio Teas
1187 tasting notes

Yesterday I tried this in the gaiwan and it was so unremarkable I didn’t even bother writing a note about it.

In was, in fact, so uninteresting that I decided I was doing something wrong. So I spent some time reading about Da Hong Pao.

As a result, I upped the leaf to 5g for a 100ml gaiwan. I also upped the water temp to over 205F.

It’s better this way for sure.

The tea is an apricot color. First steep @15 secs. has some roasty notes, but also something floral and fruity, which was all but lacking yesterday.

Second steep @20 secs is amber colored with a stronger floral roasty scent and a woodsy flavor. Also, for the first time, I understand the “wet rocks” thing. It’s a hot mineral-y note sort of like rain on hot pavement.

Third steep @ 25 secs continues to have a floral aroma, similar to what I usually find in much greener oolongs.The flavor has a woodsy note with some fruitiness, like sucking on a peach pit. And the wet rock thing again. The aftertaste has a surprising sugary note.

Fourth steep @30 secs is a little less strong in the floral aroma, with a sweet toastiness in the flavor. I’m not getting plum, but I can see why people do. The aroma turns a bit plummy/raisiny as it cools.

Fifth steep @35 secs has a similar aroma and flavor to 4. The empty cup smells of plums/raisins. The wet leaves smell like hot minerals.

It wasn’t as interesting to my tastes as the JK Teashop one I had recently, but based on this experience and the other I had recently with hotter water for an oolong, I’m thinking I could go a bit hotter than 195F with the water for all my oolongs at least as an experiment and see what happens.

I might try this in the dark oolong yixing next time, which I fear still needs to suck away a fair amount of flavor before it can start giving back.

Flavors: Floral, Peach, Plums, Raisins, Roasted, Stonefruits, Toasty, Wet Rocks, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C
Sami Kelsh

Mmm, I do love wet rocks!


It’s a really interesting flavor, for sure.

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Continuing the Yunnan visitation/revisitation. In my last note on this I mentioned perhaps trying it with more leaf. So I put in an additional spoonful this time. Which actually made it a bit too strong.

It’s a really nice tea, and the leaves are adorable. I would drink this again.

But I think I’m coming to a realization, which is that people seem to outgrow Adagio for a reason. Their teas are solid, for the most part. It’s just that there are better ones out there of the same varieties.

I’m really not sure there’s anything that Adagio has that I can’t get a version of that is as good or better somewhere else. So why complicate my life with more tea vendors rather than fewer? (In addition to being on a carpe diem kick about drinking teas I like, I seem to be becoming something of a minimalist. At least in theory, she says, eyeing the ridiculously huge amount of tea in the house.)

I think where I’m coming down is its the sort of thing where I might consider ordering this from Adagio if I couldn’t find it anywhere else I was already placing an order, and if I really felt I needed the little golden snaily curls in my life immediately.

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Sipdown no. 201. The rest of the sample. I briefly considered trying to do an entire day of avoiding sipdowns. Then I thought maybe I should go the opposite direction and try to do all sipdowns today. Then I decided I was seriously overthinking this and should spend no more time even considering the question.

I have come to a realization, though. I like this so much better than the Adagio Apricot. I know I have a Mariage Freres Apricot in my stash after having done a sort of quasi-inventory project the other day, but really, unless that one is even better, I really see no reason to have multiple apricot teas some of which I like better than others. Why not just have one I really like?

And then, just when I was ready to standardize on this (for now) as my apricot black tea of choice for all the reasons stated in my previous note (and bumped up the rating accordingly), I discovered that this tea is no longer available on the ATR site.


Flavors: Apricot


ATR does apricot so well. Love Tangier.


I haven’t tried Tangier. I need to look to see if I have a sample of it.


Woo hoo, I just found an unopened sample of Tangier! I’ll put it in the queue to try.


Awesome, curious to see what you’ll think of it!


Have you tried Harney’s Apricot black?


Nicole, I don’t think I have. Maybe I’ll order a sample next time I order from them.


Carytown Teas also dose a really superb organic apricot black. I have plenty of it if either of you would care to try some. :)


That’s a lovely offer, Teatotaler, but I already have at least two other apricot teas and I’m currently under threat of being disowned if I bring any more tea into the house. ;-) But I’ll definitely keep this info for future reference.

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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 far less appealing to me. 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.

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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