1183 Tasting Notes


The BF is coming down with something that is doing a number on his throat and asked me to make some tea. He also discovered recently that he can’t drink black tea first thing in the morning without puking unless he’s eaten first. Apparently, that is a thing. I never knew until it happened to him. Then I googled it, and yes, it’s a thing.

Having tons of this and thinking it would be a good alternative, I made some in the Breville. In looking back at my original notes, I seemed to have had trouble getting flavor out of it until I steeped it in the gaiwan.

So I laughed when I handed a cup to the BF and he said, “There’s no flavor in this at all and that’s perfect for how I feel right now.” He later amended his statement to say that despite not having flavor, it was very soothing on the throat.

On the heels of the oolong I just had, this doesn’t make a huge impression on me though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is flavorless. It’s just leaning much more toward the “mouth full of snow” flavor I thought silver needles had until I had one that wasn’t that way.

Resteeped 10 degrees hotter and 30 seconds longer. Sweeter and stronger, but still extremely subtle. Some bread in the aftertaste, to make things interesting.

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Just because my oolong samples from Life In Teacup have now all been enjoyed does not mean I lack for other oolong samples.

I am pretty sure that the one I have from JK Tea is this one. The sample packet (never opened until today) says 2009 Spring Da Hong Pao Ban Yan. I know I’ve had Da Hong Pao before but it has been a while. JK Tea was very kind and included this sample when they sent me the purple chrysanthemum tea they gave away a while ago, and which, unfortunately, did not mix well with me.

I’ve steeped in accordance with the directions on this page, which means hotter water than I typically use for oolongs (over 209F, it says here). There’s a lot in this sample so I have enough to try it at a lower temp later. Going for my usual 15 seconds + 5 seconds in subsequent steeps in the gaiwan.

1. Tea is golden yellow. Smells a little roasty, but there’s no pungent note like some dark oolongs have (and that reminds me of darjeeling). It’s surprisingly sweet smelling and the taste is mild, sweet and not particularly toasty. The empty cup smells like caramel. :-)

2. Dark gold. There’s a note in the aroma that is like toasted rice? Otherwise, the floral notes are coming out this time. Taste is again, not toasty. A little perkier and less sweet, but still very smooth with no bitterness.

3. Dark gold again and a light floral aroma. Continues to be medium sweet and smooth, with a floral taste, and a lovely sugary note that lingers in the cup and in the aftertaste.

4. Lighter golden in color. Honey note in aroma! It makes me think of bees and pollen. :-) Some of the toastiness is coming out in the flavor this steep, but the tea is still very smooth and sweet.

5. Similar color to 4, aroma is less sweet. Flavor has begun to fade but still has a nice, floral smoothness.

I enjoyed this!

The only reason I’m not rating this higher is that there is a sort of a funky note to the tea, a weird sort of plastic-y note, which fortunately isn’t always present and isn’t strong with this tea. I recall having a similar issue with the purple chrysanthemum, though there it was much more pronounced. I’m wondering whether it has something to do with the plastic bags used for the samples? It will be interesting to try this at a lower temperature and see what difference that makes.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Floral, Honey, Sugar, Toasted Rice

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drank Yunnan Gold by Adagio Teas
1183 tasting notes

Sipdown 194. The rest of the sample.

Look at me, sipping down teas I like, not just the ones I need to get out of my life asap! I feel ridiculously courageous.

I shall miss this one’s beautiful leaves. They are, I think, the most golden of any “gold” tea I’ve had. And it’s still tasty after all these years (cue Paul Simon), though I’m sure it was better back when I wrote my first note.

I have a total of nine Adagio sample tins left with varying degrees of tea still in them. I’m going to say that when I started, I had something on the order of 50. And if I were to order from Adagio, I’d probably have distilled the shopping list to 15 or so teas from the 50 samples. I record this for posterity mostly because I think it shows that sample tasting is working the way it is supposed to for me. I’m finding what I like and enjoying the process along the way.

ETA: I have to go grocery shopping immediately because the cupboard is pretty bare. No bread, no cereal, no yogurt, so breakfast was peanut butter on matzoh left over from last Passover. Here’s the weird part. This tea goes wonderfully with peanut butter! Something about it really brings out that ale-maltiness and the choco notes. Wow! Who would have thunk it?

Roswell Strange

Totally makes sense that the peanut butter matched well with the tea; you’re tasting the complimenting sweetness of the Yunnan (which is very sweet) and the natural sweetness of the peanuts. However, the nutty quality still provides some contrast in flavour too so you’re not just pairing two alike things. As well, peanut butter is totally a fatty/buttery thing and the two main flavour carriers are acid and fat so that only aids the amount of flavour that the PB would bring out of the tea.

Acid probably wouldn’t work well with Yunnan blacks ‘cause they tend to be more confectionery (malt/cocoa notes) in nature which doesn’t pair as nicely (though food pairing is totally subjective). But something sweeter in a more jammy/fruity quality (like a Keemun) would work better.

Something you would pair with an acid would be most green teas though or something with lots of astringency or briskness since salt chemically neutralizes those qualities. Of course, too much acid/salt will make those teas taste flat/dull.

Sorry; just finished the food pairing portion of my tea sommelier course.


Excellent info, RS! Explains why my taster was so happy…

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drank St. Petersburg by Kusmi Tea
1183 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 193. But only a sample tin. Yay, so glad I have more of this!

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drank Hubei Spring Needle by Samovar
1183 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 192. A sample.

I think this is the last Samovar green tea sample I have, and one I have certainly kept too long. Be that as it may, this is yum.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t drink even this much caffeine this late in the day but I just got back from no. 1’s school holiday band concert and we still have homework to check…

The leaves don’t look or smell all that different to me from many Chinese green teas I’ve had. The tea looks no different than others I’ve had, with a pale yellow liquor with a bit of particulate in it but otherwise clear. It smells sweetly vegetal.

And that’s how it tastes, too. It’s just a very nice cup of green tea without any bitterness, with a tiny bit of butteryness. Perhaps a little more grassy than some Chinese greens, but not as much as Japanese greens. I’m trying to place the vegetal flavor. It’s not sweet enough to be peas, and too sweet to be green beans. I’m thinking maybe snow peas is a good approximation.

In any case, very enjoyable all around, and unfortunately not available on the Samovar web site. Sigh.

Flavors: Grass, Vegetal

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Sipdown no. 191. A sample, and the last Life in Teacup oolong sample. (Sniff.)

At least they went out with a bang. The leaves smelled grassy green in the packet but did some amazing things after steeping. I steeped this in the gaiwan starting with 15 seconds and increasing in 5 second increments.

1. Pale yellow tea with a milky, floral scent. Flavor is light, more floral/grassy than vegetal, something that initially presents with a slightly bitter edge but quickly smooths into a sort of green nutty flavor like chestnuts.

The cup smells very fragrant, a distinctive floral smell. I’m guessing this is why it is called osmanthus.

2. Same color, similar aroma but deeper. Flavor is fascinating. Starts as green floral and ends as green nuts. Along the way it morphs into various things too fleeting to pin down and describe. Really wonderful and, dare I say, fun.

By the end of the second steep, the leaves have almost tripled in volume.

3. Greener color. Nectar in the aroma! Nuttiness is forefront in the flavor now with floral afterwards, but the nuttiness returns in the aftertaste, light and raw and reminds me of Brazil nuts.

4. Greener again, nectar has become milder. Flavor similar to 3.

5. Similar to 4 but the nuttiness is now milder and the floral aroma/flavor is much more noticeable.

Aftertaste is sweet and fresh for a while after drinking.

Just delicious.

Flavors: Chestnut, Floral, Green, Milk, Nectar, Nutty, Osmanthus

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Trying this in the gaiwan today. Have just enough left to do something else with it. Not sure what. Maybe try it in the yixing again.

I am somewhat intimidated by pu-erh, though I like what I’ve had of it generally speaking. I’m just never sure I’m “doing it right” and since pu-erh can be pricey I’ve been reluctant to start with some of the things I know to be good in my stash.

Let me say that another way. It’s more accurate to say I believe them to be good based upon the word of the companies I’ve patronized because, as recent threads here have indicated, there’s a lot of room for everything from misunderstandings to getting ripped off particularly with regards to pu-erh. Which is one of the reasons it intimidates me.

In any case, most of my experience so far has been sort of the toe in the pool method rather than diving in head first. Because intimidated.

So here’s another toe in the water effort. I went for very short steeps after rinsing. Starting in the immediate range (1-3 seconds) and increasing by five seconds each time.

1. Very dark and opaque, like black coffee. Smells like a saddle. Tastes a bit salty and a little like potting soil. I think this is what tasters mean when they say mushroom, as raw white mushroom doesn’t taste like much to me except a little like dirt, and that’s what I’m getting here.

2. Same look to the tea, if anything a bit darker and a bit more opaque. Rather like flat cola. Still some leather in the aroma. But smoother and something else, too. Tobacco, maybe. The flavor is less salty, and actually quite smooth. It just doesn’t taste like an awful lot to me.

3. Color is the same. Less leather and more earth in the aroma. Gosh, this steep still doesn’t taste like much but it’s weird. It’s like the tea is trying to taste like something but can’t quite pull it off. A little like meat, maybe, but not in a lapsang sort of way. More like a shroomy meatiness.

4. No change on the color. No change on the aroma. Flavor is still trying to be something more than it is. There’s a tad of sweetness this time around.

5. Still dark brown but no longer opaque. There is something that makes me think of gravy in the aroma, though I’m not sure why as the salt and leather is pretty much gone. Perhaps its flour? The flavor is sweetening up some, and becoming leafy. There’s no leaf flavor listed among the options except autumn leaf pile, so that’s what I’ve picked.

6. Color similar to 5. I no longer think of gravy when I smell the tea. The flavor is brighter, and I can taste the water through the tea, which I think is a signal to me to stop here. I suppose I could push it further and see if anything miraculous happens in later steeps but I’m not excited enough by this to do that.

I have to rate this less as compared to other teas since I haven’t had many pu-erhs (certainly not many recently) and more on an absolute scale.

Assuming I’m doing it anywhere close to “right,” even if this tea was still available I can’t imagine buying it again. It’s not offensive, it’s just not really there. (The Numi bagged pu-erhs have more flavor than this does.) It makes a better cold brew than hot, and it’s hard to imagine that is how a pu-erh should be.

I’m rather gratified that other reviews didn’t find much flavor in this either, so I can’t conclude it’s just me. I want to develop a taste for puerh and I’d be horrified if I was missing the necessary taste buds to do so.

On the upside, it does seem to have made my digestive tract quite happy.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Dirt, Leather, Mushrooms, Salt, Tobacco


There is no right or wrong way to brew puerh. Just experiment and make it how you like it. Took me a while to get my basic preferences down. You will find the zone. Do you tend to like green or black tea? That may help tune you into what type to really get into.


Thanks mrmopar. I like both black and green, mostly depending on mood and time of day.


Have you tried any Menghai shou yet? I have some YS shengs that are getting nice as well.
I would probably stick to big factory or our top producers active on here, Shou is real tricky if not produced correctly. Good shou won’t have all the off notes to it. I normally won’t drink shou younger than 2 years old so it has had time to settle.


I don’t think so. I have a number of samples and also a few cakes but I haven’t broken them out yet. I intend to get on that soon. :-)


Hahaha! I LOVE these descriptions! Kinda how I’m feeling about the tea I’m drinking right now. It’s a little of a few things, but mostly not tasting of anything specific. :) (It could be nice with a little cinnamon stick added to the leaf. Cinnamon & shou is a favourite combo of mine.)

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I have not had an Assam in what seems like forever. I have a sort of weird relationship with Assam. Just when I become convinced it is my least favorite black tea, I’ll have one that changes my mind. I keep finding these unopened green Premium Steap packets full of interesting things among the tins in one of my tea drawers. This is one of them, so I thought I’d give it a try.

The Sessa is not currently listed as available on the Premium Steap site, though google shows that tea from the Sessa estate is available at other companies currently.

After having been on a Yunnan kick, it’s interesting to me that the dry leaves of this one look a bit similar except in color. They’re a bit darker, an olive green heading toward chocolate, but are similarly shaped and also have gold tippy leaves among the darker ones. They smell like a combination of baked goods and root vegetables.

I steeped for only 3:30 min because I worried this would be too strong for me otherwise. The steeped tea smells like sweet potatoes and is a rich dark cherry wood color.

I’m glad I steeped relatively light because even so, this came out quite strong. It has a lot of heft, and I think if I’d steeped longer it could have been too bitter for me. As it is, the tea has a slightly bitter edge, but one that smooths out into something that, while not overly sweet, is quite flavorful: sweet potato and some earth, with a cocoa note and some wine in the aftertaste.

It does have the Assam throat grab, but it’s not too bad. As Assams go, I like this one because it’s got a fair amount of complexity, but I would definitely need to be in the mood for something hearty to appreciate fully what this one has to offer.

Flavors: Cocoa, Earth, Red Wine, Sweet Potatoes

Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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drank St. Petersburg by Kusmi Tea
1183 tasting notes

First tea this morning. I have a tiny sample tin that is almost gone and fortunately, I found an unopened regular size tin in my stash. I rated this 84 before, but I really like it better than an 84. Bumping it up some. Kusmi excels at fruity blends, and this is a very nice one.

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Sipdown no. 190. since I’ve started counting sipdowns. A sample.

Ten more sipdowns to 200. Sadly, I will not have even made a noticeable dent in my tea stash after hitting 200. I’m wondering at what point I’ll actually see it start to look smaller? Just for fun, I think I’ll try to make a prediction when I actually do hit 200.

Though I haven’t made much of an overall dent, I am getting to the end of the Life In Teacup samples. I have one more oolong sample from them (I think) after this and a few pu erh samples. I have mixed feelings, of course. These oolong samples have been lovely, and part of me is sorry to see them go. On the other hand, I got to enjoy them, finally. And it’s not like it’s the end, either. I did buy some oolong from Life In Teacup and have most of that left in my stash as well.

But anyway, this tea. I looked up what the competition grading meant and found this:


Apparently, this won fourth place in an oolong competition.

I’m also slightly confused because I’ve had a Dong Ding from Life In Teacup which I thought was terrific and a Cui Yu, which I also liked. Not sure what makes this both?

I put this through my usual five steeps starting at 15 seconds and adding five seconds per steep. The tea comes in tightly rolled dark green balls that smelled foresty to me. It steeps to a clear pale yellow-light green.

I’m not usually at a loss for descriptive terms, but I’m having something of a tough time describing the aroma and taste of this one. It’s certainly not a dark roasty toasty oolong though it has a hint of roastiness. Nor does it seem to be a purely green oolong. I mostly get a sort of raw nuttiness in the aroma and flavor with some floral notes around the edges and a hint of milkiness. It’s extremely mild and smooth.

Very enjoyable, albeit somewhat hard to define. I wonder whether if I’d used hotter water I would have got more of the amazingness out of it that I got out of the Dong Ding of a couple of days ago?

Flavors: Floral, Milk, Nutty, Roasted

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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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