1288 Tasting Notes


Sometimes I feel like I’m having to try to read my own mind, which sounds easy but is surprisingly complicated. Particularly when the mind reading has to occur retroactively.

In sorting the stash I came across several non-blended, non-flavored Kusmi teas. This is one of them. I can’t remember what I was thinking when I ordered them. Kusmi’s plain teas haven’t been much discussed on Steepster, so I can only surmise that I was curious about them and decided to order a few.

This is a pretty typical darjeeling, with winey notes in the dry leaves and steeped tea aroma and flavor. What I like about this one is that the notes aren’t overly sharp. The tea is smooth and easy to drink. It’s slightly astringent.

There’s also another note, less typical of the darjeelings I’ve experienced. Something that is reminiscent of cocoa. A deeper, rounder, sweeter aroma and flavor than some of the very Muscatel-y ones.

I’ve had at least one other Makaibari tea, a second flush from Todd & Holland. Steepster says that this Kusmi one is a first flush, but I can’t find the Makaibari on the Kusmi US site anymore so I can’t get more information.

I don’t know whether the difference in flavor is because of the first flush vs. second flush thing or something else, but I like this one better.

Flavors: Astringent, Cocoa, Muscatel, Smooth, White Wine

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML
Daylon R Thomas

Muscatel Darjeelings are my some of my favorites…


Yeah, its a very characteristic smell/taste. I have to admit though that I’ve never actually had Muscatel. I sort of think of it as a low quality wine because of its reputation.

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drank Golden Monkey by Teas Etc
1288 tasting notes

Earlier this week, I wrote a rather quick note about this one and said I’d come back to it when I had more time. In particular I had a really hard time figuring out what I was smelling in the aroma of the steeped tea.

I now know what I’m smelling. You won’t believe it.

Spaghetti! With marinara sauce!

I checked in with no. 1 who was sitting next to me at breakfast and he agreed. I was worried I might be going crazy, but he smelled it, too.

There’s a sharp fruity note like cooked tomato, and a bready pasta note underneath that.

Wouldn’t you know, spaghetti, pasta, tomato, marinara-none are available as flavor options. I can’t say it’s surprising, just a little frustrating.

To add to my previous note, the tea is a sort of light maple color after steeping. Now that I have spaghetti with marina in my head, I’m tasting that more than the hot praline of the other day, but it’s remarkably tasty.

This may be one of those teas that changes in flavor from cup to cup, which is always fun.


I’ve gotten stewed tomatoes from a couple black teas in the past! It’s so bizarre but kind of cool.


Really unexpected!

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Sipdown no. 25 of 2016 (no. 236 total). The rest of the sample. And thus endeth the foray into the Sanctuary T samples.

There is a difference with less leaf. I prepared the tea in the gaiwan the same as last time, but this time there’s not as much underlying tea flavor. It’s really all about the jasmine.

Since I like jasmine, that’s not really a problem. Well, it is and it isn’t. I think I’m discovering that I liked green jasmine the best of all jasmines, and oolong may be next in line. White jasmines are good for the jasmine aspect, but I still have a love/hate thing going on with white tea in general. Mostly I don’t feel that I understand it very well.

I’d definitely go the more leaf route next time I have a jasmine silver needle. More oomph, to the extent that white teas have oomph, or at least more of a blended flavor of jasmine and something else.

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drank Golden Monkey by Teas Etc
1288 tasting notes

Running out to an appointment so I don’t have time to do a proper note on this, but wanted to record something this morning and the Art of Tea Earl Grey Creme I drank before this already has a couple of notes from me.

I always enjoy seeing golden leaved teas and this one is incredibly golden. Not much darkness interfering with the sea of gold that is the dry leaf. It’s fragrant, too. What it smells like is elusive and something I have to wrap my mind around more so I’ll leave that for a later note.

The steeped tea has a honey aroma and something confectionery like hot praline. I don’t really get caramel in the flavor, though I can see where that comes from. To me it’s more a hot praline sweetness. A cookie dough note of sorts. Sweet with a bit of flour in the background.

It’s definitely yummy. I have to drink this again more mindfully, but for now it will be doing its magic in small sips from the Timolino while I drive to my appointment.

Sorry to see this has been discontinued. Note to self: read the notes on its replacement.

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

Nice description!

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drank Qimen Mao Feng by Andao
1288 tasting notes

Another Andao tea that I never opened before. I take it that Qimen is an alternative spelling for Keemun?

In the packet, the dry leaves are dark, curly and fine and smell like dark chocolate! Really rich dark chocolate.

The steeped tea doesn’t smell like chocolate, so much as baking bread with smoky pepper around the edges and a dark, sweet note, like molasses. Its a tawny red color, and quite gorgeous.

The tea is deep, full bodied, and malty, and it has a stout aspect to it, like a dark beer. It’s almost chewy in texture. As it cools, some chocolate comes out in the aroma and a-dare I say- coffee note, almost. Like a mocha note, which is fascinating. I think this is the first tea I’ve had that wasn’t flavored that reminded me of coffee, but without really tasting like coffee.

Quite an interesting tea with a lot of character. If this tea was a person, I’d want to invite it to dinner. It isn’t overly smoky for a Keemun, which is part of its charm. I must do some sleuthing to see whether I can determine if anyone else is selling it since Andao as a company is no more.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Mocha, Molasses, Pepper, Smoke

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

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Sipdown no. 24 of 2016 (no. 235 total).

It’s pouring rain this morning. No. 2 has a field trip in all of this and we have a parent conference for no. 1, plus I have a car full of items from my cleaning spree to take to donate along with other errands. So it will be a busy day.

This is a nice way to start. I really do like this one, even though like the other S&V Earl Grey’s I get little to no bergamot, and today I’m also getting a savory note (rosemary maybe) which I don’t ordinarily adore in tea. The floral notes are so gentle and pleasant, though, that they make me want to drink this again.

It also appears that I didn’t include all my Simpson & Vail teas in my cupboard. I just poured two of them into tins as a result of recent sipdowns and noticed I didn’t include them in the inventory, I guess because the bags were in the sample bins. But they’re about 2 oz a piece, so they are enough to consider cupboard material. Must remedy.

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I put a portion of the sample, about 5 g, into a 100ml gaiwan and steeped for two minutes. I still have about 2.5g of the sample left, so I can try it again with less leaf.

All I really smell in the dry leaf is jasmine. The leaves are lovely, silvery and long. After steeping, the aroma is jasmine +, but I’m having trouble identifying what the plus is. The liquor is a light apricot color.

The flavor is also jasmine plus. I’m thinking it’s nectar I’m tasting, Something mild and sweet in any case. There’s a tiny touch of bitterness, like bamboo maybe.

It’s more flavorful than some of my other silver needle ventures, and not just because of the jasmine. Rating it compared to my other silver needle experiences, though the rating doesn’t reflect it’s overall appeal to me as a tea, which is less.

Flavors: Bamboo, Jasmine, Nectar

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drank Sencha Fukuyu by Kusmi Tea
1288 tasting notes

I’ve had this a few times now and it’s been pretty much the same experience each time. It’s a drinkable sencha but it’s not as juicy as some I’ve had. The dry leaf is very fine and tends toward a grassy fragrance. The steeped tea is yellowish green, with some floaters (the fine leaves of sencha always do this when I steep in the Breville).

The steeped tea doesn’t have a strong aroma, just a light grassy/hay thing going on.

I don’t find the tea as flavorful as some senchas I’ve had. It’s not bitter, but not sweet. It has a vaguely hay like note, not vegetal, not buttery.

It’ll be easy to sip down when I want a green tea but don’t want to think about it too much.

Flavors: Hay

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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drank Sweet Dreams by Todd & Holland
1288 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 23 of 2016 (no. 234 total). The rest of the sample.

Another weak tea day (as in the consumption of tea was weak, rather than the tea itself) because of further house cleaning and a rather lengthy nap this afternoon, followed by the baking of cookies (I found as part of the cleaning a jar of cookie mix that a neighbor had made as a holiday present a while back that never got made and now has been) and the cooking of dinner while the Democratic debate was on in the background.

The BF wanted an herbal and I started down the list with a Todd & Holland Pear Helene sample that we haven’t tried yet, which he nixed. This was the second one I mentioned and I was sort of surprised he picked it, but also sort of glad as it means another sipdown.

It’s definitely got a medicinal thing going on, and is mostly peppermint, but if you’re in the mood for a truly herbal herbal rather than a rooibos or a fruit blend, or are looking for a palatable tummy soother, this isn’t bad. I probably wouldn’t drink it often and would likely save it mostly for tummy upsets so I doubt I’ll order it. Refresh by Tazo is a better mint in my view, and mint alone is plenty soothing when I have an upset stomach so I’m not sure I see the need to add this to the cupboard permanently.

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Sipdown no. 22 of 2016 (no. 233 total).

Again, not much to add to my previous notes. A floral more than citrus tea that isn’t really an Earl Grey in my estimation because the bergamot is pretty much missing, but is tasty and pleasant nevertheless.

Oh, hey. It seems I’ve hit tasting note no. 1100 with this one.

carol who

Yeah !! 1100 is awesome! :)


Woo! Congratulations. :)

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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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