1243 Tasting Notes


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
1243 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
1243 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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This tea has three entries on Steepster. I’m not very OCD. Only about some things. But I used to take pleasure in reporting duplicate tea entries so the powers that be could merge them. But then I remember hearing they weren’t doing that anymore because of some software issue. Which is a shame because the multiple entry thing is like a burr against my skin. I wish I could merge them myself and get rid of that annoying prickle.

To make it even more entertaining, each of the entries has a different average rating so it’s kind of hard to know what the consensus is on this tea, which is part of what Steepster’s value add is. Ho hum.

Anyway, I am 100 percent sure this was part of the tea of the month because it doesn’t seem at all like something I’d buy. In looking at my stash, I see that I do have some flavored pu-erhs, but that was before I knew my tastes better. Also, in general, strawberry isn’t a top flavor pick for me. I love the fruit (if it’s just the right ripeness), but I find the flavoring agents often taste fakey to me and I cannot abide strawberry ice cream under any circumstances.

That said, Teavana’s strawberry isn’t too bad. It’s been pretty good in things like the strawberry lemonade tisane.

I just came back from a long walk up a very steep hill. I intended to run at the high school track near me, but it was closed for some event (how dare they actually use the high school track for the high school!) so I went for a long walk instead. Somewhere along the way I thought about this tea and decided to try it when I got back.

I’m making it western style because I don’t have a gong fu brewing vessel big enough to make enough for the BF to have some as well and he expressed an interest. So I rinsed and then put it in the Breville. I’m assuming this is a shou, so I’m using boiling water, and the recommended steeping time on the package.

There was an amazingly rich strawberry fragrance coming out of the packet, and underneath a rather earthy tea smell. Not fishy, leathery, or salty, or if it is, that is masked by the strawberry.

It has a reddish brown, dark but clear liquor like some black teas. The aroma is strawberry first, something malty and earthy second.

The flavor is weird. It’s not horrible, not something I have to hold my nose to drink. Just weird. The strawberry flavor is the first thing I taste, followed by an undercurrent of malty tea. The strawberry flavor itself isn’t irksome to me, though it’s not overly natural either. There’s a sort of a creamy note to it that makes it more like strawberry vanilla than berry flavor.

I suspect serious pu-erh drinkers wouldn’t care for this much as this isn’t really about the tea. It’s about the strawberry, which is trying to be a strawberry/vanilla dessert and actually succeeding pretty well at it. I give it “very good” rather than merely “good” points for that.

I don’t love this, but I don’t dislike it either. I can see maybe having it occasionally for as long as it is in my cupboard, but I can’t see myself re-ordering it. Which continues my streak of not wanting to reorder things Teavana still sells, and wanting to reorder things they no longer sell.

I wonder what it would be like in the gaiwan? I’ll try that another time.

Flavors: Cream, Earth, Malt, Strawberry, Vanilla

Boiling 2 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 34 OZ / 1000 ML

I have a $10 gift card from there. No idea what I’ll buy… figure one of their overpriced straight ones


I had their Earl Grey recently and thought it was pretty solid, if you like those.


I’m allergic to Bergamot. Strange but true! (numb tongue and queasiness) But thanks for the suggestion :)


They had a decent jasmine green pearls as well, as I recall. Rooibos tropica is also good. One of the better rooibos blends I’ve had b/c i can’t taste the rooibos. :-)


The black tea balls aren’t bad. And I love Orange Blossom, but it’s more of an “I’m sick” tea because it’s so intensely sweet candy orange.


Hmmm if it isn’t too floral I may do the pearls! :)


I just looked back at my notes on the jasmine pearls and I seemed to think it was pretty mellow, and that the tea wasn’t obscured by the jasmine. But it has been a while since I had it.


Not the jasmine ones… I got plain black tea balls. Ahh. “Black Dragon Pearl”. They’re malty black tea, and are pretty decent at work, with random water temperatures, grandpa style steeping.


Morgana, I have something similar in my cupboard now just not in pearl form. The black ones sound neat though!
Thanks OMGsersly, I may try that!!

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Sipdown no. 200. A sample. I got this when I ordered my first yixing from Teavivre, the yixing The Tea Fairy suggested.

I opened this up this morning thinking what the heck, I’ll get another sample out of the way and continue my Yunnan kick at the same time.

OMFG. Little did I know how loved this tea is on Steepster. 142 ratings and an 89 average rating. Wow!

So now here I am about to drink a much venerated tea and totally prepared to have my socks blown off, and perhaps my feet along with them.

First, I have to say the leaves are gorgeous. Golden exceeding any golden teas I’ve had before. They smell earthy-malty with cocoa notes.

I steeped at the low temp recommended. The directions here say 3 minutes max, but on the packet they said 3-5, so I split the baby and steeped at 3:30. I don’t want to mess up the steeping because I want to experience this one in all its glory.

Lovely, clear, dark reddish-amber color. The aroma is an entertaining melange. The first whiff was all sweet potato, but after that I got some cocoa, honey and molasses notes as well as something dark and woodsy.

The tea itself is incredibly smooth and soothing. It invites you not to think about it too much, and to just sit with it and be. Calming on the stomach, too. There’s something light, almost perky about it, which is an interesting contrast to the dark dry leaf smell. It’s not what I’d call full bodied, but that shouldn’t be taken to mean it isn’t complex.

The flavor at first isn’t overly sweet, but the aftertaste leaves a sweetness on the tongue and behind the teeth. In the sip, I taste the root vegetable (sweet potato and perhaps some carrot), and an almost citrus-y note.

This is something I could easily drink every day. Fingers crossed I get a job soon as I would dearly love to order some of this. I’d even make an exception to my lockdown edict for this one.

By the way, I said when I got to 200 sipdowns I’d play a guessing game at how long it will take me to get out of lockdown. Current estimate based on the number of teas in my Steepster cupboard (plus at least another hundred or so samples) is probably a couple of years if I continue consuming at the current rate, but if I don’t, which is likely given past patterns, add another couple of years onto that. LOL

However, I think I’ll get out of lockdown on herbals/non-caffeinated teas earlier because those are being consumed at a faster rate as I feel comfortable giving them to the kids (even at night), and because I had fewer of those to start with. Current guess on when I’ll be ready to get out of lockdown on those is more like 2-3 months at the current rate.

And I am also considering the possibility that because I have less pu-erh than other types of teas, I might consider myself not in lockdown at around the same time as herbals/decafs (and perhaps before as I’m considering rewarding myself with an order should I manage to get a job sooner rather than later).

Flavors: Carrot, Citrus, Cocoa, Earth, Honey, Molasses, Sweet Potatoes

185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 500 OZ / 14786 ML

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Not quite done with my confectionery tea fix for the morning. I thought about having the Teavana Almond Biscotti, but then I saw that I had some of this so decided to try it instead.

In the packet it smells very similar to the Teavana. Which in turn was pretty much identical to the SpecialTeas Almond Cookie, which in turn was similar to American Tea Room Brioche.

I did this before in a previous note, but just for fun, let’s compare:

Teavana Almond Biscotti—Black tea, almond pieces, cinnamon pieces, and safflower blossoms

SpecialTeas Almond Cookie (and yes, I read the thread about SpecialTeas being a provider to Teavana and that maybe being part of why they aren’t around anymore)—tea, almonds, cinnamon, flavouring, safflower blossoms

American Tea Room Brioche—well-oxidized ebony leaves are contrasted with pale, sliced almonds, bits of cinnamon and vermillion-colored safflower blossoms.

Guess what Amaretti Cookie has? Black tea, almonds, cinnamon, and safflowers.

One of the things I like about these blends is the safflowers.They brighten the tea up and make it look festive. Red is particularly fetching among the black leaves. I’m not sure how and what they contribute to the taste. In fact, I’m not sure I know what safflowers taste like.

The tea is a medium golden brown and translucent, but is not clear. The aroma has an interesting citrus note to it but otherwise smells like almond cookies.

Flavor. Well, it’s definitely almond-y, more pastry than cookie, I think. Rather like an almond croissant and very tasty, but the first sip did a bit of a throat grab on me. I should perhaps steep this at my usual 3:30 instead of 4, but I thought I’d go with the package directions to start. I also wonder what a slightly lower temperature would do.

It’s got a pretty amazing aftertaste. Like what I taste after eating almond pastries such as bear claws. It’s a juicier flavor than the Amaretto Cookies I’ve had (the kind that come in the red tin, individually wrapped in paper that is fun to set on fire, but don’t try that at home, kids). Those are crisper, in my recollection.

I haven’t had either the Teavana or the ATR versions in a while, though the SpecialTeas is sadly, no more.

I’m not sure I’m ready to unseat Brioche as my favorite in this genre, but this is a good tea and I’m glad to have it available as an alternative. Rating it the same as the Teavana and SpecialTeas in this genre.

Flavors: Almond, Cookie, Pastries

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

Ohhhh, Brioche has a new challenger.


Not quite, but it’s good!

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Exciting! In going through my tea stash yesterday, I found some of this! I can’t believe I never wrote a note about it because I know how much I like it. In fact, I was lying in bed this morning thinking about what tea I wanted with breakfast and this one came to mind first and wouldn’t leave.

It smells amazing in the tin, deep and rich caramel aroma, which makes me think of colors like chocolate brown. No. 2 smelled it and immediately said he wanted some, so I made enough for him to have some (but he left to go get pancakes before it was done steeping, so great, more for me).

The aroma of the steeped tea lightens up quite a bit into more of a candy caramel, which makes me think of colors like coffee and tan. That’s also where the vanilla note comes in. The tea is a clear maple color, not murky like some caramel teas, where the caramel bits melt and turn the liquor to sludge.

The flavor is just as I remembered it. Very obviously caramel, but not overpowering, and not just riding the surface or otherwise glommed on. The tea itself isn’t overly strong and is fairly smooth. I might steep it a bit longer next time and see what that does. Yes, I’m overjoyed that I have enough to enjoy more cups of this! I can see why I was hoarding it, as it is one of the last of the LiberTEAS teas, but it’s one of those things where I’m going to have to bite the bullet and drink it or risk that it be discovered fossilized in an archaeological dig in the far distant future.

Flavors: Caramel, Vanilla

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 25 OZ / 750 ML

Sounds so lovely!

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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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