1183 Tasting Notes


Sipdown no. 76 of the year 2014. Both 75 and this one were not sample sipdowns which makes me feel a little more like I’m making some headway here. I’m not commuting today, it being Saturday, but since I was so close to being able to sip this down I decided to steep some of this anyway. I am toying with the idea of making the Teavana Three Kingdoms Mao Feng my next commuting tea. I’m about 95% there in the decision making process.

It’s another rainy day here. Everyone says California needs the rain, so who am I to judge, but I don’t love it when it rains out here. Everyone manages to slide their cars into everyone else because no one knows how to drive in any sort of “weather.” People get weird, too, because this area is full of athletic types who don’t know what to do with themselves when it rains. The hard core go out and bike or run anyway, but everyone else seems slightly on edge at the thought that they might actually have to stay inside for a few hours. Personally, I’m all about napping and watching the Olympics on TV, drinking some tea and maybe reading if my headache goes away.

Today this tea is behaving in my stomach. I’m mostly getting chocolate flavored black tea in the taste again, with a slight peanutty aftertaste. Final verdict—it’s not a favorite and a rather uneven experience so I’m docking it another couple of points. But the good news is I have a few more vintage 52 Teas packets I haven’t cracked open yet (and some I have but haven’t had in a while) and I’m thinking about which to try next. Chocolate Raisin? A return to White Chocolate Cashew? Decisions, decisions.

Sami Kelsh

Ha! I wonder what those athletic-types would do over a Manchester winter. I actually audibly gasped the other day when THE SUN CAME OUT. You can do things indoors, kids! Just march up and down the corridors of your apartment building until you feel you’ve had a workout!


Hehehehe. I imagine they’d find something to do, but they’d probably complain about seasonal affective disorder while doing it. ;-)

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drank Earl Grey Black by Teavana
1183 tasting notes

I found some Earl Greys I hadn’t yet tried. This is one of them. I am guessing this is one of the teas of the month. I don’t have a memory of ordering it separately but I suppose I could have. I mostly ordered unusual mixes from Teavana, though so it would be surprising if I chose this.

It’s really hard to enter flavors for Earl Grey with “bergamot” not among the options. ;-) The dry leaves have the characteristic scent, but it’s a more florally than fruity one. The floral notes continue in the steeped tea’s aroma along with a sweet, molasses-like note in the tea. The tea is a pretty color; light brownish orange.

I didn’t know until I read the description of this that this is a natural antidepressant. Cool. Wonder if it’s the bergamot or the tea/bergamot combination?

The flavor is better than I expected. For someone who prefers a light touch on bergamot, this is a solid Earl Grey. The underlying tea is smooth and mild, without any bitterness. The bergamot is just enough to make this taste like an Earl Grey without making my nasal passages scream and my eyes water.

I actually prefer this to the Todd & Holland I’ve been drinking the past few days though I suspect it isn’t as good a tea on an objective measure. It doesn’t have as much depth, but I like it for its mildness. It goes down easy and doesn’t do a number on my stomach. There’s no minerally, metallic or potato-y note to this.

It doesn’t have a lot of personality, but again, that’s what I think is nice about it. It’s just a nice cup of tea. I still prefer the Samovar and ATR versions overall, but they have definite personalities. This is a cup you can just sit with and enjoy without thinking about it. It doesn’t cry out for analysis and appreciation of its complexity. It just is.

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 25 OZ / 750 ML
Sami Kelsh

I was skeptical of the antidepressant claim, and apparently it’s because of the calming effect of bergamot oil. I wouldn’t shelve your Efexor in favour of it, though :p

(That said, I’m scheduling an Earl Grey into my daily rotation…)

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drank Masala Chai by Adagio Teas
1183 tasting notes

I have three samples left from the Adagio chai sampler—this, the thai chai and the spiced apple chai. I decided to try this first. I made it using the Samovar stovetop recipe and doubled the recipe to make a cup for the BF who I don’t think has ever tried chai.

It has been so long since I made chai that I’m going to have a hard time rating this because I don’t fully remember what my favorites taste like, and I’m really enjoying this for being chai more than for any specific taste-related reason.

I will say that this doesn’t list pepper as an ingredient, which I remember is a big chai requirement for me, but it tastes like it does have pepper. It has a really nice spicy kick which may be from the ginger root? I certainly taste the cinnamon, clove and cardamom.

I’m giving this a low excellent rating for now until I refresh my recollection about which chais I like and why.

BTW, I hit 75 sipdowns for 2014 and it was a big one, but my triumphant note got buried in the backlog from the dashboard freeze so I feel compelled to mention it again. LOL.

ETA: Make that four samples, or now 3.5 as I only have half of this left. I forgot to list the chocolate chai. It was hiding behind some oolong.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves

Boiling 8 min or more
Sami Kelsh

Yay! I find so many chais disappointing because they’re too sweet and not spicy enough. This is encouraging. nods


Not too sweet—boiled in water and Splenda (then 1% milk) or could have been even less sweet.

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drank Berryblossom White by Tazo
1183 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 75 for the year 2014. This is a big one.

I had a LOT of this because when I started out trying teas, I came upon some sale on Amazon that involved significant savings if you bought six boxes. I had no idea how long it would take me to drink six boxes, but it wouldn’t have taken me anywhere near this long if I’d stopped buying tea after that Amazon extravaganza. Of course I didn’t, and I just ended up with way more than any sane person should have.

By the way, embarrassingly, this was not the only Tazo tea I bought in that sale. I had a lot of Tazo for a long time. I still have some honeybush, the Lotus decaf, and the cinnamon licorice thing in quantity, but everything else has been pared down to a few bags here and there.

I would also note that the list of ingredients on the tea page are different from what is in my tea. Mine has the following, according to the packet and the box:

White tea, natural blueberry flavour and natural cranberry flavour

No huckleberries. No darjeeling! Which is weird, because I could have sworn I tasted the darjeeling in here and I even raved about it in a previous note. Damn confusing tea….

So either they changed the ingredients or they mislabeled my tea.

Whatever. I like it. It’s not planty, it’s got real flavor to it, and whatever the label says I wouldn’t be surprised if it has darjeeling in it because I’ve never seen a white tea steep this dark. It’s sort of a butterscotch color. (Perhaps it is white darjeeling?)

A poignant goodbye to a long-term cupboard occupant. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

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drank Ripe Mango Oolong by Lupicia
1183 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 74 for the year 2014. A teabag from the work stash. (Oolong in a bag just seems weird to me because of leaf expansion and all.)

But wow. After yesterday’s not particularly successful vanilla oolong experience, this redeemed the flavored oolong genre for me.

This is a flavored oolong where I can actually taste the oolong, which is a green, buttery, floral one of the type I really enjoy. The mango, which was a strong fragrance before steeping, is much more of a team player in the aroma after steeping. I don’t find it to be overly strong in the flavor of the tea and in fact I’m not sure I would have identified it as mango, but some of that may have to do with the age of this teabag. There is a light, tropical fruit flavor though, and the mango becomes more pronounced in the finish and aftertaste.

Unfortunately, my water source at work is so far from my desk that I can’t easily do multiple steeps, but I’ve tasted enough to warrant giving this another try, if/when I come out of lockdown and order from Lupicia again.

2 min, 0 sec

Holy Mother of Sipdowns! You might not have any tea left soon! :D


Kat, oh if only! LOL. Let’s talk when I hit 1000. ;-)


you’re really killing it with the imbibition process!! happy sipping ;p

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Today this served its purpose as the designated “commute” tea.

I have maybe one or two pots of this left now and I noticed today that there don’t appear to be any big chocolate and peanut butter chips left in what’s left in my tin. Which may explain why today, as I was putting the open tumbler into my car’s cupholder, I smelled, for the first time, a black tea aroma taking precedence over chocolate.

I wouldn’t have thought that the lack of chips would have made a lot of difference, but I do notice less sweetness to the blend today. Hmmm. It could be related to the chips, but maybe not.

I got more tea base today in the flavor as well, though part of this may be that I drank this on the heels of the SpecialTeas chocolate and cream sample, and this has an overall less sweet profile than that tea (because no cream flavor). More tea base, some chocolate, and just a tad of peanut butter today.

The more I drink this, the more doubts I have about it. Today it’s sitting pretty heavily. It seems to sit heavily with me about a third of the time, though who knows why that is. It may be the tea, it may be something else entirely. I think I’m just not as excited about the flavor on this one as some other 52 Teas blends, and the more I experience it the less I think it really captures the peanut butter cup flavor, which is one of the main measures I have for giving points on a tea like this. Another small downward ratings bump today.

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Sipdown no. 73 of the year 2014. It appears there was one bag of this left in both the home and work stash. It was really the BF who sipped this down because he didn’t want to drink the chocolate teas I made this morning. He finds the entire idea of chocolate tea “gross.”

Kewl. More for me. ;-)

I did have a couple of sips before I gave him the cup and I enjoyed this more than my original rating reflected so I’ve bumped it up some. I am sure I have other teas scented with Osmanthus in my possession and I think I had been waiting to try those to see how they compared, so I rated this on the low side. Unfortunately, I haven’t actually dug around to find those other teas and compare them. But on a non-comparative basis, this is a delicately scented tea that steeps to something with flavor and with lack of plantiness. Since I sometimes find that to be the trade off with white teas—either they’re so delicate as to require me to play find the flavor, or they have an aspect of them that’s rather like the stems of cut flowers after they’ve sat in water for a week—I give this points for being the happy in between.

Flavors: Flowers

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I have a small group of still sealed SpecialTeas flavored black samples that I might as well break out. I am hoping I don’t fall in love with any of them because SpecialTeas no longer exists…

This one says it has chocolate chips, cocoa kernels, and flavoring, which makes me wonder where the cream comes from (is that the flavoring)? It has little pieces of chips and such in and among the black tea. The smell in the packet is chocolatey, but not in an overly rich way.

The aroma doesn’t have a lot of chocolate smell except perhaps in a baked way, but not as rich as baking cake or brownies. The liquor is cloudy, likely from the melted bits, and brown orange tea color.

The flavor is better than I expected from the aroma, and it is a tasty, milk chocolately black tea. It’s not nearly as wonderful as Harney’s chocolate, though, which makes me silly with happiness since Harney’s is still available. It makes me want to taste the Teafrog Chocolate and Cream again to see how these compare. I may very well need to bump up the Teafrog.

Flavors: Chocolate, Cream

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 25 OZ / 750 ML

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Sipdown no. 72 of the year 2014.

The metallic note was hitting me some today even though this one has the least of that note of the three bergamot strengths. Perhaps it really does have to do with body chemistry at a given time. Still, a nice, bold Earl to start the day.

Tomorrow, on to some other Earl Greys I haven’t tried or haven’t tried in a while. I found four or so in my stash and I suspect I have even more.

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drank Ocean of Wisdom by Samovar
1183 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 71 of the year 2014. A sample. Wow, my first sipdown of the day? I’m obviously losing my momentum…

But finally a Samovar herbal that is still available to buy! Whew.

I was reading about this being the equivalent of their chai but without caffeine, which got me wondering about how to prepare it. Samovar recommends their chai be prepared using a stovetop method on the sample packet (I still have a chai sample, too), but the directions on the sample packet for this don’t make that recommendation. I’ll steep as directed, since I’ve had excellent results for the most part when I follow Samovar’s instructions exactly.

(I feel slightly intimidated by this blend, which was made for the Dalai Lama…)

The sample didn’t have much of a smell in the packet, just a sort of generic spiciness. This, along with the licorice-as-ingredient, along with the last tisane experience, Nocturnal Bliss, had me slightly worried as I waited for the steeping to take its course. I wasn’t getting a lot of aroma from the steeped tisane either.

But why, oh why did I doubt the blending power of the Samovar? The flavor pulls all the loose ends together so nicely. I know the clove is there, but it doesn’t push the other flavors out of the cup as it can sometimes do. I know the cinnamon is there, but it isn’t heavy, or woody, or powdery. I know the ginger is there, but it isn’t bitter or pungent. I know the licorice is there, but it doesn’t attack me.

I don’t know so much that either the rooibos or honeybush are there, though I can definitely pick them out if I try. There’s a hint of something vanilla-like coming through from the rooibos and honey-like from the honeybush, and I can even get to something woody/reedy if I try hard enough, but I really do have to try pretty hard.

Each of the flavors can be identified, but each melds into the others to create something completely different that isn’t any of them separately and is more then all of them together. It’s as though each ingredient adds depth to the flavor.

If I’m honest with myself, I like the Berry Rooibos and the Orange Ginger slightly better, mostly because I find berry an easier flavor to consume late at night than a chai-like combination, and because the Orange Ginger did some rather marvelous voodoo on my stomach and by extension my entire nervous system. Given this is a non-caffeinated blend, I’d be drinking this at night.

But this has one thing those don’t have. It’s available. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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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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