1286 Tasting Notes


So I have a bit more time now and I thought I’d give this another shot to taste properly after my failed attempt yesterday.

I am going to follow the package directions for time and temp for this go round.

I described the dry leaf’s caramel smell yesterday as syrupy, and that seems right again today. After steeping, the tea smell is primary, with caramel around the edges. There’s a briskness to the tea’s scent. It has a chestnut colored liquor.

The flavor is a more toasty caramel than the American Tea Room’s (which was more milky) and I generally prefer toasty. It’s not a strong flavor, though, and strangely, not very sweet. I wonder whether this is because my steep this time didn’t have many caramel pieces, and I’ll have to watch out for that as I work through the sample.

It tastes less like a surface flavor when drunk hot. It’s more integrated, but I don’t think the balance is quite right. It needs a bit more oomph on the caramel side to balance out the tea, and a bit more sweetness. As it is, there’s a tiny bit of bitterness around the edges that I’m not crazy about especially with a confectionary tea.

I like it better than the ATR version, but it’s not breaking my heart that it’s no longer available. I would choose both the Kusmi Caramel and the Dammann Freres Caramel-Toffee over this. But I’ll enjoy experimenting with it and trying to get the best flavor out of it while I still have it.

Flavors: Caramel

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

can canadians get tea from American Tea Room? if so what is their site url?



I don’t know about buying from Canada because I’m in the states.


You can, many of us wait until a sale though because of their shipping rates.


i’m never ordering from there! :( 2oz was like 52$ for one of their teas. teavana is way better even though its pricy too :)

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I have some untasted Earl Greys and some I’d like to revisit and do a better job of documenting, but I learned my lesson yesterday: don’t try something new you want to write a note about when in a rush. So today I’m returning to a solid Earl I’ve tasted a number of times. I have a lot of this, but at the same time once it’s gone it’s gone because LeafSpa is gone.

This remains a good, solid Earl without bergamot that is too strong for me. Today I am tasting the “orange” finish which livens up the flavor.

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Sipdown no. 86 of the year 2014. Four bags left. Four people in the house. Breakfast!

This is one of my “starter” teas that I’m really going to miss. It’s a Numi I’d consider stocking.

A few months ago I was at a pizza place near work and ordered iced tea to drink. The tea was incredibly tasty and asked what it was. It was this.

Wonderful, deep, malty, sweet flavor. Yum. Bumping the rating.

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drank Vanilla Oolong by Adagio Teas
1286 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 85 of the year 2014. I managed no other sipdowns today and I have nothing decaf that is in sipdown range except my Vanilla Comoro sample which I am hoarding. That sipdown strategy I was making fun of myself for considering the other day doesn’t sound so crazy now as I now find myself with only caffeinated options. Oolongs are, I think, lower in caffeine than black and green at least. Let’s hope it doesn’t keep me up all night.

I’m not sorry to see this go. I don’t think it’s Adagio’s fault. I suspect that vanilla is a flavor that my taste buds have decided isn’t meant to be paired with oolong. Flavored oolong seems an iffy thing to me anyway. With the exception of the Golden Moon caramel, the ones I’ve preferred have been fruit flavors, and tart fruit seem to me to work best with both whites and oolongs.

Although if anyone out there in Steepster land has a favorite vanilla oolong, I could be persuaded to give another brand a try at some point when I come out of lock down.

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drank Kapha Balance by Shanti Tea
1286 tasting notes

This is a sample I got with my Shanti order a while back, and I believe it may be the first Shanti product I’ve tasted. It being evening, I was looking for something without caffeine, though this may have been a mistake as it is supposedly energizing despite the lack of caffeine.

In the sample packet there’s a sweet cocoa-like aroma which is odd since there’s nothing that should smell like cocoa among the ingredients. The steeped tisane has a savory smell to it which I attribute to the holy basil, sage and pepper. It’s a light brownish orange color.

I expected the flavor to also be savory but it doesn’t strike me that way. There’s still a cocoa-like note but I think it’s the ginger that’s responsible. I’m glad I don’t get a strong licorice taste despite the licorice and fennel in the ingredients. Having had the Upton Holy Basil last night, this is sort of a jazzed up holy basil, with a little more interest going on. I don’t get a strong cardamom flavor, but the ingredient list is similar enough to chai that there’s a sort of faint chai echo to this. I don’t taste the rooibos except in the aftertaste and it’s smooth and lacking enough in the woody department that it isn’t problematic for me.

It’s okay, but it’s not bowling me over. I don’t think I’d buy it, but I’m glad for the chance to taste it.

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

jazzed up holy basil…lol!

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drank Go Go Goji by Teavana
1286 tasting notes

I tried a shorter steep time this time and I think it is better with the shorter time. The overall impression is lighter, including on the lychee side. There’s a more identifiable floral note but still not as much rose as I was hoping for, and less of that almost bitter note I was worried about.

Keeping the rating the same but will keep steep times shorter moving forward. I’m also going to try a slightly lower temp next time and see if that has a favorable impact.

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I just can’t seem to get a break today—I put this on to steep before a conference call and by the time I poured it it was no longer hot. Accordingly, I’m not rating this one just yet either.

There’s a nice black tea scent with a hint of caramel in the packet. Stronger tea than caramel. The caramel smells like syrup. This carries through in the aroma of the steeped tea. It’s a medium brown orange tea.

The flavor is fairly light on the caramel, similar to my impression of the vanilla from yesterday. It’s more of a surface flavor than one with richness to it, but it’s definitely caramel and pleasant enough.

Will revisit soon, without interruption (I hope).


ah, surface flavor…don’t you hate that? i always hope for a rich, full-bodied experience where the flavor components are perfectly integrated with the tea. (well, who doesn’t?)
another thing i can’t stand is when the aroma and the flavor are two disparate entities. makes me so. sad.


Agreed. I tend to prefer the flavors that are well-integrated, but I can enjoy a more surface balance as well if the flavors are rich enough and play off against each other well.


good point!

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I put some of this in the Breville, and was then promptly confronted by two eager young men who wanted to get to school EARLY because it was Valentine’s Day. Exactly why they wanted/needed to be early is a mystery. It’s not like they’re old enough to date…

As a result, by the time I got to taste this it was lukewarm. I am not going to rate this or discuss its virtues and shortcomings in depth given the circumstances.

For now, let me say it wasn’t at all what I expected. I expected a sort of rosy, lavendery frou frou Earl Grey (which I actually love). The dry leaf has a very rosy fragrance with a lavender undercurrent. It’s a very pretty dry leaf, with little lavender buds, rose petals and rosemary needles strewn among the tea. I don’t smell rosemary and I don’t really smell bergamot either.

But that changed in the drink. I think it’s the rosemary that makes the difference. There’s a savory note to this that I’m tasting fairly heavily, and it is more pronounced than the floral notes which I taste as a sort of general coolness (which may also be the bergamot). I wonder whether this is a factor of the cooling process or whether it’s how this would have tasted hotter as well. The tea has a sweetness to it and the flavor has a complexity, but I don’t really taste the bergamot at all. I’m not getting anything that tastes like citrus.

Will try again and see how it fares when it is drunk hot.


we always gave Valentine’s to each other at school, maybe that’s why?


Yes, they each went with a bag ‘o Valentines, but they don’t get to exchange them until they’re in class? Maybe they just wanted to look at peoples’ bags. LOL.


My daughter is in grade 2 and they have whole bunch of fun activities scheduled for today. They have Valentines party with treats and drinks and kids were encouraged to bring some games from home to play in class. She went to school with bunch of Valentine cards and box of cookies and two board games… lol


Ah yes, that could be it—the suspension of usual activities during the Valentines’ Day celebration. I will find out tonight. ;-)

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Sipdown no. 84 of the year 2014. Holy basil, Batman!

Apparently, I never wrote an initial note on this, though I’m now sipping down the end of this sample packet. It was opened, so I know I tried it once. I also have a memory of having a mishap and spilling a bunch of it all over the counter. Perhaps I got distracted and never made it to the note.

Upton is a class act. I love how they personalize what they send with your name and the date on which it was packed. The date on this is 3/29/10, which is shortly after I joined Steepster. However, there wasn’t a ziplock on the sample packet and I neglected to treat this sample well. I may have been mad at it for spilling. ;-) And since I don’t have an original note, I have nothing to compare the taste of this aged sample with from when it was fresh.

On top of that, it seems I only have enough for 3/4 of a cup. Here goes.

It has a spicy savory scent that is reminiscent of cooking spices. I smelled it against some dry basil and it’s similar, but not anywhere close to identical in fragrance.

The steeped tisane has a slight anise-like scent along with the savory spice. It makes a light brownish orange liquid with particles suspended in it.

The flavor is also somewhat savory. I get a cooling note, which is the anise-like one. It has a vaguely medicinal taste, but not in a bad way. It’s the cooling aspect, which is sort of a menthol/eucalyptus sensation. Rather like one of those fancy cough drops though not as sweet.

Supposedly this can do all sorts of great things for you from lowering blood sugar to inhibiting cancer. If I knew that was true for a fact, I’d happily drink it every day as a sort of tonic.

But as a flavored beverage for pleasure, I’m not so sure. I have some Tulsi blends I’m more eager to try now, but plain it’s sort of plain.

Boiling 8 min or more

Wow, 84 of the year is awesome!


Thanks :-)

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drank Sweet Cinnamon Spice by Tazo
1286 tasting notes

This isn’t a full sipdown, though I’ve reached the end of my home supply as of tonight. I have something on the order of 14 bags of this still at the office.

I remain somewhat conflicted about this. When it’s good it’s not terrific,but when it’s bad it’s horrid. I’ve been making a big cup of it to take to bed while I watch the Olympics (2 bags a shot) and there are times when I don’t notice the syrupy, licorice/sarsaparilla flavor and feel it fade to the background and the cinnamon take over into a lighter spiced tisane. There are times when it seems more buoyant. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

Bumping it down even further. If you like licorice and sarsaparilla, this is your match made in heaven, but if you’re so-so toward them at best, as I am, it’s an uphill battle to get past the sensation that there’s a large lump of rubber sitting in your belly after drinking this.

It’s not undrinkable, just not all that pleasurable most of the time.

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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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