1243 Tasting Notes


So sometimes I do things that make me wonder about myself. Like buying decaf chai, and then realizing I have no plain black decaf to mix it with to do the Samovar stovetop method. Grumble. How hard would it have been to add some decaf black tea to the order? Grumble grumble. If I’d only thought about it then. Grumble, grumble, grumble. It’s not like they didn’t have one, it’s the Korakundah. Pout. I attribute it to stress and lack of sleep. And age. Specifically that thing that starts to happen to women when they hit my age. [sigh]

I mixed with the Darjeeling Goomtee since the chai had a darjeeling base. I am hoping I will be able to sleep tonight. I’m enchanted by the idea of a decaf chai I can make on the stovetop. I was getting some mileage out of the Tazo teabags, but it’s just not the same degree of comfort as I get from the stewy, milky stovetop version. Imagining that, late at night, and sleep afterwards, gets me all warm and fuzzy.

This is the first decaf chai not in a bag I’ve tried and it’s a good one. It’s hard to know what it would be like as a fully decaf version. I must try again and compare when I have some decaf black loose leaf in the house.

No single spice predominates. It’s not overly gingery, nor is it overly cinnamony. Just a very balanced flavor. The spice is fairly gentle, more along the lines of the Golden Moon spice than the Rishi Masala Chai. There are red peppercorns in the mix, but while they may add flavor they don’t add bite.

I’m thinking chai is a good choice for decaf in general. It seems less likely to have that washed out, something’s missing thing going on because of the distraction of the spices.

I’ll enjoy having this one when I’m worried about being overly caffeinated but need a filling, coma-inducing, tasty warm milk snack.

Boiling 8 min or more

“So sometimes I do things that make me wonder about myself.” … I’ve done that… =D

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drank Sleep Tight by TeaGschwendner
1243 tasting notes

This was an afterthought while I was preparing my TeaGschwendner order. Though I wouldn’t have known had I not been moved to read the ingredients, it seemed something I ought to try as part of the perfect lemon search.

The dry leaves have an interesting, savory spice smell. I’m reminded of my experience with the Harney & Sons French Verveine. It looks like dried savory spices as well, except for the fairly large dried flower buds.

The liquor is a dark golden yellow. It has a savory aroma as well. Not smelling a lot of lemon here. In fact, I’m hard pressed to smell any at all.

The taste is a little surprising. I expected it to be heavy and brothy, but it isn’t. It isn’t light bodied, either. It’s medium bodied and had a somewhat silky mouthfeel. The flavor is intriguing. There’s a suggestion of lemon in there, but it’s not strong. Oddly, the flavor mostly makes me think of chamomile, though there is no chamomile in it. There is also the definite and predominant taste of a savory spice of some sort. Sage? Thyme? It’s the same general suggestion that I found in the Verveine, but not strong enough to suggest herbed roasted lemon chicken.

In any case, it’s not at all bitter or pungent, and it’s neither tart nor sweet. I’m not sure it would be my first choice for anything other than medicinal purposes, but if it works as a soporific I’ll be all over it.

Boiling 6 min, 45 sec

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drank Lemon Mango by The Tea Table
1243 tasting notes

Enjoyed the last of this sample tonight, and it was just as tasty as it was the last time. I’m tasting more mango tonight. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m dead tired and going to try to sleep despite the accumulated caffeine in my body as soon as I finish this, and then have a cup of the (hopefully appropriately named) Sleep Tight by TeaGschwendner.

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The next chapter in the perfect lemon search.

As you can see from the photo, this tisane is very… geometric. Pretty much every ingredient in it is rectangular, of varying lengths, widths and colors. It doesn’t have a lot of fragrance on its own, and even if it did I wouldn’t be able to tell what it is as I put it in the same tin I’d used for The Tea Table’s Lemon Mango, and I neglected to do a de-scenting so that’s pretty much all I can smell now. (Nice smell though, I liked that one.)

It makes a dark yellow liquor, almost the color of apple juice. It smells promising: there is a sweet smell to it, and there’s definitely lemon.

Hmm. Hmmmmmm.

Wow. I had really expected to be disappointed by this one. Despite its attractive geometry, I expected it to taste a lot like the Luscious Lemon from Simpson & Vail. And failing that I just didn’t expect to like it. It has lemon myrtle in it after all.

But the lemon myrtle is playing nice here. It must be the influence of the vanilla. It’s neither tart nor bitter, so it doesn’t require doctoring. Except it might be better brewed a little stronger. I used 2.5g for a standard size mug.

It does have a green, grassy, herbally quality in addition to the lemon. It’s more reminiscent of a lemon plant than a lemon fruit, which is the one downside as lemon fruit appropriately de-soured is what I’d like to be reminded of.

It’s not as high on the rotation list as the Harney & Sons or the Teavana, but I think now that I’ve tried this I’m no longer motivated to try to get the Simpson & Vail to work. That had a stronger lemon flavor, but also a tart and bitter edge that needed working out to be rotation worthy.

This, on the other hand, needs some time testing and a little bit of thought.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

Did you see 52teas’ new Lemon Drop Cooler? Sounds like it’d be right up your alley :)


LOL! I was getting ready to mention 52teas as well — ya beat me to it :D


Nope, not yet. I was hoping to find something without rooibos in it. Also, from the description it sounded like it might be too tart for me. It started with “pucker up” while I’m more of a sweet lemon fan. Doesn’t mean I won’t end up trying it eventually though. ;-)


Ummm. Ok, it’s not rooibos, I looked at it again. It’s honeybush. Hmmm. Now maybe I’ll have to cave. Lol.


Honeybush is a lot nicer than rooibos IMO, and you can sweeten it up nicely with sugar or honey too.

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Doulton provided this as a lagniappe when she sent me the Dammann Freres I’d ordered through her organized buying efforts. How nice to have something unexpected show up, and something I hadn’t yet tasted to boot!

It’s also something of a mystery as I can’t find a list of ingredients for it. Clearly there is black tea. There are also red and blue flowers and a slight rose scent to the dry tea. So I’m going with Alicia on this — rose and cornflower. Apart from that, mild spiciness, like a spicy perfume. Lovely fragrance.

I steeped this for a full 5 minutes, as suggested on Doulton’s label (with a giraffe on it, how cute!) I get a light floral note and some gentle spice as well as smooth tea in the aroma.

The flavor has this, too, plus a suggestion of citrus. I cheated and read the notes others had posted and it seems the consensus is this is bergamot and that this is in fact something of an Earl Grey variation. Hmm. I don’t think I would have got that at all had I not read it. If it is supposed to be an Earl Grey variation, it isn’t succeeding, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I liked the Earl Grey Special from Teafrog even though it didn’t seem much like an Earl Grey to me.

I like this, but it isn’t my favorite Mariage Freres, and it wouldn’t rank among Earl Greys for me.

I think next time I’ll try it steeped for less time and see what that’s like. I rarely steep anything for 5 minutes anymore except herbals and very late oolong and pu erh steeps.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

ok so how do u make text bold in hereon steepster? i’ve tried html tags but they dont work…


You add a * in front and in back of the word without spaces.

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My tin was full to the brim as well, and the top of the tin is very tight — which is good for the tea, but not so good for my newly cleaned countertop. At least it was the countertop, not the floor, so I could salvage…

It’s very tippy, giving it that (brown) salt and pepper look that I find so appealing. The dry leaves have the soil-like smell of some Assams, but with something stronger, sweeter and vaguely bready (as opposed to yeasty) about it. Bready good. Yeasty (unless winey or beery or bready) bad.

It makes a medium-dark amber liquor with a bready aroma. I totally get what Stephanie mentioned in her note — warm, sweet bread. It leans toward, but doesn’t completely reach maltiness of the type I recall from the Numi Chinese Breakfast. It isn’t the sugary, yam-like orgy of complexity that was the Samovar Yunnan Golden Buds. But it is quite nice.

It has a thick, substantial mouthfeel which adds to the perception of breadiness. I would not have identified the pepper note without reading about it here, but now that I do, yes, that makes sense. It’s not a spicy pepper though. It’s like the flavor of pepper without the spiciness.

A nice, all-purpose, Yunnan black tea.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

Yeah, totally wish I had caved when this was the SS. Maybe they’ll have it again! (Hint to the Overlords?)


I feel on this Auggy (I didn’t cave either).

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drank Chai With Chocolate by 52teas
1243 tasting notes

Made on the stovetop using the Samovar extra black tea method. Extra black tea today was LeafSpa Yunan Gold. I love those sorts of names for teas. Makes me think of action movies involving drug cartels.

The Yunan Gold has a very thick mouthfeel, which I thought would make it a particularly good candidate to add to chai to help along the chewiness.

Yum. I can definitely taste the chocolate in this. It’s like someone mixed brownie and gingerbread batter together and liquified it. Or put another way, it’s like the Mayan Chocolate Chai but more chocolatey and less spicy (the ingredients are the same except for the cayenne pepper). It’s still nicely spiced, though. Although I do miss my black pepper. I wonder what adding a bit of black pepper would have done to it?

Definitely yum for a sleepy Wednesday afternoon pick me up.

Boiling 8 min or more

Whoa how can a chai get more chocolatey?! =P


I know some traditional chai blends have black pepper in them – but it’s something I’d add sparingly, personally. :D

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drank Mandarin Orange by Teas Etc
1243 tasting notes

This is embarrassing, but I bought this by mistake. Am I the only one who has ever done that? I meant to buy the Mandarin Orange green tea from Teas Etc. But this is what showed up. I’m sure it was because of user error, i.e. mine, and it seemed like a hassle to send it back so I just kept it and decided to give it a shot.

There’s an intense, juicy orange smell upon opening the tin. The rooibos is noticeable, mostly as a sort of woody back-note, but not strong.

The aroma from the rooibos after steeping is — get this — very much like Fanta orange soda without the addition of the carbonated quality. There is also an appley smell underneath from the rooibos.

The taste is not bad. It’s not exactly sweet orange, but it’s not bitter either. I wish the orange flavor was stronger. It’s almost enough to make me unaware I’m drinking red rooibos, but not quite.

It started out a mistake, and it’s not something I’d order again, mostly because I just don’t think I’d ever really want to drink orange rooibos (unless I’d ordered it by mistake, in which case I’d happily drink it to have an additional option at night when I don’t want to take in too much caffeine). But it’s decent, by the standard I apply which is unobtrusiveness in the rooibos flavor.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

Me me me! I’ve done that! Bought vanilla black tea instead of an herbal one.


Oh thank goodness I’m not the only one!

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In the sample packet, the smell is to die for. Chocolate. Nom. Chocolate. Nom nom. Chocolate. Nom nom nom. Not really much else, just sweet, creamy smelling chocolate.

You can’t really see it in the picture, but the red rooibos is interspersed with long yellow dried petals. They’re pretty. They look sort of like fragments of crepe paper.

I had very high hopes that this would be some sort of caffeine free chocolate dream concoction that I could drink at night while watching The Biggest Loser. Just the illusion of calories.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. In the cup, the aroma is rooibos first, chocolate illusion after. As is the flavor. The chocolate isn’t bad as far as it goes. The rooibos isn’t a bad rooibos. It’s the balance that’s the issue for me. As with some other recent rooibos trials, the problem here is that the rooibos won’t shut up.

For me, if a rooibos is good, it’s a lot like a good waiter. You barely notice they’re there, you just notice that you’re not left wanting anything. They don’t barge in, they don’t totally ignore you. They’re just a very quiet presence that miraculously gets the job done.

This one isn’t quite there. Dang. Now what can I have while watching The Biggest Loser. Quick, before I head for the cookies!

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

Man, finding a good chocolatey tea is hard!


I watched it too! Was REALLY disappointed Koli won the $100,000 he went from looking like he was gonna murder someone to almost looking like he didn’t think he was gonna win… and those pants… I had a blended iced chai while watching it.

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drank Earl Grey Special by TeaFrog
1243 tasting notes

Getting close to the end of my TeaFrog samples. I think I have three more. This is one of them.

The dry mix is very pretty, the lemongrass is very green against the backdrop of the Ceylon and there are little flecks of blue where the cornflowers show through. There’s a light neutral color as well that looks like the lemon peel. I’m not really seeing jasmine, though it could be that some of the flecks that look like lemon peel are actually jasmine petals. It doesn’t have a strong scent of bergamot (or otherwise) in the packet.

The tea has a lemony aroma with a bergamot undercurrent. It has a lemony taste as well. A bright taste. The bergamot is pretty subdued, secondary to the lemon. I am not getting much in the way of jasmine.

It’s hard to say whether it’s tastes like an Earl Grey so much as a lemon black tea with bergamot? It does seem to me the lemon is the stronger taste of the two. It’s actually very nice; it’s different. I don’t think I’d buy it to fill an Earl Grey need. If I order some, it will simply be because I like it.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

Ooooo — I’ve got this one coming as one of my samples from the Select. Now my curiosity has ratcheted up a few notches :)


Okay, so just had my first cup and then I reread your note after posting mine. I wonder if our slightly different experiences is due to water temp. I’ve discovered that 205 is perfect for many flavored black teas — especially EGs. My favorite Rosy Early Grey has a harsh citrus-almost-lime bite to it when I tried it at boiling the first time. But once I lowered it to 205 it was super-yummy.


Hmmm. Interesting. I really only had enough sample for one shot in the Breville so I won’t be finding out whether that’s the issue unless I decide to order more. But I like the theory!


D’oh! And mmmm…Breville…::drools:: ;)

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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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