167 Tasting Notes


This is a nice second flush black tea with quite a bit of personality. It is particularly bold in the first few infusions, with a lot of roasted nut and caramel notes, but dies off fairly rapidly. Despite this, its fruity aftertaste persists through several more infusions. It sort of reminds me of a cheaper Wu Yi oolong, which becomes a little woody in later infusions but has a fruitiness in it aftertaste that stays relatively strong.

It is quite brisk also, but refreshingly so. It worked very well with gong fu brewing. I tried adding a little milk to see what happened, but it only muted all of the flavors to the point of it lacking any distinct personality or flavor. Best drunk straight!
Dry leaf – peanut, peanut shell, caramel, milk chocolate, floral notes like fruit blossom, sassafras

Smell – heavily roasted nut, dark caramel, tart blackberry

Taste – arrival of roasted nut and brisk black tea blend. Development has lemon notes arrive . Finish is thick with caramel and blackberry coulis notes. Aftertaste has nut and blackberry notes linger, with additional hints of cocoa, chocolate., and floral citrus


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I brought this tea out this weekend expecting to do a fairly disappointed review. I had been drinking it at work and was never impressed. But, I wanted to give it a fair shot over the weekend with a few gong fu sessions.

Turns out I was wrong. It’s a very nice tea, especially for the price. I would say that it does require attention (something it didn’t get at work with me!) It tends to be a bit woody and grainy in the arrival, but there is a slow development to creaminess and fruitiness through the finish into the aftertaste. This development is lost if you don’t take your time and pay attention.

Also, one of the most engaging aspects of this tea is the nose. It is incredibly complex and very fruity. In fact, I had several cups get to room temperature because I spent so much time sniffing them!

Dry leaf – sweet/savory: cream of wheat, forest wood, notes of dark fruit – stewed prunes; spiciness like sassafras or horehound. In preheated vessel, fruit and cereal notes intensify

Smell – fruity, grain: cream of wheat, cherry wood, stewed prunes, raisin, currant, cherry cordial

Taste – Arrival of cream of wheat, cherry wood, dry wood. Development of forest wood, coffee grounds. Finish of slight creaminess. Aftertaste of coffee grounds, wood, notes of stewed prunes. Some spiciness that gets into your sinuses, sort of camphorish without overt taste of camphor.


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Well, this is different. The flavor is familiar at first, with noticeable cardamom in the foreground, with some cinnamon in the background. But then the green tea body comes through. To be honest, I don’t really think it’s a great vehicle for these flavors.

The green tea itself is a bit mediocre – some citrus notes, vegetal, and has some bitterness. The green tea and the cardamom, I feel, never really come together in harmony, and instead have conflicting “green” flavors that cause some dissonance on the palate.

In the aftertaste, you do get some almond liqueur notes, which are interesting.

This is obviously a tea that is way off the beaten path and is a local specialty that probably needs some insider knowledge to brew properly. But, I really wasn’t impressed. My biggest gripe is the green tea itself. It just didn’t have much personality and didn’t jive with the cardamom. Despite a fairly thick body, the tea at times had very little flavor (beyond just the additive flavors of cardamom and cinnamon), even despite brewing gong fu style.

If you’re curious, get a sample. But it certainly is a different experience from your regular black tea chai.


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This is a nice tea that provides a fairly unique experience at a great price. I also have a little something extra for this tea – a comparison of cups: clay (jianshui) vs. porcelain (celadon).

First, the tea. It is definitely a great candidate to showcase chocolately notes in a black tea, if you’ve never experienced that before. Lots of cocoa, dark chocolate, and fruit-flavored chocolate notes. It also has strong nut/peanut notes.

One unique aspect of the tea is an interesting finish that reminded me a bit of green oolongs, even high-mountain oolongs. It finished like many black teas, with some blackberry coulee/syrup notes and some nuttiness, but underneath that I kept finding coconut, creaminess, and some light citrus sweetness. Really interesting if you’re paying attention.

Now, the cups. The jianshui clay definitely tamed some of the light bitterness that came up with the nutty notes. It also added substantial minerality to the whole experience (of course). Overall, the mouthfeel felt slightly more substantial, and the experience was smoother. Much closer to a Wu Yi oolong experience.

The porcelain was more dynamic in the mouth, albeit with a slightly thinner mouthfeel. The fruitiness was stronger in the finish, and the nuttiness was more prominent in the arrival.
Dry leaf – dark chocolate, cocoa powder, roasted peanuts, tangy fruit – blackberry coulee. In preheated vessel – strong rich nuttiness and fruit flavors.

Smell – nutty, chocolate, blackberry coulee, fruit chocolate (raspberry)

Taste – roasted peanuts, fruit flavored chocolate (raspberry); finish is syrupy sweet and fruity – blackberry coulee, coconut, some hints of mandarin orange/citrus. After a while, the flavor has some of the barley-sugar notes you get from an unpeated Scotch.


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The chai journey continues. This chai, according to the package, is nothing more than black tea and crushed cardamom pods. It’s really nice.

I sampled a cinnamon chai not too long ago (spiced with cinnamon and cardamom) and I commented that I thought the original chai, with a few more spices in it, was better. Despite that, I think this cardamom-only chai is delicious. Cardamom is such a complex spice to begin with, and giving it a platform to really do its thing is awesome. You get to taste all of the facets of it – the spiciness, the herbaceousness, the sweetness… It really is a wonderful experience.

This is a great launching point for those wishing to start their chai journey. Given that cardamom is a prominent spice in most (all?) chai teas, I think this chai is the best place to start. You really understand how it forms the backbone of the entire chai experience, and how much it really gives in flavor – its spectrum of flavor is incredible.


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Quick disclaimer again – I am not a regular drinker of any flavored or scented teas. I am reviewing a number of flavored teas from Vahdam due to an incredible package deal they offered a while ago, which included FF Darjeelings, green teas, oolongs, and a host of other tasty treats. Flavored teas were a part of the package, so I figured I would add my two cents.

For me, I found the bergamot notes quite strong. It wasn’t sour per se, but the citrus flavor was powerful. If you are a hard-core Earl Grey fan, you will likely appreciate the boldness of the bergamot flavors.

In terms of the tea itself, the tea leaf is high-quality FTGFOP1. Despite the assertiveness of the bergamot, I could detect some malty richness from the leaves as well as a grape-leaf savory sweetness.

Recommended for those craving a real Earl Grey experience, with good quality leaf and real bergamot oils.

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I am still exploring the chai selection that I got from Vahdam – this is only my second tea that I’ve sampled from the whole bunch. In fact, this is only my second chai tea, period. Beyond a few cups that I’ve had at various Indian restaurants, I really don’t have much experience at all with this genre of tea.

That said, this is pleasant enough. To be honest, I noticed the spiciness of the cardamom more so than the cinnamon, which sort of hung out as an underlying base flavor and came more to the fore in the finish and aftertaste.

The flavor itself I found kind of mild. The only additions to the black tea were cardamom and cinnamon. Frankly, I think the additional spice in traditional chai helps to round out the flavor and add more depth.

So, if traditional chai with its cloves and stuff is a little too in-your-face for you, this might be a good alternative.

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Very earthy. Soil and compost flavors are predominant, with a little camphor that adds body and dimension. A more palatable cereal flavor is also present. Some earthy, woody sweetness arrives in the aftertaste.

Overall, not bad, but you have to be a fan of really earthy flavors to appreciate this tea.

To be honest, this is where I start to wonder about the real value of aging beyond a certain point. This just goes a little too far into the compost category for me to really think very much about it. I feel like it would have been better when it was younger, where the cereal aspects of it could take center stage and not be overwhelmed by the dirt flavors.

One thing you don’t get with younger teas is the camphor note; so if that’s what you’re after, this has it, although not overwhelmingly so. Anyway, I wasn’t disappointed with this tea – it was nice to drink, and the aftertaste especially was pleasant. However, I was not as wowed with it as some of the reviews on YS.
Dry leaf – dirt, pond flora (how’s that for a descriptor!). In preheated vessel – cocoa, chocolate, and camphor noticeable.

Smell – composted leaves, grits, cream of wheat, hints of chocolate and camphor

Taste – dirt, mulch, composted leaves primary notes. Substantial camphor notes, but not overwhelming or assertive. Finishes with grits and cream of wheat savory sweetness. Aftertaste has some very mild cherry wood sweetness and just a hint of cherry chocolate cordial.

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I’m no chai expert, but this is a nice balance of spicy and sweet. The clove and cinnamon are balanced and sweet. The cardamom add just enough herbal sweetness. All of the spices used are rich in flavor and work in balance with one another.

It’s nice to have the opportunity to taste authentic chai. I’m still experimenting with a few brewing methods (I even tried gong fu, which really accentuated the spices, let me tell you!). Right now I let an infuser basket sit in a big mug for several minutes, then add a generous amount of milk. I’ve seen that the tea is often boiled in a pot for several minutes. I will try that with some other chais I have. I don’t mind a strong brew.

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Rating info:
100 – I haven’t found the perfect tea yet!

92-95 – So good that I will purchase this tea again, guaranteed. Excellent flavor and value.

88-91 – A tea that I would consider purchasing again at some point. Great flavor and value.

85-87 – Tea that was worth the purchase and that I enjoyed drinking, although I probably won’t be purchasing it again any time soon. Flavor may have slight drawbacks, or the price might be a little expensive.

80-84 – A tea that has some good points, but falls a bit short on its price:quality ratio. Flavor is a bit mediocre.

No rating – I did not like this tea and would not drink it, given other options.


Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

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