676 Tasting Notes

For those of you who haven’t been reading my notes over the past year, I’ll repeat a couple of things that some long-time Steepster friends already know (patience).

Other than trips to my tea shop Happy Luckys (where everyone knows my name, kind of like ‘Cheers’) and Church (where I can sit in the back away from bright migraine-inducing-light), I stay by myself and am afraid of people. (Terrified is a better word for how I feel.)
I’ve been working on this ‘terrified of people’ issue, and Steepster has been a big help to me.
My Priest (Fr. Evan) noticed that drinking tea and writing has changed my interaction with people. I’ve become gradually more sociable hanging around after Church longer to chat for a few minutes.
My fears are associated with forgetting words mid-sentence, the sudden onset of migraines with dizziness, and brain-fog from fibromyalgia. I gave in to the terror and it took over my life.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I’d had enough!
After Church one Sunday, I invited a Doctor and her 72 year old mother ( who was an Industrial Chemist in Romania) to tea.
These women weren’t even tea drinkers, they were coffee drinkers!

With no idea what to do with the time, I decided to share my life in the tea world with them (and I invited my granddaughter Schey to join in as my back-up).

I set up a tray with several kinds of tea to pass around. A beeng of puerh, some black pearls, fragrant oolong and lapsang souchong.

For tasting, we began with Wild Oriental Beauty Gonfu Style which they enjoyed very much.

The next tea was a large pot of Chocolate Phoenix Chai slowly steeped in milk with local clover honey. (I’ve written about this tea before, and the richness in milk with honey is the only way I drink Chocolate Phoenix Chai!)

The Chai was a hit! My guests had never had Chai before!
They commented on the chocolate flavor and gentle spice which I paired with a baked cheese and crackers and Dutch waffle cookies.

We had a good conversation about the health benefits of tea, life under Communism in Romania and immigration to the United States. I gave them a gift of Chai and made plans to meet at my tea shop in the near future.

Reading this is probably one of the most boring reviews to read that I’ve ever written….but to those of you who know me, it’s a real victory story!

If I failed to write about it here on Steepster, I wouldn’t be sharing with all of you who made it possible for me to break out of my shell!


It is the kindness of TEA PEOPLE that has given me confidence!


Bonnie, I love reading your reviews! It’s nice that you share the back story of your teas and sips. Also, I’ve got to try this tea – it sounds amazing! :)


Aww Bonnie, I am so pleased to hear how much of a positive impact tea has made on your life, and how you’ve come so far in only a year. I can definitely relate because I’ve always had serious self-esteem issues which has made it difficult to socialize too, but when I started working a lot with one of my favourite things, essential oils/skin care, this allowed me to open up and not be so hard on myself.


Bonnie, Thank you for sharing your story. It is so delightful to hear how tea has improved your life. Thank you for all that you give to this community.


Thank you for sharing!


Thank you kind friends!


Congrats on your giant step towards victorious living!


your words are a gift to us and a liberation for you


I am so happy for you Bonnie!


Awesome – way to go Bonnie! Congratulations on your personal & interpersonal growth journey – quite a breakthrough! – Excellent!


Spreading the tea love, you are a champion Bonnie, and I love that! This was in no way a boring review… I quite enjoyed it :)


Definitely not ‘boring’ – quite uplifting. Didn’t previously know that bit of background you gave, so, congratulations on a very real achievement. I’m sure it means you have better weather ahead you, figuratively speaking.


Thanks to you all! Group effort,pat yourselves on the back!

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Thank you to Ze_Teamaker for sharing this ‘windfall’ tea with me!

My flavor imagination was quivering with anticipation when Ze_Teamaker let me know this tea was on the way through the Postal System.

I’m a big fan of Laoshan Black…cocoa and bread, malt and light black pepper (sometimes). Genmaicha isn’t a tea I sit down and drink. I cook with genmaicha.
For whatever reason, a savory tea makes me hungry and I begin thinking up recipes…invariably ending up in the kitchen cooking (and eating).

When the tea arrived, I took it to share with Joe at the tea shop.

We drank a little over half the sample, enjoying the tea without talking much.

What I loved was the classic sweet Laoshan Black up front, no genmaicha flavor at all, and then at the back of my mouth…rice.
Smooth genmaicha rice with a very long finish pushed by the bread flavor of the Laoshan Black.

This was like drinking two tea’s, one sweeter and one savory. (A nice surprise)

I couldn’t help dreaming (as I do) about what I would create with the Genmaicha in my kitchen.

When I arrived at my home, I began to experiment.
I infused some rice wine vinegar with the Genmaicha, hoping to create an interesting flavor. The idea was good, but the vinegar needed to be lighter and I needed more tea to infuse more flavor.
(The sweet, cocoa malty Laoshan Black and Minnisota Rice would make a great infusion!)

Here’s hoping Verdant will release this blend! I’d like more!


I have yet to really try genmaicha. Must get around to that soon!


This sounds amazing. I want this in my mug. Now. :-)


Bonnie -

David mentioned in another tasting note that he’s seriously considering releasing it (or was it that he’s going to…) when his shipment of laoshan black arrives so yay!


Oh good!

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Thank you Stacy for this sample tea!

I’m not going to compare this Assam to the other Butiki Assam Tea’s. It would be unfair and disrespectful. The leaves are grown in different regions, and the trees along with climate are giving their best.

I’m looking at the liquor in a glass mug.

The clarity of it’s topaz color is very fine, and when the light catches a corner of the glass…gold and peach tones glisten.

I can smell maltiness.

Lifting the cup to drink, the malt smoothes to milk chocolate and finishes with caramel corn.

The flavor is soft and smooth.

Slurping the tea on the second sip (which I should have done in the beginning), I taste light citrus…very clean and fresh.

I’ve tasted an Assam Blend from Taiwan before, but not a pure Assam.

This tea is sweet and light. A tea that I would reserve for warmer months because of the liquid honey sweetness and clean varied flavors.

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Thank you to Claire for this sample!

I was eyeing the reviews on Noble Mark. What a clever name (these Mandala tea’s have the best names…Phatty Cake, Wild Monk are favorites)!

The other day I tasted this Pu’er with Eric at the tea shop, and then I had some again today.
Both sessions tasted about the same. A quick rinse and 10-20 second steep each produced a very light tasting tea.

This was one of the lightest pu’er’s I’ve ever had and the silkiest.

There’s a difference between buttery and silky. Buttery tea’s coat the mouth and lips while silky tea’s glide through the mouth in such a smooth way that you almost can’t feel the tea at all.

I tasted slight cedar and italian latte foam mixed together as a light, warm, tea gelato.

Etherial tea…..

Dreamers should drink this before dreaming, and lovers in the afternoon when the weather is warm.

I’m a Winter thick Pu-erh drinker, a mug of brew and cedarwood. Somwhat of an ancient Library or Cathedral in a cup.

To each their own, and I admit this is an appealing tea. I can envision it’s popular, comfortable use. Applause to Noble Mark.


I shared this tea with my oldest son on his 28th birthday. It was his first puerh! I even got the grand kids to try but not with as much enthusiasm as us “adults”. A very good one for us to share on that day.


Oh, I love the imagery of “an ancient Library… in a cup”!


Ancient library in a cup? Don’t mind if I do! :)

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drank 2011 Pu-erh Teabags by TaeTea
676 tasting notes

Thank you mrmopar for this Pu-erh tea!

I received a box of single serving Pu-erh tea bags from my friend mrmopar (who as you and I know is the biggest PU fan on Steepster).

PU TEABAGS?! REALLY?! (What was mrmopar thinking?!)

Looking around for a tea to drink, I picked up the box of Pu-erh and decided it was about time to see what the tea tasted like.

Even though the tea was bagged, I rinsed it quickly…then let it steep for several minutes until the liquor was deep red-ocre.

This was NOT going to be a good cup of Pu-erh…I was very sure of myself…and I was so WRONG. (Down with tea-snobbery!)

The flavor reminded me a little of Red Aura, smooth without bitterness or ‘fishy’ taste and a very nice cup of Pu-erh.

Who would have imagined the bagged tea would be so flavorful?

This is a great idea for a working person, so handy to keep portable Pu-erh in a desk drawer to pop in a mug of hot water!

Yes, yes, yes…I liked it!


My uses exactly. Very good at work when you only have that 30 min break to eat and drink and get back to the grind. Thanks for the PU on my head!


Haha! PU on your head!


No about that but I am going to keep you in close company so that some falls your way too!


No doubt. left it out.


think you can that media and dr. Oz for ‘inspirations’ like putting pu erh in tea bags….sounds like a shou


Not marketed for the U.S. consumer by the look of the packaging and indeed a shou. They also press beengs.

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drank Black Pearl by Mandala Tea
676 tasting notes

Thank you to Claire for this sample of Mandala Black Pearl Tea!

I used to get my Black Pearl Tea from China until I found a similar tea with the same taste at my local tea shop (with no shipping cost).

Today, I was going to a shop in Old Town to refill my bottle of vanilla-orange vinegar (I use the vinegar when baking cranberry bread and in Swedish pancake batter along with cardamom), I thought I’d walk around the corner through the melting snow from Sunday’s storm… to my tea shop.
I’d ask Preston to do a side-by-side comparison between their Black Pearl Tea and the Mandala sample.

Preston was glad to accommodate my request because the shop wasn’t busy at the time.
He warmed 2 Gaiwans, 2 small porcelain teapots and several small tasting cups.

First we tasted the Mandala Tea…which was surprisingly smoky.
I was expecting a cocoa sweet, malty tea…but instead the tea was very much like a lightly smoked tea, very smooth and so thick that it coated the inside of my whole mouth.

Next, we tasted the Tea House Black Pearls, which were sweet and cocoa-malty.
This was the type of Black Pearl I’ve tasted from several vendors…all very good.
I had expected a similar flavor from the Mandala Pearls…but they didn’t taste the same.

The flavor comparison of the two were so dissimilar, that they seemed like different tea’s. One smoky-buttery and the other cocoa-malty.

Mandala’s Black Pearls would be enjoyed by people love the tease of subtle smokiness…a thick, rich buttery coating in the mouth and an ultra- smooth finish.

I wonder if brewing by another method might not be as successful as using a Gaiwan. I’ll have to see.

NOTE…For those who use lots of Black Pearls when they brew, I wouldn’t do that with these Pearls. We used 3 in a Gaiwan and that was enough! They unfurl rapidly.

For me, the flavor was refined and very enjoyable.


oooh on to the shopping list this goes!


Ditto, Sil.


we are not good for one another.


Haha. I added it to my list even before I saw your comment…

Terri HarpLady

My main black pearl experience is with Teavana. Now I want to order black pearls from several different venders & do a comparison.


I read the reviews after I reviewed this tea and they puzzled me. It’s why I made the note about how many Pearls I used and the method of tea preparation. I’ll be watching and waiting for your tasting comments!


I may have to try these…


I also found this one surprisingly smoky!

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Thank you Stacy for this sample tea!

I almost forgot to write about this tea…oh dear me!

When I looked at the tea (it does look more like ground coffee)…it appeared quite a bit like one of my favorite tea’s, the Ajiri Black Kenyan, which is ‘very’ strong! (My tea friends tease me about how strong I drink this tea!)

I was hoping Grandpa’s was going to be Grandma’s kind of tea!

The flavor was not quite as strong or wheat-bread tasting as my favorite strong brew, but it had the briskness and a little more malt.

I would definately put Grandpa at the top of the ‘strong tea’ list somewhere between an Irish and strong Kenyan tea.

Do…Love the strong flavor with milk and sweetened! My kind of morning brew! I think of these kinds of tea’s like having a great beer! Fish and chips, pizza and Grandpa’s Tea!

Doesn’t go sour or bitter on the finish like some strong black tea’s.

Should carry this one Stacy, just sayin’!

Butiki Teas

This one is almost ready to go up on our website. Just a few more days.

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Thank you to Wanja Tea for this lovely sample!

My friend Joe at Happy Lucky’s is the ‘tea guru’ who teaches classes on ‘Green Tea’, especially Japanese and Korean tea’s.

We were expecting snow a few days ago, so I made my last run to the store and took this tea by the tea house to share, knowing that around dinner time…the shop would be pretty empty.

Joe was a little surprised that I had a green tea from Kenya (his eyebrows went up!), but carefully read the instructions and followed them. (note: The tea was prepared in a Gaiwan, not in 8oz of water).

We both said, “OH!” and smiled when the top came off the Gaiwan and the scent began to waft up to our noses.

He poured the tea into a small pot, then placed the wet leaves in front of me so that I could smell the aroma.

The leaves smelled fruity and savory… like pear and buttered green beans (but not exactly).

Both of us were very surprised when we tasted the tea.
The flavor was smooth and refined, leading Joe to remark that he never would have guessed the tea was from Kenya. It was the as fine as any good Japanese tea he had tasted.

The flavor was very clean without being dry or harsh.
The savory taste developed into a gentle Umami with bitterness in the way that I desire in tea, and which makes the flavor linger.

The Bosc Pear in Butter scent was unusual and a delicious sensory balance.

There’s something special about this Green Tea that should not be overlooked! I’m not sure what it is, but the tea keeps drawing me back! This may be the best of ALL the Wanja Tea’s!

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I received a whole Beeng as a Christmas gift and was both surprised (stunned) and delighted! Thank you!

This was an easy pry with my Pu’er pick. The leaves were dry and ready for lifting in shale-like sheets. I placed about 30 grams into a stainless tea canister and topped the container with chemical free paper so the Pu’er could breathe.

The leaves reserved in my Gaiwan smelled dusty, so I rinsed them twice.

Steep times were 20 seconds in the beginning, increasing to 45 seconds by the 5th.

The liquor was light honey brown, increasing rapidly through each infusion to dark honey gold then russet gold.

Before I picked up the leaves to smell, or my cup to drink…I could smell a savory aroma. Short ribs, so savory and meaty that I was instantly hungry.

When I took a sip of the tea, there was a clean flavor like the watery taste of bean sprouts that was so smooth and carried on for a long time…then finished with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Steeping a little longer, there was black pepper and more savory flavor. The taste that lasted was stuffing. Chicken-herb stuffing with the tang of cranberry (probably was cedar in reality) at the finish.

The savory super flavor couldn’t be sustained. I was beginning to pick up more cedar-wood tang, which is a familiar Pu’er taste.

By the 5th steep, the tea had become elegant, velvety and smooth. The flavors melted on the tongue, dripping wet with salty savory and tangy cedar flavor so light that my brain couldn’t separate the one from the other.
I felt a flash like the fire in a ruby. A thrill. (When you drink something so good your body sometimes reacts before your mind can give words to it.)

A great experience with a hunk of dry brown tea leaves that finished with leading me to write!

After drinking the tea, I took a mental journey back long ago (25 years or so) when I traveled high up into the Andes with my cousin
(she was born in Peru). I wrote most of the day about the adventures we had in Huaraz, Peru. Might put it on the blog sometime.

Tea does this for me. Gets my memory going, and creates the proper peace for creativity.

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drank Organic Assam by Butiki Teas
676 tasting notes

The weather report for 8 inches of snow was a joke. Ha ha on Fort Collins again. We got about 1.5 inches which will be melted by Saturday morning. Bah!

The Rocky Mountains act as an umbrella of sorts, with snow falling heavy at higher elevations, then gathering strength as it passes over the Frontrange (where I live)…chugging full steam towards the plains then Eastward to unfurl wings of heavy snow.

Ah well. The dream of every low-land California child I was for snow. We prayed for it! In my lifetime, it snowed twice in the San Francisco Bay Area Streets…so as an adult, that dream of snow still burns and I get excited.

This morning I was sitting with my tea-tray (as I always do) watching the last snow-flakes drift down…more ‘snowkle’ than flakes.

I brewed a pot of tea on the strong side, cream and sweetening to add if needed.

Today, I noticed a strong savory flavor that I missed in earlier tastings. While some Assams are very malty, this one weighs heavier on the savory side and reminds me of a very good Kenyan Tea blended with an Assam.

I’ve tasted the new Assam’s from Butiki, but I like the savory flavor here more that I had remembered and would likely return to this Organic Assam over the newer ones.

Yum, morning tea…reminds me of homemade wheat toast with melted butter!

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Colorado Grandma

Grandmother to 3 teenaged girls and 5 young boys. (we all drink tea!) I began teatime in the Summer over 30 years ago when my children were little. We took a break from play for tea and snacks every day. My children loved tea time.
There are several tea houses close to my home and a Tea Festival in Boulder. Fort Collins is a bit of a foodie town. We brew lots of Beer (Fat Tire is one brand) and have several Spice Shops (Savory was one featured on Food Network).
Colorado State University is a mile from my home and the Rocky Mountains begin to climb at the end of my street. The climate is semi-arid with LOTS OF SUN AT 5000 feet. (Heavy Winter snows start in higher elevations). Living my whole life in Northern California (Silicon Valley) I have to admit that I LOVE IT HERE!!!
I attend a wonderful Greek Orthodox Church and enjoy cooking ethnic foods (all kinds). I am disabled with Migraines and Fibromyalgia.
My family is Bi-racial (African-American, Scots) and Bi-cultural, (Peru, Cyprus, France, Mexico, Native American)
I’ve worked at a Winery, was a System Analyst, in telecom, been an Athlete and Coach, Artist, Vista Volunteer. Love healthy cooking (and delicious food!). Love to travel and have been to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Peru, Croatia, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska


Fort Collins,Colorado

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