30 Tasting Notes

drank Austin Breakfast by Zhi Tea
30 tasting notes

So this is suppose to be Texas’s take on Irish Breakfast. Zhi Tea’s Austin Breakfast uses a Sri Lankan ceylon to get you out of bed and moving. Will this tea make Texas proud?

This dark brew is in fact very similar to a typical Irish breakfast. The dry leaf has a dark, weathered, assam-like scent, while the wet leaf transforms to being more toasty. I like the strong liquor scent that has a hint of sweetness buried underneath; It’s bold without being too intimidating. This ceylon is totally no-nonsense and no frills. It is sharp and in your face. Sipping this tea, you get hit with a full-bodied black from start to finish with almost no astringency. What makes this work is that there is little to no harshness to the tea. Many breakfast teas can be harsh leaving a somewhat unsatisfying sip and afterstate. This tea, while strong, remains relatively smooth throughout. There is a non-threatening intensity to it all.

I first recieved a sample of this tea as a gift and have since ordered a little more. It’s basic and to-the-point. If you prefer sweeter/flavored teas, stay far away from this one. If you like strong Irish breakfast tea, it’s worth giving this Texas-version of breakfast tea a shot.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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This is, simply put, a really good earl grey.

Put your nose in a bag of American Tea Room’s Earl Grey Shanghai and you get a fresh, sweet, and naturally smelling bergamot scent. Not perfumey or artificial like many competitors, the scent is not all that dissimilar to a freshly-cut orange. It’s inviting. American Tea Room blends the bergamot with an organic Yunnan base. The Yunnan hides behind the bergamot when sniffing the wet leaf and liquor. But fear not…

Upon tasting, you instantly notice the delicious smoothness of this Yunnan. There is enough strength for a morning wake-up, but it never overpowers. The terrific balance between the Yunnan and bergamot can not be overstated. The tea revels with harmonious fluidity and incredible smoothness. It’s strong, yet gentle. Graceful.

This earl grey has become a staple in my tea stash. It’s an earl grey done right, joy!

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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Rishi’s Ancient Yellow Buds is light, airy bliss. The pale-green and yellow leaves look like they’ve been artfully crafted and loved for. Sticking your nose in the dry leaf, I sense a baked sweet potato meets spring-breeze fusion. The wet leaf is a toasty version of the dry. Nothing too exciting… thus far. But here comes the star of the show, the liquor.

The pale-yellow brew is deceivingly complex. The smell from the liquor is that of a honeysuckle/apple medley. A gentle and soft sweetness is present. An early spring day where life curiously comes out of hibernation. Upon sipping, the tea is comprised of floral and mild-apple notes. The mild-apple notes have a slightly sour tone, almost like the apple peel of a granny smith. This creates an interesting dynamic between floral spring elegance and an autumnal fruit. Very pleasant. Upon swallowing, a sweet honey-like taste lingers at the tip of the tongue and at the inner-edge of the lips. The slight-sour notes of the apple with the sweet honey-like aftertaste strikes a great, harmonious balance.

A very unique tea. Definitely worth trying.

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Lying in a grassy field looking up at the sky. A strong majestic sun beats down. An occasional cloud interrupts. A brisk wind blows and the blades of grass dance to the music. Serenity. So is the experience sipping Harney and Sons’ Organic Sencha.

There is a pronounced buttery and sweet-grassy scent that emanates from the dry leaf. The wet leaf loses some of the butteriness, but it’s captured back by the liquor aroma. The light pale-green brew is buttery smooth. This tea is absolutely silky in the mouth. Very fragile and delicate is this sencha, be careful brewing. Vegetable-like in some respects. The taste is somewhat reminiscent of fresh peas. Airy. Relaxing. Pacifying. Pleasing.

This is flat out, really good sencha. Probably the best sencha I’ve had in recent memory. I’ve been tasting some relatively pricey greens from different companies out there and nothing quite compares. This organic green simply radiates peace and harmony.

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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drank Sencha Yuzu by Rishi Tea
30 tasting notes

Yuzu: rare outside Asia, citrusy, and in combination with sencha? I’m intrigued enough to buy a few ounces from Rishi and give this tea and yuzu a shot.

To start, the dry leaf scent is attention grabbing. It has a strong, spicy citrus smell. It’s an interesting spiciness that accompanies the citrus. The spiciness is peppery in nature and somewhat ginger-like. The wet leaf scent is a total 180. The wet is a toasty, slightly nutty green with a few citrus notes lingering. The liquor aroma combines the wet and dry for a toasty, mild-citrus blend. This tea brews to a somewhat cloudy, pale-green color.

My first reaction to sipping: refreshing! This is a very friendly combination. Surprisingly friendly. It has a tropical-feel. Hello summer. The yuzu is in excellent balance with the sencha. I can best describe the yuzu as lying somewhere between a sweet lemon and an orange. On continual sips, the yuzu taste even reminds me a bit of pineapple. Along with the yuzu, the sencha is very good and of high quality. The sencha is quite airy with a mild toastiness. There are some floral notes lying beneath the yuzu and sencha, but they are subtle and subdued. This tea is light-hearted. Fresh. Fun.

I have to say, after smelling the dry leaf, I was a little nervous. But having now gone through a pot, I can say this is quite enjoyable. I look forward to trying this tea iced when the warmer weather rolls around. This is one of the more interesting green tea blends. Yuzu yum!

165 °F / 73 °C 1 min, 45 sec

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After a string of disappointing tastings from Teavana, it’s time to try something that should be relatively easy: English breakfast. Blend a few fine black teas together and ensure they are energetic and tasty in combination. Easy right? Ehh, not so fast.

My first reaction to sipping this tea is: salty. Now, I know there is no salt in this, but that is what my tongue says. On continued sips, I refine that opinion and would rather say that there is a particular bitterness present. A wrongful bitterness. An unpleasant bitterness. A bitterness that derives from poor quality tea. This tea simply tastes old and of low quality. I have cheap tea-bag English breakfast sitting in the kitchen that is many times better than this. While I probably could finish the pot if forced, it’s not worth the stress and agony. Time to dump out the rest of this debacle by Teavana and brew up something else that is yummy.

If you want to start your day off right, avoid this bitter failure.

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 30 sec
Autumn Hearth

Unfortunately this may be intentional on Teavana’s part, so they can upgrade their customers to a $15-20 black tea. However I don’t care much for English Breakfast in general, so I can only speculate.


You may be right. My experience thus far with Teavana hasn’t been good. I first off think their teas are overpriced. Secondly, of the 5 or so teas I’ve tried, they have been mediocre to poor.


I agree with bravedave’s tasting notes – “cheap” was the word that came to my mind too when I first drank this. And I think Autumn may be on to something – this English Breakfast IS one of the cheapest teas and they are definitely driving people to buy the more expensive teas.


Agree with the comments about a mediocre, less-expensive tea and the desire to get customers to “upgrade” to a better blend. Wish they just charged a little more for this and made it a better tea, instead of seemingly using it to prove how low-quality the cheaper teas are.

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Winter is dead and gone. Spring is floating about. Teavivre’s Premium Dragonwell is glistening in the cup.

Chestnuts! This tea has a nutty flavor that most echoes chestnuts. The dry and wet leaf of this dragonwell exhibit a grassy-nuttiness. But in the liquor scent, the chestnuts come out to play. This is not a light and grassy green. This dragonwell is on the heavier side. The pronounced chestnut taste is prevalent throughout the sip. The aftertaste leaves a nutty flavor in the back of the throat and a slight astringency in the front of the mouth. The key to enjoying this tea is to not overbrew. Testing on multiple pots, when brewed for 2:00 and slightly longer at 175, the tea becomes overly heavy and dense. The nuttiness can overwhelm in such a brew. The sweet spot is to brew this right at 1:30 at 175 and not a second longer. Such a brew leaves this dragonwell lighter and in better overall balance.

This is an enjoyable green. It’s not the green that I will reach for daily. It’s one that needs to work in concert with the right mood and setting. Teavivre’s nutty dragon does well.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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In the morning, I want an in-your-face, take-no-prisoners sort of black tea. I want it to rip the everlasting sleepiness out of me. I want something that barks. A loud, vicious bark. Caffeine is not the sole driver of this. Flavors, feelings, textures all play their part. A lively, energetic harmony. Enter stage: Rishi’s Golden Yunnan.

The dry leaf is dusty and earthy with some sweet notes. The wet leaf has a strong-muscular earthy tone. The liquor is less fragrant than the dry and wet to my nose. Sipping this tea is experiencing a certain polarity; a bold crispness and a sweet smoothness live in friendly coexistence. The bold elements play in the front of the mouth. After sipping, there are crisp peppery notes that dance on the tip of my tongue and the back of my lips. Awakening. Spirited. Sharp. The back of the mouth is a different story and experiences a nice smooth sweet flavor. A mild caramel note. The aftertaste in the back of the mouth is one of relaxation with little to no astringency. Softening. Balancing. Overall, it’s a bit Jekyll and Hyde, but it works.

This is one of my go-to morning black teas. It’s strong and biting enough to wake me up, but with enough smooth and sweet notes to not be overly bitter or jarring. This tea is the pit bull that exhibits an angry face and barks like mad. But once you get to know this scary canine, the mutt is really quite a softy. Don’t be shy, rub the belly of this pup.

Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

Props for making me laugh. :-) What was your leaf to water ratio?


Rishi recommends 1 tablespoon of tea per 8 ounces of water. Being this is a stronger tea, I usually prefer 1 tablespoon of tea per 10 ounces of water or so.


Hmm, I tried half that ratio or about 1 Tbsp to every 20 ounces, and found the tea severely dark and sweet. I’m afraid any more will make it perfectly muddy.


Sorry, meant to write I use 1 teaspoon per 10 ounces, not tablespoon. Rishi has it mislabeled on their website. Using tablespoons would make it very muddy.

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Early morning, reaching for a random sample, how about… Notting Hill by American Tea Room. I’ve never been to the neighborhood and I recall being rather bored during the predictable Julia Roberts romantic romp. The name does little for me. Onward to the this yunnan/assam hybrid.

Dry leaf says yunnan. Wet leaf says assam. Liquor scent is a mix. The first half of the sip is all yunnan, nice sweet earthy goodness. Good yunnan, not great. The second half of the sip screams assam with its typical dry, malty taste. Average assam. The after-taste leaves a slightly sweet taste in the front of the mouth (yunnan) and a dry astringency in the back of the mouth toward the throat (assam). Overall, the tea is smooth, which is critical in such a blend. The more I drink this, the more I yearn for the sweet yunnan that’s at the forefront and less for dry assam in the back-half.

This blend does the job as a morning wake-me-up tea, but not too much beyond that. Rather average fare. A few bonus points for being organic. Not something I would run out to buy. Like a Julia Roberts film, this tea is pleasant, yet predictable.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec
American Tea Room

I think you might like our Kensington better – it is more Yunnan and both the Yunnan and Assam are finer quality than in Notting Hill.

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Pi day. A complex day deserves a complex sort of tea. Keemun it is! I brew up some of Teavivre’s Premium Hao Ya and see if the math checks.

The dry leaf is woodsy and earthy with a slight cocoa note, typical of many keemuns. The scent of the wet leaf is not all that much different than the dry, but slightly more gentle. The liquor smell loses some of that nice earthiness and is of a far more smoky quality.

As I sip, I’m not intrigued. I’m not mystified. I’m not overly interested. This keemun would best be described as mild-flavored, with smoke. On the initial swallow, this tea is not particularly strong. There is a somewhat malty taste on the onset with a hint of sweetness. But, the aftertaste brings a stronger wave of smokiness that makes you forget the opening. The cocoa notes are relatively weak in this one, which is a disappointment. You can faintly taste the cocoa lingering, but it never dazzles and pops. Failure to reach potential. The depth in this tea is lacking.

Overall, the math is a little off. This keemun is an average offering: neither fascinating, nor drab. Intricately deep and complex like pi, this tea is not.

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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