American Tea Room

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Recent Tasting Notes


Getting to the end of my ATR oolong samples. I have two that I know of after this.

Trying this with short steeps starting at 15 sec in the gaiwan at 195F after rinsing.

I get walnut and cocoa smells out of the packet. Something fruity as well.

It’s a golden color and clear, and definitely smells like walnut. I get a little of the cinnamon, too, but I’m not smelling maple.

The flavor is pleasantly toasty and mild, and it tastes pretty much like it smells.

On the second steep, still no maple, but something that reminds me of cardamom, for sure. I don’t find this particularly sweet, but it remains mild and smooth.

In between the second and third steeps, I found myself playing in my tea stash. I found a lot of the things I was looking for, but not the Castleton darjeeling from Upton. I have to keep looking. It might be a sample?

Anyway, third and fourth steeps are also mild, very much like the second.

Not as toasty as some other darker oolongs. Milder, and pleasant.

I really like this, but as ATR is no more, I will have to savor the remainder.

Flavors: Cocoa, Fruity, Toasty, Walnut

195 °F / 90 °C

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After thoroughly enjoying the Andao Big Red Robe yesterday, I thought I’d try another. This was in a never-before-opened sample packet.

The leaves smell amazing. I confess I read the description before I smelled, but it’s all there: nutty? Check. Roasty? Check. Mineral? Check. Woodsy? Check. Fruity? Check.

The usual ritual for tasting in the gaiwan. Rinse, and start at 15 seconds with 195F water.

The tea is a peachy-amber color. Apricot, but a little pinker. It’s clear and smells of brown sugar. Flavor wise, it has a mild, woody flavor. Not as complex as the Big Red Robe of yesterday, at least so far. No floral notes to speak of.

Second steep. Did I say no floral notes? I spoke too soon. There is a definite floral lilt to the aroma. The tea is a darker apricot color. The flavor is similar to the first steep except a little toastier.

Third steep. The floral note is gone. The flavor is similar to the second steep. I may only do one more if I don’t get something new.

Fourth steep. Nothing new.

It’s pleasant, but not as exciting and special as the one of yesterday.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Floral, Fruity, Mineral, Nutty, Roasted, Toasty, Wood

195 °F / 90 °C

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Playing count-the-oolongs left in the cupboard without tasting notes isn’t nearly as fun as the black tea and green tea exercise because it is just a reminder of my embarrassing excess.

I have 40 oolongs in the cupboard that have yet to be tasted or written about.

And that number is also misleading, because I have many more oolong samples that aren’t entered in the cupboard.

There’s only one thing to do: persist.

I’m a little upset about this one. I had it all ready to go for a tasting last weekend, sitting in the gaiwan. And then I got busy and forgot about it.

I was going to resume where I left off today, but discovered that my house cleaners tossed the unused tea and washed the gaiwan. Nice of them to wash the gaiwan, but I wish they’d realized it had tea that should be preserved in it.

So I have less of this than I thought I had, and because it is an ATR tea, there won’t be more.

Anyway. Steeped in the gaiwan at 195F with short steeps after rinsing starting at 15 seconds.

Have any of you found that your interest in tea has led to some insights about yourself?

Mine has.

I never thought of myself as a type A person, or as someone who is constantly on the go. I’ve always had an impatient streak, but not because I had too much to do and needed to get on to the next thing. Just because I’m wired that way. Which is amusing because I have a reputation at work for being much more patient than other people.

I do think of myself as someone who throws herself into whatever she’s doing rather completely, which pushes out of the picture time for other things. But eventually, because of that intensity I burn out and turn to one or more of those other things. Which is why I drop off of Steepster for months and years at a time.

But now, I think there’s a real possibility I have developed adult onset ADHD. I’m constantly interrupted by emails and instant messages at work, so I’m constantly having to shift mental focus from one thing to another. Also, the older I get the more I find I have to do. So sometimes I just have to cut things short to move on to the next thing that must get done.

Today I have to get my hair cut and colored, but I also want to work out and it’s almost noon already. So watch me totally fail to savor this tea for the number of steeps it probably deserves. Generally, I can sit through about 4 or 5 steeps without feeling compelled to move on to the next thing.

I am hopeful, though, that after I race through the exercise of tasting everything I have at least once, I’ll feel the internal pressure to do so lifted and will be able to revisit some of these from a more relaxed place.

So. About this tea.

In the packet, it has a floral, green aroma. Of the flowers listed in the description, I definitely smell orchid and lilac. I am not sure I know what narcissus smells like. I don’t smell jasmine, or at least I don’t smell it as a differentiated aroma. When I think of lily smell, I think of the vanilla of stargazer lilies and I don’t smell that here either.

The tea is a medium butter-golden yellow that darkens with longer steeps. It has a butter-cream, floral smell.

The flavor is everything I like about greener oolongs. Buttery, floral, flavorful but delicate. It’s mild, not astringent, not bitter. There are a couple of unexpected aspects to it, one of which is that I sort of taste the paper that’s described as a wrapping. It’s not nearly as prominent as the paper flavor in some decafs, though. And the other of which is that the tea doesn’t seem to have much of a grassy or vegetal quality. It’s pretty much flowered butter, all the time.

I’m really upset about the loss of the gaiwan full of tea now. I like this a lot.

Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Orchid, Paper

195 °F / 90 °C

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This is a nice solid Earl Grey. The tea is smooth, the balance is right, and I think it’s a tea that most people could enjoy. The bergamot is just a touch sharp for me, but it’s not bothersomely so. I got this as a sample, and if I liked Earl Greys more, I’d buy more – but they’re not often my cup of tea. :)

Flavors: Bergamot

200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 20 OZ / 591 ML

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It’s Doctor Who day! I saved enough of this sampler (3.5g) for my quintessential British English breakfast 16 oz. pot of tea with my McVities digestive biscuits for the episode viewing with my friend, then used up the rest of the sampler for my black tea hair rinse with my morning natural hair care shower regimen.

American Tea Room has gone out of business, and this was a free sample they gave me when I placed an order with them during their “going out of business” sale. It’s a blend of Assam and Yunnan black teas. What I find interesting is the last English Breakfast tea I drank was entirely Ceylon teas and I didn’t get any citrus notes (which is apparently common of Ceylon blacks?), and this one is lacking Ceylon blacks, but I definitely noticed a citrus note in it. Huh.

This tea had that typical malty/baked bread base, leading to a bit of a slight burnt toast flavor with a more subtle spice note mid-sip, and then a hint of citrus toward the finish. The astringency was rather mild overall, especially when I think back to the last few English Breakfast blends I’ve tried. This was a full-leaf blend rather than CTC, which may have contributed to it being a little more smooth.

Overall, a rather pleasing cup. I think now that I’ve started to experiment more with English Breakfasts (a tea I really never cared for much in the past), I’ve found that my tastes seem to fall with blends that are predominently (or entirely) full leaf and that have a strong Chinese black component to the overall blend.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Burnt, Citrus, Malt, Smooth, Spices, Toast

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 3 g 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Sipdown no. 116 of 2018 (no. 472 total). A sample.

I took this to work on Monday, and after spending a bit more time with it, I am bumping down the rating.

There was something weirdly pungent about the underlying tea that bothered me. I don’t think it was the berries, though part of it could have been. Or maybe it was that the berries didn’t mix well with the toasty, woody oolong base? No idea, it just was borderline berry-flavored cedar chips the second time around.

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This is a sample packet that I’d never opened before. As ATR is no longer around, there’s no information available other than what is on the packet.

I will say that the info about the color is spot on. Wow, how pretty! It’s a pinkish copper that is very different from any color I’ve seen on an oolong before.

The dry leaves are dark brown with the berries obvious in the mix. They have a tart, fruity smell.

The tart, fruity smell is also in the steeped aroma. I took this through a number of steeps in the gaiwan, starting at 15 seconds.

The thing about flavored oolongs is that I’m never really convinced it is worth it to do short multiple steeps because mostly the flavor is whatever the flavoring agent makes it. It’s pretty rare that the flavor changes much from steep to steep in my experience. Nevertheless, I persist.

Given the tartness of the aroma, I wasn’t expecting a sweet flavor. It’s not what I’d call sweet sweet, but it is not as tart as I expected either. I don’t feel the pucker reflex being triggered. The mouthfeel is soft and pleasant. I wouldn’t know a schizandra berry if I met one on the street, but there’s a definite tart fruitiness to the flavor. Also a woodiness, a toasty woodiness.

It was definitely interesting to try, and enjoyable as a palate cleanser between my morning teas and what is likely to be one more this afternoon. But it’s not something I would have put on my order list if ATR was still around.

Flavors: Berry, Tart, Toasty, Wood

195 °F / 90 °C

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This is a nice blend, very strongly spicy to give you a lift but without the caffeine. I think it’s pretty nicely balanced and has no artificial taste to it. No “softness” to the flavor, it smacks you in the face. A lot of chais disappoint me by tasting weak or watery – this one doesn’t in the slightest and has good body to it. However, I personally can’t stand it, as it has a distinct anise flavor. It isn’t too strong, and if you like anise, it’s kind of a nice twist on the usual cinnamon, etc. I just happen to loathe anise, so…

Flavors: Anise, Clove, Pepper

200 °F / 93 °C 6 min, 0 sec 6 tsp 18 OZ / 532 ML

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Sipdown no. 100 of 2018 (no. 456 total). A sample.

Since there was so little left after my stove top cup this morning, I decided to make the rest, about half a cup’s worth, as a plain black tea.

Much more pepper this way. A nice little peppery dance on the tongue. Not sure why it hides so much made on the stove top, but that’s what makes tasting teas so endlessly fascinating!

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Today, I opened up the sample I found of this post-project chai sipdown to give it a whirl. Made on the stove top using the Samovar method.

The tea blend doesn’t give off much pepper, and if you know me you know I rather like black pepper in chai. This is true after steeping, as well — mostly I smell ginger and cinnamon.

The flavor has these, and also a discernible cardamom. Not so much clove, which is fine with me. There’s a slight spicy hotness on the tongue in the finish that is likely the pepper asserting itself, but I would have preferred a bit more in the pepper department. I don’t taste a lot of vanilla, but that’s ok with me. What is there adds to the creaminess of the milk.

That said, it’s very tasty. I think a lot of its tastiness comes from the tea base. ATR does (did) good base.

I’ve settled on a couple of favorites in the chai department, but this probably would have come in third or fourth if not for the fact that ATR is gone and it is no longer available.

Flavors: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Ginger, Pepper, Vanilla

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Another unopened ATR sample packet. I steeped according to package directions (hotter and longer than usual for white tea).

I adore the way this tea looks and smells in the packet. Honking pink rosebuds and a divine rose smell that is neither soapy nor lotiony, but has both depth and roundness on an earthy backdrop.

It doesn’t happen often in my experience that the aroma after steeping is identical to that of the dry leaves — but it really is here. The tea is a butter yellow and clear.

I love the way this tastes, which makes it all the more sad that ATR is kaput. I would love to order a pound of this! I love rose teas done well, and this is the closest to a perfect rose tea I’ve had. The base is a perfect delivery mechanism, adding some balance with its earthiness, and the rose tastes naturally sweet and dewy, like fresh rose petals smell.

Bravo. Come back ATR!

Flavors: Earth, Rose

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 5 g 17 OZ / 500 ML

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Had a weird aftertaste, one I would best describe as similiar to seafood. Would not recommend.

Flavors: Seaweed

Boiling 4 min, 30 sec 200 g

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Sipdown no. 107 of 2018 (no. 463 total). A sample.

Yeah, I’ll really miss this one.

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Every time I open an ATR sample, I am saddened to realize I won’t be able to get more of it if I want to. My sample collection has outlived the American Tea Room. Sigh.

I am also somewhat surprised that there’s not an entry for this tea already, given the number of ATR fans around here. But I tried a number of different searches and couldn’t come up with this. Sometimes the search algorithm and I don’t see eye to eye, so I apologize if I’ve just added to the duplication problem.

I steeped according to the directions on the packet. This was a never-before-opened packet, and the jasmine scent that comes out of it upon opening is remarkable.

If you read my notes at all, you know I am a huge jasmine fan. I have not met a jasmine green, white, or oolong tea that I didn’t like at least somewhat. With black tea, jasmine can get a bit dicier for me. But then, I don’t encounter that many black jasmine teas.

Moving along. The aroma of the steeped tea is wonderfully, naturally, jasmine. Light, but not too much so. Juicy, but not pasted on. It has depth, but isn’t artificial. It’s really lovely. The tea is golden yellow verging on amber, with a pinkish tint, and clear.

The flavor is the smell made taste-able. To the adjectives above, I’d add that there’s a subtle earthiness to the flavor that comes from the tea base and that gives it even more depth. And also, refreshing — there’s a clean, aromatic, freshening effect in the mouth. The aftertaste is first sweet, then has a slightly bitter downturn, but only slightly.

It’s one of the best jasmine white teas I’ve had. I’m so sad that it is no longer available.

Flavors: Jasmine

190 °F / 87 °C 5 min, 0 sec 5 g 17 OZ / 500 ML

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Sipdown no. 81 of 2018 (no. 437 total). A sample.

This time I steeped according to the white Breville setting.

It was better at the recommended time and temp but the lower temp and shorter time didn’t render it entirely tasteless or weird.

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Another ATR sample white. I steeped according to the directions on the packet and I’m thinking this may be the way to go for white tea in the future. 190F at 6 minutes.

While I can’t go so far as to say this makes me get white tea, or it makes me understand it, or whatever, I can say that compared to the ones I’ve had lately this one is different in a good way.

It doesn’t have a planty smell in the packet, or after steeping. In the packet, it actually smells a tad like cantaloupe.

After steeping it smells more floral. It’s a clear, light golden yellow and it has a pleasant sweet taste that’s refreshing in the mouth. Actually, in reading the description ATR gave for it, I have to say I get pretty much what they say out of this, even down to the cherry. Maybe not the apricot.

My rating is cautious because I have white tea PTSD and I’m not sure I know what I’m talking about. It is just meant to reflect that I like this quite a bit more than the other white teas I’ve had recently.

Flavors: Cantaloupe, Melon, Sweet

190 °F / 87 °C 6 min, 0 sec 5 g 500 OZ / 14786 ML

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Sipdown no. 78 of 2018 (no. 434 total). A sample.

I didn’t have quite enough for the minimum steep in the Breville this morning, so I rounded it out with some Jasmine Silver Needle from Todd & Holland.

From one perspective, this was a mistake because I really can’t taste anything other than the jasmine. From another, this was not a mistake because at least I can taste the jasmine.

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I have a number of unopened American Tea Room sample packets, still. It’s kind of sad to know that when I drink them down, that will be the end of American Tea Room in my stash.

And yet, this one is consistent with my experience of white tea so it won’t be one I’ll miss. I tried it at two different steeping temperatures: the Breville white setting (4 minutes at 184F) and as an herbal. Neither way gave much aroma, color or flavor. The color was a very light beige that was almost clear. The most interesting parts of it were the leaves (very fluffy and furry) and a sort of artichoke like aftertaste.

Flavors: Artichoke

185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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June Wedding! This is another of my newer aquisitions, also from the American Tea House “going out of business sale” when I got the Citron White tea (which I can report was better as an iced tea, but I still found a little cloying in citrus flavor… I wish I had some fresh mint sprigs, which I think would’ve helped? For the hot cuppa, I actually ended up making it as a choco-milk latte, and the lemon-chocolate flavor combo worked quite well! So at least there is that for finishing it up…)

So this is another lavender tea, something I’ve been really into lately, though I have found some blends can be heavy handed on the lavender, and then they just taste sour. The Lavender White tea I got from Lupicia ended up that way to me, so I am a little skeptical… I love the stuff, I really do, but I find the proportions and blending has to be just right, so I guess I’m a bit of a picky fan…

Fortunately, this is a really wonderful sencha, the kind that is smooth, with a soft grassiness and just a little buttery, and a nice buttery sencha is my favorite flavor. The lavender is not too heavy and blends nicely with that buttery note, adding a minty floral flavor to the grassiness of the green tea. I have a feeling that if I added a little sugar to the tea, it would remind me just slightly of a lavender pastry, if not for the grassiness of the green tea. This is definitely a tea that I’d recommend going light on the leaf, using 160-175 F water, and a shorter steep of no more than 2 minutes.

I also really love cold-steeping this stuff in lemonade! The lemonade has a very subtle hint of the green tea, but mostly, it is just left with a very nice lavender flavor, and since lavender and lemon is a flavor combination that works so well together (in my humble opinion), it just works. It’s tangy, sweet, and a bit floral… pretty much everything I love! I imagine I’ll be drinking tons of this over the summer!

Flavors: Butter, Floral, Grass, Lavender, Mint, Umami, Vegetal

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 14 OZ / 414 ML

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June Wedding! This is one of my newer teas, which I got during American Tea Room’s “going out of business sale” (yes, last March is still quite a “new” tea in my collection as far as I’m concerned… it’s still from this year!) I have a quart of this cold brewing in the fridge, but it won’t be ready until tomorrow morning, so for now I’m sipping up a warm cuppa.

This is a very heavy lemon-flavored tea. It doesn’t have that pine note that I’ve tasted in some past lemon-flavored white teas that gave me a horrible Pine Sol cleaner impression, but it is still so strongly lemon that I can’t quite shake that slight impression of cleaner. There is at least a subtle vegetal note of the white tea beneath the strong citrus flavor, and the tea does have a really silky smooth feel… this could’ve been really nice if the lemon just backed off just a bit. I just don’t like my flavors to be so dominating. I’m hoping the cold brew will turn out a bit better…

I got some honey from the Farmer’s Market in Boise last weekend during my vacation, and while I don’t normally sweeten my tea, I decided this would be a good one for some honey, just to try to give it a bit more varied flavor. The honeyed sweetness did help mellow out some of the overpowering citrus a bit, and probably will be how I’ll take this tea in the future, unless the cold brew proves to be a vast improvement.

Flavors: Citrus, Lemon, Vegetal

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 14 OZ / 414 ML

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I got this tea during American Tea Room’s going-out-of-business sale, as a hopeful replacement for Bluebird’s The Cat’s Pyjamas (which was just too chamomile-flavored for me to finish off so I gifted it, but I liked the way the valerian root knocked me out). This tea included valerian root, but looked like it had enough ingredients to drown out the chamomile and hopefully have a more pleasant flavor for me to drink before bed.

When I first opened the package, what I first noticed is there wasn’t much chamomile in the blend, so I definitely wasn’t going to be getting another Cat’s Pyjamas. The scent was strongly that of fennel, and a bit minty. Brewed up, the fennel is definitely the dominant flavor, which is fine by me; being new to it, I immediately found I absolutely love it! It’s like a vegetal licorice, waaaaaaaaaaa! Sooooo good! There was a slight cooling, minty aftertaste, and a tiny hint of rose right at the end of the sip. Despite the amount of lovely schizandra berries in the blend, they don’t really impart much on the flavor. The floral notes, apart from the rose oil occassionally ghosting through, are also far too subtle to have an effect on the flavor.

I’m not sure how much valerian root this blend has compared to The Cat’s Pyjamas, but there is at least enough to wind me down and have that drowsy effect on my system. That particular herb just seems to work for me, and I’m glad to have found this tea, since I’m really digging the taste of that warm fennel. I think this is going to be my go to when I need to get to bed early from now on!

Flavors: Fennel, Licorice, Mint, Rose, Vegetal

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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This is one of the teas I picked up during American Tea Room’s big going-out-of-business discount sale. I’ve never had any of their teas before, but can’t resist a big discount, and I admittedly grabbed a lot of floral flavors since I really enjoy those. While I’m always a little hesitant when teas include jasmine after my experience with jasmine pearls, overall this blend had me curious, with its mix of florals, mint, and white tea base.

Opening the bag, the scent was heavily that of rose and mint, and honestly if those are the only two flavors I end up getting from the brewed cup I know I’ll be satisfied, because that is a flavor combination that I really enjoy. The brewed cup was a lovely yellow color, that didn’t have such a strong minty scent, though it was still noticeable. There was definitely still a lovely rose aroma wafting up from the cup, with another more subtle floral scent in the background. Jasmine? If so, it’s certainly light, which is exactly how I like it in my floral teas, which bodes well. Oddly enough, I didn’t notice any hint of lavender at all.

The flavor of the tea was very much like a rose mint tea. The base was minty, leaving that cool, freshing feeling in the mouth, but it wasn’t overwhelming or overpowering. A strong rose note sweetens the mint and leaves a strong presense in the finish of the sip. There seems to be a softer background note of jasmine, but it is very subtle beneath the mint and rose flavors. The lavender seems to be lost beneath the other more dominant flavor notes; since lavender has a floral-minty note, paired with the stronger floral rose flavor and peppermint, I can’t make out a lavender flavor in my cup. The tea is very smooth, and the aftertaste is sweet, floral, refreshing, and leaves a slight peppery, tingly note.

While I wish the lavender had been a touch more pronounced in the final cup, I absolutely love the mint rose flavor, which is refreshing and relaxing. I think this is going to be a favorite nighttime warm cuppa, but I also can’t wait to also try this iced.

Flavors: Floral, Mint, Pepper, Rose, Sweet

185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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good basic breakfast black tea. A little astringent, good black tea flavors.

2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 14 OZ / 414 ML

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