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Recent Tasting Notes
I am working through some tea bags from recent swaps and decided to start this morning with this black tea from Devon Bartholomew. It only says “100% Natural Black Tea” on the wrapper so I’m not sure which brand it is. I’m looking forward to a good, strong black tea this morning though so I hope this fits the bill. It’s a perfect shade with cream, so fingers crossed for a good cup.
Yes, very good. A bit astringent but nice and caramelly-tasting.
Flavors: Astringent, Caramel
This is the tea that is going to make me finally take seriously not over-heating water and not over-extracting. I don’t think I would have been a good candidate for loving chai anyway, especially in the summer, but this tea was a struggle to even finish, I disliked it so much. I have a tolerance for most flavors, known as “will eat anything”, and I didn’t care for this. Purchased it from an open bin at Horrocks, so reserving judgements on all chai.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Ginger
G is for …. Green Tea! (Ode to Tea)
This one’s a mystery!! I have a had a couple mystery green teas gifted to me a little bit ago now that I have just stuffed away and slowly picked at. Well today’s the day I will be drinking the last of that back and all I know is that this blend is made by Harney and Sons. Love crossing empties off my list and being able to add physical items into my discard basket, this time its a baggie that use to hold some miscellaneous green tea bags!
Flavors: Floral, Grass, Rose, Sweet
Typed in “Matcha Unkown” to see if any entry already existed, and what do you know! One did! So even though this hasn’t been used in a few years I’m going to co-opt it for my tasting note…
A few months back, because Montreal went back into more heavy lockdown, I had the chance to “work from home” at one of my coworker’s houses – not for much of a particular reason, other than it’s nice to spend time with other people and because we’re already “exposed to” each other in our office it wasn’t adding to either of our Covid risk/circles. While I was there, throughout the day, her partner made matcha for us to have a matcha tasting! He’s actually a bigger tea drinker than she is, despite working for a tea company, and he recently had a friend in Japan mail him about a half dozen types of matcha (each from different regions of Japan) to taste through. It was very kind of him to share in his matcha haul, and it was a really nice activity for throughout the day.
We didn’t taste through all six regions that he had matcha from, but we did make it through four of them over the course of the day! I was definitely getting the matcha shakes by the time I went home. I, sadly, don’t remember what the regions were but here are some notes I jotted down for each of the four matchas!
- Sweet and fresh with floral elderflower/peony notes
- Refreshing garden snap pea finish; vegetal but juicy sweet vegetal
- This was my favourite tasting matcha
- The creamiest of the four both in terms of mouthfeel and flavour
- More umami underneath the initial creamy notes
- A bit flat in terms of taste with a thinner mouthfeel
- Pleasant taste with umami/bok choy notes
- Courser mouthfeel though; a touch gritty/grainy
Very general tasting notes, as you can see – but I wanted to capture it because it was a really nice experience and a very special moment of friendship and tea community nestled in between the dumpster fire that has been 2020.
After cavorting with kids (10 of ’em, fresh out of fourth grade and squirrely!) then coming home to sterilize the rubber pig and chicken and wash my marbles (there are a couple tasks I never expected to do!) I was ready to put my feet up and enjoy something light and uncomplicated.
I don’t know much about the provenance of this dragonwell. It was passed along by a friend; a cellophane-wrapped packet in a little green box with absolutely no English on it whatsoever. And yes, I know I should have taken a picture to run by the experts before I sipped it down and pitched it. Que sera. But I enjoyed every cup of it—it definitely led with the extremely green spinach and kale vibe, but there was a sweet spot at the end of every swallow. Like getting dessert after eating your veggies.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am drinking dumpster tea. Youngest found this dumpster diving at college as people moved out. Mind you, this wasn’t in a pile of banana peels and old rice, but piled with furniture and rugs and such. She found three teas, all sealed and unused. One was a yingde black – not very good but great for making gallons of sweet tea and nearly all gone now. One was a Long Jing that I haven’t tried yet.
This one was completely unlabeled, just in a sealed foil pouch. The leaves were medium length, thin, slightly twisted and very dark. I thought it might be black tea but it smelled like Chun Mee, which is not a favorite green for me.
I made it by black tea parameters, saw the wet leaves turn bright green, tasted the nasty astringency, and started over.
Made as a green tea, I think this probably IS Chun Mee. I might try to find a way to use it – sweet and flavored maybe? But since it was free tea and I know nothing of its origins, I might just toss it. It is not terrible, but I will definitely reach around this for the greens I love and then it will just be taking up space.
Thanks for the adventure, ”Youngest”!
This one is labelled “Thailand – Mariage Freres” only I can’t find this tea on their website or on steepster.
It’s a super mega fine CTC black tea. Very strong. Would be so good with sweetened condensed milk. But I’m drinking it with vanilla sugar and regular milk.
From TTB 2019/2020.
Last tea from the TTB and it’s a great one to end on. I think I associate rose hips with hibiscus for some reason so I was expecting this to steep up really red but it didn’t. It’s nice and fruity, reminiscent of those natural fruit leathers you can get at the health foods store.
From TTB 2019/2020.
I had no idea that honeysuckle is so good for you! I read up on it a bit to figure out the best way to steep it, and apparently it has all sorts of health benefits. We used to pick honeysuckle flowers all the time as kids, but I don’t see them much anymore. I think my dad may have one in the woods near his house. I’ll have to look next time I’m there to see if I might pick and dry a few.
The flavor is not anything like I expected. I expected sweet and nectar-like, like I have experienced in the past with the fresh flowers. This is vegetal. In fact, it smells exactly like lima beans after steeping. The taste is bitter and also dusty. Just completely different than anything else I’ve tasted!
I’m certainly glad I was able to try this and also learn that honeysuckle can be steeped as a tisane. I’ll be interested to see if other companies might have honeysuckle that tastes different. Teasenz has one that looks really beautiful. I wouldn’t mind trying that one.
Flavors: Bitter, Dust, Lima Beans, Vegetal
A whirlwind run to see my mom-in-law + a somewhat extravagant lunch at Carrabba’s (we don’t have one locally, so we splurged) resulted in a very uncomfortable bout of travel tummy when we got home. My bloated belly begged (don’t you just love alliterations?) for a cup of straight-up steeped peppermint.
I grabbed the “unknown” handle for this review, as the leaves are from the unlabeled bulk section at our favorite indie grocery, but I think most of their stuff comes from Frontier Natural Products. At any rate, within 5 minutes of imbibing a double-steeped, double-leafed cup, things started settling down.
Check your cabinets, friends, and make sure you have a stock of plain unadulterated peppermint on hand. Cold and flu season is coming. (I can just hear you all groaning, Yes, dear…you sound like my mother. )
One of the weird “mystery teas” given to me by a coworker – came in a vacuum sealed golden foil bag with ZERO words on it at all, but she said the box it was in was a mix of assorted “Chinese Herbal Infusions”. For a bit more background you can check out this tasting note too:
I’m actually not entirely sure what this one was, even after steeping it up Gongfu and going through the process of inspecting the dry leaves and wet leaves. My best guess would be some kind of dried seaweed – but a different coworker suggested maybe lotus leaves? I’ve had lotus leaves before though and they tasted pretty different from whatever this was so I feel less confident about that…
The dry leaf smelled a little sweet, but mostly very saline/fishy – which was the first indicator it might be seaweed. Steeped, the liquor colour was a very yellow-y amber, kind of like the urine of someone really dehydrated? Unpleasant imagery, I know – but it was a really unpleasant tea. I did five steeps, with an assortment of water temperatures and steep times, and every time this was one of the most (if not THE most) unpleasant teas I’ve ever drank. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted something both so cloyingly sweet and astringent/bitter at the same time – I only managed to take a sip of each of the five steeps and I basically gagged every time. After five attempts I just gave up.
I’d like to think that if I knew what this tisane was that maybe I could have brewed it better than just blindly guessing – but there’s a very real possibility that this was just disgusting…
This marshmallow leaf is very, very old. YEEEEAAARRRRSSSS old…
I’ve also never made it before now – so why do I have it still!? Well, to the surprise of none of my tea friends, am a bit of a hoarder of tea. I’ve never tossed it out, despite it being about three or four years old and never once having it, because “Someday I might crave it”. Such poor logic, I know.
Well… WELL!! Let me tell you!
Earlier this week; I was craving it! I thought to myself “Man, I want something light, herbaceous but not super savory or bitter, and caffeine free… I wonder if I have any tea that fits that!?” And low and motherfucking behold! It was the marshmallow leaf’s time to shine! Sure, it tasted pretty flat/stale – but it was soft and warm and worked for what I was in the mood for!
Who wants to take bets on how long it’ll take me to be in the mood to drink it again!?
OK, experts: here’s the closest online picture I can find of a gift originating from Chinatown in Chicago. This is from a Kazakhstani source; mine’s in Chinese, otherwise it’s identical. Leaves are rolled thin, close to an inch long. I don’t have gongfu gear, so no doubt improper steeping isn’t helping…but even so, it has a really nice, bready scent and flavor. What do we have here?
Going to borrow this Steepster page to write about the other tea mentioned in this tasting note: https://steepster.com/roswellstrange/posts/388247#likes
Like the other tea that my roommate was gifted from China & shared, we drank this one Grandpa style. I wish I knew more background on this tea, but alas I do not. Visually it was STUNNING though; super huge leaves, and almost completely golden/tippy. Amazing dry aroma of chocolate. Steeped, it was also deeply chocolate tasting, but with undertones of malt and sweet potato. Very rich, and smooth – full bodied. I LOVED it,
So once again, thank you to my roommate Jennifer for the share!
EDIT: The leaf looked sort of like this, but the leaves were wider across and a bit fuzzier than how the picture looks…
So – my two roommates are Chinese, and this past Chinese New Year both of them went and stayed with their families for a few weeks instead of being at the apartment.
When they came back, one of them had received two tea jars of loose leaf tea as a New Year’s gift – a jasmine green tea and a very tippy black tea. They had been sent over directly from China, from a family member who owns a tea garden. Because my roommate, Jennifer, knows I’m very interested in tea she VERY kindly offered to brew both teas up for us to share over dinner. It was a really sweet gesture.
I asked her how she best thought they should be prepared, and she said we should brew them in large mugs without infusers – so basically Grandpa style, though that’s not what she called it. So, that’s what we did!
I’m not really a huge fan of jasmine green tea – but I did enjoy this one. It was very sweet, and quite fresh tasting. This jasmine tea in particular hadn’t had the flowers sorted out of the tea leaf, so visually it was quite strikingly beautiful in the cup. Even if this wasn’t inheritance the type of tea I usually go for, I deeply appreciate the gesture of sharing it and am able to acknowledge that it was beautifully fresh, smooth and really well scented.
Just a random Guava Leaf sample I’ve received from someone in a swap at some point, I guess? No company indicated on the swap packaging…
I don’t know if I’ve had guava leaf before? Perhaps in a blend, but certainly not straight? I’m not entirely sure what I expected – maybe something like blackberry leaf or raspberry leaf? This is roasted though, so it’s quite buttery/toasty. A little bit of that weird sourness that hits you on the sides of your tongue – that happens occasionally with teas/herbal things that have been harshly roasted. Also has some grassiness to it, which I imagine would be a lot more prominent were this unroasted guava leaf.
Uhh… I think ultimately I’m not a fan. It’s weird. Reminds me a little of yaupon, which I also don’t like much at all.
I picked up some barley tea while I was in a Hmart earlier this week. The teabags are huge!! But from my research you really need to steep alot at a time, so I’m guessing they’re single serving. It was roasted, grainy goodness, but I don’t think it’s a tea that I can drink while I’m doing the fasting portion of IF, phooey.
Today is a super duper busy day, I have my grandmother’s death anniversary to attend, a musical show, and then a red eye flight across the country. But tomorrow I shall be in the ‘happiest place on earth’ so hopefully I won’t be too dead. Caffeine to the rescue!
Because I have decided to brew the High Mountain Oolong tea for my ceremony, I have been making it pretty frequently to find out how I like it best in regards to steep time and amount of tea and water used. I have come to the conclusion that I like this tea best with 3 grams of tea and 12 ounces of water. I like to steep it between 3 minutes and 15 seconds to 3 minutes and 30 seconds, which is how I made it this time. This tea is the perfect amount of flavor for me, without it being too overpowering. I really like teas that have a very calm flavor, because it puts my mind to ease and I feel very peaceful and relaxed. It has a slightly sweet aftertaste too, which is nice. I enjoy this tea the most when I make it in the morning to get my day going in a positive way.
After tasting several different teas, my favorite overall has been the High Mountain Oolong tea. I decided to make it again to see if this is the tea that I want to use for the tea ceremony. Last time I made this tea, it was very light and refreshing. Because the flavor was so light last time, this time I decided to make it with 3 grams of tea instead of 2. I also decided to brew the tea for a few seconds longer. I made this tea around 9 o’clock in the morning. After taking the time to enjoy it, I decided that this tea is definitely my favorite and I will probably end up using it in my tea ceremony. I also really enjoyed the stronger flavor, from using another gram of tea leaves and steeping the tea for a few seconds longer. I will probably make this tea several more times before the ceremony, to see which way I like the tea best (temperature, steep time, amount of tea and water).