Zen Tea

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Recent Tasting Notes

80

I’m experiencing a green Tie Guan Yin shortage, and while I know I should wait until the spring 2018 harvest comes out in June, going several months without one of my favourite oolongs seems dire. This is the second-last reasonably sized package of green TGY in my cupboard, and it’s pretty good. I steeped 5 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 120, and 240 seconds.

The first steep seems slightly more oxidized than a typical green Tie Guan Yin, with notes of orchids, butter, grass, honey, and miscellaneous florals, which become violets in the second steep. Nectarines and vanilla appear in steep three, making the tea much more interesting, but also more perfumey. The fruit leans more towards apricot in the fourth steep. The next few steeps maintain this balance of flavours before petering out into grassiness.

This is a nice Tie Guan Yin that hits the spot. It has few surprises and fades faster than I’d like, but it’s pleasant while it lasts. I hope Zen Tea continues to carry it in the future.

Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Floral, Grass, Honey, Orchids, Stonefruits, Vanilla, Violet

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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75

This entry is for the second flush version of this tea, while my sample is from the autumn harvest. I got it a couple years ago, so it’s probably too old to be optimal. I steeped around 4 g of Darjeeling in 476 ml of 195F water for five minutes.

My initial impressions are of rye bread, malt, molasses, muscatel, caramel, and mild florals. There’s a kick of astringency at the back of the sip, and lots of tannins and grassiness in the aftertaste.

This is a burly tea for Margaret’s Hope. I haven’t had enough autumnal Darjeelings to know if it’s typical of the type, or maybe its age has blunted the more delicate flavours. Either way, it makes a good breakfast tea.

Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Caramel, Floral, Grass, Malt, Molasses, Muscatel, Rye, Tannic

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 4 g 16 OZ / 476 ML

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73
drank Anxi dark by Zen Tea
69 tasting notes

This is the last 5 g of my 10 g sample. I brewed the first 5 g using short steeps, as I would a green Tie Guan Yin, but decided to go with my usual longer infusions in this session. I used a 120 ml clay teapot and 195F water, and steeped the tea for 30, 30, 40, 40, 30, 30, 40, 40, 50, 50, 120, and 240 seconds.

The flavours are similar to those in the last session, only much more intense. In the first steep, I get caramel, wood, pecans, walnut and walnut shells, but not much smoke at all. The second steep adds the pleasant tangy sourness I associate with roasted TGY.

Going to 40 seconds in the third steep is a mistake, yielding the taste of bad convenience-store coffee. There’s smoke, dark wood, aggressive roast, bitter caramel, and underlying grassiness. Anxi Dark, I’m sorry for mistreating you so badly. Unfortunately, I did my steeps two at a time, so I had to drink one more awful infusion before lowering the time to 30 seconds again.

Back at 30 seconds, this is drinkable again, retaining its previous flavour for the next six steeps or so. Some nice mineral notes emerge near the end of the session.

Other than my premature 40-second steeps near the beginning of the session, this was very enjoyable.

Flavors: Caramel, Coffee, Grain, Mineral, Pecan, Pleasantly Sour, Roast nuts, Roasted, Tangy, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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73
drank Anxi dark by Zen Tea
69 tasting notes

This is yet another of my Zen Tea samples. As an experiment, I decided to steep it as I would a green Tie Guan Yin: 5 g in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The first steep tastes like roasted nuts, caramel, and graham crackers, while the second adds flavours of heavy roast, grain, wood, and walnuts. These notes intensify throughout the next few infusions. I get a hint of spice from the fifth steep, but the flavour profile stays pretty consistent across the session. Sadly, I don’t detect any fruit or florals.

This is a straightforward roasted oolong that’s pleasant to drink but nothing special. I’ll have to try my remaining 5 g with longer steeps to see if I can get a more complex flavour.

Flavors: Caramel, Graham Cracker, Grain, Roast nuts, Roasted, Spices, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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82
drank Earl Grey Cream by Zen Tea
17 tasting notes

Better than most earl greys I’ve had, because of its creamy touch

Flavors: Cream, Creamy, Orange, Orange Zest

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 30 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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76

I was a bit heavy handed with this one, accidentally filling my 120 ml pot almost full with slightly more than 6 g of leaf. I steeped it at 195F for 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

Prior to steeping, this tea smells like a generic woody/roasted Wuyi oolong. The first steep gives notes of honey, roast, and walnut shells. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the astringent mess I was expecting based on the leaf quantity. In the second steep, hay, wood, and light florals emerge. The third steep has even stronger hay and honey notes, and I’d swear there was stevia in there if I didn’t know better. Later rounds get less sweet and bring out minerals and roasted nuts.

This is a nice, very sweet dark oolong, and while I don’t think I’ll buy more, I’m glad I got a sample.

Flavors: Floral, Hay, Honey, Mineral, Roasted, Roasted nuts, Sweet, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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81
drank Phoenix Pearl by Zen Tea
69 tasting notes

I recently discovered a cache of Zen Tea samples from 2015, and I’ll be reviewing them in the next few weeks. I seem to have bucked the trend by brewing this one gongfu style. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The small, loosely rolled, often downy snails are really pretty! The first steep has notes of caramel, earth, cocoa, malt, and wood. For such a powerful tea, there’s not much astringency, though a bit does appear in the aftertaste. The astringency gets more intense in the second steep, while all the other flavours stay the same. (Maybe I used more tea than I realized and I need to decrease my steep time.)

The third steep incorporates honey, grain, and a hint of smoke into the existing flavour, and has calmed down in terms of astringency. Surprisingly, though the cocoa is definitely there, it’s never too prominent, although it does get stronger in steep four. This tea goes for a few more rounds before petering out around steep nine.

Though this isn’t the most complex tea in the world, it’s rich and satisfying, and changes interestingly as the pearls unfold. Like most of Zen Tea’s offerings, it’s also well priced. It would have been even better if the cocoa had been a bit stronger.

Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Earth, Grain, Honey, Malt, Smoke, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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76
drank Taiwan Ruby by Zen Tea
69 tasting notes

I bought this tea in early 2016, so it’s a bit long in the tooth. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

In the pot, the dry leaf smells like liquorice and grape candy. The first steep has notes of scuppernong grapes, liquorice, menthol, and malt, with a big kick of tannins in the aftertaste. The second steep is similar—fruity and sweet until the astringency punches you in the throat at the end of the sip.

I brought the third steep down to 190F, which made the liquorice/sassafras note sweeter and cut down on the astringency. I get faint notes of honey, raisins, and earth. The profile stays consistent through the next few steeps, then starts to fade in the ninth.

If brewed at a slightly lower temperature than I normally make my black teas, this is a nice daily drinker. I also remember it being very reasonably priced, so that helps. Let’s hope that Zen Tea keeps it in its lineup when it starts selling teas again.

Flavors: Astringent, Earth, Grapes, Honey, Licorice, Malt, Menthol, Raisins, Tannin

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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drank Bossa Nova by Zen Tea
290 tasting notes

I didn’t realize this was on my wishlist when I bought it, because I haven’t used the wishlist function in forever. _ happy coincedence

warm, hazelnut, toffee, sweet, brown sugar notes. I actually brewed up a big thermos of this on Thursday, so now on Saturday it’s kinda foggy. Will revisit.

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drank Strawberry Cream by Zen Tea
1038 tasting notes

I’ve spent the last couple of days lying on the couch watching season 6 and 7 of Game of Thrones – OMG what just happened !!??!! I had almost given up on it after season 5 but was convinced by friends that I really needed to stick with it. Yeah ok season 7 was awesome. Can’t wait for season 8. But now on to season 2 of Colony.

I’ve been spending the weekend on the couch because I’m trying to fight off the cold/flu thing I’ve got happening. I didn’t get any worse today so I’m calling that a win. Still a little stuffy and have a bit of chest congestion, but not nearly as sick as everyone else at work. Crossing fingers that I can contain it to this….

Strawberry cream? ok sure, I’ll go with that. Fruit black tea anyway. Nothing really exciting, but also nothing offensive. It’s fine to be sipping while watching TV. Thanks Evol for sharing.

Kittenna

We just finished the last episode of GoT season 7 last night! I’m really pleased that not everything had been spoiled for me, and am now really annoyed about having to wait a year for season 8.

Dexter

Yeah – it’s going to be a long wait for the last season.

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drank Taiwan Ruby by Zen Tea
1038 tasting notes

I’ve had a request to start writing tasting notes again. This confuses me, I stopped writing notes because I felt I didn’t have anything interesting to say. There are lots of people here who are more articulate and have a better palate than I do. But as requested, here goes…

Tonight I’m just hanging out at home, watching the hockey game, petting the cat, eating banana bread, drinking this tea.

I normally choose and prefer China black teas, but it’s always nice to break it up with something different. This one is light with the high notes I would expect from a Taiwan black. It’s really fruity – normally I would think grape/wine fruity in this style but these are stone fruit notes. There is also some tannin (?) and a little suck the moisture out of your mouth thing. There is also a little smokiness as it cools. I don’t feel this style will every be my favorite but this was fun to try and I think it’s different enough from a typical Taiwan black to make it interesting.
Thanks Evol for sharing.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcLnt-4hJGB/?taken-by=dex3657

Sil

Yay!

Evol Ving Ness

Omigoodness! She’s here! She’s here! With tea even!

Evol Ving Ness

Love your tea ware!

Roswell Strange

Ah! Welcome back!

__Morgana__

Glad you’re back!

mrmopar

Agreed write away! My ramblings are much more difficult to get through.

CrowKettle

Aw, I missed your notes. Welcome back! :D

VariaTEA

Hi Dexter!!! Welcome back :)

looseTman

You’ve definitely been missed! Welcome back!

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drank Taiwan Ruby by Zen Tea
1038 tasting notes

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80
drank hazelnut by Zen Tea
14 tasting notes

This tea is a bitter black tea mixed with hazelnuts. It has a well-rounded sweetness and buttery flavor. This was not my favorite, but I cannot find a real fault with it.

Flavors: Bitter, Butter, Hazelnut, Sweet

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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100

This is my favorite tea. It has a subtle but full flavor profile. There is enough sweet and bitter to work in concert. It has a refreshing effect and leaves in a contemplative mood for when I need to reflect. I love this tea.

Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Sweet

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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85
drank Silver Needle by Zen Tea
14 tasting notes

This is a standard white tea with slightly sweet notes and aromas. It has a kind of smooth, silky taste. It is still worth your time.

Flavors: Smooth, Sweet

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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83
drank Anxi dark by Zen Tea
2179 tasting notes

Sipdown. This is a beautiful dark roasted Anxi oolong with notable buttery and nutty notes, hints of wood and cinnamon. The roasted flavours are well balanced between sweet roasted grain and molasses. Slight sweetness in the first few steeps.

Flavors: Grain, Molasses, Nutty, Roast nuts, Toasty

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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68

Iron goddess tends to be an oolong I dislike most of the time, but I needed another sipdown today so I brewed this when I got up early this morning. 1 tsp leaf in 500 mL hot water (not boiling) for 4-5 minutes wasn’t strong enough, I suggest a little more leaf.

-very heavily roasted, notes of toasted barley and burnt sugar
-milky scent, but more like old musty milk
-potent orchid/floral flavour
-vegetal undertones (reminds me a bit of the smell of viney plants like ivy when you prune them)
-Gets more floral over time (leave the teabag in and drink over 10 minutes or so)
-With sufficient leaf, would probably make excellent gong fu tea and would likely change in flavour significantly over multiple steeps. I can’t remember if I’ve tried gongfu with this tea, but with other iron goddess teas it has been a pleasant journey.

Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Floral, Herbaceous, Orchid, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Toasted, Toasty

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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80

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80

I’m starting to run out of my favorite Zen Tea blends. My pouches are almost a year old, so it is about time I got around to finishing them up, however I like to keep the around because I know I can’t replace them right now.

~8 pearls (1 tsp) in 500 mL hot water (~80 deg. C, not boiling) for 4 minutes

The loose leaf is very fresh and fragrant, and I’m happy to report the steeped brew is always equally fresh. Lots of jasmine, a natural sweetness from the tea. It steeps an amber brown colour, which is quite unlike my other jasmine greens and whites. There is a fruity note (pineapple, apple, apricot) and the jasmine is not bitter at all. This is a really nice jasmine tea that produces a smooth and flavourful cup.

Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Fruity, Jasmine, Pineapple, Smooth, Sweet, Tannin

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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30
drank English Breakfast by Zen Tea
2426 tasting notes

Here’s Hoping Teabox – Round Seven- Tea #6
I usually love Zen’s teas but this must be their worst. I’ve never had a tea that tasted like liquid cardboard before… and this isn’t even a Ceylon (to me Ceylon would probably usually be described like cardboard but not even those come close to this though to be fair this does say it is 1/3 Ceylon.) And if this is a BREAKFAST tea then it has to be much stronger than this. I poured most of this mug in a plant. And I NEVER waste tea.

MrQuackers

You need to try some good Ceylons

tea-sipper

I don’t know… I imagine I would have found some good Ceylons by now…

MrQuackers

Take a look at Upton Tea’s Ceylons. That should give you an idea.

MrQuackers

If you’re looking for a strong tea then it’s Assam for breakfast..

tea-sipper

Thanks for the Upton suggestion. I’ve been meaning to buy from them for years but then forget about their existence with all the other tea companies. And I love my assams!

ashmanra

I dislike high grown Ceylon, but enjoy low grown.

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100
drank Keemun Finest by Zen Tea
725 tasting notes

This fell into my hand this morning and it was the perfect choice for gallivanting around town in the bright warm sun and sharing BBQ pork from Chinatown on a park bench with a friend.

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100
drank Keemun Finest by Zen Tea
725 tasting notes

Adore this one— with the malt and the mild smoke.

I hope that Zen Tea Life comes back to selling teas as this is one—as well as several others, of course— I’d like to keep on hand, even though I don’t tend to drink it regularly.
ashmanra

This was a shelf staple for me and I am out!

Evol Ving Ness

A sad sad day that will be. Gah!

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85
drank Coconut Chai by Zen Tea
312 tasting notes

From the Here’s Hoping TTB. I should almost write two different reviews for this tea. My first cup was OK; not terribly strong, but with pleasant spice flavors. Nice but not special.
For the re-steep, I tried to approximate the directions on the package, and mixed the steeped tea with hot milk. It was really good! I don’t think I’ve ever actually tried chai with milk before. It reminded me of a weak latte but with spice rather than coffee flavor. BTW: I couldn’t taste the coconut at all.

Rasseru

Yeah, Indian style Chai with milk, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, sugar (lots of that sometimes) can be really good

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75

Yet another sip down from this morning.

I really like this Darjeeling for its palatable and simple flavours. This is a smooth, malty black tea with floral and caramel notes. I’ve had this straight several times and enjoyed it very much, this morning’s sip down was with soy milk as I was in the mood for a simple black with milk.

Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Malt, Smooth

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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