Zen Tea

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Recent Tasting Notes

82

I bought 50 g of this tea a couple years ago and am just finishing it now. Since the leaves were pretty broken up, I reduced the steep times to avoid excessive astringency. I steeped my remaining 6-7 g in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 20, 20, 25, 25, 30, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The first steep offers notes of lilac, violet, and other flowers, combined with grass, butter, lavender, and vanilla. The florals become headier in steep two, and the vague butteriness turns into custard and cream. This tea also has the tangy profile associated with four seasons oolong.

In the next few steeps, the grassy and lavender flavours come to the forefront, and the tea starts losing some of its complexity. It never really gets astringent, but the vanilla and florals fade quickly, leaving a pleasant but unremarkable tea by the sixth steep.

At under $10 for two ounces, this was a nice daily drinker. I’d happily buy more of it if Zen Tea decides to carry it again.

Flavors: Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Grass, Lavender, Lettuce, Tangy, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet

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

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90

June Wedding! Another something borrowed from the last Here’s Hoping Teabox (thanks tea-sipper for organizing and all that contributed!) and this is a fruit herbal that honestly I was just sniff-checking because I figured the coconut in it would be off. I was shocked that it didn’t have that acrid smell, because I’ve had coconut teas only around six months old go off, and this tea company doesn’t even sell tea anymore, only teaware, so I take that as a sign this has got to be a pretty old blend. Ah well, if it smells okay I’m willing to try it! I saved enough to do an iced tea, so that is how I prepared it. I was excited it included dry pumpkin, though we’ll see if any of that comes through in the tea itself.

The tea is quite naturally sweet, and very tasty. It has a very pina colada sort of taste, with the coconut flavor coming through very strongly, followed by pineapple, but more of a sweet, candied sort of pineapple, rather than a tangy, fruity pineapple. It almost feels a bit creamy, reminding me of the White Coconut Cream tea I tried not long ago, but I wonder if the high sweetness of the tea is just giving it a somewhat desserty appeal. As I expected, the carrot and pumpkin in the blend aren’t really lending anything in terms of flavor (and I was really hoping to get some pumpkin notes, as I am a pumpkinholic!) But this tea has a very strong and natural tasting sweet pina colada taste, cold brews great, and is very refreshing, and since I love pina colada but dislike when pinapple flavors taste too overbearing or artificial, I’d say this is probably the best pina colada flavored tea I’ve tried. It’s just a shame this is the only time I’ll ever get to try it. If ZenTea was still selling teas, I’d totally grab more of this!

Flavors: Candy, Coconut, Creamy, Pineapple, Sweet

Preparation
Iced 8 min or more 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML
tea-sipper

Best pina colada tea? NICE. I know I’ve seen another tea shop with this exact blend… but I can’t remember who it was at the moment. If I remember, I’ll let you know.

tea-sipper

I FOUND IT! I saw an e-mail from TeaDesire today and thought “hey, maybe they have that pineapple tea”: https://www.teadesire.com/collections/fruit-infusion/products/sweet-coco-dream

tea-sipper

Also, that is probably the only reason I signed up for Tea Desire’s e-mail… to remember where that tea was sold. haha.

Mastress Alita

Ya, I found it myself just the other day too, even added it to the Steepster database just so I could add it to my Wishlist and not forget about it, heh. Unfortunately the shipping from Canada costs more than the tea itself… $20. Ouch. * sad face *

tea-sipper

Of course you already found it. haha. Maybe one day they will have a free shipping sale? It’s interesting both Zen and Tea Desire are Canadian shops, so maybe other Canadian shops will have this? Sometimes shipping from Canada isn’t always bad… I remember Zen’s shipping was usually around $5.

Mastress Alita

If the shipping were only $5 I’d totally jump on it! Haven’t managed to find the blend elsewhere with more reasonable shipping, and I did look. Guess I’ll have to hope for a free shipping sale at some point, though I know a lot of places exclude international shipping from those.

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drank Blood Orange by Zen Tea
935 tasting notes

Tart and orange and red.

More on this later.

And nope, on day 10 of no caffeine after three, I kept drinking caffeinated until about seven. Ooops. And then this.

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84
drank Fengqing Golden Buds by Zen Tea
1765 tasting notes

Finally got to this sample size after all of this time. That says a lot since Zen nixed their tea offerings quite a while ago now. I drank it a couple days ago but from what I recall, this was mostly starchy, mildly astringent, and very mildly malty. A touch woodsy? Good stuff.

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80
drank Banyan Da Hong Pao by Zen Tea
94 tasting notes

I’m finally getting to the end of my Zen Tea samples. I steeped 5 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

This is a toasty, nutty Da Hong Pao. I get toasted grain, honey, caramel, charcoal, walnuts and other nuts, and tobacco in the first to third steeps. It’s drying without being bitter, with a persistent nutty and charcoal aftertaste. The tea acquires a mineral taste by steep four, but otherwise remains consistent.

By steep seven, I find, like other reviewers, that this Da Hong Pao starts to peter out, with the nuts and grain becoming attenuated. This tea thins out into a charcoal and mineral finish around steep ten.

This Da Hong Pao had a promising beginning, but faded quickly. What there was of it was good, though. Still, I’ve had other DHP’s with more staying power and complexity.

Flavors: Caramel, Char, Grain, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Tobacco, Walnut

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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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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68

Another entry for Love You Oolong Time! I had this one last night gongfu-style in my 150 ml beginner gaiwan. I am very much a beginner to Asian-style brewing… even with the beginner-style gaiwan I am still having trouble with the heat of the gaiwan against my fingers while pouring! Once I’m better at it, I’ll move up to purchasing the real deal, hahaha! This is only the third time I’ve done a gongfu session. I’m still very new to the process, but am really enjoying gaiwan brewing when I have the time to sit down and enjoy my tea at a more leisurely pace.

This is a tea sample from the Here’s Hoping Teabox (thanks tea-sipper and participants!) for an oolong I’ve never tried before, the Mi Lan Xiang Phoenix Dancong from Zen Tea Life (and from what I can tell, that site now only sells teaware, not tea). I used 200 degree F water, and my first infusion after rinsing the leaf was 30 seconds, and each subsequent infusion was increased by 15 seconds.

The first infusion was the most unpleasant for me. It had a malty sort of flavor with some lovely honey notes, but there was this smokiness to it that I found very off-putting; I am not a fan of smoky teas or flavors. But that was, thankfully, the only infusion where I got that particular flavor note, as the second infusion brought out some floral notes, and a slight bit of stonefruit, with a pleasant lychee aftertaste. By the third infusion the tea had become very sweet, and I was really getting the honey and orchid notes, with the fourth infusion very similar, with the sweetness tasting a bit like brown sugar or molasses. Sadly by the fifth infusion this tea was already losing steam, and my remaining infusions were a sweet, waning honey flavor with some subtle floral notes.

I had just a bit of leaf leftover, so I decided to just make this a sipdown and used it up with a western-style brew, sipping on the cuppa while watching the new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I used 200 degree F water and a two minute steep. The cuppa had a very smooth base with a malty, honeyed flavor. There was a brown sugar-like sweetness to the liquor, and just the faintest hint of lychee right in the finish, but I couldn’t pick out any floral notes when brewing the tea this way.

I really enjoyed the flavor of this tea, particularly when brewed Asian-style and getting to the sweeter infusions with heavier floral notes, but I was pretty unimpressed with how little stamina the tea had, and how quickly the flavor gave out, making for a fairly short gongfu session. Perhaps that could be to blame on me being such a beginner and needing to adjust and shorten my infusions (I’m still working at it!), or maybe it’s just not the best tea of this sort… who knows? What I do know is I definitely want to explore other Mi Lan Xiang Dancong oolongs in the future, since I really enjoyed the taste of this type of oolong and am very happy I got a chance to sample one!

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Floral, Honey, Lychee, Malt, Orchid, Smoke, Stonefruits

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 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
94 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
94 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
94 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
94 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
291 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
1040 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
1040 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
1040 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
2447 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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