Zen Tea Life

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Recent Tasting Notes


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

200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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Flavors: Nutty, Roasted, Smoke, Tobacco

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hmm, I’m not sure I like this. It does stay true to its name “honey orchid” though. Slight sweetness, charcoal or something roasted, smells like a mixture of tobacco ash and orchid blossoms. I find it smells and tastes very strongly or marijuana smoke. It has that ashy mineral flavour, and the leathery herbal flavour.

I’m going to have to pass this on to others in the Canadian TTB, I don’t think this tea is for me.

Flavors: Ash, Cannabis, Leather, Mineral, Orchid, Orchids, Squash Blossom, Tobacco

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 24 OZ / 700 ML

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Actually a Big Red Robe oolong, oops.

I was seeking a good amount of roasty Big Red Robe and found this option from Zen Tea Life via Amazon. It had all of the characteristics I was looking for: a smoky aroma and flavor, quality leaves, a smooth oolong mouthfeel, and comforting nutty notes. Easily an everyday drinker. It lacked the complexity or cherry tobacco notes of the more expensive Verdant variety I had tried before, but that’s to be expected.

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This was a pretty tasty Dancong I thought – I was glad this one turned out nice after I was slightly disappointed with the Shui Xian I tried from Zen Tea. Still a sample I bought when they had a big sale a way’s back. The highlight of this tea was a nice and sweet Lychee flavor, but it was also accompanied by floral notes and a slight bit of malt or honey. Again one that I didn’t take great notes on due to being preoccupied while I was brewing.

Flavors: Floral, Honey, Lychee

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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From the Here’s Hoping TTB

Not my cup of tea, but I might have brewed it with too hot water? The smell was lovely, bright and floral, but the taste was really umami, which I’m not particularly a fan of.

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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First session I used 175 degree water, second used 185 – the max of the recommended temperature range. Surprisingly (to me anyways) it was much better with hotter water, though it could also be because I managed steep times a little bit better.

When I opened the bag, it smelled exactly like sweet honey. Unfortunately I didn’t get such an intense honey note anywhere in the flavor of the tea. I got a lot of kinda nutty flavors in this, a little bit toasty as well. I was getting a sweet finish on both the early and late steeps that did remind me of honey, but unfortunately not as strong or distinct as in the aroma of the dry leaves. In my first session I was getting a bit of a dryness or bitterness after the first couple steeps, I believe because I ramped my steep times up too quickly. I didn’t get much of any fruity flavor in this one though at one point the flavor was reminding me of lemon – but it didn’t really taste like lemon…if that makes any sense. With the hotter water I got a nicer and thicker body, with a more prominent corn sweetness. Why can’t I list corn as a flavor note? I hear people describe teas as having a “corn sweetness” all the time. Anyways, a pretty good green tea. I will have to try some other ones as well, I get the sense this tea would have been a lot more flavorful if it was more fresh.

Flavors: Honey, Nutty, Sweet, Toasty

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Thanks Evol! I Gong Fu’d the hell out of this one. Citrus is pretty prevalent for this Yancha. Otherwise very smokey, mildly creamy dirtied up by char, and thick. It’s definitely a Yancha with a thicker body closer to a Dahongpao, but you could tell this is a Dan Cong. It was nice for the chill in the morning, but probably would have been better for the snow.

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drank Ginger Lemon by Zen Tea Life
33 tasting notes

The way I see it, there are three reasons to drink this tea:

1) You’ve got a serious cold and you’ve reached that point where you’re drinking directly out of the Nyquil bottle at noon,

2) You’re about to have some kind of Gilmore-level authentic Chinese food extravaganza,

3) You are some kind of ginger fetishist.

All valid reasons in their own way, of course.

Basically, this is crazy ginger and the lemon, while there, just makes the ginger poppier. It’s not bad but you’ve really really really got to like ginger. I like ginger a liiiitttle bit so this was too much for me but I’m keeping it for reason (1) which I’m sure will come around at some point and then I’ll be glad I have it. It’s yellow so I recommend treating it like green and being careful with the temperature and steep time.

Flavors: Ginger, Lemon, Lemongrass

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

I am essentially a ginger fetishist, but I don’t really care for lemongrass so I probably still wouldn’t be a fan of this.

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Here’s Hoping TTB

Thank you so much to Zen for including so many intriguing samples in this box! I’m really excited I had the chance to try this one. The dry leaf is super pretty: small, tightly curled leaves in a whole spectrum of different shades of green. It brews up to a lovely pale spring green color with a fresh vegetal aroma. Sipping, I found it to be super smooth and silky with a lightly sweet floral flavor. This is exactly the sort of green tea I love. Adding it to my wish list!

Flavors: Floral, Smooth, Sweet

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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A very delicate green. Spring snail is not really what I want to think about when I’m drinking tea as snail doesn’t sound too appealing. Mainly grassy with a bit of floral. However, the floral flavor seems to come out more in less steep time; same for the fruity flavor.

1 min, 45 sec 1 tsp
Gooseberry Spoon

But snails are delicious AND cute!

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drank Bossa Nova by Zen Tea Life
370 tasting notes

I’ve forgotten how to rate evaluate flavored teas I’ve been drinking so much unflavored these days! As far as I can discern, this is a solid chocolate tea, very flavorful. The base tea – some sort of roasted rolled oolong probably – is a good match and adds body. Of course this tastes somewhat artificial, but I enjoyed every cup of my sample. The recommendation isn’t a mis-click. I would have enjoyed this immensely when I first started drinking tea.

The sample was a Christmas gift from Flyawaybirdie. Thank you!!

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Sample sipdown. 2tsp 205F 2 min – aroma flowers and fruit taste honey flowers. 2nd steep 2 min sweet flowers, but not overdone. I did two more steeps with this. Nice and smooth throughout. I think I could have probably gotten a few more steeps from this. I’ll consider getting more of this tea.

Flavors: Flowers, Honey, Sweet

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This is another that Zen sent over for the teabox. Such soft, delicate, crumbly leaves with this one. So many colors to the leaves as well – from white to the darkest green. The flavor is light, lovely and sweet. It tastes like sweet creamed corn, probably because the texture of the tea is very smooth and silky too. One of the lightest green teas there are, while still maintaining a ton of flavor. The second steep has much of the same flavor but with a little more depth and strength. Overall, a fantastic, light, tasty, sweet, refreshing green tea. Not overly vegetal at all. A great example of this type of green tea if you’re looking to try it.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 30 minutes after boiling // 1 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep

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drank Peppermint by Zen Tea Life
370 tasting notes

Flyawabirdie included in her Christmas gift a whopping 50g rather than a sample. Wow! Thanks so much for introducing this to me.

By smelling the dry leaf beforehand I knew this would be a good one. This is one of the freshest – if not the freshest – peppermint teas I’ve ever had. It’s so strong, it’s as if I had been chewing a Dentyne Ice gum (which is my go-to gum for mint power). I even feel the cooling effect in the throat. I’m keeping this is mind for a re-stock when I run out.

205 °F / 96 °C 6 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Bossa Nova by Zen Tea Life
781 tasting notes

One should not steep and drink a nutty caramelly oolong when one craves a red fruit black tea.


Good point. :-)


Too true.

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I have been drinking my matcha in a little soup bowl for years now. It is okay, but one who loves tea just needs teaware, right?

For years I admired the Zen Brush bowl at Zen Tea Life, but when I finally decided to bite the bullet and ask for one for Christmas they had stopped carrying the dark blue one and had a brown one. They had this lovely Aurora bowl in blue, though! Yes!

I love using it! I have had matcha every day. The depth is great for whisking. Also, you can swirl your tea so the particles don’t settle and it is deep enough that it doesn’t slosh over. I love the scalloped, wavy lip so you can pick your most comfortable spot to sip. It is very pretty and when it is wet from washing, the lighter blue shades almost sparkle.

Evol Ving Ness

So, one can use it directly for drinking? Yay! It sounds like the perfect thing.


I panicked when I read your comment. I wondered if maybe you were not supposed to drink from the bowl. I wouldn’t know as I have never seen anyone use one and I just assumed. So I googled it and indeed, it looks like one IS supposed to drink from the bowl! :)

Evol Ving Ness

Oh, no, no judgement on my part. I just wasn’t aware that that was what people do. And now I am, so thank you.

Evol Ving Ness

I have the tea and I have the bowl, but I have yet to unpack things. (Not from Zen.)


I think you’re supposed to drink from the bowl because it helps you smell the tea? At least I remember reading that somewhere.


Evol Ving Ness – I am glad you said something so I don’t make a fool of myself! However, when we were tasting some new matcha, I did froth it in the big bowl and then dip in my tiny tasting cups and pass around sips for everyone. Matcha is too expensive to make a whole bowl per person just for testing purposes, and I am a big believer in repurposing and multipurposing!


I have an identical one that I got off ebay, but mine is white with small crackles. I agree that it functions very well!

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A while back I ordered two cast iron tea pots from Zen Tea Life. Shipping was fast and reasonable. We love our Iwachu pots! They included a sample of this with my order.

Lately I have noticed caffeine affecting me before bed so I decided to get a tisane that would help me as well as taste good. It isimportant to get good sleep, especially during the holidays! I ordered three – count them, THREE – bags of this plus one other evening herbal that I haven’t tried yet.

I don’t know how well the herbs here will work for detox but it has to be better for me than a lot of things I could reach for in the evening. When a tea or tisane has mint in it, that is pretty much all I taste unless there are some other pretty powerful herbs in large amounts.

This tisane is earthy and minty and the resteep is quite good, so it is a good value as well. Youngest daughter likes it a lot and is drinking it with me. The big test was hubby. He had a traumatic experience with an herbal once (Sandy, remember Evening in Missoula? I liked it and wish I had more!) and I didn’t know if he would try this. He did try it, and he liked it, even liked it well enough to ask for more. He has a lot of job stress so I hope it will also help keep him healthy through the winter.

I can hardly wait to try the other tisane I ordered, Evening Lights. They also sent a sample of Fengqing Golden Buds that I am excited about! I have requested a matcha bowl from Zen for Christmas. Some of these teas may get added to the Christmas list! (Which is a matcha bowl and…that’s it.)


Wow, the list of ingredients is long! Sounds interesting.

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Ordered this on a holiday sale. Sejak is a “second picking.” The bag says the tea was purchased from Japan but grown in Korea.

Sejak tea is usually brewed a bit longer and hotter than fresh teas, but leaves look delicate, like frons, so I brewed it cooler starting with 20 second steeps, using about 7 grams in a kyusu. Yielded a light green brew due to the short steeps, with a white peony and mineral smell.

First steep of both sessions I have had with this tea have been salty, mineral taste, just the first steep. I have read about salty flavors on teas from ocean air, perhaps this is where the taste comes from. The salty flavor is on my lips after sipping, I can literally lick the salt. The salty taste dissipates with subsequent steeps. I didn’t do a rinse, by the way. I like that salty taste though and wouldn’t want it rinsed off, kind of balancing from a medicinal perspective.

After 4 steeps the peony smell was almost gone and a corn stalk, more nutty smell came from the leaves in the kyusu. The tea is less salty but still with a mineral taste. The short steep method is giving me 8 or more steeps. I got some heat going up my back, nice qi but not the umami (theanine) like I get with sencha.

This is tasty stuff, with the saltiness it would be a great follow up to a sweet dessert.

Edit: I am upping my rating slightly, I love this tea and am close to the end of the bag. Unfortunately it is still sold out, but I’ve emailed to see if they are getting more. Really got my steeping parameters down, cool water like for sencha. First two steeps are the salty steeps, the third is floral once the salt is gone, and the fourth and fifth are vegetal green. It is not often a green tea has a palette like this. With the hot, muggy summer I find myself craving those first two salty infusions.

Flavors: Corn Husk, Floral, Mineral

160 °F / 71 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

Very interesting about the salt taste you experience.


Yes, very surprising! Tastes rather good, actually. I don’t know if that is a real mineral flavor but if so, cool!

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Backlog 3/18/14:
This afternoon, courtesy of Kenneth & Zen Tea Life, I brewed Puerh Loose Leaf Gongfu style: 6 oz. / 1 heaping tsp (3.3g) / 203*F / 50s, 1 & 2 min. without sweeteners, milk, or cream.

Note: This sample is from Zen Tea Life’s previous Puerh Loose Leaf, not their currently available “Puerh Loose Leaf Organic” – http://zentealife.com/tea/type/chai-puerh.html

Leaf: Thick, dark chocolate brown of various lengths up to 2.2 cm
Fragrance: Compost / barn environment
Liquor: Clear rosey copper
Aroma: Peat moss
50 sec.: Clear, clean, pleasant, light to medium-bodied and smooth without any off-putting strong flavors, astringency, or bitterness.

1-min.: Darker rose-tinted copper with the same flavor profile that provided a medium-bodied earthiness.

2-min.: Slightly lighter bodied.

3/25/14: Gongfu style: 6 oz. / 10 g / 203*F / 50s, 1 & 2 min.
Mrmopar suggested I increase the leaf to 10 grams for shou puerh. The increased leaf provided a much fuller-bodied and much more enjoyable aged puerh. However, as a novice puerh tea drinker, it didn’t occur to me at the time to decrease the brewing times accordingly. As a result, this gong fu session was a little too strong.

Impression: An enjoyable, smooth, earthy, aged pu-erh without any astringency, bitterness, or off-putting flavors.

Thanks to Kenneth & Zen Tea Life for this gracious sample.

RO water re-mineralized with an Aptera filter http://steepster.com/teas/teaware/39532-puregen-aptera-alkamag-water-filter
Brewed gongfu-style
with http://steepster.com/teas/teaware/29177-finum-brewing-basket placed in the pitcher

6 OZ / 177 ML

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