30 Tasting Notes

drank Chun Mee Green by Tazo
30 tasting notes

When the word “refreshing” is used, I more often than not consider the lexicon to be misguided. I think of lime, citrus, vibrant and breezy flavors of tropical fruits. There. That sounded refreshing, didn’t it? The reason I bring this up is because I have recently heard others around me describe green teas as refreshing. True, there are particular greens out there that I can see how their vegetal, herbal, grassiness can lead one to consider the word applicable. But green tea, for me, signifies a more relaxed, calm, mellowness rather than what I described above. I don’t think green tea should not be thought of as crisp and clear, airy or fleeting. It should be warm, easy-going, kind of like that moment a certain someone across the room (who you’ve noticed here before) sits and drinks their coffee, writing small notes on pieces of paper next to their laptop, their mouth moving slowly as they silently read to themselves until they notice you back and smile out of the corner of their mouth as they look back to their notes. That’s what a green tea should feel like. A smile from across the room.

This tea has a smooth, “baked” flavor, as said on the side of the box. I don’t know if that’s because of the processing or because its organic but I like it for a bagged tea. A lot. Not creamy but soft, like the aftertaste of a artisan cracker or bread. It tastes like a summer afternoon: I hear birds chirping through the trees, the smells of fresh mulch and thick grass drifting through the air. The sun laying on your skin like a well-loved blanket. Kids laughing and yelling in the distance. All that from the cup. From a bagged tea, no less.

Bravo, Tazo. Peaceful, open, and calm, this tea is. The most mellow green I’ve had in a long time is the perfect way to get prepared for summer or to get someone into tea.

Refreshing, no? ;)

170 °F / 76 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Megami Sencha by Ito En
30 tasting notes

When I was going to grad school, I picked up a job working at a beer store the size of a supermarket. I was a craft beer jerk, a snob, one of those guys who sniffs their beer at a bar and writes little notes to themselves and then secretly judges the person next to them based on what they are drinking (or the six-pack they are carrying out of the store). That was my life and my hobby and the only thing I talked about. I thought that working in the “industry” would help me appreciate it more, give me more of an understanding of it and provide me with a feeling that I was somehow contributing to the thing I was so involved and passionate about.

Did I extract information that helped me with beer; the making of it, the tasting of it, the culture of it? No. I stocked shelves. I hated it.

Why am I telling you this? Because apparently, I haven’t learned any lesson from that experience. I recently took a job working in tea. I thought if I immerse myself in tea by talking about it, educating people about it, answering questions about it for people who want to “get into tea” (like I once did), then I would feel like I am contributing to the culture that has given me so much.

It’s not as bad as stocking shelves but its not what I thought it would be. What is, really?

I give people misinformation when they ask me questions, even though I know the real answer. I have to try to get them to buy stuff when they don’t really need it. I tell them its some of the best out there when, really, its some of the same everywhere.

But I appreciate that I get to say I work in the thing I love. I get to try different tea everyday, get to talk to people about tea, and sometimes try to correct (however subtly) misinformation people are provided with (even from the place that pays me to say what they want me to say).

So. Long story short: sorry I’ve been away. Let’s steep.

I am constantly surprised with the selection at Wegmans Tea Bar (or tea areas). Yes, it might all be Ito-En but at least they have lose leaf tea. The Pittsford location has something like thirty teas(!) to choose from, they’re refrigerated, and they look and smell fresh. I got this bad boy from said Tea Bar.

The color is a beautiful lime-ish green, bright but soft. Not neon or highlighter green but close. It also doesn’t look watery. You ever have a green tea like that? One that looks almost creamy when you look at the liquid, not thin or light? Even after the particles drop and collect in a simple sludge at the bottom, the green hue has a slight thickness. Sign of quality or crap, I don’t know.

This is just my opinion but ff someone wonders what you mean by a balanced “vegetal” aroma or taste, I would recommend this type of tea. If you give someone a gyokuro, it might be too much in the vegetal department from 20ish days of letting it sit in the shade. I think this sencha is nice because it not only has that planty, grassy, lightness that a good green has but it also has just a hint of a matching bitterness that is almost imperceptible (probably from the temp. of my water, 170). The mouthfeel matches the vegetal notes and has a hint of weight to it, rather than just a watery thinness. Second steeping was at 140ish and was smoother and had a more mellow mouthfeel.

This is a great green for multiple reasons. It can be a into/intermediate tea to do research on (ex: what is sencha? what is umami? what is the difference between sencha and gyokuro?) when traversing the tea world. I think this is a great sipping tea for morning or afternoon and one that could go well with a meal or alone. I don’t drink a lot of sencha (I stick to Dragonwell as my fallback), but I want to start exploring more of this style of tea because I like the clean, vegetal, lightness of it. It seems very basic but I know there’s a lot going on to make it so simple. All good teas do.

Lastly, if you’ve made it this far (thank you for that…): anytime I drink a pretty high quality green (especially any oolong), my stomach makes CRAZY noises. Not hunger pangs but there’s definitely something going on inside. Does anyone else get reactions from their stomach after drinking tea? It doesn’t hurt or anything.

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 15 sec

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I’ve become accustomed to drinking particular teas “grandpa style” (or “Laoshan style”?). I don’t think gs is an “official” term in the tea drinking world but I read it on a very well-written blog (whose author is also on Steepster, btw):


and decided to try it. I’ve found that I actually prefer drinking particular teas straight from my glass rather than steeping my tea in a separate infuser or my dinky little $12 ceramic yixing. Drinking good tea this way feels more natural, like I’m more connected to the process. Yes, the process of brewing the tea and focusing on the steps and being more “centered” and “in the now” but…also the connection to the farmers, the tea bushes/trees themselves. Drinking this way makes me feel like I’m the last link in the chain that started, literally, in the roots of a plant in the ground of another country on the other side of the planet. Does anyone else feel that way or think about that? Am I losing my mind? Contemplating metaphysical dualism after a few cups of good tea wreaks havoc on your existentialistic philosophy.

Anyway. I’m pretty sure this is a Wen Shan Bao Zhong (or Pouchong) Oolong. The leaves are not rolled up tightly into small, dark green and sometimes glossy nuggets like traditional Dong Ding. The tea is literal loose leaf, shards and thin twirls of dark, almost black pieces. Its an amalgamation of textures and colors that took me by surprise. Looks good, though, different than what I am used to. I’m always willing to try new things.

Little bit of peach fruitiness, the light sting of muted acidity. Then there’s that lingering sweetness on the lips, light and pleasant. Sometimes with Dong Dings, I get a thicker sweetness and less acidity. I like this better. There is more of a nuanced lightness. This is a delicate and simple tea and one I find myself passing over in my tea library because I always want to save it for later. I might have a new favorite.

Apparently, Empress Dowager’s story is pretty sad. Long story short: her decision and obligation to keep imperialism and ancient tradition active, rather than accepting the change knocking on the doors of the Forbidden City from the outside world, resulted in “not only the downfall of her dynasty, but of the entire tradition of imperial government” <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Empress_Dowager_Longyu&oldid=800342>.

Now she has a tea that breaks typical oolong tradition named after her.

Ironic, no?

175 °F / 79 °C

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A “cv” stans for “curriculum vitae”. Its basically a resume but for all the scholastic accolades you’ve apparently acquired. Initially, I felt pretty good about writing one; seeing my name with M.S., M.A. to the right of it, like a stamp of approval for all the hard work and hard times I went through.

As I completed it, though, I didn’t feel so good. My cv doesn’t look that impressive at all. I’m not technically published: I’ve written a thesis, a 98 page atrocity of short stories, titled “Toska”, that was dedicated and tries to pay homage to my favorite writer of all-time, Richard Yates. That’s it. No journals, no articles, no academic presentations. There’s no way one of those two community colleges looking for instructors are going to hire me. Granted, I’m fresh out of the gates but looking at my professors cv’s and their pages-upon-unfair-pages of publications and books written, it makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough. Like I’m not good enough. Like I’ve got these little stamps of approval next to my name that don’t really mean anything.

So, I need a way out of my existential meltdown. Let’s steep.

My packets of Yu Lu Yan Cha Black, Hand Picked Autumn Tieguanyin, and Autumn Harvest Laoshan are just about depleted. This tea, though, is tucked away in the corner, behind my tins and some other packets. Even though I know where it is, I like to think its hidden. I should keep it in a bomb-proof safe.

I know I’m technically not supposed to rinse this tea but I’ve done it a few times just to smell the leaves as the water is absorbed into them. It’s so beautiful and calming. Chestnut, a roasty and nutty mellowness. Like peanut butter. Little bit of smoke scratches my nose.

My mom used to make me a “Skippy” when I would come home from grade school. It was a piece of bread with peanut butter on it. The name “Skippy” doesn’t make any sense now because she used Peter Pan peanut butter because I thought Skippy tasted too sweet. Regardless of that, the only thing that made a “Skippy” a “Skippy” and not just peanut butter on bread, was that she would use the knife after spreading the peanut butter to carve out a perfectly shaped heart into the tan spread. They tasted better that way, I used to tell her.

She stopped doing that when she started getting sad. Haven’t had one since. Thought I forgot about those days. This tea brought me there.

There’s something about watching leaves change from their dry leaf appearance during the infusion that fascinates me. With this tea, the color of the dry leaf is dark and light green and they trickle over the flat little shards like shadows. For some reason I think of ripped-up old book pages. There’s a barely noticeable gloss to each leaf if the light hits it right. Once they soak in the water, all that disappears and there are big, juicy, plump, tongue-like leaves with little ridges on the edges, the colors rich and deep, fleshy green and shades of dark.

I’ve had other Dragonwell teas before. The flavor of this one is a different breed. There’s that sweetness others have written about (that sticks to my lips), there’s that mineral quality, too (in the back of my throat). I get the contrast of a creamy, nutty spread on top of toast against the hint of a sharp, rock-like bite. I don’t mean that tastes like I’m licking a rock but there’s something “rocky” and “stony” about the aftertaste in the back of my throat that makes me think of rocks underneath a faint trickle of cold water. Maybe its because of the “family’s plot of land at the heights of Shi Feng” that it has this “mountainy” taste to it. I couldn’t tell you. I can tell you that its gorgeous and calming and I feel so, so much better now.

Is this the best Dragonwell I’ve ever had? It could be. I have a lot more tea to try and buy before I can sound like I know what I’m talking about.

And even if I don’t know everything there is to know about tea, even if I don’t have 200,000 posts and am not well-known in the tea world, even if I just drink tea and write about it on a website and don’t get published in some scholarly journal for snobby intellectuals…at least I’m using my time in this life trying my best at the thing I love.

That’s all we can do, right?

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 30 sec

Right you are. The best writer is the one who can sit still long enough to listen I say.
Tea has a way of creating that otherworldly space where magic is possible. (I sound like a blithering mystic but I think it’s true, at least to me it’s true).
I congratulate you on your achievement! Spend some more of those fine skills right here where they will be appreciated!
Tea and good writing seem to go together. Even the silly writers like me sound better with a good cup of tea.

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drank Lotus Tea by Kwong Sang
30 tasting notes

The large and golden-yellow 150g cylinder says “Lotus Tea” and under it it says “Tra Huong Sen”. There’s a Asian boy playing a flute while riding an ox on the back. Found it at Lee’s Oriental Market in Rochester, NY. It was between this tea and a box of Genmaicha tea bags, where I can get anywhere. I always try new things so why not try lotus tea from Vietnam?

Looks like a green tea. Leaves are definitely chopped. Lots of stems. Doesn’t look appealing.

Pungent, thick and dirty wet leaf aroma. Almost skunky. This is not a delicate smelling leaf.

Holy bitter! And steeped for only over a minute. This is rustic. Mineral and slightly sharp, like licking sheet metal. Tates like I’m sucking water out of a dirty root I just pulled from the ground. It has a “primal” taste to it: no sweetness or artificial bull. It tastes very natural, simplistic. Took half a glass to let my tastebuds become accustomed to it and I’m still not sure how to write about this. There’s a slight flowery taste to it but the “rootiness” of it overpowers.

As I drink, I look for possible benefits of slugging this bad boy down. Aside from it possibly aiding in the: treatment of diarrhea and abdominal cramps, treatment of certain heart ailments, fighting of gastric ulcers, heavy menstruation, combat hemorrhoids, post-partum bleeding…it also, apparently, helps in treating premature ejaculation.

Hey, if it’s on the internet, it’s gotta be true.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec
Thuy Kieu

good tea. Lotus tea is a very unique tea that is made in an old traditional way

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We couldn’t decide where to eat one night so she called me and had me look up reviews of two different restaurants.

“Well,” I said, “there are mixed reviews. Some say it could be better. Others say its pretentious. They have good mashed potatoes, apparently. But the food might come out cold if its busy.”

“What’s another good review?” she asks.

I read some more and something catches my eye. I have to read it twice because I don’t understand it.

“I don’t know if this is good or bad,” I say, “Let me wrap my head around it for a second.”

I read it again. “I still don’t get it,” I say. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“What does it say?” she asks.

“It says that this restaurant is like the movie ‘Labyrinth’…just without David Bowie.”

There is a pause on her end of the line. Then she says, “That might be the greatest review of a restaurant I’ve ever heard in my life. Now we have to go.”

So we went. ‘Labyrinth’ it was not. We had a nice meal but nothing amazing. You can’t always trust reviewers/bloggers/writers, no matter how well they think they can write or how creative they think they are.

I hope Teavana didn’t discontinue this tea because it is nowhere to be found. Shame, really. This is one of my favorite teas to fall back on. I’ve got about two teaspoons left and I’m a little disheartened at the prospect of having to find another green tea that I can feel confident enough to share and call my “go to” tea. I’m going to miss this when it’s gone…or until I find the exact same tea for half the price on another website ;)

After rinsing, the wet leaves smell faintly roasted brussel sprouts with olive oil. There’s a mellow, chocolate sweetness to the odor. I love the light, vegetal sugariness, the “umami” that stays lightly on the tongue. A hint, and I mean hint of mineral acidity. Clean, sweet and calm. My intro to green teas was great beginner’s luck. I’m happy to have found/drank/tasted it, regardless of where I bought it from.

Maybe its just Mao Feng but I have a special place for this tea in my tea-soaked heart.

Other than Steepster, I found only one other “review” of this tea that I wanted to compare my notes on. Trying to find information on the Internet is sometimes like walking through a labyrinth of misinformation and not-so-clever-attempts at advertising in the form of blog posts with links in the paragraphs. You eventually learn to identify who is getting paid to subtly sell you something and who is just writing it because they really enjoy/don’t like what they are trying.

That being said, if someone read the review I found on Jade Dragon to me when I was looking for a green tea to try, I would buy as much as I could based on this review alone:

“Perhaps the best choice. Is it essential to have info. We propose that the Teavana Jade Dragon Mao Feng Loose-Leaf Green Tea. It is a thing to be utilized as nicely. I am utilizing it now. It functions very nicely . Teavana Jade Dragon Mao Feng Loose-Leaf Green Tea to use as much, you can not skip it. Because the best thing. It is very likely. You ought to be utilized. The easy to use. I also use Teavana Jade Dragon Mao Feng Loose-Leaf Green Tea. It is amazing. The course is right for you. Perhaps I could use it. It functions nicely. I would recommend that you use. Then you will like it.”

…just without David Bowie.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec

substance over form concept :-)

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drank Green Ginger by Tazo
30 tasting notes

“Natural flavors” does not constitute “pear”. Whatever, I’m picky about what’s on the back of the box. I don’t even taste pear, anyway.

I’ll only drink this one iced. It’s refreshing when its cold and reminds me of a Dark ‘n Stormy (Gosling’s dark rum, Gosling’s or Saranac ginger beer, ginger and lime simple syrup, wedge of lime). If you haven’t tried one, please do. I might just try and make one with this tea.

If you drink this warm, there’s something about it that’s off-putting. The ginger is too faint and there’s too much emphasis lemongrass. Its got a bergamot intensity when it should be crisp and clean. Ginger is light and has a zing to it, its not oily and deep, like this tea makes it. Hence, why I ice it; it calms down and is sweet and clean.

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Tea has changed my life. First it was Lipton green tea at work. That evolved into Stash, to Tazo, then to Steven Smith teas. I started wandering down the tea aisle in Wegmans and started picking things off the shelf. Went to Teavana and then picked up Silver Needle and Dragonwell teas. Bought a book called “The Tea Drinker’s Handbook”. Started looking at various tea distributor websites. Found Steepster. Life altered.

I bring tea to parties for a nice drink before a beer or the morning after, which is always a hit. I drink it with breakfast and in the late hours of the night. It wakes me up and calms me down. It feels like a friend who I want to tell everyone about yet keep them all to myself. I love the history of it, the intimacy of it, the entire world of it.

Favs: Love me some green and white tea. Blends are okay when sharing with people but when I’m alone or have the late night blues, then Silver Needle it is. Matcha for when I need to calm down while making it and to refocus after I drink it.

About me: I have two masters degrees (in Education and creative writing), write short stories, draw a comic strip and have ridden my bicycle across the country alone.


Rochester, NY



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