313 Tasting Notes

60

Well, I have continued to mow down Darjeelings. I am currently about halfway through a 50 g pouch of this tea and figured now is as good a time as any to post a review. To this point, I have struggled with how to evaluate it.

I prepared this tea Western style. I steeped 1 fairly heaping teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. The vendor recommended a water temperature of 205 F for this tea, but I have lately discovered that somewhat lower temperatures work best for me when it comes to reviewing Darjeelings, so I stuck with the 194 F water I have been favoring in recent weeks. I can say, however, that I have tried a 5 minute preparation of this tea in 205 F water and did not detect much of a difference.

Prior to infusion, the dry tea leaves emitted a mild bouquet of Muscatel, grass, and straw. After infusion, the aromas of Muscatel, grass, and straw remained, but were joined by scents of malt, almond, herbs, and dried flowers. In the mouth, I detected delicate, subtle notes of straw, hay, grass, lemon balm, malt, almond, nutmeg, minerals, Muscatel, and dried flowers. The finish was mostly nutty and malty with slight floral, grassy, herbal impressions and a lingering hint of Muscatel.

This was not really what I was expecting. I assumed this would be a fairly fruity Darjeeling (not sure why), but I found it to be more nutty, malty, and vegetal. I read something about this estate being located at a lower elevation than many other estates, so perhaps that terroir gave the tea its unique aroma and flavor profiles. Whatever the case, I can say that this was a pleasant, easy-drinking Darjeeling, but I was hoping for something more robust, flavorful, and complex. In the end, I didn’t particularly mind this tea, but I doubt I would seek it out again.

Flavors: Almond, Flowers, Grass, Hay, Herbs, Malt, Mineral, Muscatel, Nutmeg, Straw

Preparation
5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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82

I finished off another Vahdam sample this evening. Glenburn is an estate about which I have long been curious. The teas that come from Glenburn seem to be consistently regarded as some of the best teas to come out of the Indian state of West Bengal, receiving a great deal of praise from regular tea drinkers and tea industry insiders alike. I, however, never went out of way to try a Glenburn tea. Until today, it was just something to which I had yet to get around.

I prepared this tea Western style. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. I went with a temperature ever so slightly lower than the vendor’s recommended 195-212 F range simply because I have been having good luck with brewing Darjeeling at that temperature as of late. It worked for me again here.

Prior to infusion, I detected pleasant aromas of orchard fruit, Muscatel, straw, and citrus. After infusion, I was able to pick out stronger, more distinct aromas of white peach, Muscatel, straw, lemon, and tangerine. In the mouth, I picked up smooth notes of nectarine, white peach, pear, Muscatel, spring honey, lemon, and tangerine that were soon balanced by straw, cream, malt, and almond flavors. The finish was smooth, offering lingering touches of almond, cream, Muscatel, straw, and citrus coupled with what I can only describe as a touch of corn husk.

This was a nice, light first flush Darjeeling that was very smooth and approachable. The aromas and flavors it offered were delicate and at times subtle, but it remained consistently appealing. Personally, I like a little more muskiness and herbal character in first flush Darjeelings, but this was still a fine offering.

Flavors: Almond, Citrus, Corn Husk, Cream, Fruity, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Muscatel, Peach, Pear, Straw

Preparation
1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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85

Before I begin this review, allow me to offer a sincere thank you to Susmita Mukherjee and the folks at Vahdam Teas for graciously providing me with free samples of this and a number of other interesting teas. I relish the opportunity to try new things. It was great of you to send some of your teas to me and I honestly appreciate it.

This particular tea is a second flush Darjeeling from the Lopchu Estate. I was unable to find much information about the estate itself, but I did discover that several purveyors of fine Indian teas offer a range of teas from this estate. I also discovered that Lopchu teas are kind of outliers compared to many other Darjeeling teas. They are noted for their intensely woody, smoky, and often spicy aroma and flavor profiles. They are not regarded as smelling or tasting much like other Darjeelings. After spending a day tinkering with this tea, I can definitely offer the opinion that it is unique compared to every other second flush Darjeeling I have tried.

I prepared this tea Western style. I initially started with a 5 minute steep in 205 F water, and while the results were drinkable, the flavors seemed a tad muted. I then tried a 5 minute steep in 200 F water. The results were better, but still lacked a certain vibrancy. I then took a research break and discovered that Teabox also offered a second flush Lopchu and provided a brewing guide. They recommended a water temperature between 185-194 F for this tea, and realizing that I have lately been having better luck with slightly lower temperatures when I brew Darjeelings, I decided to follow their approach. I ended up steeping a teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. That did the trick for me.

Prior to infusion, the dry tea leaves produced smoky, woody, and somewhat chocolaty aromas. After infusion, the dark amber tea liquor produced pronounced scents of wood, smoke, bread, malt, dark chocolate, and bitter, oily nuts. In the mouth, I detected a unique mix of malt, baked bread, smoke, wood (it reminded me of both oak and pine at points), and roasted nuts (beech, hickory, walnut) balanced by touches of autumn honey, Muscatel, semi-sweet dark chocolate, fig, and prune. The finish was decidedly woody, malty, nutty, and smoky with pleasant Muscatel and honey presences on the back of the throat after the swallow.

Wow! This was a different kind of second flush Darjeeling! Previous reviewers and other vendors weren’t lying about this tea being unique. Though I failed to note the spiciness that some people seem to get out of Lopchu Darjeelings, I was impressed by this tea’s aroma and flavor profiles. At times it reminded me a little of some milder lapsang souchongs, or perhaps even some Keemuns. That being said, I found this to be a boisterous tea with a very forceful presence, especially in the mouth. All in all, it’s the sort of tea for which I would have to be in the mood. I would have no issue with recommending it to fans of orthodox Indian black teas, but I would also offer the opinion that one’s enjoyment of this particular tea may depend on the degree to which one is willing to tolerate more traditionally strident aromas and flavors than many contemporary Darjeelings seem to offer.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Dark Chocolate, Dried Fruit, Fig, Honey, Malt, Muscatel, Roasted nuts, Smoke, Toast, Wood

Preparation
5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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91

Here’s another sample sipdown. I go out of my way to try as many Tieguanyin variants as possible. Tieguanyin was the tea that turned me back on to the joys of oolong and has been one of my primary foci ever since. I’ve been impressed with the traditional Tieguanyins Verdant sources from Master Zhang for nearly a year, and while this one was much lighter than last autumn’s offering, I still found it to be a very nice tea.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted mild aromas of cream, roasted barley, aloe, and violet. After the rinse, I began to detect grass, spice, butter, and a pronounced vegetal scent. The first infusion brought out butter, cinnamon, watercress, and a touch of vanilla bean. In the mouth, I detected cream, butter, aloe, grass, watercress, roasted barley, and cinnamon underscored by touches of vanilla and violet. Subsequent infusions grew both fruitier and more vegetal, as impressions of hay, banana leaf, coriander, jicama, cattail shoots, white grape, green apple, graham cracker, and honey emerged alongside a touch of minerals. Later infusions were mild, grassy, and mostly vegetal, offering a more dominant mineral presence balanced by lingering traces of grass, hay, coriander, cattail shoots, aloe, and jicama, though there were very faint touches of vanilla, cream, green apple, and honey still lurking in the background at points.

Though it wasn’t as grainy and toasty as last autumn’s version, this tea was ridiculously complex. In terms of aroma and flavor, I found it to be very similar to the Spring Traditional Tieguanyin, though in my opinion, this had more to offer overall. Aside from the almost unbelievably complex aroma and flavor profiles, this tea was very lively. It had an immediately refreshing and invigorating energy that it maintained throughout the session. If you are a fan of traditional Tieguanyin variants and don’t mind lighter, subtler flavors, this tea is most definitely worth giving a shot.

Flavors: Butter, Coriander, Cream, Graham, Grain, Grass, Green Apple, Hay, Honey, Lychee, Vanilla, Violet, White Grapes

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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91

I think I have lived off of black tea this weekend. What was supposed to be a nice three day break ended up being a total nightmare. I had to take care of my parents’ home and pets while they were out of town, I had a crisis call that turned into a total pain, and then I had to help a friend with an English final (she was stressing out about it and I had earlier promised to provide assistance). I have been decidedly short on both sleep and me time. Luckily, I was still able to make time to try a new tea.

I prepared this tea Western style. I steeped 3 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 203 F water for 5 minutes. I did not attempt any additional infusions.

Prior to infusion, the dry tea leaves produced lovely malty, woodsy aromas. After infusion, I detected scents of malt, molasses, honey, wood, camphor/menthol, and citrus. In the mouth, I discovered wonderfully lush, robust notes of malt, cream, wood, caramel, brown toast, brown sugar, cocoa, leather, molasses, honey, blood orange, black walnut, chestnut, and something herbal that seemed to flit back and forth between menthol and camphor, much like it did on the nose. The finish was smooth, toasty, and malty with lingering impressions of roasted nuts, molasses, cocoa, citrus, wood, and leather.

Well, this was a nice Assam-type black tea. It seems that some of the African producers do a great job with the varietal. I was definitely impressed by its handling here. This tea had a ton of flavor, but did not fall prey to unpleasant bitterness and/or astringency. It made for a near perfect pick-me-up on this unseasonably cold, windy, rainy day.

Flavors: Blood orange, Brown Sugar, Brown Toast, Camphor, Caramel, Chestnut, Cocoa, Cream, Honey, Leather, Malt, Menthol, Molasses, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
5 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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90

While going through one of my tea totes yesterday, I stumbled upon a pouch of this tea. I had planned on spending my evening working on a new green oolong, but when I saw this, I just had to try it. I greatly enjoyed the other Georgian black teas I purchased from What-Cha and had to find out how this one compared to them. For me, this one was yet another winner.

I prepared this tea Western style. I steeped 3 grams of loose tea leaves in approximately 8 ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. I did not attempt any additional infusions. Even though the vendor recommended a steep time around 4 minutes for this tea, I went with my usual 5 minute infusion instead.

Prior to infusion, I noticed that the dry, wiry tea leaves emitted gentle aromas of malt and roasted nuts. After infusion, the dark golden tea liquor produced lovely aromas of malt, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, straw, roasted almond, and golden raisin. In the mouth, I easily detected notes of butter, cream, steamed milk, straw, sweet cinnamon, roasted almond, nutmeg, toast, honey, malt, and golden raisin. After the swallow, pronounced impressions of cream, steamed milk, spices, honey, and roasted almond lingered on the palate.

It seems that these Georgian black teas just do the trick for me. I found this to be a satisfying, approachable, gently invigorating tea that had much to offer in terms of aroma and flavor. It also had a wonderful texture in the mouth. In my opinion, this tea compared favorably to What-Cha’s other Georgian black teas. I would definitely have no problem recommending it to anyone looking for a smooth, easy-drinking black tea with plenty of flavor.

Flavors: Almond, Butter, Cinnamon, Cream, Honey, Malt, Milk, Nutmeg, Raisins, Straw, Toast

Preparation
5 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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75

I started working on a sample pouch of this tea prior to going to work this morning. In my opinion, there is nothing quite as effective as Assam when it comes to getting one started in the morning. Unfortunately, this one did not do much for me. I don’t feel like I was able to get it quite right.

I prepared this tea Western style. I tried to prepare this tea two ways. First, I steeped 4 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. I later steeped 3 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 194 F for 3 minutes. Both preparations produced extremely similar results.

Both infusions produced a mellow woodsy, malty bouquet with hints of caramel, butter, and molasses. In the mouth, I mostly picked up butter, malt, and wood notes with hints of honey, molasses, cream, chestnut, hazelnut, and brown toast. There was very little astringency or bitterness, which was nice, but I didn’t find much to latch onto period.

I don’t know about this tea. I’m going to try it again later, but so far, I do not have particularly strong feelings about it either way. Normally, the so-called golden ratio of 3 grams of loose tea per 8 ounces of water (and I never fill my teacups to the brim, so I’m never really using a full 8 ounces) works for me, but I don’t feel like it did here. Looking at the leaves too, I could tell that this was a high quality tea. It just didn’t do much for me. It came across as being timid and stuffy.

ADDENDUM: I just finished the final 3 grams of the sample pouch, and I have to say that I like this tea a little more now. It had kind of a leafiness and grassiness up front that I hadn’t noticed before. It also had a touch of cocoa that I picked up on the finish. Compared to many of the Assams I have tried, this one was very light and mellow. I found this tea to be a very backloaded tea in the sense that, for me, the flavor was at its best, boldest, and most complex right around the swallow. It still wasn’t really my thing, but I could see this being good for someone who wants the caffeine punch of Assam or other strong black teas, but doesn’t necessarily want the heavy maltiness, syrupy mouthfeel, or pronounced astringency.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Butter, Caramel, Chestnut, Cocoa, Grass, Hazelnut, Honey, Malt, Molasses, Toast, Wood

Preparation
5 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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86

It seems that I’m starting to fall behind on my reviews once again. I did a multi-step Western session with this tea a couple days ago and then a gongfu session with it last night. I was not at my best during either of these sessions. For one, I have been extremely busy with work, I’m preparing myself to go back to school in the fall, and I have jury duty about to start, so my review sessions have been a little rushed as of late. Second, I have been a bit stuffy for the past two or three days, so neither my nose nor my palette have been at their best. I also did not take notes during either session (very unlike me), so I have to do this exclusively from memory. This review will likely not be representative of my best work.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After an approximately 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 7 seconds. This infusion was followed by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. I normally start with a 10 second infusion when I drink Tieguanyin, but I decided to try to shake things up a bit here.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of dark wood, banana, coffee, vanilla bean, and char. After the rinse, the aforementioned aromas intensified and I began to pick up touches of wet stones and graham cracker. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet. In the mouth, I detected strong notes of caramelized banana, vanilla bean, coffee, wet stones, char, and dark wood underscored by fleeting sensations of spices, cocoa, and fruit. Subsequent infusions brought out impressions of cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, cream, butter, ginseng, minerals, and bruised mango. The later infusions were dry with dominant mineral, dark wood, stone, and char impressions balanced by touches of vanilla bean, cream, coffee, butter, and spice at various points.

Everyone who has seen any of my reviews of similar teas to this point undoubtedly realizes that I love traditional Tieguanyin variants. As a matter of fact, I tend to prefer them over jade Tieguanyins. This one, however, while good, did not entirely sustain my interest. Part of that is likely due to me spending so much time focusing on roasted oolongs this month and part of that is probably due to the circumstances under which I reviewed this tea, but I cannot shake the impression that this tea faded a little quickly and was missing a certain something. It did not seem to be quite as layered as some of the other teas of this type I have tried. It was still pretty tasty, but there have been other traditional Tieguanyins that have struck me as being more memorable.

Flavors: banana, Brown Sugar, Butter, Char, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Coffee, Cream, Dark Wood, Graham, Herbs, Mango, Nutmeg, Vanilla, Wet Rocks

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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91

Since I have been spending my time primarily focusing on Chinese oolongs lately, I figured I should shake things up a bit and try out a new Taiwanese oolong. More than anything, I wanted to give Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company’s Li Shan offerings another chance. I, personally, did not enjoy the last Li Shan tea I tried from them and wanted to see how another of their offerings from that area fared in comparison. I am happy to report that this tea was a smashing success in my eyes.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted pronounced aromas of honeysuckle, gardenia, lilac, sweetgrass, cream, butter, and vanilla balanced by a hint of vegetables. After the rinse, I detected emergent scents of sweet cinnamon and magnolia balanced by green apple, watercress, and fresh pear. The first infusion produced a similar, albeit considerably more balanced bouquet with hints of petunia, lily, marigold, and fresh daylily shoots. In the mouth, I detected gentle, somewhat timid notes of vanilla frosting, cream, butter, freshly cut flowers, watercress, and sweetgrass. Subsequent infusions allowed the cinnamon, daylily shoot, green apple, and pear notes to shine, though I also began to catch hints of honeydew, white peach, oats, minerals, and leaf lettuce. The later infusions were increasingly mineral dominated with balancing notes of cream, vanilla, watercress, green apple, oats, pear, honeydew, sweet cinnamon, and flowers.

This was such a nice Li Shan oolong. I honestly was not expecting the floral intensity or the unique mix of aromas and flavors displayed by this tea. As far as I am concerned, this was a notable upgrade over Pear Mountain Premium. Check this one out if you haven’t already.

Flavors: Apple, Butter, Cinnamon, Cream, Floral, Frosting, Gardenias, Grass, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Lettuce, Mineral, Oats, Peach, Pear, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Daylon R Thomas

There were so few reviews of that one though I always wanted to try it. I think Andrew gave me some of that or the Alishan when I first joined steepster and thought that it was vegetal, thick, and flat. How does it compare to What-Cha’s Li Shan?

eastkyteaguy

The Alishan I found to be a little flat, but not bad. The Pear Mountain Premium I found to be rather average at best. I found it to be clean to the point of sterility and overly savory and vegetal. A lot of people liked that one too, which kind of left me wondering what I was missing. I won’t compare this tea to the Ali Shan because I find different nuances in Ali Shan and Li Shan teas. The former I always find floral, creamy, and buttery with pronounced cucumber, grass, and melon tones, while Li Shan oolongs almost always hit me with leaf vegetable and orchard fruit aromas and flavors. I like both, but I find that I generally prefer the Li Shan terroir. Compared to the Pear Mountain Premium, I found this Li Shan to be rich, thick, and vibrant with much more complex aroma and flavor profiles. To me, it had a depth the other tea was sorely lacking. If I were comparing it to What-Cha’s Li Shan, I would say that i find this tea to be more complex, but I find the other to be more approachable and versatile. I greatly enjoy both, but for regular consumption, the What-Cha Li Shan would edge this one out at this point.

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94

Okay, I’m finally back on Steepster after a nearly week-long absence. It’s not that I haven’t been drinking tea during this time, I just haven’t been posting reviews. Specifically, I have been working my way through larger amounts of several teas I have had for some time, one of which was this Yunnan black tea.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse to open the tea up, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted pleasant aromas of chocolate, malt, and wood. After the rinse, I detected aromas of brown sugar, toast, honey, sweet potato, and molasses as well. The first infusion produced a similar aroma with hints of butter, fruit, and vanilla bean. In the mouth, I picked up on gentle notes of dark chocolate, molasses, butter, wood, toast, malt, and brown sugar underscored by subtle hints of earth, honey, sweet potato, and fruit. Subsequent infusions brought out impressions of vanilla bean, baked bread, apricot, orange, maple syrup, honey, smoke, raisin, sweet potato, moist earth, and plum. The later infusions were smooth, offering hints of minerals, bread, toast, smoke, and malt underpinned by a slight honey and fruit sweetness.

I found this to be an extremely nice Yunnan black tea. It was a little more mellow than anticipated, but it had a tremendous amount to offer. It was definitely on par with the other Chinese black teas I have tried from Whispering Pines Tea Company. Of those I have tried so far, this one might be my favorite.

Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Butter, Chocolate, Earth, Honey, Malt, Maple Syrup, Mineral, Molasses, Plums, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Vanilla, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Daylon R Thomas

They are great for Earl Gold, just sayin’.

Daylon R Thomas

People were either impressed or underwhelmed with that one.

eastkyteaguy

Daylong, I noticed that myself. People either really loved both this and Earl Gold, or thought both were just okay. I’ve yet to be underwhelmed by any of the black teas offered by Whispering Pines. I’ve found all to be pretty consistent across the board.

eastkyteaguy

*Daylon. Stupid autocorrect.

Daylon R Thomas

Lol I get that a lot. At least it rhymes with Oolong lol

Daylon R Thomas

Their Imperial was one of the most impressive gold blacks I first tried. You should see my note about it-I was raving about that session because of the caramel goodness I got.

eastkyteaguy

I loved the Imperial Gold Bud Dian Hong myself. I bought an ounce of the Spring 2016 harvest last year and finally drank it a couple months ago. I love their Yunnan Gold Tips too. The only one of their pure black teas that didn’t wow me that much was the Wildcrafted Dian Hong. It’s not that it was even a bad tea, it just wasn’t quite as strong as the others in my eyes.

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Bio

My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.

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