824 Tasting Notes


I finished off the last of my ounce of this tea last night. Unfortunately, I’m getting ready to start my workday, so I can’t do a full review, but I will do a quick tasting note.

Prior to infusion, the dry leaves produce scents of smoke, pine, and malt. After infusion, the tea shows an attractive golden amber in the glass. Aromas of pine, smoke, toast, sea salt, malt, and roasted barley are evident on the nose. Notes of smoke, pine, toast, roasted barley, sea salt, and malt swirl around the mouth. The finish is dry, offering plenty of toast, smoke, and pine character.

Overall, I find this to be a solid lapsang souchong. Compared to some of the others I have tried, this one is smooth and approachable. It is not quite as hearty as I would like, but I could see this being a great introductory lapsang souchong for those curious about this style of tea.

Flavors: Malt, Pine, Roasted Barley, Salt, Smoke, Toast

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Back to Earl Grey for the time being, I have been working on a two ounce package of this tea for a little while now. I am always surprised (though I don’t know why) that every vendor’s Earl Grey offers something a little different. For example, the Earl Greys I have had from Adagio are smooth with a tart citrus kick, the Earl Greys I have had from Simpson and Vail are toasty and balanced, and the Earl Grey I recently tried from Rishi was sweet and spicy. At some point, I need to round up a bunch of the Earl Greys I have tried and/or rated and do a shootout to see which one(s) I prefer. Compared to the others I have tried, this one is earthy and somewhat leathery with a tart citrus punch.

Prior to infusion, the dry tea leaves display a lovely aroma of earth and bergamot and show a pretty blue-grey. After infusion, lovely aromas of caramel, leather, chocolate, toast, malt, honey, earth, and bergamot are evident. In the mouth, I can detect notes of caramel, leather, honey, toast, chocolate, and malt up front with tart bergamot, earth, tobacco, and must flavors becoming more prominent from mid-palate on through the fade. The finish is tart and earthy, with slight toast, chocolate, tobacco, honey, and caramel notes underpinning the dominant bergamot and earth flavors.

To me, this Earl Grey seems a little busier and more assertive in terms of character than some of the others I have recently consumed. I like that. Actually, I really admire it. I love blends with a lot of character and this one certainly fits the bill. If you are a fan of heavier, more complex Earl Grey blends, give this one a try if you have not already done so.

Flavors: Bergamot, Caramel, Chocolate, Earth, Honey, Leather, Malt, Musty, Toast, Tobacco

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Breaking off from my recent Keemun and lapsang souchong binge, I decided to turn my attention to white tea. I ordered an ounce of this tea from Whispering Pines a little less than 2 months ago and enjoyed a couple glasses of it, but had shoved it to the back of my tea cabinet and forgotten about it. I guess I will now work on polishing the rest of this off before I move on to something else.

As far as preparation goes, I decided on a three step Western infusion. I followed Whispering Pines’ preparation outline and steeped one tablespoon of this tea at a temperature of 190 F. The infusion times were 3, 5, and 7 minutes.

Prior to infusion, the dry leaves showed a lovely dark green with pronounced white tips, offering aromas of cucumber, honey, hay, and a floral, nectar-like sweetness. The first infusion yielded a light ecru cup with pleasant aromas of cucumber, nectar, honey, white peach, and honeydew. The palate followed the nose, producing delicate, subtle notes of cucumber, nectar, honey, white peach, and honeydew, with subtler grain, cream, and hay accents. The second infusion produced a darker, slightly yellowish liquor and a fruitier, grassier bouquet. Notes of honeydew, honey, white peach, and nectar were underscored by cucumber, grain, hay, cream, marshmallow, and grass. I could also detect faint traces of nectarine, white grape, and apricot. The third and final infusion yielded a somewhat lighter cup with a gentle fruity bouquet. The notes of cucumber, grass, grain, marshmallow, cream, and hay skillfully balanced a melange of honey, nectar, white grape, apricot, nectarine, white peach, and honeydew. As hard as I tried, I could find nothing resembling eucalyptus, cinnamon, or honey wheat bread.

The aroma and flavor profiles of this tea tend to be what I think of when I think of a typical unflavored white tea. For what it is, it is very good. I have enjoyed my experience with it so far. This is a very subtle, delicate, and sweet tea. In the end, I would say it is a very respectable white tea.

Flavors: Apricot, Cream, Cucumber, Grain, Grapes, Grass, Hay, Honey, Honeydew, Marshmallow, Nectar, Peach

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Yesterday, I finally finished my sipdown of the exquisite No. 9 Yunnan Full Leaf Black Tea from Steven Smith Teamaker. That tidbit has no real bearing on the present review, but I felt like sharing that nonetheless. Possibly due to my recent drinking preferences, I decided to keep the Steven Smith train rolling. This morning I cracked open the Keemun.

The dry leaves show a jet black prior to infusion and produce delicate aromas of toast, smoke, leather, molasses, and tobacco. After infusion, the resulting liquor is a dark, coppery amber and offers aromas of caramel, molasses, leather, toast, wildflower honey, tobacco, pipe smoke, and grain. In the mouth, I am picking up rather well-integrated notes of wildflower honey, leather, grain, toast, tobacco, smoke, caramel, molasses, and especially leather. The finish is surprisingly smooth and a bit rich, playing up notes of leather, molasses, toast, tobacco, and smoke.

All in all, I like this tea. Keemun has never really been one of my primary things (I really enjoy it, but I don’t tend to have it very often), but this one is approachable and well-rounded. Most importantly, it displays just enough complexity for me to savor. Still, I am grading somewhat cautiously because I still cannot really see myself reaching for this one very frequently. As a change of pace though, this is quite good.

Flavors: Caramel, Grain, Honey, Leather, Molasses, Smoke, Toast, Tobacco

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A sample of this tea was included with one of my more recent orders from Verdant Tea and I have been putting off trying it for awhile. Honestly, I have been holding back on drinking a lot of white tea over the past couple of months. For one thing, I have such a hoard of high quality black teas that I have been fiendishly trying to reduce, and also, I just don’t tend to drink a lot of white tea at once. I recently finished the last of the Yabao from Whispering Pines and still have a lot of the Moondance left, but due to the miniscule amount of this tea I had on hand, I decided to bump it up in the rotation.

When brewing this tea, I settled on my usual Western three step infusion, with infusion times of 2, 4, and 7 minutes for each infusion. Honestly, Verdant Tea’s recommended brewing temperature of 205 F seemed a little high to me, but I decided to roll with it. I may try a lower temperature and a different infusion method the next time I partake of some of this tea.

The first infusion yielded a slightly greenish liquor with pronounced aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle, and lilac. In the background, I could detect subtle scents of cream and grass as well. On the palate, the jasmine, honeysuckle, and lilac merged with delicate vanilla, marshmallow, cream, oat, grass, mango, and apricot notes. The second infusion yielded a pale golden liquor with delicate aromas of mango, apricot, grass, cream, and melon underscored by delicate lilac, honeysuckle, and jasmine scents. On the palate, I detected distinct notes of cantaloupe, honeydew, nectarine, mango, apricot, white peach, oats, grass, and cream with lilac, honeysuckle, and jasmine lingering in the background. The third infusion yielded a delicate yellow-green liquor with soft aromas of cream, grass, oats, marshmallow, apricots, and melon. On the palate, notes of cream, grass, oats, and marshmallow were front and center, while faint traces of lilac, jasmine, honeysuckle, apricot, mango, and melon were still detectable in the background.

For such a seemingly simple tea, there is a lot going on here. Like a lot of the white teas that I have tried, the aromas and flavors are subtle, but are just present enough to keep the drinker intrigued. I especially appreciated the harmonious melding of aromas and flavors that was so obvious on each infusion. It is also worth noting that while most jasmine teas go over-the-top with the jasmine aroma and flavor, this one reigns it in, allowing other complexities to emerge. As one who finds floral teas to be very hit or miss overall, I can say that I find this one to be an expertly crafted jasmine tea that is well worth one’s time.

Flavors: Apricot, Cream, Floral, Grass, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Mango, Marshmallow, Oats, Peach, Smooth, Sweet

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Prior to last night, it had been quite awhile since I had enjoyed a Yunnan tea. I used to adore them when I was younger, and not being in the mood to continue my Earl Grey and Darjeeling binge, I decided to crack open this container of Yunnan. I needed the change of pace, and as it turned out, this was exactly what I had been missing for years.

Prior to infusion the dry tea leaves showed a mixture of dark green and black with pretty gold tips. The aroma was a mixture of must, leather, and cocoa powder with just a hint of an almost mildewy, grassy aroma. After proper steeping, the liquor showed a beautiful dark amber with an aroma of caramel, malt, leather, must, cocoa, and grass.

In the mouth, I detected distinct notes of cocoa, caramel, molasses, tobacco, leather, malt, must, wood, grass, wildflower honey, and slight floral, herbal notes (perhaps similar to a mixture of anise, licorice, and ginseng, but I could not quite put my finger on it). This tea was distinctly smooth and rich in texture with a satisfying body and a finish of cocoa, caramel, malt, honey, leather, and wood.

Overall, I was very impressed with this tea. It reminded me of why I used to love Yunnan black teas so much and how much more frequently I need to revisit them. I think fans of Chinese black teas will be satisfied and perhaps even pleasantly surprised with this one.

Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Herbs, Honey, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Musty, Tobacco, Wood


Steven Smith has some amazing tea. No. 9 Yunnan is definitely on my wish list!


Obviously my review is evidence to the fact that I think this is a really good tea, but I really stand by my judgment of this one. I spent a lot of time playing around with steeping methods and temperatures, and I got fairly consistent results across the board. For the record, I think I settled on a Western one step infusion at a temperature of 208 F and Steven Smith’s recommended steep time of 5 minutes, but this is one of those teas that really seems to stand up no matter how you prepare it.

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Another of the Earl Grey blends on which I have been binging lately, I actually polished off the last of this before I started on Simpson & Vail’s Extra Aromatic Earl Grey, but forgot to review it. I am now rectifying that oversight. All in all, I think this one compares favorably to the other.

In the glass, this tea blend produces a rich golden liquor. On the nose, I immediately detect a balance of bergamot, honey, malt, and toast. Judging by the nose, this is going to be a very balanced Earl Grey that doesn’t overwhelm the drinker with bergamot. In the mouth, the bergamot is present up front, but is not overpowering. It is quickly balanced by well-rounded notes of honey, malt, and toast. The finish provides a pleasant, soothing balance of bergamot, toast, honey, and malt.

As mentioned earlier, I think this Earl Grey holds up to Simpson & Vail’s Extra Aromatic blend well. It does not display the depth of bergamot flavor of the other blend, but then again, it is not supposed to. This is clearly intended to be a balanced blend and that is exactly what it is. I could see this being a great introductory blend for those curious about Earl Grey, but not wanting something overly tart, spicy, or fruity.

Flavors: Bergamot, Honey, Malt, Toast

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Since I have been investigating more blends lately, I decided to go ahead and crack open my sample of Glen Lochey Blend. This is a smoky, earthy blend of black teas. Of course, the intense smoky aroma and flavor is produced by the addition of lapsang souchong. So, it kind of goes without saying that if you are not a fan of lapsang souchong, then you will very likely not be a fan of this particular blend.

In the glass, the liquor shows a warm, rich honey gold. I was kind of expecting a darker liquor, but still, this looks nice. Aromas of pine, smoke, earth, moss, and peat quickly jump out on the nose. In the mouth, I immediately detect notes of pine, smoke, and tar followed by flavors of peat, earth, moss, malt, roasted barley, and an almost algae/seaweed marine brininess. On the finish, there is an integration of earthy and smoky flavors with distinct pine wood notes and subtle hints of caramel and honey that round things out a bit.

All in all, I rather like this blend, but then again, I am a fan of roasty, woody, earthy, and smoky flavors. That being said, I do wish the flavor was a bit more robust overall with a slightly greater degree of separation in the layering of individual flavor components. There is quite a bit going on here if you dig deep enough to find it, but for me, the problem is that everything mellows out and merges a little too quickly. Still, I could see this being a good introduction to smokier blends for those who may be new to them.

Flavors: Caramel, Earth, Fishy, Honey, Malt, Marine, Moss, Peat, Pine, Roasted Barley, Tar, Toast

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Lately, I have been turning my attention more and more to classic blends. I sometimes feel that they are taken for granted among tea drinkers, and as such, do not always receive the attention and appreciation they deserve. After all, there is a reason so many of these blends have been around for so long: people like them. I especially think Earl Grey is more than a bit underrated, especially on websites like Steepster. Granted, I know that the aroma and flavor of bergamot is a turn off to some, and I know its presence often lends a slick or soapy texture to the tea, but come on people, the Earl is a classic!

This variation of Earl Grey from Simpson & Vail is more or less just an amped up version of their house Earl Grey blend. I mean this one is amped up in the sense that more bergamot oil is present in this blend than in the other blend. In the cup, the liquor is a brilliant, rich golden orange. The aroma of bergamot initially dominates the nose, but is soon balanced by subtle scents of toast and malt. In the mouth, the tea provides a heavy dose of bergamot that is mellowed at mid-palate by notes of toast, honey, and malt. The finish is again heavy on the bergamot, imparting an almost grapefruit or lemon rind flavor and texture in the mouth before the toast and malt notes swell late on the fade.

All in all, I really like this Earl Grey, but then again, I also like Simpson & Vail’s standard Earl Grey, and well, Earl Grey in general. I understand that a significant number of people may or may not share my taste for this and similar blends. That does not bother me in the slightest. For those of you who may enjoy Earl Greys, or who may otherwise just enjoy tart, fruity blends, I think this one may hit the spot.

Flavors: Bergamot, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Toast

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It looks like I’m getting to this one first. So, Steven Smith Teamaker has recently been including oolongs and pu-erh in the lineup. It also looks as if this vendor has introduced a new white tea too. Anyway, right now Steven Smith’s oolong and pu-erh selection is limited. It seems as if this one is the only pu-erh currently available.

In the glass, the liquor is an extremely dark brown. Aromas of sauteed mushrooms, wet leaves, wet wood, moist earth, wet hay, and forest floor are evident. Notes of mushroom, hay, straw, wood, wet leaves, and moist earth are most evident in the mouth, though they are balanced by traces of roasted nuts, malt, toast, and dark chocolate.

All in all, this is an earthy, woody pu-erh that I rather like. It is definitely not an everyday tea in my opinion, nor is it the most complex pu-erh I have tried, but it is still quite good. Hopefully, this tea will go over well and Steven Smith Teamaker will introduce more pu-erh teas in the future.

Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Forest Floor, Hay, Malt, Mushrooms, Musty, Roasted nuts, Straw, Toast, Wet Earth, Wet Wood

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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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