56 Tasting Notes


I first tried this sencha as a by-the-cup purchase at Fava on my way home from the Trivia contest I participate in every year. The Appleton, WI Fava store is a must-visit if you’re in Appleton or on your way to Green Bay, by the way. Although I haven’t been to the other two Fava stores in the Milwaukee area, I am pretty sure they are the only rivals in Wisconsin to the sheer size/variety/quality of the offerings and the customer service at the Appleton Fava. This store (which also has a pretty nice online catalog) specializes in loose leaf teas of all kinds and really not much else, though as I mentioned they will make you a cup on-the-spot, and they also sell teaware, a small line of tea-scented soaps, and flavored sugars. No coffee, no pastries, no section of bagged teas purchased from other companies, no milk-tea or bubble drinks: just looseleaf tea, and lots of it.

I immediately noticed the gyokuro-like vegetalness and brothiness in this particular sencha, perceptible in smelling the leaf. Fava sells two unflavored senchas and the other one (Chumushi) doesn’t have these qualities. Fava also sells a gyokuro, which I haven’t tried, at $12/ounce, so if you are looking for a gyokuro-like tea, the sencha Fukamushi is a real steal at $5/ounce.

The leaf is crumbled or chopped rather small (not a CTC cut, but definitely not a full leaf) in dark emerald green; not sure of the process for this, but it left a powdery residue when I brewed it in the filter basket in my teapot. The basket is admittedly a fairly standard wide-ish wire mesh, but this residue is very fine, much like matcha powder. This does mean that if you’re a slow sipper, the residue in your cup will continue brewing in the tea and the flavor will change while it sits. In my case, the vegetal flavor got stronger, but there was also an overall increase in bitterness. Also I would assume there is more caffeine intake in this case, since if you drink the whole cup you are ingesting the leaf residue along with the tea. Next time I make this I might choose to use a t-bag paper filter in an individual cup or in the teapot, to try to eliminate the powdery residue. That’s the finest filter type I can think of.

Visually this is a lovely deep yellow with pea-green tones. If it looks watery it probably is (I tried a taste from my teapot at 2 min. and it was yellow-y and under-flavored, which is why I gave it almost another minute). The package says 2 min. at 180, but my Cuisinart tea-water boiler says green is 175, which might account for the under-brew at 2 min. Have not yet tried this as a gongfu brew, but I bet it would be wonderful all around.

As I implied earlier, this tea tastes almost like a good gyokuro, with strong brothiness and a taste of greens, almost spinach-y. I like this, but you might not! The flavor keeps my interest through a couple of cups, which is really all the caffeine I personally should be ingesting at one sitting, since I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine and also have sleep problems. The aftertaste is pretty faithful to the original taste, though it also has a little bit of a dry/clean sensation in the mouth ( a little bitter in the current cup I’m drinking, too, but then that is probably due to the residue as I mentioned). Other senchas I’ve had do have the dry finish (and a little bitterness depending on brewing conditions) but aren’t remarkably vegetal or brothy, and I don’t find them very interesting in flavor, so this one is a real revelation to me. No idea why it is different from other senchas, but it is, and it’s great!

Flavors: Broth, Spinach, Vegetal

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 45 sec 2 tsp 24 OZ / 709 ML

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I got a small tin of this delectable tea as part of a box of three sampler tins (also including a tin of Ben Shan Oolong and one of Tie Guan Yin) at the Tower of Cosmic Reflections Teahouse at the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon. Sadly, the purchase of the sampler box has given me a lot more joy than my visit to the Chinese Garden did, as I was accompanied by my parents who spent their entire visit complaining about the family we were staying with while in Portland. I love my parents, but it wasn’t easy to enjoy Portland with them. Anyway, I digress…

This is (as the other commenter noted) classic oolong tea. Though I thought the package’s recommended brewing time of 4 min. was a bit much, I gave it nearly that, in a mesh strainer in a stoneware thermos-like mug from Teavana. It smelled like generic oolong in the tin, but the brewing/brewed leaves have a rounder scent than some oolongs, with lots going on: the normal vegetal smells, but also an almost meaty, savory smell. The liquor is a medium greenish-gold. A sip reveals that the smells were not misleading: yes on the vegetal, yes on the flowery (though not much for an oolong), but also a sort of soupy savoriness. I feel like I could add vegetables and some salt and have a light dinner going! This element makes this a very satisfying tea with high drinkability, enhanced by the complete lack of bitterness.

As far as I can recall, I’ve never had this particular kind of oolong before. No idea whether this cup’s savoriness is normal for a Tung Ting. If so, I could see keeping a good example of a Tung Ting around regularly. We’ll see if/how this one insinuates itself into my current tea rotation!

190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 45 sec

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drank Casablanca by The Tea Table
56 tasting notes

I like fruit teas with sugar to sip while I’m relaxing after work: they’re a treat with no caffeine. So I ordered this one with my last Tea Table order.

Smell in the bag: fruity but not that fruity, surprisingly, since almost all there is in it is fruit. Brews up to a sort of taupey/pink color with a smell pretty much like it is in the bag. The taste is generic fruity, though, not very interesting, though I suppose I am getting some vitamin C from the rosehip peels and hibiscus.

I think I probably wouldn’t buy this again, because I have other favorite fruit teas (to mention one: Adagio’s Berry Blues) and this one doesn’t distinguish itself.

200 °F / 93 °C 6 min, 0 sec

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I concur with other reviewers on this tea: pretty golden color in the brew, soft/sweet green base, and not-quite-natural but not-perfumey jasmine and lichee smells/tastes. There are actual jasmine flowers in this, so I’m not convinced this has all-artificial jasmine taste, but perhaps it’s boosted artificially? Anyway, this jasmine lover is enjoying it, esp. with the lichee overtones. (We recently got a Steepery tea drink shop on State St. in Madison and I have been dropping in Tuesday nights before choir rehearsal. Once I tried the lichee jelly I dropped the tapioca boba like a hot potato. Why didn’t I ever know what lichee tasted like before? YUM…)

I also concur with the package: “A delightful afternoon tea, and sure to please tea party guests.” Not that I ever have tea parties (especially not in the afternoon), but this tea has that drinkability that you look for in something you’re going to sip all afternoon or serve to guests. As with all green teas, make sure you watch water temperature and steeping time carefully, or this could get bitter (and I don’t think it’d be very drinkable like that). But overall this is a really nice tea! Glad I bought some.

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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In character I agree with another taster that this is much more like an oolong than a black tea. The leaves are greenish, the scent in the leaf is light and citrusy, the brew is darkish golden and smells almost more richly flowery than my favorite Tie Kuan Yin, if maybe a different type of flower (orange? Hard to pin it down)! The taste reveals a slight darkness, though, that I wouldn’t know what to do with in an oolong. (Perhaps this is a function of the 3-min. steep?) And this isn’t as sweet on the tongue as an oolong would be. But otherwise? It’s light with a buttery quality, slightly vegetal, richly flavored, and yes, very floral. If you don’t like black tea, don’t worry, this really doesn’t resemble black tea in any substantial way. If you like less-fermented oolongs or flowery greens, you’ll like this one!

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Green Pekoe by Adagio Teas
56 tasting notes

I would agree with what other commenters say, that this is not a strongly flavored tea, that it has grassy qualities. On the other hand, these are not bad things for everyone!

This is the first tea I tried in my new IngenuiTea tea maker, and I have say parenthetically that the IngenuiTea is the best invention since the mesh ball—and easier to use! I highly recommend that anyone who loves tea, get one! Anyway…

In my first brewing I followed the directions on the sample package: 2 min., 180 f., just over a teaspoon of leaf (though these are such long squiggly leaves dried, that it’s tough to measure in any meaningful way). I found the resulting light golden brew to be, well…acceptable. The flavors weren’t strong, but they were: grassy, buttery, a little mineral-y. Like a combination of white tea and lightly fermented oolong, but at an inoffensive and almost insignificant level of flavor. Yet I didn’t taste wateriness, leading me to believe that this was not strictly an understeep or too little tea for the amount of water; this is just not strongly flavored tea.

In the second brewing (a couple of hours after the first, though I don’t know if it makes any difference) I kept the temperature of the water the same, but steeped for radically longer: six minutes. Wish I could claim this was some important insight on my part, but what actually happened was that the phone rang right after I started steeping. I was worried this brewing would be lost to bitterness, but it seems low flavor also means low bitterness in this case: at six minutes the brew is more flavorful but otherwise unchanged, as if to say, “No, really, I am an everyday type of tea in every sense of the word; you can’t get me wrong.”

I’ll remember to steep longer in the future because with a longer steeping, even on a second brewing, the flavor is really nice; the butteriness is more pronounced and there is almost a clean, though not at all watery, quality to it. The grassiness recedes to the background, and overall, it becomes very drinkable, if still rather inoffensive. Is it possible the 2 min. recommendation is some kind of typo on Adagio’s part?

Probably I won’t buy this again; there are lots more interesting and tasty teas out there than this one. But I’ll finish the package probably over the next couple of weeks at work, when things will be quiet and I’ll be looking for ways to stay alert! For the price, I do recommend it to anyone who is looking to try (or to help someone else try) green tea for the first time. It may not be remarkable, but it is still head and shoulders above what you might get in any American grocery store, and balanced enough in flavor that anyone who thinks green tea is too grassy, vegetal, sweet, or, well, too whatever, will be pleasantly surprised.

190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 15 sec

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Steepster was misbehaving and wouldn’t let me post tasting notes the evening I tried this, so I’m posting now from memory. I should also mention that I did the conventional mesh-ball brewing on this, not gongfu, so I might have different things to say once I’ve gotten around to doing it “right” (is any way really “right” if it yields a great cup of tea? Anyway…)

I have pretty high expectations of everything I buy from Verdant, and this one met them solidly, if not spectacularly. The leaf is neat-looking, as others have mentioned: very dark green and obviously hand-flattened, so each leaf is sort of bladelike. Some are very long (I had to break three or four of them to fit them in the mesh ball). The inside of the bag is covered with beige fuzz, which must have come from the leaves, but there doesn’t seem to be fuzz on the leaves—interesting. The smell in the bag is rich and vegetal.

This really does brew up into an almost colorless light-yellow brew, so don’t make the mistake of over-brewing trying to get some color into it! I let it cool a little too long while I answered the phone, but maybe this gave the flavor a little time to develop. Flavor: light, refreshing, perhaps more like a white tea than a green tea, but with a pronounced gyokuro-style brothiness that is really satisfying, and a consistent undertone of rich veggie-like flavor. This is not a strongly flavored tea, and I didn’t taste any bitterness. Just good flavor and that brothiness that I like.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a dud as iced tea, but I guess stranger things have happened. Anyway, I don’t try everything iced, because I have other cold beverages I enjoy (and in any case I live in Wisconsin, where at this time of year, one increasingly enjoys one’s beverages hot!).

Definitely, I’m glad I bought this, and will enjoy it every time I drink it, but it’s not the life-changing brew that my first Verdant Tieguanyin was.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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Fruity refreshment, great hot, will have to try it cold sometime! While I can smell the rose a little bit sniffing the dry tea, it really recedes into the background when brewed. This is a hibiscus-heavy tea (you can tell just by how red it gets in the cup…VERY red) which works well with plenty of sugar to cut the sourness, but I haven’t even bothered trying it without, since I know it will be too sour for me. Hibiscus provides lots of Vitamin C, so I plan to drink this a lot this winter!

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 30 sec

Also, I was distracting the saleswoman while she was writing the names of my teas on their labels (I like to talk about tea!) and she wrote “Roseberry Rose”. How cute is that?

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I picked this up at the Bobalicious near Denver, on my way to the airport after an SCA event. (The tea smoothie with boba was to die for, BTW, and as they had just opened for the day and the mall area was still deserted, the nice man behind the counter talked with me about tea for half an hour!)

Let me say that I am not really a black tea person. I don’t mind it if it’s the only tea available, but I don’t tend to buy it. As a result I’ve never been into chai, but I do like the various spices and flavors often added to chai. Bobalicious had three different chais, and this one smelled the sweetest and most interesting to me. So I bought it.

I boiled water, steeped for 4 min., and came up with something that isn’t really to my taste black, but I could see how a chai afficionado would enjoy it. I then added a generous amount of half-and-half and some sugar—what I’d been intending all along—and NOW I have something tasty. Not really a latte; this is actually how I like my brewed coffee when I make it at home.

This has a smooth feel to it; the spices are there, but not overwhelming. Mainly I taste ginger and vanilla, with aftertastes of pepper and just a general impression of everything else. Maybe it’s the vanilla, but it took the sugar beautifully. Rather than tasting exotic, it’s kind of a comfort cup, for me anyway. I would make this again.

Actually I’m hoping to make an iced chai latte sometime this week, maybe with cooled double-strength Vanilla Chai mixed with milk/sugar…but my fridge needs some non-expired milk for that!

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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drank Scarlet Cloud by Teavana
56 tasting notes

Another Teavana problem tea. I’ve had it a few times and, as another reviewer commented, this is an uneven tea, perhaps because there are so many elements (different fruits, white tea, mint) that depending on what you get in the spoonful you scoop up, it could be overwhelmed by mint, heavy with sour fruit, or just…blah.

Today, I brewed for 2 min. in a mesh ball in one of my favorite large mugs. The liquid is a brownish-purplish color that promises “strong”, but a taste brings nothing big; just a hint of mint and a slight sourness from the fruit. Yes, maybe I should have brewed longer, but Teavana says white/fruit blends get 2 min., so 2 min. is what I gave it. I added a couple of teaspoonfuls of rock sugar and now it is mildly fruit-flavored sugar water with an aftertaste of mint. In no way do I taste white tea, or any type of camellia sinensis whatsoever.

I’ll continue sipping the mug until I get an idea of what I want to drink next or until it gets cold, whichever comes first.

For no reason I could tell, my last shipment from Teavana included TWO packages of Scarlet Cloud rather than the one I ordered. So, I threw out the packet from today, the one that’s been open for a couple of months, in case it had gone stale. At some point maybe I’ll open the extra one. Maybe.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 15 sec

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Hi, I’m a librarian, SCA member, and tea lover from Madison, WI. I’ve been drinking tea all my life, but have recently become more of a fanatic about it. Single, straight, and looking. Would love to take a date to one of the great tea places here in Madison!


Madison, WI

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