55 Tasting Notes


This is a nice “combo” tea. It’s all fully oxidized darjeeling, but some of the leaves have been left green to peek through in both the appearance and the flavor. It’s nicely dry and snappy, a solid afternoon pick-me-up. I think this would be a good one to feed to friends who are only familiar with tea-bag tea so they can start to understand the wonders of loose leaf.

190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 30 sec 4 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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This is one where my experience of the tea and the description don’t match at all, but I still really like it. Upton describes this with words like buttery, winey, and walnut. Nope, didn’t pick up on any of that. To me, it was classic smooth oolong with a lovely subtle sweetness. Not hit-you-over-the-head honey or shocking sugar, more like the sweetness you’d get from sucking on clover blossoms. I’ll be drinking this when curled up on my couch on weekend mornings.

Flavors: Sweet

2 tsp 4 OZ / 130 ML

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I’m not a huge fan of jasmine, but wowser, is this a good tea! Most jasmine teas overdo it – I feel like I’m being assaulted with the flavor. This one is a solid green tea with jasmine very much present, but not overwhelming. I did six steeps in my gaiwan 20/15/20/30/45/90 at 180° and was not disappointed by any of them, though it was pretty faded by the last go-round. My wife and daughter really like jasmine pearls, so I’ll be interested to see how they react to this one.

Flavors: Jasmine, Nutty

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 4 OZ / 130 ML

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This is one I picked up in Green Terrace’s sale a few weeks ago. I don’t drink milk oolong too often, but sometimes that distinctive profile just hits the spot. This one hits it, but not quite a bull’s eye.

I did 5 steeps in a gaiwan at 93°C as GT suggested. After the first 30s steep, as expected, the leaves were still tight and the taste pretty light. There was a gentle version of the classic milk oolong scent, but no sweetness and slightly vegetal. The next 30s steep gave me a stronger scent, somewhat thicker liquor, and a bit sweeter, but still nothing to write home about. After a 45s steep, it came into its own, with a nice freshness to the flavor. Steep 4 didn’t change character, but was steadily pleasant. I tried one more steep at 60s, but my tongue may have been tasted out by then because the milkiness seemed pretty faded. To be fair, I was also starting to make salsa, though I didn’t sample that until after my final sips lest the jalapenos toast my taste buds.

All in all, a reasonable milk oolong and I don’t regret buying it. Next time, I’ll start with more leaves and see if that raises the profile.

Flavors: Milk, Sweet, Vegetal

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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drank Highest View by Mandala Tea
55 tasting notes

It’s rare that this happens, but this one was kind of disappointing. Not bad tea, by any means; it just didn’t do much for me. I did three steeps in a gaiwan for 30/60/90. There was some green tea sweetness at the outset, but it dropped off pretty quickly and I was left wanting more flavor and longevity. I think it’s got potential though, so I’ll try it next time with more leaves and see how that changes the equation.

Flavors: Caramel

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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This is a happy making tea. The dark, almost stick-like leaves make it a bit hard to measure. They were still tight after one steep, but oh, that almost sweet assam odor coming off the wet leaves promised a fine cup, and didn’t disappoint. The first steep had almost a caramel nose. There was no significant sweetness and no tannin, just smooth, full tea with maybe a hint of vanilla(?) and the richness of fresh bread. The second steep unfolded the leaves and was just a bit flatter, but I thought I got some subtle chocolate tones. Interestingly, both steeps are not so good as they cooled. They got kind of, I don’t know, ashy? No, maybe just a bit of tannin. No matter, I’ll just brew up another hot cup and thoroughly enjoy it.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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What with one late summer thing and another, I haven’t been tasting too many new teas and certainly have not had time to write ’em up over the last few weeks. I’ll try to rectify that over the coming long weekend and moving forward. I’ve got a whole box of teas that are crying out for some attention.

I’ll start with Tea Vivre’s Yunnan Palace Ripened Pu-ehr 2005 (with apologies to the pu-ehr mavens who could no doubt do a much clearer analysis). So far, I’ve done four steeps: 30/30/45/60 at boiling; I used about half of the sample package in my small gaiwan. The wet leaves are very mushroomy and earthy, as I’d expect a pu-ehr to be, but . . .
1: dark caramel color, almost a sweet nose, with a much lighter and dryer flavor than I’d expected given the odor.
2: much darker liquor, slightly caramel odor. It had the more familiar shen flavor – really earthy – but it was smooth and not heavy at all.
3: do I smell steak?! That would be particularly weird, considering I’ve been a vegetarian since my teen years, but it really seems like that’s the odor (though I have to wonder if it was affected by the onions I was sautéing as I was sipping). Still very smooth texture.
4: again with the dry taste and somewhat flattening out. I’ll let it rest now till tomorrow and see what happens then.

Altogether a fine brew, though it doesn’t knock my socks off. I’ll enjoy the rest of the sample, but I don’t think this is one I’ll stock.

Flavors: Caramel, Earth, Mushrooms

0 min, 45 sec 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Full disclosure: I have a cold coming on so my senses are not what they might be. Also, I tasted this over my morning paper’s shocking report of Robin Williams’ death. It’s confusing to be sad about a comic genius. But that was Robin Williams: no one better balanced tortured and utterly hilarious. Goodbye Robin. Thanks for the laughs and the pathos. You’re a master of both.

Now to the tea. I’ve only had a few milk oolongs and this is the best of the bunch. The dry leaves are pretty but nondescript; the wet leaves are a bit toasty smelling, but give no real hint about what’s to come.

Drinking this tea is a process. The first (25 second) steep made me say, “oh my.” It has the distinctive milk oolong profile, but wonderfully subtle, not “hit you over the head, hey I’m MILKY” like many of them. The second (35 second) steep was also good, and it felt like there is more potential buried in it. In steep four (45 seconds), the milkiness is more pronounced, and in steep 5 (55 seconds), the leaves are more milky, but the flavor somewhat less so. After 5, I needed to leave for work, but I left the gaiwan filled and I’m eager to see what happens after a few hours rest. All in all, a lovely, understated milk oolong that I’d be happy to drink again.

Flavors: Milk, Toasty

Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 7 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

Sounds delicious!

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The most impressive thing about this tea is how the leaves transform from flaky and smelling of hay when dry to a bright green with bread dough odor when wet. The pale yellow brew has a bit of citrus and a bit of hay, but not much finish at all. Overall, it’s not wowing me, but worth another cup. I did a Western steep per Upton’s suggestion; not sure if shorter, more concentrated steeps in a gaiwan would make a difference.

Flavors: Citrus, Hay

180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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I took Whispering Pines at their word and steeped 1 tbsp in 8 oz for 1/1.5/2/3/4 minutes. They suggest going up to 7 steeps, so I’ll try that next time when I can spend several house enjoying it. And enjoy I did:
Dry leaves: nondescript, tightly twisted, but a pleasantly dusty and perhaps melon scent
1: nothing jumped out except a bit of honey
2: the leaves gave me fading roses and the darker liquor was smooth, rich, and slightly tannic
3: even more rose scent and the flavor a bit of melon
4: still going strong and smooth, the melon even stronger. I think this might be the sweet spot among the steeps.
5: no change in the notes, but it still has subtle flavors. Pretty impressive for just 1 tbsp of tea in twice the water my gaiwan holds

I’ll keep trying this one because I suspect there’s more to it than I am detecting. All around, a fine tea that I could sit with for a while. It would be particularly fun to do several steeps with someone else and compare notes.

Flavors: Honey, Melon, Rose

190 °F / 87 °C 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I grew up drinking Lipton with lots of sugar and lemon. It’s only over the last few years that I’ve come to discover and appreciate real tea. Now I’m on a mission to expose as many of my friends as possible to the delights of Camellia sinensis. I dream of opening a tea shop someday where people can sit, slow down, and enjoy a proper cup properly steeped. I have so much to learn to make that happen, so I’m eager to chat, meet, and sip with those who know more than I.

I can’t say that I’ve discovered a favorite tea yet. I lean toward the bolder black teas (I don’t think I’ve tried a keemun I didn’t like), but those with lots of golden tips spark my taste buds too (Golden Monkey, dubbed “Monkey Butt” by my then-teenage son, is always popular in my house).

I love the pu-ehrs I’ve tried, but I know that that is a whole world of flavors that could take me years to explore. I keep sampling subtler white, green, and yellow teas, and I’m learning as I go. Let’s face it, I’m sampling everything I can and having a ball doing it.

Speaking of sampling, I’m eager to swap, so feel free to peruse my cupboard (I’m making a concerted effort to record what I have) and ask me for any of it.

When I’m not steeping, I write, bike, raise kids, love my wife, and cook fine vegetarian fare.

That picture is of me at a rest stop on a long bike ride. I’m still working on how to combine long-distance cycling with tea drinking. Hmmm . . .


Newton, Massachusetts

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