301 Tasting Notes

drank West Cape Chai by Rishi Tea
301 tasting notes

This is a very spice heavy tea. In a blind smell test, one could easily mistake this for garam masala. There are strong notes of cinnamon, star anise, clove, and cardamom. It’s the kind of potent aroma that reminds me of walking into an Indian spice shop.

I prepared this both as a chai and steeped it the normal way following Rishi-Tea’s instructions. The chai turned out to be a complete fail. It smelled and tasted like roasted gram/chickpea flour. There was some cinnamon and an odd cayenne note but I couldn’t get past the weird chickpea flour taste and ended up chucking it after a few sips.

It fared a little better when brewed on its own. The spices were tamer and I could actually taste some of the rooibos base. The dominant notes were cinnamon, star anise, and tellicherry peppercorn in the finish. I didn’t really like the sharp peppery flavor though and had to add a little sweetener to take the edge off.

I think Rishi had the right idea with this blend but bad execution. The combination of spices doesn’t really work and overwhelms rather than complementing the tea. I haven’t dabbled in blends for a long time, but this inspires me to create my own chai blend using the 1 lbs of rooibos sitting in my cupboard.

Flavors: Anise, Cardamon, Cinnamon, Peppercorn, Spices

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 g 5 OZ / 150 ML
Mastress Alita

Ah, the power of different taste buds! This is actually my favorite chai. I like the rooibos over how most chais use assam (not my favorite tea) which I find sweeter/more honeyed, and I like the sweetness the licorice root brings to the spices (though I realize the majority of folks around here seem to have a dislike of that particular ingredient). My only problem is that Rishi only offers it in a pound, and I refuse to buy any tea — even one I love — in that quantity. I simply don’t have the space in my tiny apartment for that much of any one tea and would never be able to drink it before it started to go stale/lose its taste. So I’m always stuck having to buy it in smaller quantities at inflated prices from folks who wholesale from Rishi just because they don’t offer it in 2 oz. or 4 oz. options. Infuriates me!

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Many of the reviews for the 2017 version of this tea at YunnanSourcing.com mentioned that it is pretty heavily roasted. That jives with my own experience with YS dan congs. So it was quite a surprise when this year’s crop turned out to be very green.

I steeped 4g of leaf in a 4oz gaiwan. The dry leaf had a delicious aroma of honey, apricot, flowers and baked bread. After a quick rinse, I got notes of sandalwood, wet rocks, and roasted peaches on the nose. The first steep tasted sublime. Juicy fruit nectar with TGY like florals. No char or roasting could be detected at all. Full mouthfeel with notes of honey and grape. I resteeped for 5 more infusions which brought out peachy notes but also a little bitterness. Nothing too heavy but probably an indication that I need to keep my steep times short.

This is the greenest Mi Lan Xiang I’ve ever had. Normally this type of dan cong has a roasted edge to it, but it’s barely detectable here. The taste and aroma of this tea resembles a TGY or duck shit oolong more than your typical Mi Lan Xiang. Recommended for fans of lighter oolongs.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Floral, Nectar, Peach

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Golden Monkey is the tea that awakened me to black tea after avoiding it for most of my life. The YS 2016 version was marvelous. Last year’s version was also good, though not as sweet. So this year I decided to upgrade to the Imperial grade stuff to see if was really worth it. Well after gongfuing around with this tea, I can say this is totally different from the standard grade version and not in a good way.

This tea resembles keemun in appearance with its dark curly leaf. There’s fewer gold-tipped leaves here than the regular grade version. On the nose, I get an almost pungent aroma of dried fruit, smoke, and malt. The tea brews to a nice reddish amber. The taste though was far removed from any other golden monkey tea I’ve ever had. It has a very basic black tea, dare I say Lipton-like flavor. I didn’t get any of the deep caramel and molasses notes I love. There was no sweetness or real nuance to it at all. Subsequent steeps tasted the same.

I’m still scratching my head at this tea. It wasn’t bad or anything, just flat and kind of boring. Maybe this was an off year or something, but it’s hard to believe this is golden monkey tea let alone the high grade stuff.

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

Thus far, this has not been one of my favorites either, but you might want to try lowering the water temperature. I’m going to try the same thing and see if that helps.

Mastress Alita

I love Golden Monkey tea too. I have a hard time imagining “Golden Monkey” and “Lipton” in the same sentence. That poor tea…


Wow, good to know. It’s a shame to hear your experience. I’ve noticed a few reviews of 2018 teas now that are noting less-than-stellar experiences…


Thanks for the tip on water temperature. I’ll give that a try and also try to western steep it. Not all tea do well gongfued.

@Mastress Alita, hehe I may have been a tad harsh there with the L-word. Golden monkey is one of my favorites, but sadly this one failed to rise above meh for me.


I think Yunnan Sourcing normally recommends a temperature around 194 F for all of their black teas. I’ve noticed that a lot of their black teas, especially the imperial grade teas, can be a little fussy about temperature, so I tend to stick with temperatures ranging from 194-205 F and usually get good results. The teas sourced this year have been weird though, either being almost identical to last year or totally different.


My usual gongfu method for blacks is 30s at boiling followed by flash steeps. It seems to work for most but is probably not ideal for the more refined teas.

My experience with this year’s YS teas is along the lines of what you described. Two of the 3 teas I’ve tried so far tasted totally different from past harvests. I wonder if they switched suppliers/farmers this year.

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So my tea drinking has taken a hit recently with traveling, fasting in Ramadan, and the unseasonably hot weather. I’ve also cut out my nighttime tea ritual because it hasn’t helped my insomnia. It’s a little frustrating because I can’t get through all my spring teas as quickly as I want to.

This tea was a spur of the moment purchase during my visit to Murchie’s tea room in Victoria, BC. Normally I stay away from blends, but I couldn’t resist the amazing tropical aroma of this tea. The smell alone was worth the purchase. It bursts out with sweet aromas of mango and pineapple. When the leaves are dropped into a heated vessel, interesting new aromas of apple pie, maple, and cinnamon appear. I was bracing myself for something potpourri like, but was pleasantly surprised to discover a subtle tropical flavor instead. The grassiness comes through complemented by hints of apricot and mango. The second steep was mellower but still delicious. Cold brewing it the next day brought out even more yummy mango flavor.

I’m pretty sensitive to flavorings in general and this was the rare blend that I could drink on its own without having to cut it with a straight tea. Although I wasn’t thrilled when I learned about the artificial flavoring in it, it doesn’t taste fake and the flavor of this tea is true to its name. Happy to have found a substitute for the now retired Fruta Bomba from Teavana.

Flavors: Apricot, Cinnamon, Mango, Pineapple, Tropical

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Daylon R Thomas

Where to? Either way, belated Eid Mubarak.


Thanks! Traveled to DC for work a while ago and most recently, roamed around Alberta and Victoria, BC in Canada. Was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of good quality tea in the Great White North.

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When I first tried this tea, I thought I had mistakenly brewed one of my cherry blossom scented teas. This is a straight tea with an astonishing cherry blossom like taste and aroma. It brews up light green, buttery smooth and clean without any bitterness. Grassiness is more subdued than other Japanese greens and there are dominant notes of sakura and umeboshi pickled plums. There’s a sweet and salty flavor to it that reminds me of biting into a sakura mochi.

This is a good tea with a rather atypical profile for a Japanese green. While I enjoyed it, it tastes too similar to the 3 sakura senchas I already own for me to consider getting more. Recommended if you’re looking for a Japanese green that’s a little different from the usual.

Flavors: Cherry Blossom, Plums, Salty

170 °F / 76 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Just when I thought I was getting tired of green oolongs, along comes this tea to pull me back in. I honestly didn’t have high expectations for this regular grade baozhong given how the high end versions have failed to excite me lately. But this easily surpasses much of the competition grade stuff I’ve had this year.

It’s got a silky, smooth texture and notes of sweet pea, gardenia, lilac, and jasmine. It doesn’t have the egginess that some baozhongs have which I find off putting. Decided to cold brew it today and it was heavenly. It became thicker, sweeter, and more intensely floral. About the only difference I can discern between this and TTC’s competition grade baozhong is the latter is a bit more fragrant. But in the end the taste is what matters.

I must commend Taiwan Tea Crafts for how well-packaged their teas are. I opened this tea after it sat on the shelf for over 4 months and it smelled and tasted very fresh. The oxygen absorbers and vacuum packaging used by reputable Taiwanese and Japanese vendors really makes a big difference. It helps preserve optimum freshness. Green oolongs are the most perishable of all teas and nothing annoys me more than tea shops that throw them in pouches or otherwise improperly package them. The aromatics suffer and tea develops a telltale stale seaweed note.

Flavors: Flowers, Gardenias, Jasmine, Peas

195 °F / 90 °C

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It’s shincha time again. Last year I ordered a bunch of shincha samples from Yunomi but found none of them to be particularly interesting. So this year I returned to Yuuki-Cha, which has been my go-to vendor for Japanese greens for years. I had just finished a 100g bag of excellent Kirishima Asatsuyu sencha and wanted to try another medium steamed green tea. I picked up this one because of the promising reviews and because it came from a cultivar (yutaka) I hadn’t tried before.

The aroma out of the bag is deeply grassy and floral. Leaves are slightly more broken up than a normal chumushi sencha. I tried steeping this many different ways before settling on 2.5g/150ml for 45s using water at 158 F. Second and third steeps were for 15s at 168 F, and 30s at 162 F respectively. The first steep was very pale, almost colorless which is somewhat unusual for a Japanese green tea. Wet leaves had the aroma of roasted spinach. The taste was soft, lightly grassy with a hint of astringency in the finish. Pleasant but not terribly assertive. The second steep had a similar flavor but thicker and slightly more astringent. Liquor had a nice emerald green color this time. Surprisingly the last steep was the one I liked best. It was vegetal and grassy, a tad sweet without any bitterness to it. The reviews claim this is floral however that was far from my experience. Only at lower temperature with less leaf do I get a faint floral hint. But then the tea is so light it tastes like you’re drinking hot water.

I went through 25g of this tea, drinking and tinkering before I sat down and reviewed it. Despite Yuuki-Cha’s great track record, this one was kinda meh for me. It had little depth, no umami, more astringency than usual, and what little flavor there was faded quickly after the initial steep. I’ll cold steep the rest of my stash in the meantime and see if I have better luck with this year’s kamairicha.

Flavors: Astringent, Grass

160 °F / 71 °C 0 min, 45 sec 5 OZ / 150 ML

I used to order from Yunomi too because they offered lots of samples but most were a miss for me. Last year I ordered from Yuuki-cha and loved every one of them so I’ve been putting stuff in my cart while waiting for some of my favourites to get posted. This one doesn’t sound to good so I’ll make sure not to get that one.


Yuuki-cha occupies a special place in my little tea universe. They’re reliable and always provide great value for the price. I’m definitely interested in the Kirishima Atsuyu, so I may pick up a bag.


tanluwils, I had that one last year and loved it. It’s on my list of favourites but I just placed an order a few days ago for some I haven’t tried. I place another when all my favourites come in.


tanluwils, same here. I’ve been ordering from them ever since I starting drinking green tea and even though this one wasn’t great, their teas are overall good quality

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Just got my spring greens the other day from Teavivre and this was the first tea I tried. Tai Ping Hou Koi is a tea I’ve had before but it wasn’t particularly memorable. However I attribute this mainly to stale tea and not knowing the correct brewing procedure. After reading tea reviews online, I settled on grandpa steeping 12 leaves or about 1.5g grams in 10oz of 180 F water.

First impression, the leaves of this tea are freaking beautiful. The 4" long pristine forest green blades are stunning to look at and half the tea’s charm. Initial taste is of chestnut and then it becomes a spring vegetable medley. I picked up notes of grass, spinach, sweet pea, and asparagus. Soft and delicate with a bright, crisp mouthfeel. It does not get bitter even after steeping for a long time making it a great tea for grandpa style brewing.

This is a light, airy, and very spring-y green tea. I liked it better than the recent dragon wells I’ve had. It’s not the most flavor packed green tea out there, but one that’s fresh tasting and very easy to drink.

Flavors: Asparagus, Grass, Peas, Sweet

180 °F / 82 °C

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This was a solid Li Shan with a typical fruity-floral profile but what stood out to me were the texture and mouthfeel. I started off brewing this in the 189-200 range and didn’t care for the results. It tasted like a flavored Jin Xuan, with milk and vanilla bean tones. Once I bumped up the temperature about 10 degrees, that’s when the tea really began to reveal it’s character.

The tea begins sugarcane sweet and buttery. Very full and luscious mouthfeel, gentle florals in the aftertaste. The flowery notes take center stage around the 3rd steep. I detected daffodils, hyacinth, and a hint of tropical fruit. Soft texture and long, sweet aftertaste leaving behind almost a tingling sensation in the mouth. The fruitiness intensifies as it continues to steep with a smooth body and a mouthfeel like thick nectar.

Although this was a good tea, it wasn’t compelling enough for me to want to repurchase. I’ve had so many excellent high mountain teas that it takes an extraordinary tea to appear on my radar these days.

Flavors: Flowers, Fruity, Tropical

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This was an impulse buy at Trader Joe’s the other day. It was cheap ($3 for 51g) and the dark curled leaves interspersed with blue and yellow petals were quite attractive. While I’m glad to see grocery stores stocking more loose leaf teas, the flavoring on this one was too heavy for me.

The tea smells very powerful, almost medicinal. Vanilla is the dominant note but I also pick up bergamot, lavender, and licorice. When steeped, it tastes like a floral cherry coke or root beer.

Seeing as how it was unsuitable for drinking straight, I tried using it to make a london fog latte which I found a little more drinkable. I steeped 1.5 tsp in half a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes then combined with 2/3 cup of steamed milk and a teaspoon of sugar. The milk helps temper some of the medicinal flavor but there still remained a cough syrup like quality to it. As it cooled, the lavender and vanilla notes became more prominent.

I’ve had a couple of bergamot scented teas before which I found very cloying. Unfortunately this falls into the same category. Will continue searching for a subtly scented Earl Grey that doesn’t taste like potpourri.

Flavors: Cherry, Lavender, Licorice, Medicinal, Root Beer, Vanilla

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

Thanks, I hadn’t thought about cold steeping. Given the warmer weather recently, I’ll try that and see if it tames the tea.

Also I find blending with a straight tea helps when the flavoring is too strong.


Good to know: I was tempted to buy this tea at TJ’s as well. But to be honest, I am tempted to buy most of the things at Trader Joe’s: they just KNOW how to get you interested.

Evol Ving Ness

Is it the liquorice root that has taken it over the edge do you think?


Evol Ving Ness, I didn’t see licorice root in the ingredients list. But there is that mysterious “natural flavoring” that could be the culprit

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Fell into tea years ago, and for a long time my experience was limited to Japanese greens and a few flavored teas. My tea epiphany came a few years ago when I discovered jade oolongs. That was the gateway drug to the world of fine tea and teaware.

With the exception of a handful of lightly scented teas, I drink mostly straight tea. I love fresh green and floral flavors and as such, green tea and Taiwanese oolongs will always have a place in my cupboard. After avoiding black tea forever, Chinese blacks are beginning to grow on me. I’ve dipped my toe into a few puerhs now but it’s still relatively new territory for me. I also enjoy white tea and tisanes but reach for them less frequently.

Other non-tea interests include: cooking, reading, nature, MMA, traveling when I can, and of course putzing around on the interwebs.

IG: https://www.instagram.com/melucky



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