264 Tasting Notes

81

Summer Vacation! It’s late, and I seem to be having good luck drinking greens in the evening, so my Chinese tea today is another of my stashed Dazzle Deer samplers from last winter. This is another Chinese green I’ve never tried, a Dragonwell green.

The dry leaf just smelled very grassy, but the light yellow infusion is surprisingly sweet, floral, and even a little fruity in aroma. I did let this one steep just a little longer than I left my Bi Luo Chun last time (two minutes) but it is very smooth and doesn’t have any of that vegetal astringent bite at the end of the sip, so I think I’m in the clear. It’s quite nice. It’s a very naturally sweet green tea, that is a bit buttery, very smooth, and starts off with a sweet floral note that quickly settles into a vegetal flavor that tastes like warm grass mixed with a peapod/edamame/greenbean note. I really like the somewhat thicker, buttery mouthfeel of this green, while still having a sweeter flavor profile. I think I found the Bi Luo Chun I sampled a more relaxing sipper, and while I’ve enjoyed both teas, I think I enjoy this one just a bit more. With its more savory flavor, I may prefer this one more right after meals, though, than just before bed.

Flavors: Butter, Floral, Green Beans, Peas, Smooth, Sweet, warm grass, Vegetal

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 g 12 OZ / 350 ML

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100

Summer Vacation! I’ve been meaning to try this one for some time and had yet to get around to it. My first experience with a Lapsang Souchong was awful and I never drunk the stuff (even in a blend) ever again — the experience was like trying to drink a cup of black tea while sitting next to a campfire while a strong Idaho wind was blowing the smoke right into your face the entire time. Since smoke is a very strong migraine trigger for me, the aroma alone was enough to actually give me a migraine from drinking just one cup. It was very unpleasant. But when I saw this included in a sampler package I got during a Veteran’s Day deal from Dazzledeer last November, then read the description, I was intrigued. Lapsang Souchong that isn’t smoked? Such a thing exists? I really wanted to try it. Since my head problems were linked entirely to the smoke-aroma and taste, it seemed a viable way to get to enjoy the tea. Not to mention I was curious to get to actually taste the tea without the overwhelming smokiness getting in the way.

Opening the 5g sampler packet, all I could smell was dark, bittersweet chocolate. Oooooooh, now that is already a good sign! Yes, definitely excited to brew this to drink with my breakfast while watching the episode of Ducktales I have waiting on my Amazon account this morning. Aah, Sunday mornings are the best. I prepared half the sampler (2.5g) in 350ml of water @ 200 F, steeped for 3 min. western style.

Brewed up, the cup still smells very sweet. It has a malty aroma, and is a little savory, like sweet and sour mandarin sauce, but I can also make out honey, cinnamon, and dark chocolate. It has such a pleasing scent it took me a bit to even take the cup from my nose to take a sip. The tea liquor has a stronger maltiness than the last few blacks I’ve sipped on, with a deep, sweet fruitiness to it. It actually reminds me of chocolate-covered oranges. Towards the tip of the tongue I get that sweet honeyed taste that I find so pleasant from many Chinese blacks, and late in the sip I get a deep cocoa note with a slight peppery spice that lingers on the tongue. The whole cup is extremely smooth, lacking astringency.

This is a fantastic cup of tea. Easily one of the best black teas I’ve ever tasted, and one that is going onto my, “I need this back in my cupboard!” list, since this 5g sampler will be gone by the end of the day. I’m a little sad to see Dazzledeer is currently sold out, but then, I’m not surprised, either; tea tastes good, yo, who wouldn’t want to buy it? And better yet, I’ve finally found a way to enjoy stinky lapsang souchong.

Flavors: Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Fruity, Honey, Malt, Orange, Smooth, Spices

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 12 OZ / 350 ML
Bluegreen

Unsmoked Lapsangs (aka Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong) are one of the best Chinese blacks in my opinion. Especially the wild ones. If you liked this offering from Dazzle Deer and can’t find it anymore you may want to check Yunnan Sourcing, Teavivre or Verdant: they offer quite a few.

Mastress Alita

I’ll admit one of the advantages I get from Dazzledeer (besides supporting a small vendor) is that it ships within the US, but it looks like taking a second look at Verdant they ship from within the US as well, so I may take that option to tide me over. Thanks! (Unless I am placing a massive tea order, and I just have no need to be making any massive tea orders at this point in time, I tend to avoid international shipping). I would have to agree with you, this is probably not only one of the best Chinese blacks I’ve had, but just one of the best black teas in general I think I’ve ever tasted. I’m pretty smitten in tea love at the moment.

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40

Summer Vacation! Though this is a blend, the teas in the blend are Chinese (Chinese green tea and jasmine silver needle white tea) so I say it fits during my China stay for my summer vacation theme (honestly, I was just feeling a blend tonight, and wanted something lighter on caffeine to catch up on some sleep). I got this as a free sampler with one of my B&B orders… not sure when, except it was at some point when they were still known as Bluebird Tea Co. I’m not a fan of jasmine unless it is very lightly scented in the tea, and my initial thought sniffing the single sachet sampler is that it smelled a bit heavily of jasmine. Hmm. Well, I’ll still brew it up and give it a try, and if it really reeks of jasmine from the brewed cup, it wasn’t like anything was wasted. It was a freebie, after all!

Brewed, the jasmine still smells a little strong for my tastes… not as bad as my one foray into jasmine pearls, but still heavier than I tend to prefer jasmine in my teas before it just feels too perfumey to me. Thankfully the spearmint in the blend helps cut back on the flavor a lot, so it doesn’t taste like I’m just drinking perfume, which is a major problem I have with most jasmine teas. The floral and spearmint flavor combination is actually pretty pleasant on the palate… but this still wouldn’t ever be a tea I’d pick up for myself. The heady aroma off the cup is just too much. If the jasmine was toned down a bit — perhaps the balance of that particular tea was much lighter compared to the green tea in the blend, or a lighter-scented version of the jasmine silver needle was used, or the spearmint was even heavier — then maybe I’d be happier with it, but as it is it just strikes that place that is too perfume-scented for me, which can be a problem with my migraines.

Which is a bit of a shame, really. Because it has a very smooth base, light and delicate, very floral, and I like the sharp mintiness at the end of the sip. I’m just very much a “less is more” sort of person with that particular floral note.

Flavors: Floral, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Mint, Smooth, Spearmint

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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82

Summer Vacation! Woke up early this morning and am getting in a cuppa of black tea before work. Thanks to the generosity of Meowster I have several new Chinese blacks in my cupboard… thanks Meowster!

So this morning I have brewed up a Keemun, and other than having it in blends with other blacks, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had it straight before. It has a nice aroma, a bit like leather, evergreen, and subtly smoky. This is quite nice. I was worried it might be a bit too much for me, but it’s actually very smooth; it’s robust, but doesn’t carry any bitterness or astringency. The maltiness of the brew is more mild, but it has nice notes of dark cocoa, leather, smoke, and a bit of earthiness that tastes of evergreen needles and mushrooms. I also get the faintest hint of black pepper right at the finish. I certainly prefer something like this at breakfast than a typical breakfast tea.

Flavors: Cocoa, Leather, Malt, Mushrooms, Pepper, Pine, Smoke, Smooth

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 30 sec 2 g 12 OZ / 350 ML

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78
drank Pi Lo Chun by T2
264 tasting notes

Summer Vacation! Completely exhausted tonight, and honestly wouldn’t mind some black tea, buuuuut… I was up way too late last night, and really need some decent sleep tonight, so I’ve opted for a cuppa of green tea tonight. So a grabbed a Chinese green from my T2 sampler stash, and this time I didn’t make the mistake of following their instructions. It said to use their full sampler packet to 450ml of water. I weighed the packet and it was 5g of tea. According to the site I use to help with leaf/water ratios, that is way too high for a green and would’ve been horribly bitter… no wonder that darjeeling turned out so horribly! So I measured out just what I needed and stashed away the rest of the sampler for another use. It’ll be nice to have some extra to play with anyway, I find I usually have to experiment a little with greens as it is.

I did 1.8g to 350ml at 175 F with only a 1 minute steep. I’ve never tried this sort of tea before and the packet said 1-3 minutes on the steep time, so without knowing if it tends to go vegetal-astringent, I decided to keep to a briefer steep. The tea has a very sweet, floral aroma; a bit like honeysuckle, and also a little like spearmint. The flavor is a bit light and delicate, and I’m not sure if that is just a feature of this sort of green, or if I should’ve gone for a longer steep (on one of my other uses of the leftover leaf I’ll make sure to push the initial steep time a little longer to compare). It is very smooth though, and I’m getting notes of warm hay and spearmint, with more subtle floral, nutty, and fennel notes. This is nice, and quite relaxing… I think I’d enjoy this iced as well.

Flavors: Fennel, Floral, Hot hay, Nutty, Smooth, Spearmint

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 12 OZ / 350 ML
derk

5g to 450mL is outrageous and up to 3 minutes could make a very bitter green brew. I’m not familiar with T2, but they’re potentially losing unwitting customers with that brewing advice.

FWIW my experiences with bi luo chun (pi lo chun) have also been light and delicate. I’ll send a little of what I have so you can compare.

derk

Now that i think about it, 5g to a 450mL in a gaiwan is fine. I wonder how a minute-long brew in a gaiwan would turn out as I don’t really do greens that way.

derk

Also, I’m still learning, so I could be totally wrong on all fronts. Maybe somebody else knows better?

Mastress Alita

To be fair, I don’t think T2’s typical market is the gong fu-brewing sort, so I think their directions are for western brewing. Yaaaaa… they way overleaf their directions. My first experience with darjeeling was extremely bitter as a result, which is what clued me in to that. I was bone tired last night, but remembering that awful cup of darjeeling, I was not too tired to get out my scale this time and see just how much tea they were putting in their samplers compared to their directions, and sure enough… I agree, they are going to turn people away who don’t know better (or aren’t tenancious enough to try again and experiment) by doing that. I suspect that since they mostly market flavored blends, and directions like that would taste fine on those (they would come out “extra leafed” and thus “extra flavorful” which might just be their marketing strategy), they just don’t bother at all to adjust them on the packaging for the pure teas, but they really need to. Because tannins happen. * sad face *

If that is typical of Bi Lou Chuns, I’ll go ahead and keep to the 1 minute steep though. It was still nice, I just have had to play around with steeping parameters a lot with greens in the past to find my optimals and find each type tends to be a little different. With gong fu, I have to play around even more because I hardly ever have time to sit down and do a session (I’ve tried maybe… three times?) and usually always mess up my ratios/parameters the first time and get a bitter session the first try, have to scrap it, and then a great session the second try, hahahaha.

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77

Summer Vacation! I’m starting in on some of my Chinese teas, and since I have quite a lot in my collection will no doubt not get to sampling all of them during the few weeks this month I’ve dedicated to this task, but at least I’ll manage to get to some of them that I’ve yet to try. I’m really tired tonight though (drinking all these blacks in the evening after work is really getting to me) so I’m going for an oolong tonight. And I actually have never tried a TGY yet, even though oolongs are my favorite kind of tea. This one came from the Here’s Hoping Teabox, so thanks to tea-sipper for organizing and whoever contributed this!

I burnt the roof of my mouth on my soup with dinner earlier, which will no doubt be effecting my palate tonight. While I do enjoy trying oolongs gong fu style, I simply don’t have the energy tonight (nor any desire for that much tea), so I made a single 400ml cuppa tea western brewed. The dry leaf smells very grassy, but the brewed cup has the buttery floral aroma I’m used to from milk oolong, so I’m fairly sure I’ll enjoy this. The flavor is very floral, with a strong lilac/orchid taste, with a slightly grassy vegetal finish and some very subtle notes of fennel and nuts in the aftertaste.

It’s nice. Would probably be nicer if my mouth wasn’t so numb, and I have no doubt fresher varietals are even better, but since this is my first time trying it, I really have no benchmark here.

Flavors: Creamy, Fennel, Floral, Nuts, Orchid, Smooth, Sweet, warm grass, Vegetal

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec 4 g 400 OZ / 11829 ML

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84

Summer Vacation! This is the last of my Indian tea stash. It’s been sitting in my cupboard for a while, so it is about time that I’m finally getting around to sampling it!

The dry leaf smells very similar to the India Assam Kanoka Hand-made Black, in that it has that peppery hay-like scent, though I also found this leaf to smell somewhat like dried pear. Brewed up, this tea had a very coppery-orange color, and the aroma off the cup smelled very fruity, very much like sweet mandarin oranges and mango.

This is another very smooth tea with no bitterness or astringency; the malt notes are on the lighter side, and the body is very fruity with a honey sweetness. I get a sort of mango-like tanginess left as an aftertaste on my tongue.

It’s a nice tea, and my only regret is that I’m drinking it at 11 p.m. when I know I have to work in the morning. So much for sleeping tonight.

Flavors: Fruity, Honey, Malt, Mango, Orange, Sweet, Tangy

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 g 16 OZ / 473 ML

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90

Summer Vacation! I failed to get to this tea during my April “Chai to Stay Dry” theme, which is a real shame, so I’m finally reviewing it now. It’s a traditional Indian chai blend, so I say it counts while I’m wrapping up my look at Indian teas (and I only have one more to go before I move onto some Chinese teas!)

What can I say, this is probably my favorite chai blend when I want a chai that is traditional tasting masala chai that I want to drink with milk. It has a very strong spicy flavor (so there is no way I could drink a chai like this plain, myself), but the taste holds up great when taken as a latte. I wouldn’t say any spice holds a particular dominance like I have experienced with other chais; I can make out notes of all the individual spices, and they blend really nicely. I really enjoy creating different flavor profiles by using different milks, and have found it tastes great with vanilla almond milk, chocolate almond milk, and coconut milk. When it isn’t so hot out I will simmer the tea and milk and strain it, but in this heat I just make a quick latte by using double leaf and using about 1/4 warm milk and 3/4 tea to my large mug.

All in all, a really solid chai blend and the one that will stay in my cupboard as my run-of-the-mill masala.

Flavors: Spices, Spicy

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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88

Summer Vacation! I’m still going through my small collection of Indian teas, and I found another assam sampler floating around in my collection. While assams have never been my favorite, I figured I’d give it a go. It’s breakfast time, I have a new episode of Ducktales waiting on my Amazon account, a strong cuppa with some toast will do.

This tea was harvested in May of 2017 and I bought it last January, but my sampler has been sealed all this time, so hopefully it has kept fine. The dry leaf smells very much like a slightly peppery hay to me.

Color me wildly surprised that the aroma coming off this cup is actually quite sweet and fruity, not that heavy, bitter astringent malty scent that I’ve had from every other assam tea I’ve ever tasted. Mind. Blown. And this is why I’m willing to try any tea (banana teas and those containing my migraine triggers aside) at least once! I’m reminded of raisin bread and honey from the aroma. The taste is actually really smooth, with a much gentler maltiness, a more honeyed flavor, and a slight fruity/raisin taste on the finish. No bitterness or astringency to be had. This reminds me more of those smooth Chinese blacks with fruity/honeyed notes than anything even resembling an assam, and had it not been a sampler included in a tea sampling variety package I bought for the sake of getting to try a variety of things, I probably would’ve avoided it on the word “assam” alone. So I’m really happy I got to try this tea and am so surprised by it, as it is exactly to my tasting preferences!

When I made this cup, I had left plenty of room to add milk, expecting a bitter tannin overload and an astringency assault like I always get from assams. Normally I can never get a cuppa of assam down without adding milk, and often some honey as well. Absolutely no need with this, it is perfect as is!

Flavors: Baked Bread, Fruity, Honey, Malt, Raisins, Smooth, Sweet

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 14 OZ / 400 ML

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86

My latest cold brew iced tea! I’ve had this forever, but I’m finally getting around to making it; thankfully it seems to have withheld the test of time well! I find that I don’t really like the taste of red rooibos when it is iced for some reason (though I love it warm!), but I do love green rooibos iced, and have been trying to keep a few more green rooibos blends around for that reason in particular.

According to the package and website, this is a green rooibos blend with “dried fruit”, and they don’t provide any more details about the ingredients than that; if I had to harbor a guess picking through the tea, I’d say it appears to be dried apple, dried blackberries, hibiscus petals, and rosehip are in the blend. The dry leaf does have a very fruity smell, a little punchy, and actually somewhat like bubblegum (a cross between Juicy Fruit and your standard sweet bubblegum aroma). It’s quite pleasant!

The tea has a really nice flavor; the mouthfeel isn’t as heavy as most hibi-hip teas, being a bit lighter and coming off almost juicy or puckering on the finish, but the taste definitely has that hibi-hip punchy sort of flavor. There is a tart blackberry flavor toward the back of the tongue, and a flavor that is sharp, and almost mineral-like, that hits on the tip of the tongue but fades quickly. The tea is tangy and refreshing. I really like green rooibos as a tea base and definitely want to try more iced teas using it. I’m almost wondering if that mineral/earthy quality that is very subtle beneath the strong fruitiness of the tea is from the green rooibos. Yum!

Flavors: Blackberry, Fruit Punch, Fruity, Hibiscus, Mineral, Tangy

Preparation
Iced 8 min or more 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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Profile

Bio

Hi! I’m Sara, a middle-aged librarian living in the Pacific Northwest, USA. I’m a big ol’ sci-fi/fantasy/anime geek that loves fandom conventions, RuPaul’s Drag Race, coloring books, simulation computer games, and cats. I’m also a chronic migraineur. As a surprise to no one, I’m a helpless tea addict with a tea collecting and hoarding problem! (It still baffles me how much tea I can cram into my little apartment!) I enjoy trying all sorts of teas… for me tea is a neverending journey!

Favorite Flavors:

I love sampling a wide variety of teas! For me the variety is what makes the hobby of tea sampling so fun! While I enjoy trying all different types of teas (pure teas, blends, tisanes), these are some flavors/ingredients I enjoy:
-Dessert/chocolate/vanilla/caramel/cream/toffee/maple
-Sweet/licorice root/stevia
-Vegetal/grassy
-Floral/lavender/rose
-Spices/chais
-Fruity
-Tropical/pineapple/coconut
-Bergamot (in moderation)
-Roasted/nutty
-Tart/tangy/hibiscus/rosehip

Disliked Flavors:

There are not many flavors or ingredients that I don’t like. These include:
-Bananas/banana flavoring
-Smoke-scented teas (lapsang souchong)/heavy smoke flavors (migraine trigger)
-Jasmine-scented teas (though jasmine buds/petals or a very light blending of a jasmine-infused tea with stronger flavors are okay) (migraine trigger)
-Gingko biloba (migraine trigger)
-Chamomile (used in blends as a background note/paired with stronger flavors is okay)
-Extremely spicy/heated teas
-Plain raspberry leaf (used in blends as a background note/paired with stronger flavors is okay)
-Medicinal flavors
-Metallic flavors
-Overly strong artificial flavorings

With the exception of bananas and migraine triggers, I’ll pretty much try any tea at least once!

My Tea Obsession of the Moment: Iced hibiscus blends, cold steeping tea in lemonade

My Monthly Tea Theme: Summer Vacation! A sampling of pure teas from a variety of different countries from around the world!

My Rating Scale:

90-100 – Top tier tea! These teas are among my personal favorites, and typically I like to keep them stocked in my cupboards at all times, if possible!

70-89 – These are teas that I personally found very enjoyable, but I may or may not feel inclined to keep them in stock.

50-69 – Teas that fall in this range I enjoyed, but found either average, lacking in some way, or I’ve had a similar tea that “did it better.”

21-49 – Teas in this range I didn’t enjoy, for one reason or another. I may or may not finish them off, depending on their ranking, and feel no inclination to restock them.

20-1 – Blech! My Tea Hall of Shame. These are the teas that most likely saw the bottom of my garbage can, because I’d feel guilty to pass them onto someone else.

Note that I only journal a tea once, not every time I drink a cup of it. If my opinion of a tea drastically changes since my original review, I will journal the tea again with an updated opinion and change my rating.

New Teas Tried for 2018: 144
Sipdown Count for 2018: 119
Tea Spending for 2018: $1147.46

Inventory:

My Cupboard on Steepster reflects teas that I have sampled and logged for review, and is not used as an inventory for teas I currently own at the present moment. An accurate and up-to-date listing of my current tea inventory can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AvGT1XwgJUTErt3zhjpHbXf6HNS3k_Ym85zoHJPmhX4/edit?usp=sharing . A downloadable spreadsheet version with more detailed information can be acquired here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1D2J0sUMNItRsf0jBRBR6XDFUimm60f0o/view?usp=sharing . If you are interested in tea exchanges (US only, please), feel free to contact me!

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