643 Tasting Notes
Great Steepster Freeze of 2020 Review #2 (08/04/20)
So technically it appears the site is back up, but since I know everyone will be madly posting all their tea reviews at once, I’m going to continue to hold off for a few more days (which really isn’t that big of a problem… I write all my tea reviews externally, saved on a document for safe-keeping and backup, and then copy and paste to Steepster which I can do at any time, really). This is the last herbal from my teabox stash, which came from the Discovery Teabox, so thanks to Skysamurai for organizing and all who contributed! Confession: I had never once had a Teavana tea prior to their closing, despite their major “presence” (after all, I live in an area that doesn’t have any “retail” tea shops, chain or independantly owned). When I saw this in the box, I was curious… and the fact it had “Lavender” in the name (as I love floral teas, and lavender is a particular weakness of mine) pretty much sold me.
Brewed up a cup as my evening herbal. The aroma has a bit of a lavender smell, but mostly it smells sweet and caramelly. And… that is pretty much what I’m getting from the flavor, too. There were a lot of things in the infuser (like several whole cardamom pods!) but really all I’m getting in the flavor is a strong rooibos presence, with some notes of wood, honey, caramel, and vanilla, a very sweel caramel flavor, and a more subtle note of the lavender flower that mostly settles a bit on my tongue late in the sip. I’m not getting any of the more interesting ingredients listed (like fig!) or even the cardamom spice, despite the fact I could see it very clearly steeping in the infuser. It’s fine, but mostly just a caramel rooibos (of which I’ve had before) with some lavender flowers added, and the lavender presence still feels a bit weak at that. But it’s probably ridiculously old, so I feel I’m not in a position to judge it too harshly, and I am happy I got the chance to try it (if nothing else, I can now say I have “had Teavana’s tea”).
Thanks to whoever offered up this sample! I’ll certainly enjoy the little bit I have left in evening cuppas.
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Honey, Lavender, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood
Great Steepster Freeze of 2020 Review #1 (08/02/20)
Only two black teas left from my teabox stash, so I’m working through my sipdowns steadily! This came from the Discovery Teabox, so thanks to Skysamurai for organizing and all who contributed! I love floral teas, but have never had violet before, so I was definitely curious about trying this one!
I made my 5g sampler as a small 500ml pot of tea, western style, 205F for a 3 minute steep for breakfast. The aroma of the dry leaf is very interesting, a strong and sweet floral aroma, which comes out just as strongly in the steeped tea. It smells sort of like a candied or soda sweetness (though none I’ve ever had). It’s… really good! Easily on par for me with rose and lavender flavors… it’s a really fragrant and sweet floral flavor, and the black tea base is very smooth, with a subtle honeyed note that accompanies the florality nicely. I think this is a tea I could gladly keep stocked, and while I know florals are hit and miss for a lot of people I do wonder why I see violet as a flavor option so little now.
Thanks for the sample, tea-sipper!
Flavors: Floral, Honey, Smooth, Sweet, Violet
Still working through my long overdue backlong of teabox teas, so this is another sample from the Discovery Teabox (thanks to Skysamurai for organizing and all who contributed!) I am a fan of Vietnamese blacks and was excited to be able to sample this one!
2.5g sample brewed Western in 350ml 205F water for what should have been 3 minutes, but I got interrupted so it was probably closer to 5 (longer than I typically brew black teas, so hopefully this didn’t turn out too tannic for me!) It has a lovely malty, honey-sweet aroma, with a bit of a marmalade jam note and almost a barbecue-esque aroma. The flavor has a bit of malt, with some notes of leather, smoke, orange peel, and pepper, with a medium astringency and a subtle minerality left after the sip.
I wish I hadn’t steeped it quite so long since this is a rather hardy black, but it is still a pleasant flavor. A good breakfast tea! Thanks for the sample, tea_sipper!
Flavors: Astringent, Leather, Malt, Mineral, Orange Zest, Pepper, Smoke
This tea is sooooooo old now, it’s been discontinued from TeaSource’s website for some time. When it was pulled from their site, I knew that my local cafe that sources some selection of TeaSource still had a tin of it, and I’d often order a cup of it from them on my lunch breaks from work… then a coworker gifted me an ounce she bought from that cafe with a cute coffee cup for my birthday one year. I kinda forgot about it until I was scanning my spreadsheet for my oldest teas and saw this and thought, “Ugh, I should drink that.”
Western brew, 3.5g steeped in 350ml of 205F water for 3 minutes. The leaf looks like gunpowder green tea, small and pellet-like, and even smells a bit vegetal/metallic/smoky in the bag, but brewed up? It tastes very much like a Four Seasons green oolong to me… smooth and very floral, like lilac and honeysuckle but not overwhelmingly perfumy, with a bit of a pear-like note, and a touch of cinnamon spice and sweet honey. There is a subtle, earthy roasted nuts note and a bit of a mineral aftertaste. It’s a very pleasant green oolong that looks quite deceptive from the exterior. I may try a batch cold-brewed, as well.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Floral, Honey, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Pear, Roasted nuts, Smooth
This was another sampler from the Discovery Teabox, so thank you to Skysamurai for organizing and to everyone that contributed! I took a 5g sample and used half of it for my travel thermos to take to an early morning staff meeting at work yesterday, and am finishing it up this morning.
The base of this tea has a really lovely flavor that makes is apparent that the black tea leaf blend is using at least some Chinese black… there are those notes of burnt toast, smoke, molasses, and a hint of leather and fruit (cherry? mandarin? a bit hard to peg under the flavoring…) Mostly, the natural slightly burnt/smoky flavors come through, and the salted caramel flavoring in this tea is actually really good. Usually even teas that call themselves “salted caramel” just taste like “caramel” to me and don’t have that distinction to me, but this one does, and I quite like it! With the natural smoky notes and rich molasses from the base, I get a bit of a burnt sugar/melted caramel vibe from it. I don’t, however, get any of the proposed “pumpkin flavor” from this tea at all. I realize pumpkin is a difficult flavor to pull off (especially when you are separating it from all the spice) but with such strong flavor notes in here, I’d be curious what the blend would be like if that was turned up a bit. I like pumpkin. Even savory pumpkin. And it isn’t used enough, it’s always the spice blend that gets all the cred.
So some points off for no pumpkin, but I am still a big fan of this Chinese black-heavy base and nailing a salted caramel flavor. Thanks for the sample, tea_sipper!
Flavors: Burnt, Burnt Sugar, Caramel, Fruity, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Salty, Smoke, Smooth, Toast
My last teabox oolong (this one came from the Discovery Teabox, so thanks to Skysamurai for coordinating and all who contributed!), and also my last milk oolong from my cupboard (booooooo!) until I restock one.
My sample was just the right size for about the leaf-to-water ratio I use when I cold brew a litre of oolong, and I have never tried milk oolong that way (though I have done other green oolongs cold brewed, and typically love them that style!) so I figured I’d go for it. 7.5g of leaf (I usually use 8g but eh, close enough!) in about 946ml of water in a mason jar, left to brew in the fridge overnight, and then strained the next morning. I’ve been sipping it out of a cold thermos throughout the hot (too hot!) day.
Refreshing, still with buttered vegetable notes. I’m getting a bit of a fresh cucumber/zuccini note, which is the first time I’ve tasted that in a Jin Xuan… not sure if it happens to be this particular variety and harvest or the cold brew preparation, but it is very pleasant. The florality feels a little more muted to me prepared this way… It’s coming out a bit as a floral sweetness at the back of the throat toward the end of the sip, but not as a strong flavor. It tastes a bit more green or herbaceous… like a very sweet grass rather than blossomy/perfumy. The butter note is still quite present, and on some sips it really lingers on the tongue.
I’ll certainly miss having a milk oolong around, but know it’ll never be too long before another will make its way back into my cupboards… I love the stuff! Thanks for allowing me to sample this one!
Flavors: Butter, Cucumber, Floral, Grass, Sweet, Vegetal, Zucchini
There are some things about being a tea drinker that I have learned over the years make me “unqualified” to be a “proper” tea drinker:
1) I don’t like doing gong fu sessions. They take up too much of my time, which I don’t have, and make me feel too “water heavy” on tea. Like, I just don’t need to drink that much tea at once. Even if that is the “right way” to drink a tea, I’d rather make it western because one cup that I can brew all at once works better for me…
2) I hate resteeping me leaves. Call me sacriledge, but I swear they never taste as good on resteeps.
3) No matter how many times I’ve tried, I just can’t seem to warm up to pu’erh. It always tastes like dirt or swamp water to me. And I’ve tried a lot…
4) I seem to like every single ingredient that is universally hated. And that includes hibiscus and licorice root (while I loathe all the “reknowned” banana teas…)
So, this falls solidly into #1 this morning. Another Discovery Teabox tea (thanks to Skysamurai for coordinating and all who contributed!), I took a 2g sample which I know I should brew gong fu, but damn it all, I just want a simple cup of tea for breakfast and brewed it in 8oz of 205F water for a 3 minute steep.
The aroma smells very nutty! I’m getting plantain, roasted nuts, and minerals in the aroma wafting off the cup. Maybe also a little wood and spice. The flavor is reminding me a lot of the Adagio “Fujian Rain” that I’ve been sipping down recently. I’m getting a roasted flavor with a somewhat malty flavor that is a little honey sweet with a touch of cinnamon spice, with a strong roasted nuts, quite walnutty, that fills out the sip. There is a minerality that settles on the tongue toward the end of the sip, and there is a subtle plantain note in the aftertaste.
Satisfying, even if I drank it the “wrong” way!
Flavors: Cinnamon, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Roasted nuts, Toasty, Walnut, Wet Rocks, Wood
Decided against better judgment to stay home with the migraine today (work gets pissy whenever someone happens to “be sick” on a Monday or Friday, but damn it all) so I promptly got a batch of this cold-brewing first thing this morning so I could sip on it throughout the day to help with the nausea. Mint and ginger are two of the only things that help curb that rather unfortunate side effect. I don’t have a Trader Joe’s anywhere near me, but my friend Todd sent me a box of this from one of his Bay Area stores when he made a Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold run for me (which is another tea that isn’t sold in any of my local stores). Popped four teabags in a quart-sized mason jar and left it until it was that brown color you expect of mint tea.
Cool. Refreshing. Has that nice, fresh, cool menthol mintiness of spearmint that settles in the back of the throat and is calming on the tum. Mildly grassy from the green tea, and there is a gentle citrusy burst from the lemongrass, but the spearmint is the dominant note. Satisfying. I should get another jar steeping now as it will probably go quickly.
Flavors: Citrus, Grass, Menthol, Mint, Spearmint
Continuing to work on teas from the Discovery Teabox (thanks to Skysamurai for coordinating and all who contributed!), I brewed this up for my breakfast this morning. I had a terrible migraine yesterday (which I worked through 8 hours at work, then promptly passed out the second I got home and fed the cat yesterday) and it still isn’t quite broken and I have another 8 hours of work ahead of me, so I wanted some caffeine against the lingering pain. Hense, a hardy black for breakfast. Used a 2.5g sample in 350ml 205F water, western brew, for a 3 minute steep.
This tea had long, twisty dark leaves, and the brew has a deeply malty aroma, that smells very warm and bready, with a hint of cinnamon. The flavor has notes of malt, baked bread, a bit of lemon citrus, and a very subtle hint of spice. There is a bit of mild astringency and drying on the tongue after the sip. It’s a quite solid breakfast-type tea, deep, malty, and satisfying. It would probably take additives well, if I felt in the mood for that.
Thanks for the share, tea_sipper!
Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Citrus, Drying, Lemon, Malt, Spices
Continuing to work on teas from the Discovery Teabox (thanks to Skysamurai for coordinating and all who contributed!), I brewed this up to have with my mandarin for breakfast this morning. I only took a 3g sample from the box, and I normally use more leaf with herbals (especially fine rooibos/honeybush), so to compensate I dropped my water from a 12 oz. cup to an 8 oz. cup, and hopefully that will balance things out. If it doesn’t, well, that was just me being stingy and trying to not take much leaf from the box, I guess.
The aroma is very pleasant, though! It definitely has a pungent scent of blueberries and cinnamon, and a sweetness that makes me think of something warm and gooey and pastry-like. The blueberry isn’t as strong on the tongue as it is on the nose (or maybe I’m just too spoiled by how juicy 52Tea’s blueberry comes off), but it is definitely present. The cinnamon is a bit of a stronger note than the fruit but not overwhelming, and is very sweet; it tastes like a cinnamon-sugar toast spread to me. The base is sweet, and while some rooibos waxes more woody or medicinal (I especially get medicinal notes often when its paired with fruit flavors, ala cough syrup), I am not getting that in this tea at all… I’m picking up more on notes of honey and vanilla.
This is a really nice tea! Maybe not quite as good as the Apple Cinnamon French Toast, but close!
Thanks for the share, tea_sipper!
Flavors: Blueberry, Cinnamon, Honey, Sweet, Vanilla