I finished off another tea I had marked for sipdown last night, so Sipdown September is making some progress (hoping to get the collection count down to 500 by the end of the month!) I’ve taken to making herbals in the evening in my Japanese teapot, since it’s easy to bag these (they don’t need ample expansion to still taste great and that makes cleanup in the teapot super easy) and I can just leave them in the pot without them turning bitter and astringent, and then I just keep refilling my cup as I watch YouTube videos before bed. This switch has also been discouraging me from grabbing caffeinated teas around bedtime, which really aren’t very helpful for my sleep schedule…

Now that it’s morning I can pull out the caffeine. I am so in the mood for a Chinese black. I have two different Golden Monkey teas, one from TeaVivre and one from Dazzle Deer (for all I know maybe they use the same source, how would I know?) but in any event, I decided to try the TeaVivre one first. I believe this one came from Ost’s cupboard sale not long ago, so thank you very much Ost!

First up, Baby Gaiwan session. I’m loving that the new kettle isn’t nearly as heavy as the old one and the water is easier to control when pouring into Baby Gaiwan. I’m already quite smitten with the Lady. (Somehow that’s the name that stuck on day one… don’t ask me why I name my teaware, because I don’t have a proper answer.)

2g / 50ml / 194F / Rinse|5s|10s|15s|20s|25s|45s|60s

The dry leaf doesn’t smell very notable to me, other than a bit peppery. After rinsing the tea, the leaf smells like malt, baked bread, raisins, honey, and stonefruit. The steeped liquor is a deep, golden orange color. The aroma from the first steep was very malty, with notes of apricot and orange, some honey sweetness, and slightly smokey. The flavor was very malty, tasting of baked bread and sweet apricots, with some smokiness on the finish. The next steeps brought out some notes of raisins, peach, orange rind, and yams, with the smoky finish becoming weaker, and a chocolately aftertaste appearing on the tongue. There was a very mild dryness left on the tongue, but not so much as to be unpleasant. By the fourth steep the smokiness in the finish had disappeared, but the flavor had also already become very mild. The aroma from the cup was wonderful, smelling like melted caramel, honey, and cinnamon, but the flavor was a much weaker malt, orange, and apricot taste. With the smoky finish gone, a spice note now appeared on the finish. I wrapped it up by the seventh infusion since it was obvious the tea just wasn’t giving much anymore at that point.

Since the flavors started to weaken so early into the session, it is my guess that perhaps age may have something to do with it. With cupboard sales there is no way of knowing which harvest the leaf is from, so there is a chance this may be some much older Golden Monkey. There was quite nice, defined flavors during the first three steeps, but after that it seemed pretty exhausted already.

Next up, a western brewed cuppa with my breakfast. Which I’m eating at noon. Because it’s Sunday and I’m lazy. (Breakfast was the gong fu session, lunch is now breakfast. Don’t judge.)

2.5g / 350ml / 194F / 3m

The aroma of the tea smells like mandarin oranges, chocolate, and cinnamon. I’m surprised how different this tea has come out in a western brew. It’s a much richer flavor, that has a more mild malty note, and instead of tasting stonefruit and honey, I’m getting a thick chocolate flavor, with hints of orange and spices on the finish. It’s still a very nice tea brewed this way, I just wish some of the apricot/peach and malted honey notes had shown up… it’s quite a vast contrast. The very mild astringency I was getting from the gong fu brew was also not present from the western brew, so there is also that. Despite the less complex flavor of the western brew, the chocolate/spice flavor alone would make me happy to brew this up before work and use this black as a morning daily drinker.

I prefer the variety of flavor on this more in the gong fu, but not how quickly it gave out on infusions, which makes me more inclined to use this for western steeping… hmm. I think I’ll play with this one more. Next time I gong fu it I think I’ll use my shiboridashi, which holds more leaf and water, and do fewer infusions at slightly longer steep times. My next western cup I think I’ll knock down the steep time to two minutes, and see if it doesn’t bring out some of the sweeter notes a bit. I also want to compare to the Dazzle Deer Golden Monkey I have, since I know the exact harvest date on that tea (it’s an April 2017), and that may make quite a difference compared to the flavors in this one, since there is a chance this may be an older tea.

Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Honey, Malt, Orange, Peach, Raisins, Smoke, Spices, Stonefruit, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Hi! I’m Sara, a middle-aged librarian living in southern Idaho, USA. I’m a big ol’ sci-fi/fantasy/anime geek that loves fandom conventions, coloring books, simulation computer games, Japanese culture, and cats. Proud asexual and supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. 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 condo!) 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:
-Sweet/licorice root/stevia
-Bergamot (in moderation)

Disliked Flavors:

There are not many flavors or ingredients that I don’t like. These include:
-Bananas/banana flavoring
-Smoke-scented teas/heavy smoke flavors (migraine trigger)
-Perfumey teas/extremely heavy floral aromas (migraine trigger)
-Gingko biloba (migraine trigger)
-Chamomile (used in blends as a background note/paired with stronger flavors is okay)
-Extremely spicy/heated teas
-Medicinal flavors/Ginseng
-Metallic flavors
-Overly strong artificial flavorings

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

Steeping Parameters:

I drink tea in a variety of ways! For hot brews, I mostly drink my teas brewed in the western style without additions, and for iced tea, I drink teas mostly brewed in the cold brew style without additions. Occassionally I’ll change that up. I use the https://octea.ndim.space/#/ app for water-to-tea ratios and use steep times to my preferences.

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. Occassionally I revisit a tea I’ve reviewed before after a year or more has passed.


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/1JjlpjQ94UyoryaDRMIeqnPHObgvCtmRp/view?usp=sharing . I am currently strictly limiting tea trading/ordering to get my collection under control! My participation in any tea boxes, tea exchanges, or group orders, and acceptance of any tea gifts is very limited at this point in time. If there is something on my spreadsheet that I have in large quantity (50g or higher) that you would like to sample, feel free to contact me about it, as I am open to limited outbound gifting (USA only!)

Contact Info:

Feel free to send me a Steepster PM, or alternatively, check the website URL section below; it goes to a contact form that will reach my personal e-mail.


Idaho, United States



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