920 Tasting Notes
Sixteenth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the rooibos tea round, going against 52Teas’ Rocky Road Rooibos/Honeybush.
Oof, the dry leaf has a strong cough syrup medicinal smell. This doesn’t bode well… Steeped one perfect teaspoon in 350ml 205F water grandpa-style.
Thankfully, it smells better in the steeped tea. The aroma smells less of that sweet, floral cherry I associate with sakura, and is more of a tarter red berry scent, ripe cherries and raspberries. As the tea starts to cool, it actually is starting to smell more sweet and floral.
The flavor is more along the lines of red berries, leading with the raspberry with cherry following. A sweetness sort of fills out later in the sip, a bit from the sakura but also that sort of honeyed/vanilla note from the rooibos. The fruit starts out nicely tart, giving the impression of something ripe and juicy, and when the sweetness comes in, it becomes more of a candied flavor. A subtle saltiness from the sakura leaf comes out late into the cup, and the impression of sakura flavor starts to pop more. I’m enjoying this way more than the dry aroma led me to believe! It’s a bit fruitier than I expect of sakura, but it’s also a really good fruitiness. I’m honestly shocked I’m not just tasting cough syrup.
This is a tough one, but I think the sakura just edges out the Rocky Road! Sakura Rooibos moves on!
Flavors: Berries, Candy, Cherry, Cherry Blossom, Fruity, Honey, Raspberry, Rooibos, Salt, Sweet, Tangy, Vanilla, Wood
Fifteenth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the rooibos tea round, going against Lupicia’s Sakura Rooibos.
The dry leaf has a bit of a chocolate liquor/alcohol aroma, as well as some peppery and honeyish notes. Steeped one perfect teaspoon in 350ml 205F water grandpa-style.
The steeped tea smells of cocoa, of the dark, bittersweet variety, alcohol, pepper, and honeyed nuts. The flavor is a pleasant cocoa that does taste akin to a chocolate liquor, with a rich nuttiness that I’m assuming is coming from the rooibos/honeybush base. There is a honeyed sweetness and the pepper taste I often get from honeybush is very subtle here. The base is coming off slightly biscuity to me, and is quite pleasant. I’m getting the chocolate and the nuts, but not really anything to remind me of the marshmallow component of Rocky Road; it’s sweet, but I think I’d need a stronger cream sort of flavor to really get that element. Despite feeling that the blend could be pushed a little, it still made for a very satisfying and pleasant evening cuppa.
Flavors: Alcohol, Cocoa, Cookie, Dark Bittersweet, Honey, Nutty, Pepper, Sweet
Sixth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the oolong tea round, going against TeaSource’s Strawberry Oolong.
This is the Spring 2017 harvest, ordered in 2018 sometime. I shared it with my friend Todd during advent season but still haven’t tried it myself yet! Brewed 3.5g to 350ml 205F water for 3 minutes. (And guys, I think my kettle is trying to die… may know exactly what I’m getting myself for my birthday in a week this year!)
The brewed tea smells lovely, I’m getting notes of caramel, subtle roast, nuts (pecan?), and minerals. It sort of smells like a “more roasty” praline! On the sip I’m getting notes of minerally earth, roasted nuts, and a touch of honey-baked bread. There is a florality in the aftertaste, but I can’t place it. The sweetness and toasty/nutty notes really do give me a sort of praline or nougat impression. I think my only complaint is that it is a touch drying, and I wonder if dropping my leaf amount just slightly might smooth that out.
Very satisfying! This is a tough call against the Strawberry Oolong; I have really enjoyed both today, and they both have quite a range of flavors as well. But I think, side by side, this is the superior tea. Ya Shi Xiang “King of Duck Shit Aroma” Dan Cong Oolong moves on!
(It’s strange, I feel like lately I’ve been reaching for green, floral, and fruity teas, but clearly the results of March Mad(hatter)ness have shown I’m really into roasted flavors right now! Huh…)
Flavors: Baked Bread, Candy, Caramel, Drying, Earth, Floral, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Roasted, Roasted Nuts, Sweet
Fifth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the oolong tea round, going against Yunnan Sourcing’s Ya Shi Xiang “King of Duck Shit Aroma” Dan Cong Oolong. I previously reviewed it here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/372227
This is a tea I really enjoy, though I typically drink it cold brew. It’s been a long time since I’ve had it as a warm cuppa. The dry leaf doesn’t not smell as nice as it used to, so this may be a tea that is at a disadvantage from its 2018 age (all the teas I selected were purchased in 2018, but some at least had the luck of still being in sealed bags; this one, not so lucky). The dry vegetal scent just smells more musty/grass clipping like than I remember, and the strawberry, while still there, seems less potent. Brewed 3.5g to 350ml 205F water for 3 minutes.
The strawberry is coming out a bit more in the steeped tea aroma; it’s sweet but there is also a juicy quality present on the nose. It smells fruity, rather than candy-like, which I often get from strawberry flavorings in tea. Also a fresh grass/hay undertone to the aroma. It’s actually held up better than the dry scent as let on in flavor; it has a very silky smooth texture, with some mild and pleasant butteriness, a floral sweetness like wildflower honey, and a fresh vegetal/grassiness with a hint of minerals from the oolong base. Midway into the sip and lingering into the aftertaste is a strawberry note — light and delicate but distinctly present — which is mostly sweet, but has just a touch of more tangy component that veers to a juicy vibe. The green base and strawberry flavor go very well together, too, and the tea feels very appropriate for the nicer weather.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Honey, Hot Hay, Mineral, Smooth, Strawberry, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Vegetal
Eighth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the herbal tea round, going against Lupicia’s Apple Barley Tea. I reviewed it previously here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/374606
This is the lavender tea that gave birth to other lavender teas. It has such a strong yet pleasing lavender aroma from the dry leaf. I brewed two heaping teaspoons to 450ml 205F water, and steeped it for somewhere around 8-10 minutes before straining. Most herbals I just “leave the bag in” but I have found lavender has a tendency toward bitterness so I try to remember to steep and strain those teas.
This is strongly lavender, but it is very natural sort of flavor and aroma; I suppose those that aren’t too keen on lavender may find it perfumy or soapy, but I don’t find either quality in this tea. The base of the tea is a mix of blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry leaf, which leaves a sort of “garden fresh” herbaceous undertone to the tea, while also adding a slight natural sweetness that balances those bitter notes that can happen from too much lavender. It is a very smooth and soothing lavender tea. The lavender itself is just the slightest bit minty.
I do think, as far as a lavender-forward tea, this is probably the best one I’ve ever had. That said, I certainly have to be in the mood for it; it isn’t the sort of tea I find myself reaching for very often. I’m more likely to grab lavender blends, like a coconut lavender or chocolate lavender or lemon lavender tea when I get a lavender-itch. Occassionally, the itch is strong enough that none of those options have strong enough lavender, and then this hits the spot. (It is also a great mixer in lemonade, smoothies, lattes, etc.!)
When I compare something like this to Lupicia’s Apple Barley Tea, while the flavors are complete opposites, I do find the functionality of them similar for me; they are relaxing and comforting night sippers or refreshing cold brews. But, when it comes down to it, I’d likely find myself reaching for the mugicha more often, considering I have to be in just the right “mood” for this tea. For that reason, Lupicia’s Apple Barley Tea moves on!
Flavors: Floral, Herbaceous, Lavender, Mint, Smooth, Sweet
Seventh tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the herbal tea round, going against Tea Chai Te’s Lavender Sunset.
Back in 2018 I purchased several different flavored mugicha teabags from Lupicia. I know I tried the lychee, and recently sipped down the apricot, but I still have the apple and plum sealed. Thus far, my general feelings on these mugicha is that I like them, because I like mugicha, but there hasn’t been anything about the novelty of flavoring the mugicha that has really set it apart for me. The roasted barley itself is just such a strong flavor that the fruit doesn’t really hold up against it, and often tastes a little strange compared to those flavors. So I’ve been fine with the ones I’ve tried so far, but haven’t really felt a need for more of them over just straight, plain, good ol’ Hida Mugicha.
Opening the bag, the dry leaf has a very strong apple aroma! I used one teabag in 500ml water (as the instructions suggest), but like most herbals I just leave the bag a’soakin’. I will say, having brewed this one up, that I am getting the apple in the aroma; it’s a sweet green apple note, but the roasted barley is a much stronger aroma, as was the case with the other fruity mugicha by Lupicia I’ve tried. It’s a deeply pleasant coffee roast sort of aroma.
I do taste the apple, as a sweet fruitiness that hits the tongue at the beginning of the sip, and in the aftertaste. Definitely a green apple sort of flavor, with maybe just a touch of a honeyed note. The roasted barley fills out the mouth quickly and then overpowers that flavor, with a deep bittersweet roasted coffee note. As that flavor dissipates on the tongue, the sweet apple reappears as a ghosting aftertaste.
This is a deeply satisfying cup, but is still inline with the other fruity flavored mugicha from Lupicia I’ve tried; it’s a fun novelty, but nothing about it particularly stands out as me needing it over plain mugicha since that is such a strong flavor. I do think I like the apple flavor a little more conceptually than the apricot or lychee; both of those were great flavorings and still were overpowered by the barley, but the apple with the barley creates more of an “autumnal” feel to the cup.
Flavors: Coffee, Dark Bittersweet, Fruity, Green Apple, Honey, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Sweet
Twelfth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the white tea round, going against Tea Chai Te’s Peach Blossom White. Both of these 2018 teas are ones I’ve reviewed before (original review for this tea can be found here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/376601 ), but considering how long ago they were, I’m going to do a proper revisit.
The dry leaf of this blend isn’t nearly as pretty as the Peach Blossom White, which had nice full leaves and wad decorated with jasmine blossoms, while this tea has very broken leaf material, including the rose petals. But the smell, to a rose-tea fanatic like me, is divine. It’s super strong and smells just like walking through a rose garden, without any hints of aroma of the actual white leaf. For those less inclined to rose, I’d imagine this aroma would probably be abrasive, the sort of thing described as “perfume” or “soap” by others. To me, it is invigorating and lovely!
Steeped 2g for 3 minutes in 350ml 185F water. The brewed tea continues to have that strong rose aroma. The flavor is all rose, without really any of the base shining through, except in mouthfeel; it provides much more body than a straight herbal rose petal/bud tea, providing a smooth, silky, and coating feeling over the tongue. Those rose is strong and lingering, and I definitely can see “perfumy” qualities in it; I’m just not personally bothered by them. There is also that very subtle, somewhat herbaceous “peppery” note I typically taste with rose as well.
This is hard, because objectively, I feel Tea Chai Te’s Peach Blossom White is a better white tea; the leaf looks better, qualities of the base add notes to the tea, the flavoring concept is there. This one has much worse-looking leaf, the white tea is only adding body but no flavor, and the flavor concept isn’t just there, but steamrolling it. Yet… I like how this one tastes better, which is an entirely personal preference. I doubt very many people would enjoy rose tea at this sort of intensity… I just happen to be one of them.
I feel conflicted about it, but Rose White moves on!
Flavors: Floral, Pepper, Perfume, Rose, Smooth, Sweet
Eleventh tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the white tea round, going against T2’s White Rose. Both of these 2018 teas are ones I’ve reviewed before (original review for this tea can be found here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/375224 ), but considering how long ago they were, I’m going to do a proper revisit. Especially considering that I’ve noticed, over the years, I’ve come to enjoy straight white teas a lot but seem to like flavored white teas a lot less than previously; I suspect it is because the leaf used in them is such lower quality, and the flavorings never really seem to compensate for that.
Dry leaf aroma is very hay-forward, with some peach/apricot notes. I used 2g steeped for 3 minutes in 350ml 185F water. The brewed tea smells mostly the same; like dry hay and autumn leaves, with a bit of peach, and a subtle florality. In flavor, the autumn leaf note is actually quite subtle despite its prevalence on my nose, with the brew tasting most strongly of dry hay, sweet grass, and wildflowers, with more subtle notes of melon and cucumber popping toward the end of the sip. There is a noticeable peach flavor, but it presents more light and delicate, especially compared to the kind of juicy peach flavoring present in Peach Cobbler. I actually think, with such a “gentle” sweet peach note, as well as the natural florality and vegetal qualities, that calling this “Peach Blossom” is rather appropriate. I am getting more of a sense of a sweet and delicate peach flower than juicy ripe fruit.
I’m enjoying this more than I remember; somewhere in my memory, I remember every peach-flavored white tea I ever tried tasting strongly of wet autumn leaves and little else (I definitely remember getting that from TeaSource’s Machu Peach-u back in the day!) Maybe I’ve just become more tolerant of those notes over the years, and have an easier time picking out some of the other flavors… or maybe the leaf is settling a bit with age. I wouldn’t rate it as highly as I did back then (going back now, I seemed to have rated things across the board higher than I would now!) but I’m still more impressed with this than I thought I’d be going in. It’s a nice afternoon tea, and I recall it was a good cold brew, too. I am lowering the rating to be more reflective of where I am as a tea drinker now, though.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cucumber, Floral, Flowers, Hot Hay, Melon, Peach, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Vegetal
Fourth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the green tea round, going against Fukujuen’s Gyokuro Karigane. Both teas were little tins that my friend Todd brought me back from a trip he took to Japan back in 2018. I still haven’t opened them and they are quite old now, especially for green tea. Oops! (I also couldn’t find any pictures online and had to scrounge out my digital camera to log them…)
The dry leaf has a pleasant oaty aroma, as well as the roasted nuts scent I’m familiar with in houjicha. Steeped 2g (a full perfect teaspoon) in 350ml 205F water for 3 minutes. The steeped tea has a deeply roasty aroma, with some hints of nuts and wood, and a slight minerality. It has a nice, rich flavor; I’ve had some older houjicha that tasted a bit “dusty” or “bark-like” but not this one! There is a deep, smooth woodiness that leaves a subtle bitterness on the tongue, but it is in no way unpleasant, lacking any drying qualities. The strongest flavor note for me is roasted nuts, particularly that somewhat earthy walnut note, with more subtle notes of oats, toasted bread, and minerals. It’s a superb cup of houjicha!
This is probably the hardest round for me thus far! By flavor I’d probably say this houjicha (though the gyokuro karigane was very nice!), but the gyokuro karigane had such a pleasant cha qi for me! I woke ridiculously early and couldn’t fall back asleep (thanks, cat!) and two pots of the gyokuro karigane gave me so much energy; I didn’t feel buzzed like I used to get on coffee, but a focused wakefulness that got me through the day. Houjicha is a relaxing warm hug, with so little caffeine I can drink it as an alternative to herbals in the evening. Very different functions…
I think the houjicha wins this one, mostly because, compared to other houjicha I’ve had, this one is such a nice quality and flavor. With the Gyokuro Karigane was an excellent green tea, I don’t have any other gyokuro karigane to compare it to in my mind, and compared to other green teas in general, I have had some I prefer to it. That said, I’m quite looking forward to sipping it down, especially on those mornings that I just can’t get going!
Uji-Houjicha: Yamashiro-no-Sato moves on!
Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Mineral, Nutty, Oats, Roasted, Roasted Nuts, Toasty, Walnut, Wood
Third tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the green tea round, going against Fukujuen’s Uji-Houjicha: Yama-no-Sato. Both teas were little tins that my friend Todd brought me back from a trip he took to Japan back in 2018. I still haven’t opened them and they are quite old now, especially for green tea. Oops! (I also couldn’t find any pictures online and had to scrounge out my digital camera to log them…)
I’m shocked and appalled the directions inside the tin said to use 3g per 60ml! Is that how people usually make green tea, or do they just make it that strong in Japan? Zoinks, I only use between 2-3g for western brews between 350-500ml or I just get a bomb of bitterness…
That said, I opted to brew this “my way” and did 3g to a 500ml pot, steeped for 2 minutes in 175F water. The dry leaf had a somewhat sweet, mellow grassy aroma. Brewed, it is deeply vegetal and umami on the nose, with some spinach and ocean air aroma notes. The brew is, thankfully, lacking any bitterness; it starts with a very fresh and sweet grassy taste, then a stronger umami vegetal presence of spinach and peas settles over my tongue (reminds me of the vegetal flavors I get drinking Bi Luo Chun), with a very mild salty seaweed note at the very back of my throat. I haven’t been a fan of gyokuro that have a strong seaweed/oceany taste, but this karigane, while those notes are present, is more gentle. I’m really liking it, actually! It is more on the savory side, but satisfying for a too-early morning, and it is settling down a stomach that also woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
As far as green teas go, this is definitely a nice one. I am quite a fan of houjicha, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how it stacks up to that tea.
Flavors: Ocean Air, Peas, Seaweed, Spinach, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Umami, Vegetal