Featured & New Tasting Notes

drank Gao Wen by Hugo Tea Company
2880 tasting notes

I had another opportunity to visit our one and only “place to get decent tea” coffee shop this weekend—a catch-up date with a bestie—and although it was a good opportunity to experiment with another one of the Hugo teas they serve by the pot, I liked this one so much last time, I happily chose a rerun.

The official description mentions tobacco up front and floral in the back, which is accurate. “Black tea masquerading as an oolong” might fit well, too. It was unseasonably warm, so I nursed the first cup and a refill, then put the rest of the pot on ice, which worked well, too. And of course, it’s always better when you’re jabbering away, catching up on months of essential life trivia with a friend.

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I have received two tea bags of this tea from derk — thank you!

I generally avoid spicy food, and what is “mildly” spiced is sometimes way too much for me and I can’t imagine what “hot” really means.

I was feeling nothing but cold today early evening, so I decided to brew something that should warm me up. I am sure I would fin many other chais, lovely full bodied teas, or something in between, but I took this one. Afterall, I need to drink it anyway so…

Dry bag was spicy, but somehow okay-level. I have a spicy tea, so naturally it’s spicy; but also a bit sweet and some spices tried to peek out too.

I brewed it and steeped rather short. Afterall, it’s evening already and I would like to sleep; and this blend contains black tea. Aroma left me “just drink me” impression, so I thought it won’t be bad.

I HAVE BEEN SO WRONG! After first sip, still quite hot (by temperature) I had my mouth completely in fire (by habanero) that I almost spit it out. I did not, it left my eyes wide open, habanero fire was slowly going through all the veins and I feel not cold anymore. Not a surprise IMO!
It was cooling down and I was still trying to drink it. And actually, it is getting better. Hard to find any chocolate in this, rather some general sweetness, and some ginger and allspice spices is there beneath heavy blanket of habanero.

Oh dear. No, I am not able to rate this tea and won’t be. But looking forward to sip it down — the second bag.

derk

Oh no, so sorry it lit you on fire! I tried it a few times and found it not very spicy at all. It tasted mostly of cocoa shell and some spices. How wrong I have been! I do not mean to torture you, my friend! Maybe it is unevenly blended so you got to taste the true side of habañero, while I sit here and cry that it is not spicy enough for me :P

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77
drank Candy Corn Chai by DAVIDsTEA
2268 tasting notes

I got this in a sampler, and I removed the candy corn before steeping. I wouldn’t call this a chai. The spices were quite mild, but I do enjoy the desserty rooibos vibe. I’d consider buying some if it were available outside the sampler I bought it in. It’s interesting!

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Lunch tea, enjoyed al fresco with miso soup. Followed up soup with a little Lindt chocolate for dessert.

Superanna bought this in Japan last month and gave it to me along with several other teas and I didn’t realize that this one had not been opened yet! I thought I had tried all of them but here are today having this one for the first time.

Water was about 155F and I made two steeps at one minute each.

Even though I used my finest strainer, the tea is just full of the finest little brilliant green particles. It looks brothier than the soup I am having with it! The tea is a nice spring green and the particles are a deeper (but fresh and bright) green. It tastes fresh and grassy.

Since I made a large pot and it is rather warm out today, I poured the rest over ice. This is super brothy looking with lots of suspended particles. It is fresh, grassy, and a little brisk. Good with chocolates!

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70

Picked this one up at the Viking Shop in New Hampshire on their holiday clearance shelf. I could have purchased everything in there. I still have my eye on a cute little duck. The tea was super expensive because it was in a specialty European import store. Checking out the website for Nordqvist, the loose leaf has citrus peels added. Steeped for about 5 minutes at 200F. The cardamom is present and pleasant. I think the citrus would be a nice add but it’s a pretty good black tea.

Flavors: Cardamom, Spices

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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85

A sipdown! (M: 12 Y: 32)

Gongfu, 6g / 125 ml, 90°C water, 5 seconds rinse, almost looseleaf.

I have preheated the gaiwan and ry leaves aroma were woody, but somehow uncommon; maybe tropcial woods… it was very appealing for shou; definitely no muddy, funky notes as they sometimes have.
After a rinse, I detected right away a wonderful aroma of sweet cinnamon, other spices, chocolate and little of red fruits that I have noticed in western steeping.

Steeps have started with 10 seconds and 10 seconds increments in whole session. Turns dark very quickly, giving deep dark mahagony colour. Impressions of scents are following: cinnamon, cardamom and other spices. Flavour is a bit more harsh, quite woody with chocolate covered red fruits; medium thickness, long mouthfeel and creamy aftertaste.

This steeping method gives consistent steeps and it has been a lovely shu puerh with an otes I would not expect from it. Moreover, it calms my stomach, after another gall bladder attack this night.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 125 ML
ashmanra

Oh no! Gall bladder attacks are no fun! I hope that settles down and you get relief.

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Wait a minute… I’m not getting much flavor out of this Sipsby tea either! What’s going on here? Is there something wrong with my water or kettle or steeping basket. This should have more to it, but it’s just bland. I’m going to need to investigate.

ashmanra

I hope you don’t have Covid! I couldn’t taste my tea for several days but it didn’t hit until after I was feeling better.

Dustin

I took a Covid test right after posting this note! I’m negative. But what a review for a tea! “So weak I thought I must have Covid!” LOL!

ashmanra

I’m glad it is just weak tea and not Covid!

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86

I saw that Klasek Tea had some teas from Bhutan in offer; so I took sample packages of them. But then I saw they have some new Nepalese teas; white one (Kalapani White Lotus) and some great looking Gold Jeevan, so I took 50g pouches of those too. They weren’t too expensive (unlike Bhutan teas); so I considered that a good deal.

They have added this one as a free sample — thank you! I was actually checking it out, but decided that I don’t need another 50 g of black tea.

Okay, to this tea. Firstly, the leaves are a bit worse quality, maybe a bit broken, not so dark, as other Nepali teas I had from them before. However the dry leaves are nice in aroma, like 2nd flush Darjeeling but less herbaceous as Darjeeling sometimes is.

When brewed, western style, according to vendor instruction 1g/100 ml; so 3g/300 ml in my case and steeped 2-3 minutes (I did 2.5 – 2.75 min) I got a lovely gold coloured liquid in my glass mug, with aroma of baked bread with honey and also some other sweetness, which could be sugarcane as they suggest. The liquid itself has flavours of above + very smooth texture with long mouthfeel, absolutely no bitterness and a little astringency saying “I am a black tea”, but not in any offensive way. In aftertaste are dried fruits, apricots maybe, or peaches; I am never sure about those, which is which, and citrus zest notes, somehow reminding me orange.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 45 sec 3 g 10 OZ / 300 ML

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80

As it sits, a more complex flavor comes forward. It was fruity, but also a bit spiced and interesting. The resteep might have tasted even stronger than the first. I wish I’d gotten a bigger bag of this! I’ve really been enjoying it cold.

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67

I’ve been working through a bad chest cold all week (I’m suspecting a bad case of bronchitis, but I haven’t had the time or money to get that confirmed) so I’ve been drinking TONS of tea. I went through my entire 100g tin of T2’s “Mulled Wine Magic” over the week and have instant regrets, because they are gone now and I’m too tired and out of it to go looking for a hibiscus chai spice blend replacement that ships from the US. So then I decided to turn to this tea, only to discover I only had a single teabag left. Siiiiiiiigh. Where did all the tea go?!

I always expect elderberry teas to be more like hibiscus teas for some reason… dark and syrupy berry. They never are and then I have to reassess my expectations. I do like this though. The echinacea is the main flavor and it’s such a hard one for me to describe… It’s a little floral, but leans more on the herbaceous side than the flowery side. There is a bit of a minty flavor to the tea but it is not strongly menthol and doesn’t overpower the other flavors. I don’t actually taste anything I’d attribute to “berry” or get any fruity notes from it. It is very licorice root sweet, which I know would be a turn-off for many, but I like licorice root and it is greatly appreciated now while by body is trying to cough my lungs straight out of my ribcage. Sweet, minty, floral, could do a lot worse for a sick tea, but the flavor is probably not for everyone.

Flavors: Floral, Herbaceous, Licorice Root, Mint, Sweet

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 min or more 1 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML
ashmanra

I am in that small group of people that doesn’t mind licorice root. I shouldn’t have much of it because of my blood pressure but I generally like the way it tastes.

ashmanra

Hope you start feeling better very soon!

Mastress Alita

Mmm, sweet tasty expectorant…

Michelle

Feel better soon!

MadHatterTeaReview

Feel better! My wife just recovered from pneumonia…definitely need to not allow it to go too far without checking.

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19

Originally I threw this in the nope section. I scoffed and said I don’t think so. But then I thought back to a jalapeno spitzer I had that was surprisingly good. So here we are. Smells like something the turtles would try. I see Leonardo as more of a Darjeeling dude though. Either way, this should be an interesting experience.

Oh my word. The initial aroma hurts my nose. It’s like I cut up a jalapeno and then stuck a finger in my nose.
SPICY! Spicy and hibiscus? WHY? OW. That was painful to swallow. My tongue is on fire. WTFrak is going on. This is all wrong. I do like the lapsang. That is smoked nicely but the tingling of my tongue. Oh for crying out loud. I was not paying attention and took a second sip. It’s just as bad as the first. This is so unique and I really appreciate the ingenuity of the mix…. Evil smile. I’m going to have my husband try it. He likes things really spicy. XD He said “mmm spicy.” And then scrunched his face real tight.

Leafhopper

LOL. The name of this tea seems to be apt.

Skysamurai

HA! I didn’t even think about it but that’s so true. But there is no cool… only spicy

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94

Ashmanra’s sipdown challenge – February 2024 Tea #7 – Your cheapest tea

This might not actually be my “cheapest tea” but I think of it when I think in terms of the biggest sale/discount!  Let me look through my e-mail receipts for the actual price I paid for this….  Back in 2016 my receipt says I paid $3.70 for 150grams of Christmas Cake!  Now that is a steal.  In no way close to a sipdown, but it looks like I have less than 50grams left at this point.  It’s a robust black tea!  A bit like chai, with pine notes and fondant icing… it shouldn’t work but it DOES.   I’m happy to steep this up today,as I usually only have it once a year on Christmas day anyway. :D

Album: Fruit Bats – A River Running to Your Heart
Song:  See the World by Night – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h28NWjj7lu4

Flavors: Cake, Frosting, Pine, Spices

ashmanra

That really was a great deal!

tea-sipper

Yeah, I haven’t seen B&B deals like that for A WHILE but that is understandable…

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74

additional notes:  I stand by my original note for this one, nine years ago.  Though these tuochas are from a different source than my original sample: this time from Meowster.  Thanks very much!  It’s just not a very good representation of sticky rice and puerh is quite bland.  But maybe the “rice scent herb” that they add to the tuochas don’t age as well as puerh is supposed to.  However, I was really craving a ripe puerh to go with my cantaloupe this morning.  It’s such a great combination.  I think of Butiki’s Dark Side of the Melon blend for this inspiration, but that was a black tea and espresso flavoring with melon.  I don’t know how there has not been a cantaloupe/ ripe puerh blend yet!  Though I think I do remember Roswell mentioning one?  If not, maybe I’m remembering Roswell’s awesome fruit/tea pairings. :D

Offtopic about music if you are interested:  So I listen to hundreds of albums each year, at least once (on youtube — sorry musicians that aren’t getting my money…), because of my FOMO on any great gem of an album that I might otherwise never find.  Then at the end of the year, I make my favorites list of albums, before I read all those end-of-the-year best of lists, which tend to end up being basically the same list over and over.  Really, I just read those to make sure I didn’t miss any albums that I might be interested in.  2023 was especially harsh for me, as MOST of my favorite albums never even hit ONE year end list.   However, I think at this point, my FOMO has now almost become a FOMO for other people missing some really great albums, just because they aren’t listed on any of these lists.  A sadness that these musicians are somehow going unnoticed, underappreciated.  So in order for me to feel a little bit better about this, maybe get a few of them out there into the ether, I will occasionally post a favorite song from a 2023 album I really wish had gotten more recognition and attention!  But I usually recommend the entire album.  I will start with my favorite album of 2023 that actually had me crying a bit when I first heard it, that I might have missed it… and this album was not listed on a single Best Of list for 2023.  So now I’m grateful I caught it!  Again, the entire album is stellar (and the album cover is perfect to go along with a tea from Meowster!):

Album: Mapache – Swinging Stars
Song:  Amazing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHDEn6lhaac

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76

This tastes like Forever Nuts and all the other similar blends. It’s desserty and nutty with some milk, but not too special. I’d definitely drink it again, but I wouldn’t need to buy it since other identical blends seem to just show up at my house!

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54

A sipdown! (M: 10 Y: 30) Prompt: Your cheapest teaWell actually I am not sure if it is a cheapest tea as it comes from Switzerland; and it was actually a gift, so I haven’t paid anything, but coop is cheap brand for sure.

I have to agree with my previous me, “Pretty basic, a bit harsh, black tea”

Somehow, today it was quite malty and bready as well. Instead of cardboard.
Definitely very simple, but fine enough to no-fuss tea.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 10 OZ / 300 ML

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76
drank Citrus Spice Cake by 52teas
2268 tasting notes

The strongest flavor is the mild spice. Below that, I taste an interesting orange flavor, like the kind you’d find in an orange icing. I also taste a marshmallow or vanilla type flavor. It all is really nice together. The second time I had this, it tasted a bit more like generic winter spices. Still tasty, just not special.

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99

SOOOO I busted my buy-ban already in January.  I needed something on Amazon and needed something else to tag along for free shipping purposes and noticed there was a good price for these…  I had already had the thought to buy more (many many times I had this thought..), so I just did it.  sigh.  Sadly, even though I bought my first Perfect and Glorious batch of these tuochas in 2022, it looks like they have already been changed because the new batch is considerably smaller sized. oh no!!! I thought they were perfect just the way they were, for this particular deep dark shou fan.  And steeping this one up, it does taste considerably different.  To me, there is like a stale cardboard flavor that is the most noticeable.  Yes, the leaves seem the same and the tuocha is still the faster little unraveler, but I think just because there is less leaf in the tuocha, the flavor just isn’t the same for me.  Before, there would be four very strong steeps.  Now the second steep is lighter, and the third lighter still.  The fourth steep is ridiculously weak… I wouldn’t bother going for a fourth steep in the future.  In fact, I’m regretting buying these again at all. I am still using the parameters I had been using for the Teavivre samples, so I’m sure I’m steeping it differently than I have in the past, but really the flavor shouldn’t be this noticeably different.  I was about to weigh the tuochas to see the size differences, but found out my scale has broken.   I COULD try breaking apart a tuocha and using 1 1/2 tuochas per session, but that seems inconvenient and two tuochas at once seems like way too much.  sigh.  I will probably try 1 1/2 at least once, to see how it goes…  Contacting Tealyra, they said the manufacturer must be processing the tuochas differently, since they are smaller, but told me they should be the same.   To me they are not the same.  They were perfect before.  I’m so sad about it!  I don’t know why I’m surprised.  Even with food, if I really like a certain something it will quickly be discontinued, so I should be surprised they still have these tuochas available at all.  (also, sidenote, the pouch the tuochas came in had holes in the bottom, somehow… I highly doubt it happened in transit, and trying to contact Amazon is ridiculous. But what if holes in the bottom of the pouch could have changed the quality/flavor?  Amazon might not think of this, but as a tea fan, I certainly do.  So I also informed Tealyra about the holes, as something happening at Amazon shouldn’t be representing Tealyra.  I’m hoping all of their pouches aren’t doing that over at Amazon…) 
Original price was $7.90  for 15 tuochas.
On Amazon, I paid $29.99 for 75 tuochas.
Even more hilarious…. I bought these right before I figured out that I’m a much bigger fan of Fengqing shou, more than any other type of shou.  And then I go and stock up on a ton of Menghai… so maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about and good shou is just good shou.  Just as long as it is processed to the strength I like?
Steep #1 // 1 tuocha for medium sized mug // 20 minutes after boiling // 7 second rinse // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 11 minutes after boiling // 3 min
Steep #3 // just boiled // 3 min
Steep #4 // just boiled // 10 min
Tldr:  the new batch is smaller than the batch from 2022, changing the flavor.  I regret buying this new batch of 75 tuochas.  

ashmanra

75! Good thing aging is desirable for pu!

tea-sipper

Well, before ordering the new batch, I thought it was a cupboard staple. :/

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70
drank Earl Grey by Zest Tea
4151 tasting notes

Ashmanra’s sipdown challenge – February 2024 Tea #6- A tea that energizes you

I thought of this one for this prompt.  It’s supposed to have natural caffeine added making it “3x the caffeine of a regular tea”, whatever that means, so in theory, it should energize me…  not sure if it does.   Before steeping, I do notice on the leaf in the pyramid tea bag, that there is like a matte coating to some of the leaves… that must be the added caffeine.  The flavor is decent enough, yet unique for an earl, most reminds me of grapefruit with a hint of cream.  Next time is a sipdown, not quite yet!

I was also thinking of this tea because I was looking for Angry Tea Room’s Caramel Popcorn Movie Night blend and it looked like Tea Guys used to have it.  Tea Guys have since closed and apparently had legal issues?  And Zest Tea was previously involved with Tea Guys which brought them to court?   And I thought “hey, I have some of Zest tea around here.”  A shame Tea Guys didn’t make it. But it’s also a shame I won’t be able to find Caramel Popcorn Movie Night again…

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68

Sispdown 16 – 2024

Discovered a spring 2023 sample in my stash. This was a bit better than I last remembered and had some of the chocolatey qualities that I love in a standard laoshan black.

Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Tobacco

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76

Ahhh… green oolongs smell so wonderful. Lightly floral, slightly buttery, and mouth-wateringly mineral. The first infusion has a very smooth mouth feel. Leafgreen flavors like fresh spinach, and deciduous forest leaf. Slight mineral notes of wet rock and popcorn butter. The second infusion shows lots of fresh florals and a bit of apricot. I wish there were more mineral notes but

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74

I’ll post a note as I was questioning if the dashboard was currently stalled… It isn’t! (Unless this note will stall it….)

This was kindly shared by Cameron B, thank you!  I had always wanted to try this one.  I’m not sure why, as I’m not the hugest fan of chocolate teas from Harney.  But there is supposed to be other flavors here.  Sadly, chocolate kind of takes over.  Then maybe a generic sort of nuttiness.  (Makes sense, as the description mentions almond, hazelnut and peanut.)  But there is no apricot here to be found.  The second steep was actually deeper than the first steep, but more of the exact same flavor notes. The chocolate + nutty notes are reminding me of a Harney tea I had long ago….forget the name now.    Not my favorite from Harney, but the few teabags left in the tin shouldn’t be TOO hard for me to finish. :D  It looks like Harney doesn’t carry this one anymore…
Steep #1 // 1 teabag for medium sized mug // 20 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3 min

Flavors: Chocolate, Nuts

gmathis

I liked this one. Didn’t realize it had disappeared from the lineup.

tea-sipper

I couldn’t find it in a site search… maybe it’s only temporary?

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Now we’re talking. Not artificial, no alcohol or chemical whang, just authentic smells-like-a-Hershey-bar chocolate. I’ve been nursing a cup for a couple hours now, bag in, warming up the water as needed (is that granny style instead of grandpa style if you use a filter but keep adding water?) and reveling in the scent. Flavor is starting to weaken, but I’m on my third? fourth? iteration. Take that, fakey-fake chocolate teas :)

ashmanra

Ashman was very impressed by this!

Martin Bednář

Wishlisted. And yep, maybe it is granny style :D

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73

Sipdown 12 – 2024

Yup, cranberry with a touch of cream.

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90

Harvest July 2022
From TTB that was around in 2023.

Yep, another one I just took to try later and today is the day for this tea.

Prepared gongfu, more or less as vendor suggests

High marks for this jasmine tea! Lovely, fresh and strong jasmine notes with great base tea, that complements the flowers well. The base is, as SkySamurai notices a bit melon like, I could not notice any of the earthiness which is, definitely, a good sign.
Intoxicating (a good used word by vendor) aroma with fruity notes of the base, smooth and velvety in the mouth all 6 steeps long; while the last one was somehow weak in jasmine indeed and more of the green (really?, rather I think white) tea. It was so nice in mouth and so enjoayble… that I think I need more of this tea from Canadian company.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 3 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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