171 Tasting Notes


Experience buying from Teavivre http://steepster.com/places/2857-teavivre-online

UPDATE on 12-1-12: I just finished the last 2-3 grams of this tea in my 14 OZ mini glass teapot, brewed following my standard green tea steeping times and temperatures. I don’t have much to report over what I wrote previously. Still, I am posting this because multiple steeping sessions creates more data from which to make a judgement about how I feel about a tea. Briefly, this tea tastes a lot like many Huang Shan Mao Feng type green teas I have had in that this tea has a slightly smoky flavor; it is decent tasting and as I haven’t had a smoky green tea in awhile the flavor was a nice change from the standard green tea flavor profile I usually enjoy. If you like Huang Shan Mao Feng you may like this tea, but as I am personally not a huge fan of smoky green teas this tea is not something I feel I need to have on hand.

Note: this review is based on the 2012 harvest.

After Angel sent me a PM requesting I review a group of selected tea samples she was willing to send me, I requested this particular spring green tea to try out as well (along with one other), and she willingly sent it along with the rest. Thank you Angel and Teavivre!

This Xin Yang Mao Jian green tea is advertized as being harvested on April 19, 2012. I brewed this up days after I received this tea.

I was happy all around with the Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng (OTMMF) green tea I tried of theirs just days ago, so I was looking forward to trying this one as well. This one smelled as fresh as the OTMMF, but with a hint of roasted smokiness to it. The tea was a little more standard looking: small, wire-y, dark-green looking leaves. as with the OTMMF I held a little back to give me the option of brewing it up in my gaiwan at a later time.

The temperature on the first steeping—185F—ended up being a little hotter than I was aiming for—180F (although I am now much more proficient with using my thermometer, using it to determine the actual temperature in the teapot while pouring is very tedious and often troublesome). I noticed that the leaves seemed to love sitting on the bottom of my glass Bodum for every steeping. The color of the liquor was a cloudy greenish, and there was something in the aroma that I have not found in four different green teas I had brewed up on previous days; it was interesting, and may have been sweet and/or nutty (possibly like a Dragon Well). I brewed it on the first steeping for 1.5 minutes.

The wet leaf smelled OK, but not as fresh as the other fresh green teas I have been brewing up. I also noticed after the first steeping that it looked worn—some of the leaves looked torn and as-a-whole they had an uneven look about them. It’s funny that it just dawned on me that I composted the leaves after the forth steeping, so no ‘wet leaf analysis’; ooops! I may do one when I brew up the remaining amount of the dry leaf. The coloring, however, was clearly fresh: it was a vibrant green color (I feel I have looked at enough green teas to be able to spot the difference between a fresh one and an old one).

It had a good, strong vegetal flavor (possibly stronger than the OTMMF), with a somewhat smoke-y note (my wife didn’t get a chance to smell the dry leaf on this one, yet she noticed the smokiness when drinking it before I said anything). When it cooled to room temperature the smokiness was even more prominent (it reminded me somewhat of a good tasting Huang Shan Mao Feng). The smokiness wasn’t too strong though; as a rule, my wife DOES NOT LIKE SMOKY FLAVORS IN TEA, but for some reason, she still liked the taste of this one (I was watching her while she took her first sip, wondering if she was going to make a face that meant she didn’t like it, but thankfully ‘that look’ never made an appearance).

I did a total of four steepings, and there was considerable difference in the flavor on even the second steeping. I brewed the second at 185F for two minutes, and the flavor was weaker and not as fresh as the first; it was definitely lacking something that all of the other fresh teas had been gifting me with all week, and there was nothing ‘quality’ about it. This lack of freshness in the later steepings was disappointing to me, as I felt this was a possible ‘buy’ until then. The third and forth weren’t any better (with hotter temperatures and longer steeping times): it was as if the flavor was flat. I do consider the possibility that 185F was too hot for the first steeping, and so it scorched the leaves; but if it’s truly that delicate, or finicky, or whatever I want to call it, I don’t want to mess with it (I always figure there may be a five degree variance between the temperature I am shooting for and what it actually is in the pot).

It’s a decent tasting, fresh green tea, but its actually more expensive ($11.50 / 100g) that the OTMMF ($10.90 / 100g), so I think I’ll be putting my money on the OTMMF.

185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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drank Green Kukicha by Den's Tea
171 tasting notes

Backlogging and based on a few notes and on memory

Experience buying from Den’s Tea http://steepster.com/places/2923-dens-tea-online-torrance-california

I bought two ounces of this at the end-of-2011/beginning-of-2012 and brewed it up at least once not long after I bought it.

I have very scant notes, but here they are: “Love the leaves/stems (I think because of how green they looked). 1st: 180F Bright lime-green, frothy! Smells vegetal, roasted,& coconut? Taste: OK. Decent. vegetal, somewhat mild.” I remember not being very impressed with the flavor, but I bought this because it is supposed to have lots of theanine, so I think of it as a tea to brew up if I feel I need an extra dose of tea to help with mindful relaxation.

My first Green Kukicha, so no rating.

180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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Backlogging and based on memory

Experience buying from London Tea Room Positive.

My wife loves mango flavored tea (she drinks Trader Joe’s Mango black tea iced EVERY SINGE DAY), so we bought two ounces some of this last summer (at the time I was trying to break her of her ‘tea bag’ habit). We brewed it up both on it’s own and as a blend with another tea (I think a green tea) and both were tasty. I LOVE smelling this one. We tried it iced, and it was good, but not as good as Trader Joe’s black tea version, so it never did replace the Trader Joe’s Black Mango as her everyday tea. Still, this is a tea I would consider buying again (and I’m not a big ‘fruit tea’ guy).

Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

This one was so ridiculously mango-y and super sweet! Almost too sweet for me – I could definitely see blending it with other things that are lacking in flavour.


Ah, for a Trader Joe’s that’s not 100 miles away!


I guess it is a pretty intense tizane, now that I think about it.

Sorry to hear you don’t have a TJs near you. :(

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Backlogging and based on memory

Experience buying from Harney & Sons http://steepster.com/places/2779-harney-and-sons-on-line-millerton-new-york

I bought this in the hopes of using it to flavor the later steepings on our mid-to-lower quality green teas. It didn’t seem to blend well with one green tea I tried it with, and it’s not that great on its own, either. It looks colorful, but it smells artificial, not really like mango at all, and it has an ‘off’ taste to it. It’s surprising, as I have found all of H&S’s ‘real’ Teas to be of a good quality. I might try one of Teavivre’s fruit blends instead, as theirs are very inexpensive (~$5.50 / 100g). I have found London Tea Room’s Mango ’n Friends to be MUCH better.

I think this was my first fruit tea, so I’ll leave off the rating.

Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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Experience buying from Teavana Online http://steepster.com/places/2822-teavana-online-atlanta-georgia

I bought 2 OZ of this in their year-end Heavenly Tea Sale at 75% off.

It looks almost as good as the picture: lots of colorful goodies mixed in with huge reddish-purplish yum-berries and a few rolled oolong tea leaves. It smells about like any Tie Guan Yin accompanied by weaker notes of berries. I brewed this up as I do any oolong.

Tea liquor smelled about like any TGY: floral, and with the barest hint of berries, and it had a very light strawberry color.

It tasted basically like a TGY in the first steep (there may have been some berry notes in there; admittedly I didn’t ‘look’ too hard). The second steeping had the strongest (and best) flavor, like a decent TGY (no fruit or berry flavor at all), with mild flavor on the fifth. “No flavor any different than a (standard) TGY.” It is a beautiful looking tea, but in every other respect it’s like a decent Tie Guan Yin. In my judgement, it’s not anywhere near worth it all full price ($12 / 2 OZ), or even at 50% off, but I’m glad I got to try it for a few bucks.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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Backlogging and based mostly on memory

Experience buying from Village Tea Company Positive.

I ordered from Village Tea Company in the fall of 2011 (they had a special going on that they advertized on Steepster, something like $10 off $20), and along with the awesome tasting vanilla rooibos, we got these. We brewed these pouches up a number of times that fall/winter.

I think we were able to get three decent steepings out of each pouch. The pouches are nice-looking, seem to have plenty of room for the leaf to breath, and seem well-designed.

It looks like there are nice-sized tea leaves in the pouches, and it all smells great.

I really like their cardboard containers: they are stylish and the lid fits very tightly.

It’s a quality chai, and so we have enjoyed these each time we brewed them up (with soy milk). I like the convenience of the pouches as my wife can brew these up on her own.

I think this was my/our first whole-leaf chai—not counting standard type tea bags (it’s hard to remember now) so I’m leaving off the rating.

Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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drank Korea FOP by Sanctuary T
171 tasting notes

Backlogging and based on memory

Experience buying from Sanctuary T http://steepster.com/places/2940-sanctuary-t-online-new-york-new-york?visit=1642

I bought two ounces of this at the end of 2011. I brewed it up not long after (it may have only been once).

I liked everything about this tea: the dry leaf, the aroma, the flavor.

I’m not certain, but I think I brewed this up as I do any green tea.

The only other thing I have to say about this tea at the moment is that they advertize it as a “Korean” green tea, but the leaves look like green tea leaves intermingled with black ones (I can somewhat see it when its dry, but it was obvious when I did my wet leaf analysis). They don’t mention anything in their description of this tea about black tea leaves (unless calling it FOP means it contains black tea leaves, and I don’t think that’s the case). I really can’t believe that the dark brown leaves that stand in stark contrast against the dark green leaves are non-oxidized leaves as well. It just ain’t so. I have a green tea blend from Teavana (Golden Jade) and this “Korean” tea looks a lot like it (that’s not bad, mind you, as the Golden Jade is a quality green/black blended tea). All of those “observations” (along with other things I mention in my company review of SanctuaryT) makes me question whether or not this is truly a Korean green tea. It’s good, but it’s got oxidized leaves mixed in with the green ones, or I’m a rhino. So, although they advertize it as Korean, I don’t know that it really is. AND, if it’s a blend then tell me it’s a blend. There, I’ve said my peace.

My first “Korean” green tea, so no rating.

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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Backlogging and based partially on memory but mostly on my notes

Experience buying from Jing Tea Shop http://steepster.com/places/2780-jing-tea-shop-on-line

I bought a sample of this with an order from them during the late spring of 2011. I brewed it up a couple of times since then.

It looked like any quality Tie Guan Yin I had ever seen pictures of in that it had dark green leaves rolled in tight balls; it smelled fresh and vegetal.

I did six steepings starting out at 187F and 30" and used slightly hotter water and added 15" for each successive one.

Flavor: my notes say it was good through the fifth steeping, but no notes on the sixth (except that I did one).

I believe this was my first TGY (so no rating), thus watching the leaves slowly unfurl through each steeping was quite an experience for me.

The only notes about the wet leaf: “Almost no pieces; nice, full, large, army-green colored leaves with serrated edges”. That’s all I have for now. I still have some, so I hope to update this at some later time.One a final note, I am very slowly starting to appreciate the wonder that is Oolong Tea!

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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Backlogging and based entirely on my notes

Experience buying from Life in Teacup http://steepster.com/places/2861-life-in-a-teacup-online-easthampton-massachusetts

I got this as a free sample from Life in Teacup in the fall of 2011 and brewed it up on 12/14/2011.

This tea had long, dark-brown twisted leaves that reminded me of a darker roasted oolong; it had a gunpowder-y aroma similar to the Wuyi oolongs I have had, but more uplifting, rather than earthy.

I used my standard oolong steeping times and temperatures (I found this to be surprising, but I think I treated this as an oolong). There were seven grams of dry tea to three cups of water. The the liquor had a light caramel color, with a mild aroma (malty?). The flavor was good, similar to a Wuyi oolong. It had some mild flavor on the forth steeping. The wet leaf looked like any quality oolong I have seen: large, whole leaves ranging in color from dark green to dark brown.

Overall, my understanding is that this is technically a red tea (so fully oxidized), and yet it was best Wuyi-like tea I have ever tasted: it was sweeter and not as roasted as most Wuyi oolongs tend to be. I enjoyed watching the leaves slowly unfurl with each steeping. Although I stopped at four steepings, it may have had more to give. I enjoyed everything about this tea (although I’m not a big Wuyi oolong fan this one was sweeter).

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Backlogging and based solely on memory

Experience buying from Art of Tea http://steepster.com/places/3023-art-of-tea-online-santa-cruz-california

Date of Purchase/Amount of Leaf/Date of Steeping: Bought in late 2011, sample of roughly a little over an ounce, steeped up sometime in March 2012.

I liked this tea the most out of the four teas in Art of Tea’s White Tea sampler. It reminded me (and my wife) somewhat of a quality green tea, in that it was somewhat vegetal in its flavor profile with the standard white tea ‘sweet hay’ notes mixed in. I would happily drink this tea often, but it’s somewhat pricy by my standards ($20 /4 OZ), especially given their shipping is $7 USD (I believe), but this is the tea I like the most from them after having tried four whites and two greens.

160 °F / 71 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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(Updated 6-3-2014)

After about three years I changed my avatar from the picture of a green teacup with steam rising (one I created using Paint) to this dragon gaiwan. This is one of my favorite gaiwans, although I haven’t brewed any tea in it as of yet.

You can call me, Joe.

What, How and Why I steep:

I typically expect, and shoot for, at least three flavorful steepings out of (just about) any tea I brew up.

I generally start at the times and temps below ( = minute(s), " = second(s) ), then add 5F and 30" for each successive steeping:
Chinese Green - 175F, 1’ ;
Japanese Green - 160F, 1’add 15F, then decrease by 15";
White - 160F, 2’;
Oolong - This varies;
Indian Black/Chinese Red and Herbals - a little off the boil, 2’; why do I start with such low temps & short steep times? So as to ‘spread out’ the flavor over multiple steepings. I have found this to work with every tea I have tried so far. Also, I am not looking for intense flavor in that first cup (i.e. Western style), I would prefer to taste it—and savor—it over many steepings.
Pu-erh - Beginning in 2014, I finally chose to dive into pu-erh! Standard parameters when I brew ripened pu-erh in my 150 ml gaiwan (I also own an 11 oz Yixing):
First I do a 15" rinse with near boiling water. Then for each successive steeping I add Stevia.
……….1st: Near boiling, 0.5’
……….2nd: Boiling , 1’
……….3rd: Boiling , 1.5’
etc. Until there is no flavor, or I ran out of time and energy.

I hope to ‘streamline’ my reviews going forward, so, hopefully, they are a little less technical and dry (and perhaps even stilted), and a little more organic and experiential (and hopefully, flowing); this somewhat new approach to reviews is a kind of metaphor for where my life is headed right now, and is one reason why I write reviews: as a kind of time-capsule of where I was in my life at that time.

Tea Rating scale:

1 – 29: There is no reason to even think about drinking this stuff again.
30-49: I may drink it if someone else brewed it up, but I would not bother brewing it up myself let alone bother buying any.
50 – 59: I like something about it, and I may brew it up if I already have some, but I would not buy any more of it.
60 – 69: I like a few things about it, and I may buy it if the price is right.
70 – 79: This is a tea I enjoy and would drink fairly regularly as long as it is reasonably priced.
80 – 89: A tea I will drink as often as I can, and will likely try to buy some when I run out (as long as it’s affordable).
90 – 99: This has everything I look for in the best of teas: beauty in appearance, a delightful aroma, and most importantly, depth and yummy-ness in its flavor.
100: Perfect.

My primary interest is in artisan loose-leaf Chinese green, red and ripe pu-erh tea, although I enjoy a white and an oolong tea every now and then as well. Here and there I brew a few of the other true teas and an occasional herbal.

Since I choose to live on a very limited income (‘Voluntary Simplicity’), I have to be very conscience about how much I pay for tea. In reading their Tea Enthusiast’s books, Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss sold me on the wonders of artisan teas. Thankfully I have found that there is affordable, artisan tea out there; it’s just like anything else that has true value: it takes hard work, dedication and at least a little persistence to find it.

I came to tea out of a desire to find something to help calm and focus my mind as naturally as possible. My mind is very active, so to speak, and at times I find it very difficult to focus and keep myself centered. For years now I have been practicing Yoga daily along with others things to help me to stay relaxed and present, but I found I wanted a little something extra to help me start the day; the theanine in green tea seems to help me in this.

I have been enjoying loose-leaf tea since November of 2010.

I enjoy connecting with others about tea.

I drink Stevia with just about all of my tea (no sugar or artificial sweeteners).

I drink a pot of green tea every day in the AM (usually steeped three times over the course of the day), sharing it with my wife.

Each tea in my cupboard is carefully and colorfully labeled in a tin or in a jar that used to hold something else (I love to reuse things!) .

I have three teapots: a glass Bodum – I don’t use the metal infuser/press anymore (greens), a 16 oz glass Victorian (to brew greens and whites, and to use as a pot to decant other teas into), and an 11 oz Yixing (ripe Pu-erh only). (New in 2014) I also one a number of gaiwans ranging in volume from from 125 ml to 250ml.

I tend to be direct, straightforward and honest when I post anything to the discussion boards. I take the approach that everything I say is stated with the implied disclaimer: In My Humble Opinion (i.e. IMHO). I may occasionally emphasize this point, where appropriate. I view your comments in the same way. You are in no way obligated to read what I have posted. And I am in no way similarly obligated to you.

Sitting with my cup of tea I greet the day in anticipation of new discoveries along the way.


Midwest, USA

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