76 Tasting Notes


“Well, this is interesting,” I thought as I opened the little sample packet. My experience with pu’er is extremely limited (I guess that’s what inspired me to step out and order the samplers from Verdant Tea). The dry leaf was, well, chunky, as one would expect from a tea that had been chipped off a compressed cake, but it was exciting to my pu’er-noviceness.

My first impression of the leaf smell was…wood. Like the wooden desk I had when I was a little kid that for some reason, I enjoyed licking. I don’t know why, I was a weird kid, but that’s the first thing that came to mind.

After two rinsings, I had a bit of trouble getting this down for the first couple of steepings; it came off very astringent to me, despite near-instant steep times. But there was a nuttiness that was very apparent, along with more of that woody-flavor. Happily, a few steepings later the overbearing astringency subsided a bit. The emerging flavor is one I’m not quite sure how to describe; seeing as I have so little experience with teas like this I’m not really sure what to compare it to. There is sort of a light sweetness, almost like that in a white tea, and maybe a sort of whole-grainy flavor, like a hot breakfast cereal.

Overall, I’m not sure I’m exactly wild about this tea, but it’s certainly something I’d like to revisit later after I’ve had more experience with teas of this sort. Pu’er really is a whole world of its own.

On a side note, occasionally when I drink tea, I get this weird heady, cloudy, relaxed feeling that I half-jokingly refer to as “teahigh”. So far it doesn’t seem tea-specific; it seems to be pretty random. It’s not strictly caffeine or tea-related either, since I’ve experienced the feeling with herbals as well, and occasionally even coffee. But when trying this tea, almost as soon as the cup touched my lips I started getting that heady feeling, and much stronger than usual. I actually had to space out the steepings throughout the course of the day because I had some projects I needed to focus on. While I’m still pretty sure the feeling isn’t tea-specific, I figured I would make note of it anyway, just in case.


Hi Aiko. I enjoyed reading about your heady “tea high” experience with this one. We experience what you’ve described on a regular basis when trying some of the more exceptional samples our sourcing agents send us, and “tea high” or “tea drunk” end up being the same words we use to talk about it in earnest when we’re evaluating a tea.

Anyway, I notice that you mention your first couple steepings of the Farmer’s Co-op being overly strong, and I’m just curious what kind of leaf to water ratio you used this time? This is one that we’ve found to be extraordinarily potent, and typically recommend using much less leaf that one might for other sheng pu’ers. I usually use a small bit, like just enough to fit in a teaspoon for about 3-4oz of water. Otherwise I’ve found it can be somewhat unruly in those first several steepings. Do you have a sense of how much leaf you used?


Tea Drunk, hah. That makes sense too! It’s neat to know I’m not the only one.
Hmm, I used 4 grams to 90ml, too much, you think? I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time, thanks :>


Ah yes. I just spoke with David about it. For Farmer’s Co-op I would suggest using half that leaf quantity, so around 2 grams (or just enough to fit in a level teaspoon) for 90ml of water. My gaiwan is about that size and I use the teaspoon guideline. It doesn’t look like a lot of leaf when you’re preparing to brew it, but the stuff is loaded with flavor. I hope this helps produce a better experience for you next time. Happy drinking!


I too have experienced a “tea high” without any apparent connection to caffeine content. Last night, I got it from a flavored green tea! Hahaha, it’s always a surprising feeling to me.

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Mmm, this isn’t bad. I love the complexity this tea adds to a blend, so I decided to try it out on its own. It’s pretty good, but I think I’ll stick with blending it; it’s just not robust enough on its own for me. It’s certainly interesting and different from a lot of other blacks, and I can appreciate the light fruity notes, but personally I’m just partial to stronger, darker blacks that can stand alongside my breakfast.

I suppose since it’s Easter I should go find some sort of spring-y tea to drink or something!

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drank Silver Needle by Adagio Teas
76 tasting notes

So. Tired.

Running on something like four hours of sleep, just getting home after a tiring day at work, and I’m faced with an important question: Do I want to dive right into a long afternoon nap, or brew up some tea?

A few minutes later I’m yelling at these leaves. SINK, I SAY, SINK! Mashing them down into the water with the edge of the gaiwan lid. I forget these incredibly light and fluffy teas have a hard time actually sitting in the water to steep— they’d much rather float. It looks like tons of little asparagus stems floating in the tiny cup. They’re very cute. Trying not to fall asleep in it.

Picked this tea because I organized all my tea the other day and am making an effort to use up the teas that I just have little bits of, trying to narrow my selection a bit. I had a little more than enough for one session of this. So I decided it would just be a stronger session. And what the heck else was I going to do with a single gram of tea, anyway.

Since it was the bottom of the tin though, it was full of lots of little leaf bits, which were fun to watch swirl around in the bottom of the teacup. It’s like confetti. The leaves keep sticking inside the lid of that gaiwan too. I am so delusional-ly tired I find this very amusing.

Maybe I should have just gone to bed. But this tea is okay, if a wee bitter. It kinda irritates the back of my throat. Or maybe there’s just a bit of the leaf caught back there. But it’s warm and comforting and delicate. I find myself suddenly craving pears, and feta cheese. I don’t know why. I suppose there is a bit of a pear note to this tea. But then it’s also lightly vegetal, like… a pear salad. Yes, that’s it. But it still needs feta.

…I really think I should just go nap now before I come up with an even sillier interpretation.

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According to the description, this tea was traditionally offered only to the emperors of China. Those emperors must have either been incredible tea-masters, or lacking the tastebuds that detect tannins.

Or maybe I just just an off-batch, but, I can’t drink this stuff. It kind of reminded me of that time I tried eating an acorn. No matter how I steep it, it just feels like a cup of biting astringency. I’ve actually had this little sample tin around for a while, and once in a while, I feel adventurous and try it again. Maybe today, I think, will be the day I can coax some nice flavor out of this. Every time I regret it. Even using almost tepid water temperatures, even using two-second steep times, the intense astringency overpowers everything (which is sad, because I can tell that there really is a nice flavor underneath).

It could be just me, though. I shared this with a friend once and she thought it was great. Maybe I’m just super-sensitive to astringency (or maybe she’s descended from one of those Chinese emperors)

Ah well. Today was the day that I used the last of this tea, to no flavorful avail. Farewell, Snow Water Green Cloud tea. At least you had a very cute name.

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drank Ali Shan by Adagio Teas
76 tasting notes

I just realized I have quite a bit of this tea (by “quite a bit” I mean probably enough for at least 5 more sessions). And I’ve had it for a little over two years now, still in its little sample tin (remember those? Oh I have so, so many of those cute little Adagio sample tins). So naturally it’s a little stale and lost a bit of flavor, but it’s still very comforting right now.

I remember when I was first really, really getting into tea and wanting to show it off to everyone I knew, this was one of my favorites to demonstrate because the leaves are so tightly packed and then unfurl throughout the steepings into nice clusters of big leaves and stems, sometimes four or five whole leaves attached to one stem. It’s pretty impressive and gets a nice reaction from the onlookers. I love taking the leaves out of the gaiwan once they’re spent, and spreading them out on the tray. One of those teas that’s just a lot of fun to play with. I remember in particular a few people asking, after the demonstration, if they could take one of the leaf clusters home. No idea what they planned on doing with them, but it was a good sign they enjoyed the whole experience.

Ah, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a tea brewing demonstration for other people. Good times.

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I was looking through my tea cabinet for something interesting when I came across a small green sealed package simply labeled “Muzha Tieguanyin 2005” I don’t even remember where this came from, or how long I’ve had it (I really ought to keep track of this stuff), but I thought what the hey, I love oolongs, I love tieguanyin, I may as well try it!

I was a bit surprised, to be honest, by the roasty aroma and the very dark, nearly black leaves, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a roasted oolong before, so this was going to be a new experience. for me; I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I had already temped the water at around 175, as I wasn’t expecting such a dark, roasty tea. A couple steepings at this temperature and I quickly learned that wasn’t going to work— I was going to need to reboil the water to pull the full flavors from this one. After that, the roasted flavors sort became much stronger; reminded me of very much of houjicha (but with much less astringency). Rather warm and soothing, but I was a little disappointed that throughout the whole session the flavor remained exactly the same, the strong roasted flavor overshadowing any other flavors the tea might have had.

I wonder, is this typical of roasted oolongs? If so, I’m not sure they fall under my favorites. I have enough left for another session, so maybe next time I’ll brew it alongside my staple houjicha and see if I can find any other flavors under all that roasty-toastiness.

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This is a very memorable tea for me. After brewing my teas western-style for years, this Snow Dragon was the first tea I brewed in a gaiwan, JAS eTea actually sent it to me as a free sample when I bought my first gaiwan from them (a gaiwan that has sadly since hit the floor). I remember they enclosed a little hand-written thankyou note in the package too; that made me feel kind of fuzzy inside.. I love it when sellers show some piece of humanity in their products.

But this tea is not the same as I remember it back then. This may be in some part due to the fact that this tea is probably pretty stale now, as it’s been at least two years since I opened the package. Kind of a shame, because I remember being completely enamored with it at first. Of course, another contributing factor is probably that my tea-palate has developed considerably in that time, and I might be a lot pickier than I was when I first tried this.

I’m still struggling with this desire (in tea, and in life in general) to save the best things for special occasions. In all truth, I probably would have enjoyed this tea a lot more had I just gone through the whole package while it was still fresh, and/or I could appreciate it a lot more. But no, I decided that this tea was so amazing, so divinely tea-high inducing, that I had to hoard it away and wait for some specific undefined moment in life to enjoy it. What a silly idea.

The funny thing is, I’m actually finding this tea a little …well, trickier to brew than I remember. Even ten or so steepings in, it seems to very easily oversteep, resulting in a quickly bitter cup if I leave it steeping more than even a few seconds. I can either assume this is because the tea is old and stale, or consider that my novice tea-brewing efforts might somehow have…been better than they are now. Admittedly, back then I was very, very carefully focusing on every motion of the process in true Chinese tea-ceremony style, and right now I just have a plate on my desk that holds my gaiwan, fairness pitcher, and little fish cup, and am just sort of re-steeping as necessary while I’m doing other things (Like writing this, for instance).

This tea is still just as cute as it always was, rolled into tight curls that remind me of woodshavings, and just as wonderful to watch unfurl in the gaiwan, even if I’m not focusing on it as much as I used to. Watching those buds unravel is still one of my favorite parts of the tea-brewing process. The flavor is still very white-tea-esque, light and fruity and sweet fading to a greener flavor in later steepings. Overall, it’s still a very good tea when I focus on it for what it is now, and not in comparison to a distant infatuated memory.

Hah, life lessons from a teacup!


I’ve had SNOW DRAGON from other vendors and really enjoy it. :))

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Wow, holy wow this tea is something else.
My mind is a little too blown to pick out little flavors and describe it in fancy terminology but I will say that I set up my tea-table and brewed this up as something to sip on while doing some housecleaning and ended up just sitting down and savoring it. It was so good it required my full attention.

The first three or four infusions, I will say, wow’d me the most. Later on the flavors became a bit more muted, until I went and reboiled the water for hotter, longer steepings. The flavors started popping again then, but it tasted like a completely different tea!

I have enough of this tea left for one or two more sessions— I’ll have to make sure to take better notes then.

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I’m really not a huge drinker of Japanese greens. I think. I’m just drinking through a lot of it lately because when I’m not looking for the caffeine-rush of huge mugs of strong western-brewed black tea, it comes down to the fancy oolongs, chinese greens, and whites, which I brew in my gaiwan, and Japanese greens. And I just don’t feel like breaking out the fancy gongfu setup lately, so Japanese greens it is. But I think they’re really starting to grow on me, the more I drink them.

I love to nibble on rice crackers when I’m drinking this stuff; the ones I pick up from the Asian grocery that I can’t read any of the text on. But they’re crunchy, savory with a bit of sweetness, glazed in soy sauce (or something flavored like it), and sprinkled in black sesame seeds. The pairing is just addicting.

But anyway, the tea. It’s a very fine tea, the kind of tea that, after the first steeping, falls away from the inside of your kyusu in one green glop. I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds. Okay, it’s not pretty, but it smells wonderful.

At the first sip, I was honestly a bit shocked at the strength of the flavor compared to the lightness of the color. I am finding myself more and more drawn to that grassy, vegetable flavor in Japanese greens, and this has plenty of it.

In my (limited) experience, the second steeping of teas like this holds more flavor than the first. I got all excited as I poured water for the second pot into my kyusu and watched that green blob dissolve into a thick, green soup. The resulting tea was wonderfully cloudy, and held just a bit of astringency with even more of that rich vegetable-soup flavor. No, at that point it was a little less vegetable-y and more…meaty, almost. Wonders never cease; I’ll never understand how a leaf and a bone broth can taste so similar.

My taste in Japanese greens isn’t terribly refined, I’m afraid. Still feeling under the weather and lacking in a sense of smell, this is something else I’ll have to try again later and see how it compares.


That’s one reason people love Japanese greens, because of umami. Both gyokuro (high quality) and fukamushi senchas have that bone-broth flavor.

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drank Mambo by Adagio Teas
76 tasting notes

I first got a taste of this while trying out several signature blends that others had assembled on Adagio’s site. I found myself drawn most to the ones that contained Mambo, and decided to try it straight. I was in love.

This was my staple morning tea for a long, long time. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor every morning before work, taking a few moments to enjoy this tea and paint some watercolor splotches on cheap pieces of copy paper that were destined to be folded into little paper birds (I was too cheap to buy pre-printed paper, and well, it was more fun this way).

Something about this tea made it positively invigorating. A blend of black and dark oolong teas (Adagio’s Yunnan jig and wuyi ensemble), it seemed to hold the best of both worlds— cocoa-y, fruity, yet somehow very savory, a rich and full mouthfeel that never failed to wake me up.

Drinking this every morning sadly wasn’t as affordable after a while, and I went to just drinking the Yunnan jig (funny how I started out with blends and then narrow down to the ingredients I like most), which is nearly as good (and $10 a pound cheaper) but occasionally I’ll blend it with a little dark oolong to attempt to recreate that characteristic richness.

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