122 Tasting Notes

drank Magnolia Oolong by Tea Ave
122 tasting notes

Thanks again to my favorite sample-sharer Dinosara! I’m quite excited by this tea company, can’t wait for March 1st!
The dry leaves and the tea have a vaguely butter smell, almost nutty, with an edge of sweetness, like if you dipped dried papaya into cool browned-butter. Or maybe some kind of buttery raw nut, like a hazelnut or macadamia nut. It’s sort of familiar, but really pleasant!
The first steeping, boiling for 1 minute: the scent has become a flavor on the intake of breath before the sip while hot, but throughout the sip as it cools. A sweet minerality lingers on your tongue for a very long time (I haven’t allowed longer than 2 minutes between sips, but it likely last much longer!) after you swallow, it is really quite amazing. The whole experience is quite soothing and fresh at the same time, like a cool asian garden walk. VERY nice. It very definitely gets sweeter as it cools.
Second steep: 1:30 at boiling. This steep both looks and smells greener. While the first steep was pale yellow-green, this is much more spring green. The leaves have totally unfurled by now and they are huge. There are a few short stems with two or three leaves popping off! It also smells more floral. I’m getting way less of the nutty/buttery aromal now it is more like a far away florist’s shop, that fresh, green smell of flowers that are not known for their scent. The minerality is stronger and not as sweet. There is a sensation on the back of my tongue that bitter is much to strong of a word for. More like when you sort of taste someones perfume? It makes my mouth feel slightly cottony. An interesting steeping, but I miss the flavor I was getting in the first steeping. Sweeter with a soft floral note when cool.
3rd steeping: 2 min, boiling. This steep smells quite vegetal, like the steaming water of a green vegetable. The water is again greener, but some of the nuttiness is back in the scent. Now the flavor is a veggie sweetness, like really good broccoli or asparagus, and fills my mouth as it cools. The minerality has faded quite a bit and only lingers at the back of my mouth. The ‘bitterness’ is absent as well. This is good, but not nearly as floral or as fruity any more. I think I’m just tasting a fabulous oolong, most of the flavoring must be gone at this point.
These are all the steeps I have time for today. Overall a very pleasant experience of a high quality oolong. I’m a relative beginner, and it speaks to the quality of this tea that I was able to get so much variety and flavor between steeps. Very excited to try my other samples!

Flavors: Dried Fruit, Floral, Green, Hazelnut, Mineral, Nutty, Sweet, Vegetal

Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Blerg, this is still just too smokey for me. Drank this earlier this morning, and every time I catch a whiff of the spent leaves I think lychee! and get excited, but then I remember it’s all smokey. It’s like you’re trying to enjoy your delicately flavored lychee jelly, but someone keeps smothering you with a dirty sweatshirt that they wore at the bonfire the night before. That may have been a bit harsh, but suffice to say it just ruins the experience of such a refreshing fruit. I would not have bought this if I had known, but I suppose it wouldn’t be bad cold brewed…

Flavors: Lychee, Smoke

190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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drank Bali by Dammann Freres
122 tasting notes

Now that I have a kettle that heats water to specific temperatures, I thought I would revisit this one to see if all the fuss I made about it was true.
I still love it, though now with less bitterness! A touch of sugar still calls to me though, I think it mellows out the perfume aspect and bumps up the fruit, leading to a much more balanced and AMAZING brew! Once again, I have Dinosara to thank, she donated the last few cups of her stash of Bali to me! I absolutely cannot thank you enough!

Flavors: Flowers, Lychee, Nectar

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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This just arrived in the mail. So excited! It’s waaaay smaller than my cheapo walmart 1.7 liter kettle- can’t wait to try it!
I’m drinking the first cup now! I chose a farmer’s market lychee white tea that I absolutely hated the first time I tried it. Now, with the appropriate temperature water, I can actually taste the flavoring (though it is at least a two and a half year old tea…), which is kind of like canned lychee. Still not the best, but drinkable now!
Operation is a total cinch!
The kettle is a bit louder than my walmart special, and the clicking noise of the heating element turning on and off is not nearly so loud or obnoxious as the reviewers claimed it to be. The kettle seemed louder when less full. Maybe I can get some decibel readings for you guys from my phone.
I haven’t read any mention of the pour of the kettle. It is a very nice arc, which can be controlled reasonably well, for both speed and distance. It’s no gooseneck, but not a drop is spilled or rolls down the side, a feat that I much appreciate seeing as this kettle is destined for office use, inevitably around electronics. My old splashy kettle will not be missed!
The kettle is rather squat, wider at the bottom, so the top fills up quicker- pay attention when filling! The handle sticks out rather far; even though the footprint is smaller, the handle causes it to take up more space than my old kettle. I do appreciate that it can face any way on the base- no more awkward lifting for me!
The handle does not get hot, but the stainless steel exterior certainly does. You do not want to be bumping this one accidentally! Conveniently, when lifted off the base, the bottom of the kettle is well insulated that you can support the kettle with a second hand- helpful if it is at full capacity and your arm is tired from playing ukulele!
Overall, I’m sure that I’m going to be supremely happy with this kettle! Can’t wait to properly brew a green, haha!

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Another Upton sample. I felt like I needed a wake up, so maybe a strong breakfast tea will do the job? The descriptions virtually requires milk and sugar, so I’m a little worried about the potency, but here goes nothing!
Wow, that is astringent on the back of the tongue! Not quite drying like a green tea, but much too strong for my liking! The overall flavor is much fuller than something like a standard lipton tea bag, and I get the raisins and caramel, but the caramel is burnt. Sugar most definitely helps it out!
This is a bold breakfast tea, but I was not equipped to handle it- it feels a little acidic in my stomach, to be honest. I’ll finish my cup, but probably will give the rest of this sample away.

Flavors: Caramel, Dark Bittersweet, Raisins, Roasted

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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The sachets of this tea where so strongly scented that it put me off trying it for a few days, worrying me that I would have a similar experience as Chinese Flower, but instead of a hot fruit cup, a hot lemon peel! The brewing tea was much better smelling, sweeter and less citrus-y, though I again can detect the white tea, which I guess I am just not in the mood for lately (unless it is paired with jasmine!). Unfortunately the cup needed some sugar to bring that sweetness back out of the tea, it was a little pucker-worthy until I sweetened it. The citrus backed off quite a bit, but I found it overall to be a decently balanced tea. Perhaps I’m just used to non-white Earl Greys, but this cup just didn’t quite pack enough punch. I will most likely be sticking to my sweeter, citrus blossom earl greys in the future.
I will try this again in the future at a lower temp and lower steep time. So far all of my harney & sons samples have been waaay too flavorful for me, steeping less and at lower temp may help me appreciate them more.

Flavors: Bergamot, Citrus Zest, Lemon Zest, Oak wood

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong with oolongs; maybe I just haven’t developed the taste for them? I get the delicious floral and sweet flavors from some cheaper oolongs, but a nice one like this tastes like old leaves? It must be on my end. I will not rate until I figure it out. The good news is that I finally got myself a variable temp kettle coming in the mail- no more scalding for me!
Two steepings on this one, the second only slightly better than the first- maybe I’m off on the water-leaf ratio?

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 45 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Okay, since I don’t feel like making a custom tea for this blend that I’m working on just yet, I will put it under this ingenious tag.
I have been drawing out my supply of Vanilla Mint Mate since Teaopia closed down two years ago. This is an old tea for me, but a really classic wake-up tea that I genuinely miss in my cupboard. It’s great for those mornings that I really need a caffeine hit, but don’t want anything as strongly flavored as a black tea. I attempted to replace it with The Killers Vanilla, but that tea is just so chocolate-y to me (something about the addition of lavender), and I detest chocolate! The original tea had a definitive, but mild green mate flavor on the sip with a heavy dose of cooling on the swallow, but maintained a pleasant level of sweetness and creaminess from the vanilla all the way through. I have one cup left of the original, so I’m hoping to compare it with several options of my finished blend.
Fast forward to my first online order of tea from Upton last year. I got a giant bag of green mate and an even bigger bag of the most cooling peppermint I could find. Dinosara spoiled me with a bundle of Madagascar vanilla beans to complete my project. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to experimenting. I figured my tea log was the best place to record the endeavor for posterity. My goal today was to determine the ideal mint/mate ratio, into which I will toss a vanilla bean and let it age.
To make each sample comparable, I made sure the brewing was exactly the same (side note: who knew I had three tea balls floating around my house?!) for each mix. I will now review them separately:
1/2 mint/mate mix: I really can taste the earthy greenness of the mate, tempered just slightly by the mint. The cooling really shows up on/after the swallow. The cooling is just not quite what I want it to be, but it taste the most similar to the original.
1/1 mint/mate mix: The cooling is at the right amount now, but the flavor is much too peppermint. The mate is there, but the bad influence of the mint overpowers on the sip when I really want it confined to the swallow. This blend really loses the warm and fuzzy smokiness of the mate. It was a tough call, but I think this is too much mint.
2/1 mint/mate mix: This is basically like a pure mint tea. The sod-like under flavor of pure mint shines through the overpowering cooling of the tongue. Definitely not the winner.
For now, I will most likely proceed with variable amounts of vanilla bean in the blend with the most mate, but perhaps I will bump up the mint just slightly in that mix and try it first.

185 °F / 85 °C 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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drank L'Abricot by Fauchon
122 tasting notes

I was in the mood for a sunny tea, and thought apricot would help me dream of summer on this bitter cold but sunny day. This is a sample that I’ve had for nearly a year. The first half of which I tried because I passed on a tin of this from TJ Maxx and wondered if I should go back. I vaguely remember thinking it was smokey, but that’s about it. I do know that I never went back.
I get the apricot in the smell of the dry leaves, which bodes well even though I’m a bigger fan of peach (something about fruit needing to be juicy!). Brewing I definitely am getting a little of the smokey.
I’m not sure I used enough leaf, so I’m letting it brew a little longer to get a stronger amber color out of the water. What I can taste is a vague fruitiness over a pleasant, gentle smoke. I think a touch of sugar would bring out the fruit.
The sugar helped. But I do think this is a little weaker than it should be. Damn my bathtub of a tea mug! Lol, I will just have to do better next time. This tea showed potential, but it wasn’t a must-have.
To its credit, it never got bitter or astringent and still has the nice caramelized flavor of a good black tea. I could drink this regularly if I had procured a supply last year.

Flavors: Apricot, Earth, Malt, Smoke

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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I just want to breathe air rarified by the scent this tea gives off in the cup. Amazingly sweet and delicate jasmine. Not big and sharp California jasmine, but the tiny fleshy white flowers on the great big waxy-leaved bushes that bloomed for the week I was in Paris. Sweet and lovely, I just want to smell like this all day… Fitting- I’m named after the flower, after all!
The white tea base is some of the best I’ve tried, smooth, without a hint of bitterness. It made my next sample of white tea (Wedding Tea- Harney & Sons) that much less appealing.
What a treat after my horrible presentation yesterday! I shared my cup with a couple ladies in the office, and we all enjoyed it, even the lab mate who’s no fan of tea! I was dreaming of the cup all night, especially once my SO lit our honeysuckle scented candle. The vague smell of the honeysuckle around the house made me pine for another cup of this tea! If that’s not the sign of a keeper, I don’t know what is!

Flavors: Floral, Jasmine, Sweet

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I started drinking something other than Sleepytime in my first year of grad school, 2011. Enabled by a few decent local tea shops in a big city, I amassed a small cupboard of teas that I now find harsh and bad (haha, I’m getting in too deep!). With my move back to the US and subsequent geographic isolation from tea shops, I recently discovered the world of online tea vendors.
My cupboard is slowly growing but still small. Regardless I am interested in swaps, if you find something in my collection that you would like to try, ask away! I just can’t guarantee yet that I have a lot of it!
I’m very into Jade oolongs and anything that has a floral character (especially jasmine, rose, violet, and lychee scented things!). Most green teas, excepting the extremely bitter, are good in my book, and again I seek sweeter, fresher, greener types, though nutty/savory teas have their place (as long as they don’t tip over into salty!). I then to shy away from smokey or overly roasted teas and for this reason and the fact that I am not a fan of chocolate, everyone’s favorite blacks and wuyi oolongs tend to fall flat for me. White teas are alright but I don’t tend to reach for them unless they are floral scented. I rarely drink herbals, chamomile and I do not get along, but a basic vanilla rooibos, or some flavored green rooibos’ can be interesting.
In general, it could be said that I tend toward floral and sweet oolong, sheng (as well as moonlight whites and yabaos), matcha, and green teas.

As of now my rating system follows the school grading scale in terms of how well the tea performs and how well I like it (100-90 A, 89-80 B, etc.). Anything above 90 will eventually end up in my cupboard, though it’s fine to keep a B student around for daily drinkers!


Athens, Ohio

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