50 Tasting Notes


(from notes August 18, 2019)

This morning, I treated myself to a new tea-to-me vendor, Old Ways Tea.
I made the “mistake” of brewing this for 60s at 200 deg F. The resulting tea was strong. It had some amazingly darker robust flavors — Moss, earth, and slightly smokey flavor. The mouthfeel was amazingly smooth and silky with a clean finish. It was like how silk and velvet lay on your skin.

It was good but others reviews mention other flavors that I wanted to taste. (Also, I can’t compare this to any previous years, as some reviewers seem to indicate that previous years were better…)

I backed off the brew time because I wasn’t getting a lot of high notes so I brewed at 45 seconds. Flavors dropped down to tobacco, chocolate with an amazing cooling effect like ginger. The cha Qi fills the mouth and throat then the head. The mouthfeel is exactly the same.

Subsequent steepings had creamy textures and flavor of orange peel.

It’s an AMAZINGLY COMPLEX tea. Probably the best of example of a Wu Yi Black Tea. The way you brew it is going to dictate the flavor profile — none of which are bad but only based on your preference. This tea is a fine Scotch. The mouthfeel of silk and velvet is worth the price of admission.

This is a Tea you want to sit back and enjoy by itself. I’ll be ordering more.

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drank Kenyan Purple Leaf Tea by Justea
50 tasting notes

I bought this at the SF Int’ Tea Festival because I’ve heard of Kenyan tea but not have had a chance to sample. I tried their jasmine flavored version and thought it was good. A friend tried the chocolate or mint and also found it tasty. However, I really just wanted to try JUST the Kenyan purple tea without any flavors. I had to ask them if I could taste JUST the purple tea without any flavoring, but they didn’t have it brewed, so I bought this untasted.

The tea leaves are small and have a purple tinge to them.
The dry leaves smell faintly of plum.
The warm (not wet) leaves smell more of plum and a light roast.

I brewed this in two different ways.
- Western
- GongFu

TL;DR — Western Style: Hardly any flavor
GongFu style — MUCH too bitter, even at a low temp/short steep times.

I brewed this per their recommendation on the bag: Western Style 1tsp (3g) for 1cup water @ 175F for 3 minutes. (NOTE: Their website suggests 3g at BOILING WATER for 3-5 minutes)

Steep 1 : Tea broth: a very pale dirty yellow
Flavor: Extremely mild flavor. There’s hardly any initial flavors, only hints of toasted flavors, but nothing discernible. There’s an extremely mild astringency as my whole tongue dries out just ever so slightly. The water at 175 deg F isn’t helping leach out any of the flavors. (This is when I check their website and find that they recommend BOILING WATER)

Steep 2: 4 minutes @ 208degF
Leaf aroma: there’s a vegetal / roasted scent
Liquid aroma: A very mild fruity (not plum, no stone fruit) scent.
Flavor: There’s an extremely mild sweet vegetal notes. And a bit more astringency than the first steep. It’s not really all that much flavorful than the first steep

Conclusion for Western: When brewed to their recommendation, this tea has hardly any flavor, which is why they probably mix it with other things.

Tea: 5grams / Water: 150ml

30 seconds @ 203F
The tea broth looks like a dirty rose wine. It looks rather unappealing, but has a underlying hints of sweetness in its aroma

Flavor: First thing that hits your mouth is BITTER. I can’t even finish drinking it as it’s so bitter.

20 sec @ 175F — I dropped the steep time down as well as the water temperature, hoping that this will help. It’s not as bitter as the first steep, but still bitter enough to be undrinkable.

Conclusion: Won’t drink this stuff as GF. A higher tea to water ratio does not necessarily make this tea flavorful.


I keep hearing about all those wonderful Kenyan teas as well but those few that I tried were similarly disappointing, or, at best, nothing special. Either my luck is lousy or the hype is a bit excessive.


I think the hype is excessive. It seems to be okay as a blended tea, but on its own? Meh…

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(Notes from 8/1/19)

I got this as a sampler from YS (20 g sampler)

This was the right tea to drink tonite. It’s an interesting tea…best for a late afternoon tea. However, I’m not sure I would order it once this sampler is done.

The flavor initially starts of very thin velvety chocolate, but then blossoms into a robust flavor of sweet toasted aromatic wood/florals with the barest hint of minerality; it’s like the aftertaste is where all the flavor lies.

It’s a weird combination that makes it a fairly well-balanced tea. And the finish is extremely clean. This tea is really easy to drink. And there’s a very faint hint of cha Qi, which given that I ate before the session is saying something.

Steepings are consistent and very forgiving. (5g tea/150ml water). I pushed this from 20 seconds (#1) to 60s (#2), 80s(3) to 2 minutes (4), then 3min (#5) and there was no astringency at 195-200 deg F. I’m sure this can be brewed full Western or Grandpa style with a large amount of leaf without it getting bitter.

But for me, the initial thinness of flavor puts this in the 2.5 out of 5 star range. The robust aftertaste and cha Qi saves it.

I’m going to try this again as full ChaZhou brew with some crushed leaves to see if it improves that initial thin flavor.

Notes from 8/14/19
Okay, tried this again CZ style with a bit of crushed leaves.
Overall, this is a much better tea with the crushed leaves. It’s a bit more robust than before.
This raises the overall recommendation of the tea.

Also tried steep stacking this tea. Much better this way…better balanced.

Flavors: Chocolate, Malt, Sweet Potatoes, Wood

5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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(from my notes 6/23/19 as I try to figure out pu-erhs)

Either my tastes or changing or I am a much more demanding tea drinker.
This stuff brews to deep dark black red. Even after 6 steeps, it stays this color. Brewed GF. 208 deg F. Short steeps 10s, 20s, 25, 35, 45, 60. (5 grams tea / 100 ml of water)

Amazing amount of cha Qi in this ripe puerh. I’m pleasantly surprised. The leaves smell of sweet cedar & moss with earthy undertones. It’s got a viscous mouthfeel but it’s not a dry tea. This tea has very little bitterness but has a bit of light astringency.

Overall, it’s a well-balanced, smooth, and quite drinkable tea although watch out for the cha Qi. I was quite buzzed before I finished the first 100ml. (maybe I should have ate first)

By the 2nd 100ml, I could feel the chi in my head, and then got that slight heat flush by the 4th. By the 6th steep most of that was gone and I can tell that the tea was going to wash out within the next 2 steeps

But it’s too well-balanced for me. There’s nothing to distinguish this tea in flavor and while I like a good bit of Tea drunkenness, I want to rewarded with a distinct flavor.

I was drinking a Four Seasons Oolong earlier in the day and that particular cultivar has amazing flavor so perhaps this just pales in comparison? Or maybe I’m not getting into puerhs like I had hoped.

Flavors: Earth, Malt, Tobacco

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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(from my notes 7/06/19)

For the tea of the day, we have Emperor’s Yellow Tea.
The leaves feel like a cousin to silver needle leaves (which are soft and velour like) This one tastes of bittersweet cocoa with hints of orange/citrus and some florals. It’s an easy tea to drink with a mild viscosity reminiscent of very light roasted oolong, but parts of it remind me of a green/white tea.

Brewstye: Gongfu
Tea: 5grams water: 150ml
Temp: 185F
Time: 20s, 30s, 40, 60

The color of the tea brother is a golden, orange amber.
The wet leaf smells of chocolate, malt, cocoa, orange. Later infusions bring out slight florals.

The flavor ranges from bittersweet chocolate to cocoa & florals depending on the steep. There’s a mild viscosity.

Overall, I really like this tea. You need to be careful on the temperature. I brewed once over 185F and it came out just a tiny bit bitter. This really needs to be brewed closer to green tea temps.

Flavors: Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Floral, Orange

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 tsp 5 OZ / 150 ML

Other than the temperature constraint, would you say this is similar to a Yunnan gold needle?


Yes. It’s about the same family. YS’s Imperial Golden needle might be a touch sweeter and have more of a malty flavor than the yellow, and there’s no floral notes in the YS’s Imperial GN. If you enjoy one, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy the other.

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Notes from 9/2/19.

DISCLAIMER: I’m STILL trying to develop my puerh chops. “Hidden Song” (2016) seems to be a good innocuous introduction to young sheng puerh tea. I’m looking forward to trying the others. Maybe one day puerhs will finally resonate with me (outside of a few outliers), but in the meantime, I use samplers to get a feel for what I do and don’t like in puerh.

This is a very mild, easy-to-drink tea, insofar as I find young sheng puerhs.
The flavors work together, but it’s innocuous as flavors go. It’s kinda of a middle-of-the road for me.

FLAVOR-WISE: There’s a bit of smoke, cooked vegetal flavors bordering on corn/nori. I think this needs at least 2 rinses, as the first infusions were very mild in flavor. Later infusions were much better. There’s a good viscocity and smokey aftertaste. Very mild astringency.

Brew info:
- tea 5.22 grams
- water 150 ml
- temp:200 deg
- brewing : 15s, 30, 45, 60

Flavors: Smoke, Tobacco, Vegetal

0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

Puerh was an acquired taste for me. Lots of sampling involved but ultimately 1 shou and 2 sheng got me hooked fairly quickly into my exploration. Shou: Mandala’s Phatty Cake II. Sheng: White2Tea’s New Amerykah 2 and another Mandala — Heart of the Old Tree. For all three, it was a combination of boldness between cha qi and flavor, mouthfeel to a lesser extent.

Hidden Song is very mellow, and while a decent tea, I think I had already experienced puerh that awakened my favored profile before trying it.


I agree that it’s definitely an acquired taste…one that I have yet to completely acquire, but I can definitely appreciate puerh for its qualities.

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(backlog from 8/23/19)

By all rights, I should really love this tea. It hits all the right checkboxes. I really WANT to like this tea!

Amazing texture and body. This tea coats your tongue like honey syrup and doesn’t let go.
A nose of brown sugar, bread, honey, and citrus

Good set of flavors — honey, lemon zest, hints of spices (cinnamon), baked bread; Things I expect out of a WuYi Black Tea and that I enjoy

Balanced flavor profile — starts off slightly mineral/bitter that evens out to a thick honey.

But…I don’t love it It’s okay. It’s a good tea that I will not turn down if offered. I will gladly drink it for just the texture alone. But the combination of all of it, isn’t doing it for me. Others who have reviewed the previous’ years harvests have raved about the tea, including 2 people who seem to have the same tastes as me. So I don’t know if it’s just THIS year’s harvest or if it is just not for me.

It’s hard to compare harvest years as something might have gone wrong. If they still have the 2016/2017 harvest, I will pick up a sample to compare.

Brewing info:
- tea; 5.26g
- water: 150ml
- times: 20s, 30, 45, 60, 90

Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Honey, Lemon Zest

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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this is the 2019 Golden Branches Ripe (shou) Puerh. I was excited to really do a session with this since the Tea Festival tasting was so promising.

It did not disappoint. Their description calls out the sweetness of this tea due to drought. Plants under duress will often produce sweeter tasting flavor profiles.

From Denong: Tasting Notes: Smooth, Herbal, Fruit

The first 2 steeps are a mild sweetness on the tip followed by what I expect from most puerhs — earthy flavors. Then later steeps switch the profile — stronger flavors of rich damp earth & wood that are mellowed out by that sweetness. It works and balances out many of the flavors inherent in puerhs that I don’t prefer.

The earthy & wood flavors are strong but not overpowering and kinda devolve into a bittersweet cocoa flavor. And this tea has some Cha Qi like Woah! There’s a mild astringency that dries out my tongue and a tingling sensation that follows that fills my mouth and head.

However, the farther you steep it out (by 6) the sweetness starts to fade and I find it similar to what I expect from a ripe puerh. Flavors are not overwhelming but the sweetness that I enjoyed is gone.

Short steep times are the order of the day — starting at 10s, 15, 12, 15, 25, 30, 45, 60s, etc.

Still, it’s pretty darn good and I can see drinking this on occasion.

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

As much as I wanted, I couldn’t relax enough to enjoy my stop at Denong’s booth a few years ago. There was a lot of health benefit chatter from the (clearly exhausted) fellow doing the pours and several very pushy people wanting a sample. I’d like to give their teas a fair chance from the privacy of my home some day.


My friend dragged me over as she’s aware of my rocky relationship with puerh. I really was taken aback by how much I liked their samples from this year’s harvest. I also bought a sheng that I plan on aging a bit. And this year’s black tea was incredible.

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(from my tasting notes 7/7/19)

It’s no secret that I love oolongs and this one… this one is like a fine aged Scotch with a damn fine Cigar…literally.

It’s starts off with & sweet (light) smokey taste a roasted malt flavor hinting at dark chocolate with a touch of bitterness that doesn’t last long. It’s slightly earthy with tinges of oak, and has that touch of minerality that oolongs sometimes possess. This what happens if you take a roasted oolong and it had sex with an aged Puerh. (This is probably due to the multiple roastings over the course of its lifetime)

This tea is velvety smooth, complex, and the cha Qi goes straight to my head. I’m so glad I had this as an after dinner drink instead of on a partially empty stomach!

Brewing notes. CZGF style.
5g tea at 208 F at 30 seconds increasing by 10 seconds every steep until 1 minute.
Then an additional minute after than until 4 minutes.

Flavors: Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Mineral, Smoke

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

This has been neglected in my tea closet for a year. Looking forward to it once the rains come.


I’ve had it a number of times and it never disappoints.

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I got this as a sample in my order from Whispering Pines. I brewed this GF style and will try the recommended Western Brewing at a later date. (I’ll update this review when I do)
[11/12/19 UPDATE: See Western style below the GF write-up]

Tea amount: 3grams / water amt ~90ml
Steep times: 20 seconds + 10 second increments per WP’s GF brewing guide.
Water temp: 202 -212 deg F (my kettle sometimes is variable on the temp.)

SUMMARY: This tea does okay in a gaiwan. The flavors are good and what I’d expect out of a Golden Needle, but I’m left wanting a tiny bit more from the tea than it can probably give. Also, the number of steeps was acceptable (topping out at 5 for me)

- The tea leaves in a warm gaiwan give off a scent of chocolate.
- The wet tea leaves have high-notes of a hot chocolate drink and have low-notes of spent cocoa powder that’s been toasted and slightly burnt.
- The tea broth gives off scents of chocolate & honey with hints of orange.

The tea really requires a higher temperature water (208-212) and longer brewing time. As my kettle doesn’t quite keep at the prescribed 208degF that it says on the display, so the temp varies a bit for each steep.

1) 20 seconds @ 208F — not bad. Color of the liquid is a medium orange. The tea is mild in flavor tasting of chocolate & honey. There’s very little astringency.

2) 30 seconds @ 202F — This steep is not as flavorful as the 1st. There’s still the flavors of chocolate & mild orange, but it feels a bit washed out

3) 60 seconds @ 208 — Here we go with the higher temp. The tea is now a much darker orange than the previous 2 steeps. The flavors are a bit stronger — bittersweet cocoa, a tad more orange. There’s a tiny bit astringency and a hint of bitterness but I don’t mind.

4) 60 @ 202F - Flavors are milder than #3..not quite washed out, but definitely not as flavorful.

5) 120 @ 208 — Reboiled the water for this and keeping for a longer brew. It’s not helping as much as I’d hoped. There’s less flavor and more astringency, but still no bitterness.

I’m throwing the rest of the tea into a cold brew to leech out of the rest of the flavors overnight. Who knows, this might be more excellent as a cold brew. It’ll probably be definitely be better as a Western Style

I followed the recommendations for Western: 1Tb (~3grams) @ 8oz @212F for 3/5 minutes

The chocolate notes are still predominately there, but I’ve lost the honey from the GF brew and there’s a slight bitterness, like burnt coffee grounds or really dark bittersweet chocolate. I barely taste any orange or citrus. The astringency is more present in this brew style than GF. I didn’t quite like the bitterness of #1 so increased the water amount to about 275ml.
This steep is a lot more mellow and less bitter than the 1st steep. I find myself preferring this one than the first. Similar flavor profiles to the first but much much milder.

I combined both of these steeps, and I have to say this combination is better than each individual part.

This tea is okay in either style, but I think there are better Golden Needles out there.

Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Honey, Orange

0 min, 15 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

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General: A crafty geek girl who has a love for tea, cats, writing, books, as well as learning a multitude of post-apocalyptic skills…just in case.

Tea: I’ve been drinking tea all my life. My grandfather was half-Chinese, but I was always too lazy to brew anything other than Western style. In the past 5 years I’ve been changing that; trying to develop my tea-tasting chops and still a lot to learn! I prefer oolongs, blacks, and greens (in that order), and I’m trying to expand my knowledge of tea from all over the world (and not just China & Japan). I do tend to stay away from herbal tisanes or overly flavored teas as I find them much too sweet and overpowering.

My ratings explained.
90-100: Exceptional tea. The tea I want with me on that desert island. It is the tea I’ll take time to relish and enjoy.

80-89: Very Good Tea. It fits my flavor profile and I enjoy drinking it.

70-79: Good. I like it, but might not be one I reach for on a regular basis..

60-69: Solid. Better than average, and something I’ll grab when I need to “run-out-the-door” and can’t take time to really appreciate the tea I’m drinking.

50-59: Decent/Average. Not my preferred flavor profile or something I won’t purposefully go out to buy. It might lack that “Something” in its aroma/flavor/mouthfeel/finish.

40-49: Below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Gross. Didn’t finish it or refused to drink anymore.


San Francisco Bay Area



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