306 Tasting Notes

drank Laos Black #05 by Steepster
306 tasting notes

This was quite a nice tea indeed, very mellow for a black, and possibly the biggest perk was it had no astringency! Just a nice warm, roasted earthy tasting finish, very hearty and mellow. The noticeable notes aside from the usual taste of red tea were of vanilla and cream. This tea’s scent and flavor reminds me somewhat of Thai tea, which is usually spiced with vanilla and other spices, so considering this was just pure tea, that’s quite an achievement. I feel this red tea was mellow enough to be a daily tea for black tea drinkers, and makes a great tea for traditional Gongfu Cha with a gaiwan.

I really enjoyed it. It’s certainly not the most interesting or unique red tea I’ve had, but definitely an elegant one.

Flavors: Cream, Malt, Vanilla

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Silver Bud Ya Bao by TeaSource
306 tasting notes

The look of these leaves are incredibly unique. I have never seen or heard of Ya Bao tea before, which is one huge reason I signed up for Select, so I could learn about new teas. After an initial steeping, the buds have a very strong scent of peaches and a bit of cut wood. I prepared these in a gaiwan. The liquor is very pale, almost clear like water but with a gold sheen. I love white teas like this. They just look so ethereal.

Steeping Notes:

1. Notes of dry grass and very subtle earthiness at first, then becoming a sugary sweetness with a very pronounced peach flavor. There’s a very subtle spiced note like clove or cardamom.

2. More like the first steeping, a little deeper and more well rounded, more full-bodied and creamy. Lingering peach aftertaste. Slightly dry finish.

3. Mellower and softly sweet, more of a dry prairie grass background and less of the fruit flavor, though it is still present and lingers a bit at the end still. Still a very subtle spice note.

Aside from the qualities already mentioned, this tea has a sort of fizzy or “sparkling” quality, that’s hard to describe, but it was evident in the scent even before I tasted the tea itself. The only con for me at all is there is a bit of lingering dryness when drinking this tea. However, is is really quite a unique tea in so many regards and I am so happy to have had a chance to try it. I will definitely be adding some to my collection soon. Oh, and by the way, if you steep it gongfu style with short infusions, you can get many more steepings out of it before the flavor wanes.

Flavors: Cloves, Grass, Peach

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Rare Orchid Oolong by TeaSource
306 tasting notes

Whoa! This rivaled my favorite oolong teas and really opened me up to something new and worthwhile! There were so many layers to this tea, it took me through quite a journey through 5 steepings! I brewed it gongfu cha style in a gaiwan for 1:30, adding 30 seconds each additional steeping. The aroma overall is of vanilla and a really sweet dewy floral. There are forest notes in there as well.

Steeping notes:
1. Floral and nectar tastes dominated the brew and it ended in a fruity peach or nectarine taste that lingered quite a while.
2. Now the overall flavor is of honey, a slight vanilla hint and with a slight astringency
3. More of the nectar flavor, lighter and sweeter than any of the steepings before with a hint of fruit flavor and a dry finish.
4. Even sweeter now and very mellow! There’s a lingering aftertaste like cantaloupe.
5. Sweet all around, toasted sugar and nuts.

This tea is simply wonderful. The diverse bouquet of scents and flavors is just tantalizing. There was so much diversity from one steeping to the next, and though the only downside in my opinion was the slight astringency in a few of the brews, overall this tea was very enjoyable and very unique.

195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

What a lovely tea~ sipping it now!

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drank Hunan Dark Tea by TeaSource
306 tasting notes

I’ll preface my review by saying I have never had a loose leaf hei-cha before and after trying my best to find steeping suggestions from multiple sources, I decided just to brew this like a pu-ehr. I used the gongfu method in a gaiwan and steeped for 10 seconds, adding 10 seconds each time for infusions 2-4. Infusion five got a minute and then I added one minute each time for infusions 6 and beyond. Due to the shorter steepings, the liquor color is a golden-orange.

Immediately I notice the scent of grapes, smoke, minerals and something very creamy, like buttercream or vanilla. What a complex start!

- The first steeping has a mellow, slightly sweet flavor with just a slight bit of tartness, much like grapes. There’s a honey-like flavor on the back of the tongue and almost no astringency.

- Second steeping I’m smelling lots of mineral and french vanilla. Wonderfully creamy aroma and brew. The taste of the brew is just creamy and luxurious, less tart, more smooth. I’m reminded of a melted vanilla malt. That may be a stretch, but this is seriously creamy. There’s a malty finish and just a bit of dryness, more evident as the brew cools.

- Third steeping was quite mineral, still very smooth but less creamy and with a very long lingering aftertaste that is somewhere between salty and metallic. No astringency.

- Fourth steeping, I’m falling in love with the “vanilla & mineral” smell. It’s really a nice combo. The flavors at this point are all quite mellow and hard to individually discern. Things are backing off a bit, but still an enjoyable brew. Light aftertaste like dry grass.

- Fifth steeping, creamy and light, slight malt and honey flavor. That sort of tangy lingering aftertaste is back. I’m surprised how varying these steepings are. Sometimes an element of the taste will hide for a steeping or two then come back!

- About 8 steepings in it developed this really nice sweetness that reminded me of a Jin Shan Yin Zhen yellow tea I’ve had. I’m thinking kind of like funnel cake with a bit of the fried dough flavor and powdered sugar sweetness. Again, maybe a stretch, but that’s what comes to mind for me!

Overall, this tea was very, very pleasant, and I highly recommend it. It’s a great entry point to dark teas for those who haven’t tried them and is quite a pleasure to brew.

Flavors: Cream, Grapes, Mineral, Vanilla

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Sweet Matcha Original by Rishi Tea
306 tasting notes

This tea is pretty accurately described by most of the reviews here. It has a lot of preloaded sugar, so get this if you like your matcha sweet.

The price was modest due to it being mixed with quite a bit of sugar. The downside is that the amount of matcha powder you get is ultimately somewhat small since it takes a tablespoon of it to make an 8 ounce drink. You won’t be making more than 5-10 drinks out of this, but it sure beats paying five bucks a drink at the coffee shop.

The flavor is very grassy and vegetal, no bitterness at all, really a very lovely matcha. I drank two tumblers full just as soon as I had brought it home. The only downside is, as other reviewers have mentioned, this comes with quite a bit of sugar. It’s not overpowering to me, but if you want to strengthen the tea flavor the sweetness will become too much. I’d settle for a little less sugar premixed in because you could always add more sugar yourself, but you can’t take any away. So far though, I mostly use matcha for matcha lattes and prefer mine a little on the sweet side and with a moderate tea flavor, so this works well for me. This matcha blends very easily and does not settle on the bottom of the cup clump up like some other matchas do. It also mixes just as easily cold as it does hot.

Flavors: Grass

3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Jasmine Pearls by Steepster
306 tasting notes

This is one of the best jasmine teas I have had. The flavor is quite delicate and easy to enjoy. The jasmine notes are sweet and mild, not too bright or “in your face” and they intermingle beautifully with the green tea, which is also quite light in flavor and on the sweet side. The jasmine flavor reminds me of pink bubble gum. I really like it a lot. Simple and clean.

Flavors: Flowers

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This black tea has a nice red orange liquor and a very full flavor. The mouthfeel is incredibly thick, almost like half and half, and I’ve added only water to the leaves! The initial taste is quite fruity. I’m getting more of an orange zest flavor than anything, but there’s a red fruit flavor underneath like grapes or a tart strawberry. The finish is somewhat astringent and dry with a slight woodiness. This is definitely a robust tea, leaning on the tangy and tart side.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Houjicha Ichiban by Steepster
306 tasting notes

This was my first time with Houjicha. I can appreciate the idea behind this tea, but it’s not for me.

I brewed for only a minute and a half and the first steeping was very strong. It actually tasted more like coffee than tea to me. This being the first time I have brewed Houjicha, I’ll take the blame for that first steeping. I probably used too much leaf. On the second and third steepings the liquid was less orange and more gold and had a much more mellow taste, so I feel it tasted how it was supposed to in these steepings. The overall flavors and scents are of popcorn and roasted nuts, and yes there is a very strong hay or straw aroma as other reviewers have mentioned. There was a very subtle sweetness in the later steepings. Seeing that this tea is made from the twigs and stems of the leaves, it has a very different flavor than other teas. Though it is a green tea, the picking and roasting of this tea makes it taste nothing like other green teas. It’s much more like an herbal tea in flavor.

I enjoyed this tea enough to drink three steepings of it, but the scent lingered in my room for hours after I finished, and I did not enjoy that. It smelled like someone had burnt a bag of microwave popcorn in my room. I wouldn’t suggest this tea unless roasted flavors are your thing. I’ve had light roast coffees with more delicate flavor than this tea.

195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 30 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Earl Grey Lavender by Rishi Tea
306 tasting notes

I absolutely love the taste of lavender and yet it is a surprisingly rare flavor to come by in foods and drinks. Short of buying a bottle of lavender bitters or using dried lavender itself to flavor other foods, there aren’t many options out there for lavender lovers. This tea from Rishi is exactly what I wanted, and, not to discredit other people’s reviews, but unless you think lavender just tastes soapy in general, there is nothing soapy about this tea. The lavender scent is strong, but the flavor is delicate. It pairs wonderfully with the bergamot and both are equally pronounced.

There is no bitterness to this tea, though I specifically bought this to use as an iced tea and I sweeten it with simple syrup, so that may make a difference as opposed to preparing it hot. I used the suggestions on the package of 1 tablespoon of tea per 8 oz of water, steeping for 4 minutes and it was perfect. Since I made it iced though, I actually used half the amount of hot water and the same amount of leaf, that way when I iced it down immediately after brewing some of the ice melted and diluted it to the right consistency.

At the time of writing this review, this tea is also certified organic, so that’s a plus.

Flavors: Flowers

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Red Jade by Eco-Cha Artisan Teas
306 tasting notes

This red tea is deep, dark, and rich, and the red liquor it creates is definitely alluring. I’ll come right out and say that I am usually more drawn to lighter, fresher tasting teas than to dark highly oxidized ones, so keep that in mind while reading my review.

The scent really captivated me from the start. There’s a heavy aroma of malt and a fruity sweetness that to me most resembles dried apricot. I brewed this Gongfu Cha style, with the first infusion yielding a very up-front taste of cinnamon backed by flavors of dried apricot and date, finishing really malty and astringent. Definitely a dry finish to this tea. By second steeping, the cinnamon taste had nearly disappeared and was replaced by a very evident minty quality like unsweetened wintergreen, still underscored by the apricot. By the third brew, the flavor was similar to the second but sweeter and mellower overall and rather than gradually changing throughout a sip the flavors all blended together at once and I could taste them all throughout the sip.

I believe I may have overbrewed this tea. I used 203F/95C water and put 2.5g of leaf per 100ml of water into my porcelain gaiwan. Steeped for 3 minutes like the package suggests. I’m noticing in Eco-Cha’s notes also posted here they recommend much less time for the Gongfu method, which is making me wonder if the strong astringency at the end of a sip is because I brewed this tea too strong. I will say that the flavors didn’t seem overpowering at all until the aftertaste, and the brew color looked correct, so maybe this tea just has a naturally astringent finish.

I’m trying to remain neutral in my review because I’m not too into heavy bold red/black teas like this one. The complex flavor really impressed me at first, but I felt myself waning in enthusiasm as I drank more simply because the brew was a bit overpowering to me in its dry, malty finish.

Some more experimenting took place ! I went with 2g leaf per 100ml water and steep 3 minutes at 203F/95C, add 1 minute for each steeping after. This combo results in an orange liquor, not quite the deep red-orange that is so beautiful, but the flavor has a wonderful balance between the dark and light, letting those spicy notes come through with the fruity tones and that hint of mintyness. There’s little astringency to the finish this way, though it still finishes a bit dry. I feel this tea had very enjoyable qualities when brewed this way. It’s still not entirely my tastes, but I could see other tea drinkers really enjoying it.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Eco-Cha 一口茶

Hi Jace,

Great reading your tasting notes on this. Definitely try it out with a shorter steep-time gonfgu style and see what you think.

Good call on the dried apricot flavors – the full oxidation of this (and other black teas) do bring out a sun-dried fruit quality.

Looking forward to hearing what you taste with a shorter steeping and less leaves.

Thanks again for taking the time to write!


Hey Jace, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this tea. Dried apricot perfectly describes the flavor that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I also get the malt and astringency you noted. Reading your review helped me better enjoy this one for sure.


I’m glad that it helped, Callipygian, and thank you for the follow!

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Hi there, fellow tea lovers.

My name’s Lion and I’m a Gongfu Cha practitioner, so I usually brew with a gaiwan for reviews unless there’s a more suitable brewing method, like using Japanese teawares for Japanese teas. I tend to stick to straight loose teas and scented teas in general, seldom dabbling in herbal and flavored teas. My favorite tea is Kenyan Silver Needle.

Aside from tea, I’m a generally creative person. I love to cook, write fiction, draw, decorate, garden, and do just about anything creative I can get my paws on.

Animals are really important to me. I’m a lion at heart, and I strive to better understand, respect, and appreciate other animals as best as I can. I advocate for better stewardship of wildlife and captive animals. We’ve still got a lot to learn.

For a long time I rated every tea I tried, but these days I don’t rate them unless they’re exceptional and deserving of a high rating. Here’s my rating breakdown for my reviews with ratings:

0 = Unpalatable, harsh
25 = Unenjoyable
50 = I’m indifferent
75 = Enjoyable, average
90+ = The best, would buy more
100 = Incredible, a favorite


Kansas City, USA

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