1943 Tasting Notes


I generally don’t put samples in my Steepster cupboard because I have so many of them and small amounts that I can sip down quickly enough that I feel like I’m misleading myself as to what’s really in my cupboard.

Every now and then I make a mistake — apparently I put this sample in my cupboard a while back. I’ve now removed it. Which is exciting because it brings me that much closer to a cupboard that is under some degree of control.

Continuing with working my way through the oolong stash, I thought I’d give another Todd & Holland flavored one a try since I enjoyed yesterday’s Tropical Escape so much.

The smell in the packet is strongly strawberry — like smelling a packet of dried strawberries. However, after steeping in the gaiwan for an initial 15 second, post rinse steep at 195F, I get very little strawberry aroma. It’s there, but extremely muted. The tea is light golden yellow.

Admittedly, I had red beans and rice for lunch about 30 minutes ago, so my taster was overwhelmed recently. But the first steep is disappointing. Not much flavor of any kind. A little strawberry in the aftertaste, maybe.

Steep 2, 20 sec. A bit more flavor of the underlying tea, a floral green oolong. I can get a hint of strawberry, a parfait-like strawberry.

Steep 3, 25 sec. Interesting. This is actually the best steep so far, which is surprising. I would have expected the strawberry to become fainter with each steep, but it is actually stronger in this one. It blends well with the flavor of the oolong base.

Steep 4, 30 sec. The strawberry is fainter.

At this point, I feel like I’ve given this as much attention as it warrants. I might steep it a couple more times, but while it’s pleasant enough, it seems like Western in the Breville is more than adequate to enjoy this for what it is.

It’s not bad, I would just hope for more strawberry, since it’s in the name.

Flavors: Floral, Strawberry

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drank White Peony by Rishi Tea
1943 tasting notes

Another tea with a duplicate entry. I wish the Steepster gods would use their super merge powers on these. It messes with my OCD.

If I had to guess, this has a separate entry because one is “organic” — but I find it hard not to believe these are the same tea. The description is identical, and there’s nothing in the “organic” description that elaborates on the organic label. BTW, mine is labeled organic and I’m taking the plunge to put it here with the vast majority of entries.

In the tin, I definitely get the “sour, dead plant” aroma from the dry leaves that I have associated with white peony in the past. A more charitable description is something like “arboreal” or “woody.”

The steeped tea’s aroma seems to veer rather significantly from that, however. I can’t say I’m smelling toasted chestnut, which I associate with a very specific smoky smell from the stands in NYC in winter, but I do understand the honey reference. Though it’s not an intense smell, there’s a sweetness that is reminiscent of a very light honey. The tea is a very pale yellow.

So to compare this to the Andao, which I just had a few minutes ago: they’re pretty similar in flavor (minus the undefined fruitiness, which I am now convinced was a holdover from a different tea), as I would have expected since they’re the same type of tea. The main difference is that the Andao is both more and less. It has more of a rounded flavor, whereas I feel as though I’m searching for the flavor a bit in this one amidst the hot water. But it is also less sharp. The Rishi has a sharp note that reminds me of a darjeeling, while the Andao doesn’t.

I’m going to rate this a little higher than the Adagio because I enjoyed this more, but lower than the Andao which will earn a ratings bump.

Flavors: Earth, Honey, Plants, Wood

185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec 5 g 17 OZ / 500 ML
Mastress Alita

Duplicate entries, and the fact the Steepster Gods fail to do anything about them (I’ve reported several myself on the Duplicate/Merge thread in the forums and still nothing has been done about them!) drives me crazy too. I’m a cataloger in a library, so my job day in and day out requires me to merge cataloging records in a huge library database so we don’t have 20 different records of more or less the same book, to make it easier for patrons to find things and place holds… so perhaps this irks me more than the average user, but it really gives me the itchies!


It feels like clutter!

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drank Organic White Peony by Andao
1943 tasting notes

As I promised myself, I am trying this again first thing (at 10 — how did that happen? Oh wait, I know — I spent last night talking with No. 1 until after midnight, and I don’t stay up that late anymore).

I think the “undefined fruitiness” of yesterday was a holdover from the Todd & Holland. I’m not getting that today. I am getting a hint of butter, strangely enough. And a slight vegetal flavor, which is also surprising. The characteristic white tea flavor I have trouble describing is the most prevalent of the flavors.

I’m going to try another white peony after this and see how it compares.

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Ending my tea tasting day with another oolong.

I’ve had this for a long time. Such is the case with many of my teas, but it’s unfortunate in the case of this one because I can find no information about it anywhere. I don’t see it on the Dammann Freres web site, and I can’t find anything about a Dammann version anywhere.

However, there does appear to be another company that sold this once upon a time (Herman teas), and there is information about the Handunugoda estate on the internet.

If I’m distilling this all correctly, this is a Sri Lankan oolong. That’s not a first for me (the LeafSpa comes to mind), but it is a rarity.

The dry leaves on this one are brown and twiggy. Dark oolong leaves. They have an interesting smell. I wouldn’t call it roasty, like a dark oolong, but it is a darker smell as opposed to a floral, green oolong smell. It’s more like a barky, woody smell.

After rinsing, I steeped in the gaiwan for my first tasting, starting at 15 seconds and adding increments of 5 seconds in 195F water.

The liquor on the first steep is a pretty gorgeous, coppery amber. The aroma has a strong brown sugar/honey note and something I couldn’t identify until I happened across someone else’s blog about this tea: sweet potato. Yep, that’s there as well. The flavor has those notes but it also has a bitterness that is sort of espresso-like. In the past I wouldn’t have enjoyed that, but after my trip to Italy last summer I’ve developed a taste for espresso. So it’s all good.

The next steep has less of the bitterness except in the finish and aftertaste but still an espresso cast, and I definitely taste the sweet potato more. There’s an Assam-like throat grab at the end. After the tea is gone, the cup has a very lovely floral (!) aroma.

The third and subsequent steeps were similar to the second, but became progressively less “dark” tasting. As they lightened up, the flavors morphed into really interesting variations on themselves. I didn’t really taste anything new or different, just variations on the general theme.

It’s a really nice tea. I won’t try it in a yixing because I don’t have any dedicated to Sri Lankan oolongs, but I will enjoy trying it other ways while it lasts.

Flavors: Bark, Brown Sugar, Espresso, Honey, Sweet Potatoes, Wood

195 °F / 90 °C

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drank Toyo Mukashi by O-Cha.com
1943 tasting notes

It has been eons since I had matcha. I’m a little conflicted about drinking it. I am worried that once my matcha is all gone, I won’t feel comfortable ordering more. I have a phobia about all Japanese food products because as far as I can tell from internet searches, Fukushima never stopped dumping radioactivity into the ocean around Japan.

Fortunately I don’t have to make any decisions just yet because I still have some Japanese green tea from before the disaster. Which, you might rightly point out, makes it extremely old. In its and my defense, I can only say that I typically don’t open tea before I plan to start drinking it in earnest and I also live in a climate that is dry and not prone to temperature extremes. I have a fair amount of confidence in my storage methods.

This, for example, was still vacuum packed in a pull top tin that hadn’t been opened until today.

I decided to opt for SenchaMatcha’s measurements. 1 tsp, 4 oz water, 180 temp.

I am definitely out of practice. I didn’t get froth. I went back and read one of my other matcha notes and apparently I didn’t get froth when I first tried this a while back either. So I’ll have to practice some. And my tea was pool table green, not sea green, probably for lack of froth.

That said, I enjoyed this. It tasted to me like a sort of super ramped sencha. Seaweedy/grassy, not bitter, not sweet either, definitely what I understand to be umami which could be a flawed understanding.

I did not, however, taste zucchini. Maybe a little green bean, though.

Pretty sure I’ve liked other matchas better, but this was a nice re-intro to the genre.

Flavors: Cut grass, Green Beans, Seaweed, Umami

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Last weekend I broke open an ATR white rose sample and was bemoaning how they’re no longer around. Because looking at my tea log, I have discovered that I have a thing for white rose tea. I seem to have rated the ones I’ve tried high, though I never stopped to think about it as a pattern until now.

So I was pretty excited to try this one because it’s still available for order. But then I looked a bit more closely at the ingredients.

Turns out this is white rose heavy on the melange. I mean, it is white rose, but it’s also green tea, peppermint, lavender, and jasmine.

In the packet, the mint is eyewateringly strong. It pretty much dominates everything else, though I do smell some rose.

The tea steeps to a sort of a rosy gold color and is clear. The steeped tea’s aroma reminds me of bath products, with a touch of laundry detergent, which isn’t the best sign.

Fortunately, the tea doesn’t taste exactly like it smells. Everything smooths out into something that isn’t particularly bath producty, but nor is it a home run in the rose department. Then again, that’s not really fair because this isn’t a white rose tea. It is something else.

And what it is is just ok. I think I’d like it better without the melange, frankly. The peppermint and lavender are pretty strong and the rose is just around the edges. I don’t taste the tea at all and I’m not sure I’m getting any jasmine either.

It’s not a favorite, mostly because I want more rose in my white rose melange and I feel a bit misled. But solely because the detergent/bath products aren’t something I taste, I won’t mind sipping it down.

Flavors: Lavender, Peppermint, Rose, Soap

190 °F / 87 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 g 17 OZ / 500 ML

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I found an open sample of this, but no corresponding note. Hmmm.

I usually do oolongs in the gaiwan first, then if I have a dedicated yixing, in that, and then I decide whether they’re worth savoring that way or whether they’re not. If they don’t pass, I will steep them in the Breville or make them into cold brew until sipdown.

Flavored oolongs are tricky in this regard because I don’t usually see much difference from steep to steep when I do short frequent steeps. So I’m tempted to skip right to western style. But I have some additional time today so I decided to put this one through a few steeps in the gaiwan to see what is what.

Before I forget, though, I wanted to mention the really wonderful aroma in the packet. It’s a deep, strong, passion fruit smell. If I smelled this coming from a box of dried passion fruits, I’d want to eat them immediately.

I rinsed and then steeped for 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 seconds using 195F water.

The first steep yielded a light butter yellow color tea, with a refreshing passion fruit flavor. A little tart, but not bitter. The underlying tea isn’t really coming to the fore for me, but judging by the leaves it’s a green oolong even though it is from Taiwan. At most I’m getting a sort of buttery undercurrent. I could see this being a wonderful iced tea.

With the next steep (20 sec), there’s a precipitous drop off in the passion fruit flavor. It’s still taste-able, but pale by comparison with the first steep, and I don’t find the tea base stepping in to make up the difference. The color is the same.

The remaining steeps were more of the same, each one a whiter shade of pale.

I don’t really know how to rank this because it’s not like I’ve had a ton of other passion fruit flavored oolongs to compare it to. I’ll just say it’s too bad Todd & Holland doesn’t have this available anymore. I would order some next time I’m in a position to order flavored oolong, but I’d do so with the knowledge that it’s a pretty much one steep wonder to get the full passion fruit flavor.

Flavors: Butter, Passion Fruits

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Sipdown no. 93 of 2018 (no. 449 total).

On reflection, I am not sure why I rated this as low as I did. I must have been going through a black tea phase where I was making very fine distinctions among teas I considered good/great.

This is a very tasty tea. I found myself looking forward to the last little bit. It has a rich, malty flavor, natural sweetness, and mocha notes as well as honey. I’m bumping the rating.

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drank Organic White Peony by Andao
1943 tasting notes

Moving right along through the white tea stash…

Andao is no more, but I still have a number of teas left from my one and only order back in the day, including a couple of white teas.

Because the company is kaput, I couldn’t find a picture of this. The dry leaves are prettier than most — I love the variegated colors, sizes, and shapes of white peony leaves and these are particularly attractive ranging from silver to dark brown and from long, thin, rolled leaves to short, flat, irregularly shaped ones. They smell earthy/planty with a sort of a darjeeling-like sharpness.

The tea is golden yellow and clear. If I poured it into a wine glass, I’d think it was chardonnay.

Flavor is tricky for me, as always with whites. Just when I think I’m finally starting to get them, I get stumped again. It probably doesn’t help that I had a cup of the Todd & Holland Champagne Raspberry right before this.

I’m getting as sweet smell from the cup, kind of like warm, spun sugar. Oddly, there’s a bit of undefined fruitiness as well. Flavor-wise, I get neither of those. But fortunately, I also don’t get the dead plant flavor that I sometimes get with white peony. There’s definitely and earthy/leafy flavor that screams “tea” — that flavor that makes me understand why people compare white tea to back tea even though they don’t really taste anything like each other.

Tomorrow I’ll try it first thing, even before food, and see if that makes a difference.

My highest rated white peony appears to be Adagio’s with a 72. I think this deserves higher. In reading my note on the Adagio, I think I was still in my “noob trying to understand stuff and really searching for what I think should be there” phase rather than the more experienced and blunt place in which I now find myself.

Flavors: Earth, Sugar

185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 500 OZ / 14786 ML

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The combination of a long weekend and a respite from the summer heat (it may be turning to fall, not that we really have fall — but we do have a cooler wind) made me excited to do some serious tea drinking this weekend. I could have waited until tomorrow to start, but I figured there was no time like the present.

When I started exercising regularly again, I initially tried to spice up my Peloton workouts with runs because that’s really my favorite form of exercise. But alas, my knees, and even my hips, have not weathered the aging process well, and I was pretty regularly finding myself too much in pain to run. Given that, I started taking a few supplements that are supposed to be good for reducing inflammation in the joints. One of those is turmeric.

Initially, I thought I saw a pretty significant improvement, though I’m not sure whether that’s attributable to the turmeric, the SAM-E, the fish oil, or a combination of all of them. I started taking a brand with peperine in it to help with absorption, but then I decided to try another preparation. Honestly, I think the peperine worked better so I’m probably going to go back to that.

But in any case, since I had turmeric on the brain when I did my last mega order of herbals, I decided to try this. The dry mix looks a little like a spice medley meant to use for cooking. I can see the lemongrass and orange peel. It’s all a rather orange/yellow/beige/khaki color scheme that’s attractive in its own right.

It steeps to a pretty intense golden yellow/orange color (just like the picture) that’s opaque. It smells a little like orange flavored dirt.

Fortunately, it doesn’t taste like dirt. But it’s not what I expected. I expected it to taste a little like Indian food spices, but that is not what I am getting. The licorice is fairly prominent, as is the citrus, with ginger in there somewhere. It’s an interesting flavor but not really something I’d drink for non-medicinal purposes. However, I would drink it for medicinal purposes without complaint.

And it could be so much worse in the hands of a lesser tea blender. I give it a solid 70.

I made this by the book except for the water temperature. I used 206F water because that’s what I had handy in the Zojirushi.

Flavors: Ginger, Lemon, Licorice, Orange

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tastes developed they became less appealing — I still enjoy nicely done blends. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with me. I used to hate hibiscus, but I’ve turned that corner. Licorice, not so much.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 Excellent; first rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Very good; will likely buy more

70-79 Good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Okay; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it.

My current process for tea note generation is described in my note on this tea: https://steepster.com/teas/mariage-freres/6990-the-des-impressionnistes


Bay Area, California



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