24 Tasting Notes


I was beyond excited when I got my box of Simple Loose Leaf to try for $1! They were beyond generous in how much tea they sent; I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes at first. All three bags were bulging and hardly fit in my 100g containers when emptied into them.

Craving a nice oolong for weeks, the Formosa Oolong was my obvious first choice. I was a bit disappointed upon scooping out the tea to look at it. The leaves were very broken, dry, and brittle, with some dust reminiscent of Lipton. However, for a dollar, I wasn’t going to complain, especially without giving it a shot.

I’m rarely a fan of short steepings, so I decided to try this one at 3 minutes or so. I hadn’t unpacked my little yixing pot from college yet, so a roomy paper filter sufficed. A few minutes later, I sat down with my first steamy, piping hot cup of oolong in a long time…and my stomach sank a little on the first sip.

Note, I’m used to high-quality, full leaf oolongs with a great complexity of flavor. I shouldn’t have expected that out of this tea, even just by its appearance. I realized that I’d probably left the filter in the cup for a little too long, as it had become obnoxiously bitter and astringent like Lipton, the type that leaves the back of your throat dry. I gave up halfway through that cup.

Since then, I became more sensitive to this tea’s steeping needs, and have had much more luck with it. Right now, it’s my go-to nighttime tea, but that may be moreso so that I can finish it up. When steeped correctly, you definitely get some good grapeseed and tobacco flavors with a hint of dry woodiness that a more amateur palate would probably enjoy. This would be a great gateway darker oolong for those that want to give it a shot without “wasting” more complex ones on them.

Overall, price aside, I wouldn’t reorder this one at full price, or really any price above $1. I was happy with the Simple Loose Leaf experience, and had other good teas in the box, but this one definitely fell short.

Flavors: Grapes, Tobacco, Wood

190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 45 sec

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drank Wuyishan Black by Steepster
24 tasting notes

I honestly can’t believe no one has commented on the most obvious scent of this tea (though maybe most of you are city folks)…a nice ripe cow field. I was repulsed by the dry scent at first, but thought I’d give it a chance, as I know all too well that dry scents can sometimes translate to drastically different steeped scents.

…Nope, it smelled exactly of cow manure. The tea itself wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either. I never thought I’d describe a tea that way, but it really is spot on. I just couldn’t tolerate the last half of the cup with manure smells assaulting my nose every time I took a sip.

I’ll keep my second sample as a prank for my next tea party.

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This is the fourth tea I’ve decided to try from my December Steepster Select Box (whoo)! I’ve been decently happy with all of them so far, but thought that this tea deserved my first review from the box.

My favorite way to drink higher-grade tea is gaiwan style, just pouring the leaves straight into my cup with water and using my mouth as a filter. I used this technique for my first go-around with this tea, and it produced a relatively light flavor, not overwhelmingly floral or dry like other greener oolongs I’ve tried. All in all, a very pleasant taste.

Today, I decided to give it a shot with a proper gong fu short-steeping series of infusions. I haven’t been able to do such a thing with my teas lately, as my zisha was out of commission for a short time before I reseasoned it. (Just…don’t make chai or mint teas in a clay pot, please, learn from my mistakes! Just buy a cheap second pot. Or, if you insist on doing so, at least don’t let the steeped leaves marinate in the pot overnight.) I gave the pot and leaves a good rinse, and was instantly greeted with a deep, oily scent that reminds me of some well-made Chinese cuisine.

First steeping (15 seconds): I’m in love with how light this tea is. When prepared with short steepings, it’s almost as delicate in flavor as bai mu dan. Mouth feel is only very slightly dry, mostly creamy, with a certain sweetness about the flavor that blends nicely with the overall nutty taste. Floral notes come through at the very end, but only briefly.

Second steeping (30 seconds): Taste is slightly stronger (may be due to water being slightly hotter this time around), but overall hasn’t changed or become more nuanced as I expected. Mouthfeel is slightly drier and less creamy. No complaints here; still enjoying the tea on the 2nd round, even without surprises!

Third steeping (55 seconds): This accidentally went a little longer than I planned, but turned out great regardless! Flavor wasn’t any weaker than the second steeping, but the flavors themselves were a little different; more woodsy and less floral, but it’s still there. Mouthfeel is thinner.

Overall, this is one of the best and most complex oolongs I’ve had, but nothing I would go out of my way to purchase again without a discount (it seems In Pursuit of Tea only sells in 4oz quantities, ugh).

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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drank Coffee Cake by DAVIDsTEA
24 tasting notes

I got this lovely little sample in the box that my grandma got me for Christmas (she rocks!). I love having random samples lying around so that I can break up the monotony of my tea stash with something new and intriguing every now and then.

To the nose, this one smelled very sweet, almost like pralines, but a little too ambiguous to pick out “coffee cake” if I hadn’t read the label first.

The smell of the steeped tea wasn’t quite as intense or sweet, and was borderline off-putting in a way I couldn’t really put my finger on. After a first sip, my conclusion was: “…well, I’ll finish it.” There was really no fruity taste involved, but certainly a lot of ‘cake’ flavoring. It tasted oddly familiar, when I realized that it’s the exact same flavoring that’s in their Red Velvet Cake. I wasn’t disappointed by that, because Red Velvet always seemed WAY too sickeningly sweet for my taste buds (tea shouldn’t make your teeth hurt, in my opinion). This one, on the other hand, was more subtly sweet.

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drank Coffee Cake by DAVIDsTEA
24 tasting notes

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drank Forever Nuts by DAVIDsTEA
24 tasting notes

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This morning, I rolled out of bed knowing I had to get things done. My list of things to study and upcoming exams are piling up enough to smother me.

As always, step one: drink tea. Not yet feeling up to tackling the day, I resteep some 2002 shu I had in my cup to relax after work last night. I wasn’t into it for one reason or another, and could hardly down the cup. Nothing in my tea shrine seemed appealing, so I decided the conditions were right to hit the samples I had stocked up. Stormy Night stuck out to me, and reading the ingredients, thought it would be perfect to enjoy with some morning granola.

The smell of the dry tea practically filled up the room instantly, and I was excited. It smelled like a spicy, earthy autumn night spent at a family gathering at candlelight – or maybe, more simply, potpurri. When I poured the near-boiling water in the pot, it smelled closer to heaven, and the aromas really came alive, mainly the cinnamon.

As soon as I finished pouring out the last dribble five minutes later, the cup hit my lips. And…disappointment. I’m not as let down by this tea as some other reviewers, because it’s certainly drinkable and quite enjoyable, but very lacking as well. It tastes like sipping on cinnamon water, and I can’t even detect any black tea flavor, or coconut for that matter (and the bits of it are very obvious in the mix). It kind of reminds me of every Republic of Tea sachet that I’ve ever steeped, that smells intoxicating but ends up tasting much like dirty water no matter how it’s steeped.

I can think of a ton of ways to draw out the last of my sample and improve upon it, though. Ideas are spinning through my head: cut it with some good black tea and a drop of vanilla, a bit of dark chocolate, and some chai spices…make a 50/50 blend with masala chai…make it a latte and add more spices…etc. I think this blend has HUGE potential, as the flavor combinations are just perfect for a, well, stormy night. Chocolate, chile, chai spices, coconut, and vanilla are about as comforting and warming as it gets, and I can’t wait to play around with this (though I’d rather I didn’t have to).

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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I have been excited about this tea for a very, very long time. I’ve been gearing up for my first “real” Verdant order that wasn’t comprised of entirely samples, having a small list of teas I deemed worthy of spending so much of my sparse college student budget on. While teas like Laoshan Green were tried and true, I knew without even trying this Genmaicha that I wanted an ounce. I’m addicted to Laoshan Black, chocolate, and Genmaicha…how could I go wrong?

The day this order arrived in my mailbox was the most exciting I’d had in a while. Is that sad for a college student? Maybe. After making and reveling in a cup of Laoshan Green (Summer Harvest, which I blindly bought after addiction to the Spring Harvest…and it’s even better!), I couldn’t help myself. The dry leaves of this Genmaicha smelled so earthly, deep, and chocolatey, with the toasted rice hardly detectable.

Each and every time I steep this, the first inhalation of the tea scent gives me the shivers. It’s that good. Admittedly, I had hyped myself up so ridiculously for this tea, that the first cup was a disappointment…but to be fair, I had unrealistic expectations for it. The second cup was a bit better as I started exploring the many layers of taste contained in this brew. After the third, I was as hooked as I’ve been on Laoshan Green and Black alike.

The Laoshan Black is very evident in this blend, as expected…but I feel as though the Shui Jin Wuyi Oolong detracts from the tea. I don’t think it tastes out of place, because it would be nearly impossible to detect if one wasn’t familiar with both oolongs or the flavor of Laoshan Black. I just feel as though it tones down the famously malty taste of the Black, and makes the tea more likely to turn out bitter…and I’ve found it to be pretty finicky. In the end, I keep the water temperatures fairly low and simply put the tea in the bottom of my cup and fill it, straining with my lips as I drink. This way, it can sit around for 20 minutes or more without becoming bitter (and is still good for a second steep).

Anyway, back to the many dimensions of taste in this tea! The toasted rice seems to blend seamlessly with the maltiness of the Black, so that they seem to almost be one unique flavor aspect.
As for as the chocolate goes, I think others’ slight disappointment stems from expecting a sweet milk chocolate that they are accustomed to. The actual ‘chocolate’ ingredient in this blend is carob nibs, which give it more of a baker’s chocolate undertone – and it’s just that. An undertone. The Laoshan Black is the dominating force here. That’s not really a complaint, because I’ve been on withdrawal from that tea, but I think the overall balance could be better between the Black and the rice. I may just toast my own rice and add some next time I make some of this as a study incentive!

Overall…one of the most impressive teas I’ve had, although it took a while to grow on me (or, perhaps, the other way around).

170 °F / 76 °C

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drank Salted Caramel by DAVIDsTEA
24 tasting notes

This tea is just okay to me. The dry leaf smell reminds me of too many Kahlua binges, and makes my stomach a bit queasy. The taste isn’t that great, either…a weak black tea with undertones that I wouldn’t recognize as caramel if I didn’t know what I was brewing. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but this definitely isn’t a repeat buy for me. Maybe some agave and milk mixed in will make my tastebuds happier?

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 45 sec

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