American Tea RoomEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
Bought this in the going out of business sale last March. I tried to like it, but I just can’t. There’s an underlying alcohol flavor that is too unpleasant. A few other reviewers seemed to notice that as well. The chocolate flavor isn’t enough to make up for it. It’s just strange. And it’s tasted like this the whole time I’ve had it, so I know it’s not age. I didn’t like any of the rooibos teas I got from them, which is a shame. I usually love rooibos.
This sample packet has two “nests” in it, each individually wrapped.
Unwrapped, the leaves are light colored — they almost look like white tea leaves — and rather long. They’re tightly compressed. I rinsed and planned to let sit for 15 minutes before trying this yesterday, but then I ended up not getting to it. So the leaves sat overnight. I rinsed again this morning.
Then: gaiwan, boiling, 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60
The liquor is a sort of golden apricot color in the early steeps. The flavor is mild. Not sweet exactly, but not bitter either.
I get the same general aromas and flavors that I get from other shengs — butter, white chocolate, cocoa, coffee, toffee — but also with a bit of smoke on this one.
The flavors are all quite smooth, which makes them seem a bit muted. But to me, that is an ok trade-off.
I am slowly but surely getting through my pu erh samples. It’s starting to seem like a bit of a chore now, here at the end, to get initial notes done on all of them.
On the flipside, I’m very much enjoying the result of having made it through my entire cupboard with initial tasting notes. Mostly this means I get to drink the tea and just enjoy it, without feeling the need to think about it enough to record a note. Sipdown notes are so much easier, since I only note the difference between my initial tasting note and the sipdown, if any.
In any case, I don’t know whether it’s that I don’t have a sophisticated enough palate, or whether I am not tasting the right teas, but I am finding that the shengs I taste all sort of taste the same. They mostly vary in whether there’s a smoky note or not, and in degrees of intensity of flavor.
I was expecting a much bigger difference in aroma and flavor from steep to steep than I typically get.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t like them. It just means it seems like a lot of trouble to go through multiple steeps for not very much ROI.
Flavors: Butter, Cocoa, Coffee, Smoke, Toffee, White Chocolate
Saved a sample of this from the tea box. I admit, I was expecting to dislike this since I haven’t loved other teas from this brand. However, lavender saved the day! I love lavender, and I enjoy its tasty presence in this tea. The other flavor I detect is mint, which is another favorite of mine. I would rather have non-caffeinated versions of these ingredients, but I’m enjoying this cup. The flavors combine nicely, with a little hint of rose at the end. I drank this cold, and it was pretty refreshing!
From the tea box! I usually really enjoy lavender teas, so I was looking forward to this one. I did a short steep, so I’m probably lacking a bit of flavor, but the primary flavor is a pleasant lavender with a little bit of other herbiness underneath. There’s a tiny bit of bitterness, which sometimes happens with this type of blend. So this is a decent lavender tea, but I have a few others on my shelf that I much prefer.
Sipdown no. 132 of 2018 (no. 488 total). A sample.
For the last caffeine of the day, I decided to crack open my sample of this.
I’m not sure what possessed me to buy this. I sort of think that flavored pu erhs are a mistake in general. I’m not an expert in pu erh but that is my uneducated opinion.
However, the BF came down with some awful thing while we were on vacation and he sounds like he’s coughing up both lungs. So he wanted me to make something he could drink and though I’m not sure this would ordinarily be his thing (he’s more of a fruit blend sort of guy) I thought it would kill two birds with one stone so to speak. Making this western style in the size cups we have basically sipped the whole thing down.
In the packet, there’s a strong primary smell of mint, and a secondary smell of vanilla. I have to search for the pu erh.
Because this is so highly flavored, I couldn’t really bring myself to put it through 10 steeps in the gaiwan. It just seemed a bit pointless.
Instead, I heated water to the temperature on the packet, 195F, and steeped for four minutes per the directions. I didn’t rinse, either.
The tea steeps very dark and almost opaque. Not as dark or opaque as coffee, though, and redder. It smells of minty peppermint and beany vanilla. No tea smell that I could discern.
And it tastes pretty much exactly like it smells. I didn’t expect to like this at all, and I have to say that I do like it. But not because of the pu erh, which I can’t taste at all, but because the pu erh makes a nice silent partner for the delivery of the mint and vanilla.
I think this is more aptly named Mint-Vanilla, with a hard to find pu erh base.
Tasty and worth trying, but it’s not the sort of thing I’m going to wring my hands over not being able to have again now that ATR is kaput.
I’d rate it higher but for the fact that the name doesn’t really describe the tea.
Flavors: Mint, Peppermint, Vanilla
Herbal tea from the tea box! Unfortunately, this is too savory for me. It’s just a really strange combo of herbs. I bought a few things from the American Tea Room going out of business sale, and I didn’t like any of them. Something about their blends just doesn’t work for me! The main flavors are fennel, sour, and mint.
Merry Christmas! It’s the last day of Advent, and the end of my calendar from Sara.
This is a very minty tea, and the lavender is strong too. There are other floral notes too.
I do like lavender a lot, but I think it’s a little strong for my taste in this tea. It tastes a bit too… astringent? Like when jasmine tea has too much jasmine and seems like perfume. But not as bad as that.
I could see this tea growing on me though.
Edit: Okay, four minutes was way too long. I retried with two minutes, and now it’s minty with a hint of lavender and rose, and that astringency is gone. It would be great iced too.
Flavors: Floral, Lavender, Peppermint, Rose
Adventures in pu-erh part next. I opened up this sample today. I’m surprised I couldn’t find an entry for it? A lot of others of the former ATR pu-erhs do have entries. I hope I didn’t accidentally create a duplicate.
First, I want to say that it’s not all that easy to taste tea for note-writing purposes while also trying to execute your MCLE requirements. I thought it might be a good combo since MCLE lectures tend to be a bit dry, but it’s kind of hard to pay attention to both at once.
In any case, I tried this in the gaiwan at boiling after a rinse: 10, 10, 20, 30, 40, 60, 120, 240, 300, 360.
The leaves (since there’s no picture) are variegated in color, from brown to dark green to light brown with golden tips. They’re short, and not particularly full. Dry, they smell like earth and mushrooms. They’re fishy, but only very slightly and that goes away when they’re rinsed.
The first few steeps make a tea that is dark almost to the point of being opaque and brown-red in color. The tea’s color lightens noticeably with repeated steeps after the first few. By the fifth steep, the color is closer to mahogany. By the last, it’s a dark amber.
The tea is smooth through all the steeps, and has a quality that makes it come across as rich even when it is fading. The first few steeps have smells and tastes of leather, mushroom, molasses, and a slight mocha note.
By around steep four, the flavor becomes more woody and less sweet (though it is still somewhat sweet — and the sweetness really pops at the four minute steep before becoming subdued through the remainder).
Other than as mentioned, the tea is pretty consistent in its smoothness and flavor. It was enjoyable even as it started to fade.
I like it the best of the ATR shus I’ve had recently, though not nearly as much as the Life in Teacup.
Flavors: Earth, Fishy, Leather, Mocha, Molasses, Mushrooms, Wood
Sipdown no. 10 of June 2019 (no. 82 of 2019 total, no. 570 grand total). A sample.
With this, I just squeaked to my June sipdown goal. Even with summer and much cold brew, I’m finding it hard to sip down 10 remainders of the tins in my cupboard in a month. But as long as my samples hold out I should be able to meet my monthly goals. And right now there is no danger of them not holding out.
One of the earthier, shroomier shus that I still had (until today). It’s a flavor I’m ok with, but I prefer the sweeter ones where the molasses/brown sugar flavor predominates. So I didn’t really regret sipping this down Western style.
In looking back at my original note, I get the cedar note and the leather, again, and something that has a cooling aspect in the mouth. Lots of soil, not really mineral. Again, the original note was pretty accurate.
Adventures in pu-erh part…. I’ve forgotten what part. Four maybe. I’m getting the steeping times committed to memory, finally. Following the typical times in the gaiwan for this one after a rinse: 10, 10, 20, 30, 40, 60, 120, 240, 300, 360.
I have yet to branch out to sheng, but I’ll do that for my second of the day. For now, pretty sure this is shu given the smell of the dry leaf. 2 parts fish to 1 part earth.
The first steep smells like mushrooms and looks like black coffee. I definitely get a cedar note in the flavor — like the inside of my cedar chest smells. I understand the mineral description though it isn’t like crushed gravel to me. In fact, if I hadn’t read the description this probably wouldn’t have struck me as having a rocky or mineral note. Steep two is earthier, less woody, with just a hint of sweetness. Starting at steep three, the earth becomes less like loam with later steeps and develops a character that is hard to describe. It’s not really molasses, but it has a little of that sweetness and just the slightest leather note.
I took this through ten steeps. It didn’t change much from steep to steep, except that around steep 8, the liquor started to lighten to a brandy color. The flavor stayed rather consistently like steep 3, only a bit less strong and a bit sweeter with later steeps. It’s smooth, and you don’t have to think about it too much — which is good because I was on episode 10 of the first season of The Expanse while I was drinking it.
Flavors: Cedar, Earth, Fishy, Leather, Loam, Molasses, Mushrooms
Sipdown no. 6 of April 2019 (no. 55 of 2019 total, no. 543 grand total). A sample.
I was looking for the entry for another American Tea Room pu er that I’m planning to try a sample of today and saw that I’d rated this one below 80. Since I’m currently sipping down my lowest rated teas and this one is on the lower side, as well as, according to my prior note, not one I found very special, I thought I’d take the opportunity to add to my sipdown count and polish off the last of the sample.
I made it western style, and it’s actually kind of nice to have a big cup full that I don’t have to think too much about — just enjoy the warmth and the relative mildness on my congested sinuses. I don’t have any great epiphanies that I feel I need to add to my notes on this — the original note captures it pretty well.
I opened up this never before opened sample packet today. Following my ten steep protocol in the gaiwan after a rinse.
In the packet, the tea has a spicy, wet leaf smell. It steeps very dark on the first steep, like black coffee — when held to the light it has some red to it, like cabernet.
The tea has a very rich aroma even after a short steep that has a cocoa note as well as the earthy, shroomy note I often seem to get these days. Since this says it is from Yunnan, I very much was hoping I’d get that Yunnan thing that I got in my last pu erh from that region, but not so. The flavor on the first steep is a bit more leather than anything else. I had hoped for cocoa.
By the fourth steep something darkly sweet starts to come out, like a molasses note. The tea is still standing up after seven steeps, which takes a turn back to leathery, though the liquor is starting to become lighter in color. The tea has a smoothness to it that complements its richness.
I kept going through ten and the leaves were still producing, though they were in a gradual fade after the sixth steep. Still, they didn’t fade so much as to make the additional steeps not worthwhile. The later steeps were lighter, smoother, and had their own different but tasty character.
I’m far from a shu expert, but this one is just kind of regular to me — nothing terribly special about it, though it is flavorful and not fishy or otherwise objectionable. It’s better than some I’ve had but it isn’t something that makes me go “wow.” Rating accordingly.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cocoa, Leather, Molasses, Mushrooms, Spicy, Wet Earth
Sipdown no. 10 of 2019 (no. 498 total). A sample.
I made two big pitchers of cold tea at the same time. One was the Premium Steap Milk Oolong only, the other was about half Premium Steap Milk Oolong and the rest a couple of samples including this one.
There were only two spoons full of this left in the sample packet, but its influence is very, very apparent in the flavor of the cold tea. The batch made with this is much more buttery, and in a sort of bothersome way that makes me wonder if it had its flavor enhanced (I can’t remember who the helpful person was who commented on one of my notes about this).
In any case, though it was a small amount, its impact on the overall flavor of the cold brew was mighty. And not in a particularly positive way.
This is my last ATR oolong sample. I think. I can’t find any others, so that’s a good sign.
After yesterday’s tremendous success with the The O Dor milk oolong, I’m a little nervous to try any others.
This one has a very strong smell of butter in the packet. Very, very strong. Almost disturbingly so.
I rinsed, then steeped in the gaiwan starting at 15 secs at 195F.
The tea is pale yellow and smells of milky butter. A very slight floral note at the edges. It tastes like milk, for sure, but there’s something about it that doesn’t live up to the very high bar yesterday’s milk oolong set. I don’t want to go so far as to say that it is bad, but to use an apt analogy, it’s as though the milk is slightly off. Like on the way to turning bad.
The second steep turns a little more toward heavy cream flavor. It has a bit more sweetness. But I can’t get the thought of milk that is a little “off” out of my head.
The last two steeps were better. The note that bothered me either became faint enough that it no longer did, or went away. Still, it is just OK to me, not the magical experience I had yesterday.
I don’t know whether I’m being fair here. Everyone else who wrote notes about it seems to really love this one.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Milk
To fully catch up on my oolong tasting plan, I’ve got to do a third one today to make up for yesterday and it needs to be a sample. How prescriptive can I possibly be? Certainly not more than that. LOL.
But I’m not going to apologize because when your tea stash is out of control, you need to impose some discipline if there is any hope of ever bringing it to heel. So there.
That said, I am not looking forward to another oolong today. I just had a nearly perfect milk oolong from The O Dor, and I sort of feel as though anything I have will be a come down after that. Which is one of the reasons I choose an ATR sample. Since they’re defunct, I don’t have to be on the lookout for something I’m going to want to reorder. Which somehow takes the sting of disappointment out of the whiffs.
Gaiwan. Rinse. 190F (Zo problems) starting at 15 secs.
This is a vegetal green oolong. Even in the packet, what I smell is vegetables. Asparagus maybe. The tea is pale yellow with a green tinge. The first thing I thought when I smelled the steeped tea was: celery.
How very strange. But yes, I get celery in the flavor as well. You know how celery has a sort of a nutty quality? I think that’s why I get celery — everyone else mentioned nuts.
The second steep has a floral quality; I get gardenias. It may be that I’m still remembering the milk oolong, but while this is an enjoyable tea, it isn’t really up to the task of following that tea. The celery aspect seems to have smoothed away into a more typical nutty flavor. A green nut. I can see why Stephanie said macadamias. I can go there, too.
The third steep tasted a lot like the second to me. There’s a sugary sweet smell to the empty cup. Interestingly, in the fourth steep, I get something that is very sweet. Like brown sugar.
So this certainly gets the prize for variety. Celery to brown sugar in four steeps must be some kind of record, no? It’s kind of funny, the minute I typed that, I realized that the celery note had also re-emerged. So it’s not just celery to brown sugar, but celery and brown sugar together in four steeps.
Just for fun, I did a fifth steep. This is certainly an interesting tea. It has a little something for everyone. I don’t get the toasty notes others have mentioned, and nothing dark or woodsy about this at all. Nor do I get butter, or more than just a small amount of floral. Really, that’s what makes it interesting to me — it is probably the most vegetal of the green oolongs I’ve had.
Flavors: Asparagus, Brown Sugar, Celery, Floral, Gardenias, Nuts, Sugar, Vegetal
This is a never before opened sample. I’m doing the usual first taste in the gaiwan with short steeps after rinsing starting at 15 secs. The temp today is 190F instead of 195F because someone unplugged the Zo, but it should do fine. The packet recommends 175F but I think that’s too low.
I’m very partial to the floral, buttery green oolongs like this one. Though the dry leaves don’t have much fragrance (just a little green smell), the steeped tea is particularly aromatic. Very floral with a buttery undercurrent. It’s a light yellowish green color.
The flavor is very much like the aroma, and it makes me sad that I only have a sample of this and that ATR is no more. Because this something I’d want to keep in my cupboard.
My second steep was accidentally 25 seconds instead of 20. Slip of the finger on the timer. I’m loving the lightness of this, by which I don’t mean lack of flavor. I don’t know what narcissus smells like — I probably would have said something like lilac — but if that’s what this tastes like I am a narcissus fan. The butter is really coming out with the longer steeps.
By the third steep, the leaves have at least doubled in volume. The wet leaves are interesting for their green-ness, which isn’t a sort of olive, blanched look, but more the color of parsley — leaning toward emerald. The tea starts to get a crisper mouth feel, a fresh, hard water feel that juxtaposes interestingly with the buttery flavor. When I taste butter, I expect to feel butter, but not here.
I’ll bring this note to a close after the fourth steep as I must get my turkey in the oven. The flavor is starting to get a bit weaker, but I think it could have at least one more good steep, maybe two. Still, it has a pleasing floral nose with the buttery undercurrent at steep four. The cup smells vaguely sugary when the tea is gone.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Narcissus
Getting to the end of my ATR oolong samples. I have two that I know of after this.
Trying this with short steeps starting at 15 sec in the gaiwan at 195F after rinsing.
I get walnut and cocoa smells out of the packet. Something fruity as well.
It’s a golden color and clear, and definitely smells like walnut. I get a little of the cinnamon, too, but I’m not smelling maple.
The flavor is pleasantly toasty and mild, and it tastes pretty much like it smells.
On the second steep, still no maple, but something that reminds me of cardamom, for sure. I don’t find this particularly sweet, but it remains mild and smooth.In between the second and third steeps, I found myself playing in my tea stash. I found a lot of the things I was looking for, but not the Castleton darjeeling from Upton. I have to keep looking. It might be a sample?
Anyway, third and fourth steeps are also mild, very much like the second.
Not as toasty as some other darker oolongs. Milder, and pleasant.
I really like this, but as ATR is no more, I will have to savor the remainder.
Flavors: Cocoa, Fruity, Toasty, Walnut
Sipdown no. 2 of March 2019 (no. 37 of 2019 total, no. 525 grand total). A sample.
This was among the lowest rated samples not yet sipped down, so when I was looking for my next sipdown candidate, I went for this and made a big pot Western style.
A very nice dark oolong that leaves a silkiness in the mouth. Nothing else to add to the original note.
After thoroughly enjoying the Andao Big Red Robe yesterday, I thought I’d try another. This was in a never-before-opened sample packet.
The leaves smell amazing. I confess I read the description before I smelled, but it’s all there: nutty? Check. Roasty? Check. Mineral? Check. Woodsy? Check. Fruity? Check.
The usual ritual for tasting in the gaiwan. Rinse, and start at 15 seconds with 195F water.
The tea is a peachy-amber color. Apricot, but a little pinker. It’s clear and smells of brown sugar. Flavor wise, it has a mild, woody flavor. Not as complex as the Big Red Robe of yesterday, at least so far. No floral notes to speak of.
Second steep. Did I say no floral notes? I spoke too soon. There is a definite floral lilt to the aroma. The tea is a darker apricot color. The flavor is similar to the first steep except a little toastier.
Third steep. The floral note is gone. The flavor is similar to the second steep. I may only do one more if I don’t get something new.
Fourth steep. Nothing new.
It’s pleasant, but not as exciting and special as the one of yesterday.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Floral, Fruity, Mineral, Nutty, Roasted, Toasty, Wood
Playing count-the-oolongs left in the cupboard without tasting notes isn’t nearly as fun as the black tea and green tea exercise because it is just a reminder of my embarrassing excess.
I have 40 oolongs in the cupboard that have yet to be tasted or written about.
And that number is also misleading, because I have many more oolong samples that aren’t entered in the cupboard.
There’s only one thing to do: persist.
I’m a little upset about this one. I had it all ready to go for a tasting last weekend, sitting in the gaiwan. And then I got busy and forgot about it.
I was going to resume where I left off today, but discovered that my house cleaners tossed the unused tea and washed the gaiwan. Nice of them to wash the gaiwan, but I wish they’d realized it had tea that should be preserved in it.
So I have less of this than I thought I had, and because it is an ATR tea, there won’t be more.
Anyway. Steeped in the gaiwan at 195F with short steeps after rinsing starting at 15 seconds.
Have any of you found that your interest in tea has led to some insights about yourself?
I never thought of myself as a type A person, or as someone who is constantly on the go. I’ve always had an impatient streak, but not because I had too much to do and needed to get on to the next thing. Just because I’m wired that way. Which is amusing because I have a reputation at work for being much more patient than other people.
I do think of myself as someone who throws herself into whatever she’s doing rather completely, which pushes out of the picture time for other things. But eventually, because of that intensity I burn out and turn to one or more of those other things. Which is why I drop off of Steepster for months and years at a time.
But now, I think there’s a real possibility I have developed adult onset ADHD. I’m constantly interrupted by emails and instant messages at work, so I’m constantly having to shift mental focus from one thing to another. Also, the older I get the more I find I have to do. So sometimes I just have to cut things short to move on to the next thing that must get done.
Today I have to get my hair cut and colored, but I also want to work out and it’s almost noon already. So watch me totally fail to savor this tea for the number of steeps it probably deserves. Generally, I can sit through about 4 or 5 steeps without feeling compelled to move on to the next thing.
I am hopeful, though, that after I race through the exercise of tasting everything I have at least once, I’ll feel the internal pressure to do so lifted and will be able to revisit some of these from a more relaxed place.
So. About this tea.
In the packet, it has a floral, green aroma. Of the flowers listed in the description, I definitely smell orchid and lilac. I am not sure I know what narcissus smells like. I don’t smell jasmine, or at least I don’t smell it as a differentiated aroma. When I think of lily smell, I think of the vanilla of stargazer lilies and I don’t smell that here either.
The tea is a medium butter-golden yellow that darkens with longer steeps. It has a butter-cream, floral smell.
The flavor is everything I like about greener oolongs. Buttery, floral, flavorful but delicate. It’s mild, not astringent, not bitter. There are a couple of unexpected aspects to it, one of which is that I sort of taste the paper that’s described as a wrapping. It’s not nearly as prominent as the paper flavor in some decafs, though. And the other of which is that the tea doesn’t seem to have much of a grassy or vegetal quality. It’s pretty much flowered butter, all the time.
I’m really upset about the loss of the gaiwan full of tea now. I like this a lot.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Orchid, Paper
This is a nice solid Earl Grey. The tea is smooth, the balance is right, and I think it’s a tea that most people could enjoy. The bergamot is just a touch sharp for me, but it’s not bothersomely so. I got this as a sample, and if I liked Earl Greys more, I’d buy more – but they’re not often my cup of tea. :)