131 Tasting Notes


Such an interesting tea… silky smooth, beautiful color, and an aroma that is complex and like no other black tea I have ever tried. The unique flavor definitely takes you on a trip with notes of chocolate, caramel and honey. A warm fuzzy feeling that leaves you wanting another cup. Good thing it holds up to multiple steeps…

There is something of the Wonder (with a capital W) that I had when first watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a youngster. I can hear Gene Wilder and those darn lyrics:

Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of
Pure imagination
Take a look
And you’ll see
Into your imagination…

Sorry about my sappy review, but this tea brings out some long forgotten child-like joy!

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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I haven’t had many herbal blends that included honeybush and/or rooibos, so was not sure what to expect. I was actually rather pleased, and think this was the favorite I have of the samples I received from Tea Forte. It made a really nice light brew with aroma and taste of both apricot and amaretto. A hint of flowery character, probably from the marigold flowers. Not too sweet, and a nice accompaniment to a piece of buttery shortbread.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 15 sec

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What a beautiful tea this Dragonwell Style Laoshan Green! The dry leaves look identical to the very high quality dragonwell (or longjing 龍井茶) teas that I have had the pleasure of drinking. Flat, pan fired and distinctly complete — not broken or crumbled. Truly worthy of pondering the long journey these leaves have made to make it into my cup.

The aroma is the first surprise. Not nutty like the longjing, but that distinct smell of the other Laoshan greens, combining the butter bean aroma with the slight scent of the ocean mists. When described as being somewhat like a Japanese gyokuro, I had my doubts, since gyokuro teas are not only shaded before harvest, but also come from different varieties of cultivars. I should have known better, since David has such a wonderfully developed palate and honesty which I have never seen hyped. You see, I love gyokuro, but my budget leaves it to being enjoyed on only the rarest of occasions!

So I brewed this at a lower temperature (140F/60C) and for just 90 seconds, and what a wonderful complex flavor from this perfectly translucent light green infusion. Sweetness, light grassy flavor and a touch of umami, a surprisingly complex green that is hard to categorize, yet truly enjoyable. It shares the characters of several well known tastes (gyokuro, longjing and Laoshan green) and comes up with a whole new flavor/aroma profile. Second infusion, was slightly higher temp, and only for 45 seconds, yielding a new profile that is even sweeter and lighter. More infusions coming, but I could not resist writing this tea experience up and sharing on Steepster…

140 °F / 60 °C 1 min, 30 sec

Isn’t it incredible to see how much final processing can change the flavor of a tea? All of these Laoshan green teas from the same farm, same family.. very cool!

David Duckler

Many thanks for this,
Your comment has made my day. On a day so full of the headaches involved in getting teas from such small farms over to the USA, it raises my spirits to read your note, and enjoy the tea from your perspective. The He family in Laoshan amazes me with everything they grow. Such variety and such complexity that they offer.

Best Wishes,

Doug F

Twist my arm. I guess I’ll need to sample a few of this family’s offerings.

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This summer, I have been enjoying the Laoshan Northern Green from Verdant Teas, and have taken a real shine to its sugar snap pea flavor and nice light aroma. When my supply was out, I perused both Steepster and the Verdant Tea’s website, where I found some great videos about the farm, and a great description of this Early Summer Laoshan Green. I was intrigued, placed an order, and quickly received my package, filled with teas I can’t wait to experience and enjoy.

I loaded up my medium size glass gaiwan with 4 grams of tea, and did a quick steep of 175F water for 30 seconds (the website says 3 seconds, which seemed too short to my eye). Wow, what an interesting aroma! Somewhat like boiled peanuts or butterbeans – and a hint of saltwater sea spray. And the taste was just about the same. Very solid, sweet and possessing that bit of umami flavor that I have not experienced outside of Japanese green teas. It was so very good, that I followed the initial steep with 4 more, and then started to get a bit of bitterness. I left the leaves in cold water overnight, which cold brewed me just a tad more.

Today I am sipping on this tea once again. I haven’t even started any of the other teas I ordered, other than taken a good healthful whiff of the Artisan Revival puerh tea that David so generously included with my order (read my Steepster review of that one, for another fantastic tea). The only problem with this tea experience (I say with great sarcasm), is that I can’t get the lyrics out of my head:

Some people are fat, some people are lean
But I want you to show me the person
Who doesn’t like butterbeans

Well, you can have your yams
You can have your collard greens
But if you want to please little ol’ me
You better fix butterbeans

Anyone old enough to recognize this snippet from “Butterbean” by the B-52’s?

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 30 sec

Love it! AND who are you calln’ old? I’m simply well rounded ;)

E Alexander Gerster

Hah! I’m very “well rounded” myself! ;)

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I had been saving my sample of Kabuse Sencha this past month until I had a nice calm evening to really sit quietly and enjoy the flavors of this wonderful tea. The aroma of the dry leaves is phenomenal and I decided to use the Wazuka, or Southern Kyoto steeping technique which Obubu Tea describes in their brochure and on their website. My small kyusu teapot was used for all, after being warmed first and 5 grams of tea added.

1st (concentrated) steeping: Only 3 oz or 80 ml of 160F/70C spring water, for 1.5 minutes. Brews up a “sencha espresso” that is very sweet, nicely vegetal and tastes like spring. Aroma and after taste have just a hint of a savory character.

2nd through 4th steeping: Full 6 oz or 180 ml of spring water gradually increasing the temperature and time with each steeping. The flavor and aroma become less sweet, and more vegetal with almost no detectable bitterness or astringency. Very nice balance, and truly enjoyable.

The leaves are so tender and hydrated after steeping, that they can easily be eaten. I used mine to make “green rice” for dinner. Simply added the leaves to some pre-cooked brown rice with just a touch of soy sauce and a few green chives on top.

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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Amazingly well balanced for a single estate Ceylon tea. Nice combination of light astringency and full, round, sturdy character. It is much like a very good British Breakfast blend, with a taste of sunshine and humidity. From the distinct aroma, to the very last sip, this tea asserts itself as a true Ceylon tea. A nice tea to pair with hearty foods, or good buttery shortbread.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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I was really leery of tasting this tea after the box arrived covered in dust and a dead bug between the inner bag and outer box. But my love of osmanthus, and curiosity got the better of me. I brewed a small gaiwan, and enjoyed it so much that it was soon followed by a large pot to share with a friend. Light, beautiful and really pleasant. A nice balance between the tea and the flowers. Like drinking dewdrops of honeysuckle nectar. Truly one of the best teas I have tasted from Samovar.
And BTW, customer service at Samovar online was fantastic. They responded quickly to emails and wanted to make sure an experience like this didn’t happen again, sending me samples of some of their other teas. Very friendly and very professional.

185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 15 sec

Glad to hear this tea exceeded your expectations. Everything tastes better with a little osmanthus!


Holy --!! You’re brave. I definitely would not have tried the tea after a bug incident like that. At least Samovar tried to remedy the situation.

E Alexander Gerster

I’m too frugal to let a tea go to waste…especially when the osmanthus smelled so good! :)

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drank Earl Grey by Samovar
131 tasting notes

I received a black tea sampler from Samovar, and this Earl Grey sample was first up. I have had several very good teas from Samovar, and love Earl Grey, so I had high expectations since so many reviewers had listed this as one of their favorites. Unfortunately, I have to wonder what happened to my sample? It was bitter, nasty and tasted like perfume. No taste from the tea at all… and just a smell of alcohol and rotten oranges. As several of my other boxes of tea came covered in dust, I wonder if this sat so long in the warehouse that it went bad… Such a disappointment. :(

Winter Salo

The absolutely worst thing is when you’re so looking forward to sample a particular tea and it fails to leave up to expectation. Hopefully the others will be better :)

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An interesting experiment today. In anticipation of a new package of fresh dried osmanthus flowers, expected to arrive from China in the next week or so, used my last pinch in my morning cup of Laoshan Northern Green. I was not sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised that the beany-vegetal tones of the green mixed really well with the honeysuckle sweetness of the o-flowers! A really nice end of summer treat. Of course summer here in Miami will stretch into December, but technically still, summer is over.

David Duckler

Good to know- Thanks! I love playing around with blends, as you might notice from the growing Alchemy line on the site, and love encouraging people to blend. I will have to pick up some osmanthus. Exploring the floral possibilities hadn’t occurred to me yet for this tea. I have been loving it with dried burdock. (In China they have something like burdock called Niubang, but it is much better. Do you know what we call it here?), and with a mix of peppermint and spearmint. Saffron also presents interesting possibilities…

E Alexander Gerster

I wonder if the Niubang you mention is the same as the Burdock known as Gobo in Japanese. The Wikipedia page just lists it as Arctium lappa : Greater Burdock.
Looks like you have been having fun with your blends! I had not seen your new additions and have to kick myself for checking in more regularly. Your site is really informative, entertaining, and tempting!
I usually reserve my osmanthus for oolong and white needle teas, but a friend in Suzhou mentioned that he drinks red tea with osmanthus during the summer, and it sounded good to me! I usually limit my additions to things that grow on my balcony or at my mother’s house like lemongrass, dried mango, mint or other herbs. I use a light touch since I really like the tea to shine through. I guess I could grow tea plants pretty easily here, and have seen that it grows well in some yards, but we have pretty poor soil, and no real change of seasons to speak of. It is something I would at least like to try at some point in my life!

E Alexander Gerster

oops meant to say “for NOT checking in more regularly” but couldn’t edit my comment …

David Duckler

Yes- I think the Arctium Lappa is closest. The Chinese listed was correct “niubang.” It tastes like graham crackers when brewed as a tea, and my memory of it is having it brewed with a bit of rosehips and goji berry whenever I was sick. If I even so much as coughed, my tea friends in China would dig out the niubang to steep for me. Good stuff!

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This is a real classic Yunnan tea. Rich and savory flavor, with a slight cocoa powder finish. Earthy and spicy and soft, smooth, creamy mouthfeel and finish. Adagio has a variety of Yunnan teas, some that are higher rated and higher priced, but this is probably my favorite. It is beautiful to see the mixture of gold and black leaves, and the aroma of dry leaves, wet leaves and liquor are all quite nice. Just a touch of peppery flavor and it brews up well in a teapot, gaiwan or gong fu style. A really nice experience for newcomers to loose and/or Yunnan teas.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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I have been drinking tea for most of my life, and enjoy learning about Tea Culture from all around the world. I learned early about Russian and British traditions first, since my parents came from Europe, followed by the teas and culture of Ceylon/Sri Lanka and India. Since I have been a practicing Buddhist for the better part of 25 years, I have strong ties to Asia, and have slowly been learning about the teas from each part of the world I encounter. It is a wonderful and interesting journey.


Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

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