906 Tasting Notes


It’s time to take a break from all of the green teas that I have been drinking lately and get back to reviewing some Darjeeling. This is one of the teas from Adagio that I I had never had before, and it was my first spring Darjeeling to boot, so I didn’t really know what to expect from this one. I finished the last of my half ounce sample packet of this yesterday evening, and now that I have had a little time to gather my thoughts, I can say that it isn’t a bad tea, but it’s also not really my thing either.

The infused liquor showed a pale gold in the glass. The nose provided fresh, delicate aromas of honey, flowers, malt, toast, wood, citrus, and grapes. In the mouth, I picked up delicately layered notes of honey, toast, malt, wood, orange zest, grapes, flowers, mild spices (perhaps a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg), and herbs. The finish was distinctly floral and mildly spicy, with nice grape, orange zest, and malt flavors. The tea held up to resteeping fairly well, but I did not take it further than three infusions (I know that resteeping Darjeeling is starting to become popular in some circles, but I typically do not resteep black teas of this type unless specifically recommended by the merchant). Later infusions provided a smoother and more distinct honey note with pleasant floral, spice, orange zest, and grape flavors.

All in all, I’m not quite sure how I feel about my experience with this tea and I do not think I would go out of my way to purchase it again. As at least one other reviewer noted, it can be very finicky, and one really has to watch the steep time and temperature closely in order to get the best results from this tea. This was the first tea I have had in a long time that I found to be a little bit of a chore to prepare and drink. The aromas and flavors are pleasant, but they are very light, and to me, such mild, mellow flavor is not much of a payoff if I have to watch this tea like a hawk when I’m brewing it. I can understand why people like this tea, and I wouldn’t recommend that curious drinkers avoid it by any means, but being the type of person who prefers more robust black teas, I am most likely not going to revisit a tea that I found to be a bit troublesome to prepare while not offering me something resembling the depth of aromas and flavors I typically enjoy.

Flavors: Flowers, Grapes, Herbs, Honey, Malt, Orange Zest, Spices, Toast, Wood

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I have been meaning to post a review of this one for a couple weeks now, but I’m only just now getting around to it. To kick this one off, let me just say that if anyone who reads this is not familiar with Dragonwell tea, then you really need to try it. Dragonwell is one of the most famous teas in all of China. In my opinion, it is also one of the most easily approachable green teas out there. Most Dragonwell teas sold in the West are actually more or less middle-of-the-road in terms of quality. The earlier pickings, however, are more highly valued in China, where they are renowned for their light, delicate aromas and flavors. This tea is an example of a high grade early picked Dragonwell.

To brew this tea, I used my usual method for green teas: a two step Western infusion with steep times of 2 and 3 minutes respectively. The temperature was set at 175 F. I also tried brewing this tea grandpa style. Before I move on to the actual review, allow me to state that this is the sort of green tea that I feel would really be best enjoyed gongfu style. I would have tried it this way as well, but unfortunately I am still waiting on my new gaiwan.

First Infusion: The infused liquor was a very, very pale yellowish green. In terms of color, this was one of the lightest steeps I have ever seen. Mild aromas of grass, straw, sweet corn, and honeydew were present on the nose. In the mouth, I immediately detected notes of sweet corn, freshly cut grass, straw, asparagus, peas, and bamboo underscored by honeydew, cream, and a slight minerality.

Second Infusion: The liquor produced was slightly darker and slightly more yellow than the first infusion. The aroma was very mild. I again detected grass and straw, but this time honeydew, cream, and mineral aromas showed up on the nose. In the mouth, mild notes of grass, peas, straw, asparagus, sweet corn, and bamboo were joined by more pronounced notes of honeydew, cream, and minerals that grew even stronger on the fade.

Okay, I like this tea. I tend to be a bit of a Dragonwell freak, and this one is very good, but I don’t think it’s my favorite. As I have mentioned in at least one previous review, I tend to like my Chinese green teas very vegetal, and this one is a little on the light and sweet side for my taste. Still, this is a very worthy higher end Dragonwell. I just think that I still prefer some of the others that I have tried.

Flavors: Asparagus, Bamboo, Corn Husk, Cream, Freshly Cut Grass, Honeydew, Mineral, Peas, Straw

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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So, for those of you who may not know, Simpson & Vail is one of the most established tea merchants in the United States, having been around in one form or another since the turn of the twentieth century. They are still going strong today and continue to be renowned for their numerous high quality blended teas. This Russian caravan blend is one of the company’s original blends, having first been formulated at some point in the early 1900s. If one were to compare this blend to other Russian-style blends, however, one would notice something unique about this blend immediately. It does not contain any lapsang souchong. Rather, it is a mix of black teas with a dash of Earl Grey added for additional character. Think of it as something like Kusmi Tea’s Russian blends, only lighter, simpler, and more restrained.

In the glass, the infused liquor shows a clear, dark amber. Mild, layered aromas of leather, tobacco, caramel, cocoa, honey, toast, malt, lemon zest, and bergamot are most noticeable on the nose, though if I really focus, I also get subtle impressions of sweet potato, plum, orange, and apricot. In the mouth, the tea is nicely balanced, offering smooth notes of honey, toast, malt, molasses, mild cocoa, leather, tobacco, and caramel underscored by subtler notes of lemon zest, bergamot, sweet potato, orange, plum, and apricot. The finish is mild, and to me, a little clipped, with pleasant citrus, stone fruit, honey, malt, toast, and leather notes.

Okay, so this is really mild compared to the Russian blends available from many other vendors, and the fact that this is labeled a Russian caravan blend is a little misleading since it lacks the smokiness and woodiness of traditional Russian caravan teas. It is, however, both unique and pleasant. Overall, it is a subtler-than-expected blend with a nice layering of aromas and flavors. I rather like it and would recommend it to those looking for an afternoon tea with a little bit of kick, but without a ton of sharpness and astringency. Just don’t expect a heavy, smoky blend.

Flavors: Apricot, Bergamot, Caramel, Cocoa, Honey, Leather, Lemon Zest, Malt, Molasses, Orange, Plums, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Tobacco

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Another day, another green tea. This one comes to us from Lingyun County in China’s Guangxi Province. Compared to other green teas, this one is very light and fruity. I have seen a bit of confusion regarding the proper classification of this tea. I am under the impression that it is traditionally considered a green tea, though some Western vendors classify it as a white tea. For the purposes of this review, I will be treating it as a green tea and implicitly using other Chinese green teas that I have tried as points of comparison. To brew this tea, I relied upon my usual Western two step infusion that I favor for many green teas. The temperature was set at 180 F with steep times of 2 and 3 minutes respectively.

In the cup, the infused liquor showed a delicate, pale gold. Mild aromas of bamboo, grass, hay, honeysuckle, and apricot were what I picked up on the nose. In the mouth, mild, lightly vegetal notes of bamboo, grass, cucumber, and straw quickly gave way to smooth, sweet notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, osmanthus, apricot, plum, and white peach. The finish was floral and fruity, with mild honeysuckle, apricot, and white peach notes underscored by a hint of creaminess that gave way to a just barely detectable trace of minerality on the fade. The second infusion further emphasized the tea’s sweetness, with fruit and flower notes framed against a backdrop of faint bamboo, grass, and straw before an alternately creamy and mineral-laden fade.

This is a unique and refreshing green tea. It is not particularly deep, but it is very pleasant and approachable. The subtlety of its aromas and flavors kind of reminds me of some of the white teas that I have tried, so I guess I can at least partially understand the confusion with regard to this tea’s proper classification. In the end, I really enjoyed this tea and felt like I got quite a bit out of it, but I can safely say that I probably would not reach for it all that often. Truthfully, I greatly enjoy the more typically vegetal Chinese green teas, and this one straddles the line between a white tea and a green tea in terms of flavor and aroma a little too much for me. Now, considering I like both white and green teas, that’s not a bad thing, but I’m just saying I’m more likely to reach for a more typical green tea when I’m in the mood for green tea or a white tea when I’m in the mood for white tea. In summation, I feel that this is a rock solid tea, but I also feel that it is likely to only appeal to a small niche of tea drinkers who regularly pursue less popular and/or orthodox types of tea. Still, I suppose I would not have a problem recommending it to someone who may be looking for something unique.

Flavors: Apricot, Bamboo, Cream, Cucumber, Grass, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Mineral, Osmanthus, Peach, Plums, Straw

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Neela by The Tao of Tea
906 tasting notes

Before I begin this review, allow me to state that I am not particularly familiar with Nilgiri teas. For the most part, my Indian tea adventure has been limited to Assam and Darjeeling teas, both of which I quite enjoy. With the abundance of teas from these two areas on the market, I never got around to spending much time with teas from the south of India.

After infusion, the resulting liquid was a pale golden amber. Very mild aromas of toast, malt, honey, wood, menthol, and flowers were just barely detectable on the nose. In the mouth, I was able to immediately detect notes of menthol, wood, toast, malt, honey, flowers, and grape skin. The finish was fleeting, initially allowing only the subtlest traces of honey, malt, menthol, and wood to show, though I did pick up interesting tulsi, papaya, and mango notes at the end.

I wasn’t exactly blown away by this tea, but I also wasn’t horribly disappointed by it either. I really just tried it for the sake of trying something new. I did, however, appreciate the subtle complexity of the flavor and the smoothness of the body. This was a very approachable and unique tea, but surprisingly for a black tea, it was all about subtlety. I normally prefer my black teas to be robustly flavorful, filling, and lively, but this one was not anything like that. As a matter of fact, this was by far the lightest, most delicate black tea I have ever tried. Given my preferences, I probably would not reach for this one again, but I would encourage those who are open to new drinking experiences to give this one a shot simply because it is so unique.

Flavors: Floral, Grapes, Honey, Malt, Mango, Menthol, Toast, Tulsi, Wood

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The second of the green teas from Simpson & Vail that I am getting around to reviewing, I am kind of surprised this one had not been added to the database earlier. After all, seemingly every vendor out there releases a gunpowder green tea at some point. I just kind of assumed that I would not be the person to add a tea like this to Steepster. Anyway, this is a pretty decent, if rather unexciting green tea.

After infusion, the liquor produced is a rich yellow. Aromas of roasted Brussels sprouts, Napa cabbage, pak choi, dried grass, hay, and lemon are just barely detectable on the nose. In the mouth, I detected fleeting notes of roasted Brussels sprouts, spinach, Napa cabbage, pak choi, dried grass, hay, and green beans. The aftertaste leaves impressions of roasted Brussels sprouts, dried grass, lemon, and char.

In the end, I found this to be a pretty solid gunpowder green tea. As green teas go, I have had better, but I have also had far worse. While I wish the flavors were stronger and separated a little more, the flavors that are detectable are interesting. I also appreciate the smoothness of this tea. I especially like the lack of the somewhat coppery aftertaste that can be so off-putting in gunpowder teas.

Flavors: Char, Grass, Green Beans, Hay, Lemon, Roasted, Spinach, Vegetables

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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After spending a great deal of time drinking Chinese green teas over the course of the last month, I have piled up a large number of tasting notes that I have yet to add to my tealog. Tonight, I figured I would take a few minutes to at least start on getting these things online. When deciding which of these to type up first, I ended up settling on this rather unique Chinese green tea.

Before I formally start this review, allow me to state that I know very little about this tea. I know it is Chinese, but I know little else about it. I do not know who grows this tea, which tea varietal it is made from, the specifics of its production, or its province of origin. Simpson & Vail describe it as an aromatic green tea, but that really is not all that helpful.

Prior to infusion, I noticed that the leaves were very small and thin. The aroma of the dry leaves was mild and vegetal. After infusion, the resulting liquor was pale gold and offered mild aromas of damp grass, soybean, snap pea, and fresh spinach underscored by honey and nectar. In the mouth, I detected fleeting impressions of damp grass, soybean, snap pea, and spinach balanced by honey, nectar, lilac, chrysanthemum, and jasmine. Subsequent infusions saw the vegetal and floral notes mellow while puff pastry and sweet cream notes emerged.

All in all, I was not too impressed with this tea. It did not seem to have much depth or character. The flavors it displayed were pleasant, but they did not stick around long enough to really make an impression on me or reveal any real complexity or peculiarity. The whole time I was drinking this tea, it kept reminding me of something, but I could not put my finger on it until I was nearly done with it. Then it hit me: Chinese restaurant tea! To me, this tea tastes just like those generic, yet pleasant green teas that you can get in pretty much every Chinese restaurant around. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, but again, I tend to like green teas with a lot of depth and character. While this tea is smooth and approachable, it is definitely short on the characteristics I admire in a really high quality green tea.

Flavors: Cream, Grass, Honey, Jasmine, Nectar, Pastries, Peas, Soybean, Spinach

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It’s time to celebrate another Earl Grey sipdown! Seriously, I feel like I’ve been inhaling this stuff over the past week. I started this one some time ago and then put it away when I took a break from Earl Grey. The extended break gave me a chance to properly evaluate this tea while I was finishing the last of it up.

Prior to infusion, strong aromas of rosemary and lavender were underscored by a trace of rose. I couldn’t pick up much in the way of bergamot. The herbal and floral aromas seemed to overpower it. After infusion, the resulting liquor was a dark amber. Aromas of toast, malt, rose, lavender, honey, and rosemary were clearly evident. I still couldn’t pick up the bergamot. In the mouth, lovely notes of rosemary, lavender, honey, rose, toast, and malt mingled with light bergamot notes. The texture was very soapy, which one would kind of expect from a traditional Earl Grey. The finish was toasty, herbal, and floral; the rose notes really stood out on the back of the fade, offering a pleasant, soothing sensation.

Overall, there was a lot going on in this blend. Rather than merely being busy, however, there was a lot to like here. I really appreciated how the herbal and floral notes merged so seamlessly. The only real knock for me was the lack of a truly distinct bergamot presence-it really gets overpowered by the rosemary and lavender. Still, I think this is a very good blend, one that fans of Earl Grey would be likely to enjoy.

Flavors: Bergamot, Honey, Lavender, Malt, Rose, Toast

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I finished the last of this tea a couple days ago and honestly had to take a little time to process my impressions of it. I do not have a ton of experience with Vietnamese black teas. The few I have had have been really hit or miss for me. On that note, this tea was another miss, but I do think it has a couple of redeeming qualities and can understand why some people may like it. With that in mind, I graded this one a little leniently, but I still would not recommend it to people looking for a unique and memorable tea.

In the glass, the liquor showed a dark golden amber. Delicate aromas of roasted nuts, nutmeg, toast, and malt were just barely detectable on the nose. In the mouth, faint notes of nutmeg, roasted nuts (hazelnut, chestnut), toast, and malt mingled with a subtle astringency and what I can only describe as a trace of brininess. The finish was not particularly long, offering fleeting impressions of toast, malt, and nutmeg.

Honestly, I really found this to be a bland, boring tea. I kind of doubt I will remember much about it within a couple of months. I didn’t find it bad, just dull. There wasn’t much going on with it. It was very smooth though. I could see it taking cream and sugar fairly well. I could also see it maybe working in a blend. On its own, however, this tea doesn’t offer much of note.

Flavors: Malt, Nutmeg, Roast nuts, Toast

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Brewing up the last of my sample of this, I am reminded that I need to start purchasing more green teas from Verdant Tea. I have yet to have a bad experience with any of the green teas I have purchased from Verdant. This one was certainly no exception.

I ultimately decided to do a simple Western two step infusion for this tea. I generally do not steep green tea more than twice, simply because I think that the first two steepings of most green teas are the best. The water temperature was 175 F. The steep times were 2 and 4 minutes respectively.

The first infusion yielded a pale greenish yellow liquor. Mild aromas of grass, bamboo, asparagus, and cream were present on the nose. In the mouth, I detected strong notes of cream, oats, soybean, grass, and bamboo underscored by fleeting impressions of asparagus, honeydew, and cantaloupe. The second infusion yielded a slightly darker liquor with strong aromas of grass, bamboo, and cream with a subtle background fruitiness. In the mouth, strong notes of cream, oats, grass, bamboo, asparagus, and soybean were framed against a backdrop of honey, honeydew, and cantaloupe before a long and creamy fade.

This is a really nice Chinese green tea. It is not particularly complex, but it gets bonus points from me for its approachability and unique flavor profile. Make no mistake about it, this is a very appealing tea that is easy to drink. I really like that little bit of fruity sweetness displayed by this tea.

Flavors: Asparagus, Bamboo, Cantaloupe, Cream, Grass, Honey, Honeydew, Oats, Soybean

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My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.



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