943 Tasting Notes


It looks like I am the first to get to this one. This lapsang souchong is the only Taiwanese black tea offered by Simpson & Vail at this time. The folks at Simpson & Vail bill this as being heartier than their Chinese lapsang, and I must say that they really aren’t kidding about that.

I brewed this tea using a simple one step Western infusion. Again, I normally do not resteep black teas unless it is specifically suggested by the vendor. To prepare this tea, I steeped one teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 3 minutes. I also tried 4 and 5 minute steepings of this tea, but the aromas and flavors were consistent across the board despite a slight increase in strength and astringency, so I will just stick to presenting the results of the initial 3 minute steeping for this review.

After infusion, the resulting liquor was a dark amber. Strong aromas of woodsmoke, pine, nuts, leather, molasses, and sea salt were present on the nose. I could also detect subtle scents of tobacco and toast. In the mouth, strong notes of woodsmoke, pine, cedar, black walnut, hickory, leather, molasses, tobacco, and sea salt were underscored by subtler flavors of caramel, dark chocolate, and brown toast. The finish was full of smoke and wood flavors with more than a bit of astringency.

Overall, I quite like this lapsang. It really lives up to the description of a hearty black tea provided by the vendor. Honestly, Simpson & Vail’s Chinese lapsang souchong does not even really compare to this one. This lapsang is just so much richer, stronger, and smokier. Still, I don’t expect the many people who are unexcited by any lapsang souchong or really heavy black tea to take to this one at all, but as someone who tends to enjoy lapsang souchong, I cannot say that I would have a problem recommending this tea fairly highly to fellow lapsang aficionados.

Flavors: Astringent, Brown Toast, Caramel, Cedar, Dark Chocolate, Leather, Marine, Molasses, Pine, Smoke, Walnut

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

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Okay, this review finally catches me up on my reviews. I will undoubtedly have more reviews to post by the middle of the week, but I can relax for now. This was the last of the Whispering Pines white teas I ordered a couple months ago. It compares favorably to the others, but unfortunately I am not a huge silver needle fan. That may be why I put this one off for awhile.

I prepared this tea using the three step Western infusion outlined on the Whispering Pines website. I steeped 1 tablespoon of this tea in 190 F water for 3 minutes. The initial 3 minute infusion was followed by two subsequent infusions at 5 and 8 minutes respectively.

First Infusion: Delicate aromas of pine, raisin, minerals, honeysuckle, cinnamon, and eucalyptus were evident. In the mouth, I detected subtle, smooth notes of pine, raisin, honeysuckle, eucalyptus, cinnamon, hay, and butter underscored by a trace of minerals.

Second Infusion: Slightly stronger aromas of raisins, dates, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and honeysuckle were evident on the nose. I also detected a scent somewhat reminiscent of powdered sugar that I did not pick up on the first infusion. In the mouth, I picked up distinct notes of butter, cream, cinnamon, powdered sugar, honeysuckle, raisin, dates, hay, pine, fresh basil, eucalyptus, and minerals.

Third Infusion: Mild aromas of minerals, fresh basil, eucalyptus, pine, and cinnamon were present on the nose. Gentle, integrated notes of cream, butter, minerals, hay, basil, honeysuckle, pine, eucalyptus, and cinnamon were detected in the mouth.

Overall, I think this is pretty good for a silver needle. In truth, I am not a huge fan of this particular type of tea as I tend to prefer more robust flavors, but this is by far the most interesting silver needle I have tried so far. I found it interesting that the scents and flavors I was picking up were rather different from those detailed by others. I was initially expecting a very sweet tea, which this one kind of is, but I also found it to be somewhat earthy and herbal. Maybe it’s just my palate or maybe it’s the most recent harvest. Who knows?

Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Cream, Dates, Eucalyptus, Hay, Herbs, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Pine, Powdered Sugar, Raisins

190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but I have been using my time off work to drink a ton of oolongs. I have been trying to clean out more space in my tea cabinet and was shocked to discover that the oolong shelf was overflowing. Moreover, I had a number of green oolongs that were still good, but needed to be consumed in order to get the most out of them. This is the one I decided to start with and I’m glad I got to it when I did. So far, it is the best oolong I have had this year.

I brewed this one gongfu. Yes, I am finally reviewing a tea that I brewed gongfu style. I steeped approximately 7-8 grams of tea leaves in 208 F water. I did not exactly follow Verdant’s gongfu brewing guidelines for this tea. Rather than increasing steep times by the recommended 2 seconds, I increased steep times by 5 seconds per infusion. No joke, I still got 12 good steepings out of this tea.

First Infusion: Prominent aromas of butter, cream, and flowers were present on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up robust notes of hay, grass, lettuce, bread, minerals, butter, cream, custard, lilac, jasmine, orchid, and saffron.

Second Infusion: Cream and flower aromas were heavy on the nose. I picked up big floral notes on the entry that were soon chased by mellow flavors of steamed buns, custard, butter, cream, minerals, and lettuce.

Third Infusion: Very creamy and savory on the nose with balanced floral aromatics. The flavor was savory up front, offering relatively robust notes of cream, steamed buns, butter, and custard. A nice balance of floral and vegetal notes rounded out the flavor.

Fourth Infusion: Again, very savory on the nose with lots of butter, cream, and custard. The floral aromas were starting to fade a tad at this point. In the mouth, there was still a nice mix of floral and savory flavors with vegetal and mineral notes on the finish.

Fifth Infusion: Savory aromas on the nose with slight floral aromas in the background. In the mouth, there was a pleasant balance of flowers, cream, and custard. The mineral notes were more pronounced on the back end compared to the fourth infusion, as were the vegetal notes. I also noted the return of grass and hay-like flavors on the finish.

Sixth Infusion: The aroma was very similar to the previous two infusions, as was the taste, though I noted that the grass, hay, and lettuce notes were slightly more pronounced here.

Seventh Infusion: Mild nose with subtle aromas of cream, custard, minerals, and flowers. Smooth, subtle notes of custard, cream, butter, lettuce, hay, grass, minerals, and flowers in the mouth.

Eighth Infusion: The nose was similar to the seventh infusion. In the mouth, I picked up smooth notes of hay, grass, butter, lettuce, and cream balanced by fleeting impressions of lilac, saffron, and jasmine.

Ninth Infusion: The nose was similar to the previous two infusions. The flavor profile emphasized lettuce, grass, hay, and minerals on the entry, while custard, cream, butter, and floral notes lingered in the background.

Tenth Infusion: Fleeting aromas of cream, lettuce, grass, hay, and flowers on the nose, with strong lettuce and mineral notes in the mouth underscored by flowers, cream, and butter.

Eleventh Infusion: Slightly creamy, floral nose with vegetal impressions. Lettuce, grass, and mineral notes dominated the entry, though fleeting impressions of cream and butter provided a semblance of balance.

Twelfth Infusion: The aroma was very similar to the previous infusion, as was the flavor, though everything was very muted except the mineral and lettuce notes. Even though I have a very sensitive palate, I decided to stop here as I expected that another infusion would not leave much of an impression.

Overall, I really like this oolong and was shocked that it has such a low overall score here on Steepster. I’ll concede that it may not be all that complex, but I feel that it presents subtle nuances in its flavor profile very well over the course of a long session. I respect and admire that.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Hay, Jasmine, Lettuce, Mineral, Orchid, Saffron

Boiling 7 g 5 OZ / 162 ML

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I’m finally starting to clean out some room in my tea cabinet now. I am preparing to finish the last of this after I type this review. To sum up everything I’m about to say, this is a very nice rose congou at a great price.

I prepared this tea by steeping 1 teaspoon in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 3 minutes. I’ve played around with my brewing technique on this one a little. I’ve found that I can steep this for around 5 minutes with no harsh flavors. I would say it could probably be left even longer without acquiring too much astringency. I also think this would probably make a great iced tea.

After infusion, the resulting liquor is a clear amber. Mild aromas of caramel, rose, cocoa, and cream were apparent on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up distinct notes of cocoa, caramel, cream, butter, and of course, rose. The finish offers a lovely and soothing mix of caramel, cream, and rose.

This tea is not at all complex or deep, but it is very appealing regardless. One thing that helps it is that it is super easy to drink. It also provides just enough black tea flavor to provide a semblance of balance to the floral notes. It’s nice. I recommend it highly.

Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Cocoa, Cream, Rose

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

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Okay, now that I have eaten myself silly, it is time to get back to catching up my reviews. I received this one as a free sample a couple months back. I think it was right around the time this tea went out of stock for the season. Now that I have finished this one, I have finally consumed all of the white tea that I have purchased from Whispering Pines this year. I will be moving on to the blacks and oolongs shortly.

For the purposes of this review, I steeped a rather heaping tablespoon of this tea in 190 F water for 3 minutes. I infused this tea two more times for 5 and 7 minutes respectively. To be completely honest, I had to guess as to how this tea should be prepared as I forgot to log the suggested brewing method and could not find it on Whispering Pines’ new website. I should also note that an absolutely wicked storm hit right as I was preparing the third and final infusion, and with my power going in and out, I had to time it with my phone. It may or may not have been a full seven minutes. I’m pretty sure I got close.

First Infusion: The infused liquor was a rich gold. Aromas of oatmeal, grass, hay, honey, and butter were apparent on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up strong notes of oatmeal and honey underscored by cream, butter, grass, hay, and flowers.

Second Infusion: The infused liquor was again a rich gold. Milder, smoother aromas of oatmeal, grass, hay, honey, and butter were joined by a subtly floral aroma. In the mouth, I picked up notes of honey, butter, grass, oatmeal, and hay balanced by slightly more pronounced notes of flowers and cream. I also detected a very subtle minerality on the fade.

Third Infusion: The infused liquor was a slightly paler gold. I detected mild aromas of oatmeal, honey, cream, and butter. I also detected a slight mineral scent. In the mouth, I detected smooth, refined notes of oatmeal, cream, honey, and butter. The grass and hay notes lingered in the background, but were not nearly as strong. The floral and mineral notes showed back up on the finish and nicely balanced the lingering impressions of oatmeal, honey, and cream.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this tea. I generally like the white teas offered by Whispering Pines, but this one did not leave much of an impression on me. As a matter of fact, I found it very mediocre compared to the other white teas I have tried from Whispering Pines. To me, it just seemed to be lacking the depth and complexity of the others. I will concede, however, that my brewing method may not have done it justice. I really just cannot say with certainty that I got this one right. I think I will go ahead and give this one a middling score in my personal rating system as a mediocre Whispering Pines tea is, in my opinion, still better than many others out there, but I will do so with the caveat that I will be trying this one if and when it is offered again to see if my opinion changes.

Flavors: Butter, Cream, Flowers, Grass, Hay, Honey, Mineral, Oats

190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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While continuing to clean out my backlog of reviews, I came to this rather unique green tea. I’m pretty certain most of the people who read my reviews will not be familiar with this tea. Honestly, I wasn’t either until I tried it. Indian green teas don’t seem to get much recognition here. This tea comes from Arunachal Pradesh in northern India. Compared to many green teas it has a heavier, smokier, more pungent flavor and a fuller body.

To prepare this tea, I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 165 F water for 2 minutes. I resteeped the leaves two subsequent times for 2 1/2 and 3 minutes respectively. The results of each infusion are chronicled below.

First Infusion: In the glass, the liquor was a pale gold. The color reminded me a little of white tea. I detected strongly pungent, grassy aromas on the nose. In the mouth, notes of freshly cut grass, hay, lemongrass, squash blossom, spinach, tulsi, and corn husk were underscored by traces of fruit, oak, smoke, and minerals.

Second Infusion: The infused liquor was slightly richer in color. It still looked more like a white tea than a traditional green tea to me. The aroma was cleaner and much more mineral-laden. I detected notes of cream, minerals, grass, hay, corn husk, squash blossom, and herbs balanced by more pronounced notes of oak, smoke, and fruit (cherimoya, mango, and guanabana).

Third Infusion: The infused liquor was paler. The aroma was very mild. I picked up fleeting scents of flowers and minerals. In the mouth, I detected mild notes of minerals, oak, smoke, corn husk, and fruit with slightly more pronounced floral, grassy, and hay-like notes.

I was really surprised by how much I liked this tea. I picked it up for very little and wasn’t expecting much, but it really floored me with how good it was. It was nothing like virtually any other green tea I have tried to this point. If you are looking for a different green tea, then you may want to give this one a try. Even if you don’t end up liking it nearly as much as I did, you won’t be out much.

Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Freshly Cut Grass, Fruity, Hay, Lemongrass, Mineral, Oak, Smoke, Spinach, Squash Blossom, Tulsi

165 °F / 73 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Spearmint by The Tao of Tea
943 tasting notes

Since I have gone absolutely crazy with Chinese black and green teas for the last week, I haven’t been sleeping well. In order to fend off the jitters, I decided to detox for a few days and picked out a nice range of tisanes to help get me through it. This organic spearmint from the The Tao of Tea was first in the lineup.

I steeped one teaspoon of this in 200 F water for 5 minutes. The infused liquor was a delicate, pale gold. A strong menthol aroma was easy to detect on the nose, but there was something else there too, almost like a mixture of straw and licorice. In the mouth, a strong spearmint taste was present (as one would expect), but there were some other faint flavors too. I thought I detected a little bit of straw, cream, and licorice.

Honestly, while I absolutely adore peppermint tea, I am not a huge fan of spearmint tea. To me, spearmint is too sweet and lacks sufficient character to succeed on its own. Also, the fact that I get a little bit of licorice flavor in the mouth bugs me. I really hate licorice and don’t feel like that flavor should be there. In the end though, I’m going to go easy on this one in terms of numerical rating because I’m not huge on spearmint and I’m not really sure I could pick a good spearmint tea if I tried. At least this one offers a little more in terms of flavor than just spearmint.

Flavors: Cream, Licorice, Spearmint, Straw

200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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So, this is my second experience with an unflavored Vietnamese black tea. The first (Simpson & Vail’s Vietnam Black) didn’t quite do it for me, so I was eager to give another Vietnamese black tea a shot. I’m glad I did. This one is really nice.

This tea comes to us from the province of Ha Giang in northern Vietnam. This part of the country is heavily forested, and Ha Giang is particularly known for its tea forests. To be clear, these really are forests of wild tea trees! This tea is harvested from these trees. I brewed this tea a couple of ways. I tried a range of temperatures and steep times and got pretty consistent results across the board. For the purposes of this review, I will be reviewing my favorite preparation (1 tsp of dry leaf steeped for 5 minutes in 208 F water).

Prior to infusion, the long, twisted leaves produced an aroma of wood, spice, dried cherry, leather, tobacco, smoke, and cocoa. After infusion, the resulting liquor was a dark amber. Robust aromas of dried cherry, brown toast, caramel, molasses, tobacco, leather, wood, smoke, and spice were evident on the nose. In the mouth, I detected intriguing notes of dried cherry, wood, smoke, tobacco, leather, caramel, molasses, chocolate, herbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, malt, and brown toast, as well as a subtle earthiness. The finish was woody, sweet, smoky, and spicy with a slight dryness and astringency.

Again, I quite like this tea. It is not something I would want to have every day, but the rustic, woodsy flavor profile is really pleasant and intriguing. It definitely beats the last Vietnamese black tea I drank. I would have no problem recommending this to fans of quirky, unique black teas.

Flavors: Brown Toast, Caramel, Cherry, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Earth, Herbs, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Nutmeg, Smoke, Tobacco, Wood

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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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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