900 Tasting Notes


Today, I realized that I had yet to review any of the teas I recently ordered from Whispering Pines and decided that I needed to start on them. Not really being in the mood for anything heavy, I decided to brew some Yabao. All in all, I think it makes a good choice for a mild afternoon sip.

The first infusion poured a slight grey-green. The nose revealed a clean aroma with subtle mineral and floral undertones with a slight fruitiness. In the mouth, I detected mild notes of minerals, wet stones, and dried fruit (raisin and fig) underscored by woody, mossy, and grassy flavors that were joined by a fleeting floral note on the finish.

The second infusion yielded a somewhat more colorful glass of tea. The nose revealed an aroma that was woodier, spicier, and grassier than the first infusion. The mineral aroma lingered, but was not nearly as obvious, while subtle aromas of dried fruit were now joined by cocoa. In the mouth, notes of pine needles, cedar, juniper berry, fig, raisin, and prune were underscored by mellow cocoa and wet moss with mineral notes popping up again on the finish.

The third infusion yielded a slightly greenish tea. Aromas of moss and grass were now underscored by subtle scents of wet wood, dried fruit, and pine needles. In the mouth, I picked up more pine, cedar, and juniper balanced by grass and wet moss with a touch of minerality on the fade.

In the end, I found this tea to be somewhat confounding, but I wouldn’t call it bad. That would be both untrue and unfair because, for what it is, it is quite good. It’s just hard for me to recommend this tea without reservations. As far as white teas go, this is very mild, clean, and subtle. At the same time, however, it is very earthy and woody. It is a tea that will challenge you to really ponder the aroma and taste sensations you experience and reach for new ways to describe them. I do not think it would make a great introduction to white tea, but I think that it could be a very pleasant sip for those who have experience with white teas and appreciate them. All in all, I like this tea, I just wouldn’t recommend that someone looking to get into white tea start here.

Flavors: Cedar, Cocoa, Dust, Fig, Floral, Hay, Mineral, Moss, Musty, Pine, Raisins, Spicy, Wet Earth, Wet Rocks, Wet Wood

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Lately, I have been going out of my way to try more Ceylon teas. Until very recently, the only Ceylon teas I was familiar with were the readily available Orange Ceylon Pekoes from major commercial tea brands, teas I find to be very basic-in other words, somewhat bland and boring. From my previous encounters with these Pekoes, I came to the conclusion that Ceylon tea did not really have much to offer me aside from a quick pick me up when I needed or wanted a tea I didn’t really have to spend much time analyzing. I have recently, however, come to the conclusion that this assumption is unfair, and in order to rectify my own ignorance, have been greedily snapping up Ceylon teas that are unfamiliar to me. This is one of the more recent additions to my growing collection of caffeinated Sri Lankan goodness.

In the glass, the tea shows a deep, clear orange. Aromas of brown toast, caramel, and malt mingle with mild earthy, floral, and citrusy scents. In the mouth, the tea starts off with a nice maltiness accompanied by gentle notes of earth, caramel, and brown toast. Around mid-palate, notes of wildflower honey, lemon rind, and lime zest become more apparent. The finish similarly flits from bready, malty, and earthy to tart, floral, and citrusy before a wash of not entirely unpleasant bitterness and astringency is left in the mouth.

Honestly, this tea is rather difficult for me to rate, as I have little with which to compare it. Still, I do find it to be very appealing in its way. Compared to the more readily available Ceylon teas, this one is lively, bright, floral, and citrusy with a nice balance of earthiness and maltiness. The bitterness and astringency I find to be so typical of Ceylon teas is also not quite as pronounced and distracting in this tea. In the end, I would comfortably recommend it to fans of no frills South Asian black teas who are looking for a little more complexity without venturing too far outside of their comfort zone.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Brown Toast, Caramel, Citrusy, Earth, Floral, Honey, Lemon, Lime, Malt

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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I ended up with a sachet of this as a free sample with my most recent order. Normally, I tend to avoid herbal teas. It is not that I truly dislike them so much as I just do not go out of my way to buy them all that often. Still, since last night was unseasonably cold and windy, and quite frankly, I felt like utter crap, I decided that maybe a cup of peppermint tea would not be a bad thing.

The tea shows a yellowish green in the glass. The first thing I noticed on the nose was the exceptionally pure, clean smell of peppermint. It’s an unmistakable aroma and one that is extremely pleasant and soothing. In the mouth, I immediately detected clean peppermint notes. Around mid-palate, I picked up some mild grassy notes and a little bit of cream. The finish was clean, smooth, and mild with a soothing mixture of peppermint, grass, and cream.

Honestly, I do not understand the relatively low score for this tea. It’s true that it isn’t the most complex tea in the world, but then again, what peppermint tea is? This tea does exactly what it’s supposed to do: deliver the aroma and taste of fresh peppermint. Compared to so many other readily available peppermint teas, this one is clean and smooth with no muddiness or off flavors. What more can one really ask for from a product of this type?

Flavors: Creamy, Grass, Peppermint, Smooth

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Jasmine Pearl by Rishi Tea
900 tasting notes

Before I start my review of this tea, please allow me to state that I normally steer clear of heavily floral blends, especially when it comes to green teas. I don’t know why, but I tend to prefer my green teas without any additional flavoring agents. I have always been like this when it comes to specific kinds of tea. Today, however, I decided to venture outside of my comfort zone and sample the kind of tea I would normally avoid. Obviously, I ended up trying this one.

In the glass, the tea shows a greenish yellow hue. The first thing I noticed was the intense scent of jasmine rising from the glass. Wow! This tea initially smells like straight-up jasmine. I now know that I’m really far outside of my comfort zone. Second and third sniffs reveal the expected grassy, vegetal scents typically associated with green teas. I also detect something of a graininess, as I’m reminded a bit of straw.

In the mouth, I get the floral jasmine notes as expected, and to me, they really seem to dominate the entry. Subtle impressions of grain, straw, honey, dried grass, and vegetables emerge around mid-palate before merging with the jasmine notes on a surprisingly well-integrated finish.

Overall, I like this tea. I think for what it is, it is very good. Still, I’m not really sure that this is something I would seek out with any regularity. The tea seems to be really designed to showcase the aroma and flavor of jasmine. On the one hand, it does this very well. On the other hand, there just does not seem to be all that much else going on in this tea. Still, this is not the most heavily floral jasmine tea I have ever had and the integration of flavors on the finish is nice. I think fans of this type of tea would be very pleased with this product, and even though this tea is not really my thing, I can at least appreciate its quality.

Flavors: Dry Grass, Floral, Grain, Honey, Jasmine, Straw, Sweet, Vegetal

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After a rough day at work, I just had to unwind for awhile, and so, I spent a little time relaxing at one of my favorite spots in my hometown. This tea was on the menu today, and having had it in the past, I felt the need to revisit it. I have to say that I am glad that I did.

The tea shows a nice greenish yellow in the glass. Very floral, faintly fruity aromas are immediately apparent on the nose. I was reminded of a mixture of gardenias and honeysuckle. Closer inspection revealed subtle aromas of moss, wood, earth, dried grass, and lightly browned toast. To me, this tea just smells like spring.

In the mouth, the floral notes of gardenia and honeysuckle mingle with a nectar-like sweetness and a faint, if rather nondescript fruitiness. Grainier, earthier notes soon follow to balance things out, as brown toast, wet moss, moist earth, and hints of wet wood, dried grass, and roasted barley all join the fray. The finish is mellow and rather short, offering lingering grainy, woody, and earthy notes underscored by floral sweetness. I also thought I detected a very faint buttery note, but it might just be me.

I seem to enjoy this tea every time I seek it out and this time was certainly no exception. This is a very approachable oolong with a mild, yet still rather complex aroma and flavor profile. I highly recommend it to those interested in an easy sipping oolong with enough complexity to keep one intrigued.

Flavors: Brown Toast, Butter, Dry Grass, Floral, Fruity, Gardenias, Honeysuckle, Nectar, Roasted Barley, Wet Moss, Wet wood

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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This is the third Twinings product I bought in the last week. I nabbed it along with a box of Prince of Wales and a box of Darjeeling while all were on sale. It is my least favorite of the three so far, but that being said, it really is not all that bad.

In the glass, this tea is lovely. It shows a warm, dark orange-tinged amber. The nose is fairly nondescript. I can just pick up faint aromas of dried grass, straw, toast, malt, honey, and perhaps a bit of almond. In the mouth, the tea is on the lighter side of medium in terms of body. A crisp, clean entry reveals fleeting impressions of toast, almond, dried grass, malt, and straw with a hint of honey. Even though there is not a ton going on flavorwise, this tea is clean and smooth in the mouth with little bitterness or astringency. The finish is clean and clipped, imparting a touch of almond, honey, toast, and grass flavors.

With an addition of cream, the tea completely transforms. As expected, it becomes smoother in the mouth. The light maltiness and nuttiness of the tea becomes more pronounced while the honey sweetness and dry, crisp grassy notes take a backseat. I imagine that this would be even better with both cream/milk and honey. I will have to give that a try sometime.

In the end, this tea is okay. Truthfully, I am not the hugest fan of most Ceylon teas, and in general, I find orange pekoe to be kind of a basic tea. What I mean by that is I’ve just never found a pekoe that really sticks out to me. In my opinion, pekoe is good to give a blend body and a little bit of crispness, but in terms of flavor, I find it to be too soft, clean, and sterile to really stand up on its own. This product does virtually nothing to change my opinion of pekoe, but then again, it could serve a purpose as an easy drinking breakfast tea to pair with food. Even though it doesn’t do much for me, I guess I’m just not willing to write it off completely.

Flavors: Almond, Brown Toast, Dry Grass, Honey, Malt, Smooth, Straw

195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 15 sec

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drank Jade Cloud by Rishi Tea
900 tasting notes

My first tea of the day and the first green tea I have had in a long time, I cannot believe I waited this long to try this one. I really need to start drinking more green teas. I used to love them when I was younger.

In the glass, this tea shows a pale green. Aromas of bamboo, freshly cut grass, honey, green beans, squash blossom, soybean, garden peas, and perhaps a bit of honeydew melon are detectable on the nose. This tea smells light and fresh. In the mouth, vegetal and grassy notes are immediately evident, but are quickly evened out by traces of honey, honeydew, and a slight floral, nectar-like note. No matter how hard I try, I’m not picking up on the blueberry, chestnut, or mint flavors that sometimes get mentioned in tasting notes for this tea. The finish is longer than expected, featuring a pleasant mixture of honey, grass, and vegetables.

All in all, this is not the most complex green tea that I have ever had, but I really like it. It tastes light and fresh, but with enough complexity to warrant revisiting regularly. I particularly enjoyed the undertones of fresh fruit and honey that came out after I really started trying to identify individual flavors.

Flavors: Bamboo, Floral, Freshly Cut Grass, Garden Peas, Green, Green Beans, Honey, Honeydew, Nectar, Soybean, Squash Blossom, Vegetal

180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec
White Antlers

Your nice review inspired me to go to my tea cabinet and get all the greens moved to the front for rotation. :-D

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Earlier in the day, I decided to make a pit stop at one of the few places in my hometown that serves halfway decent loose leaf teas and avoid weekend work for a couple of hours. Noticing that this was on the menu, I was immediately intrigued. It had been awhile since I’d had a pu-erh of note, so I decided to make this one my first tea of the day.

The tea shows a lovely dark brownish amber with subtle ruby highlights in the glass. On the nose, the ginger is immediately evident and does not smell artificial in the least. It is obvious that this is the real deal and not ginger flavoring. I also detect subtler aromas of earth, toast, pungent herbs, and a rather heavy, almost caramel maltiness lurking beneath the ginger. In the mouth, the earthy spiciness of the ginger immediately pops, while subtle notes of herbs, toast, earth, and caramel malt develop around mid-palate. There is just a trace of a light smokiness too on which I cannot quite put my finger. The finish is relatively smooth and long with hints of earth, toast, and of course, ginger.

In the end, I rather like this tea-I tend to be something of a fan of most Rishi products. I am, however, going to grade it rather conservatively. First, I tend to like my pu-erh teas without additional flavoring agents natural or otherwise. I guess I just prefer to experience the complexity and earthiness of pu-erh on its own. Secondly, I find the aroma and flavor of ginger to be just a little too heavy in this tea. While it is pleasant and provides a little bit of a kick, the heaviness of the ginger obscures the actual aromas and flavors of the tea. So all of this being said, this tea is enjoyable, but to me, it seems a little one-dimensional. Still, I would not really hesitate to recommend it to fans of spicy and/or herbal blends.

Flavors: Brown Toast, Earth, Ginger, Heavy, Herbs, Malt

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Darjeeling by Twinings
900 tasting notes

I bought this tea on a whim from a local Food City store. I tend to have a sentimental attachment to Twinings products and I like Darjeeling teas, so I figured that this is one I should try.

After trying this tea in a couple of different preparations, I can safely say that I like it. The tea displays delicate aromas of honey, earth, straw, and wood. In the mouth, I detected delicate flavors of wood, straw, honey, and earth underscored by a subtle bitterness. On the finish, earthy notes linger while bitterness and astringency become more pronounced. Additions of milk and/or sugar tame the bitterness and astringency and allow the honey notes to really shine through. Subtle fruitiness and caramel sweetness also emerge.

Honestly, I don’t get the low reviews for this tea. Sure, it’s not the most complex Darjeeling in the world, but its straight-forward, unassuming nature is rather appealing. All in all, I find this to be a very thin, light-bodied tea that is super approachable. I also think one has to be realistic with their expectations when approaching this tea and review it for what it is. Twinings Darjeeling is not going to compete with super premium loose leaf Darjeelings from smaller companies and that’s fine because it’s not meant to. This is a readily available bagged Darjeeling that you can get for around $3 from most retailers. For what it is, it really is far from bad.

Flavors: Astringent, Biting, Bitter, Earth, Honey, Straw, Wood

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 45 sec
White Antlers

Hooray for a nice commentary. Sometimes a bagged tea is just that and should be appreciated for exactly what it is.

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Being new to the world of tea reviewing, I decided to start off with this one. Why? I felt like drinking some today and figured this one was as good as any with which to start. It’s not bad. In fact, I rather like it. That being said, I can also understand why teas of this type are something of a niche product here in the U.S. where the style is somewhat rarer than the more approachable English and Irish breakfast teas.

For my first glass, I decided to avoid additions of cream, milk, or sugar and steeped the tea for approximately 5 minutes. On its own, the tea presents a rather odd aroma. I perceived scents of caramel, molasses, moss, and wood. In the mouth, the tea is heavy and almost chewy with powerful notes of wood, nuts, caramel malt, molasses, moss, and toast. The aftertaste is similarly powerful, but unlike the body which presents a mixture of earthiness and sweetness, the aftertaste is biting and astringent.

Knowing that this style is not meant to be consumed without an addition of milk or cream, I decided to prepare another glass at the same temperature with the same steep time, but of course with a small amount of milk added. I tend to prefer my tea without additives, but the milk did seem to tame some of the rough edges here. The caramel and molasses sweetness was enhanced on the nose, and in the mouth, the flavors became smoother, more rounded, and more nuanced with less of an astringent finish.

As mentioned above, I rather like this, but I tend to have something of a sentimental attachment to Old World brands. This definitely is not a tea that is truly approachable on its own. It has a heaviness, earthiness, and astringency that is definitely going to put off fans of milder and/or more balanced blends. Still, I think I could get used to having this with or in place of breakfast most mornings.

Flavors: Astringent, Caramel, Heavy, Malt, Molasses, Moss, Nutty, Toasty, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec
White Antlers

Your review inspired me to try a Scottish Breakfast from Upton. Thanks!


I’m not familiar with Upton. If you wouldn’t mind, message me with your thoughts on it. I’m always looking for new teas to try.

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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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