66 Tasting Notes

drank Berry Blues by Adagio Teas
66 tasting notes

Note: one taster below seemed to think this has rooibos. It doesn’t.

When I sleep until noon on a Sunday—especially now that I’m getting middle-aged and my sleep patterns are changing—I have a lot of trouble getting to sleep on time Sunday night. Hence my zero caffeine policy on Sundays, which makes me a little sad because Sundays are when I have time to sit and sip tea and ponder what kind of tea I’m craving (generally oolong or Youthberry or the Taiwan Red Tea I got at Jade Mountain, all with caffeine).

So Sundays I tend to bring out my tisanes and other non-caffeine drinks, and this one is a winner in my book. I set my electric teakettle to boil, and steeped for 8 minutes (the package says 5-10 min.), and was greeted by a deep pinky-purple brew. I added copious amounts of rock sugar—3 tsp.? Not sure, I’m a sugar addict—and let the sugar melt for a minute.

The result: fruit perfection. It is definitely the chunks of real fruit in this that gives such great fruit taste, though my chunks were not HUGE as one reviewer’s were! You can’t go wrong with apple pieces in a fruit tisane, and there are lots in this. And I did see a few petals of hibiscus, but not tons, so you don’t end up with something unbearably sour (though I can’t vouch for what this is like without sugar).

With the sugar this might as well be fruit juice, with a deep berry taste that really satisfies. It’s warming and richly flavored hot; bet it would be amazing cold! I’ll have to try that next time…!

Boiling 8 min or more

I mis-read—no one thought this had rooibos. Sorry!

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Like so many of Teavana’s blends, Peachberry Jasmine Sutra (and we have a WINNER for Stupidest Tea Name of the Year!) is dominated by its artificial flavors. This can be a good thing—I can’t be the only person who tried Youthberry and decided she never wanted to be without it. Or it can be a bad thing: Snow Geisha anyone? Or it can be just a ho-hum disappointment.

I was so hoping for this tea to taste as good as it smells. You are probably all familiar with the canister-top-waving selling technique at Teavana, and this one got me: a soft, fruity, sophisticated bouquet. I brewed it using a mesh ball, 175 degree water, for 2 minutes as the package recommends. At that point I sniffed: mmm, smells nice. And I looked: deep purple color. And I tasted: hot water with a slight perfumey taste. Dammit.

I added a little bit more hot water and gave it another 2 minutes, and tasted again: slightly sour hot water with a slight fruity/perfumey taste. What a disappointment. I was hoping for tea with an actual distinctive taste. Instead I tasted the insipid flavor of the green rooibos (I kind of don’t see the point of green rooibos; if I’d known this blend had so much of it, I wouldn’t have wasted my money), the artificial flavors, a slight sourness from the fruit, and that perfumey quality that might be the jasmine, or might just be more of the artificial flavor. I don’t taste green tea in the slightest. Am I crazy to have expected a little bit of green tea or jasmine flavor in a green jasmine blend?!

I then added copious sugar in the hopes that would bring out the flavor; what it did was obliterate all the flavor that wasn’t artificial. So now I’m drinking something that Victoria’s Secret should bottle and sell: hot sugary fruity perfume drink!

Sheesh. I had such high hopes for this one. That’ll teach me not to do my homework where Teavana teas are concerned. Next time I’m tempted to go to the mall and spend too much money, I’ll check Steepster.

175 °F / 79 °C 4 min, 0 sec

I totally agree with you. While I love the teaware (even if it is overpriced), I would much rather research and share with those here on Steepster and find ethical, quality, well reviewed teas that are less of a hustle and more of a love of experience

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drank Laoshan White by Verdant Tea
66 tasting notes

Thanks David, for the wonderful sample of Laoshan White you tucked into my most recent order! Bonnie mentioned how cute this is dry: like little ringlets of green leaves. I picked up a pinch with my fingers and it clung together in clumps like hair. Very fun.

I did a regular brewing with this (my gaiwan needs washing) and it’s just as wonderful as the previous reviewer says. I used filtered water and got a sort of greeny-gold liquor; the first taste yields sort of the hearty/vegetal taste I associate with gyokuro (or the yummy Laoshan Green I got in the same package from Verdant), but it goes on from there: lightness, coolness, expansiveness, and then maybe a little bit of astringency, which I admit may have come from my western-style brewing; I’ll have to try gongfu with the last of the sample. There is a sweetness all the way through the cup that is sort of vegetal (sugar snap peas? I dunno, I’m not fond of them, but I can kinda see where that description comes in) but reminds me more of the taste of fresh air after rain, if that makes sense. All in all, this has aspects of the brothiness of gyokuro or Laoshan Green, but without any heaviness.

This is really unlike any white tea I’ve ever tasted. I normally expect white tea to either have very little taste, or to be kind of a “lite” version of a black or green tea. This is not “lie down and be submissive” tea; this is white tea that can hold its own without extraneous flavorings. Laoshan White grabs the taste buds, yet it’s very, very drinkable; I could see drinking this all day and feeling not that I’d been drinking something on autopilot, but that I’d had a really nice day!

It being summer, I wish I could try this iced; I think it would probably not change in character (hard to say—I hope not, anyway), but it’d be VERY refreshing. Unfortunately the price of this, and the fact that I just spent too much money on two really lovely teas from Verdant, will keep me from ordering again anytime soon. But at least I can share my impressions so others will hopefully want to try this. It’s absolutely worth it.

190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 0 sec

P.S., if you really want a vegetal “kick in the pants” and you’ve set your mesh ball or strainer with the leaves in a bowl (or something else that collects the runoff), take a sip of that liquid before you brew again. YUM! Starting second brew now…


seeing that I’ve had the green and the black Laoshan…it seems only logical to dream of the white…perhaps my next go around


Very lovely and thoughtful review!

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This is a medium brown brew, with a lightly fruity and characteristically honeyed fragrance. I added honey, which didn’t seem to make much of a difference (this is fairly sweet on its own) but was tasty. If I seem underwhelmed, I am. Teavana’s Vanilla Honeybush is the quintessential honeybush to me; maybe I shouldn’t have tried this one so soon after having enjoyed the vanilla one. Or maybe I just don’t appreciate mangoes as much as I’d like to (to be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever had mango, so it could just be that I have no reference point for the taste).

That having been said, this was the kind of inoffensive, moderately tasty tisane I like to keep around for late nights (which was when I drank it this time) or times when I don’t know what I’m in the mood for. So I think I’ll keep this, but probably not re-order it.

7 min, 0 sec

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drank Gyokuro by Green Hill Tea
66 tasting notes

Drinking my first cup of this at a friend’s house during our big 50-hour Trivia contest. Not being able to bring all my tea accoutrements, I basically used a Rishi fillable tea bag, large teaspoon of tea, and white John Deere mug + tap water which I warmed in the microwave. So I’m refraining from judging this until I can try it under conditions closer to ideal.

I will say it has a yellow color in the mug, vaguely brothy brewed smell/taste, and does not really partake in the characteristics I associate with gyokuro: vegetal taste, green liquor. Basically it tastes like bright-ish green tea and not much else, though this does mean there isn’t any bitterness.

For the moment, when I just needed some liquid that wasn’t tap water (someone stole my bottle of water out of my bag out in the garage…grrr) and had some caffeine (18 hours left to go in the contest), it goes down pretty easy. But I’d like to revisit this with better circumstances.

185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Peach Oolong by Butiki Teas
66 tasting notes

I disagree with most other reviewers: although I can smell the peach in the leaf, I’m not tasting ANY peach at all in the brew. That having been said…

This is an incredibly floral smelling and tasting tea once brewed. I brewed for 2 min. (while the package said 4 min.), but I’m used to gongfu brewing with the oolongs I’ve had, so I still thought 2 min. might be too long. Not at all , as it turns out. The golden liquor smells and tastes gardenia-like, and the floral taste lingers in your mouth for a couple of minutes. This is brightly flowery with a very slightly vegetal underpinning, and not a trace of bitterness, nor any peach that I can taste. This is my kind of tea! I’m going to have to force myself to stop at one cup tonight.

Now I’m wondering if there’s any peach flavoring added at all, or if it’s just so juicy and flowery that someone decided it tasted like peaches and decided to call it that without adding any flavoring at all…? Going back to the kitchen to smell the package…tawk amongst yourselves…

I’m back. Okay. I smelled something sweet in the leaf, but now I’m doubting that it was actual peach. I think my nose interpreted the sweetness as peach because I expected to smell an artificial peach flavor. I think I’m just smelling the strong floral sweetness of the tea. It’s a different flavor than the eventual smell of the brewed tea, but really, when is that NOT the case with tea?

Weird thing though: I looked at the post-brew leaves, and saw what I think are added flowers (or just the middle of the flowers). They’re wet and don’t hold together well, but they’re kind of cream-colored and as far as I can tell are not tea. However, I can’t find these in the pre-brew leaves. Are the flowers rolled up in the tea and released in the brewing? What kind of flowers are they? Are they maybe…PEACH flowers? (Is there such a thing?)

Well, I admit to still being confused, but whatever this is, added flavors/flowers or not, it is absolutely delicious. If you don’t like flowery oolongs, this is not the tea for you, but I’m really enjoying it. Score two for Butiki (I also liked the Gyokuro sample I got from them, though I didn’t like the fact that it was completely crushed, and that there was barely enough for one cup). I think tomorrow I’ll try the Purple Pu-erh I got from them and see if we can go three for three!

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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This was a (rather scanty) free sample from Butiki with my recent order. I do appreciate free samples, esp. since they e-mailed me to offer me two of my choice right after I placed the order—at 10:15 on a Sunday night! Fabulous customer service. But this sample was barely enough for one cup. I’ve gotten a lot of tea samples and none were this small. It didn’t smell like anything in particular in the little ziploc bag, either.

This gyokuro makes up for my tiny sample by being really flavorful. It’s not as violently green as some gyokuro I had at a local teahouse; this is more of a sort of golden jade color. The smell in the cup is more spinach-y than the tea’s ultimate taste profile. The flavor is dry-ish (could be perceived as bitterness, but it fades so quickly that I don’t taste it as bitter), bright, and finishes with a wave of brothy/vegetal goodness typical of gyokuros. This “umami” flavor may be something you either like or hate, but I like it, and I was glad this sample had the typical flavors of this tea.

One issue I had with this tiny sample is that parts of it were crushed almost to powder (and I don’t believe it’s supposed to have extra powder in it, as some Japanese green teas do). This meant that using a regular mesh ball, I ended up with lots of dark green tea flecks in the bottom of the cup. With gyokuro’s strong flavors I would worry that this would influence the flavor even after I stop steeping and remove the ball, but I didn’t really notice that happening. Still I get the feeling that either the sample was taken from the bottom dregs of a larger container of tea, or the sample bag was crushed in shipping, breaking the tea quite a bit. Or maybe gyokuro is just very fragile, I don’t know. Whatever happened, I would think that Butiki would want to present this tea in its best light when sending it as a sample, but that’s not how it arrived.

I wouldn’t mind making gyokuro a permanent part of my tea cupboard, but I need to shop around a bit and decide what’s the best value/taste ratio. This one is $16.00/2 oz., which is not a deal-breaker but a tad expensive for my stash. I’ll continue my research to learn what is considered a good price for this type of tea. If you have a very very favorite gyokuro, feel free to communicate it to me!

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 15 sec

I thought the gyokuro from Arbor teas was great – it is $36.50 for 5 oz. It is not generally a cheap tea.


But worth it if you find the right Gyokuro…….

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drank Honeybush Vanilla by Teavana
66 tasting notes

There is a lovely woman who goes to a three-day camping event that I attend every year, puts up a canvas wall tent, and sells iced teas of 7 or 8 different types. I like a lot of what she brings; she obviously knows her tea and knows how to brew it and keep it tasting good in the plastic dispensers. Also it’s usually hot as hell and just about any drink tastes good when you need it that much.

But the one I keep coming back to is her honeybush tea, and now—ta da!—I think I’ve found it! (Or rather, my friend Sarah found it for me, and gifted me with it today, along with other yummy stuff in a gift bag. I adore Sarah!) I can’t recall if “The Tea Lady” at my camping event uses vanilla honeybush or just honeybush. But I know she sweetens it slightly, and it’s just perfect on a hot day.

Having just discussed happy memories of iced honeybush, here I am drinking it hot. It is January 1st in Wisconsin, after all. It’s a lovely surprise to find it’s good hot too! I have a spoonful or two of Teavana’s sugar crystals in it, and (because I’m kind of a sugar fiend) it is really tasty, but I tasted it before sugaring it and it was very good that way too: smooth, sweetish, slightly woody. The pre-brewing leaf seems to have a lot of woody-looking bits in it too, more than I remember seeing in other honeybush teas, but then maybe I wasn’t paying attention.

I can say that the honeybush teas I’ve tried in pursuit of the lovely, sweet, resinous taste I get in that wonderful Tea Lady’s iced tea, have been a disappointment. This one: not a bit. Can’t wait to try it iced when springtime comes!

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 30 sec

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Okay…this is SO bitter and undrinkable that I’m sure I must have done something wrong. So I’m not going to rate it at this time, until I can tweak some things and try again.

200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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Hmm…I wonder if having this at work is truly representative. I don’t have my gaiwan or my teapot—I’m just using a mesh ball (which I filled only halfway, when I know oolong expands way more than that). And the water here doesn’t taste great. But surprisingly, this is a friendly little tea that seems to be working within my limitations!

Smell in the bag is pretty average oolong: green-ish, fruit-ish, vegetable-ish. (And rather fresh-smelling, which speaks well of Culinary Teas; this is my first order from them and already I’m impressed.) In the mug, the brew is a dark gold verging on light brown; I have little tea dusty bits in the bottom, which I am a little surprised at because I haven’t noticed that sort of thing with other oolongs. There isn’t enough of them to continue brewing after I remove the mesh ball, anyway, which would have changed the flavor.

There is no bitterness to this at all; it has a nice sweetness that lasts all the way through the cooling of the mug (I am notoriously slow to drink tea). The flavor is smooth, green-y, and unobtrusive. It’s simple enough in flavor, in fact, that I’m wondering if I should have steeped it longer than three minutes. The package said 5-6 min., which (for an oolong) sounded like somebody’s wildly incorrect guess to me, but perhaps I should try this with a little more time and see if I can get more flavor, or at least more complexity, without courting bitterness. I am usually SO careful to avoid bitterness that sometimes I think I am not getting everything I could out of teas in terms of flavor!

At any rate: this seems like a promising tea for those times when I want something fresh and tasty but not demanding of my attention. But it’s hard to tell at this point. I will try it with a longer steeping time and see what happens. I’ll also bring it home so I can try it with my wider range of brewing options (teapot? Teapot? Baby, I miss you…) and see how that changes things. Wouldn’t surprise me if the tap water here at work is just messing the whole brewing process up.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Hi, I’m a librarian, SCA member, and tea lover from Madison, WI. I’ve been drinking tea all my life, but have recently become more of a fanatic about it. Single, straight, and looking. Would love to take a date to one of the great tea places here in Madison!


Madison, WI

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