612 Tasting Notes

drank Macaroon by American Tea Room
612 tasting notes

Smells great, much like American Tea Room’s Choco-Late…guess I know now I dig cacao husks as a caffeine-free dessert blend ingredient. Gives it that cheap packet hot cocoa feel. The coconut lends a toasty element I really dig too. I think this would be pretty much interchangeable with Choco-Late in the colder months as a caffeine-free after-dinner treat; they’re similar enough that having both on hand at the same time would be redundant, but their similarity means two options at any given time to fill this niche for creamy cocoa-y richness after 5pm when ordering from ATR in case one’s out of stock.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Lemoncello by American Tea Room
612 tasting notes

This is certainly not a bad non-caffeine flavored option, but it’s in the unenviable position of being comparable to Della Terra’s Lemon Chiffon and falling short. It has that subtle but funky (I hesitate to say this because it’s so gross but I’ve had a handful of rooibos teas now and am positive it’s a quality of rooibos in general) almost urine-y smell brewing. But the lemon flavor is good, and it really does have that liquor-y limoncello quality. I guess it’s a good back-up option if, god forbid, DT ever stops selling Lemon Chiffon. But until then I know which one I’ll always reach for—sorry, ATR!

That said, I bet it’d be good for iced tea (if rooibos cold steeps well…does it? I’m clueless). And better for that than Lemon Chiffon, because the liquor element would be more desirable than a pastry crust one (not to mention OMG I’d never “waste” Lemon Chiffon that way, ha).

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Maple Bacon by Man Teas
612 tasting notes

Damn, I can’t get over how they managed to capture the pork-y element in the dry leaf aroma—not just smoke and salt, which are pretty easy to do, but actual hammy flavor, to the point I can taste it in my mouth (and it’s making my mouth water!) just from smelling the leaves.

Brews up quite dark, and the smokiness intensifies. It’s almost a savory tea, but then sweetness comes back at the end and lingers in the mouth after the swallow. You do have to be on board with smoke, meat/umami, and salt elements. I’m not sure how regularly I’d be in the mood to drink this tea, but uniqueness aside it’s really well done and exactly the elements listed in the name. I especially appreciate that the maple aroma and flavor is actual, real maple syrup, not the sad stuff at the supermarket—smelling this tea transports me to being a kid and touring the big cabins in the snow where they’d make maple syrup, the overwhelming smoky maple steam. Pretty awesome.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Pancake Breakfast by 52teas
612 tasting notes

I’m impressed with the pancake flavor here—I assumed this would just taste mostly like maple syrup (and there is that, especially dry, and it’s wonderful to an ex-New Englander like myself), but actually there’s an uncanny pancake fluff element. You even sort of get that mouthfeel after eating a bunch of pancakes, you know the one I mean? The film of sweet starch on your teeth and tongue (sorry if that’s gross)?

That said, I am a little disappointed with the black tea base. It’s kind of wispy in the same way David’s and Adagio’s tend to be for their flavored blends. I put a tiny bit of milk in because the tea was oh so barely bitter initially, and it did that thing those other companies’ dessert blends do, where it immediately made the tea watery tasting.

But man. That pancake mouthfeel is something else.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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More Upton thunderdomin’. This morning it was TA38 Mangalam Estate Assam GBOP Clonal SPL vs. TA48 Doomni Estate Assam GFBOP.

Both brewed up that deep red characteristic of Assam. Both smell malty and a bit dark chocolate-y. An early whiff of bitterness, also usual.

Compared to the Mangalam assam this is smoother and less bitter, but still a bit bitter without any milk. Sweeter. Also has a subtle pleasant muskiness the other one doesn’t. Needs only a dab of milk; too much overwhelms it. It’s a gentler assam for sure, but I kind of like it…it reminds me of some of the elements I love from darjeelings. I’ve really got to find some way to stop being sexist in these reviews when it comes to categorizing flavors, but it feels like a more “feminine” take on what I tend to think of as a masculine kind of tea.

This is tricky, because it’s still assam-y in that it’s what you reach for in the morning when you just want to wake up and aren’t concentrating too hard on subtle nuance and perfume. And in that regard, as a wake-you-up tea, the Mangalam is much better, and takes much better to morning accoutrements like milk. This one’s softer and more conducive to contemplation and as such feels like an afternoon tea—but with too much of a jolt for that time of day, and always with the fact darjeelings (and Nepali blacks, and smoke-floral blends…) already do the job looming. So I kind of feel for this tea—it doesn’t have a place to go, a time of day to call home, where it belongs better than any other options. Yet it’s a perfectly fine tea. Aw, a misfit tea.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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More Upton thunderdomin’. This morning it was TA38 Mangalam Estate Assam GBOP Clonal SPL vs. TA48 Doomni Estate Assam GFBOP.

Both brewed up that deep red characteristic of Assam. Both smell malty and a bit dark chocolate-y. An early whiff of bitterness, also usual.

Very bitter! Even for me. As such it takes very well to a healthy splash of milk and pinch of sugar, which makes it taste more like coffee or chai, very rich and robust. With some of the bitterness tamed, the chocolate (the dark, intense kind) really comes out! I went from thinking this would be promising based on aroma dry and brewing to fearing I hated it because it was way too bitter to finding it a gem with lots of milk added.

This feels like a strong tea both in flavor and caffeine—I’m a bit jittery now!—and as such I think I’d only drink it when in the mood for something like coffee (which these days is rare). But when that mood strikes, it’ll do the job very nicely.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Can never get over how well this works. I tried Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra out recently (I know! But the ingredient list was almost identical so I was curious, and it’s at the grocery store so if I ever ran out of the loose, good stuff it might make a good backup option, plus I just love doing close comparisons) and it wasn’t nearly as effective. Took this last night ‘cause my sleep cycle’s been off, gradually shifting later and later in a bad way, and once again was hit with a double whammy of instant sleepiness followed by deep, crazy deep sleep. You could have shook me and I don’t think I would have gotten up before 8 hours passed. And when I did wake up I felt like I’d been asleep for years, and come back from a long journey. It’s so effective I know now not to use it if I’ll have to get up super early—I don’t think I would!

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drank Choco*Latte by American Tea Room
612 tasting notes

Smells woody and yes, like cocoa dry. Brewed and intensely sniffed, it smells more like a milk chocolate truffle, which is pretty great. Actually, the longer it sits the more and more it smells and tastes uncannily like store brand hot chocolate, the kind you drink from packets as a kid after playing in the snow. Which I like—like “bad” mac and cheese, some pedestrian flavors are just comforting. There’s a roundness, a richness at the end of the sip to go with the sugary chocolate taste, as if it really is pour-boiling-water-over-sugary-brown-packet-granules mug cocoa. It even has the ever-so-slight salty aftertaste (maybe that’s because I brewed an oolong for this cup earlier though, ha…)! Amazing similarity.

I usually don’t care about appearance but I’ll also note it’s a pretty ruby gold hue in the cup that’s appealing. Yum. Doesn’t need milk or sugar to make it taste like processed sugary hot cocoa, it just magically already does somehow. (That said, it will happily take milk and become even richer.)

This is a great addition to my stock of non-caffeinated dessert teas, a category I sorely need more of.

200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Milk Oolong by American Tea Room
612 tasting notes

This oolong’s a lot milkier than the Della Terra Creme de la Creme. First impression is I like this one more, or at least, it’s much easier for an oolong newbie like me to take—it’s got less mysterious funky saltiness, just a clean, milky, sweet but not decayed aroma and taste, and a smoother vegetal note at the end.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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My first Steepster-logged oolong, woo.

Whoa, this smells very sweet, almost grape-y, that specifically sugary element. But—and I’m not at all familiar with oolongs in general so maybe it’s a thing with them?—it has a funky plant-y/vegetal thing going on all throughout too, which seems to intensify as it cools/I drink more, and an almost salty note towards the end of the sip. It is kind of a wonder how it can start out so sweet and end so salty/savory. I can’t decide if I like it or not. Hm. It is very smooth, I’ll give it that. And I find it a marvel that it’s possible to smell salt—not sure I’d ever realized one could before. Oh wait, I’m forgetting salt marshes, duh. (Speaking of…this smells a little like that, yes! Salt and plants and sand!)

It tastes sort of like when you slather salty melted butter all over summer vegetables that contain natural sweetness (say, freshly shucked corn on the cob)—that mix of salt, fat, sugar, and plantiness.

After I finish the cup, a bunch of complex flavors linger. A salted nut element comes through! Fascinating.

It’s bugging me because one of the aftertastes is distinctly something I’ve tried for years to remember the source of, where it’s like salty raw dough with a tinge of…I don’t know a word for it. But it dramatically evokes childhood and I hate that I’ve never been able to figure out what it is (and even stranger, a friend of mine tells me she knows what I’m talking about and can’t put her finger on it either). Like buttery play-doh kind of. Weird and cool that this tea has it in it though!

Smelling the wet leaves after steeping and cooling: all salt marsh and seaweed.

180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec

Salty raw dough – home made playdoh maybe? That’s awesome I think of…

Sorry you didn’t like this one as much as I did.


It’s similar, yeah, but it feels like an actual food. A baked good I’m guessing. Since it makes me and my friend both think of being little I’m guessing it’s probably some cookie or something aimed at children, some dated lunchbox filler maybe…

And it’s all good. I have a feeling I’m just not ready to appreciate oolongs in general. I guess that’s OK—certainly have enough other tea to keep me busy!—but it does kinda make me feel like an uncultured tea dweeb. (:


Bah! Maybe put it aside for a month or so and try it again later? You never know. I don’t think I was too crazy about oolongs either – coconut oolong was the only one I was really crazy about for a while.


Been meaning to thank you, by the way, for being so nice and welcoming. This community has so many experts it was a little overwhelming to join, but friendly folks like you make me glad I did. (:

And yeah, I’m totally happy to set it aside for a while and come back and try again. The nice thing about tea is that there are so, so many roads to go down it’s hard to get bored and easy to go for breadth—lotsa wide-ranging variety!!—or depth—immerse oneself in all the little details and nuance of, say, gongfu ceremonials and whatnot. Yay.


:) You’re more than welcome! It can be a little crazy but you learn a lot very quickly. I’ve only been here since October, and I’m sure others have been here less than a year. It’s a great community though.

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“…you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love.”
-Julia Child on food and cooking, and I think it applies to tea as well!

note: i am currently taking a break from swapping/mail of any kind as money is rather tight. i apologize! i do love to swap but i can’t afford to right now. hopefully in a month things will change.

my cupboard includes any tea i’ve ever owned, including things i’ve sipped down, in order to facilitate swaps with people and keep a record—this way i don’t get redundant samples/order duplicates to try. if you are interested in swapping, i have a separate ever-updated list of teas i actually have on hand i can PM.

i like strong, rich blacks (including some choice old skool CTCs); juicy-fruity flavored green blends; buttery chinese greens; light floral oolongs; flavored oolongs (how sacrilegious!); earl greys; smoky blends; second flush muscatel darjeelings; verdant’s straight oolongs steeped in a gaiwan (mind altering!); anything from laoshan village it seems.

favorite notes include lavender, bergamot, violet, fennel, cardamom, melon, honey, sandalwood, smoke, nuts, roasty/toasty stuff, malt, wood, leather, creamy lemon, steamed rice, artichoke, garden-sweet snap veggies, earth/soil, forest and wet bark, and mushroom.

notes i generally can’t stand (at least in tea) include jasmine, rose (ok in small doses but i often find it overpowering and then everything just smells like musty old lady perfume), astringent apple (and general fruitiness really unless it’s with green tea), and chamomile (unless i’m congested or tired).

my current favorite tea vendors are butiki and harney and sons. i’ve also found some delicious teas and/or had good customer service experiences with the following companies: capital tea ltd., the devotea, verdant, mandala, golden moon, teavivre, lupicia, taiwan tea crafts, yezi tea, den’s tea, the tea merchant, norbu, fauchon paris, tao tea leaf, zen tea, fortnum and mason, townshend’s tea, joy’s teaspoon, new mexico tea company, persimmon tree, teajo teas, whispering pines, della terra, upton imports, mariage freres, samovar, justea, teabox, american tea room, steven smith, steap shoppe, utopia tea, and andrews and dunham damn fine tea. when i’m at the grocery store my “you could do worse” brands include stash, bigelow, tazo, taylors of harrogate, whittard of chelsea, and pg tips. and it’s a fact: you can’t make classic southern sweet tea without luzianne.

top picks, fall 2013

verdant zhu rong yunnan black
verdant laoshan black
thepuriTea hong jing luo (no longer available :( )
thepuriTea red dragon pearl (no longer available :( )
mandala morning sun
golden moon honey orchid
verdant golden fleece
taiwan tea crafts red jade
yezi tea zheng shan xiao zhong “scotch” tea
capital tea borsapori estate assam tgfop1 (spl)
butiki khongea golden tippy assam
butiki giddahapar darjeeling extra special
upton imports fikkal estate
golden moon sinharaja
harney and sons new vithanakande
persimmon tree vintage black
teajo teas black manas
justea kenyan black
harney and sons kangaita op

morning blends:
butiki the black lotus
harney and sons queen catherine
harney and sons eight at the fort
harney and sons big red sun
harney and sons scottish morn
golden moon irish breakfast
harney and sons irish breakfast
utopia tea english breakfast
fortnum and mason breakfast blend (needs milk!)
andrews and dunham double knit blend
steven smith no. 25 morning light
butiki irish cream cheesecake

earl greys and scented afternoon blends:
teajo teas silky earl grey
harney and sons viennese earl grey
upton imports lavender earl grey
american tea room victoria
lupicia earl grey grand classic
harney and sons tower of london
tao tea leaf cream earl grey
zen tea earl grey cream
della terra earl grey creme
upton imports season’s pick earl grey creme vanilla
upton imports baker street afternoon blend
harney and sons russian country
della terra professor grey
verdant earl of anxi

flavored black:
herbal infusions moose tracks
american tea room brioche
steap shoppe cinnamon swirl bread
della terra oatmeal raisin cookie
butiki nutmeg cream
kusmi caramel
david’s tea brazillionaire
lupicia banane chocolat
butiki hello sweetie
fauchon paris raspberry macaron
butiki blueberry purple tea
herbal infusions marshmallow snowflake earl grey
herbal infusions creme brulee chai

pu erh:
mandala loose and luscious lincang 2007 shu/ripe pu erh
mandala special dark 2006 shu/ripe pu erh

verdant shui jin gui wuyi oolong
verdant hand-picked early spring tieguanyin
butiki 2003 reserve four season oolong
harney and sons formosa oolong
tea merchant silk dragon
golden moon coconut pouchong
zen tea coconut oolong
american tea room coconut oolong
teavivre taiwan jin xuan milk oolong
butiki flowery pineapple oolong
butiki lychee oolong
lupicia momo oolong supergrade
butiki strawberry oolong
butiki pumpkin milkshake darjeeling oolong
52teas tiramisu oolong

verdant laoshan bilochun green
verdant autumn harvest laoshan green
tao tea leaf hou kui
harney and sons tencha
harney and sons gyokuro
new mexico casablanca
butiki with open eyes
american tea room nirvana
joy’s teaspoon mahalo
den’s tea pineapple sencha
harney and sons tokyo
butiki potato pancakes and applesauce
butiki holiday eggnog and pralines
den’s tea organic genmaicha with matcha
golden moon hojicha

butiki cantaloupe and cream
butiki champagne and rose cream

no caf:
harney and sons soba buckwheat
butiki birthday cake
della terra lemon chiffon
52teas strawberry pie honeybush
butiki mango lassi
joy’s teaspoon italian dream
butiki coconut cream pie rooibos
butiki peppermint patty
persimmon tree mint chocolate chip rooibos
art of tea velvet tea
fusion teas chocolate cake honeybush
american tea room choco-late
steven smith no. 40 bon bon
townshend’s tea dark forest chai
utopia tea decaffeinated earl grey cream

sleep aid/medicinal/therapeutic:
new mexico extra sleepy bear
stash white christmas
verdant ginger sage winter spa blend
samovar turmeric spice
butiki the killer’s vanilla guayusa

coldsteeped wonders:
whispering pines manistee moonrise
harney and sons fruits d’alsace
utopia tea berkshire apple and fig
culinary teas peaches and cream
butiki peach hoppiTea
butiki ruby pie
whispering pines gingerade

besides tea

born in seoul, raised in new england and upstate new york, went to college in pittsburgh, currently in memphis with an eye toward philadelphia, portland, or asheville eventually.

i like cats, most beverages really (i also like good freshly roasted coffee, craft beer, wine, whiskey and gin-based cocktails, and soda/soft drinks like agua fresca), art (mainly writing but also visual and music) and critical theory, feminism/genderqueer politics, historiography, statistics, children’s literature and librarianship, travel, and food/cooking. also have recently gotten into weightlifting (mark rippetoe and stumptuous!) and sprint training (HIIT, plyometrics) and i love it.


Memphis, TN



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