289 Tasting Notes

drank Holiday Chai by Stash Tea
289 tasting notes

Homemade Advent Calendar from Arby: Day 9

Catching up! This teabag was a victim of the Minor Lavender Sanitizer Spill of 2023, but happily it seems to have sustained no lasting damage.

As soon as I ripped open the bag, I could smell an ingredient/flavoring beyond the standard chai flavors — turns out there’s rum flavoring. It’s an interesting addition, and I’m not opposed!

I’m mostly getting cloves, allspice, and nutmeg in the brewed tea, with a bit of the rum flavoring at the back. The base is a bit weak. I bet it would be nice brewed with milk.

Flavors: Allspice, Clove, Ginger, Rum

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Homemade Advent Calendar from Arby: Day 8

Drinking this while eating an actual piece of (very sweet) cake was not the smartest idea! The real cake was wholly overwhelming. Now I’m drinking it with a cleaner palate, though, and I like it. It’s similar to B&B’s Birthday Cake, but the coconut makes it just a bit heavier and oilier on the tongue than that one. I can just pick up the toasted rice, too… I’m not sure quite how that fits into the flavor profile! I actually think it’s making the whole thing lean a bit more toward caramel than cake. It’s good, though!

Flavors: Cake, Caramelized Sugar, Heavy, Oily, Sweet, Toasted Rice, Vanilla

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drank Coffee Pu'erh by DAVIDsTEA
289 tasting notes

Homemade Advent Calendar from Arby: Day 7

I’m behind! We were out of town this weekend visiting family. I did bring a few of the bagged teas from my homemade advent, but alas — tragedy struck, and my lavender-scented hand sanitizer leaked all over them. :( That and the fact that I’d have to heat my water in a hotel Keurig didn’t lead to any enjoyable tea sessions while we were away.

One tea bag in a paper envelope is probably too lavender-soaked to drink, but a few were OK, including this one. I drank it when we returned home, exhausted from getting up super early after we changed our flight to avoid bad weather.

Aaaaaaaanywaaaaay… what an odd tea! But I kinda like it? The eartht pu’erh sitting behind the lighter coffee flavor is fun and unexpected, and then the vanilla arrives at the end. It’s definitely a novelty, but one I might crave at unexpected moments?!

Flavors: Coffee, Earthy


Nooo not the tea! Bummer!


I have a coffee-cacao-pu’erh blend that from Teamaze that I dearly love. Usually, if I doctor it, it’s just milk, but a little vanilla syrup might be a nice twist!


Vanilla syrup; love that!

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drank Peaches and Plums by 52teas
289 tasting notes

Ashmanra’s Sipdown Challenge | December 2023 | A tea with a red ingredient

This is a bit of a stretch, but I swear some of the freeze-dried plums in this blend look red!

For whatever reason, I could never get this one to work for me… it’s a smidge bitter and muddled. Which is a shame because it’s such a fun concept, and it’s just chock full of fruit pieces. Maybe I should have cold-brewed it or added some sweetener?!

2023 sipdown count: 57

Flavors: Bitter, Sour, Stonefruit


How long did you steep it? Cold brewing is often a good idea, I find that it will soften any bitterness that I experience with a tea, but I didn’t get bitterness from this blend when I hot brewed so I’m wondering what your parameters were when you steeped?


Also, with just about any flavored tea, a teensy bit of sugar will often help define the flavors. The flavors are primarily soluble at the “right temperature” of water (which is why I recommend allowing a tea to cool for a few minutes, this helps the flavors “activate”). They are often also soluble with natural sweeteners like sugar or honey (although sugar tends to be better to bring out the flavors). I always test a tea with both sugar and without. When the flavors come out on their own without sugar, I make note of it in my testing notes (which can be found on the tea listing on my website under “serving suggestion”). Otherwise, I do make a note that a little bit of sugar will enhance the flavors. Generally, I only add a little less than 1/2 a teaspoon to any 12oz cup of tea, because I tend to prefer my teas unsweet.


I want to say I brewed it at 205 for 3 minutes, then let it cool a bit? I may have overleafed it because I wanted to finish the bag, though! XD


Hmm – well, it may just be that this flavor didn’t work for you. I’m sorry! In the future, if you encounter something that doesn’t work for you and you followed the suggested brewing parameters (which I believe you have here in this case!) a teensy bit of sugar may help to not only soften the bitterness but also help the flavors shine.


When I do my taste testing, I test first without sugar, and then I test with a little bit of sugar (usually a little less than 1/2 a teaspoon per 12oz of tea) – in most cases, this little bit of sugar will enhance the flavors because as I stated before, the flavors are both water and sugar soluable. Quite often, the water temperature will bring out the right flavor, but with some teas, a little sugar will help encourage it to be more flavorful. I haven’t tried other sweeteners (such as low calorie/sugar free options) because I simply do not like them, and in the case of aspartame, I’m allergic. So, I’m very thoughtful of when I sweeten, I don’t generally sweeten my teas. But occasionally, I’ll find something that is just a little bit better with a bit of sugar, this is generally with a dessert-y type of tea (because desserts are supposed to be sweet, I suppose!)


Aw, there’s no need to apologize! It wasn’t the most mindful brewing process on my end, honestly. I’ll try a smidge of sugar next time!

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Homemade Advent Calendar from Arby: Day 6

This is a straight chamomile from London Tea Company, and I’m too tired to make a listing for it. XD It’s fairly mild, with just a bit of the mustiness I associate with chamomile.

I’m trying to calm myself because it’s been a stressful day in about a zillion ways aaand I’m prepping to head out of town for a long weekend. I can’t say the chamomile is helping, physiologically speaking, but it’s a pleasant nighttime cuppa nonetheless!

(Also, I just realized that the last time I used the Random Steepings listing was for… a chamomile teabag during the homemade advent swap last year. :D Funny!)

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drank Ocean Blue by Special Tea Inc.
289 tasting notes

Homemade Advent Calendar from Arby: Day 5

Huh! This one is kinda wild. The ingredient list had me unsure what to expect. The dry leaf smelled… strange. Kind of like slightly stinky feet, but not aggressively so? Maybe feet that are on their way to requiring a good scrubbin’ but aren’t there yet. Brewed, the tea has a whisper of juicy, fruity bubblegum with a slight note of cream to buoy it. There’s also something sliiightly earthy or mossy. And it doesn’t smell like feet at all!

I don’t know how to rate this one. I’ll have to try it again before I can commit. But it sure was fun to try!

Flavors: Bubblegum, Creamy, Fruity, Juicy, Moss

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Ashmanra’s Sipdown Challenge | December 2023 | A flavored black tea

I snagged this one from the Strange VariaTea TTB a few months back and I’ve really enjoyed it. It has such a delightful candy apple flavor! Not super sophisticated or nuanced, just… fun.

2023 sipdown count: 56

Flavors: Apple, Candied Apple

Cameron B.

I think Java Momma sources from Adagio, so you might give their candy apple blend a try!


Ooh, great tip, thank you!

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drank Buttermint by Twinings
289 tasting notes

Homemade Advent Calendar from Arby: Day 4

A green tea blend came out of the box on my random pull this morning, and although I fully intended to drink it, suddenly it was 6:30 p.m. and too late for anything caffeinated. Soooo I chose this one instead.

I’m a sucker for all things creamy peppermint, and butter mints are very nostalgic for me, so this tea is always going to be welcome in my household! I’ve had this one a few times before and it definitely hits the spot. A very calming and pleasant nighttime treat.

Flavors: Creamy, Peppermint


Yum! I like Twinings’ Christmas candy cane mint blend (can’t remember the exact name at the moment), so this has got to be close and equally good.

Cameron B.

I think it’s Peppermint Cheer?

Mastress Alita

My local grocery used to carry this and I was in love, and then they stopped, and then I was heartbroken.


Yes, Peppermint Cheer, and a good reminder to dig through my random stash (um, er…) stashes of bags, because I may have a handful left!

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drank Maple Apple Blondies by 52teas
289 tasting notes

Ashmanra’s Sipdown Challenge | December 2023 | National Cookie Day: Drink a cookie-flavored tea!

My recent Simpson & Vail order added quite a few cookie-inspired teas to my stash, but none of them were ready for a sipdown. So instead I’m going cookie-adjacent with this blondie-inspired tea! I brewed up a nice personal pot using the remaining leaves and am enjoying it with some Biscoff cookies as an afternoon snack.

I still really love this one. It’s such a comforting, cozy cuppa. Today I’m tasting a bit of woodiness I didn’t notice in previous cups, which is a nice counterbalance to the sweet maple and apple notes. Just such a perfect autumnal tea. <3

2023 sipdown count: 55

Flavors: Apple, Maple, Smooth, Soft, Sweet, Woody


Nice! Mine wasn’t an actual sipdown. I am having to dig around to find things that are even close so I can get a few sipdowns in this month but I know I won’t make my goal for the year. I am closer and have cleared some of my oldest teas so that is satisfying!


It’s great to say goodbye to some of those old ones!

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drank Pink Anise Black Tea by 52teas
289 tasting notes

Ashmanra’s Sipdown Challenge | December 2023 | A tea you drank at the beginning of 2023

Oh, my. I’ve really fallen off on my sipdowns in the past few months. I’ve just been so incredibly busy. But! December actually promises to be a much less hectic month. I’ve got just 2.5 weeks of classes left for the semester, and that’s really my biggest timesuck outside of work/internship. I hope to enjoy lots of quality tea-drinking time in the weeks ahead.

Anyway, I first drank this tea back in February, so it seems like a good fit for this prompt! I really enjoy this one. There’s a lot going on, but that just means each sip is fun! :D

2023 sipdown count: 54

Flavors: Licorice, Licorice Root, Marshmallow, Root Beer, Sarsaparilla, Star Anise

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I was an anxious child who didn’t like change, so when my parents flew across the country for my grandfather’s wedding and left us kids with my aunt and uncle, I was a nervous wreck. Our first night at their house was tough. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and padded into the kitchen, where my aunt was puttering around. She could tell I was distressed and offered to make me a cup of tea. It was just Celestial Seasonings’ peppermint tea, but it was exactly what I needed. The tea itself, the comfort it represented, the ritual of making it… I was enchanted. I’ve loved tea ever since.

I’m partial to strong, intense flavors and prefer loose-leaf to bagged, but I also appreciate the convenience of bags and sachets. I mostly drink my tea straight but once in a blue moon I’ll add a little plant-based milk, generally oat.

I live in Maryland, USA, with my partner, three dogs, and one cat, and I’m an editor at an animal welfare nonprofit. I use she/her pronouns. I’ve actually been a Steepster reader for years and years, but only started posting in late 2021. :)

When I’m not drinking tea (or sometimes WHILE I’m drinking tea!) I’m reading, rewatching comfort shows on Netflix, going for a run, knitting, embroidering, hiking, or puttering in the garden. You can find me on Instagram at @kelmishka. (My account is private, but feel free to add me!)

Favorite ingredients, flavors, etc.

Maple (all-time fave flavor!), vanilla, caramel, and all things dessert-y

Jasmine, lavender, violet, and most floral flavors

Most spices, although I go through phases and sometimes get bored of generic-feeling winter spice blends

Most fruity flavors

Matcha and other vegetal flavors

Not-so-favorite ingredients, flavors, etc.

Bergamot (I tolerate it, but it just doesn’t do it for me)


Overly artificial flavors (banana, coconut, mango)

Overly herbacious blends, although this varies!

Stevia, monkfruit, and other sugar-alternative sweeteners — blech

Chocolate — it’s hard to get it right in tea, though I love real chocolate!

Animal products, including honey (long-time vegan checking in!)

My ratings

90-100: The best! Will almost definitely repurchase.

75-90: Really good, and potentially worthy of a restock.

60-75: Decent, if not terribly memorable.

50-60: In the “meh” range, but possibly for personal taste reasons.

35-50: I’m not a fan, and this is not very good tea.

20-35: Varying degrees of bad.

1-20: Actively bad. Like really bad. I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing.


Maryland, USA

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