421 Tasting Notes


Received a sample of this tea with my Thes du Japon order. This is a good sencha, albeit atypical for a fukamushi. It’s not super grassy like deep steamed sencha tends to be but instead leans more towards gyokuro with its pale yellowish-green liquor and savory, umami flavor.

Dry leaf smells of raspberries and a freshly mowed lawn. Wet leaf smells of spinach. The first infusion is gyokuro-like with a rich umami flavor and light, earthy grassiness. Faint hints of blackberries and pine nuts as it cools. A deeper green flavor and color emerge in the second steep. More grass, umami, and steamed spinach notes with white pepper in the finish. The tea begins mellowing by the third steep yet still has a bright green flavor and a bit of sweetness.

Flavors: Berries, Grass, Nuts, Pepper, Spinach, Umami

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 4 OZ / 108 ML

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I’ve always looked forward to shopping at Daiso whenever visiting the west coast. For the unacquainted, Daiso is an Asian dollar store that sells some really nifty Japanese items. Kawaii stuff, stationary, housewares, toys, snacks, etc. So imagine how stoked I was when the first Daiso store in the midwest opened up just a few minutes from my house. I’ve been dropping by regularly and usually leave with one of their bottled Japanese teas.

I’m a big fan of the Ito-En line of bottled teas and their Golden Oolong is one of my favorites. Last night though it was missing from the beverage case so I picked up a similar tea from a different brand. This Sangaria tea was a darker oolong than Ito-En which is made from a blend of Tie Guan Yin and Huan Jin Guei leaves. To me it tasted like a Da Hong Pao. A heavier roast with a cinnamon warmth and motor oil like thickness and mouthfeel. Definitely on the darker end of the oolong spectrum. Not my preferred flavor profile but still a very drinkable tea.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Dark Wood, Thick


Oh, that (Daiso) would be the place to Christmas shop for my son! A little far to drive, unfortunately :)

Mastress Alita

I wish I could get any decent Asian bottled teas living in podunk Idaho. Sigh.


@gmathis it’s definitely worth stopping by if you happen to be in the area

@Mastress Alita if it’s any consolation, cold brewed loose leaf tea still beats the pants off any Asian bottled tea. but the convenience factor of bottled tea can’t be denied

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So my insomnia has been pretty bad lately, even after cutting back on tea. Wanting to avoid going the melatonin route, I decided to look into tisanes. Internet research consistenly turned up chamomile and valerian as effective sleep aids. Since I like chamomile on its own, I decided to try it first.

My stash of Rishi chamomile medley had more herbs than chamomile flowers left so yesterday I set out to procure some organic loose leaf chamomile. However, Whole Foods only carries the bagged variety and the giant 1 lb bags sold on Amazon are overkill. Luckily I was able to get half an ounce of pure chamomile from the Spice & Tea Exchange.

Tastewise, this was a delicious tea on its own. Sweet, citrusy, and honeyed with a bright yellow color. Normally I steep chamomile for 5 minutes but I decided to brew it extra strong and steeped for 10 minutes. Even then it was soft and very soothing.

A couple of cups of this and some classical music on Spotify definitely helped me sleep better last night. Hopefully it’s not simply a placebo effect because it’s such a lovely and relaxing bedtime tea. I will experiment tonight by upping the quantity of chamomile and maybe blend in some dried lavender.

Flavors: Citrusy, Honey

Boiling 8 min or more 1 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

When you start looking into valerian, check out Bedtime Blues from AQ2T. It is absolutely the most relaxing tea I’ve ever had. And so delicious! Plus it has chamomile too.

Mastress Alita

I don’t like the taste of chamomile, so I have to use valerian, but it works amazingly well for me. I only ever use it in blends, usually with mint and lavender, but it really hits me hard.


Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll definitely be sure to check out valerian


Whether placebo effect or not, linden works the best for me followed by valerian. I’d much rather drink flower nectar than stinky feet.

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There seem to be a lot of Ali Shan teas that smell delicious but taste just kind of “meh”. This is one such tea.

The leaves were rolled into fat green nuggets and gave off wonderful aromas of melon, flowers, and lychee. Initial steeps were light and tasted of cucumber and melon. Some mellow floral notes of orchid and hyacinth emerge by the 3rd steep. At this point, the flavor begins to peter out. The remaining steeps were fairly insipid and flat.

Yawn…a very drinkable tea but ultimately forgettable.

Flavors: Coriander, Cucumber, Flowers, Grass, Lychee, Melon, Orchid, Sweet

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 69 ML

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My third kamairicha and once again a top-notch green tea. There’s an amazing range of flavors that unfurls on your tongue as it steeps. The taste is a mix of fruity, umami, grassy, sweet, and nutty. The liquor is thick with a buttery mouthfeel, evoking the lush flavor of high mountain oolongs. I first had it a few weeks ago while down with a sinus cold and even with my sense of taste and smell greatly impaired, I could still taste the pear like fruitiness. Gives at least 3 good infusions.

Flavors: Fruity, Grass, Peanut, Pear, Peas, Seaweed, Umami

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 96 ML

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Spring 2019 harvest. I’ve already reviewed this once before so I won’t get into the details of every steep. Like the winter harvest, this was an excellent gaoshan with heady aromas and luscious florals. Notes of narcissus, hyacinth, and wildflowers interspersed with hints of green apple and tropical fruit. Rich and buttery throughout with a candy sweet finish. Went 10 steeps deep with new layers of flavor unfolding with each steep.

Despite being bored with green oolongs as of late, this one really grabbed me and I finished it off within just a few days.

Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Green Apple, Jasmine, Narcissus, Nectar, Pear, Tropical

200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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This tea kinda reminds me of that dress color optical illusion the Internet was arguing about a few years ago. As I drink it, I internally debate with myself whether it’s really an oolong or a black/red. I lean towards it being a red tea but like Darjeeling, it straddles the line between oolong and red. This is the Spring 2019 version which is new and improved according to Mountain Stream Teas.

Judging from appearances, the dark balled leaves certainly look like an oolong. The dry leaves have a very oxidized but sweet aroma. On the nose I get cherries, honey, and rose. The taste is more delicate than your typical black for sure. It’s smooth with a gentle malt and a prominent rose flavor that I really dig. Later on I get woodsy oak notes. Nothing tannic or harsh here, just a mellow and pleasant drinking experience.

Flavors: Oak wood, Rose

200 °F / 93 °C 1 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Got this as a sample with my last Taiwan Sourcing order. This is a light and sweet oolong with gentle notes of dates, toffee, and caramel. Roasted plums and cookies appear as the flavor of the tea settles. Gongfu wasn’t all that impressive so I was content to grandpa steep this one. When cold brewed, it’s greener with honeysuckle and more mineral sweetness.

Flavors: Caramel, Dates, Honeysuckle, Plums, Toffee

200 °F / 93 °C 0 OZ / 0 ML

What a creative name!


@Bluegreen Isn’t it? Taiwan Sourcing teas have some really whimsical names


Agreed! I enjoy Taiwan Sourcing’s names as well.

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This was another Spring 2019 Laoshan green tea sample. The downside of buying so many samplers is when you do come across a really good tea, you don’t get to enjoy it for very long. I managed two sessions with this and consider it one of their better greens from this harvest with a flavor distinct from other Laoshan varietals.

The dry leaf smelled of spinach and lima beans. A pine nut aroma emerged after letting it sit in a warmed shiboridashi. Wet leaf smelled like cabbage and spice. The first couple of steeps were light and cooling with a clover like sweetness and notes of toasted pumpkin seed. The next 2 steeps had a zucchini-like vegetal flavor with light spice, broth and balanced with a soft sweetness. Absent were the soybean and anise flavors that characterize most Laoshan teas.

Flavors: Broth, Lima Beans, Spices, Vegetal, Zucchini

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 96 ML

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Teabag tea.

It’s that time of year again. Seasons are changing and I’ve come down with the sniffles, a sore throat, and all that good stuff. Since my sense of taste and smell are inhibited, I decided to skip the more delicate teas and sip down some of my less loved ones. I’d been sitting on this teabag sample my dad gave me for a year or so. He shops at TeaGschwender often but only drinks black tea so all his non-black tea samples gets passed down to me.

I brewed this in an 8oz mug for 90s at 170 F and a second time for 30s using 190 F water. The liquor was light amber in color with the barest tinge of green. Not the vibrant green that’s characteristic of sencha. A sign that this tea was past peak freshness. The brewed tea was decidedly savory; smooth and lacking any astringency. Vegetal with a cashew like creaminess and smoky flavor that reminded me of roasted eggplant. It didn’t have the typical grassiness or oceanic taste that most Japanese green teas do. Despite the atypical flavor and lack of freshness, it was still decent for a bagged tea and helped calm my sniffles.

Flavors: Creamy, Smoke, Vegetal

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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My Rating Criteria:

95 to 100: Top shelf stuff. Loved this tea and highly recommend it

90 to 94: Excellent. Enjoyed this tea and would likely repurchase

80 to 89: Good but not great. I liked it though it may be lacking in some aspects. I’ll finish it but probably won’t buy again

70 to 79: Average at best. Not terrible but wouldn’t willingly drink again

60 to 69: Sub-par. Low quality tea, barely palatable

59 and below: Bleh

Fell into tea years ago, and for a long time my experience was limited to Japanese greens and a few flavored teas. My tea epiphany came a few years ago when I discovered jade oolongs. That was the gateway drug to the world of fine tea and teaware.

With the exception of a handful of lightly scented teas, I drink mostly straight tea. I love fresh green and floral flavors and as such, green tea and Taiwanese oolongs will always have a place in my cupboard. After avoiding black tea forever, Chinese blacks are beginning to grow on me. I’ve dipped my toe into a few puerhs now but it’s still relatively new territory for me. I also enjoy white tea and tisanes but reach for them less frequently.

Other non-tea interests include: cooking, reading, nature, MMA, traveling when I can, and of course putzing around on the interwebs.

IG: https://www.instagram.com/melucky



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