832 Tasting Notes


Fourth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the green tea round, going against Fukujuen’s Gyokuro Karigane. Both teas were little tins that my friend Todd brought me back from a trip he took to Japan back in 2018. I still haven’t opened them and they are quite old now, especially for green tea. Oops! (I also couldn’t find any pictures online and had to scrounge out my digital camera to log them…)

The dry leaf has a pleasant oaty aroma, as well as the roasted nuts scent I’m familiar with in houjicha. Steeped 2g (a full perfect teaspoon) in 350ml 205F water for 3 minutes. The steeped tea has a deeply roasty aroma, with some hints of nuts and wood, and a slight minerality. It has a nice, rich flavor; I’ve had some older houjicha that tasted a bit “dusty” or “bark-like” but not this one! There is a deep, smooth woodiness that leaves a subtle bitterness on the tongue, but it is in no way unpleasant, lacking any drying qualities. The strongest flavor note for me is roasted nuts, particularly that somewhat earthy walnut note, with more subtle notes of oats, toasted bread, and minerals. It’s a superb cup of houjicha!

This is probably the hardest round for me thus far! By flavor I’d probably say this houjicha (though the gyokuro karigane was very nice!), but the gyokuro karigane had such a pleasant cha qi for me! I woke ridiculously early and couldn’t fall back asleep (thanks, cat!) and two pots of the gyokuro karigane gave me so much energy; I didn’t feel buzzed like I used to get on coffee, but a focused wakefulness that got me through the day. Houjicha is a relaxing warm hug, with so little caffeine I can drink it as an alternative to herbals in the evening. Very different functions…

I think the houjicha wins this one, mostly because, compared to other houjicha I’ve had, this one is such a nice quality and flavor. With the Gyokuro Karigane was an excellent green tea, I don’t have any other gyokuro karigane to compare it to in my mind, and compared to other green teas in general, I have had some I prefer to it. That said, I’m quite looking forward to sipping it down, especially on those mornings that I just can’t get going!

Uji-Houjicha: Yamashiro-no-Sato moves on!

Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Mineral, Nutty, Oats, Roasted, Roasted Nuts, Toasty, Walnut, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Third tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the green tea round, going against Fukujuen’s Uji-Houjicha: Yama-no-Sato. Both teas were little tins that my friend Todd brought me back from a trip he took to Japan back in 2018. I still haven’t opened them and they are quite old now, especially for green tea. Oops! (I also couldn’t find any pictures online and had to scrounge out my digital camera to log them…)

I’m shocked and appalled the directions inside the tin said to use 3g per 60ml! Is that how people usually make green tea, or do they just make it that strong in Japan? Zoinks, I only use between 2-3g for western brews between 350-500ml or I just get a bomb of bitterness…

That said, I opted to brew this “my way” and did 3g to a 500ml pot, steeped for 2 minutes in 175F water. The dry leaf had a somewhat sweet, mellow grassy aroma. Brewed, it is deeply vegetal and umami on the nose, with some spinach and ocean air aroma notes. The brew is, thankfully, lacking any bitterness; it starts with a very fresh and sweet grassy taste, then a stronger umami vegetal presence of spinach and peas settles over my tongue (reminds me of the vegetal flavors I get drinking Bi Luo Chun), with a very mild salty seaweed note at the very back of my throat. I haven’t been a fan of gyokuro that have a strong seaweed/oceany taste, but this karigane, while those notes are present, is more gentle. I’m really liking it, actually! It is more on the savory side, but satisfying for a too-early morning, and it is settling down a stomach that also woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

As far as green teas go, this is definitely a nice one. I am quite a fan of houjicha, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how it stacks up to that tea.

Flavors: Ocean Air, Peas, Seaweed, Spinach, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Umami, Vegetal

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 g 17 OZ / 500 ML

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Happy National Day of Unplugging!

Lately I’ve been unwinding in the evening with sakura lattes, made using Lupicia’s Cerisier tea and a bit of frothed vanilla almond milk. It’s a decaf black tea so I can still drink it in the evenings, and making it as a latte curbs some of the “brassiness” of the decaf leaf.

But, something about this prompt brought back the memory of this tea, which I reviewed three years ago (here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/375194 ). Seemed a good opportunity to refresh my memory of it. It has been my “sleepy tea” of choice since I grabbed it on a whim during American Tea Room’s OOB sale, and I’m still not sure what I will replace it with once I sip it down.

For me, valerian root is the magic sleepy herb that “works” to relax me. And that herb can smell/taste horrible if not blended right. This tea has such a strong fennel presense that it is hard to smell anything else on the nose but the spicy/peppery/slightly licoricey fennel. A bit of a floral rose note also appears on the nose.

The flavor is very strongly fennel; there are more subtle notes of an herbaceous citrusy/pine flavor, floral rose, and a light mintiness that comes out toward the end of the sip as the spice fades a bit from the tongue. I really like fennel, so this is a really easy-sipper for me, and I usually find after two cups my eyelids are quite heavy!

All that said, I had this rated very high back in the day, and I wouldn’t rate it that highly anymore. While I enjoy the flavor and especially enjoy the functionality, I wouldn’t say there is anything particularly special about it compared to similar herbal blends. For that reason I’ve lowered the rating to be more in line with where I’m gauging teas today.

Flavors: Citrus, Fennel, Floral, Herbaceous, Licorice, Mint, Pepper, Pine, Rose

205 °F / 96 °C 8 min or more 1 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Steepster Freeze 2021 #4: 03/05/21

Happy National Day of Unplugging! Today is the Sipdown Challenge day to drink a favorite tea for relaxing; for me, those mostly fall in the tisane category, which I drink after work. During the work day, I drink caffeinated tea. So, I won’t be posting my tea choice until this evening (and once again Steepster is broken on a prompt day… I swear it is a planned effort at this point…).

So now onto… French Friday! This was the tea I randomly grabbed from the sampler bag from Dustin today. Thanks Dustin! The dry leaf has a very alluring smell of juicy pear, stonefruit (I’m getting a bit of the Mirabelle plum aroma that is present in Lupicia’s “Kotobuki”), and a florality that I can’t distinctly pinpoint. I brewed the full 6.4g to 500ml in 205F water for 3.5 minutes.

Brewed tea is a pretty burnt sienna orange. The aroma smells pretty much spot-on for the dry leaf — a floral/perfumy mix of pear and stonefruit. The mouthfeel is giving me a bit of a strong syrupy/coating feeling, which I remember I had from Marco Polo as well; I’m suspecting I may have either used a bit too much leaf for the amount of water or steeped a little longer than necessary, producing a quite strong cup. My personal preferences on this sort of “perfumy/fragrant” French teas seem to be a softer/more gentle brewing than a heavy-handed cup. It’s also just a tad astringent/drying toward the end of the sip, backing up that theory. Ah well, sometimes you just have a bad-steep day…

That aside, the flavor itself it mostly a sweet, succelent pear note. I’m still tasting a bit of the stonefruit, not as strongly as the pear, though; on the tongue it is reading more as apricot or peach than Mirabelle plum, though. The floral note is really strong, but I don’t know how to describe it… my botanical knowledge is not great. It reminds me of jasmine because it is thick, coating, and strong on the nose, but it doesn’t taste like jasmine. Cheating and looking at the flavor notes from the manufacturer, it appears the floral is lotus… which I really have no experience with, so I’m not surprised I couldn’t peg it (I’ve only had one lotus tea before, and it was so old the scenting wasn’t that potent). It’s a very pretty aroma, even if I can’t describe it. I just don’t like the coating/drying feeling that sticky florality is leaving on my tongue.

I think, if I could brew this again using slightly altered parameters, I’d find a cup in my “perfect” zone and be really into this flavor combination.

Flavors: Astringent, Drying, Floral, Peach, Pear, Perfume, Plums, Stonefruit

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec 6 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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Tenth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the pu’erh tea round, going against Tea Chai Te’s Menghai Tuo Cha.

I don’t normally leave a note for a tea more than once, and I have reviewed this before (here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/386918 ), but for the sake of proper comparison I’m going to give it a second look. At least my last note was two years ago…

Purchased at Snake River Tea in Boise, a local teashop that wholesales their brews from multiple different sources. They don’t carry this particular blend anymore, but they did back in 2018 when I purchased this… and I think that purchase was a “top up” after I’d finished off a bag the previous year and really enjoyed it. I certainly have memories of this being a tea I quite enjoyed, but it sort of fell off the radar as all my pu’erh got sorted into its own cubie in the tea cupboard, and that isn’t a section I dig in very often.

Brewed one perfect teaspoon in 350ml 205F water for 5 minutes. The aroma wasn’t quite an enticing as I remember, but I also didn’t have time to deep clean my thermos on my lunch break from the last pu’erh, which may be why the aroma I was getting was coming off more on the earthy side than I remember. Still, it is a richly earthy shou base, and there are some cocoa and sweeter berry notes that appear on the nose. A strong earthy/mineral note hits the tongue first, but midsip a dark, bittersweet sort of cocoa becomes present, followed by a sweeter, jammy strawberry note that is most noticable at the end of the sip as the stronger earthiness starts to dissipate.

I do like how the flavors work together here; I don’t think I like it as highly as I rated it before (I just don’t jive that strongly with pu’s, even pu’s I enjoy), and while it doesn’t particularly bother me, the liquor can tend towards being a bit oily from the melted chocolate and strawberry curls in the leaf, which may be a downpoint for others.

While I was pleasantly surprised by the Menghai Tuo Cha this morning, it really is hard for it to beat out something with a similar earthy/dirty flavor, but the addition of cocoa and strawberry notes, which, for someone who isn’t that into pu like me, makes it a lot more pleasant of a cup. Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pu’erh moves on!

Flavors: Alcohol, Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Fruity, Jam, Mineral, Strawberry

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Ninth tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! (What happened to #3-8? I’m having to skip around a bit depending on how my work schedule falls and the way tea and the time involved for different types of tea brewing, caffeine vs. no caffeine, etc., fall into that schedule). This is for the pu’erh tea round, going against Tea Etc.’s Chocolate Covered Strawberry.

This is going to be a landslide victory, considering that despite multiple efforts pu’erh tea just “isn’t my cuppa” no matter how hard I try… though, on occassion, I do find some flavored blends using it as a base alright. So when a pure pu ended up randomly selected against a flavored pu it almost seemed unfair to keep that randomizer… but you know what they say, all’s fair in love and tea…

Like all the teas in my bracket, this was purchased in 2018, from Tea Chai Te in Portland (though obviously they are sourcing it). I believe the copy writing at the time indicated the pressing on these tuos was 2008. I guess of all the tea in this bracket, this round is the one that should be least phased by the old age…

I used one tuo for 350ml 205F water, steeped for 5 minutes. I didn’t have time for a rinse prior (I barely had time for such a long steep before draining it into the work thermos and heading out the door!) and the tuo did have issue breaking up properly. That was entirely on me.

Has that strong, familiar earthy potting soil dirt smell. But, for a puerh, I’m doing alright with the flavor. It will never be my favorite type of tea, but this one has come out very smooth, and sweeter than I’m used to. I wonder if the tuo being unable to break up well left the steep “weaker” but, consequently, with a flavor that is far more appealing to me personally. It’s earthy, but doesn’t feel overwhelmingly so. There is a slight, but pleasant, minerality on the sip, which leans into a wet rocks/wet earth flavor. There is a slightly mellow and sweeter finish, while the liquor is that satisfying thick and rich mouthfeel that really coats the throat and stomach.

I am super surprised by this one! I doubt it is going to beat out Chocolate Covered Strawberry (I have very fond memories of that tea!) but it is putting up a hell of a fight to stay in the race. This is probably the highest rating I’ve given to an unflavored pu’erh.

Flavors: Dirt, Earth, Mineral, Sweet, Thick, Wet Earth, Wet Rocks

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

Yeah some of these teas, it will be tough on other teas because of Fond Tea Memories. It would almost have been more fair if I had used all teas I haven’t tried before in the brackets!

Mastress Alita

I specifically didn’t want to open any of my “sealed” packages though, so I made sure my randomizer selected from my oldest teas. (though many of those I still haven’t tried yet!)


yeah, that makes sense too. I think all of the teas that were picked for my brackets were already tried by me anyway

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Second tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! This is for the black tea round, going against Lupicia’s Cerisier.

This is another 2018 tea, still in a sealed 20g sampler packet. When I cut the packet open, it still had a delightful peach aroma, with a hint of something honey-esque on the nose, as well. Steeped 3.5g for 500ml 205F water for 3 minutes.

The steeped tea smells spot-on for the dry leaf, with that “peaches and honey” aroma; in fact, the honey aroma is even stronger, now. The tea is warm and inviting; the peach note tastes quite fresh rather than candy-like, and the sweetness that smells like honey is tasting closer to vanilla on the tongue. The base tea provides a bit of that “cobbler” feel as it is quite bready, and I’m getting a subtle spice note from it as well; it is a touch astrigent at the end of the sip and leaving a drying feeling settling over the tongue. I may have to try subsequent cups with a touch of honey to see if that curbs that sensation at all; I feel like milk might bulldoze the flavor too much, but it isn’t out of the question.

Compared to Cerisier, this is a tough call, because both teas did a really good job of portraying what they were going for and had spot on flavorings, and both were negatively affected by astringency and drying in the sip. I think Peach Cobbler is going to just edge out the competition though because Cerisier had the disadvantage of being on a decaf base; while that gives me a personal scheduling advantage of being able to drink it in the evenings when I have a bit more “time for tea” than I do during the work day, the downside is I get a slight metallic tinge to the flavor.

Peach Cobbler moves on!

Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Drying, Fruity, Honey, Malt, Peach, Spices, Vanilla

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 17 OZ / 500 ML


Mastress Alita

And the astringency actually mellowed out as my work thermos cooled down, so once that happened it became a very easy-sipping and pleasant cuppa!

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drank Cerisier by Lupicia
832 tasting notes

First tea for March Mad(Hatter)ness! The teas were randomly selected using random.org from my spreadsheet, amongst my 2018 teas (so they will be “equal” in age). To get more variety, I am doing each initial round as teas of the same type. This is for the black tea round, going against Bird & Blend’s Peach Cobbler.

Thankfully this tea is decaf (perhaps the only black decaf tea in my whole collection?!) so I can actually drink it after my “caffeine cut-off” hour. From 2018, back when Lupicia was in California and I made a big “buy all the sakura teas” order. I feel like I don’t even see the sakura teas pop up in the spring since Lupicia moved to Hawaii? Prepared 2.5g steeped for 3 minutes in 350ml 205F water.

Unlike the other sakura teas, this one is just flavorings, no salt-preserved leaves. Has an extremely sweet cherry aroma on the nose; it is leaning a little more “cherry” than “cherry blossom” for me, aside from the sweetness which gives the aroma a slight florality to it. At least it doesn’t smell medicinal. And… thankfully, it doesn’t taste medicinal either! It is lacking a certain “tartness” I’d expect of cherry fruit, which, in the flavor, is reminding me heavily of sakura. A soft cherry with a sort of sweet wild flower honey sweetness. The base tea is giving me a bit of a dry leaf note, with a hint of baked bread, and there is a mellow astringency toward the end of the sip. Also a slight “metallic” quality that I could do without, which I often taste in decaf teas. The aftertaste is a bit drying, after the candied cherry note wears off the tongue.

It’s a very nice cup; rarely do I find cherry flavors I enjoy. I may try this with either a smidge of honey or as a latte sometime, to see if that curbs the slight astringency/dryness and metallic notes.

Flavors: Astringent, Autumn Leaf Pile, Baked Bread, Cherry, Cherry Blossom, Drying, Floral, Honey, Metallic, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Happy National Strawberry Day! Pulled this last P&L sampler from my stash to drink today, prepared cold brewed.

The green tea itself has a deeply vegetal, spinach-like aroma. I get a bit of a berry fruitiness on the nose. The taste, however, is coming off strongly of the beets in the blend, and I’m wondering if that was a “luck of the scoop” from my little sample bag… I do taste some strawberry, but with the highly vegetal note of the green tea coupled with the strong beet note, it doesn’t really taste very fruity. Grassy, vegetal, a little metallic/earthy, bulldozing the subtle strawberry sweetness in the background. I’m not getting any sassyfras, which is disappointing…

I think I may have just overleafed this, adding to some of the strong green tea notes, and if I’d split the sample into two batches it might have been a little less intense, a little more fruity, and been more subtle on the beet. Ah well, I wanted to use up the full sample packet in one go. Not a particularly good cup, but I can see the potential in it and am chalking this one up to my preparation. That said, I’m still keeping my rating lower than I’d give otherwise since it is called “Sassyfras Strawberry” and I’m not getting one of those ingredients at all.

Flavors: Astringent, Drying, Earth, Grass, Mineral, Spinach, Strawberry, Tangy, Vegetal

Iced 8 min or more 7 g 17 OZ / 500 ML

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French Friday! This is the sampler packet I pulled out of the sampler bag for today. Thank you for sharing, Dustin!

The dry leaf smells like the Petite Ourse tea by THEODOR that I tried recently; a strong tangerine citrus aroma. Steeped 3.1g of leaf in 350ml 175F water for 3 minutes. The brewed tea doesn’t smell so strongly of citrus, though; it’s a very tropical aroma, mostly mango, with a bit of a citrusy undertone. On the sip, the tea takes on more of a lemon citrus flavor than the tangerine I was getting on the nose; it has a slight tanginess at the end of the sip, but is a pleasant fresh lemon flavor, with no abrasive “floor cleaner”-esque qualities. I can taste a mango note too, but it is more subtle and gentle compared to the bright citrusy lemon. There is a hint of a sort of floral-quality sweetness as well, though I couldn’t place any particular floral to it.

The tea has a very bright and refreshing feel to it; I like lemon teas, and this one is top-notch!

Flavors: Citrus, Citrus Zest, Floral, Grass, Lemon, Mango, Tangy, Tropical

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Hi! I’m Sara, a middle-aged librarian living in southern Idaho, USA. I’m a big ol’ sci-fi/fantasy/anime geek that loves fandom conventions, coloring books, simulation computer games, Japanese culture, and cats. Proud asexual and supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m also a chronic migraineur. As a surprise to no one, I’m a helpless tea addict with a tea collecting and hoarding problem! (It still baffles me how much tea I can cram into my little condo!) I enjoy trying all sorts of teas… for me tea is a neverending journey!

Favorite Flavors:

I love sampling a wide variety of teas! For me the variety is what makes the hobby of tea sampling so fun! While I enjoy trying all different types of teas (pure teas, blends, tisanes), these are some flavors/ingredients I enjoy:
-Sweet/licorice root/stevia
-Bergamot (in moderation)

Disliked Flavors:

There are not many flavors or ingredients that I don’t like. These include:
-Bananas/banana flavoring
-Smoke-scented teas/heavy smoke flavors (migraine trigger)
-Perfumey teas/extremely heavy floral aromas (migraine trigger)
-Gingko biloba (migraine trigger)
-Chamomile (used in blends as a background note/paired with stronger flavors is okay)
-Extremely spicy/heated teas
-Medicinal flavors/Ginseng
-Metallic flavors
-Overly strong artificial flavorings

With the exception of bananas and migraine triggers, I’ll pretty much try any tea at least once!

Steeping Parameters:

I drink tea in a variety of ways! For hot brews, I mostly drink my teas brewed in the western style without additions, and for iced tea, I drink teas mostly brewed in the cold brew style without additions. Occassionally I’ll change that up. I use the https://octea.ndim.space/#/ app for water-to-tea ratios and use steep times to my preferences.

My Rating Scale:

90-100 – Top tier tea! These teas are among my personal favorites, and typically I like to keep them stocked in my cupboards at all times, if possible!

70-89 – These are teas that I personally found very enjoyable, but I may or may not feel inclined to keep them in stock.

50-69 – Teas that fall in this range I enjoyed, but found either average, lacking in some way, or I’ve had a similar tea that “did it better.”

21-49 – Teas in this range I didn’t enjoy, for one reason or another. I may or may not finish them off, depending on their ranking, and feel no inclination to restock them.

20-1 – Blech! My Tea Hall of Shame. These are the teas that most likely saw the bottom of my garbage can, because I’d feel guilty to pass them onto someone else.

Note that I only journal a tea once, not every time I drink a cup of it. If my opinion of a tea drastically changes since my original review, I will journal the tea again with an updated opinion and change my rating. Occassionally I revisit a tea I’ve reviewed before after a year or more has passed.


My Cupboard on Steepster reflects teas that I have sampled and logged for review, and is not used as an inventory for teas I currently own at the present moment. An accurate and up-to-date listing of my current tea inventory can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AvGT1XwgJUTErt3zhjpHbXf6HNS3k_Ym85zoHJPmhX4/edit?usp=sharing . A downloadable spreadsheet version with more detailed information can be acquired here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JjlpjQ94UyoryaDRMIeqnPHObgvCtmRp/view?usp=sharing . I am currently strictly limiting tea trading/ordering to get my collection under control! My participation in any tea boxes, tea exchanges, or group orders, and acceptance of any tea gifts is very limited at this point in time. If there is something on my spreadsheet that I have in large quantity (50g or higher) that you would like to sample, feel free to contact me about it, as I am open to limited outbound gifting (USA only!)

Contact Info:

Feel free to send me a Steepster PM, or alternatively, check the website URL section below; it goes to a contact form that will reach my personal e-mail.


Idaho, United States



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