568 Tasting Notes


Despite my best attempts to stop this cold from coming on, the little runny nose I’ve had in the evenings the last few weeks has reached my throat, and I’ve been bone exhausted, so I’m taking today off work to rest, hoping the extra eight hours of sleep can make some difference from it getting worse. I resurfaced from bed for lunch and while not particularly hungry I am thirsty and since I had my hibiscus/ginger tea this morning, I wanted something different now. I found this sampler that I believe I received from a cupboard sale from Ost, so thank you Ost! Seems the perfect time to try it out, so I made a small pot and grabbed an apple and peanut butter for my lunch to go with.

Brewed up, it is the tawny brown color of the peppermint base, and has a minty aroma as well. The flavor is minty, but has a fresh pine note from the juniper berries, and a very brisk, menthol quality from the eucalyptus. I’m not picking up the orange citrus in the blend against the strong mint, though. The juniper is definitely the standout of this being “just another mint tea” as I really like that flavor and don’t feel it is utilized enough.

Flavors: Menthol, Mint, Peppermint, Pine

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 5 g 16 OZ / 473 ML

Ya, juniper berry is a bitchin ingredient. Have you had that August Uncommon tea you sent me, A Field in Innsbruck? I love the use of juniper in that blend! Hope your cold passes quickly. There’s been a 3-day cold circulating around here for several weeks. I had it and took one day off. Back to normal a few days later.

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Well, I had always been under the impression that Tea Chai Te made it’s own blends, when I opened up this sampler of Rishi’s “Tangerine Ginger” that I got for free from an order with them ages ago, it looks just like Tea Chai Te’s “Tangerine Dream” (formerly known as “Orange Zephyr”) which is one of my favorite teas (I even restocked it when I visited their shop in Portland on vacation last summer). This leads me to think they are actually wholesaling this blend from Rishi — the leaf certainly looks identical to me — but there are some minor differences listed in the ingredients between the two (Tea Chai Te says their blend includes ginseng and doesn’t list schizandra berries, though it certainly looks like I can see schizandra berries in Tea Chai Te’s leaf from a visual inspection; Rishi doesn’t list ginseng in their ingredients). Hmm… I’m still bordering more on the “this is wholesaled from Rishi” fence than not, since they are a large tea wholesaler to smaller tea shops (I am still pretty convinced Tea Chai Te makes their own chais, though…)

In any event, at least that means I already know I’m going to like this tea. It’s a hibi-hip with ginger and has a nice orange flavor, as well. This is one of my go-to “sick teas” and may seem an odd choice, but all that hibiscus/rose hip packs a whollop of Vitamin C which is perfect once my nose starts going runny or my throat starts feeling froggy, and the ginger is calming on the throat or tummy/GI tract. I like hibiscus teas, so I like the warm tangy fruity base which I’ve always felt accompanies an orange flavor well (like in Christmas spice blends), and the ginger is warming and gives a bit of heat against the throat but isn’t overbearing to my spice-wuss self, and I think it’s the touch of licorice root in the blend which helps temper it. I don’t really taste the licorice root as a distinct flavor, but there is an overall balance of the tangy hibiscus/spicy ginger with a sweetness that works. And that is another ingredient that works nicely with the ginger to calm a sore throat.

Along with TeaSource’s “Margaret’s Soother,” this is one of my favorite “what ails ya” teas.

Flavors: Citrus, Fruity, Ginger, Hibiscus, Orange, Spicy, Sweet, Tangy, Tart

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Today has been one of those “my GI tract is trying to kill me” days, and my ginger offerings have been (mostly) exhausted (I at least used up all my bulk ginger from the co-op in San Francisco, and it’ll be a long time coming before I can go back there… I could only find the powdered kind at my local grocery and that just is not what I want, meh).

I thought turmeric might be the next best thing, especially since most turm blends include ginger. And I’ve had this sampler forever. I’m used to turm blends being spicy but this appears to be more apple than anything looking at the dry contents. The brewed tea is a sharp marigold color and smells like a more earthy sort of apple spice tea. The flavor is actually pretty nice; I am a spice wuss and have had turm teas that knocked my socks off, that I could only drink with ample amounts of milk to cut the spice, but this is a mild, sweet tea. Honestly, I’d have a hard time telling it is a turm/ginger tea at all; the main spice note I’m getting is cinnamon, not ginger. The base is heavily apple, and I’m getting a strong stonefruit note too (it has mango flavoring apparently, and lately my palate has been reading mango flavor more as peach/apricot). So I’m getting a sort of apple/peach cinnamon tea, with a sort of earthy, rooty touch to the flavor toward the finish. A little warming toward the back of the tongue, but not spicy. It’s fine overall, but I doubt there is anything special about it compared to any of the other turm teas that seem to be making the rounds these days… of course, I haven’t tried very many either, so I may not be the best judge of that statement.

Flavors: Apple, Cinnamon, Earth, Spices, Stonefruits, Sweet

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

Oh, did you go to Rainbow? That’s the best co-op in the city! Hope you feel better soon!

Mastress Alita

I did, but I’m not local, I live in Idaho and was just on vacation visiting a friend at a time; hense not being able to easily restock!


I miss Rainbow. It’s been nearly a year since I met you and Todd at the SF Tea Fest, Mastress Alita. Wild.

Mastress Alita

I know! Now the SF Tea Fest is right around the corner again. They have thankfully changed venues, but having just bought a condo, I can’t afford to travel for a while. Boo!


You guys were at the SF tea fest? I was too! It was SO crowded! Hopefully they will have a bigger space with better airflow this year.

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Onto my next packet of 2017 tea from Snake River Tea! Snake River Tea called this tea “Bronco Buzz” (after Boise State University’s Broncos, likely because it already has the orange and blue petals included, the team colors, giving it a “local tie-in”) but it is a very popular wholesale blend called “Mate Carnival” from International Tea Importers; I’ve found a ton of tea shops that carry this that I stuck on the entry list that you can check out, and if you search “Mate Carnival” on Steepster you can already find tons of reviews that have been put up under a handful of those individual tea shops.

So, coffee teas. I know they are not very favorable. Folks either like their coffee, or they like their tea, and there seems to be a consensus that the streams definitely SHOULD NOT CROSS. I was a big coffee drinker for years before I became a teahead, so I don’t really have such strong aversions. I do find that I haven’t really gone back to coffee these days because with the GI issues I have from migraines (yes, migraines aren’t just a head problem, they affect your whole GI tract) coffee doesn’t sit well in my stomach (I will still partake in a rare mocha since the thick milk can help with that). But I figure something like this should be fine, as it is mostly flavor, and not actual coffee that could feel all acid-like in the tum; and I have never fallen out of love with the aroma or taste.

The brewed tea has a strong coffee aroma; it also smells a bit of wood and roasted nuts. It is actually a quite pleasant flavor from the sip, with a strong coffee note, but I’m also getting a hint of wood and nuts and toward the end of the sip a sweeter touch of cinnamon spice and honey; I think the rooibos is actually complimenting the roasted mate in just the right way here to bring a fuller flavor profile to cup so the coffee flavor isn’t too overbearing and there is some natural sweetness coming through. I think my one complaint is the coffee flavor is just a tad artificial… like, it feels slightly syrupy on the tongue, somehow? Or just a little too obvious that it is added to the cup, even though the flavor itself is a rather decent replica. On the whole it is still a nice blend for a coffee-flavored tea.

Flavors: Artificial, Cinnamon, Coffee, Honey, Roasted, Roasted nuts, Wood

185 °F / 85 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Another of my oldest Snake River Tea purchases. It’s called “Wisdom Chai” and has a pu’erh base, but it isn’t the sort of tea I’d think of as what the west brands “chai”… this is a very strange tea. It’s an International Tea Importers wholesaled blend, and you can find some other reviews for this listed under the tea name under the multitude of tea shops that carry it, since ITI is about as prolific as Metropolitan Tea Co.

So, this tea is called a chai, but doesn’t really evoke a strong spice profile to me… it’s an odd flavor profile that tastes strongly of licorice and fruit. Two things that shouldn’t really work together, and for many people probably will not, but for me… I actually kinda like this. It is definitely weird, there is no doubt about that, but I really like the somewhat overbearing, strong licorice taste (I admittedly love licorice, strong black licorice, the kind everyone else can’t stand), and that anise is really pulling out the licorice flavor here, with the licorice root adding a hint of sweetness to really bring the taste of the candy center stage, but there is a backdrop of… stonefruit? It’s supposed to be mango, but I’m getting apricot, with maybe just a touch of very subtle undefined berry. It shouldn’t work at all, but I prepared it as an iced tea (brewed hot and then chilled in the fridge overnight, rather than my typical coldbrew preparation; I worried the pu-erh wouldn’t cold brew well) and am finding the licorice and fruit flavor is pairing well, like an odd food pairing that works, and it’s really refreshing. I do wish the licorice root didn’t linger on the tongue even when iced, but it is more cleansing than when warm, at least. And the pu-erh is surprisingly very mellow, I’m not even getting the typical dank/earthy notes. The anise/licorice is dominating the flavor enough I think the base tea doesn’t hold out much through it. I don’t notice the ginger at all… maybe it’s just me, or the iced preparation?

It’s an odd one, but I like it. But I’m an odd one, too.

Flavors: Anise, Apricot, Berry, Candy, Licorice, Stonefruits, Sweet

Iced 5 min, 0 sec 8 g 32 OZ / 946 ML

It seems like every “chai” I buy from Walmart tastes largely of licorice. I like licorice, but it’s not what I’m looking for when purchasing chai.

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I finished off my Caramel Chai Pu’erh sampler from Fusion Teas this morning, and since Dethlefsen & Balk has stopped producing it and that was where they were wholesaling it from, they have stopped carrying it; I’m a bit sad about that sipdown since I really enjoyed that particular chai.

I also have brewed up the entire sampler of this tea from Fusion Teas in a few cold brew mason jars, but despite my best efforts I couldn’t hunt down the wholesale source (I could find many strawberry oolongs, but they were all using infused flavor and didn’t include strawberry pieces or blue cornflower petals). So either Fusion is making some additions, or they have just managed to elude me on their sourcing… touche, Fusion, touche! You win this round.

I do have to say that compared to the Strawberry Oolong I get from TeaSource, I am not crazy about this one. It has a much stronger aroma, so one would think this would be quite flavorful, but there is just something about that flavor that just… doesn’t really appeal to me. It tastes too artificial to me, I think… or maybe there is just something about the natural notes of the oolong that is clashing with whatever flavoring has been added to the tea? I’m not sure exactly what the case may be, but something about the taste isn’t meshing for me. I’m getting a slightly acrid peach flavor mixed with a really artificial strawberry flavor, minus the sweetness you’d expect to accompany that sort of strawberry flavor; the vegetal smoothness of the base oolong at least holds through, and it would probably be a good, quality oolong, if this flavoring just wasn’t working for me.

There is a review by Pureleaf on this and I think I’m getting the same sort of flavor experience from this, only finding it a bit more unpleasant, personally. I’ll finish what I’ve steeped up in my water bottles, but am not going to miss it. And may even make a brew of my TeaSource Strawberry Oolong which has a softer but natural and tasty strawberry note added to a green oolong to wash this away.

Of course this one is still available for ordering, and it’s the one that won’t be missed. C’est la vie.

Flavors: Artificial, Biting, Bitter, Peach, Strawberry, Vegetal

Iced 8 min or more 9 g 32 OZ / 946 ML

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I actually sipped down two of my Thunder Mountain Teas yesterday (Phoenix Rising and Forever Spring Oolong); nice to finally have a routine in my life again and to be drinking tea again. My new companion animal, a black cat that looks a lot like Toothless wakes me quite early for breakfast (I never give in but she still hasn’t learned!) and now my body clock is starting to wake earlier, giving me time to sit and enjoy a cuppa before work in the mornings. I’ve pulled this sampler, which was kindly provided to me by Thunder Mountain Teas, to work through next as my morning tea.

The dry leaf smells just like a fudge brownie to me. Brewed up, the top of the cup is a wee bit filmy from the chocolate bits that melted into the tea, but the aroma is just as desserty and pleasing, especially since I’m (BURN THE WITCH!) not a very big pu’erh fan. This is my second pu’erh from this small independant local business (she works out of her home from Boise, Idaho) and while I don’t like it as much as the Strawberry Dawn (which tastes like strawberries dipped in Nutella to me, which is a hard flavor combo to beat in my opinion) this is pretty great… and again, this is from someone who is, in general, just not a fan of pu’erh (they tend to usually taste a little too much like a mouthful of dirt to me). I’m not getting any of the unpleasant “dirt/marsh mud” notes that tend to turn me away, there are some rich earthy flavors beneath a sweet chocolately flavor, and the chocolate helps temper it a lot. The chocolate has a slight fudginess to it but isn’t overbearingly sweet, with more of a dark chocolate/bittersweet note that is left on the tongue after the sip. I also get a slight nutty note toward the end of the sip and in the aftertaste.

This is a satisfying morning cup, and Chiya is just going to have to wait until I finish at least half of it to get her bowl refilled.

Patience is a virtue.

Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Nutty, Roasted nuts

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Revisit Review! My initial review of this tea was over a year ago, and since it’s one of my oldest teas, I’ve moved it into my sipdown corner. I figured since I’ve been drinking it a lot lately working on clearing it out of my stash, I should revisit it.

My initial review was for this tea brewed western style, and can be viewed here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/379618 . Lately I’ve been making liters of this oolong cold brewed and taking it to work in my water bottle. The flavor is very floral, like a spring meadow, with honeysuckle, lilac, orchid, and perhaps a subtle touch of a soft perfumey jasmine note being the main floral flavors I taste, and it has a very strong aromatic quality and sweetness to it. I’m also getting a subtle hint of pear after some of the florality subsides. It’s been very refreshingly green and it will probably be easy to clear this older tea out pretty quickly gulping down iced brews.

But since I hadn’t tried this oolong gong fu style yet, I wanted to make sure I tried it that way at least once while I still had some leaf, so I decided to dedicate the time to it this evening. Since it was pretty late, I only used around half capacity in my shiboridashi; I didn’t want to use my little baby-gaiwan since big leafy oolong don’t really have the room to open up properly in it.

70ml / 4.5g / 205F / Rinse|30s|35s|45s|50s|60s|75s

The aroma is very floral, smelling of violets, orchids, and lilacs, with a slightly sharp minerality. The flavor after the first steep was floral, soft, and sweet, with just a hint of a pear note toward the finish. The second steep brought in much stronger aromatics, with the floral note having a somewhat perfumey aroma. The tea is quite sweet, like honey, and the orchid flavor settles thick and syrupy on the tongue. When the flowery flavor fades, a vegetal taste is left on the tongue; it’s a leafy green taste that is slightly like brocolli, but it is quite subtle. The third steep was more of the same, though a sharp mineral flavor came forward toward the finish. The fourth and fifth steeps found the aroma softening a little, and the tea sweetening some, with slightly stronger honeysuckle/honey/cream notes, but the mouthfeel was thinning out a bit. By the sixth steep the tea had grown thin in flavor and tasted a little soapy and astringent to me, so it seemed the right place to wrap things up.

This is a tea that I didn’t see much difference in the gong fu brew compared to western and cold brew. It’s highly floral and I like the strong orchid/lilac flavor, but those that don’t like floral teas would not like this tea. It almost borders on being too perfumey for me to handle, but somehow stays just within that fine line where the aroma doesn’t set my sensitive migraine head off. Since I don’t really get anything new from gong fu with this one for the time and effort it takes me to brew that way, I’m pretty happy to finish this off cold brew style (plus, it makes a really nice cold brew!)

Flavors: Broccoli, Cream, Floral, Honey, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Mineral, Orchid, Pear, Perfume, Sweet, Vegetal, Violet

205 °F / 96 °C 4 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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drank Berry Blast by Adagio Teas
568 tasting notes

I received this sample from a cupboard clearout from Meowster a year ago, thanks Meowster! Since I tend to like fruity herbals like this iced, I used it up as a cold brew. The amount of leaf I had was able to brew up a liter and a half of cold brewed iced tea.

This is your typical dark red hibi-hip fruit tea; I don’t add sweeteners to my hibi-hip teas (since I actually like the tart/tangy notes of hibiscus and can take it like a champ) and have to say I actually find this one relatively sweet, myself (hibi-haters would probably disagree with my assessment, though). There is a slight bit of fruity tanginess toward the end of the sip but mostly it comes off quite sweet and punchy to me, and I’m getting notes of blueberry and a pithy sort of raspberry specifically, with a more general red berries/fruit punch flavor.

It’s a fine iced tea for folks like me that enjoy fruity hibi-hip teas. And for those that don’t like a certain red flower, I’m sure it’s “overly tart” and “hibiscus ruins everything” and “why can’t they just make fruit teas that don’t have hibiscus” blah blah blah I’ve been trying to catch up four months worth of Steepster reading for ages now and probably need a break because can you tell I read that a lot? I read that a lot.

Well, I thought this was fine, at least, but nothing that particularly stood out from any other fruity hibi-hip tea. I’m glad I got to try it, though!

Flavors: Berries, Blueberry, Fruit Punch, Fruity, Hibiscus, Raspberry, Sweet, Tangy, Tart

Iced 8 min or more 30 g 48 OZ / 1419 ML

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This is another of my old Fusion Tea samplers I haven’t gotten around to yet, “Good Morning Yerba Mate” (you can find all the other reviews for this tea under “Good Morning Mate” for Fusion Teas). Like their Caramel Cream Mate, it appears to be sourced from East Indies Coffee & Tea Company, and of the two, this was the one I was worried about, because it has coconut flakes as an ingredient… but I also never unsealed the packet. I was having trouble with my “is the coconut rancid?” sniff test, since the spices in the tea were overwhelming in the aroma. Hmm. I picked out a piece of coconut and chewed it and it didn’t seem odd, but it was also quite small. Ah well. Sometimes you just have to take a gamble, I guess. I’ll note I have terrible luck with my coconut going bad quickly, hense the trepidation…

Brewed up, the tea smells oddly… alcohol-like? There is a sharpness to it I am not sure how to describe. And sipping it, I get that too… sort of like a chocolate liquor. It’s pleasant, though. I get a mild caramel sort of note, adding a touch of sweetness, but it is rounded out by deep roasted barley flavors from the mate, with some very subtle cocoa notes and that liquor flavor. Though the tea smelled heavily spicy, I don’t really taste a heavy spice note coming out on the sip, but do feel a warmth and just a touch of cinnamon left on my tongue in the aftertaste. I’m not tasting coconut at all, rancid or otherwise, so I think it’s okay? Meh, if I live to finish the sampler then I’m going to assume it was at least fine enough to consume.

Yerba Mate blends are hard to find and so far only Fusion and Tea Chai Te seems to have a decent assortment that taste really nice. All the ones I’ve tried so far have been really solid.

Flavors: Alcohol, Caramel, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Sweet

185 °F / 85 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 350 ML
Martin Bednář

I do not know why, but it sounds bit appealing for me. Maybe because of the blue flowers on the photo? Dunno. Just sounds nice to me.

Mastress Alita

It was nice. Good balance between sweet and roasty with some cocoa notes. I enjoyed it!

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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, RuPaul’s Drag Race, 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)
-Grapefruit (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.

Currently Sipping Down: Snake River Tea’s Coconut Oolong, What-cha’s India Assam Kanoka Hand-made Black

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.

New Teas Tried for 2019: 84
Sipdown Count for 2019: 132


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/1D2J0sUMNItRsf0jBRBR6XDFUimm60f0o/view?usp=sharing . I am currently on a tea trading/ordering hiatus to get my collection under control! I cannot participate in any tea boxes, group orders, tea exchanges, or accept any tea gifts 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 gifting (USA only!)

Contact Info:

The Steepster PM system has been broken for some time. If you need to get ahold of me, 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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