81 Tasting Notes

drank UVA Highlands by Harney & Sons
81 tasting notes

I realized I recommended this Ceylon tea to someone on Steepster without having ever posted an official review of it, so here we go!

I brewed 9 grams of dried leaves this morning in 20 ounces of near-boiling water for four minutes. The dried leaves themselves are small, broken pieces (not fannings, though), so I probably could’ve gone with a shorter steep time.

The brewed liquor comes out dark and quite full-bodied—like coffee. I didn’t pick up on any specific aromas from the liquor or the dried leaves.

The flavor is definitely unique—astringent almost to the point of bitterness (but some of that would definitely be relieved with a shorter steep time). I am picking up on what others have described as the wintergreen flavor in the tea, but it seems more menthol to me than wintergreen. After sipping and swallowing the tea, there is a lingering coolness in my mouth that is similar to menthol. This is definitely a unique tea experience for me—not unpleasant, but I don’t think I’d want to drink this every day.

Overall, it is a good tea that I’ll continue to enjoy having. It is an excellent replacement for the fullness of coffee, if that is what you’re looking for, but with a pleasant cool finish.

Flavors: Astringent, Menthol

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 9 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

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My lunchtime tea today was one I received from Vahdam Teas last fall. It has turned into one of my favorite lighter-caffeinated teas on my shelf and find myself drinking it fairly regularly.

Since I am at work, I couldn’t measure this out precisely, but I used two well-rounded teaspoons of dried leaves for 16 ounces of near-boiling water.

The brewed liquor has a color like clover honey—light brown and fresh. The aroma reminds me of warm grass and has a slight bitterness to it.

The immediate flavor I get when drinking the tea is very similar to a second flush Darjeeling: a flavor I describe as close to wet rocks (in a good way!) but also like muscat grapes. There is also a hint of sweetness and apricot behind the muscatel flavor. The warm grass aroma carries over into the flavor of the liquor as well.

Overall, I do like this tea very much—it isn’t as fruity as a second flush Darjeeling, but similar enough that it could be mistaken as one. Like I mentioned earlier, this has become one of my regular afternoon teas.

Flavors: Apricot, Muscatel, Sweet, Sweet, warm grass, Wet Rocks

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

Kangra black teas are so odd. They’re so green, earthy, and vegetal. I’ve only had a few at this point, but they certainly are fascinating.

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Since I’ve been focusing so much on Ceylon teas recently, I decided to purchase this one from Harney & Sons last year in the hopes that it would become one of my regular teas. I was not disappointed with it at all!

The dried leaves are twisted, full leaves—not rolled or broken. Mostly dark brown/black, with some tips, which appear to be more silvery than gold.

I did my usual steeping of 9 grams of dried leaves in 20 ounces of near-boiling water. I went slightly longer at 4 1/2 minutes instead of my usual 4, since the instructions from H&S said to steep for 5 minutes. I am glad I didn’t go the full 5, though—4 would be enough, I think.

The brewed liquor came out very dark and full-bodied. This is what I think of when I think of black tea. The initial flavor I picked up was a creamy, smooth flavor of cocoa—slightly touched with a honey flavor but not the sweetness. It was very, very good.

As far as Ceylon teas go, I would love to have this regularly. At $15.00 for 4 ounces, though, the price reflects the quality and guarantees that this will be a tea I will turn to for those days when I want quality, not quantity. I highly recommend this one for an example of a good quality Ceylon.

Flavors: Cocoa, Creamy, Honey, Smooth

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec 9 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

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I diverged a bit from my regular Ceylon black teas I’ve been having recently to have a first flush Darjeeling this afternoon. This was a sample I received from Vahdam Teas, in their Black Tea Sampler package.

The dried leaves were broken and machine rolled, varying between light green and deep green.

I steeped 9 grams of dried leaves in 20 ounces of near-boiling water for 4 minutes.

The color of the finished liquor was like a dark wheat color—not exactly yellow, but not exactly brown, either. The aroma of the liquor was quite vegetal—like cooked peas.

The aroma of cooked peas carried over into the flavor of the tea, along with dry grass or hay, slight muscatel grape and other fruity notes, and a floral flavor which started slight and intensified as the tea cooled. Maybe it is because it has been a few months since I had a first flush Darjeeling tea, but I was very impressed with this one. It was an excellent afternoon tea, complete with a low caffeine content.

Sample was marked with Date of Picking: 08 April 2017

Flavors: Dry Grass, Floral, Fruity, Hay, Muscatel, Peas

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 9 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

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I have been enjoying a number of Ceylon teas lately (this year is the 150-year anniversary of teas from Ceylon/Sri Lanka), so I thought I’d add some of my favorites to my notes on Steepster. I will start with this tea.

The dried leaves are broken and machine-rolled; very black and consistent. The color of the brewed liquor is similar to that of a brown ale beer.

I steeped 9 grams of dried tea in 20 ounces of near-boiling water for 4 minutes. I attempted multiple steepings of the same leaves, but this tea does not work for multiple steeps.

The initial aroma came across as malty—bread-like, even. The initial flavor I picked up was that of oatmeal or even cooked barley, with a hint of malt to it. There was also some creamy and bread/toast-like flavors as well.

Overall, it was a very typical black Ceylon tea, and is one of my favorite teas sold by Simpson & Vail. I have come to appreciate these types of black teas as ones that have enough caffeine to move me through the day but not so much that I am up for long hours after drinking them. I appreciate the fact that I can drink this on an empty stomach and not feel ill from the tannins (unlike a malty Assam tea). This has become one of my regular teas and, given the inexpensive cost for the loose leaf variety, it doesn’t “break the bank” to have it frequently.

An enjoyable tea.

Flavors: Cream, Malt, Oats, Roasted Barley, Toast

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 9 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

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drank Ceylon Orange Pekoe by Loyd
81 tasting notes

I received a box of this tea from one of my tea-drinking co-workers (thanks, Tatyana!). We have been sharing our favorite teas with each other. This is what she and her husband drink regularly.

The dried leaves are very long and thin—tightly-rolled; very dark—black. It reminds me of other Ceylon teas I’ve had and enjoyed.

I steeped 9 grams of tea in 20 ounces of boiling water for 5 minutes. I followed-up with a second steeping of the tea for 7:15.

The color of the liquor was a basic kind of brown you get with most black teas. Very clear—not cloudy at all. Definitely a hearty color!

The initial aroma was of honey, which also translated into the tea. It has a pure flavor—no astringency. It carried the flavor well and was not overpowering. The second steeping did not work at all—this is a one-time use tea only.

Overall, it was very good and I would be glad to have this on a regular basis. It would make an excellent tea to have for breakfast each morning. I am glad to have been introduced to it and will be sure to keep an eye out for it in the future.

Flavors: Honey

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 9 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

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This tea was an all-around pleasure to drink.

The dried leaves were whole, mostly golden tips, and rolled well.

I steeped 4 grams of tea in 12 ounces of near-boiling water for 4 minutes.

The color of the liquor was like a wheat pilsner—very light, pale yellow.

The aroma was floral, but undefined further than that. The floral aroma translated also into the flavor, along with hay and a slight muscatel flavor.

Overall, it is an excellent 1st flush Darjeeling—one that I’d like to keep in stock on my shelves for days when I am in the mood for a 1st flush. Given the nature of the tea, though, I don’t think it would have a long shelf life. Plus, the price is a bit high for me to make this a regular brew.

NOTE: My tea had a date of picking of 08 April 2017

Flavors: Floral, Hay, Muscatel

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 354 ML

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Another sample from the black tea sampler from Vahdam.

I admit that I used too many grams of dried leaves when steeping this. My sample was only six grams, and I didn’t want to use a regular amount and not have enough left over to use in the future, so I steeped the whole sample: 6 grams in 12 ounces of nearly-boiling water for 3 minutes, 15 seconds.

The color of the liquor was a beautiful copper with red hints. It was nice.

The aroma was a sweet muscatel, which also translated into the flavor, along with the usual wet rock/mineral flavor I find with second flushes. There was also a bit of stone fruit in there—apricot, maybe?

Overall, it was a good tea, but not one that I would order on its own. There are other second flush (summer) Darjeelings that I’d prefer over this one. Maybe my opinion would be different if I used better quantities. :/

date of picking: June, 2016

Flavors: Apricot, Mineral, Muscatel, Stonefruits, Sweet, Wet Rocks

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec 6 g 12 OZ / 354 ML

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Another of the samples I received in my package of black tea samples purchased from Vahdam.

The dried tea leaves were very green—much greener than I expected them to be. I was surprised also by the color of the liquor when it was fully brewed—it had a copper-brown color, not the light yellow shown in the picture here and on the Vahdam website.

I steeped 11 grams of dried leaves in 20 ounces of near-boiling water for 4 minutes.

The aroma coming off the finished liquor was muscatel—again, not something that I expected from a first flush. This aroma carried over into the flavor, along with a light flavor of wet rock/mineral. Again—both more like a second flush than a first flush. But, the primary flavor of the tea was very vegetal—cooked spinach, to be more exact. It seemed more like a green tea than a black Darjeeling. It was good, but unexpected.

I don’t think I’d go out of my way for this tea again. The variety of flavors make it hard to pin down, so I can’t say that I’d ever definitely be in the mood for it. I had it before bed since the caffeine content was low, but it would be a good tea for any time of day.

Date of picking: 09 April 2017

Flavors: Mineral, Muscatel, Spinach, Vegetal, Wet Rocks

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 11 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

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drank Ancient Forest by Art of Tea
81 tasting notes

This was a Father’s Day gift from my family, so I have been excited to try it. They bought it at my local tea cafe which, as it turns out, only sells Art of Tea teas, so I will have to remember that for future use.

The dried leaves were well-curled, dark with lots of golden tips interspersed throughout. I found almost no stems in there. The leaves are broken—not whole, but that adds to the flavor, I’m sure.

I used my usual steeping measurements for black tea: 11 grams in 20 ounces of near-boiling water for 4 minutes.

The liquor comes out very dark—much like the teas of my youth. There is no astringency at all to the flavor. The primary flavors are both earthy and woody (wet wood?)—reminding me of what I’m told the better-quality puer teas are supposed to be like. There is also a very faint smoke flavor to it, but definitely more wood and earth than smoke.

Overall, it is a wonderful tea that I will be happy to have again. I don’t think I would’ve picked it myself if I had been shopping on my own since I usually stick with either muscatel/floral Darjeelings or breakfast teas and blends that have malt, toast, or honey for their primary flavors. This is completely different than my usuals but I really enjoyed it and may have to expand my purchases in this direction going forward. I am glad the family got this one for me — definitely an excellent choice!

Flavors: Earth, Smoke, Wet Wood, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 11 g 20 OZ / 591 ML

Thanks, loudao! I had no idea that they would do that! I hadn’t looked up the tea on their website so I am glad to know about this—thanks! Yes, it is a very intriguing tea and I do recommend trying it. I have only tried two puer teas so far—one was an absolute disaster and the other was okay. This one seems like something that would serve as a “stepping-stone” to enjoying puer flavors; this was not as overpowering as I found the better-quality of my puer teas to be, and I could see getting accustomed to this one and then moving into puer teas from there. Please let me know if you try it and what you think—I’d be interested to hear! :)


I just read all the information on the website—I’m surprised that they listed this as being malty and honey-flavored since I didn’t get that at all. I can see the cedar flavor they note, though—that could very well be the woody flavor I am tasting. Very interesting how different people find different flavors in teas… :)


What a fantastic Father’s Day gift!


Excellent points, laudao—thanks for explaining the differences that people have when making taste notes. That does make a lot of sense! Re puer teas: I’m sure my very limited experience is a reason why I feel they can be overpowering, since one of the teas I had was definitely low quality and very bad flavor. I am going to have to try more so I can change my opinion of them, I guess! :)


Fjellrev: It was! My wife and kids know me well, I guess! :)


A tea shop opened in my town a few months ago and they also only sell Art of Tea.

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Husband and father. Professional librarian; amateur genealogist, historian, and numismatist. Soccer fan.

My tea habits generally depend on my mood and the season but, in general, my preferred teas are black teas (especially those grown in Sri Lanka and India) and oolong teas. Unless noted in my review, I brew my tea western style and do not use additives (milk/cream, sugar, etc.).

I am definitely not an expert when it comes to tea, so I apologize if my reviews differ from the experiences you’ve had with any of the teas I have logged.

Please feel free to contact me and let me know if you have a favorite that I have to try! :)

My grading for tea:

100: Perfect.

90, 95: Excellent.

80, 85: Very good.

70, 75: Good.

60, 65: Okay.

50, 55: Meh.

40, 45: Not so good.

0-35: Awful.


Northwest Indiana, USA

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