101 Tasting Notes

drank Shoike by Ippodo
101 tasting notes

My tin is labled sho-ikeno-o, but Ippodo seems to only use the spelling this listing is under. This was purchased a few years ago in the Ippodo shop in Kyoto so it’s a bit past its prime and a bit duller than it was when fresh. Sentimental reasons have kept me from finishing it off but I’m hoping to do so now that I’m trying more tea. Plus I could really use the tin for my next sencha.

Despite its age it’s still a good well rounded tea and still holds its own against many of the low to mid grade senchas I have had. It’s vegetal, savory, a little bitter. I may still be feeling sentimental, but to me this is what sencha is and the basis upon which I judge other sencha.

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I realized that I don’t have any unflavored black teas that I drink hot so I’ve been looking to try a greater variety. I thought this Scottish influenced African tea would be interesting (not that I know much about either) so I purchased a sample to try.

The leaves are very dark and almost have a greenish or blue cast to them. There’s a few stems but most of the leaves look like larger pieces. The smell is strong and good, like a fuller PG tips. The leaves expand quite a bit when brewed and turn a ruddy chocolate color.

The tea itself after brewing for five minutes was a very dark orange brown. I was kinda worried at this point that maybe I used too much and ended up with a tannic mess, but it was pleasant with very little astringency at the end of each sip. I can’t quite figure out how to describe the taste only that there is something just a little different about it than other blacks I’ve tried. I drank it too fast to really pin it down. I did rather enjoy it though and think it might become my ‘daily’ black especially as it’s priced the same as many flavored black teas I have with lower quality black bases.

I even got a second western style steeping out of this! It may be because of how much I used to begin with but it was still rather flavorful and surprisingly not bitter or astringent almost like a hei cha, but lighter and only faintly woody.

Boiling 5 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Been a rough week at work and I’ve been hitting the caffeine a bit hard so I brewed some hibiscus for my iced tea. I buy large bags of dried hibiscus “flowers” (I think they are technically sepals) from the Mexican grocery downtown. They are labled as ‘flor de jamacia’ and come in big 1/2 lb bags for only a few bucks. I like it better than any hibiscus blend I’ve tried since it brews up stronger almost like a tart fruit juice. A few cinnamon sticks pieces add a nice bit of spice.

It’s pretty forgiving to brew. Time, temperature and such don’t seem to matter much. It makes it a good weekday tea to brew while making dinner where juggling making pasta and trying to get precise brewing temp/time may not be much of an option.

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Decaffinated tea is usually pretty weak, but with as much tea as I drink iced it’s usually still tempting to try. The blackcurrant flavor in this more than compensates but there’s still enough of the black base there to keep me from thinking I’m drinking a tisane. I’m a sucker for blackcurrant so I don’t know if the flavor may be too much for some but it is definitely upfront and fruity. Plus I can have a few glasses of this before dinner without being wired.

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The dark green dried leaves have a waffle texture from being pressed with cloth during processing. This makes me happy every time I open the bag. It’s probably a strange thing to like about a tea, but a pretty tea is a great start.

I brewed this in my Chinese teacup with a porcelain strainer since the leaves are so large. What tea dust and little bits are in there also won’t make it bitter if they overbrew. The brewed tea has a lovely yellow green color. It’s smooth, mellow, and a little toasty. I miss the slight bitterness and strong flavor of Japanese greens, but this is good for a calm night of multiple steepings. I think this isn’t too caffeinated as well.

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drank Earl Grey by Stash Tea
101 tasting notes

Grabbed a box of this for work since I’m been through the majority of the grocery store tea section and I just keep being disappointed. I’m only going to be able to drink a limited number of cups of tea in my life and I can’t help but think of all the nice things in my cabinet at home that I’d rather be drinking.

I’ve had a lot of bagged stash tea in the past…actually just about all of it since I had at one purchased their “year of tea” so I was a little apprehensive about this since I remember not being fond of their earl gray.

This is surprisingly pleasant. The black tea isn’t very upfront but at least it isn’t bold in a bad way, and the bergamot is much better quality than most. I imagine they must have reformulated sometime in the last decade or that I’m thinking of their double earl gray which probably isn’t for people who don’t take milk or sugar. Ibe been wary of earl gray for awhile now since I’ve had so many bad ones, but now it looks like I should pick some loose leaf up.

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I love bold everyday teas and I love Japanese greens so getting some bancha was kind of a no brainer. Its leaves are lighter in color than the senchas I have and it brews up to a light green color. The brewed leaves range from small chunks to almost entire large leaves.

It’s taste is savory, grassy, and low in bitterness and astringency. It’s less floral than sencha and seems less caffeinated. I even did a second western style brewing and it’s still good.

This is definitely the type of tea I had while in various small establishments in Japan. It’s good with food and for cutting through sweets. One of my best experiences was being offered a cup of hot bancha with a matcha shaved ice. The contrast was so lovely, perhaps I’ll drink this with some ice cream?

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Another sample. My only caffeine free one so my last one for the night. I’ve had lemongrass in other teas but never by itself. I like citrus flavors so I thought I would give it a try. It’s a darker green color than some samples I’ve seen in spice shops. It smells lemony and a little grassy as much as I hate to say that. It has a sort of lemony/yuzu/citronella flavor that’s good but also a little too reminiscent of some cleaners I use.

I don’t see drinking it much on its own unless I have no other caffeine free options. I think it’ll be good to add to other teas though. Maybe I can do something Tazo’s Zen but actually tasting like green tea. I might also try it with hibiscus to add some tartness so it’s more citrusy.

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I ordered some samples from single origin and made sure to include this one. I’ve always sort of loved the idea of roasting chestnuts despite never having seen actual chestnuts until I was an adult. Thanks for nothing American chestnut blight! Im glad now I did get it because it has a lot more to offer than fictional nostalgia.

Opening the bag of this and smelling it was strange. It reminds me of like a dark chocolate I once had. Maybe a smoked one? Or one with toasted breadcrumbs? I can’t quite put my finger on it. There is also that toasty sweet smell I recognize from my one (unfortunate) attempt at roasting my own chestnuts.

After brewing it has more of a tea smell and is a dark amber color. I noticed the brewed leaves are different colors some being dark like most black teas while others are milk chocolate colored or even greenish. I looked back at the description and apparently this is a black tea produced like an oolong. It certainly lacks much astringency. It tastes much like it smells with the chocolate and toasty nutty chestnut flavor. I’m also getting burnt sugar flavors. Not bad burnt just the sort you get when you carmalize sugar to a dark amber.

All in all a fantastic, unique, and doesn’t require milk or sugar to taste right flavored tea.

Single Origin Teas

Thanks for your review! The sugar you are probably tasting comes from the the chestnuts that are used. A marron glace are candied chestnuts from France. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marron_glac%C3%A9>

I share your same concern over the chestnut blight! There is actually a project to bring back the trees to American forests. <http://www.acf.org/index.php>. Chestnut trees used to be the dominant species in the Eastern American forests, its so shocking to think about how we as people can so carelessly destroy entire ecosystems (just by bringing one infected tree to a new ecosystem).

Please send me an e-mail (or a private message on here) with your order number/address and I’ll send you some more teas that I think you would enjoy! :)

Gooseberry Spoon

I’ve heard they actually found what may be one of the last adult trees in an undisclosed location in the northeast. Hopefully it’s got good genetics they can use to further their breeding program.

Now we just have to worry about the walnut/butternut blight coming in from the west.

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Everyone has their own ideal masala chai. It is one tea where people rarely see eye to eye, and that’s even before the black vs. milk and sugar difference that can make a harsh chai awesome or a balanced one weak. My local tea store while having a good selection of what I’m sure are good quality masalas just seemed to lack what I was looking for. In my mind masala chai has lots of cardamom and little or no allspice. This is rarely the case as cardamom is usually the most expensive spice in the mix. As for allspice I imagine it must either be cheap or a lazy way of trying to get a well rounded flavor (maybe both). I like the spice itself but it’s presence in chai usually puts me off.

So in order to find my own personal “just right” chai I’ve started to blend my own. It’s actually rather easy if you have access to a strong black Crush Tear Curl tea such as the loose leaf Lipton sold in Indian groceries (not the American one!). As well as access to a spice store or Indian grocery that sells whole spices. I cook a lot so I actually already had everything I needed in my pantry first time around. I’m just now getting to the end of my third batch and I’m ready to make another. I make it starting with 8oz of “Kilimanjaro” a CTC Tanzanian tea from Gong Fu tea then roast and crush spices including cinnamon (both true and cassia), cloves, black pepper, fennel, star anise, the nibs from ground down whole nutmeg, and yes even sometimes small amounts of allspice. To the final blend goes ginger (either dried or candied) and sometimes bay leaves.

Tonight’s cup I made with an almond/coconut milk blend and sweetened with some Mexican cone sugar (a close approximation to Indian jaggery). I like the extra molasses flavor the sugar brings but wished I had used whole milk. I also simmered the tea in water and added the almond milk after which I think makes for a less creamy and aromatic cup than simmering it spin straight milk. Despite this it was warm and sweet and slightly spicy. Perfect for a late winter Sunday and best yet almost exactly tasting how I imagined it should.

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Likes: Jasmin, citrus, blackcurrants, Japanese greens

Dislikes: Chamomile, lotus, “dessert” teas

Curious: pu erh, chocolate, US tea

Drinking habits: No milk or sugar unless masala chai. At least one hot cup a day and two iced.


90-99: Fantastic, unique, and I’ll have to keep restocking FOREVER
80-89: Excellent! Will buy when I have room and can afford it.
70-79: Great tea, A solid tea. Will keep around.
60-69: Good tea, would buy again on sale.
50-59: Average tea will drink what I have left but wouldn’t go out of my way to look for it.
40-49: Meh, would drink up if given some
30-39: Kinda sad, would put up with it.
20-29: not good might finish the cup. Would drink if there is no other choice.
10-19 Bad. Do not want. Can I just get a cup of hot water instead?
0-9: Horrible, would spit it out and dump out the cup.


Midwest US



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