135 Tasting Notes


Brewed Western-style, this is quite grassy – almost hay-like – with an underlying taste that is reminiscent of Darjeeling black teas, but not exactly like them. The aftertaste is very recognizably oolong, and mildly floral. It has an astringent feeling in the mouth, but I don’t taste much astringency.

Brewed in a gaiwan, it has an additional malty note, but isn’t hugely different otherwise. Overall, an interesting tea, but not mind-blowing for me.

Flavors: Dry Grass, Floral, Hay, Malt

190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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Yesterday, I tried a decaf English Breakfast tea which was so lacklustre and unpleasant that I didn’t finish drinking my cup. Even without that contrast, this Keemun would be good, but the comparison makes it stand out even further.

The wet leaves have a strong, sharp scent, rich and caramel-like. The tea is sweet and smoky, with more burnt caramel and a full texture that’s slightly drying towards the end of a sip. There is a very faint taste of tannins.

I also got the ‘premium’ version of this tea, and am excited to try it!

Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Caramel, Drying, Smoke, Sweet, Tannic

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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Visually, this may be the most beautiful tea I’ve ever encountered. The dry leaves are dark, greyish green gilded with silver. The liquor is luminous gold. I realise I’m waxing poetic, but this really is an exceptional tea in terms of appearance.

The dry leaves smell fruity, not quite apricot or peach but something in between. The wet leaves smell mainly like sweet potato, but sharper. The liquor doesn’t have much scent, but what there is smells sweet and slightly caramelized.

The taste is mild – delicate might be a better word. It shifts between floral, sweet potato, and fruity flavours, with fruit the least prominent of the three. There is also a buttery note, more noticeable when I brew it Western style than in a gaiwan. It is very warming, and the flavour is full despite its mildness. The aroma is pretty much like the taste, but with a slightly bitter note – dry rather than astringent.

Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Floral, Nectar, Peach, Sweet Potatoes

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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I was very dubious about this. It does not look great, and it comes from a merchant who specializes in neither green teas nor Japanese teas, which worried me because of how important freshness and storage can be to these sorts of teas in particular.

After trying it – it could be worse. The roasting is a bit odd. It tastes almost more like kukicha than sencha, and sort of stale. But it could be much worse!

Flavors: Grass, Metallic, Roasted

170 °F / 76 °C 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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The dry leaves are mostly grey; it looks more like a white tea than a green tea. The leaves smell faintly of dried figs when dry, and of sweet, roasted vegetables when wet. The taste is sharp and quite tannic, with some fruity flavours.

It’s definitely a green tea despite its appearance. In style, it’s closer to a Chinese green tea than a Japanese one, but rather than the peppery flavour I find in a lot of Chinese green teas, this one has a slightly more bitter taste and a sweeter aroma.

Flavors: Bitter, Fig, Fruity, Tannin, Toasted Rice

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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This tea was a pleasant surprise. Based on its finely chopped appearance, I expected it to be somewhat bland and simple in flavour, but it isn’t; it has a nice smoky note overlaying a rich, slightly astringent malty taste.

The leaf processing style does mean that brewing this in a gaiwan without pouring all the leaves into one’s cup really puts the gongfu in gongfu cha, but it’s worthwhile for the detailed picture of the flavours this presents. It works very well Western-style too, as you’d expect. For being so finely chopped, it re-steeps relatively well. I was able to get four solid steeps out of it in a gaiwan.

Flavors: Astringent, Malt, Round, Smoke

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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The wet leaves have a rich, warm smell, with the strong tannic notes that often show up in black tea from India and Africa. Dry, they smell almost spiced. The tea’s flavour is full and not sweet, slightly biting, and slightly roasted. As some teas are compared to Scotch, I’d say this one reminds me a little of bourbon, though it lacks the sharpness. Overall quite nice. It doesn’t resteep many times, though.

Flavors: Kettle Corn, Roasted, Round, Tannic

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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This tastes very much like a Lemonhead candy. I’m not sure if the variety of lemongrass is unusually sweet, or if the butterfly pea petals lend it sweetness, but it is quite candy-like. It’s good! Visually striking too, of course, and it steeps many times for an herbal tea. I brewed it in a gaiwan and got seven steeps without much loss of flavour (or colour for that matter).

Flavors: Candy, Lemongrass, Sweet

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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drank Organic Honeybush by Arbor Teas
135 tasting notes

This is a standard but definitely pleasant honeybush. It tastes pretty fresh, and is interesting enough to stand on its own without anything added. I recommend using a fairly high ratio of tisane to water, along with a lengthy steep time and very hot water, as it can be pretty mild otherwise.

Flavors: Honey, Roasted, Sweet

Boiling 6 min, 0 sec 7 g 22 OZ / 650 ML

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I like trying unique teas, especially those from areas of the world not known for tea production. It’s always something of a gamble and can lead to all kinds of surprises.

While I’m usually not into flavoured or scented teas, there are definitely exceptions. Hei cha which is not pu-erh tends to be my favourite category of tea, but I like some teas of all types. Smoky, creamy, and honey-like tastes generally appeal to me the most.

Top five teas I’ve had thus far (in no particular order):

Mekong Breakfast from Rakkasan Tea Company

2015 Gao Jia Shan “Cha Duo Tang” Wild Harvested Hunan Fu Brick Tea, from Yunnan Sourcing

Asahina Gyokuro “Hon Gyokuro” from Hojo Tea

Any good Lapsang Souchong

2018 Cha Yu Lin “Liu Bu Xi Village” Tian Jian Basket Tea from Yunnan Sourcing


Rural New England

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