612 Tasting Notes

My first SBT. I was lazy and cold steeped it (that’s my preferred method most of the time anyway), a little worried it’d be too subtle or bitter or something given it was designed to be conventionally iced, but it’s really good! At the front you just get refreshing iced tea flavor; most of the vanilla and cola notes come out at the end of the sip and linger, and the more you drink the more those flavors build. Really enjoyable. Curious how it’d be turned into a tea syrup concentrate a la Southern sweet tea, then added to club soda.

Iced 8 min or more

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drank Anniversary Blend by Harney & Sons
612 tasting notes

This smells wonderful steeping, rich and sweet and enticing. As for taste, it’s strong like Irish Breakfast, malty and a bit tannic, Assam-y for sure but something else is smoothing it out and keeping things “clean”-tasting and a little sweet (the Ceylon I guess). Seems suited for milk and/or sugar, but I didn’t add any this time around. A nice eye opener.

It’s too bad Harney doesn’t do a bold blends type sampler; I’ve dug every single one I’ve tried so far. Trying a new one each day has made the past few mornings excellent. Only one more to go.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Red Bush Chai by Teajo Teas
612 tasting notes

Not bad considering it’s rooibos-based (I don’t generally mind rooibos, but I tend to associate the chai flavor profile with black tea pep, so there’s no way around that disappointment after dinner). With some milk it’s quite decent. I’m weird and arbitrarily judge teas by what they do when milk is added (when I happen to be adding milk, which is becoming rarer and rarer these days for some reason)—if they turn that muddy cloudy dishwater hue I kind of internally dock the tea some points, and when they get a nice creamy opaque marble it impresses me. No real reason, admittedly; the former’s just unappealing. Anyway, this one does the latter, so kudos.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Strawberry Pie Honeybush by 52teas
612 tasting notes

This is pretty yummy! Per Sil’s recommendation I let it steep a long time, almost 10 minutes. It smells really good steeping, just like its namesake—you get jammy strawberry as well as buttery cinnamon-y vanilla-y pie crust. I was nervous it’d be fruit-astringent and border on bitter (strawberry flavored black teas and I usually don’t get along), but the fact it’s honeybush means that’s not a problem! Really nice stuff, possibly my favorite 52teas so far (for sheer “how on earth did he do that?!” impressive evocation Pancake Breakfast gets my vote ‘cause it actually makes your mouth feel like you’ve eaten fluffy pancakes, with that starchy film on your teeth and everything, but that’s not something I crave as much as strawberry jam and pie crust notes :b).

EDIT: Yeah, I just offered to make my husband a cup for the strictly selfish purpose of having an excuse to make a second one for myself. I think this is the first 52teas I’ve tried that I love with no reservations.

EDIT the second: Thennnn that second cup was so good—and we were talking about how good it was—I automatically decanted the rest of my brand new pouch into one of my prized chalkboard painted mason jars (where my favorite teas get to live). I think having this around is going to make the cold front this week more bearable. What is it with me and strawberry when it’s with any other tea/tisane besides black (I’m a huge fan of Butiki With Open Eyes and American Tea Room Nirvana, and now this) vs. black (even a company as reliable as Zen Tea couldn’t sway me)? Nuts.

205 °F / 96 °C 8 min or more

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This was alright, but not the favorite for me it is for so many. We had afternoon tea today (green apple, camembert, and ham on toasty ciabatta with a mix of dijon mustard and butter); my husband had Adagio Elevenses (still pawning off my oldest, newbiest teas on him as he grows to appreciate tea! I did buy him a TON of Southern Boy iced tea bags, so it’s not like I don’t think of him :b) and I had this. He liked mine better, so there’s that. It does smell of blueberry—not fresh ones, but that’s not to be expected given the name—but I didn’t get much pastry flavor until the end. Not bad, not fantastic. He can help me drink it up. (: Now I’m kind of wondering if anyone else does a tea that could evoke the tanginess of cream cheese for me.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

Try it at 185 degrees for 3 minutes…it brings out the pastry flavor. :)


ooh, thanks for that tip!

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drank Eight at the Fort by Harney & Sons
612 tasting notes

Mm, this is yummy. It feels smooth as you drink it, and like some other Harney blends you only register an astringency in that it builds up gradually so that by the end of the cup you’ve got a thick, woody feel in the mouth; it’s only then that you realize it’s been coated in tannins. It’s not unpleasant either, because yeah, there’s a smoothness at the front. Complexity too—there aren’t many, but when I meted out the dry leaf I saw a few long silvery-green tips. There’s something cleanly floral, something Darjeelingish, and quietly in the background a sturdy spine of Assam or Keemun or something like that, just that hint of bitterness and brick-y chocolate. I could definitely drink this again. Might be a reorder.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Cream Earl Grey by Tao Tea Leaf
612 tasting notes

I was quite impressed with this—a lot of cream EGs are so creamy-sweet they no longer taste much of “clean” bergamot/classic EG, but this one strikes a great balance. It is sweet and creamy, richer than standard Earl, but you never forget it’s an Earl you’re drinking. I really enjoy Della Terra, Zen Tea, and Upton Imports’ cream EGs but they’re so creamy I don’t tend to think of them as EGs really in that when I crave that particular taste they’re not what I’d reach for (they’re more for when I just want creamy vanilla tea in insta-latte-ish, almost dessert coffee-like form). This is more like, hey, I definitely want EG with all its clean fresh bergamot-y Earlness, buuuut it’s cold outside so I also kinda want it to be richer and sweeter. Really delivers. Also, the smell steeping is heavenly; you get that immediate Earl Grey gratification but also trip all the pleasure center wires with that sweet, smooth vanilla. Yum!

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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Tried this this morning before a beautiful fall day full of cheap greasy spoon breakfast, taking the abandoned cat to the vet (and thus discovering she is in fact a she, and might actually do ok outside provided we feed her and she uses the shelter I made over the weekend in times of extreme cold…she has a follow-up visit in 2 weeks because she needs to be under sedation for the vet to get a better look and run more extensive tests), my husband going to his doctor appointment and picking up his friend/bandmate from the auto repair shop, and kicking off the week of Italian classics making my grandmother’s Sunday gravy, braised pork with peppers, and marinating the beef for Tyrolean pot roast tomorrow. Going to take a bath now and relax. It was a rollercoaster of a weekend but it ended on a note of hope (and feeling like I’ve done all I can for her) and a bit of progress. My husband was awesome yesterday—I cried on and off all day to the point my eyes had that gross sticky swollen shut feel to them where your vision is fuzzy, and he did everything he could to make me feel better. Having someone love you and care for you that much is priceless; I need to appreciate it more (and return the favor, of course).

Wow, my tealog sure has been about not-tea stuff lately. Sorry guys. Anyway, this was good, strong and smooth and noticeably different from the other Harney blends I’ve sampled so far, but I really do love Queen Catherine so much I admit it’s hard to give this one full attention/respect. I did enjoy it though.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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After an emotional but then ultimately hopeful day we sat down to watch Le Plaisir as it was one of Kubrick’s favorite movies. Made a big pot of this for it. Husband loves it! He says it reminds him of mini-wheats (which he used to subsist on as a bachelor); for me it’s like toasty, roasty rice. Agree too that it’s kind of like the half-popped kernels of popcorn at the bottom of the bowl. Like a snack in a cup. Not sure if it was the tea or the emotional wind up and release or what, but I was sleepy as all get out after having this.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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drank Brigitte's Blend by Harney & Sons
612 tasting notes

Dang this is a chocolate-y tea! Steeping the sweet chocolate smell (there’s a little honey too) is overwhelming and really inviting. Sipping it, there’s the slightest tinge of bitterness and a splitsecond moment of astringency, just enough to give the sweetness some edge. Excellent. Doesn’t need milk or sugar (though I’ll note the tannic astringency builds up in the mouth as you drink—I don’t mind it unadulterated but I reckon many Steepsters would) but I’m betting it could take to either or both like a champ too. I’m really enjoying my Harney black blend samples, I gotta say.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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“…you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love.”
-Julia Child on food and cooking, and I think it applies to tea as well!

note: i am currently taking a break from swapping/mail of any kind as money is rather tight. i apologize! i do love to swap but i can’t afford to right now. hopefully in a month things will change.

my cupboard includes any tea i’ve ever owned, including things i’ve sipped down, in order to facilitate swaps with people and keep a record—this way i don’t get redundant samples/order duplicates to try. if you are interested in swapping, i have a separate ever-updated list of teas i actually have on hand i can PM.

i like strong, rich blacks (including some choice old skool CTCs); juicy-fruity flavored green blends; buttery chinese greens; light floral oolongs; flavored oolongs (how sacrilegious!); earl greys; smoky blends; second flush muscatel darjeelings; verdant’s straight oolongs steeped in a gaiwan (mind altering!); anything from laoshan village it seems.

favorite notes include lavender, bergamot, violet, fennel, cardamom, melon, honey, sandalwood, smoke, nuts, roasty/toasty stuff, malt, wood, leather, creamy lemon, steamed rice, artichoke, garden-sweet snap veggies, earth/soil, forest and wet bark, and mushroom.

notes i generally can’t stand (at least in tea) include jasmine, rose (ok in small doses but i often find it overpowering and then everything just smells like musty old lady perfume), astringent apple (and general fruitiness really unless it’s with green tea), and chamomile (unless i’m congested or tired).

my current favorite tea vendors are butiki and harney and sons. i’ve also found some delicious teas and/or had good customer service experiences with the following companies: capital tea ltd., the devotea, verdant, mandala, golden moon, teavivre, lupicia, taiwan tea crafts, yezi tea, den’s tea, the tea merchant, norbu, fauchon paris, tao tea leaf, zen tea, fortnum and mason, townshend’s tea, joy’s teaspoon, new mexico tea company, persimmon tree, teajo teas, whispering pines, della terra, upton imports, mariage freres, samovar, justea, teabox, american tea room, steven smith, steap shoppe, utopia tea, and andrews and dunham damn fine tea. when i’m at the grocery store my “you could do worse” brands include stash, bigelow, tazo, taylors of harrogate, whittard of chelsea, and pg tips. and it’s a fact: you can’t make classic southern sweet tea without luzianne.

top picks, fall 2013

verdant zhu rong yunnan black
verdant laoshan black
thepuriTea hong jing luo (no longer available :( )
thepuriTea red dragon pearl (no longer available :( )
mandala morning sun
golden moon honey orchid
verdant golden fleece
taiwan tea crafts red jade
yezi tea zheng shan xiao zhong “scotch” tea
capital tea borsapori estate assam tgfop1 (spl)
butiki khongea golden tippy assam
butiki giddahapar darjeeling extra special
upton imports fikkal estate
golden moon sinharaja
harney and sons new vithanakande
persimmon tree vintage black
teajo teas black manas
justea kenyan black
harney and sons kangaita op

morning blends:
butiki the black lotus
harney and sons queen catherine
harney and sons eight at the fort
harney and sons big red sun
harney and sons scottish morn
golden moon irish breakfast
harney and sons irish breakfast
utopia tea english breakfast
fortnum and mason breakfast blend (needs milk!)
andrews and dunham double knit blend
steven smith no. 25 morning light
butiki irish cream cheesecake

earl greys and scented afternoon blends:
teajo teas silky earl grey
harney and sons viennese earl grey
upton imports lavender earl grey
american tea room victoria
lupicia earl grey grand classic
harney and sons tower of london
tao tea leaf cream earl grey
zen tea earl grey cream
della terra earl grey creme
upton imports season’s pick earl grey creme vanilla
upton imports baker street afternoon blend
harney and sons russian country
della terra professor grey
verdant earl of anxi

flavored black:
herbal infusions moose tracks
american tea room brioche
steap shoppe cinnamon swirl bread
della terra oatmeal raisin cookie
butiki nutmeg cream
kusmi caramel
david’s tea brazillionaire
lupicia banane chocolat
butiki hello sweetie
fauchon paris raspberry macaron
butiki blueberry purple tea
herbal infusions marshmallow snowflake earl grey
herbal infusions creme brulee chai

pu erh:
mandala loose and luscious lincang 2007 shu/ripe pu erh
mandala special dark 2006 shu/ripe pu erh

verdant shui jin gui wuyi oolong
verdant hand-picked early spring tieguanyin
butiki 2003 reserve four season oolong
harney and sons formosa oolong
tea merchant silk dragon
golden moon coconut pouchong
zen tea coconut oolong
american tea room coconut oolong
teavivre taiwan jin xuan milk oolong
butiki flowery pineapple oolong
butiki lychee oolong
lupicia momo oolong supergrade
butiki strawberry oolong
butiki pumpkin milkshake darjeeling oolong
52teas tiramisu oolong

verdant laoshan bilochun green
verdant autumn harvest laoshan green
tao tea leaf hou kui
harney and sons tencha
harney and sons gyokuro
new mexico casablanca
butiki with open eyes
american tea room nirvana
joy’s teaspoon mahalo
den’s tea pineapple sencha
harney and sons tokyo
butiki potato pancakes and applesauce
butiki holiday eggnog and pralines
den’s tea organic genmaicha with matcha
golden moon hojicha

butiki cantaloupe and cream
butiki champagne and rose cream

no caf:
harney and sons soba buckwheat
butiki birthday cake
della terra lemon chiffon
52teas strawberry pie honeybush
butiki mango lassi
joy’s teaspoon italian dream
butiki coconut cream pie rooibos
butiki peppermint patty
persimmon tree mint chocolate chip rooibos
art of tea velvet tea
fusion teas chocolate cake honeybush
american tea room choco-late
steven smith no. 40 bon bon
townshend’s tea dark forest chai
utopia tea decaffeinated earl grey cream

sleep aid/medicinal/therapeutic:
new mexico extra sleepy bear
stash white christmas
verdant ginger sage winter spa blend
samovar turmeric spice
butiki the killer’s vanilla guayusa

coldsteeped wonders:
whispering pines manistee moonrise
harney and sons fruits d’alsace
utopia tea berkshire apple and fig
culinary teas peaches and cream
butiki peach hoppiTea
butiki ruby pie
whispering pines gingerade

besides tea

born in seoul, raised in new england and upstate new york, went to college in pittsburgh, currently in memphis with an eye toward philadelphia, portland, or asheville eventually.

i like cats, most beverages really (i also like good freshly roasted coffee, craft beer, wine, whiskey and gin-based cocktails, and soda/soft drinks like agua fresca), art (mainly writing but also visual and music) and critical theory, feminism/genderqueer politics, historiography, statistics, children’s literature and librarianship, travel, and food/cooking. also have recently gotten into weightlifting (mark rippetoe and stumptuous!) and sprint training (HIIT, plyometrics) and i love it.


Memphis, TN



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