863 Tasting Notes


Second steep: Still a very strong, heady cup, veering toward astringent now even though I steeped for barely 30 seconds. I’ll go lighter on the leaf and the steep time next go around for sure! I like the buttered spinach a lot but I’m pretty sure a caffeine withdrawal headache is in my future once it all gets out of my system. :/

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Last year’s January Steepster select gave me a chance to try Obukucha, and that’s when I learned about the tradition behind it. I LOOOOVED that tea. It tasted more like a savory umami broth than any green I’d ever had, and I’ve been chasing that flavor ever since. I’ve been told it’s a characteristic of Uji sencha, so I’ve tried that, but it’s still not quite the same. I figured that maybe I was looking for the pickled plum flavor than anything; or maybe the seaweed gave it that savory note?

When I saw the ingredient label on this: matcha, kelp, soybean, genmaicha – I was hopeful maybe I’d get to recreate that flavor again. Plus, this tea has gold flakes in it! And it’s supposed to be a lucky tea. I’m cool with getting some luck on my side. :)

First steep is detailed in the below parameters. The resulting tea is dark jade green and there is a lot of sediment in the cup, but that’s because there’s both matcha and irregularly shaped bits of sencha/genmaicha. The liquor has that opaqueness of a matcha, too. The taste is STRONG, you guys. Toasted rice but strong spinachy buttered grassy notes too. 90 seconds was definitely too long of an initial steep but its not astringent at all. It’s surprising smooth and the only reason I know I left it too long is because I swear I can FEEL the caffeine rush to my head.

There’s pretty gold bits in the tea making me feel very fancy (as I sit here in my pajamas at 2 PM) and I do like this. As Japanese greens go, my favorite flavors are represented quite nicely. But, it still isn’t that pretty obukucha from last year, sadly. I would love to find that tea again and maybe if I keep drinking this one that is where I can channel all the lucky vibes?

A girl can dream, right?

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Spinach, Toasted Rice

170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 30 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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Okay, what tea is this? I ask because I need ALL OF IT.

The dry leaf smell on this is pleasant enough, that earthy malt typical of a good black tea. But once it is steeped, it just turns AMAZING. Honey and baked bread, turning into an agave/raisin as it cools. There is so much going on. I gave the boyfriend this tea to take a sip and watched as he took a drink, paused, and pulled the cup back toward himself. “Wait…” he said.

Chameleon teas are the best. I really do need to know what specific varietal this is (maybe the Tan Yang that Angrboda loves so dearly?) because I’ve decided it’s my favorite black tea.

Yeah, unapologetic 100 here. This absolutely deserves it.

Flavors: Bread, Honey, Malt, Raisins

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

YUM! Saved to wishlist!


haha glad you liked it!


Brenden, Please tell us about your Wild Arbor Yunnan Black Tea. Thanks!

Whispering Pines Tea Company

Top secret, no one will ever know ;-)

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Happy almost new year, steepster!

This is actually a backlog entry from a few days ago – I had family in town so never really got around to making a note, but I do have a few impressions that stuck with me so I wanted to jot them down.

This was not as complex as the Jabberwocky, which I had a day or so before. I liked this but I just basically got the notes of raisin and a chewy, malty texture. I suppose there was a cocoa undertone but it was really faint. I think this is the tea that the Golden Orchid is based off of, right? I wasn’t overly enamored with that one either, so maybe this isn’t that surprising…

Not bad, obviously, but just not the ‘wow’ I was expecting. Maybe it will grow on me?

Flavors: Malt, Raisins

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

is this the new one or the old blend? I wasn’t wowed by the old one either but word is the new blend is better

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Alright – my first Whispering Pines order, which I got during the Cyber Monday deal.

I love a good black tea. A good, malty black tea and some vanilla notes is even more up my alley, and the smell of the steeped leaf (mostly malty, potatoey yunnan notes) and steeped tea (mostly vanilla, but so much vanilla it’s almost chocolate…has this happened to anyone before?) is really promising.

I followed the parameters recommended on the bag, so 1.5 tsp., 3 minutes and 200 degree water. The first tasting impressions I’m getting are a very creamy vanilla/chocolate combination. Not so much black tea at this point, but I have the rest of the cup to go to find that. :)

As it cools the malty notes peek out in the scent of the steeped tea, but I still mostly pick up chocolate and vanilla in the flavor. I may try some milk just to see if I can tease out a little something different…and, no. This cup is just meant to be those two flavors for me.

I agree that this is a lovely winter sipping tea – and I definitely prefer it without anything added, after trying it both ways. I’m not as wowed as others seem to be though. I’ll enjoy what I have, for sure, and I like it fine, but as of right now it doesn’t rank as a must-have.

Flavors: Cocoa, Cream, Sweet, Vanilla

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 15 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

IMHO, GO is an excellent desert tea. It’s not a robust malty breakfast tea.

Cathy Baratheon

I found that this one took some time to grow on me, and then I became obssessed


My favorite.

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Hmm. I ordered this because Vienna was in the description and I was on a nostalgic kick remembering my trip there a few months ago. When I got this I thought, hmm, sounds familiar, and I was right! There’s a tasting note here from 2-ish years ago.

I also remembered not being too thrilled with the blend but I believe sometime after that I was told about how Darjeelings are gentle souls that cannot handle boiling water. With that in mind I made a big cup with a little more leaf and a cooler brewing temperature.

I would say this is a much better cup this time around. More flavorful, definitely tastes like tea and bergamot. It’s got a nice creaminess in it too, though I don’t believe there is vanilla in the ingredients. A tea pretending to have vanilla in it will never lose points with me though :).

I’ll definitely have to prep the remaining part of my sample this way. It is a lighter blend for sure, and I would say I need heavier teas to get me going in the morning, but I’m glad I’m able to raise the rating on this one and find a sweet spot for how to best enjoy it.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 45 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

“A tea pretending to have vanilla in it will never lose points with me though” – oh so true!

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My favorite, favorite breakfast tea ever with the addition of vanilla? YES, PLEASE.

I got a sample of this because it would have been stupid of me not to. In fact, I’m kind of surprised its taken so long for me to get the sample, but I guess I just haven’t needed to make an order until now.

Yes, I definitely like this one. I’m not surprised. I actually had it plain and the vanilla added an excellent creaminess that at the time didn’t need any additives. I may try it with milk and/or sugar at some point, too.

I’m not going to go with a solid 100 yet because I have a few more cups to play with, but the first cup was promising. I’m starting to think that East Frisian anything can do no wrong where I am concerned.

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

Sounds awesome! Onto the wishlist it goes.


Interesting heh.

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Steep two: 2 minutes.

The tuo cha broke apart completely after the first infusion, which honestly I was glad for. I don’t know why but the whole piece just sitting in water unnerves me – it’s like it won’t distribute flavor evenly through the water. This is obviously not true but it’s something I’m visually going to have to get used to.

Anyway, the hay/pellet smell is back in the steeped liquor. It is still, thankfully, not present in the taste. The semblance is coffee is still really strong, and particularly so in the texture – it is a very thick, chewy tea. As it cools the hay/fermentation becomes present in the taste – boo. If I can get used to that I think I’ll be good as pu erh’s go. This is going to be a slow process but I’m determined – pu’erh is my final tea frontier and I really want to explore it as thoroughly as I have all the other types. More later….


hahahaha i have the same mental approach to that one lump sitting there!


Yay! It’s silly but sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone with some things :)


HI! check out this vid of brewing mini-tuocha. May it be useful in making ripe pu’er a more pleasant experience for you, my friend! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdIW5jzwMCs&feature=youtube_gdata

With gratitude,

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I forgot that Upton sends you samples with your order!

They sent me this one when I replenished my beloved East Frissy and spearmint teas. Given that most of my teas from them are blacks I was not surprised (and was actually very pleased) to get an estate Assam. Assams make great breakfast teas, after all.

The dry leaf in this one was familiar in that in had the malt and raisin notes but also something I really had a hard time placing. I’m glad they mentioned red wine in the description, because – yes! That’s it! I don’t drink wine very much so that explains why it was familiar but not really, and raisiny but…different than straight raisin.

I went straight for 4 minutes with this one as that’s where I like my black teas, and since I knew I’d be adding some creamer to it I wasn’t afraid of how strong it would get. But I did try a few sips plain and I was surprised. While this was astringent, it wasn’t so much so that you CAN’T drink it plain. It isn’t unpleasantly bitter. Not at first, anyway. There’s a chewy malt texture and it’s quite nice for an assam.

Oooh kay. Good thing I got my creamer out though because as it cools it decides that yeah, the astringency needs to be punched up a notch. At this point it requires some milk and sugar to calm it down some. Ah, well, easily remedied, that.

This is still very strong with the creamer added, and is behaving like all breakfast teas should. Strong, bold, and a good start to the morning. East Frisian got to my palate first, though, and its proving to be impossible to displace – this one’s good but it’s not good enough to beat my current staple. It was great to get to try an estate tea, though!

Flavors: Malt, Raisins, Red Wine

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Alright pu’erh. Let’s do this.

Recently I decided to try pu’erh and really learn more about it. I timed it perfectly with Black Friday sales, and this is the first tea I wanted to try from Mandala. I figured I’d go with a shou first since it’s darker and I do so love black teas.

Rinse: 15 seconds

Steep one: 1 minute. People mention the term “fermentation flavor”, but maybe that is what I think of (or what my boyfriend mentioned, and now I cannot un-think of) as hamster pellets? It’s kind of woody and hay-y. I’m so inexperienced with pu’erh that this smell is making me nervous. It doesn’t smell – drinkable. But I’m determined to try it, so I take my first sips. At first there is a small amount of this pellet flavor but there is also something surprisingly pleasant. Kind of coffee-like (a dark french roast), but without the acidity of coffee. This is very smooth. I can also get the dark cocoa powder notes. If the fermentation flavor ages out of this I think I will like it a lot, but it’s not bad as is.

I can see how it’s an acquired taste, though. As it is I’ve kind of had my fill with this and want to save the leaves for later. That could also be because I am super tired because I just finished my 12 hour night shift though. Oh well, to be continued in later notes…

Flavors: Cocoa, Coffee

Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 6 OZ / 177 ML

worse case when you do later steeps… just have a sip and move on to the next one haha

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My tea habits:

*I am an unashamed Lipton iced-tea drinker (mass quantities, year round).
*I like hot teas but only in cold weather (and occasionally late summer nights or mornings).
*I love Japanese greens (the more seaweed-y the better) and good strong malty black teas.
*I do NOT love smoke in any form.
*Vanilla, cinnamon, or lemon anything will usually pique my interest.
*I’m working on pu-erh but it’s definitely going to take some time to grow on me.

(updated September 2015)


Medford, OR

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