158 Tasting Notes

drank Caribe by Harney & Sons
158 tasting notes

Almost the last of this sample. I’ve now tried it two ways; the first was at a lower temp because of the green tea in the blend (175), steeped for a longer period of time. This time, because I’m having it in the morning, I kicked the temp up to 205 and steeped for a shorter period of time.

Really, I can’t seem to recall any distinct differences between the two methods, though I will grant you that I had this tea at the lower temp more than a week ago, so my memory is broken across the rocky, beer-foamed snarls of a raucous convention weekend. The cup I’m drinking is alright, though. The most intense flavor — after the tea, and insofar as order of noticeability, rather than what I would consider literally intense — is the guava by a wide margin. It makes identifying the strawberry independently difficult to do, but you catch some trace of it toward the end, along with a tang. I assume this is the hibiscus, but I’ve had hibiscus in blends before, and it by no means screams HELLO at your palate…in fact you expect that mild tang to be there, because the guava scent and flavor are enhanced by it, and predict it.

This tea is just fine hot, but let’s face it — it’s practically destined to be iced tea. Sweetened with a little bit of honey and slapped into a pitcher, this blend would be a perfect porchside companion.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

I have a can of this and it went towards ice tea. The guava was too much in hot tea for me. My wife adds a little fruit juice to it and its excellent that way.

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drank Russian Caravan by Tea Center
158 tasting notes

Another of the teas that Jillian sent me. Actually, this is the one I was curious about when we discussed a tea-swap, and with guests in town and PAX and all sorts of craziness, this is the first time I’ve been able to sit down and actually try the stuff.

At the time I’d asked for it, I’d not had another Russian Caravan. Now I’ve had A&D’s, and while I can say that I prefer that one, this is a pretty good alternative in a slightly different way.

It doesn’t have the same ‘bottom end’ as A&D’s Caravan. It’s a milder, brighter tea with more lapsang at the front end, but less on the tail end, of the sip. It feels thin but not watery; I never forgot that I was drinking tea. Maybe the additional brightness and general ’tea’ness comes from the darjeeling?

A good cup, all in all, though I think when I turn to smokey teas I’m specifically looking for something more robust and full-bodied, not necessarily gentle and on the weaker side, so there are probably other teas I’d reach for in order of preference…but it was an interesting tea to try!

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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drank Vanilla Comoro by Harney & Sons
158 tasting notes

I’m not sure why it is that I hadn’t rated this tea before. Tonight is completely the wrong night to do it for multiple reasons, but here we go.

There are some nights that I come home and I’m so tired that I can hardly function properly. This is one of those nights. I am…exhausted. Completely depleted. The last three days have, as I mentioned earlier, been a gauntlet of geekdom at PAX, capped off every night with dinner out with friends, at which much bacchanalia took place, meaning I’ve consumed more alcohol in the last three days than I have in the last three months altogether, and that includes St. Patrick’s day. (I am not, admittedly, really a drinker…but clearly, I do nothing in half-steps.)

Tonight, dinner with a friend having her 29th birthday at a tapas place. Tapas was eaten. Pitchers of sangria were demolished.

I managed to remember to make a decaf/uncaf cup of tea…

But I made it at 175.


The good news is that it’s still pretty good. It’s not the weak and watery mess I expected once I realized what I had done.

Taken on its own merits, I’m sure this tea would get a less generous rating from me…not because it isn’t good (it is) but because it isn’t enough to get me excited.

What is exciting about it is the fact that it tastes this cozy and good, and is clearly black tea, and yet it’s decaf, and I can have it at 10pm without worrying about not being able to fall asleep…which is a big deal, as I have yet to locate too many teas other than some whites that seem capable of being satisfying, sans caffeine.

That alone is worth a handful or two of rating points. This will definitely go on my list of teas to reorder.

175 °F / 79 °C

Did you get to watch the keynote at PAX?


Tapas!!! Now I want some… 175, darn zojirushi, it always gets me too. I made Pina Colada at 175F, I ended up throwing the cup of water into the microwave to bring it to a boil.


My friends and I drank this all the time at a local Barnes & Noble years ago. Just realized, this is a nostalgic tea for me. Thanks for reminding me of special times and good tea!


wombatgirl: I did not! I hear it was Wil Wheaton. Crazy fact: that guy used to email me sometimes. We struck up a nerdy e-penpal sort of thing after I sent him an email asking about this video, because I’d not been able to locate it anywhere else: http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/weeee

Strange, I know. Yes, I was briefly e-friends with Wesley Crusher over a weird flash video meme. The internet is a weird place.

Ricky: I’d love to say this is the first time I have done this, but…hahaha. Yeah.

Lauren: Hey, anytime. ;) I wish I’d been exposed to really good tea a few years ago, myself.

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drank Blend Experiment by Custom
158 tasting notes

Not really an ‘experiment’ this time, per se, but a quick cup. This weekend has been an end-to-end slog of geekery of the highest order, capped off, two nights in a row, with a night out at a noisy bar with about 12 other people all conversing over the noise, and then a drunken collapse into bed (alone, not with 12 other people).

I am hoarse. I am raw. I’m exhausted. And I am about to do it for night #3.

No time to make a full chai, I steeped 1 teaspoon of Samurai Chai Mate and 1 teaspoon of Samovar’s Masala Chai (which I have mysteriously not written a tasting note for, yet?) in a quick 16oz. of water, and threw a tiny bit of milk and sugar at it. I need the caffeine from the mate if I’m going to survive.

Reminds me, as it usually does, of a holiday tea. I’m at a point where I think I really need to get some yerba mate that isn’t dressed up as a chai so that I can try it alone, prepared in a gourd and all of that good stuff. I’m not sure I’ll like it, but there’s no denying that the impact of the caffeine from mate kicks the pants off of the caffeine from almost anything else I’ve tried (though I did manage to get an interesting, refreshingly mellow mood lift from the pu-erh I’ve been drinking, after prolonged periods of sipping — something I can thank takgoti for pointing out).

Anyway…today, back to the con. One last day, one friend’s b-day dinner, and then rest…sweet, sweet rest.


Ahhh I can remember burning the candle at both ends and then trying to light it in the middle. So long ago the details escape me.

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Last night:

TV: " Legs spread same width as the shoulders, body tight, then hit the ball like you’re defeating the enemy. Here the pinky finger is the key. Then you just hit hit hit kaking-bingo!"

Me: -.o

TV: “What are you talking about?”

“He who conquers the left side conquers the world chief. Setting the parameters … that’s really the hard part.”

Me: …zzzzz…



Bad times. Baaaad times. Mastering my sleep schedule has always been difficult. With the con today, waking up too early would not have been good, so falling asleep early was not an option. Cue this chai.

I’m not sure why, but the dry blend smells, to me, like an antique store…or reminds me, maybe, of some of the re-enactment houses and locations in Colonial Williamsburg, which I adored visiting every summer as a kid when we would drive up the eastern seaboard. I can’t tell you what it is in the blend that triggers these memories…only that something assuredly does. It may be the very subtle, lingering scent of something smokey in the tea…in fact, I’m certain that’s part of it.

It tastes, after being prepared like a chai, almost exactly like it smells, only with more depth than it’s willing to give your nose. The smokey quality is really appealing to me. It’s very subtle, but very definitely there. You take a sip and you don’t have to look for it, but neither does it overpower a fairly well-balanced, internally-warming blend of the usual chai spices. I have trouble finding the vanilla in here, though.

Prepared 1c. water, some sugar brought to boil, tea added, simmered 3-4 minutes, 1c. 2% added, allowed to get foamy, removed from heat and let sit for a while. Strained/poured/sipped in front of the tv.

Nothing amazing happens here, everything is ordinary. A huge factory that can be seen from our town, the Medical Mechanica plant. All the adults got excited when it came here, like it was really a big thing. The white steam that billows out every day at the same time, it looked to me like smoke that signified some kind of omen. Smoke that spreads out and covers everything.


Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

So happy that you’re enjoying your SerendipiTea stuff! They’re on track to be one of my favorite companies!


What a fantastic note. I know what you mean about the smells unique to Williamsburg and there’s a slight variation on the smells at Sturbridge Village. These smells descend from and are kin to the smell of the mummy rooms at various museums. The smell made me feel frantic and trapped when I was young, but I can now see it as something nostalgic and to be embraced.
I love your tasting notes and hope that you get enough sleep to carry on.


PAX sounds like fun. Have a good time.


youre weird ; )

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drank Siam by SerendipiTea
158 tasting notes

I’ll just go ahead and admit something right now…I’m not really well-educated about uncaffeinated teas. Part of that is that I tend to just drink white tea late at night, and part of that is that…well, I like caffeine…and the few rooibos blends I’ve tried have made me think, and I am not even joking, of bile. Why is that? Ugh. I have a serious aversion to all things even remotely related to nausea, so…the search for the perfect rooibos blend continues.

This was one of several rare attempts to find something uncaffeinated to drink, and one of the only successful ones to date. It’s really rather good. Mint tea on its own is something I always want to prepare Moroccan-style, boiled in a pot along with a hefty dose of sugar for that almost-carmelized sweetness. Clearly, that is a bad plan late at night. This helps me to get past that impulse by adding some depth and dimension to the mint in the form of some seriously comforting spices. They’re subtle, though…much more subtle than you would find in, say, a chai, and that works well.

It’s a pretty relaxing cup when you have a headache, and I’m a fan. For what it is, I’m not sure there’s any way they could improve on it, so the question of rating becomes difficult…it should probably be higher. I just can’t bring myself to get that worked up about a tisane, though.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Been hoarding this because my tin is running low, but my new one came in today, so…time for some Jackee! I spent all day wandering around shopping in the splinter of sunligyht we’ve managed to get. It was jammed at the Pru…because tomorrow is the first day of PAX East. SO MANY NERDS. Seriously…the conversations I was overhearing…it was like walking around in a Kevin Smith film, only without most of the witty. Or funny. Or, I should say, the intentionally funny.

Still, I can’t judge too harshly…my 3-day badge is sitting right here next to my keyboard.


I was tempted to get some of this from one of the recent Selects but couldn’t fork over the money. :( I can’t believe your going to PAX, I guess it’s actually just odd seeing someone on here who plays games and is interested in that culture. I thought I might be the only one. But yes, I bet PAX will be a blast! I just glanced over the schedule and it looks pretty promising.


Haha. These intarwebs are full of geeks, my friend! We are legion, we are anonymous, etc. etc. Never been to PAX on the west coast, so I’m looking forward to it!


SOOOO you were the one who stole all the tins =P


Gamer over here as well! Sophistre and I have had many a conversation about various video games! And awesome that you’re going to PAX! Boston is a bit far away from me, but one of these days I’ll go. :D


That we have. And you should! It’s nice that they added a con on this coast. Much as I like my games, there was probably no way I was traveling to Seattle on my lonesome. One T-ride away is ever so much more feasible.

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drank Maiden's Ecstasy by Samovar
158 tasting notes

Okay. Think I may have stumbled on the right approach to drinking this.

Drink, and think ‘dark yunnan tea’.

DO NOT think ‘mushrooms’.

This seems to be working. I think I prefer the taste of this tea when it’s still piping hot, rather than after it begins to cool…but…I am waiting on a second steep right now, and that is the first time I have ever been inclined to attempt anything of the kind, so…


Dark yunnan.

Not mushrooms.


Edit: With a 16oz. cup, I find I can get only 2 good steeps out of 2 rounded, generous teaspoons of tea…after that the water turns pink. Note to self.


Mushrooms… hmmm…. You should try palace pu-erh. I don’t think you’ll get mushrooms there… or maybe you will…


You’re not the first one to recommend that, so I think I’ll definitely try to make a point to check that one out soon!

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drank Ryokucha by Samovar
158 tasting notes

Wanted to try this at a higher temperature after reading Auggy’s note from the other day about how, at that slightly higher temp, the toasted element sort of took a backseat to the milky quality.

This is totally true. I feel like the toasted rice is still very much there, but smoother and less ‘overdone popcorn’ than just…nutty and toasty. There’s a definite saltiness that seems to be part and parcel with the brothy, milky, matcha-creamy flavors.

It would never have occurred to me to change the temp. I’m surprised by how different it is…especially that saltiness. Neat, though.

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 45 sec

Yay! I’m happy to see this since it means my taste buds weren’t just playing tricks on me.


I’ve wondered that the last few days, myself. I put some Four Seasons into a travel tumbler, and…I kid you not…salty. Like gatorade salty. WTF? Maybe I oversteeped…but there are definitely days I wonder if my tongue is just being weird for no good reason.

This was good though…the Ryokucha. :D Briny but not overpoweringly so…and I like that it took the ‘burnt’ element out of the toasted-ness.


Salty? That’s so weird. I’ve had an unpleasant experience with a Keemun in a travel tumbler because the lid blocked the smell but even with the scent of the oolong blocked, salty seems like a weird result. And I definitely think I’ll be making the Ryokucha at a slightly higher temp now – it really does temper the toasty edge and bring out the creamy. And now I want some.


I…haha. It’s funny…I came back to check this post because I am starting to think my Brita filter is responsible, somehow…even though it’s new. I will know soon. But yes…salty is…strange. After I posted that I started to worry, myself.


Hopefully you figure it out because it’d be a shame to ruin Four Seasons with salty!


Okay, crazy possibility: drinking lots of caffeinated tea + intensifying exercise routine = dehydration, which results in…everything tasting salty. WTF? Pretty sure the brand new jug of apple cider I bought is not ACTUALLY salty. Or the new jug of milk. So, definitely my TONGUE.



Eew @ the salty milk – though I have to admit, I laughed. That’s sorta freaky and I almost think that your tongue making things taste salty is worse than if the tea had ended up salty. But I’m still laughing. Kind of in horror.

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drank Maiden's Ecstasy by Samovar
158 tasting notes

I am determined to make myself like this tea, because it’s not a bad tea. In fact, I can even say that it’s a good tea, and I just don’t ever want to drink it, for all that this contradiction is utter nonsense.

I’ve seen the information shared around steepster (by Ricky via someone else, I believe) about doing much shorter infusion times, and I will fall back on that if I have to…but I also saw something somewhere about Takgoti recommending to someone else that they steep longer to bring out the sweet part of this tea, so that’s kind of my plan today. Fact: I am scared.

There is just no reason for me to NOT like it, though. Nothing about it is bad. If I were asked to cite the reasons for finding it overwhelming, I would be unable to. It is tea.

It’s not even like it’s a strong liquor and likely to light up my nasal passages. So, wtf?

I completely refuse to be beaten by this tea. If I were able to point to anything about it and say this is what I don’t like, I would be content to let it go…but I can’t. I even find the smells and flavors interesting. So why do I not want to consume them?

The lack of logic there is vaguely offensive, somehow.

I will cultivate a taste for pu-erh if it kills me.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

HAHAHA. Oh, Sophistre. I do love your logs.

One of the best ways to enjoy pu-erh is to just keep steeping it, I think. Honest. Somewhere around steep 3 or 4, if I drink it consistently without significant breaks, I start feeling pretty amazing.


See it’s weird… Samovar’s instructions tell you to do 2-5 minutes steep time… Now should I follow the standard 15 second rule or do a long steep?


Clearly I’ll be ignoring Samovar’s steeping suggestions. Short steepings w/ a lot of leaves are the only way I can drink unflavored cooked pu erhs. And even then they are not my favorite.


@Ricky Eh, I enjoy it with a longer steep time. I think 15 seconds would be too weak for me, but it’s your tea. Do with it what you will.


With Samovar, I think it needs more than 15 seconds. I think it really depends on the type of tea.


Ricky, I think it depends on how much leaf you use as well. 1g/oz of water is a lot so I like 20 sec steeps. Well I can drink them. They are good for what they are. I’m a raw or flavored pu erh woman:)


Hahha, yes that as well =P

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Ohhh, I dunno. I like tea but I’m kind of a tea newbie. At this point I can say with authority that I may never be anything else, no matter how many teas I try…there is always something new out there.

I write a lot.

I also play way too many video games.

Ratings! (Bout time, wot?) This is a new arrangement, so…subject to change!

1-10: Not potable. First-sip disasters.

11-30: Intensely unpleasant…won’t catch me finishing the cup.

31-50: I really don’t like it…but maybe somebody else out there would.

51-70: Drinkable, but probably not the first thing I’m going to reach for.

71-90: Pretty good tea, and stuff that there’s a good chance I’ll have on-hand. Will do in a pinch at the low end, all the way up to regular visitors to my infuser on the high end.

91-100: Teas I really do not want to be without.





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