149 Tasting Notes


Light, sweet, with some slight woodiness. Mouthwatering aftertaste. I have no idea why I sometimes think I taste the tiniest hint of banana in this. (The last time this happened, it was more prominent and with Mandala’s 2009 Bulang Gong Ting shu but I don’t think the leaves are from the same region…)

The first time I brewed this, I used my 150 ml gaiwan. It tasted pretty good, but I wasn’t getting much of an aftertaste or the “mellow sweetness” mentioned in the description. It didn’t really impress me, to be honest.

I decided that I wanted a mug of tea earlier tonight, rather than multiple little cups. Normally, I go for flavoured teas or black teas at this hour (caffeine doesn’t really affect me, which is a blessing as a tea drinker and a curse as a student) but for mysterious and unknown reasons I reached into my box of pu’er samples instead and randomly pulled out a pouch.

So, I brewed it with my infuser and mug (quick rinse x2, 5 second steep). I must have messed up with the ratios in my gaiwan the first time around, because I can certainly taste the sweetness and mouthwatering aftertaste now! Definitely a huge departure from the earthy, dark shus I usually prefer.

195 °F / 90 °C
Crimson Lotus Tea

Glad you gave it a second go! I have come to like that one more and more. Like you said it is a huge departure from the earthy, dark shus I usually prefer. :-) That’s why I like it.

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This tea sends me into a very happy place.

I probably should not have had it at 11 PM. I might not be able to sleep.

In which case, I’ll take the newfound energy I have and continue tackling the neverending readings I have.

Brewed with my new gaiwan, 10 second steeps.

195 °F / 90 °C

Did you get this from Mandala? I bought 2 of this cake from them, their storage of this cake is excellent. Really like this cake and I don’t expect the current price to stay so low once other purveyors sell out of this.


Yep! I tried a sample from them a few months ago and wound up getting 2 cakes not long after. So glad I did. I think they’ve sold out of them now. (Which might be a good thing for my wallet/limited apartment space, haha.)


Holy cow, it is out of stock!

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I think this is the third Darjeeling I’ve ever had. The first was from years ago and I remember thinking it was okay. The second was a sample of Castleton Moonlight Oolong or something last year. I remember liking it, but not enough to compel me to immediately place an order.

Anyway, I didn’t really take notes of it as I was drinking it earlier today, but I did enjoy it and resteeped it another time. Couldn’t taste anything apple-y like the other notes mentioned, but it was a nice, comforting brew with a light astringency near the end. I definitely do want to explore more Darjeelings eventually (pu’er and a few aged oolongs are mostly taking up my attention at the moment).

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 15 sec

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Best thing ever.

Basically, I drink so much tea that I kept breaking cheap (under $30) electric kettles every year/year and a half. After going through my third one (the base leaked water and it became an electric hazard), I figured I’d save up over the summer for one of these and wound up getting it a little before classes started, which was almost two weeks ago. I’ll try to remember to update this over time.

So far, no complaints. I picked this one (instead of the 3L Champagne Gold model) due to its larger capacity and vaccum-electric hybrid, which is supposed to help reduce electricity consumption (which would hopefully lead to a slightly lower electric bill than if I’d gotten the 3L model). The music notification irritated me, but pressing and holding the “Unlock” button for several seconds can set it to Beep or Silent mode, so I set it for the former.

There are three temperature settings (in F): 208, 195, 175, and a Vaccum Insulation-only mode.

The only two things I want to point out:

It always boils water first, then lets it cool to the temperature specified. This is probably the only big flaw I can see for tea drinkers who want to make the most out of their water by only letting it heat up to the temperature they want and not go over that.

For college/grad students (or people who do a lot of moving and live in small spaces like studio or efficiency apartments): This is kinda big. Not massive, but definitely a little bigger than I expected (it has a 4L capacity, after all). But it shouldn’t be too hard to find a box for it if you don’t have the original and need to move. And it’s not oddly shaped like a gooseneck kettle, which is a huge plus when it comes to packing.


Awesome review, was wondering how this thing actually works. Seems like it would take up an additional room all to itself! 4 L is obscenely huge and incredibly tick. I think the boil then cool is the way to go, it follows the method for Japanese tea, and would also boil off any odd tastes and stray bacteria in the water. If the local water supply goes bad you would be all set for that too!


How long does it take to heat the water? I downloaded the Owner Manual from the website and it said 35-40 minutes! Seriously?? Is that true?


It boils for a few minutes before the “done” notification sounds. From my experience, it takes around 30 minutes to go from cold tap water to a “done” boil beep. I’ve taken to unplugging and refilling it with room temperature water after the water level drops a little under 1L. It seems to take around 15-20 minutes to get to the “done” beep then. You can dispense water at any time as it’s heating up though.


Wow, I guess this product isn’t for me then. I’ve heard such great things about it but I don’t want to wait 30 minutes just for boiling water. I guess it’s convenient for re-steeps? Anyway, thanks for writing back!


Oh, sorry if I wasn’t clear earlier— it keeps the water at the specified temperature (mine’s currently at the hottest, 208F) after the water heats up. So once the water’s boiled you don’t need to reboil/reheat it until it’s time to refill (or if you use the insulation-only mode). There’s a turn-on reboil timer that you can set in any mode, though I’ve really only ever used it when I kept it in the insulation-only mode. I’d set it at night and tell it to start heating up when I wake up so that I could have a cup of tea after my shower.

It’s super convenient for resteeping and for making tea throughout the day without needing to wait for the water to heat. It worked for me as a student since I’d study in my room a lot and constantly drink tea while studying/writing. For days where I’d be in the library, I could quickly fill up a giant thermos of hot water for “grandpa brewing” teas in a separate tumbler. A 2L electric kettle would have worked just as well for the latter scenario though.

For my current situation (spending more time outside the house), this is admittedly somewhat overkill since I run around with the giant thermos. I try to get in a few gongfu sessions most evenings—its convenience is much more apparent then. I think if you brew Western style once or twice a day and don’t tend to resteep or if you’re not at home very much when you make/drink tea, this might be a little excessive.

I hope that helps a bit more! Good luck on your teaware search!


Thanks Ag! I’m going to get a 2L electric kettle cause I think that’ll suite my needs just fine. I appreciate the detailed review!

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I am so behind on reviewing some green tea samples Angel and Teavivre kindly sent me earlier this summer. Life keeps getting in the way of things and, being not much of a green tea drinker, I wind up instinctively reaching for a familiar oolong or pu’er tea on most days. But, I’m feeling a little more adventurous right now and thought I’d brew this up and give it a try!

(Spring 2014 batch)

Brewed aroma: Grassy, vegetal. Almost like freshly mown grass.

Taste: Also grassy and vegetal, with a hint of salt and a pleasant, smoky bitterness lurking in the background. Crisp, refreshing aftertaste that’s very satisfying, almost as if I’ve finished a hearty vegetable stew. Sometimes I can also taste some sweetness creeping in a little later.

Like I mentioned before, I don’t usually drink green teas, but this was a nice and enjoyable one! Thanks Teavivre!

195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 15 sec 0 OZ / 0 ML

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Sample from an order from who-knows-when. I’m not very good at keeping track of samples— they just sort of turn up in my tea trunk when I’m not expecting it.

Just on my first steep (about 30 seconds), I swear I can taste banana bread with a hint of dark chocolate chips. Glancing through others’ notes, I don’t think anyone’s mentioned anything about bananas, so I’m a bit baffled as to where that came from.

I have no idea what’s going on with my tongue, but I’m definitely enjoying this shu so far!

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… Oh dear.

I may have to place yet another order with Mandala within the next few weeks. Preferably after I move in to my apartment for the upcoming semester.

Got a 10g sample of this with— actually, I have no idea which order this came with. One of the three I placed this month (whoops, sorry wallet).

Even though I’ve been slowly accumulating a small quantity of pu’er cakes over the past year and a half or so, I’m still very, very new to pu’ers, especially shengs (I’m a bit better with shus since I started exploring those first).

Anyway, I started steeping this sample early this morning, not long after I woke up. Two quick 5-10 second rinses, which gave rise to a lovely leathery aroma. First few 10-second steeps were leathery and smoky with a mildly astringent bite. The leather and smoke eventually faded and gave way to a succulent, peach-like flavour. The astringency has toned down a little bit, but it’s definitely still apparent. I’m currently on I-don’t-know-what-number-but-it’s-lasted-me-all-day steep and I accidentally left it sitting for about an hour, so it’s now at room temperature. I’m definitely getting a mouthwatering stone-fruit sweet/tartness after each sip that I hadn’t noticed earlier. Wow.

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 10 g

This cake knocked my socks off, and it is an amazing value for all this aged flavor. Can be found cheaper elsewhere, but the storage would be unknown. I am convinced it is Mandala’s storage which made this cake far better than it is elsewhere, making a little extra for it well worth it. Ordered two for myself.


I have it sitting in my shopping cart, just waiting for me to hit the “Place Order” button. I’m trying to hold out until I move back on campus mid-August but it might be a losing battle because my enjoyment of this tea increases with every sip, haha.


That is an interesting point you made, Cwyn. I had never considered the difference that storage would make on the seller’s side of things, just in my own home. Thank you for bringing that up!

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Thanks to Angel and Teavivre for the generous samples!

I could smell the dry leaf from the moment I opened the sample pouch. A savoury, roast-y aroma.

Steeped, the aroma becomes a bit more vegetal. The taste is quite light, still sort of savoury with a hint of nuttiness and to my surprise, a slight hint of sweetness. There’s a lightly astringent finish.

I usually don’t drink green teas (longjing being an exception), but I could see myself drinking more of this!

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drank Irish Breakfast by Butiki Teas
149 tasting notes

Whoa. Has it really been over a month since my last note? Doesn’t feel like that long ago.

Just came home from some travelling— took a short-term May abroad course about bioethics in the Netherlands for a few weeks, then went off to London on my own for another week or so. It was a wonderful experience. The history of the Netherlands and the influences it’s had on Dutch culture (a unique blend of individualism balanced with cooperation that ties in with a general theme of tolerance) is fascinating. The food was delicious, too (I fell in love with poffertjes, stroopwafels, and various rijsttafel dishes that I don’t know the names of). I’d love to go back and live there for an extended period of time, to be honest (studying bioethics there would be great).

London was just amazing. Words cannot describe how excited and stunned I was to be in the city, since there is so much history there (and just in the country in general). It’s also a really expensive city… think NYC prices numerically, then double it because of the GBP to USD conversion rate. Thank goodness for hostels (though I may try couchsurfing or AirBnB next time).

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pick up any teas this trip (I was trying to fly hand luggage only and the cheeses I got from Gouda took up a lot of space). But I really hope to return in the future, because there are so many more museums I’d like to visit, and the rest of England and other countries of the UK as well!

Anyway, that long note was basically just to say that my status with this tea is almost a sipdown, and it’s definitely going on my repurchase list once I’m out. It’s smooth, malty, and a strong tea that isn’t at all a “yell-in-your-face” strong, but more of a firm shake of the shoulder, “hey, time to get up and meet the day” strong.

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drank Grapefruit Dragon by Butiki Teas
149 tasting notes


This really does taste like grapefruit. Citrusy sour and sweet with a tiny hint of bitterness like you’d find when eating the actual thing.

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I have far too many interests. Tea is one of them.

Background in bioethics, medical anthropology, and evolutionary biology with aspirations of eventually going into a medical field. I also have strong interests in theater, computer science, and food (which shouldn’t be particularly surprising).

Brewing method is usually Western style for black teas (2-3 minutes at near-boiling), “grandpa style” for shu pu’ers and longjing, and gongfu (with a gaiwan) short steeps for sheng and shu pu’ers (two 5-second rinses, then 5, 10, 15-second steeps with a gradual increase in steep times to taste). The gaiwan is also used for oolongs though I sometimes use a brew basket if the gaiwan is occupied and I’m taking a break from pu’er.

I enjoy black teas, pu’er, and oolongs (leaning towards aged, cliff/Wuyi, or roasted/dark), depending on my mood. I don’t usually drink green tea but do enjoy a cup every so often.

My rating methods have changed over time and as a result, they’re very inconsistent. For the most part, as of 11 November 2014, unless a tea is exceptional in some way (either good or bad), I will refrain from leaving a numerical rating.

The final iteration of my rating system before I stopped (note: I never did get around to re-calibrating most of my older notes):
99 & 100: I will go to almost any lengths to keep this stocked in my cupboard.
90-98: I’m willing to or already do frequently repurchase this when my stock runs low.
80-89: I enjoy this tea, and I may be inclined to get more of it once I run out.
70-79: While this is a good tea, I don’t plan on having it in constant supply in my tea stash.
50-69: This might still be a good tea, but I wouldn’t get it myself.
40-49: Just tolerable enough for me to finish the cup, but I don’t think I’ll be trying it again any time soon.
Below 40: Noping the heck out of this cup/pot.

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