drank Royal Garland by Samovar
1994 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 221. A sample.

I am down to my last few Samovar samples. After this there’s another oolong and then a few whites. I should have sipped these down long ago but I was hoarding them.

In any case, this is an interesting oolong. It has finer leaves than I’ve seen in the dry leaf of pretty much any other oolong I’ve had. They didn’t have a lot of fragrance dry (it’s an old sample, so that may be why) but the first steep resulted in a dark, toasty aroma with floral edges.

I steeped hot for the first steep, but in reading others’ notes, it appears that cooler is the way to go so I’m reducing the temp for the rest.

After the first infusion, the leaves have done something I’ve never seen in an oolong. They’ve become a glob of mush? They aren’t quite oatmeal, but close. And they’re sticking to the inside of the gaiwan lid.

Second infusion at 195F gives a fruity aroma, but the tea itself is still quite roasty, with a bitter end note. I get the darjeeling/muscatel comparison. I find that a lot in darker oolongs, and I’m finding it here.

Third infusion at 175 (since others have gone this low and I’m still trying to find the sweet spot that will make me rave like other Steepsterites). It is more floral at a lower temp, but I still haven’t hit the right combination. It remains bitter to my taste, and I’m now wondering whether I should have steeped it in accordance with the package directions instead of attempting to drink it gong fu style. I may be drinking a mixture that is too concentrated. In reading some others’ notes it appears some have had similar experiences where too much leaf for the right water volume results in bitterness and none of the pleasing notes others have found.

Sadly, this is no longer available from Samovar so I’ll never know what a different steeping method would have yielded.

Fourth infusion, I’m increasing the water volume to a full cup per the instructions on the sample packet and increasing the steep time to what is suggested. This takes care of the bitterness. It’s well and truly gone. I’m getting the beer note mentioned in the description, and much more floral than before. Not getting the cream/buttery notes but I do get gardenia in the aftertaste.

I put it through one more infusion using the directions on the packet. I wish I could go back and start over, and just use those directions as I think it would have made a difference. As, most likely, would have drinking this when it was much fresher.

As it is, I’m a bit disappointed but because I can’t tell whether it’s the tea’s fault or my fault, I’m not going to rate it.

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I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tastes developed they became less appealing — I still enjoy nicely done blends. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with me. I used to hate hibiscus, but I’ve turned that corner. Licorice, not so much.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 Excellent; first rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Very good; will likely buy more

70-79 Good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Okay; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it.

My current process for tea note generation is described in my note on this tea: https://steepster.com/teas/mariage-freres/6990-the-des-impressionnistes


Bay Area, California



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