When I first went on a tea ordering tear, I ordered some things from Norbu and I got this as what I think is a very generous sample size. I certainly didn’t get a 250g brick. The packet says this weighs 25g.

It appears to be a piece of the bigger brick, because it is not loose. So now I need to do a quick crash course from the internet on how to pry loose tea from a pu erh brick. This is my first time, so please be gentle.

I broke out the tool I bought for this purpose a while back. It’s a bone knife similar to this:


I am using the Yunnan Sourcing “fill about a quarter of the gaiwan with tea” method rather than weighing the tea.

This makes me think I used a bit too much tea with the tuo cha because the first steep of this one, 10 seconds after 2 rinses, is the color of cognac. Not leaning toward espresso. In the sample packet, the tea has a fishy smell, but there’s not much of that after steeping.

Instead, there’s a lot of soil to the smell and a caramel/cocoa note that is not strong.

Second, 10 sec. This time the liquor is darker. Brandy headed toward dark amber beer color. There is no fishiness, just a mild, pleasant earthiness. I am getting mushroom here as well, though it is more subtle than in the Rishi I had earlier today. I’m getting excited about the possibilities of the various pu erhs I have. I am also thinking about my yixing pots. I need to remind myself which I seasoned for this type of tea. Very mild, very mellow, a softness in the sip that leaves a sort of freshness in the mouth. A slight sweetness at the end of the sip, as well.

3rd, 20 sec. OK, now I feel the need to bone up on my understanding of pu erh and how to tell better quality ones. I don’t know for sure, but I feel as though this is better quality than the Rishi I had earlier just because the flavor seems more refined. Smoother. This steep is darker still, sort of a mahogany color. I detect a sort of coffee note here, along with the mushroom. More sweetness is emerging.

4th, 30 sec. The caramel/coffee notes are at the top of the aroma. The color is redder, and a little lighter. The tea has lost some of its earthier aspects. The soil note isn’t present here.

5th, 40 sec. I’m getting a mocha note this time that is quite pleasant.

6th, 1 min. I’m not really getting much of a change from steep 5. The tea seems to have settled into itself. Since I’ve gone this far, I might as well go to 10, but I’m going to spend more time thinking and less time writing unless something amazing comes out of one of the next steeps: 2 min, 4 min, 6 min, 8 min.

I made it all the way to the end! I think forcing myself to do this will be good for me. I spend to much time running to the next thing, and not enough time just being.

I can’t say I noticed a ton of different in the last few steeps. But the tea remained enjoyable and flavorful to the end.

Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Coffee, Earth, Fishy, Mocha, Mushrooms


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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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