Here is yet another tea I drank back in May that is only just now getting a review on Steepster. Totem Tea graciously sent me a sample of this tea in 2017 in exchange for a Steepster review. Naturally, I am only just now getting around to posting one because it’s not like I procrastinate terribly or anything. Anyway, this was a very nice Taiwanese black tea. It was a bit gentler and smoother than expected, but it most certainly had a lot to offer.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very brief rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 15 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of honey, sweet potato, sorghum molasses, and some sort of dried fruit. After the rinse, I found new aromas of roasted nuts, cocoa, and wood. The first infusion then introduced a scent of candied orange and a definite aroma of raisin. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of honey, sweet potato, sorghum molasses, raisin, wood, candied orange, and malt that were balanced by brown sugar and stone fruit accents. Subsequent infusions saw more cocoa come out on the nose along with aromas of malt, brown sugar, and cherry. Stronger impressions of brown sugar came out in the mouth while the previously vague, generic stone fruit notes turned into distinct flavors of peach, cherry, and plum. Roasted almond and cocoa notes also emerged alongside impressions of minerals, cream, and vanilla. I could detect something of a camphor/menthol-like note in the aftertaste too. The final infusions presented lingering mineral, malt, wood, candied orange peel, and sweet potato impressions chased by something of a vague herbal presence.

This was a very refined and often subtle Taiwanese black tea. I am used to Taiwanese black teas with a bit more wildness, but this one was nicely put together, tightly layered, and very approachable. I could see this making a great introduction to some of the higher end Taiwanese black teas or a wonderful tea for a slow, mellow gongfu session. At this point, I can safely say that Totem Tea offers some good stuff. Anyone with an interest in quality loose leaf teas should at least consider checking out their offerings at some point.

Flavors: Almond, Brown Sugar, Camphor, Cherry, Cocoa, Cream, Honey, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Molasses, Orange, Peach, Plum, Raisins, Sweet Potatoes, Vanilla, Wood

195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.



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