612 Tasting Notes


Today was rough and hectic, and you know how it is when you need 15 minutes of calm in the eye of the storm—you reach for a tea you know well, that doesn’t ask a lot of your attention but delivers pleasure and nostalgia. Thank you, Lavender Earl Grey. You were just what I needed. That first inhalation of the fragrance I know so well instantly soothed. The way you can stand up to some milk doesn’t hurt either.

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This one isn’t bad either, though I prefer Lemon Chiffon. It needs milk and sugar to bring out the lime flavor.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Feel like I gained 5 pounds just smelling the dry leaves. I like how once it’s brewed the fruit aroma comes out; before that it’s mostly toasty sugar and sweet cake.

This tea is so sweet! Not in a bad way. But wow, it really does taste like its name. Good both with and without milk. The sticky raisin flavor really comes out with a resteep.

I continue to be impressed at how good Della Terra is at making their teas truly evoke desserts and not just in aroma. Also like how despite all the sweet flavors you can also taste tea, and it’s decent tea, not wispy throwaway stuff like other dessert-y companies. I have yet to have a bad one from them. And the price is right, especially considering unlike most dessert blends these seem to hold up OK with a resteep.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Pretty good (and there are so many decent earl greys out there to give one a run for one’s money!), though I’m learning as much as I enjoy marveling at the smoothness of a well made cream earl grey I actually prefer mine heavily scented and a bit brisker tasting for some reason—more refreshing, less dessert-rich. This is certainly on the dessert-rich end of the spectrum, with lots of vanilla.

As cream versions go though, this is very well done; with some milk it becomes smooth as butter, with the bergamot element coming in most strongly mid-sip (initially it’s merely fragrant on the nose and then it dissipates after the swallow, taken over by a mouthful of silky cream). Great easy-to-drink texture that doesn’t compromise flavor or overall black tea character. I could definitely see switching up my standard Upton lavender with this sometimes for a regular/near-daily don’t-think-about-it cup, when I want to feel more like I’m eating an afternoon snack than just drinking tea as a pick-me-up.

tl;dr: Not a trace of bitterness or astringency, just butter and silk. Rich rather than refreshing.

205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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drank Walnut Brittle by Della Terra Teas
612 tasting notes

Smells fantastic dry (!), less exciting brewed but still nutty (you can smell both nuts, walnut and coconut, which is cool) and creamy and rich. I don’t really smell fruit initially. There is a toasty thing going on, maybe from the green tea base. I’m impressed with how smooth this tea is, not astringent or rough on the tongue at all (you know how biting walnuts can be?). As it cools, the nuttiness recedes a little and I begin to taste a bit of the pineapple. I love how teas transform like that, with first and second acts! I also really like how the sweetness comes in at the end of the swallow, a happy finishing note. Really doesn’t need milk or sugar.

The sample packaging didn’t give steeping directions and I made the mistake of brewing this like the other teas I have from them, at around boiling. Next time I will try this at a much lower, green tea-friendly temp.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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drank Lemon Chiffon by Della Terra Teas
612 tasting notes

Gosh this tea is delicious. It smells wonderful dry, brewing, and in the cup. Once brewed it smells strongly like a good, creamy lemon bar, and it tastes like one too! As it sits it seems to get sweeter, more like lemon drop candy than straight lemon. There’s a buttery pastry thing going on, like you can taste the crust of a homemade lemon bar—yum! I reckon it would be scrumptious with a biscuit or other baked good, though it clearly doesn’t require one as it’s practically a creamy, sticky baked lemon dessert in itself.

And it doesn’t have caffeine! This is an awesome find.

Gotta admit I was kind of worried Della Terra would disappoint me the way David’s and Adagio have in the past, where the dessert blends sound so indulgent and wonderful but then don’t live up to that for me. But no! Both Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Lemon Chiffon are so richly satisfying both in aroma and taste…I think I’ve finally found a go-to over-the-top-dessert-blends source (52teas fits to some extent, but the time-sensitive limited runs put a damper on that in terms of stocking reliability).

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Love the way this one smells dry and brewing, malty and smooth and just a bit sweet. Does taste a bit like Assam. Well balanced, bold but smooth, with just the slightest astringency, pleasantly so. I bet it could stand up to a bit of milk, but it’s great and rich as is. Very nice.

190 °F / 87 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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drank Star of India by Culinary Teas
612 tasting notes

Has a musty (but not bad) aroma dry, and brewing it’s very much like wet grass and soil. Brews up a dark but relatively bright red, pretty. The vegetal scent recedes after brewing, which I admit I found a relief. As it cools it mellows and becomes quite smooth. I like it a lot once it settles. It does retain a grassy herbal flavor but it’s light and enjoyable, floating gently over the black tea flavor. It’s funny, I thought based on initial smell there’d be no way I’d like this as much as Hooghly Holler but I was wrong. Very refreshing. I’d drink it again!

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Hooghly Holler by Culinary Teas
612 tasting notes

Dry the leaves smell wonderful, so fresh and floral and fragrant. Pretty too, with different colored dried bits. Brews up a dark brown. Freshly brewed it smells of vanilla and flowers, really lovely. Rather sweet right off the bat. It tastes relatively gentle, especially as it cools, but that fits the feminine vibe of it. Feels like the equivalent of strolling around a French-y girly garden full of flowers.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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This is very smooth and slightly malty. At first I thought it wasn’t strongly flavored enough for my liking, but with a sweet biscuit (Daelmans Dutch Caramel Wafers FTW) it’s really good, that smoothness is a big asset. I don’t know that I’d want to drink it without a tasty treat, but with one it’s ideal.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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“…you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love.”
-Julia Child on food and cooking, and I think it applies to tea as well!

note: i am currently taking a break from swapping/mail of any kind as money is rather tight. i apologize! i do love to swap but i can’t afford to right now. hopefully in a month things will change.

my cupboard includes any tea i’ve ever owned, including things i’ve sipped down, in order to facilitate swaps with people and keep a record—this way i don’t get redundant samples/order duplicates to try. if you are interested in swapping, i have a separate ever-updated list of teas i actually have on hand i can PM.

i like strong, rich blacks (including some choice old skool CTCs); juicy-fruity flavored green blends; buttery chinese greens; light floral oolongs; flavored oolongs (how sacrilegious!); earl greys; smoky blends; second flush muscatel darjeelings; verdant’s straight oolongs steeped in a gaiwan (mind altering!); anything from laoshan village it seems.

favorite notes include lavender, bergamot, violet, fennel, cardamom, melon, honey, sandalwood, smoke, nuts, roasty/toasty stuff, malt, wood, leather, creamy lemon, steamed rice, artichoke, garden-sweet snap veggies, earth/soil, forest and wet bark, and mushroom.

notes i generally can’t stand (at least in tea) include jasmine, rose (ok in small doses but i often find it overpowering and then everything just smells like musty old lady perfume), astringent apple (and general fruitiness really unless it’s with green tea), and chamomile (unless i’m congested or tired).

my current favorite tea vendors are butiki and harney and sons. i’ve also found some delicious teas and/or had good customer service experiences with the following companies: capital tea ltd., the devotea, verdant, mandala, golden moon, teavivre, lupicia, taiwan tea crafts, yezi tea, den’s tea, the tea merchant, norbu, fauchon paris, tao tea leaf, zen tea, fortnum and mason, townshend’s tea, joy’s teaspoon, new mexico tea company, persimmon tree, teajo teas, whispering pines, della terra, upton imports, mariage freres, samovar, justea, teabox, american tea room, steven smith, steap shoppe, utopia tea, and andrews and dunham damn fine tea. when i’m at the grocery store my “you could do worse” brands include stash, bigelow, tazo, taylors of harrogate, whittard of chelsea, and pg tips. and it’s a fact: you can’t make classic southern sweet tea without luzianne.

top picks, fall 2013

verdant zhu rong yunnan black
verdant laoshan black
thepuriTea hong jing luo (no longer available :( )
thepuriTea red dragon pearl (no longer available :( )
mandala morning sun
golden moon honey orchid
verdant golden fleece
taiwan tea crafts red jade
yezi tea zheng shan xiao zhong “scotch” tea
capital tea borsapori estate assam tgfop1 (spl)
butiki khongea golden tippy assam
butiki giddahapar darjeeling extra special
upton imports fikkal estate
golden moon sinharaja
harney and sons new vithanakande
persimmon tree vintage black
teajo teas black manas
justea kenyan black
harney and sons kangaita op

morning blends:
butiki the black lotus
harney and sons queen catherine
harney and sons eight at the fort
harney and sons big red sun
harney and sons scottish morn
golden moon irish breakfast
harney and sons irish breakfast
utopia tea english breakfast
fortnum and mason breakfast blend (needs milk!)
andrews and dunham double knit blend
steven smith no. 25 morning light
butiki irish cream cheesecake

earl greys and scented afternoon blends:
teajo teas silky earl grey
harney and sons viennese earl grey
upton imports lavender earl grey
american tea room victoria
lupicia earl grey grand classic
harney and sons tower of london
tao tea leaf cream earl grey
zen tea earl grey cream
della terra earl grey creme
upton imports season’s pick earl grey creme vanilla
upton imports baker street afternoon blend
harney and sons russian country
della terra professor grey
verdant earl of anxi

flavored black:
herbal infusions moose tracks
american tea room brioche
steap shoppe cinnamon swirl bread
della terra oatmeal raisin cookie
butiki nutmeg cream
kusmi caramel
david’s tea brazillionaire
lupicia banane chocolat
butiki hello sweetie
fauchon paris raspberry macaron
butiki blueberry purple tea
herbal infusions marshmallow snowflake earl grey
herbal infusions creme brulee chai

pu erh:
mandala loose and luscious lincang 2007 shu/ripe pu erh
mandala special dark 2006 shu/ripe pu erh

verdant shui jin gui wuyi oolong
verdant hand-picked early spring tieguanyin
butiki 2003 reserve four season oolong
harney and sons formosa oolong
tea merchant silk dragon
golden moon coconut pouchong
zen tea coconut oolong
american tea room coconut oolong
teavivre taiwan jin xuan milk oolong
butiki flowery pineapple oolong
butiki lychee oolong
lupicia momo oolong supergrade
butiki strawberry oolong
butiki pumpkin milkshake darjeeling oolong
52teas tiramisu oolong

verdant laoshan bilochun green
verdant autumn harvest laoshan green
tao tea leaf hou kui
harney and sons tencha
harney and sons gyokuro
new mexico casablanca
butiki with open eyes
american tea room nirvana
joy’s teaspoon mahalo
den’s tea pineapple sencha
harney and sons tokyo
butiki potato pancakes and applesauce
butiki holiday eggnog and pralines
den’s tea organic genmaicha with matcha
golden moon hojicha

butiki cantaloupe and cream
butiki champagne and rose cream

no caf:
harney and sons soba buckwheat
butiki birthday cake
della terra lemon chiffon
52teas strawberry pie honeybush
butiki mango lassi
joy’s teaspoon italian dream
butiki coconut cream pie rooibos
butiki peppermint patty
persimmon tree mint chocolate chip rooibos
art of tea velvet tea
fusion teas chocolate cake honeybush
american tea room choco-late
steven smith no. 40 bon bon
townshend’s tea dark forest chai
utopia tea decaffeinated earl grey cream

sleep aid/medicinal/therapeutic:
new mexico extra sleepy bear
stash white christmas
verdant ginger sage winter spa blend
samovar turmeric spice
butiki the killer’s vanilla guayusa

coldsteeped wonders:
whispering pines manistee moonrise
harney and sons fruits d’alsace
utopia tea berkshire apple and fig
culinary teas peaches and cream
butiki peach hoppiTea
butiki ruby pie
whispering pines gingerade

besides tea

born in seoul, raised in new england and upstate new york, went to college in pittsburgh, currently in memphis with an eye toward philadelphia, portland, or asheville eventually.

i like cats, most beverages really (i also like good freshly roasted coffee, craft beer, wine, whiskey and gin-based cocktails, and soda/soft drinks like agua fresca), art (mainly writing but also visual and music) and critical theory, feminism/genderqueer politics, historiography, statistics, children’s literature and librarianship, travel, and food/cooking. also have recently gotten into weightlifting (mark rippetoe and stumptuous!) and sprint training (HIIT, plyometrics) and i love it.


Memphis, TN



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