157 Tasting Notes

drank GABA Black by Mandala Tea
157 tasting notes

Revisiting this tea again. It tastes slightly different than what I remembered. It opens with muscatel and stonefruit—slightly sour. There is a mild smokiness and the taste of wood mid-sip, which reminds me of a ZSXZ. It definitely reminds me of other gently pine-smoked teas that I’ve had. The end of each sip finishes sweet, with honey drizzled bread and wildflowers. There is a pleasant nectar-like coating on my tongue. The tea is relatively light in body and very smooth. For a black tea, it tastes an awful lot like an oolong. (Without the mineral quality that sometimes turns me off to oolong.) It’s not surprising to learn that it’s a Tie Guan Yin varietal. This tea has some vegetal and floral undertones to it. There is a roasted nut component that becomes more apparent in later steeps. I’m upping my rating a bit because this is such an interesting tea. It leaves me with a warm, pleasant, and relaxing feeling that makes me feel tea drunk. It’s a great choice for evening. I think I might have to get more of this one.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Floral, Flowers, Honey, Muscatel, Nectar, Pine, Roasted Nuts, Smoke, Sour, Stonefruit, Vegetal, Wood

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Included as a sample in my last order. Thanks Brenden. (:

This tea opens with notes of wildflower, fruit, and mild chocolate. The chocolate notes intensify mid-sip, joined by cream, malt, and a light grain flavor. There is fruit again in the finish—apricot or golden raisins, maybe—along with notes of wood. The mouthfeel is silky and clean with no astringency. It doesn’t feel heavy in the mouth. It’s light, mellow, and “fresh” feeling. It’s perfect for this time of day, because I think something heavier would unsettle my stomach. The second steep brought out some thick honey notes that reminded me a bit of WPT’s Golden Snail. I think I prefer Golden Snail, to be honest. It’s a bit thicker tastes more like buttery bread. This is certainly a good tea, and very high quality—just not my favorite from WPT!

First steep: 3min
Second steep: 5min

Flavors: Apricot, Chocolate, Cream, Flowers, Grain, Honey, Malt, Nectar, Smooth, Stonefruit, Wood

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I decided to brew this one gongfu style, following Brenden’s instructions online.

It opens with notes of cream, soybean, and oat. The first few steeps are lighter on the tongue and as I continue steeping it gains thickness in body. It becomes more buttery and vegetal, developing some light butterscotch-caramel tones. The finish is clean and a little grassy. Unfortunately, with each infusion I can’t help but notice the bite of astringency. It only seems to intensify. Those who read my tasting notes know that I’m not overly fond of green teas. I’m not particularly fond of astringency or bitterness, either, though sometimes I can ignore it. This is a case where it becomes impossible to ignore and it kind of ruins in the experience for me. I’m really sensitive to bitterness. It’s a shame, because I like the flavors I’m finding in this tea. I’m just finding it very hard to get past the bite. Maybe I should pass this one on to someone who likes greens more than I do. To me, it tastes very similar to Laoshan Green, though perhaps a bit lighter.

Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Cream, Grass, Oats, Soybean, Vanilla, Vegetal


It sounds like you may well have heated the water a little too much, and indeed might be using too high a temperature for all green teas, as this will bring out the distinctly undesirable astringency found in green tea. Bringing to before a boil, and then adding a little fresh water to cool is a good traditional method. I think you’ll find that with a cooler temperature you can experience more sweetness and less astringency. I am a person who loves light oolong, green and white teas, but high astringency really puts me off!


On an added note, usually the temperature advertised for a green tea is too high. Almost always. Give it a try.
Also, be sure not to use a lid while steeping or while not, as the steam cooks the leaves and degrades the infusion, for green teas, which also increases astringency.

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Prepared this gongfu-style with a ceramic cupping set. I followed the online brewing instructions with a 10 second rinse beforehand. Because I don’t have a scale, I measured out around 1.5 tablespoons of tea to 4oz of water. The measurements aren’t exact.

Oh my word, this is a good tea. It has notes of brown sugar, cocoa, raisins, nuts, caramel, wood, and wet earth. I didn’t notice a drastic difference in flavor from cup to cup. Nearly every flavor mentioned was present, just in varying intensities. The liquid is rich and full, silky, thick. It is decadent and sweet. There are some slight vanilla and cream undertones, though they’re not immediately apparent. The first few steeps are more earthy than the later steeps which are pure sweet, nutty, dessert-like goodness. Excellent qi in this one. I’m floaty and tea drunk on a lovely Sunday evening. Not a care in the world…

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Cocoa, Cream, Nuts, Raisins, Vanilla, Wet Earth, Wood

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This is the tea I was most looking forward to trying. The expense put me off for a while…then it was the difficulty of placing an order before it was all snagged. Well, time to splurge, I say. I regret nothing. (Except for not buying more.)

The dry leaf smells like creamy, chocolatey gelato. It’s like chocolate infused whipped cream: smooth and sweet with the scent of custard and vanilla. I followed the instructions for western brewing. The taste is very close to the aroma. It’s silky smooth and soft like a rabbit’s fur. There are notes of dark chocolate, custard, and stone fruit underscored by the gentle suggestion of oak wood and mushroom. The finish is sweet with ringing vanilla overtones and cherry-fudge undertones. The sweetness and malt lingers long afterwards: a reminder of whipped cream, cocoa, and flavors of pine. Not any single flavor is overbearing; they all work in harmonious balance. The second steep is equally rich and decadent. Cocoa, wood, and cherry dominate with notes of heavy cream, caramel, and mushroom in the background. It’s thick like pudding and incredibly smooth. It gets even creamier as it cools.

Wow, this tea is absolutely heavenly. It could give GO a run for its money, but I know I can’t justify buying this one in large quantities. Shame!

Flavors: Caramel, Cherry, Cocoa, Cream, Custard, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Malt, Mushrooms, Oak, Pine, Smooth, Stonefruit, Sweet, Thick, Vanilla

Whispering Pines Tea Company

You’ll love Ambrosia too :)

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My Whispering Pines order came in yesterday! It was a happy day. The past few weeks, I’ve been sipping down some of my favorites in anticipation of this order coming in. I was at work all day and I didn’t get home until late, so unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to try any of my new teas last night. But today! Today is a good day for tasting. Let’s do this.

In the bag, the dry leaf smells intense and sweet like maple candies. The sweetness is offset by the deep, resounding aroma of mushroom, earth, bread, and wood—much like a shu. This makes me think it might do really well blended with a shu puerh. Followed the western brewing instructions, though I would like to gong fu this later. This tea tastes like maple syrup, brown sugar, mushrooms, wet wood, and cocoa. There’s a bready note that makes me think of sourdough rolls or pancakes. It’s also slightly tart, like stone fruits—plums, raisins, cherries. The finish is oaky and a little drying. It leaves a malty coating on my tongue along with the taste of maple. I didn’t find the blend overly sweet. The maple flavors are balanced nicely with earthy, woodsy qualities that keep it grounded. The base tea notes come through MUCH more strongly in the second steep. Maple is ever present in the background, but at the forefront you have grain, malt, dark chocolate, and cherries. The natural sweetness of the tea makes itself known. It’s clearly identifiable as the base tea for GO. It’s almost like fudge, and it’s so delicious. The finish here is juicy and sweet. Still slightly drying, with a taste like wood, but it’s drying in a way that makes your mouth water.

Gosh. I’m so glad I was able to pick some of this up. I don’t think it’s something I could drink all day, but it’s definitely good. Like many of Brenden’s teas it makes me want to take it hiking.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cherry, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Grain, Malt, Maple Syrup, Oak, Stonefruit, Wet Wood

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This was a pleasant enough black tea. It reminded me both of Laoshan Black and VT’s Yu Lu Yan Cha. It tastes of cocoa powder and peanuts, malt and wood. Despite having flavors you would consider “heavy” it’s relatively light in body. It’s thin, and doesn’t leave a full taste in your mouth or a coating behind. There’s the light taste of nuts and that’s about it. It seems to fall flat, but it could be the age of the tea. I’ve been holding on to it for over a year. Yeah, I know. ): It’s decent but it’s not for me. It doesn’t fit my preferred flavor profile.

Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Nuts, Peanut, Wood

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(I believe this is from the Marco Polo TTB.)

This could be described as tasting like caramel, marshmallow, toasted rice, and earth. The rooibos imparts a woodsy flavor and there’s also something like damp leaves in the background. Not as unpleasant as it sounds. The green tea base, however, is atrocious. It’s like stewed grass. It’s like vegetables that have been left moist and out of the fridge for too long. I don’t know how else to describe it. It has a funk to it that’s just intolerable. If this blend had used a black tea base, or even oolong, I could probably get behind it. Unfortunately this is blended with a very rough, low grade green tea.

I was hoping this would be my last cup before bed, but now I’m going to make something else to get the taste (and the memory of the taste) out of my mouth.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Caramel, Earth, Grass, Marshmallow, Toasted Rice, Vegetal, Wet Earth

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This is such a delightful tea. It opens with notes of smooth, silky cream, caramel, honey and baked bread. There are whispers of cocoa along with an almond nuttiness that makes me think of marzipan. There’s a hint of dried apricot. It’s decadent and sweet like cake batter; it’s thick and full, like pudding. I wouldn’t call it a “heavy” tea. Body falls somewhere between medium and full. Gosh, it’s so creamy! I don’t think I’ve ever had a Bai Lin that was so creamy.

I prepare a second steep. As the timer is about to ring, I lean over my cup to smell it…I sigh, and let out an audible “oh my god”. It smells like lightly toasted cinnamon bread, with buttercream frosting, and honey. It smells like French toast without syrup. It smells like a whole slew of delicious, mouth-watering pastries. The taste? It’s like apricot jam on buttered toast with a light dusting of cinnamon, paired with a tall glass of milk. It’s good. I’m still catching notes of honey, cream, and a tiny bit of malt. It’s soft, gentle, and buttery but it has so much flavor. I’m in awe. There are some brighter tones in this steep that are like white raisins or citrus, but they’re not intense enough for me to pin down. The citrusy notes are again in the third steep, along with honey and milk foam. Overall the last steep is much lighter than the first two. The leaves are nearly spent.

This was only a small sample in my last order, but it definitely goes on my reorder list. I’ll miss this too much when it’s gone.

First steep: 1min 30sec
Second steep: 2min
Third steep: 3min

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Baked Bread, Butter, Caramel, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Cream, Dried Fruit, Frosting, Honey, Malt, Marzipan, Pastries, Toast

Joseph Wesley Black Tea

happy to read that you enjoyed the bai lin hong cha. Cheers – joe

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Despite being the last spoon at the bottom of the bag, the spice in this blend isn’t overwhelming. The notes of the base tea come through strongly: chocolate, caramel, sweet potato, stone fruit, and pudding. There is a resonant, malty aftertaste and the spice leaves a tingling sensation in my mouth.

Brenden has hinted that this chai will be returning soon, and I know I’m going to stock up whenever it’s back. Damn if he doesn’t make the best chai I’ve ever had.

First steep: 5min
Second steep: 7min

(For a more thorough description, see previous note.)

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I am still relatively new to loose leaf, as I have only been drinking it since 2013. I’m amazed at how much my tastes have changed just over the past year. I have met such lovely, kind individuals on Steepster and am so glad to have become a part of this community.

Pure black teas are my favorite. I drink black tea daily and I try to keep a variety on hand. I also enjoy white tea, puerh, and the occasional oolong. Matcha is something that I love though I haven’t tried a large variety. The very good matcha that I’ve had is quite expensive. In general I try to stay away from flavored teas—especially those with artificial flavorings—but I will make rare exceptions, and I do enjoy a well crafted blend of straight teas. Things I (usually) don’t like: green oolongs, rooibos, straight green teas.

Rating System
90+ The very best! Teas that I always need in my cupboard!
85-89 Teas that I enjoy immensely and will try to keep around.
80-84 Makes a very pleasing cup. I will enjoy drinking them, but won’t necessarily try to keep around. (There are exceptions.)
70-79 Decent, but could be better.
60-69 Mediocre.
40-59 Gross. I might still try to finish the cup.
39 & under Undrinkable. I probably dumped this cup. Depending on the specific rating, I probably threw the rest of the tea out as well.

Some of my favorite tea companies are:
-Whispering Pines Tea Co.
-Verdant Tea
-Mandala Tea

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