157 Tasting Notes


It’s loud, brassy, and heavily spiced. Too much punch from the base tea; not enough balance. Lot of clove. Bitter. So bitter, and I didn’t even use boiling water. I wish I could provide a more thorough note, but I dumped this after the first few sips.

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drank Qing Pin Black Tea by Yezi Tea
157 tasting notes

First steep: 1min 30sec
Second steep: 2min 05sec
Third steep: 3min

The first steep tastes of cocoa and malt, along with a grapey fruitiness. There is a nuttiness and a roasted component as well. The body is medium-full with a savory, chewy flavor and texture. The finish is surprisingly clean: it has no particular overwhelming flavor, and there is no flavor or mouth coating left behind. The second steep is very much like the first. There is a light honey sweetness that I couldn’t detect before. It’s brisk and breakfast-y without being astringent or bitter. It vaguely reminds me of a Keemun but without the smoke. There are notes of toasted grain, too. This steep leaves a malty, nutty fruit taste in my mouth after sipping. Third steep has barely any cocoa, but it does have more fruit, more honey, and baked bread flavors. It’s very light compared to the first two steeps. (…it does, however, remind me of light and fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Maybe I’m just craving pancakes.)


Good, but not a keeper. It’s definitely high quality. I kept a small sample in a folded, unsealed pouch for over a year in my cupboard, and it still retained a lot of flavor. I need to stop being so negligent. I bought A LOT of teas when I first started drinking loose leaf, and I haven’t gotten close to drinking them all.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa, Fruity, Grain, Grapes, Honey, Malt, Nuts, Roasted

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Could have sworn that I had a tasting note for this one. This is one of the teas that has been in my cupboard for too long, so I’m making efforts to drink all of it down before new orders come in. It’s a pleasant enough green tea. Light, mellow, and vegetal without being overly grassy. The tea base is slightly buttery. The flavors of gently roasted nuts and cream are light and accompany the natural flavors of the tea nicely. There’s vanilla at the end of every sip. It tastes more like whipped cream than ice cream. Perhaps because ice cream is a heavy, dairy/buttermilk flavor, and whipped cream is more light and airy.

I’ll get through the rest of this bag because it’s blended very nicely, but it’s definitely not something I’ll crave. (Green tea. Eh.)

Flavors: Butter, Cream, Nutty, Roasted Nuts, Vanilla, Vegetal

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drank Dark Beauty by Mandala Tea
157 tasting notes

Since I found Black Beauty hiding among my samples, I wanted to try MzPriss’s intriguing blend of Black Beauty and Special Dark. I have mixed feelings about SD. It’s a little too intense for me, which means I usually add cream and sugar to it—a TON of sugar by my standards, or else I’m left with a charred taste in my mouth. SD has excellent qi, though, so I drink it to keep my bones warm during the winter. I never feel cold when I leave the house with a tea buzz!

For this blend I used 13-14oz of water. I combined about 3/4 of a tablespoon of SD and 2 teaspoons of BB in my infuser basket, then rinsed for 5 seconds. I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes. You guys. You guys!! This really good. It’s thick and decadent like chocolate cake. There’s an earthiness to it and the mild taste of stone fruits—presumably from the BB. The deep, resonant dark chocolate notes are backed by a syrupy honey-caramel sweetness. It’s not at all bitter, though the brew is very intense. (I mean VERY.) It leaves the taste of chocolate cake in my mouth with rich, roasted overtones. The first thing I thought when I took a sip was “…coffee?!” No, it doesn’t quite taste like coffee. It’s better than coffee. It’s the deep intensity and the roasted qualities of the tea that bring it to mind. As expected, my entire body is warm. Even my feet—and my feet are always cold. I feel like I could walk out in 40 degree weather with a t-shirt and stay warm for at least five or ten minutes. At least until the tea buzz wore off! I definitely need to brew some of this for my boyfriend. I’m desperately trying to convert him from coffee to tea, and I think this might help my case. Fingers crossed. Mua ha ha ha ha.

Flavors: Cake, Caramel, Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Stonefruit, Sweet, Thick


Thank you for reminding me of this amazing combination – I’m taking inspiration from this and making myself a cup (or three…)


Welcome to the VERY dark side :)

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drank Black Beauty by Mandala Tea
157 tasting notes

This was a sample in my last Mandala order! I can’t believe it took me this long to try it.

Rinse: 5sec
First steep: 1min 30sec
Second steep: 1min 45sec
Third steep: 2min

Wow, this tea is intensely sweet! I usually add a smidge of sugar to my cup but the first steep was almost too sweet to drink. It has a very soft, smooth texture. It’s silky without a hint of astringency. The tea is gently floral, medium bodied, and has the taste of both honey and dark chocolate. There is also the suggestion of fruit but it isn’t fully developed yet. It really emerges in the second steep as a thick, jammy sort of flavor that’s like stone fruit and apricot. Cocoa and roast are the notes that follow. This tea is also earthy in a way that’s herbaceous—not like wood, or leaves, or mushrooms. It leaves a mineral note on my tongue after sipping. There are similarities between this tea and a high quality Keemun, but it lacks the characteristic smoky notes and is more honey/caramel than sweet potato. In my final steep cocoa, roast, and apricot are the dominant notes. There is a delicious syrupy caramel-honey finish that makes my tongue tingle like I’m sipping something carbonated. That completely caught me off guard. I’ve only experienced it maybe once, or twice with different teas. It has an indescribable “bubbliness” to it. Mineral and stone fruits remain in the aftertaste, though my tongue is still tingling. This tea was absolutely delightful! I’ll have to pick some up in my next order.

Flavors: Apricot, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Floral, Grain, Herbaceous, Honey, Jam, Mineral, Roasted, Smooth, Stonefruit

Terri HarpLady

I’m missing this tea from my collection, having polished off the last of it a few weeks ago. I think I feel a Mandala order coming soon, because this is a black tea to truly love!


i REALLY want another mandala order aslong with a few others but i’m REALLY trying to wait…not to mention i have my most recent mandala order waiting to be opened for when i gt get a few more teas cleared…though i’m sharing a bunch of mandala with courtney this week so that will mean an order sooner mwahahahaha

Terri HarpLady


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This is a solid oolong. I received a sample in my last VT order. While I’ve learned that I generally dislike Wuyi mountain oolong, I went ahead and gave it a try.

Rinse: 5sec
First steep: 1min
Second steep: 1min 15sec
Third steep: 1min 30sec
Fourth steep: 3min

It opens with a sweet, nutty, kettle corn flavor that I identify with roasted TGY or Alishan. It’s a bit like toasted rice. There is a light mineral taste and a clean freshness that makes me think of river stones. The reason most Wuyi oolongs turn me off is the overbearing mineral/metallic taste I’ve found in every one that I’ve tried. Rather than being a dominant flavor, here it acts as a subtle middle note. It supports the equally mellow flavor of wood—it reminds me of tree bark. The finish is creamy vanilla and soybean, and it leaves the lingering taste of honeysuckle flowers on my tongue. The second steep has stronger notes of roasted nuts and light woodsmoke. By the third steep the heavier, roasted flavors, minerals, and nuts have receded. It leaves a floral and refreshing liquid that bears faint memories of rice and pine. The finish is clean, though traces of vanilla bean and honey remain. In the last steep there are notes of stone fruit and a playful, tangy, citrus-like tone. Again the finish is clean and it leaves a cooling sensation in the back of the throat. Powdered sugar and crushed flowers follow, but the cooling sensation lingers. Overall this was a very pleasant surprise. Not at all what I expected, and the first time that I’ve sincerely enjoyed a straight oolong in a very long time.

Flavors: Citrus, Creamy, Floral, Honey, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Nutty, Pine, Powdered Sugar, Roasted, Smoke, Soybean, Stonefruit, Sweet, Toasted Rice, Vanilla, Wood

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drank Sansia Black by Butiki Teas
157 tasting notes

First steep: 2min
Second steep: 3min

The first steep is very fruity and bright with notes of stone fruit, raisins, honey, and a heavy malt/caramel aftertaste. Most of what I taste here is fruit. It’s tart and has this bitter-nut-skin quality to it that’s not overly bitter or unpleasant. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten chestnut or had many things flavored like it, but it reminds me very much of SOT’s Candied Chestnut, so I suppose that’s the flavor I’m having trouble naming. There’s a hint of sourdough as well. The second steep also contains notes of chestnut, honey, and plums, though it is comparatively light. Slight caramel aftertaste, not much in the way of malt or chocolate. I will try the recommended 3:30 steep next time to see if I can coax a deeper and maltier flavor profile.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Caramel, Chestnut, Dried Fruit, Honey, Malt, Plum, Raisins, Sour, Stonefruit, Tart

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I received a small sample of this tea about two years ago, when I received my first order from Verdant. It was the first white tea I can remember ever liking. Up until then my experience had been limited to bagged white tea; flavored, more often than not. (And not flavored in any way that added to the tea.) I picked up a couple of ounces of this last month, although I hadn’t drank it in some time.

This is a review of the 2014 Spring harvest.

First steep: 35sec
Second steep: 55sec
Third steep: 1min 15sec
Fourth steep: 1min 40sec

The first steep is laden with the taste of fresh jasmine, cream, and a hint of banana with a silky texture. It makes me think of vanilla custard. There’s an almost bubblegum candy-like sweetness. In subsequent infusions it develops notes of pine, spice, and honeysuckle. The mouthfeel is thick and the flavors juicy. I don’t enjoy it as much as I expected to. My tastes have changed; I don’t generally prefer light, floral teas. I knew it would be floral because of the jasmine, but in the first couple of steeps it’s nearly all that I taste. Flowers.

I tried brewing it a different way. This time I used 2tsp of leaf, water somewhere between 160-170 degrees, and steeped for five minutes. I much preferred this method. The jasmine isn’t as overwhelmingly strong, and I’m able to pick out notes of cereal, marshmallow, whipped cream, and pastries. The flavors of light banana pudding and pine are also present. It’s like a light, fluffy dessert with buttercream frosting. There’s a thick creamy finish that lingers long after sipping, and it’s paired with the faint flavors of grain and oat—like oatmeal. I might try grandpa style brewing with this tea eventually.

Flavors: Banana, Candy, Creamy, Custard, Frosting, Grain, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Marshmallow, Oats, Pastries, Pine, Spices, Vanilla

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Trying out my newly seasoned yixing, which I fear I’m already madly in love with. ;)

So far I’ve brewed:
Ailaoshan Black (Whispering Pines)
Tanyang Gongfu (Nannuoshan)
Heaven’s Trash (Butiki)
Qi Hong Xiang Luo (Nannuoshan)

I cannot get over how delicious everything that I brew in this vessel turns out to be. They are all very very good teas but the yixing imparts a lush, juicy, fullness that I can’t describe. It enhances the natural flavors of the tea and also adds to them. There is a lot of honey because I seasoned it with a combination of Honey Black (Green Terrace), Coonoor Nilgiri (Single Origin), and Laoshan Black (Verdant). Many of the teas I’ve brewed contain elements of grain, malt, stone fruit, cocoa, caramel, and honey…Essentially a combination of all of my favorite flavors. Every cup I’ve brewed has been perfect. I wish I still had thicker, maltier, more chocolatey teas around, but I sipped many of them down in an effort to downsize my cupboard. It will have to wait until my shipments begin arriving. Until then, I’ll be sitting in the corner, clutching my new teapot and making crazy eyes at anyone who gets too close.


I love my yixing too, want another one so bad!

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Seasoned my first yixing! Yes! It was gifted to me over a year ago by some tea-drinking friends. It took me a year to get over how intimidated I was of using yixing teaware. I believe it was purchased at Teavana, and as I’ve never used a yixing pot before I can’t speak for the quality. It should do just fine. I rinsed it with boiling water several times, then left some of GTT’s Honey Black steeping overnight. Later in the day, I rinsed again with boiling water, then left it in a pot of hot water with some Laoshan Black and SOT’s Coonoor Nilgiri. Waited several hours, then removed it and rinsed with boiling water again. There’s no residual clay smell that I can tell. The maximum capacity is just under 8oz, if I fill it nearly to the brim. I decided to test brew some Ailaoshan Black in this little pot. Maybe I should stick to lighter teas, teas with strong notes of honey and baked bread? I haven’t decided. I might simply use it for my favorite black teas; they share many of the same qualities, though not all.

Anyway, there is an intense honey sweetness to this tea that wasn’t present before. Brewing in the yixing also upped the buttery, baked notes that the tea already had. There’s cocoa and malt but it’s a little subdued. The stone fruit, cherry flavors are also barely present. The finish has a touch of caramel; it’s creamy and full, then it recedes into a more crisp, floral aftertaste. I’m wondering if some of the chocolatey notes are hiding in the yixing somewhere, to reappear later in a different cup, with a different tea.

This was more a record of my first yixing experience than the tea itself. For a better description of the tea, see my other tasting note.

If anyone has advice or opinions about yixing dedicated to black tea, leave a comment. I’ll be happy to hear it!


congrats on seasoning your new pot :)) I waited forever seasoning my first one too – then quickly added several to the collection. They aren’t as scary once you start using them regularly


Thanks! I think my friends may have unwittingly given me a new obsession. I’ve brewed many cups of several different teas, and every one has been a perfect cup. Lush and rich and absolutely delicious. Do you designate your yixing to certain flavor profiles, or more general types of tea? It’s too soon to tell what my preferences would be, but I’m curious.


I have one for dark oolongs – but really I mostly drink DHP.
I have one for sheng – I don’t drink a lot of it so that’s fine
I have one for shou – I drink most shou from the pot with no issue
I have one for Special Dark – this pot is larger and I LOVE Special Dark western steeped – I also don’t really want those heavy chocolate notes in my regular shou pot
I have one for blacks – I really only drink Yunnan and Fujian blacks – so I’m not too worried about that (if I was into Darjeeling – I would do that in a separate pot)
I have 3 more that I haven’t seasoned – I think I’m doing to do one for aged sheng…. but I haven’t really gotten into that yet… Probably do another one with just general shou.
I just like them – they are so cute and I like how the tea steeps in them…. :))


I agree. And I can definitely see myself getting overly attached to my teaware this way—like each one has its own distinct flavor and personality. They are cute!! I drink mostly Yunnan and Fujian blacks too, so I don’t see it being a big problem. I will probably get several more in the future and season them for different things. And wow, you seem to have a lot of teapots. :P


I have a bit of a problem….. I also have 2 glass and a ceramic and a ru kiln and a couple of gaiwans – those are all small for gongfu. I don’t want to talk about cups – :)


I’ve bought more since these photos – I’m just hanging head in shame and checking myself into rehab….


Can you say “best problem ever”?! I’m so jealous of your collection. Now that I’m past the “MUST TRY ALL OF THE TEAS” phase and comfortably settled into what I know I like, I’m beginning to enter an “I NEED MORE TEAWARE NOW” phase. There is a coffee shop near me that hosts handmade pottery shows/sales every few months. When they have their next sale, you know where I’ll be…


Should I admit that I actually started taking a pottery class thinking it would be cheaper to learn to make my own than continuing to buy….. ((LOL it’s NOT – really really hard to make cups – fun but HARD) I’ve bought some amazing pieces locally. Go to the sale and let the addiction begin….
I did that too – stopped buying ALL THE TEA – needed to cupboard reduce so stopped buying tea and just moved right into teaware. Oh well it’s fun and it could be worse…. :)


Oh, yeah. Making pottery is not easy. I’m a fine arts student at a university; I’m considering taking a course in Advanced Ceramics next semester so that I can fuel the addiction. All I would make is teaware. And everything I make would probably be off-center, because making pottery is HARD. It’s fun and meditative but wow. There are a couple of people here who are fantastic potters. I’ve considered commissioning a tea set from one of them, but it’s hard to justify the expense. (Though I will probably end up spending loads of money on teaware in the long run, anyway…)

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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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