Tea Reviews

Teas I have drunk, with reviews and future purchases; focused primarily on oolongs and greens. Plus experiments on water.
personal, food, statistics, R, Bayes, reviews
2011-04-132020-11-10 in progress certainty: log importance: 1


Tea is one of my fa­vorite drinks (I drink ~1.89 liters a day): a re­mark­able va­ri­ety of fla­vors, caffeinated but cheaper than coffee and health­ier than so­da, eas­ily pre­pared, so­cially ac­cept­able, with a long & rich his­tory in­ter­twined with geopol­i­tics. I par­tic­u­larly fa­vor greens, oo­longs, & ku-ki chas; blacks tend to be too bit­ter and un­pleas­ant for me1, pu-erh tastes both strange and bit­ter, while whites strike me as sub­tle to the point of taste­less­ness. I some­times en­joy herbal-teas/tisanes but they are not a fo­cus.

Recommendations

Favorites

My fa­vorite kinds of tea:

  • oo­long:

    • Tie Guan Yin/Iron God­dess of Mercy
    • Jade
    • os­man­thus
  • green:

    • sen­cha
    • gyokuro
    • gen­mai-cha
    • Ho-ji Cha (roasted green)
    • jas­mine-fla­vored
  • ku­kicha:

    • Ku-Ki Cha Green Ka­makura
  • tisane/herbal:

    • bar­ley
    • peppermint/spearmint
    • green yaupon

Synopsis

If you are get­ting into teas and don’t know where to start, and want as di­verse a set of teas to try as pos­si­ble, I would sug­gest (mark­ing un­usual ones es­pe­cially worth try­ing):2

  • oo­long:

    • Tie Guan Yins

    • Huangjin Gui

    • ‘baked’/‘roasted’/‘pine’/‘black’

    • Im­pe­r­ial

    • am­ber

    • Da Hong Paos

    • Dancong/Phoenix

    • Hairy Crab

    • Wu Yi Rock

    • milk

    • Fairy

    • Fla­vored:

      • jas­mine
      • os­man­thus
      • mag­no­lia
      • gin­seng
      • pome­gran­ate
      • bit­ter­melon with roasted Tie Guan Yin
  • green:

    • Gun­pow­der

    • Young Hyson

    • Green Nee­dle

    • Chun Mee

    • Longjing/Dragon Well

    • Lu’an Melon Seed

    • sencha/sincha

    • matcha

    • gyokuro

    • ten­cha

    • ban­cha

    • ho­jicha

    • ko-kei cha

    • Fla­vored:

      • jas­mine
      • GABA
      • gen­mai
  • black: dunno (but fla­vors worth check­ing out are: apri­cot, rose, and peach)

  • misc:

    • tea flow­ers

    • yel­low tea

    • pu’erh (any)

    • Kuk­i-Cha

      • stan­dard
      • roasted
      • saku­ra-s­cented
      • Green Ka­makura
      • Wood Dragon
  • herbal/tisane:

    • Holy Basil
    • bar­ley or buck­wheat
    • chrysan­the­mum
    • gin­ger
    • gin­seng
    • hon­ey­bush
    • ju­jube
    • la­pa­cho
    • lemon myr­tle
    • mul­berry or bam­boo
    • peppermint/spearmint
    • rooi­bos
    • rose hips
    • tilleul
    • yaupon
    • yerba mate

Sources

  1. (pro: wide se­lec­tion of most teas, good prices, sam­ples avail­able for al­most every­thing, fast US ship­ping, cat­a­logue, old; con: se­lec­tion heav­ily tilted to­wards black teas)
  2. Yun­nan Sourc­ing (pro: deep unique Chi­nese se­lec­tion, ex­cel­lent prices; con: only Chi­nese teas, no sam­plers, ship­ping ex­pen­sive & ex­tremely slow from Chi­na—although there is ap­par­ently a US ver­sion I did­n’t know about)
  3. Har­ney & Sons (pro: fla­vored & mixed teas; con: over­all small se­lec­tion, prices not great)

I or­der mostly3 from the Mass­a­chu­setts mail-order loose-leaf Up­ton’s be­cause they spe­cial­ize in loose tea (while not all loose leaf teas are good, al­most all good teas are sold loose-leaf), I’m a sucker for brows­ing their cat­a­logue & read­ing ex­cerpts from books about the his­tory of tea like the , their prices seem pretty rea­son­able, their se­lec­tion is broad (they boast of hav­ing some­thing like 400 kinds of tea at any time, which I can be­lieve), and they offer small sam­ples of al­most all their teas (which is a fan­tas­tic way to taste scores of teas with­out hav­ing to buy $20 of each tea which one may not like). In con­trast I haven’t been ter­ri­bly happy with other re­tail­ers like the se­lec­tion of loose teas on Ama­zon (sur­pris­ingly sparse) or Tea­vana (phys­i­cally con­ve­nient to buy from but quite lim­ited se­lec­tion & over­priced).

Up­ton al­lows re­views if you’ve bought at least a cer­tain quan­ti­ty, but oth­er­wise your notes are pri­vate. This strikes me as a lit­tle un­fair (a sam­pler of 10g is more than enough to judge a tea!) and my re­views are a valu­able guide to me in or­der­ing, so I keep lo­cal copies of my re­views & notes. (Note that Up­ton’s re­cy­cles some list­ings so a hy­per­link may not point where it should.)

Equipment

Elec­tric tea ket­tle, tea mug, and fil­ter

I drink pri­mar­ily us­ing a Colo­nial Williams­burg “Be­ware The Fox” stoneware mug (3-inch di­am­e­ter), putting the tea in to steep us­ing a Finum medium brew­ing bas­ket and us­ing ~1.5g of tea for two steeps if pos­si­ble. The elec­tric tea ket­tle is a T-fal, with an ana­logue kitchen/meat ther­mome­ter in­serted through a hole I drilled for tem­per­a­ture mon­i­tor­ing & con­trol4, as I’ve had bad ex­pe­ri­ences with the re­li­a­bil­ity of dig­i­tal­ly-con­trolled elec­tric tea ket­tles. (My Finum lasted around 5 years be­fore the mesh starts get­ting clogged enough that it takes an un­rea­son­able time to drain into the cup, es­pe­cially with the finer green teas; clean­ing by soak­ing in di­lute bleach wa­ter helps but does­n’t fully re­store cir­cu­la­tion.)

Tea

Oolong

When I was young, I was a great fan of hot choco­late, but hot choco­late is trou­ble­some to make if you are mak­ing real hot choco­late (with milk & every­thing). I tried coffee once or twice, but it was even more dis­gust­ing than beer. were drink­able, though, and I slowly grad­u­ated to . Then one day a my mother bought a box set of teas which hap­pened to in­clude an tea.

I in­stantly fell in love with oo­long—not quite as raw and grassy as but not so bit­ter & dis­gust­ing as . (Not that green tea is bad; I still liked it, and all my fa­vorite oo­longs tend to­wards the green side of the oo­long spec­trum. I just pre­fer oo­longs.)

In roughly chrono­log­i­cal or­der:

  • Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long First Grade (★★★★☆ / ★★★☆☆)

    A very nice (which is one of my fa­vorite kinds of oo­long). The fla­vor is straight oo­long: in be­tween green and black, with a tiny bit of sweet­ness. One of the best I’ve had. Han­dles re-s­teep­ing well. (It is largely the same as the sec­ond-grade, but the sec­ond had a sort of ‘woody’ taste to it that the first does­n’t.)

    On the strength of this tast­ing from 2009, I or­dered 400g of it in 2012 to be my stan­dard tea when I ran out of sam­plers; to my great dis­ap­point­ment, it does not taste as good as I re­mem­ber it. I don’t know whether my palate has be­come more de­mand­ing or whether the qual­ity has fall­en. An on­line ac­quain­tance hap­pened to or­der some at the same time, and was very sat­is­fied with it, sug­gest­ing the for­mer.

  • Tind­haria Es­tate Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    Noth­ing mem­o­rable.

  • Bao Jun (★★☆☆☆)

    Like the Tind­haria, noth­ing mem­o­rable. In fact, this was pretty weak in fla­vor.

  • For­mosa Heavy-Baked Ti-Guan-Yin (★☆☆☆☆)

    Far too bit­ter and dark and ‘burnt’ tast­ing!

  • For­mosa Jade Oo­long Im­pe­r­ial (★★★★★)

    The finest Jade Oo­long that we have ever sam­pled. Those who are look­ing for the best of what Tai­wan can pro­duce will want to try at least the sam­ple size (12 gram­s).

    The first time I or­dered a sam­ple, I thought the Im­pe­r­ial was ex­tremely good—one of the, if not the best, oo­longs I’ve ever had. But also ex­pen­sive, so I did not or­der it again for sev­eral years. Again I was struck by the won­der­ful com­plex fra­grance one in­hales as one opens the bag. I was­n’t quite so im­pressed the sec­ond time, hav­ing had many more oo­longs since then; it is in­deed ex­cel­lent, but I have to stand by my orig­i­nal ap­praisal that it is too ex­pen­sive.

  • Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long Sec­ond Grade (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Just slightly woody. Oth­er­wise, a solid good oo­long. Down­side is that it does not resteep so the price ad­van­tage is less than ap­pears.

  • China Oo­long Bud­dha’s Palm (★★☆☆☆)

    Too smoky.

  • Os­man­thus Oo­long Se Chung (★★★★☆)

    It’s a solid oo­long, but the flo­ral taste (I don’t know how to de­scribe the fla­vor) re­ally makes this for me. I like to mix a lit­tle of it into some of my other oo­longs, though it’s not the best re-s­teeper I’ve ever had.

    This was my de­fault oo­long for a long time be­cause 500g was just $18. One of the down­sides of buy­ing in such bulk is that the os­man­thus frag­ments ex­hib­ited a and the last hun­dred cups were more os­man­thus than tea.

  • Fen Huan Dan Cong (★★☆☆☆)

    The de­scrip­tion promises a strong fla­vor, but per­haps I pre­pared it poorly be­cause the fla­vor struck me as weak, nor did I par­tic­u­larly no­tice any peach. I was dis­ap­point­ed; I’d’ve been bet­ter off buy­ing some more of the Os­man­thus or 1st-grade Im­pe­r­i­al.

  • Sea­son’s Pick Tie-Guan-Yin #132 (★★★☆☆)

    A solid oo­long some­where be­tween the Sec­ond and First Grade oo­longs

  • Fancy Oo­long Im­pe­r­ial (★★★★☆)

    Very good; sim­i­lar to the First Grade Im­pe­r­ial oo­long.

  • Ben­shan (★★★★☆)

    I bought this and the roasted bar­ley tea (see later) from the when I was vis­it­ing my sis­ter in San Fran­cis­co. Ben­shan is a fairly green oo­long and right up my al­ley, al­though it struck me as lack­ing the slight sweet­ness and flo­ral over­tones I ex­pect from the best oo­longs. But re­gard­less, it was pretty tasty, and adding a lit­tle bit of the bar­ley made the ben­shan oo­long even bet­ter.

  • Iron Bud­dha from (★★★☆☆)

    Stan­dard oo­long; noth­ing mem­o­rable.

  • Oo­long Fine Grade (★★★☆☆); stan­dard oo­long

  • For­mosa Am­ber Oo­long (★★☆☆☆); too black­-tea-like

  • For­mosa Jade Oo­long (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆); quite tasty, in the same vein as the First and Sec­ond Grade oo­longs (although not as good)

  • China Oo­long Se Chung (★★☆☆☆); just as de­scribed—­too woody for me

  • Ruan Zhi Thai (★★★☆☆)

    I did­n’t ex­pect much of a Thai tea, since I’ve never heard of oo­longs from Thai­land be­fore. To a lit­tle sur­prise, I found it to be a com­pletely nor­mal oo­long. Noth­ing flo­ral to the taste, just a plain or­di­nary oo­long. I would not have sus­pected you of ly­ing if you had told me it was a For­mosan oo­long.

  • Su­pe­rior Com­pe­ti­tion Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long (★★★★☆)

    Very good oo­long. Com­pa­ra­ble to the First and Sec­ond grade Im­pe­r­ial oo­longs, with­out doubt.

  • China Oo­long Or­ganic East­ern Beauty (★★☆☆☆)

    A dis­ap­point­ment; noth­ing spe­cial—the sub­tle notes are too sub­tle for me.

  • Tie-Guan-Yin Spe­cial Trib­ute (★★★☆☆)

    Rolled leaf-balls. Sim­i­lar to the Oo­long Fine Grade; but has a some­what mys­te­ri­ous flo­ral taste I can’t re­ally com­pare to any­thing. Does­n’t seem to re-s­teep very well.

  • Wuyi Golden Guan Yin (★★☆☆☆)

    Loosely rolled long leaves; weak fla­vor with noth­ing of in­ter­est about it. (I’ll agree with the Up­ton’s de­scrip­tion that it’s not bit­ter, but call­ing it ‘sweet’ or hav­ing a ‘rais­in-like’ fla­vor is just hy­per­bole.) Dis­ap­point­ing.

  • Flo­ral Jinx­uan (★★★☆☆)

    At first, I thought this was or­di­nary, but upon resteep­ing I no­ticed the promised flo­ral notes—they re­minded me strongly of the os­man­thus oo­long.

  • For­mosa Oo­long Spring Dragon (★★★☆☆)

    Like the Spe­cial Trib­ute, but weaker in fla­vor, I think.

  • “Tea at the Em­press” (★★☆☆☆); I picked up this dark blue cylin­dri­cal tin of teabags some­where or oth­er. It does­n’t even spec­ify what kind of tea it is, but ap­par­ently it has some­thing to do with a , and claims to be from “The Fair­mont Store” (although no item is listed sim­i­lar to the tin).

    It’s not very good oo­long. It starts off fairly bit­ter and does­n’t im­prove, but at least it does­n’t get too hor­ri­ble as it resteeps. Re­gard­less, I don’t know where I would get more and I would not get more if I knew.

  • Em­press Guei-Fei Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    At 5 min­utes of steep­ing, a pretty or­di­nary oo­long; by 10 min­utes, a strong flo­ral taste had de­vel­oped. Con­tin­ued steep­ing made the fla­vor weaker and bit­terer (as one would ex­pec­t), but no other changes. It re­minded me of the os­man­thus oo­long. Dur­ing the sec­ond tast­ing, the flo­ral fla­vor was not as over­pow­er­ing; I was care­ful to use the same tsp amount of tea for each of the 9 teas, which sug­gests that per­haps last time I used too much of the Em­press. Not bad at all, I may or­der it again.

  • Oo­long Choice Grade (★★★★☆)

    At 5 min­utes, an­other or­di­nary oo­long, but by 10 min­utes, the fla­vor has not be­come bit­ter but rather con­tin­ued to de­velop into a very oo­long fla­vor. Lit­tle change with re-s­teep­ings. In the sec­ond tast­ing, I noted that it was ‘a sharper blacker fla­vor than Anxi and Em­press’. A good oo­long, might be a can­di­date for my ‘stan­dard’ tea (but would need to check prices of the oth­er­s).

  • For­mosa Oo­long Choic­est (★★☆☆☆)

    The 5 minute steep­ing tasted both woody and flo­ral, an odd com­bi­na­tion which both­ered me (I had ex­pected more—it cost twice what the Oo­long Choice Grade did). The 10 minute steep­ing was­n’t much bet­ter: it was sweeter tast­ing, but the stem/wood fla­vor was even stronger, and it did­n’t im­prove or change very much at any sub­se­quent steep­ing. It’s pos­si­ble I pre­pared it wrong or picked a pinch of stems, but it seems un­likely I will pay the pre­mium for this tea when I am not sure I can even de­scribe it as ‘good’. (In the sec­ond tast­ing, I noted only that it was ‘slightly sour’.)

  • “Anxi tik­wanyin” (★★★☆☆)

    An­other gift from my sis­ter. This is a mild medium oo­long with rel­a­tively lit­tle flo­ral taste com­pared to every­thing else I’ve been test­ing. As ex­pected from the tea re­gion, their Tie-Guan-Yin is per­fectly ac­cept­able.

  • “Momo Oo­long Su­per Grade”, Lupi­cia Fresh Tea (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    As the name in­di­cates, this is a peach-fla­vored oo­long. I bought a bag of 10 teabags dur­ing Sakura Mat­suri 2012. I won­dered if $15$122012 was too much to pay, but the bag seemed oddly heavy and the back said each bag had 2g of tea in them! 2 grams is a lot, and 20g is more rea­son­able for $15$122012—sim­i­lar to Up­ton’s sam­ples when S&H is in­clud­ed. (When I checked on­line, I saw the loose tea was $16$132012 for 50g. Oh well. Find­er’s fee.)

    The bags were the first I’ve seen made with a plas­tic mesh, and when I brewed the first one, the taste was far too strong. It was with­out doubt peach-fla­vored. For the next batch­es, I cut open the bag and used a fourth of the con­tents. This made a much more rea­son­able fla­vor, which holds up well un­der resteep­ing, and the peach-fla­vor is not as ar­ti­fi­cial-tast­ing as the other peach tea I have now. One thing I’ve learned after drink­ing many mugs is that this tea quickly be­comes fla­vor­less—it does­n’t hold up un­der resteep­ing; this may be be­cause it was de­signed for quick re­lease as tea bags—but hope­fully the loose tea is un­shred­ded leaves and this would be less of a prob­lem. When I run out of tea, I may or­der a batch of Lupi­cia since be­sides the Momo Oo­long, they have some oo­longs I haven’t tried be­fore.

  • Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long Spe­cial Grade (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Flo­ral, but oddly it also tasted sour. Not rec­om­mend­ed, to say the least, but per­haps the first tast­ing was sim­ply an aber­rant cup. On later tast­ings, I did­n’t no­tice fur­ther sour­ness, and it seemed more ac­cept­able. Dos­ing is diffi­cult be­cause the large whole leaves are very tightly wrapped but some­times are just stems, so it is easy to add too few or too many.

    I re­tried a sam­ple of this in No­vem­ber 2019, be­cause I could­n’t be­lieve that a de­cen­t-sound­ing oo­long would be so bad. It was­n’t, and was mch bet­ter, but was still a bland TGY.

  • Tie-Guan-Yin Vin­tage Style, Flo­ral Tie-Guan-Yin Su­pe­rior (★★★☆☆)

    Nei­ther left a strong enough im­pres­sion to re­view al­though the Flo­ral Su­pe­rior lived up to at least the first part of the name; they were both sim­i­lar to the Spe­cial Grade. At times dur­ing this tast­ing, I won­dered if Up­ton had screwed up & they were the same teas (but they could­n’t’ve been be­cause the tea leaves were vis­i­bly differ­en­t). The Flo­ral Su­pe­rior does not han­dle resteep­ing well, quickly los­ing fla­vor.

  • Su­per Fancy Oo­long (★☆☆☆☆)

    In­de­scrib­able taste, but what­ever it is, makes it bad.

  • Roasted Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    Pretty much as ex­pect­ed: a stan­dard oo­long taste with a smoky after­taste. Smoky oo­longs are not my cup of tea, but I had to try. The up­side is that it turns out to resteep very well, and the smoky after­taste slowly changes to a sweeter hon­ey-like after­taste.

  • Mag­no­lia Blos­som Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    The mag­no­lia fla­vor is strong with this one. I was sur­prised to in­stantly rec­og­nize the fla­vor, be­cause as far as I knew I had never had any­thing mag­no­li­a-fla­vored be­fore. The fla­vor it­self leaves me mixed—I sort of like but also sort of don’t. This may be one of the teas best con­sumed only at in­ter­vals or mixed in with an­oth­er. It does­n’t resteep well, al­most im­me­di­ately los­ing any fla­vor.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Da Hong Pao (★★☆☆☆)

    Flo­ral and weak. More green-white than oo­long.

  • Or­ganic Da Hong Pao Oo­long (★★☆☆☆)

    A stronger Pre-Ch­ing­ming Da Hong Pao, which then un­der­cuts the im­prove­ment by tack­ing on an after­taste which is not smoky but burnt. In gen­er­al, this batch of oo­longs was a dis­ap­point­ment: ei­ther bor­ing or bad. I may fi­nally have ex­hausted Up­ton’s oo­long cat­a­log.

  • Rev­o­lu­tion “Dragon Eye Oo­long Tea: 16 sin­gle cup In­fusers” (★★★☆☆)

    A Christ­mas gift, this fla­vored oo­long comes in the nice lit­tle plas­tic mesh bags that non-loose-tea prod­ucts seem to be mov­ing to­wards these days. The Se Chung and Shui Xian blend is heav­ily fla­vored with safflow­er, peach, and apri­cot for a some­what over­whelm­ingly flo­ral taste which makes it hard to judge the un­der­ly­ing oo­long (it seems OK, but not great). Seems to han­dle a few resteeps well.

  • Dis­cover Tea’s “Ti Kuan Yin” (★★★☆☆)

    A per­fectly or­di­nary and sat­is­fac­tory oo­long; it han­dles steep­ing well and de­liv­ers a cup medium be­tween green and black. While I was at their Williams­burg shop, I had a cup of their “Glen­burn Moon­shine Oo­long”; it’s hard to judge from one cup you did­n’t make, but while the leaves have a lovely sil­ver fuzz and the brew was pretty good, I did­n’t like it suffi­ciently to jus­tify the 2-3x pre­mium over the tie kuan yin.

  • Spice & Tea Ex­change, Co­conut Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    Bao Zhong oo­long with co­conut ex­tract. I am not a fan of co­conut fla­vor and bought it out of cu­rios­ity when I wan­dered into their Williams­burg shop be­fore Christ­mas 2013 (I also bought an ounce of their gen­mai-cha). It was bet­ter than I ex­pect­ed: the co­conut is a light over­lay and not over­pow­er­ing, and the base Bao Zhong seems to be fine.

  • Tao of Tea, “Green Dragon Oo­long Tea” (★★★★☆)

    Solid oo­long, much like a tieguanyin with the flo­ral after-taste I love so much in oo­longs. Resteeps nor­mally with­out be­com­ing too bit­ter.

  • Tao of Tea, “Black Dragon Oo­long Tea” (★★★☆☆)

    A black tea in all but name; very sim­i­lar to the Amali African Queen. Steeps per­haps twice. Did­n’t much en­joy, but not as bit­ter & un­pleas­ant as most black teas.

  • Tea’s Etc, “Gin­seng Loose Leaf Oo­long Tea” (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    I had­n’t tried a tea be­fore, and when this one popped up on Ama­zon, I thought I’d give it a try. While I strongly sus­pect the health ben­e­fits of gin­seng have been overblown5, the fla­vor might still be nice. The tea comes in coated pel­lets, with some wisps of straw-col­ored plant mat­ter which I as­sume are gin­seng it­self. The gin­seng fla­vor is sweet, mild, fruity & diffi­cult for me to com­pare to any­thing (I guess I should just de­scribe it as gin­sen­g-like!). I think I like it, al­though like the co­conut oo­long I would­n’t want to drink too many cups in a row of it.

  • Daniel Clough, Golden Lily Wu­long (★★★☆☆)

    1 of 4 oo­longs gifted me by Clough after his trav­els in Chi­na. In­ter­est­ing and not what I ex­pect­ed, since the tea looked more like a tieguanyin. The Golden Lily al­most does­n’t taste like an oo­long at all: it tastes sweet, per­haps like hon­ey?, and some­thing harder to de­scribe—­googling, it seems the usual de­scrip­tion is milky, which on fur­ther re­flec­tion seems like it’s a good anal­o­gy.

  • Clough, Lan Gui Ren gin­seng (★★☆☆☆)

    A gin­seng oo­long like the pre­vi­ous Tea’s Etc; there’s no ‘straw’ in it, and the coated pel­lets are much small­er, al­though un­like the oth­er, the pel­lets do open up into tea leaves. Weakly gin­seng, sweet­er, and al­most com­pletely taste­less after the first steep. This one was a dis­ap­point­ment; I hope the other gin­seng turns out to be bet­ter.

  • Clough, un­known gin­seng (★★★☆☆)

    A nor­mal foil baggy of lit­tle gin­seng pel­lets; no straw, small more ir­reg­u­lar pel­lets, green col­or. Sim­i­lar the Tea’s Etc one.

  • Clough, un­spec­i­fied TGY oo­long (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    A vac­u­um-sealed small sam­ple (10g?) of Chi­nese tea; I did­n’t rec­og­nize any of the names or char­ac­ters on it (I took a photo just in case it turned out to mat­ter). The first steep is a fairly tasty tieguany­in, but sub­se­quent steeps are ab­solutely taste­less, which meant I used it up quick­ly.

  • Tao of Tea, “Wu Yi Oo­long Tea” (★★★☆☆)

    Very sim­i­lar to Tao of Tea’s “Black Dragon Oo­long Tea”, which I did­n’t much like ei­ther, but is bet­ter than the usual black.

  • Sum­mit Tea Com­pa­ny, “Tie Guan Yin Oo­long Tea” (★★★☆☆)

    Medium oo­long, some­what flo­ral, sur­vives only one steep, not ter­ri­ble but fairly weak fla­vor. Tie Guan Yin on a bud­get: I’m not sure if one can do bet­ter for cheap­er, but one could eas­ily do bet­ter.

  • Art of Tea, “Iron God­dess of Mercy Oo­long Tea” (★★★★☆)

    Rea­son­able Tie Guan Yin, very green, nice flo­ral after­taste; sen­si­tive to tem­per­a­ture, though, and eas­ily pre­pared too hot. Prob­a­bly can do bet­ter qual­ity vs price-wise. Con­tainer is a bit flimsy and if it falls to the ground, will spill con­tents all over (as I found out the hard way).

  • Tao of Tea’s “Royal Phoenix Oo­long Tea” (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Toasty tex­ture, fra­grant aroma and sweet, high­-bounce taste sim­i­lar to nec­tarines and peach­es. Ori­gin is Guang­dong Province, China

    No re­views, but I thought the de­scrip­tion sounded promis­ing and Tao of Tea has earned a lit­tle bit of trust, so I took a gam­ble with it. The leaves are long stringy black leaves. It resteeps well. My ini­tial im­pres­sion was that the fla­vor is in­deed some­what sweet and, grandiose name notwith­stand­ing, it tastes like a mid­dle of the road oo­long with no par­tic­u­lar ad­di­tional fla­vors or after­taste—just sort of oo­long-y. I was dis­ap­point­ed: OK, not good I think I must have pre­pared it badly the first few times (per­haps too hot or steeped too long) be­cause as I drink the rest of it, I’m en­joy­ing it more and the fla­vor seems closer to the flo­ral sort of Tie Guan Yin fla­vor I like most.

  • Huang Jin Gui Oo­long (★★★★☆)

    This pre­mium Oo­long is pro­duced in Anxi county of Fu­jian province, with a light ox­i­da­tion level of less than 20%. The name Huang Jin Gui trans­lates to “golden os­man­thus,” re­fer­ring to the cup’s light gold hue and the os­man­thus-like aroma and fla­vor.

    (This and the next 3 are all Chi­nese teas.) De­scrip­tion is en­tirely ac­cu­rate for once. I liked it.

  • China Tie-Guan-Yin Or­ganic (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    This or­ganic se­lec­tion has a sweet aroma with hints of trop­i­cal flow­ers and a sug­ges­tion of toasted co­conut. The cup has in­ter­est­ing notes of stone fruit, golden raisins, and wal­nuts. The fin­ish has a fruity/floral qual­i­ty, which is bal­anced by a light min­eral note.

    Reg­u­lar TGY. I don’t find the com­plex­i­ties that Up­ton’s de­scribed, but it’s fine.

  • “Wu Yi” Wa­ter Fairy Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    While not a true Wu Yi Moun­tain tea, this Fu­jian province Oo­long is a fla­vor­ful and afford­able al­ter­na­tive. The dark, choco­late-brown leaves pro­duce a dusky ecru liquor with a har­mo­nious fla­vor pro­file, ac­cented with a sweet, lin­ger­ing fin­ish. Some who have en­joyed this se­lec­tion have com­mented about nu­ances of hon­ey­suck­le, cit­rus and peach.

    On the black end of the spec­trum; it’s not as bit­ter as the pre­vi­ous Wu Yi I tried, which I am grate­ful for and makes it rea­son­ably drink­able, but this one set­tles it: Wu Yis just aren’t for me. Time to give up on them, and prob­a­bly time to start avoid­ing any oo­long which is suffi­ciently ox­i­dized to be de­scribed as black or choco­late-col­ored.

  • Zhang Ping Shui Hsian Oo­long (★☆☆☆☆)

    This loose­ly-rolled Fu­jian province tea is tightly packed into pa­per-wrapped “bricks”. In­fus­ing re­veals bold, skill­fully crafted leaves with a fresh aroma and a hearty cup with a lilac/hyacinth fra­grance. The sweet fin­ish has a del­i­cate sug­ges­tion of car­damom.

    I thought this sounded cute—­pa­per-wrapped bricks of tea, a throw­back to the tra­di­tional meth­ods of pack­ag­ing and stor­ing tea in Chi­na. And it sounded quite good too, a greener oo­long right up my al­ley. But this one was a se­ri­ous dis­ap­point­ment! The bricks turn out to be a lot of small bricks, and they are a pain to work with; you can­not sim­ply reach in and get some tea, you have to break off com­pacted chunks of tea, which are hard to mea­sure right and scat­ter de­bris (if you do it out­side the bag, it’s a mess to clean up, and if you do it in­side, the dust will fall to the bot­tom). I could put up with this for­mat ex­cept to my per­plex­i­ty, the tea seems al­most taste­less, not “hearty”; I tried steep­ing at a va­ri­ety of wa­ter tem­per­a­tures (though Up­ton’s calls for 190°, which is not ex­otic or un­usu­al), con­vinced I was sim­ply prepar­ing it wrong, but none of them did the trick. (To avoid death by a thou­sand cleanups, I wound up crush­ing all the bricks by hand in a big bowl and then pour­ing them back in.) Ex­pen­sive, messy, and taste­less.

  • Tran­quil Tues­day: Phoenix Honey Or­chid Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

  • Golden Dragon (?): Tie Guan Yin Oo­long Tea—­Iron God­dess of Mercy (Wu­Long) (★★☆☆☆)

    Taste­less in much the same way as the Zhang Ping Shui Hsian Oo­long was—not a bad taste, but hardly there. Last per­haps one steep and then even the weak fla­vor is gone. Mine came in a most­ly-un­la­beled foil bag (so I have no idea where it’s re­ally from), and the re­views for the tins are more pos­i­tive, sug­gest­ing I was sent a low­er-qual­ity al­ter­nate tea.

  • The Tao of Tea, Os­man­thus Oo­long Tea (★★★☆☆)

    Does­n’t com­pare well with Up­ton’s os­man­thus oo­long. Same prob­lem as the Tao of Tea gen­mai-cha: the added fla­vor (os­man­thus) is al­most un­tastable and the base tea is noth­ing to write home about.

  • Ya­mamo­toya­ma, Oo­long Tea (★★★☆☆)

    Con­ve­niently avail­able in gro­cery stores, and not as bad as one might ex­pect of bag tea. On the black end of things, with­out any of the green or flo­ral tastes but more of a ro­bust ku­kicha-like fla­vor.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming “New Style” Fairy Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    From Hu­nan province, this 2015 spe­cial pro­duc­tion Pre-Ch­ing­ming Oo­long is no­table for its out­stand­ing aroma and cup. The fla­vor notes are in­tense, with a pro­nounced orchid/lilac qual­ity as well as a light min­eral hint. The fin­ish lingers pleas­antly and sweet­ly.

    A strong aroma whose flo­ral qual­i­ties re­minds me of the even more in­tense scent of the Jade Im­pe­ri­al; I find the fla­vor more akin to jas­mine than or­chid. Be­yond that, the fla­vor is mild and meek, and green. Over­all, I don’t think the flo­ral aroma makes up for the lack of other dis­tinc­tion in its fla­vor.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Fenghuang Dan Cong (★★★☆☆)

    From Guang­dong province, this ven­er­a­ble-style Oo­long tea is made from an­cient “sin­gle trunk” Camel­lia sinen­sis trees. No­table for its peach-like fla­vor and a pro­nounced sweet char­ac­ter, this 2015 har­vest is suit­able for mul­ti­ple steep­ings, as with the Gong-fu method.

    Re­mark­ably sweet, this takes oo­longs to a place I did not ex­pect them to go. It is even milder than the New Style and there is a defi­nite fruity fla­vor to it which I can’t pin down be­yond cit­rus-y, al­though I don’t think “peach-like” cap­tures it. Here too, while dis­tinct, the fla­vor does not cap­ture my heart.

  • Se­lect Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long (★★★★☆)

    The leaves of this se­lec­tion dis­play a range of col­or, with tans, dark olive greens and browns. Rolled in a semi­-loose fash­ion, this tea is processed in the Muzha style (i.e., with a fin­ish­ing light roast). The smooth liquor is sweet, with both fruity and flow­ery notes. The fin­ish is clean and lightly sweet. Pro­duced in Anxi, Fu­jian province.

    A solid, stan­dard TGY: dark green liquor, resteeps well, and has the virtue of a good TGY in com­bin­ing the char­ac­ter­is­tic flo­ral over­tones with a ro­buster main fla­vor. There are bet­ter oo­longs but not ter­ri­bly many.

  • Jas­mine Oo­long (★★★★☆)

    The base tea of this offer­ing is a qual­ity Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long with light ox­i­da­tion, ex­pertly scented with jas­mine blos­soms. Most of the blos­soms are re­moved after scent­ing, which re­sults in a smoother cup. The liquor is a fine mar­riage of or­chid, jas­mine, and other flo­ral notes.

    A strong jas­mine you smell as soon as you open the pack­age, which over­whelms the oo­long with­out be­ing bit­ter or grassy. I’m de­vel­op­ing a fond­ness for jas­mine, and this hits the spot.

  • Tie-Guan-Yin Stan­dard Oo­long (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    This Oo­long tea has a neat ap­pear­ance, with evenly rolled leaves rang­ing in color from dark olive green to a lighter lime green. The clear in­fu­sion is light, with a green-yel­low hue. The pleas­ant fla­vor has notes of al­mond milk and light floral/citrus hints. Pro­duced in the Fu­jian province of Chi­na.

    Thor­oughly mediocre. It’s not cheap enough to off­set how it’s not much of a TGY and does­n’t resteep. It makes a good TGY cup if you use twice as much as usual but that fur­ther de­stroys the cost ad­van­tage.

  • For­mosa GABA Oo­long (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Japan­ese re­searchers cre­ated tea serendip­i­tously in the 1980’s. Want­ing effec­tive meth­ods to pre­serve tea, not fully fer­mented leaf was ex­posed to ni­tro­gen. The glu­tamic acid in­her­ent in tea was trans­formed to Gam­ma-Aminobu­tyric Acid, or GABA for short. This se­lec­tion is no­table for its broad and in­ter­est­ing fla­vor pro­file, with notes of man­go, peach and gua­va. The cup has a creamy body with a pro­nounced, lin­ger­ing sweet­ness.

    It’s un­usual to see a tea with an ori­gin story fit to ri­val a su­per­hero’s, and GABA it­self is an in­ter­est­ing chem­i­cal with the po­ten­tial to aug­ment tea’s thea­nine as an anx­i­olytic (although the much greater effi­cacy of sug­gests GABA on its own may be im­po­ten­t); as soon as I read the de­scrip­tion, I knew I had to try it. This one of the two GABA teas Up­ton’s car­ries (the other is “Japan­ese Green GABA (Gabaron)”); I re­gret not or­der­ing a sam­ple of the other as well, so I could com­pare them to each other and to other green/oolongs and get an idea of what part of the taste or effect may be at­trib­ut­able to the nitrogen/GABA process and what is part of the un­der­ly­ing tea which hap­pened to get processed that way. (I have no­ticed that when it comes to ad­di­tives or differ­ent processes like gen­mai-cha, the base tea de­ter­mines how much I like it as much as the ad­di­tives and that they often are of lower qual­i­ty; so when I dis­like some­thing, it may be the ad­di­tive, or it may be the base tea. So I need to try at least two, or dis­like in­tensely what is clearly the ad­di­tive, be­fore I can be rea­son­ably cer­tain and ig­nore that cat­e­gory hence­forth.) The fla­vor it­self is as de­scribed, with a fruity rather than flo­ral over­tone.

    Even­tu­ally I or­dered the Gabaron to com­pare side by side. The Gabaron tasted like a nor­mal enough green tea, and I could­n’t de­tect any sim­i­lar­i­ties.

  • Se Chung Oo­long Clas­sic (★★★☆☆)

    This is a great every­day Oo­long at an at­trac­tive price. The neatly rolled leaves yield a gold­en-yel­low liquor with a light flo­ral aro­ma. The medi­um-bod­ied cup has a sweet veg­e­tal qual­ity with woody hints and fruity un­der­tones. A pleas­ant as­trin­gency lingers in the fin­ish.

    Reg­u­lar oo­long, not much fla­vor

  • For­mosa Jade Oo­long Supreme (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Those who ap­pre­ci­ate the finer grades of Tung-T­ing style Oo­long will find this one an ex­cep­tional val­ue. The fla­vor is sur­pris­ingly more re­fined than item TT86.

    Hon­ey-like, flo­ral.

  • Oo­long Stan­dard Grade/Standard Grade For­mosa Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    A clas­sic restau­rant grade tea, with a smooth char­ac­ter, and clas­sic For­mosa Oo­long fla­vors. Priced for every­day use, this se­lec­tion is an ex­cel­lent choice for its value and qual­i­ty.

    Woody with some smoke.

  • For­mosa Am­ber Oo­long Se­lect (★★★★☆)

    This grade of Am­ber Oo­long (Wu-Long) has more com­plex fla­vor and finer leaf style than our TT55. Highly rec­om­mend­ed.

    Flo­ral, sweet after­taste, han­dles long steep­ing well.

  • Sea­son’s Pick Oo­long Fan­nings Or­ganic (★★☆☆☆)

    Rem­i­nis­cent of a roasted Tie-Guan-Y­in, this fan­nings grade Oo­long in­fuses in one to two min­utes. The smooth cup has an earthy mo­lasses char­ac­ter and a light red ap­ple note, with hints of honey and pecans. The lin­ger­ing fin­ish has a slight minty note.

    (Fan­nings are very fine, al­most dust-like tea.) Steeps al­most in­stant­ly, dark brown liquor. Bit­ter with a coffee-like aro­ma, it tastes ex­actly like black tea and not at all like an oo­long, even one of the darker and smok­ier ones.

  • Thurbo Es­tate FTGFOP1 Dar­jeel­ing Oo­long (D­J-300) (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    This tea is an at­trac­tive mix of well-twist­ed, wiry leaves, dec­o­rated with downy sil­ver buds. The light am­ber cup has a pro­nounced sweet aroma with light fruity notes. A smooth, creamy mouth feel in­tro­duces fla­vor notes of stone fruit and nuts, which some have likened to pecan.

    A highly un­usual In­dian oo­long. Medium brown liquor, not par­tic­u­larly black­-tast­ing. Some uniden­ti­fi­able funky over­tone for me that trig­gers as­so­ci­a­tion with mold and wet dogs and puts me off de­spite the ad­mit­tedly nice white-tea-esque vi­sual ap­pear­ance of the leaves.

  • Bel­gachi Spe­cial As­sam Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    This is a rare pro­duc­tion of Oo­long style tea from As­sam. The leaves are beau­ti­fully made, with a color range of mul­ti­-hued browns and some sil­ver and gold tips. The liquor has a light sweet note, which deep­ens into a com­plex fla­vor pro­file with caramel hints. This tea is pro­duced by hand us­ing old-time meth­ods, in­clud­ing dry­ing over a char­coal fire.

    Sim­i­lar to the Dar­jeel­ing in un­usual orig­in, ap­pear­ance, and liquor col­or. It lacks the off­putting over­tone and has a sweeter and pleas­ant taste.

  • Tao of Tea: Frozen Sum­mit (★★★★☆)

  • Tao of Tea: Ori­en­tal Beauty (★★☆☆☆)

  • China Black Tea Tie-Guan-Yin (★★☆☆☆)

    Pro­duced from a cul­ti­var used for Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long, this black tea se­lec­tion has an in­ter­est­ing, com­plex aroma and fla­vor. The large, mid­night brown leaves yield an am­ber cup with an aroma of chest­nuts and wood. A re­fresh­ing minty sug­ges­tion com­ple­ments the nutty/woody fla­vor notes. Oo­long lovers will de­light in this unique offer­ing.

    Black leaves yield­ing a stan­dard bit­ter and un­pleas­ant black tea, with no dis­cernible con­nec­tions to nor­mal TGY oo­longs, re­ally em­pha­siz­ing the differ­ence that the pro­cess­ing makes be­tween green/oolong/black.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Fairy China Oo­long (★★★★☆)

    This offer­ing is a 2016 spe­cial pro­duc­tion Pre-Ch­ing­ming Oo­long from Hu­nan province. The strik­ing, dark­-o­live leaf is quite bold and fully in­tact. In­tense orchid/lilac notes are pro­nounced in both the aroma and the smooth, but­tery fla­vor. Sub­tle nu­ances of stone fruit and veg­e­tal hints round out the fla­vor.

    Long green leaves pro­duc­ing equally green liquor rem­i­nis­cent of gyokuro’s ‘grassy’ over­tones but with defi­nite flo­ral after­taste. Resteeps not too well.

  • Japan­ese Oo­long Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    This un­usual tea has dry leaves of differ­ing shapes and col­ors. The end re­sult is an out­stand­ing cup with a com­plex fla­vor pro­file that is un­mis­tak­ably Oo­long in char­ac­ter, with woody hints, del­i­cate flo­ral notes, and a sweet lin­ger­ing fin­ish.

    Like the Stan­dard Grade For­mosa Oo­long, this is a ba­sic oo­long heavy on the woody fla­vor and some­what stem-y. A de­cent cheap ac­com­pa­ni­ment to a meal but not a great oo­long.

  • East­ern Beauty Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    The bold leaves of this lim­ited pro­duc­tion ‘East­ern Beauty’ Oo­long yield an am­ber-gold cup with a sweet, rich char­ac­ter. Heady notes of ripe fruit and honey are present in both the aroma and the com­plex fla­vor, which fin­ishes with a light sug­ges­tion of spice.

    Meh. Not nearly as fla­vor­ful as other East­ern Beau­ties.

  • Clip­per Ship Tea Com­pa­ny: Ori­en­tal Beauty Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

  • Gin­ger’s Oo­long (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    When we added gin­ger to our peachy and de­li­cious For­mosa Oo­long, we cre­ated Gin­ger’s Oo­long, a fun and fla­vor­ful spin on our pop­u­lar Peaches & Gin­ger tea. Kosher. De­tails: This is an old blend done over ten years ago. Our Peaches & Gin­ger is a pop­u­lar black tea blend. So we thought, “For­mosa Oo­long has peach notes, lets add some gin­ger root.” Thus Gin­ger’s oo­long was born. Dry Leaves: Dark brown leaves. Liquor: The gin­ger in this tea makes the liquor slightly dark­er, a medium brown. Aro­ma: The oo­long pro­vides the dark peach notes and the gin­ger gives spicy aro­mas. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinated Body: The oo­long is medium bod­ied. Fla­vors: The sub­tle fla­vors of peaches and toasted nuts are nicely con­trasted by the gin­ger.

    is an Amer­i­can tea re­tailer much like Up­ton’s in be­ing pri­mar­ily mail-order based in the North­east founded around the same time, car­ry­ing spe­cialty teas, and offer­ing sam­ples for most of their items; it tends to spe­cial­ize more in offer­ing blended/scented teas and black teas in a British style than Up­ton’s ex­treme va­ri­ety (eg rel­a­tively lim­ited species count in ti­sanes, and not many whites or pu’erhs or odder teas). I took ad­van­tage of a Christ­mas sale to buy sam­ples of most of their green & oo­long teas, and some of the herbals I had­n’t tried like bam­boo and chrysan­the­mum. The sam­ples don’t come with listed amounts, but weigh­ing a few, they mostly come in at 5-7g.

    Gin­gery but not over­pow­er­ingly so.

  • Rou Gui Oo­long (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    It is a plea­sure to offer again Rou Gui Oo­long. We love its roasted fruit fla­vors. It is made in the same area as Da Hong Pao: the Wuyi Moun­tains of Fu­jian in Chi­na. Dry Leaves: Twist­ed, dark brown leaves. Liquor: Am­ber. Aro­ma: Roasted apri­cots. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Medi­um. Fla­vors: Apri­cots & Peach­es.

  • Pome­gran­ate Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    We in­fuse full leaves of pre­mium Ti Quan Yin Oo­long with tangy pome­gran­ate to cre­ate this com­plex ful­l-bod­ied blend that brews into a sweetly fra­grant and silky tex­tured cup of tea. The Ti Quan Yin Oo­long we use is named after the Chi­nese “God­dess of Mercy”. Please note: Pome­gran­ate Oo­long in our box of 50 tea bags and our His­toric Royal Palaces tin have been dis­con­tin­ued. Please con­tinue to en­joy this tea in our other tea sa­chet col­lec­tions, loose tea, or Fresh Brew Iced Tea pouch­es. De­tails: We wanted to offer a fla­vored oo­long blend. This would make oo­longs more ap­proach­able to some tea lovers. So we chose a good oo­long and added the pome­gran­ate. Dry Leaves: Rolled green leaves. Liquor: A very light clear green-yel­low. Aro­ma: On top of the flo­ral and cit­rus fla­vors of the tea lies the sweet cit­rus aro­mas of pome­gran­ates. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Medium body. Fla­vors: A lovely tast­ing oo­long that is light and re­fresh­ing with strong fla­vors of pome­gran­ate.

  • Fenghuang Shuix­ian (★★★☆☆)

    Fenghuang Shuix­i­an, a de­li­cious and rare oo­long tea, is widely re­garded for its in­tense peach and spice fla­vor. A high point of Mike’s trips to China is vis­it­ing the ar­ti­sans high above the city of Fenghuang. He en­joys see­ing how they trans­form the big leaves into twists of brown oo­long, with hints of rus­set. Even more, he loves drink­ing it! De­tails: This is made in one of the most south­ern tea re­gions in Chi­na. It is the pride of Guang­dong Province. Made high in the Fenghuang Moun­tains above the an­cient tem­ple city of Chaozhou, it is this tea that the tiny clay tea pots are used with in the Chaozhou tea brew­ing style. Dry Leaves: These leaves are dark brown and twisted into long thin pieces. Liquor: Pale or­ange. Aro­ma: The stone fruit aroma is of fresh peach nec­tar. Caffeine lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This a medium bod­ied oo­long. Fla­vors: The fla­vors of the Mi­lan va­ri­ety of this tea are of fresh peach nec­tar and it al­most fizzes like a Belli­ni.

  • Top Ti Quan Yin (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Top Ti Quan Yin is the best tea out of north­ern Fu­jian Province. The finest aroma and body is what we aim for, and this year’s ver­sion has it. It is an in­tense mix­ture of but­ter and hon­ey, even hon­ey­suckle flow­ers, rem­i­nis­cent of great Bur­gundy white wine. De­tails: One of the best jobs of the year is to de­cide upon this tea. Each sam­ple is great, so it is a joy to drink. How­ever which is the best of the best? Dry Leaves: Dark green rolled leaves with bright green flecks. Liquor: This tea brews very light, a green-yel­low color that is very clear. Aro­ma: An in­tense and com­plex aroma of toast, al­monds, honey and light cit­rus notes. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This Ti Quan Yin has good body that is sus­tained through sev­eral brew­ings. Fla­vors: A joy to drink, it is rem­i­nis­cent of great Mer­sault wines. The aroma con­tin­ues with some flo­ral notes, and the “fin­ish” never ends.

  • Ti Quan Yin Spring Flo­ral (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Ti Quan Yin Spring Flo­ral is de­li­cious—and a great val­ue. We searched through all of Anxi to find a Chi­nese oo­long tea that cap­tures the high flo­ral notes and has nice body, yet is­n’t too ex­pen­sive. Its tiny green­ish balls can be re-brewed sev­eral times. De­tails: Ti Quan Yins are some of Chi­na’s most fa­mous teas. They are from South­ern Fu­jian Province, and it was in these hills that teas were first rolled into small balls. That al­lowed the teas to slowly ox­i­dize and slowly de­velop these great fla­vors. Each tea leaf goes through com­plex changes as it grad­u­ally dies. Dry Leaves: Light and dark green rolled leaves. Liquor: This tea brews very light, a green-yel­low color that is very clear. Aro­ma: The scent of this tea is of lightly toasted al­monds, hon­ey, and but­ter com­bined. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Ti Quan Yin is medium bod­ied and may be brewed a few times. Fla­vors: A lovely oo­long with en­dur­ing fla­vors of hon­ey, but­ter, and al­monds.

  • The Tao of Tea, Baozhong Oo­long Tea (★★★☆☆)

    A light, low ox­i­dized oo­long with sev­eral tex­ture lev­els on the up­per palate. Smooth, toasty and but­tery brew with a flo­ral aroma and sweet­ness.

  • The Tao of Tea, Bam­boo Moun­tain Oo­long Tea (★★★☆☆)

    A lower ox­i­da­tion, green oo­long from Tai­wan’s Zhu Shan “Bam­boo Moun­tain”. Low ox­i­da­tion and a light roast­ing con­tribute to this tea’s bright, flo­ral fra­grance and sweet, crisp body.

    Sold only in ir­ri­tat­ingly large dou­ble packs of 114g, I put off try­ing these two ToT oo­longs un­til run­ning out of other ToTs to sam­ple. While ini­tially fa­vor­ably im­pressed, they struck me as blander as time went on and a lit­tle bit sour. The Baozhong has a high stem con­tent, and nei­ther Baozhong nor Bam­boo Moun­tain resteeps well. The Green Dragon is bet­ter.

  • For Tea’s Sake: Pretty in Pink Straw­berry (★☆☆☆☆)

    For Tea’s Sake Pretty In Pink Loose Leaf Iced Tea Blend. Juicy and de­li­cious straw­ber­ries are a tra­di­tional sum­mer treat and when blended to­gether with pa­paya pieces they make a pretty tasty cup of iced tea! Straw­ber­ry, 3.5oz/85g Tin. In­gre­di­ents: Oo­long and green tea, pa­paya and straw­berry pieces, plum and safflower petals, nat­ural fla­vor.

    Grossly dis­gust­ingly sweet and over­spiced to the point where I dumped out my cup as well as the rest of the tea.

  • Tea­vana: Jas­mine Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    Well bal­anced in­fu­sion of crisp or­chid and sweet jas­mine with a clean fin­ish This most pre­cious of green oo­long teas is made more del­i­cate with the gen­tle scent­ing of fra­grantly sweet jas­mine. Cre­at­ing a hint of per­fumed won­der, this sub­lime and aro­matic hand-rolled tea is noth­ing less than a cup of tran­scen­den­tal bliss.

    Min­i­mally jas­mine, but oth­er­wise an ac­cept­able oo­long.

  • For­mosa Oo­long Su­per Fancy (★★★★☆)

    This ex­quis­itely crafted For­mosa Oo­long is very fra­grant, with pro­nounced peach notes in both the aroma and the tawny-gold cup. An abun­dance of downy, sil­ver tips adorns the large beau­ti­ful leaves, yield­ing a liquor burst­ing with fla­vor and a smooth, creamy mouth feel. Notes of dried fruit as well as hints of warm spice and honey lead to a clean fin­ish with a lin­ger­ing sweet­ness.

    Aro­matic and de­li­cious, a fine For­mosa oo­long which resteeps well. But the price is ex­trav­a­gant at a dol­lar a gram!

  • Touch Or­ganic Oo­long tea (40 bags, 80g, $3) (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Restau­ran­t-grade oo­long; not smoky so much as kuk­i-cha-like. Some­what bet­ter than ex­pected if I use 2 or 3 bags.

  • Japan­ese Ga­ba­long (★★★☆☆)

    This unique se­lec­tion is cre­ated us­ing ni­tro­gen dur­ing the pro­duc­tion process. The re­sult­ing leaves con­tain the sub­stance GABA (Gam­ma-Aminobu­tyric Acid). The bright green leaves in­fuse a rich yel­low-jade liquor with in­tense but­tery notes and oceanic hints. A truly sat­is­fy­ing cup.

  • Flo­ral Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    An out­stand­ing Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long se­lec­tion, with an ap­peal­ing flo­ral in­ten­si­ty. The at­trac­tive, olive-green leaves pro­duce a fra­grant, pale gold in­fu­sion with a but­tery smooth mouth feel. Orchid/lilac notes are promi­nent in both the fla­vor and aro­ma, as well as a hint of honey sweet­ness.

  • Tan­za­nia Us­am­bara Oo­long Tea (★★★☆☆)

    The bold dark leaves, laced with sil­very tips, are fra­grant with the scent of sweet co­coa. A warm toasty note com­ple­ments a hint of al­mond in the aro­ma. A silky smooth mouth feel lingers long into the fin­ish, which echoes with a light sug­ges­tion of flow­ers.

    While an odd coun­try to source oo­long from, the re­sult is a sweetly dark oo­long-black tea which ex­ceeds my ex­pec­ta­tions.

  • New Zealand Oo­long Tea (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    The beau­ti­ful, hand­made leaves of this unique Oo­long tea are cre­ated un­der the guid­ance of tea mas­ters from Tai­wan. The pale golden liquor is fra­grant with a light flo­ral aro­ma. The silky smooth cup is light and fla­vor­ful with a pro­nounced flo­ral char­ac­ter. A lin­ger­ing whis­per of spice com­pletes an out­stand­ing tea ex­pe­ri­ence.

    An in­trigu­ingly spicy some­what TGY-like oo­long. (Un­for­tu­nately ex­pen­sive.)

  • Glen­wood Re­serve Green Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    Large, well-twisted leaves pro­duce a pale golden liquor with a sa­vory aro­ma, hint­ing of flow­ers. The sa­vory qual­ity may also be found in the fla­vor where it joins in­tense but­tery notes and a light veg­e­tal nu­ance.

    Feel too in­clined to­wards black tea-like fla­vor­ing with­out the promised flower hints and veg­e­tal nu­ance.

  • Milk Oo­long (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    From Fu­jian province, this unique Oo­long is com­posed of loosely rolled leaves with a rich but­tery fra­grance. The sparkling pale yel­low cup has a silky smooth mouth feel with a round, com­plex fla­vor pro­file. A trop­i­cal fruit sweet­ness com­ple­ments notes of co­conut cream and a light flo­ral sug­ges­tion. This tea is a per­fect choice for mul­ti­ple in­fu­sions.

    Milk oo­longs con­tinue to strike me as the ‘milk’ taste be­ing an off­putting sweet after­taste; I think I may sim­ply not like milk oo­longs.

  • Fu­jian Oo­long Supreme (★★★☆☆)

    From its hon­eyed aroma to its smooth, fruity fla­vor, this Oo­long se­lec­tion from Fu­jian province offers many fine qual­i­ties. A pro­nounced honey sweet­ness com­ple­ments hints of pear and ap­ple in the light am­ber cup. Toasty/woody nu­ances lead to a clean fin­ish.

    Ini­tially dis­ap­point­ingly woody and bit­ter, the fla­vor im­proves after a few min­utes of steep­ing, re­veal­ing the honey sweet­ness and com­plex fla­vors I ex­pect of a good oo­long. The end re­sult still does­n’t im­press me.

  • Yun­nan Sourc­ing (YS): Bit­ter­melon Stuffed With Roasted Tie Guan Yin Oo­long Tea (★★★☆☆)

    Ever won­dered what would hap­pen if you took , took out the in­sides and left the thick rind and then stuffed it with Tie Guan Yin and roasted it? Well now you can try this lovely tea. Strangely enough it’s not bit­ter at all, the bit­ter­melon rind after roast­ing com­min­gles with the Tie Guan Yin form­ing a lovely bal­anced sweet dark oo­long good­ness! This is avail­able in whole sec­tions or in cut cross sec­tions in­di­vid­u­ally packed! You choose! Spring 2017 Tie Guan Yin oo­long tea was used in batch! * If you or­der the whole sec­tions in the plas­tic can­is­ter we can­not guar­an­tee the can­is­ter will ar­rive in per­fect cos­metic con­di­tion. Its pur­pose to pro­tect the bit­ter­melon sec­tions dur­ing ship­ping. ** In­di­vid­ual pack­ets con­tain a cross sec­tion of the bit­ter­mel­on, weight varies from 7 grams to 11 grams, if you or­der 100 grams of in­di­vid­ual pack­ets you get no less than 100 grams of tea, but the num­ber of pack­ets may vary from 9 to 12 pack­ets. *** In­di­vid­ual packet pack­ag­ing (de­sign and/or col­or) may differ from pic­tures

    I’d never won­dered un­til I saw this list­ing, and then I did. I was too much of a cow­ard to or­der a whole sec­tion, and went with 50g of in­di­vi­dal pack­ets of which I got ~6. Each foil packet con­tains a sin­gle slice of gourd with TGY stuffed into it. Ap­par­ently one sim­ply brews the whole thing? A sin­gle slice is a hefty help­ing of tea and can be steeped mul­ti­ple times. The fla­vor is dis­tinct from reglar TGYs—the roast bit­ter­melon adds a kind of smoky black tea fla­vor to it while in­deed re­main­ing slightly sweet in a bal­anced com­bi­na­tion. It’s differ­ent, yes, but the to­tal effect is that of the darker or roasted oo­longs.

  • YS: Huang Mei Gui Wu Yi Rock Oo­long Tea (Spring 2016) (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Huang Mei Gui (黄玫瑰) aka Yel­low Rose Oo­long tea is a Wu Yi Moun­tain grown tea va­ri­etal that is a cross be­tween Huang Jin Gui (黄金桂) and Huang Dan (黄旦). Un­like an Anxi Oo­long, the tea was grown and processed en­tirely in the Wu Yi tra­di­tion. Roasted 4 times with “rest” pe­ri­ods of up to two months in­-be­tween roast­ings, it was not offered for sale un­til 5 months after har­vest (first week of May). The taste is smooth with a flo­ral notes that creep in as a kind of flo­ral sweet hui gan. Thick and sweet with a pun­gent feel­ing in the mouth, but with ba­si­cally no as­trin­gency makes this tea very in­ter­est­ing to drink. Goes many rounds with­out los­ing en­er­gy. Har­vest time: May 2016. Pro­cess­ing Pe­ri­od: 5 months.

  • YS: Tie Luo Han “Iron Arhat” Pre­mium Wu Yi Shan Rock Oo­long tea 2016 ($8.50, 25g; ★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Tie Luo Han (铁罗汉) or Iron Arhat is a rare va­ri­etal of Wu Yi Moun­tain Rock tea. It’s one of the 4 “Si Da Ming Cong” or most well known Wu Yi rock teas which also in­clude Da Hong Pao, Shui Jin Gui and Bai Ji Guan. Tie Luo Han is lightly processed… the leaves are green with some brown and the tea brews up a bright golden tea soup. The taste is flo­ral and sweet with in­effa­ble nec­tar-like com­plex­i­ty! A highly rare and unique tea that surely won’t dis­ap­point! May 2016 har­vest, fi­nal roast done in Au­gust 2016.

  • YS: Clas­sic “Mi Lan Xi­ang” Dan Cong Oo­long Tea Spring 2017 (★★★★☆)

    Mi Lan Xi­ang (aka Honey Or­chid Aro­ma) Dan Cong is the most well-known Dan Cong style. Bai Ye va­ri­etal is used and was ex­pertly processed over a pe­riod of four months to give it a spe­cial thick, sweet and flo­ral (orchid) aro­ma. The leaves are larger and broader than may other va­ri­etals and the fin­ished dry leaf is a deep brown col­or. The brewed leaves are also more brown (and less green) than most other Dan Cong oo­longs. This higher de­gree of ox­i­da­tion due to roast­ing brings out the de­li­cious honey and or­chid taste. When you ex­pe­ri­ence the won­der­ful taste keep in mind it’s all due to the skill of the mas­ter who lov­ingly processed this tea into some­thing so spe­cial and de­li­cious! Our Clas­sic “Mi Lan Xi­ang” is a medium level of roast, with a ro­bust taste of fruit and hon­ey, and a lin­ger­ing Or­chid taste/aroma. It’s grown nat­u­rally at an al­ti­tude of 550 me­ters in the Wu Dong Moun­tains. This is a medium level of roast, clas­sic style of pro­cess­ing. April 2017 pick­ing. Zhong­shan Vil­lage, Wu Dong Moun­tains, Guang­dong Province of China

  • YS: Anxi Hairy Crab Mao Xie Fu­jian Oo­long Tea (Au­tumn 2017) ($5, 50g; ★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Mao Xie aka “Hairy Crab” is a type of Anxi oo­long tea that grows in many places in Anxi county of Fu­jian. Mao Xie means lit­er­ally “Hair of the Crab” and refers to the hairs on the tea leaves that break off when brewed and float on the top of your cup. Mao Xie has got a thicker and sweeter taste than its more flo­ral coun­ter­part Tie Guan Yin. Our Mao Xie Oo­long is the high­est grade nor­mally avail­able. Au­tumn Har­vest 2017. Gan De Vil­lage in Anxi Coun­ty.

  • YS: Honey Or­chid “Mi Lan Xi­ang” Dan Cong Oo­long Tea (Spring 2018) (★★★★☆)

    Mi Lan Xi­ang (aka Honey Or­chid Aro­ma) Dan Cong is the most well-known Dan Cong style. Bai Ye va­ri­etal is used and was ex­pertly processed over a pe­riod of a month to give it a spe­cial thick, sweet and flo­ral (orchid) aro­ma. The leaves are larger and broader than may other va­ri­etals and the fin­ished dry leaf is a deep brown col­or. The brewed leaves are also more brown (and less green) than most other Dan Cong oo­longs. This higher de­gree of ox­i­da­tion due to roast­ing brings out the de­li­cious honey and or­chid taste. When you ex­pe­ri­ence the won­der­ful taste keep in mind it’s all due to the skill of the mas­ter who lov­ingly processed this tea into some­thing so spe­cial and de­li­cious! Our Honey Or­chid Dan Cong for sale here is a high grade ver­sion, har­vested from 20 to 80 year old trees and bushes grow­ing in Mid­dle Moun­tain (中山) part of the Wu Dong Moun­tains. It is creamy and com­plex, with high aroma (of Or­chid) and long-last­ing feel­ing in the mouth. April 2018 pick­ing. Zhong­shan Vil­lage, Wu Dong Moun­tains, Guang­dong Province of China

  • YS: Im­pe­r­ial Tie Guan Yin of Anxi Oo­long Tea of Fu­jian (Au­tumn 2017) (★★★★☆)

    This is the high­est grade of Tie Guan Yin nor­mally avail­able. Picked in a small win­dow of just 2 days dur­ing the spring and au­tumn har­vest and hand-processed in small batches to achieve a high level of aroma and full Guan Yin taste! Also known as AAA Grade! We rec­om­mend you or­der other grades first be­fore or­der­ing this one… taste this side by side with Pre­mium and Fancy grades we offer and you will taste the differ­ence. The tea is com­posed of uni­formly small, tightly hand-rolled emer­ald green nuggets! The brewed tea liquor is a lovely emer­ald green with flo­ral hints and a lin­ger­ing taste in the mouth and throat! Up­grade your Tie Guan Yin ex­pe­ri­ence!

  • YS: High Moun­tain “Lao Cong Mi Lan Xi­ang” Dan Cong Oo­long Tea (Spring 2017) (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Mi Lan Xi­ang (aka Honey Or­chid Aro­ma) Dan Cong is the most well-known Dan Cong style. This is a high moun­tain pluck from older trees (Lao Cong) grow­ing at an al­ti­tude of 1250 me­ters. This is a very lightly processed Dan Cong with a per­fectly bal­anced roast to green ra­tio. This is achieved through sev­eral stages of low tem­per­a­ture char­coal roast­ing. The tea has a creamy nat­ural milk taste that is coun­tered by a bou­quet of flow­ers and hon­ey-like sweet­ness. This is an ul­tra­-premium Dan Cong that will not dis­ap­point even the pick­i­est Dan Cong afi­ciona­dos! April 2017 pick­ing. Wu Dong Moun­tains, Guang­dong Province of Chi­na.

  • YS: Wu Yi Shan “Zi Hong Pao” Pur­ple Da Hong Pao Oo­long Tea (Spring 2016) ($14, 50g; ★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    “Zi Hong Pao” is a pur­ple va­ri­etal that’s a nat­u­rally mu­tated off­shoot from the clas­sic “Da Hong Pao” va­ri­etal. It’s also called “Jiu Long Pao” (lit. 9 Dragon Robe) or Wu Yi va­ri­etal #303. It’s “medi­um-leaf” class of tea, not purely As­sam­ica or Sinen­sis. The leaves are thick and dense with a purple/red/green color when fresh. Zi Hong Pao is a very rare tea with only about 10 mu of land in to­tal pro­duc­ing this tea. The buds and leaf shoots are slow to grow and the har­vest is the last of the spring har­vests. Per­haps the most spe­cial as­pect of “Zi Hong Pao” is the lovely de­li­cious, thick and pun­gent tea that it brews. I rec­om­mend drink­ing the rinse. With just a 10 sec­ond rinse you are greeted with a vi­brant and vis­cous tea soup. The sec­ond through the fifth in­fu­sions are re­ally full and ex­cit­ing to drink. The 6th through 8th in­fu­sion is still quite strong and pun­gent but needs to be pushed a lit­tle bit. Truly a re­mark­able tea in pedi­gree, taste and ex­pe­ri­ence. May 2016 har­vest. Area: Wu Yi Moun­tains, Xing Zhen, Cao Dun Vil­lage.

    Ar­rest­ingly sweet.

  • YS: 2014 Spring Wu Dong Shan Dan Cong Pre­mium Oo­long tea ($8, 50g; ★★★☆☆)

    A pre­mium grade Dan Cong from Wu Dong Moun­tain in Guang­dong. The tea is ex­pertly processed from first flush of spring 2014 tea leaves. Light ox­i­diza­tion pro­cess­ing has pre­served this tea’s high qual­ity tea leaves while bring out their nat­ural “Mi Lan Xi­ang” (lit. Honey and Or­chid) aroma and taste. Can be in­fused 10 or more times with­out go­ing flat!

  • YS: Light Roast Pre­mium AA Grade Ben Shan Oo­long of Anxi (Au­tumn 2017) ($6, 50g; ★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    This lightly roasted tea is made from Pre­mium “AA” Grade Ben Shan oo­long of Anxi coun­ty, Fu­jian. The tea was roasted for about 6 hours at a low tem­per­a­ture of about 55C. This light roast­ing gives the Tie Guan Yin a softer al­most sweet taste to it. There is a slight milk aroma (nai xi­ang) that is present when brewed. This roasted tea is made from Pre­mium “AA” Grade Ben Shan oo­long of Anxi coun­ty, Fu­jian. The tea was roasted for about 6 hours at a tem­per­a­ture of about 48C. This roast­ing gives the Ben Shan a nutty and sweet taste. There is a slight milk aroma (nai xi­ang) that is present when brewed. Pre-packed as 50 grams per pack.

  • YS: Pre­mium Anxi “Huang Jin Gui” Oo­long Tea of Fu­jian (Au­tumn 2017) ($5.50, 50g; ★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Huang Jin Gui (Golden Turtle) is an­other va­ri­etal of Anxi Oo­long tea. Lack­ing the slight sour-bit­ter­ness of Tie Guan Yin, it is char­ac­ter­ized by a smooth sweet fla­vor with a rich slightly nutty after-taste. Our Pre­mium grade is the high­est grade of Huang Jin Gui that is nor­mally avail­able! Au­tumn 2017 Har­vest. Gan De Vil­lage in Anxi Coun­ty.

  • YS: Wu Dong Chou Shi Dan Cong Oo­long tea (Spring 2018) ($7.50, 25g; ★★★☆☆)

    This is a new style of pro­cess­ing Dan Cong that shares some sim­i­lar­ity to Anxi Tie Guan Yin. The tea is picked, and be­fore it can wilt it is fried to start kil­l-green process in mo­tion, the tea is then rolled briefly by hand and then put in a spe­cial de­hy­dra­tor to stop the wilt­ing process en­tire­ly. The re­sult is a very green and very aro­matic dan cong. The tea also has a very sweet taste, with some veg­e­tal al­most Tie Guan Yin like feel­ing. High qual­i­ty, hand-picked Spring 2018 leaves were used! Area: Wu Dong moun­tain of Guang­dong province

  • YS: Pre­mium Tie Guan Yin of Anxi Oo­long Tea of Fu­jian (Au­tumn 2017) ($9.50, 50g; ★★★★☆)

    Pre­mium Grade Tie Guan Yin is made from a gen­uine va­ri­etal of Tie Guan Yin from Gande vil­lage in Anxi County of Fu­jian province. The tea is full of fla­vor and aro­ma, smooth but with a bit­ter-sweet after­taste. The first in­fu­sion should be used to pre­pare the leaves and warm the drink­ing cups. This grade is also re­ferred to as “Grade AA” Tie Guan Yin. Pre­mium Grade Tie Guan Yin is quite differ­ent from our Fancy Grade Tie Guan! A much higher grade with care­ful pro­cess­ing. Tea leaves are more whole and ro­bust, more in­fus­able. More im­por­tant­ly, Pre­mium grade TGY has a higher aro­matic qual­i­ty, fuller and thicker taste, and bright emer­ald tea liquor! All our Anxi oo­longs come vac­uum packed to en­sure fresh­ness!

  • YS: Pre­mium Grade Anxi Ben Shan Oo­long tea (Au­tumn 2017) ($6, 50g; ★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    We have been search­ing for a high grade Anxi Ben Shan oo­long that would sat­isfy even the most dis­crim­i­nat­ing afi­ciona­dos of Jade oo­longs (very lightly ox­i­dized), like Tie Guan Yin and Huang Jin Gui. A unique aroma and taste ac­com­pany this del­i­cate Ben Shan… there are el­e­ments of fresh grass and fruit… a cool­ing sen­sa­tion in the mouth and throat. Au­tumn 2017 tea from Gan De vil­lage in Anxi county (Fu­jian).

  • YS: Com­pe­ti­tion Grade Tie Guan Yin Oo­long tea of Gande Vil­lage (Au­tumn 2017) ($5.50, 7g; ★★★★★)

    This is the high­est grade of Tie Guan Yin we have ever come across. It’s unique to Gan De vil­lage and can­not be beat in terms of taste and aro­ma. It can be in­fused many many times each time yield­ing a dis­tinc­tive thick “Guan Yin” aroma and taste. Ex­pan­sive in the mouth and throat. Grown nat­u­rally and hand-processed at every stage makes this tea best of the best! Lim­ited to just 19 kilo­grams in to­tal. Comes pre-packed in 7 gram in­di­vid­ual packs. Each pack has two lay­ers two seal the tea in and en­sure fresh­ness. We rec­om­mend you store in your freezer sealed in plas­tic un­til the time of brew­ing. Au­tumn 2017 Har­vest.

    One of the best TGYs I’ve tried. I’m not sure if it’s the best be­cause it is so ex­pen­sive I only dared or­der the 7g sam­pler, which went quick­ly. (For com­par­ison, the Spring 2019 is $235 for 500g.)

  • YS: Light Roast Pre­mium Tie Guan Yin Anxi Oo­long Tea (Au­tumn 2017) (★★★★☆)

    This lightly roasted tea is made from our Pre­mium Grade Anxi Tie Guan Yin from Gan De vil­lage. The tea was roasted for about 6 hours at a low tem­per­a­ture of about 50C. This light roast­ing gives the Tie Guan Yin a softer al­most sweet taste to it. There is a slight milk aroma (nai xi­ang) that is present when brewed. Pre-packed as 50 grams per bag!

  • YS: Win­ter 2017 “Snowflake Duck Shit Aroma” Dan Cong Oo­long Tea ($6, 25g; ★★★★☆)

    “Da Wu Ye” known as Big Black Leaf grows al­most ex­clu­sively in Phoenix Vil­lage in the Wu Dong Moun­tains of Guang­dong. Da Wu Ye is a medium leaf va­ri­etal and nat­ural hy­brid of lo­cal “Ya Shi Xi­ang” bushes and “Shui Xian” va­ri­etal. It is also called “Snowflake Dan Cong” and has the low­est har­vest quan­tity per bush of any Dan Cong. Win­ter Har­vested “Duck Shit Aroma” is the best can­di­date for su­per light ox­i­da­tion, giv­ing it a very green leaf with a fruity and flo­ral aroma/taste and a creamy mouth-feel. Win­ter 2017 har­vest.

  • YS “Zheng Yan 105” Wu Yi Rock Oo­long Tea (Spring 2016) (★★★☆☆)

    Va­ri­etal 105 is grown in the “Zheng Yan” area of Wu Yi. Zheng Yan (正岩) refers to the in­ner­most pro­tected area of the Wu Yi Her­itage site. It’s a pro­tected area sep­a­rate from the scenic area and out­siders are not al­lowed in­side. The “Zheng Yan Grow­ing Area” refers to these tea gar­dens: tiānxīn yán/天心岩, mǎ tóu yán/马头岩, huìyuàn/慧苑, zhú kē/竹窠, bì shí/碧石, yànzi kē/燕子窠, jiǔlóng kē/九龙窠, yù cháyuán/御茶园, yù huā dòng/玉花洞, shuǐ lián dòng/水帘洞, fo guó/佛国, táo­huā dòng/桃花洞, guìlín/桂林, sān yǎng fēng děng děng/三仰峰等等. Va­ri­etal 105 is a unique Anxi va­ri­etal that’s a hy­brid of Huang Jin Gui and Jin Guan Yin (Jin Guang Yin it­self is a cross be­tween Huang Jing Gui and Tie Guan Yin). As such, 105 could be con­sid­ered 3 parts Huang Jin Gui and 1 part Tie Guan Yin. Due to the unique soil and grow­ing con­di­tions within the Zheng Yan grow­ing area, and the unique Wu Yi pro­cess­ing, the re­sult­ing 105 tea is very much a Wu Yi tea de­spite its unique Anxi ori­gins. It should be noted that va­ri­etal 105 was cre­ated by a Wu Yi lo­cal and is en­tirely unique to the Wu Yi Shan area.

    An odd duck. As with other Wu Yis, they shade into the black ter­ri­to­ry.

  • YS: Ping Keng Tou “Al­mond Aroma” Dan Cong Oo­long Tea (Spring 2018) (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Our Xing Ren Xi­ang 杏仁香 Dan Cong Oo­long is grown in Ping Keng Tou 平坑头 Vil­lage at an al­ti­tude of 870 Me­ters. It comes from trees and bushes grow­ing nat­u­rally aged 20-40 years of age. No pes­ti­cides or ar­ti­fi­cial fer­til­iz­ers were used. Xing Ren Xi­ang “Al­mond Aroma” is one of the many va­ri­etals of Dan Cong that has been around for cen­turies. It is called “al­mond aroma” be­cause dur­ing the roast­ing process the tea smells much like roasted al­monds! The taste is crisp, bit­ter-sweet, with notes of honey and cream.

  • YS: Wu Dong Moun­tain “Cao Lan” Dan Cong Oo­long from Jiao Di Vil­lage (Spring 2016) (★★★☆☆)

    Cao Lan is a spe­cial va­ri­etal grown only in Jiao Di Vil­lage in the Wu Dong moun­tain­ous area of Guang­dong, and as such the en­tirety (world­wide) of Cao Lan Dan Cong tea is pro­duced by less than 20 fam­i­lies with an out­put of less than 300 kilo­grams per har­vest. Cao Lan (草兰) va­ri­etal is medi­um-large leaf size with ob­vi­ous ridges, the leaves are sturdy and thick and re­quire ex­tra rolling and break­ing dur­ing pro­cess­ing. The word “Cao Lan / 草兰” is a type or­chid-like flower called Cym­bid­ium el­e­gans. Our Cao Lan Dan Cong has some­thing akin to this aroma and flower taste. It also has a very vi­brant honey sweet­ness to counter the sub­tle flo­ral veg­e­tal bit­ter­ness. Again very diffi­cult to de­scribe this tea, it just makes an im­pres­sion that is very mem­o­rable and dream-like. The world of Dan Cong is truly “博大精深”! May 2016 har­vest. Cao Lan Va­ri­etal. Al­ti­tude: 1200 me­ters. Area: Jiao Di Vil­lage, Wu Dong Shan, Guang­dong.

  • YS: Fancy Tie Guan Yin of Anxi Oo­long Tea of Fu­jian (Au­tumn 2017) (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Fancy Grade Tie Guan Yin is made from a gen­uine va­ri­etal of Tie Guan Yin from Gande vil­lage in Anxi County of Fu­jian province. The tea is full of fla­vor and aro­ma, smooth but with a bit­ter-sweet after­taste. The first in­fu­sion should be used to pre­pare the leaves and warm the drink­ing cups. This grade is also re­ferred to as “Grade A” Tie Guan Yin. An in­cred­i­ble Tie Guan Yin in this price range!

  • YS: Phoenix Vil­lage “Mi Xi­ang” Shui Xian Oo­long tea (Spring 2017) ($6, 50g; ★★★☆☆)

    A lovely spring Shui Xian from Phoenix Vil­lage in Wu Yi moun­tain­ous area. Shui Xian va­ri­etal is an older va­ri­etal that has be­come less pop­u­lar since it’s got a stronger taste than Da Hong Pao, Rou Gui and Tie Luo Han. Our Shui Xian is grown by vil­lage el­ders who stub­bornly keep their gar­dens en­tirely the Shui Xian va­ri­etal. The tea bushes are around 60 years old and grow nat­u­ral­ly. This Spring 2017 Shui Xian we offer is a medium ox­i­da­tion ver­sion with a “Honey Aroma” taste (piny­in: Mi Xi­ang) and mouth­feel. There is a hint of brown sug­ar, lots of honey and hay in there with a thick min­eral base that de­liv­ers many in­fu­sions of lovely thick tea soup!

  • YS: Pre­mium Jin Xuan Milk Oo­long Tai Hua Gao Shan Oo­long Tea (Fla­vored) (★★★☆☆)

    Spring 2017 har­vest Jin Xuan tea grown on Tai Hua Moun­tain in Anxi county of Fu­jian. Tai­wanese Jin Xuan va­ri­etal tea grow­ing at an al­ti­tude of 1100 me­ters is ex­pertly hand-picked and processed in the tra­di­tional method. The tea is lightly roasted to bring out it’s milk fra­grance (nai xi­ang) and then steamed in milk to en­hance the milk fla­vor fur­ther!** Very aro­matic tea with a sub­tle but last­ing taste. Fu­jian grown Tai­wan va­ri­etal! Spring 2017 Har­vest. ** not Ve­g­an! This tea may con­tain milk prod­ucts. If you are lac­tose in­tol­er­ant or have al­ler­gies to dairy or cow’s milk please do not buy this pro­duct!

  • Mem Tea: Baked GABA (★★★☆☆)

    Caffeinat­ed; Tast­ing Notes: rye bread - raisin - apri­cot; Orig­in: Tai­wan. Spe­cially processed, stress-re­duc­ing oo­long with bal­anced fla­vors of raisins, rye bread, and a bright, sweet apri­cot fin­ish.

  • Mem Tea: Bai Hao: Sil­ver Tip (★★★☆☆)

    Caffeinat­ed; Tast­ing Notes: cin­na­mon - golden raisin - gar­de­nia; Orig­in: Tai­wan. This au­tumn picked Tai­wanese tea en­dures a spe­cial fer­men­ta­tion due to be­ing snacked on by leafhop­pers. The re­sult is rich sweet fla­vors of cin­na­mon and golden raisins with a lin­ger­ing flo­ral fin­ish.

  • Mem Tea: Golden Buds Milk Oo­long: Jin Xuan (★★★☆☆)

    Caffeinat­ed. Tast­ing Notes: macadamia - hon­ey­dew - but­ter. Orig­in: Tai­wan. Sourced from Tai­wan, and pro­duced from the fa­mous Jin Xuan cul­ti­var, this oo­long is nat­u­rally sweet and rich, with fla­vors and scents that are rem­i­nis­cent of melon and toasted nuts - most no­table though, is its lux­u­ri­ously creamy mouth­feel, which is where it gets its name.

  • Mem Tea: Fern Stream Am­ber Oo­long (★★★★☆)

    Caffeinat­ed; Tast­ing Notes: pear - mango - brown but­ter; Orig­in: Pinglin, Tai­wan. A spe­cially pro­duced oo­long from North­ern Tai­wan, this tea is rich and juicy with a roasted but­tery liquor, notes of trop­i­cal fruit and a pleas­ant min­er­al­i­ty.

  • Mem Tea: Bei Dou (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Caffeinat­ed; Tast­ing Notes: burnt sugar - caramel - stewed plum; Orig­in: Fu­jian, Chi­na. This dark twisted oo­long frpm the Wuyi moun­tains yields a heavy liquor with a burnt sugar aro­ma, caramel fla­vor, and a sweet stewed plum fin­ish.

  • Mem Tea: Jade: Nan­tou (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Caffeinat­ed; Tast­ing Notes: lilac - mag­no­lia - can­died lemon; Orig­in: Nan­tou, Tai­wan. This lightly ox­i­dized oo­long has a lu­mi­nes­cent liquor with a dis­tinct flow­ery bou­quet and bright fla­vors of can­died cit­rus.

  • Mem Tea: Ali Shan (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Caffeinat­ed; Tast­ing Notes: hy­acinth - pear - brazil nut; Orig­in: Nan­tou, Tai­wan. This fa­mous Tai­wanese oo­long is sweet and flo­ral. The creamy golden liquor yields fla­vors of hy­acinth and asian pears with a mild nutty fin­ish.

  • Flo­ral Huang Jin Gui (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    With a light ox­i­da­tion level of less than 20%, this pre­mium Oo­long is pro­duced in Anxi county of Fu­jian province. The name Huang Jin Gui trans­lates to golden os­man­thus, re­fer­ring to the cup’s light gold hue and os­man­thus-like aroma and fla­vor.

  • Up­ton: Sea­son’s Pick Viet­nam East­ern Beauty Oo­long (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    A pro­fu­sion of sil­ver tips en­hances the bold, hand­crafted leaves of this unique Oo­long se­lec­tion from Viet­nam. Fra­grant notes of apri­cot, peach and honey in­tro­duce the smooth, rich cup, which fills your mouth with its but­tery mouth feel. An am­brosi­a-like sweet­ness lingers long into the fin­ish.

  • Up­ton: Roasted Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long (★★★☆☆)

    Processed in the tra­di­tional roasted style, this clas­sic Tie-Guan-Yin Oo­long pro­duces a light am­ber-gold cup with a smooth, toasty char­ac­ter. Notes of honey and chest­nut pair nicely with light toasty notes in both the aroma and fla­vor. A sub­tle flo­ral un­der­tone whis­pers in the lin­ger­ing fin­ish.

Green

  • Williams­burg pin­head gun­pow­der (★★☆☆☆)

    Pin­head Gun­pow­der is a green Chi­nese tea. Pale straw col­ored, the brew is light and re­fresh­ing in fla­vor. Each leaf is hand-rolled into a pel­let-shaped ball. Be­cause the tightly rolled shape helps the tea re­tain its fresh­ness, it was one of the first teas to be ex­ported from Chi­na. 1/4 lb. Loose Tea, No.42316

    I orig­i­nally bought a packet on a trip to around 2005 or so. It struck me as rather grassy and the tight­ly-rolled leaves seemed to eas­ily over­steep and be­come bit­ter. Hav­ing re­ceived an­other batch in Christ­mas 2013 and prepar­ing it with more re­spect for be­ing a green tea (sub­-boil­ing wa­ter, much shorter steep time), I find it more palat­able and so I think my early im­pres­sions may have been more my fault than the tea’s fault.

  • Xian Shan Pou­chong (★★★☆☆)

    Rolled green tea; strongly rem­i­nis­cent of oo­longs and defi­nitely on the bor­der. Fairly good con­sid­ered as a green/oolong cross, but noth­ing mem­o­rable about the fla­vor—sim­i­lar to Oo­long Fine Grade.

  • “Green Tea Pome­gran­ate”, Eng­lish Tea Shop (★☆☆☆☆)

  • Satori Tea Com­pa­ny’s Sen­cha Klaus (★★☆☆☆)

    Gift from sis­ter; a tin of var­ie­gated green (long thin leaves, stems, bro­ken leaves) mixed with flakes of thin or­ange peel or skin. As the name in­di­cates, it’s a Christ­mas-style tea which makes it taste like pot­pour­ri. The fla­vor is in­ter­est­ing; after the first few min­utes, it struck me as a sweeter kind of green but I can’t fig­ure out the fla­vor—minty? Flo­ral? Some sort of cit­rus or­ange? After an­other 5 min­utes, it’s much stronger and I feel con­fi­dent iden­ti­fy­ing it as an or­ange fla­vor. It’s strong enough that I don’t think I want to drink it on its own, but per­haps I could mix in the Dae-Jak. (Satori’s de­scrip­tion iden­ti­fies the con­tents: “al­mond bits, cin­na­mon bits, nat­ural fla­vor and or­ange blos­soms”. Makes sense.) I ul­ti­mately wound up pick­ing out all the or­ange peel to make it more palat­able.

  • TeaAnd­Ab­sinthe’s “sun dew apri­cot mango” mix (★★★☆☆)

    Pur­chased at a SF con­ven­tion; after los­ing the bid­ding war for the tea item in a char­ity auc­tion, I re­solved to go find the orig­i­nal ven­dor in the deal­ers’ room, which I suc­ceeded in do­ing. To my sur­prise, they were pri­mar­ily a steam­punk cloth­ing ven­dor who hap­pened to have one shelf-u­nit of tea mix­es. Mostly blacks and rooi­bos, but there was one green that smelled nice and I was piqued that I had lost the bid­ding war Sat­ur­day for the awe­some orig­i­nal con­ven­tion art­work and then the bid­ding war Sun­day for the 3 teas, and it was just $3 an ounce. I had a nice chat with the guy, and bought an ounce of the mango green tea.

    It has a pleas­ant green fla­vor with no real neg­a­tives, and the mango/apricot is not over­whelm­ing. It de­grades grace­fully un­der resteep­ing. Over­all, it’s quite good: bet­ter than most flo­ral fla­vor­ings, above the peach tea (but be­low os­man­thus oo­long) in my es­ti­ma­tion. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, when I checked their web­site, they seem to offer no on­line shop­ping or long-dis­tance or­der­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ty, so I dropped fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion.

  • Stash Pre­mi­um, “Man­gos­teen Green Tea” (★☆☆☆☆)

    A dis­ap­point­ment. Not a good green, and the man­gos­teen just tasted too sweet. I did­n’t bother with a sec­ond steep.

  • Davids Tea, “Day­dreamer” (★★★☆☆)

    Small sam­ple pack­et—a sen­cha green with mango & man­gos­teen. Much bet­ter than the Stash Pre­mi­um. It started off well, and han­dled resteep­ing ad­mirably. Com­pet­i­tive with TeaAnd­Ab­sinthe’s “sun dew apri­cot mango” mix, al­though a sim­pler over­all fla­vor.

  • Ko­rean greens:

    • Dae-Jak (★★☆☆☆)

      After 5 min­utes, struck me as rather grassy, akin to gyokuro, but with a weaker fla­vor. By 10 min­utes, it was still grassy but a cer­tain un­pleas­ant edge had crept in, which was still there after the resteep. Not im­pressed. Dur­ing the sec­ond-tast­ing, the un­pleas­ant edge was weaker than I re­mem­bered, but oth­er­wise both the Dae-Jak and Jung-Jak tasted the same.

    • Jung-Jak (★★☆☆☆)

      Very sim­i­lar to the Dae-Jak, but less sweet (when tast­ing them side by side); the sweet­ness passed Dae-Jak at 10 min­utes, and at 15 min­utes, I was­n’t notic­ing the un­pleas­ant edge. Bet­ter than the Dae-Jak, but I still doubt I’ll be or­der­ing it again.

  • Gyokuro Ken­jyo (★★★☆☆)

    At 1 min­ute, it’s a sharp tast­ing green which re­minds me of a pre­vi­ous green tea I’ve had, but mad­den­ing­ly, I can’t seem to place the spe­cific after­taste. At 5 min­utes, the taste is stronger (but not more bit­ter or worse).

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Snow Dragon (★☆☆☆☆)

    At 1 and 5 min­utes, this is al­most taste­less. I’d liken it to a white tea, which it may well be bet­ter clas­si­fied as. I’d call it bad, but that im­plied there was any real fla­vor to dis­like.

  • Kagoshima Kabuse Sen­cha (★★★☆☆)

    A or­di­nary sen­cha, the only thing I’d note is the slight flo­ral note. Han­dles resteep­ing well.

  • Ya­mamo­toya­ma’s “Gen­mai-cha Green Tea with Roasted Brown Rice” 16-pack (★★★☆☆)

    Picked up at my gro­cery store for $2 out of cu­rios­i­ty. As the in­struc­tions warn you, this green does­n’t han­dle resteep­ing very well and turns bit­ter after a few min­utes. The roasted brown rice fla­vor is very strong and one can smell it upon open­ing a teabag pack­et. The green tea it­self is ac­cept­able. The com­bi­na­tion is not bad, but I think the rice is over-toasted and comes off as a bit too burnt. The les­son here may be to find my own source of more lightly toasted brown rice.

  • Spice & Tea Ex­change, Gen­maicha (★★★☆☆)

    This im­proves on the Ya­mamo­toya­ma. The rice is toasted much more light­ly. I liked it, es­pe­cially for drink­ing in the morn­ing, al­though it does­n’t han­dle resteeps well and tastes a bit burned. I think gen­mai-cha can prob­a­bly be even bet­ter, though.

  • Tao of Tea, “Gen­maicha Green Tea And Toasted Rice” (★★☆☆☆)

    De­void of the toast­ed-rice fla­vor—there’s grains of rice, yes, but it’s hard to be­lieve they were ever toast­ed. It does­n’t taste nearly as good as the other two gen­mai-chas, and was a waste of money since it’s not that good a green tea on its own.

  • Or­ganic China Gen-mai Cha (★★★★☆)

    A tra­di­tional com­bi­na­tion of or­ganic green tea with toasted brown rice pro­duces a mild and smooth cup with nutty nu­ance and sweet, lin­ger­ing after­taste.

    A sweet and mild green, with an equally mild toast­ed-rice fla­vor. Defi­nitely a good gen-mai cha.

  • Gen-mai Cha (Japan) (★★★☆☆)

    Lit­er­al­ly, Gen-mai Cha means brown rice tea. Toasted and par­tially puffed rice is blended with large-leaf Sen­cha.

    Not as mild as the China gen-mai, with more of a green edge. The toast­ed-rice taste is­n’t there, though.

  • Koto Gen­maicha (★★★★☆)

    Gen­maicha is a blend of Japan­ese green tea and roasted rice. Our Koto Gen­maicha is a cus­tom blend of Uji green tea and pre­mium roasted Ni­igata brown rice. En­joy its deep aroma and com­plex nutty fla­vor. Yields a vi­brant yel­low green tea. This tea is grown ex­clu­sively in the Uji re­gion of Japan. The rice is grown ex­clu­sively in the Ni­igata, Japan.

  • Sato Matcha Gen­maicha (★★★☆☆)

    Matcha Gen­maicha is a blend of Japan­ese green tea and roasted rice coated with Matcha pow­der. Our Sato Matcha Gen­maicha is a cus­tom blend of Uji green tea and pre­mium roasted Ni­igata brown rice coated with our Uji Matcha. En­joy its com­plex aroma and deep nutty and leafy fla­vor. Yields a deep green col­ored tea. This tea is grown ex­clu­sively in the Uji re­gion of Japan. The rice is grown ex­clu­sively in the Ni­igata of Japan.

    I’m not sure what the point of the matcha pow­der is, aside from col­or­ing. It does­n’t taste much differ­ent.

  • Gyokuro (★★★★☆/★★★★★)

    The finest Japan­ese green tea, only shade-grown tips are used for Gyokuro. Prized for its del­i­cate fla­vor and nat­ural sweet­ness.

    De­li­cious. It’s de­scribed as sweet, and it re­ally is! The taste is en­tirely differ­ent from your more usual green teas. It’s a pity it’s so much more ex­pen­sive (3x $/g).

  • The Tao of Tea, Han­drolled Jas­mine Pearls Green Tea (★★★★☆)

    Mark­ing a dis­tinct de­par­ture from their gen-mai cha, which was se­ri­ously weak tea, here the jas­mine is, if any­thing, too strong, over­whelm­ing the green to the point where I’m not sure what it is. Since I like jas­mine, this is good, and it resteeps well. (The only down­side is that I was un­able to drink the whole thing since about halfway through, I dis­cov­ered a cor­ner of the tin had be­come en­veloped in a fuzzy mold; I keep my teas next to my sink & dish-dry­ing rack, which might’ve caused that, but on the other hand, I can’t re­call any of my other teas ever de­vel­op­ing a fuzzy mold.)

  • The Tao of Tea, Pearl Green Tea (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    A solid green tea, a bit sharp & over­steeps eas­i­ly. Like a gun­pow­der.

  • Japan­ese Su­per­sen­cha Ka­makura (★★★☆☆)

    Pro­duced for the Japan­ese do­mes­tic mar­ket, this spe­cial Sen­cha has beau­ti­ful, evenly shaped, deep­-green leaves with yel­low high­lights. The veg­e­tal aroma is lay­ered with lively nutty tones. The cup has medium body and well-bal­anced fla­vor. Cer­ti­fied or­gan­ic.

    Like the other sen­chas. A pretty yel­low-green liquor and even fla­vor (not heavy on the veg­etable nor sweet nor bit­ter). Does­n’t im­press me as much as the Sen­cha Fuka­mushi or Tamaryokucha, and bit­ter on resteeps.

  • Or­ganic Fuka­mushi Cha/Organic Sen­cha Fuka­mushi (★★★★☆)

    This offer­ing is grown on the Nishi farm in the Kagoshima pre­fec­ture us­ing the Yabukita cul­ti­var, the most pop­u­lar va­ri­ety in Japan. Both the leaf and cup have a deep, dark green color and heady, rich aro­ma. The ex­quis­ite liquor has sweet, veg­e­tal notes, a brothy mouth feel and pleas­ing, light as­trin­gency. The leaves are typ­i­cal of the Fuka­mushi style, with both larger and small leaf pieces.

    Pow­dery dark­-green; the Up­ton de­scrip­tion is dead on: a sweet veg­e­tal taste with just the right amount of as­trin­gency. (No idea what is meant by ‘brothy’.)

  • Or­ganic Tamaryokucha (★★★★☆)

    Tamaryokucha, (“coiled tea”) is a su­perb, hand­crafted green tea that has a full, com­plex fla­vor. Veg­e­tal notes and a pleas­ing pun­gency are ac­cen­tu­ated by hints of dark berries and a sweet after­taste. Pro­duced in Takachi­ho, Miyazaki from the Yabukita cul­ti­var.

    Tastes much like the gyokuro: the veg­e­tal notes leav­ened by a sweet dis­tinc­tive after­taste. But much cheap­er.

  • Japan­ese Ho-ji Cha (★★★★☆)

    Ban­cha green tea is roasted evenly un­til it is brown, im­part­ing a unique fla­vor. The liquor is golden brown; the taste is mel­low.

    A fol­lowup from Japan­ese Ku-Ki : since I liked the ku-ki when it was roast­ed, how would I like green tea sim­i­larly roast­ed? The an­swer is: quite well. It tastes much like the Ku-Ki Ho-Ji Cha, with per­haps a fuller fla­vor and a bit less bit­ter. I think I like it bet­ter as far as the roasted fla­vor goes (there’s no point in com­par­ing with the Ku-Ki Cha Green Ka­maku­ra; that’s a green ku-ki, and this is roasted green) but I will prob­a­bly or­der some of both later to di­rectly com­pare.

  • Kakegawa Matcha Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    A qual­ity Matcha pro­duced near Kakegawa city in Shizuoka pre­fec­ture. Packed in a sil­ver matte tin.

    This is the first tea I’ve ever bought where it came canned with a pul­l-tab. I sup­pose they are se­ri­ous about preser­va­tion. The matcha is a bright green pow­der so fine and so con­sis­tent I briefly had the con­vic­tion that it was makeup or some in­dus­trial pow­der. The pow­der is so fine, in fact, that I im­me­di­ately gave up the idea of us­ing my usual Finum brew­ing bas­ket, as the matcha would clearly clog the mesh and take for­ever to drain; in­stead, fol­low­ing de­scrip­tions of the tea cer­e­mony and “whip­ping” up a dense liq­uid, I put spoon­fuls di­rectly into my tea mug with the wa­ter, and stirred vig­or­ous­ly. The wa­ter im­me­di­ately takes on a to­tally opaque and some­what-dis­turb­ing bright green ap­pear­ance. The taste is strong and con­sis­tent and some­what gyokuro-like, with al­most no com­plex­ity or change in fla­vor over time that I no­ticed. It is cer­tainly a matcha tea. Vary­ing how much I put in did not seem to make much of a differ­ence. 1g a mug (so 30 serv­ings) works fine. Over­all, while I’m im­pressed by the vivid­ness of the green and the con­sis­tency of the pow­der and fla­vor, the fla­vor it­self does not im­press me enough to jus­tify the price.

  • Japan­ese Matcha Gen-mai Cha Pre­mium Or­ganic (★★★★☆)

    This ex­tra­or­di­nary grade of Matcha Gen-mai Cha is sel­dom seen out­side of Japan. The com­po­nents are of an ex­cep­tional qual­i­ty, and pro­duce a har­mo­nious, well-bal­anced in­fu­sion that is em­i­nently smooth. Toasted rice adds a sooth­ing and mel­low qual­ity to the com­plex veg­e­tal fla­vor. Highly rec­om­mend­ed. JAS cer­ti­fied or­gan­ic.

    This one was odd: it did­n’t taste much like the reg­u­lar matcha did. What it tasted ex­actly like was the Or­ganic China Gen-mai Cha (but more ex­pen­sive). I’ll be stick­ing with the other gen-mai chas.

  • Huang Ya Im­pe­r­ial Yel­low Tea (★★★☆☆)

    The leaves are long, twisted and threaded with fawn-col­ored tip. The aroma has nu­ances of pear and light cit­rus. The del­i­cate liquor is smooth, with sweet notes of peach and steamed veg­eta­bles.

    I had never heard of “” be­fore this. WP and var­i­ous tea sell­ers make it sound like it’s most akin to green. Mild, in­offen­sive, en­tirely un­re­mark­able fla­vor like a weak black, per­haps.

  • 88th Night Shin­cha (★★★★☆)

    This Shin­cha (first flush) tea is har­vested on the 88th day of spring, and is man­u­fac­tured us­ing the tra­di­tional “light­ly-steamed process”. The tea is made from the unique “Oku­mi­dori” va­ri­etal, known for yield­ing a very sweet and aro­matic cup. The liquor has a mild aro­ma, with pleas­ant flo­ral notes, ac­cented by a del­i­cate hint of freshly cut hay.

    A very pleas­ant green tea in the same vein as the Tamaryokucha & Fuka­mushi.

  • Tamaryokucha Koga (★★★★☆)

    Tamaryokucha is a Japan­ese green tea that is processed uniquely to achieve its coiled shape. Our Tamaryokucha Koga is a cus­tom blend of high Sen­cha grade Japan­ese tea. En­joy its sub­tle sweet­ness with a strong flo­ral fra­grance and fla­vor. Yields a bright yel­low green tea. This tea is grown ex­clu­sively in the Ure­shino re­gion of Saga, Japan.

  • Uji Shibano Tea (★★★★☆)

    Uji tea is a high grade Japan­ese tea grown ex­clu­sively in the Uji re­gion of Japan. Our Uji Shibano tea is cus­tom blended for the high qual­i­ty. En­joy a slightly sweet and gen­tle fla­vor and vi­brant aro­ma. Yields a deep yel­low green tea. This tea is grown ex­clu­sively in the Uji re­gion of Japan

    Sim­i­lar to the Sen­cha Fuka­mushi.

  • Chun Mee (Moon Palace) (★★★☆☆)

    Lit­er­ally trans­lat­ed, Chun Mee means ‘pre­cious eye­brows’. One of our most pop­u­lar or­ganic China green teas. Steep about 2 min­utes.

    Cheap but as­trin­gent green. Over­steeps at the drop of a hat and you can only use it once. Treated care­ful­ly, it is barely ad­e­quate.

  • Sen­cha Spe­cial Grade Yam­ato (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    A su­pe­rior grade of Sen­cha, with a brighter fla­vor and smoother fin­ish than ba­sic Sen­cha. Highly rec­om­mend­ed.

    Diffi­cult for me to dis­tin­guish this sen­cha from the 88th Night Shincha/Tamaryokucha/Fukamushi, but I think it is some­what milder, and I am not as im­pressed.

  • “Pi Lo Chun Im­pe­r­ial” (★☆☆☆☆)

    Also known as Green Snail Spring, this ex­em­plary China tea has a sweet, del­i­cate aroma with mineral/seagrass notes. The fla­vor is very smooth with a but­tery mouth feel. A light veg­e­tal nu­ance and hint of melon com­ple­ment a clean fin­ish.

    Taste­less.

  • Ban­cha First Grade Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    First grade Ban­cha, pro­duced dur­ing peak sea­son, is a tea with herba­ceous aro­ma, smooth char­ac­ter, and pale jade liquor. This is a tea with a full mouth feel, bright cup, and clean fin­ish.

  • Foucha Im­pe­r­ial Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    This out­stand­ing se­lec­tion is also known as “Bud­dha’s Tea”, a ref­er­ence to its for­mer cul­ti­va­tion at Bud­dhist monas­ter­ies. The sweet cup has a sub­limely rich fla­vor, with a but­tery mouth feel and pleas­ing fin­ish. A con­nois­seur’s se­lec­tion.

    Both the Ban­cha and Foucha were bet­ter than the dis­ap­point­ment of the Pi Lo Chun Im­pe­ri­al, but nei­ther lived up to the ad­ver­tis­ing.

  • Pan Long Yin Hao (★★★☆☆)

    Orig­i­nally pro­duced in the early 1980s, Pan Long Yin Hao (Curled Dragon Sil­ver Tips) has won nu­mer­ous awards in com­pe­ti­tions held by Chi­na’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture. This fine pluck­ing is processed into a tighter roll than is typ­i­cal for this style of tea. The cup is smooth and fla­vor­ful with pre­dom­i­nantly sweet veg­e­tal notes. The liquor has a round, brothy qual­ity and pleas­ant fin­ish.

  • China Green Gyokuro Or­ganic (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    A fine, Japan­ese style green tea, pro­duced with tra­di­tional shade-grown tech­niques. The liquor is del­i­cate and pos­sesses a nat­ural sweet­ness.

    An at­tempt to clone the Japan­ese gyokuro plants & pro­cess­ing; it sort of suc­ceeds in that you can tell from more than just the coloring/leaf-shape that it’s in­tended to be gyokuro, but the fla­vor shows there’s still work to be done.

  • Japan­ese Sen­cha (★★★☆☆)

    Del­i­cate but brisk, this splen­did green tea has a clean veg­e­tal fla­vor. Rapidly gain­ing the recog­ni­tion it de­serves, this tea re­freshes the palate with a hint of sweet­ness.

    Del­i­cate here again turns out to mean neu­tral and not par­tic­u­larly strongly fla­vored.

  • Fu­jian Green Nee­dle (★★★☆☆)

    This tea is pro­duced from a fine pluck­ing, with the leaf sets ex­pertly crafted so that the first and sec­ond leaf en­velop the downy white bud. The mild liquor has an en­tic­ing aro­ma, with a light sweet­ness and re­fined char­ac­ter. A very gen­tle pun­gency re­freshes the palate.

    Clas­si­fied as a green by Up­ton’s, I would call it a white; the soft­ness and fuzzi­ness of the blades are com­mon among whites. The de­scrip­tion is ac­cu­rate enough, but be­ing a white, I don’t like it.

  • Japan­ese Green GABA (Gabaron) (★★★☆☆)

    This unique se­lec­tion is cre­ated us­ing ni­tro­gen dur­ing the pro­duc­tion process. The re­sult­ing leaf is rich in the sub­stance GABA (Gam­ma-Aminobu­tyric Acid), which some pur­port to have salu­bri­ous prop­er­ties. We like this tea be­cause it has a rich taste with in­tense but­tery notes in the aroma and fla­vor, and oceanic hints in the liquor. A truly sat­is­fy­ing cup.

    The GABA effects aside, this was un­re­mark­able green tea.

  • Gun­pow­der Green Pep­per­mint (★★★☆☆)

    Gun­pow­der green tea from Chi­na, scented with pep­per­mint oil. (Formerly item TF45)

    Pep­per­mint oil is not over­whelm­ingly strong, but it does mask most of the green tea fla­vor. I would rather just drink the spearmint.

  • Kyo Ban­cha Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    This small pro­duc­tion, Uji re­gion Ban­cha tea is en­tirely hand­made, from pluck­ing to roast­ing. The bold leaves are pro­duced from larg­er, older leaves and nat­u­rally con­tain much less caffeine than an av­er­age green tea. The liquor has a full yet smooth char­ac­ter with a pleas­ant toasty note in the fla­vor. This offer­ing is a fairly rare treat for the Japan­ese tea en­thu­si­ast.

    Un­usu­ally for Up­ton’s, the largest quan­tity car­ried is 30g. The leaves them­selves are even more un­usu­al: they are large, on par in size with cook­ing bay leaves but dark and al­most shiny, re­mind­ing me of oak & maple leaves which have de­com­posed over a long win­ter. The Up­ton’s de­scrip­tion men­tions roast­ing the , so this is a ho-ji cha. The other ho-ji chas left more of an im­pres­sion.

  • Lung-Ch­ing (Long-Jing) Dragon Well Im­pe­r­ial (★★★★☆)

    Crafted from care­fully se­lected leaves, this tea has a dis­tinc­tively sweet, light-toasty fla­vor with hints of chest­nut, and a pleas­ing veg­e­tal fin­ish. Highly rec­om­mend­ed.

    Like gyokuro with­out the bite.

  • Yun­nan Green Mao Feng (★★★☆☆)

    The pro­duc­tion of this clas­sic tea be­gins with a fine pluck­ing of se­lect buds. The su­perb cup has a pale liquor with a light veg­e­tal qual­ity and a but­tery mouth feel. The ini­tial fla­vor notes, with hints of peach, are fol­lowed by a del­i­cate men­thol nu­ance. The fin­ish is clean and re­fresh­ing.

    Brothy sweet un­der­tone, with defi­nite peach.

  • Jiu Hua Mao Feng “Nine Glo­ri­ous Moun­tains” (★★★☆☆)

    This tea is pro­duced on Jiu Hua Moun­tain, one of the four sa­cred Bud­dhist peaks in Chi­na. Crafted from a clas­sic “two leaves and a bud” fine pluck­ing, this leaf pro­duces a de­light­ful cup with a sur­pris­ingly full mouth feel and sweet flo­ral nu­ances. The fin­ish has a light, cleans­ing as­trin­gency. 3/4

  • Lung Jing Te Ji/China Green Tea Top Lung Ching (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    This Dragon Well is made from a fine pluck­ing, which is then processed in a tra­di­tional man­ner and fired in char­coal pans for fin­ish­ing. The in­fu­sion has a light jade-yel­low col­or. The aroma of the liquor is de­light­ful, and por­tends the sweet corn nu­ances and chest­nut hints teased from the cup.

  • Sea­son’s Pick Young Hyson (★★★☆☆)

    The aroma of this se­lec­tion is lightly flo­ral. The mild cup has sweet tones of honey and a light smoky un­der­tone. The fin­ish has a cran­berry note and gen­tle tart­ness.

    Bonus sam­ple; thick chunky leaves. Gun­pow­der green-like, bit flo­ral, slight bit­ter, over­steeps quick­ly. Might still be worth it since 800g is only $26.

  • China Green Tea Mao Jian Wu Lu (★★★★☆)

    The cup has an aroma of sweet peas and sea grass, with del­i­cate flo­ral notes. The first sip re­veals a mild, sweet, and but­tery smooth fla­vor. Light veg­e­tal notes of sweet peas and corn silk are com­ple­mented by a sa­vory un­der­tone in the clean fin­ish.

    Wiry; sweet and gyokuro-like. I could see my­self drink­ing this as a cheaper green. (Not as cheap as the Young Hyson though—800g costs $51.)

  • China Spe­cial Green Tea Dao Ren (★★★☆☆)

    A qual­ity se­lec­tion with a bright and ful­l-fla­vored cup, ac­cented by sweet nu­ances and sub­tle nutty over­tones. The aroma and liquor have a fruity as­pect which fol­lows in the fin­ish.

    Wiry; sim­i­lar to the Mao Jian Wu Lu in be­ing semi­-gyokuro like but much less so.

  • China Jas­mine Chung-Hao Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    An or­ganic sil­ver-tip green tea was scented with fresh, or­ganic jas­mine blos­soms, cre­at­ing this de­light­ful tea. The cup aroma is candy sweet and redo­lent with the sub­lime scent of jas­mine. The liquor is smooth and well bal­anced, with a pleas­ing level of jas­mine fla­vor that lingers into the fin­ish.

    Heav­ily jas­mined, hard to dis­tin­guish any­thing be­yond that; over­steeps fairly quick­ly.

  • Sen­cha Yabukita Or­ganic #2 (★★★★☆)

    This se­lec­tion from Kirishi­ma, in Kagoshima pre­fec­ture, is crafted from the Yabukita cul­ti­var and usu­ally re­served for the do­mes­tic mar­ket. The mouth feel has a de­cid­edly brothy char­ac­ter, and the fla­vor has a clas­sic “umami” as­pect. A su­perb spec­i­men of this style and grade.

  • Japan­ese Se­lect Com­pe­ti­tion Temomicha (★★★☆☆)

    This se­lec­tion was cre­ated us­ing time-honored, hand-pro­cess­ing tech­niques that go back cen­turies. The cup has a soft and but­tery com­plex­ion with a range of com­plex fla­vor notes. The liquor is ex­tremely well-bal­anced and fin­ishes on a clean, sweet note. The twen­ty-gram pack­ets are fac­tory packed and ni­tro­gen flushed. Sam­ples are repack­aged at our fa­cil­i­ty. Pro­duced in Shizuoka pre­fec­ture from the Saemi­dori cul­ti­var.

    Very fine sticky slices of dark green which cling to plas­tic sur­faces (sta­tic elec­tric­i­ty?) and ex­pand sur­pris­ingly much when steeped. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously sweet and sa­vory with a strange seafood-like after­taste.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Green Gu Zhang Mao Jian (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    This 2016 Pre-Ch­ing­ming offer­ing has wiry, well-twisted leaves with a pro­fu­sion of del­i­cate, downy buds. The pale jade liquor is fra­grant with light flo­ral hints. The sweet cup is smooth and but­tery, with a brothy mouth feel and clean fin­ish.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Green Lung Ching (★★★☆☆)

    The flat, spring green leaves of this 2016 Pre-Ch­ing­ming se­lec­tion pro­duce a yel­low jade liquor with a fresh veg­e­tal aro­ma. The light cup is smooth and sa­vory with hints of melon and chest­nut. A crisp tang lingers in the fin­ish.

  • China Pre-Ch­ing­ming E-Mei Xi­ang (★★★☆☆)

    The dark green leaf of this 2015 offer­ing is twisted and curled. The cup has a veg­e­tal aroma with hints of mint and sweet flow­ers. The liquor has a light veg­e­tal fla­vor with a but­tery mouth feel and hints of spice.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Hu­nan Hair­point (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    The at­trac­tive, dark green leaves are well-twisted and in­ter­spersed with many sil­very-white tips. The dry leaf aroma has a smooth, fresh hay qual­i­ty, with a hint of what some have likened to “raw dough.” The in­fused leaf has veg­e­tal notes with a very sub­tle smoky sug­ges­tion. The light liquor has mul­ti­ple lay­ers of fla­vor. This 2015 se­lec­tion is from Hu­nan province.

  • Cap­i­tal Teas, Gyokuro (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Japan’s finest green tea, made from sin­gle buds picked only in April or May; ful­l-fla­vored with umami char­ac­ter­is­tics.

    For gyokuro, this is ex­cel­lently priced, and while I did not have any of Up­ton’s more ex­pen­sive reg­u­lar gyokuro at hand to com­pare side by side, I think the qual­ity was only some­what less. Sad­ly, hardly halfway through the tin, I re­al­ized I had made a ma­jor mis­take in not trans­fer­ring the bulk of it into a sealed con­tainer & us­ing a smaller amount in a small con­tainer to pro­tect against the ex­tremely hu­mid sec­tion of my kitchen where I store my teas, as I no­ticed that a mold had started to grow in one cor­ner and the bot­tom half had com­pacted into a sin­gle mass & dis­col­ored. (This is sim­i­lar to what hap­pened with my Tao of Tea Han­drolled Jas­mine Pearls Green Tea ball­s.) I had to throw out the rest. I im­me­di­ately trans­ferred the Cap­i­tal Tea Hi­malayan Golden Mon­key, which was in a sim­i­lar tin, into sep­a­rate con­tain­ers with some des­ic­cant bags—but trag­i­cally it was too late for the gyokuro.

  • Clip­per Ship Tea Com­pa­ny: Im­pe­r­ial Green (★★★☆☆)

  • Pi Lo Chun (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    This Pi Lo Chun se­lec­tion has beau­ti­fully crafted leaves with sil­ver downy buds. The pale gold in­fu­sion has a light flo­ral fra­grance. The sat­is­fy­ing cup is sweet and smooth with fruity notes and gen­tle flo­ral hints.

    smoky after­taste?

  • China Green Sen­cha (★★★☆☆)

    A good green tea for every­day con­sump­tion. In the style of Japan­ese Sen­cha, this China tea rep­re­sents an afford­able al­ter­na­tive to the more costly Japan­ese va­ri­eties.

  • Or­ganic Green Cey­lon OP (★★☆☆☆)

    This green tea offer­ing has large, well-twisted leaves that pro­duce a light golden liquor with a del­i­cate flo­ral aro­ma. The smooth cup is well-bal­anced with a full, but­tery mouth feel and gen­tle pun­gency. The fla­vor has sweet trop­i­cal fruit notes and light cit­rus hints. A sug­ges­tion of spice may be found in the clean, lin­ger­ing fin­ish. bleh

  • Or­ganic Gyokuro (★★★★☆/★★★★★)

    Lim­ited lots of or­ganic Gyokuro tea are pro­duced each year. This lot has smooth umami notes, a rich cup and a clean, sweet fin­ish. It was grown in Miyazaki pre­fec­ture us­ing the Yabukita cul­ti­var. We are happy to offer this tea while our cur­rent sup­ply lasts.

    Tastes as good as the other gyokuro.

  • For­mosa Pou­chong (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    The large, twisted leaves of this Pou­chong se­lec­tion yield a pale golden cup with a light flo­ral essence in both the aroma and the fla­vor. A sweet honey note en­hances the mild veg­e­tal qual­ity of the liquor. The fin­ish is clean and re­fresh­ing.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Pi Lo Chun (★★★☆☆)

    One of Chi­na’s most well-known green teas, Pi Lo Chun, or Green Snail Spring, is named for its unique ap­pear­ance. This 2016 Pre-Ch­ing­ming se­lec­tion has a mix of olive green leaves and sil­ver tips rolled into the clas­sic spi­ral shapes. The pale yel­low-jade in­fu­sion is smooth and but­tery with a veg­e­tal aro­ma, hint­ing of fresh corn. Some have noted a hint of spice, sug­ges­tive of anise, in the gen­tly pun­gent fin­ish.

  • Viet­nam Green Mao Feng Or­ganic (★★☆☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Rem­i­nis­cent of a Yun­nan green tea, this or­ganic offer­ing from Viet­nam has bold, olive-green leaves with a crepe-y ap­pear­ance. A fruity note is present in both the aroma and the cup. The bright golden liquor has a note of sweet un­cured to­bacco with peach hints in the fin­ish.

    (I would de­scribe the “sweet un­cured to­bacco” as more of a smoky-puer­h-like fla­vor.)

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Nan Ding Mao Jian (★★★☆☆)

    This 2016 Pre-Ch­ing­ming offer­ing is com­posed of bright-green, well-twisted leaves with a sprin­kling of downy sil­ver tips. A lovely flo­ral note is present in both the aroma and the vel­vety smooth cup. The light jade liquor is fla­vor­ful and sweet with a full, but­tery mouth feel and clean after­taste.

  • Ko­rea Green Tea Se­jak Or­ganic (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    The dark emer­ald green leaves of this offer­ing pro­duce a light jade liquor with a live­ly, veg­e­tal aroma and a clean, sa­vory qual­i­ty. The cup has a slightly brothy mouth feel with sweet, but­tery hints and a crisp fin­ish. This tea has been ex­pertly hand­crafted us­ing time hon­ored meth­ods and is good for mul­ti­ple in­fu­sions.

    Re­mark­ably sen­cha-like.

  • The Tao of Tea, Sen­cha Green Tea, Loose Leaf (★★★★☆)

  • The Tao of Tea, Drag­onwell Green Tea, Loose Leaf (★★★☆☆)

  • The Tao of Tea, Tea For­est Green Tea, Loose Leaf (★★★☆☆)

  • Weis­han Mao Feng (★★★☆☆)

    Dur­ing our most re­cent trip to Chi­na, we jour­neyed to the Weis­han area. There, in back of the Bud­dhist tem­ple, is an or­ganic gar­den where we found a spring tea. It turned out to be a de­light­ful dis­cov­ery. Light in the cup, Weis­han Mao Feng fea­tures just the right roast fla­vors. De­tails: Weis­han is well known in­side Hu­nan Province for its Bud­dhist tem­ple hon­or­ing Guan Yin, and like many such cen­ters there was tea made around the tem­ple. Orig­i­nal­ly, it was prob­a­bly monks that made the tea and then passed their knowl­edge down the lo­cal peas­ants. Most of the teas are very rus­tic with much use of char­coal fir­ing that makes for a very smoky (and un­pleas­ant for most West­ern­ers) fla­vor. In fact they make a blend of tough leaves and dried veg­eta­bles that is made into a soup for the hard work­ing lo­cal peas­ants. Al­though this re­gion is not well known out­side of Hu­nan, we like this ex­am­ple of the lighter, more el­e­gant teas that are start­ing to be made. Dry Leaves: “Mao Feng” means “downy tip” in Chi­ne­se, mean­ing the bud is young and cov­ered with white “down” like a bird. These are the tri­comes or small out­growths that pro­tect the very young tea tip (also called a bud) from in­sects and hos­tile weather con­di­tions. As the leaves ma­tures, the tri­comes dis­ap­pear. So when one sees the “downy” tri­comes it is a sign of a very young tip with all the de­sired qual­i­ties of sweet­ness and el­e­vated lev­els of an­tiox­i­dants. These leaves are defi­nitely small with a sil­very tips. Liquor: The color of the this tea is very light green with a slight khaki tinge that comes from the fi­nal fir­ing over char­coal. Aro­ma: Light with veg­e­tal roasts. This is the re­sult of a light fir­ing over char­coal in the tra­di­tional man­ner. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinated Body: As men­tioned, the leaves are very small and there are many tips, so the body is very light. Fla­vors: The mix­ture of light veg­e­tal fla­vors of steamed green beans or ar­ti­chokes is ac­cented by the defi­nite roast fla­vors from the fi­nal char­coal fir­ing.

  • Ichiban Sen­cha (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Ichiban Sen­cha is the first pro­duc­tion from the al­l-im­por­tant Kakegawa area within Shizuoka, Japan’s most im­por­tant tea grow­ing pre­fec­ture. This brac­ing, lemony tea is an as­sertive ex­am­ple of the pop­u­lar style of deep steamed (Fuku­mushi) Sen­cha. De­tails: The Ot­suka fam­ily has been mak­ing tea in the coastal re­gion of Kakegawa for al­most 150 years. This Ichiban is their pride, made from the tea fields that sur­round their fac­to­ry. The area is so dom­i­nated by tea that one hill has a tea bush top­i­ary trimmed to the shape of the Japan­ese char­ac­ter for “tea.” Ichiban is har­vested on the first days of pro­duc­tion in late April. It is made at an old, tra­di­tional fac­tory and then fin­ished at their plant. Com­pared with the pol­ished and al­most pas­toral qual­ity of Mat­su­da’s Sen­cha, this Ichiban has the punch and in­ten­sity of Toky­o’s rush hour. Dry Leaves A fine mix of leaf fil­a­ments that are light green and pow­dery. This is due to the deep steam (Fuku­mushi) method of fix­ing the teas green. The leaves are sub­jected to an ex­tra thirty sec­onds of high pres­sure steam that to­tally breaks up the tea leaf. Liquor: This tea is a light green, and it is a lit­tle clouded from from the fine leaf par­ti­cles that are dis­solved in the liquor. Aro­ma: Ichiban has a cit­rusy top note of lemon juice and is bal­anced by the dark veg­e­tal aro­mas of spinach and nori sea­weed. Caffeine lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: As a very early sea­son tea, it is loaded with amino acids. So this tea has more body than most green teas. Fla­vors: The style of this Sen­cha is brac­ing and lemony at the start with the mel­low­ness of cooked spinach at the fin­ish. It is among the most as­sertive of Sen­chas that we offer. The gut­ti­ness and as­trin­gency come from the deep­-steamed pro­duc­tion method.

    Resteeps well.

  • Gyokuro (★★★★☆)

    Pro­duced in the most fa­mous area in Japan, we present Uji’s most fa­mous tea—­Gyokuro. Japan­ese aris­to­crats have been sip­ping this highly re­garded shade-grown emer­ald green tea for cen­turies. De­tails: Most Gyokuro is grown in Uji, half an hour south the for­mer Im­pe­r­ial cap­i­tal of Ky­oto. To ser­vice the de­mands of the Em­peror and other mem­bers of the aris­toc­ra­cy, there were large tea fields and many tea fac­to­ries built around Ky­oto. It was in the twi­light of the Edo era that shade grown teas were com­mer­cial­ized. Dry Leaves: These leaves are shiny emer­ald green spin­dles. The dark green comes from the fact that tea is grown in in­creas­ing shade. The plant com­pen­sates by mak­ing ex­tra chloro­phyll. They are shiny spin­dles be­cause they are processed in hot ma­chines that straighten out the leaves, then the heat buffs the leaves. Liquor: A lovely pale green, caused by the ex­tra chloro­phyll. Aro­ma: Very spinachy and sea­weedy, dark and de­cid­edly veg­e­tal, with none of the lemon sheen of Sen­cha. Caffeine lev­el: caffeinat­ed. Body: Over­all it is medium bod­ied, how­ever it is much fuller (coats your mouth) than other green teas. This is be­cause in the fi­nal weeks of grow­ing the plants are cov­ered in shade, which in­creases the amino acids that cre­ate body. Fla­vors: The lush green fla­vor of the fresh­est steamed spinach, the cooked fla­vor of lightly toasted wal­nuts and a very slight note of sul­fur. Fill­ing and sus­tain­ing.

  • Jeju Se­jak (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    The is­land of Jeju (Cheju-do) is lo­cated south of main­land South Ko­rea. Largely tourist, there is a great vol­cano and Na­tional Park lo­cated at its cen­ter. As the hills sweep up to meet the peak, vast and beau­ti­ful fields of green tea can be found at 4 differ­ent gar­dens. This style of Ko­rean tea is sim­i­lar to a Japan­ese Sen­cha in that it is lightly shaded and steamed dur­ing pro­cess­ing. Al­to­geth­er, this tea lends it­self a beau­ti­ful, curly leaf, an aro­matic bou­quet and a smooth cup. We are proud to offer our very first South Ko­rean tea. Dry Leaves: Curly, for­est green leaves. Liquor: Bright Lima bean green. Aro­ma: Sauteed spinach. Caffeine lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Light. Fla­vors: Mild notes of spinach & bok choy.

  • Lung Ching (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Lung Chings are fa­mous world­wide as some of the best Chi­nese green teas. Our Lung Ching is made by a re­spected pro­ducer two hours be­yond the tra­di­tional area. The small green leaves make for a brew that has a mild and sweet­—al­most nut-like—fla­vor. Since Lung Ching teas re­main in con­sis­tently high de­mand, the price is dic­tated by the mar­ket. De­tails: This is an an­cient tea that has come back to life. Dry Leaves: The flat, nar­row leaf is stiff and smooth with a spear-like shape, about an inch long. Though it looks like a sin­gle flat needle, the unit ac­tu­ally com­prises two leaves and a bud joined at a stem. Liquor: Pale yel­low. Aro­ma: Steamed baby bok choy and lightly toasted wal­nuts. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Medium light. Fla­vors: The de­li­cious meati­ness of roasted egg­plant with sim­i­lar steamed bok choy and toasted wal­nut fla­vors.

  • Mat­su­da’s Sen­cha (★★★☆☆)

    It has been an honor to be the sole source for the great Japan­ese Sen­cha. The life’s work of a great tea man and his fam­i­ly, this Sen­cha has great body and fla­vor. De­tails: Mike has vis­ited Mat­suda and his fam­ily sev­eral times. Their house is lo­cated halfway up a hill that is cov­ered with tea bush­es, and look­ing out over the val­ley, that is all one sees. The fam­i­ly’s abode has been all busi­ness for gen­er­a­tions. They have a space to make the tea in the back, with steam­ers to fix the green tea and rollers. This tra­di­tion and ded­i­ca­tion serves us well, be­cause it is a unique Sen­cha with a dis­tinc­tive aro­ma, great body, and fla­vors that are hard to for­get. Dry Leaves: The slen­der spears are a vivid, for­est green which comes from con­stant at­ten­tion through out the year. Liquor: In the cup, the tea is an in­tense yel­low green. This is a sign that Mat­suda has not taken the short­cut of cov­er­ing his tea bushes like some of his neigh­bors. Aro­ma: Many sen­chas have sim­i­lar aro­mas, how­ever Mat­su­da’s teas smell won­der­fully vi­brant. There are fresh lemon notes backed by a nice spinachy aroma and the roasted hints of nori sea­weed. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: A medium bod­ied tea that is still mouth-fill­ing and brothy. This comes from the high lev­els of amino acids. Fla­vors: If you like the veg­e­tal fla­vors of Japan­ese green teas, you are in for a treat! It opens with veg­e­tal fla­vors that seem like sautéed chard and fin­ish with roasted Nori. The tea’s pale sweet­ness is bal­anced by a slight bit­ter­ness on the back of the tongue. The sweet­ness en­dures and evolves long after you’ve sipped the tea.

  • Kagoshima (★★★☆☆)

    One of the best Sen­chas from the Kagoshima area in south­ern Japan, this brew is light in the cup with a good bal­ance of sweet and bit­ter fla­vors. De­tails: Kagoshima is the south­ern port of the south­ern Japan­ese is­land of Kyushu. Spring springs ear­lier in Kagoshima than in the north­ern tea re­gions. The first fresh teas are from this area. The tea fields have been flat­tened and straight­ened, so that large trac­tors may be used to har­vest the tea. Some­times quan­tity is more im­por­tant than qual­ity in teas from Kyushu. Our friend Tsuyoshi looks for the best teas from the re­gion. In­cluded in the blend is Asat­suyu, which is called a nat­ural gyokuro be­cause of its mel­low sweet­ness. Dry Leaves: This a blend of of silky, semi glossy deep­-steamed (fuka­mushi) fil­a­ments and stiff for­est green nee­dles (fut­sumushi.) Liquor: The blend of teas in Kagoshima make for a pale green. Aro­ma: This is a blend of the sev­eral sen­chas from Kagoshi­ma. They give the tea the high notes of fresh lemons and bell pep­pers with the mel­low­ness of cooked spinach. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This is an early sea­son tea, so it has high lev­els of amino acids, giv­ing it good body for a Sen­cha. Fla­vors: As­sertive notes of green bell pep­pers and lemons. There are hints of the fla­vor of roasted wal­nuts.

  • Mo­roc­can Mint (★★★☆☆)

    Mo­roc­can Mint, our con­tem­po­rary in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the tra­di­tional Ara­bian bev­er­age, fea­tures Gun­pow­der Green tea blended with ex­cep­tional pep­per­mint leaves from Ore­gon. This com­bi­na­tion im­parts a uniquely brisk and aro­matic green tea ex­pe­ri­ence. Kosher. Caffeinat­ed. Dry Leaves: The leaves of this gun­pow­der are very dark and tightly balled, made from tougher leaves. Liquor: The mint fla­vor in this tea and the ox­i­da­tion process darken the liquor to a light brown. Aro­ma: A slight charred or burnt aroma due to the dry­ing process, as well as a strong mint aro­ma. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This tea has a lighter body and a lit­tle less caffeine. Fla­vors: This tea has slightly veg­e­tal fla­vors with strong tones of mint.

    A pleas­antly minty com­bi­na­tion, but as al­ways with gun­pow­der greens, it’s hard to steep them right with­out go­ing into un­pleas­ant bit­ter­ness.

  • Mei­jia Wu Lung Ching (★★☆☆☆)

    Lung Ching is to Chi­nese green teas what French Cham­pagne is to sparkling wines: the stan­dard against which all oth­ers are mea­sured. With al­most no tips, it has the clas­sic Chi­nese green tea qual­i­ties of steamed bok choy and roasted nuts. De­tails: Lung Ching means “Dragon Well”, which refers to an old well halfway up a hill out­side of Hangzhou in Zhe­jiang province, where the tea was orig­i­nally grown. This tea comes from a vil­lage the other side of the hill, called. For the last few years, Mr. Zhao has made our Lung Ching. His house and tea fac­tory is up the hill, with hills of tea plants just out­side. We like to get our Lung Ching from tea just after the start of the sea­son. The first teas are very, very ex­pen­sive and often the tea does not match the price. This year we choose a tea that had great body and lovely sweet­ness, in­dica­tive of great lev­els of amino acids. Dry Leaves: The flat, nar­row leaf is stiff and smooth with a spear-like shape about an inch long. Though it looks like a sin­gle flat needle, the unit ac­tu­ally com­prises two leaves and a bud joined at the stem. Liquor: Pale yel­low. Aro­ma: Steamed bok choy and toasted wal­nuts, with top notes of sweet spring grass. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Medium light. The tea is loaded with amino acids that give sweet­ness and body. Fla­vors: The de­li­cious meati­ness of roasted egg­plant with sim­i­lar steamed bok choy and toasted wal­nut fla­vors.

    To­tally taste­less, even brewed in large quan­ti­ties.

  • Pan Asia (★★★☆☆)

    Pan Asia tea is our de­light­ful blend of Chi­nese Ban­cha green tea and big chrysan­the­mum flow­ers that cre­ates a light, clean tast­ing bev­er­age. Kosher. Dry Leaves: Our Pan Asia is a won­der­ful blend of dark green Chi­nese Ban­cha leaves and beau­ti­ful chrysan­the­mum flow­ers. Liquor: The flow­ers in this tea make the liquor slightly more brown than our ba­sic green teas. Aro­ma: The chrysan­the­mums in this tea give it sub­tle flo­ral notes while the aroma re­mains a lit­tle grassy. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: A light body. Fla­vors: This tea has a light, clean taste of our Chi­nese Ban­cha and a trace of chrysan­the­mum.

    A de­cent ban­cha; I did­n’t no­tice much from the chrysan­the­mum flower ad­di­tions.

  • Jun­shan Yel­low (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    This is one of Chi­na’s most fa­mous teas. Only tiny amounts are made on Jun­shan Is­land in north­ern Hu­nan Province. It is made of just the buds, which have been yel­lowed in a se­cret process. The liquor is more mel­low than green teas, yet it is still slightly sweet. A de­light to drink! De­tails: Please brew them in a tall glass by pour­ing the hot wa­ter first, then add the tea and ad­mire how the buds slowly sink to the bot­tom. Dry Leaves: Long nee­dles of white buds with tinges of darker yel­low. Liquor: Pale yel­low. Aro­ma: Sub­tle fruit aro­mas. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Light in body. Fla­vors: Light and sweet with sub­tle fruit fla­vors.

    Mostly taste­less.

  • Bangkok (Green Tea with Co­conut, Gin­ger & Vanil­la) (★★★☆☆)

    The rich fla­vors of Bangkok, Thai­land are the in­spi­ra­tion for this tasty blend that com­bines green tea, lemon­grass, vanil­la, co­conut and gin­ger. Also known as Green Tea with Co­conut, Gin­ger & Vanil­la. Kosher. De­tails: Many of the blends used in our fla­vored green teas are what might be con­sid­ered sweet, as in a dessert. So, Mike wanted to do a tea that was more ‘sa­vory.’ Be­ing a big fan of Thai­land, he de­cided to lean on the fla­vors found in many Thai dishes (at least in the States), and that is what we have blended into the green tea: gin­ger for spice, lemon­grass for some cit­rus fla­vors, and co­conut for creami­ness. It all comes to­gether into a lovely tea. With our im­por­ta­tion of co­conut wa­ter, we get over to Bangkok at least once a year, and it is an amaz­ing city. This con­firms our opin­ion of choos­ing to honor the city and the cui­sine of Thai­land. Dry Leaves: Lighter col­ored lemon­grass is vis­i­ble amongst the green tea leaves of our Bangkok Tea. Liquor: Bright yel­low with slightly brown hues. Aro­ma: The aroma of this tea is a trop­i­cal mélange, in­clud­ing gin­ger and vanil­la. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This fla­vored green tea has a mod­er­ate to light body. Fla­vors: Bangkok has a mix­ture of co­conut, lemon­grass, gin­ger, and vanilla fla­vors.

    A pleas­ant com­bi­na­tion, the vanilla and co­conut are al­most ‘toasty’. I imag­ine that co­conut fla­vor­ing might pair well with a gen­mai-cha.

  • Hu­nan Mao Jian (★★★☆☆)

    We’re pleased to offer Hu­nan Mao Jian, a nice or­ganic green tea from Chi­na, as a good value that is pos­si­ble to en­joy often. De­tails: While look­ing for the best teas in Chang­sha, we found this or­ganic green tea. Not every oc­ca­sion de­mands the best tea; this is a nice one to drink more often. Dry Leaves: Big curls of dark green tea. Liquor: Medium yel­low. Aro­ma: A light squash like nose. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Light bod­ied. Fla­vors: Good veg­e­tal fla­vors like zuc­chi­ni.

  • Bi Lo Chun (★★★☆☆)

    Bi Lo Chun, a green tea from Jiangsu Province in Chi­na, offers pro­nounced roasted veg­e­tal fla­vors of grilled en­di­ve, with a some­what bit­ter bite. You’ll en­joy its charm­ing flo­ral and cit­rus fla­vors. De­tails: This is a light green tea that has a won­der­ful mix­ture of sweet­ness, veg­e­tal fla­vors, and a bit of smoke. Bi Lo Chun comes from the tiny Dongt­ing is­land in Jiangsu Province. It the most northerly grown tea in Chi­na. Dry Leaves: A mix­ture of dark green, al­most bluish gray, spi­raled wiry fil­a­ments coated in fuzzy yel­low down. Liquor: Pale green, slightly cloudy from the down. Aro­ma: Light and sweet, with the roasted sweet­ness of brown sugar and a veg­e­tal base note. The top layer has hints of smoke. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Light and slightly brisk. The brisk­ness dries the mouth slight­ly. Fla­vors: The faintest hint of flow­ers is nearly matched by the roasted veg­e­tal fla­vor.

    Pow­er­fully veg­e­tal after­taste.

  • Matcha iri Gen­maicha (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Matcha is a much beloved green tea in Japan, yet it can seem in­tense to the unini­ti­ated West­ern­er. As an al­ter­na­tive, we sug­gest Matcha iri Gen­maicha, the best of both worlds. The ban­cha (“cha”) leaves and brown rice (“gen­mai”) that com­prise Gen­maicha are coated with Matcha green tea pow­der, and the re­sult is fan­tas­tic! De­tails: Mike’s son Emeric pop­u­lar­ized this tea for the Har­neys years ago. He used to take some of the Matcha Jo­bet­sugi and dust our Gen­maicha with it. It be­came a big hit at our Miller­ton shop. So we rolled it out, and peo­ple have en­joyed it ever since. Dry Leaves: Gen­maicha is coated with matcha. This tea is a blend of large ban­cha leaves and the brown toasted rice with oc­ca­sional popped rice dusted with bril­liant green tea pow­der. Liquor: The liquor is greener than most teas, ex­cept our matchas. Aro­ma: The pre­dom­i­nant aroma is that of the roasted brown rice with veg­e­tal un­der­notes and hints of cit­rus. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Matcha iri Gen­maicha is a medium bod­ied green tea. The matcha gives it body, but the rice makes it a lighter brew, so it ends up in the mid­dle. Fla­vors: This has be­come a pop­u­lar tea. Peo­ple have love the fla­vor of roasted veg­etable for time im­memo­r­i­al. When the won­der­ful veg­e­tal fla­vors (spinach and ar­ti­choke) are added, it be­comes ir­re­sistible.

  • Blue­berry Green (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    For Blue­berry Green, we’ve art­fully blended Chi­nese green tea with lemon­grass, blue­ber­ry, and vanilla to cre­ate a brew that’s sure to hit all the right notes. De­li­cious hot or iced. De­tails: Grow­ing up around here, one of our fa­vorite times was pick­ing blue­ber­ries on the slopes of the high hills of Mt. Riga. We were able to cap­ture that de­light in this tea. Dry Leaves: Green leaves. Liquor: Pale yel­low. Aro­ma: The smell of sum­mer and ripe blue­ber­ries. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This green is light in body. Fla­vors: Lovely ripe blue­ber­ries, just like up on our hills.

    Thin-tast­ing and a bit sour. The lemon­grass does­n’t help—le­mon and blue­ber­ry‽

  • Cit­ron Green (★★★☆☆)

    We often sug­gest Cit­ron Green, a lightly fla­vored green tea, to our tast­ing room cus­tomers in­ter­ested in try­ing green tea for the first time. The del­i­cate cit­rus fla­vor and beau­ti­ful or­ange fla­vors pro­vide a gen­tle in­tro­duc­tion to the world of green tea. Loose tea, sam­ple.

  • Tong Lu Green (★★★☆☆)

    On our an­nual trip to Chi­na, we were shown a new area in south­ern Zhe­jiang Province. There, vet­eran tea grow­ers have cre­ated a new tea gar­den us­ing the fa­mous Anji tea plants. They have used these plants to make great tast­ing green & black teas. It was won­der­ful to see in­no­va­tion at work. Dry Leaves: A mix­ture of bright and dark green twisted leaves. Liquor: Lima bean green. Aro­ma: Fresh cu­cum­bers. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Mild. Fla­vors: Cu­cum­bers and zuc­chi­nis.

  • Ban­cha (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Ban­cha is sum­mer­time green tea from Japan, no­table for its grassy fla­vor and no smok­i­ness. De­tails: It is amaz­ing what a few weeks make. Ban­chas are made of large, tougher leaves. As the sea­son wears on, the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the leaves change. By the time the Ban­cha har­vest be­gins, the smoother-tast­ing polyphe­nols in the leaves have been re­placed by harsher ones, and the leaves have lost amino acids that cre­ate sweet­ness and body. Ban­cha yields a grassier, lighter-bod­ied tea. Dry Leaves: Ban­cha con­sists of wide leaves mixed with stalk, rang­ing in color from sage green to kha­ki. Liquor: Bright Yel­low. Aro­ma: Ban­cha is a sum­mer grown tea, so it is lively and grassy. It is as if some­one had turned up the vol­ume on a Sen­cha. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: With its big leaves an oc­ca­sional stems, this Ban­cha’s body is light. Fla­vors: Japan­ese Ban­cha has lighter veg­e­tal fla­vors of grass, cel­ery, and wet wood, yet it is very as­sertive.

  • De­caf Sen­cha (★★★☆☆)

    Are you look­ing for a plain green tea that has fla­vor and some body, yet with­out the caffeine? We pro­pose our De­caf Sen­cha as your clear choice; Har­ney & Sons offers sim­ply the best! De­tails: Peo­ple who choose to drink de­caf teas often get a bad deal. Their teas sim­ply taste bad. We wanted to offer them some­thing bet­ter. We work with tea sup­pli­ers and de­caffeina­tion fac­to­ries to make good tast­ing green teas. We sup­plied the good teas and they re­moved the caffeine us­ing car­bon diox­ide [CO2]. Dry Leaves: This De­caf Sen­cha is based on a Chi­nese green tea and con­sists of wide leaves mixed with stalk, rang­ing in color from sage green to kha­ki. Liquor: Bright yel­low. Aro­ma: Our De­caf Sen­cha comes from sum­mer grown tea, so it is a live­ly, grassy tea. When the caffeine is re­moved, so is some of the fla­vor. Caffeine Lev­el: De­caffeinat­ed. Body: When the caffeine is re­moved, so are some of the com­pounds that cre­ate body in tea. So it is lighter in body. Fla­vors: Lighter veg­e­tal fla­vors of grass.

    Odd sen­cha—the fla­vor feels al­most cut in half and to­wards oo­long. I was hop­ing for a de­caf tea which I could drink late at night with­out be­ing trou­bled by the caffeine keep­ing me awake, but this is un­ac­cept­able; it would be bet­ter to drop tea en­tirely at night.

    This is not a kind of de­fec­tive fla­vor I have no­ticed any­where else, and I im­me­di­ately won­dered if the CO2 de­caffeina­tion process was re­spon­si­ble. I have since or­dered sev­eral de­caf teas to com­pare, and most of them were highly un­sat­is­fac­to­ry. As of 2019, Up­ton now warns you “Please note that even the best de­caffeinated teas lose some of the fla­vor and com­plex­ity of their un­processed coun­ter­parts.” The only ex­cep­tion was a fla­vored black tea (Up­ton’s “De­caffeinated Apri­cot with Flow­ers”), but black teas have such a strong fla­vor on their own, much less when fla­vored, that I sus­pect that the ‘hol­low­ness’ is be­ing cov­ered up; which is not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing but does­n’t vin­di­cate the CO2 process. The two main de­caffeina­tion processes are ap­par­ently CO2 liq­uid at high temperature/pressure, and hot wa­ter at even higher tem­per­a­ture, nei­ther of which sounds like they are ul­tra­-s­e­lec­tive for caffeine and I am sus­pi­cious that the sen­cha tastes half like it should be­cause it is in fact only half what it was. An Econ­o­mist ar­ti­cle claims “it [CO2/hot-water de­caffeina­tion] can cause col­lat­eral dam­age to some of the frag­ile com­pounds that give tea its ben­e­fits. And, as with de­caf coffee, which is treated in sim­i­lar ways, many peo­ple ar­gue that it also spoils the flavour.” Which does match my ex­pe­ri­ence. If this is the case, it’s hard to see how de­caf tea could be im­proved: CO2 is not go­ing to change, after all. So the cur­rent op­tions are to ei­ther use over­whelm­ing tea which can sur­vive the process with­out too much dam­age, in­her­ently low-caffeine drinks (ku­kicha or tea flow­ers, tisanes/herbals in gen­er­al; the caffeine lev­els of white/green/oolong/black teas vary too widely from batch to batch/year to year/farm to farm to be of much help), or go with out. One fu­ture op­tion would be to stop tea plants from syn­the­siz­ing caffeine in the first place—there are some wild tea plants which don’t pro­duce caffeine (eg Jin et al 2018’s “Hongy­acha” tea), so caffeine (which is usu­ally be­lieved to be syn­the­sized as an in­sec­ti­cide, like nicotine) is not nec­es­sary for a tea plant; this im­plies that the caffeine-free tea bush­es, whether wild or cul­ti­vat­ed, could be found and se­lected for, giv­ing high­-qual­ity tea sans caffeine sans de­caffeina­tion. (An­other op­tion, given that de­stroy­ing func­tion­al­ity is much eas­ier for ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing than adding or chang­ing func­tions, would be to knock­out caffeine pro­duc­tion us­ing a tech­nique like CRISPR; Chi­nese ge­neti­cists par­tic­u­larly spe­cial­ize in agri­cul­tural ap­pli­ca­tions of CRISPR, and it’d prob­a­bly be straight­for­ward.)

  • Lemony Gun­pow­der (★★★☆☆)

    Lemony Gun­pow­der, a pop­u­lar fla­vored green tea, is based on tra­di­tional Gun­pow­der with a hint of lemon added to brighten the fla­vor. Kosher. Dry Leaves: The dark, balled leaves of this fla­vored gun­pow­der are blended with lemon. Liquor: The liquor of this tea is a light yel­low. Aro­ma: A slightly charred aro­ma, com­bined with lemon. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: A medium body. Fla­vors: Charred and very slightly veg­e­tal with a strong lemon ac­cent.

  • Wild Moun­tain Green (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    A very rare, light and sweet green tea made from wild tea plants grow­ing in Chi­na’s Jiangxi Province. De­tails: An un­ex­pected but de­light­ful part of our re­cent trip to China was the ex­cur­sion to Yangji­ap­ing vil­lage high in the moun­tains of Jiangxi Province. As we rolled up the moun­tain and into a small vil­lage, we were told that we were the first west­ern tea buy­ers to visit this tiny vil­lage that is de­voted to tea. They cer­tainly did treat us like roy­al­ty. We took a walk up to the top of the moun­tain to see the tea gar­dens. On the way down, our friends pointed out some wild tea bush­es. After a great meal made by the boss’s fam­i­ly, we were shown some the teas made from wild tea bush­es. We were very pleased with them and now you can be pleased with them too! Dry Leaves: Long twisted dull green leaves w/ sil­ver tips. Liquor: Light olive. Aro­ma: Light veg­eta­bles. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Light body. Fla­vors: Light veg­eta­bles like sweet Lima beans.

  • Ten­cha (★★★☆☆)

    We are pleased to bring you this spe­cial offer­ing, as Ten­cha is rare to find for sale, even in­side Japan. Ten­cha is the base green tea for mak­ing pow­dered matcha. Dark in color yet light in the cup, this tea has a lot of body (or umami) and no roast fla­vors. De­tails: Why offer what no one else offers? Well, the ques­tion an­swers it­self; we like be­ing differ­ent. Al­so, Ten­cha looks stun­ning and de­liv­ers a lovely cup of tea. Fi­nal­ly, we like the ed­u­ca­tional value of com­par­ing and con­trast­ing this tea with other teas, es­pe­cially Matcha. It is amaz­ing that the vivid green flecks that make a clear liquor be­come a duller green and and opaque when ground be­tween two ro­tat­ing stones. Dry Leaves: These tea leaves look like no oth­er: small, dark green, round, and ragged flecks. This is be­cause Ten­cha is a grown in the shade, like Gyokuro. We get our Ten­cha from the source of the best Matcha: Uji. After pluck­ing by hand, the leaves are cut and dried by warm air. Liquor: Al­though the leaves are a very dark green, the tea brews up a light yel­low green, very differ­ent from Matcha. Aro­ma: There is a light veg­e­tal aroma of lightly cooked spinach, with the slight sweet­ness of steamed white rice. Since this tea is dried by air, with­out any di­rect con­tact with in­tense heat, there are no roasty toasty aro­mas. This is un­like any other Japan­ese green tea. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Given the light liquor, the body is sur­pris­ingly full. This is be­cause the amount of amino acids that give body and cre­ate umami is higher in shade-grown plants. Fla­vors: A cup of this tea de­liv­ers on the aro­mas, light spinach backed by the rounded sweet­ness of steamed rice. And there are none of the roasted nuts or toasty fla­vors found in other Japan­ese teas.

    Diffi­cult to drink loose with­out a strainer be­cause of the ex­treme flak­i­ness and the leaves not set­tling after steep­ing. The fla­vor pro­file is flat and some­what like mul­berry or bam­boo.

  • Japan­ese Sen­cha (★★★★☆)

    We call this tea Japan­ese Sen­cha be­cause not all Sen­cha on the mar­ket is from Japan. Our Sen­cha is a very fine one from the cen­tral Shizuoka province, and can be found in many homes in Tokyo. It is a pleas­ant and ap­proach­able green tea—a fine choice for every­day, in the way our founder John Har­ney al­ways be­gan his morn­ings with this cup. Kosher. De­tails: The Kaburagi fam­ily has sold to Amer­i­cans for over 110 years. They are well known in Tokyo and through­out Japan as a pre-em­i­nent sup­plier of tea. They sup­ply this pleas­ant Sen­cha from cen­tral Shizuo­ka. To keep the price some­what rea­son­able, we choose teas from the mid­dle of the sea­son. John Har­ney drank this tea every­day for over 10 years. He val­ued the pleas­ant fla­vor and the an­tiox­i­dants. Dry Leaves: The leaves from this tea are a medium lime green col­or. Since this is a tra­di­tional sen­cha (fut­sumushi) the leaves are more iden­ti­fi­able than in the deep steamed (fuka­mushi). Liquor: The liquor is a medium green, not as in­tense as the Ichiban. The green is a truer green than the Ban­cha, which tends more to­wards yel­low. Aro­ma: Our Japan­ese Sen­cha has pleas­ant spinachy notes, with slight roast fla­vors that are sim­i­lar to toasted bread. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: As a mid-sea­son Sen­cha, this green tea has good lev­els of amino acids and more body than most green teas. Fla­vors: This is a very pleas­ant green tea. The mild veg­e­tal fla­vors with light ac­cents of cit­rus and toast make this a tea that can han­dle all your mood­s—ev­ery day.

  • Sen­cha Scent of Moun­tains (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    This Japan­ese green tea is a hit! Sen­cha Scent of Moun­tains re­mains one of the most pop­u­lar teas at our SoHo flag­ship store. Peo­ple love the de­li­cious light veg­e­tal taste and dis­tinc­tive aro­mas of this unique tea, grown in the high­est re­gion of Shizuo­ka. You will too! De­tails: The Ot­suka fam­i­ly, who sup­ply sev­eral of the Japan­ese green teas, did a great job with this Sen­cha. Scent of the Moun­tain comes from Kawane, which is the high­est tea re­gion in the mas­sive Shizuoka tea re­gion. Al­though not as high as Dar­jeel­ing or Uva, it is high for Japan­ese tea gar­dens. The cooler air helps make for the lovely aro­ma. Dry Leaves: The leaves are medium in size, maybe a quar­ter of an inch with some even small­er. The tea is for­est green with some lighter stalks in­clud­ed. The tea is be­tween a reg­u­lar steamed tea and a deep steamed tea, and this ac­counts for the size of the leaves. Liquor: The liquor is light and clear. Aro­ma: They do not call it Scent of the Moun­tain for no rea­son. This tea has a love­ly, be­guil­ing veg­e­tal aro­ma. Few can re­sist. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: The body is light. This come from the Shi­zouka re­gion, and is not deep steamed, so the body is lighter than other Sen­chas. Fla­vors: Like the aro­ma, the fla­vors are en­tic­ing. The veg­e­tal spinachy fla­vor comes through clearly and strong­ly.

  • Yanagi Pre­mium Green (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    Japan­ese teas are pop­u­lar be­cause peo­ple like the aro­mas, fla­vors, and even the el­e­vated lev­els of an­tiox­i­dants. We offer Yanagi as a val­ue-based al­ter­na­tive to some of the more costly greens, so you may en­joy Sen­cha fla­vors more often. De­tails: Our sup­plier from Uji, in Japan rec­om­mended that we try this tea. It is made at the same time as high qual­ity Sen­cha, how­ever it is not con­sid­ered ac­cept­able as a Sen­cha. It rep­re­sents a good val­ue. Dry Leaves: These are large green leaves, mostly medium green but with some lighter col­ored stalks. This tea looks like Sen­cha, but larg­er. That is be­cause it is the ‘re­jects’ from the Sen­cha made in May. Liquor: The liquor is a pale light green, sim­i­lar to most Sen­chas but light. The big leaves ac­count for the lighter col­or. Aro­ma: Yanag­i’s aroma is a lighter ver­sion of most Sen­cha: spinach and nori sea­weed with the bac­knotes of toast. This is con­trast to a tea it might be con­fused with: Ban­cha. How­ever Yanagi has none of the grassy aro­mas found in Ban­cha. This is be­cause it is made in the Spring like sen­chas. Ban­cha is made lat­er. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This a medium bod­ied green tea. Fla­vors: Steamed leaf veg­eta­bles like spinach or tat­soi with some roasted fla­vors.

  • Gen­maicha (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    Gen­maicha is a differ­ent kind of Japan­ese green tea that many peo­ple find in­trigu­ing. Brown rice ker­nels (“gen­mai”) are added while the green Ban­cha leaves (“cha”) are be­ing dried, so the ker­nels get crispy and some burst open. Gen­maicha has a unique ap­pear­ance and a pleas­ant roasted fla­vor. Kosher. De­tails: Ban­cha is a sum­mer tea made after the Sen­cha sea­son. Be­cause there is so much of this in­ex­pen­sive tea, an in­no­v­a­tive Ky­oto tea mer­chant thought to com­bine the two sta­ples of the Japan­ese di­et, bring­ing Gen­maicha into ex­is­tence. Once con­sid­ered a cheap peas­ant bev­er­age, Gen­maicha has re­cently come into vogue among the Japan­ese ur­ban elite. Dry Leaves: Broad yel­low-green Ban­cha tea leaves are mixed with toasted brown rice. Liquor: The liquor is vi­brant light green tinged slightly khaki brown from the rice. Aro­ma: The pre­dom­i­nant aroma is the roasted brown rice with light veg­e­tal un­der­notes and hints of cit­rus from the Ban­cha. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Gen­maicha is a light-bod­ied green tea. Fla­vors: Above a base­line veg­e­tal fla­vor of spring grass, there is the strong roasted fla­vor from the toasted rice. It is evoca­tive of pop­corn.

  • Or­ganic Sen­cha (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    In the past, we have avoided “Or­ganic Sen­cha.” Our feel­ing was maybe it was or­gan­ic, and maybe it was a Japan­ese Sen­cha, but the tea did not meet our taste ex­pec­ta­tions. How­ev­er, Mike met our cur­rent sup­plier a few years ago and was quite im­pressed by this Sen­cha. This one is cer­ti­fied or­gan­ic—and it is cer­tainly from Japan—and most im­por­tant­ly, it tastes like a good Sen­cha. De­tails: The Or­ganic Sen­cha is the “real deal.” We were happy to find a nice tast­ing green tea that was truly Or­ganic and truly a Sen­cha. We are big fans of Mat­suda and his Sen­cha. When we learned that this tea was the from the same val­ley: Wat­suka, we were very ex­cit­ed. Or­ganic teas are very im­por­tant to some, how­ev­er, some­times it is hard to find these teas made in Japan. The tea mak­ers often feel that they can not make good tea with­out the ad­di­tion of Ni­tro­gen. This el­e­ment is found in every amino acid (even those in your body) and amino acids give Sen­cha there body or umami, also they add sweet­ness to the brew. How­ever this tea­maker gets by with nat­ural fer­til­iz­ers. Yes, the tea is a bit weaker than other Sen­chas, but is still very nice. Dry Leaves: The leaves are medium green, and shorter in length than other Sen­chas. This tea comes from the same val­ley as Mat­su­da’s Sen­cha, so the mi­cro­cli­mate (or ter­roir) and the tra­di­tions make it pos­si­ble to make good Sen­cha. Liquor: The liquor is a light, clear green be­cause the tea is reg­u­lar steamed (in con­trast to deep­-steamed.) Aro­ma: This tea has an aroma of lightly steamed veg­eta­bles like spinach. Since it is or­gan­ic, the aro­mas will be lighter. In com­par­i­son to con­ven­tional tea, there are less amino acid­s.­Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: The body is lighter than most Sen­chas. Fla­vors: Or­ganic Sen­cha has agree­able veg­e­tal fla­vors, but the vol­ume is turned down. It comes from a great area, so the tea does have some amino acids and an­tiox­i­dants to make an agree­able tea, just less of them.

  • Or­ganic Green with Cit­rus & Ginkgo (★★★☆☆)

    Based on a hand-picked or­ganic green tea from South­ern In­dia, our re­fresh­ing Or­ganic Green with Cit­rus & Ginkgo blend de­liv­ers the ben­e­fits as­so­ci­ated with green tea and gink­go. It fea­tures a dash of lemon­grass and the bright taste of nat­ural cit­rus. This tea uses Fair Trade teas. De­tails: This was one of our first cer­ti­fied Or­ganic teas. We de­cided to give the green tea blend a bit of “func­tion­al­ity” and added some Gink­go. How­ever we can not re­mem­ber the rea­son! Dry Leaves: This In­dian Green Tea is cer­ti­fied or­ganic and blended with cut lemon­grass and cit­rus peels. Liquor: The liquor of this tea is a very light green-brown. Aro­ma: This tea has a cit­rus aroma with a trace of ginkgo that gives an earthy twang. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: A light body. Fla­vors: A mix­ture of veg­e­tal and cit­rus fla­vors with a unique ginkgo taste.

  • Chun Mee (★★☆☆☆ / ★★★☆☆)

    Chun Mee is a tra­di­tional green sum­mer tea from Chi­na, with a lightly roasted veg­e­tal taste. When John Har­ney started in the tea trade over 30 years ago, Chun Mee was one of only two green tea offer­ings from Chi­na, along with Gun­pow­der. Our offer­ings have greatly ex­panded since then, yet many peo­ple still en­joy Chun Mee’s fa­mil­iar taste. De­tails: This is the green tea that many of us and our par­ents grew up with; many of us crave its roasted and as­sertive fla­vors. It is made from the tougher leaves that are fixed green, and then fired for an ex­tended pe­riod in a hot ro­tat­ing oven. Dry Leaves: Gray­ish green leaves rolled into a semi­-cir­cle. It is easy to see where the name “Chun Mee,” comes from; it means “eye­brows.” Liquor: Bright yel­low. Aro­ma: Defi­nitely charred veg­e­tal aro­mas. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Medium bod­ied from heavy roast­ing. Fla­vors: The fla­vor of leeks that have been left on the grill for a very long time.

  • Chi­nese Flower (★★☆☆☆ / ★★★☆☆)

    Our Chi­nese Flower tea is a joy for the eyes and the palate. A beau­ti­ful and aro­matic blend of Chun Mee and three types of flower petals, you’ll no­tice ac­cents of cit­rus fla­vors. Kosher. Dry Leaves: A blend of Chun Mee and var­i­ous flower petals and or­ange peel. Liquor: The flow­ers in this fla­vored green tea make the liquor a yel­low­ish-brown, sim­i­lar to a gun­pow­der tea. Aro­ma: A light aroma of flow­ers and Chun Mee. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This tea has a light body due to the flow­ers blended into it. Fla­vors: The or­ange peel gives this tea a light cit­rus fla­vor while the flower petals give it a flo­ral taste as well.

    The Chun Mee is not im­proved by an at­tempt to turn it into patchouli..

  • Jane’s Gar­den Tea (★★☆☆☆ / ★★★☆☆)

    Gar­dens in­spire by show­ing con­tin­ual growth, re­newal, and vi­tal­i­ty; it also takes love, ten­der­ness, and care to nur­ture a gar­den. It is in Jane’s mem­o­ry, a life­long friend and gar­den­er, that Jane’s Gar­den Tea was blended to show sup­port dur­ing her bat­tle against breast can­cer. We are pleased to offer Jane’s Gar­den Blend two ways: as loose tea in our tra­di­tional black tin, and also in a beau­ti­ful pink and green tin with 20 tea sa­chets. Kosher. One dol­lar ($1) of the pro­ceeds from the sale of Jane’s Gar­den tins will be shared by the Jane Lloyd Fund and the Na­tional Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion. The Jane Lloyd Fund helps pa­tients in Sal­is­bury, CT with their day-to-day ex­penses while bat­tling can­cer. The Na­tional Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion pro­vides mam­mo­grams, ed­u­ca­tion and re­search about breast can­cer na­tion­wide. Dry Leaves: Dark green leaves with bright rose petals. Liquor: Jane’s Gar­den Tea has a light yel­low liquor. Aro­ma: This tea has a light flo­ral aro­ma. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: A light body due to the rose petals and flo­ral fla­vors. Fla­vors: A del­i­cate flo­ral fla­vor is brought out in this tea by the rose petals blended with the green tea leaves.

  • Dragon Pearl Jas­mine (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    De­light in Dragon Pearl Jas­mine tea—a mas­ter­piece from Fuan, Chi­na—­com­prised of lit­tle hand rolled tea ‘pearls’ gen­tly in­fused with flo­ral essences from jas­mine flow­ers. The tea is a beau­ti­ful to look at, and the light col­ored brew is full of flo­ral and sweet aro­mas. Kosher. De­tails: There was a time, and it was not too long ago, that there was no Dragon Pearl Jas­mine. Now the world is a bet­ter place. These are hand rolled by ladies in Fuan in north­ern Fu­jian Province. When Mike met the lady that orig­i­nated this lovely tea, he thanked her on be­half of all tea drinkers. Dry Leaves: Small rolled “pearls” of faded green and white leaves. They are very pret­ty. Liquor: A light and clear liquor that is tinged a pale yel­low. Aro­ma: There is no ques­tion here: Jas­mine and more jas­mine! Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This is a medium bod­ied tea. Fla­vors: What a won­der­ful tea! We looked long and hard to find a tea that is both sweet and very flo­ral. Please en­joy it as is, there is no need to al­ter it all.

  • Jas­mine (★★★☆☆)

    Fla­vor­ing teas with Jas­mine flow­ers is an an­cient Chi­nese tra­di­tion. The base of our Jas­mine is a Pou­chong tea, which is slightly browner than green tea. We add fresh jas­mine flow­ers to cre­ate a del­i­cate and fra­grant brew. Kosher. Caffeinat­ed. De­tails: The Chi­nese love to mix Jas­mine flow­ers with var­i­ous teas. We offer four op­tions: Jas­mine, Yin Hao Jas­mine, Sil­ver Nee­dle Jas­mine, and Dragon Pearl Jas­mine. This is our most ba­sic Jas­mine, how­ever it is much bet­ter than those served in many Chi­nese restau­rants. Dry Leaves: Medium sized pale green leaves with dried jas­mine flow­ers. Liquor: Yel­low­ish green. Aro­ma: Over the veg­e­tal base, there is a strong Jas­mine flower aro­ma. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: This is a medium bod­ied tea. Fla­vors: The flo­ral fla­vors of Jas­mine are very pre­sent.

  • Sea­son’s Pick Green Fan­nings Or­ganic (★★☆☆☆ / ★★★☆☆)

    This is a per­fect tea for get­ting your daily dose of “greens.” This fan­nings grade pro­duces a smooth and fla­vor­ful cup within a minute. Val­ue-priced for every­day con­sump­tion and cho­sen for its pleas­ing char­ac­ter, this tea is an ex­cel­lent choice for the green tea en­thu­si­ast on a bud­get.

    Cheap in­deed, over­steeps al­most im­me­di­ate­ly, and yields a some­what bit­ter or­di­nary green. It may cost next to noth­ing but demon­strates it’s worth pay­ing a lit­tle more for real greens.

  • China Green De­caffeinated Tea (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Sur­pris­ingly fla­vor­ful, this [CO2] de­caffeinated green tea has a pleas­ant veg­e­tal qual­i­ty. A bolder ver­sion of our ZG09, De­caffeinated China Green Tea.

    An­other CO2 de­caffeina­tion test along with the Sweet Or­ange Black, but where the black is so masked by the sweet or­ange that I can’t eval­u­ate it, one sip of the green and I in­stantly rec­og­nize the “hol­low” fla­vor, some­thing deeply wrong with the taste, I re­mem­bered from Har­ney’s de­caf green tea. In­deed, so sim­i­lar are they that I im­me­di­ately won­dered if I had bought the same tea, but closely com­par­ing the pho­tos and de­scrip­tions, while I can’t rule it out, it seems like they are differ­ent teas. In any case, this was a dis­ap­point­ment be­cause it im­plies that the ad­ver­tis­ing of the CO2 de­caffeina­tion as pre­serv­ing the fla­vor is op­ti­mistic at best, and can­not pro­vide high qual­ity de­caf teas.

  • Hu­nan Bai Hao Mao Feng (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    Bold, well-twisted leaves are in­ter­spersed with sil­ver downy buds, cre­at­ing an at­trac­tive ap­pear­ance. The rose-gold liquor has an ini­tial sweet­ness, which is tem­pered by a veg­e­tal hint and a brothy/buttery mouth feel. This offer­ing is pro­duced with time-honored tech­niques and fin­ished with a char­coal bas­ket fir­ing, which lends a light toasty hint to the cup.

    Sat­is­fy­ing brothy.

  • Ko-kei Cha (★★★☆☆)

    Some­times called spaghetti tea, this by-prod­uct of the man­u­fac­ture of Matcha is ex­truded like tiny pas­ta. An ex­quis­ite green tea at an afford­able price!

    Sim­plis­tic sen­cha-like, over­steeps eas­i­ly. In­ter­est­ing ap­pear­ance, though.

  • Green Tea Tamacha (★★★☆☆)

    Lit­er­ally trans­lated as “round tea”, this tea is pro­duced us­ing the same un­shaded leaf type as Sen­cha. In­stead of the clas­sic nee­dle shape, the leaf is rolled into a small ball shape. The tea has a fla­vor pro­file much like a qual­ity Sen­cha.

    Sim­i­lar to Ko-kei Cha: un­usual chunky/flake-like ap­pear­ance, sort of sen­cha fla­vor but not a stand­out.

  • Tea­vana: Sen­cha Jade Re­serve (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    Fresh, sweet, veg­e­tal in­fu­sion. This ex­tra fine Japan­ese cul­ti­var is gen­tly steamed to re­lease the light and com­plex green tea sweet­ness. Most pop­u­lar as an every­day de­light, but el­e­vated by the dis­cern­ing se­lec­tion of art­ful cylin­dri­cal leaves which in­fuse the fresh green taste of an early Spring har­vest in each and every cup.

  • Tea­vana: Gyokuro Gen­maicha (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    Light smooth veg­e­tal green tea taste with sweet nutty un­der­tones. The ex­cep­tional top tier Gyokuro Im­pe­r­ial is in­tu­itively paired with toasted brown “gen­maicha” rice re­sult­ing in a highly aro­matic medium bod­ied green tea blend.

    The idea is great but Tea­vana’s im­ple­men­ta­tion is only good: too much un­der­-toasted rice and the gyokuro tastes low-grade and not par­tic­u­larly rich or com­plex. I will keep an eye out for oth­ers.

  • Meng Ding Huang Ya (★★★☆☆)

    This Sichuan province clas­sic has a no­ble and ven­er­a­ble pedi­gree, be­ing used long ago as a trib­ute tea. It is com­posed mainly of downy buds, with a small com­ple­ment of young leaf. The com­plex fla­vor has a pleas­ant sweet­ness. The mouth feel has a brothy char­ac­ter and the after­taste is smooth and light.

    White tea-like, some­what sweet.

  • Gu Zhang Mao Jian (★★★☆☆)

    Gu Zhang Mao Jian, or “Sky Be­tween the Branches” is a rel­a­tively rare tea, tra­di­tion­ally only har­vested for a short time in the spring. The cup is quite sat­is­fy­ing, with in­ter­est­ing notes of nuts, as well as a sweet herba­ceous qual­i­ty.

  • Spe­cial Grade Tem­ple of Heaven Gun­pow­der Green (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Finest pin­head gun­pow­der tea with a nat­u­rally sweet fla­vor. A finer grade than or­di­nary Tem­ple of Heav­en.

    Nev­er­the­less, bit­ter and over­steeped quickly

  • China Jas­mine (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Green tea roasted with jas­mine flow­ers, pro­duc­ing a fra­grant, del­i­cate tea. Some­times clas­si­fied as an Oo­long tea, Jas­mine teas are tech­ni­cally of the scented Pou­chong fam­ily of teas.

    Bit­ter like a gun­pow­der.

  • Chung-Hao Spe­cial Grade Jas­mine (★★★☆☆)

    Chung-Hao Jas­mine be­longs to the same se­ries of China Jas­mine tea as Yin- Hao, but is less ex­pen­sive. The leaf style is com­pa­ra­ble. Ex­cep­tional qual­ity and fla­vor.

  • Mo­roc­can Green Mint (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    Gun­pow­der green tea blended with a gen­er­ous amount of pep­per­mint. In­gre­di­ents: green tea, pep­per­mint leaves. Orig­in: Ger­many

    A pleas­ant and win­ning com­bi­na­tion that bal­ances the mint against an ac­cept­able gun­pow­der.

  • Or­ganic An­hui Moun­tain Tea (★★★☆☆)

    The beau­ti­fully hand­crafted leaves of this or­ganic green tea yield a pale jade green in­fu­sion with a fresh aro­ma, hint­ing of sweet corn and spring flow­ers. The del­i­cate cup is smooth and but­tery with nutty notes and a sweet­ness rem­i­nis­cent of al­mond paste. Fruity nu­ances lead to a crisp, clean fin­ish.

  • Fu­jian Green Snow Buds (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    From Fu­jian province, this spe­cial, hand­crafted se­lec­tion is com­posed of downy sil­ver tea buds. The cham­pag­ne-gold liquor has a sa­vory aroma with earthy, veg­e­tal hints. The brothy cup has a but­tery mouth feel with melon notes and hints of honey and sweet to­bac­co. Sup­plies are lim­it­ed.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Green Sword (★★★☆☆)

    A pro­fu­sion of fuzzy, cream-col­ored buds pro­vide a beau­ti­ful con­trast to dark olive leaves in this hand­crafted offer­ing from the 2017 Pre-Ch­ing­ming sea­son. The pale gold liquor is sweet and del­i­cate with a but­tery mouth feel and flo­ral notes. Sup­ply of this su­perla­tive se­lec­tion is lim­it­ed.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Golden Nee­dles (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    Hand­crafted us­ing time-honored tra­di­tional meth­ods, this at­trac­tive tea is com­prised of pre­dom­i­nantly golden buds, cov­ered in fine silky hairs. The ruby-cop­per cup is ro­bust and earthy with a pro­nounced co­coa aroma and fla­vor. A light toasti­ness leads to a smooth, lin­ger­ing fin­ish hint­ing of spice.

    Richly oo­long-like.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Pi Lo Chun (★★★☆☆)

    One of Chi­na’s most well-known green teas, Pi Lo Chun, or Green Snail Spring, is named for its unique ap­pear­ance. This 2017 Pre-Ch­ing­ming se­lec­tion has a pro­fu­sion of sil­ver tips mixed with olive green leaves, which are rolled into curly spi­ral shapes. The pale golden in­fu­sion is smooth with a sweet del­i­cate aroma and fresh herba­ceous fla­vor.

  • Young Hyson Im­pe­r­ial Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    This or­ganic tea has the bold fla­vor of a high­-fired tea, yet it has a pleas­ing smooth­ness with del­i­cate sweet­ness. The thin, well-twisted leaves pro­duce a liquor with a pale green col­or. This is a very pop­u­lar style of China green tea with a bolder leaf.

  • China Green Sil­ver Spi­ral (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    The sil­ver-tipped leaves have an ap­pear­ance that has been likened to that of sea snails. The aroma is fra­grant with a pro­nounced nutty note. The cup has a com­plex fla­vor pro­file and a sa­vory, brothy char­ac­ter. The smooth, clean fin­ish has a pleas­ant hint of sweet­ness.

  • Misty Moun­tain Mao Feng (★★★☆☆)

    Sprin­kled with sil­very buds, the long olive-green leaves have been care­fully plucked and hand­crafted to pro­duce this high­-qual­ity green tea se­lec­tion. The cup aroma is sweet and del­i­cate with but­tery veg­e­tal notes. The pale yel­low-jade in­fu­sion is light yet fla­vor­ful, with a slightly brothy, sa­vory qual­i­ty. Flo­ral hints lead to a smooth, clean fin­ish.

  • Hubei Golden Tips Im­pe­r­ial (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    The beau­ti­ful, un­in­fused leaves have a won­der­ful aro­ma, with a sweet essence that has a faint ever­green note. The over­all ap­pear­ance is stun­ning, with plen­ti­ful golden buds, yield­ing a smooth liquor with medium body and sub­tle berry notes.

  • Sea­son’s Pick China Sen­cha Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    Processed in the style of a Japan­ese Sen­cha tea, this se­lec­tion is an ex­cel­lent value for an every­day green tea. The golden cup is aro­matic with flo­ral hints and a sweet, but­tery mouth feel.

    A lit­tle un­pleas­antly rem­i­nis­cent of the ‘hol­low’ taste of the de­caf…

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Downy Golden Spi­ral (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    In this 2017 Pre-Ch­ing­ming se­lec­tion from Yun­nan province, a pro­fu­sion of downy golden tips are rolled into spi­ral shapes with a soft, silky feel. Rich co­coa notes pre­dom­i­nate in both the aroma and the deep am­ber liquor. The creamy smooth cup hints of raisins as well as malt and spice in the fin­ish.

  • Up­ton: Pre-Ch­ing­ming Yun­nan Black Snail (“12g $3”) (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    A fine pluck­ing of leaves and downy golden buds are loosely rolled into in­ter­est­ing “snail” shapes in this 2017 Pre-Ch­ing­ming se­lec­tion. The deep am­ber cup has a com­plex aroma with notes of co­coa and dark hon­ey. The ful­l-bod­ied liquor is silky smooth with notes of sweet co­coa and malt. The fin­ish lingers with warm spicy hints.

  • Japan­ese Pre­mium Sen­cha Fuka­mushi (★★★☆☆)

    Fuka­mushi (‘Deep­-Steam’) man­u­fac­ture re­quires spe­cial pro­cess­ing and a longer steam­ing time than tra­di­tional Sen­cha, re­sult­ing in a sweet, rich taste and thick cup. The tea takes on a bro­ken ap­pear­ance, with a mix­ture of fine par­ti­cles and larger leaf. Fuka­mushi Sen­cha is prized for its su­pe­rior taste, rather than the vi­sual ap­pear­ance of its leaf. Cer­ti­fied or­gan­ic, this tea was grown in Kagoshima pre­fec­ture us­ing a Yabukita cul­ti­var.

  • Gen-mai Cha Ka­makura Or­ganic (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    An or­ganic ver­sion of this very pop­u­lar tea. The liquor is aro­matic and has the clas­sic toasty, nutty fla­vor of this unique tea.

  • China Jas­mine White Mon­key (★★★☆☆)

    Dark­-o­live leaves, dec­o­rated with sil­ver tea buds, have been scented with jas­mine flow­ers in this su­perla­tive offer­ing from Fu­jian province. The light golden in­fu­sion is redo­lent with the fra­grance of a fresh bou­quet of jas­mine and lilac blos­soms. The ful­l-bod­ied cup is smooth and re­fresh­ing, with very sweet jas­mine notes that com­ple­ment the high­-qual­ity green tea base.

  • China Green Tea Jas­mine Pearls/Guangdong Province Jas­mine Pearls (★★★☆☆)

    Tightly rolled leaf bud sets scented with an al­lur­ing fruity nu­ance. This is a more afford­able al­ter­na­tive to our ex­tremely pop­u­lar Dragon Phoenix Pearl.

  • China Green Tea/Guangdong Province Jas­mine Dragon Phoenix Pearl (★★★☆☆)

    Se­lect fine pluck­ings (two leaves and a bud), scented with the finest jas­mine flow­ers and tightly rolled into pearl-sized spheres. A rare treat for Jas­mine tea lovers.

  • China Or­ganic Jas­mine Dragon Phoenix Pearl (★★★☆☆)

    This rare offer­ing is pro­duced from care­fully se­lected leaf sets, con­sist­ing of buds and ten­der first-leaf sets. It is then scented with the high­est qual­ity jas­mine blos­soms, which are later painstak­ingly re­moved to en­sure that the qual­ity of the leaf is rep­re­sented in the cup.

    A dis­ap­point­ing set of jas­mine teas—they all tasted about the same to me.

  • Sweet Al­mond Green Tea (★★★☆☆)

    China Sen­cha is fla­vored and blended with a sweet, pleas­ing mix of sliv­ered al­monds, cin­na­mon and dec­o­ra­tive lime flow­ers. The cin­na­mon cre­ates a fin­ish of gen­tle spicy notes. This prod­uct con­tains tree nut­s(al­mond­s). In­gre­di­ents: green tea, al­monds, cin­na­mon, lime flow­ers, ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vor. Orig­in: Ger­many

  • Go­ji-Açai Green Tea (★★☆☆☆)

    A green sen­cha with the fla­vor of goji and açai berries. In­gre­di­ents: green tea, hi­bis­cus, rose­hip peels, ap­ple bits, goji berries, rasp­berry bits, açai fruit pow­der (açai, mal­todex­trin [corn-derived]), ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vor. Orig­in: Ger­many.

  • Gin-Zen Green Tea (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    China Sen­cha green tea, gin­ger, pineap­ple and gin­seng make a great com­bi­na­tion in this re­fresh­ing blend, de­li­cious hot or iced. In­gre­di­ents: China Sen­cha green tea, gin­seng root, gin­ger pieces, pineap­ple pieces (pineap­ple, sug­ar), ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vor­ing. Orig­in: Ger­many.

  • Si Feng Lung Ching (Long Jing) Or­ganic (★★★☆☆/ ★★★★☆)

    Flat, lus­trous leaves, in shades of spring green, pro­duce a pale yel­low jade cup with a smooth, full mouth feel. Clas­sic notes of chest­nut are promi­nent in both the aroma and the fla­vor, as well as fresh veg­e­tal notes, which are en­veloped by a rich toasti­ness. The fin­ish lingers to al­low your fur­ther en­joy­ment of this out­stand­ing se­lec­tion.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Dragon Silk (★★★☆☆)

    Del­i­cate, white tips thread through beau­ti­ful, hand­crafted leaves in this very spe­cial 2017 Pre-Ch­ing­ming se­lec­tion. The pale jade cup has a fresh veg­e­tal aroma with a whis­per of flow­ers. A silky smooth mouth feel in­tro­duces a hint of hon­ey, which lingers into the fin­ish.

  • Jun Chiyabari Pine/Jun Chiyabari Green HP1 (★★★☆☆)

    Nepal. In var­ie­gated tones of olive green and downy sil­ver, the dry leaves of this se­lec­tion pro­duce a tea with fla­vor notes sim­i­lar to the finest Yun­nan green teas. The light, but­tery smooth mouth feel and clean, sweet taste are bal­anced with a pleas­ing pun­gency. A qual­ity se­lec­tion sure to please the most dis­cern­ing green tea en­thu­si­ast.

  • Sea­son’s Pick Green Snail (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    From Fu­jian province, the olive-green leaves have been loosely rolled into pearls, show­ing some vis­i­ble downy tips. The dark golden liquor has a light earthy aroma with a faint sug­ges­tion of to­bac­co. A smooth, sa­vory fla­vor with hints of melon adds a pleas­ing com­plex­ity to the cup. The fin­ish lingers with a but­tery mouth feel and light fruity nu­ances.

  • An Hui Green Huang­shan Mao Feng (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    Pro­duced in An Hui province, this clas­sic green tea yields a smooth, com­plex cup. The fla­vor pro­file has a note of steamed peas, with hints of popped corn. This tea is one of Chi­na’s “Ten Fa­mous Teas”, a tra­di­tional list con­tain­ing what was pur­ported to be the best teas pro­duced in China long ago.

  • Up­ton: Green Lu’An Melon Seed (ZG69; 6g, $2.00) (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

  • Jas­mine Yin Zhen (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    Sil­ver downy tea buds have been ex­pertly scented with jas­mine, lend­ing a sweet per­fumed essence to this dis­tinc­tive se­lec­tion from Fu­jian province. The white tea base adds a light sa­vory body to the pale straw-col­ored in­fu­sion. Gen­tle flo­ral notes in the cup com­ple­ment the herba­ceous melon notes of the white tea. Hints of honey lead to a del­i­cate, lin­ger­ing fin­ish.

  • Yin-Hao Spe­cial Grade Jas­mine (★★★☆☆)

    The choic­est of the stan­dard grades of Jas­mine tea. Del­i­cate fla­vor with a nat­ural sweet­ness that is en­hanced by the sub­lime aroma of the finest jas­mine flow­ers.

  • Chung-Hao Jas­mine Im­pe­r­ial (★★★☆☆)

    This fine Jas­mine se­lec­tion pro­duces an am­ber gold cup with a rich, full mouth feel. The fla­vor show­cases a per­fect bal­ance be­tween the base tea and its metic­u­lous jas­mine scent­ing. Light flo­ral notes are high­lighted by a hint of sweet­ness that lingers into the fin­ish.

  • China Green Tea Blue­berry (★★★☆☆)

    Dried blue­ber­ries and nat­ural fla­vor­ing com­ple­ment the smooth China green tea base, yield­ing a pale gold liquor with re­fresh­ing blue­berry notes and a crisp, clean fin­ish. This well-bal­anced blend tastes de­li­cious hot or iced!

  • Or­ganic China Yun­nan Green Tea ★★★★☆

    Sil­very tips mix with bold, olive green leaves in this clas­sic green tea from Yun­nan province. The rosy gold liquor has a toasty, herba­ceous aroma and vel­vety smooth mouth feel. Sweet flo­ral hints join notes of stone fruit in the cup, end­ing with a smooth fin­ish.

    Melon green hints in a sweet mild­man­nered green.

  • Mist For­est Nat­u­rally Fla­vored Colom­bian Green Tea (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    This nat­u­rally fla­vored green tea se­lec­tion from Colom­bia pro­duces a golden yel­low liquor with the lus­cious fra­grance of trop­i­cal fruit. Pieces of pear guava, a nat­ural hy­brid of pear and guava, and sour­sop, a fruit with a cit­rus fla­vor, com­ple­ment the green tea base in a har­mo­nious bal­ance of fla­vors.

  • Colom­bian Wiry Green Tea Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    The dark olive leaves of this green tea offer­ing from Colom­bia are long and wiry, yield­ing a golden jade liquor with an herba­ceous aro­ma. The cup has a smooth, but­tery mouth feel with a hint of honey and sug­ges­tion of co­coa. With its crisp, clean fin­ish, this tea is a great choice for those look­ing for a green tea with­out a veg­e­tal qual­i­ty.

  • Tsuen Tea, un­known Uji sen­cha: (★★★☆☆)

    A gift from my sis­ter when she vis­ited on a trip to Japan; the Tsuen Tea tea­house, re­mark­ably, has op­er­ated for al­most a mil­len­ni­um. De­spite its el­e­gant pa­per en­ve­lope pack­ag­ing, the sen­cha does­n’t live up to the pedi­gree, and is a nor­mal enough sen­cha (no resteep­ing).

  • Wal­mart, “Great Value De­caffeinated Green Tea” ($1.98 for 1.9oz/54g in 40 pa­per-bag tea bags) (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    While wait­ing for my Yun­nan Sourc­ing or­der, I ran out of tea and was forced to buy some lo­cal­ly. I saw the de­caf and thought I would give it a try. The pack­ag­ing does not spec­ify what process is used to de­caffeinate it, so it was prob­a­bly the CO2 process. The green tea is… not nearly as bad as one would ex­pect? The main de­fect is that the amount of tea in each packet is far too small, lead­ing to a weak fla­vor, and I wound up us­ing 3 teabags per mug. How­ev­er, the de­caffeina­tion does­n’t make it taste “hol­low”, or at least, if it does have that prob­lem, I could­n’t no­tice against the over­all low lev­el. I would­n’t buy it again but it worked bet­ter than I ex­pected and shows that de­caffeina­tion is pos­si­ble to a de­gree.

  • Cost­co, Kirk­land Sig­na­ture Green Tea, Sen­cha & Matcha Blend (100 bags, $12.89) (★★★☆☆)

    In 2017, I bought a Costco mem­ber­ship in or­der to use their au­di­ol­ogy ser­vices & buy a new pair of hear­ing aids. (For a sim­ple re­place­ment, Costco hear­ing aids can be thou­sands of dol­lars cheaper than buy­ing through a reg­u­lar au­di­ol­o­gist.) While there, be­cause it is so far away, I killed two birds with one stone do­ing my gro­cery shop­ping.

    A sam­ple lady was mak­ing their Ito En green tea ny­lon bags, and I was im­pressed enough to buy a box. You need to use 2 bags at a time be­cause each bag holds a too-s­mall amount, but the qual­ity is still de­cent (e­spe­cially for a ‘gro­cery store tea’) and is an ac­cept­able sub­sti­tute should one run out of high­er-end tea.

  • The Tao of Tea, Sen­cha Shin­rikyu Green Tea (★★★★☆)

    An early sea­son Sen­cha. Lightly steamed, fine leaves with clas­sic oceanic aro­ma, dis­tinc­tive of Sen­cha’s from Shizuoka pre­fec­ture.

    One of Tao of Tea’s most ex­pen­sive green teas, this is also one of their finest I’ve tried: a true sen­cha, which resteeps like a champ.

  • YS: Yun­nan “Pine Nee­dles” Green Tea from Mengku (Spring 2018) ($4.50, 50g; ★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    This lovely tea is grown in Mengku County of Lin­cang in a vil­lage called “Dofu Zhai” (aka Tofu Vil­lage). It’s a lo­cal va­ri­etal, a hy­brid of pure As­sam­ica and Change Ye Bai Hao. The tea was picked and processed be­tween March 4th and 7th. The tea is fried by and in a wok, rolled, wilted very very briefly and then dried by hand in a wok again. At this fi­nal stage the tea is pressed flat again to make is straight and pointy. The fin­ished prod­uct is a sil­ver and green nee­dled tea that lo­cals call “Song Zhen” (Pine Needles). In ad­di­tion to its beau­ti­ful ap­pear­ance, the tea brews up a lovely bright green-yel­low tea soup with hints of raw chest­nut and uma­mi. The tea is thick and lu­bri­cat­ing to the mouth and throat (n­ever dry­ing or harsh). A fine Yun­nan green tea that com­plex, del­i­cate and sat­is­fy­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence! March 2018 Har­vest and pro­cess­ing.

  • YS: Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from An­hui (Spring 2018) ($7.75, 25g; ★★★★☆)

    Our Tai Ping Hou Kui is grown in Hou Gang vil­lage near Huang­shan Moun­tain in An­hui. It was har­vested in mid-April (first flush) from a decades old tea gar­den at about 300 me­ters. The tea is hand-fried in a wok for sev­eral min­utes (kil­l-green) and the roasted in a four drawer sys­tem at pro­gres­sively lower tem­per­a­tures. This roast­ing is achieved in about an hour, after which the tea leaves are laid out by hand on a smooth piece of pa­per or fab­ric and then pressed be­tween the pa­per and us­ing wooden blocks. Fi­nally the tea is low tem­per­a­ture roasted one more time to fur­ther re­duce mois­ture con­tent so that it can be stored sealed to main­tain fresh­ness. Our Tai Ping Hou Kui is a medi­um-high grade that de­liv­ers an in­cred­i­ble price to value ra­tio and is sure not to dis­ap­point even sea­soned drinkers of Tai Ping Hou Kui. The taste is fresh and sweet and de­liv­ers 3 to 5 in­fu­sions.

  • YS: Ai Lao Moun­tain Jade Nee­dle White Tea (Spring 2018) ($7.50, 50g; ★★★☆☆)

    A unique va­ri­etal of white tea grown in the high al­ti­tude moun­tains of Ai Lao range in the east­ern part of Jing Dong County (Si­mao Pre­fec­ture). The tea pro­cess­ing is some­thing in­-be­tween white and green tea. It has a strong thick aroma and hints of sug­ar­cane and wheat­grass. The leaves are ex­tremely fine and due to ex­pert pro­cess­ing the small hairs on the leaf have been pre­served. Spring 2018 har­vest.

  • Up­ton: Japan­ese Cherry Green Tea (★★☆☆☆)

    Japan­ese green tea pro­vides the pre­mium tea base for this nat­u­rally fla­vored se­lec­tion. Notes of sweet cherry are pro­nounced in both the aroma and the cup, lin­ger­ing long into the fin­ish. A whis­per of vanilla com­ple­ments the cherry fla­vor. Great hot or iced. In­gre­di­ents: loose leaf green tea, rose petals, blue corn­flow­ers and nat­ural cherry fla­vor

    What could be more Japan­ese than green tea and cherry blos­soms? If it had stuck to cherry blos­soms, per­haps this would have worked, but like the Har­ney & Sons fla­vored teas, this one goes over­board and winds up sick­en­ingly sick.

  • Up­ton: Kagoshima Saemi­dori Sen­cha Or­ganic (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    This or­ganic Sen­cha offer­ing comes from Kagoshima pre­fec­ture in south­ern Japan. Crafted from the Saemi­dori cul­ti­var, the emer­ald green leaves pro­duce a pale yel­low-jade liquor with a clean aroma and rich but­tery qual­i­ty. With a fresh sa­vory fla­vor rem­i­nis­cent of steamed spring greens, the cup feels soft and silky on the palate. A smooth, lin­ger­ing fin­ish com­pletes an out­stand­ing tea ex­pe­ri­ence.

    Tasty sen­cha, but on the ex­pen­sive side.

  • Up­ton: Sil­ver Sprout Green Tea, Pre-Ch­ing­ming (★★★☆☆)

    From Sichuan province, this 2018 Pre-Ch­ing­ming green tea pro­duces a fresh, vi­brant cup. A toasty aroma hints of sweet corn, in­tro­duc­ing a bright golden liquor with a smooth, full mouth feel. A rich fruiti­ness leads to a pleas­ant, lin­ger­ing fin­ish.

    Free sam­ple. I was a lit­tle off­put by the odd after­taste. Per­haps the notes of ‘sweet corn’ men­tioned, which is not a fla­vor I as­so­ciate with my green teas.

  • Up­ton: Sea­son’s Pick Japan­ese Sen­cha Or­ganic (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    A sweet, del­i­cate fra­grance in­tro­duces this or­ganic Japan­ese Sen­cha tea. The yel­low-jade cup has a light veg­e­tal char­ac­ter with sa­vory hints of uma­mi. A gen­tle sweet­ness com­ple­ments the clean fin­ish. A great val­ue.

    As de­scribed. A good sen­cha at a good price.

  • Up­ton: Sea­son’s Pick Ko­rean Woo­jeon Green Tea () (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Grown on the vol­canic is­land of Jeju in South Ko­rea, this first flush green tea pro­duces a sparkling yel­low-jade liquor with a sweet veg­e­tal aro­ma. Woo­jeon trans­lates to “be­fore the rains,” re­fer­ring to its early spring har­vest be­fore the mon­soon rains. A pro­nounced umami fla­vor is bal­anced by a lovely sweet­ness that lingers into the fin­ish.

Ku-ki

An ob­scure niche of tea is /ku-ki/kuki-cha/kuki hojicha/twig/stick tea: a de-mono tea made from, as it sounds, the byprod­uct stems of the tea leaves prop­er. De­spite hav­ing few or no tea leaves, this near-oxy­moron turns out to yield a tasty tea. (And since leaves se­crete caffeine as an in­sec­ti­cide while tougher stems don’t need as much pro­tec­tion, ku-ki will usu­ally be low in caffeine.) They seem to usu­ally be con­sid­ered a kind of green tea but that might be due to the con­nec­tion to sencha/gyokuro/matcha man­u­fac­tur­ing since some come roasted and over­all ku-is re­minds me more of oo­longs than greens. I dis­cov­ered ku-kis en­tirely serendip­i­tous­ly, which is too bad; their ob­scu­rity means many peo­ple who might like them will prob­a­bly never hear of or give them a try.

  • Choice Or­ganic Tea’s Twig Ku-ki cha (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    This was a ran­dom try of a tea bag, and I was a lit­tle du­bi­ous—“twig ku­kicha” does­n’t sound very promis­ing, and “twiggy” is usu­ally a bad ad­jec­tive com­ing from me. But the first steep turned out to be fairly good, as did the sec­ond steep. The Wikipedia de­scrip­tion of it as “mildly nutty” and slightly “sweet” turns out to be on the mon­ey; it also re­minded me of gen­mai-cha. There was only one tea bag, so my first im­pres­sion will re­main lim­it­ed, but I think I will try some ku­kichas in the fu­ture. (Up­ton’s stocks 3 Japan­ese ku­kichas and 1 Chi­nese.)

  • Or­ganic China Ku-ki Cha (★★★★☆)

    To my sor­row, this was the only ku-ki tea Up­ton’s had in stock when I or­dered this batch, and not the one I was most in­ter­ested in (the roasted ku-ki cha). This may be a con­tin­u­ing effect from the Fukushima in­ci­dent which cut off many rarer Japan­ese teas.

    Re­gard­less, I like it. It has a sort of hy­brid green-oo­long taste, but with a nutty or roast­ed-bar­ley over­tone. (The only down­side was that I drink my teas with­out a strainer or tea ball, and the stems & twigs all float!) This sug­gests that the one packet I tried be­fore was not an aber­ra­tion; if Up­ton’s does­n’t have any more when next I or­der, I’ll prob­a­bly look for an­other re­tailer which does have some.

  • Japan­ese Ku-Ki Ho-Ji Cha (Roasted Ku-Ki Cha) (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    This care­fully roasted Ku-Ki Cha (twig tea) pro­duces a golden brown cup with a sweet veg­e­tal fla­vor. A mild tea that is nat­u­rally low in caffeine. The dis­tinct toasty notes linger pleas­ingly on the palate. Not to be con­fused with reg­u­lar Ho-Ji Cha.

    For­tu­nate­ly, they did have two avail­able when I or­dered in June 2015 (the two Japan­ese ones, but not the Chi­ne­se). The roasted ku-ki cha is al­l-twig and dark brown; it tastes strong and like heav­i­ly-toasted gen­mai-cha, nutty and bor­der­ing on smoky. (Re­minds me of the Choice Or­ganic Tea one.) An in­ter­est­ing fla­vor worth try­ing.

  • Or­ganic Ku-Ki Cha Green Ka­makura (★★★★☆)

    This is an or­ganic green tea, pro­duced from Camel­lia sinen­sis twigs. The mel­low cup has del­i­cate, fresh hay fla­vor notes. Nat­u­rally low in caffeine.

    Not pure (un­roasted green) twigs, but per­haps one-thirds green-tea leaves. A sweet grassy fla­vor com­bined with the twiggy fla­vor which I liked.

  • Eden Or­ganic Ku­kicha Twig Tea (★★★☆☆)

    Brows­ing Whole Foods for the first time in years aside from not­ing that the clien­tele is sur­pris­ingly tall com­pared to at Wal­mart and that many New Age fads like home­opa­thy and pro­bi­otics have yet to run their course, I lamented that their se­lec­tions re­mained en­tirely teabag-ori­ented (with the hon­or­able ex­cep­tion of some sur­pris­ingly rea­son­ably priced matcha pow­der) when I spot­ted a most un­ex­pected box of ku­kicha teabags. Hav­ing ex­hausted Up­ton’s se­lec­tion, I was cu­ri­ous, and it’s al­ways good to sup­port the more ob­scurer kinds when they show up in a main­stream re­tailer so I gave it a try.

    Eden takes a sim­i­lar tack as Choice Or­ganic Tea’s teabags: it’s a mild fla­vor, nei­ther bit­ter nor sweet, with a sort of nutty or coffee vibe. Noth­ing spe­cial but a good my-first-ku­kicha..

  • Ho­jicha Kure­nai (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    Our Ho­jicha Kure­nai is ex­clu­sively made from tea leaf stems. The stems pro­vide a longer last­ing fla­vor and more in­fu­sions. En­joy a mild roasted fla­vor with a deep and pleas­ant aro­ma. Yields a deep red col­ored tea. This tea is grown ex­clu­sively in Ky­oto, Japan.

    In early No­vem­ber 2015, the ex­change rate for Bit­coin sud­denly in­creased steadily to the point where it had gained 50% and would ul­ti­mately al­most dou­ble; I hold more bit­coins than I want to at this point due to lazi­ness about cash­ing out (I haven’t sold too much in part be­cause I’m wor­ried about go­ing past some thresh­old and then hav­ing a headache of taxes to deal with), and I could­n’t see any good rea­son for the ex­change rate to in­crease so much, so I de­cided to cash out some in the form of con­sump­tion. I pre­paid some host­ing costs, do­nated $540 to , an­other $50 to the Brain Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion, ex­per­i­mented with buy­ing some house­hold goods I needed off Ama­zon via Purse.io (which worked more smoothly than I had ex­pected aside from their web­site not work­ing in my Iceweasel web browser), and fi­nally thought—“I won­der if any­one sells good loose tea for bit­coins?” Turned out at least 4 did: Tealet, New Mex­ico Tea Com­pany, Beau­ti­ful Tai­wan Tea, & Teanobi. Tealet struck me as ex­tremely ex­pen­sive (1g/$!) and I did­n’t like the fo­cus on blacker teas since that end of the spec­trum has not worked out well for me in the past even when darker teas have been ad­ver­tised as oo­longs; New Mex­ico Tea Com­pany looked OK, and I was think­ing of try­ing the plum & or­ange blos­som oo­longs but I did­n’t see any­thing else that grabbed me and I try to or­der at least 3 teas at a time to amor­tize S&H; Beau­ti­ful Tai­wan Tea struck me as sketchy, some­how, so I moved on; fi­nal­ly, at Teanobi, which has an in­ter­est­ing em­pha­sis on green teas as cook­ing in­gre­di­ents & coffee blends, I found some of my old fa­vorites and some new ones to try, so though fairly ex­pen­sive (5g/$) I or­dered 5 from them at $113₿0.2082015 (a ho­jicha, 2 gen­mai-chas, a Uji Shibano, and a Tamaryokucha Ko­ga), then $95, and a week later (after the teas had ar­rived), worth $70 (so by quickly buy­ing, I got in effect a 25% dis­coun­t). They all turned out to be good, al­though tast­ing so sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous Up­ton’s that I find my­self won­der­ing if Teanobi & Up­ton’s are sourc­ing to the same tea farms (pre­sum­ably there aren’t that many ho­jicha tea mak­ers in Japan). I also wish all 5 had come in re­seal­able foil pack­ets; 2 did, but the other 3 are not re­seal­able which is al­ways a nui­sance.

    The Ho­jicha is, well, sim­i­lar to the Up­ton’s Japan­ese Ku-Ki Ho-Ji Cha. The only differ­ence is that it tastes some­what sharper and more coffee-like.

  • Ho­jicha (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    Ho­jicha, a Japan­ese spe­cial­ty, con­tains roasted twigs from some of the best tea gar­dens in Uji. One of the joys of Japan­ese food stores is the smell of fresh roasted Ho­jicha. It is rem­i­nis­cent of coffee, but sweet­er, and has very re­duced lev­els of caffeine. De­tails: The Japan­ese are a thrifty lot. Ho­jicha is an­other cre­ative use of tea by-prod­ucts. Ho­jicha was com­mer­cial­ized when me­chan­i­cal har­vesters were used in Japan (there is a la­bor short­age there). The tea plant was shorn of every­thing, and the mess was sep­a­rated lat­er. The best leaves be­came Sen­cha, the larger leaves be­came Yanagi, and the stems Ho­jicha. Tea terms in Japan have sev­eral mean­ings, and Ho­jicha can mean sev­eral types of tea. For us, it is roasted twigs. Dry Leaves: No leaves at all, just small, light brown wooden stalks. Caffeine is con­cen­trated in the ten­der leaves and de­creases in the tough stems, so there are low lev­els of caffeine in the brew. Liquor: Un­like other green teas, the liquor is caramel brown. Aro­ma: Gen­tly rem­i­nis­cent of roasted coffee, with more sweet caramel coffee notes (at least that is our mem­ory from when we drank coffee). Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Over­all it is medium bod­ied, how­ever much less than coffee. Fla­vors: The lush green fla­vor of the fresh­est steamed spinach, the cooked fla­vor of lightly toasted wal­nuts and a very slight note of sul­fur. Fill­ing and sus­tain­ing.

    Har­ney’s kuk­i-cha and ho­ji-cha both strike me as near iden­ti­cal to the Up­ton’s.

  • Heir­loom Tea Flow­ers Or­ganic (★★★☆☆ / ★★★★☆)

    An un­usual ti­sane made solely from or­ganic Camel­lia sinen­sis flow­ers, which are care­fully plucked from heir­loom tea bushes in full bloom, and then sun-dried. Tests show the flow­ers to con­tain sim­i­lar amounts of cat­e­chins and polyphe­nols as reg­u­lar leaf tea, but with a sig­nifi­cantly lower caffeine con­tent. The fla­vor is sur­pris­ingly full, with notes of hon­ey, caramel and cit­rus. This is a new lot of this very unique offer­ing.

    Vi­su­ally re­sem­bles cut-up dry hon­ey­comb. The use of the flow­ers is as strange as ku­kicha’s use of twigs & stems, and I had to try such an un­cat­e­go­riz­able. The caffeine-free as­pect is also wel­come for ex­pand­ing the min­i­mal ranks of tea prod­ucts with­out caffeine. Even more sur­pris­ing is the fla­vor: it tastes like os­man­thus oo­long! I had ex­pected it to taste like noth­ing at all, or per­haps a white tea. But no, it tastes good. The down­side is that it is ex­pen­sive: eg 200g for $48, com­pared with the os­man­thus oo­long’s 250g for $15 (so the tea flow­ers are 1/4th the g/$).

  • Or­ganic China Green Sen­cha (★★★☆☆)

    In the style of Japan­ese Sen­cha, this China tea rep­re­sents an afford­able al­ter­na­tive to the more costly Japan­ese va­ri­eties. The pleas­ing cup is sweet and veg­e­tal with a cit­rus-like bright­ness. This offer­ing is an ex­cel­lent choice for every­day con­sump­tion.

    An­other mediocre Chi­nese clone. Stick with the Japan­ese sen­chas.

  • Food Li­on: Na­ture’s Place Or­ganic 100% Green Tea (★★☆☆☆)

    Com­mer­cial tea bag; ap­par­ently Food Li­on’s generic in­-s­tore brand. Steep quickly and eas­ily over­steep, but de­spite be­ing care­ful, still not de­cent tea at all. And it’s dis­qui­et­ing when a tea makes a boast like “100%”.

  • Un­cle Lee’s Tea: green tea (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    A bet­ter tea bag in com­par­i­son to the Food Li­on. For a tea bag, maybe not that bad?

  • Har­ney: Ku­kicha (★★★★☆)

    Ku­kicha is made from stalks of Japan­ese tea plants, a re­source­ful use of har­vested ma­te­ri­als that are often dis­carded in other re­gions. Ku­kicha is sim­i­lar to Ho­jicha, yet not roast­ed, and yields a slightly veg­e­tal brew with a light green col­or. This tea has gained an ar­dent fol­low­ing in Japan; they en­joy its mel­low fla­vor and low lev­els of caffeine. It is also used in mac­ro­bi­otic di­ets. De­tails: Be­ing a fru­gal peo­ple, the Japan­ese let noth­ing go to waste while mak­ing green tea. The tea stalks which might be dis­carded in other tea re­gions have been har­nessed to make a pleas­ant tea. Since it is made from the stems and twigs of the tea plant there is less caffeine, amino acids, and an­tiox­i­dants to give fla­vor and add ben­e­fits to the brew. Dry Leaves: This is a mix­ture of green stems and yel­low twigs from tea plants in Japan. Liquor: This is a very light green. Aro­ma: Be­cause the green stems are from good tea bush­es, there are hints of Sen­cha with woody un­der­tones. Al­though the stems are sim­i­lar to Ho­jicha, these twigs are not roast­ed. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: The body of Ku­kicha can only be de­scribed as light. Fla­vors: Ku­kicha has a light veg­e­tal fla­vors from the re­main­ing stems and some woody notes from the twigs.

  • Sakura Scented Ku­kicha (★★★★☆)

    Tiny, pink cherry blos­soms peek out from bright green twigs in this unique offer­ing from Japan. The golden yel­low liquor is redo­lent with fra­grant flo­ral notes. A light veg­e­tal un­der­tone com­ple­ments a but­tery sweet­ness in the smooth, re­fresh­ing cup.

    This takes my fa­vorite green ku­kicha and im­proves it by adding just enough flo­ral scent­ing to make it oo­long-like. Very pleased.

  • Ever­last­ing Tea: “Wood Dragon” Nan­tou twig tea spe­cial or­der (200g, $16.50) (★★★★☆)

    While vis­it­ing the Google Man­hat­tan offices, we stopped for tea in their tea nook on an up­per floor and picked an in­trigu­ing-look­ing oolong/kukicha hy­brid. It was tasty in a both woody and nutty oo­long sort of way and struck me as a suc­cess­ful com­bi­na­tion. I for­got to take a photo and mis­re­mem­bered the name so had a dick­ens of a time find­ing it after­wards, find­ing sev­eral other Wood Drag­ons but by sell­ers whose names did­n’t sound right or whose pho­tos were of clearly differ­ent Wood Drag­ons; even­tu­ally after dou­blecheck­ing with my host, it turned out that I was­n’t find­ing it be­cause Ever­last­ing Tea had run out! A dis­ap­point­ment but I emailed to ask whether and when it would be in stock again, and ET was kind enough to offer some left from his per­sonal stock, and I of course ac­cept­ed.

    It turned out to be as tasty as I re­called. I would put rate up there with the Sakura & Ka­makura ku­kichas. On more tast­ing, I think it com­bines sev­eral of the good fea­tures of both: it’s low caffeine & resteeps well thanks to the ku­kicha half, but the fla­vor is not so woody/nutty or plain thanks to the oo­long. I also or­dered from the other sell­ers to com­pare, and it’s clear ET’s is differ­ent (he did men­tion he had his Wood Dragon spe­cially pre­pared), and, I would, say, no­tice­ably bet­ter thanks to the ad­di­tional oo­long—the oth­ers are al­most pure twig, mak­ing them al­most en­tirely a stan­dard ku­kicha.

  • Up­ton: Kagoshima Hoji Kuki Gen-mai Cha Or­ganic (★★★★☆)

    Toasted brown rice com­bines with roasted tea twigs to cre­ate a har­mo­nious blend of toasty aroma and fla­vor. The medi­um-am­ber cup is smooth and mel­low with a honey sweet­ness that en­velops notes rem­i­nis­cent of semi­-sweet co­coa. A great tea for any time of day. This spe­cial blend was de­signed by and crafted ex­clu­sively for Up­ton Tea Im­ports. In­gre­di­ents: roasted tea twigs, toasted brown rice.

    I’ve thought to my­self that kuk­i-cha and gen­mai-cha are sim­i­lar in be­ing more of a ‘hearty’ tea than your grassy green tea or your flo­ral oo­long tea, and might be two great fla­vors that go great to­gether (some­what like the Wood Dragon com­bi­na­tion of kuki twigs and oo­long leaves). This is good, but I am not sure this quite nails it—I think some tea leaves would be a good ad­di­tion, per­haps a darker or roasted oo­long, or just us­ing a reg­u­lar gen­mai-cha. I may play around with this mix­ture more in fu­ture or­ders, and try com­bin­ing my roasted bar­ley, a gen­mai-cha, kuk­i-cha, and oo­longs.

White

My gen­eral take on white tea is that they seem to be rather frag­ile and I gen­er­ally pre­fer stronger fla­vors from green/oolongs. (Sub­tle fla­vors can be good, but for white teas, it seems that their sub­tlety usu­ally comes across as weak or taste­less.) It’s pos­si­ble I’ve ei­ther not had re­ally good white tea or I’ve ru­ined the ones I had.

  • Spe­cial Grade Shou Mei (★★☆☆☆)

    Fairly twiggy (lit­tle in the way of leaves prop­er). Very white—­tasted like a weak green with a cer­tain flo­ral over­tone. In its fa­vor, it han­dled re-s­teep­ing very well, not be­com­ing bit­ter even slightly & tast­ing the same over mul­ti­ple cups.

  • Or­ganic Pai Mu Tan (★★★☆☆)

    The Pai Mu Tan tasted like the Shou Mei or Yin Zhen Bai Hao, but much more so, and so gets more ap­proval from me; prob­a­bly won’t buy it again, though. (I don’t ac­tu­ally dis­like the gen­eral white tea fla­vor, it’s just usu­ally far too weak to be worth drink­ing.)

  • China Yin Zhen Bai Hao Downy White Pekoe (★★☆☆☆)

    As promised, the pekoe is in­deed ‘downy’—the leaves & branches are down­right fuzzy. How­ev­er, it tastes al­most iden­ti­cal to the Shou Mei.

  • Peach Mo­mo­taro (★★☆☆☆)

    A gift from the lit­tler sis­ter. I was amused at the clever ti­tle—an al­lu­sion to the Japan­ese folk­tale (lit­er­ally “Peach Tarō” or “Peach Boy”). I did­n’t have much hope for this , but it im­proved on my ex­pec­ta­tions: the bloomed tea ball was a lovely white stalk on a grassy green base, and the peach fla­vor was re­spectable and com­pa­ra­ble to the other peach tea I have. Fla­vor-wise, the tea was pretty weak (I was un­der the im­pres­sion it was ei­ther a green or oo­long tea) and over­pow­ered by the peach, but at least it had a fla­vor and so was bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous flow­er­ing teas. It im­proved a lit­tle bit by the 10 minute mark, hav­ing sweet­ened a lit­tle. The weak tea fla­vor was ex­plained when I learned it was a white tea; such a fla­vor is pretty par for the course for whites.

  • Tran­quil Tues­day: White Pe­ony White Tea (★★★☆☆)

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming Ya Bao Spe­cial (★★★☆☆)

    “Ya Bao” is a spe­cial pro­duc­tion Yun­nan tea made from ten­der young buds that are hand plucked from an­cient tea trees. The liquor has a unique fla­vor, with flo­ral notes and hints of sweet corn and light hon­ey. The after­taste has a won­der­ful, light ever­green note, which lingers on the palate. A 2015 pro­duc­tion.

    Not your usual white tea, this comes in the strik­ingly differ­en­t-look­ing form of large slight­ly-moist green­ish-white corn/pine-cone-shaped buds. There is a sweet aroma with a mys­te­ri­ous edge to it, which is even stronger when brewed. To my re­gret, the fla­vor did not en­tirely agree with me; it is in­ter­est­ing but not tasty to me. Per­haps it might work for white tea fans?

  • Clip­per Ship Tea Com­pany: White Peony/Pai Mu Tan (★★☆☆☆)

    Small NY re­tailer of tea. Re­seal­able foil pack­ets, 25g each, no prices or de­scrip­tions avail­able on­line. Re­ceived a sam­pler of 5 teas cov­er­ing the full range from Pu’erh to white. The teas them­selves are av­er­age to good qual­ity ex­em­plars of their types, so my rat­ings are about the same as for other in­stances.

  • Jinggu Spring Buds / China White Tea (★★★☆☆)

    From Jinggu County in Yun­nan province, these ex­quis­ite downy white tea buds yield a pale straw-col­ored in­fu­sion, no­table for a nutty/toasty aroma with hints of hon­ey. A sweet hay nu­ance com­ple­ments the sa­vory cup, which fin­ishes with a gen­tle spice hint.

    I tried one last batch of 6 white teas from Up­ton’s. With the ex­cep­tion of the Jinggu Spring Buds, which was de­cent, they all tasted near iden­ti­cal to me and a waste of time. I am giv­ing up on white teas—­like the pu’erhs, the en­tire cat­e­gory just does­n’t work for me.

  • China White Tea Sil­ver Nee­dle (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    In this el­e­gant white tea se­lec­tion, beau­ti­ful sil­ver-sage buds yield a rose-gold in­fu­sion with a sweet, gen­tle char­ac­ter. The cup has a fresh herba­ceous aroma with a sug­ges­tion of hon­ey. Del­i­cate notes of honey and melon as well as or­ange nu­ances are no­table in the silky smooth liquor.

  • Pre-Ch­ing­ming White Nee­dle (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    In this 2016 Pre-Ch­ing­ming white tea se­lec­tion from Fu­jian province, sil­very sage-green buds yield a del­i­cate cup with a light hon­eyed flo­ral aro­ma. The fla­vor is sweet and re­fined with hints of melon and a gen­tle pine essence. A toasty nu­ance lingers in the smooth fin­ish.

  • Shai Zhen Zhu Shou Mei China White Pearls (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    The bold, olive-green leaves of this Shou Mei white tea are care­fully crafted into large pearl shapes. A toasty/woody sug­ges­tion may be found in both the aroma and the sweet cup. The cham­pag­ne-gold in­fu­sion is del­i­cate and vel­vety smooth with notes of fruit, a hon­eyed sweet­ness and melon nu­ances. Each pearl weighs ap­prox­i­mately 5 grams, which will yield about 2 cups of tea.

  • Shai Zhen Zhu Sil­ver Nee­dle Pearl / China White Pearl Tea (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Downy sil­ver tea buds are care­fully crafted into large pearl shapes, which pro­duce a pale straw-col­ored in­fu­sion with a del­i­cate, hon­eyed fra­grance. The sweet cup has a clean char­ac­ter, with hints of melon and flow­ers. Each pearl weighs ap­prox­i­mately 5 grams, which will yield about 2 cups of tea.

  • Qing Zi You Yun (Lan Xiang)/China White Tea Cake (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Large leaves are molded into a seg­mented rec­tan­gu­lar tea cake to cre­ate this unique white tea se­lec­tion. The pale rose-gold liquor has a del­i­cate, toasty aroma with hon­eyed flo­ral hints. The cup is smooth and very sweet with melon notes, a sug­ges­tion of peach, and a crisp, clean fin­ish. Each in­di­vid­ual seg­ment weighs 5-6 grams and will yield ap­prox­i­mately 2 cups of tea.

  • Wood Drag­on:

    • Ever­last­ing Teas: Wood Dragon (★★★★☆/★★★★★)

      While vis­it­ing Google’s Man­hat­tan offices, we stopped at a nice­ly-s­tocked tea nook. I tried out an en­tirely new va­ri­ety to me, a Wood Drag­on, which did­n’t look quite like an oo­long or a kuk­i-cha. It turns out to be both: it’s oo­long tea bits mixed with what I as­sume are oo­long-style ku­kicha twig bits. It was a har­mo­nious blend, which ob­tains the best of both worlds by com­bin­ing the flo­ral rich­ness of a good oo­long with the sat­is­fy­ing­ly-solid wood­i­ness of a ku­kicha. I thor­oughly en­joyed it, and re­gret­ted not see­ing Wood Drag­ons be­fore. On re­turn­ing home, I went and searched, but could­n’t find it! I con­tacted Ever­last­ing Teas, whose owner in­formed me that he had run out of stock and taken the list­ing down, prob­a­bly per­ma­nent­ly, but he was ex­tremely kind and pro­vided me 200g from his pri­vate stock. It was just as de­li­cious as I re­mem­bered, and I was sad when I ran out. Wood Drag­ons are so rare I may never come across its like again.

      As a sub­sti­tute, one can prob­a­bly com­bine a straight ku­kicha with an oo­long: a light roast or a TGY might work, as I sus­pect darker or wood­ier would un­bal­ance it to­wards the ku­kicha.

    • Mem Tea: Wood Dragon (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

      Caffeinat­ed; Tast­ing Notes: vanilla - pine nuts - buck­wheat; Orig­in: Nan­tou, Tai­wan. A spe­cial twig oo­long re­tain­ing some fruit and flo­ral notes un­der­cut by roasted pine nuts and hints of vanil­la.

      I looked for al­ter­na­tives (some­times called ‘Nan­tou twig’), and found 3 sup­pli­ers: Mem Tea, Liq­uid Gold Tea, and a third who can­celed my or­der. The Mem Tea was good but no­tice­ably worse than the Ever­last­ing Teas one; I think it uses too lit­tle oo­long tea and too much twig. (I asked the ET owner about whether they all came from the same source, and ap­par­ently they do not, and his was cus­tom.)

    • Liq­uid Gold Tea: Nan­tou Twigs (★★★☆☆)

      Type: oo­long. Orig­in: Nan­tou, Tai­wan. Tem­per­a­ture: 90°-95°C (194°-203°F); 92°C. Serv­ing: 5 grams. Ves­sel: 80 ml gai­wan (serves 3 to 4). Time: few sec­onds. Steeps: 5+. Appearance/Taste: Mostly twig with the oc­ca­sional rolled leaf, this is a de­light­ful low-caffeine twig tea with a maple-like taste and sweet earthy aro­ma. Warm­ing to the core, it’s per­fect for evening when set­tling in for the night. Noth­ing too com­plex, yet every­thing that makes you smile in­stant­ly.

      Un­for­tu­nate­ly, en­tirely twigs.

  • Up­ton: Viet­namese White Tea (★★★☆☆)

    This rare white tea offer­ing from Viet­nam dis­plays very bold, hand processed leaves in shades of olive and tan. The pale golden cup is sweet and fra­grant with hints of pear. A vel­vety smooth mouth feel in­tro­duces notes of honey and fresh mel­on, com­ple­mented by a warm toasty fla­vor. The fin­ish is clean with a fleet­ing hint of spice.

Black

I am not a fan of black teas, but I still try them out oc­ca­sion­al­ly:

  • “Gin­ger Peach Tea”, bag-tea by Eng­lish Tea Shop (★★☆☆☆)

    It is a black tea mixed with ‘gin­ger pieces and peach fla­vor’. To my sur­prise, it was fairly good. The black tea is a pretty weak black and as far as I can tell, to­wards the oo­long end of the spec­trum. The peach fla­vor is en­tirely dom­i­nant over the gin­ger, which is as I would prefer, peach be­ing an old fa­vorite of mine. The first steep is good, but it falls off very quickly and needs re­plac­ing by the fourth steep or so.

  • Satori Tea Com­pa­ny’s Amali African Queen (★★★☆☆)

    An­other gift; this one con­fused me be­cause it was clearly la­beled oo­long, but when I tried it out, it tasted very much like a black tea and the leaves were pretty ox­i­dized and pro­duced a black­-tea-look­ing liquor (ex­tremely dark as op­posed to am­ber), and quickly be­gan think­ing of Earl Grey. My con­fu­sion was re­solved when I be­gan to look up the teas and found that the African Queen was in fact a black tea (as op­posed to a pe­cu­liarly black oo­long).

  • Up­ton’s “Tra­di­tional Masala Chai” (★★☆☆☆)

    “A tra­di­tional In­dian spiced tea recipe with a warm and ro­bust char­ac­ter. The full fla­vor notes of cin­na­mon, car­damom, gin­ger and clove hold up to milk and hon­ey, the tra­di­tional way to take this tea.” Christ­mas gift. Tastes like the de­scrip­tion (which is re­ally too much), and does in­deed taste bet­ter with some milk & honey added.

  • Yun­nan Fop Se­lect (★★★☆☆)

    The dark brown leaf of this se­lec­tion is ac­cented with golden tip. Rich, earthy notes are present in the aroma and dark am­ber cup, and hints of white pep­per and cas­sia add a pleas­ing ac­cent. The smooth fin­ish has a light tangy feel.

    A free sam­pler of a Chi­nese black tea that Up­ton’s threw into a 2015 & 2017 or­der. Less bit­ter than most blacks, with the men­tioned earth­i­ness bal­anced by sweet­ness. I would not have paid for this, but I don’t mind drink­ing it.

  • Huang Shan Sun­set Tea (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Rare China Keemun Mao Feng is scented with peach, and dec­o­rated with flower blos­soms. Serve this for a truly deca­dent after­noon tea.

    A strong black tea like the Yun­nan Fop Se­lect, it lives up to its billing: the peach is strong, al­most over­whelm­ing, and it is sweeter than usu­al. There aren’t many peach-fla­vored se­lec­tions, which makes this stand out for me. Bet­ter than any of the oth­ers like the Mo­mo­taro.

  • Peach Tea/Peach with Flow­ers (★★★★☆)

    A peach-fla­vored, bold whole-leaf black tea, dec­o­rated with flow­ers. Bolder leaf ver­sion of TF72

    Much like the Huang Shan Sun­set Tea, but bet­ter.

  • Apri­cot Tea (★★☆☆☆)

    An apri­cot fla­vored, whole-leaf black tea dec­o­rated with flow­ers and apri­cot pieces.

  • Black/Green Mid­sum­mer Dream (★★☆☆☆)

    China Black tea har­mo­nizes with green Sen­cha. Blended with sun­flower petals, cac­tus flow­ers and fla­vored with rhubarb. A re­fresh­ing tea for any time of day.

    I was skep­ti­cal that a black tea could ever ‘har­mo­nize’ with some­thing like sen­cha—the black fla­vor is bit­ter and pow­er­ful and will pum­mel any green into in­dis­tin­guisha­bil­i­ty. I was right, and it tastes black. The rhubarb and other ad­di­tives also lend it a chem­i­cally taste, so it fails as a black tea in the same way as the apri­cot tea did.

  • Peach With Pieces (★★☆☆☆)

    A peach fla­vored whole-leaf black tea base, dec­o­rated with peach fruit pieces. In­gre­di­ents: black tea, peach bits (peach, sug­ar), os­man­thus blos­soms, nat­ural fla­vor

  • Cap­i­tal Teas, Hi­malayan Golden Mon­key (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    The con­flu­ence of crys­tal-cool zephyrs and fer­vid mon­soons in Nepal bears a tea whose caramel liqueur courts the palate with hon­ey, co­coa, and a mus­ca­tel kiss.

    Vis­it­ing a ran­dom mall, I stopped in at a tea store I did­n’t rec­og­nize on my way to the Tea­vana shop. The sales­man was knowl­edge­able and very per­sua­sive, and when I was dis­ap­pointed at the oo­long se­lec­tion and noted I did­n’t re­ally want any of the blacks, told me that he had a black tea which he had dis­cov­ered, pre­pared cor­rect­ly, was a lot like an oo­long. The se­cret was to steep it for a short time, per­haps 30 sec­onds, and no more. He gave me a mug of it and yes, it did taste much more like an oo­long than an un­pleas­ant black! I was im­pressed enough I let him sell me a bunch of it and I’ve en­joyed it ever since as long as I re­mem­ber to keep the steep time short.

  • East­ern Shore Tea Com­pa­ny: Blood Or­ange Tea (★★★☆☆)

    The un­usu­ally deep, rich fla­vor of the blood or­ange is sub­lime. Fab­u­lous as an iced tea. Fla­vored black tea. Con­tains caffeine. 3 oz. loose tea with re-us­able tea bag.

    I re­mem­bered a truly de­li­cious sor­bet I had once in SF, so when I hap­pened to spot, on a shelf of oth­er­wise off­putting black teas, a blood or­ange black tea, I thought I’d give it a try though I was un­fa­mil­iar with the sell­er. The black tea is speck­led with the blood or­ange bits and pieces. Fla­vor-wise, it is a har­mo­nious bal­ance of or­ange fla­vor and black tea, al­though my usual prej­u­dice against black tea means it’s not as en­joy­able as it might be. (An oo­long ver­sion would be great if bal­anced prop­er­ly, but un­for­tu­nately East­ern Shore Tea Com­pany ap­pears to spe­cial­ized in fla­vored black teas, with only one listed oo­long and 4-5 green­s.) Resteeps like a champ.

  • Za­loni Es­tate As­sam STGFOP ((★★☆☆☆)/★★★☆☆)

    This won­der­ful se­lec­tion has a dry leaf with sub­tle, sweet aroma and rich, dark col­or. The liquor is also dark, with an am­ber color and medi­um-bod­ied in­ten­si­ty. The aroma has a malty hint and bis­cu­ity note. The cup has a very for­ward sweet­ness, rem­i­nis­cent of light mo­lasses or dark hon­ey.

    Re­minds me of Cap­i­tal Teas’s Hi­malayan Golden Mon­key. Very mild, sweet­—b­land.

  • Clip­per Ship Tea Com­pa­ny: Nil­giri Black (★★☆☆☆)

  • Hu­nan Bloo­long Tea (★★★☆☆)

    On our re­cent trip to Chi­na, we tasted this un­usual tea and loved it. Our friends at Hu­nan Tea have made a black tea from a plant that nor­mally would make oo­long tea. It is much more aro­matic than most black teas, and the peach fla­vors are love­ly. It also coats your mouth with those lus­cious peach fla­vors. When we were nam­ing it, we could not re­sist call­ing it “Bloo­long”, i.e. Black Oo­long. De­tails: A black tea made from an oo­long va­ri­etal tea plant. Dry Leaves: Dark, chunky leaves. Liquor: Brown. Aro­ma: Boiled peach­es, vanilla beans. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Medi­um. Fla­vors: Cooked peach­es.

  • De­caffeinated Sweet Or­ange (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    A pre­mium Cey­lon tea, fla­vored with the essence of sweet or­ange and blended with dried or­ange peel. This tea was de­caffeinated us­ing the CO2 process. In­gre­di­ents: black tea, or­ange peels, ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vor. Orig­in: Ger­many

    A test of the CO2 de­caffeina­tion. The or­ange over­whelms the black tea to the point where I can’t tell, but the com­bi­na­tion is not fe­lic­i­tous.

  • Cran­berry Tea (★★☆☆☆)

    A cran­berry fla­vored, whole-leaf black tea dec­o­rated with dried cran­berry pieces.

    Free sam­ple, did­n’t like it as I ex­pect­ed—­too sweet and cran­berry and black.

  • Spe­cial Apri­cot (CC style) (★★★☆☆)

    An apri­cot fla­vored, whole-leaf black tea dec­o­rated with flow­ers and apri­cot pieces. This is a bolder leaf ver­sion of our sold out TF18.

  • De­caffeinated Apri­cot with Flow­ers (★★★☆☆)

    De­caffeinated black tea scented with apri­cot fla­vor­ing and dec­o­rated with flower petals. This tea was de­caffeinated us­ing the CO2 process.

    The first de­caf tea I’ve tried so far which was not im­me­di­ately off­putting and dis­gust­ing, this was a nice black tea. I won­der what makes it differ­ent since this used the CO2 process as well?

  • The Tao of Tea, Rose Petal Black Tea (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Ar­ti­san Qual­ity Pure Leaf Teas Fresh Brews 80 Cups Cer­ti­fied Kosher by Earth­Kosher Orig­in: An­hui Province, Chi­na. Also known as ‘Meigui Hongcha’, Rose Petal Black is a blend of the pop­u­lar Chi­nese black tea ‘Keemun’ and fra­grant red rose petals. Ro­bust Keemun: The small leaf tea from Qi­men county of An­hui province is best known as the main in­gre­di­ent for the pop­u­lar ‘Eng­lish Break­fast’ blends. Red Rose Petals: Al­though there is a whole uni­verse of rose va­ri­eties and fla­vors, the ideal for com­bin­ing with Keemun are the red roses na­tive to Qi­men coun­ty. They have a dis­tinct, sweet, cool­ing aroma that lends great bal­ance to the blend. Pair­ing: Rose Petal Black pairs well with slightly spicy and oily foods. It also makes a good iced tea. One of our fa­vorite recipes is to pre­pare a sauce from Rose Petal Black and pour it over vanilla ice cream. Best Sea­son: Late Sum­mer is ideal for blend­ing Rose Petal Black. This is when the flow­ers are in full bloom and at their most fra­grant. Since it is a hardy black tea, it holds up well over the months.

    In­gre­di­ents: black tea leaves, red rose petals, nat­ural rose essence

    An­other stab at fla­vored black teas for me. I’m con­vinced that rose can work well with tea, if I can just find one blend which man­ages to hit the golden mean. At first I thought Tao of Tea had gone way over­board with the rose—rose petals and es­sen­tial oil ex­trac­t?—and it was an­other fail­ure (if a no­bler fail­ure than the rose-fla­vored teas I’ve had which barely tasted of rose at al­l), but as I drank more of it, it struck me as in­creas­ingly bal­anced. I’m not sure if I got used to the rose-ness or if there was a Brazil-nuts effect where the rose hips/flavoring were un­evenly dis­trib­uted and I drank through the top lay­er, but it now works. I may re­visit Tao of Tea’s rose petal black tea in the fu­ture, as it’s nice to have as an al­ter­na­tive to all my usual un­fla­vored greens/oolongs.

  • YS: Pur­ple Wild Buds Black Tea from De­hong (Spring 2018) ($9, 50g; ★★★☆☆)

    Pur­ple Buds from wild Camel­lia As­sam­ica De­hon­gen­sis were picked in ear­li­est part of Yun­nan’s trop­i­cal spring time and then processed into a spe­cial kind of black tea. Wilted for 48 hours (longer than other black teas) has al­lowed the strong tan­nins to soften giv­ing the an im­pres­sive bal­ance be­tween strength and soft­ness. Sweet, pun­gent, cam­phor, flow­ers and fruit can all be found in this in­cred­i­bly unique and rare tea! April 2018 Har­vest

    Much more tol­er­a­ble than most blacks.

  • Up­ton: Shangri-La Es­tate FTGFOP1 Cl. Nepal Black Tea (★★★☆☆)

    Our 2018 Nepal black tea se­lec­tion from the Shangri-La Es­tate is a beau­ti­ful mix of dark brown leaves and flecks of small green leaves, dec­o­rated with sil­ver tips. The sweet flo­ral aroma hints of al­mond. The rich golden cup has a first flush pro­file, with notes of flow­ers com­ple­mented by hints of fruit and al­monds.

  • YS: Wild Tree Pur­ple Va­ri­etal Black Tea of De­hong (Spring 2018) ($9, 50g; ★★☆☆☆)

    This is a ex­pertly fer­mented black tea was crafted us­ing a wild tree pur­ple leaf va­ri­etal from De­hong pre­fec­ture. This wild tree va­ri­etal grows wild in the moun­tain­ous ar­eas west of Mang Shi town in De­hong. Ye Sheng “野生” va­ri­etal aka “Camel­lia sinen­sis (L.) Kuntze var. as­sam­ica (J. Mas­ters) Ki­tam.” (aka De­hon­gen­sis) is a primeval va­ri­etal that pre-dates Camel­lia Sinen­sis var. As­sam­ica and is a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ing non hy­bridized va­ri­etal. Its po­tency in cha qi arises from its unadul­ter­ated na­ture. It is nat­u­rally bug re­pel­lent, grows wild in the forests of Yun­nan at an al­ti­tude of 1600-2200 me­ters. The aroma of tea is very strong and hints of eu­ca­lyp­tus and sug­ar­cane. The mouth feel is in­cred­i­bly com­plex and stim­u­lat­ing but never bit­ter or as­trin­gent. Ul­tra smooth tea that after a few months will de­velop even more com­plex­i­ty. Sub­tle but very no­tice­able cha qi and tran­quil feel­ings. An in­cred­i­bly rare tea, only 80 kilo­grams in to­tal pro­duc­tion! Spring 2018 ma­te­r­i­al.

  • YS: Snow Chrysan­the­mum Flow­ers and Big Snow Moun­tain Black Tea Dragon Ball (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    What hap­pens when you com­bine ro­bust Yun­nan Black Tea with Snow Chrysan­the­mum Flow­ers? You get a highly com­plex and en­joy­able tea both won­der­ful to drink, and to be­hold! Our Snow Chrysan­the­mum Flow­ers (雪菊花) are high grade fresh flow­ers and add an aes­thetic as­pect to the ex­pe­ri­ence as well as im­part­ing a sub­tle spice and honey taste and aroma to the black tea. We blended sev­eral differ­ent grades of Snow Chrysan­the­mum Flow­ers be­fore de­cid­ing on this par­tic­u­lar type and ra­tio. Snow Chrysan­the­mum flower tea is a rare and highly sought after high al­ti­tude flower tea from the Kun­lun Moun­tains in Xin­jiang province. The tea is picked and sun-dried once a year then hand-sorted into var­i­ous grades. We offer only the high­est grade avail­able! A lovely tea with strong sweet and spicy fla­vor, it can be brewed alone or with other teas (like ripe pu-er­h). It’s a great tea to drink after din­ner and has no caffeine. Big Snow Moun­tain Black Tea is from Mengku County in Lin­cang, which is a high al­ti­tude area that’s home to many tea gar­dens. This lovely black tea was processed with care from first flush of Spring 2017 as­sam­ica tea leaves picked from 30 to 40 year old plan­ta­tion bushes grow­ing nat­u­rally at an al­ti­tude of 1800 me­ters. This black tea to­gether with the Yun­nan rose flow­ers makes for a thick and vis­cous tea, com­plex and in­ter­est­ing, while last­ing many in­fu­sions mak­ing it a worth­while new­comer to our offer­ing here at Yun­nan Sourcing! These Dragon Balls were made by my moth­er- in­-law and fa­ther-in-law. They make them in their spare time. They use lit­tle pieces of cot­ton to com­press them in­stead of saran wrap. Saran wrap com­pres­sion is the most com­mon method be­cause it’s faster, but it causes off gassing into the tea since the tea must be steamed to soften and is very hot. We use cot­ton, which is safe. Dragon balls are great be­cause they are per­fect sin­gle brew­ing serv­ings, and be­cause the leaves fare much bet­ter dur­ing trans­port and stor­age com­pared to loose leaf form, which tend to break apart caus­ing the brewed tea to be overly as­trin­gent and/or bit­ter and de­tracts from over­all look of the brewed leaves! 50% of the profits from the sales of these Dragon Balls will go di­rectly to my father/mother-in-law. We will give them the money as a red packet dur­ing Chi­nese New Year, since they won’t ac­cept money di­rectly from my wife or I. Most likely they will put most of it in the bank for their re­tire­ment! Each Dragon Ball is roughly 8 grams of tea (+/- 0.5 grams)

  • YS: Royal Chrysan­the­mum and Big Snow Moun­tain Black Tea Dragon Ball (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    What hap­pens when you com­bine ro­bust Yun­nan Black Tea with Royal Yel­low Chrysan­the­mums? You get a highly com­plex and en­joy­able tea both won­der­ful to drink, and to be­hold! Royal Yel­low Chrysan­the­mum is the high­est grade Chrysan­the­mum that is nor­mally avail­able. It is sweet, and veg­e­tal and im­parts a slip­pery and sooth­ing feel­ing in the mouth and throat. Big Snow Moun­tain Black Tea is from Mengku County in Lin­cang, which is a high al­ti­tude area that’s home to many tea gar­dens. This lovely black tea was processed with care from first flush of Spring 2017 as­sam­ica tea leaves picked from 30 to 40 year old plan­ta­tion bushes grow­ing nat­u­rally at an al­ti­tude of 1800 me­ters. This black tea to­gether with the chrysan­the­mum flow­ers makes a thick and vis­cous tea, com­plex and in­ter­est­ing, while last­ing many in­fu­sions mak­ing it a worth­while new­comer to our offer­ing here at Yun­nan Sourcing! These Dragon Balls were made by my moth­er- in­-law and fa­ther-in-law. They make them in their spare time. They use lit­tle pieces of cot­ton to com­press them in­stead of saran wrap. Saran wrap com­pres­sion is the most com­mon method be­cause it’s faster, but it causes off gassing into the tea since the tea must be steamed to soften and is very hot. We use cot­ton, which is safe. Dragon balls are great be­cause they are per­fect sin­gle brew­ing serv­ings, and be­cause the leaves fare much bet­ter dur­ing trans­port and stor­age com­pared to loose leaf form, which tend to break apart caus­ing the brewed tea to be overly as­trin­gent and/or bit­ter and de­tracts from over­all look of the brewed leaves! 50% of the profits from the sales of these Dragon Balls will go di­rectly to my father/mother-in-law. We will give them the money as a red packet dur­ing Chi­nese New Year, since they won’t ac­cept money di­rectly from my wife or I. Most likely they will put most of it in the bank for their re­tire­ment! Each Dragon Ball is roughly 8 grams of tea (+/- 0.5 grams)

  • YS: Os­man­thus Flower and Yi Mei Ren Black Tea Dragon Ball (★★★☆☆)

    What hap­pens when you mix just a touch of fresh pre­mium grade os­man­thus flow­ers with our lus­cious Yi Mei Ren “Nee­dle” Black Tea from Wu Liang Moun­tain? The an­swer is: A choco­latey, flo­ral and fruity tea that smells and tastes great! The os­man­thus flow­ers are not at all over­pow­er­ing and were blended in just the ra­tio com­ple­ment the al­ready won­der­ful Yi Mei Ren black. When you open the pouch hold­ing these take in the scent of the tea and revel in it’s com­min­gled essence! In the early steeps the dragon ball will grad­u­ally un­furl and the tea soup fla­vor and aroma will grad­u­ally gain strength. Once the leaves and flow­ers are un-furled, the tea will pro­vide sev­eral en­joy­able choco­latey sweet and fruity/floral with ex­cel­lent vis­cos­ity and com­plex mouth-feel and aro­ma. Later steeps are mild and en­joy­able and the tea avoids col­laps­ing into as­trin­gency or un­pleas­ant­ness of any kind! “Yi Mei Ren” (彝美人) means lit­er­ally Yi (Mi­nor­i­ty) Beau­ty. This tea is named “Yi Mei Ren” as its made from Wu Liang Moun­tain ma­te­ri­al, an area in­hab­ited pri­mar­ily by Yi Mi­nor­ity peo­ple and bears sim­i­lar­ity to both and oo­long and a black tea in its fra­grance and taste. Yun­nan large-leaf va­ri­etal ma­te­r­ial is used and the tea is wilted and fer­mented like a black tea, but for a longer pe­riod of time with sev­eral in­ter­vals of vig­or­ously shak­ing the leaves. This pro­motes more thor­ough wilting/fermentation and leads to it’s darker col­or. The brewed tea is highly aro­matic with a choco­laty sweet taste with no no­tice­able as­trin­gency. The tea liquor is su­per clear and deep gold with tinges of red if brewed longer. Due to the higher level ox­i­diza­tion this tea can be stored for sev­eral years with sub­tle changes in aroma and fla­vor. Same gar­den as our Yi Mei Ren, but processed from more ma­ture leaf into a “Nee­dle” shape. Taste is more choco­latey and less flo­ral, but over­all not very differ­ent. These Dragon Balls were made by my moth­er- in­-law and fa­ther-in-law. They make them in their spare time. They use lit­tle pieces of cot­ton to com­press them in­stead of saran wrap. Saran wrap com­pres­sion is the most com­mon method be­cause it’s faster, but it causes off gassing into the tea since the tea must be steamed to soften and is very hot. We use cot­ton, which is safe. Dragon balls are great be­cause they are per­fect sin­gle brew­ing serv­ings, and be­cause the leaves fare much bet­ter dur­ing trans­port and stor­age com­pared to loose leaf form, which tend to break apart caus­ing the brewed tea to be overly as­trin­gent and/or bit­ter and de­tracts from over­all look of the brewed leaves! 50% of the profits from the sales of these Dragon Balls will go di­rectly to my father/mother-in-law. We will give them the money as a red packet dur­ing Chi­nese New Year, since they won’t ac­cept money di­rectly from my wife or I. Most likely they will put most of it in the bank for their re­tire­ment! Each Dragon Ball is roughly 8 grams of tea (+/- 0.5 grams)

  • Ko­rean Hwangcha Tea (★★★☆☆)

    This pre­mium tea offer­ing from Ko­rea yields a rosy-am­ber liquor with a com­plex aroma and fla­vor. Lay­ers of dark sug­ar, co­coa, and oak are wrapped in a syrupy rich­ness, lend­ing a warm­ing qual­ity to this unique tea. Spicy hints linger in the fin­ish.

  • Nat­u­rally Fla­vored Peach Sky Black Tea (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Fra­grant notes of ripe peach scent this nat­u­rally fla­vored, pre­mium black tea from Chi­na. This is the sec­ond of four spe­cial teas cre­ated this year to cel­e­brate our 30th an­niver­sary. Dec­o­rated with flower blos­soms, the ebony-brown leaves pro­duce a rich, ful­l-bod­ied cup, the per­fect bal­ance of black tea fla­vor and sweet notes of juicy peach. En­joy “a day at the peach” with this truly deca­dent treat. Great hot or iced. This tea is com­pa­ra­ble with our TE98: Huang Shan Sun­set Tea. In­gre­di­ents: loose leaf black tea, sil­ver lime flow­ers, or­ange blos­soms, rose petals, nat­ural peach fla­vor.

    I agree this is much like the Huang Shan Sun­set Tea. A de­cent peach-fla­vor­ing.

Pu-erh

I have tried from time to time, but with­out ex­cep­tion of brand or prepa­ra­tion method, I have not liked them at all.

  • Clip­per Ship Tea Com­pa­ny: Pu’er (★☆☆☆☆)

  • An­cient Green Pu-Erh Tuo Cha Or­ganic (★★★☆☆)

    This sun-dried, com­pressed green tea is made from the fine buds of Yun­nan’s heir­loom tea trees. The fla­vor is veg­e­tal, with notes of wild honey and dried fruit. The sweet and com­plex after­taste lingers on the palate. Ap­pro­pri­ate for mul­ti­ple in­fu­sions.

    A green pu-erh would seem to be a con­tra­dic­tion in terms: the point of green tea is that it is processed shortly after har­vest­ing to stop ox­i­da­tion within days, while pu-erh is both heav­ily ox­i­dized and fur­ther fer­mented by bac­te­ria & fun­gus for years. Nev­er­the­less, Up­ton’s clas­si­fies this as a pu-erh so I was in­trigued and made an ex­cep­tion to my usual ban. The sam­ple comes as one tiny green­ish-yel­low cake, which crum­bles rea­son­ably eas­i­ly. It yields some­thing on the bound­ary be­tween greens and oo­longs, which resteeps well but does­n’t leave much of an im­pres­sion other than tast­ing rather un-pu-er­h-like.

  • Pu-Erh Sheng Cha (★★★☆☆)

    An abun­dance of sil­ver-green tips adorns the hand processed leaves in this “raw” (Sheng or Qing) Pu-Erh offer­ing. The golden in­fu­sion offers an herba­ceous aroma with trop­i­cal fruit hints. The mouth feel is full and brisk with a brothy fla­vor, hint­ing of sweet to­bacco and hon­ey. A light sug­ges­tion of stone fruit leads to a crisp, clean fin­ish.

  • YS: Sun-Dried Pur­ple Buds Wild Pu-erh Tea Va­ri­etal (Spring 2018) (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    These lit­tle pur­ple buds come from the “ye sheng” va­ri­etal of camel­lia tea trees which grow wild in trop­i­cal De­hong. These sun-dried buds are in a very lim­ited sup­ply and are in high de­mand among pu-erh tea con­nois­seurs due to their rich­ness and com­plex­i­ty! They have a fresh and fruity fla­vor sim­i­lar to other va­ri­etals of sun-dried buds, but they also have a deep and ro­bust aroma and after­taste which are very re­flec­tive of their “ye sheng” ori­gins! These are the sweet type, quite a bit differ­ent from last year’s bit­ter va­ri­etal of Pur­ple Buds. Late Feb­ru­ary un­til Early March 2018 har­vest

  • Sticky Rice Sheng Pu-Erh (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    This se­lec­tion is a mix­ture of Sheng Pu-Erh and Nuo Mi Xi­ang, a Yun­nan province herb with the nat­ural fra­grance of sticky rice. When in­fused, the pale golden liquor yields a dis­tinc­tive aroma with hints of earth and sticky rice. An earthy qual­ity also emerges in the cup, com­ple­mented by a dark sweet­ness. A note rem­i­nis­cent of freshly baked bread lingers into the fin­ish. Each square piece will yield ap­prox­i­mately 2-3 cups of tea. In­gre­di­ents: loose leaf Pu-Erh tea, Nuo Mi Xi­ang.

    An un­usual com­bi­na­tion: lit­tle pu-erh bricks, but with rice in­cor­po­rat­ed. The ad­di­tion of rice is no­tice­able, but don’t much help pu-erh: I stil don’t like it.

Tisane

Ti­sanes are any ‘tea’ which does not in­cor­po­rate —so this cat­e­gory in­cludes herbals like mint tea, bar­ley tea or ‘red tea’ () or . (I once or­dered rooi­bos & hon­ey­bush from Up­ton’s for my moth­er; I found them so un­mem­o­rable I can’t even re­view them here.)

  • (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Like the Ben­shan oo­long, bought from the SF Rain­bow Gro­cery Co­op­er­a­tive. I was ini­tially go­ing to only buy some but then I saw their oo­longs, so I went with plain roasted bar­ley in­stead and com­bined it. The bar­ley was very… nutty and bar­ley-ish on its own. Not en­tirely drink­able, I thought, al­though it added some strength and ro­bust­ness to the Ben­shan oo­long in small amounts.

  • herbal tea (★☆☆☆☆/★★☆☆☆)

    This Royal King prod­uct was, as it promised, gin­gery. I’d have to say I don’t ac­tu­ally like the fla­vor of gin­ger that much, and could­n’t drink it very often.

  • :

    • Rote Grütze (★☆☆☆☆): dis­gust­ingly sweet and fruity (“ac­cented with dried black­cur­rants, blue­ber­ries, straw­ber­ries and wild cher­ries” is an un­der­state­men­t). The best I can liken it to is drink­ing one of those pot­pourri or stuffed pome­gran­ates old women buy. It ini­tially seemed to re-s­teep well but I re­al­ized it was some­how in­effa­bly be­com­ing more and more off­putting with each steep. I can’t see it re­ally mo­ti­vates me to try any more kinds of rooi­bos.
    • Su­pe­rior Or­ganic (★★☆☆☆): much bet­ter than the Rote Grütze, with just the right amount of sweet­ness.
  • : hon­ey­bush vanilla (★★☆☆☆) re­minded me a lit­tle of rooi­bos (though differ­ent species en­tire­ly), but much toned down, sweet like its name sug­gests, and the vanilla com­bined nice­ly. I ac­tu­ally liked it a lit­tle. Good for oc­ca­sional breaks or when I want some­thing hot to drink but caffeine would be a bad idea (eg. past 7 PM).

  • Maracuja/Orange Fruit Tea (★★★☆☆)

    Con­tains fruit pieces, rose hips, hi­bis­cus flow­ers, cit­rus peel and fla­vor­ing. In­gre­di­ents: ap­ple bits, hi­bis­cus, rose hip peels, beet­root bits, or­ange bits, cit­rus peels, ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vor

    A strong­ly-fla­vored, tan­ger­ine-like herbal tea.

  • Cape Cod Cran­berry Fruit Tea (★★★☆☆)

    A spe­cial blend of dried cran­ber­ries, hi­bis­cus and ap­ple bits. Caffeine free and de­li­cious. In­gre­di­ents: ap­ple bits, hi­bis­cus, cran­ber­ries (cran­ber­ries, sug­ar, sun­flower oil), ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vor

    De­spite the differ­ing in­gre­di­ent list, tastes very sim­i­lar to the Maracu­ja. The cran­ber­ries add their own kick to the or­ange-like fla­vor. I no­ticed I could eat it straight out of the bag like it were trail-mix.

  • Lemon Myr­tle (★★☆☆☆)

    Grown in the sub­-trop­i­cal rain­forests of Queens­land, Aus­tralia, Lemon Myr­tle (Back­hou­sia cit­ri­odora) is a rel­a­tively new caffeine-free ti­sane. It is a nat­ural source of cit­ral es­sen­tial oils, an­tiox­i­dants which im­parts a stout lemony aroma and fla­vor.

    Over­whelm­ingly sweet and lemon-tast­ing; lemon, lemon, and more lemon. A lit­tle goes a long way. I ul­ti­mately found it too much of a much­ness, and could­n’t fin­ish it.

  • Mul­berry tea / Kuwa-cha: ap­par­ently mul­berry tree leaves make a de­cent sen­cha-like pow­dered tea; an ac­quain­tance de­scribed it as be­ing like a good green tea. As it hap­pens, I have a long­stand­ing fond­ness for mul­ber­ries. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, though mul­berry trees are not rare trees (there were sev­eral grow­ing wild within blocks of where I grew up), the prices are not as cheap as one would hope; ap­par­ently there’s a fad diet clut­ter­ing list­ings & dri­ving up prices. Any­way, out of cu­rios­ity I or­dered 45g of $12 mul­berry tea (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆) from Ke­sen­numa (grown in Miyagi Pre­fec­ture).

    It is a nice slight­ly-dark green, shred­ded finely like con­fet­ti, and re­minds me a bit of how sen­cha green tea looks; the smell is faint and the best my im­pov­er­ished scent vo­cab­u­lary can come up with is “a bit musty”. Steeped, the wa­ter is also a nice green; my first im­pres­sion of the taste is that it’s slightly sweet. Be­yond that… it tastes per­haps like a white or green would if one re­moved all hint of bit­ter­ness and grass ie. there’s not much of a fla­vor be­yond the slight sweet­ness. The di­rec­tions sug­gest prepar­ing with hot wa­ter, but the mul­berry tea tastes much the same pre­pared with cold or cool wa­ter and the fla­vor is eas­ier to taste with­out heat in the way. (You can make iced tea with it, but I don’t ad­vise brew­ing for more than a week—it seems to gain an off­putting after­taste after that.)

    Do I like it? Well, I don’t dislike it but a very in­offen­sive green tea is­n’t some­thing I have a press­ing need for. I think it would make a de­cent sum­mer tea since you could pre­pare & serve it cold, but I like bar­ley tea and gen­mai-cha bet­ter, so I don’t need a mul­berry tea. Still, in­ter­est­ing to try out­—who knew mul­berry leaves could be used to make an OK tea?

  • Dae­sang or­ganic bar­ley tea ($4.13, 100g in 15 pack­ets; avail­able on Ama­zon as $9.99, 300g) (★★★☆☆); ad­ver­tis­ing copy from the 30-bag Ama­zon offer­ing inas­much as I can’t trans­late the Ko­rean on the bag it­self:

    100% or­ganic bar­ley tea comes in 30 un­bleached teabags. Healthy, nat­u­rally caffeine-free, sug­ar-free, and de­li­ciously re­fresh­ing. A caffeine-free coffee sub­sti­tute drink. Zero calo­ries. Serve year-round, hot in win­ter and cold in sum­mer. Each tea bag makes 2 liters of bar­ley tea.

    I picked this up while at a Ko­rean gro­cery store hunt­ing for ; I could­n’t buy too much since I was leav­ing for a long trip shortly there­after, and I did­n’t want to leave much food be­hind, so I picked up some other things while brows­ing the tea sec­tion. I was in­trigued by the offer­ing of a corn ti­sane but I chick­ened out be­cause it was too big and I did­n’t want to be stuck with a lot of un­drink­able ti­sanes, so I went in­stead with a bar­ley, to see if per­haps it im­proved over the other bar­ley and was some­thing I’d like.

    Each teabag is quite con­sid­er­able since it’s in­tended for mak­ing large batch­es, and are overkill for a sin­gle mug of hot tea (but you can just resteep it sev­eral times). As a hot tea, my re­ac­tion on the first sip was—sweet! It claims no ad­di­tives or other in­gre­di­ents of any kind, and 0g of sug­ar, but I have to won­der, since it’s re­ally sweet com­pared to the pre­vi­ous one, off­puttingly so. I did not like that.

  • Holy Basil Pur­ple Leaf Or­ganic (★★☆☆☆)

    This fine-cut leaf grade of or­ganic Holy Basil, (aka Tulsi), pro­duces a rich cup with a com­plex and spicy char­ac­ter. The dom­i­nant fla­vor notes are anise and pep­per, with nu­ances of cit­rus and cin­na­mon.

    is an In­dian herb sim­i­lar to the more fa­mil­iar (which I grow to put on my toma­toes and in my BLTs). The taste is im­me­di­ately fa­mil­iar from sweet basil, but with a more pep­per­mint and pep­pery, al­most licorice-sort of fla­vor. It’s meh.

  • Holy Basil Green Leaf Or­ganic (★☆☆☆☆/★★☆☆☆)

    Our green whole-leaf grade of Holy Basil (aka Tul­si) is a mix of leaf and tiny dried flow­ers. The smooth, ful­l-bod­ied in­fu­sion is sweet and spicy. Hints of anise and clove are present in the aroma as well as the fla­vor.

    A coarser and fuzzier blend then the Pur­ple Leaf, the Green Leaf tastes much the same but some­what sweeter and much less fla­vor­ful.

  • La­pa­cho (Pao d’ar­cho) Bold Leaf (★☆☆☆☆)

    A pleas­ant bev­er­age that we rec­om­mend for its sweet fla­vor. Made from the in­ner bark of the tree, this herbal con­tains no caffeine.

    A coarse cinnamon/tan-yellow bark from Brazil, my sam­ple was lighter in color than the Up­ton photo & like that of the WP ar­ti­cle, which men­tions some fun rat re­search into la­pa­cho’s tox­i­c­i­ty. Some­thing about the musty (but ad­mit­tedly sweet) fla­vor deeply put me off and I threw it away.

  • Or­ganic Spearmint (★★★★☆)

    A new lot of our or­gan­ic, coarse cut (formerly BH43). Great for blend­ing with green tea or steep­ing alone as a re­fresh­ing, caffeine-free bev­er­age.

    An in­stant fa­vorite of mine. One of my friends swore off all mint prod­ucts like mint ice-cream or Girl Scouts thin mints or York pep­per­mint pat­ties, ar­gu­ing that they tasted like tooth­paste; I thought this was too bad, and did­n’t quite get his ar­gu­ment (would­n’t it be more ac­cu­rate to say that tooth­paste tastes like mint?). Still, with fla­vors like mint and cin­na­mon, there is al­ways a dan­ger of go­ing too far. The spearmint tea does not go too far and is just right, with enough sub­tlety to the whole fla­vor to be drink­able on its own. The caffeine-free as­pect is also a bonus since it lets me drink it past 7PM when I avoid any­thing caffeinat­ed. I am more used to pep­per­mint than spearmint, though, so next I tried Up­ton’s pep­per­mint offer­ing to see how it com­pares; the differ­ence was­n’t no­table.

  • Ethe­real Co­coa Tea Can­is­ter (★★☆☆☆)

    Unique steeped-ca­cao bev­er­age. Con­tains or­ganic in­gre­di­ents, not USDA cer­ti­fied… Rare heir­loom ca­cao nibs & shells are used to pro­duce this de­li­cious and del­i­cate choco­late tea. Makes 16 serv­ings.

    Caffeine & sug­ar-free. The card­board cylin­der con­tains co­coa nibs/shells, and smells like a box of co­coa pow­der. Steeped at both green and black tem­per­a­tures, it tastes like it smells: like a wa­tered down weak hot choco­late. Point­less.

  • Golden Chrysan­the­mum (★★☆☆☆)

    Beau­ti­ful chrysan­the­mum flow­ers have long been part of Chi­nese cul­ture. When dried flow­ers are brewed as a ti­sane, they cre­ate a bold, sweet and tangy cup. Dry Leaves: Full, dried chrysan­the­mums. Liquor: Bright green. Aro­ma: Men­thol, liquorice. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeine Free. Body: Medi­um. Fla­vors: Sweet liquorice.

  • Guayusa (★★☆☆☆)

    is a tra­di­tional Ecuado­rian bev­er­age from the Ama­zon. Like Mate, it con­tains el­e­vated lev­els of caffeine and many an­tiox­i­dants. It has a mild veg­etable fla­vor. Only re­cently has it been in­tro­duced to the States. De­tails: At an in­dus­try event we met the earnest young peo­ple that im­port this tra­di­tional herbal from Ecuador. We liked the taste, so we bought some. The is one the few herbals that con­tains caffeine. Dry Leaves: Crushed guayusa leaves, small and vary­ing lighter shades of green. Liquor: The liquor of our Guayusa is a green­ish-brown. Aro­ma: Sharp veg­e­tal notes rem­i­nis­cent of pep­pers. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Medium bod­ied. Fla­vors: As­sertive veg­e­tal fla­vors.

  • Soba Tea—Roasted Buck­wheat (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Soba—roasted buck­wheat—is a tra­di­tional Japan­ese spe­cialty that is pre­pared as you would an herbal ti­sane. It is nat­u­rally caffeine free, with a de­light­ful toasty fla­vor and nutty un­der­tones. It was al­ways Brigitte Har­ney’s fa­vorite on our vis­its to the for­mer Takashimaya on Fifth Av­enue, where we sup­plied tea for their renowned tea room over many years. We’ve since found a fine source, and are pleased to con­tinue offer­ing it. De­tails: Takashimaya was the best tea shop in New York for many years. They did a great job with teas from Japan and around the world (which we sup­plied.) One of Brigitte Har­ney’s fa­vorite drinks was Soba, so when we found a good source, we bought it. Dry Leaves: Small brown grains. Liquor: The liquor of this herbal is a light yel­low. Aro­ma: This tra­di­tional Japan­ese herbal has a very toasty aro­ma. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeine Free. Body: A light body. Fla­vors: Sim­i­lar to the aro­ma, this caffeine-free herbal tastes very toasty, with some nutty un­der­tones.

    Much the same as the roasted bar­ley but not as quite over­whelm­ing, and more eas­ily ob­tained (i­nas­much as I do not live in SF). It feels like a break­fast drink, but I would prob­a­bly fa­vor the kuk­i-chas over this roasted buck­wheat.

  • YS: Hi­malayan Black Tar­tary Buck­wheat Roasted Tea (Fagopy­rum tatar­icum) (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Tar­tary Buck­wheat is grown in the hi­malayan re­gion of Yun­nan at an al­ti­tude of 2700 to 3200 me­ters! Tar­tary Buck­wheat also known as In­dian Buck­wheat is rich in rutin and quercetin, both of which are known to con­tain a high level of an­ti-ox­i­dants! Our Hi­malayan Black Tar­tary Buck­wheat was ex­pertly processed through roast­ing, wet­ting (to re­move outer sheath) and then lightly roasted again. It can be eaten di­rectly but when brewed with boil­ing hot wa­ter makes a de­li­cious tea, and can be used many times! The brewed buck­wheat ker­nels can then be eaten or added to your morn­ing ce­real or mues­li! Hi­malayan Black Buck­wheat is the high­est al­ti­tude grown buck­wheat in the world. Rich in fla­vor and an­ti-ox­i­dants!

    Tastes as much as I can re­call the roasted bar­ley & Har­ney’s roasted buck­wheat; on the bright side, YS is 2.3x cheaper than Har­ney’s.

  • Tilleul (Lin­den Leaves) (★★★☆☆)

    From Provence, France comes Tilleul, a light and lively blend of the . The nat­u­rally caffeine free herbal is prized for its sub­tle flo­ral qual­ity as well as its mild di­ges­tive and sleep ben­e­fits. The flow­ers and ten­der leaves pro­duce a light, woodsy brew—as beau­ti­ful as its taste—in a min­gling of forest-like green and yel­low that’s all part of the charm. De­tails: Be­cause Brigitte Har­ney is French, we are al­ways on the look­out for tra­di­tional French bev­er­ages. And one does not get more French or more tra­di­tional than Tilleul. This is what Proust re­mem­bered along with some nice Madeleine cook­ies, so cre­ate some fond mem­o­ries. Dry Leaves: Large tilleul (lin­den tree) leaves and flow­ers. Liquor: A very clean, clear, light green. Aro­ma: Sub­tle aro­mas of flow­ers and woods. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeine Free. Body: This ti­sane is very light in body. Fla­vors: The fla­vors are el­e­gant and un­der­stat­ed. They are rem­i­nis­cent of chamomile, but with a woodsy note.

    Pleas­antly sweet.

  • Spiced Plum Herbal (★☆☆☆☆)

    Spiced Plum is an herbal in­fu­sion with the de­light­ful essence of cin­na­mon and plums. Heartier than most herbals, this one has a pres­ence that will sur­prise you. De­tails: This is one of our old­est herbal blends. Peo­ple love the mix­ture of dark fruity plum fla­vors con­trasted by the spice of cin­na­mon, and lack of caffeine. Dry Leaves: A mix­ture of finely cut hi­bis­cus with cin­na­mon and plum. Liquor: Light red. Aro­ma: The spicy cin­na­mon and fruity plum aro­mas are the most promi­nent. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeine Free. Body: A light body. Fla­vors: Cin­na­mon spice and the dark fruity fla­vor of plum are the pre­dom­i­nate fla­vors in this caffeine free herbal.

    Gag­gingly over­pow­er­ing spices and sick­en­ingly sweet.

  • Bam­boo (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Bam­boo grows in abun­dance near many tea farms in Chi­na. One of the high­lights of every trip we make there is en­joy­ing fresh bam­boo served with our meals. We are pleased to offer you dried bam­boo leaves to pre­pare as a ti­sane. The pretty green leaves steep into a light, veg­e­tal and sweet brew. De­tails: When we were ap­proached about offer­ing Bam­boo leaf, we were in­trigued. What would a liquor taste like from these bright green leaves? As it turns out, they taste quite nice, so we are happy to offer an­other of Asi­a’s best plants. Dry Leaves: Thin green bam­boo leaves. Liquor: A clear green­ish-yel­low, very pale. Aro­ma: This herbal has a very dis­tinct veg­e­tal aro­ma, it edges to­wards as­para­gus. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeine Free. Body: A very light body. Fla­vors: The darker notes of as­para­gus and other leaf veg­e­tals make nice tast­ing herbal.

    Some­what meh. The split bam­boo leaves have a nice ap­pear­ance, but the fla­vor is an undis­tin­guished and some­what bit­ter veg­etable one like that of the mul­ber­ry.

  • Yel­low & Blue (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Our Yel­low & Blue herbal blend is a flo­ral rap­ture of taste, color and tex­ture. It com­bines chamomile, laven­der and corn­flow­ers in a ti­sane that is beau­ti­ful to look at, and de­li­cious to drink. Many fans and cus­tomers tell us they re­lax with this caffeine free blend. De­tails: This herbal blend was a mix­ture of three flow­ers en­vi­sioned about 15 years ago. Al­though its orig­i­nal goal was to be a beau­ti­ful, nice tast­ing herbal, we dis­cov­ered that it had great calm­ing prop­er­ties. El­y­se, John Har­ney’s daugh­ter, loves how this ti­sane calms her down after a very busy day at the office. Dry Leaves: A bright mix­ture of yel­low chamomile flow­ers, bril­liant blue laven­der, and corn­flow­ers. Liquor: A light green­ish-brown, with very slight hints of blue. Aro­ma: This blend com­bines the mel­low aroma of chamomile with the flow­ery aroma of laven­der. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeine Free. Body: Light in body. Fla­vors: A very mel­low and smooth herbal, the chamomile and laven­der are not over­whelm­ing but are still very promi­nent.

  • Yaupon Green (★★★☆☆)

    The Yaupon re­vival is an in­spir­ing Amer­i­can come­back. South­ern ranch­ers de­clared this na­tive holly in­va­sive and cleared acres of scrub. They for­got (or per­haps some never knew) the drought-tol­er­ant bushes yield a ro­bust nat­u­rally caffeinated tea. De­tails: Unique Na­tive Amer­i­can tea with veg­e­tal notes. Har­ney & Sons sources sus­tain­ably har­vest­ed, min­i­mally processed Yaupon Green leaf tea in Tex­as, from ranches that pro­mote so­cial jus­tice. Steep as you would other hand­crafted green teas, and en­joy the vi­brant, dis­tinctly Amer­i­can buzz. Dry Leaves: Green flakes. Liquor: Pale Green. Aro­ma: Roasted sum­mer veg­eta­bles. Caffeine Lev­el: Caffeinat­ed. Body: Medi­um. Fla­vors: Roasted sum­mer veg­eta­bles.

    Rem­i­nis­cent of Tilleul.

  • Cin­na­mon Plum Fruit Tea (★★★☆☆)

    This caffeine-free fruit tea con­tains ap­ple bits, cin­na­mon, plum pieces, hi­bis­cus, and beet­root, and has a pleas­ant plum/cinnamon taste. In­gre­di­ents: ap­ple bits, plum bits (plum, rice flour), hi­bis­cus, beet­root bits, cin­na­mon, ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vor

    Dan­ger­ously on the bor­der of too-sweet/over-spiced and a har­mo­nious bal­ance. I may have to re­visit my opin­ion of how drink­able it is later on.

  • Lost Pines Yaupon Tea: Light Roast Yaupon Tea (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Retry­ing yaupon with a differ­ent seller (also sourc­ing from Texas from post-wild­fire ar­eas). I think it tastes no­tice­ably bet­ter than the Har­ney yaupon did: more of a un­usu­ally sweet green tea taste. I am more im­pressed with the po­ten­tial of yaupon to com­pete with tea. It’s not good enough for me to make a point of or­der­ing it (if any­thing the boast of be­ing caffeinated is off­putting as I con­tinue to look for good de­caf teas or ti­sanes) and it’s fairly ex­pen­sive, but it is an in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tive.

  • Lost Pines Yaupon Tea: Dark Roast Yaupon Tea (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    The darker roast makes it more like ho­jicha but re­moves the sweet green tea as­pect I liked.

  • Berry Herb Blend (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    A har­mo­nious herbal blend with sooth­ing fla­vors of mint, lemon, gin­ger and other calm­ing herbs. Nat­u­rally caffeine-free.

    Dom­i­nated by the lemon.

  • Rose hips (★★☆☆☆)

    Coarse cut and ideal for in­fu­sion in a Chats­ford teapot. The liquor has a mildly flo­ral and tart fla­vor. A caffeine-free bev­er­age.

    Rose hips are sur­pris­ingly dense, and I had to weigh my sam­ple twice to con­vince my­self it was in­deed 2g. Tastes hardly like any­thing ex­cept slightly fruity.

  • Roasted Yerba Mate (★★☆☆☆)

  • Green Yerba Mate (★★☆☆☆)

    Also known as Paraguay tea or Brazil­ian tea, this caffeine bear­ing plant is val­ued for its stim­u­lat­ing prop­er­ties. We offer an ex­cel­lent grade.

    is one of the most promi­nent caffeinated drinks I have yet to try. Aside from be­ing pop­u­lar in Central/South Amer­i­ca, it also has a cer­tain pres­ence in hacker cul­ture due to the pop­u­lar­ity of (a yerba mate-based soft drink) in the CCC, as­cribed to be­ing more stim­u­lat­ing than a mere stan­dard caffeine bev­er­age (per­haps due to the theobromine/theophylline which I don’t think would be much present in tea/coffee, or per­haps just a placebo effec­t). All of which is to say that after yaupon I thought I’d do yerba mate. WP de­scribes the elab­o­rate rit­u­als & ap­pa­ra­tus for proper yerba mate drink­ing, but check­ing tea dis­cus­sions, ap­par­ently Yerba mate can be treated as sim­ply a green tea which does­n’t over­steep. The fla­vor of the green & roasted struck me in­stantly as be­ing near iden­ti­cal to yaupon (like­wise green & roast­ed), but with a nas­tier sour after­taste. I was sur­prised but I checked WP again and sure enough, both yaupon and yerba mate, aside from be­ing na­tive Amer­i­can plants with caffeine pre­fer­ring warmer cli­mates, are in the same genus, Ilex (Ilex vom­i­to­ria & Ilex paraguar­ien­sis re­spec­tive­ly) and the WP pho­tos of the branches & red fruits even look alike. The taste puts me off, but I did find my­self feel­ing more stim­u­lated than usual and stay­ing up later than usual when I hap­pened to drink some rel­a­tively late at night, more than I would’ve ex­pected for tea… Per­haps it just has a higher caffeine level as I was us­ing a fair amount to en­sure a strong & dis­tinct fla­vor. In any case, I did­n’t want to drink it and I gave both to a rel­a­tive who might be able to make bet­ter use of it. I’d still like to try out Club-Mate.

  • Hi­bis­cus Flow­ers, Coarse Cut (★☆☆☆☆)

    The ruby-red liquor is tart and re­fresh­ing. Caffeine free.

    Over­pow­er­ingly sour.

  • YS: Kud­ing Cha Spin­dled Herbal Detox Tea Holly Ilex (★☆☆☆☆)

    This tea is fa­mous through­out China for its abil­ity to cure di­ges­tive prob­lems and aid in di­ges­tion. The tea is grown on trop­i­cal Hainan is­land in China and is taken reg­u­larly by Chi­nese to re­move ex­cess heat and tox­ins from the body and liv­er. The spin­dled form is made from spring leaves from younger bush­es. In­fuse briefly (maybe 20 sec­ond­s), can be in­fused 15+ times.

    The leaves look like rolled to­bac­co, and I swear they smell like beef jerky. I was a lit­tle du­bi­ous but brewed it any­way. It did­n’t taste like beef jerky—it tasted like beef jerky with a side or­der of bit­ter acrid­ness. I washed out my mouth & mug and threw it all away. My ‘ex­cess heat and tox­ins’ will sim­ply have to stay in­side my liv­er.

  • YS: Clas­sic “Gan Zao Ye” Wild Ju­jube Tea from Laoshan Vil­lage (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Gan Zao Ye (甘枣叶) or Wild Ju­jube Tea is a herbal tea made from wild ju­jube plants picked in the spring of this year in Laoshan Vil­lage area of Shan­dong. Laoshan Vil­lage is also the home to some won­der­ful green and black teas. Wild Ju­jube grows at an al­ti­tude of 600-1000 me­ters and is picked in the month of April and May. Wild Ju­jube has been used for cen­turies as a sleep aid, com­bat­ting anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a nerve ton­ic, it’s also caffeine-free (but high in L-Thea­nine) mak­ing it the per­fect tea to en­joy in the evenings or any other time when seek­ing a tran­quil state of mind. The taste is soupy and very thick, it has notes of bar­ley, jiaogu­lan-like sweet­ness, and long-last­ing rich taste. The aroma is fruity and very sweet, fill­ing the room with a baked fruit­cake type aro­ma. Our Im­pe­r­ial Grade Gan Zao Ye is picked when the leaves are young and ten­der in April and May and then care­fully processed to pre­serve their fine state. The Clas­sic Wild Ju­jube is larger leaf than the Im­pe­r­ial grade, and also has a more ro­bust fla­vor and thick tea soup. Med­i­c­i­nally speak­ing this is the more pow­er­ful of the two types we offer. Some peo­ple will pre­fer this one to the Im­pe­r­ial Grade we offer here

  • YS: Im­pe­r­ial Grade “Gan Zao Ye” Wild Ju­jube Tea from Laoshan Vil­lage ($5.50, 25g; ★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Gan Zao Ye (甘枣叶) or Wild Ju­jube Tea is a herbal tea made from wild ju­jube plants picked in the spring of this year in Laoshan Vil­lage area of Shan­dong. Laoshan Vil­lage is also the home to some won­der­ful green and black teas. Wild Ju­jube grows at an al­ti­tude of 600-1000 me­ters and is picked in the month of April and May. Wild Ju­jube has been used for cen­turies as a sleep aid, com­bat­ting anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a nerve ton­ic, it’s also caffeine-free (but high in L-Thea­nine) mak­ing it the per­fect tea to en­joy in the evenings or any other time when seek­ing a tran­quil state of mind. The taste is soupy and very thick, it has notes of bar­ley, jiaogu­lan-like sweet­ness, and long-last­ing rich taste. The aroma is fruity and very sweet, fill­ing the room with a baked fruit­cake type aro­ma. Our Im­pe­r­ial Grade Gan Zao Ye is picked when the leaves are young and ten­der in April and then care­fully processed to pre­serve their fine state. Im­pe­r­ial Grade Wild Ju­jube is uniquely ten­der and looks like a high grade green tea at first glance, uni­form in size with few stems when dry.

    usu­ally refers to the ju­jube fruits, tra­di­tion­ally used in sweets. The ju­jube here refers to the shred­ded green crepe-like leaves. The two ju­jubes are quite sim­i­lar in fla­vor, al­though the Clas­sic struck me as some­what sweeter than the Im­pe­r­ial and I slightly pre­ferred the Clas­sic. The taste is ini­tially sweet and grad­u­ally em­bit­ters upon pro­longed steep­ing, and can be steeped sev­eral times. The after­taste is rem­i­nis­cent of the mul­berry tea I tried. Over­all, not too bad for a ti­sane, but still in­fe­rior to tea and I’d prob­a­bly pre­fer green yaupon if I had to choose.

  • Bigelow: Per­fect Peach Herbal tea ($2.48 for 1.37oz/38g, 20 pa­per teabags) (★★☆☆☆)

    Lus­cious blend of peaches & fine herbs. Nat­ural & ar­ti­fi­cially fla­vored. Caffeine free. In­di­vid­ual fresh pack. Caffeine me­ter (rep­re­sents av­er­age caffeine con­tent; in­di­vid­ual prod­ucts may vary): coffee—100-120 mg; black tea—30-60 mg; green tea—25-50 mg; de­caf tea—1-8 mg; herb tea—0 mg. Take your fa­vorite tea wher­ever you go! Bigelow’s in­di­vid­ual fla­vor-pro­tect­ing en­velopes en­sure great taste and fresh­ness. Gifts that share the plea­sure of tea. Make any oc­ca­sion spe­cial by shar­ing the gifts of Bigelow tea. Whether it is an el­e­gant tea chest or heart-warm­ing gift bas­ket filled with health­ful, de­li­cious teas, there is no bet­ter way to in­dulge one’s pas­sion for tea—and to show how much you care. Call toll free at 1-888-BIGELOW to re­quest our beau­ti­ful cat­a­log. Bigelow Tea—­good for mind, body and soul—E­u­nice & David Bigelow. Sat­is­fac­tion fully guar­an­teed. Gluten free. Bigelow is pleased to share the fact that this box, bag, string and tag are made from sus­tain­able (re­new­able) re­sources and are 100% biodegrad­able. Blended and pack­aged in the USA.

    In­gre­di­ents: rose hips, hi­bis­cus, peach­es, nat­ural and ar­ti­fi­cial peach fla­vor (soy lecithin), spices, or­ange peel, lemon peel, ap­ples, straw­berry leaves, roasted chicory

    Good idea, but overly sweet and spiced.

  • Ju­niper Ridge: Wild­crafted White Sage & Wild Mint (★★★☆☆)

    Top notes of re­fresh­ing mint, herbal mid-tones, resinous base ac­cents. Con­tains 100% Sus­tain­ably Wild Har­vested White Sage (), Or­ganic Mint (Men­tha ssp.) and Wild Mint (Men­tha ssp.) Our White Sage and Wild Mint tea blend is har­vested from the Mo­jave desert (San Jac­into Peak, Mo­jave De­sert, CA). Drink­ing this tea is just like back­pack­ing through the Mo­jave. A won­der­fully cozy, com­plex, min­eral tea that tastes as good as it smells. Steep it light to tease the minty notes or leave the bag in the cup to re­lease the deeper earthy tones. If you are feel­ing the par­ty, add some bour­bon to make a Ju­niper Ridge mint julep. Try over ice for a per­fect sum­mer tea.

    is one of my fa­vorite herbs to cook with (back in 2015 I bought 0.45kg of it be­cause my sage bush was not do­ing well and I did­n’t want to keep buy­ing mis­er­ably small Mc­Cormick­-style spice jars of rubbed sage, al­though I re­al­ized after the or­der ar­rived just how much sage that was, and 3 years later have only worked through about half of it) and, like , some­times works in odd com­bi­na­tions. When I saw a re­view of Ju­niper Ridge’s white sage/mint com­bo, I thought that this might be an­other ex­am­ple. While I have plenty of reg­u­lar sage (Salvia offic­i­nalis) on hand, I don’t have any mint or Salvia api­ana/“white sage” specifi­cal­ly, and that might make a big differ­ence, so I bought a box even though the price seems steep.

    The combo was nice, and the fla­vor was what I ex­pect­ed. I don’t think the white sage is all that differ­ent from my sage, so I can prob­a­bly mix my sage with some pep­per­mint to repli­cate the JR. It makes a nice ad­di­tion to pep­per­mint, which is one of my pre­ferred ti­sanes, and is an easy way to add va­ri­ety. (After all, I al­ready have the sage on hand, and will for years to come…) I de­cided to try Ju­niper Ridge’s Dou­glas fir ti­sane next.

  • Ju­niper Ridge: Wild-har­vested Dou­glas Fir Spring Tip Tea (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

The scent of our spring tip tea takes you to the high moun­tains of the Pa­cific North­west, where the crisp ever­green aroma of the Dou­glas Fir Spring Tip can be en­joyed. We cre­ate our teas us­ing in­gre­di­ents found in na­ture, in­clud­ing wild­crafted plants, tree sap, wood, and bam­boo. This dap­pled for­est sun tea will elicit feel­ings of home with its cit­rus notes, herbal mid-tones, and wild scents, mak­ing for a uni­ver­sally en­joyed ex­pe­ri­ence…S­cent Notes: Top notes of bright cit­rus, herbal mid-tones, earthy base ac­cents. In­gre­di­ents: 100% sus­tain­ably wild har­vested (Pseudot­suga men­ziesii) nee­dle tips. 20 un­bleached bags per box.

This sounds absolutely dire: I have made pine tea in the past by soaking pine needles (I was curious after reading about Arctic explorers staving off scurvy with 'pine tea' taught them by local Indians), and it tasted exactly as one would expect---overpoweringly bitter & pine-like, with no complexity at all. One would have to be suffering from scurvy to drink it. Sometimes on a hike I might nibble some fresh pine needles for the novelty, and that's as far as it goes. (I am also slightly concerned about the possible health effects; plants are masters of biowarfare, pungent chemicals are particularly likely to be toxic, and essential oils, being concentrated toxic agents, are dangerous for that reason, so ingesting them on the regular is not necessarily a good idea.) But I was reasonably impressed by Juniper Ridge's mint+sage combo, and this was the only other one that sounded interesting & had highly favorable reviews, so I gave it a try.

And it was... much better than I expected. Apparently my problem was using the wrong *kind* of pine tree. I needed a Douglas fir, not whatever miscellaneous pines grew on my street. The Douglas fir taste is not nearly as overwhelming even when steeped for a while, and has complexities to the flavor (minty? citrusy?). Caffeine-free, of course.
  • YS: Snow Chrysan­the­mum Buds Flower Tea from the Kun­lun Moun­tains (★★★☆☆)

    Snow Chrysan­the­mum tea is a rare and highly sought after high al­ti­tude (3000 me­ters) flower tea from the Kun­lun Moun­tains in Xin­jiang province. The tea is picked and sun-dried once a year then hand-sorted into var­i­ous grades. We offer only the high­est grade avail­able! Our Snow Chrysan­the­mum Buds have a unique taste that is a bit differ­ent from the opened flow­ers we sell here. These are picked while still buds and then dried in the high al­ti­tude sun to cure them. The aroma of the buds is thick and pun­gent. Sweet and flo­ral. The brewed tea is sweet, hon­ey-like with a light flower and cool­ing mint-like taste. The tea soup is gold-red and the buds can be in­fused 8 to 10 times if brewed gong fu style. A lovely tea with strong sweet and spiced fla­vor, it can be brewed alone or with other teas (like ripe pu-erh or black tea). It’s a great tea to drink after din­ner and has no caffeine. Re­gard­less of any health claims this is fore­most an en­joy­able drink. Try mix­ing with ripe pu-erh or black tea for a lovely gong fu ex­pe­ri­ence! You need to store this air­tight and keep in a cool and dry place to keep it fresh! April 2017 Har­vest.

    The best of the YS chrysan­the­mums I tried: the cit­rusy sweet fla­vor has a spicy after­taste. I bet it would in­deed go well with a black tea, sim­i­lar to rose hips.

  • Mem Tea: Spicy Turmeric Tonic (★★★☆☆)

    Caffeine Free; Tast­ing Notes: ca­cao - gin­ger - cin­na­mon; Blend. This unique and health­ful blend of turmer­ic, gin­ger, cin­na­mon, and ca­cao is rich and smooth, with warm spicy fla­vors and a zesty fin­ish. In­fu­sion: For an 8 oz serv­ing, steep 1 heap­ing tea­spoon of leaf in 212°F wa­ter for 4 min­utes. En­joy! In­gre­di­ents: Turmer­ic, gin­ger, cin­na­mon, ca­cao, rooi­bos, & el­der­ber­ry.

    (or its com­po­nent, ) usu­ally draws at­ten­tion for its use as a spice in In­dian cook­ing, and pos­si­ble ben­e­fits as a sup­ple­ment.6 I’ve used cur­cumin as a spice oc­ca­sion­al­ly, and it’s a nice one for spicy things. Like a more pep­pery cin­na­mon. A win­ter drink.

  • Mem Tea: Ap­ple Berry (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Caffeine Free; Tast­ing Notes: el­der­berry - cin­na­mon - cider; Blend. This herbal chamomile blend is made more com­plex by a deep el­der­berry fruiti­ness, which is then ac­cented with flower and spice. In­fu­sion: For an 8 oz serv­ing, steep 1 heap­ing tea­spoon of leaf in 212°F wa­ter for 4 min­utes. En­joy! In­gre­di­ents: Ap­ple pieces, el­der­ber­ries, chamomile flow­ers, cin­na­mon, & ste­via.

  • Mem Tea: Kar­nak: El­der­flower (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Caffeine Free; Tast­ing Notes: hon­ey­suckle - mus­cat grape - co­rian­der; Orig­in: Saco, Maine USA. Lo­cally grown and tended with care by our found­ing fa­ther, this lu­mi­nes­cent yel­low in­fu­sion has a nat­ural hon­ey-like sweet­ness, but­tery mouth­feel and a sweet mus­ca­tel fin­ish. Its high oil con­tent lends it­self to mul­ti­ple steep­s.. In­fu­sion: For an 8 oz serv­ing, steep 1 heap­ing tea­spoons of leaf in 212°F wa­ter for 4 min­utes. En­joy! In­gre­di­ents: El­der­flower.

  • Mem Tea: Lemon Ver­bena (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    Caffeine Free; Tast­ing Notes: cit­ron - lin­den - lemon zest; Orig­in: Greece. show­cases a pure and sweet Meyer lemon note and has a bright, clean, and re­fresh­ing fin­ish. In­fu­sion: For an 8 oz serv­ing, steep 3 heap­ing tea­spoons of leaf in 212°F wa­ter for 4 min­utes. En­joy! In­gre­di­ents: Lemon ver­be­na.

  • Mem Tea: Herb Gar­den (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Caffeine Free; Tast­ing Notes: thyme - mint - lemon ver­be­na; Blend; This sa­vory style tea is a blend of lin­den flow­er, el­der­ber­ry, lemon ver­be­na, thyme, net­tle, mint, and rose hips. In­fu­sion: For a 16 oz serv­ing, steep 2 level tea­spoons of leaf in 8 oz of 212°F wa­ter for 4 min­utes. Pour over equal parts ice. En­joy! In­gre­di­ents: Lin­den flow­ers, el­der­ber­ry, lemon ver­be­na, thyme, net­tle, mint, rose­hips, & marigold flow­ers.

    A mish­mash of every­thing, only the mint re­ally emerges from the over­all over­abun­dance of woody flo­ral­ness.

  • YS: Yun­nan Sun-Dried Wild Rose Buds from Wen­shan (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    These rose buds are grown wild and un-tended in the moun­tains of Guangyuan county in Wen­shan pre­fec­ture of Yun­nan. The rose buds are hand-picked and sun-dried briefly so they can be stored with­out los­ing their lovely essence! The dried rose buds are about 0.3 to 0.5 cm across and weigh be­tween 0.15 and 0.3 grams each. You can brew them alone (4 or 5 grams per 100ml brew­ing de­vice) or mix with black tea, ripe pu-erh, or any­thing else! Wash once briefly with boil­ing hot wa­ter to clean and awaken them! Grown with­out pes­ti­cides or fer­til­iz­ers!

    Much like rose hips, even a hefty heap­ing of rose buds has hardly any fla­vor. It is amus­ing to look at, though, since they ex­actly what they sound like: lit­tle rose buds snipped off ros­es, like lit­tle heads bob­bing in your cup.

  • YS: Panax Noto Gin­seng Flower * San Qi Hua (★★☆☆☆)

    San Qi Hua is the flower of Tian Qi (aka Panax No­to­gin­sen­g). Our San Qi Flow­ers are grown in the Wen­shan re­gion of Yun­nan at an al­ti­tude of 1900 me­ters. The aroma of dried San Qi Flower is quite pleas­ant and re­minds us of ca­cao pow­der. The San Qi Flower brewed as tea is quite pleas­ant, with a bal­ance of bit­ter, sweet and Gin­seng spici­ness. It goes well with other teas like Ripe Pu-erh, Raw Pu-erh and Black tea as well. Drink­ing it alone is the best way as a herbal tea in the evenings or when­ev­er! *In some rare cases San Qi Flower can cause mild al­ler­gic re­ac­tions when con­sumed. If you ex­pe­ri­ence any un­usual al­ler­gic re­ac­tions after con­sum­ing San Qi Flower please dis­con­tinue use im­me­di­ate­ly. **San Qi Flower should not be con­sumed by preg­nant or breast­feed­ing moth­ers.

    Weirdly broc­col­i-like.

  • Mem Tea: Mt. Olym­pus Flow­ers (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Caffeine Free. Tast­ing Notes: chive - eu­ca­lyp­tus - men­thol. Orig­in: Greece. This at­trac­tive Greek moun­tain tea is soft and del­i­cate with com­plex herba­ceous fla­vors and a hon­ey-like sweet­ness.

    Bet­ter known as . Bit of a tang.

  • Tra­di­tional Med­i­c­i­nals: Roasted Root (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆; $3.49/24g)

    Herbal Power: Stim­u­lates the liver and sup­ports healthy di­ges­tion. · Taste: Pleas­antly roasted with bit­ter notes. · Plant Story: Some think of dan­de­lion as a com­mon weed, but our herbal­ists know that its bit­ter taste stim­u­lates di­ges­tion and sup­ports your body’s nat­ural detox­i­fi­ca­tion process. Some of our finest dan­de­lion comes from the sus­tain­ably wild-col­lected mead­ows of East­ern Eu­rope. It’s the per­fect tea for every­day well­ness!

    Picked up on sale 3 herbal teas I had­n’t see be­fore. The roasted dan­de­lion is bit­ter in­deed, and dis­tinctly in­fe­rior to ku-ki cha if that’s what you’re look­ing for. Alas, I am un­aware if ku-ki cha will mag­i­cally leanse your blood or if the tea bags are com­postable & cer­ti­fied or­gan­ic…

  • Tra­di­tional Med­i­c­i­nals: (★★☆☆☆; $3.49/24g)

    Per­son­al­ity: Strong, beau­ti­ful, mys­te­ri­ous. · Herbal Power: Used his­tor­i­cally by the in­dige­nous peo­ples of South Amer­ica and now by mod­ern day herbal­ists. · Rea­son to Love: This Ama­zon­ian na­tive is some­times called “trum­pet tree” which refers to its tis­sue-pa­per-like, trum­pet-shaped flow­ers. There are more than 60 species of this beau­ti­ful, flow­er­ing tree with blooms that range from pink to yel­low. The in­ner bark of both the pink and yel­low flow­er­ing trees is used by the in­dige­nous peo­ples of South Amer­ica and revered by West­ern herbal­ists. · Taste: Woody, tan­nic, and slightly bit­ter. · Some of our fa­vorite yel­low Pau d’Ar­co, com­monly known as amarelo, comes from Bello Hor­i­zon­te, a small vil­lage deep in the Pe­ru­vian Ama­zon. It’s har­vested in the late win­ter through the early spring be­fore the sea­sonal rains make the jun­gle nearly im­pass­able. The men cut and trans­port the bark back to the vil­lage where the women clean and dry it to be processed. Pau d’Arco wild sourc­ing is done with great care, pro­duc­ing the com­mu­nity with much needed em­ploy­ment and in­come. The health of the for­est is main­tained through lim­ited and se­lec­tive col­lec­tion and in­ten­sive re­plant­i­ng.

  • Tra­di­tional Med­i­c­i­nals: (★★☆☆☆; $3.49/32g)

    Per­son­al­ity: Charm­ing, nour­ish­ing, and restora­tive. · Herbal Power: Tra­di­tion­ally used in herbal med­i­cine for skin health. · Rea­sons to Love: Red clover’s dainty ball of pink, tubu­lar flow­ers can’t help but charm na­ture lovers. This pea fam­ily peren­nial graces sunny mead­ows, where it serves as fod­der for cows and bees while also fix­ing ni­tro­gen to the soil and help­ing to pre­vent ero­sion. It’s such a beloved part of idyl­lic coun­try land­scapes that Ver­mont named it its offi­cial state flower in 1894. Our herbal­ists love Tri­folium pratense for its tra­di­tional use as an al­ter­ative in sup­port­ing skin health. Taste: Gen­tly fruity and flo­ral. · Some of our fa­vorite red clvoer comes from the sun­l­it, loamy mead­ows of Al­ba­nia, where har­vesters col­lect it re­spon­si­bly by hand. Un­like other teas that in­cor­po­rate the stems and leaves, ours fea­tures the fluffy pink blos­soms of the clover, as are cus­tom­ar­ily used in Tra­di­tional Eu­ro­pean Herbal­ism. Our col­lec­tors pick the blos­soms at their peak over the sum­mer months, then dry and cut them for this sooth­ing and restora­tive tea—­tra­di­tion­ally used to sup­port skin health.

    The red clover has min­i­mal taste, and the pau d’arco is more off­putting than the roasted dan­de­lion root (demon­strat­ing that how pretty a plant is says lit­tle about its fla­vor). I don’t rec­om­mend any of them.

Tea kettles

Be­sides the teas them­selves, ket­tles are key equip­ment. An oc­ca­sional drinker may use a stove-top ket­tle, which have some ad­van­tages:

  • cheap / free

  • near­ly-in­de­struc­tible

  • even sim­pler to op­er­ate

    (In the sense that every­one knows how to turn on & turn off a stove burner al­ready, not that elec­tric ket­tles re­quire a PhD to op­er­ate—­typ­i­cal­ly, it’s a sin­gle but­ton to push to boil some wa­ter.)

  • some­what more com­pact

  • often pic­turesque

  • al­ways ce­ramic or met­al, so no pos­si­bil­ity of the wa­ter tast­ing like plas­tic

But for reg­u­lar tea-drinkers, stove-top ket­tles come with se­ri­ous dis­ad­van­tages com­pared to , and some of the ad­van­tages are negat­ed:

  • they are much slower to heat com­pared to elec­tric ket­tles

    Even in the USA, an elec­tric ket­tle will be faster than stove-top. I haven’t tested it with a timer, but I think the differ­ence be­tween the T-fal and the metal ket­tle I was was ~2-3x. The de­lay is ir­ri­tat­ing

  • they are en­er­gy-in­effi­cient: much of the heat of the stove-top is not trans­ferred into the wa­ter but the air, which is a waste of elec­tric­ity or gas, and dur­ing sum­mer will un­pleas­antly warm the house

  • pic­turesque means that they are not al­ways de­signed with safety or er­gonom­ics in mind; I’ve seen more than a few which bade fair to burn users some­while

  • tem­per­a­ture con­trol is diffi­cult with­out a ther­mome­ter, so one must ei­ther com­pro­mise the sim­plic­ity & con­ve­nience of a stove-top ket­tle or risk de­stroy­ing white/green/oolong teas by over­heat­ing the wa­ter

  • it’s often easy to not no­tice when the wa­ter has reached a boil, or to not be present when the ket­tle does be­gin to whis­tle

    This re­sults in a waste of time, of wa­ter (in­creas­ing hu­mid­i­ty, in­ci­den­tal­ly), over­heat­ing & de-oxy­genat­ing the wa­ter, and poses a safety haz­ard if the ket­tle boils dry

On the down­side, the elec­tric ket­tles lose most of the stove-top ket­tle ad­van­tages (they cost real mon­ey, can break, take up counter space, and the pretty ones are more ex­pen­sive). But on net, I pre­fer an ex­pen­sive elec­tric tea ket­tle which will heat fast, not dump ex­cess heat into the room, has boil-dry pro­tec­tion, and differ­ent heat set­tings.

I bought my first elec­tric tea ket­tle on 2008-01-07 from Up­ton’s. It was their (s­ince-dis­con­tin­ued) AK16 model (“Up­ton Tea Im­ports® Vari­able Temp. Elec­tric Ket­tle”), and cost $43.80. Be­sides my daily tea, I used it for heat­ing wa­ter for ra­men, speed­ing up cook­ing of soups & stews, hu­mid­i­fy­ing rooms, and un­clog­ging drains. It worked well for years un­til the han­dle snapped off some­where in win­ter 2013 or so. (It was my fault: I had been us­ing it to hu­mid­ify the room and had placed a book on the han­dle to keep the ket­tle boil­ing past the tem­per­a­ture shut-off.) This was­n’t a fa­tal prob­lem be­cause it was easy to take a small screw­driver and wig­gle the switch in­side the base. The ket­tle fi­nally broke fully on 2014-01-19, hav­ing given me ~2203 days of loyal ser­vice at 2¢ a day (ig­nor­ing the elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion). I would have bought it again ex­cept Up­ton’s no longer sold it or a re­place­ment elec­tric tea ket­tle; their web­site noes “New ket­tle sources are be­ing eval­u­at­ed.”

I made do with a stove-top ket­tle lay­ing around, but even­tu­ally the has­sle of wait­ing twice or thrice as long, oc­ca­sion­ally burn­ing a green/oolong, and the up­com­ing hot sum­mer spurred me to buy an­oth­er. I had an un­used Tar­get gift card, so on 2014-04-15, I spent $36.04 to buy an “Os­ter Dig­i­tal Elec­tric Tea Ket­tle model BVST-EK5967” from Tar­get; it was the only elec­tric tea ket­tle they had in stock with tem­per­a­ture con­trol. I liked the dig­i­tal tem­per­a­ture con­trol (the Up­ton’s was an ana­logue knob with tea ranges), and it worked well. My main com­plaint was that the dig­i­tal con­trol would for­get the pre­vi­ous tem­per­a­ture set­ting after use, and would re­set to 212° so one had to set the tem­per­a­ture every use. By 2014-05-20, after 35 days, it had bro­ken: it would turn on, but the wa­ter would never get hot. I thought per­haps it was a loose con­nec­tion but a great deal of wig­gling & ex­per­i­ment­ing failed to help mat­ters, and I no­ticed the in­side of the base seemed par­tially melt­ed—so per­haps it could­n’t with­stand its own heat? Tar­get’s re­turn pol­icy did­n’t seem to al­low a re­turn, so I had to give up. Much too late, I checked the Ama­zon page for the Os­ter BVST-EK5967 and saw that I was far from alone in hav­ing a bad ex­pe­ri­ence with BVST-EK5967s dy­ing un­rea­son­ably ear­ly. Oh well!

Hav­ing learned my lessons about ig­nor­ing user re­views, this third time I’m go­ing with one of the top-re­viewed elec­tric tea ket­tles with tem­per­a­ture con­trol on Ama­zon: the “T-fal BF6138US Bal­anced Liv­ing 1-Liter 1750-Watt Elec­tric Mini Ket­tle” ($23.62). Un­for­tu­nately for me, my first or­der ar­rived bro­ken. Rea­son­ing that since it’s one of the top-re­viewed mod­els, it’s more likely that I got a bad item than it’s a rub­bish model like the Os­ter, I de­cided to re­turn it for a re­place­ment (which Ama­zon makes rea­son­ably easy: you print out an ad­dress and a bar code, slap it on the ship­ping box, and mail it at your lo­cal post office). The sec­ond or­der ar­rived work­ing, and aside from the gar­ish green-black col­or­ing, seems to do its job well (although I miss the built-in ther­mome­ter of the Os­ter, which made it eas­ier to find op­ti­mal tem­per­a­tures for par­tic­u­lar teas).

TODO

Taste-test­ing 9 teas side by side

Appendix

Electric vs stove kettle: fight!

Elec­tric ket­tles are faster, but I was cu­ri­ous how much faster my elec­tric ket­tle heated wa­ter to high or boil­ing tem­per­a­tures than does my stove-top ket­tle. So I col­lected some data and com­pared them di­rect­ly, try­ing out a num­ber of sta­tis­ti­cal meth­ods (prin­ci­pal­ly: non­para­met­ric & para­met­ric tests of differ­ence, lin­ear & beta re­gres­sion mod­els, and a Bayesian mea­sure­ment er­ror mod­el). My elec­tric ket­tle is faster than the stove-top ket­tle (the differ­ence is both sta­tis­ti­cal­ly-sig­nifi­cant p≪0.01 & the pos­te­rior prob­a­bil­ity of differ­ence is P≈1), and the mod­el­ing sug­gests time to boil is largely pre­dictable from a com­bi­na­tion of vol­ume, end-tem­per­a­ture, and ket­tle type.

My elec­tric tea ket­tle is a “T-fal BF6138US Bal­anced Liv­ing 1-Liter 1750-Watt Elec­tric Mini Ket­tle”, plugged into a nor­mal elec­tri­cal sock­et. The stove-top is a generic old metal ket­tle with a cop­per-clad bot­tom (it may have been in­tended to be a coffee per­co­la­tor, given the shape, but it works well as a ket­tle) on a small re­sis­tance-heat­ing coil stove burner (why not one of the 2 large coils? be­cause the ket­tle bot­tom does­n’t cover the full sur­face area of the large burn­er­s); the stove is some very old small Gaffer­s-Sat­tler 4-burner stove/oven (no model name or num­ber I could find in an ac­ces­si­ble spot, but I’d guess it’s >30 years old).

Experiment

I be­gan com­par­ing them on the after­noon of 2015-02-16; the sea-level kitchen was at a warm 77.1° Fahren­heit & 49% rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity (as mea­sured by my Kon­gin temperature/humidity data log­ger). For mea­sur­ing wa­ter vol­ume, I used an or­di­nary 1-cup kitchen mea­sur­ing cup (~235m­l). And for mea­sur­ing wa­ter tem­per­a­ture, I used a Tay­lor 9847N An­timi­cro­bial In­stant Read Dig­i­tal Ther­mome­ter (Ama­zon), which claims to mea­sure in units of .1°F up to 450° and so can han­dle boil­ing wa­ter; I can’t seem to find ac­cu­racy num­bers for this par­tic­u­lar mod­el, but I did find a list­ing say­ing that a sim­i­lar­ly-priced model (the “Tay­lor 9877FDA Wa­ter­proof Pocket Dig­i­tal Ther­mome­ter”) is ac­cu­rate ±2°, which should be enough.

The rel­e­vant quan­tity of wa­ter for me is at least one of my fox tea mugs, which turns out to be al­most ex­actly 2 cups of wa­ter ( or ~0.5l mark­ing on elec­tric ket­tle).

My test­ing pro­ce­dure was as fol­lows:

  1. rinse out each ket­tle with fresh cold wa­ter from the tap (43°), fill with some, let sit for a few min­utes

  2. dump out all wa­ter from ket­tles

  3. pour in with mea­sur­ing cup 2-4 cups of cold wa­ter, put onto re­spec­tive spots

  4. ad­just tem­per­a­ture set­ting on elec­tric ket­tle if nec­es­sary

    I di­vide the T-Fal tem­per­a­ture con­trol into min/medium-low/medium/max.

  5. start timer soft­ware, then turn on ket­tles as quickly as pos­si­ble

    (I’d guess this was a de­lay of ~3s; 3s has been sub­tracted from the times, but there’s still im­pre­ci­sion or mea­sure­ment er­ror in how fast I looked at the stop­watch or how long it took me to re­act or whether I jumped the gun.)

  6. wait un­til elec­tric ket­tle ‘clicks’, record time in sec­onds; turn elec­tric ket­tle off, in­sert ther­mome­ter, and read fi­nal tem­per­a­ture of elec­tri­cal ket­tle; then in­sert ther­mome­ter into stove-top ket­tle to mea­sure stove-top ket­tle’s in­ter­me­di­ate tem­per­a­ture

  7. record time and 2 tem­per­a­tures

  8. place ther­mome­ter back into stove-top ket­tle, and watch the tem­per­a­ture read­ing un­til the stove-top’s tem­per­a­ture has reached the elec­tric ket­tle’s fi­nal tem­per­a­ture; record the time

  9. turn off stove heat, dump out hot wa­ter, re­turn to step #1

This en­sures that both ket­tles start equal, and the stove-top ket­tle is run only as long as it takes to reach the same tem­per­a­ture that the elec­tric ket­tle reached; the in­ter­me­di­ate tem­per­a­ture could also be use­ful for es­ti­mat­ing tem­per­a­ture vs time curves.

I ran 12 tests at var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions of wa­ter-vol­ume and tem­per­a­ture set­ting.

I wound up not test­ing tem­per­a­ture set­tings thor­oughly be­cause once I be­gan mea­sur­ing fi­nal tem­per­a­tures, I was dis­mayed to see that the T-fal tem­per­a­ture con­trol was al­most non-ex­is­tent: 3/4s of the dial equated es­sen­tially to ‘boil’, and even the min­i­mum heat set­ting still re­sulted in tem­per­a­tures as high as 180°!—which makes the tem­per­a­ture con­trol al­most use­less, since I think one needs colder wa­ter than that to pre­pare white teas and the more del­i­cate greens… I am not happy with T-fal, but at least now I know what tem­per­a­tures the dial set­tings cor­re­spond to.

To deal with the poor tem­per­a­ture con­trol, I bought a cheap me­chan­i­cal cook­ing ther­mome­ter, cal­i­brated it, drilled a nar­row hole through the plas­tic of the T-fal tea ket­tle, and in­serted the probe down into the wa­ter area. Now I can see what the cur­rent wa­ter tem­per­a­ture is as it heats up, and shut it off early or di­lute it with fresh wa­ter to get it to the tar­get tem­per­a­ture. Per­haps not as con­ve­nient as a fully dig­i­tal elec­tric tea ket­tle, but it’s much cheaper and prob­a­bly more reliable/durable; I may do this with fu­ture tea ket­tles as well.

Data

The data from each ket­tle (time in sec­onds, tem­per­a­tures in Fahren­heit):

boiling <- read.csv(stdin(),header=TRUE)
Test,Setting,Type,Volume.cups,Time,Temp.final,Temp.intermediate.stove
1,max,electric,2,144,210,120
1,max,stove,2,344,210,120
2,max,electric,3,199,211,108
2,max,stove,3,665,211,108
3,max,electric,3,210,211,120
3,max,stove,3,701,211,120
4,max,electric,2,141,211,107
4,max,stove,2,524,211,107
5,medium,electric,2,142,209,130
5,medium,stove,2,399,209,130
6,medium-low,electric,2,145,207,131
6,medium-low,stove,2,408,207,131
7,min,electric,2,110,190,101
7,min,stove,2,423,190,101
8,min,electric,3,146,180,108
8,min,stove,3,435,180,108
9,min,electric,4,178,172,99
9,min,stove,4,567,172,99
10,min,electric,2,105,186,106
10,min,stove,2,362,186,106
11,min,electric,2,109,187,108
11,min,stove,2,331,187,108
12,min,electric,2,113,187,114
12,min,stove,2,341,187,114

Analysis

There many ways to an­a­lyze this data: are we in­ter­ested in the mean differ­ence in sec­onds over all com­bi­na­tions of volume/final-temperature, as a two-sam­ple or paired-sam­ple? In mod­el­ing the time it takes? In the ra­tio or rel­a­tive speed of elec­tric and stove-top? In for the mea­sure­ment er­ror (±2° for each tem­per­a­ture mea­sure­ment, and per­haps also how much wa­ter was in each)? We could look at all of them.

Hypothesis testing

Means, ra­tios, and tests of differ­ence:

abs(mean(boiling[boiling$Type=="electric",]$Time) - mean(boiling[boiling$Type=="stove",]$Time))
# [1] 313.1666667
boiling[boiling$Type=="electric",]$Time / boiling[boiling$Type=="stove",]$Time
#  [1] 0.4186046512 0.2992481203 0.2995720399 0.2690839695 0.3558897243 0.3553921569 0.2600472813
#  [8] 0.3356321839 0.3139329806 0.2900552486 0.3293051360 0.3313782991
summary(boiling[boiling$Type=="electric",]$Time / boiling[boiling$Type=="stove",]$Time)
#    Min.   1st Qu.    Median      Mean   3rd Qu.      Max.
# 0.2600473 0.2969499 0.3216191 0.3215118 0.3405722 0.4186047
wilcox.test(Time ~ Type, paired=TRUE, data=boiling)
#
#   Wilcoxon signed rank test with continuity correction
#
# data:  Time by Type
# V = 0, p-value = 0.002516
# alternative hypothesis: true location shift is not equal to 0
wilcox.test(Time ~ Type, paired=FALSE, data=boiling)
#
#   Wilcoxon rank sum test
#
# data:  Time by Type
# W = 0, p-value = 7.396e-07
# alternative hypothesis: true location shift is not equal to 0
t.test(Time ~ Type, data=boiling)
#
#   Welch Two Sample t-test
#
# data:  Time by Type
# t = -8.2263, df = 12.648, p-value = 1.983e-06
# alternative hypothesis: true difference in means is not equal to 0
# 95% confidence interval:
#  -395.6429254 -230.6904079
# sample estimates:
# mean in group electric    mean in group stove
#            145.1666667            458.3333333
t.test(Time ~ Type, paired=TRUE, data=boiling)
#
#     Paired t-test
#
# data:  Time by Type
# t = -11.1897, df = 11, p-value = 2.378e-07
# alternative hypothesis: true difference in means is not equal to 0
# 95% confidence interval:
#  -374.7655610 -251.5677723
# sample estimates:
# mean of the differences
#            -313.1666667

So the elec­tric ket­tle is, as ex­pect­ed, faster—by 5 min­utes on av­er­age, rang­ing from 4x faster to 2x faster, and the ad­van­tage is sta­tis­ti­cal­ly-sig­nifi­cant. (Noth­ing sur­pris­ing so far.)

Linear regression

How much vari­ance do the listed vari­ables cap­ture?

summary(lm(Time ~ Test + Temp.final + as.ordered(Setting) + Type + Volume.cups, data=boiling))
# ...
# Residuals:
#       Min        1Q    Median        3Q       Max
# -89.37786 -28.86586  12.18942  29.12054  93.64656
#
# Coefficients:
#                           Estimate   Std. Error  t value   Pr(>|t|)
# (Intercept)           -2619.607015  1179.160067 -2.22159 0.04108708
# Test                      5.808909     9.295290  0.62493 0.54082745
# Temp.final               11.696298     5.422822  2.15687 0.04657229
# as.ordered(Setting).L   124.978494   109.450857  1.14187 0.27031014
# as.ordered(Setting).Q    88.043187    54.791923  1.60686 0.12763657
# as.ordered(Setting).C    24.081255    48.488960  0.49663 0.62620135
# Typestove               313.166667    24.560050 12.75106 8.4966e-10
# Volume.cups             157.883148    38.444409  4.10679 0.00082473
#
# Residual standard error: 60.15959 on 16 degrees of freedom
# Multiple R-squared:  0.9257358, Adjusted R-squared:  0.8932452
# F-statistic: 28.49242 on 7 and 16 DF,  p-value: 6.927389e-08
summary(step(lm(Time ~ Test + Temp.final + as.ordered(Setting) + Type + Volume.cups, data=boiling)))
# ...Residuals:
#         Min          1Q      Median          3Q         Max
# -115.480920  -41.874831   -3.183459   38.182981  125.963323
#
# Coefficients:
#                Estimate  Std. Error  t value   Pr(>|t|)
# (Intercept) -835.055578  206.880137 -4.03642 0.00064609
# Temp.final     3.607011    0.934039  3.86174 0.00097187
# Typestove    313.166667   24.083037 13.00362  3.247e-11
# Volume.cups  111.948746   20.132673  5.56055  1.922e-05
#
# Residual standard error: 58.99115 on 20 degrees of freedom
# Multiple R-squared:  0.9107407, Adjusted R-squared:  0.8973518
# F-statistic: 68.02206 on 3 and 20 DF,  p-value: 1.138609e-10

Be­cause I con­trolled wa­ter vol­ume and vol­ume and fi­nal-tem­per­a­ture, the mean differ­ence should be iden­ti­cal, and it is, 313s. The signs are also ap­pro­pri­ate and co­effi­cients sen­si­ble: each ad­di­tional de­gree is +3.6s, a cup is +111s, and the set­ting vari­able drops out as use­less (as it should since it should be re­dun­dant with the fi­nal-tem­per­a­ture mea­sure­ment) as does the test num­ber (sug­gest­ing no ma­jor change over time as a re­sult of test­ing).

We can plot the elec­tric and stove-top data sep­a­rately as 3D plots with resid­u­als to see if any big is­sues jump out:

2 3D plots: time to boil vs wa­ter vol­ume vs fi­nal tem­per­a­ture; split by elec­tric vs stove-top ket­tle, with residuals/deviations from lin­ear plane/fit
library(scatterplot3d)
plot3D <- function(k) {
    with(boiling[boiling$Type==k,], {
        b3d <- scatterplot3d(x=Temp.final, y=Volume.cups, Time, main=k);
        b3d$plane3d(my.lm <- lm(Time ~ Temp.final + Volume.cups), lty = "dotted");
        orig <- b3d$xyz.convert(Temp.final, Volume.cups, Time);
        plane <- b3d$xyz.convert(Temp.final, Volume.cups, fitted(my.lm));
        i.negpos <- 1 + (resid(my.lm) > 0);
        segments(orig$x, orig$y, plane$x, plane$y, col = c("blue", "red")[i.negpos], lty = (2:1)[i.negpos]);
        })
        }

png(file="~/wiki/images/tea/tea-kettle-electricvstove.png", width = 680, height = 800)
    par(mfrow = c(2, 1))
    plot3D("electric")
    plot3D("stove")
invisible(dev.off())

It looks pretty good. But in gen­eral to­wards the edges the points seem sys­tem­at­i­cally high or low, sug­gest­ing there might be a bit of non­lin­ear­i­ty, and the fit seems to be worse for the stove-top re­sults, sug­gest­ing that’s nois­ier than elec­tric (this could be due ei­ther to slight differ­ences in set­ting the ana­logue tem­per­a­ture dial on the stove or per­haps differ­ences in po­si­tion­ing on the burner coil).

Beta regression

Re­gress­ing on the rel­a­tive times / ra­tios, us­ing the un­usual beta re­gres­sion, might be in­ter­est­ing; if elec­tric was al­ways 1:3, say, then one would ex­pect the ra­tio to be con­stant and in­de­pen­dent of the co­vari­ates, whereas if the ra­tio in­creases or de­creases based on the co­vari­ates then that sug­gests some bend­ing or flex­ing of the plane:

boilingW <- read.csv(stdin(),header=TRUE)
Test,Setting,Volume.cups,Time.electric,Time.stove,Time.ratio,Temp.final,Temp.intermediate.stove
1,max,2,144,344,0.4186046512,210,120
2,max,3,199,665,0.2992481203,211,108
3,max,3,210,701,0.2995720399,211,120
4,max,2,141,524,0.2690839695,211,107
5,medium,2,142,399,0.3558897243,209,130
6,medium-low,2,145,408,0.3553921569,207,131
7,min,2,110,423,0.2600472813,190,101
8,min,3,146,435,0.3356321839,180,108
9,min,4,178,567,0.3139329806,172,99
10,min,2,105,362,0.2900552486,186,106
11,min,2,109,331,0.329305136,187,108
12,min,2,113,341,0.3313782991,187,114

library(betareg)
summary(betareg(Time.ratio ~ Temp.final + as.ordered(Setting) + Volume.cups, data=boilingW))
# Standardized weighted residuals 2:
#        Min         1Q     Median         3Q        Max
# -3.0750244 -0.9096389  0.1394863  0.7292433  2.8146091
#
# Coefficients (mean model with logit link):
#                          Estimate  Std. Error  z value Pr(>|z|)
# (Intercept)            7.49624231  4.15031174  1.80619 0.070889
# Temp.final            -0.03782627  0.01921650 -1.96843 0.049019
# as.ordered(Setting).L -0.73487186  0.36540077 -2.01114 0.044311
# as.ordered(Setting).Q -0.47817927  0.19405990 -2.46408 0.013737
# as.ordered(Setting).C -0.18696030  0.16717555 -1.11835 0.263419
# Volume.cups           -0.22934320  0.13345514 -1.71850 0.085705
#
# Phi coefficients (precision model with identity link):
#        Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)
# (phi) 201.71768   82.16848 2.45493 0.014091
#
# Type of estimator: ML (maximum likelihood)
# Log-likelihood: 24.01264 on 7 Df
# Pseudo R-squared: 0.3653261
# Number of iterations: 751 (BFGS) + 3 (Fisher scoring)

Ex­clud­ing the Set­ting vari­able, it looks like the tem­per­a­ture and vol­ume may affect the tim­ing, but not much.

SEM

Mov­ing on to mea­sure­ment er­ror, one fa­vored way of han­dling mea­sure­ment er­ror is through la­tent vari­ables and a , which in this case we might model in lavaan this way:

library(lavaan)
Kettle.model <- '
                Temp.final.true =~ Temp.final
                Time.true =~ Time
                Volume.cups.true =~ Volume.cups
                Time.true ~ Test + Temp.final.true + as.ordered(Setting) + Type + Volume.cups.true
               '
Kettle.fit <- sem(model = Kettle.model, data = boiling)
summary(Kettle.fit)
# lavaan (0.5-16) converged normally after 120 iterations
#
#   Number of observations                            24
#
#   Estimator                                         ML
#   Minimum Function Test Statistic               65.575
#   Degrees of freedom                                 6
#   P-value (Chi-square)                           0.000
#
# Parameter estimates:
#
#   Information                                 Expected
#   Standard Errors                             Standard
#
#                    Estimate  Std.err  Z-value  P(>|z|)
# Latent variables:
#   Temp.final.true =~
#     Temp.final        1.000
#   Time.true =~
#     Time              1.000
#   Volume.cups.true =~
#     Volume.cups       1.000
#
# Regressions:
#   Time.true ~
#     Test              6.572    6.394    1.028    0.304
#     Temp.final.tr     5.237    0.547    9.568    0.000
#     Setting           0.385   16.210    0.024    0.981
#     Type            313.163   18.009   17.390    0.000
#     Volume.cps.tr   126.450   15.055    8.399    0.000

But the la­tent vari­able step turns out to be a waste of time (eg Temp.final.true =~ Temp.final 1.000), pre­sum­ably be­cause I don’t have mul­ti­ple mea­sure­ments of the same data which might al­low an es­ti­mate of an un­der­ly­ing factor/latent vari­able, and so it’s the same as the lin­ear mod­el, more or less.

Bayesian models

What I need is some way of ex­press­ing my prior in­for­ma­tion, like my guess that the tem­per­a­ture num­bers are ±2° or the times ±3s… in a Bayesian mea­sure­ment er­ror mod­el. comes to mind. ( is cur­rently too new and hard to in­stal­l.)

library(rjags)
model1<-"
model {
    for (i in 1:n) {
        Time[i] ~ dnorm(Time.hat[i], tau)
        Time.hat[i] <- a + b1*Test[i] + b2*Temp.final[i] + b3*Setting[i] + b4*Type[i] + b5*Volume.cups[i]
    }

    # intercept
    a  ~ dnorm(0, .00001)

    # coefficients
    b1 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b2 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b3 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b4 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b5 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)

    # convert SD to 'precision' unit that JAGS's distributions use instead
    sigma ~ dunif(0, 100)
    tau <- pow(sigma, -2)
}
"
j1 <- with(boiling, jags(data=list(n=nrow(boiling), Time=Time, Temp.final=Temp.final,
                                   Volume.cups=Volume.cups, Type=Type, Setting=Setting, Test=Test),
                         parameters.to.save=c("b1", "b2", "b3", "b4", "b5"),
                         model.file=textConnection(model1),
                         n.chains=getOption("mc.cores"), n.iter=100000))
j1
# Inference for Bugs model at "5", fit using jags,
#  4 chains, each with 1e+05 iterations (first 50000 discarded), n.thin = 50
#  n.sims = 4000 iterations saved
#          mu.vect sd.vect    2.5%     25%     50%     75%   97.5%  Rhat n.eff
# b1         2.156  10.191 -18.143  -4.569   2.085   9.022  22.003 1.001  4000
# b2        -0.406   1.266  -2.906  -1.265  -0.373   0.419   2.061 1.001  4000
# b3       -40.428  26.908 -96.024 -58.060 -40.351 -22.395  11.220 1.001  2700
# b4       308.501  28.348 253.075 289.747 308.563 327.221 363.598 1.001  4000
# b5        80.985  23.082  33.622  66.062  81.784  96.441 125.030 1.001  4000
# deviance 269.384   4.058 263.056 266.473 268.887 271.673 279.300 1.001  4000
#
# For each parameter, n.eff is a crude measure of effective sample size,
# and Rhat is the potential scale reduction factor (at convergence, Rhat=1).
#
# DIC info (using the rule, pD = var(deviance)/2)
# pD = 8.2 and DIC = 277.6
# DIC is an estimate of expected predictive error (lower deviance is better).

## Stepwise-reduced variables:
model2<-"
model {
    for (i in 1:n) {
        Time[i] ~ dnorm(Time.hat[i], tau)
        Time.hat[i] <- a + b2 * Temp.final[i] + b4 * Type[i] + b5 * Volume.cups[i]
    }

    a  ~ dnorm(0, .00001)

    b2 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b4 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b5 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)

    tau <- pow(sigma, -2)
    sigma ~ dunif(0, 100)
}
"
j2 <- with(boiling, jags(data=list(n=nrow(boiling),Time=Time, Temp.final=Temp.final,
                                   Type=Type, Volume.cups=Volume.cups),
                         parameters.to.save=c("b2", "b4", "b5"), model.file=textConnection(model2),
                         n.chains=getOption("mc.cores"), n.iter=100000))
j2
#          mu.vect sd.vect    2.5%     25%     50%     75%   97.5%  Rhat n.eff
# b2         1.830   0.941  -0.140   1.235   1.875   2.474   3.594 1.001  4000
# b4       302.778  27.696 246.532 285.082 303.193 321.338 355.959 1.001  4000
# b5        90.526  22.306  46.052  75.869  90.848 105.883 133.368 1.001  4000
# deviance 268.859   4.767 261.564 265.238 268.276 271.854 279.749 1.001  4000
# ...
# DIC info (using the rule, pD = var(deviance)/2)
# pD = 11.4 and DIC = 280.2
# DIC is an estimate of expected predictive error (lower deviance is better).

The point-es­ti­mates are sim­i­lar but pulled to­wards ze­ro, as ex­pected of non­in­for­ma­tive pri­ors. With a Bayesian analy­sis, we can ask di­rect­ly, “what is the prob­a­bil­ity that the differ­ence stove-top vs elec­tric (b4) is >0?” A plot of the pos­te­rior sam­ples shows that no sam­ple is ≤0, so the prob­a­bil­ity that elec­tric and stove-top differs is ~100%, which is com­fort­ing to know.

Mea­sure­men­t-er­ror for Tem­p.­fi­nal; we need to de­fine a la­tent vari­able (true.Temp.final) which has our usual non­in­for­ma­tive pri­or, but then we de­fine how pre­cise our mea­sure­ment is (tau.Temp.final) by tak­ing our two-de­gree es­ti­mate, con­vert­ing it into units of stan­dard de­vi­a­tions of the Tem­p.­fi­nal data (2/14.093631), and then con­vert­ing to the ‘pre­ci­sion’ unit (ex­po­nen­ti­a­tion fol­lowed by di­vi­sion):

model3<-"
model {
    for (i in 1:n) {
        true.Temp.final[i] ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
        Temp.final[i] ~ dnorm(true.Temp.final[i], tau.Temp.final)

        Time[i] ~ dnorm(Time.hat[i], tau)
        Time.hat[i] <- a + b2 * Temp.final[i] + b4 * Type[i] + b5 * Volume.cups[i]
    }
    a  ~ dnorm(0, .00001)

    b2 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b4 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b5 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)

    sigma ~ dunif(0, 100)
    tau <- pow(sigma, -2)

    tau.Temp.final <- 1 / pow((2/14.093631), 2)
}
"
j3 <- with(boiling, jags(data=list(n=nrow(boiling), Time=Time, Temp.final=Temp.final,
                                   Type=Type, Volume.cups=Volume.cups),
                         parameters.to.save=c("b2", "b4", "b5"), model.file=textConnection(model3),
                         n.chains=getOption("mc.cores"), n.iter=100000))
j3
#          mu.vect sd.vect    2.5%     25%     50%     75%   97.5%  Rhat n.eff
# b2         1.843   0.936  -0.106   1.238   1.889   2.497   3.570 1.001  4000
# b4       303.132  27.966 248.699 285.056 302.651 321.256 359.027 1.001  2900
# b5        89.503  21.985  43.631  75.713  90.076 104.306 130.206 1.001  4000
# deviance 242.944   8.204 228.833 237.013 242.222 248.095 260.670 1.001  2500
# ...
# DIC info (using the rule, pD = var(deviance)/2)
# pD = 33.6 and DIC = 276.6
# DIC is an estimate of expected predictive error (lower deviance is better).

In this case, ±2° de­grees is pre­cise enough, and the Tem­p.­fi­nal vari­able just one of 3 vari­ables used, that it seems to not make a big differ­ence.

An­other vari­able is how much wa­ter was in ket­tle. While I tried to mea­sure cups as evenly as pos­si­ble and shake out each ket­tle after rins­ing, I could­n’t say it was hugely ex­act. There could eas­ily have been a 5% differ­ence be­tween the ket­tles (and the stan­dard de­vi­a­tion of the cups is not that small, it’s 0.653). So we’ll add that as a mea­sure­ment er­ror too:

model4<-"
model {
    for (i in 1:n) {
        true.Temp.final[i] ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
        Temp.final[i] ~ dnorm(true.Temp.final[i], tau.Temp.final)

        true.Volume.cups[i] ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
        Volume.cups[i] ~ dnorm(true.Volume.cups[i], tau.Volume.cups)

        Time[i] ~ dnorm(Time.hat[i], tau)
        Time.hat[i] <- a + b2 * Temp.final[i] + b4 * Type[i] + b5 * Volume.cups[i]
    }

    a  ~ dnorm(0, .00001)

    b2 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b4 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)
    b5 ~ dnorm(0, .00001)

    sigma ~ dunif(0, 100)
    tau <- pow(sigma, -2)

    tau.Temp.final  <- 1 / pow((2/14.093631),       2)

    tau.Volume.cups <- 1 / pow((0.05/0.6538625482), 2)
}
"
j4 <- with(boiling, jags(data=list(n=nrow(boiling), Time=Time, Temp.final=Temp.final,
                                   Type=Type, Volume.cups=Volume.cups),
                         parameters.to.save=c("b2", "b4", "b5"), model.file=textConnection(model4),
                         n.chains=getOption("mc.cores"), n.iter=600000))
j4
#          mu.vect sd.vect    2.5%     25%     50%     75%   97.5%  Rhat n.eff
# b2         1.832   0.962  -0.213   1.210   1.885   2.488   3.603 1.001  4000
# b4       302.310  27.773 245.668 284.605 302.509 320.646 355.748 1.001  4000
# b5        89.655  21.768  44.154  75.561  90.428 104.743 129.892 1.002  2100
# deviance 188.133  10.943 169.013 180.519 187.413 195.102 211.908 1.001  4000
# ...
# DIC info (using the rule, pD = var(deviance)/2)
# pD = 59.9 and DIC = 248.0

While the DIC seems to have im­proved, the es­ti­mates look mostly the same. In this case, it seems that the vari­ables are pre­cise enough (mea­sure­men­t-er­rors small enough) that ad­just­ing for them does­n’t change the re­sults too much

Water experiment

The kind of wa­ter used in tea is claimed to make a differ­ence in the fla­vor: min­eral wa­ter be­ing bet­ter than tap wa­ter or dis­tilled wa­ter. How­ev­er, min­eral wa­ter is vastly more ex­pen­sive than tap wa­ter. To test the claim, I run a pre­lim­i­nary test of pure wa­ter to see if any wa­ter differ­ences are de­tectable at all. Com­pared my tap wa­ter, 3 dis­tilled wa­ter brands (Great Val­ue, Nes­tle Pure Life, & Poland Spring), 1 os­mo­sis-pu­ri­fied brand (Aqua­fi­na), and 3 non-car­bon­ated min­eral wa­ter brands (E­vian, Voss, & Fi­ji) in a se­ries of n = 67 blinded ran­dom­ized com­par­isons of wa­ter fla­vor. The com­par­isons are mod­eled us­ing a Bradley-Terry com­pet­i­tive model im­ple­mented in Stan; com­par­isons were cho­sen us­ing an adap­tive Bayesian best-arm se­quen­tial trial (rac­ing) method de­signed to lo­cate the best-tast­ing wa­ter in the min­i­mum num­ber of sam­ples by pref­er­en­tially com­par­ing the best-known arm to po­ten­tially su­pe­rior arms. Blind­ing & ran­dom­iza­tion are achieved by us­ing a Lazy Su­san to phys­i­cally ran­dom­ize two iden­ti­cal (but marked in a hid­den spot) cups of wa­ter. The fi­nal pos­te­rior dis­tri­b­u­tion in­di­cates that some differ­ences be­tween wa­ters are likely to ex­ist but are small & im­pre­cisely es­ti­mated and of lit­tle prac­ti­cal con­cern.

Tap wa­ter taste re­port­edly differs a lot be­tween cities/states. This is plau­si­ble since tea tastes so much worse when mi­crowaved, which is spec­u­lated to be due to the oxy­gena­tion, so why not the mineral/chlorine con­tent as well? (Peo­ple often com­plain about tap wa­ter and buy wa­ter fil­ters to im­prove the fla­vor, and some­times run blinded ex­per­i­ments test­ing wa­ter fil­ters vs tap; Cape­hart & Berg 2018 find in a blind taste test of bot­tled “fine wa­ter”, sub­jects were slightly bet­ter than chance at guess­ing, pre­ferred tap or cheap wa­ter as often, and were un­able to match fine wa­ters to ad­ver­tis­ing, while Food52’s 2 testers of 17 blind sparkling wa­ters had diffi­cult dis­tin­guish­ing types & no­ticed no ad­van­tage to more ex­pen­sive ones.)

Test­ing tea it­self, rather than plain wa­ter, is tricky for a few rea­sons:

  • hot tea is harder to taste differ­ences in
  • the tea fla­vor will tend to over­power & hide any effects from the wa­ter
  • each batch of tea will be slightly differ­ent (even if care­fully weighed out, tem­per­a­ture checked with a ther­mome­ter, and steeped with a timer)
  • boil­ing differ­ent wa­ters si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­quires two sep­a­rate ket­tles (and for blinding/randomization, raises safety is­sues)
  • re­quires sub­stan­tial amounts of a sin­gle or a few teas to run (s­ince leaves can’t be reused)
  • and the re­sults will ei­ther be re­dun­dant with test­ing plain wa­ter (if sim­ple ad­di­tive effects like ‘bad-tast­ing wa­ter makes all teas taste equally worse’) or will add in ad­di­tional vari­ance to es­ti­mate in­ter­ac­tion effects which prob­a­bly do not ex­ist7 or are small but will use up more data (in psy­chol­ogy and re­lated fields, the main effects tend to be much more com­mon than in­ter­ac­tion effects, which also re­quire much larger data sam­ples).

So a tea test is lo­gis­ti­cally more com­pli­cated and highly un­likely to de­liver any mean­ing­ful in­fer­ences with fea­si­ble sam­ple sizes as com­pared to a wa­ter test. On the other hand, a wa­ter test, if it in­di­cated large differ­ences ex­ist­ed, might not be rel­e­vant since those differ­ences might still be hid­den by tea or turn out to be in­ter­ac­tions with tea-spe­cific effects. This sug­gests a two-step process: first see if there are any differ­ences in plain wa­ter; if there aren’t, there is no need to test tea, but if there is, pro­ceed to a tea test.

This ques­tion hear­kens back to fa­mous “” ex­per­i­ment and turns out to pro­vide a bit of a chal­lenge to my usual blind­ing & meth­ods, mo­ti­vat­ing a look into Bayesian “best-arm iden­ti­fi­ca­tion” al­go­rithms.

Waters

Well wa­ter & dis­tilled wa­ter al­ready on hand, so I need good com­mer­cial spring wa­ter (half a gal­lon or less each). I ob­tained 8 kinds of wa­ter:

  • tap wa­ter (I ran the tap for sev­eral min­utes and then stored 3.78l in an empty dis­tilled wa­ter con­tain­er, and stored at room tem­per­a­ture with the oth­ers)

  • Wal­mart:

    • Great Value dis­tilled wa­ter
    • Nes­tle Pure Life
    • Aqua­fina
    • Vos
    • Evian
    • Fiji Nat­ural Wa­ter
  • Ama­zon:

Price, type, pH, and con­tents:

Wa­ter brand Wa­ter kind Coun­try Price ($/l) Price ($) Vol­ume (L) pH To­tal mg/l Cal­cium Sodium Potas­sium Flu­o­ride Mag­ne­sium Ni­trate Chlo­ride Cop­per Sul­fate Ar­senic Lead Bi­car­bon­ates Sil­ica
tap wa­ter well USA 0 0 3.78
Great Value dis­tilled USA 0.23 0.88 3.78
Nes­tle Pure Life dis­tilled USA 0.26 0.98 3.79 6.95 36 7.6 6.8 1 0.1 3.6 0.4 13.45 0.05 13.5 0.002 0.005
Voss Still Wa­ter min­eral Nor­way 3.43 2.74 0.8 5.5 44 5 6 1 0.1 1 0.4 12 0.05 5 0.002 0.005
Evian min­eral France 1.78 1.78 1 7.2 309 80 1 26 6.8 12.6 36 15
Fiji Nat­ural Wa­ter min­eral Fiji 1.88 1.88 1 7.7 222 18 18 4.9 0.28 15 0.27 9 0.05 1.3 0.002 0.005 152 93
Aqua­fina os­mo­sis USA 1 1 1 5 5 4 10 250 1 250 0.010 0.005
Poland Spring dis­tilled USA 3.15 9.45 3 7.2 61 7.5 5.9 0.6 0.115 1.145 0.6 10.05 0.05 3 0.0014 0.005

Notes:

  • the pH & min­eral con­tent of my tap wa­ter is un­known; it is well wa­ter un­treated with chlo­rine or flu­o­ride, de­scribed as very soft
  • the Great Value/Walmart dis­tilled wa­ter does­n’t re­port any data on the la­bel and there don’t seem to be any datasheets on­line (the pH of dis­tilled wa­ter can ap­par­ently vary widely from the nom­i­nal value of 7 and can­not be as­sumed to be 7, but should the min­eral con­tents should all at least be close to 0)
  • the Nes­tle Pure Life num­bers are not re­ported on the pack­ag­ing but in the cur­rent on­line datasheet (pg4, “2015 Wa­ter Analy­sis Re­port”); I have taken the mean when a range is re­port­ed, and the up­per bound when that is re­ported (specifi­cal­ly, “ND”8)
  • Voss Still re­ports some num­bers on the bot­tle, but more de­tails are re­ported in an un­dated (meta­data in­di­cates 2011) re­port on the Voss web­site; for “ND” I reuse the up­per bound from Nes­tle Pure Life
  • the Evian la­bel re­ports a to­tal of “dis­solved solids at 180C: 309ppm (mg/l)”.
  • Fiji Wa­ter pro­vides a 2014 datasheet which is more de­tailed than the la­bel; “ND” as be­fore
  • Aqua­fina la­bels pro­vide no in­for­ma­tion be­yond us­ing re­verse os­mo­sis; they pro­vide a 2015 datasheet, which omits pH and sev­eral other min­er­als; var­i­ous on­line tests sug­gest Aqua­fina sam­ples have pHs of 4-6, so I class it as 5
  • Poland Spring 2016 datasheet; note that the price may be in­flated con­sid­er­ably be­cause I had to or­der it on­line in­stead of buy­ing in per­son from a nor­mal re­tail­er; like Nes­tle Pure Life, ranges are re­ported and “ND” taken as ceil­ing

Re­port­ing of the min­eral con­tents of wa­ters is in­con­sis­tent & patchy enough that they’re un­likely to be help­ful in pre­dict­ing fla­vor rat­ings (while Gal­lagher & Di­et­rich 2010/Di­et­rich & Gal­lagher 2013 finds testers can taste min­eral con­tent, Gal­lagher & Di­et­rich 2010 re­ports no par­tic­u­lar pref­er­ence, and Cape­hart 2015 finds no con­sis­tent re­la­tion­ship with fine-wa­ter prices other than both very low & very high min­eral con­tents pre­dicts higher prices).

Design

In rat­ing very sub­tle differ­ence in fla­vor, the usual method is bi­nary forced-choice com­par­isons, as they can­not be rated on their own (they just taste like wa­ter). So the mea­sured data would be the re­sult of a com­par­ison, better/worse or win/loss. Fish­er’s orig­i­nal “lady tast­ing tea” ex­per­i­ment used per­mu­ta­tion tests, but he was only con­sid­er­ing two cases & was test­ing the null hy­poth­e­sis, while I have 8 wa­ters where I am rea­son­ably sure the null hy­poth­e­sis of no differ­ence in taste is in­deed false and I am more in­ter­ested in how large the differ­ences are & which is best, so the var­i­ous kinds of per­mu­ta­tion or chi-squared tests in gen­eral do not work. The anal­ogy to sport­ing com­pe­ti­tions sug­gests that the par­a­digm here should be the which is much like chess’s in that it mod­els each com­peti­tor (wa­ter) as hav­ing a per­for­mance vari­able (fla­vor) on a la­tent scale, where the differ­ence be­tween one com­peti­tor’s rat­ing and an­other trans­lates into the prob­a­bil­ity it will win a com­par­i­son. (For more de­tailed dis­cus­sion of the Bradley-Terry mod­el, see ref­er­ences in .) To ac­count for ties, the lo­gis­tic dis­tri­b­u­tion is ex­panded into an or­dered lo­gis­tic dis­tri­b­u­tion with cut­points to de­ter­mine whether the out­come falls into 1 of 3 ranges (win/tie/loss).

With 8 wa­ters to be ranked hi­er­ar­chi­cally us­ing un­in­for­ma­tive bi­nary com­par­isons (which are pos­si­bly quite noisy) and sam­pling be­ing costly (to my pa­tience), it would be nice to have an adap­tive ex­per­i­ment de­sign which will be more sam­ple-effi­cient than the sim­plest ex­per­i­ment de­sign of sim­ply do­ing a full fac­to­r­ial with 2 of each pos­si­ble com­par­i­son (there are pos­si­ble pairs, since or­der does­n’t mat­ter, so 2 sam­ples each would give n = 56). In par­tic­u­lar, I am in­ter­ested less in es­ti­mat­ing as ac­cu­rately as pos­si­ble all the wa­ters (for which the op­ti­mal de­sign min­i­miz­ing to­tal vari­ance prob­a­bly would be some sort of full fac­to­r­ial ex­per­i­ment) than I am in find­ing out which, if any, of the wa­ters tastes best—which is not the mul­ti­-armed ban­dit set­ting (to which the an­swer would be Thomp­son sam­pling) but the closely con­nected “best-arm iden­ti­fi­ca­tion” prob­lem (as well as, con­fus­ing­ly, the “du­el­ing mul­ti­-armed ban­dit” and “pref­er­ence learn­ing”/“pref­er­ence rank­ing” ar­eas; I did­n’t find a good overview of them all com­par­ing & con­trast­ing, so I’m un­sure what would be the state-of-the-art for my ex­act prob­lem or whose wheel I am rein­vent­ing).

Best-arm iden­ti­fi­ca­tion al­go­rithms are often called ‘rac­ing’ al­go­rithms be­cause they sam­ple by ‘rac­ing’ the two best com­par­isons against each oth­er, fo­cus­ing their sam­pling on only the arms likely to be best, and pe­ri­od­i­cally killing the worst ranked arms (in “suc­ces­sive re­ject”). So they differ from Thomp­son sam­pling in that Thomp­son sam­pling, in or­der to re­ceive as many re­wards as pos­si­ble, will tend to over-fo­cus on the best arm while not sam­pling the sec­ond-best enough. Mel­lor 2014 in­tro­duces a Bayesian best-arm iden­ti­fi­ca­tion al­go­rithm, “Or­dered-S­ta­tis­tic Thomp­son Sam­pling”, which se­lects the arm to sam­ple each round by:

  1. fit­ting the Bayesian model and re­turn­ing the pos­te­rior dis­tri­b­u­tion of es­ti­mates for each arm
  2. tak­ing the mean of each dis­tri­b­u­tion, rank­ing them, and find­ing the best ar­m’s mean9
  3. for the other arms, sam­pling 1 sam­ple from their pos­te­ri­ors (sim­i­lar to Thomp­son sam­pling); add a bonus con­stant to tune the ‘ag­gres­sive­ness’ and sam­ple more or less heav­ily from low­er-ranked arms
  4. se­lect the ac­tion: if any of the arm sam­ples are greater than the best arm mean, sam­ple from that arm, oth­er­wise, sam­ple again from the best arm
  5. re­peat in­defi­nitely un­til the ex­per­i­ment halts (in­defi­nite hori­zon)

This works be­cause it fre­quently sam­ples from any arm which threat­ens to sur­pass the cur­rent best arm in pro­por­tion to their chance of suc­cess, oth­er­wise it con­cen­trates on mak­ing more pre­cise the best arm. The usual best-arm iden­ti­fi­ca­tion al­go­rithms are for the bi­no­mial or nor­mal dis­tri­b­u­tion prob­lems, but here we don’t have 21 ‘arms’ of pairs of wa­ters, be­cause it’s not the pairs we care about but the wa­ters them­selves. My sug­ges­tion is that to adapt Mel­lor 2014’s al­go­rithm to the Bradley-Terry com­pet­i­tive set­ting, one in­stead sam­ples from each wa­ter, set the first wa­ter to be the high­est mean wa­ter and then sam­ple from the pos­te­ri­ors of the other wa­ters and com­pare the best arm to the high­est pos­te­rior sam­ple. This is sim­ple to im­ple­ment, and like the reg­u­lar best-arm iden­ti­fi­ca­tion al­go­rithm, fo­cuses on al­ter­na­tives in pro­por­tion to their prob­a­bil­ity of be­ing su­pe­rior to the cur­rent es­ti­mated best-arm. (Who knows if this is op­ti­mal.)

One al­ter­na­tive to my vari­ant on or­dered-s­ta­tis­tic Thomp­son sam­pling would be to set a fixed num­ber of sam­ples I am will­ing to take (eg n = 30) and de­fine a re­ward of 1 for pick­ing the true best wa­ter and 0 for pick­ing any other wa­ter—thereby turn­ing the ex­per­i­ment into a finite-hori­zon whose de­ci­sion tree can be solved ex­actly by dy­namic programming/backwards in­duc­tion, yield­ing a pol­icy for which wa­ters to com­pare to max­i­mize the prob­a­bil­ity of se­lect­ing the right one at the end of the ex­per­i­ment. This runs into the curse of di­men­sion­al­i­ty: with 28 pos­si­ble com­par­isons with 2 pos­si­ble out­comes, each round has 56 pos­si­ble re­sults, so over 67 sam­ples, there are 5667 pos­si­ble se­quences.

With such sub­tle differ­ences, sub­jec­tive ex­pec­ta­tions be­come a se­ri­ous is­sue and blind­ing would be good to have, which also re­quires ran­dom­iza­tion. My usual meth­ods of blind­ing & ran­dom­iza­tion, us­ing con­tain­ers of pills, do not work with wa­ter. It would be pos­si­ble to do the equiv­a­lent by us­ing wa­ter bot­tles shaken in a large con­tainer but in­con­ve­nient and per­haps messy. A cleaner (lit­er­al­ly) way would be to use iden­ti­cal cups, one marked on the bot­tom to keep track of which is which after rat­ing the wa­ter­s—but how to ran­dom­ize them? You can’t jug­gle or shake or mix up cups of wa­ter. It oc­curred to me that one could use a spin­ning table—a —to ran­dom­ize pairs of cups. And then blind­ing is triv­ial.

Implementation

Mod­i­fied ver­sion of Ken But­ler’s btstan Stan code for Bradley-Terry mod­els and my own im­ple­men­ta­tion of best-arm sam­pling for the Bradley-Terry mod­el:

## list of unique competitors for conversion into numeric IDs:
competitors <- function(df) { unique(sort(c(df$Type1, df$Type2))) }
fitBT <- function(df) {
    types <- competitors(df)
    team1 = match(df$Type1, types)
    team2 = match(df$Type2, types)
    y = df$Win
    N = nrow(df)
    J = length(types)
    data = list(y = y, N = N, J = J, x = cbind(team1, team2))

    m <- "data {
      int<lower=0> N; // number of games
      int<lower=1> J; // number of teams
      int<lower=1,upper=3> y[N]; // results
      int x[N,2]; // indices of teams playing
    }
    parameters {
      vector[J] beta;
      real<lower=0> cc;
    }
    model {
      real nu;
      int y1;
      int y2;
      vector[2] d;

      beta ~ normal(0,5);
      cc ~ normal(0,1);

      for (i in 1:N) {
        y1 = x[i,1];
        y2 = x[i,2];
        nu = beta[y1] - beta[y2];
        d[1] = -cc;
        d[2] =  cc;
        y[i] ~ ordered_logistic(nu,d);
    } }"
    library(rstan)
    model <- stan(model_code=m, chains=1, data=data, verbose=FALSE, iter=30000)
    return(model)
    }

sampleBestArm <- function(model, df) {
    types <-  competitors(df)
    posteriorSampleMeans <- get_posterior_mean(model, pars="beta")
    bestEstimatedArm      <- max(posteriorSampleMeans[,1])
    bestEstimatedArmIndex <- which.max(posteriorSampleMeans[,1])
    ## pick one row/set of posterior samples at random:
    posteriorSamples <- extract(model)$beta[sample.int(nrow(extract(model)$beta), size=1),]
    ## ensure that the best estimated arm is not drawn, as this is pairwise:
    posteriorSamples[bestEstimatedArmIndex] <- -Inf
    bestSampledArm <- max(posteriorSamples)
    bestSampledArmIndex <- which.max(posteriorSamples)
    return(c(types[bestEstimatedArmIndex], types[bestSampledArmIndex]))
    }

plotBT <- function(df, fit, labels) {
    library(reshape2)
    posteriors <- as.data.frame(extract(fit)$beta)
    colnames(posteriors) <- labels
    posteriors <- melt(posteriors)
    colnames(posteriors) <- c("Water", "Rating")
    return(ggplot(posteriors, aes(x=Rating, fill=Water)) +
        ggtitle(paste0("n=",as.character(nrow(df)),"; last comparison: ", tail(df$Type1,n=1),
                                                                  " vs ", tail(df$Type2,n=1))) +
        geom_density(alpha=0.3) +
        coord_cartesian(ylim = c(0,0.23), xlim=c(-12,12), expand=FALSE)) }

It would be bet­ter to en­hance the btstan code to fit a hi­er­ar­chi­cal model with shrink­age since the differ­ent wa­ters will surely be sim­i­lar, but I was­n’t fa­mil­iar enough with Stan mod­el­ing to do so.

Experiment

To run the ex­per­i­ment, I stored all 8 kinds of wa­ter in the same place at room tem­per­a­ture for sev­eral weeks. Be­fore run­ning, I re­frained from food or drink for 5 hours and brushed/flossed/water-picked my teeth.

For blind­ing, I took my two iden­ti­cal white Corelle stoneware mugs, and put a tiny piece of red elec­tri­cal tape on the bot­tom of one. For ran­dom­iza­tion, I bor­rowed a Lazy Su­san table.

The ex­per­i­men­tal pro­ce­dure was:

  1. empty out both mugs and the mea­sur­ing cup into a tub sit­ting nearby
  2. se­lect two kinds of wa­ter ac­cord­ing to the best-arm Bayesian al­go­rithm (call­ing fitBT & sampleBestArm on an up­dated data-frame)
  3. mea­sure a quar­ter cup of the first kind of wa­ter into the marked mug and a quar­ter cup into the sec­ond
  4. place them sym­met­ri­cally on the Lazy Su­san with han­dles in­ward and touch­ing
  5. clos­ing my eyes, ro­tate the Lazy Su­san at a mod­er­ate speed (to avoid tip­ping over the mugs) for a count of at least 30
  6. eyes still closed for good mea­sure, grab the mug on left and take 2 sips
  7. grab the mug on the right, take 2 sips
  8. al­ter­nate sips as nec­es­sary un­til I de­cide which one is slightly bet­ter tast­ing
  9. after de­cid­ing, look at the bot­tom of the mug cho­sen
  10. record the win­ner of the com­par­ison, and run the Bayesian model and best-arm al­go­rithm again.

Fol­low­ing this pro­ce­dure, I made n = 67 pair­wise com­par­isons of wa­ter:

water <- read.csv(stdin(), header=TRUE, colClasses=c("character", "character", "integer"))
"Type1","Type2","Win"
"tap water","Voss",3
"Voss","Great Value distilled",3
"Great Value distilled","Poland Spring",1
"Poland Spring","Nestle Pure Life",3
"Nestle Pure Life","Fiji",1
"Fiji","Aquafina",3
"Aquafina","Evian",3
"Evian","tap water",1
"Great Value distilled","Poland Spring",1
"Great Value distilled","tap water",1
"Great Value distilled","Nestle Pure Life",1
"Fiji","Poland Spring",3
"Fiji","Poland Spring",1
"tap water","Poland Spring",1
"Poland Spring","Fiji",3
"Poland Spring","Fiji",3
"Poland Spring","Fiji",3
"Poland Spring","Fiji",1
"Poland Spring","Fiji",3
"Poland Spring","Fiji",1
"Poland Spring","Fiji",3
"Poland Spring","Fiji",1
"Poland Spring","Aquafina",1
"Poland Spring","Fiji",3
"Poland Spring","Aquafina",1
"Aquafina","Fiji",1
"Poland Spring","Aquafina",1
"Aquafina","Fiji",1
"Fiji","Aquafina",3
"Fiji","Poland Spring",3
"Fiji","Aquafina",3
"Fiji","Poland Spring",3
"Fiji","Poland Spring",3
"Fiji","Aquafina",3
"Fiji","tap water",1
"Fiji","Aquafina",3
"Fiji","Poland Spring",1
"tap water","Aquafina",1
"Fiji","Poland Spring",1
"Fiji","Poland Spring",3
"Fiji","Poland Spring",3
"Great Value distilled","Evian",3
"Evian","Voss",1
"Voss","Nestle Pure Life",3
"Nestle Pure Life","tap water",3
"tap water","Aquafina",1
"Aquafina","Poland Spring",3
"Evian","Great Value distilled",1
"Great Value distilled","Nestle Pure Life",3
"Nestle Pure Life","Voss",3
"Voss","tap water",3
"tap water","Aquafina",1
"Aquafina","Poland Spring",1
"Aquafina","Poland Spring",3
"Evian","Great Value distilled",1
"Great Value distilled","Nestle Pure Life",3
"Nestle Pure Life","tap water",3
"tap water","Voss",3
"Voss","Aquafina",1
"Evian","Great Value distilled",3
"Great Value distilled","Nestle Pure Life",3
"Nestle Pure Life","tap water",3
"tap water","Aquafina",3
"Evian","Great Value distilled",1
"Great Value distilled","Nestle Pure Life",3
"Nestle Pure Life","tap water",3
"tap water","Aquafina",1

Analysis

types <- competitors(water); types
# [1] "Aquafina"      "Evian"     "Fiji" "Great Value distilled" "Nestle Pure Life"
# [6] "Poland Spring" "tap water" "Voss"
fit <- fitBT(water); print(fit)
# 8 chains, each with iter=30000; warmup=15000; thin=1;
# post-warmup draws per chain=15000, total post-warmup draws=120000.
#
#           mean se_mean   sd   2.5%    25%    50%    75%  97.5% n_eff Rhat
# beta[1]   1.18    0.01 1.89  -2.52  -0.09   1.18   2.46   4.89 23182    1
# beta[2]  -2.69    0.01 2.11  -6.95  -4.08  -2.66  -1.25   1.33 27828    1
# beta[3]   1.83    0.01 1.89  -1.89   0.55   1.83   3.10   5.56 23147    1
# beta[4]  -0.48    0.01 1.90  -4.21  -1.76  -0.48   0.81   3.21 23901    1
# beta[5]  -0.40    0.01 1.88  -4.11  -1.66  -0.40   0.88   3.27 23487    1
# beta[6]   1.42    0.01 1.89  -2.29   0.15   1.42   2.70   5.14 23173    1
# beta[7]  -0.49    0.01 1.87  -4.17  -1.74  -0.49   0.78   3.17 23084    1
# beta[8]  -0.48    0.01 1.93  -4.29  -1.78  -0.48   0.82   3.29 24494    1
# cc        0.03    0.00 0.03   0.00   0.01   0.02   0.05   0.13 83065    1
# lp__    -49.58    0.01 2.27 -54.90 -50.87 -49.24 -47.91 -46.19 40257    1
## example next-arm selection at the end of the experiment:
sampleBestArm(fit, water)
# [1] "Fiji"          "Poland Spring"

posteriorSamples <- extract(fit, pars="beta")$beta
rankings <- matrix(logical(), ncol=8, nrow=nrow(posteriorSamples))
## for each set of 8 posterior samples of each of the 8 water's latent quality, calculate if each sample is the maximum or not:
for (i in 1:nrow(posteriorSamples)) { rankings[i,] <- posteriorSamples[i,] >= max(posteriorSamples[i,]) }
df <- data.frame(Water=types, Superiority.p=round(digits=3,colMeans(rankings)))
df[order(df$Superiority.p, decreasing=TRUE),]
#                   Water Superiority.p
# 3                  Fiji         0.718
# 6         Poland Spring         0.145
# 1              Aquafina         0.110
# 8                  Voss         0.014
# 4 Great Value distilled         0.007
# 5      Nestle Pure Life         0.006
# 7             tap water         0.001
# 2                 Evian         0.000

plotBT(water, fit, types)

library(animation)
saveGIF(
    for (n in 7:nrow(water)) {
      df <- water[1:n,]
      fit <- fitBT(df)
      p <- plotBT(df, fit, types)
      print(p)
      },
    interval=0.6, ani.width = 1000, ani.height=800,
    movie.name = "tea-mineralwaters-bestarm-sequential.gif")

Means in de­scend­ing or­der, with pos­te­rior prob­a­bil­ity of be­ing the #1-top-ranked wa­ter (not the same thing as hav­ing a good mean rank­ing):

  1. Fiji (P = 0.72)
  2. Poland Spring (P = 0.15)
  3. Aqua­fina (P = 0.11)
  4. Evian (P = 0.00)
  5. Nes­tle Pure Life (P = 0.01)
  6. Great Value dis­tilled (P = 0.01)
  7. Voss (P = 0.01)
  8. tap wa­ter (P = 0.00)
Re­sults of n = 67 blinded ran­dom­ized paired taste-test­ing com­par­isons of 8 min­er­al, dis­tilled, and tap wa­ters: fi­nal es­ti­mated pos­te­rior dis­tri­b­u­tions of win prob­a­bil­ity in a com­par­ison, show­ing the poor taste of Evian min­eral wa­ter but likely sim­i­lar tastes of most of the oth­ers.
An­i­ma­tion of min­eral wa­ter taste-test show­ing how the pos­te­rior dis­tri­b­u­tions evolve over n=7 to n=67, guided by Bayesian best-arm sam­pling.

For the first 7 com­par­isons, since I did­n’t want to in­sert any in­for­ma­tive pri­ors about my ex­pec­ta­tions, the best-arm choice would be effec­tively ran­dom, so to ini­tial­ize it, I did a round-robin set of com­par­isons: put the wa­ters into a qua­si­-ran­dom or­der ABCD, then com­pared A/B, B/C, C/D and so on. For the next 4 com­par­isons, I made a mis­take in record­ing my data since I for­got that ‘1’ coded for the left wa­ter win­ning and ‘3’ for the right wa­ter win­ning, and so I had re­versed the rank­ings and was ac­tu­ally do­ing a ‘worst-arm’ al­go­rithm, as it were. After fix­ing that, the com­par­isons be­gan fo­cus­ing on Fiji and Poland Spring, even­tu­ally ex­pand­ing to Aqua­fina as it im­proved in the rank­ings.

Com­par­ing wa­ter turns out to be quite diffi­cult. In some cas­es, a bad taste was quickly dis­tin­guish­able—I quickly learned that Evian, Great Value dis­tilled, and Nes­tle Pure Life had dis­tinctly sour or metal­lic over­tones which I dis­liked (but ap­par­ently enough peo­ple buy Evian & Nes­tle to make them vi­able in a Wal­mart!). De­spite re­peated sam­pling, I had a hard time ever dis­tin­guish­ing Poland Spring/Fiji/Aquafina/Voss, but I thought they might have been ever so slightly bet­ter than my tap wa­ter in a way I can’t ver­bal­ize ex­cept that they felt ‘cooler’ some­how.

By n = 41, Fiji con­tin­ued to eke out a tiny lead over Poland Spring & Aqua­fi­na, but I ran out of it and could no longer run the best-arm al­go­rithm (s­ince it would keep sam­pling Fi­ji). I was also run­ning low on the Poland Spring. So at that point I went back to round-robin, this time us­ing the or­der of pos­te­rior means.

With ad­di­tional data, the wide pos­te­rior dis­tri­b­u­tions be­gan to con­tract around 0. At around n = 67, I was bored stiff and not look­ing for­ward to sam­pling Evian/Great Value/Nestle many more times, and look­ing at the pos­te­rior dis­tri­b­u­tions, it in­creas­ingly seemed like an ex­er­cise in fu­til­i­ty—even after this much data, there was still only a 72% prob­a­bil­ity of cor­rectly pick­ing the best wa­ter. Fur­ther test­ing would prob­a­bly show Evian/Great Value/Nestle as worse than my tap wa­ter (a­mus­ingly enough), but be un­able to mean­ing­fully dis­tin­guish be­tween my tap wa­ter and the de­cent ones, which an­swered the orig­i­nal ques­tion—no, the de­cent min­eral wa­ters & wa­ters are al­most in­dis­tin­guish­able un­der even the most op­ti­mal taste-test­ing con­di­tions, would be less dis­tin­guish­able when used in hot tea, and there was zero chance they were worth their enor­mous cost com­pared to my free tap wa­ter & were a scam as I ex­pect­ed. (After all, they are many times more ex­pen­sive on a unit ba­sis com­pared even to bot­tled wa­ter; the min­eral con­tents are gen­er­ally triv­ial frac­tions of RDAs at their high­est; and they ap­pear to be as equally likely to taste worse or bet­ter to the ex­tent they taste differ­ent at al­l.)

I ended the ex­per­i­ment there, dumped the re­main­ing wa­ter—ex­cept the re­main­ing sealed Poland Spring bot­tles which are con­ve­niently small, so I kept for use in my car—and re­cy­cled the con­tain­ers.


  1. And they seem to make me queasy & cause di­ges­tive prob­lems if I drink more than 1–2 mugs.↩︎

  2. The idea here is to high­light ones which are not nec­es­sar­ily pop­u­lar or liked on av­er­age, but which one would not en­counter by de­fault or which are highly po­lar­iz­ing. (It would be nice if there was a large tea rat­ing web­site where one could au­to­mat­i­cally ex­tract ‘con­tro­ver­sial’ teas & clus­ters to build sets of rec­om­men­da­tions for ex­plo­ration, but as far as I know, there is­n’t one.) I’ve seen tea rec­om­men­da­tion lists be­fore, but usu­ally they fo­cus on pop­u­lar teas or teas the au­thor loved, while what I would have ben­e­fited from more was a list of high­-in­for­ma­tion teas, where the au­thor says, “you should try roasted oo­longs, ku­kicha, ho­jicha & matcha green tea, and pu’erh be­cause peo­ple tend to love or hate them, and you’ve prob­a­bly never tried them be­fore”.↩︎

  3. Look­ing through my his­tory 2006–2012, I or­der tea on a roughly an­nual or semi­-an­nual ba­sis, after which I have in­creased my con­sump­tion & pur­chas­ing:

    1. 2006-10-16 ($26$192006)

    2. 2007-12-17 ($13$102007)

    3. 2008-08-01 ($57$442008)

    4. 2010-02-15 ($45$342010)

      Think­ing back, that 2 year gap be­tween or­ders #3 and #4 was prob­a­bly due to a Christ­mas where I re­ceived more than 2 pounds of tea, which took me a very long time to drink.

    5. 2010-07-05 ($42$322010)

    6. 2011-05-14 ($66$512011)

    7. 2011-04-12 ($50$392011)

    8. 2012-07-15 ($95$752012)

    9. 2013, over­all ($110$882013)

    10. 2015-06-06 ($90)

    11. 2015-07-10 ($75)

    12. 2015-09-01 ($111)

    13. 2016-02-16 ($61)

    14. 2016-05-09 ($86)

    15. 2016-08-11 ($120)

    16. 2016-11-26 ($156)

    17. 2016-02-09 ($47)

    18. 2016-04-08 ($63)

    19. 2017-06-19 ($147)

    20. 2017-06-27 ($39)

    21. 2017-07-18 ($98)

    22. 2017-10-03 ($25)

    23. 2017-10-04 ($74)

    24. 2018-02-22 ($101)

    25. 2018-04-26 ($310)

    26. 2018-11-12 ($16.50; $55; $23)

    27. 2019-05-06 ($106)

    28. 2019-07-27 ($65)

    29. 2019-11-10 ($105)

    30. 2020-01-02 ($122)

    31. 2020-01-27 ($125)

    32. 2020-06-02 ($140)

    33. 2020-07-24 ($150)

    34. 2020-10-16 ($180)

    Sev­eral pur­chases were trig­gered by trav­el, want­ing to try out new ti­sanes like yaupon or yerba mate or a spe­cific genre like CO2 de­caffeina­tion, or sales. I’ve tried broad­en­ing my hori­zons and or­dered 9 teas from a num­ber of re­tail­ers through Ama­zon.­com (prin­ci­pally Tao of Tea, Pure Herbal, & Sum­mit Tea), and while some of Tao of Tea was good, over­all I was not im­pressed. Har­ney & Sons worked out much bet­ter for find­ing teas be­yond Up­ton.↩︎

  4. An ana­logue ther­mome­ter can be given a quick & dirty cal­i­bra­tion by test­ing it against ice-wa­ter and boil­ing wa­ter. If it’s a few de­grees off, no big deal—tea, un­like some things like eggs or choco­late, is not that sen­si­tive to tem­per­a­ture. As long as it’s within ±5F or so, that’s good enough. (More pre­ci­sion is spu­ri­ous be­cause of all the other er­ror: the wa­ter it­self will be con­duct­ing & con­vect­ing & have tem­per­a­ture gra­di­ents, the tea ket­tle will con­tinue to heat even after be­ing turned off, you’ll steep for differ­ent amount of time any­way, and so on.)↩︎

  5. Much of the re­search is of poor qual­ity and from East Asia & China in par­tic­u­lar, which is al­ways a red flag for any­thing to do with tra­di­tional Asian treat­ments; reviews/meta-analyses, like the Cochrane re­views on Sheng­mai (a tra­di­tional Chi­nese herbal med­i­cine) for heart fail­ure” & “Gin­seng for cog­ni­tion” typ­i­cally find few high­-qual­ity stud­ies & small in­con­sis­tent ben­e­fits.↩︎

  6. As usu­al, caveat emp­tor. The turmeric & cur­cumin re­search I’ve looked at has been no bet­ter than the usual run-of-the-mill (and usu­ally wrong) al­ter­na­tive medicine/supplement re­search, and in the case of cur­cum­in, there has been in fab­ri­cat­ing re­search.↩︎

  7. An in­ter­ac­tion here im­plies that the effect hap­pens only with the com­bi­na­tion of two vari­ables. On a chem­i­cal lev­el, what would be go­ing on to make good-tast­ing min­eral wa­ter com­bined with good-tast­ing tea in dis­tilled wa­ter turn into bad-tast­ing tea?↩︎

  8. MRL—Minimum Re­port­ing Lim­it. Where avail­able, MRLs re­flect the Method De­tec­tion Lim­its (MDLs) set by the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency or the De­tec­tion Lim­its for Pur­poses of Re­port­ing (DLRs) set by the Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Health Ser­vices. These val­ues are set by the agen­cies to re­flect the min­i­mum con­cen­tra­tion of each sub­stance that can be re­li­ably quan­ti­fied by ap­plic­a­ble test­ing meth­ods, and are also the min­i­mum re­port­ing thresh­olds ap­plic­a­ble to the Con­sumer Con­fi­dence…ND—Not de­tected at or above the MRL.” –Nes­tle Pure Life 2015↩︎

  9. This use of the pos­te­rior mean of the best arm dis­tin­guishes it from the sim­plest form of Thomp­son sam­pling for pair­wise com­par­isons, which would be to sim­ply Thomp­son sam­ple each arm and com­pare the arms with the two high­est sam­ples, which is called “dou­ble Thomp­son sam­pling” by . Dou­ble Thomp­son sam­pling achieves good re­gret but like reg­u­lar Thomp­son sam­pling for MABs, does­n’t come with any proofs about best-arm iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.↩︎