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 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—sim­i­lar to Upton’s sam­ples when S&H is includ­ed. (When I checked online, I saw the loose tea was $16 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.

  • 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 (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)

    2. 2007-12-17 ($13)

    3. 2008-08-01 ($57)

    4. 2010-02-15 ($45)

      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)

    6. 2011-05-14 ($66)

    7. 2011-04-12 ($50)

    8. 2012-07-15 ($95)

    9. 2013, over­all ($110)

    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.↩︎