SororiTea Sisters

A Sorority of Sisters Who Love Tea

Hunan Dark Tea from Tea Source

April16

Hunan Dark TeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Dark Tea

Where to Buy:  Tea Source

Tea Description:

This loose Hunan dark tea is very fragrant and steeps up medium-bodied, slightly sweet, and meadowy. Good for multiple infusions. This is a great introduction to Hunan dark teas.

Learn more about this tea here.

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Taster’s Review:

I am not sure exactly what the difference is between “dark” teas and pu-erh teas, but, Tea Source explains it like this:

The category of China dark tea is shrouded in mystery. They are almost never seen in the West. Dark teas from Hunan Province steep up medium-bodied, very smooth, and usually with a natural sweet note as opposed to the dark earthiness of puer. Technically, dark tea is a tea that has gone through a secondary fermentation process. Like puer, dark teas age well and are probiotic.

Since it would seem that it is similar to, but different from pu-erh, I have created a new category under the “parent” category of pu-erh called “Dark Tea,” and this Hunan Dark Tea from Tea Source is the first tea that is being categorized as a Dark Tea here on the SororiTea Sisters Blog.

However, since it is similar to pu-erh, I gave the leaves a quick rinse before I brewed the tea, just as I would a pu-erh.

I will say that this doesn’t taste as earthy as pu-erh, nor does it have that sometimes “fishy” taste that pu-erh can have.  This tea is what I’d categorize as a medium-bodied tea and the additional fermentation has given this tea an almost “vinegar” like note.  Not so much a sour taste like vinegar, but I can taste a fermented note, tasting perhaps like a grape-y balsamic vinegar that’s been thinned with wine.  But that’s just one dimension in this complex tea.

There is also a sweet, creamy sort of taste to this, and that is something I can’t recall tasting in a pu-erh!  It’s almost like a vanilla frosting note!  Wow!  Notes of sweet honey and molasses, but again … lighter than these.  Almost like a thinned molasses.  Notes of earth, but I like that the earth tones aren’t dominating the cup, instead, I’m experiencing more of the grape-y and sweeter flavors of vanilla cream.

What an enjoyable tea experience!  This is remarkably smooth and mild.

My second infusion proved to be sweeter than the first.  It was a little less creamy than the first infusion.  Not quite as “vanilla frosting” as the first, but I still taste the honey notes and the fruit notes are emerging.  I am also noticing a mineral-y sort of taste that imparts a slightly dry note toward the tail.  I’m also noticing an ever so slight grassy tone to this cup.

The mineral notes seem to have replaced the “fermented” note that I tasted in the first cup, because I’m not getting that fermented wine/balsamic flavor that I experienced in the first cup, but, as I said, the fruit notes become more focused in this second cup.

It’s hard to say which cup I preferred – the first or the second!  Both were delightful.  This is a really good tea, I highly recommend it.

Organic Ginger Calendula Rooibos Tea from Spicely Organics

April16

GingerCalendulaTisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Where to Buy:  Spicely Organics

Tisane Description:

Free of caffeine, but full of energizing ingredients! This tea is perfect for fine-tuning and focusing the senses, while also supporting healthy circulation. This tea is tangy, sweet, and a little spicy — the synergistic effect of this blend is perfect any time of day. INGREDIENTS: Organic Rooibos, Organic Ginger, Organic Calendula Petals

Learn more about this tisane here.

Learn more about the Spicely Organics Monthly Tea Membership here.

Taster’s Review: 

I didn’t have big expectations from this Organic Ginger Calendula Rooibos Tea from Spicely Organics, to tell you the truth.  It didn’t seem like all that exciting of a blend.  It’s rooibos, ginger and calendula.

But, I’m finding myself enchanted by the ginger in this blend.  It’s got a really zesty flavor.  It’s spicy but not fiery hot, and I like the way it contrasts with the honey-sweet, woodsy/nutty flavors of the rooibos.  It’s a very comforting taste:  warm and cozy and something I’d like to curl up to on a chilly evening.  It’s also quite soothing to the throat, so I brewed some of this for my youngest daughter who is getting over a cold, and it helped her feel better.

Calendula is essentially marigold petals, and they really add very little to the taste and texture of a tea or tisane.  I’m of the opinion that the main reason that tea companies use calendula in their blends is to add some color, and I think that some companies use too much calendula in their blends, and if I were to offer any real complaint about this tisane, that would be it:  there is a lot of calendula in this blend, maybe too much calendula.

That said, because calendula doesn’t add a lot of flavor or taste to the cup, I really didn’t mind the calendula in this blend.  And I am really enjoying the combination of ginger and rooibos together … a lot more than I thought I would!

A simple blend, but it’s very enjoyable, and one I’d be happy to drink again.

Fruit Hoops English Breakfast Black Tea from 52Teas

April15

Fruit-HoopsTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Tea Description:

Here’s a great English Breakfast blended with freeze-dried appples, oranges, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and peaches along with matching organic flavors (and some organic lime flavor), a hint of organic marshmallow flavor (for sweetness), and another hint of organic malt flavor to give it a cereal-like component. Ever have a craving for one of those super sweet kids’ cereals? Missing the magic that’s a multi-colored bowl of yumminess and some Saturday morning cartoons? (Do they still have cartoons on Saturdays?) Anyway, here’s a guilt-free option to tickle your tastebuds.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I’m not sure why, exactly, but something about this Fruit Hoops English Breakfast Black Tea from 52Teas really interested me.  Granted, I have a fondness for most of 52Teas’ blends, but, something about this particular blend just resonated with me, it spoke to me and said “TRY ME!”  So as soon as I got last month’s package of teas, that’s exactly what I did.  In fact, within moments of opening last month’s package, I was tearing into this package.

The dry leaf aroma is very fruity and evokes thoughts of opening a box of fruity kid’s cereal … that smell that wafts out of the box:  sugary sweet and fruity.  This is the kind of tea that will appeal to the kid in you, and I think that’s what Frank had in mind when he crafted this blend.

But even though this tea does taste fruity and sweet … I like that I’m getting a solid base of black tea.  It’s brisk and invigorating and somewhat astringent.  The base used here is an English Breakfast Blend, and I taste strong notes of malt – a taste that is further accentuated by the addition of malt/cereal flavor to go along with the theme of this tea flavor.

It’s hard to say what other notes I’m tasting with this black tea, because the fruit flavors are present … I can’t really say I’m tasting a fruit note from the tea and say with certainty that this fruit note is coming from the tea and not the flavoring, right?  I think that this is probably a blend of Ceylon and Assam (which seems to be the standard English Breakfast) and I do think it would benefit from a Chinese tea (preferably a Fujian black, but they don’t usually put those in English Breakfast teas – but they SHOULD!)

That said, I do like that I’m getting a strong background of black tea flavor, and with all the other flavors going on, I can’t say that I need more from it.    It’s quite satisfying:  it’s not harsh, it’s not too astringent, and it has a pleasing flavor and body to it.

Fruit flavor wise, I taste lime.  I taste raspberry and orange.  I taste subtler notes of strawberry and blueberry and even softer notes of apple.  The lime and raspberry are the two most prominent flavors.  Because of the way the fruit flavors all come together here, it’s a bit more like a fruit salad or … forgive me for being obvious here:  a bowl of fruity, sweet kid’s cereal than it is like a medley of individual, true-to-the-fruit flavors.  And again, I think that’s what Frank was going for with this cereal … err … tea.

The one thing that I find myself wanting a little bit more of is the marshmallow flavor.

Yeah, I know there isn’t marshmallows in the fruit hoopish cereal, but marshmallows were my favorite part of the kid’s cereal when I was a kid.  Yep, I was one of those kids that picked put all the marshmallows from the box of cereal before my brothers and sister could get to the box.  Ha!

This is a really tasty tea.  I can’t say it’s my favorite from 52Teas but I can say that I’m not disappointed by it.  It’s got a whole lot of flavor going on and I like that.  It makes my taste buds happy, and it’s making me long for the days when I could turn on the TV and watch this.  Ahh … good times indeed.

Blue Lady Black Tea from Zest Tea

April15

Blue_LadyTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Zest Tea

Tea Description:

Our Blue Lady Black blends a sultry South Indian black tea base with an aromatic mix of orange, lemon, passion fruit, and hibiscus. A peppering of vivid blue cornflower petals and bits of orange peel make for a visual spectacle. Blue lady will excite all of your senses. No wonder this is a favorite among hot and chilled tea drinkers.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Zest High-Octane Tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I thought that this Blue Lady Black Tea from Zest Tea was the ideal tea to review on tax day.  We got to get those taxes done and in the mail, right?  Actually, I finished my taxes in the first week of February, but, I know that there are those who don’t get them done and April 15th always seems to be crunch day, right?  So, this one’s for you!

Zest Teas are “High-Octane” teas, that is to say that there is more caffeine in this cup of tea than in the average cup of flavored black tea.  The goal, according to the makers of Zest Tea, was to create a high quality cup of tea that had the caffeine of a cup of coffee.

My one concern was this:  I can’t drink coffee.  Coffee makes me sick.  I used to drink coffee every morning until I realized that the reason I was feeling sick around 11 am was that the coffee I was drinking every morning was making me feel that way.  Was this “High-Octane” Zest Tea going to have the same effect on me?  I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t.

This tea is VERY aromatic.  When I opened the pouch, I was greeted with a very fruity “punch” of fragrance:  I could smell citrus notes of orange and lemon and I could smell the passion fruit.  And despite the images that the “High-Octane” evoked in my head, it doesn’t smell of gasoline.  Not one bit.  It smells like a fruit flavored black tea.  I like that smell.

It tastes great!  The fruit notes of citrus and passion fruit are strong, but I also taste the Nilgiri black tea base.  It has a pleasing flavor:  rich and smooth, no bitterness, and it has lovely notes of malt.

I like the way the notes of malt play with the notes of lemon and orange.  I also appreciate the balance that has been achieved in this blend:  I taste the strong fruit notes but there is a full-flavored black tea base to fill in the background.  There is also an agreeable balance of tart and sweet here.  It is neither too sweet nor too tart.  

The hibiscus in this blend adds a little bit of body to the cup and a hint of tart flavor that complements the citrus notes.  Not a lot of hibiscus flavor, just enough tart and tangy taste to contrast with the sweeter notes of the fruit.

There are no weird/funky flavors associated with the extra dose of caffeine in the tea.  Not that I thought there would be, but for those of you who might have thought:  ”What will that “High-Octane” thing do to the flavor?”  I’m here to tell you that I don’t notice anything off with the flavor at all.  This tastes like tea.  It doesn’t taste different or off or funky in any way.  It just tastes like a tasty tea with lovely notes of citrus and passion fruit.

So far, I really like what I’ve tasted from this tea.  I’ll come back in a couple of hours to let you know if I felt any ill after-effects from the caffeine.

OK … so a few hours have lapsed since I finished the cup of tea, and here’s what I noticed:

  • More energy:  Yep.  I could feel the extra burst of caffeine.  But it didn’t feel like the jolt you’d get from a cup of coffee.  It was stronger than the usual energy flow that I’d get from the usual cup of tea, though.  A bit more like the unbridled jolt from coffee, but, I didn’t feel jittery or … well, I didn’t feel like I had just consumed a cup of coffee.  But there is definitely an elevated level of invigorated energy from this tea.
  • No ill effects:  I didn’t feel that icky feeling that I would feel after I drank a cup of coffee in the morning.  Big bonus points for that.
  • No “crash”:  After drinking coffee and experiencing that jolt, a few hours later, I usually feel the crash.  I feel a lack of energy, like I need another cup of coffee to get me going again.  Now, the lack of crash could be from the fact that I drink tea throughout the day, but, my tea drinking today has been limited to this one cup of tea from Zest Tea and then a couple of glasses of cold-brewed black iced tea.  I don’t know the level of caffeine from the iced tea, but, I will say that I don’t usually feel “energized” after I drink iced tea.  I feel refreshed and I feel my thirst has been quenched, but I don’t feel the burst of caffeinated energy from iced tea.

OK, so there you have it.  I like this stuff … it’s a great way to get your act together in the morning on those days that you really need to get it together.  And it tastes great too.  This tea has it going on.

Rooibos Chocolate Vanilla from Tea for Life

April14

TOLRooibosTisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Learn more about Tea of Life and Amazon Teas here.

Tisane Description:

South African Red Bush or Rooibos Tea is a pure and natural herbal blend.  Freshly harvested and finely chopped rooibos goes through a process of oxidation with the aid of the oxygen from the atmosphere and subsequently dried int he sun to produce a deep mahogany red cup of which is one of the most popular and healthy herbal drinks today.

“Tea of Life” is proud to introduce five New Naturally Caffeine Free Rooibos Teas combined with Dark Chocolate with delicious natural fruit and mint flavors for your enjoyment – all day and into the evening.

Taster’s Review:

These dark chocolate rooibos blends from Tea of Life are really good.  The chocolate is rich and dark and there’s a good amount of chocolate flavor to the blend.  I’m really enjoying this Rooibos Chocolate Vanilla blend – LOTS of chocolate flavor with a sweet, creamy vanilla undertone.

I taste hints of honeyed, nutty sweetness from the rooibos, but, I like that the flavor of the rooibos isn’t as pronounced as the dark chocolate notes and the notes of vanilla.  Normally, I want the flavor of the “tea” to be the star of the cup, but, since this is rooibos and I’m not particularly a big rooibos fan, I like that I am only getting a little bit of the flavor of the rooibos.

Plus, we’re talking chocolate here, and when it comes to chocolate, more chocolate is always better.  I really can’t think of any instance when that isn’t true.  And this has a strong chocolate presence.  The sweet notes of vanilla give this cup an almost “milk chocolate-y” sort of taste, and I like the way the two – chocolate and vanilla – meld together in this cup.

A really tasty cup.

Lilac Blend Black Tea from Strand Tea

April13

LilacTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Strand Tea

Tea Description:

Premium Black Teas from highland China blended with lilac flowers. This tea looks, smells, and tastes great.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I must agree with that last line in the description above:  this Lilac Blend Black Tea from Strand Tea DOES look, smell, and taste great!  I love the beautiful purple blossoms, the tea is lightly fragrant with the flower, and the flavor is a rich, full-flavored black tea with a delicate floral tone.

I really like the texture of this tea.  It has a delightfully round taste, and the texture is almost creamy when it glides over the palate.  The flavor is lightly floral and sweet with notes of caramel and honey.

I can’t say that the flower that I taste is distinctly “lilac” because I can’t say for certain that I’ve actually tried a tea with lilac flower in it before.  But I will say that the delicate flower notes are very pleasant.  The flowery notes don’t taste sharp, they are soft and sweet tasting.  It doesn’t taste off-putting or perfume-ish.  It’s just really … nice!

I have been a fan of Strand Tea for a while.  I love that they’re a local company, and I love that they embrace that with their Portland Blend.  I also like that they include cookies with every order.  I love it when a company adds special little touches like that … it makes me feel special as a customer, and it makes me want to order from that company again, and the next time I order from them, I’m going to be getting more of this Lilac Blend because it’s really good!

Whisper of the Woods Green Tea Blend from Whispering Pines Tea Company

April13

whisper-of-the-woodsTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green Tea

Where to Buy:  Whispering Pines Tea Company

Tea Description:

The most beautifully soothing mint green tea. Imagine a crisp beautiful sunrise in a densely wooded pine-oak forest with sheets of trilliums and wild currant berries. You wake up, step out of your tent and breathe the last sliver of fog before the shattered sunlight wisps it away. Whisper of the Woods is an ideal green tea reminiscent of that crisp and floral serenity with just the perfect amount of heart-warming energy to induce prana and exploration. Enjoy.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Nice!  I don’t know why, but something about this Whisper of the Woods Green Tea Blend from Whispering Pines Tea Company made me think that there’d be smoke notes to it.

I don’t know if it’s just the name of it:  Whisper of the Woods.  It makes me think of a walk through the woods and the smell of the air that would surround me as I’m walking, and in that image that is playing in my head, the smell of the air would include a touch of smoke from a far off log cabin with a fire blazing in the fireplace.  Or perhaps it’s just the name of the company:  Whispering Pines Tea Company.  Something about this company makes me think of that aforementioned blazing, crackling fire in the fireplace.

But this isn’t a smoky tea.  And I don’t know that I’d want it to be smoky.  I like the notes of mint – a combination of peppermint and spearmint – and I like the hint of jasmine.  I like the way these flavors play together with the sweet, lightly grassy notes of the green tea.

And what I like best is that this isn’t overwhelmingly minty.  Sure, the mint flavor is there and it’s strong and there’s no mistaking it.  But, it isn’t a “toothpaste-y” mint.  I don’t feel like I just took a sip of mouthwash.  This was masterfully blended, and the result is a mint tea that isn’t too minty.

The jasmine essence builds as I sip.  I barely noticed it in the first couple of sips, but, now that I’m nearly finished with the cup, the jasmine comes through really well.  It’s not perfume-y, but it brings a beautiful floral note to the cup.  I like the way the jasmine and mint notes come together.

It really is a bit like a whisper in the woods.  Imagine a gentle breeze filtering through the woods, picking up notes of wildflowers and mint growing in the wild along with hints of grass.  A beautiful scent.  A delicious flavor.  That’s what this tea delivers.

Chamomile Citrus Herbal Tisane from Mighty Leaf

April12

Chamomile_Citrus_TeaTisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal Tisane

Where to Buy:  Mighty Leaf

Tisane Description:

Chamomile Citrus herbal tea is a refreshing infusion perfected to curl up with and savor by the sip. Made with Soothing Egyptian chamomile flowers and subtle slices of citrus fruit, this vibrant blend will rejuvenate the spirit. From intoxicating aroma to sweet flavor, this signature herbal tea infusion in our silken tea pouch, our gourmet teabag twist, with chamomile, fruits and herbs reflects our vision of the artisan tea experience.

Learn more about this tisane here.

Taster’s Review:

I have made mention in the past of my dislike of chamomile.  OK, so I don’t hate chamomile.  But I just don’t love it.  I don’t think that I’ve ever thought:  ”You know, I’d really like a cup of chamomile tea.”  That just has never really happened, because there are so many other things I’d rather be drinking.  That said, sometimes, I need to chill out and relax, and chamomile does a good job of instilling that sense of calm that I want.

Much of my dislike of chamomile stems from past experiences of drinking teas made of crushed chamomile blossoms in a tea bag.  Yuck.  Fortunately, a lot of tea companies realize that when the chamomile blossom is whole and not crushed into dust, the brewed liquid tastes better.  Mighty Leaf figured this out, and I can see through their silky pouches that the chamomile used in this Chamomile Citrus Herbal Tisane is beautiful, big blossoms combined with citrus peel, lemongrass, lemon myrtle and other herbs.

The citrus flavors combined with the naturally sweet, apple-like flavor of the chamomile offers a pleasant taste that’s easy to sip.  The primary flavor here is the citrus flavors, followed by chamomile.  I am happy to say that I don’t taste a lot of hibiscus here, although I do find myself wishing that I tasted more of the spearmint.  I only taste very faint hints of mint in this cup.

Overall, this is a pleasant cup of tea.  Not something I’d drink everyday, but I can see myself turning to it when I needed something to help relax.  It’s very soothing and it’s tastier than plain chamomile.

Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha from DōMatcha

April12

organicMatchaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green (Matcha)

Where to Buy:  DōMatcha

Tea Description:

Certified organic by JONA (Japan Organic and Natural Foods Association), this premium, organic ceremonial Matcha is the purest and most sustainable way to enjoy the ancient Matcha tradition. Our DoMatcha™ Ceremonial Organic Matcha is produced in Kagoshima, Japan.

Learn more about this Matcha here.

Taster’s Review:

One question I’m asked often by tea drinkers is:  What is the best Matcha available?  When I first started out as a tea reviewer, my answer to that question was always, immediately, unequivocally:  DōMatcha.

Since that time, I have sampled MANY different Matcha teas, and I’ve enjoyed many of Matcha teas that I’ve tried.  Like other products, I can say that I liked some more than others.  And now, the aforementioned question regarding what Matcha is the best is a bit more difficult to answer because my experience has allowed me the unique opportunity to sample many amazing Matcha teas.  But, DōMatcha remains right up there close to the top of the list.  And this Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha from DōMatcha is one of the best that you’ll ever taste.

It has a bright, fresh, and lively flavor to it.  It tastes remarkably fresh.  When prepared traditionally – scooped, sifted and then whisked with a chasen until completely incorporated – it becomes a frothy, bright green liquid that keeps its froth until you finish the bowl.  (Not that finishing the bowl takes long with this stuff – it tastes so good that it’s difficult to stop sipping!)

I love that the powdered green tea stays sustained in the liquid until I take that last sip.  I don’t get a gritty or chalky sort of texture from any sip.  It stays smooth and sweet and delicious until I’ve finished the bowl.

It tastes sweet and vegetal.  I experience a “bittersweet” sort of taste from it, similar to what I’d experience if I had bitten into a bar of high quality dark chocolate.  It’s not “bitter” but there is contrast to the sweetness of the leaf.  The palate feels enlivened as I sip it, and I can feel the liquid go to work and begin to invigorate me.  This is the stuff!

I love that this is organic.  I love that it’s a ceremonial grade Matcha so it works with a koicha preparation (thick soup) or usucha preparation (thin soup).  I prefer somewhere in between, and I don’t usually do precise measurement when I prepare Matcha.  I scoop some out, sift it, and then pour in hot water, whisking the mixture into a thick paste, and then add water until I’ve reached my desired  consistency.

A really superb Matcha – this is one that I’d continue to recommend to those who are looking for a top-notch Matcha.  It’s the good stuff!

Iced Black Tea from Tazo

April11

tazoicedteaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Learn more about Tazo on their website.

Tea Description:

Certain feats, like executing a reverse swan dive into a shimmering pool while wearing a pair of Euro-cut trunks and a captain’s hat, out only be attempted by a select few.  This blend of black teas has the kind of cool, smooth sophistication to pull off a move like that, should it choose to do so.

Taster’s Review:

I received a box of this Iced Black Tea from Tazo from a friend, and while I certainly appreciated her generosity and thoughtfulness, I also appreciated that I didn’t actually buy this tea myself.  I would have been sorely disappointed had I done so.

That’s because this is one of the most mediocre teas I’ve tasted in a long time.  The thing that I appreciated most about this tea is that it helped me realize just how good the other iced teas that I’ve been drinking lately really are.

I tried brewing this many different ways.  I first tried cold brewing the tea, and this produced a rather flat and boring tasting tea.  Then I tried resteeping those tea bags – hot brewing the tea this time – and the results were much the same:  boring tea.  Not much flavor to them at all.  And I wasn’t even looking for “flavoring” type of flavor, I was just looking for a good, brisk, refreshing black tea flavor.  But I didn’t get that.

Then I tried hot brewing new (previously unsteeped) teabags.  Again … just sort of lackluster.  This is the kind of flavor I’d expect from the tea in the yellow, white and red box, but not from a tea that is supposed to be at least one notch above that brand.   But after trying to brew this tea several different ways, there was nothing I could do to make this tea taste good.  The problem wasn’t with the brewing method, but the tea itself.

A really sad tea.  It’s tea like this that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those that claim not to like tea.  I wouldn’t like tea either if this is all that I had to drink.

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Our mutual love for tea and writing about it inspired us to start this blog so that we could better share this love with others.

One thing I (Anne) learned very early on in my career as a tea artist is that everyone has different preferences, and every single tea tastes differently on every single palate.  So just because one of us doesn’t happen to like a tea, doesn’t mean that YOU (the reader) will not.

We try to be as impartial as we can.  We do have our favorites.  We are human.  But we do our very best to be as fair and as honest about a tea as we can be.

You might not agree with my assessment – or with Jennifer’s assessment – of a tea.  But that’s OK… if we all liked the same exact tea – we’d only need ONE kind of tea and … wow… that sounds really boring, indeed!

What a beautiful world it is that we have so many teas to suit so many tea enthusiasts!

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