This tea is my new obsession. I must applaud Wang Yanxin for this one and thank Verdant Tea for somehow managing to take this tea away from her. Anyone with the ingenuity to create such a wonderful masterpiece is a tea wizard. With a complexity rivaling many oolongs, a melt-in-your-mouth texture, and deep, rich aromatics, I can say right now that this is an instant favorite of mine.
I don’t even know where to begin describing it. While tasting, I wrote down the names of a plethora of teas I’m familiar with that this one reminded me of in one aspect or another: A dry leaf appearance like Verdant’s Zhu Rong with less gold, aromas of chocolaty goodness like Laoshan black, at times a body similar to a shui xian or mi lan xiang, a liquor with a coloration somewhere between a dian hong and Zhu Rong, hints of orange citrus notes like a huang zhi xiang. This tea is a Frankenstein’s monster of all my beloved teas combined.
Brewing parameters: 100mL gaiwan, ~1/3 full dry leaf, near-boiling water
The dry leaves present a calming aroma of pure tea, heavy malt, and deep chocolaty notes. I can catch undertones of the charcoal roasting, and it adds nicely to the overall scent. After a quick wash, I excitedly took a sniff of the wet leaves, wondering whether they were hiding something. A rich aroma of chocolate, roasted coffee beans, and a slight fruity scent wafted up. It reminds me of this dark chocolate bread that a local bakery near my home town bakes. When it’s fresh, it has this really thick, cocoa-yeasty smell that just hangs in your nostrils much like this tea’s aroma does. I’ll take you through my gong fu session:
Wash (~1") with water cooled from boiling.
Steep 1 (2"): The malty flavor in this steep is really prominent and melds with a pure tea taste to create a full-bodied brew. Underneath, tones of chocolate, hickory? spices, and coffee come into play. There is also this faint tartness that causes a bit of astringency, but also a slippery mouthfeel that becomes very quenching. Right from the start I felt a strong cha qi from this steep.
Steep 2 (3"): The pure tea flavor increases a bit, paired with an addition of honeyed sweetness. Both chocolate and spicy notes become stronger. The tartness also increases, and becomes more orange-like, or maybe tangerine? The body becomes fuller, and more rounded modeled by a very smooth and creamy mouthfeel, which continues on into the next steeps.
Steep 3 (4"): The spices and citrus notes blend together into this undertone of spiced oranges. There is an additional starchy note underneath that reminds me of the Golden Fleece’s sweet potato flavor, but less sweet and without that caramel-y texture. The most intriguing moment of this tea unfolds in this steep. A pure sugar flavor emerges out of nowhere, becoming very prominent in each additional sip. It produces this lightness on the tip of the tongue, forming a tickling/cooling sensation. In addition, the tartness of the orange notes combines with something like dark chocolate to create this “pulling” sensation and something that makes me imagine what chocolate-covered mandarin oranges would taste like. It’s not astringency, though. Maybe somewhere between that spicy mouthfeel and astringency. Kind of like that sensation after eating dark chocolate with nuts with an additional tartness. It’s difficult to describe, but it makes my mouth beg for another sip and I love it.
Steep 4 (5"): Where I typically write my mouthfeel/textural notes, I only have “THE BEST” written. Starchy and honey flavors increase, while malty notes become more subdued. Pure tea and chocolate flavors reign supreme, and that pure sugar taste/sensation remains very noticeable. In addition, a vanilla cream flavor emerges and ties everything into this nice, well-connected bundle of yumminess.
Steep 5 (7"): All tartness seems to drop out at this point, and all I’m left with are sweets and spices. The sugar taste seems to morph a bit here and become more like brown sugar.
Steep 6 (10"): A nice caramel flavor emerges here and blends very nicely with the new brown sugar flavors. Most other nuances remain constant and the starchy/potato-like flavor diminishes. The body is much lighter at this point, but the mouthfeel is so smooth it’s almost melty.
Steep 7 (13): The sugary sweetness fades out here, and is instead replaced by spiciness that is felt on the tongue. Interestingly, there is a fruity flavor on exhale that seems to hint that something new is coming.
Steep 8 (18"): Indeed, tiny hints of a dark fruit/berry flavor peaks out from the bottom of the flavor profile, blending with notes of vanilla cream chocolate, spices, and malt.
Steep 9 (25"): Basically the same as the last, with a lasting thick and spicy mouthfeel.
Steep 10 (35"): In descending order: malt, pure tea, peppery spice, honey, something between apple and raspberry, chocolate, and finally, vanilla cream.
Steep 11 (1’ 10"): Mostly the same as the last steep, but the flavor has faded severely.
This tea just makes me feel awesome. Very comforting, very warm.
Wait! The leaves! How could I forget? The wet leaves’ appearance is interesting. They are either deep black or a chocolate brown in coloration, and it seems these two colors are divided quite equally. Most of them are also very spindly. They’re rolled extremely tightly. Very few stems, but the size and shapes of the leaves are pretty variable.