I’ve now had four drinking sessions with this tea. The first three times were with friends, and presently I’m drinking it on my own. Always preparing it in a gaiwan with, more or less, Verdant’s suggested guidelines for Gongfu brewing. Delectable tea!
I initially encounter a quality reminiscent of roasted nuts in the fragrance and flavor, mixed with green vegetal notes and a hint of vanilla bean. Complex! As the profile builds with successive infusions, these qualities yield at turns to surprising others: a little kernel of toasted rice, the aftertaste left by ripe grapes, sweet butter punctuated by a grain or two of sea salt, whispers of those long-gone lilacs of spring… It’s all very fascinating, even as these flavors seem so divergent. There is something indescribable that holds the show together…
In fact, I feel like the flavors interact and move on and off the stage of a captivating theatrical play. So running with that analogy… in later acts, I recognize a lush juiciness developing, with notes of honeydew and plum on the long road home, being guided by this savvy prevailing peach flavor. Peach is definitely one of the key characters, as throughout the whole experience, even before making its first entrance, mention of it can be repeatedly heard in the discreet whisperings of some characters and in the lively repartee of others. What I mean by this is that, from the beginning, there is a sensation on the tongue after sipping that feels like the soft fuzz of a peach skin — but it’s not immediately recognizable as such. With continued drinking, the juiciness grows, the aftertaste deepens, then soon enough the presence of peach makes its grand entrance, and after each cup there’s this uncanny sensation that you just ate a really nice ripe one. I love this!
Comparisons are inevitable, but I feel that I must assess the beauties and virtues of this Autumn Tieguanyin in their own right. Her dignity quietly commands it. The spring and autumn pickings of this tea are no doubt related, but they each have such unique characteristics that, for me, a direct comparison would be unwarranted. There will be more spring pickings, and more autumn pickings, and I’ll let each be compared with its kind. If I could say anything about what makes these spring and autumn teas distinct, it would be that this Autumn Tieguanyin is like a more reserved, but more sophisticated, sister of the Spring Tieguanyin. No less beautiful, but she doesn’t make the kind of head-turning display of it her sister does. She’ll ask you to invest some attention and time in getting to know her, and appreciating her knowledge and intellectual charms, before she unfolds a full glimpse of her beauty for you. But this extra effort is wholly worthwhile, because when she does, finally, grant you that gift… my, does it feel special!
And I think I must spend a great deal of time sharing the good company of this tea. Her charms may yet enthrall me more than her stunning sister.