Note: the crop reviewed here was purchased from Upton in late December 2013.
This tea is OK steeped Western style, but seems to really shine with Gong Fu treatment. All experiments used 1 tsp (2.3 grams) of leaf.
I tried two forms of Western steeping, both with 6 ounces of water. The more traditional 4:30 steep produced a powerful aroma of raw honey with an undertone of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, but was somewhat less impressive in the cup with just a muddled note of the underlying sweetness that was hinted at in the aroma. Two subsequent 6 minute steeps brought faint reflections of the first cup along with a hint of pepper in the final steep. Modifying this with 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 minute steeps produced a better cup, especially in the early steeps, with the honey aroma translating into a nice honey sweetness in the cup. Pepper again made an appearance in the later steeps. The liquor varied across the spectrum of red-amber.
It was the Gong Fu treatment, however, that made me order more of this tea. I pulled out my 90 ml pot, skipped the wash and jumped right into a series of 15 second steeps until the flavor started to fade around the eighth one, whereupon I lengthened each steep considerably. Early steeps smelled and tasted like raw honey, with Yunnan spice slowly increasing as I went. The sweetness morphed from honey to something less distinct out through the 16th steep (a hail-Mary at 10 minutes), but never left. The liquor was a beautiful golden color that seemed to glow in my little clear glass teacup. This was an outstanding session which I’ve repeated several times since.
I’ve never tasted legendary teas such as Golden Fleece. Until I get that chance this stands as one of my favorite Yunnan blacks.