Going through a few of my blends since winter is coming up and I need to start getting ready to taste for blend consistency. I’m not a fan of blends in general, but they do have a place in assembling particular flavors unachievable in a singular tea. One could argue (as I usually do) that a large part of the joy in tasting different teas is the lack of consistency and how every tea has a different face and that expression changes throughout the year and harvest to harvest. Sometimes, though, folks just need a good standby that is comforting to drink without paying it much heed.
This is one such blend.
I spend much of each October going through a bunch of teas I’m not especially fond of to find one or two moderately smoky ones I enjoy. Lightly smoked Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is tough to find at cheapish prices and more heavily smoked Qi Men is usually boring if you are not looking to pay a lot. I usually find a couple I can settle on and flush out the blend from there to produce a chocolaty tea with balanced smoke aroma, light spice and candied apple notes, and a malty scotch-like quality. This batch from last autumn had a large component of Da Hong Pao Wu Yi Hong Cha (“Imperial Red”), Hao Ya Qi Men (“Pre-Ming Keemun”), Dian Hong, and another “Imperial Red” but actually a Keemun-style tea from Sichuan rather than Fujian balancing out a lightly smoked Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong.
I think a lot of these came from International Tea Importers with the Dian Hong coming from Yunnan Sourcing. Forget if I tossed any Nilgiri Thiashola in there this year, but I do keep that on hand from Special Teas plus some Ceylon Black Tips from Tao of Tea and toss in a bit for augmenting briskness in blends.
Brewed 3g in 112ml water at 95 degrees C for 4 minutes (first resteep same parameters). Third steep used boiling water for 5 minutes, but I tossed it over ice.
Dry fragrance is like a pine wood fire on the beach that had been doused with water. Some cocoa and unground nutmeg under the wood notes. Wet leaves show a bit more green coloration among the browns and reds. Wet leaves have basic musty aroma of wet red tea with a bit of the resin aroma – like pinyon incense. Liquor is deep red orange and clear with a slightly overdone apple pie aroma and a bit of juniper resin.
Smooth, full bodied and malty flavor with light acorn-tannin, toasted grains, and cooked apple flavors. Roasted barley and pinyon pine aroma. Straightforward woody tea with good balance of flavor and aroma. Some light caramel alongside apple-skin and tangelo sour notes in aftertaste. Overall creamy mouthfeel and a mild astringency that arrives late in the draught. Added a little honey to second infusion and it sort of took over but goes well with the aroma (raw sugar goes better with this tea). Third infusion made a somewhat smoky but seriously refreshing tea over ice cubes and disappeared very fast.
Very nice to drink while sitting around a fire on a cold night. I love taking this out to the beach in winter, but I have to make it on site since I dislike Keemun-like teas that have sat in metal containers for any amount of time. Tasty and satisfying, but not something I would buy for myself on a regular basis – would never displace my puerh and oolongs – but a staple of my gift-giving.