Based on its description, I was expecting a much sweeter tea than thepuriTea’s Hong Jing Luo actually is. But after my jolted expectations subsided, I realized that there was depth in this tea that deserved further exploration. After a couple of tastings, it grew on me, and now I’ve developed a real affection for it. It strikes a wonderful balance between the dry, leathery intensity of a non-smoky Keemun and the mellow, malty smoothness of a Yunnan gold, but with more leather than malt.
Perhaps my tasticles aren’t refined enough to detect all the nuances included in the description, but I definitely get malt, roasted pumpkin, dry wood, and tobacco. There is a certain deep, primordial quality that’s characteristic of a strong Irish twist tobacco, mingled with an oak-wood note.
As for the other, sweeter elements mentioned in the description—raisins, sweet potato, cocoa, brown sugar—I don’t find them. Instead, there’s a subtle spiciness that I find most intriguing. There is sweetness, but it isn’t overt in the first couple of infusions; it’s present mostly in the finish, as the other flavors dominate. In the later infusions the leatheriness recedes and the flavor is mostly a light, malty sweetness. It’s not a tea I drink every day, but when I’m in the mood for it, nothing else will do.