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Recent Tasting Notes
I’m trying to sipdown some of my unflavored greens right now. This is becoming difficult because I have been going through a phase where I have been craving only flavored teas, and occasionally a strong black tea. Anyhow, I decided to combine one teaspoon of this with two teaspoons of Butiki’s Pistachio Ice Cream. The pistachio ice cream flavor was, of course, a little more muted this way and the green tea flavor is more discernible, but it worked really well. I think I may do this again in the future. (Obviously, not rating this because I drank it in combination with another tea.)
This tea is my first of the day. There’s not much I have to say about it. It was a decent cup of tea. I found the predominant flavor to be that of mild smoke. I tried to brew a strong-ish cup without over-leafing, but it still turned out to be pretty weak in flavor, but it did dry out my throat…
I’m still a bit put off by Tillerman Tea since I was last there and one of their salespeople tried to sell me a milk oolong by telling me it gets its flavor from being washed with milk. :-/ I also prefer to purchase my tea from places which are upfront about when and where the tea was harvested. There is no year, never mind month or season of harvest on the package. Oh well.
This tea initially seemed much like a milk oolong which had been roasted. The wet leaves had a juicy smell that reminds me of a Phoenix oolong after the initial steeping. The wet leaves after the second steeping had a heavier roasted aroma. I enjoyed this tea, but I found it a little strange that the smell of the leaves, the flavor of the broth, and the aftertaste didn’t really seem like they could be from the same tea. I can’t wait to try it again, though. :-)
Just had an unexpected journey with this tea I was haphazardly brewing to share with my neighbor and feel I ought to write something about it in spite of being strapped for time (it’s been half a year since my last entry here, for crying out loud).
Sorry for the short format and long post space.
4g in 150mL glazed pot, 95C-85C descending water temp in large kettle off the stove (relative stability over first few infusions).
Charcoal roast impression with caramel and spinach.
Wet Leaf Aroma:
More char with sweet finish.
Butter lettuce, milk, and lightly stir-fried kale/mustard greens.
1st Infusion (70sec):
Roasty Tieguanyin pleasant sour-bitter taste. Maybe a tad overbrewed but yummy. Swiss chard predominant flavor with woody notes.
2nd Infusion (45sec):
Mellowed woody taste more akin to oak and bamboo but still with milk-like pleasant sour note in finish. Very sweet caramel recession.
3rd Infusion (90sec):
Rice-like flavors dominant with mixed stir-fried veggie tastes. Light sour now more like berries… raspberry? Neither sweetness nor aroma akin to fruit but the acidity is like raspberry and apple skin. Mulched grass and saplings in aftertaste and aroma.
4th Infusion (120sec):
More caramel and cream with a recession of greenery, though less flavor intensity than in 3rd. Lingering crispness evocative of minerals, like wet granite and moss.
5th infusion (30sec – water cooled after pause):
Was NOT expecting this much flavor nor the dramatic shift in profile! Sudden switch from a fundamentally TGY wulong taste to one more stereotypical of a Gaoshan. Butter lettuce, perfumey gardenia, orchid foliage, snap peas, lingering chlorophyll-laden sweetness and refreshing crisp taste, and hints of cinnamon and anise. Kinda freaking me out a bit. Lingering cream and caramel flavors and a very pleasant light bitterness. Hint of green onion in after-aroma.
6th infusion (60sec):
Purposefully lighter to continue the crisp, refreshing taste of green beans or snap peas found in prior infusion. Water chestnut and a bit of a white bread taste appeared alongside faint honey-like sweetness.
7th infusion (120sec):
Just for the heck of it to drink with cake and whipped cream. Not much to offer aside from a lighter extension of previous infusion (I never re-heated the water). Hint of berries came back into this one, but in the aroma… shoulda payed more attention to it, but I wanted dessert.
Yummy tea and unexpected in range of flavors. I typically have this tea in a more straightforward manner, increasing my time and temp as I brew. Glad I was more wishy-washy with my parameters this time around, as I never expected Jade High Mountain Wulong flavors from this tea that normally lives in the roasted Taiwan Wulong flavor realm.
I’ve only had Da Hong Pao one other time from a tea house in Seattle. I don’t recall liking it too much then but I thought I’d give it another shot since the first time it wasn’t brewed in my preferred gong fu method. Also, I’ve heard so many good things about this tea I knew there was something I was missing. I’m brewing this tea in a small Gaiwan in the traditional gong fu style. The first infusion is 30 sec at 87 degrees C. The second and third were 12 sec long. The fourth infusion was about 30 sec and the fifth was 45 sec long. On appearance this tea looks to me like it has been aged or has a loose Pu-erh likeness. It smells deeply roasted like a campfire with charcoal. The leaves are very dark brown, almost black and when they are wet they show highlights of color from yellow to green. The taste is smooth with no hints of astringency. I detect caramelized sugar, with chocolate and coffee undertones. It also has a very nice echo that I can taste even between infusions.
“Heavenly” is the best description of this tea. The green oolong used to make this wonderful tea is some of the finest that I have tasted from Taiwan. If that was not good enough, the “cream,” what ever that might consist of, makes this tea purely exquisite! I brewed the traditional 2-3 (2:30 exactly) minutes at 195 Fahrenheit in purified water, and was rewarded after two steepings, with two wonderful pots of tea. This tea has an aroma of caramel and sweet green oolong. The flavor is the oolong is surprisingly mellow, were it not for leaving out the sugar, this tea would taste like you were drinking a cup of liguid caramel. The aftertaste contains an ever-so-slight briskness, but also a bit of the creaminess lingers on as well taking the edge off. Overall, and I am not one to give such steadfast valuations of teas, I would consider this tea the best cream/milk/silk oolong I have ever had. Thank you very much Tillerman’s Tea!! I do hope you are still around (I bought this tea, if you could believe, on a Nov. 2008 trip to San Francisco) so I can buy some more from you!
Too tired to post a review that will do this tea any kind of justice.
Lately I’ve been brewing it with anything in the range of 2-10g per 100ml water ranging from 160-Boiling and steeps as short as an instant pour-off and as long as 45 minutes. Typically I just haphazardly cover the bottom of my gaiwan three times over with tea, cool some water down from 95 degrees C by pouring into a separate, preheated vessel and then onto the leaves. Let the first brew go for about 2 minutes, 1.5 for the second, and add a minute for each subsequent infusion.
I have not had a single cup of this tea taste bad, and I’ve pushed it pretty hard. Doesn’t take much to force off the wonderful florals and delicate fleeting flavors using overheated water and a long steep, but this doesn’t carry nearly as much of a risk of astringency as the Bai Ji Guan that Imperial Tea Court had last year.
Soothing, brothy, nutty. Jasmine, iris, and cymbidium florals against clove, cinnamon, and slight curry spice notes. Mineral quality reminiscent of wet granite and heated Himalayan Pink Salt in the nose (no salinity to taste, of course). Fresh hay. Slight drying feeling, but not much. Fleeting astringency and light acidity. Tempura and egg notes come in the second infusion, accompanied by aromas of a deciduous woodland after a rain. It was pointed out to me there’s a note similar to Cannabis leaf – not a pleasant thought in my mind, but I agree though I draw more thoughts of stripping mostly dried husk off a warm, sundried ear of corn and a bit of resin. Light but lingering sweet aftertaste draws thoughts of a Bao Zhong or Jade oolong, but more caramel and rocky-tinged.
The leaves look green and the liquor is bright, clear yellow, but this is actually a heavily oxidized tea… The leaves start as an ivoryish color upon plucking so only the really heavily oxidized rims on the margins of the leaf have any redness to them (let alone the brown or black of its Yan Cha kin).
Delicious. This can not last in my cupboard more than a couple weeks before I need another 25g.
Such a yummy, easy-going tea. Incredibly forgiving to brew, this is terrific at low concentration for short steeps on up to high concentration with absurdly long ones. I just sat down and sipped this from a gaiwan while watching a movie, leaving this to brew for well beyond 15 minutes. Used 4g with an initial water volume of 125ml at 90 degrees Celsius and a quick rinse.
Dry fragrance is dried apricot and resinous hardwood in the bag, but when tossed in a prewarmed vessel, a heady fragrance of dried dates, figs, and kiwi skin mixed with the sort of lightly charred smokiness of a iron skillet. Wetted leaves release some musty, mossy aromas. Liquor aroma is sort of in-between a Keemun and Dian Hong. Tacky, somewhat sweet, woody. A touch of burning, wet thyme and rosemary and grilled pineapple.
Savory impression. At low concentrations or shortly after adding water when drinking from the brewing tea, it comes off as crisp, sweet, and light in most aspects. Cocoa-dusted toffee almonds with a lingering light basil note in the aftertaste. At higher concentrations, more resin is evident with notes of dates, dried apricot, sunflower seeds, black pepper, cinnamon, prune, cooked onions, poppyseed, clay, and barley atop a rich body. Aside from the light crispness and a somewhat tannin-like characteristic, this is very smooth. Hearty and belly-filling.
Easy to drink alongside food and can handle having junk mixed into it like milk and sweetener. Heck, it can even handle a bit of citrus (heaven forbid someone would purposefully add such a thing to good tea outside of experimentation) and hold a decent amount of flavor when brewed long and strong. I usually want to add this to any breakfast-style tea I try to blend for, but the lack of astringency and general mellow quality inevitably leaves this tea sapping the aggressive elements out of the teas it’s blended with.
Just had this prepared two different ways. First, I had a gaiwan with about 2g in 100ml side by side with the Da Hong Pao Handcrafted and two versions of the Formosa Yancha (one unprocessed and one charcoal-fired) all brewed with about 85 degree water for 3 minutes. At $24 cheaper for 100g than the Handcrafted DHP it’s funny how much more I enjoy this one and how it tastes more like a traditional dark DHP. This is the same cultivar and region, but produced from terraces in larger quantities rather than from between the cliffs from the clonal direct descendants of the original bush – doesn’t mean it’s a lesser tea, though, just different and a bit more for my tastes. “More for my tastes” meaning I freakin’ love this tea! Biggest difference is this is a more traditional, higher firing that may be less balanced and harder to pick up as wide an array of complexity but holds a steadfast and lingering mineral and ripe fruit character. It’s not like the leaves are shredded and look machined, either – they are almost all intact single large leaves.
Second preparation I’m drinking while writing this review as a continuous infusion using 76 degree C water drunk straight from my snazzy new gaiwan from Lin’s Ceramics Studio. Yes, you can be jealous =P. Used a 5 second rinse and 2g and 125ml to start, but strength gets progressively higher as the liquor is drunk down. Also, I’m adding new water before draining the last from the gaiwan, so I’m mixing infusions. And I’m using the “keep hot” feature on my electric kettle for the first time! Gasp! Oh, the horror that is reheated water and lack of repeatable results!
But this tea can take it.
Seriously – I started drinking it within 10 seconds of filling the cup with water and it’s still tasty after brewing covered for seven minutes and more. There was something like 40ml left in the cup when I added 80 degree water back up to 130ml and now it tastes sweet on top of the base chocolaty flavor I got to start with.
Dry fragrance from the sealed bag sent from china (gold foil stamped all over with Chinese characters and Da Hong Pao all over it) is just like ripe apricots. Good ripe apriots – not those watery things a lot of big supermarkets have – like apricots pilfered off the branch of your neighbor’s tree that reaches over your fence plucked as they start to shrivel a bit in the sun and releasing that wondrous nectar aroma only some dried apricots can express. That and the warm undercurrent of burnt hardwood.
Wet aroma brings out more of the charcoal notes but with a little more vegetal expression and a sandstone/limestone mineral effect. Reminds me of the smell of a morning on the beach of far northern California with cold, kelp-filled water covered in fog mixing with the fresh silty water running from the redwoods over coarse, smooth dark sand and seashells and embers smoldering on the wet, charred remains of last night’s campfire in the wet sand. This analogy is exacerbated by second infusion’s similarity to smores made with burned marshmallows.
Liquor aroma is woody with bittersweet chocolate. Apricot comes in only as though it’s a naturally occurring note to a dark chocolate bar alongside a hint of orange, cassia, and black cardamom.
Flavor is true to the aroma but with a bit of graham cracker and a bakers chocolate astringency in the far back of the throat. Mineral flavor is more like wet gravel or unpolished granite than the limestone advertised earlier. Nice, interesting play of sensations in the mouth as overall it’s smooth and mouthwatering but there’s moving patches of astringency and dryness that enhance rather than detract. Some cumin, garlic, and chilies come out in the third infusion (leaves not yet open all the way). I’m getting kind of a mix of arbol, adobo, and chipotle pepper flavors as they’d be expressed in a dill pickle brine mix. Hmm… Stir fried bamboo, water chestnuts, pineapple, and onions. Cured, smoked honey ham in the aftertaste? Okay, why not? This just keeps getting more and more mouthwatering, savory, and sweet. I want to call this rich bodied due to the heady expression of flavor and lingering aftertaste but it really is not even close to being as syrupy thick as some other oolongs or puerh (heck, I’ve had greens with a little more body), but there’s enough there that I want to call it richer than the light-broth consistency it’s got. Mineral quality shifts back and forth between accents of charred wet softwood, dry hardwood, limestone, sand, gravelly granite, bisque fired clay, and the pits of various stone fruits. Florals like iris, orchids, and oddly wine grape and papaya fruit notes peep in with the minerals. Lots more going on… I think I’ll toss out “winy” and “herb spices” and let y’all grasp for adjectives since if you guess, I’m sure it’s probably there. Have I said cinnamon, bay, paprika, and rosemary yet? Howabout barbecue? Savory sweet chocolaty goodness. Sixth rebrew with some infusions going well over 10 minutes and it’s still full of gusto and starting to go more candy-sweet (or is it just making my tongue and breath go sweet?) and mouthwatering crisp.
Mmm, tasty. Great accompaniment with food or to settle a stomach after a plate of fresh oysters. Waaaaaay underpriced and the owner of the shop heartily agrees yet keeps the price the same. Hooray hoorah and zipitty do-da-day. I need my fingers for more tea drinkin’ so here’s where my review is gonna end.
This looks like oolong… Small hard pieces that goes:“kling – kling” when you drop them in the pot.
Light brown liquid with a green tint.
Taste surprisingly sweet… like a good black tea. Keemun?
Earthy, fruity flavor. It’s a very smooth tea. It’s very neutral at first, aromatic at the middle, and sweet at the end.
I could drink this at breakfast!
Aww! Pretty! Look’ a’ tha’ pretty pretty leavees…
Okay, I am beat. I should go to bed, but I want more tea!!!
One last pot before bed – I promise I’ll stop pestering your dashboard afterwards.
(untill I wake up Muhahah!)
First thing first: The leaves.
They are like gypsies. No dresscode! They twist and turn, they are broken and whole and they can’t decide whether they are black or white. (Some of them are only white on 1 mm. at the end? Weird huh? I can’t imagine how they produce this.) Smell’s like hay/cereal.
I read the instructions at Tillermans site. 1 min steep it said… But I only counted to 50.
But I am truly a very slow counter. And a tired one at that.
The finished product has a yellow hue. Yum.
Sips Oh… this is very soft. Diplomatic. Silly flavorless words. Hmm… Okay, it’s sweet at first and bitter at the end. Earthy flavors. Very smooth. I am going to say the forbidden word: Assam-ish. I know, I can’t keep saying it! But it is. It taste like a middle thing between a assam and a white tea. And there is a little note of hay and honey.
All in all a pleasant encounter.
- This tea was sponsored by drumroll Thomas Smith!
So glad I followed up on this one. Used my usual concentration in the same teapot and pretty much the same parameters as last time.
9g with 110ml water in zhu ni rong tian. Single rinse had 10 second contact including the just-shy-of 10 second pour using 88 degree C water. Infusions progressed (tack 10 seconds onto these for total contact time): 20sec-87C, 25sec-86C, 30sec-85C, 35sec-84C, 45sec-84C, 45sec-87C, 50sec-87C, 55sec-86C, 60sec-85C, 120sec-88C, 160sec-87C.
Still not great body for what I like, but much better than last time and more in balance with the levels of flavor and astringency (which gently coats the middle of the tongue rather than attacking just one region). Aroma more full and sort of like cinnamon French toast made with sourdough, with the spice, grain, egg, and slightly charry edge in nice balance. Most importantly, this time ‘round the warm aromatics are very nicely coupled with the crisp herbaceous, somewhat nutty and burnt wood flavor. Peanut shell, river rock, rice, and dry grass in aftertaste. Reminds me of chewing on a long piece of hay or stalk from flowering grass. Aroma is nice and heady with qualities evoking chocolate and a bit of coffee but not smelling like either… an ambiguous warming roasty-sweetness they all share. I get the same quality from pie in an oven that’s just on the verge of being overdone. Another not-there aroma and flavor is a peach similarity like exhaling after smelling a peach cobbler. Not fruity, but related to the heady ripe sweet-spiciness from cooked peaches buried in baked crust. Appears in aroma, aftertaste, and nose but not in your face at all like in other oolongs. Astringency isn’t nearly as medicinal as the crushed aspirin astringency I get in heavily roasted DHP, but has similar range and effect with just mellower intensity. Fourth infusion is a little sweet and delicious, with hints of cocoa powder and some florals peeking out. From the sixth infusion on a distinct toasted-rice sweet crisp taste is incorporated into the flavor. Liquor much richer yellow-orange than last round, taking on a bit more red through the fourth-sixth brews and on the eleventh it has an unbelievable (as in it’s really pretty but it looks almost fake) clear amber color with the luster of a jewel made of it.
Much happier with this round. Very satisfying with warming aroma and refreshing flavor working really well on a warm day. Really comforting by the 6th infusion. Makes me want cobbler with caramel though this goes really really well alongside extra sour sourdough bread.
Lesson learned about this tea – either go with the vendor’s recommended 3-5g per 175-230ml for 2 minutes at 90 degrees C or go all out for gongfu preparation. The middle gound is more difficult to pull off successfully.
I just let myself down really hard with this tea. I’ve had such wonderful experiences with it in the recent past, but totally flubbed it this time. That’s what I get for following my usual methods while using 2/3 the amount of leaf concentration I normally would.
Still a very nice tea, just not nearly as exciting and more astringent than it ought to be. First brew was downright insipid and the first sets the stage for those to follow. I feel like I should dump and start again, but at $14 per 25g I don’t think so…
I used 6g with 130ml water in a barely-seasoned zhu ni clay rong tian style yixing teapot. This pot pours in 10 seconds, so contact time on each steep should be considered accordingly. Started with 87 degree water for the 10 second contact rinse and first infusion. Infusions progressed with time-temp: 30sec-87C, 35sec-86C, 35sec-85C, 45sec-83C, 55sec-81C, 10min55sec-96C… Liked the third infusion best, followed by the absurdly long one.
Dry fragrance is “DaHongPaoish”… A sort of herbal-woody, caramelized pie crust, toasty-roasted nut quality with old cardamom husk+rhubarb spiciness, a grape+nectarine skin not-quite-fruit phenolic note and dried apricot “ripe” quality. I get this note in some coffee and chocolate sometimes and I just think of it as “Da Hong Pao-like” as a base reference note. Compared to others, this one is lighter and not as edgy in the roastiness as some almost-medicinal ones I’ve had and loved. Leaves look dark umber brown with a gray reflection and some accents of brick red and very dark green-brown. Wet leaves are forest green with deep dark green folds and some yellow and reddish brown accents. Wet leaf aroma is somewhat tannic, like wet oak leaves. Liquor is yellow-orange and has a honey and dry wheat aroma. A touch of egg and canola oil in the aroma.
I definitely screwed up brewing this time. Shoulda gone longer or hotter or used more leaf… or not rinsed and kept the variables the same. Also, the water had been boiled once before.
Wussy shade of what Da Hong Pao is about. Some charcoal, tannic leaf, underripe peach, and celery flavor. Imbalance with the astringency that grips the back of the mouth. Poor body. With the ten minute infusion, I get a lot more body and aroma/flavor I expect, but the expression is thrown off and the aroma has been driven off relative to the flavor. Good example of how the aroma can be removed at a different rate in comparison to the taste elements. This is sad, I normally love this tea (as in, the same bag in my cupboard, not just the fact that I love DHP – I like roastier ones better).
I picked this up today at Tillerman Tea in Napa, California’s Oxbow Public Market. This shop very quickly became my favorite retailer to buy from after being introduced to it a couple years ago. While they may not have half the ambiance of larger tea shops (it is a very nice looking stall in a communal market), they more than make up for it with incredible customer service, in-depth knowledge, dedication to freshness, and consistently high quality. I’ve learned plenty from stopping into places such as Imperial Tea Court and Teánce, but this is the only place where I regularly learn something new with every visit and usually get an engaging, friendly discussion along with my fine tea.
This time around, I walked out with a true gem. This is a spring 2010 traditional LiShan rolled oolong by teamaster Chen Huan Tang. Higher oxidation around 30%, compared to contemporary Jade oolongs around 20-25%, and with a lighter, more balanced roast than most “roasted” Taiwanese oolongs. I was surprised to hear this is the highest elevation growing area in Taiwan, around 2,000 meters – placing it near the highest in terms of tea cultivation worldwide.
I can say with confidence that this is the most wonderful Taiwanese rolled oolong I have been acquainted with. Whilst presenting distinctive characteristics and very heavy aroma, it excels in balance. Even the afteraroma that lingers well beyond 15 minutes on the 11th infusion (tried to test on the 10th but – oops – had another cup before it started to diminish) is balanced with an equally lingering, crisp, clean aftertaste. The progression of infusions is both dynamic in flavor yet somehow consistent in cup profile. Every infusion features layers of aromatics, tastes, and tactile impressions that shift throughout each draught with increasing range up to the 6th infusion where it holds through the 10th without diminishing a bit. I can not point to a single “peak infusion” since it is only a character shift with the range of different flavors being maintained until I ran out of water in the first round. I am sort of blown away that the “opening up” of flavor is so gradual and fluid to the high plateau it reaches starting at the 6th brew. I’m used to these rolled oolongs (heck, most oolongs and puerhs in general) presenting in a 1-2-3-4 series of flavor steps followed by a steady decrease… This is more like a smooth ascent up a sloping hillside.
Let’s see… Onward to the notes… Better be a bit more specific than usual per the parameters.
In a small glazed ceramic gaiwan I used 4.02g with 53.12ml-60.35ml water heated to 84 degrees C with progressive infusions continuing down to 75 degrees C or until I ran out of water. First four infusions at 15 seconds, then increased up to 45 seconds through to the 10th-13th infusions and added 5 seconds per infusion from then on. Had to stop at 20th infusion, though there is still a very full flavor. Water temp never exceeded 87 degrees in the kettle and no heat was added once brew temperature was achieved for each round. Water was municipal East Side Petaluma tap water (piped-in Russian River water treated with sodium hydroxide for pH and gaseous chlorine as residual disinfectant, pH 7.8, about 130ppm total hardness), aerated, run through a Brita filter, and aerated again prior to heating in a stainless steel electric kettle. Last thing eaten was a vanilla and fudge drumstick ice cream cone 3 hours earlier. Single rinse with 4 second contact time to open leaves a tad, take in wet leaf aroma, and take a baseline photo.
Leaves are glossy, dark green with yellow stems. Dry fragrance is sweet lettuce-leafy with a cream-like tang. 4g covers about half the area of the bottom of my gaiwan. By the 8th infusion the leaves have filled the volume to where the lid rests and by the 20th it is necessary to push the leaves about with the lid to stir as they exceed the water line. Wet leaves carry heavy perfume of many flowers, spices, foliage, and heavy dairy products. Most significant of these are carnation, butter lettuce, basil, thyme, lavender, cinnamon stick, balsa wood, apple peel, freshly washed hair (odd but distinct and pleasant), mulched grasses, brown pear, and churned buttermilk. Leaves take a little while to expend with my short infusions but are almost exclusively intact 3 leaf and a bud sets with deep spinach green leaves up to 8cm long with fresh sea lettuce elasticity and slightly firmer texture closer to nori. Terminal buds are very small and just emerging from the twig. Twigs are olive green after infusing. Liquor is clear, light-yet-saturated Chardonnay-yellow with a couple dust-sized particles with no sieve used. Liquor aroma carries on aromas of leaves but less spice, more cream and chlorophyll-sweet. Very soothing and full aroma – actually has a rich tactile impression in sinuses or mouth when breathed in.
Full, buttery body. Body is equal to or greater than most puerh I’ve had. Leafy-pear sweet, cinnamon stick and pink peppercorn spice, basil and honey-infused cream sour, glutinous umami, faint marble salt note, and the mellow bitterness of marsh grasses. Mouthwatering crispness circles in and out in a perpetual cycle for over 5 minutes after a draught. Heavy nose of tropical flowers and foliage, rice, cream, chives, and squash. Name a type of monocot plant and there’s a similar muted aromatic or flavor characteristic. Cycad or palm fronds most similar to me, but there’s even a bit of pineapple hiding in the aftertaste. Wet terra cotta or baked adobe brick mineral “ting” alternates with rice/grass pollen in crisp flavor that moves about the tongue. Very, very smooth, but a bit of light whole-spice wetted cinnamon and clove astringency begins to appear in near the back of the tongue from the 9th infusion on. Breath is thick, sweet, perfumed, heavy, and refreshing when exhaling immediately after swallowing. This is accompanied with or followed by a sort of pleasant warming rush from the chest cavity to the five radial points (most notably a rush to the head). Sort of forces a “Woah” or “Mmmmm” like how a refreshing cold beverage forces an “Ahhh”. Lingering rice-like sweetness makes the mouth water for the duration of the slowly-receding aftertaste. Very soothing.
I’m really astonished by the lasting quality of the tea and how I can still conjure up over ten distinct flavor characteristics in the 20th infusion. At the 16th brew it tastes like the 6th steep of a “really good” LiShan oolong. The cinnamon note remains mild but increases a bit with each infusion. Definite note of pear but most of the fruit is in the aroma and nose and takes the form of the smell sliced fruits emit from a dehydrator. I’m playing it safe with coolish water and short brew times out of the desire to maintain flavor and really am not worried in the slightest about risk of producing bad flavors by overbrewing. The most significant astringency is still much less than spinach leaves and the bitterness never reaches the level of mineral water. I’m sure I couldn’t produce a bad tasting brew from this without stewing in boiling water at high concentration. It would be a shame to drive off so many lovely florals, though. Orchid, gardenia, tulip, carnation, water lily, wood rose, ginger flower, orange blossom, lavender, and a whole slew of mixed wildflowers pushed off by excessively hot water would be sort of heartbreaking after taking in what this can offer.
There’s two summary metaphors I can think of to embody this tea:
The essence of sitting on a warm, sun-heated deck surrounded by rich, fresh, green, mist-covered fields and fern-filled woodlands in the emerging morning sun of springtime.
The root personification of “Woah” a la Keanu Reeves.
Take your pick.
Light – but not Jade – oolong awesomeness.
Wow, this is so incredibly different in appearance and dry fragrance from the past couple years! It is no longer a tightly balled tea with the looks of an old-style dark Tieguanyin and is no longer evocative of dried apricots prior to brewing. Now it’s a wiry, dark, twisted-leaf tea with the looks and smell of a small-leaf, charcoal roasted Wuyi Yancha or a particularly roasty Yixing Gongfu Hongcha. Now it is immediately identifiable as a red/black tea the moment the bag is opened. I really thought I got the wrong tea in the mail and even called them up to verify that this is what this year’s is like.
So why am I okay with this having the same name and not bothering to create a new entry to accommodate a different style? Well, first it’s because it’s by the same producer from the same plants. Second… I would have a hard time telling the two versions apart by taste. Color is a bit more crimson in the first infusion but back to the red-orange brown coloration of its previous incarnations in subsequent infusions. Aroma, taste, tactile impression, nose… they are all right in line with tasting notes I’ve made before. Sweet, perfumey with ripe apricot and prune qualities, and lingering woody spice notes. Charcoal fragrance does not appear in the cup at all. Won’t change the score since this is still really good. I’m impressed that the flavor isn’t obviously different after the rolling style has changed so much.
Brewed 4g/100mL with 95C water for 1min-1min-1min.
Used 5g in 155ml water in a covered glazed ceramic gaiwan with a single quick rinse. First infusion 1 minute with 85 degree C water followed by a 2 minute 30 second infusion with the same water slightly cooled.
Dry fragrance very similar to dried apricots. Toasty, sweet, fruity (the apricots, but also longan, lychee, kumquat, currant, and dried pomello rind), cinnamon, pink peppercorns, whole cardamom, and cedar wood. Wet aroma of the leaves more damp wood, wet granite, pear, and plum sauce. Liquor is a clear, reddish copper color and carries a heady aroma of the spices and longan/kumquat fruity notes.
Only real difference in infusions is increased body and headiness of aroma in longer brew. Slick, smooth, full mouthfeel. Long lingering cupric aftertaste with ripe fruit medley. Mineral, sweet crispness lends mouthwatering effect. Slight astringency in the very back of the throat. In tasting, it is vaporous with the aromas blending easily to the flavor and to the nose and afteraroma – practically seamless transition but lighter up front and richer toward end. Taken as a draught, there is more of a plum skin, copper metal sweetness, ripe pear underlying perfume, and overall juiciness you don’t quite get in sipping/slurping.
When brewed longer, this has a striking similarity to brandy or heavier scotch in color, aroma, and body.
Rich and sumptuous while remaining clean, this tea balances the line between oolongs and reds very well and would happily satisfy folks of either preference. Despite its weight, I would never consider besmirching this tea with additions – it is really pointless and adding anything more than the smallest bit of sugar or honey would tear it to shreds.