This is a combination of long, unbroken leaf with some smaller broken pieces. A few of the pieces have slipped through into my cup with each brewing. Not really a positive or negative, and really just a result of each 5 gram sample being individually packaged more than anything else I think. The dry leaf smells VERY heavily of unsweetened dark chocolate/cocoa powder. It really is reminiscent of the Lao Shan Black.
Steeped gong fu style with boiling water and my (precious, as-yet unnamed) gaiwan.
1st steep – 10 seconds.
Smell strongly reminds me of LaoShan black – roasted, baking chocolate/cocoa powder. Very toasty and bready. The liquor is very dark for a 10 second steep. This is a heavy, earthy tea. Just the way I like it!
2nd steep – 12 seconds.
There is more of a charred taste to this. Like the bread has been toasted to the point of blackened. The liquor is even darker. Not really smoky, but definitely burnt tasting. For someone who typically doesn’t like that sort of thing, this is surprisingly tolerable.
3rd steep – 15 seconds.
Now the color of the leaves are slightly lighter than the previous steep. The charred note is receding to more of the quality of the first steep, which is preferable. I can only do burnt for so long!
4th steep – 25 seconds.
The roasted note is even fainter, and if I think about it I can maybe get some cocoa. Now that its cooling I get a honeyed taste as well. Yay! Up until now this has been a largely one note tea for me so I’m glad to see it starting to evolve a bit! It’s even starting to smell sweeter!
5th steep – at least 30 seconds.
Predominantly honey and chocolate. I was thinking I’d be tired of this by now but it’s just getting good! WOW. Well, guess I’ll be refilling the Breville!
6th steep – 1 minute.
Now I’m back to the roasted quality again, though the base is discernible through it, unlike in the first few steeps where it was like drinking straight char – maybe Angrboda’s description of ‘ash’ would be more apt? I need to stop reading her notes because I’m quite suggestible, it seems. :)
7th steep – 2 minutes 30 seconds.
This is officially the longest I’ve resteeped any tea. I’m loving my new gaiwan so much! I do think I’ll probably only be able to get one more steep out of this, though. Right now I get a burnt sugar honey, but it is somewhat muted compared to earlier steepings. The color is lighter, too.
8th steep – 10 minutes.
Whoops, got caught up in chores and let this go twice as long as I wanted. The flavor is kind of weak though, anyway. An echo of its earlier bread-ish self with some faint dustings of cocoa. I have exhausted the leaves (for my palate, anyway) and I’m pretty proud of myself for being able to do it!
Overall, I feel like this was similar to Lao Shan black initially, but a less complex, less sweet version of it. I had high hopes for the chocolate and honey elements judging by smell alone, but they didn’t quite manifest as strongly as I would have liked. I will have to see what it does Western style, but I did really enjoy the whole process of gong fu with this. I just think that between this and Lao Shan, if I had to choose, it’d be the latter over the former.