Wow, I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I’ve been on here. Took a tea like this to get me typing up online again, hahaha.
Considering some of the sampes of tea I’ve gotten from this company, I was not really expecting this tea to be quite worth the cost they are charging for it ($22.40 per 28g plus just shy of $5 shipping) but I had to give it a try as I’ve been searching for this tea for quite some time. I had a pure bud Ceylon once before, about six years ago, and have only seen a couple here and there since. Dunno if it is a matter of actual rarity of production or more a matter of rarity of companies shelling out the cash to procure and offer it with potentially dismaying results, but it is hard to find retailers that’ll sell it.
I’m really happy I got it!
I bought this looking at it as a blend component but after screwing around with it I feel it’s a shame to not simply enjoy it on its own even if it can work very well alongside other (similarly priced and quality-ranked) red teas. It is very tasty and provides a rich impression in terms of tactile balance, flavor, and aroma. Very satisfying.
The image doesn’t really do it justice… These are pure buds with occasional additional leaf scales (no fully developed leaves anywhere) processed in such a way that a tremendous amount of golden down is preserved. Looks a whole lot like the Imperial Yunnan Gold at Imperial Tea Court but with a bit narrower shape and slight curl to each bud. Most pure bud teas are not this small – four to five laid down end-to-end make up the length of a typical good grade Fuding Da Bai Hao Yin Zhen bud. Think Keemun leaf size.
Made my typical mistake of trying to take in the dry fragrance of the leaf directly and almost sneezed from sniffing up the hairs from the leaves. Fragrance when placed in a warm cup is cocoa, caramel, apple pie crust, hardwood, and fresh bread out of the oven. Wet aroma is chocolatey with maltiness similar to scotch (minus any acohol tang) and barley. Liquor is deep amber to brown, very much (again) like Yunnan buds. Liquor aroma is malty and sweet.
First impression is actually in the nose, conveying wheat toast and malt notes with a bit of a vegetal spike similar to corn on a barbecue grill (not far from the smell of roasting coffee pre-first crack). Comforting. There’s great, front-heavy mouthfeel that somehow is a little less weighted in the back of the mouth. Flavor has hearty characteristics similar to baked apples, sweet potato, fresh toasted croissants, and a little bit of honey, cumin, coriander, and saigon cinnamon over a smooth woody base. Spice notes turn more towards true cinnamon in the aftertaste, which is pretty darned reminiscent of the aftertaste of homemade baklava. Overall very buttery and full bodied with a mouthwatering effect and lingering sweetness.
Works really well in brewing with a gaiwan, but I actually enjoyed drinking this most in a cupping setup using western brewing ratios and a long steep in almost boiling water. Using 2.8g per 160ml water and 4min, 4min30sec, 5min each infusion with fresh water just before a full boil I got three very nice, relatively consistent infusions with a steady petering of flavor. Most sweetness in the third infusion. Fourth infusion at 5min not quite worth the trouble, but I still enjoy three long brews a tad more than ten short ones at higher concentration.
This is a great alternative to Yunnan Gold Buds, carrying more body and slightly more sweetness and a more refreshing yet toasty progression through to the aftertaste. Certainly right in league with the Yunnan, Sichuan, and Fujian golden bud teas, just with a slightly different face and perhaps a little more comforting on a cold day and works as accompaniment to slightly heartier foods like stew or oatmeal while being refreshing enough to be a draw on a hot day. Lucky me, my weather just swung from 87 degrees to 31 degrees in just over a week so I got to see how this guy applies to different weather, hahaha.
Were it not for the price, this would supplant Golden Monkey for me for a rich, smooth, sweet go-to red tea.