Holy ambrosia! I now understand how Jason felt after prying the legendary golden fleece from the clutches of King Aeetes. This tea just makes you feel powerful, like you’re caressing some coveted treasure of the gods, attempting to hide it from their jealous eyes. Remind me again why I waited this long to order some of this tea?
While not the most complex tea flavor-wise, it is a magnificent textural tea. Please don’t get me wrong, this tea’s flavor is supremely balanced, and oh-so delicious—a tea with top-notch character. But really where this tea shines is in the mouthfeel. I will reiterate what most others have already claimed: it is silky smooooth. However, it’s not static from what I’ve tasted in my sessions with this tea. I wrote twice as many notes on textural fluctuations than flavors throughout steeps. I’ll outline my notes:
Steep 1-2: airily light, silky, melts away as swallowed
Steep 3: becomes heavier and thicker, like velvet
Steep 4: becomes lighter, but more creamy and soft
Steep 5-6: light and silky again
Steep 7: same as last steep, but with a sparkling texture that tingles the back of the throat
Steep 8: back to creamy
Steep 9: back to silky
As for the flavor details, this dian hong tastes like candy. Especially during the first steeps where the liquor is smooth and melty, I can’t get those Werther’s Original caramel hard candies out of my mind when I’m sipping. These combined with raw cane sugar, a hint of cloves, and malt make up an amazingly well-balanced body in the first few steeps. Going on into the third and fourth steep, the heaviness of the liquor compliments darker cocoa and mocha flavors as spices gently increase and a honeyed sweetness meets them midway. These notes are very well complimented by strong, wafting aromas of chocolate and toffee from the wet leaves and liquor, respectively. Continuing on, caramel flavors increase, accompanied by a new tapioca-like taste, while the intense sugary tastes subside for a steep or two.
At this point, an aftertaste has been well-established, as hints of licorice and toffee play in the back of the throat. Onto the seventh steep! The liquor’s aroma becomes quite strong now, whereas it had been lighter and less pronounced in the beginning. Playing on the sparkling texture, the flavor develops a syrupy sweetness that meshes with increasing malt and tapioca flavors. Steep eight is really where this tea came out for me. It was nicely thick and creamy, developing some complexities of an earthy or mossy quality and some faint astringency, which added nice depth to the taste established by the previous steep. From this point on, this tea mostly reverted back to the flavor profile of the beginning, creating a nice and even bell curve of flavors, if you will.
Other miscellaneous notes:
- The evolution of flavor after a sip is really quite fantastic. It starts off full of flavor, but it keeps gradually expanding, becoming full-bodied before slowly fading away into an aftertaste. I think this has one of the most lingering flavors of any tea I’ve had recently.
- The leaves are really quite amazing. Beautiful colors and sheen when dry, with an interesting springiness to them and a soft texture. When wet, the quality is even more apparent. These are probably the most consistent appearing leaves I’ve seen; every single one is exactly what it should be, nothing extraneous. Oh! And they smell heavenly. Honey, vanilla, a light dusting of spice, dried fruits, and caramel. There was something else that I couldn’t put my finger on, but after just reading the other reviews, I must agree there is an uncanny sweet potato aroma to them.
- After most steeps, a delicate layer of tea oils is visible.
Sorry for the length! Thanks for sticking through the whole thing!