This was yet another back-of-the-tea cabinet discovery. I knew I had bought an ounce of this last year, but apparently, I had forgotten about it entirely. It was all the way in the back, still sealed, and just waiting to be tried. I finished the last of the pouch this morning after spending a couple days with it. I could not tell that it had faded all that much, if at all. Just as a side note, this review will primarily be concerned with the gongfu session I conducted with this tea yesterday, but I also tried it iced and Western. Of the three preparations, the gongfu was probably the best, though as an iced tea, this worked quite well too.
As mentioned above, I prepared this tea gongfu style. I started by steeping 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 175 F water for 5 seconds. I did not rinse this tea. While starting this session, I got it in my head that a rinse may sap some of the life out of the tea due to its age, and since I do not always rinse green teas anyway, just decided to skip it. The initial 5 second infusion was chased by 13 subsequent infusions. Steep times for them were 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the first infusion, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of honey, malt, grass, and hay. The first infusion saw the emergence of smoke, nuts, and zucchini on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up a very delicate, subtle mixture of butter, malt, grass, and hay chased by a distant, vague nuttiness. Subsequent infusions brought out the butter on the nose, as well as the honey, smoke, and zucchini in the mouth. I also picked up much clearer impressions of roasted chestnut and pine nuts. Pine needle, pine resin, and soupy umami notes showed up as well, but were balanced by touches of lettuce, minerals, seaweed, and asparagus. The later infusions were very mellow and somewhat flat, offering up a noticeable mineral aroma and taste coupled with hints of lettuce, grass, malt, and chestnut.
When I first tried this tea, I thought that it was just about dead and that I would have to end up throwing it out, but that changed quickly. As it turned out, I just did not give the first infusion enough time. I initially attributed this tea’s lack of complexity to its age, but I no longer think that is the case. Reading other tasting notes for this tea revealed that it struck others as being a mostly vegetal green tea with pronounced umami notes, and in retrospect, I totally get that. Also, I have tried similar teas in the past and I do not recall ever having one that totally wowed me with its complexity. In essence, I was looking for something that wasn’t there. With that in mind, I have to say that I greatly enjoyed this green tea for what it was. In my opinion, it was more or less exactly what a traditional Xinyang Maojian should be.
Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Chestnut, Grass, Hay, Honey, Lettuce, Malt, Mineral, Pine, Seaweed, Smoke, Umami, Zucchini