Dark Rose Tea
Dry aroma: clean, soft earthy notes, but little scent
Wet aroma: sharp rose scent mingles with an almost stewed fruit/strawberry aroma and a ‘tannic’ brisk background.
Appearance: Dark compressed tea brick in the shape of a heart with the letters YQY impressed into the rose. Resembled a formed tou cho and weighed 4grams.
1st extraction – deep reddish umber liquor with coppery bright legs at the edge of the cup. 7 minute extraction in 200 degree water in 8oz gaiwan; took that long for the compressed tea to begin to break apart and express color in the water without the need to physically agitate it to fall apart. Front tart, smoky elements with predominate smooth, clean tannic profile and a soft floral, elusive rose flavor resting in a complex tapestry of mouth textures and evolving flavors. The rose quickly would bloom on each sip, right before a faint earthy, smoky flavor would finish across the palate. Many layers of flavors finished on different parts of the tongue and left an almost rose petal-fleshy body.
2nd extraction: 190 degrees for 3 minutes. Reddish, blushing liquor. Rose notes rise to the front with complex floral flavors and a smoky, fruit aftertaste like grilled apricots and fruit nectar like texture. Tannins isolate the center of the tongue and flavors tingles on the side of the mouth and under the edges of the tongue.
3rd extraction: 180 degrees for 4 minutes. Color thins to a reddish, clear coppery hue. Creamy rice, toasted hints, light rose-floral, smoky profile.
4th extraction: 200 degree water for 7 minutes. Orange-reddish clarity in the liquor. Thin rose predominance with almost metallic finish.
Over all an interesting tea and a few more observational notes:
In the latter stages, when the tea was fully uncompressed and the loose leaf settled, it was an almost FOP like cut and the rose pieces were of a pink/ghostly pale color, unlike the red so common in rose scented/flavored teas.
I feel a special note is deserved concerning my use of the term ‘smoky’ in this particular tea description. This is nothing like Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey, or toasted oolongs. Its flavor is more like bohea: soft, fruity, and complex, almost like grilled peaches or delicate cold-wood smoked salmon lox. The flavor is soft, subtle and not intrusive and compliments the stewed fruit/rose hints in the tea, giving it a deep complexity. It at first seems to hint at chemical complexity, but retains a very natural flavor and feel.
This was a gift from I Cheng, the owner and founder of Zen Cha in Columbus OH, a fellow tea enthusiast who has always been kind and generous in his interactions with me. I was visiting his Bexley store for Sunday brunch and ran into him and this tea was given to me from his last remaining samples.