I am a huge fan of this tea’s liquor. When using my gaiwan, as soon as an infusion is poured out, the liquor is a bright, vibrant red. Yet, intriguingly this tea oxidizes extremely quickly. If looked upon for fifteen to twenty seconds or so after the pour, the liquor darkens and fades into a more ruddy brown-red coloration. The transition is quite striking and has a color range that is much broader than most other hongcha I am familiar with.
Otherwise, I am also a fan of the aggressiveness this tea brings out in the flavor. It is both expected and consistent throughout steeps and reminds me of the ol’ Zhu Rong of Verdant Tea, but with smoke instead of spice. It provides a robustness that requires a certain mood from the drinker, when something brisk and perhaps a bit rude is desired. But it’s not a complete brute. The flavor transitions into a mouthfeel is nice and savory, with a salty feeling in the aftertaste.
My main complaint is that the leaves are far too potent and abrasive to enjoy their aroma properly. In this case, the smoke is exponentially more powerful than the leaves themselves, creating an imbalance. However, if I remember correctly, this tea was surprisingly lasting across multiple steeps, without a major loss of smokiness in the later steeps. I believe up to eight was common.
I had a few sessions of this Western style, but concluded that I preferred it much more in a gaiwan.