At the time of this writing, ZY84 is the second best Yunnan gold tips tea I’ve ever tasted—the best being ZhiTea’s Royal Gold—and it’s a very close second. In fact, I’m still having a difficult time deciding whether Royal Gold is worth its significantly higher cost, relative to ZY84…but these notes are about Upton’s Yunnan Rare Grade, so I’ll stay focused on that.
There is certainly ZERO problem deciding whether ZY84 is worth its cost. It is a superb value in a Yunnan gold tips tea. The bag aroma is astonishing. Yeah, I know…it sounds like hyperbole, but anyone who has had the pleasure of sticking El Schnozzola in a freshly opened bag of ZY84 knows exactly what I’m talking about. The fruitiness is remarkable.
It’s less fruity in the cup, but I don’t care. It’s still an extraordinary tea. My notes on the first cup say, “It’s a richly flavored, naturally sweet tea, but it has no single dominant characteristic. There’s some leather, some spice, more malt, a bit of cocoa; it’s a melange, really.” (4 infusions in the first tasting.)
Second tasting: “…has a smooth, almost creamy mouth feel. There’s a light sweetness on the tongue, and a lingering light sweetness in the finish.” (4 infusions)
Third tasting: “Magnificent tea. It has an intense cocoa-malty creaminess…”
…and so on until I polished off the entire 80-gram bag — more than enough to explore this tea thoroughly.
I typically use 8 grams of leave in 12 ounces of 208° water for the first two infusions (1:00 and 2:00 minutes, respectively). Then I reduce the water to 8 ounces or less with gradually longer steeping times for the subsequent infusions…up to 5 infusions.
Is there Yunnan tea of this kind that’s better than ZY84? Yes, so for that reason alone I won’t give it a 100% rating. But so far I haven’t had any better Yunnan gold at this price point.
UPDATE: Alas, Upton has raised the price of this tea…significantly. I haven’t tasted the new lot. Perhaps it’s better…although it’s difficult to imagine it being sufficiently better to justify the cost increase (nearly $11.00 per pound more than the previous price…and it wasn’t cheap then either). Too bad for Upton, but there IS better Yunnan gold, and I’ll buy that instead of ZY84. They’ve priced themselves out of consideration.