After I finish with this review, the backlog will be empty once again. I’m sure that some of you who may stumble across this review know the tremendous sense of relief that comes with catching up all of your work. Part of what kept me from reviewing this tea sooner was that I made a point of trying to really savor it. I also pushed myself to see how it reacted to multiple methods of preparation.

I brewed this tea both Western and gongfu. I actually tried two different Western preparations. One was a one step preparation in which I steeped approximately 3-4 grams of loose tea leaves in around 8 ounces of 205 F water for 5 minutes. The other method was a three step infusion in which I steeped 3 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 3 minutes and then followed that up with 5 and 7 minute infusions. For the gongfu session, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds following a quick rinse. This infusion was followed by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes. This review will primarily detail the results of the gongfu session, though I will undoubtedly comment on the other preparations at some point.

Prior to the rinse, I noted that the dry tea leaves emitted pleasant aromas of dark chocolate and malt. After the rinse, I noted more pronounced aromas of dark chocolate and malt accompanied by hints of brown sugar and orange. The first infusion produced a similar, albeit slightly more integrated aroma. The mouth was dominated by dark chocolate, though I could detect impressions of sorghum molasses, malt, brown sugar, and wood just beneath the heavy chocolate flavor. Subsequent infusions introduced a fruitiness and creaminess on the nose and in the mouth. The dark chocolate, brown sugar, malt, wood, and sorghum were joined by impressions of cream, orange peel, and black cherry. Later infusions emphasized the wood, malt, and cream impressions, though traces of orange peel, sorghum, and dark chocolate remained. I noted that a slight mineral presence emerged both on the nose and in the mouth, as did a somewhat distant impression of black walnut.

While the gongfu session presented a very elegant, layered tea that revealed its charms over time, the Western infusions predictably produced a more balanced tea liquor overall. The one step infusion emphasized the tea’s woodier, more tannic qualities and presented a more astringent brew that nevertheless revealed strong notes of orange peel, wood, malt, cream, and dark chocolate. The three step infusion moved from heavy dark chocolate, wood, and malt presences during the first infusion to a sweeter, fruitier cup full of brown sugar, cream, orange, and black cherry notes during the second infusion. The third infusion presented a mildly malty, creamy liquor with wood, chocolate, fruit, and mineral underpinnings.

In the end, I was very pleased with this tea. I found it to be very sophisticated, yet also very approachable. While I do wish it had a little more bite, I think fans of smooth, nuanced black teas will find a lot to love about this one. I would have no problem recommending this tea to anyone searching for a high quality Chinese black tea with plenty of character.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cherry, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Mineral, Molasses, Orange, Walnut, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.



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