Here’s another one of the Spring 2016 teas I have desperately been trying to finish. This was one of my first purchases from Whispering Pines Tea Company and I totally forgot I still had it. At first, I was a little concerned about the tea’s age, but after opening the pouch and catching a whiff of ridiculously herbal, woody tea leaves, my concern melted away. I found this tea to be an exceptionally balanced black tea with enough depth and complexity to keep one coming back for more.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 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, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of malt, wood, roasted nuts, spice, and molasses. After the rinse, I began to catch hints of citrus, camphor, sweet potato, and leather. The first infusion produced an almost identical bouquet. In the mouth, I detected a mix of wood, nuts, leather, and malt underscored by hints of citrus, camphor, sweet potato, molasses, and spice. Subsequent infusions allowed the nut impressions to more clearly define themselves. They reminded me of a combination of roasted almond, roasted chestnut, and beechnut. The sweet potato, camphor, and molasses notes strengthened slightly, joined by notes of caramel, butter, pine, smoke, honey, minerals, and dark chocolate. The indistinct citrus impressions morphed into a clear orange presence, while the melange of spices also came into focus, resembling a mix of anise, black licorice, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. The later infusions were clean and smooth on the nose and in the mouth. I detected mild notes of malt, butter, leather, roasted nuts, and minerals underscored by lingering citrus, spice, pine, camphor, and honey tones.

Overall, this was an exceptionally refined Yunnan black tea. I could see what all the fuss was about and only wish that I had gotten to this one a little sooner. I guess that just means I’ll have to pick up a pouch of the 2017 harvest at some point in the near future.

Flavors: Almond, Anise, Black Pepper, Butter, Camphor, Chestnut, Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate, Ginger, Honey, Leather, Licorice, Malt, Mineral, Molasses, Orange, Pine, Roasted Nuts, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes, 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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