This was the third of the 2016 winter oolongs to be polished off over the past couple of weeks, and in all honesty, it was my least favorite. This particular tea was a jade Dong Ding oolong crafted exclusively from the Qing Xin cultivar. Those of you who research tea cultivars are probably well aware that Qing Xin (Green Heart) is very similar to Ruan Zhi (Soft Stem), a tea cultivar commonly used to produce rolled oolongs, and is used in the production of Bao Zhong oolongs. Presenting Qing Xin as a rolled oolong, however, is nothing new. In essence, this tea was produced from a widespread, well-known, and highly versatile oolong cultivar, one with which I happen to have a good bit of experience. While I expected to be impressed, I ended up slightly disappointed. This was a pleasant, approachable tea, but it was also somewhat plain and even a little flat.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a brief rinse, I steeped 6 grams of rolled tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 8 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced aromas of cream, butter, vanilla, custard, and lemon. After the rinse, I found an emerging aroma of grass and a stronger custard scent. Oddly, the lemon seemed to disappear. The first infusion then saw the lemon aroma reappear alongside a new scent of spinach. In the mouth, I noted flavors of cream, butter, and custard backed by subtle impressions of grass, cinnamon, and lemon. The following infusions brought out the notes of spinach and vanilla in the mouth as well as slightly stronger grass, lemon, and cinnamon flavors. New impressions of minerals, sugarcane, tangerine, orchid, narcissus, kumquat, pear, and seaweed appeared. I also noted a slightly brothy umami note, and bizarrely enough, hints of daylily shoots. I only ever seem to pick up daylily shoot notes in Jin Xuan oolongs, so this impression was particularly out of place. I have no clue why I kept finding it. The longer final infusions were dominated by notes of minerals, cream, and butter balanced by subtle hints of citrus, grass, and daylily shoots, though on at least one or two of these infusions, very vague vanilla notes poked through on the finish.

Kind of an odd tea and most certainly something I would have to be in the mood for, I could not see myself wanting to come back to this one frequently. Even though most of the aromas and flavors I found were not out of place in this type of oolong, for some reason they never struck me as fully coming together in a compelling fashion, and that, coupled with the fact that the texture of the tea liquor was very static throughout, is what led to my earlier assertion that this was a boring, flat tea. The tea steadily evolved in the mouth and on the nose, but it never fully blossomed, never developed into something new and unique that pulled me in all the way. Again, it was pleasant, drinkable, and fairly well-constructed, but unfortunately, I never found it to be anything more than pleasant, drinkable, and fairly well-constructed.

Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Citrus, Cream, Custard, Grass, Lemon, Narcissus, Orchid, Pear, Seaweed, Spinach, Sugarcane, Umami, Vanilla, Vegetal

195 °F / 90 °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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