I’m kind of surprised that I am the first person on Steepster to post a review of this tea. Like many of the teas marketed as Da Hong Pao on the market, this is not a single cultivar tea, but rather a blend. While Qi Dan is traditionally accepted to be the cultivar used in the production of so-called authentic Da Hong Pao, many others are used as well due to the rarity and expense of Qi Dan Da Hong Pao. Off the top of my head, I know that Rou Gui and Shui Xian are sometimes marketed as Da Hong Pao. Many producers, however, utilize a blend of cultivars to approximate the character of classic Da Hong Pao. These blends are often referred to as commercial Da Hong Pao and are designed to place the experience of one of the rarest and most sought-after Chinese teas in the hands of the average consumer. This tea, like so many, was a blend of oolong cultivars that had been charcoal roasted in order to approximate the experience of the primo stuff. I’m not sure which cultivars were used in this particular blend, but I can safely say that as blended or commercial Da Hong Pao goes, this one was pretty great.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a brief rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 3 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 16 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 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, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced aromas of cedar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, dark chocolate, and raisin. After the rinse, I found new aromas of roasted almond, char, smoke, prune, and fig. The first infusion then introduced hints of coffee, pomegranate, roasted walnut, and black cherry to the nose. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cedar, cinnamon, dark chocolate, allspice, raisin, smoke, char, roasted almond, and coffee that were backed by hints of roasted walnut and tobacco as well as a lingering caramel sweetness. Subsequent infusions saw vanilla and tobacco appear on the nose. Stronger notes of caramel and tobacco appeared in the mouth along with belatedly emerging notes of black cherry, nutmeg, fig, and prune. There was a pomegranate presence too, but it was very faint and did not make a point of sticking around long. New impressions of minerals, rock sugar, vanilla, grass, and roasted carrot also appeared along with a subtle creaminess. The final infusions offered notes of minerals, char, cedar, cream, rock sugar, and raisin that were balanced by notes of roasted almond, vanilla, and tobacco.
This was a ridiculously deep and complex Da Hong Pao blend that demonstrated respectable longevity and balance to go along with very nice texture in the mouth and a highly unique profile. Though it now appears to be out of stock, it was a steal at $0.26 per gram. I have long thought that some of the commercial Da Hong Pao blends get a bad rap, and I must state that this one did nothing to persuade me otherwise. I will definitely be on the lookout for future DHP blends from Old Ways Tea.
Flavors: Almond, Caramel, Carrot, Cedar, Char, Cherry, Cinnamon, Coffee, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Dried Fruit, Fig, Fruity, Grass, Mineral, Nutmeg, Raisins, Smoke, Spicy, Sugar, Tobacco, Vanilla, Walnut