As mentioned in my previous review, I actually had two of these Zhangping Shui Xian oolong mini cakes, one from 2016 and the other from 2017. My last review dealt with the 2016 tea, and this one will deal with the 2017 tea. Of the two, this was a considerably less likable tea.

As with the earlier tea, I brewed the entire mini cake in a 160 ml celadon gaiwan. After a brief rinse in 203 F water, I steeped the cake for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 15 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 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, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea cake emitted aromas of cream, butter, custard, and gardenia. After the rinse, I noted aromas of grass, wood, and apple. The first infusion brought out aromas of vanilla and cattail shoots. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of cream, butter, custard, wood, and grass that were underscored by hints of apple. The subsequent infusions brought out aromas of steamed milk, cinnamon, blueberry, sour cherry, and baked bread. Cattail shoot and vanilla impressions came out in the mouth along with very subtle hints of gardenia and new mineral, cinnamon, steamed milk, pear, sour cherry, and orange notes. I could also occasionally detect subtle hints of blueberry, but they were generally fleeting. The final few infusions mostly offered mineral, cream, butter, orange, and custard notes that were backed by hints of grass, apple, and cattail shoots.

I was not huge on the 2016 version of this tea, and I liked this more recent offering considerably less. It was very bland overall. The flavors were often subtle and did not have much staying power. Also, I had the same complaint with the earlier version of this tea, but I again noted that the tea’s more vegetal characteristics lingered in the mouth after each swallow in a way that struck me as being distinctly unpleasant. That being said, I must also give credit where it is due and remark that I enjoyed this tea’s texture considerably more than the 2016 version. In the end, this struck me as being a stunning example of a truly mediocre tea. If I were to assign a numerical score to it, I would give it a 50 and not think twice about it, but since I cannot grade this version separately, I have decided to average the scores of the two different versions of this tea that I have tried.

Flavors: Apple, Blueberry, Bread, Butter, Cherry, Cinnamon, Cream, Custard, Gardenias, Grass, Milk, Mineral, Orange, Pear, Vanilla, Vegetal, Wood

8 g 160 OZ / 4731 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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