Having found the regular Bitter End more sweet than bitter, let’s see if its bitter varietal sibling delivers that Xtra bitter goodness. Since I only have ten grams of this tea and to ensure the speed of pour, I decided to go with 3.7g in a 55ml gaiwan. Good decision, it turns out, because this tea ended up going for twenty infusions! The timing for these were 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 7s, 10s, 13s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min., 3 min. and 4 min.
I started off with a short rinse for about seven seconds, taking some time to cram the long leaves in, and tasted the wash while I let the moisture soak in and prime the leaves for about five minutes. The soup was bitter as expected and very cooling in the mouth. This tea was fairly straightforward, so I’m not going to go into it on any sort of steep-by-steep basis. Most of the time it presented you with a combination of bitter and sweet, occasionally giving you a glimpse of the fruity citrus flavors characteristic of this village. From start to finish the tea was very clean with great strength and longevity. The bitterness is not abrasive or persistent, but leaves the mouth fairly quickly. Notable cooling was present in the first few steeps, but then died down.
While Bitter End Xtra was not mouth-numbing like the Hai Lang Hao 2016 Lao Man’e, it should satisfy all but those seeking the most extreme sort of bitterness. While I enjoyed the tea and the quality is obviously high, one shortcoming it does have is that it’s not very dynamic at least right now. Not that teas from this village are necessarily the most complex and varied when young, but I’ve had Lao Man’es that offered a richer overall experience with more depth, although they’ve had a bit more age as well. While this is not something I normally do, I’m looking forward to trying a simple mix of Bitterleaf’s own regular The Bitter End and this tea. Probably a simple 50/50 blend. I’m hoping this will bring out the best of both teas.
If you’re looking for a bitter sheng, don’t be detered by the price. For me Xtra gave twice the amount of infusions as most raws, which can be equated to using half the vessel size to produce the same amount of tea. I’m glad I picked the smallest gaiwan I have for brewing this, because, man, I can’t imagine drinking twenty infusions of any larger quantity. This leaves only The Bitter End Lite to be reviewed. I’m interested to see how it compares to the other two.
Flavors: Bitter, Citrus, Sweet