This tea was sourced from the originating village for this type of tea and is the traditional large leaf variety. This tea was pine wood smoked which is a practice becoming more and more regulated in China due to environmental reasons. This tea was smoked. It was from the 2013 harvest so part of the smoke essence has dissipated but the footprint that is left on this tea suggests that it was expertly done as the smoke itself becomes an insence like aspect of the flavour which enhances and does not overpower the other flavours in the tea.
The leaves are quite large and loosely twisted. The leaf is a dull light grey brown to a charcoal black with hints of gold tips.
I steeped 3g of this tea in a 150ml gaiwan over 6 sessions ( 45, 60, 60, 70, 90, 120s)
In scent texture and flavour it is most similar to a tea I have from a Wuyi producer from Aliexpress. It is neither as sweet, fruity or chocolatey as some teas I have had of this type, but all of these are present as well as a floral note and a insence like note that lends a bit of a savoury note to the tea.
The dry leaf smells of a mix of tart fruit, malt and grain, raisins and a bit of smoke.
Once steeped the tea smelled of cocoa, caramel, hints of smoke and ash, a spice note that was partially cinnamon and partially a note of dressed leather, hints of longan and a fruit note that was chocolate mixed with blackcurrant.
The tea retained a nice level of roasted light smoke notes in the flavour that contributed to a spice note like that of a chipotle sauce that mixed well with cocoa and caramel notes. There is a floral note that mixes with the caramel that intensifies as it cools. Also present is a bitter note that is a bit vegetal and a bit malty.
Later steeps exhibited a bit more of the tart fruit notes found in the dry leaf with stone fruit, longan and currants appearing. The caramel fruit and floral notes switch prominence as the tea cools. The tea has just enough astringency to come off as refreshing when steeped at 90°C. Towards the end the tea became more grainy with a bit of cream. The tea had a nice body but was not as creamy or oolong as some teas of this type have been for me.
My favourite steep was probably the third steep as the scent of the brewed tea was very beautiful and the caramel and floral notes were perfectly balanced and were countered by the smoke and cocoa.
Altogether an interesting and more savoury example of Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong.
Thanks Nannuoshan for the sample!