Back around March, I ordered a bunch of samplers from Taiwan Tea Crafts, and naturally, I shoved them in the back of one of the tea cabinets and forgot about them. Earlier this week I took a peek inside both cabinets, saw them all, and ended up cursing in frustration. I should have made a point of drinking those teas quickly, but no, I had to leave them sitting, waiting to be discovered like landmines. The Shanlinxi sampler was the first one I opened and the first thing I discovered was this winter 2015 tea in a vaccuum-sealed pouch. I carefully opened the pouch, expecting a faded, vegetal mess, yet what I found was a lovely jade tea that emitted powerful buttery, floral aromas. Since it was obviously still good, I made a point of drinking it immediately. That was a great decision on my part, as it ended up being wonderful.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 7 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 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 emitted surprisingly powerful aromas of cream, butter, lilac, gardenia, and honeysuckle. After the rinse, I found emerging aromas of cinnamon, custard, magnolia, and orchard fruits. The first infusion offered a hint of pear on the nose and light notes on the palate. A grassy, vegetal entry gave way to hints of pear, citrus, cream, butter, and fresh flowers. Subsequent infusions offered stronger butter and cream notes, while impressions of custard, cinnamon, grass, and tangerine fully emerged on the palate. The floral notes showed up in a big way too. It was like a bouquet of lilac, violet, gardenia, magnolia, and honeysuckle. Impressions of lettuce, coriander, green apple, vanilla, sugarcane, coconut, pineapple, and minerals also emerged. The later infusions retained more complexity than expected. I found impressions of minerals, butter, sugarcane, and cream balanced by notes of vanilla, pineapple, and orchard fruits.
This was a tea that absolutely floored me, and to be completely honest, I do not always like teas from the Shanlinxi and Alishan growing regions (from what I understand Shibi borders both and Shibi teas are sometimes classified as either Alishan or Shanlinxi by a number of vendors). Rather than fading quickly to focus on vegetal notes, this tea was very fruity, savory, and floral throughout virtually all of the session and retained a very smooth, creamy texture in the mouth from start to finish. The sort of tea that is capable of spurring me into investigating Shibi oolongs more thoroughly, I will undoubtedly be trying some of Taiwan Tea Crafts’ other Shibi offerings in the near future.
Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Citrus, Coconut, Coriander, Cream, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Green Apple, Honeysuckle, Lettuce, Mineral, Pear, Pineapple, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Violet