Thank you to David and Verdant Tea! This sample came with the David’s Choice sampler.
This tea is fantastic. I’m really having trouble criticizing anything about it. Yet, oddly enough, I’m also having trouble finding anything “new” in this tea. It’s a tieguanyin for sure and it gives you everything you’ve ever wanted in a tieguanyin. So why is this one amazing? Because it does every little thing it’s supposed to do perfectly and nothing more. Every tieguanyin aspect is empowered and bursts forth. You really get a feel for the leaves’ essence, which is brought out beautifully. It’s a masterpiece.
The dry leaves are in excellent condition and were stored very well. It was like trying to break into Fort Knox to get at these leaves. First David Duckler’s silver sample pouch, then another small vacuum-sealed purple gift pouch which I assume is from Wei Wei, and finally another folded over plastic pouch with the leaves. They smelled fantastic! Sweet, floral, green and fresh, with just a touch of lilac. They were very hard, rolled extremely tightly, and were quite large. Almost every single one had a touch of brown stem protruding from the dense light green to army green ball. The colors were quite consistent and had great, shining coloration.
When wet, the leaves expanded wonderfully. I always love checking on them right after the wash, when the creases of the leaves are glowing with a brilliant light green, juxtaposed to the now dark forest green of the curled leaf faces. Normally when I check the leaves, I tend to count or pick out the leaves that are completely whole. This time, I was counting the leaves that were incomplete. The smallest leaf chunk was about the size of a dime, and there were only 3 loose stems. Considering this contained the bottom of the sample, I’d say that’s quite impressive. Most leaves were 2.5 to 3 inches, a smaller pile was between 1 and 2 inches. Most leaf edges were intact and the veins were clear against the leaf face. Bruising was minimal, mostly around the edges, but about 3 leaves out of about 40 were very bruised. Otherwise, every leaf looked pretty much the same.
The wet leaf aroma was like candied soy beans (is this a thing?) and snap peas. They smelled extremely fresh and bright, with some darker undertones like over-boiled broccoli and stone. At some points, they became yeasty-smelling and biscuity. Much later on, they took on aromas of freshly cut grass, melon, and tiny hints of fresh mushrooms.
Steeping parameters: 100mL gaiwan, ~3.5g leaf, water temperature increased with steep number from 178-190 F.
Steep 1 (5"): Buttery sweet, classic tieguanyin, grassy, boiled greens, parsley, undertones of honeydew. Mouthfeel is light and creamy. Very light green, silvery liquor.
Steep 2 (12"): Increased parsley spice, biting vegetal flavors, increased boiled greens. Aftertaste is cool, refreshing, with a slight pinch of herbal spice. Liquor is slightly more green, still crystal clear, very minimal tea dust.
Steep 3 (16"): Tastes like tieguanyin in its essence. It’s very vegetal, rich, and tongue-tinglingly cool. The mouthfeel is even more spicy, especially on the tongue, while the rest sports a very minimal astringency and a returning vegetal aspect. After a sip, nearly the entire flavor profile returns on the exhale quite strongly. This steep has exceptional character and mouthwatering depth. Liquor has added yellow tints to the above coloration.
Steep 4 (25"): A perfect mesh between Jin Xuan and Tieguanyin. The mouthfeel fights between vegetal and milky smooth while the flavor exhibits both the grassy and savory spectrum. The aftertaste is more like very sweet zucchini and that lingering bubblegum taste after you chew all the flavor out of it. Normally not the most delicious thing, but it seems to work in this. There is also many more floral notes in this steep, mimicking the delicate lilac notes of the dry leaves’ aroma.
Steep 5 (30"): In line with the heavier notes in the wet leaves, and a deeper liquor color, the flavor becomes a bit darker and earthier here. Notes of moss and stone are quite apparent and give base to the lighter, greener notes of before. The body and aftertaste become more oolong-y compared to the flighty aromatics of green and white teas that had been present prior. After I finished drinking this steep, there were some nuances of fresh strawberries in the aftertaste.
Steep 6 (45"): Very sweet and honey-like. Small hints of tapioca in the undertones. Earthier flavors are slightly more noticeable, but mostly because the greener flavors have faded somewhat. This steep is much like the last, but just less potent. However, the strawberry flavor in the aftertaste is more pronounced.
This is where I deviated from my first tasting. Originally I did 2.5 grams of dry leaf in my gaiwan, but this time, I finished off the sample with my gaiwan, so it was something like 3-3.5 grams. Ummmm, these leaves are monstrous and thick. They pretty much revert back to what they were when they were picked right off the plant, so needless to say by this steep the lid of my gaiwan was resting on leaves, not porcelain. However, I must say I was happier with this ratio of leaves to water than the first time I tasted this tea. Much more impressive complexity and far more powerful flavors. Anyway, I plopped the leaves in my Yixing teapot (~12 oz) and poured just enough water to cover the leaves completely for the next few steeps. Besides, I wanted an excuse to give my Yixing pot a little treat. :)
Steep 7 (2’): This steep was one of my favorites both times I tasted this tea. In order of least to most apparent: “tieguanyin,” honey, buttered bread, grass, cream of spinach, parsley, tapioca. This time around, I got a sauteed mushroom flavor that showed up in the aftertaste as well that I really like, actually, even though I certainly was not expecting it.
Steep 8 (3’): More earthy than the last, with a similar taste, but with less complexity. Ahhh but it certainly is gooood.
Steep 9 (>5’): Just filled up the Yixing and let it sit. Came out pretty weak, but still very tasty.
For sure, an all time favorite tea of mine. I’m curious if anyone else had this in their David’s Choice samples. The picture is one I took with my phone for my own uses, so forgive the quality. :) Feel free to replace it with something better if anyone else has a sample of this.