Before I begin this review, allow me to state that I have something of an inexplicable attachment to this tea. I’m not sure why, but I always look forward to its yearly release. I’m finally finishing up the last of the 2016 harvest. I’ve been brewing it in the Western style off and on for the past week or so, but tonight I wanted to try it gongfu. This may sound curious, but this was the first time I ever tried this tea gongfu.
To prepare the tea, I rinsed 5 grams of loose tea leaves and then steeped them in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 8 seconds, 11 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 aromas of dark wood, char, roasted grain, mellow spice, and indistinct fruits. The rinse brought out aromas of rock sugar, vanilla, cream, and some kind of citrus. The first infusion then brought out touches of leather and mild tobacco. In the mouth, the tea led with notes of char, roasted grain, dark wood, dark chocolate, earth, moss, and tobacco underscored by touches of rock sugar, cinnamon, and watermelon candy. Subsequent infusions brought out subtle tea blossom, yuzu, candied lemon peel, candied orange peel, sour plum, roasted nut, cream, vanilla, and pomegranate notes. Sharp Wuyi minerals also began to make themselves known while the notes of rock sugar, cinnamon, and watermelon candy also strengthened. Verdant’s tasting note led me to believe that this tea would be intensely fruity and that there should have been notes of nectarine, sage, and honeysuckle in there, but quite frankly, I never even came close to finding anything along those lines. The later infusions presented a more pronounced minerality and retained their earthy, woody character, though I could still find traces of cream, vanilla, and citrus. Naturally, the buttered popcorn flavor I almost always get out of Da Hong Pao popped up at this time as well.
This harvest was not quite what I expected, but I found it enjoyable. I wish the tea had not been so roasty and woody up front because the fruit notes were legitimately fascinating. I especially loved that tart watermelon candy impression I kept finding on the finish.
Flavors: Char, Cinnamon, Citrus, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Dark Wood, Earth, Floral, Fruity, Grain, Leather, Lemon, Mineral, Moss, Orange, Plums, Popcorn, Roasted nuts, Sugar, Tobacco, Vanilla