Wow. This was a blast from the past. While organizing my tea cabinets yesterday, I discovered a pouch of this tea. I apparently bought it when Verdant had a sale going on a few months back and then promptly forgot about it. Naturally, I had to crack it open and give it a try. More than anything, I realized that this tea was from the Spring 2015 picking and was released to the public sometime between mid 2015 and early 2016. I did not want it to go to waste.
I decided to prepare this tea gongfu style. I started off by steeping 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this up with 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 8 seconds, 11 seconds, 14 seconds, 17 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse (I do not always rinse black teas, but decided to here. I figured that with the age of the tea a quick rinse might help it open a tad more), I was able to detect mild aromas of pine, smoke, mandarin orange, elderberry, and huckleberry. The rinse and the initial infusion brought out subtle aromas of blackberry, honey, and juniper as well. The first infusion started off with a strong combination of pine, elderberry, juniper berry, huckleberry, blackberry, and mandarin orange underscored by traces of honey, smoke, and minerals. There was also an almost sugary sweetness lingering in the background. Verdant describes it as rock candy, but that was not what I was getting. Subsequent infusions brought out the fruitiness and sweetness of the tea. The woodier, more savory characteristics faded a tad, while the aromas and flavors of elderberry, huckleberry, mandarin orange, blackberry, and honey were more heavily emphasized. I was able to better place the sugary sweetness at this point. It reminded me of both marzipan and light maple syrup. The mineral notes began to play a slightly larger role on the finish, but were not nearly as noticeable as I was expecting. Later infusions were unexpectedly smooth. I got mostly minerals and a touch of mandarin orange on the nose and in the mouth, though I could also detect touches of maple syrup, smoke, wood, honey, and marzipan.
This was a very refined, subtle tea with considerable staying power. I think I could have probably gotten away with using one more gram of loose tea. That may have provided a more intense and lasting set of aromas and flavors, but the preparation outlined above was still enjoyable. I have no clue how this tea compares to the regular Wuyi Gongfu Black, as I have yet to try it, and I also do not know if or how much this tea has faded over the course of the year. What I do know is that I found this tea to be pleasant, yet simpler and more straight-forward than I was expecting. I did not note a ton of change or anything really out of the ordinary over the course of the session. The tea lets the drinker know what to expect up front, lays everything out for them, and then fades. I prefer stronger, more robustly flavored black teas, and I guess I was kind of expecting this to be that kind of tea. My experience, however, suggested that it was not. In all honesty, I found myself drinking this more like a puerh after a certain point. Rather than looking for tons of change in the aroma and flavor components, I began drinking this exclusively for texture and overall feel. I think that is probably where I got the most out of this tea. In the end, I enjoyed this tea, but I also would have preferred something more robust. If you are the sort of person who gets a lot of mileage out of very subtle, reserved teas, then this may very well be up your alley. I think it is worth a shot regardless.
Flavors: Blackberry, Fruity, Huckleberry, Maple Syrup, Marzipan, Mineral, Orange, Pine, Smoke