This is another of the oolongs the folks at Verdant Tea were gracious enough to allow me to sample at no charge. I have to say that regardless of whether or not one believes some of their (admittedly rather ridiculous) claims, I do have to say that they really stand behind their products and care about their customers. So, I would like to thank the people at Verdant for helping me out with some issues with a previous order and giving me the opportunity to try some of their newer oolongs.
Ruan Zhi is a tea cultivar about which I know very little. I do know that it is more popular in Thailand and Taiwan than in China. According to the people at Verdant, it is used in Taiwan to produce both Baozhong and Dong Ding oolongs, and in Thailand to produce similar oolongs. Since I am a fan of both Taiwanese and Thai oolongs, I couldn’t wait to try a more traditional Chinese take on this cultivar.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. As usual, I followed the suggestions of the people at Verdant Tea. Following a 10 second rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this initial infusion with 10 additional infusions, with an increase of 2 seconds per infusion. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 12 seconds, 14 seconds, 16 seconds, 18 seconds, 20 seconds, 22 seconds, 24 seconds, 26 seconds, 28 seconds, and 30 seconds.
Following the rinse, I noticed that this oolong smelled like no other oolong I have tried to this point. The aroma of the wet leaves was simultaneously bready, creamy, fruity, and floral. After infusion, I detected complex aromas of fresh baked bread, cream, custard, lilac, violets, wood, and minerals. In the mouth, notes of cream, custard, fresh baked bread, lilac, violet, wood, and minerals were very much evident. I did not pick up on the honey described in Verdant’s tasting note, though there was a very fruity sweetness there and a hint of floral character I found virtually impossible to identify. The only thing that came to mind was gardenia, but I don’t really feel that description fits what I was experiencing. The second and third infusions brought out lovely aromas and flavors of orange that meshed perfectly with the somewhat intensified aromas and flavors found in the first infusion. From the fourth infusion on, I noticed that the floral aromas and flavors started to fade as the mineral, cream, custard, bread, wood, and orange aromas and flavors began to slowly take center stage. I also noticed a subtle hint of white pepper began to emerge at this point. By the final two infusions, the tea had very little in the way of an aroma, but I continued to note flavors of cream, custard, wood, minerals, pepper, and orange underscored by fleeting sensations of flowers.
Now that I have had a day to process my experience with this tea, I can say that I found it to be lovely, though not perfect. I really enjoyed the mix of aromas and flavors on display in this tea. They work very well together, and I found that Verdant’s tasting note was amazingly accurate. I also appreciate that this is a very unique tea. It has a character all its own. Still, some of the most appealing aromas and flavors faded just a tad sooner than I would have preferred. If those floral aromas and flavors had lasted through maybe one or two more infusions, I would be giving this tea an incredible rating. Since that is not the case, a score of 90 feels about right to me because this is still very, very good.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cream, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Mineral, Orange, Pepper, Violet, Wood