I received a 5 gram sample packet of this oolong following a mix-up with a recent order. Prior to the introduction of US forwarding, Verdant, as I’m sure pretty much all of you are well aware, shipped their orders from China. Well, an order of mine from May simply disappeared. When I say that it disappeared, I mean the order had been filled and was shipped, but it could not be located in the China Post system period. There was no record of it anywhere. So, the folks at Verdant Tea were gracious enough to work with me, refunded my order, and as compensation for the lost order, tacked a ton of free samples onto my next order. This was one of them.
I prepared this tea gongfu style using the suggested brewing method on the Verdant Tea website. Since the other two reviewers on Steepster seemed to have concerns about the strength of this tea’s flavor, I opted to use the full 5 gram sample in my 4 ounce gaiwan. I like my oolongs strong, as those of you who read my reviews are well aware (5-6 grams in a 4 ounce gaiwan is normal for me). Following the rinse, I steeped the full 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this infusion with 7 additional infusions at 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24 seconds respectively.
Following the rinse, I detected intense aromas of ginseng, nectarine, green apple, toasted sesame, kale, spinach, artichoke, sweetgrass, and marigold, with perhaps a hint of chrysanthemum. The initial infusion produced a similarly strong nose, coupled with intense notes of toasted sesame, alfalfa sprouts, artichoke, kale, fresh spinach, watercress, sweetgrass, and damp hay balanced by much subtler notes of marigold, chrysanthemum, cream, butter, green apple, nectarine, white grape, and ginseng. The second and third infusions presented a much fruitier and somewhat more floral nose. In the mouth, I detected stronger notes of green apple, nectarine, marigold, white grape, cream, and butter, balanced by slightly more reserved notes of toasted sesame, watercress, sweetgrass, kale, spinach, hay, and artichoke. The fourth infusion was, for me, where this tea started to go downhill fast. The tea began to lose its savory, herbal, fruity, and floral characteristics quickly (though they never entirely disappeared) and began to increasingly emphasize grassy, vegetal, and mineral aromas and flavors. I made it through a full eight infusions, though I pretty much lost all interest after six.
I do not really know what to say about this one. Despite some of their flaws (marketing gaffes, unbelievable claims, etc.), I tend to be a big fan of Verdant Tea. I am even a big fan of Master Zhang’s collection, from which this particular oolong comes. I more or less loved the regular Mao Xie Verdant offered this year, and tend to be something of a fan of Mao Xie in general, but this reserve version started off really strong and turned into a total disappointment in my eyes. I think the fact that this is presented as being a step above the regular Mao Xie makes it even worse for me. I tend to not be a big fan of labeling tea based on some opaque measure of quality on the part of a particular farmer and/or vendor, so terms like “reserve” mean very little to me. To be perfectly frank here, this tea reminds me of why I feel this way. I simply can’t recommend this one. If you have to try a Mao Xie from Verdant and do not want the traditional roasted version, wait for the next release of Master Zhang’s regular Mao Xie or see if you can find someone willing to swap a few grams of this year’s release.
Flavors: Artichoke, Butter, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Apple, Hay, Kale, Spinach, White Grapes