After surprising myself with how much I enjoyed the Autumn 2015 Laoshan Gongfu Black, I decided to power through the Spring 2016 version of this tea. I found that I did not enjoy it nearly as much, though it was quite likable in its own way. It struck me as a smoother and subtler tea overall.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. Following a quick 2-3 second rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion with 9 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, and 50 seconds.
Prior to the rinse, I noted that the dry leaves produced a delicate and slightly dusty chocolaty aroma. At that point, I could already tell that this tea was going to be quite different from the Autumn release. After the rinse, I noted the expected chocolate aroma, as well as delicate scents of toast, malt, and orange peel. The first infusion produced a similarly malty, citrusy, chocolaty aroma. In the mouth, I detected a smooth blend of malt, cream, toast, dark chocolate, candied orange peel, and honey. The next four infusions were fruitier. The expected chocolate, toast, malt, and orange peel aromas and flavors remained, as did the honey and cream notes, though I also detected traces of golden raisin, fig, and dates. A mineral presence had already started to emerge by this point as well. The final series of infusions was increasingly mild, as the tea faded earlier than I expected and wanted. By the final infusion, I was picking up on mostly fleeting toast, mineral, orange peel, honey, and raisin aromas and flavors balanced by a lingering hint of dark chocolate.
In my experience, this tea lacked the staying power of the previous release, yet I still found it at least somewhat enjoyable in its own way. It is a far smoother, fruitier, and subtler tea, lacking the robust char and roasted grain aromas and flavors of the Autumn 2015 version. It is a very balanced tea, though I do wish it retained its character a little longer. Of the two, I definitely prefer the Autumn release, though this was also pretty good. I think people who enjoy very balanced teas that present subtle, graceful variations in aroma and flavor over the course of a single session would perhaps find quite a bit to like in this one.
Flavors: Cream, Dark Chocolate, Dates, Fig, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Orange, Raisins, Toast