Yet another of the oolong samples Verdant sent to me, this is an Anxi County take on a traditional Wuyi oolong cultivar. The tea maker utilized a dark roast and presented this tea as a rolled rather than strip style oolong. The result is a tea that is radically different from a typical Wuyi Qilan, but I’m not sure that this presentation really produces a tea that favorably compares to these more traditional teas.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. As usual, I used the suggested protocol from 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 infusion with 9 subsequent infusions, increasing the steep time by 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, and 28 seconds.
Prior to the rinse, I took a whiff of the dry leaves and was greeted by, well, very little. I got hints of ripe fruit and spice, maybe a little woodiness, but not all that much of anything in particular. The rinse allowed more pronounced aromas of dark fruits (elderberry, blackberry, raisin, and fig) to come forward, as well as a pronounced orchid aroma and hints of wood, roasted grain, and cedar. The first infusion produced a similar aroma, while offering notes of ripe blackberry, elderberry, fig, raisin, orchid, minerals, juniper, cedar, roasted grain, char, and wood. I noticed that this Anxi Qilan was significantly smoother and milder than some of the Wuyi Qilans that I have tried in recent months. Subsequent infusions seemed to amp up the fruit, cedar, juniper, orchid, and mineral presences, though by the last three infusions, I was mostly picking up a combination of minerals, grain, wood, and char on the nose and in the mouth.
To be completely honest, this one did not do much for me. I like the more traditional Wuyi Qilans and appreciate that Master Zhang (the producer of this particular tea) was going for something a little different here, but I am really not sure that this tea stands up to some of the more traditional Qilans. If you have ever had a good Wuyi Qilan and then try this tea, you can really appreciate the difference in terroir between the Wuyi Mountains and Daping, Anxi County. This tea lacks the pronounced spiciness of its Wuyi counterparts and the dark roast seems to bring out more touches of dark fruit than I would typically expect. To me, the effect was almost jam-like. Though I like Qilan, what I appreciate so much about the Wuyi style is that the spiciness really balances the pronounced floral and fruity qualities of this particular cultivar. I am just not getting that here.
Flavors: Blackberry, Cedar, Char, Fig, Fruity, Grain, Mineral, Orchid, Raisins, Wood