One of the more recent additions to Li Xiangxi’s collection, this Big Red Robe is harvested from some of the older tea plants in her care. Compared to Verdant’s regular Big Red Robe (a tea which I admittedly have not had since March), this one comes across as spicier and quirkier. I found that I enjoyed it, though I did enjoy the sweeter, fruitier regular Big Red Robe slightly more.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 8 seconds, 11 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute 5 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted a spicy aroma reminiscent of a combination of char, limestone, and ginger. After the rinse, I detected slightly more distinct aromas of limestone, ginger, char, moist wood, earth, and leather. There was also a slightly floral presence that reminded me a little of osmanthus, though I do not feel that comparison is remotely accurate. The first infusion produced a similar, albeit more mellow, settled aroma. In the mouth, I immediately detected mineral, brown sugar, tobacco, leather, elderberry, earth, moist wood, and char notes. There was an earthy spiciness on the finish reminiscent of ginger and a floral, resinous quality that reminded me a bit of the aloeswood incense I used to buy as an undergraduate. I also continued to pick up a somewhat vague floral note that I could not place. Subsequent infusions were spicier, earthier, fruitier, and more floral, introducing more pronounced notes of ginger, minerals, brown sugar, elderberry, and aloeswood accompanied by notes of golden raisin and stewed apricot. The vague floral character began to merge with a fresh vegetal quality that immediately put me in mind of daylily shoots. Later infusions were very mellow, presenting a mix of minerals and ginger underscored by traces of aloeswood, char, moist wood, and daylily. I also began to note a buttery, starchy quality that I found to be very reminiscent of popcorn.
I’ve had several Big Red Robes fairly recently and this one stood out to me for its quirkiness and complex layers of aromas and flavors. I am not certain that I would feel comfortable recommending this tea to someone new to this style or to Wuyi oolongs in general, but I do feel that this tea made for an extremely interesting contrast with Verdant’s regular Big Red Robe. In the end, I enjoyed this one, but found it difficult to rate.
Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Char, Earth, Floral, Fruity, Ginger, Leather, Mineral, Osmanthus, Popcorn, Raisins, Spicy, Tobacco, Wood