Here is yet another backlogged review. I finished a sample of this oolong last month (on October 30th, to be exact). This tea was part of the experimental Tieguanyin series Master Zhang first released through Verdant in the autumn of 2016. Prior to trying this tea, I had tried three of the other teas in this series and found two of them very enjoyable. With that in mind, I was somewhat eager to see how this one stacked up to the others. Overall, I found it to be a respectable tea, but I have had more enjoyable traditionally-styled Tieguanyins over the course of the year.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I started with Verdant Tea’s recommended brewing guidelines and then modified them to fit my preferred approach. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was chased by 14 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of cedar, roasted grain, and light char. The rinse brought out scents of flowers, spices, and toasted rice. The first infusion introduced clearer hints of violet and saffron on the nose. In the mouth, I discovered mild notes of toasted grain, toasted rice, and cedar accompanied by hints of violet and saffron in a tea liquor that was smooth, creamy, and somewhat buttery. There was a pronounced sweetness and grittiness to the aftertaste. The subsequent infusions brought out impressions of watercress, caramel, minerals, orange peel, cream, butter, and darker fruits like blueberry and/or raspberry. The sweetness and grittiness of the aftertaste remained and began to remind me a bit of ginseng. There were also some muddy vegetal notes that reminded me of both damp grass and cattail shoots. The later infusions surprisingly introduced a hint of marshmallow, but were otherwise mostly dominated by notes of cedar, cream, damp grass, toasted grain, butter, and minerals that were chased by subtler impressions of cattail shoots and watercress.
Not a terrible tea, but also showcasing a rather muddled and awkward combination of aromas and flavors, this was not one of my favorite traditional Tieguanyins of 2016 or 2017. That being said, I can see why some people flipped over it. It was challenging and complex, yet never came close to being overwhelming. The roast was also very artfully applied. It came across as restrained and subtle while creating some necessary contrasts with the tea’s more floral, fruity, and vegetal properties. Honestly, there wasn’t a ton wrong with this tea, and I’m likely being a bit hypercritical in my evaluation, but it just didn’t strike me as being quite on par with some of Verdant’s similar offerings.
Flavors: Blueberry, Butter, Caramel, Cedar, Char, Cream, Grain, Grass, Herbs, Marshmallow, Mineral, Orange, Raspberry, Saffron, Toasted Rice, Vegetal, Violet