So, years ago I received a sample of Master Bi’s Jin Guan Yin from Verdant’s reserve club and it was the most singularly luxurious and cozy tea I have ever experienced. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that specific tea is not something I’ll ever taste again, but I’ve been on the hunt for something at least similar. When I saw this tea from the same varietal with a similar looking roast I just had to see if it could come close to that experience from years ago.
There’s a nice floral smell to the leaves as I open the container. The leaves are impressively intact and there’s no dust or broken leaves that get caught in my strainer.
1st, 6 sec: After a flash rinse the steam that rises is smokey and woody. The bright orange liquor adds notes of chocolate and dried fruits to the smokey aroma. There’s also something else I can’t identify — like a tropical leaf. The aroma alone is absolutely intoxicating. The flavor hits many of the same notes as the aroma, but adds in a minerality. The chocolate flavor is not harsh and bitter like some teas, it has a creaminess like milk chocolate. The mouthfeel is a bit thick and very smooth.
2nd, 10 sec: With the roast washing off slightly the minerality is coming more to the forefront, but the chocolate flavor still lingers on the tongue after the sip. This cup is no more bitter than the first, but there’s definitely a noticeable astringency to it.
3rd, 14 sec: There’s a wonderful rum cherry scent the the liquor that I keep searching for in the flavor, but I can’t find it in there.
4th, 18 sec: The leaves and the liquor are gaining a pleasant medicinal herb smell. This steeping I can taste the cherry I’d been smelling, creating a delightful cherry chocolate flavor. As the tea cools there’s a refreshing soft minerality that makes me think that maybe this tea could be just as refreshing an iced tea for the summer as it is warming and cozy when brewed hot in the winter.
5th, 22 sec: This is the first steeping where I feel like I can taste a bit of the tropical leaf smell I caught early on. It’s unexpected but not unpleasant.
6th, 26 sec: I ended up letting this one get quite cool and got more of the very refreshing minerality and medicinal herb flavor that becomes more apparent at the lower temperatures.
7th, 30 sec: The tea is starting to fade now. It’s not an unpleasant cup by any means, but definitely becoming more shallow. The soft minerality remains and there’s a bit of a stir fried vegetable flavor showing up.
I could give this a couple more long steeps and get a couple pleasant, average cups of tea but the uniqueness is definitely gone by this point of the session. This tea hits all the right buttons for me. The whole experience, from dry leaf to taste is wonderful throughout and it has something for every mood. If you want something simple, warming and cozy you can focus on the luxuriously smooth chocolate and fruit flavors. If you want refreshing there’s the minerality and cooling medicinal herbs. And if you want a tea that lets you explore a myriad of flavors and complexity throughout a gongfu session there’s a lot on offer from this well balanced roast.
Usually when I kick off a gongfu session in the morning of my work from home day I’ll slowly work through it over the course of 3 or 4 hours, but I couldn’t wait to taste more of this tea and raced through this session of the course of an hour and a half. Does this tea live up to my memory of Master Bi’s version? Not quite, but it’s a damn good cup.
Flavors: Cherry, Chocolate, Creamy, Fruity, Medicinal, Mineral, Rum, Smoke, Tropical, Vegetables, Wood