This blasted sinus infection is starting to ease up a tad. What was supposed to be a pleasant, restful weekend ended up being a total nightmare. In order to celebrate the early signs of recovery, I broke out this aged Mao Xie.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I kept my rinse very quick this time around. The first infusion was 5 grams of leaf in 4 ounces of 212 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this infusion up with 12 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 13 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, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off pleasant aromas of blackberry, elderberry, prune, and raisin underscored by vanilla. After the rinse, the bouquet remained very fruity, though the vanilla presence was slightly amplified. There was some sort of woody spice and a bit of extremely ripe blueberry. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet with even more intense blueberry and spice aromas. In the mouth, however, things got interesting. The expected notes of elderberry, blueberry, blackberry, raisin, and prune were all there, but the vanilla note was more pronounced than anticipated. There were other notes too, namely coffee, cinnamon, and birch bark, that the nose did not do much to reveal. Subsequent infusions quickly saw the tea’s fruity character mellow and the tea’s spicier characteristics increase their presence. For me, the vanilla character remained consistent, providing some balance and depth. Though Verdant’s tasting notes mentioned notes of toasted rice, I did not pick up anything like that initially, but then less than halfway through this session, there it was. Later infusions retained elements of the tea’s spicy, fruity, and vanilla-laden character as a rather pronounced mineral presence took hold. A faint coffee presence remained in the background as did impressions of toasted rice and a very indistinct fruitiness. A slight vegetal note resembling cooked kale made its presence known at this point as well.
This oolong will likely not be for everyone, but I greatly enjoyed it. Part of me was a little surprised by that because my admittedly limited experience with aged oolongs suggests that they are not up my alley, but then again, I am a huge fan of the Mao Xie cultivar. Where I find Tieguanyin to be smooth, Ben Shan to be pleasantly balanced, and Huang Jin Gui to be sweetly floral, I find Mao Xie to be highly variable and intensely quirky. No two ever strike me as being much alike. I’m not certain how this particular tea compares to some of the other aged Mao Xies on the market, but I do know that I would feel confident recommending it to adventurous oolong drinkers, especially those already open to the unique charms of this cultivar.
Flavors: Blackberry, Blueberry, Cinnamon, Coffee, Fruity, Kale, Mineral, Raisins, Spicy, Toasted Rice, Vanilla