eastkyteaguy’s endorsement of gongfu-ing this tea gave me the encouragement to give it a try with the last of my sample. I enjoyed the different experience I got from gongfu vs western here, but I think I actually prefer western after all in this case. It’s hard to tell if I can be fair to this tea, however — as I mentioned in the previous review, the leaf was pretty well broken up, lots of very small pieces, and as I feared, I think there was a good bit of harshness contributed simply by that fact. It was the end of my sample, too, with inevitably even smaller bits. It could be that a sample with more intact leaf would have fared better.
Anyway, I did 3g/50ml/95 C. Flash rinse was a very pretty red amber, and when I tasted a bit of it, it was surprisingly strong for just a couple seconds’ contact with the leaves. I did 10 steeps in all – 10 seconds to start and adding 5-10 seconds following. Throughout, the dominant aroma and flavor was earthy, woodsy cedar. (Side note: I broke in a new tea tray with this session, and it still smells very strongly of cut wood, which only heightened the aromatic wood notes of this tea!) Pretty astringent, good bit of drying tannins, decent amount of bitterness. In the middle steeps I started to pick up some rosemary or maybe eucalyptus notes, and possibly something very faintly citrus. A bit of minerality in these middle infusions, too. Toward the end I started to get very small hints of cocoa powder and vanilla, but these were not accompanied by any sweetness at all, which was quite interesting. I realized a couple infusions in that I was getting pretty much no sweetness whatever, though I did get some decent sweet notes from this tea in western and cold brew.
What this tea taught me is that I prefer more sweetness of some kind in my black teas. I’ve enjoyed some savory greens that had little to no sweetness, but when it comes to black, I think I need more of that sweet/bitter balance.