This was the last tea I drank in September as I finished my sample pouch on the last day of the month. It was also a tea that I did not really know how to evaluate, and to be totally honest, I am still not certain that I do. In terms of taste and aroma, it had more in common with some of Kangaita’s premium white teas than any orthodox black tea I have tried. Overall, it was a unique, memorable, and incredibly likable tea, but it was also so unique that I could never see myself craving it or consuming it regularly.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea buds in 4 ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 16 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 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, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf buds emitted aromas of cinnamon, cedar, malt, honey, black pepper, and eucalyptus. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of cream, baked bread, molasses, and sweet potato. The first infusion then introduced scents of orange zest and pine. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cream, baked bread, orange zest, black pepper, eucalyptus, and cedar that were underscored by hints of pine, honey, cinnamon, roasted almond, and butter. The subsequent infusions introduced scents of lemon zest, cantaloupe, butter, and roasted almond to go with a considerably stronger orange zest aroma. Malt notes belatedly emerged in the mouth alongside more prominent roasted almond and butter notes and slightly stronger cinnamon impressions. Hints of molasses and sweet potato appeared too, but they were fleeting. New mineral, sugarcane, and brown sugar notes emerged along with subtle impressions of cantaloupe and honeydew. Surprisingly, the tea retained its delightful herbal, spicy, and fruity aromas through the very end of the session. By the time I got to the final two or three infusions, I could also still pick out lingering cream, butter, orange zest, black pepper, baked bread, and roasted almond notes that were accented by delicate mineral, cinnamon, brown sugar, lemon zest, and eucalyptus impressions.
A very refined, delicate, and complex tea with tremendous depth, this would normally be the sort of black tea I would be scoring very highly. With this one, however, I just felt that it was difficult enough and subtle enough that I would have to be in the mood for it. Some of the tea’s aromas and flavors (and the way it expressed itself overall) were very similar to both the Kangaita Rhino and Silver Needle white teas also offered by What-Cha, though it also displayed some of the aromas and flavors I tend to associate with many Yunnanese, Indian, Kenyan, and Vietnamese black teas. While it was a very fine tea, it ultimately fell into a gray area for me, and I kind of see it as a tea caught somewhere between two worlds. It was the sort of black tea that had enough in common with white teas to not appeal to me when I’m looking for a good black tea while simultaneously having just enough in common with other black teas to not appeal to me when I’m considering reaching for a white tea. Ultimately, I think this tea may best serve as a gateway black tea for regular white tea drinkers, or it might be the thing to reach for in those rare instances when something truly out of the ordinary is required. All in all, I really liked this tea, but I suppose it just isn’t the sort of thing that is fully geared toward someone like me. Still, I would not caution others to avoid it.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Black Pepper, Brown Sugar, Butter, Cantaloupe, Cedar, Cinnamon, Cream, Eucalyptus, Honey, Honeydew, Lemon Zest, Malt, Mineral, Molasses, Orange Zest, Pine, Sugarcane, Sweet Potatoes