Well, this is is something you don’t see every day: a roasted Wenshan baozhong offered by a Western vendor. When I saw this tea on What-Cha’s website, I just had to buy it. Roasted baozhong has gotten hard to find in recent years as preferences have shifted toward the now ubiquitous jade baozhong. As a matter of fact, I had only ever gotten to try one other roasted baozhong prior to trying this one. I was excited to try this tea, not only because roasted baozhong seems to now be so rare, but also because several people whose individual tastes I trust indicated that they greatly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I ended up not being as impressed by it. It did not strike me as being a bad tea, but it also had a few little quirks that rubbed me the wrong way and that I could not ignore for any length of time.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 203 F water for 7 seconds. This infusion was followed by 16 additional 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, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of orchid, vanilla, smoke, cream, and roasted almond. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of cinnamon, apple, and baked bread. The first infusion introduced aromas of toasted rice, steamed milk, and roasted barley. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of orchid, sugarcane, vanilla, cream, butter, baked bread, roasted almond, cinnamon, and apple that were balanced by subtler impressions of toasted rice, roasted barley, smoke, grass, coriander, and steamed milk. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of coriander, sugarcane, butter, daylily, grass, and seaweed. Stronger and more immediately noticeable grass, roasted barley, steamed milk, and coriander flavors came out in the mouth alongside spinach, watercress, seaweed, Asian pear, mineral, plum, daylily, and daylily shoot notes. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized impressions of minerals, pear, toasted rice, butter, cream, apple, baked bread, grass, roasted almond, and spinach that were chased by hints of plum, seaweed, sugarcane, and coriander.
In the end, I’m still not sure about this one. It has been about a week since I finished what I had of it, and I am still not sure I can assign it a numerical score with any confidence. Unlike the other reviewers, I seemed to get considerably greener, more vegetal notes out of this tea, and the way many of them lingered in my mouth and on the back of my throat after each swallow came to annoy me pretty quickly. That’s unfortunate too because the roast seemed to have been very artfully applied to this tea; it produced some absolutely lovely, balanced aromas and flavors. The floral and fruity impressions were also very nice. I picked up both daylily and daylily shoot impressions in this tea, which was odd considering that I generally find those notes in teas produced from the Jin Xuan cultivar, and this, like presumably every other traditional Wenshan baozhong currently on the planet, was produced from the Qing Xin cultivar. In the end, I suppose I should just state that this tea was a mixed bag for me. There were things about it I enjoyed and found interesting, but there were also things about it that irked me. In the end, I think there was more good than bad in this tea, so a score of 76 feels about right for now.
Flavors: Almond, Apple, Baked Bread, Butter, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cream, Floral, Grass, Milk, Orchid, Pear, Plums, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Seaweed, Smoke, Spinach, Sugarcane, Toasted Rice, Vanilla, Vegetal