This was another of my summer sipdowns. Normally, I would be averse to trying a 5+ year old tea that was not a pu-erh or some sort of hei cha, but Wuyi oolongs are usually built to last. The tea was already starting to pick up some age at the time I purchased it anyway, so I knew I wasn’t going to be getting the freshest tea in the world by the time it made its way to me. Surprisingly, the tea had not picked up a ton of aged characteristics by the time I finally got around to trying it. Instead, it just seemed to have mellowed and was very bright and vibrant in the mouth.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a standard 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 203 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 18 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, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, and 15 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of cinnamon, charcoal, blueberry, blackberry, and wood. After the rinse, new aromas of black cherry, raspberry, and dark chocolate appeared. The first infusion introduced aromas of black pepper and orange zest plus a subtler smoky scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cinnamon, roasted almond, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, orange zest, and grass that were balanced by hints of black cherry, charcoal, wood, and black pepper. The bulk of the subsequent infusions quickly added aromas of grape leaf, roasted almond, grass, green olive, plum, roasted peanut, and baked bread. Stronger and more immediately detectable impressions of wood appeared in the mouth along with notes of minerals, rock sugar, grape leaf, roasted peanut, plum, and earth. Subtle flavors of smoke, green olive, baked bread, dark chocolate, apple, peach, and caramel were also present. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized notes of minerals, earth, wood, grass, roasted peanut, and roasted almond that were followed by a consistent swell of baked bread, grape leaf, blackberry, blueberry, caramel, raspberry, plum, dark chocolate, orange zest, and rock sugar flavors, though I also noted a late emerging mushroom hint here and there.
As mentioned earlier, this was a surprisingly lively tea for its age. It displayed a ton of quality depth and complexity on the nose and in the mouth and also displayed tremendous body and texture for a tea of this type. In the past, Huang Guan Yin has not been one of my favorite Wuyi oolongs, but offerings like this (and those of Old Ways Tea) have forced me to come around on it. This was an excellent tea and clearly had lost very little with age. I could recommend it to someone right now and still feel confident in its ability to please.
Flavors: Almond, Apple, Black Pepper, Blackberry, Blueberry, Bread, Caramel, Char, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Grass, Mineral, Mushrooms, Olives, Orange Zest, Peach, Peanut, Plum, Raspberry, Smoke, Sugar, Vegetal, Wood