This was the last tea I consumed in January. I needed a break from Dan Cong oolongs at the time, so I turned back to one of my first loves: Wuyi black tea. I usually enjoy Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, but I had no clue what to expect from this one. The spring 2016 version of this tea was not a favorite of mine, so I went into the review session for this one not expecting much. As it turned out, this tea pretty much blew me away. It was not nearly as bitter or astringent as the spring 2016 offering and also displayed greatly improved depth and complexity.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 15 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, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of honey, pine, chocolate, cinnamon, and baked bread. After the rinse, I detected aromas of roasted almond, roasted peanut, and malt. The first infusion introduced aromas of rose, orange zest, cedar, and juniper. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of honey, baked bread, malt, roasted almond, roasted peanut, earth, orange zest, and rose that were accompanied by hints of chocolate and chased by pleasant creamy and toasty qualities on the swallow. The subsequent infusions introduced stronger aromas of rose as well as scents of wintergreen, violet, minerals, earth, grass, toast, vanilla, red apple, cream, brown sugar, and lemon zest. Stronger and more immediate chocolate, cream, and toast notes appeared in the mouth along with impressions of pine, cinnamon, and cedar and a few stray hints of juniper. New notes of brown sugar, minerals, wintergreen, plum, violet, red apple, vanilla, lemon zest, pear, vanilla, grass, and oats emerged, and I also picked up some hints of hay. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized dominant impressions of minerals, cream, malt, oats, lemon zest, orange zest, grass, earth, and baked bread that were balanced by hints of violet, vanilla, rose, pear, roasted almond, pine, cinnamon, red apple, wintergreen, and honey.
This was a ridiculously complex Wuyi black tea that yielded an incredibly aromatic, flavorful, and textured liquor. Even more impressive is the fact that it was so well-balanced. Nothing seemed out of place or over-emphasized to me. Overall, this was an exceptional black tea. Had it not faded rather quickly, I would have scored it much closer to 100.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Cedar, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cream, Earth, Grass, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Lemon Zest, Malt, Mineral, Oats, Orange Zest, Peanut, Pine, Plums, Red Apple, Rose, Toast, Vanilla, Violet