This tea has become a favorite (obsession?) for me in the two weeks since I received it. Western, gongfu, and cold brew have all been so different, but still delicious. The dry leaf is lovely to look at and intoxicating to smell.
Western (4g/250ml/90 C to start): Aroma in wet leaf is sweet, malty, with light brown sugary & fruity notes like medjool dates. The brew is smooth, never bitter even on long steeps. (Haven’t tried grandpa style yet, might be great.) I got 6 steeps in all and probably could have kept pushing, but it was late and I’d drunk a lot of tea. Started at 2 min, then 3, 5, and 6.5 min. Increased to 95 C for 8 min, 100 C for 10 min. All infusions were yummy and sweet with some light floral notes mixed in with the malty brown sugar flavors. Also some chocolate, dark caramel, and earthy notes. Later steeps have hints of fresh-cut wood.
Cold brew (1g/100ml): This is AMAZING. Probably the most delicious iced tea I have ever had. The intensity of the aromas coming off the cold liquid surprised me. I find myself unthinkingly taking deep sniffs of my glass in between sips – can’t get enough. The taste, though . . . light & crisp, but still so flavorful & smooth. Malt, milk chocolate, brown-sugary caramel, dried cherry brightness, a touch of orange peel, a little floral. So sweet and smooth and refreshing that I could easily guzzle a quart at a time, yet I also want to savor it. Long, lingering aftertaste. A resteep with half the volume of water is still sweet & delicious, but the chocolate & caramel notes are reduced; instead, light floral notes are stronger. Further experimentation shows that the first infusion mixed with the resteep in a larger carafe blends the flavors beautifully. On the strength of the cold brew alone, I ordered another 100g before even trying gongfu preparation.
Gongfu (3g/50ml/85 C to start): 14 steeps and possibly could have pushed even more— 15s, 20, 25, 30, 35, 45, 1min, 1m15, 1m30, 1m45 (up to 90 C), 2m (95 C), 2m30, 3 and 4 min at boiling. Totally new flavor profile! For first infusions, the wet leaves smell like the sugary syrup from a baked sweet potato. Flavor is SO sweet in the first steep—all I can think of is various forms of sugar (honey, caramel, cane syrup). The second lives up to that sweet potato aroma—it tastes of caramelized autumn vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut. A hint of milk chocolate on the finish, and smooth smooth smooth. On the next couple steeps the lid of the gaiwan smells like toasted marshmallow. A tiny bit of bracing bitterness comes in on the finish to cut through all the sweetness. Leaves begin to have some earthy tones. The chocolate was only present for 1-2 infusions, but the super sweet baked yam flavor continues. Hints of floral start to appear in steep 6, sweetness very gradually reducing. Steep 10 starts a bit of cooling aftertaste and notes of fragrant wood, some earthiness. Flavors beginning to thin by the time I stop after 14, but certainly not gone. Aftertaste is solidly cooling, cedar, but still sweet by the end.
It’s crazy to me how different these preparations taste, yet all still good. With other teas, the variations between methods often seem to be a matter of balance or layering of the same flavors—which notes stand out or drop out, work together, or overpower, etc. But this is a totally different flavor, especially in gaiwan. Not sure if it’s because of gongfu ratios or temperature or both (need to keep testing, what a shame!).
I enjoyed the hot preparations very much and will continue to play with them, but for me the real star is the cold brew—I suspect it will be my regular iced tea now.