Well, I’m finally back to post some reviews for the first time in three weeks. I still cannot force myself to get back into the swing of posting regular reviews for whatever reason. I keep trying though, so here I am once again. I’m hoping that if I just knock one or two out every other day or so, posting regularly will once again become a habit. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see about that. Here goes!
This was one of my last sipdowns of 2020, a year that I cannot wait to put even further behind me. And while the year as a whole, and especially the last two months of the year, were a total slog for me, the teas I drank during those two months were largely lovely. This one was definitely a winner. I finished it on Christmas day, and I doubt I could have asked for a better wrap to the day than flopping on my couch and sucking down some good black tea.
For my review session, I prepared this tea gongfu style. After quickly rinsing 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 194 F water, I started my session off with a 5 second infusion. This infusion was followed by 17 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, and 10 minutes. I did not vary the water temperature over the course of the session. It remained set at 194 F.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced aromas of straw, cinnamon, malt, cedar, and honey. After the rinse, I picked up new aromas of roasted almond, roasted peanut, and smoke. The first infusion introduced aromas of cream, butter, and baked bread. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of straw, baked bread, cinnamon, butter, malt, cedar, cream, and roasted almond that were balanced by subtler impressions of honey, rose, sugarcane, smoke, and strawberry. The subsequent infusions coaxed out aromas of rose, cherry, strawberry, orchid, orange zest, orange blossom, and rock candy. Stronger and more immediately detectable flavors of rose and strawberry appeared in the mouth alongside notes of minerals, cherry, elderberry, lychee, elderflower, orange blossom, tangerine, orange zest, pear, lemon zest, orchid, roasted peanut, and rock candy. I also noticed a cooling menthol impression that lingered at the back of my throat after each sip. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized notes of minerals, cream, malt, sugarcane, orange zest, pear, elderflower, and roasted peanut that were balanced by lingering hints of rose, lychee, orange blossom, elderberry, strawberry, cream, cherry, roasted almond, rock candy, baked bread, and menthol.
This was a very unique, pleasant, and satisfying Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong. Normally, I am not huge on extremely sweet black teas, but this one impressed me. At this point, I have had a ton of Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, so it’s hard for one to surprise me, but this one had some aroma and flavor components that I had either never previously picked up in any other Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong or had not picked up consistently in other offerings. This was definitely a tea that was very much worthy of a serious review, and I’m kind of kicking myself because I waited so long to try it. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for some fresh Hua Xiang Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong this year. I would recommend that anyone reading this review strongly consider picking some up too.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Butter, Candy, Cedar, Cherry, Cinnamon, Citrus, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Honey, Lemon Zest, Lychee, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Orange Blossom, Orange Zest, Orchid, Peanut, Pear, Rose, Smoke, Straw, Strawberry, Sugarcane