He Kai is one of those areas I’ve always been interested in, but never really gotten around to exploring proper. When Crimson Lotus came out with this tea, I was immediately interested to try it. The gorgeous artwork also helped.
I brewed this tea in my standard manner: seven grams in a 100ml gaiwan. The aroma of the dry leaf in a preheated gaiwan is surprisingly pungent. In contrast, the rinsed leaves present very little in terms of aroma. The wash itself was very strong, very pungent, quite creamy. After a few minutes of rest, I followed up with twelve proper infusions, the timing for these 7s, 7s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min.
Right out of the gate, Danger Zone starts off with a big body and a really rich but balanced flavor. The aftertaste is also quite strong. The first several steeps are like this, growing thicker and thicker with each infusion, presenting a very dense and rich but also smooth and balanced taste. While the soup is packed full of minerals, strength and plant matter goodness, there is no one single characteristic that ever starts to dominate the tea. The tea can be quite sweet at times, also presenting some playful kuwei here and there, but avoiding any real harsh character throughout the session.
At its thickest, the He Kai gets absolutely ridiculous with its brothy goodness which becomes almost difficult to swallow. The soup is oily and coating, with a hint of bitterness and citrus in the finish. The word I keep coming back to is ‘smooth’. Despite the infusions having strength to them, the tea never even begins to approach becoming overpowering or dominated by any singular characteristic. The bitterness and astringency do start building up toward the end of the session, but they are always playing off of the sweetness.
Overall, I was very pleased with Danger Zone. The material is clearly high quality and it has a unique character that sets it apart from your typical generic sheng offerings. For a high-end tea, the He Kai is much more flavor-focused than most, albeit still not a tea where the flavor profile is the main attraction, like with other types of tea like most hong cha and wulong.
The thickness is totally nuts and the strength very deceptive due to the tea’s smoothness and balance. There were only really two areas where the He Kai fell a bit short. The first one was the aromatics. Aerating the tea in my mouth presented me with virtually nothing to play with. Since this is still a very young tea that hasn’t necessarily had time to develop aroma, I’m willing to give it a pass for now. The other area is more of a personal preference, but for my tastes the tea was a bit lacking in bitterness. As a fan of Bulang teas, extremely spicy food, etc., I do prefer some more backbone to my teas, but overall Danger Zone was still a tea that I find very easy to recommend. The fact that I ended up ordering a cake after the session should speak for that.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Citrus, Creamy, Olive Oil, Sweet, Tart, Vegetal