Another of the Spring 2016 teas I have needed to finish for quite awhile, this oolong is the competition grade version of Farmer Chang’s spring baozhong. I liked the regular baozhong quite a bit, but that should not come as a shock considering the last version of it I had was the winter 2015 harvest and I generally tend to favor winter harvested baozhongs. This one I found to be appealing, although I have not had a competition grade baozhong recently enough to compare it to any other competition grade tea. I also have no clue how it compares to the regular spring 2016 baozhong either since I did not get the opportunity to try it.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion up with 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves presented mild aromas of sweetgrass, peas, butter, and fresh flowers. After the rinse, I noted the emergence of vanilla, fresh baguette, and steamed rice aromas. The first infusion presented a somewhat more intense floral fragrance. In the mouth, I detected mild, smooth notes of sweetgrass, peas, baguette, butter, cream, and steamed rice balanced by slightly indistinct floral notes most reminiscent of a combination of lilac, gardenia, lily, and honeysuckle. Subsequent infusions were incredibly balanced in terms of fragrance and taste. A subtle vanilla note emerged on the palate, while sweet pea emerged on the nose and in the mouth. I also caught a slight custard aroma and flavor around this point as well. I will point out that the floral tones mellowed and faded rather quickly, as butter, cream, pea, and sweetgrass aromas and flavors steadily became more dominant in later infusions. A mineral presence also crept in at this point. By the final infusions, the tea was mostly a wash of sweetgrass, peas, and minerals with slight impressions of cream and butter.
As far as baozhongs go, this one was very mild and mellow. I found it to be more mellow than the last release of the regular baozhong I had. It was also more vegetal, and disappointingly enough, it faded faster than the other as well. Part of me wants to say that it may have faded a bit in storage, and while that is certainly possible, I remain a bit skeptical as I finished the winter 2015 Farmer Chang’s Green Oolong last month and it was still as vibrant as could be. This may have just been a milder, more vegetal tea. I didn’t find it to be bad or anything-I really liked its smooth, milky texture and the sweet pea presence that I find to be a signature element of Farmer Chang’s baozhongs-it is just that I have a sneaking suspicion that there are better, richer, more complex, and more distinctive competition grade baozhongs out there.
Flavors: Bread, Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Peas, Rice, Vanilla