drank Tong Lu Black by Harney & Sons
1048 tasting notes

One thing I like about Harney & Sons is that they source a number of unique black teas from all over mainland China. This one, in particular, was produced from Anji bushes grown by monks in southern Zhejiang Province. In my mind, Zhejiang Province is synonymous with green tea (gunpowder, Long Jing, and the like), so a black tea from there was automatically going to pique my interest. I found this to be an exceptional black tea, almost as chocolaty as the Laoshan black teas I love.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a flash rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 212 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 14 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 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, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced lovely aromas of dark chocolate, honey, and ripe plum. After the rinse, I found rather subtle aromas of black cherry, blueberry, mulberry, malt, wood, toast, and roasted chestnut. The first infusion brought out a hint of something like elderberry on the nose. In the mouth, I immediately found clear notes of dark chocolate, honey, malt, wood, toast, and roasted chestnut. Subsequent infusions brought out all of the fruit notes in the mouth plus notes of caramel, cream, marshmallow, orange zest, vanilla, and minerals. I could also pick up soothing, cooling herbal impressions after the swallow. The later infusions were very mild. I could just pick up lingering impressions of minerals, cream, marshmallow, wood, and malt with some even fainter dark chocolate and herbal notes.

On one hand, this tea faded very quickly, and I felt like I did have to ding it a little due to its lack of longevity. On the other hand, the earlier infusions were spectacular and the tea’s fade was quick, yet rather graceful. I kept going after I probably should have stopped simply because I enjoyed the texture and color of the mostly spent tea liquor. It’s also somewhat rare for me to find a traditional Chinese black tea that packs such tremendous amounts of flavor into the early goings of a session. Definitely try this one. In my opinion, this is one of the best unflavored black teas Harney & Sons currently offers.

Flavors: Blueberry, Caramel, Cherry, Chestnut, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Fruity, Herbs, Honey, Malt, Marshmallow, Mineral, Orange Zest, Plum, Toast, Vanilla, Wood

Boiling 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.



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