I have to be about the worst promoter ever. If not the worst, I am certainly one of the most easily distracted. I received several free samples from Totem Tea quite a few months back that I was supposed to review here. Naturally, I opted to prioritize the teas on which I was already working and never got to them as promptly as I should have. This tea, in particular, was one that I promised to review at least 2-3 months ago. I finally got around to drinking it and taking session notes back around the start of the month. Three weeks later I am just now getting around to writing about it here. Overall, I found this to be a very nice dark roasted Tieguanyin with considerable depth, complexity, and longevity both on the nose and in the mouth.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a brief rinse, I steeped my 6g sample in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 20 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 14 seconds, 17 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, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and 40 minutes. I was tempted to keep going, but I ran out of steam a little before this tea did.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of char, dark wood, cocoa, and cream. After the rinse, I noted the emergence of some hints of butter and spice, though for the most part, the tea’s bouquet did not change much. The first infusion then brought out scents of cinnamon and coffee. In the mouth, I found mild, subtle notes of charcoal, cocoa, dark wood, and cinnamon that gave way to equally soft, subtle notes of butter and cream toward the swallow. The subsequent infusions saw the darker wood notes lighten and start to differentiate into more distinct impressions of maple, cedar, pine, and spruce. New notes of vanilla, damp grass, cattail shoots, brown sugar, banana leaf, minerals, nutmeg, graham cracker, roasted peanut, caramel, brown toast, and molasses gradually appeared. Stronger notes of butter and cream came out on these infusions while the previously absent impression of coffee also finally made its appearance in the mouth. The later infusions retained notes of minerals, wood, charcoal, and cream that were a little stronger than expected. I could also still pick out some distant notes of cream, vanilla, caramel, cocoa, and coffee in the background.

If you have ever had a roasted Tieguanyin, the aromas and flavors this tea offers will not likely be new to you. It must be said, however, that the aromas and flavors this tea offers are far stronger, far deeper, and far more persistent than those of many similar teas that I have tried. In fact, it is getting rather difficult to find true dark roast Tieguanyin, as many roasted examples of Tieguanyin these days are usually either light or medium roast teas. Probably more for the aficionados of heavier roasted oolongs, this would still be an excellent tea for anyone with an interest in such teas. Definitely consider this one if you are looking for something more challenging.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Brown Toast, Butter, Caramel, Cedar, Char, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Coffee, Cream, Dark Wood, Graham Cracker, Grass, Maple, Mineral, Molasses, Nutmeg, Peanut, Pine, Roasted, Vanilla, Vegetal

205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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I am guilty of this too.

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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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