This was one of my summer sipdowns. It was also a tea that was totally new to me at the time I tried it. I had tried most of Yunnan Sourcing’s regular white tea offerings at least once or twice prior to trying this one, but I had always passed on the opportunity to try the Ai Lao Mountain Jade Needle for one reason or another. I decided to rectify that situation in the spring of 2018, but I ended up putting off trying this tea until either June or July of this year. Well, how did it stack up to Yunnan Sourcing’s other white teas? Honestly, it was frustrating to drink. It struck me as being a very mediocre tea.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After rinsing them, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 15 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, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of apricot, hay, straw, sugarcane, and marshmallow that were underscored by a subtle corn husk scent. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of malt, butter, sour plum, and baked bread as well as a stronger corn husk scent. The first infusion introduced a lemon aroma and a subtle woody scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of hay, straw, grass, butter, malt, corn husk, lemon, and sour plum that were balanced by hints of bamboo, sugarcane, and wood. The bulk of the subsequent infusions introduced aromas of green peas, coriander, grapefruit, bamboo, kumquat, green bell pepper, and grass. Stronger and more immediately notable bamboo and wood impressions appeared in the mouth along with sour apricot, mineral, green apple, pear, green pea, coriander, cooked lettuce, green bell pepper, kumquat, and grapefruit pith impressions. I also detected hints of marshmallow. As the tea faded, each sip emphasized notes of minerals, hay, grass, corn husk, and butter that were chased by hints of malt, cooked lettuce, wood, lemon, green bell pepper, green pea, and bamboo on an astringent and biting fade.

I tend to be a big fan of Yunnan white tea, just in general, but this tea did not do much of anything for me. Yunnan Sourcing described it as occupying something of a middle ground between a white tea and a green tea, and I can say that seemed to be a pretty accurate description of it. Unfortunately, it seemed to frequently embody the aspects of both white and green teas that I find to be the least appealing and came off as a muddled, quickly fading mess after a certain point. Overall, this tea was very much a mixed bag. It had some nice characteristics, but there were aspects of it that I greatly disliked. I doubt that I will be in any rush to try more Ai Lao Mountain Jade Needles from Yunnan Sourcing.

Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Baked Bread, Bamboo, Butter, Citrus, Coriander, Corn Husk, Grapefruit, Grass, Green Bell Peppers, Hay, Lemon, Lettuce, Malt, Marshmallow, Mineral, Pear, Peas, Plums, Straw, Sugarcane, Wood

185 °F / 85 °C 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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