Okay, this is one of those infamous Verdant offerings that comes with a story. Back in the spring of 1985, Master Zhang set aside a small amount of minimally processed high grade Tieguanyin and allowed it to age. The idea was to show off how the tea developed on its own rather than how it responded to multiple roasts over time. Flash forward to the fall of 2016, and Master Zhang decides to sell this tea through his partners at Verdant Tea. Is this story true? I have my doubts. Everything I have read on aged Tieguanyins suggests that teas between the ages of 20-25 years are extremely rare, while teas that are older are almost impossible to find. It should also be noted that many farmers and vendors will estimate and often exaggerate the age of older teas for one reason or another. With all of this in mind, I didn’t necessarily buy into the marketing, but I was intrigued enough to roll the dice on a very small amount of this very expensive tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 212 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 13 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, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to infusion, the dry leaves emitted aromas of wood, earth, hibiscus, and old books. After the rinse, the aromas mentioned previously intensified and were joined by elderberry and a briny, sheng-like roasted vegetable scent. The first infusion produced a bouquet that brought the dry and rinsed aromas together. In the mouth, I got notes of wood and moist earth joined by traces of hibiscus, camphor, brine, elderberry, and vegetable broth. Subsequent infusions introduced more of a fruit character. I began to pick up hints of blackberry, though I also detected vanilla, caramel, cream, tobacco, minerals, and a slightly stronger camphor presence. Later infusions emphasized wood, earth, mineral, tobacco, camphor, and that briny, vegetal quality I get from many shengs that reminds me of vegetable broth.
Sooooo, this one was awkward. I have no idea if its backstory is accurate, but it certainly looks, smells, and tastes old. Unfortunately, I do not think that is necessarily a compliment. If this were a sheng, I would probably semi-appreciate this tea’s aroma and flavor profiles on some level, but this is an aged oolong. The odd, crudely layered aged, earthy aromas and flavors and the fruity, creamy, and floral characteristics just didn’t come together for me. At one point I even noted that this was like drinking wet dirt mixed with jam that had been sprayed with perfume. I have no clue how to rate this, but I did not like it. Unless you really dig old, musty smells and flavors or are just really curious about this oddity, you may want to move along.
Flavors: Blackberry, Broth, Caramel, Cream, Earth, Fruity, Hibiscus, Mineral, Tobacco, Vanilla, Vegetal, Wood