This is my first review on Steepster, my first black tea of any proper lineage and my first close encounter with a tea cake. All that being said, I think I am capable of making at least a decent story out of this.
(NOTE: I did actually manage to screw things up. The search function sometimes doesn’t seem to produce this particular tea so I accidentally created a duplicate. Any help removing it will be appreciated!)
I got this one from my local supplier but managed to trace down its lineage as being a product of Yunnan Sourcing. (That’s 1UP for my local supplier!)
It is a warm sunny day here, but our indoors are cool. Left to my own devices for the afternoon, I set out to taste this tea, deliberately postponing lunch to see if it turns out true to its title.
Using a blunt little wine opener knife, I could easily follow the weaker points in the cake, taking out just enough larger pieces to complement the fannings already falling off. Using the lot in my 120ml (4oz) pre-heated gaiwan, having no strainer, I expected having to do a lot of teeth filtering, but no actual problems there. I used local tap water (~8.5 hardness degrees) right off the boil, but the water for steeps 3-6 was actually saved in an insulated stainless steel tea pot. To me, the dry leaves had no smell. My girlfriend, always the better nose, said it fondly reminded her of straw roofs.
I did not rinse. In retrospective it may have taken some of the initial dry woody astringency out, but I am not sure if I would have wanted that.
The wet smell after and before the brew was that of cherry sweets. Or strawberry sweets for all I care, but definitely an overpowering candy-like sweetness. Luckily I already knew from the other reviews that the taste would be in high contrast, so I wasn’t too surprised when it turned out to be a cured wood slash black tea astringency, with those resin and honey qualities I once used to search for in pipe tobacco. (These days I feel tempted to summarize resin + honey as ‘propolis’, but I’d have to re-check whether or not that’s accurate for this tea.)
This brew produced a slight bit of oil on top. The candy sweetness mixed itself with a new smell to produce a dried plum experience. The flavour, initially just a lighter experience of the same, left me guessing for a bit before I recognized that bodily orchid quality that I previously made acquaintance with in Jade Tieguanyin; fuller and sweeter than the famous, perfumy Biluochun fragrance. Maybe that’s what I was already searching for when I wrote down ‘resin and honey’ earlier.
At steep 3 the smell completely turned to orchids, but the flavour had already fallen back to a lighter version of its original resin-like astringency, which by steep 4 turned the experience into that of an ordinary, but still slightly more vibrant black tea.
So I decided to reboot the experience with fresh hot water. Annoyingly, from steep 5 onwards the leaves gave off more and more of their lovely sweet orchid fragrance, but the cup was already watered down. Finally around steep 8 the leaves toned down as well, or I would never have given up on them. Then again, I miss having my tea already. Maybe just one more wring yet…
Conclusions and learning points
Part of me used to think that you had to turn to raw pu’erh to find that combination of floral and dark fruit aroma’s, that it would somehow get lost during oxidation. Well, that turns out false.
Somehow I felt it was promising that this tea is also from Yunnan, and it might well have been helpful, but ‘ironically’ (get it?) I associate its most exciting aspect with a tea from the other side of the country. So in terms of geography and cultivars I still have some more homework to do.
At the first steep I already noticed this tea’s potential as an iced tea. I also think that this tea would serve well when totally exhausted in one single brew, for instance in a thermos or travel mug. Maybe then some of the orchid fragrance makes it into the brew.
As far as tea drunkenness is concerned, I have to confirm what others have already written. I will not say that this tea is completely without effects, but there is nothing really worthy of a description. In the end I just set out to have my lunch because it was getting late, and certainly not because I had to balance out my tea session.