[Note: I just realized that the version of this tea I have been working on is the 2016 harvest from Yunnan Sourcing. I have deleted the previous review that I mistakenly posted under the Yunnan Sourcing US heading. Please note, however, that the content remains unchanged.]
After mowing down a couple of smaller samples, I decided to take a break and spend some time with a tea I had been looking forward to reviewing for at least a month. Of the Wuyi oolong cultivars, Shui Jin Gui is one of the most revered, and it is also often one of the most expensive. Apparently, Shui Jin Gui is very sensitive and does not yield in large quantities even in the best of years, making it one of the pricier Wuyi oolongs and one of the more difficult to obtain. I found this particular Shui Jin Gui very appealing.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 additional 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, and 3 minutes. While I enjoyed the tea, I was not totally happy with my gongfu method this time around and I will be attempting to tweak it a bit in my next session.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaves produced aromas of char, wood, smoke, spices, and dark chocolate. The rinse saw the previously mentioned aromas intensify. They were also joined by hints of damp grass, stone fruits, rock sugar, and coffee. The first infusion brought out touches of vanilla bean, roasted almond, caramel, and distinct impressions of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweet ginger. In the mouth, I picked up notes of dark chocolate, wood, char, sweet ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, rock sugar, caramel, and smoke underscored by coffee, damp grass, and stone fruits. Subsequent infusions brought out the vanilla bean and stone fruit impressions. I began to get distinct notes of yellow plum and apricot. I also began to note emerging mineral, butter, and tobacco notes, as well as touches of camphor, clove, hay, and eucalyptus. The tea was quick to wash out, which is not all that unusual for Wuyi oolongs, though I am fairly certain that part of it was due to the brewing methodology I employed for this session. The mineral notes became much more pronounced and I began to detect notes of butterscotch and buttered popcorn. When I really focused in, I could still detect traces of tobacco, damp grass, char, wood, smoke, vanilla bean, and perhaps a touch of dark chocolate at one or two points. Yunnan Sourcing’s product description insisted there were notes of sweet potato in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find them. Yunnan Sourcing was, however, right about this tea being difficult to describe.
This was a fun and interesting tea. I am not certain my description does it justice; the aroma and flavor components were mellow, well-integrated, and constantly shifting. Every time I dug into it, I got impressions of something new. I would definitely recommend this tea to fans of traditional Wuyi oolongs. It’s not exactly a bargain, but it’s not nearly as expensive as other examples of this cultivar I have seen, and for the price, it has a ton to offer.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Butter, Butterscotch, Camphor, Caramel, Char, Cinnamon, Clove, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Grass, Hay, Leather, Mineral, Nutmeg, Plum, Popcorn, Smoke, Sugar, Tobacco, Vanilla, Wood