I’ve had this sample lying around for over a year. I tried it the year it was pressed and didn’t like the sweet fruity rum, dates, prunes, and molasses flavor combos I was getting then. I’m sure those notes sound nice to some folks, but it reminded me too much of Christmas fruit cake – something I strongly dislike.
Well, here I am revisiting this one on a cool, rainy Sunday afternoon…and I’m happy with where it’s at. It’s a lot more subtle and complex. Much less boozy and sweet. There’s a little brandy and dried fruit in the front, but it quickly moves into the background, allowing more subtle notes of brown sugar, green wood, Chinese dates (hence the “zao” in tea’s name), and sandalwood. The tea’s bitterness and astringency comes through as the liquid cools in the cup. It’s not overwhelming, but just enough to add interest. In a way, the bitterness exhibits the tea’s clean nature. It transforms into a very nice huigan, which mingles for a while with some residual bitterness on the tongue and in the back of the mouth.
These subtle notes allow the drinker to enjoy the tea’s less tangible aspects — warming qi, tingly and cooling sensations on the tongue, and strong mouthfeel. The qi is felt in the chest and back of the head. It’s got a nice calming energy that lasts a while, making mundane tasks, such as vacuuming, more meditative. All in all, the tea has become more subtle, but definitely distinct and more pleasurable. It will stay with the drinker throughout the day.