Ever so often I review a tea despite my general feeling that tea reviews are mostly nonsense (mine are no exception). I was introduced to this particular tea by ABx (thanks dude) and have been enjoying it off and on now for a couple months.
water: collected natural spring water from a local source, brought to boil with some bamboo charcoal in the kettle.
pot: my favorite yancha pot - a $9 special from the old funalliance.
mood: rested, just back from vacation, happy
tea source: grandtea (http://goo.gl/ZJpqM
price: $32/250g + about $6 shipping
aroma on opening the bag: strong beautiful dried plum and craft bourbon with a touch of mesquite smoke and ?orchid?. The aroma is fantastic, one of my favorite bags to open.
dry leaves: spindly and a beautiful chocolate brown with lighter stems to reassure you that it's not roasted all to hell. There are a few lighter colored leaves. the leaves are longish and mostly whole.
I pack about 3 scoops into my little pot and I'm off to the races with a flash rinse.
wet leaves (flash rinse): yup, looks like wet yancha. The smell is surprisingly muted now although the lid of the pot does have a faint orchid echo. The leaves have relaxed more than typical charcoal fired teas, even have some softness to them.
rinse water: I let this fully cool, as I'm in the habit of letting most teas relax a bit after the flash rinse. I feel this evens out the 'good' of multiple infusions, if you don't do this most of the 'good' ends up in the second infusion. (ymmv) I can tell by the rinse water that this tea is going to be mostly flash infused at first, it is delicious. With a sweet plum and bourbon balanced with a ever so faint bitter dark chocolate note and other faint complexities.
1st infusion (10 sec): First thing that strikes me is the soft soupy thickness. There is a pleasant sweetness, almost sugary but not, balanced by a faint bitter chocolate note. The Hui Gan is excellent, and the aftertaste of dried plum and bourbon delivers on the promise of the initial open bag scent. I can pick out the dark chocolate and orchid, but there is something else, maybe a faint hint of quince? Very balanced tea, good tea base and complex. wow, I like.
some of the sweetness subsides as the tea cools and the dark chocolate bitterness comes a bit to the front. again, a pleasant surprise, each sip of this infusion is slightly different, I'm on the edge of my seat.
smell of pot after first infusion: hmn, I would have to say cardboard, but in a good way. organic cardboard that chocolate and orchids came packed in? ;D nom nom nom, eat the cardboard.
smell of lid after first infusion: orchid and mesquite smoke, and, bear with me, a hint of ?motor oil? (again not in a bad way). kinda unexpected smells here. I'm surprised that the tea has such big aroma everywhere but the pot.
smell of empty cup after first infusion: it smells like dried plum and dark chocolate heaven. I can die now. my son asks if I'm alright as I probably look like I'm having a seizure. I inform him that no I'm freaking fantastic. He nods and goes back to his schoolwork, used to his strange dad.
2nd infusion (10 seconds): yes, quince.
it's stronger now along with the orchid. Not as sweet, but still soupy and soft. The mesquite smoke is definitely in the finish now. still very balanced and nicely complex. all the smells are the same as before, maybe a bit sweeter in the pot. This time it gets sweeter as it cools, interesting. The last sip has a faint glimpse of walnut that is intriguing.
my cat walks by and meows once. I meow back.
3rd infusion (20 seconds?): I cheat, I pour a splash at 10 seconds and sip, decided to let it sit another 10. Ooooh, a very nice mineral wash across the front of my tongue. still dried prunes and dark chocolate. the walnut is there too along with burnt ?brown sugar?. soft and soupy. balanced. The bittersweet aftertaste is all on my lips now and my mouth is watering. omg.
I try to smell the pot, lid and cup, but the building aftertaste and hui gan is too strong, I can't tell where I end and the cup begins.
quick note on times - I write down 10 seconds, but that is just an estimate, I do not time my tea, nor measure it, nor weigh it. I am a seat of the pants, direct and careful observation, be in the moment experience kinda guy.
4th infusion (??): The sweetness is leaving the tea and concentrated on my lips, the back and very tip of my tongue and my throat. The mineral note is more as is the walnut. Orchid where have you gone? hello again quince, dried prunes and dark chocolate. The mesquite smoke is faintly there but ephemeral like, well, like smoke.
The light is fading as I look out on my winter cloaked garden.
5- ?: I will drink this tea all evening, it shows no real signs of abating although the amazing has been spent - it is now merely wonderful.
I've been visiting this mistress for 2 months now, and she still surprises me.