I finally managed to get a new 4 ounce gaiwan and I have been working on getting a feel for it. One thing I liked about the one I unintentionally broke was that it fit in my hand extremely well and was super easy to pour. This one is prettier, but it is also a bit squatter, which means that it does not fit in my hand as comfortably. It takes a little more effort than I’m used to, but I’m making progress. This Anxi approximation of a Da Hong Pao was the first tea I brewed in it. I found it to be a solid tea that reasonably approximated the character of a traditional Da Hong Pao.

Obviously, I gongfued this tea. After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 8 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 12 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, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced mild aromas of wood, char, and roasted nuts. I also thought I picked up some smoke and possible hints of flowers and caramel. The rinse released intriguing aromas of butter, cream, pipesmoke, nutmeg, and saffron. The first infusion brought out hints of grass and vanilla. In the mouth, I picked up on gentle notes of caramel, cream, butter, wood, char, and roasted nuts underscored by smoke, nutmeg, and saffron. Subsequent infusions better brought out the smoke, nutmeg, and saffron while the vanilla and grass also began to express themselves on the palate. The vague roasted nut notes began to take shape, increasingly reminding me of roasted almonds, chestnuts, and cashews. New aromas and flavors of osmanthus, lilac, rock sugar, minerals, and apricot also appeared. The later infusions continued to emphasize butter, grass, cream, vanilla, and wood notes balanced by grass, char, and a gentle minerality, though the popcorn note I tend to get from the later stages of Da Hong Pao sessions popped out at this time too.

As mentioned earlier, this tea did a reasonably good job of approximating the character of a traditional Wuyi Da Hong Pao. I would assert, however, that the lack of a sharp mineral presence and the distinct floral impressions were dead giveaways that this was not the real deal. Still, this was a worthy experiment. It was very much worth trying, although I think the next time I’m in the mood for yancha, I’ll stick with actual yancha.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Butter, Caramel, Char, Chestnut, Cream, Floral, Grass, Mineral, Nutmeg, Nutty, Osmanthus, Popcorn, Saffron, Smoke, Sugar, Vanilla, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.



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