I was able to try gongfu with this tea, so here are some updated notes.
Gongfu (3g/60ml/85 C), 10 steeps total:
I started with a 10 second steep and added 5-10 seconds for the first several infusions, then gradually increased the additional time; final, 10th steep was 5 minutes.
The lid of the gaiwan throughout had a sweet roasty aroma, somewhere between burnt sugar and caramelized winter squash. The brews start out a pale golden amber that grows deeper amber with each steep. The aroma of the brew is hard to describe – the main scent and flavor through all infusions is what I (unhelpfully) identify as “smooth black tea” – basic, familiar black tea with no bitterness, no brisk or brash flavors to hit you in the face, etc.
The roasted/toasted notes that were prominent in western brewing are lightly present almost the whole time, only beginning to fade around steep 9. There is a little malt, but that is never a strong note; there is a light sweetness, but it never crosses into syrup, honey, caramel, or any other kind of flavorful sugar. I think YS describes the tea as having a “sugar cane” taste, but even that attributes more flavor than I was able to pick up. The impression I was left with was of clear corn syrup – a little sweet, but without any accompanying related flavors. In the first couple steeps there is a hint of buttery taste & texture that adds to the suggestion of roasted squash, but this too fades quickly.
The middle steeps barely hinted cocoa powder and brought a touch of dryness, and while the leaves themselves began to smell more earthy, that flavor never really materialized.
In the final steeps I tried pushing the temperature to 90 C to see if I could coax out any more flavors, but all this did is bring out some more dryness/astringency and a little bitterness.
Overall, I’m afraid I found the Mojiang disappointing when brewed gongfu. It was mild & pleasant, but all the flavors were light, with no strong impressions – no layers, no complexity, no real changes between steeps. (I’d rate this 65 with gongfu.)
I’ll stick with western or, more likely, cold brew with this tea, as that yielded the most interest.