Bitter End Xtra is undoubtedly a high end tea. It gives almost neverending sessions and with passing years, it should brew even longer and display more complexity. Today I got 21 steeps (that would be almost 300ml/g), but it is clear that one could push it even further.
The dry leaf aroma is fairly standard as far as young sheng goes – it is sweet and metallic with a strong dry grass character. After the rinse, I get the impression of a forest with a sort of cooling sensation. Over the course of the session, the aromas then become quite complex and elusive until they settle into a mix of fruits and flowers towards the end.
As expected, the tea is bitter, although not in any particularly negative way. The bitterness is far from overpowering. As TJ Elite mentions, it is not abrasive. I would say that there are two kinds present.
In the first quarter of the session, there is a fast grapefruit-like bitterness that subsides quickly. Other flavours include licorice root, straw, apricot pits, and beech wood, with some black pepper and grapefruit notes in the aftertaste. The liquor is very active in the mouth and there is no astringency whatsoever. The cha qi creeps up fairly slowly and at this point it is mostly energizing.
Later in the second quarter, there is a very long-lasting woody bitterness that can linger on for more than an hour after drinking. The texture is buttery and reaches peak viscosity. I also get a notable apple flavour around these steeps. They carry the strongest mind-numbing sensations accompanying the drinking. The effect of the tea seems much more meditative than before.
In the second half, bitter flavours recede, allowing other aspect to come to the fore. The third quarter of my today’s session was actually the most flavourful! Fruity and floral flavours dominate with notes such as banana and yellow beans. Mouthfeel is more on the oily side, although not as full-bodied anymore.
Around steep 16 is when some astringency finally appears. From then on, the flavours gradually weaken and the overall character becomes increasingly floral with no bitterness left.
Flavors: Apricot, banana, Bitter, Black Pepper, Dry Grass, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Grapefruit, Green Beans, Licorice, Metallic, Oak wood, Straw, Thick