The Great Un-Steepstering of 2020 Review #7 (08/16/20)
Digging into more of my pure origin teas from 2017 (I’m sorry I neglected you, poor teas!) I realize that any lack of quality at this point, well after the best-by dates, is only a reflection of my bad habits and not the tea.
I don’t think I’ve ever tried a baked/smoked oolong…? I can’t stand fire-smoked teas like lapsang souchong, as the strong, smoky “aroma” is a major migraine trigger for me. I’m not a huge fan of smoky flavors, either, if they taste too strong/ashy/charlike (a bit of mild BBQ-esque smokiness I am fine with, and really like in Chinese blacks). This came in a sample packet with a lot of different teas, and probably wouldn’t be the kind of thing I’d select for myself based on those tastes, but on the other hand, I was wildly curious so of all the Dazzle Deer samples I have to go through from that pack, I chose this one. It’s a fall 2016 harvest, best before 12/31/2018 (I’m such a bad tea mother!!!)
The samples were packaged in the gram amounts the site suggested for gong fu, so it was a good excuse to get my lazy butt to actually brew gong fu on a Sunday afternoon where I had the time to do so. I used the instructions from Dazzle Deer’s website, albeit slightly cooler water (honestly, at the high altitude here in Idaho, I haven’t really found much difference between using 205F and 212F so I tend to brew most things that ask for “boiling” water at 205F, which is faster on my kettle).
100ml shiboridashi | 7g | 205F | Rinse/20s/25s/30s/40s/50s/60s
On the first infusion, it smells of roasted nuts, smoke, slightly vegetal, and a sweetness on the floral side, perhaps honeysuckle? There certainly isn’t the sort of “smoky” aroma from a lapsang that makes my head think a forest fire is in full swing, so I don’t think I have to worry about a migraine trigger here. The flavor on the sip, however, is a bit more “char”-like than I tend to prefer… but it isn’t as bad as I always imagined in my head, either. It tastes like burnt toast, and I’m probably the only person I know that will willing eat burnt toast (and several other burnt foods… I actually like hotdogs and marshmallows better that way, heh). My main issue is that burnt flavor is a bit overpowering and lingers on my tongue, and has a bit of a bitter/astringent quality to it. The tea seems to have some woody/nutty notes, but I’m having trouble tasting them under the heavy burnt toast quality.
The second steep has mellowed the tea out nicely, however… into something I can actually enjoy somewhat. I can actually taste the wood, and a roasted nuts (particularly walnut) flavor that is quite pleasant. There is still a somewhat unpleasant astringent aftertaste (maybe this was just a touch more leaf than I typically personally prefer for 100ml gong fu style? I usually use the ratios on OCTea which seems to fit me perfectly, but due to the size of the packet, went strictly with the vendor-provided instructions this time). Hoping the bitterness will mellow out a bit, too. There is a cooked vegetables sort of flavor as well, though I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint specific vegetable notes (maybe roasted mushrooms?). It still tastes a bit too ashy to tell if there is any sweetness/florality present.
Subsequent steeps did mellow out further, and the astringency following the sip went away. I continued to taste wood, roasted walnuts, and charcoal as the main flavors, with a subtle cooked vegetable note in the background. In the later steeps, I was finally able to coax some of the florality I’d been smelling from the tea out in the flavor, as a subtle honeysuckle note, once the charcoal quality were really starting to fade.
After trying it, this definitely isn’t the sort of tea I’d choose for myself, but I didn’t find it so unpalatable that I couldn’t drink it if offered, and at least find myself curious enough to sample if the opportunity arises to see if there happens to be one out there that falls into the “right” level of smoky vs. charcoal/ashy territory that appeases me. I’m definitely glad for the chance to try this, even if it isn’t quite to my tastes.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Burnt, Char, Floral, Honeysuckle, Mushrooms, Nutty, Roasted Nuts, Toast, Vegetables, Walnut, Wood