God, it’s been forever! It seems that every time I try to get myself into some sort of routine when it comes to posting tea reviews, something always happens that causes me to fall even further behind. In this case, it has been a combination of an oppressive work schedule, health issues, and a general sour mood that has left me not exactly feeling like writing in my extremely limited spare time. I’m going to start playing catch-up again with this review, or so I hope. This was my first sipdown of the month and a tea I had been meaning to get to long before I actually managed to motivate myself to try it. My limited experience with winter Shui Xian and previous positive experiences with various Shui Xian offered by Old Ways Tea told me that this would be a quality offering, and it was. It ended up being neither my favorite winter Shui Xian nor one of my favorite offerings from Old Ways Tea, but it was still a very nice tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 3 ounces of 203 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was followed by 16 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 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, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of baked bread, cinnamon, raisin, roasted almond, honey, blackberry, charcoal, and pine. After the rinse, I picked up new aromas of roasted peanut, smoke, earth, tar, and cannabis. The first infusion brought out a little rock sugar and orange zest on the nose. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of mushroom, cream, baked bread, roasted almond, roasted peanut, earth, tar, charcoal, and pine that were chased by hints of honey, cinnamon, blackberry, butter, smoke, and grass. The following infusions coaxed out aromas of rock sugar, malt, roasted walnut, grass, mushroom, cranberry, and pear alongside subtler scents of vanilla and red apple. Stronger and more immediately notable impressions of blackberry, butter, cinnamon, smoke, and grass appeared in the mouth alongside notes of minerals, black cherry, roasted walnut, orange zest, pear, red apple, pomegranate, cranberry, malt, and caramel notes. I also picked up some belatedly emerging cannabis hints and subtle notes of raisin, rock sugar, and vanilla. As the tea faded, the liquor settled and emphasized mineral, roasted almond, roasted peanut, roasted walnut, baked bread, caramel, butter, grass, blackberry, charcoal, and cinnamon notes that were underscored by hints of rock sugar, earth, mushroom, tar, smoke, vanilla, orange zest, black cherry, and pear.
This was a very complex and interesting tea. It was a little surprising to me that the characteristics of the roast (charcoal, pine, tar, smoke, etc.) came out so prominently and so strongly. Winter Shui Xian is generally not as heavily roasted as other Wuyi Shui Xian, and either this one was more heavily roasted than the average winter Shui Xian, or its roast somehow managed to retain a good deal of its strength and liveliness in storage. I have no clue which is the case. Anyway, this was a very good and very enjoyable Shui Xian, though it was a bit harsher and heavier than I have come to expect winter Shui Xian to be. I’m willing to bet that a few more months in storage would have mellowed it out a bit more.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Blackberry, Butter, Cannabis, Caramel, Char, Cherry, Cinnamon, Cranberry, Cream, Earth, Fruity, Grass, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Mushrooms, Orange Zest, Peanut, Pear, Pine, Raisins, Red Apple, Roasted, Smoke, Sugar, Tar, Vanilla, Walnut