This was yet another of my late 2021 sipdowns. At the time I set about giving this tea a fair shake, I had been looking forward to trying it for some time despite being preoccupied with finishing off a number of other teas in my possession. Qi Dan, on its own, can be hit or miss, but as Old Ways Tea handles Rou Gui very well, and Qi Dan is or can be remarkably similar to Rou Gui, I had high expectations for this tea prior to setting about reviewing it. Unfortunately, it was something of a disappointment for me. While it was not a terrible offering by any means, it also did not offer a consistently compelling or enjoyable drinking experience.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 3 fluid ounces of 203 F water for 6 seconds. This initial infusion was followed by 18 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 minutes 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced aromas of bread, cinnamon, pine, black cherry, and blueberry that were underpinned by a subtle smoky scent. After the rinse, I discovered the emergence of roasted almond, rock sugar, and cannabis aromas that were accompanied by a slight charcoal fragrance. The first proper infusion added subtle orchid, grass, and blackberry presences. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered up notes of cinnamon, blueberry, black cherry, charcoal, and roasted almond that were balanced by hints of smoke, grass, cannabis, pear, blackberry, roasted peanut, and orchid. The bulk of the subsequent infusions gradually provided fresh aromas of roasted peanut, orange zest, and earth in addition to noticeably stronger grassy scents. More immediately detectable impressions of smoke, blackberry, grass, and roasted peanut emerged in the mouth accompanied by notes of minerals, butter, rock sugar, orange zest, plum, earth, and pine. Roasted walnut and bitter, oily hickory nut notes thrived on the back of the throat. Hints of peach, red grape, and bread could be picked up here and there. As the tea gradually faded, the liquor continued to pound my palate with notes of minerals, orange zest, blueberry, black cherry, roasted almond, and roasted walnut before a mix of subtler impressions of grass, earth, pine, red grape, blackberry, charcoal, rock sugar, bread, plum, and smoke made themselves known.
What an odd tea this was! It was all over the place. It started off seemingly confused and unfocused. The impressions it offered were somewhat scattered and unclear, but then as it quickly evened out, that bitter, nutty, and somewhat odd aftertaste became ever more noticeable. The best sipping this tea offered came towards the end of my drinking session. If this tea had one standout characteristic, it was its clear and consistent minerality, though I would describe the texture of the tea liquor as being slippery and thin, even for a Wuyi oolong. At this point, I know it may seem like I am really slamming this tea hard, but it was not unenjoyable. It had a lot of nice flavor notes. I just wish it had been more consistent and balanced from the start. Overall, this was an okay offering. It just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.
Flavors: Almond, Bitter, Blackberry, Blueberry, Bread, Butter, Cannabis, Charcoal, Cherry, Cinnamon, Earth, Grapes, Grass, Mineral, Orange Zest, Orchid, Peach, Peanut, Pear, Pine, Plum, Smoke, Sugar, Walnut