With the weather absolutely abysmal, I’ve been hiding inside most of the day. The heat and humidity here have been awful. Avoiding the sun, however, has allowed me plenty of time to catch up on chores and drink tea. Today I allowed myself the opportunity to try a new Dan Cong. I’m still very new to Dan Cong in general and I’m still figuring out what I like and what I think is good. This was my first Ya Shi, and while I liked it well enough, it had a few quirks that caught me off guard.
Naturally, I prepared this tea gongfu style. As usual, I kept my rinse short (no more than 8-10 seconds). After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted a unique combination of aromas that reminded me of cream, butter, violet, rose, tea flower, and ginseng. After the rinse, I began to detect damp grass, almond, anise, and gardenia. The first infusion displayed a powerful bouquet that allowed for the emergence of pomelo and mild ginger. In the mouth, I did not get the soapiness mentioned by at least one other reviewer. Instead, I discovered a light body and gentle notes of almond, damp grass, ginger, ginseng, tea flower, cream, butter, violet, and rose. Subsequent infusions briefly brought out the gardenia and pomelo on the palate, as well as touches of pomegranate, licorice, golden raisin, vanilla, hay, cashew, caraway seed, rye toast, candied lemon peel, and something distinctly vegetal that put me in mind of watercress. With each infusion, the minerality built and the stereotypical Dan Cong soapiness gradually appeared. The tea washed out fairly quickly, and by the time I got to the later infusions, the liquor was heavy on minerals, grass, cream, and butter underscored by ghostly herbal and nutty notes.
I am not sure I have any clue how to rate this tea. It was a little odd. I seemed to get more floral complexity, more graininess, and more herbal and vegetal characteristics than other reviewers, but I am not certain my breakdown of this tea even remotely comes close to passing muster. I found this to be an exceptionally difficult tea to describe. My lack of familiarity with Dan Cong oolongs no doubt also put me at a distinct disadvantage when it came to analyzing this tea. Right now it falls into a gray area for me. I didn’t dislike it, but it also didn’t blow me away. Once the floral aromas and flavors started to fade and I began to pick up more ginseng, licorice, anise, and caraway, I began to lose interest since I tend to dislike all of those things. In the end, I have to grade this one conservatively. Given my preferences, somewhere in the 75-78 range feels about right.
Flavors: Almond, Anise, Butter, Citrus, Cream, Fruity, Gardenias, Ginger, Grass, Hay, Herbs, Lemon, Licorice, Mineral, Nutty, Raisins, Rose, Rye, Toast, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet