Here is yet another blast from the past. I think I finished a sample pouch of this tea around two weeks ago, but failed to make an attempt to post a formal review until now. I know several previous reviewers really enjoyed this tea, but honestly, it did not do as much for me. I am used to the Laoshan black teas offered by vendors like Yunnan Sourcing and Verdant Tea, and compared to such offerings, this tea seemed to be harsh and a bit lacking. It was not terrible or anything, but it did suffer a bit compared to some of the other readily available offerings on the market.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very brief rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in a 4 ounce gaiwan filled with 194 F water for 3 seconds. This infusion was chased by 16 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 5 seconds, 7 seconds, 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, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of cocoa, honey, and brown toast underscored by hints of cinnamon. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of roasted chestnut, roasted walnut, and malt. The first infusion then brought out aromas of raisin, pine, and black cherry. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of honey, malt, brown toast, and pine balanced by hints of cinnamon, cocoa, roasted nuts, and cream. Subsequent infusions saw the nose turn woodier, maltier, and fruitier. Heavier notes of roasted nuts, cream, and cocoa appeared in the mouth. Raisin and black cherry flavors emerged alongside new notes of caramel, minerals, jujube, plum, burnt sugar, butter, juniper, damp grass, and butternut squash. Hints of anise and black licorice made themselves known on the swallow, leaving herbal, spicy impressions in the mouth. The final infusions were dominated by mineral, butter, cream, malt, and roasted walnut notes, though hints of cocoa, jujube, burnt sugar, caramel, and anise could be detected in the background rather consistently.
There was a lot going on in this tea, but it never came together in a way that satisfied me. Moreover, there were a few components that seemed either out of place or out of whack, rendering this tea somewhat unbalanced both on the nose and in the mouth. Though it was a deeper, more complex, and more challenging offering than the Laoshan black teas I have tried in the past, it was neither as pleasant nor as approachable. In the end, I would not caution Laoshan tea aficionados to avoid this tea, but I certainly would encourage people to think twice before committing to the purchase of a considerable amount of it.
Flavors: Anise, Brown Toast, Butter, Butternut Squash, Caramel, Cherry, Chestnut, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Cream, Fruity, Grass, Honey, Licorice, Malt, Mineral, Pine, Plums, Raisins, Sugar, Walnut