12 Tasting Notes
Fascinating material. Slightly looser than average balling on the leaf. About ⅘ of the leaf material looks heavily oxidized: dark-matte black, with just a hint of shine. The slight shine could be due to a very slight roast. The remaining ⅕ of the leaf material is green. Not jade green, mind you. Rather, the material is a matt green/yellow. This contrast of heavily oxidized, with comparatively green leaf, is really fascinating. It’s the first time I can recall seeing a wulong processed this way. Dry leaf gives off a very mild, roasted aroma. Steamed aroma is a typical roasted smell, with a hint of wood.
Brewed aroma is very faint. Some bakers spice, and a continuation of the woodsy roasted note. I must say, the leaves brew up in an absolutely gorgeous manner. The contrast of muted green and brown remind me of observing a forest. Tea liquor is a crystal clear, light gold. It has the look of a great depth. First sip reminds me of rum raisin. It’s got this slightly alcoholic, cinnamon, sweet raisin thing going on. Towards the back of the mouth, I get a slightly tannic sensation/taste. This tannic note provides a nice contrast to the comparatively higher notes I mentioned previously. Finish is long, with the tannic note starting to slowly dominate the palate. The tea liquor is thick. This is one of the few teas that I would call meaty. It’s worth mentioning, that this is a high energy tea. I feel more than a bit spacey.
With the second brew, I start seeing even more hongshui character. Tea liquor is a golden red. Taste remains relatively stable. Only noticeable change is an increase in Taiwanese red tea character. IE tannic sensation, slight bitterness, menthol like sensation in the throat.
Third brew changes things up again. The golden color of the first steep is only present in the top ¼ of the liquor now. The rest is a nectarine red. Interestingly enough, the aroma has gone in the opposite direction. It’s gotten very floral. In a way that reminds me of an unroasted jin xuan. Taste is moving towards the darker notes. There is some remaining alcoholic cinnamon, but it’s almost entirely in the finish now. A strong, dark chocolate note has taken over. Bitter like cocoa nibs. Beneath that is a lingering woodiness, and raisin tartness. A tannic sensation can be found in the back of the mouth.
It’s worth noting, that my head is entirely in the clouds right now. I feel a strong “lifted” sensation in my facial muscles. It’s euphoric in nature.
Fourth brew doesn’t evolve any. Which is okay. I’m enjoying everything this tea is doing, so I’m okay with it staying on its current path.
Fifth brew is somewhat lighter. Liquor looks like it’s transitioning towards the gold of the first brew. The ratios are now inversed. Now it’s ⅘ golden, ⅕ red. Aroma is very sweet, and mildly malty. Taste is also very sweet now. Almost all the bitterness is gone, and just a hint of tannic sensation remains buried in the finish. I’m a bit conflicted with this development. It is a smoother tea now, but that’s because it’s lost a lot of its complexity.
I predict the tea will continue to taper off from here. It might not have longevity, but this tea does show a lot of evolution of color, flavors, and aroma.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Menthol, Raisins, Rum, Tannic
Dry leaf is a very typical Oriental Beauty. Small, multi colored leaves. Black dominates, with matte brown, and some silver hairy tips mixed in. Aroma is slightly musty with an undercurrent of sweet plum and wood. Steamed aroma is an exact match for Kaoliang Baijiu.
First brew shows a fair amount of age. Aroma has gotten sweeter, and mustier. Liquor is a dark amber. First sip is heavy on the must. It’s slightly too dank for my liking. Forgotten in a wet basement character, as opposed to a purposeful dankness. Buried beneath that is a burly dark wood note, some slight acidity, and a slight sweetness. The finish is dominated by must. Texturally, the liquor is somewhat middling. It’s neither thick, nor thin.
Second brew is a bit characterless. Aroma is barely present. Liquor color is darker. Taste is turning into a very generic aged wulong. All must, with hints of wood. However, a bitterness has entered the finish. I really hope that it doesn’t show up in forthcoming brews. I could see it turning this tea to brass.
Third brew continues this saga of disappointment. More bitterness is coming through. The rest of the notes are identical to the second brew.
I decided to do a quick, 5~ second brew this time. The dark wood note is now in open competition with the musty character of this tea. I’ll say again, the musty character tastes off. The increased prominence of the dark wood doesn’t improve the off taste. Its burly character interacts with the must in a way that is, frankly, a bit off putting. Having so many heavy, deep notes, makes this tea more than a bit monotonous to drink.
For brew 5-7, I decided to stick with quick steeps. With each steep, the tea gets worse. Dark wood, and dank must join hands with their new companion, strong bitterness, and trot forward into tea oblivion.
This tea fails on pretty much all fronts. It’s not a good aged wulong, and it’s not a good Oriental Beauty. What little character it has, I found to be either monotonous, or highly off putting. I frankly don’t think this tea has anything going for it.
Flavors: Musty, Sweet, Wet Earth, Wood
Heavy roast leaf. Medium sized, metallic black with hints of brown at the tips of the leaf. A lot of broken leaf too. Unfortunate. Dry leaf gives off a strong, heavy roast aroma with a hint of heavy metal. Brewed aroma is, unsurprisingly, typical for heavily roasted tea. Earthy, with some baker’s spice.
First brew is a somewhat cloudy brass red. First sip shows a heavy roast character. I think they used modern methods to roast this tea. It doesn’t have the strength of character I typically associate with traditional roasting method. There’s some baker’s spice, mostly cinnamon. It’s got a bit of sweetness to it, but not much. On the finish, the sweetness ramps up a bit. No appreciable minerality. Interestingly enough, there is a bit of a creamy flavor in the finish. Texturally, this tea is too thin. Throat feel is also lacking.
Ditto for second brew.
Third brew sees a huge uptick in minerality. Gaiwan aroma is thick with minerality. Color is also much darker. I think I’ve brewed through some of the roast. First sip is pure minerality. That quickly transitions into cinnamon sweetness. A hint of the roast still remains, but it’s purely as a secondary note now. Creamy taste is missing on the finish. I’m happy to report that the texture of this tea has improved. It’s thicker. By no means is it meaty or lubricating, but it’s still an improvement. Unfortunately, throat feel is still lacking.
So far, I’m not getting any cha qi effects. Nor am I feeling caffeinated.
Fourth brew is a disappointment. Minerality is significantly diminished. In fact, most of the previous flavor is either diminished, or missing. The only note comes from the roast. And even that seems flattened! The only bright spot is the texture. It’s managed to keep its increased viscosity.
Fifth brew seems to be a bit more even than the fourth. Most of the flavors are still flattened, but the cinnamon sees an uptick in sweetness. Other than that, there is very little change from the fourth brew.
For the sixth brew, I decided to increase the brew time by one minute. This is a pretty heavy steep for me. I’m curious to see how it changes the nature of the tea. Sadly, I don’t think it helped. Liquor comes out even lighter than the first steeping. Aroma is almost nill. Taste is dead. I’m calling it, this tea is steeped out.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Mineral, Roasted
The following are my tasting notes. They cover my first two sessions with this tea. I present them here, with minimal editing.
Leaves are lightly compressed. They look a bit smaller than the White Wrapper version. Smell of dry leaf is a cool earthiness. Definitely more broken leaf in this sample. Steamed aroma is almost nonexistent. Brewed aroma is a strong petrol. Beneath that, is some honey sweetness. That sweetness really sticks to your senses. Tea soup seems to be slightly more golden in color than the White Wrapper.
First sip is oily. Both in texture, and in flavor. Sunflower oil, to be exact. There’s also a lot of that honey sweetness. Not much else jumps out so far. The finish is long. Amazingly, the sweetness seems to get stronger as the finish progresses. Already, I feel a bit of a buzz.
Second steeping is a lot stronger. There’s a bit of that petrol taste right off the bat. That goes into intense honey sweetness. Finish doesn’t evolve too much. A vegetal note enters in, but it’s second fiddle to the honey sweetness. Texture is still oily. Throat feeling is a bit harsh. The kind of harsh you get right after you’ve recovered from a head cold. Like swallowing is a bit painful, and lumpy. The back of the mouth/top of the throat areas is cool.
Third steeping is stronger on the vegetal tones. The petrol is mostly gone. So is the sunflower oil note. Though, the texture is still oily. All that remains is the honey sweetness. On the finish, the sunflower oil note comes back. Throat feeling is still harsh.
Four steepings in. Surprisingly, the cha qi isn’t overwhelming me like it did with the White Wrapper. In fact, I barely notice it. There’s some minor heaviness in the fingers, and some even more minor mellowing of the mind. Flavor hasn’t changed. Finish hasn’t changed. Throat feeling hasn’t changed.
I think the White Wrapper is better.
Using my jianshui pot this time. Very little aroma in the steamed leaf. Ditto for first brewed leaf. Taste is very different than the previous session. Flavor is very weak. What little I can detect is a hint of pu’er dirt, and a bit of corn sweetness. Viscosity is fairly thin, and watery. Already, the throaty aspect of this tea is coming into play. I feel the need to clear my throat.
Second brew is very similar. There’s now a bit of pleasant bitterness in the mix. Finish quickly moves into the sweet corn. Still very watery. I used 6.5g for a 100ml pot, so I’m not sure why that’d be the case. Throat feeling isn’t growing in intensity…yet.
After I finish the third steeping, cha qi starts to hit me. It’s still mellow, but I can tell that it’ll grow rapidly. It’s centered in around the forehead – right between the eyes.
Third brew is aromaless, at least the texture is starting to thicken up. Flavor is a very forward hit of acidic dirt. The acidic dirt note is carried through on the finish. It’s joined by pleasant bitterness. Throat feeling is staying pretty stable. Definitely noticeable, but not irritating like it was in my previous session. Cha qi is also acting differently. It’s sort of lazily ebb-flowing around. One minute I feel fairly stoned, the next I barely feel it.
Fourth brew is showing a bit more flavour. Acidic dirt is still at the forefront, but it’s gotten a bit more complex. It’s got a bitter edge, with just a hint of minerality and sweetness. Finish is sort of a drying sensation in the mouth. Throat is feeling okay. Cha qi is hitting harder.
The tea gets stronger with every brew. Which, considering where it started, isn’t saying all that much. I think the Black Wrapper is a disappointment. What it does get right, read cha qi, is still not enough to make it worth the price of admission. Especially when compared to other teas in its price range.
Dry leaf is dense, but not tightly compressed. Leaf is typical shu -black, to dark brown. Dry leaf aroma is nonexistent. This tea seems to have been dry stored. Steamed aroma is sweet earth. Ditto for brewed aroma. Brews up a semi-transparent dull copper. Sort of surprising. Most shu is pitch black. I’m going to assume the brew color is due to the age of this shu.
First brew is slightly boring. It tastes like a typical, aged, mid quality shu. Which, in and of itself would be good. However, it tastes a bit too rounded for me. I think the ageing process took off any harshness, but it also took off the high notes. Flavors are as follows: A soft, slightly musty sweet earth. A hint of peach, maybe. Texturally, it’s very soft. The finish sees an increase in must. Cha qi is negligible. Second brew presents with a much darker liquor. It looks more like typical shu. Murky, dark brass. Beyond that, there’s very little development in this brew. Third brew is even darker. Murky black, with just a hint of brass. Taste remains one dimensional. The must is growing stronger, but it’s not enough to give this tea any real character.
The fourth brew does an about face. Liquor is much lighter. It’s still murky, but, color wise, it’s closer to the second brew. Taste is noticeably sweeter. The musty element is still present, but not as prevalent. There’s now a peach sweetness, that transitions into a more sweet earth profile on the finish. Fifth and sixth brew continue this trend. Seventh brew tastes stepped on. Far too watery. On the eighth brew, I added 20 seconds to the steep time. Even with that increased steep time, the strength of the tea did not improve. It’s officially steeped out. At least, with this method of brewing. I’m sure you could do some really long infusions to maybe get another few brews out of it.
One side note. This tea has a fair amount of body caffeine in it. I noticed my hands twitching a bit while typing out these notes. I’m hesitant to attribute this effect to cha qi. It doesn’t have the mental stimulation that I usually get from cha qi.
Flavors: Earth, Musty, Peach
Mini tuocha. No aroma on dry leaf, rinse, or brew. Initial brew has a soft texture, without any great flavor. There’s a Runtz like wax-sweetness. I’m only one cup deep, and I already have a strong body reaction. Elevated heart rate, and a mounting headache. Finish is a weird, citric acidity. Throat feel is rough, and somewhat painful.
Iron compression. Leaf material is mostly black, with a few dull gold bits. Dry leaf smells sweet, woodsy, and slightly smokey. Brewed aroma is, mostly, a heavy campfire smoke, with an underlying sweetness. The sweetness reminds me a bit of tar now. After two washes, I start brewing.Brews up thick, and lubricating. Color wise, it’s sort of a peach-yellow/orange. First sip is smokey. There’s a pine tree sap sweetness to the smoke. Pine tree is actually a perfect descriptor for this tea. That’s about it. There’s very little evolution in this tea.
Flavors: Pine, Sap, Smoke
Leaves are boilerplate light roasted 高山: Some dark patches, but also a lot of greenleft. Steamed aroma of the leaves is not super pleasant. They smell, mostly, of slightly burnt food. Sesame, to be exact. The post first brew scent intensifies that burnt aroma. Yes, I truly do mean burnt, not toasted/roasted. Flavor is a mixed bag. The pleasant notes, mainly sweet potato, and (surprisingly) salt, are just overwhelmed by a burnt taste. Luckily, the burnt flavor isn’t as strong as it is in the nose. Even so, it’s unpleasant. I’m also getting a slight headache. Possibly due to the tea. I can’t be sure. The burnt taste dominates the finish. Eventually, it gives way to some sweetness. My throat feels chalky. Conversely, my mouth is slightly salivating. As the leaves continue to unfurl, it’s obvious that they’re still mostly green. My guess, is they roasted it at a high temperature, for a low amount of time. I don’t think this is a charcoal roast. It’s not mellow or thick enough.
I’m starting to feel slightly sick. That burnt note is just not playing well with my tastebuds. The front mouth taste sweetness (sweet potato) is definitely more pronounced. There’s also a sort of tiny metallic note coming in. It’s not unpleasant. It actually gives the tea a nice contrast to the much heavier burnt taste. Everytime I start to notice a new, or more pleasant, note, the burntness overwhelms it. It is such a bummer.
After the fifth brewing, the burnt aroma seems to finally be mellowing out. It’s still not very enjoyable, but at least it’s no longer aggressively unpleasant. Flavor keeps getting sweeter with every brew. The burnt taste is also way down. Finally, after six brews, we have a slightly decent cup of tea. That is harsh, but not entirely unfair. The tea had some good flavors, but that burnt taste/aroma/feel completely killed my enjoyment of this tea. It’s frustrating, since this is obviously good quality leaf, that was ruined in the processing. I have a theory on where the burntness comes from. The leaf contained a lot of near-fanning sized material. I think these were charred bits, left over from previous roastings. If this theory is correct, than that is not acceptable.
Flavors: Burnt, Burnt Food, Roast nuts
The tea soup is clear. Exactly the color I think of when I say amber. Perhaps a bit watery looking. The brewed aroma is not very strong. It’s almost neutral in it’s aroma. Subtle amount of minerality, but barely anything else.The initial mouthfeel is thick, and a bit dry. This quickly develops into a more smooth, thin feel. Though, it’s still dry. Towards the back of the mouth, I get an interesting pop-rock effect. The flavor is of a sweet minerality, with a pretty forward roast characteristic. Don’t let the tea cool down too much. It becomes a complete mineral bomb if you do. The finish is a strong, almost tongue bite of minerality. There is a also little chocolate bitterness in the finish. It’s a pleasant taste, if a bit one dimensional. I will say, the finish is really long lasting. A little bit more sweetness comes through after about a minute.
Big switch from about the sixth infusion on. I also changed the water source, which is probably the bigger factor. A lot more sweetness. The minerality is finally taking a back note. Now, it’s almost sugarcane(brown) like sweetness, with some light sided florality. The texture is also much less dry. It’s almost velvet like now; heavy like an embrace. The finish is quite a bit more complex now. You get layers of that sugarcane sweetness, with the a light florality, and strong (but mellow) undertones of minerality. Really, a big difference. The only thing that hasn’t really changed, is the aroma. In both the gaiwan, and the cup, it’s almost non existent.
Cha qi (tea energy) is very mellow. It’s a sort of radiating heat from the mid point of the sternum. I can feel the cha qi slowly enveloping me as I drink more. Moving up from the chest, and into the arms. Eventually, It sort of sits in my forehead. Which is common for me. A sort of pleasant heaviness.
Flavors: Floral, Mineral, Roasted, Sugarcane
Soup is clear, with a dark red, maybe cinnamon, hue. The gaiwan leaves (brewed) are not super aromatic. There is a bit of maltiness, and a hint of stone fruits, but not much else. Initial taste of the tea is a bit underwhelming. First taste is malt. A bit tannic, but not unpleasant or overwhelming. Which is a surprise. I’m brewing this tea longer than I typically do for hong cha. That heavy malty flavor is joined by a strong minerality on the finish. Beneath that, there is a melon sweetness. Like a very sweet honeydew, or cantaloupe, or something similar. Texture wise, the tea also mimics the watery-juiciness typically found in melons.
Pretty much zero chaqi.
Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Mineral