Alright, here comes the second and final review of the day. I’m sure some of you who read my reviews have noted that I have been moving away from black teas over the course of the previous 2-3 months. That is the result of a deliberate decision on my part. I find oolongs more challenging and more appealing at this point in my life, so I have made more of an effort to focus on them. That, however, does not mean that I will no longer be drinking and/or reviewing other types of tea. All of the above brings us to this tea. Until this afternoon, I had been putting it off for months. I only had a sample pouch and finally got sick of looking at it. If I had only known what I was missing…
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this infusion up with a ridiculous series of 14 additional infusions. I did not want to give up on this one. Steep times for these infusions were 8 seconds, 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, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of roasted grain, buttered yeast rolls, wood, and honey. After the rinse, the woodiness was amplified, while aromas of vanilla, ginger, and chocolate began to emerge. The first infusion saw a hint of sweet potato appear. In the mouth, I detected notes of buttered yeast roll, wood, vanilla, ginger, chocolate, roasted grain, and honey. Subsequent infusions grew more intense and complex. Impressions of cracked black pepper, minerals, mandarin orange, bergamot, pine, and cedar began to express themselves both on the nose and on the palate just as the impression of sweet potato finally made its mark in the mouth. The later infusions were heavy on the minerals, though subtle notes of wood, pine, cedar, and yeast roll still provided a semblance of balance. Every time I thought the tea was done, however, touches of honey, ginger, and vanilla would come back swinging just before the finish.
This was a truly beautiful and intriguing tea. Like most of Li Xiangxi’s offerings, it started to fade rather early, but clung to interesting combinations of flavors, a taut, lean body, and a wonderfully sharp, focused Wuyi rock texture as it faded. Normally, I am all about teas that peak early and maintain consistency over a controlled and extended fade. Even though this tea’s peak was shorter and its fade longer than most, it had so much to offer. This was definitely the kind of tea that rewarded patience and focus. If you are a fan of Jin Jun Mei, you owe it to yourself to try this tea.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Bergamot, Black Pepper, Cedar, Chocolate, Ginger, Grain, Honey, Mineral, Orange, Pine, Sweet Potatoes, Vanilla, Wood, Yeast