So, it’s about time I review something from Yunnan Sourcing, right? Truthfully, I ordered this tea because I was confused by its description. If you read the description for this tea, it mentions that this is a cross between Dan Gui, itself a newer hybrid cultivar, and Qi Lan. Now, this sounded strange to me. I always thought Qi Dan was an old cultivar most famous for being processed into Da Hong Pao. Was this product description total crap or are there two cultivars known as Qi Dan? Further reading provided even more confusion. At one point, Yunnan Sourcing mentioned that the Dan Gui is sourced from the Zheng Yan area. Was that a typo? Should that not have been Qi Dan? Is this actually a traditionally processed Dan Gui that has been misrepresented? What exactly is this tea?
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 additional infusions. 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, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted interesting aromas of wood, char, cinnamon, dates, figs, prunes, and raisins. After the rinse, hints of clove, nutmeg, and roasted almond appeared alongside a ghostly floral impression. The first infusion emphasized spice on the nose, though I also caught hints of cream and camphor. In the mouth, I detected a rush of golden raisin, prune, date, fig, wood, and cinnamon notes backed by touches of camphor, char, roasted almond, and a somewhat sweet, almost buttery creaminess. Subsequent infusions brought out the roasted almond, clove, nutmeg, camphor, and cream notes, while also introducing the typical Wuyi minerality accompanied by wisps of osmanthus, nougat, and licorice. At one point, I even thought I caught a touch of hibiscus, but it may have just been me. The later infusions increasingly emphasized mineral, wood, roasted almond, light char, and cream impressions, but interestingly enough, I could still detect underlying impressions of camphor, spices, and a vaguely fruity sweetness. It seemed that every time the minerals faded, I was left with a cooling sensation on the back of the throat and a blend of sweetness and spiciness on the tongue. There was also that weird buttered popcorn note that I sometimes get out of Da Hong Pao.
I got more complexity out of this tea than expected, but then again, I was really pushing it hard. Since I did not have any clue how to approach this tea and had doubts about how it was represented, I wanted to dig into it. I could definitely pick up the Dan Gui influence (the telltale spice and osmanthus notes), but the Qi Lan influence seemed to be lacking aside from the smooth creaminess I sometimes associate with the cultivar. I should also point out that in the time I spent typing this review, I took a research break and stumbled upon some additional information related to Qi Dan. Apparently, Qi Dan is traditionally used to make Da Hong Pao, but not all Qi Dan is used for this purpose. There have also been multiple hybridization programs involving Qi Dan and/or a significant number of similar cultivars, so some tea designated as Qi Dan (like this one) is not necessarily even remotely the same as the Qi Dan used to make Da Hong Pao, though these new hybrids apparently can technically still be used to make Da Hong Pao or some approximation of it. Further confusing matters is the fact that some taxonomies do not make distinctions between classical Qi Dan and some of the contemporary hybrids that are derived from the original cultivar. I am now even more confused. Allow me to just state that this tea wasn’t bad. I would not want to have it every day or hold it up as a shining example of what I feel best represents the Wuyi style, but it was far from bad.
ADDENDUM: Apparently, “Qi Dan” is really just an identifier for this hybrid cultivar. It is shorthand for Qi Lan+Dan Gui and is not the same thing as the classical Qi Dan that is used to make and also sometimes referred to as Da Hong Pao. The quotation marks in the name should have tipped me off, but…
Flavors: Almond, Camphor, Char, Cinnamon, Clove, Dates, Fig, Floral, Fruity, Licorice, Mineral, Nutmeg, Osmanthus, Popcorn, Raisins, Smooth, Wood