This was the tea that I finished immediately prior to the Qi Lan I just reviewed. I know that I have said this over and over again, but Old Ways Tea sources Rou Gui that just does it for me. I have always found Rou Gui to be less appealing than other Wuyi oolong cultivars and have never quite understood its popularity. It’s not the most prestigious, most storied, or most expensive cultivar, but it is ridiculously popular in Wuyishan, so popular in fact that tea growers have actually removed older tea trees of rarer cultivars just to plant more Rou Gui. I know the cultivar’s popularity is probably due to its ubiquitousness, and it is ubiquitous because it’s seen as being hardy, dependable, and capable of prodigious production. It’s always available, and because there is so much of it out there, it’s usually comparatively cheap and very easy to obtain. As a matter of fact, one can’t really explore Wuyi tea and Wuyi tea culture without trying Rou Gui and developing an appreciation for it. I struggled with Rou Gui for the better part of 2 years before discovering Old Ways Tea, trying a couple of their Rou Gui, and finding my opinion of a tea I previously found overly earthy and woody changing. Their 2016 and 2017 Premium Rou Gui were the teas that really pushed me to develop an appreciation for the cultivar, and this 2018 Premium Rou Gui did nothing to make me re-evaluate the quality of their offerings. It was yet another exceptional tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 3 fluid ounces of 203 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 18 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 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, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, and 15 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of cinnamon, dark chocolate, smoke, pine, earth, charcoal, and blackberry. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, plum, black currant, roasted almond, and roasted peanut. The first infusion introduced a rock sugar aroma as well as subtle scents of blueberry and strawberry. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cinnamon, pine, smoke, charcoal, blackberry, roasted almond, baked bread, and cream that were chased by hints of rock sugar, earth, roasted peanut, black cherry, black raspberry, plum, black currant, strawberry, dark chocolate, and red grape. The bulk of the subsequent infusions added aromas of red grape, caramel, leather, tobacco, charred oak, and roasted barley as well as a stronger strawberry aroma and subtle scents of coriander and nutmeg. Stronger and more immediately detectable notes of roasted peanut, earth, dark chocolate, red grape, black cherry, black currant, and black raspberry emerged in the mouth with impressions of minerals, leather, tobacco, grass, charred oak, caramel, roasted barley, nutmeg, coriander, and orange zest in tow. Hints of blueberry, dried cranberry, popcorn, and candied ginger were also present. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to emphasize mineral, earth, cream, baked bread, charcoal, orange zest, roasted barley, roasted almond, caramel, and pine notes that were gradually overwhelmed by a swell of lingering grass, roasted peanut, blackberry, black cherry, tobacco, black raspberry, coriander, leather, cinnamon, popcorn, and charred oak impressions.
An almost unbelievably deep, rich, complex, and filling tea, this one was a challenge to analyze. There was just so much to take in with it. Despite that, it never struck me as being unbalanced or overwhelming. Quite simply, this was an excellent Rou Gui. Make a point of trying some of Old Ways Tea’s Premium Rou Gui if you have yet to do so.
Flavors: Almond, Black Currant, Blackberry, Blueberry, Bread, Caramel, Charcoal, Cherry, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cranberry, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Ginger, Grapes, Grass, Leather, Mineral, Nutmeg, Oak, Orange Zest, Peanut, Pine, Plum, Popcorn, Raspberry, Roasted Barley, Smoke, Strawberry, Sugar, Tobacco