This was another of my older sample sipdowns. It was also a tea that I struggled to rate. In general, Rou Gui and I are not the best of buddies. I often find it too woody and chewy, but for some reason, I do better with the Rou Gui offered by Old Ways Tea than that offered by many other vendors. I knew I liked this one as soon as I tried it for the first time, but I had difficulty determining just how much I actually liked it and how I would rate it compared to some of the other Old Ways Rou Gui I’ve tried.
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 19 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, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of char, smoke, pine, cinnamon, blackberry, and black cherry that were underscored by a subtle tobacco scent. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of roasted peanut, roasted almond, tar, and ash in addition to a stronger tobacco scent. The first infusion added aromas of black raspberry, blueberry, and oddly enough, celery. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of char, smoke, ash, pine, cinnamon, tobacco, dark chocolate, tar, black raspberry, and blackberry that were chased by hints of grass, black cherry, blueberry, and caramel. The majority of the subsequent infusions added aromas of nutmeg, dark chocolate, red grape, plum, baked bread, roasted walnut, and roasted barley to the tea’s bouquet. Stronger and more immediately detectable notes of grass, black cherry, and blueberry appeared in the mouth alongside notes of minerals, pomegranate, orange zest, celery, roasted peanut, roasted almond, plum, roasted walnut, baked bread, red grape, and roasted barley. I also found some hints of fig, nutmeg, earth, coriander, and pear here and there. As the tea faded, the liquor started emphasizing mineral, baked bread, grass, roasted almond, roasted walnut, pine, char, and roasted barley notes that were supported by a complex mix of orange zest, earth, roasted peanut, smoke, black cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, blackberry, and red grape hints. Interestingly enough, I also found a very late emerging hint of popcorn that just kind of appeared out of nowhere.
Looking back on my notes as I write this review shedded a lot more light on this tea for me. It’s really no wonder I struggled to score it because it was very deep and complex and took a few interesting twists and turns. This was a very good Rou Gui, though it was at times daunting to analyze. I am now very much looking forward to the 2019 Handmade Rou Gui that I have yet to try.
Flavors: Almond, Ash, Blackberry, Blueberry, Bread, Caramel, Celery, Char, Cherry, Cinnamon, Coriander, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Fig, Grapes, Grass, Mineral, Nutmeg, Orange Zest, Peanut, Pear, Pine, Plum, Pomegranate, Popcorn, Raspberry, Roasted Barley, Smoke, Tar, Tobacco, Walnut