This oolong is crafted from a fairly new tea cultivar. Noted for its floral aromatics and hints of grass and cream in the mouth, Zi Mu Dan (Purple Peony) has only been around about 20 years and is currently used solely for crafting oolongs. Some have compared it favorably to classic oolong cultivars like Tieguanyin. Let’s see how it compared in my eyes.
For the purposes of this review, I brewed this tea gongfu style in a small gaiwan. I used approximately 7-8 grams of loose leaves and set the water temperature at 208 F. I once again followed the gongfu brewing guidelines suggested on Verdant’s website. The initial steeping was 10 seconds, followed by steepings of 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, and 26 seconds for 9 total infusions.
Initially, I was impressed by the aroma of the wet tea leaves. The scent reminded me of a combination of chrysanthemum, peony, jasmine, and rose. In the mouth, the initial infusions presented delicate notes of rose, jasmine, peony, and chrysanthemum balanced by subtle flavors of cream, custard, and grass. Later infusions saw traces of the floral aroma remain, though vegetal, cream, and mineral scents began to emerge. The delicate, subtle floral flavors also faded, though I could detect hints of rose and chrysanthemum lingering in the background. They were replaced by somewhat more robust flavors of sweet cream, custard, minerals, grass, and leaf vegetables (lettuce and watercress).
This is another newer style oolong that sort of perplexes me. I kind of think I either may have gotten to this one a little too late or built this one up a little too much in my head. I was expecting an incredibly sweet, creamy, floral tea, but this is more subtle and airy with delicately integrated flavors. I also found the grassy, vegetal notes to be a little more prominent than they were described as being. Perhaps the flavors were starting to fade (which could be possible as this was from a November 2015 harvest and has been sitting in my tea cabinet for just over two months) or they just don’t stand out as much as I was lead to believe-it’s certainly possible, as the Mao Xie, Huang Jin Gui, and Autumn Tieguanyin I received from Verdant were from the same harvest and consumed alongside this tea, and all of them were still fresh and vibrant in the mouth. Whatever the case, this tea doesn’t do much for me, but I will give it a second chance once the next harvest is in stock.
Flavors: Cream, Custard, Floral, Grass, Jasmine, Lettuce, Mineral, Rose