Oh man, this is such a blast from the past. I think I finished a one ounce pouch of this tea back around the start of the month, wrote a review in my notebook, and then just sat on it. I didn’t forget about it because it has been in the back of my mind pretty consistently since then, but I just couldn’t bring myself to post it here. I have no clue what it was that was holding me back. Anyway, I think I have previously mentioned how much I love Taiwanese black teas. They just do it for me. This one was very good, near excellent in fact, but I did knock a few points off for a couple reasons. First, I think there are better or at least comparable Sun Moon Lake black teas at similar or slightly lower price points and there was an odd tomato-like scent and taste in the very early goings that was a turn off for me. Not that I don’t like tomato or anything, but I don’t necessarily desire to smell or taste it in my tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I went with a lower water temperature than Whispering Pines recommended (195 F as opposed to 212 F) simply because I am used to brewing teas of this type at temperatures between 194-205 F. I used 6 grams of leaves for 4 ounces of water and flash rinsed rather than going with a more standard 10 second rinse. The first infusion was 5 seconds. The fourteen subsequent infusions were as follows: 7 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 fairly powerful aromas of sweet potato, crushed basil, wintergreen, and tomato. Actually, it was more like stewed tomato to be precise. The rinse brought out new aromas of wood, malt, spearmint, and black grape. The first infusion then brought out a stronger spearmint aroma coupled with hints of baked bread. In the mouth, I immediately detected unexpectedly strong notes of basil, wintergreen, and spearmint on the entry. Notes of malt, wood, sweet potato, and baked bread followed. In the background, I caught a faint hint of black grape too. Subsequent infusions brought out new impressions of leather, eucalyptus, anise, plum, apricot, honey, minerals, cocoa, brown sugar, camphor, and of course, stewed tomato. Fortunately, that note (which admittedly kind of clashed with most of the others, lending a rather acidic and unwelcome tang to the tea) faded very quickly. I couldn’t detect much of it after about the fourth or fifth infusion as I recall. The later infusions retained a good deal of complexity on the nose and in the mouth. I could still find lingering impressions of baked bread, malt, brown sugar, minerals, camphor, eucalyptus, spearmint, and wintergreen underscored by fleeting hints of honey and stone fruits without too much difficulty.
To be honest, I enjoyed this tea greatly, but to reiterate what I stated in my introductory paragraph, I just had to take a few points off due to a rough edge or two that bothered me and the tea’s price relative to its overall value. Otherwise I would have rated it higher. Though it may sound like it, I’m not calling this tea overpriced or at least I do not intend to. I have just had Sun Moon Lake black teas and other similar Taiwanese black teas at or slightly below this price point that were smoother overall. To be fair, this is still a very high quality tea and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an interest in Taiwanese black teas. There are just a few other teas of this type that I think I prefer over this one.
Flavors: Anise, Apricot, Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Camphor, Cocoa, Eucalyptus, Grapes, Herbs, Honey, Leather, Malt, Mineral, Plums, Spearmint, Sweet Potatoes, Wood