Reading the other reviews here, the one on Yunnan Sourcing’s website and comparing with my experience, this tea is a complex trickster.
I think I bought this tea in late 2017. First few attempts in early 2018 were terrible. Nothing but peanut shell in taste in aroma. I thought, “How odd to retain such an off-putting roast since this was processed in 2016.” I’ll be honest here. I played with the thought that was this was a fraudulent tea due to that, ugh, smell and it being touted as grown in Zhengyan reserve. I also have no problem admitting I’m a noob and forever learning, so a lot of my assumptions are probably wrong.So I transferred the tea from it’s shipping envelope into a glass jar with a cork stopper and moved it to the back of the drawer. I recently decided to try the Qi Dan again since I was finishing off older or unfavorable teas for new orders. Precious jar space, you know.
I don’t know if it was the result of storing the tea in a cork-topped glass jar or what, but this tea had a complete turnaround since the last time I brewed it in January.
According to Yunnan Sourcing, this Qi Dan is a cross between Qi Lan and Dan Gui, which is supposedly a cross of Da Hong Pao and Rou Gui. I’ve had a few different rou guis but neither has had the cinnamon aroma that the tea experts claim it should have. This Qi Dan definitely hit that mark, though. Mostly broken leaves released highly aromatic nutmeg, cassia, cinnamon, minerals and dry woodiness which all flowed through into the taste. Kind of a mission-figgy-sweetness and dried green herbs in afterthought. Camphor on the swallow. The qi lan comes through with a specific, strong aroma of orchid that quickly fades into some flower I don’t recognize. On the lid of the gaiwan I got that milk chocolate scent I frequently find in medium-roast yanchas but that passed after a few steepings
The visual light-medium roast and oxidized leaves produced an interesting juxtaposition to the taste. Wires in the brain crossed but the resultant shock was pleasant and intriguing. Do I want to purchase more? It would be a great digestif following a heavy meal once the winter rains come.
Of note, I didn’t time or keep track of the number of steepings beyond the initial steep of 20 seconds. Water just off boil, roughly 8 grams in a 100 mL jianshui gaiwan. Very forgiving on timing. Had a handful of steepings ranging upward of 30 minutes with no unpleasant results. I wonder how the taste would change with lower temperature water or a different brewing vessel. I guess I’ll have to order more to find out.