First of all, this review is special for me. I don’t drink a lot of black tea. When I went to Camellia Sinensis a few weeks back, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and confront my palate with something new. The person behind the counter suggested me this black tea from Guangdong, from the same cultivar as some Dancong oolong. It’s also from the same terroir, in the Phoenix ‘’Feng Huang’’ mountain range. The smell of the dry leaves alone was enough for me to buy 50 grams of this tea. I was eager to write a review about this tea. Here we go !
For this specific tea, I used 8 grams of leaves in a 150 ml gaiwan, with 95C water. I will be going through the first four steeps, as I think this is where the complexity of the tea hides : the best infusions. I will start with a 35 seconds infusion, and will be ending with a 50 seconds infusion, to get the most out of the tea and to push it a little bit more and see what it brings to the table. This tea does not require a rinse, because it’s a very clean black tea, and starts to give off its flavor right away.
The dry leaves
The dry leaves are long, black (brown-ish) and curly. To the untrained eye, they look pretty much like a heavily roasted dancong oolong, or even a rock oolong of some sort. It makes sense, as this tea was grown in Guangdong, and comes from the same cultivar as dacong oolongs. The leaves show no sign of buds. It seems only larger leaves were used. They look pretty uniform to me.
As for the smell, the leaves offer a very flower forward scent. The aroma reminds me of a Mi Lan Xiang (Honey orchidscent) oolong. I’m smelling an intense dark honey aroma and also some malty notes, which reminds me of dark/brown sugar. I’m also getting red fruits notes (Raspberry) and a nutty smell.
The wet leaves
After the first steeps, the leaves turn more of a brown color. The aromas are getting stronger, but the orchid scent takes the backseat, while the honey notes and the maltyness take up more space. The wet leaves also give off a hint of sourness, reminding me of dried fruits and sour candies (but not in a bad way).
The tea liquor
The liquor offers a red-ish brown color, which is typical for chinese Hong Cha (red tea). The color of the tea is really deep.
The brewed tea
- Steep #1 was 35 seconds long. The texture was out of this world : honey water like. It was really thick and juicy. The malty notes is what sets it apart from its oolong cousin. It reminded me that this is a black tea. The taste was very sweet, with a flowery background (orchid). It was also very nutty, it reminded me roasted chestnuts. The finish was very long, it lingered many minutes after swallowing the tea. It left me with a ‘’baked goods’’ kind of taste in my mouth. Quite unique for a black tea. It’s the first time I tasted something like that in a black tea. Although, I didn’t drink much since my tea journey began a year ago.
- Steep #2 was 25 seconds long. Once again, the tea soup was very thick and juicy. The sweet notes give off a strong dark honey nose, and a strong maltiness reminding me of dark sugar. The leaves really start to unwind. Laying in the background was somewhat of dried-fruits-like sourness. Dried cherries to be exact. This time around, the finish was a bit tart, but nothing unpleasant.
- Steep #3 was 35 seconds long. The texture got a little thinner on this steep, but it was still juicy. Some mineral notes were coming through, reminding me of a rock oolong type mineraliness. There is still a honey-like sweetness, and a sour punch like dried cherries. It’s flowery in the background, but it’s slowly fading. This steep was very malty, like roasted sugar cane.
- Steep #4 and up, 50 seconds steep time and more. I wanted to push this tea to see what it can bring in later steeps. Overall, the complexity is fading, but the leaves continue to offer a very good brew. I got up to 8 steeps, increasing brewing time each steep. It was mostly sweetness and maltiness laying around. A small amount of bitterness got into the last steep, but that’s expected after pushing a tea so much.
I find that this black tea was very relaxing. My mind got clearer, and somehow more relaxed. Anxious thoughts didn’t go through as easily with the Qi from this tea. As usual, in all my tea tasting, it passes the burp test. Usually, black teas give me a lot of physical energy. This one is truly an exception.
Overall, this tea is very good, and offers a great persistence. One gongfu session of this tea can last at least an hour, if you take your time to savor it. In my opinion, it’s a black tea for everybody. Every palate can enjoy it. It’s a soft tea, that is very complex, yet very balanced as well. It offers the good sides of a bad tea, and the good sides of a Feng Huang oolong. To me, it’s a very good daily driver of a tea. I hope that Camellia Sinensis will stock it again for the 2019 harvest. Can’t get enough of it. It ranks really high on my list of favorite teas.
Jay score : 9/10