Origin: Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province, China
Vendor: Jing Tea Shop
Price: $15.60 (100g) / $5.20 (25g sample)
Jing Tea Shop's Wuyi Bai Nian Lao Cong Shui Xian is probably my favorite of the 8 wuyi oolong samples I have recently ordered, so I'll post its review first.
The dry leaf of this tea is very dark, as you can clearly see from the photo. Wuyi oolongs are known for their dark leaves, due to the relatively heavy oxidation and roasting they undergo during processing. The leaves are long and windy, and quite firm feeling. Though the leaves look pretty, it's their smell that is most noteworthy—this aroma is unbelievable. Rich, bold chocolate notes fill the nose, and a touch of cinnamon/cassia gives it a little character. Subtle hints of plum (or perhaps dark berries, it's hard to say) round it out, and give a nice body. There is no charcoal to be found in the dry leaf, though it does later present itself in leaves after infusing. Though the aroma of this tea is powerful, it remains well-balanced and mellow. This is easily the best "heavy" tea aroma I have yet come across.
•Brewing vessel: Prewarmed glazed zisha gaiwan
•Leaf amount: 1/2 of the gaiwan
•Water temperature: 175°F
•Steep times: 5s wash, 20s, 25s, 20s, ?, 30s, 40s, 60s
1st infusion: 20s, 175F
Wet Leaves: Slight charcoal aroma, outstanding chocolate note. Some fruit, but I can't tell what.
Liquor: Dark copper color. Full-bodied, fruity taste. Feels like chocolate is coating my tongue. Slight astringency.
2nd infusion: 25s, 175F
Wet Leaves: Slightly intensified charcoal, some chocolate and coffee.
Liquor: Still dark copper, maybe even red color. There is a less pronounced chocolate flavor, and less body. Slight coffee flavor. Little fruit, which is surprising. Stronger astringency.
3rd infusion: 20s, 175F
Wet Leaves: Less charcoal, more fruit and chocolate again.
Liquor: Less astringent than last time, but a bit drying. Chocolate has come back, as well as a bit of fruit.
4th infusion: ?s, 175F
Wet Leaves: Coffee predominates. Chocolate aroma is still present, though.
Liquor: Nice astringency. Chocolate and fruit flavors are definitely back again, but there is still not as much of a coating feeling as there was in earlier infusions. Too bad I forgot to time this one!
5th infusion: 30s, 175F
Wet Leaves: More charcoal again. This is proving to be a very finicky tea to brew just right, at least for me. There is some coffee and chocolate in the background.
Liquor: Fruit is coming through, as is chocolate. I let it cool by accident (I got distracted), but there was little astringency, surprisingly.
6th infusion: 40s, 175F
Wet Leaves: Chocolate and coffee dominate the nose now. Some charcoal is present, too.
Liquor: Lighter in color than previous infusions. Light-bodied, probably needs more steep time. Chocolate and fruit still present, but nothing is very strong in this brew. Virtually no astringency.
7th infusion: 60s, 175F
Wet leaves: Strong fruit aroma, some chocolate and charcoal. It's interesting that the fruit aroma should come out now, of all times.
Liquor: A bit weak—I think this tea is just about done. Some nice chocolate and fruit flavors are here though, despite the weakness.
Nice, big leaves. Note that most of the tears on these leaves resulted from my ham-fisted handling of them, but some of them were there beforehand as a result of processing. Still, this tea went through a fair amount of oxidation and roasting, so I'm not expecting perfect leaves. I'm also not an expert at analyzing wet leaves (or anything, for that matter), but those of you who do know what you're doing can see for yourself.
I think I may have found another favorite tea. Incredibly rich for the first few infusions, this tea was almost devoid of bitterness. The heavy mouth-feel and rich chocolate and fruity flavors make this a truly indulgent brew. This would make an excellent dessert tea. Due to its complexity, rich flavor, and most importantly the enjoyment I get from drinking it, Jing Tea Shop's 2005 Wuyi Bai Nian Lao Cong Shui Xian gets a 9/10.