I almost didn't get a tea review written today, I spent most the day in a state of brain fog making most of my attempts to communicate a garbled mess. Many cups of tea, a hearty serving of beans and toast and several hours of castle renovation in Terraria were needed before I felt comfortable with describing a tea. I am going to blame my brain being foggy on the obnoxious cold weather (all cold, no snow, totally unfair) but at least it is good tea sipping weather.
Today's tea is Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Black Tea by Eco-Cha Artisan Teas, harvested in Winter 2012, this tea is, as the website describes it, an anomaly. Created when oolong was being oxidized and accidently forgotten about meaning it was oxidized to the point of almost being a black (or red) tea. The aroma of this tea is intense! Bright notes with floral tones at first, but the more I sniff the tea the more I detect; oak notes, and cocoa changing to fruity and sweet, ending with a hint of tobacco leaves. I will be honest, I am amazed by the complexity of the aroma of this tea, it manages to blend the oaky and cocoa notes I associate with black teas with sweet, floral notes of an oolong.
Once brewed the already fluffy leaves just explode, barely fitting in my steeping basket, for once I am glad I did not brew Gongfu because I think my gaiwan could not contain the immensity of the leaves. The aroma is at first oaky and loamy with an undertone of baking bread that fades into a gentle sweetness. The liquid has a sweet and fruity aroma reminiscent of lychees that fade to honey and then cocoa. It certainly smells delicious!
The first steep is very bright with almost fruit like tartness that fades to sweet lychee with an midtaste of oak and a very tiny hint of tobacco. The aftertaste is lightly muscatel and sweet, as it cools the fruit flavors becomes stronger. This steeping even though is very bright is also very smooth with a pleasant mouthfeel with no dryness.
The second steeping has a sweet and stone fruit aroma with hints of honey and oak. The first thing I notice is the tart aspect from the first steep is gone and is replaced by rich sweetness. The tea is very smooth blending mescatel notes with honey and oak wood. The mouthfeel is almost buttery in its smoothness, drinking it is extremely enjoyable. This is another one of those teas that I have fallen in love with but could not drink everyday because it is so intense, when drinking it I feel like I could get lost in the experience. It is a tea I would recommend to everyone because it is complex but also approachable, someone with an 'unrefined tea palette' would enjoy it (I tested this on Ben) as well as experienced tea sippers.