It can't be Oolong week without looking at Eco-Cha Artisan Teas, and it is time to finally ramble about Mr Lin's Lightly Roasted Dong Ding Oolong (Inaugural Winter Harvest 2014) which you all might remember me babbling about back when their Indiegogo campaign went live. And yes, I totally backed them, it was part of my birthday present to myself (and part of my travel money since this was back when I was in PA) I went for the $50 perk meaning I got a fancy new teapot for my collection, not that I seasoned it for this tea, since a roasted tea-pot is already in my collection. This tea is super fancy because it was only available for the backers of the campaign, but future harvests will be available for the general public, which is awesome. This extra fancy tea smells delightful, but I do have a weakness for roasted teas (especially Dong Ding) so it is no surprise that the aroma of this tea fills me with squishy glee. There are notes of toasted sesame, honey, caramelized sugar, distant spicebush flowers, roasted butternut squash, and a finish of delicate orchid. It reminds me a little of Halva and flowers, just the right blend of roasted and sweet to make me swoon.
Into the pot it goes, my much loved and very often used yixing for roasted oolongs. The aroma of the leaves is rather complex! It is a blend of roasted sesame, butternut squash, honeysuckles, orchids, sesame butter, and spicebush. The liquid of the first steep (correctly it is called soup, but that makes me think of soup and confuses my hungry brain) also has a complex aroma, blending squash (again butternut, but with a hint of acorn this time as well) sesame butter and a finish of delicate honeysuckle nectar.
First steep, and yes, I am sitting down, because I expect this tea to knock my socks off...ok, ok, I know it does, since this is from my notebook and I have been sipping this tea a lot. It has become one of my go to 'I feel bad and need a healing tea' teas, it makes my soul feel good. First off, mouthfeel, it is very smooth, a blend of buttery and velvety, it coats my mouth without being oily. It starts out sweet and gently toasted, with notes of sesame seeds and honey. This builds to honeysuckles and spicebush, almost to the point of headiness, and then it moves on to butternut squash and honey at the finish which lingers for quite a while.
And the journey continues with steep two, the aroma is strong with spicebush, roasted sesame seeds, and butternut squash. It is still floral (hint the spicebush, even bordering on Asiatic Lily) but it lacks the honeysuckle and is replaced with a stronger roasted note. The taste certainly takes its cues from the aroma! The mouthfeel is still velvety, but it has a tiny edge to it now, it feels like it wakes up my mouth a bit. It starts roasted sesame and honey and then moves to an explosion of spicebush and squash, this then moves on to roasted squash and nuttiness that builds into the finish that lingers. It warms my mouth and body and makes me feel relaxed and heavy.
Third steeping, and the aroma is still delightful, hello spicebush and toasted sesame, hello lily and squash, you are so wonderfully fragrant and I have to be careful to not burn my nose while sniffing you. The taste of this steep is a perfect balance of roasted and floral, sweetness and savory. It has notes of buttery vegetables (like buttery sauteed bok choy) honeysuckles, spicecbush, lilies, squash, sesame, toasted grains. This steep might be my favorite!
So, I end my reviews at three steeps (my personal notes, however tend to be longer) and let me say, this tea has staying power! I have gotten up to seven steeps, with the last couple steeps being me just drinking it grandpa style. I have brewed it in my travel steeper and in a gaiwan and loved both, I have accidentally been distracted and come back to a tragically oversteeped tea and found it still drinkable and really good. Honestly I cannot manage to screw this tea up no matter what I do (not that I am going to try really hard, I do have a limited supply after all) I love this tea, it is a work of art! Totally worth spending my travel money on it, I have absolutely no regrets!