Monday, May 4, 2015

Teasenz: Red Robe Da Hong Pao, A Tea Review

It is a sad day today, last day of the Dropzone Commander Tournament, and yours truly will not be in it because I lost. Ben (who is the Best General, he got an award for it and everything) is still in, and I would not be at all surprised if he wins, even though I was so hoping to go against him in the finals. Honestly it was not even because I wanted to win the tournament, I just really want a rematch against Ben and his stupid Shaltari! So tonight I will bring my tea and equipment and make people tea if they want it, and maybe pick up a game with one of the other people, and if that does not pan out I can always paint my golden Prowlers to go with my crazy looking golden Annihilator!

Let it be known, when I opened my box of samples from Teasenz and saw they had included their Red Robe Da Hong Pao I did a little squee of joy. I had run out of the good stuff and only had some really low grade (really I think I paid $2 for it at my local International Market, and it is...interesting) and Teasenz has never disappointed me with their teas, so I had high hopes for this one. You all know me, I have a serious weakness for Wuyi Yancha (Rock Oolongs) their rich mineral and char notes ground me, I am not sure if it lines up with Traditional Chinese Medicine, but they seem to have a strong Earth and Wood Cha Qi (why yes, I have been brushing up on my studies lately) to me. Metaphysics aside, this tea smells really good, in fact I will go out on a limb and say this is the sweetest Da Hong Pao I have ever sniffed! There are strong notes of rich cocoa, hovering between dark and milk chocolate, toss in the notes of baking biscuits, moderate notes of slightly fruity pipe tobacco and autumn leaves, and finish off with a blend of char and myrrh. This finish reminds me of the charcoal incense burner and resins I used to use a lifetime ago (ok, it was only 15 years ago, so half of a lifetime!)

Into my Yancha pot the substantial amount of leaves go, I think it was the incredibly valuable resource of TeaDB where I learned the fine art of brewing Yancha traditionally. Lots of leaves, almost boiling water, and super short steeps! I can safely say that brewing Yancha that way was an eye opener, so much so that it was the second tea I dedicated a Yixing pot to. The aroma of the wet leaves is super strong in the cocoa department, leaning toward cocoa butter with its creamy sweetness. There are also floral notes of spicebush (or, I was just recently reminded, the flower Dianthus, they smell almost identical) and orchid. At the finish there is a hint of char and mineral, like wet stone. The liquid is very creamy sweet with notes of honey and cocoa, there is a gentle lingering floral, along with a nice kick of char and mineral at the finish giving the tea a bit of depth.

Yep, this is the sweetest Da Hong Pao I have ever had, there is a dance of honey, milk chocolate, cocoa butter creaminess, and flowers on my tongue at the beginning. That lasts until the midtaste, at the end of the midtaste, but before the finish, a very distinct orchid note for lack of better word blooms in my mouth before moving right along to a robust finish of char and wet rock. The aftertaste is a blend of loam and myrrh, this first steep was a powerhouse of sweetness and those familiar rock notes.

The adventure continues with the second steep, the aroma is still really sweet, though the cocoa and honey notes have a stronger accompaniment of spicebush, char, and wet slate (if you were curious which specific wet rock it is) along with a gentle finish of tobacco and myrrh. This steep is quite intense, though not as sweet as the first. Starting off with strong notes of mineral and char, then moving into a fruity tobacco. After that there is a pleasant explosion of spicebush and honey, the spicebush notes lingering into the aftertaste to be joined by notes of cocoa at the finish.

For the final steep, the aroma is a bit mellowed out, notes of char and mineral with a sweet gentle floral note and a honey finish. This steep really lets the rock part of the name Rock Oolong shine, with notes of wet slate and even a bit of fresh spring water mixing in with rich char and a finish of cocoa. Not a very complex final steep, but a very mineral heavy one, which I enjoy.

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