I tasted tonight a sample of The Tao of Tea's Emperor's Gold, one of the golden tipped Yunnan teas. This is a sample shared by a friend, not direct from the source. I note that Tao of Tea recommends lower brewing temperatures (180-200F) for their China black teas such as Emperor's Gold, instructing that the cooler water lets a more "lively" versus a "flat" cup emerge. I've brewed it both ways to compare. Water at just boiling as well as a cup that was only taken to 185F (not boiled, then cooled back to that temperature), both steeped same amount of time (four minutes).
With water to boiling, the aroma of the tea is that mocha aroma I come to expect in Yunnan. Definite earth in the cup itself. A bit flat. They describe it as "sweet, slightly roasted, full bodied flavor similar to apricots." Nothing in this brewing I'd relate to apricots. But we are also operating with very different water here than would be used at the source.
In the other cup with water to only 185F, I did get a mix of chocolate and what might be apricot aroma as it steeped, leaf still in the cup. Once leaf is removed, that impression doesn't stay with me (and it may only be power of suggestion anyway). It's lightly sweet and has a subtle chocolate note with hint of spice. Cup still has quite a bit of earth and something that reminds me of grain/malt, perhaps not as flat as I perceived it in the brewing with hotter water. Earth is distinct in this brewing but not as heavy as it was in the cup with water to boiling. The cooler brewing seems to keep the cup cleaner with the earth less muddy on the palate.
I confess that brewing it either way doesn't have me doing that Yunnan Dance of Joy. The aroma of the tea brewed in the cooler water seems to fan out better. Instead of a solid hit of mocha, I get a more layered aroma. Body isn't as thick with the cooler water, aroma is more layered, cup is cleaner, which perhaps relates to what The Tao of Tea speaks to as the cooler water making a more "lively" cup.
Does anyone else brew as low as 180 to 185F for their China black teas?