Wednesday, October 26, 2005

mi lan xiang phoenix bird oolong [private reserve] from

harvest: 2005
item #: O-PBO-PR
parameters: 1 g : 1 oz
brewing vessel: gaiwan
date brewed for this review: 051026

dry leaf: fairly dark longish twisted leaves, some with green stripes; very little aroma

brief rinse [12 sec] – almost instantly, both infused leaves and liquor had a powerful scent of nectarines. so intense, in fact, that if it were sugary, i would assume the leaves had been soaked in actual nectarine juice. i confess i drank the rinse-water [color: pale dull gold, with a hint of red toward the circumference]. it was superb.

INF1: 15 sec, 190F. aroma: as before. color: a darker version of the rinse. taste: uncannily like a nectarine or peach that is not sugared. very little astringency. the aftertaste is a bit woody, in the most subtle way.

INF2: 15 sec, 190F. aroma: a bit more oolong-y than INF1, but the peach/nectarine presence is still front and center. color: about like INF1; a bit less rosy around the edges. taste: perhaps a bit thinner than INF1 or the rinse; as the brew cooled, it gained presence. on the whole, i would say that INF2 could have stood to be a couple of seconds longer. the infused leaves smell, more than ever, like peach nectar.]

INF3: 18 sec, 190F. aroma: as before, but a bit attenuated now. color: much more straight-up yellow now, like a filtered apple juice. taste: the woody note presents itself more distinctively [if not ‘assertively’] here. also, a bit more astringency along with the finish.

INF4: 25 sec, 190F. aroma: fainter still at this point. color: about like INF3. taste: not overly strong, but beginning to seem spent somehow. astringency has increased with this infusion. the aftertaste has the slightest hint of wet cardboard. i do think the tea could go to a fifth infusion, but its elegance may have peaked.

INF5: 40 sec, 190F. aroma: quite faint now, but still declaring its peachiness. color: still comparable to INF3 and 4. taste: much more delicious and interesting than INF4. this is instructive: i’m very glad i went the distance to a fifth infusion, rather than deciding that this tea was ‘over.’ the astringency has not waned, but it is also not stronger now; the peachiness continues unabated, and perhaps even renewed here. in the finish gets stronger and stronger. very little ongoing ‘oolong-y’ flavor to this remarkable oolong.

IN SUM: this is a tea of extraordinary distinction -- of genuine excellence. an aristocrat among oolongs, well deserving of its ‘private reserve’ status.

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