How hath the mighty fallen? For well over a year now, I've had the luxury of knowing that the In Pursuit of Tea Royal Yunnan was going to be the clear winner for my own tastes, and I could rely on it being there if no other tippy Yunnan would suit me. I've posted a previous review of this tea under the title "A Yunnan Comparison and Farewell Salute to the Woodwose Yunnan". But that previous review was based on a very different tea experience than the new order received in January 2006.
All question of lots aside (as I've had conflicting input on this point), the tea has changed throughout the time I've been drinking it with different orders, but it's still been my Yunnan tea of preferred choice even through those changes. But what I ordered and received in January 2006 was quite disappointing, enough so that I have requested a return to vendor of the unopened quarter pound bags I had received. This was a tea I loved enough to be comfortable ordering in half and full pound amounts. Not any more. The aroma still has some of that maple sap sweet/earth/cocoa character that I think of as mocha. But most of what the aroma promises does not meander into the cup itself. It does not have the soft fruity-woody range of the IPOT Royal Yunnan I referred to as 'Woodwose.' This cup has almost no sweetness whatsoever, especially compared to previous orders. Besides being quite heavy in earth, the earth itself doesn't have that clean taste I think of as 'good earth.' Instead there is a metallic note connected to the earth, and the overall cup seems much more astringent than it has been in the past. I actually register this with some degree of digestive upset, which I've never experienced with the IPOT Royal Yunnan before. Sometimes a Yunnan can have a fresh note to it that is quite floral. I experienced this in a Golden Bud A Yunnan from http://www.pu-erhtea.com/. But this current order from IPOT has a hint of something young that seems more raw, and it doesn't cross over to the lovely floral notes I've had in some lighter golden Yunnan teas. It's something akin to a grainy note that isn't richly malty but rather metallic, and it lingers unpleasantly into the finish. I found myself just very much disliking the lingering aftertaste to this tea. It's not only 'not as good as' past orders but quite distinctly inferior and not currently worth the price for my own tastes.