With my last order (3/22/06), I purchased a small amount of the Imperial Tea Court's Sichuan Black Tea, which the website describes as "golden buds" and "twisted black leaves" in a tea from "historic Sichuan province." It is further described as a "limited hand production" of black tea. This is not a thick and earthy China black tea experience. It remains a rather medium-light amber in color. The aroma is very full and nuanced. Not easy to describe. It seems to combine fruit/floral/toasty/honey/spice but in very lightly nuanced and balanaced doses. There is actually a fruity-spicy note that makes me think of the DJ-124 Castleton 2nd Flush Darjeeling from Upton Tea Imports, yet the tea has not the Darjeeling pungency. Instead, it veers off into a more mellow range.
As I made it today, that is just the immediate impression I have: a Castleton 2nd Flush Darjeeling in fruit/honey/spice but without the pungency and dryness of a Darjeeling. Instead, we meander off into the more mellow character of a China black tea but without that distinctive earthy signature.
Very interesting tea. I've never had a China black tea that reminded me this much of a Darjeeling. The tea has a nice balance as to equality of aroma and flavor.
I've had Sichuan Zao Bei Jian in the past multiple times from Upton's. That tea, while sometimes having a level of fruit/spice/honey/cocoa, always had a signature earthy note as well, something this ITC Sichuan black tea does not have.