Pursuant to my previous discussion of using cooler water temperatures for China black teas (or alternately, red teas), I decided to try the same experiment with the In Pursuit of Tea's Royal Yunnan that I've been drinking lately as my favorite golden Yunnan. Both cups had the same tea/water/time, but I brewed one at about 184-185F and the other the way I usually do, with water just taken to the boil.
For starters, the one with water just to the boil has a deeper and more pronounced aroma. The aroma of the cup with the cooler water isn't as full, remains sweet but less spicy and with less bass notes. The water to the boil cup has the earth coming into the cup itself, a hint of that toasty/grain type, and a subtle honey'd sweetness. The cup brewed well under the boil just isn't as flavorful.
With *this* tea, and for my tastes, there's just no way the cooler brewing made this a "livelier" cup of tea. The flavors and aromas are well muted in comparison to the cup of tea made with water brought just to the boil. I think the flavor of the cup is where the biggest discrepancy is. With the tea brewed with the water only taken up to 185F, it's as though there are notes missing from the chord. The differences are not subtle ones, since I can easily figure out which cup is which by tasting. Even just sniffing the two cups lets me guess which one is which.
This brings up what I always thought was an interesting point. Many moons ago, I played around with green tea and the idea of brewing in water that was only brought up to a certain temperature versus water that was brought to a boil and then cooled back to the desired temperature. Though I didn't explore it enough to feel it was definitive, there always were, I thought, at least subtle differences in the cups of tea, and I tended to favor the cups that were first brought to a boil and then cooled back. They also seemed to show more flavor and aroma comparatively. And of course that sets me to wondering if this would apply here, too.
Will probably continue to play around with brewing temperatures. But with this particular tea anyway, that *lower (185F) end* of The Tao of Tea's recommended brewing temperature for China black (red) teas of 180-200F was not, as they suggest "sufficient to bring [forth] the rich character of the leaf." That's probably why they gave a rather broad recommended range.
And though I have no scientific explanation, I never like this tea brewed by the cup as well as I do even in a two or four cup pot.