2011 Vintage Pomelo Oolong
Dry leaf is predominantly black with lighter spots of dark brown and dark yellow with a hint of red. The pomelo skin is the color of darkly roasted coffee beans. Dry leaf smells heavily of pomelo with hints of leather and a rich (but not fiery) roast.
Steamed leaf smells tart, woodsy, and has a rich earthy sweetness. The smell is reminiscent of the traditional Hakka dish mei kang kou rou – a little sweet like plum, woodsy like bamboo, and with the sourness of pomelo pith.
Rinsed leaf smells deeply earthy, leathery, woodsy, citric sourness, and plum sweetness. Second round of rinsed leaf still smells earthy, but the sweetness has increased dramatically.
Brewed leaf has barely opened after the two rinses and first round. Leaf is dark black with a hint of reddish brown. Tea soup color is a dark golden-red. The brewed leaf aroma has lost most of its sourness, and now presents a more neutral pomelo sweetness, along with notes of leather, earth, and red cypress. The taste is sour, like pomelo pith, but not overwhelmingly so. There is also a strong sweetness of sugar-pickled plum, counterbalanced by an intense herbal depth. The herbal taste is that of cassia, red dates, dried ginger, black cardamom, and ginseng.
Brewing the second round, the leaves are still mostly closed, but their color has lightened somewhat to an earthy dark brown. The flavor of the tea is more dominant this round – it tastes strongly of orchids, roasted nuts, with some butter and cream on the finish. The taste of the pomelo pith is still present and puckers the mouth a bit. The cream becomes even stronger on the finish and blends with the pomelo flavor to create a sensation not dissimilar to citrus tea, but with the intense florality of Qingxin Oolong. The tea soup color has continued to deepen and almost looks like Assam black tea mixed with a fine bourbon whiskey.
Third round smells citric with a pleasant sweetness. The oolong flavor is continuing to grow. Orchid is still the dominant note, but the buttery, creamy sweetness present in the previous round is starting to take over. The tart pomelo note is still present, but has evolved into a more woodsy medicinal taste similar to plums and the above mentioned herbs. The tea is markedly sweeter than the previous rounds.
Fourth round smells very sweet and woodsy. The pomelo and tea are in perfect harmony. The sweet and creamy characteristic of the oolong perfectly counterpoints the more intense flavors of the pomelo rind. The tea is incredibly mellow at this point, and an absolute delight to drink.