Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Verdant Tea
This is the finest, most nuanced and intriguing Dian Hong we have ever encountered. Wang Yanxin, our sourcing agent who has devoted her life to Yunnan, has been searching for a Dian Hong like this for years. Every time she sends us pu’er, she includes 30-40 Dian Hong teas, and Jin Jun Mei teas. This time, she only sent us one, and wrote on the bag “this is the one. Best Dian Hong. Taste slowly.” She was so very right.
Learn more about this tea here.
I can see why they chose to call this tea “Golden Fleece.” The leaves are indeed golden, every single one of them, and they are covered in fluffy, fuzzy down. They feel a bit like a high-quality silver needle tea; they are soft and fluffy like that. The dry leaf is very aromatic with a rich, sweet, earthy scent, with notes of cocoa in the distance. It is a bit rustic, with its earthy fragrance, and there are even notes of leather in there.
I don’t usually follow the tea company’s brewing parameters when I brew tea, usually, with a black tea, I use my Breville One-Touch and steep it the way I’d normally steep a black tea – setting the temperature at boiling, adding three teaspoons of leaf to the steeping basket, add 500 ml of freshly filtered, cool water to the pot, and set the steep time to 2 1/2 minutes.
There are a few exceptions, but usually, that is how I brew a black tea. It works for me. However, with this Golden Fleece from Verdant Tea, I actually decided to follow the purveyor’s suggested parameters, but with a slight twist. I still used my Breville, and I added 4 teaspoons of tea to the basket (figuring that 500 ml makes two 8-ounce cups), and set the temperature to boiling, and the time to 1 minute. I added 30 seconds to each subsequent infusion, and I managed four amazing infusions from one measurement of leaves!
Even after 1 minute, the first infusion brews to a dark, coppery color. And as I said before, the flavor is amazing, and I’m astonished that this much flavor was achieved after infusing for just 1 minute! The first cup was sweet with notes of caramel and chocolate and vanilla. Smooth as if I were sipping on liquid velvet. It is rich, not so much what I’d call bold but instead, more of a freshly baked bread meets chocolate kind of rich.
The second infusion is a little lighter on the velvet-y kind of smoothness, which while it was quite delightful, seemed to keep some of the other flavors of this tea hidden. Now some newly discovered flavors are able to emerge. This cup has a little more earthiness to it, with notes of wood and leather. It is still rich with bread-y notes and notes of cocoa and caramel. The caramel seems to be offering a raw cane sugar kind of note, complete with hints of molasses.
I am noticing more of a gentle, warm spice note here: hints of cinnamon, a slight peppery note in the background, and even freshly ground clove. It isn’t spicy. These flavors do not dominate, instead, think of it as a light seasoning … as if the tea were lightly sprinkled with these spices.
The third infusion brings the earthy notes of this tea into focus. I taste the mushroom-like notes that are suggested in the tasting notes on Verdant Tea’s website. This infusion is warm, bright, and robust. While much of the fluff of the first cup is gone now, I now have a more focused, crisper tea before me. Still sweet with notes of raw sugar, this is more sugar and less caramel. The cocoa notes are more distant here, and are becoming a bit more like a raw chocolate kind of flavor.
The fourth and final infusion resembles more of what I expect from a “typical” black tea. By that, I mean, we have now pulled back soft fluff of the earlier infusions to expose the heart of the tea. It is earthy and mellow, and while I don’t drink a whole lot of anything except for tea so I’m not speaking from experience here, this is what I would think that a well-aged spirit might be like. What kind of spirit, I don’t know. You know those movies where someone says something like “I have a ten-year scotch that I saved for this very momentous occasion” – that’s what I’m thinking this must be like. Getting here, to this point with this tea, is something extraordinary.
I realize this may be one of my longest reviews, but, this tea has so many facets to it that it would be difficult to edit it down to a shorter, more concise review. If I were to shorten my review, here is what I might say:
The first infusion of this tea is like a warm, fluffy blanket. Experience the soft, silky fleece of the blanket, and wrap yourself in its comfort. The second infusion explores that warmth a little further, something beyond the blanket of velvet-y softness, allowing you to experience the gentle nuances of the comfort itself with the gentle spice tones. With the third infusion, you are now comfortable and warm, so let us explore the earth and see what we uncover as we pull back the warm, fleecy blanket. The fourth infusion, this last infusion, is much more like what I’ve come to expect from a black tea: earthy and rich; not so fluffy anymore. There is so many flavors to uncover here: starting with a fluffy, luxurious taste, and ending with a earthy, rustic flavor, this tea delivers on so many levels.
This isn’t the kind of tea that you’d reach for in the morning when you’re looking for that invigorating boost. Really, I don’t think you’d want this tea for that anyway. Instead, this is the kind of tea that you want to spend the day savoring. You want to save this for one of those days when you have the time to sit back and really enjoy your cup of tea. This tea is really too good and too special for anything less than that, and certainly doesn’t deserve to be gulped down before running out the door.
I don’t know how much of this tea Verdant Tea has left, but what I do know is that they have mentioned that their quantities are extremely limited with this tea. So, if you’ve not yet added this Dian Hong tea to your tea cupboard, I strongly recommend that you do so now, before the supply runs out. This is NOT a tea you want to miss!