Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Verdant Tea
Laoshan Black is our most popular tea, and its success has encouraged Mr He of Laoshan Village to keep refining his process to make it better every year. This year, Mr. He has taken leaves normally used for his delicate and subtle early spring green tea and allowed them to roast in the sun for three days before hand processing in small one to two pound batches, yielding this incredible rich, subtle Laoshan Black experience.
Learn more about this tea here.
The aroma of the dry leaf knocks my socks off. OK, so I wasn’t wearing socks, but if I was, they’d be blown off. My feet felt the absence of the socks and felt the strong gust of wind that was there to blow the socks off the feet, but, because there was no socks, my feet just got a nice cool breeze for a few minutes, and given that it’s kind of hot outside, I’m glad that the gust wasn’t warm air.
Wow … so that was a lot “windier” than I expected to be to describe a scent that I can’t remember experiencing with a black tea in the past. It smells like chocolate. Like dark chocolate with a nice roast on those cacao beans. Nice. The chocoholic in me is happy.
This is a very special tea. And since it is so special, I decided to consult the suggested brewing parameters on the Verdant Tea website for how to best brew this tea. Now, this isn’t something I do often. I don’t usually check to see how the company suggests I brew a tea, mostly because I’ve been brewing tea for a long time. I eyeball my measurements using my bamboo scoop (the bamboo scoop that I own looks sort of like this one).
I have kind of a set “temperature” guide in my head: for most black teas, I use boiling water. If I’m brewing Assam, I drop the temperature to 205°F. If I’m brewing Darjeeling, I drop the temperature to 195°F. If I’m brewing herbal teas, including rooibos, honeybush, yerba mate and guayusa, I also set the temperature for 195°F. Most pu-erh teas get 190°F. If’ I’m brewing Green or Oolong teas, I use 175 – 185°F. If I’m brewing a white or yellow tea, I use 170°F. I don’t often stray from this mental temperature guide often. Steep times are also follow a mental steep-time guide.
But because this is a tea that is of very limited quantities, and not one that I want to experiment a lot with because I don’t have a large quantity of this tea to experiment with, nor do I have the resources to secure myself a large quantity of the tea … because of these reasons, I decided to consult with the people who have had more experience with this tea than I. I decided to go with the gongfu brew style (hey, what the heck!) and I now have sitting before me my first cup of this tea – the combined results of the first and second infusions, following an extremely quick 1 second rinse.
Ow! Cup is hot. I’m using my little Chinese teacup with no handle and made of very thin porcelain, so there’s not a lot to insulate and protect my fingers from the heat of the boiling water used to infuse this tea.
Very mellow tasting. These infusions were 15 seconds and 20 seconds, which went a little longer than the suggested 2 – 3 seconds as suggested in the brewing parameters by Verdant. But there is still a lot of flavor to the mellow taste.
The chocolate notes are THERE and I’m loving that. The tasting notes on the Verdant website also suggest notes of cherry and almond, and I do get a slight roasted nut flavor there that is almond-y. A lovely combination of flavors with the prolific chocolate notes. I taste hints of the sweet cherry notes. This first cup is sweet and lovely.
The next two infusions proved to continue with the chocolate-y notes. I love the roasted flavor to this cup and how that enhances the chocolate-y notes. I’m starting to pick up on honey-like flavors and a slight caramel-y note, like a honey caramel. Nice. I love that while this is tea is loaded with sweet notes, it doesn’t taste too sweet. It’s smooth and well-rounded.
Later infusions, I noticed the chocolate notes beginning to wane, replaced with a stronger nutty tone. Imagine toasted nuts that have been drizzled with honey.
The brewing parameters suggest 15 infusions, and I might very well have gotten that many out of this measurement of leaves, but, I was quite satisfied with the eight infusions that I brewed. By the fourth and final cup, while I was still enjoying the tea but I found myself missing the chocolate-y notes of the earlier infusions.
Then I found myself wondering how the flavors would differ if I were to experiment with this tea using the “Western” approach to brewing. So, I decided to do just that!
I think that I actually prefer the western method of brewing for this particular tea. The flavor is richer and more robust from the very first cup. Still deliciously chocolate-y and tasting of roasted almonds with hints of cherry, but the flavor has more muchness to it when I brew it using the teapot rather than the gaiwan.
And brewing this way, I can still get three flavorful infusions out of this tea. The first: chocolate-y, rich with notes of toasted almond and sweet cherry. The second: a little lighter on the chocolate notes, but, still very pleasantly chocolate-y, with more enhanced nutty notes and a touch of honey. And with the third, I was able to actually taste some notes of sarsaparilla.
This tea is awesome! It makes me want to dance the futterwacken!