|"This is a more-than-passable oolong with a lot of character on the initial run. It doesn't quite lend itself to a gaiwan prep, however."|
A bit of a footnote is required here. At first, when I was looking at this sample, I was unsure as to what I was reviewing. The sample was dubbed "Iron Goddess (Tie Guan Yin) Top Grade". There was no such product name on the website. However, there was a Supreme Anxi Iron Goddess, and it was slightly pricier than the other Iron Goddesses. It is my assumption that the "Top Grade" signifies its "Supreme"-ness, and that they're the same product.
I must admit it's been a long time since I sipped a Tie Guanyin - at least a year or so (not counting Monkey-Picked or Quanzhou Milk). Like many oolongs I've had, the results were mixed. Some that graced my lips were deity-incarnate, while others went the way of burlap down my throat. My oolong appreciation is still well within its infancy. But I still tend to give it the benefit of the doubt.
The leaves for this were a bold and bright forest green, crumpled like bits of paper after discard. I looked forward to seeing how they unfurled in water. They gave off an aroma that was, well, oolong-y; dry on the forefront, vegetal on the back. Can't say I'm a fan of that aroma.
Brewing instructions for this were...complicated. As is often the case with superior oolongs and pu-erhs. Gaiwan instructions were to use 2-3 teaspoons (after a rinse), use water heated to at least 203F, and do four infusions - the first at fifty seconds, the rest at thirty. Successive infusions after at about a minute or three.
Ugh...these take forever. But, I could hack it with an 8oz mug. Prior to brewing, Tao Tea Leaf recommended a leaf-rinse but didn't specify how - with or without warm water, I wasn't sure. I skipped this step.
Fifty second steep: The liquor colored slightly to a creamy green, but for the most part was still a clear-ish cup. The aroma seemed astringent and vegetal, on par with other mid-grade Tie Guanyins. The taste, however, had a pear-like kick on the forefront, somewhat grassy middle, and a pleasantly understated finish. Quite good.
Thirty second steep: The liquor was a bolder green this time. The scent and flavor were more robust as well. Can't say I favored it as much as the first. Dryness was kicking in.
Thirty second steep: Colored like the first infusion with a more understated cotton-leafy nose. Not much flavor this time around, but - thankfully - not much astringency either. The finish was pleasant, at least.
Last infusion of thirty: By this time the soup was white tea pale with only a slightly spicy kick on the nose. I didn't mind the taste, but there wasn't much left to judge.
Conclusion? This is a more-than-passable oolong with a lot of character on the initial run. It doesn't quite lend itself to a gaiwan prep, however. Multiple infusions turn up similar palate profiles without much deviation to warrant the approach. If I were to retry this, it would probably be with a 190F/four-minute steep for a one-shot deal on the go. Other than that, it - more or less - met with approval.
— To purchase Tao Tea Leaf Iron Goddess (Tie Guan Yin) Top Grade, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.
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