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2018 Premium High Roast Banyan Rougui (50g)

2018 Premium High Roast Banyan Rougui (50g)

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This is a premium rougui (Chinese cinnamon, or cassia) I purchased from a dealer in Wuyishan who approached me directly. I wasn't expecting to be wowed by her selection, but I let her know I had exacting standards for Wuyicha and that I am very, very skeptical of any tea that has the zhengyan label (original cliff, implying it is from the protected area of Wuyishan, which is a national park) applied, especially if the tea is priced well below market value for the real deal. I also told her I had never found Wuyicha that met my standards at any of the large tea expos in China, or at the largest tea market in Guangdong, and that I have excellent sources for Wuyicha down here, so I seldom feel the need to source Wuyi teas from across the border since I've found so many of the teas on offer there to be subpar.

Well, color me surprised, because this rougui greatly surpassed my expectations!

The leaves are large and whole, and were handled well during processing and packaging. For this reason, I suggest a 60% fill with dry leaf with this tea: you can also fill to 50% and crush some leaf in the middle of the pot for a more intense experience. The leaves are large enough that air pockets form if they are just layered into the teapot, so I prefer to put more in so I get the experience I desire from this tea (note the liquor in this picture was at 50% fill, and I found the experience lacking when using 50% vs 60% fill)!

This tea is remarkably clean and smooth. There are no visible 'dirty bubbles' when I brew this tea, which indicates processing was done very well indeed. This tea is so clean you can very happily brew this in a gaiwan. There are no flaws whatsoever. When I push this tea hard, I am able to elicit some bitterness, but even then, it is balanced and never excessive, which is impressive.

I sipped the rinse, and detected sarsaparilla and roast notes that reminded me of a spiced biscuit (think Christmas cookies). The aftertaste was sweet cassia, and I didn't have to look for the flavor at all. There was some lovely ginseng-like character, which was a surprise, since Chinese herbal medicine notes are usually something I detect in aged Wuyicha, and this tea is from 2018.

Even in hongni, the roast is never overbearing. I tried this tea at 70% fill at one point, and started at one minute for the first infusion. That is a good amount of leaf and a long first steep, and the tea was still very pleasant. There is more sweetness and intensity to the aroma of this tea than with my other rougui (which is also excellent for the money)! 

This tea is powerful and will give you quite the buzz, so exercise caution if you're caffeine sensitive! Brewed long and strong, I felt like I was drinking a fruitier, sweeter and spicier espresso of sorts. The flavor lingers on the palate for a good, long time (easily ten minutes or more), which is again a hallmark of an excellent tea.

In the second infusion, the mineral notes are very apparent, as you'd expect with a good rougui, but balanced in the cup. These mineral notes are more prominent in the aftertaste. As the tea cools in the pitcher and cup, cassia dominates in the mouth. Sarsaparilla wasn't present in the second infusion: the front seat was taken by the sweet cassia instead. I also detected a hint of sweet maraschino cherry, which was very interesting. I am able to get more infusions from this material than I can handle, so if you're using a larger teapot, you may want to drink with a friend who can appreciate rougui of this quality!

This is a truly excellent tea, and I am only offering 900g for sale from the kilo I purchased: the remaining 100g is for my own consumption!

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