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Connoisseur Grade High Fire Wuyi Dahongpao (16 grams)

Connoisseur Grade High Fire Wuyi Dahongpao (16 grams)

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Updated February 2018

This dahongpao is from one of Hong Kong's oldest tea merchants, and is not available to the general public. This dealer's Wuyicha is always excellent and is consistently among the most flavorful I've ever had. It was offered to me after spending a good amount of time with the vendor and her staff and trying a variety of traditional storage pu erhs, before I tried a dahongpao grade that is available to regular buyers. The vendor still wasn't sure if I'd be able to appreciate it after all the tea I'd tried, but I told her I drank lots of tea every day and I could handle it. I told her I'd started the day with liu an before I'd come by!

While working our way through this dahongpao, we were talking about Hong Kong and life and education and we realized her daughter went to the high school I'd graduated from! I hadn't sat down with the dealer in the past, so trying teas with her was a good way to build rapport. I should be able to get a wholesale rate on the family's Wuyi teas if there is sufficient demand for this tea, which will allow for a significant price drop.

This tea is not cheap, but it is definitely worth trying if you like good Wuyicha, and I personally feel it is well worth the money. I don't have all the specifics on this tea (traditional vendors here never provide as many specifics as modern vendors do), but I will try and get more information the next time I meet with the family. What I do know is this tea is an exceptional example of a high fired dahongpao, and a real pleasure to drink. This tea is only a year or two old, but the flavor of the roast is subtle and takes a back seat to the flavor of the tea itself.

Below are my opinions on this tea when trying it with good spring water at my office, and with water at full boil--Scottish highland spring water, and then San Benedetto (Italian spring water) for infusions three to nine. Any good water of hardness between 30-50 ppm, and with relatively low magnesium will do! You want some magnesium, but not too much. Around 5mg per liter should suffice. 

The aroma of the dry leaf only hints at the fruit flavors that are to come when the tea is infused. The first steep is slightly astringent, but the fruit flavor is well pronounced. Stone fruit, orchid and lychee are the dominant notes. 

The second infusion is similarly flavorful, but with less astringency, and there is sweetness on both the palate and a lingering sweetness from the throat after the swallow. When trying this tea with the vendor, the sweetness lingered for ten minutes!

The third infusion has a little astringency again, but less than the first infusion. In this infusion, there were distinct plum and prune notes, and this infusion was textbook DHP to me as far as flavor goes (just with far more complexity). I even detected notes of bitter almond (the flavor, not any actual bitterness), which is a note I often detect in good Wuyicha and sometimes even in top grade dancong. The flavor of this tea is very upfront (but balanced). You don't have to hunt for it. This indicates both good base material and excellent processing. 

Infusion four had an additional nuttiness I couldn't quite put my finger on, along with the classic DHP flavor.

Infusion five gave me notes of fresh milk from the aroma on the lid, and you could also taste this in the liquor, which was very surprising. The fruit tasted softer and perhaps riper in this infusion, and the astringency dropped off significantly. The pleasant almond notes were still present.

Infusion six: still lots of aroma from the leaves. I was surprised by the longevity of the leaves. This infusion was 30-40 seconds long. Even six infusions in, this tea is more flavorful than the DHPs I drink regularly, including the other high fire dahongpao I offer here. All fruit in this infusion. The almond and milk were no longer evident.

Infusion seven: I was tea drunk by this infusion. I went 1 minute and 15 seconds. Still plenty of fruit and floral flavor, and now the roast is more present, but well balanced with the flavor of the leaves. The roast played a very minor role in the flavor profile of the previous infusions, and was still subtle this far along in the session. 

Infusion eight was also 1 minute and 15 seconds long. I could feel the cha qi and felt calm and content. The astringency had returned, and as is often the case, so had the lingering sweetness. This infusion was still flavorful and pleasurable. 

Infusions nine was lightly flavorful, but I decided eight infusions was the golden number for this tea. Even steeped for several minutes, there was nothing remotely unpleasant detectable in the liquor. Almond notes returned to the palate after the swallow. This is just a lovely DHP all around!

Brewing suggestion: I brew all Fujian oolong tea by filling a preheated gaiwan or teapot (volume between 30-120ml) half-full with dry leaf. I use suitable water (30-50ppm hardness, without excess magnesium) and preheat the vessel before adding the dry tea leaves, and I ensure they are well settled. Then flash rinse the dry leaf with water off the boil. Allow the tea to rest for 20-30 seconds with the lid slightly askew to prevent the leaves from steaming, but without losing too much heat. Then pour water on. My first infusions are often flash infusions, but I often brew for up to ten seconds for the first few infusions. Each successive infusion is longer: unfortunately I go by feel for each tea, and some teas go longer than others! 

Wholesale pricing is available on one kg or more of this tea--feel free to contact me for more details. 

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