Enough of the low-end stuff, let’s get back to the real deal. I can’t think of a better kick-start than Tea Masters’ Top Roasted Tie Guan Yin. It is from Shi Ping, Anxi, China and harvested Spring 2005… you absolutely cannot beat the amount, accuracy, and detail of info with Stephane’s teas. TGY is generally not in my normal rotation but the heavy roasting is what drew me to this one. I actually have been drinking and taking notes over some time with this one because it is a tough one to capture in words. One of my first thoughts was that this is the Energizer Bunny of tea, I have brewed over twelve steeps in a row and still not fully depleted this tea. It outlasts me even when I was determined to beat it. The heavy roasting is most likely to thank here as the leaves do not even begin to fully open until after 8-9 infusions.
As you can see it is a very dark fisted oolong mainly consisting of medium-sized leaf. It is so complex that words are going to fail this tea. The heavy roasting subdues most, if not all, floral notes and replaces it with charcoal, dark chocolate, raisin, snuff/tobacco, and a bit of burnt berry perhaps. The uniqueness is alluring and really draws you in to want to discover what lies ahead.
The first steep is my favorite, as odd as that may seem. I did the brewing in my Taiwanese tea tasting set. It brews to a pale goldenrod color with a purpleish/red tint that I find amazing. This is almost fully the roasting itself brewed here but I love it. It encapsulates all of the dry notes but in a much different balance than I would have imagined. It is muted with the charcoal/roasted flavors taking center stage but with a background of berry and more traditional TGY. From here the steeps slowly evolve into more and more golden color and a more standard TGY flavor but keeping the florals hidden until 6-7 steeps where they just begin to push through. It never gets weak even in the late rounds and as I stated before I have yet to take it to its final throes.
For myself this tea showed me a new side to TGY that I had never encountered before, and while it eventually gave way to the floral and greener notes which aren’t my favorite the run up to that point was nothing but sheer pleasure and due to the gradual nature of the transformation I warmed up to them. For a TGY fan I could not imagine a better journey unless you want the full floral/green flavors right from the start. Again I am amazed by Stephane’s teas and this was a true treat.