Cindy sells more than one type of Rou Gui on her website (fruit, flowery, and cinnamon; I just looked), and I'm not sure which one this is, so it will be a blind tasting of sorts.
Rou Gui translates as cinnamon, of course, but they don't all have that characteristic taste (the Wuyishan area roasted oolongs based on that plant type, to be more specific). When they do, per my prior experience, it's not typically exactly like the spice-jar version, a little darker and earthier instead. I just reviewed two of them in this post, one from a local shop source, and only one of them was a lot like that. But then bark from different plants is called "cinnamon," a subject I've passed across before, and touched on in that post. On to review then, keeping it simple for once.
The tea scent is heavy on toffee, or maybe a dark caramel. I couldn't really pick out fruit versus cinnamon beyond that. The initial infusion was fast, a bit of a long rinse, typical of how I usually prepare such teas, not using a discarded rinse and not really try to get full infusion strength out of it the first go.
Based on first impression this is the cinnamon one. It tastes a good bit more like cinnamon than I've noticed in her Rou Gui before, and I wouldn't say there is no fruit aspect to it but it's subdued in comparison. The level of roast seems somewhat medium, not charred at all, but not necessarily light. It's hard to notice that level without thinking about it, probably a good sign, that the flavors all integrate well.
This is a really nice tea; typical for what they make. The sweetness, balance, the way it integrates, feel; it's all good, a well made tea. It'll be easier to break it down based on a typical strength infusion though. The second infusion will still be on the light side compared to how I would prepare some other tea types but in a more conventional range.
The cinnamon is stronger in the next infusion; no need to check with Cindy about which this is. That one from my favorite local shop, Jip Eu, was roasted more and that really shifted the balance, slightly into the range of light "char." It was still good tea, still decently balanced, but this is quite different for the roast level completely integrating with the character of the tea. Again this doesn't taste like a spice-rack cinnamon. It overlaps quite a bit with that flavor range, but it's a bit like other tree-bark spices taste too, more rich and less sweet, "darker," if that makes any sense.
And that's basically what's going on with the tea; it doesn't change all that much over the next couple of infusions, and keeps going well after those. I could go on about feel (it's a little thick, and it seems to coat your mouth, it's nice), or aftertaste (it stays with you after drinking the tea, quite strong for half a minute, then trailing on for awhile).
With that cinnamon taking up so much of the flavor range it's almost a stretch to describe supporting aspects that join it in detail. It's a bit complex, not really one dimensional, but that one narrow flavor range is most pronounced. It's a good version of a typical style Rou Gui. It might have seemed odd saying so much about fruit in the other reviews (citrus, often), but apparently that style is also available now, it's just not this version.
It seems strange to leave it at that, since so far I can sum up this review in one word: cinnamon. It's not like the version that goes into a cinnamon roll, so not quite that simple, but this is quite the opposite of a flavors-list review. Sometimes the range of taste can seem narrow but not necessarily limited or simple, supported by an underlying warmer floral tone or light malt aspect. I see malt as coming in a range of forms, although maybe not everyone is using the concept that way, as the edgy, pronounced malt in Assams that is usually coupled with astringency, or as the sweet, cocoa-like malt in Ovaltine, or as a related warm and rich but softer malted barley flavor range, more of a grain-like sweetness. This supporting flavor range is closest to the last.
For people that are looking for subtlety or complexity in tea tastes it may not suit their preference. For someone that loves that one aspect, looking for a Rou Gui that tastes like cinnamon, it could be ideal. I really like fruit aspects in black tea or roasted oolongs so their version that's fruitier suits my individual preference better, but at some level that's what it comes down to, what someone happens to like. This tea is clearly a higher quality version than the other two I reviewed in the other post I mentioned, it's just not complex in terms of expressing a lot of separate flavors range.
Two other factors could come into play, related to me as a reviewer, not the tea. I've only tried this tea once, and I wasn't in a loud environment when tasting (for once; the two noise-makers were out), but I was feeling a bit tired, tasting it in the morning. Not just noise or other interference but also disposition effects how we experience a tea. I could probably expand on this description a little after a couple more tastings. But I think this does capture the essence of it: the tea is clean, a bit sweet, well-balanced, with integrated flavors, simple in the sense of not presenting a long flavors list, but complex in the sense of having dimensions to its character. It's medium in roast level so that you can't notice that level without thinking about it, striking a balance that works well, and it tastes like cinnamon.
Sharing pictures (a completely unrelated tangent)
The pictures I share here are typically just my kids (beyond those of tea, or travel), but I wanted to pass on a slice-of-life set that describes my experiences here. These are a few of the newest local park in Bangkok, the Chulalongkorn University 100 year anniversary park.
For those of you into parks, for whatever reason, here is the main page of information about it, and another talking about green spaces in Bangkok and what the design is doing to conserve water. A friend is a sustainable landscape design professor, and I took some landscape architecture classes way back when, so some of that seems interesting to me, but I'm mostly visiting parks to check out the kids' play areas.
not really at the park