Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Buddha Teas
Over the years, many different varieties of oolong tea have been produced, each with their own style and flavor, however traditional oolong tea remains the most popular among these.
Learn more about this tea here.
Oolong has historically been my nemesis, although I have to say at this point that I’ve only ever tried loose leaf oolong with one exception (Teapigs Tung Ting Oolong, which is pyramid bagged). This oolong is also bagged, and in fairly small, square paper affairs that really don’t look like they’ll provide much room for leaf expansion. Even dry, the leaf fills up at least half of the space in the bag. One cute touch is that each paper tag has a different phrase – my current bag declares “love is ecstacy”, and my second “appreciate yourself and honor your soul”. Something to muse upon as you wait for your tea to brew? I added the bag to a cup of water cooled to around 180 degrees, and gave it 2.5 minutes. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown.
Once wet, it’s clear that the leaf is shredded quite finely, and it becomes waterlogged and soggy quickly. The leaf expands to fill the bag, but not as much as I thought it might. I guess the fine shred means that there are no large leaves to really unfurl. Looking at the leaf, this would appear to be a dark or roasted oolong. It has the signature scent that’s often one of the things I like least about oolong – metallic and a little sweet.
To taste, I’m more impressed that I expected I would be. I’m not the world’s biggest Oolong fan, so when I find one that’s palatable and enjoyable to drink, a bit of a celebration ensues. This Oolong is initially very nutty, in the way of pecans or maybe walnuts. There’s a slightly bitter tang that I associate with walnuts especially, which only reinforces the comparison for me. The mid-sip contains a little of the metallic flavour I so dislike, but it’s not over-strong and I’m finding I can ignore it without too much trouble. There’s a note of slightly burnt toast as well, which puts me in mind of autumn and open fires. It’s a fitting flavour profile for this time of year! The aftertaste is smooth and a little sweet, with an almost honeyed texture. It’s a pleasant, flavourful cup, reminiscent of a Formosa Oolong. I’m not sure which variety it actually is as the packaging gives very little away, but that’s where I would peg it.
I enjoyed this cup, which seems a strange thing for me to say given my history with Oolong in general. The nutty, toasted notes pair well together and are very complementary, which probably has a lot to do with it. I’d drink this one again, and I’d happily recommend it either to those who are just beginning to explore oolong (as an accessible entry tea), and to Oolong-phobes who are looking to be proved wrong. It’s made me reevaluate my feelings about dark and roasted Oolongs, in any case!
I still have a deep rooted (and probably life-long) preference for black tea. My all-time favourite is Assam, but Ceylon and Darjeeling also occupy a place in my heart. Flavoured black tea can be a beautiful thing, and I like a good chai latte in the winter.
I also drink a lot of rooibos/honeybush tea, particularly on an evening. Sometimes they're the best dessert replacements, too. White teas are a staple in summer -- their lightness and delicate nature is something I can always appreciate on a hot day.
I'm still warming up to green teas and oolongs. I don't think they'll ever be my favourites, with a few rare exceptions, but I don't hate them anymore. My experience of these teas is still very much a work-in-progress. I'm also beginning to explore pu'erh, both ripened and raw. That's my latest challenge!
I'm still searching for the perfect fruit tea. One without hibiscus. That actually tastes of fruit.