As I delved into my tea cabinet recently, I realized I had been stockpiling oolong teas. Where did they all come from?!
Since the season is finally starting to turn, and oolong teas always make me think of spring, it seemed like a good time to try them all.
So I had an Oolong-A-Thon and brewed ten samples from my stores. The numbers below aren’t a “best-of” ranking, but they roughly move from most delicate in flavor to the most potent in flavor. . . . .
- Alishan High Mountain from Cameron Taiwan Premium Loose Leaf – The dry leaf smells sweet and nutty, and this sweet-oat flavor is echoed in the first steep with additional notes of green melon. The second steep is nuttier still more oat than fruit, though a bit of the green flavor lingers on the aftertaste. (See a review from my fellow Sororitea Sister).
- Alishan High Mountain Eco First Pluck from Terrior Tea Merchant – The dry leaf smells like sweet grass and sour fruit. The first steep is not sour at all, but very green and buttery, with more interesting notes like citrus or bok choy coming out on later steepings.
- Ding Dong Oolong from Eco-Cha – Prior to brewing, this tea smells dry and earthy, like hay or dried grass. Brewed, the first steep is roasty and savory, with just a hint of starchy sweetness in the aftertaste. The second steep has nutty, brown rice flavors, but still remains light and drinkable. (See a review from my fellow Sororitea Sister).
- Ding Ding Oolong from Cloud Nine (Spring 2015) – The first steep features fruit notes like plum, grape, and currant. There are almost red wine or acai berry flavors. This potent fruit flavor drops off in the second steep, with more green notes and fewer berries, more like green grapes and white wine, though the brew never got too bitter or dark even with longer steep times.
- Ping Lin Pouchong from Cameron Taiwan Premium Loose Leaf – These long dark tea leaves smelled like caramel or burnt sugar when dry, but their first steep was surprisingly green and floral. The brew turned out to be slightly buttery, with almost-seaweed notes. The second steep wasn’t distinctly different, with similar savory tones and a smooth, buttery aftertaste.
- Jin Xuan Milk Oolong from Teavivre – The first steep of this tea ended up tasting like sour grapes and bright florals, with a hint of roasted nuts and a supremely smooth mouthfeel. The second steep increased the almost-honey flavor and feeling of the tea, and brought forward some either, grassier notes to the brew, and maintained the milky smooth texture.
- Tie Kwan Yin Oolong from Tea Ave – The first steep was surprisingly roasty, with notes like warm toast or freshly baked bread. There were no green or floral flavors, but the starchiness was well-balanced with an herbaceous earthiness. The second steep brought out a stronger roast, and slightly bitter, dry hay notes, though the flavors were still balanced and very drinkable.
- Shui Xian Oolong from Origins Tea – The tightly rolled dark leaves, smelled like hay and earth slightly bitter, though the first steep had a pop of tart currant, quickly buried under strong, roasted almond flavors. This tea had a dry mouthfeel, very nutty and savory, with even a hint of smoke, like an oolong for lapsang-lovers. The second steep brought out even more sweet, starchy, marzipan flavors.
- Alishan Charcoal Fire Heavy Roast from T-Oolong Tea (Spring 2012) – Despite the name the first steep of this tea did have some bright notes like a greener alishan oolong but with a distinct, roasted, malty depth. There are some charcoal notes: mineral and toasted. Both steeps brew up dark in color, the second steep maintains the toasted rice and malt flavors as the first steep, but develops a smoother mouthfeel. (See a review from my fellow Sororitea Sister).
- Gingseng Oolong from Enjoying Tea – I tried this tea last, because it was the only flavored oolong in this grouping. Anything with added flavor was bound to be more potent than just the leaves alone. This tea smells sweet in the dry leaf, and brews sweet and sour with a very strong passionfruit flavor: green and slightly tropical. The second steep is earthier, less sweet and more like wet foliage, still some lingering passionfruit notes, especially on the aftertaste.
And there you have it– the results of my Oolong-A-Thon!
Like black or green teas, there are many variations and flavors to be had from trying a variety of oolong teas. From my point of view, there wasn’t a bad tea in the bunch, and each had its own flavors to suit the changing weather or my variable tea cravings.
There is certainly an oolong out there that will fit your tastes as well. Happy oolong brewing!
Oolongs are mysterious creatures- full of complexity, and with such a wide variety of dominant flavors depending on how the leaves are processed. For me, they are the closest I will get to anything like ripe pu’erh for probably a long time. That said, whenever I am presented with an oolong from a well-known, high quality tea vendor, I am always very excited, and like to put my “snooty tea connoisseur” wizard hat on for the duration of the review. SO!
Without any further delay, I present Eco Cha’s Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong! Let’s just call it.. SLX for the rest of this review. Hawt. The little emerald leaves are tightly rolled, requiring a 2 minute rinse to fully ‘expand’. ..and boy, do they really expand. My little gaiwan has suddenly turned into a dense, leafy jungle inside! I’m feeling healthier just by looking at all this green!!
After a 30 second steep, the resulting brew is a light yellow-green color, not entirely expected since the dark leaves led me to believe I’d have a dark drink. However, the flavor of the tea perfectly matches its color- so light and beautifully sweet, grassy without tasting vegetal or bitter, with a pleasant aftertaste that reminds me of cinnamon!…? Am I crazy right now? I’ve had this tea multiple times now and “CINNAMON!” just keeps popping up in my mind every time I taste it. Like.. a snickerdoodle cookie or something.
Subsequent steeps are also given 30 seconds to brew; the tea remains full bodied and satisfying. This tea is so perfect for the ‘transition’ period between summer and fall we are currently in. SLX provides a light and grassy taste for sweet sunny days, with just the right touch of toasty cinnamon spice to hint at the breezy days of hoodie weather that lie just ahead. This was my first ever tea from Eco Cha, and I loved it! 🙂
Here’s the scoop!
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Eco Cha
One of the prominent qualities of Taiwanese high mountain oolong is the fragrance that exudes from the freshly brewed leaves. Especially after the first and second brews, hold the un-lidded teapot near your nose and inhale slowly to experience the volatile aromatic oils that are being released from the freshly moistened and heated leaves. From there you can enjoy the evolving aroma of each successive brew. The fragrance is the most intriguing and subtle quality of a fine high mountain tea.
This tea carries distinct qualities of adequate oxidation of the leaves during processing. This is evident in its sweeter, mellowed aroma and smooth, balanced flavor. Its aroma is slightly less floral and more fruity or pastry-like. Oxidation offers a more substantial, less green brew that is complex, yet balanced and smooth on the palate. This batch is another exemplary high mountain tea from the Shan Lin Xi area.
Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!
Leaf Type: Oolong Tea
Where to Buy: Eco-Cha
This batch of tea comes from Yong Long Village, just above Dong Ding Mountain. Yong Long is known for a rich red soil which differs from other locales in Lu Gu Township. The unique flavor of the Dong Ding Oolong produced here is attributed to this soil quality, along with the fact this region is home to the most concentrated population of the most skilled oolong tea artisans in Taiwan.
(2015)Flavor: Grilled sweet corn aroma. Rich, foresty, roasted flavor. Complex, fruity finish.
Garden: This batch of tea comes from Yonglong Village, just above Dong Ding Mountain. Yonglong is known for its rich soil which differs from other locales in Lu Gu Township. The unique flavor of the Dong Ding Oolong produced here is attributed to this soil quality, along with the fact this region is home to the most concentrated population of skilled oolong tea artisans in Taiwan. This farm is managed by a father and son team who inherited their family tradition as artisans of Dong Ding Oolong. Their tea has been awarded first prize in the world’s largest Oolong tea competition, and they consistently achieve top awards in their local competition of traditionally made Dong Ding Oolong.
Harvest: Hand picked in small batches. November 2015. Yonglong, Nantou. Available Winter 2016
Learn more about this tea here.
The Dong Ding Oolong Tea from Eco-Cha I know and LOVE is from 2013 but today I found out they have a 2015 harvest that will be available in Winter of 2016. I’m looking forward to comparing the two. The review of this Dong Ding Oolong Tea from Eco-Cha is from the 2013 harvest eventho I inserted both harvest descriptions above.
Once I infused Dong Ding Oolong Tea from Eco-Cha and it was ready to go in my cup I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful golden amber tone…it was beautiful! The aroma was roasted – that is for sure. The roasted notes followed suit when you sipped it as well. I could taste some plum notes underneath in the middle of the sip, too, but they were very subtle.
The roasty and toasty aftertaste lingered but in a good way. I’m looking forward to the new harvest of Dong Ding Oolong Tea from Eco-Cha coming in winter 2016…in the meantime I will finish what I have…and what I have is very good! Two thumbs up!
Leaf Type: Oolong Tea
Where to Buy: Eco-Cha
Flavor – Fruity, fragrant herbal tones. Full, balanced, fresh floral/green/fruity flavor. Lingering, aromatic finish. This Da Yu Ling Oolong ranks definitively within the category of Taiwan’s finest High Mountain Oolong.
Garden: This farm is in Taiwan’s prime tea growing region. In this region, the location of the farm is indicated by the kilometer marking on the cross-central highway. This farm is around the 100k marker, which indicates some of the most pristine tea real estate on the island.
The highest elevation tea growing regions are where the epitome of this type of tea is produced.The ideal climate conditions offered by this elevation range combined with the methods of tea cultivation that have been developed are considered to be the main factors that have gained this category of tea its fame.
The place names of Li Shan and Da Yu Ling are unsurpassed for prime Taiwan High Mountain Oolong, and we feel privileged to be able to share this tea, which has become recognised as some of the best in the world.
This most exclusive High Mountain Oolong produced in Taiwan is renowned for its fragrant aroma and lingering aftertaste. Its unique character is comprised of a freshness and complexity of fragrance and a substantial flavor have captivated tea lovers around the globe.
The subtleties of aroma are derived from newly grown leaves of the Green Heart Oolong (清心烏龍) cultivar grown at an elevation that provides optimal climate conditions for this plant. The slower growth at high elevation provides substance to the tender new growth which in turn gives premium Taiwan High Mountain tea its claim to fame. It is in a class of its own due its smooth, clean – yet complex flavor followed by a heady lingering aftertaste.
Learn more about this tea here.
I’m not surprised that Eco-Cha’s Da Ya Ling High Mountain Oolong is currently sold out – but that doesn’t mean that I’m NOT going to blog about it!
The aroma is wonderfully refreshing. The color is a pale yellow-brown once infused. Everything about this tea screams “hydration”. It’s juicy but NOT in a fruity way – in a hydrating way – as if you were in a desert and craving pure liquid in its true form. This tea seems to fit that bill. It’s smooth, clean, pure. It has a subtle lingering aftertaste that makes you want more! Evenotho it’s not really juicy in a fruity way – that doesn’t mean that this doesn’t have it’s fruitier notes and hints – it does! I can’t quite put my finger on WHAT TYPE of fruit tho. Maybe it’s something citrus – but not overly-so. It’s also a ‘greener’ oolong, too, which I am really enjoying! This is great for multiple infusions, as well. This tea is completely delicious – and – not to rub it in…it’s SOLD OUT…but perhaps Eco-Cha will be getting a similar crop and do one for the next season. Us tea lovers can only pray!
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Eco-Cha
This artisan consistently achieves high ratings in virtually every oolong tea competition in Taiwan, including the largest oolong tea competition in the world. His co-op of farmers use no weed killers, and chemical analyses for fertilizers and pesticides show their samples to be a small fraction of the accepted amounts set by international standards. A prime example of sustainable methods combined with expertise.
Learn more about this tea here.
Wow … nice! I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced a Tsui Yu Jade Oolong before. I’ve tried many different Oolong teas. But there are so many Oolong teas out there and … some of the more popular ones such as Ti Kuan Yin and Oriental Beauty and even my beloved AliShan have cast their rather large shadows over the lesser known varieties like this Tsui Yu Jade. So, I’m feeling very privileged that Eco Cha has given me this unique opportunity to try this tea.
And this is LOVELY!
I brewed this – of course! – in my gaiwan. The first cup (infusions 1 and 2 following a 15 second rinse) is light and refreshing to the palate. It tastes sweet, but only lightly so. It’s not an inundating sweetness. The flavor, overall, is very gentle. Subtly sweet, gently floral, with hints of fruit and vegetation in the distance. The texture is soft and “fluffy.” That seems like an odd word to use with a tea, but, that’s the word that first comes to mind as I sip this tea. It sort of floats over the palate like a soft, fluffy cloud. It’s like a subtle creaminess, but it is just barely there. I really like the delicate softness of this cup.
My second cup (infusions 3 and 4) is where I notice a creaminess develop. Hints of this creamy note were present in the first cup but they were so delicate and almost hiding behind the sweetness. Here the creaminess has emerged, as have some of the aforementioned fruit notes, reminding me of something between a crisp, sweet apple and a juicy honeydew melon. I think I like this cup even more than the first, and I loved that first cup! Still so sweet, but with this beautiful creamy taste and texture that reminds me of sweet cream.
The third cup (infuisons 5 and 6) offered a more subdued creamy note, but it was still there. Just less apparent. The flavors is still sweet! The fruit notes have also subdued, and I’m noticing more of the floral notes and the vegetal notes this time. Still a very delicious cuppa!
A remarkable Oolong … and definitely worth exploring. When I checked out the Eco Cha website for information about this tea, I noticed that this one is now sold out, so I recommend keeping your eye on their website and after the November harvest this year, you should order some of this tea for yourself! It’s one that I’d recommend to all tea enthusiasts!