Vietnam Gui Fei Oolong from What Cha. . . .

I may have gone a bit overboard this past Black Friday. I was splurging on tea orders right, left, and center. Normally those orders would be for flavored teas but a friend of mine was ordering from websites that have huge selections of straight teas and I decided to join in on her orders. One such site was What-Cha. I have had several of their straight teas thanks to others sharing samples with me and I’ve always been impressed.

More than just straight teas, I decided to go wild when it came to the oolong sections of these sites. In hindsight this was a weird choice for me since up until recently I wouldn’t even try a flavored oolong tea, let alone a straight one. I guess as time goes on, your tastes change and my tastes are moving towards oolongs. What Cha must have sensed that because this tea, Vietnam Gui Fei Oolong Tea, arrived as the sample in our order.

This tea has a really nice honey sweetness. That is what stands out sip after sip. As I continue to drink it does become a bit more nuanced with the honey giving way to a touch of signature oolong toastiness. The more I focus, the more I can taste. In addition to the honey, the sweetness has a slight taste of stonefruit and raisin and a little citrus zip intermingled with the toastiness. Also, floating about is a touch of rose/floral that could be present because I expect that in an oolong more than because its actually there.

What is nice about this tea is that the sweetness gives it some body and that body reads almost like a caramel / malt making this come off like a dessert tea despite it having no dessert flavorings. It is light and rich at the same time which makes it easy to drink again and again.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Oolong
Where to Buy:  What Cha
Description

A highly aromatic oolong with a wonderfully sweet honey aroma and taste accompanied by citrus fruit notes of orange blossoms and peach.

Gui Fei is notable as it requires the leaf to be nibbled by leafhoppers just like Oriental Beauty. The tea plant responds by releasing more polyphenols into the leaves, resulting in added sweetness and complexity in the tea.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Yunnan Dragon Pearl from What-cha

YunnanDragonPearlTea Information:

Leaf Type: Black

Where to Buy:  What-Cha

Tea Description:

A unique black tea rolled into huge marble sized balls. With a sweet aroma and taste, and an incredibly thick texture.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I saw this tea was in my last package I squealed.  What-Cha teas are all the rage on Steepster.  I have been wanting to try their teas for a while because of how people ooohh and awe over them.  And now it is my turn.

While I was formatting this review, I was sad to find out this tea is no longer available from What-Cha.  It seems I am late to this party.  But alas, I was able in the end to try this phenomenal tea.

This tea gave me everything I was looking for in a black tea.  Ease of preparation.  Versatility. Sweet Flavor.  Caramel notes.  Touches of honey.  Slight roasted tone.  Everything.

The first sip you are greeted with a nice malty like hint.  Then you get that luscious caramel and honey sweetness finished with a hint of a lovely roasted profile.  Each sip I find myself closing my eyes and heaving a sigh afterwards, indulging fully in the flavor.  This tea is impressive.  Really really impressive.  I don’t think I can use enough adjectives to really describe this tea and the marvelous flavors it delivers.  It makes me sad that the little pearls I have left, which I think are about 3 at this point, is it for this beauty.  I wonder if there is any company that sells a comparable tea?

There will be tears when this tea is gone.  Big ol alligator tears and lots and lots of wailing.

Korea Yejeon Woojeon Sparrow’s Tongue ‘Jakseol’ Green Tea from What-Cha

YejeonWoojeonTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

A Smooth and refined tea with a mouth coating corn taste accompanied by straw notes. Produced from the first and most prestigious ‘woojeon’ picking of the year, which is why the tea commands such a high price. Yejeon produce all their teas by hand from semi wild teas from high mountain bushes in Hwagae Valley, Jerisan.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I may need to catch my breath while saying all these tea names! Phew! This is the final Korean Green that I will be sampling today. No more, I promise. I definitely saved the best for last! I am glad I have stashed away this tea for today, I really needed a nice treat after a nice long workout.

Usually, my workout routine has been more of a “lack thereof” routine. I run to relieve stress, and do some yoga to relax. I felt like this was a routine that was working out pretty well. That is, until I noticed my arms flapping wildly during a particularly windy run in the park. I also noticed how difficult lifting things at work was, or even opening jars of things at home. Something simply had to be done.

I dusted off my membership card to the local rec center and tentatively dipped my toes into the weight room. Being the only woman in a cramped room full of gross, sweaty men was definitely something that flipped my world like a trick coin. Thankfully, I brought headphones. I didn’t have any good music to ‘pump up the jams’ with, so to speak. Except for one Kpop song. Sighing, I popped my headphones in and pressed play.

In that moment, something clicked. A switch was flipped on, connecting my weak muscles and the beat of G Dragon. Yes! Kpop was my savior at the gym! Who knew that fashionably dressed Asian men half my size and weight rapping ultra fast to a frothy beat would drive anyone working out near to me to cower in fear? I felt powerful. I still can’t lift much, but with those headphones in and the beat of EXO, I am unstoppable.

After an attempt at the gym, I always treat myself to some of my reserve tea. It really helps me to get centered and get my normal flow of blood pumping. Today to finish off the last of my Korean tea run, I turn to this hand picked ‘first flush’ green tea. Everything is done by hand, the picking, sorting, firing, and rolling. I can really see and taste the care that went into this tea.

The dry aroma of the lush forest green leaf is fresh and comforting. The leaves are tiny and thin and loosely rolled. I see nary a broken leaf in sight. The softly floral notes mix well with a grounding popped corn smell.

I brewed this tea in my smallest gaiwan with 140F water. The leaves turn a bright flush of hearty green as they release the goods. That lingering floral scent is transferred to the brew, making it light and soothing. I detect a slight vegetal top note to the thick broth. The floral mixes with hay to create a much more complex green than I had imagined, based on the previous gradings of this tea. There is a lingering taste of popcorn to the tail notes. It sticks with me even after finishing the last sip.

Korean Jukro Jungjak Sparrow’s Tongue ‘Jakseol’ Green Tea from What-Cha

KoreanJukroJangjakTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  What-Cha.com

Tea Description:

A great Korean tea which has been produced entirely by hand from the Jungjak picking. It produces an astonishing first brew. A smaller leaf Korean tea from the Jungjak (third) flush. Early flushes are more expensive as they are more prestigious and consist of smaller leaves (more picking to produce the same amount of tea) all of which contribute to the higher price

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

If you have read my bio, you may have noticed that I am really into Korean Dramas. I suppose it comes as no surprise that while I am reviewing this Korean tea, I am also catching up on my latest drama. The leaves are practically jumping out of my brewing vessel at the tension between characters!

The thing about a good Kdrama is the sheer amount of tropes in each one-season, hour long episode. There is just something about the hilarious and seemingly improbable plot points, the little nuances about Korean culture that simply do not translate to my American mindset, and the fabulous people and the varying worlds they live in. Ever since the invention of ‘flower boys’ the male lead and all men around him will be, without a doubt, better dressed than any of the female actresses. Please stop me if you hear me shouting “Fighting!” during an important plot twist. Unfortunately, there is practically no mention of tea, except in cosmetics from the island of Jeju.

Now I am moving on the third tier of the Korean tea hierarchy: Jungjak. I could tell that this tea was a cut above Daejak as soon as I cracked open the package. The emerald green leaves were thinner, more tightly twisted and significantly longer. Just looking at the leaves I cannot see a broken leaf in sight. Wiping the drool off my face, I brew the tea in my baby kyusu. I’m using cooler water here than I would for any other green, even the Daejak before it. I am shooting for a gyokuro temp, so around 140F/60C should do it. This tea simply asks for a little extra care. It is hand picked, and hand rolled after all.

The grassy and sweet leaves brew into a light yellow-green liquor – it reminds me of those bits of potato chips that still have a tinge of green skin on them. Unlike the Daejak, the leaves turn a bright happy green when soaked in water. The resulting brew is less cornflake and more savory. It’s thick and smooth with a slight astringency. This tea evokes a steamed bok choy buttered and lightly salted. This is quite a steamy side dish of a tea. Of course, a perfect side dish to any Korean Drama.

Korea Dong Cheon Daejak Sparrow’s Tongue Green Tea from What Cha

KoreaDongCheonTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

A more affordable, yet still brilliant Korean green tea from the Daejak picking. A larger leaf Korean tea from the Daejak (fourth) flush. As the leaves are bigger than earlier flushes, a greater number of steeps can be achieved.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Phew, that name is a mouthful, isn’t it? Well, such a large name really commands a delicious tea. I am about to find out if this green tea lives up to it’s really long name! Korean tea is actually not a common thing, as I had previously thought. The popularity of tea in Korea is declining, while coffee is slowly worming it’s way in, becoming more common than tea in recent years. It must be all those Korean Dramas set in coffee shops!

There are several ways to tell if what type of tea you will be drinking if it is grown in Korea. Like in Japan, the name of the tea tells all. This Jakseol tea, more commonly known as Sparrow’s Tongue tells me that this is a high quality, well tended leaf. It is said that the little, emerald green leaves looks like a tongue of a bird. I have personally never seen the inside of a sparrow’s beak, so I cannot attest to this, but it’s fair to assume how this tea could be referred to as such.

There are four grades of Jakseol, which indicate when they were picked. Sejak and Jungjak are the first and second official pickings, followed by Daejak. There is, of course, and ultra-special early picking, which includes only the finest and most tender of the early spring buds. This is woojeon and is so expensive that looking at a single ounce online made me spit out my tea. I have a couple of these different grades and I am starting with Daejak and I will continue to work my way up in the line. And for being the lowest of the grades, the quality of this tea does not mean bad tea in any way. This is so far from it. While the leaves are longer and larger, the way they curl and practically glow is a strong indicator that something great is about to fall into my cup.KoreaDongCheon1

The dry nose is pretty exciting. It’s interesting and like no other green that I am used to. Very grassy and grain-like. The brewed tea tastes about the same. I feel like I am drinking liquid corn flakes. Well, if you spilled a box of corn flakes into freshly mowed grass and decided to eat them anyway. Yes, it’s quite a visual. But the bright and fresh grassiness is going head to head with the sweet corn notes in the brew. The later steepings become more nutty, subtle and even sweeter. Perhaps a better visual would be sitting on a soft blanket in prairie grass, eating (clean!) corn flakes in fresh milk from the dairy farm nearby with the morning sun just beginning to rise high over your head.

While this tea is pretty similar to a good Japanese sencha, I do not get as much as astringency as I thought I would be faced with. A little drying, yes. But nothing like what I was expecting. It’s a unique and delicious green tea. I would recommend this for anyone looking for a different and fun green from a different growing region. A quite lovely brew for the beginning of spring!