High Mountain Oolong

This is a light Oolong from the Taiwanese mountains. High mountain teas mostly come from central Taiwan and the particular growing environment at high elevation gives these “Gaoshan” teas a distinctly rich sweetness. It is semiball-rolled with the attached stems and was harvested in Spring 2013.

High Mountain Oolong

Preparation: To prepare this tea, I put 4g of the tea in a warmed porcelain teapot. I add a little water at 85 °C (when medium bubbles appear in the water). This water is discarded as a rinse and then I add about 175ml of water and let the leaves unfurl for 30 seconds. The steeping time increases for each subsequent steeping and I find that I can get at least 5 steepings from this tea. The liquor is pale yellow in colour but the sweet floral aroma is magnificent. To taste, this tea is subtle, creamy and gentle and has a long aftertaste. Overall, I think that the price of £9.95 for 50g is worth it for this level of quality.

High Mountain Oolong is available from Postcard teas.

Note: As with all reviews on this site, I purchased this tea and have no affiliation with the sellers or the tea estate.

Da Hong Pao (Royal Red Robe)

I bought this Da Hong Pao (year & season unknown) at the Berliner Teesalon nearly 4 weeks ago but only got around to tasting it last weekend.

Da Hong PaoThis Oolong tea is produced in the Wuyi mountains of Fujian, China. See previous post on Da Hong Pao for the legend associated with this tea. Strip-style Oolongs like this one are unique to China and are easy to spot in a line-up because of their dark colour and stemless twisted leaves.

IMG_5820Preparation (see post here about steeping): To prepare this tea, I put 5g of the tea in a warmed clay teapot. After rinsing the leaves, I add 150ml of water that is just below boiling (when it makes the rumbling sound) and let it rest for 30 seconds. The leaves are not as dark as this type of Oolong would normally be and the tea is a golden yellow on the first steeping. The second and third steeping are darker but never get to the deep amber that would be expected from heavy roasting. There is an earthy smell and definite sweetness in the taste. It is not unpleasant to drink but it lacks the full bodied, rich peaty flavour that this type of tea should deliver. I steeped this tea five times, increasing the steeping durations each time.

The tea €15 for 50g and I consider that too expensive for the quality of this tea.

 

Da Hong Pao (Royal Red Robe)

This Da Hong Pao or Royal Red Robe is an Oolong tea, produced in the Wuyi mountains of Fujian, China (a Unesco World Heritage Site).leaves

There are a couple of legends associated with this tea. One of them involves an Emperor of the Ming Dynasty who was travelling with his ill mother. The Emperor’s mother was cured by the leaves of the tea bushes that were growing on a cliff of the Wuyi mountain and in gratitude, the Emperor sent red robes to cover the tea bushes. Hence the name Royal Red Robe.  It is believed that three of these original bushes still survive today in the Wuyi mountain and so these bushes were insured in 2006 for $14,000,000. Tea has not been produced from these bushes for some time but when it was, it was reserved for the select few. On occasion, some went for  auction. In 2002, 20g of first generation Da Hong Pao apparently sold for $21,700 (source).

Clearly this is not that tea that I have! Cuttings have been taken from the original bushes to produce similar ancestral teas. The quality of the teas varies but the best grades are still expensive. The one that I have was a gift so I don’t know how much it cost but I hope it wasn’t too much because it was clear from the foreign matter and broken leaves (especially after steeping) that this is a low grade. I don’t know the year or harvest period of this tea.

leaves in bowl

Wuyi Oolongs are darker with ~80% oxidation.  They are earthier than other Oolongs and give a deeper colour after steeping. It is strip-style (as opposed to ball-rolled) so it is not packed as tightly as the Tieguanyin that I spoke about previously.

red robe glassPreparation (see post here about steeping): To prepare this tea, I put 5g of the tea in a warmed clay teapot. After rinsing the leaves, I add 150ml of water that is just below boiling (when it makes the rumbling sound) and let it rest for 30 seconds. This tea is brown-red in color and has a deep earthy and nutty smell.  The second and third steeping are deeper and darker than the first but not by much. I get six steepings from this tea with the steeping time increasing for each one.

This tea came from Beijing Tong Ren Tang on Shaftsbury Road, London. Because it was a present, I don’t know how much it cost but I wouldn’t be paying any more than about £12 for 100g of this grade.

 

Ti Kuan Yin – Iron Goddess Tea

I seem to be on an Oolong kick at the moment and this Ti Kuan Yin (aka Iron Goddess or Tieguanyin) is my tea-of-the-minute. I love it because it has a clean, fresh taste and sweet after-taste that is both strong and gentle at the same time. This tea is a variety of Oolong tea and comes from Fujian Province in China (this type of tea is also produced in Taiwan). Judging by the look and colour, the one I have is not a high grade Tieguanyin but it still gives a good idea why this tea is so popular. Apart from the taste, I like seeing the dark green semiball-rolled leaves expand out after it has steeped a few times but again, because this is not a high grade the leaves are chewy and broken rather than full green leaves when it is steeped.

Tieguanyin (5g) before and after steeping

Tieguanyin (5g) before and after steeping

This Tieguanyin is described as “old style” and is darker so it had medium to heavy oxidation (oxidation being the process that causes the tea leaves to turn brown).

Second brew of Tieguanyin

Amber colour of the second brew of Tieguanyin

Preparation: To prepare this tea, I put 5g of the tea in a warmed clay teapot (one that I keep for Oolongs). I add a little water that is just below boiling (when it makes the rumbling sound) to rinse the leaves. This water is poured off and disposed of, not drank. Then I add about 175ml of the hot water which is about the size of the teapot and let it rest for 30 seconds. This is the first brew and is pale yellow in color and has that lovely sweet smell but the second and third steeping are  even better with the colour turning to a deeper amber.  I usually leave these to steep for about 40 seconds each. The steeping time increases for each subsequent steeping and I find that I can get 4-5 steepings from this tea. The taste is clear and refreshing with a deeply sweet aftertaste.

If you don’t have a clay teapot or a gaiwan, don’t worry. Steeping this tea works just as well with a brew basket but if ever there is a tea that can’t be used with a metal tea ball, it is this one. The leaf expands so impressively, it would be a real shame to keep it in a confined space.

I bought this tea from Tea Palace, London and it was a reasonable £10 for 100g.