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maxmillan

Oolong Teas: a complex world between green & black

155 posts in this topic

Today trying the Eight Immortals 07 Ba Xiang Dan Cong Oolong that I bought yesterday from Tea Habitat after our tasting.

I started with one gram of tea for one of the tiny 60mL yixing pots. It has a very light odor in the tin--but the fruity started to come out as soon as it warmed up in preheated pot, before even adding the water. I started with water about 190, and reheated when it got below 160 or 170 between infusions.

This is a lovely tea: floral, fruity, winey: reminds me strongly of a tart lychee. And holding up wonderfully for multiple infusions (it was pretty good through 8 or 9, and started to run out of steam after that). And the fruitiness lingers as a wonderful aftertaste.

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2009 Fall Ali Shan High Mountain Oolong

norbutea.com

-Fall Harvest 2009

-Gowing Area: Alishan Scenic Area, Chiayi County, Taiwan

-Varietal: Qing Xin (Green Heart) Oolong

-Oxidation: 20%

-Roasting: Light

Today I opened a small 7 g sample of this tea that eG Society member Greg Glancy gave me to try. Greg noted in his description on norbutea.com that brewed gong fu style he was getting three good infusions, compared to many more for the Spring '09 harvest. My experience today is different. Brewed in a tiny 55 ml gaiwan with 3.1 g leaf for infusions of 20, 15, 20, 30 and 45, I found it still good on the fifth. I'll try in a while to see how far it will go beyond that. Each infusion is different, as you would expect, the first being my favorite. I agree with Greg that the floral flavor is a bit hard to describe, and I detect an almost nutty aspect to the flavor on the first infusion that receded on subsequent infusions. The floral aroma stayed strong into the fourth infusion and the various infusions showed shifting flavors of honey-sweetness, floral-orchidy something, and mild astringency that did not catch my attention until the fifth infusion.

Why the difference in my experience and Greg's? My best guess is that I may have used a slightly higher leaf:water ratio since we brewed in the same temperature range.

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Since someone mentioned it...

Keep your eye out for fake Milk Oolong! I got some last winter from a local teaseller, and have since found it at the two Teashops on either side of Pike Place Market in Seattle (one a block north, one a block south... same company). When I found it at the shop near Pike Place the first time, the owner (who was knowledgeable and friendly) came clean and said that it was flavored. The second time (at the other shop), the person working there checked the packaging which claimed that it was not flavored.

Unfortunately, for Oolong to pick up the creamy flavor that these companies are trying to imitate, the tea must be grown in very rare weather conditions at high altitude, and the tea that results is incredibly expensive. I tasted some about 2 years ago, a competition tea that is rarely found outside of Taiwan (or inside Taiwan for that matter). It was too expensive for me... nearly $300 for a 200g container. Probably the best tea that I've ever tasted, though.

On the other hand, most of the "Milk" oolongs that are sold seem to be flavored. Since the flavoring is applied to the dry tea, it's not hard to test. If you hold a spoonful of the leaves in your hand for a minute or two, the smell will linger on your hand for the rest of the day, even after thorough washing (in my case, anyway). Further, you can rinse the tea in cold water... this will not brew the tea at all, so even though there's no tea flavor, there will be flavor and fragrance from the "Milk" flavoring.

If you like the stuff, I guess there's no reason that you shouldn't drink it... especially since it's not very expensive. Personally, I find that the flavoring really overpowers the tea and it stained one of my yixing teapots for weeks (with fragrance).

- Matthew


Matthew Gore Photography

http://www.gorephoto.com

The Tea Archive

http://www.TeaArchive.com

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Only mention I've seen of that is here. Does sound like it's worth the time to counterfeit, at that price.

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Working on the head-to-head comparison of the 2009 Ali Shan High Mountain Oolong Teas from norbutea.com. 2 grams each of the spring, summer, and fall teas, in gaiwans, about 2 ounces of water per infusion, with water that started at 185 degrees and then cooled because I was too lazy to keep reheating the kettle.

I think I am up to the 5th infusion or so, and all are just lovely teas. The spring and fall are very similar in flavor--very sweet, mellow, hay/straw/caramel notes, with the spring tea perhaps holding up little better with more infusions than the fall, and the summer tea is least sweet but more of the warm caramel notes--it just tastes more like fall and harvest than the fall tea does.

They're wonderful teas, standing up to strong cheese (montogmery's cheddar) and tart apples quite well.

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Greg from Norbu Tea included three sample packets of his 2009 Alishan Oolongs, Summer, Fall and Winter.

Yesterday I started with the winter.

The first session was 4.5g of tea to about 10oz. water around 190F.

My first two observations were that it is perfumey and a little less robust than what I seem to be inclined to enjoy. The floral perfuminess is not really my thing but it is neat to experience in this tea. This tea gave me a spicy end note that really took me by surprise. At first I was wondering if the spice was remnants on my palate of the pumpkin bread I had had about a half hour earlier but as I continued to drink the first cup I realized that it was indeed from the tea.

The second cup lost that spicy end note but I was stuck by a peachiness to it. Is that something anyone else has picked up on or am I mis-naming this element that I tasted? The tea also gave very lightly roasted, light caramel notes.

As this tea was a little light for my liking I didn't go on to a third steeping rather I started another session with what was left of the sample.

This time I used 5.5g to 8oz water, 190F.

This little tweak in the ration definitely improved things. This is still a thinner tea than what I've been gravitating towards but I think this time I got a better idea of what the body should be like. All of the same tasting notes apply. I did go onto a third steeping and I used water just off the boil as I wash rushing to get out of the house. The higher temp did set off an astringency or tanniness.

ETA- I didn't get the little caffeine bump that I want in a tea for the morning (when I started on this tasting session). Anyone else have thoughts on its caffeine content/effects?


Edited by LuckyGirl (log)

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Today I tried my sample packet of Norbus 2009 Alishan Fall Oolong.

5g to 8oz, 190F

The first cup seemed to have more green notes than the the winter Alishan. Not to say it is as green as a green tea but more so than the winter and maybe slightly less toasty. It strikes me as slightly less carmelly as well, but still sweet. The perfuminess of this and the winter Alishan remind me of the Oriental Beauty I tried from Ten ren.

The second cup is giving me what I can only think to describe as orchid notes. In the little I have read about various teas (even some that I have tried) I have seen reference to notes of orchid in the taste but I dont know that I really understood that taste until this tea. This second steeping is giving me an incredibly sweet taste of some thing like cola. I keep orchids and I have one that smells distinctly like cola when it blooms and another whose blooms are described as having a chocolaty smell (to me it smells more like cola than chocolate). This tea is like drinking the aroma of those two orchids. That is really wild to me!

It is really cool how long the sweetness of this tea lingers in my mouth.

Is it possible that the fall tea gives off slightly more caffeine than the winter or is it just a difference in how I am perceiving/reacting to it today vs. yesterday?

ETA I don't get the light peachiness from this tea that I got from the second and third cups of the winter Alishan.


Edited by LuckyGirl (log)

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Bought a small sample of TenRen's first quality Pouchong today, and while it does have a bit more body and sweetness than the 3rd grade, it is still a lighter tea than the alishan oolong and spring tie guan yin's I've been drinking. That part is a bit disappointing; but on the other hand, it means I can keep on buying the much cheaper 3rd grade and still have a nice, reliable cup of tea.

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I had a most enjoyable few cups of tea the other day from Norbu's "Iron Goddess of Mercy" or "Tie Guan Yin".

The Norbu website reports this tea as a heat dried, non-roasted tea from Spring of '09.

I found this tea to be both floral and fruity but not in the perfumey floral way that turns me off of some of the green oolongs. Even though it is not a roasted tea it gave me a light toastiness along with the fruit and floral notes that I greatly enjoyed. Nice full side of medium body and mouth-feel. Slight oily mouth-feel, not in a bad way rather in a rich, enjoyable way. Flavors like plum/prune mixed with tropical flowers.

Semi-sweet. Slightly tannic finish. Lingers nicely.

I brewed it 6g to 12 oz water just under the boil. First two steeps at 3 minutes and third steep at 4.

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I really, really, enjoy tie guan yin, and order it every time I go to a teahouse. Visitors also all go home with a small bag tucked into their luggage, I can't help spreading the love. I liked jasmine tea for so long, but now I find I can't go back, as it's too perfumey.

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I attended a party not too far from Tea Habitat this afternoon, so stopped in afterwards to enjoy a cup of tea, and brought home this 2007 Po Tuo Ginger Flower Fragrance Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong.

I brewed up 1 gram in 2 oz water, about 180°F, first infusion only 30 seconds. It was better at 2nd for 60 seconds, holding up well through 5 infusions so far. It came out a little light bodied at this leaf/water ratio, and I'll use a little more next time.

It is sweet, spicy, floral, and with a little of that elusive flavor element we were enjoying trying to figure out in the Mao Xie Hairy Crab tasting. And while it shares a certain quality--lacking a word for it, I'll just call it 'wild'--with the Ba Xian Dan Cong, it does not have the strong fruity, almost citrusy flavor of the Ba Xian. I can see why Imen says this is a favorite.

I'll also be interested to compare it to the 2009 Wu Ye I picked up at the same time, because it comes from a tree grown from the seeds of the Po Tuo.

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Finishing up with a bit of Norbu's Lao Tie Guan Yin aged late 90s oolong tonight, receieved as part of a tea swap with LuckyGirl. Quite interesting--there is a strong smoky/earthy scent but the flavor is more tart, fruity, and sweet than toasty. THere is also a long spicy finish.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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Finishing up with a bit of Norbu's Lao Tie Guan Yin aged late 90s oolong tonight, receieved as part of a tea swap with LuckyGirl. Quite interesting--there is a strong smoky/earthy scent but the flavor is more tart, fruity, and sweet than toasty. THere is also a long spicy finish.

I forgot I had that tea until I just saw your post. I don't think I've even tried it yet. I will make a point of trying it in the next day or two.

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I am currently enjoying a cup of Norbu's Ban Tian Yao, Wu Yi Oolong.

This is a neat tea to me in that it's the first time I really get the sweet/tart element that I have read in some tea descriptions. The first thing that hit me upon my first sip was the tea's spiciness and it was very enjoyable.

Greg from Norbu described this tea as having a sasparilla note and since reading that I have found that taste in several Wu Yi teas that I've had in the past few weeks.

There is something about this tea and another Wu Yi that I had recently that is odd. I get a *slight* chemical-like taste from the tea especially after the first cup. Chemical is actually not exactly the right word but I don't know what other word to use. It is almost like a stale note. I'm obviously having a hard time describing it but I've noticed it each time I've had this tea and the Shui Jin Gui, Wu Yi Oolang, also from Norbu. It is not enough to keep me from drinking the tea but it's a back note that's definitely there.

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The past week I have greatly enjoyed drinking Norbu's Imperial Dian Hong - Spring 08 Black Tea.

Of all the teas I've had in the past several months I would say this is one of my favorites. It is full bodied and rich, sweet, creamy and balanced with malty, roasted, toasted notes. It has no sour/tart or bitter notes. The roundness and creaminess of this tea put me in mind of a good yeasty, creamy Champagne.

I am eager to try other Yunnan teas of this style and will also be sure to order more of this one.

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I've not found the Big Red Robe tea (I have gotten mine from Wing Hop Fung) to have any off flavors that I would describe as 'chemical': I get some smoky-toasty, earthy, fruity, and sweet.

There is a taste I've been thinking of as 'camphor' in several teas recently, which is a bit resinous. Although I've never tasted true camphor, that word comes up frequently when I've read about teas, and when I looked it up and read about it, it sounds like what I think I'm detecting in these teas. I think of this as part of the 'wild' flavor I was describing in another thread (the tea discoveries topic), I have found that flavor in my Dan Congs, Yunnan Mao Feng green tea, Yunnan wild camellia spring tea, and the white bud sheng puerh I got from norbutea, but not in the Big Red Robe from Wuyi!

Now very curious as to what the flavor is, and whether you might have sent me a sample of that tea. Unfortunately I took most of them to work so can't check right now.

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So, I just read the description of Wuyi "Rosk" teas here- http://www.jkteashop.com/oolong-tea-wuyi-rock-oolong-tea-c-59_62_93.html

I wonder if the taste I described as slightly chemical is the "rock" taste.

I think you are on the right trail. A minerality as a component of the taste perhaps.

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So, I just read the description of Wuyi "Rosk" teas here- http://www.jkteashop.com/oolong-tea-wuyi-rock-oolong-tea-c-59_62_93.html

I wonder if the taste I described as slightly chemical is the "rock" taste.

I think you are on the right trail. A minerality as a component of the taste perhaps.

Hmm, I guess what I'm tasting could be a mineral component. It is different then the mineraliness I've gotten from other teas but I suppose I could stretch my idea of mineraliness to include this taste that I can't quite put my finger on.

I've gotten this taste from three specific Wu Yi teas. When I have a chance I will look through my stash to see which in particular they were.

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Got this one in a tea swap from LuckyGirl: Lao Tie Guan Yin - Late 90s Aged Tie Guan Yin Oolong from Norbu. It was interesting. Compared to the dark roast Tie Guan Yin, this was missing a lot of the darker, earthy elements, but had a fruity tartness that reminded me of wine.

It was very interesting, but not as much to my taste as the regular dark roast or the lighter oxidized greens. Those I shared it with were quite impressed.

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I brewed it like I would a dark roasted TGY or wuyi oolong, water hot but several minutes off boiling, but I did not have enough time to weigh or keep track of infusions. But basically a typical several-infusions-to-fill-the-thermos brewing.

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It's been a few weeks since I have brewed this, WC. I agree that it's an interesting tea, and a little different than the other aged Oolongs I have had. Don't know if I have any notes, but recall that I brewed it in the 195 - 205 range and that it responds well to good Yixing clay. I'll have to brew it at different temps, different leaf:water ratios and different Yixings and see what happens.

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