Friday, December 10, 2010

Oolong tea tidbits, and a vintage Winter Tea

It feels like I have just scratched the surface of my experience with Oolong tea.  It's no wonder since there are hundreds of types of Oolongs with differing combinations of harvest season, region, and tea bush varietals. It's even more amazing considering the growing regions are restricted to China’s Fujian and Guangdong Provinces, and Taiwan (I have recently discovered that there is one estate in New Zealand that is growing Oolong! But that is for an upcoming post!).  I have tasted different varieties and qualities of Oolong, but I do not yet know how to taste the difference in harvests (something I am starting to understand with Darjeeling). 

Oolongs are semi-oxidized teas, so they are basically between green and black tea. As you can imagine, the length of oxidation greatly changes the taste. I've had oolongs that are dark and strong, similar to a black tea, and others that are gentle and vegetal, more like a green tea. There are nuances to each variety of oolong tea, making each cup a completely different expereince. 

A few weeks ago Mr. AP handed me a few ounces of Winter Tea from Ten Ren.  Founded in Taiwan, Ten Ren distributes Chinese tea. This is a green oolong tea that Ten Ren sells every year after the winter harvest.  According to Ten Ren, winter is one of the best seasons for high quality oolong.  AP didn't care for this tea, saying the aroma was too pungent and strong, and permeated his entire kitchen.  The thing is, he kept the tea for about three years in his cupboard before deciding it was time to give it to someone that would enjoy it.  It was an expensive tea, so he didn't want to throw it away.  Lucky for me that he kept it!  I do not know how the flavors have changed over time, since the tea is not exactly fresh.  But it was sitting in an opaque bag, within two plastic bags.  It wasn't exposed to much light, so that is a good thing. Still, I don't know how different this tea would taste if it was fresh. 

I steeped the tea for about 5 minutes, and it produced a bright yellow liquid.  It created a sweet aroma reminicient of honey and flowers.  There is also a slight vegetal smell.  The taste starts out with an herbacious/green flavor then becomes smooth, with honey and a dominant floral taste.  There is a slightly nutty, smokey flavor towards the end. It is also noticably astringent, which makes me wonder if I oversteeped it.  A beautifully subtle floral yet smokey taste lingers. This reminds me of other high end oolongs I've had before, but a bit lighter, and not as robust.

This oolong will definitely hold up to multiple steeps.  So far I have steeped it twice, and the flavor is becoming more floral, and less bitter.  The honey note is also disappearing.  It is now light and refreshing. I can't compare this tea to a fresh Winter Tea batch, but I am glad that I was able to sample it.  Even with a few years of age, there is a lovely oolong flavor to this tea.

There is so much to learn about oolongs, including different methods of preparing the tea.  As I continue to learn, I will share my experiences. 

No comments:

Post a Comment